Djauhar Zaharsjah Fachruddin Roesli (Sept 10, 1951 – Dec 11, 2004), aka Harry Roesli was born in Bandung, West Java. Roesli was raised in a privileged family, being the fourth son to parents of a father who was an army major general and his mother being a doctor. In middle school, Roesli was taught the basis of gamelan music using metallophones played by mallets and a set of hand drums called kendhang used to register a beat. As a teenager he was exposed to music by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa and Gentle Giant, resourced from Hidayat record store on Jalan Sumatra, pirate radio, and from reading Aktuil magazine (Irfani, 2020). He later expanded his listening to encompass avant garde composers such as John Cage, Iannis Xenakis and Karlheinz Stockhasuen and mixed in poetry to avant garde compositions (wiki).
Roesli’s early compositional works were a blend of psychedelic rock music, blues, funk, jazz, Sudanese gamelan and avant garde played with bands that mirrored Roesli’s personalities. He called himself a “janus-headed” man who upheld positive social Indonesian identity, plus Christian moral citizenry which included opening his home to street kids. He also was a radical who rejected authoritative regimes (Lamunai, 2019). Roesli lived in Indonesia during the fascist Suharto regime where free thinking ideals and protest music was mostly censored by the Suharto government’s New Order policies that were enforced to maintain political order, keep economic gains and constrict peoples’ participation in Indonesia’s political process.
New Order policies infiltrated the arts by promoting beliefs for Indonesians to become participants in the future of the country which supported artists to use satire and mock politicians who were corrupt, had operations tied to drug abuse, crime, poverty, population illiteracy plus idolisation of famous figures, based on New Order standards. Roesli’s musical experimental and antithetical performances often divulged opposition to dominant state ideals to keep order and enforce hegemonic rules to include what Indonesians should like, how they think and behave. Roesli became infamous through musical parody, combining rock operas and lyrical satire, targeting Suharto and his predecessors. Roesli confronted Suharto’s nationalistic ideology, New Order patriot songs and verses, and called out Suharto’s lead government for maintaining institutionalized oppression, murder of communists, continued poverty for poor people, assault on free speech and persisting moral decay (Tyson, 2011).
Roesli started his first band, Batu Karang in high school. After graduating from high school, Roesli studied electrical engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology. While attending university he started a band for fun in 1971 called Harry Roesli and His Gang with friends and band members, Hari Pochang, Indra Rivai, Albert Warnein, Janto Soedjono and Dadang Latiev. At this time, Roesli was also musically influenced by Remy Sylado who was popular in younger Indonesian culture. Sylyado was a prominent author, actor and musician who promoted his own California hippie philosophy as well as freedom from Suharto standards. Harry Roesli and His Gang released their first protest album inspired by Bob Dylan, Philosophy Gang in 1973. The album is an enticing blend of blues, funk and jazz bossanova with proggy variations as heard in, “Don’t Talk About Freedom” and “Peacock Dog,” featured on the album (Irfani, 2020).
Harry and His Gang played at a music festival in Ragunan, Pasar Minggu, Jakarta August 1973. Their performance appealed to music critics and they received a review in the national Kompas (Compass) newspaper praising Roesli’s vocals for “Peacock Dog” and “Nyamuk Malaria.” In 1975 Harry and His Gang broke through to Indonesia stardom adapting an East Javanese legend, Ken Arok to an operatic “shock rock gamelan” performance, inspired by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and the work of Orexas. Orexas is an acronym for the Free Sex Organisation led by Remy Sylado. Harry and His Gang’s first show was held at the Badung’s Gedung Merdeka (Independence Building). They continued performing for several months at various large sold out venues in Bandung and Jakarta, playing to sometimes 800+ people. Ken Arok was an opera of protest satire where musical pitch and tone were composed to make listeners feel on edge, much like their response to the everyday environment which was saturated by government corruption. Dancers, wayang puppets, and clowns interacted with the audiences along with draped long curtains and stage lights beaming into audiences’ eyes to intensify a shared mania between musicians, performers and audiences, mirroring living in the New Order environment (Tyson, 2011).
The opening act of Ken Arok featured a demented clown explaining to audiences in technical terms how the show will unfold. After the clown followed a friendly bum rush to the stage, of dancers and musicians, followed by Roesli who was conducting. The stage was unlit and dark with eerie music intertwined with coins jingling and intersecting with picking of guitar strings and pleasant ringing of Chinese bells. Giant fabric curtains were suddenly released from the ceiling and dangled above audiences’ heads invading their personal space bubble. High pitch reverberations suddenly were amplified out of the venue’s 4,000 watt sound system which fused Sudanese instruments, wayang golek (wooden puppet theater), godang (drum and dance) with modern rock, blues and cabaret. Typical instruments including guitar, bass, keyboards and drums were played with Sudanese instruments synthesizing traditional sounds and expanding the musical ear stock of Indonesian audiences. Roesli described Ken Arok as contemporary wayang, electronic gondang or electric ludruk (Javanese folk theater). His objective was to overwhelm the audience into submission, to enforce a collective self consciousness and ensure no distractions or sense of security. Roesli’s ultimate goal was to receive no applause from audiences but his goal was never achieved (Tyson, 2011).
Harry and His Gang released Ken Arok on cassette by P.T Eterna in 1977. It has since been reissued by Lamunai (2018) on LP limited to 333 pressings, remastered at Carvery Cuts, London. His album Titik Api (1976) has also been reissued by Lamunai/Groovyrecord (2019). The reissue of Titik Api is a double LP gatefold release with information about Roesli, rare pictures of the Harry and His Gang performances and pressed on quality thick vinyl. Titik Api is a dynamic recording that displays Roesli’s diverse compositions combining gamelan with guitars, organs, early synthesizers with Western tempered scales of funk, folk, rock, blues, prog, jazz, avant garde and psychedelic compositions.
The opening song “Sekar Jepun” is a traditional gamelan piece or kreasi baru, that is played at all parties. The piece is played in Balinese kebyar style and composed in Jaraaga/North Bali but later identified as a South Bali composition (Lamunai, 2019). Heavy western drums, guitar, bass, choral chanting and early synthesizer drives traditional gamelan instrumentation that exhumes listeners with pentatonic scales and ostinato power, giving listeners’ ears delight from the full range of uniquely arranged sounds. Titik Api is a true masterpiece.
Roesli lost interest in engineering between 1970-1975 and decided to study music composition at Institut Kesenian Jakarta. He was then awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Holland. There is also another story: Roesli became involved with a student political group participating in events asking for the resignation of Suharto. All the students who were in the political group, including Roesli were imprisoned. A Dutch member of Amnesty International was the person who awarded Roesli with a scholarship to study percussion in Rotterdam until 1978, to escape the Suharto’s regimes’ punishment (Lumanai, 2019).
After completing his studies in Rotterdam in 1981, Roesli came back to Indonesia and organized a musical association named the Bandung Creative Arts Center (Depot Kreasi Seni Bandung) DKSB, now Rumah Musik Harry Roesli (RMHR). DKSB was run out of his studio on Jalan Supratman (Tyson, 2011). His association enticed talented Indonesian musicians to gather, socialize, collaborate and perform at DKSB. Roesli continued to perform electronic rock operas, teach, record, perform, compose music and vocalize political reform until the end of his life. Captivating large audiences with his sometimes a circus of 250 performers, musicians, dancers providing a provocative, overwhelming audible and visual show of the senses.
His studio was also a refuge for young musicians and artists who were houseless, struggling with substance abuse and sex work violence, and DKSB was also known as a shelter. Roesli often provided meals and therapeutic assistance to underprivileged youth who were struggling with poverty and the intersectional stressors attached. Roesli passed away at the age of 53, his demise increased by multiple comorbidities. Before his passing he experienced a ‘lucid interval’ awaking and pleading with his family; jangan matikan lampu di meja kerja saya (don’t turn off the lamp on my work desk). His family continues to run RMHR and advocate to support houseless youth of Bandung (Tyson, 2011).
On Dec, 14 2019, Jim and I had the privilege of interviewing Temi Kogbe on Freeform Portland, Weekend Family Hour (WFMH). Kogbe is a cofounder of Odion Livingstone Records, curator, African music archivist and collector. He operates Odion Livingstone with former heavyweight EMI-Nigeria producer and musician, Odion Iruoje. Odion Livingstone Records was founded in 2017 and is the only vinyl reissue label operating in Nigeria today. Their recordings are deeply based in African groove heavy tempos, soulful boogie, disco, synth, funk and electro psychedelic tones.
K&J– Can you please tell me how you got started as a deejay and what stood out for you with Odion Iruoje productions and being a co-owner of the Odion Livingstone label?
TK– First of all, I’m not a deejay but that’s a secret between us. I’ve had opportunities to play out but I don’t really care about deejaying. I’m basically a collector and someone who is interested in the history of the music, culture plus the context the music was created. So that’s my primary interest. I got into the music late. I used to read a music blog called Voodoo Funk by Frank Gossner. He wrote about amazing trips through Africa, about African music which got me interested. I thought, how can I live here and not even try to find records? I spoke to Frank and he told me to not even try to find the music because there was nothing left, not to bother. But I stumbled on some people, found some stuff, and then I found some other stuff. Nigeria is a big country where there is a lot of music. There is music that is undiscovered, there is music that the Western guys are not looking for because it’s not their taste. But to me it’s still relevant. So I became a digger; I would go on the radio, find heirlooms, and stumble on gems.
K&J-Whenever we try to find African records they are sometimes not in good shape because the African climate is not record friendly.
TK– The environment is not conducive to records. It’s a whole bunch of factors, and if you look at records, they are just a medium to listen to music. People live poor lives in general. If you look at life constraints and having records, there are no turntables to play records anymore. They probably thought this record doesn’t have any value anymore and CDs had taken over and people stopped buying records. You could find records in chicken coops, exposed to elements like water. However some records survived, and you can maybe meet the artists who have five copies at their mother’s house, or find a distributor who still has stock because a lot of records were flops at the time. First off, they didn’t make many of them, and secondly, few survived. So they are rare. That’s why the prices are high. You can compare African records to jazz collector records where the market is very high. I think they’re well priced, to be honest.
K&J-The Odion reissues are the best price. When Odion Livingstone started reissuing records we flipped out! We’re your biggest fans and we appreciate your label so much.
TK– Thank you. The label is 100% African but the records are made in Germany. We wanted them to sound like Soundway records which are high quality. We have to use mixers and producers that everybody uses. We found our own guy in Australia who’s a genius, I’ll give you his name before the show is up. We have to keep the original quality of the record we reissue.
K&J– We love the quality of Odion Livingstone records. Exampling Livy Ekemezie, the first reissue you put out. Keeping the original artwork from the first press, keeping the blue vinyl and creating the labels looking similar to original releases.
TK– We put out Livy Ekemezie with Strut, Quinton Scott. So basically, I asked him if we could put it out on blue vinyl like the original record. He also wanted to keep it close to the original which was pressed at William Onyeabor’s record plant, whose entire catalogue had been reissued by Luaka Bop. So originally Livy went up there and got his record pressed, and William Onyeabor asked him if he wanted it on blue vinyl for the same cost. Livy told him yes. A fun fact: Livy gave me the studio photo he used on the cover so we didn’t have to scan the cover of the original album. We had the original studio photo that he took for the reissue of the record.
K&J– Did that record do well when it came out, was it a private press originally?
TK– Everything was pretty much private press, apart from EMI stuff. Mostly, artists found someone to sponsor them. The Livy Ekemezie was a private press, and it did not do well so he went back to school after that. His parents gave him permission to be a musician for a few months and get it out of his system. He made an amazing record and our mixer who did the pre-production was Frank at The Carvery, he did a fantastic job on that. Dan Elson is the genius Australian who’s produced our fourth release to the seventh. Frank produced the first three.
Going back to Livy, he took the masters of Friday Night to EMI and wanted to meet with Odion. This was 1979-1980. And Odion wouldn’t see him because Odion was the biggest producer at the time. Someone else looked at the record and told him EMI was not interested, so Livy put it out himself. It was arranged by (Livy) and Julius Elong who is Cameroonian, a keyboard player. The album has a different sound when it was produced. It’s super dense, hyper funky, it’s focused funk.
K&J– We love that record and play it out all the time.
TK– It’s actually our biggest seller and shows another side of Nigeria that people don’t expect to hear from Africa. It sounds like New York.
K&J– How hard was it to track down Odion Irojue and involve him in the label, did you have records by him you wanted to release?
TK– To be honest, I just wanted to meet the guy. You can compare him to Phil Spector. Odion is an enigmatic genius. I wasn’t sure how to go about licensing, so I found I had to track down the artists first. Odion Irojue’s name opens doors, and he agreed to reissue records with me. I approached artists on a record-by-record basis. Some artists are hard to find, some artists disappeared, some had stage names, some are not on Facebook. So you find a guy, then they want too much money, or you can’t find them. So some records are not released because of licensing.
K&J– It’s great you’re being ethically correct and trying to find artists to ask for consent.
TK– It’s the minimum we have to do. Livy didn’t believe it until he got the money for the reissue. He couldn’t understand how we knew about his record. He was actually scared and thought we were kidnappers. He couldn’t believe we wanted licensing to reissue his record. He was shocked! It was a short chapter in his life, he did the record at 18 or 19 years old and that was it, he wasn’t a musician but really into music. It is very Nigerian to reinvent yourself and when he made the record he moved on. Livy did some studies in Marketing, he worked for an oil company; when he got the check from the record he said, “Look, I never expected this”. He was really happy. When Strut got the record, it sold out like hotcakes and they asked us if he can talk or do some appearances. I talked to him about it and he laughed, it was too far away from his experience for him. He is older and in his 60s, he has eyesight problems. It’s the strangest story for him he can imagine. I think the internet has a big part in this.
K&J– It’s a great story for him, it’s nice how artists can be remembered and highlighted for their musical accomplishments when they were younger. There are musicians that are having a resurgence such as Ata Kak who’s touring with Awesome Tapes from Africa. Like Livy, he is able now to make a living off his music because of reissue labels.
K&J– What’s the story with the two Grotto records?
TK– The two Grotto records were EMI releases at the time. EMI had just come from the Ofege madness which was a very successful release. So Ofege came out as a monumental hit and they couldn’t press the records fast enough. So Odion tried more boy bands, he was experimenting with a lot of boy bands.
K&J– Was C.S Crew one of those?
TK– No, they were older. Odion used to go to schools and listen to talent shows. So Grotto was one of those bands. I met the lead guitarist and worked a deal with him.
K&J– I love the female vocalists on the first record…
TK– I met them after the record and they told me about their experiences, Ukay and Bola. The first record is very sought after in the rock collector world. The second record is more straight ahead funky stuff. I am fortunate enough to be able to sell some Grotto originals, and I have sold the first Grotto record to rock guys who really like it. But the second Grotto record was a more successful release because it’s easy to dance to. The first Grotto record is like a unicorn, the rock guys really like it, similar to Hendrix, maybe Sly Stone. It sounded interesting. They went to Saint Gregs College and were members of a school band. Similar to the whole Ofege thing, Grotto did not do as well as Ofege but they were very interesting.
K&J– Did those bands play live at hotels in the 70s?
TK– They played at hotels, universities, stadiums, there were a lot of live shows in the 70s and early 80s.
K&J– Manford Best from the Wings wrote in his book there were many Nigerian bands playing at different hotels. He explained how rival bands, such as Wings and Super Wings, played at different hotels on the same day. It’s a very interesting book about the Nigerian music scene in the 70s and 80s. Did you read it?
TK– Yeah, I read that book. One of my diggers introduced me to Manford Best. I spoke to him and told him “I love your stuff”. I told my guy to buy his book and send it to me. We need more of those books. I wish Jake Sollo had a book, or Nkono Teles. There are guys who had incredible careers in Nigeria who played amazing music and no one knows anything about them. This music was on the radio, this music was the soundtrack to Africa at the time. Some of the songs were really big hits, the songs on the radio people would sing along with. But nobody knows anything about them.
K&J– Well you’re such a good writer, Temi, so maybe you can start another career documenting biographies and start Odion Livingstone books…
TK– Nah, Uchenna (Ikonne) does a good job.
K&J– Your liner notes for the N’Draman Blintch Cosmic Sounds reissue are great.
TK– One of my good friends was involved with that reissue, and I always wanted to put that record out but I couldn’t find N’Draman Blintch. He is one of the biggest enigmas in the Afro Music collecting world. Blintch is originally from the Ivory Coast. He recorded the music in Nigeria, and then Harry Mosco took it to England and laid some voices over the tracks, post production. I found out there was Blintch and then some session men from Cameroon. Session musicians from Cameroon were more versatile and easier to work with. So they did a three or four day recording at Decca studios, recorded the material, got paid, and left. Decca gave it to Harry Mosco to go to London to lay over voices, and they basically made two records out of the material. There’s Cosmic Sounds, which is also the name of the record, and Passport. Those two albums came out of one session. But the guys never listened to the final product, so they never really knew what Harry Mosco did. The bass player thought he produced Cosmic Sounds, but he said there was no girl in the studio, even though there was a girl on the record. It was very common to start a record in Nigeria and then take them to London to finish. Odion did it a lot, Jake Sollo and Harry Mosco also.
N’Draman Blintch is from the Ivory Coast where they speak French, so he speaks English with a French African accent. Harry Mosco made the girls sing with a French African accent, so the whole record has these weird French African intonations. It’s such a beautiful album.
K&J– Are you planning to release Passport?
TK– Yeah, I have no idea about that.
K&J– What inspired you to reissue Apples?
TK– Apples was another Odion Irojue boy band made up of two half Swiss guys from either the Ivory Coast or Dakar whose dad was a diplomat. They were in Nigeria at the time and they were part of the Ofege wave. Frank was the drummer and the leader of the band who was older. I like Apples because they remind me of Shuggie Otis. I thought they were special and had a laid back soul sound. I met Frank and licensed the music from him. Mind Twister is a special album because the tracks were recorded in Lagos, Nigeria and then Odion took the tapes to London and mixed them at Abbey Road because he had access to EMI studios. He worked with a session keyboard player called Monkman who added keyboards to it. It took the music to another level. You would never guess the record was recorded in two sessions because of the layering and sounds. If you listen to the lyrics you can hear English is not the singers first language but it adds to the charm of the record. It’s beautiful. Most albums I put out I have an emotional attachment to the record, I’m not in business to make profit. It’s music I like, I find different. Nigerian music is not just this or that, it is “this.” Music has certain qualities, feelings.
K&J– How has the response been locally for Odion Livingstone records?
TK– I think it’s mostly Western taste driven. I have to struggle sometimes to listen to music outside of that spectrum. There’s no music scene in Nigeria per se. I have played music out when people invite me to play. I have guys who like the music we release, but I have more guys asking me about music from Russia, Japan, guys from all over the world. There are guys in Japan who know much more about music than I do, they come with information. Some guys relate to Nigerian music on levels that I cannot even imagine, it’s crazy. Music is international and universal.
K&J– What about the Willy Nfor double reissue?
TK– He came to Nigeria at 19 with his bass guitar. He lost his mum at some point and wasn’t getting along with his dad. He became a session guy for EMI and formed a band called The Mighty Flames. They put out some great music. He was one of the biggest bass players around at the time. He played with the biggest musicians such as, Sonny Okosun, Bongos Ikwue, they were the big guys at the time. He was very busy in the 70s and 80s, and then ended up in Paris and died very young. He played with Manu Dibango and made a name for himself but he passed from cancer. I love the guy, his feeling with the bass. He is on another level of music. I was happy to find his wife, his last partner, so I licensed the music from her.
K&J– It’s a great compilation.
TK– I’m glad you like it. It’s a great album, I love the album. I love his music.
K&J– It’s a beautiful release with the liner notes and the photos especially.
TK– We tried to keep the quality, it’s not easy. If you’re going to do something, do it well.
K&J– Can you talk about the Duomo label and how the Duomo compilation came about?
TK– Duomo was a fascinating label in the 80s with an amazing catalogue.
K&J– Mike Umoh is one of my favorite artists on that compilation, he drummed on some records that I also love. I also found out Christy Ogbah was a police officer after reading the liner notes on the record.
TK– I think the Advice album she (Christy Ogbah) released should be reissued as well, it deserves a merit. She was an amazing singer.
Duomo was run by this guy Humphrey, who was a producer. He ran Duomo like a proper label, and I think Mike Umoh was his music director. The first record they released was Bassie Black, which was a huge hit. They used EMI studios and paid the EMI engineer to put out tapes after mastering. I knew straight away after collecting Iruoje that there are more highly sought after records. I thought the common thread was the record label, so if I can do a deal with this guy who lives on the Ivory Coast, I could put out all this music. So I went after him through a Nigerian friend I knew from the record collecting world who said he knew this guy from the 80s and knows how to get in touch with him. And the rest is history. It came out after Soundway’s Doing It In Lagos comp but it didn’t hurt record sales because it was a different curation. It wasn’t just disco, it was more rural and pointed in another direction which was interesting. I didn’t want to do another boogie comp, I wanted something with a bit more variety.
K&J– The Johnny Obazz song “Xmas Eve” is a good song.
TK– Yes! “Xmas Eve”. That was the only song on the comp I did not have an original of so I had to get that from a friend. Once I heard it, I knew I had to put it on.
K&J– How many records do you think Odion Iruoje has produced in his lifetime?
TK– Probably close to 1000 records, I’d say. Not all of them were released, including singles.
K&J– We follow you on instagram and we recently saw some pictures of Irojue, perhaps sitting in a sauna, were you sitting in the sauna with him?
TK– Actually, Lagos is a sauna right now. And I popped over to his house, he was sitting on his terrace. He’s been there, done that. It’s impossible to quantify the amount of what he’s done. Nigeria is a fast life, there’s the now and no one remembers someone who’s done so much, so much good stuff, amazing mind boggling stuff. I don’t want it to waste away. I’ve at least got him to release records again. It goes both ways because it’s been a blessing for me too.
K&J– Thank you for joining us today and nerding out with us. Are there any sneak previews you would like to talk about?
TK– Thank you for having us. I’m glad I’m not the only nerd here. There are some ideas, working with stuff that’s already licensed for next year. I would say just hold tight and keep watching.
For those accustomed to the lushness of 60s French pop, Italian can take some getting used to. Its screeching string accents, midrange vibratos and operatic brain-piercing can feel more Wall of Shrill than Wall of Sound. Still, there is something in its assertiveness and power lacking in ye-ye or schlager, two other European pop movements where women played critical roles. In his capacity as a staff arranger at labels ARC, RCA Italiana, and Ricordi, Ennio Morricone worked on many of these sessions, with the voices of Edda Dell’Orso and her Cantori Moderni, along with Alessandroni’s guitar, audible throughout. For teens, 7″ singles were the order of the day. Italian LPs were expensive deluxe products aimed more at the adult market. This list is biased and attempts to highlight a few lesser known Italian women singers at the expense of some very famous ones, such as Patty Pravo, Rita Pavone, Caterina Caselli, Wilma Goich, Gigliola Cinquetti, Isabella Iannetti, Ornella Vanoni, and Nada. Some of their best songs can be found on Ace’s Ciao Bella! compilation for those interested, which also contains many artists below. I’ve linked out to YouTube clips when possible.
Sarah Vaughn once said that if she did not have her voice, she would like to have that of “a young Italian girl named Mina.” Louis Armstrong referenced her in interviews as well. Today she remains obscure to US audiences but is well-known in Europe and Japan. As a teenager, she started her career on the Italdisc label, recording rhythmic rock hits like “Renato,” “Tintarella Di Luna,” and “Una Zebra Pois,” along with ballads like “Il Cielo In Una Stanza,” and jazzy mashups like “La Notte.” She moved to RiFi Records in 1964, where she shifted into the second stage of her career, working with Italy’s biggest orchestras and arrangers. She recorded and performed constantly during this period, making promotional films for her singles with pasta company Barilla. In these, her pale angularity, modernist fashion, and alien-like shaved eyebrow look would serve to inspire David Bowie among others (see her telephone-cable outfit in this Barilla film for “Se Telefonando”). Her vocal range was so incredible that songs like “Brava” were written specifically for her as tongue-in-cheek scale exercises, which she soared through effortlessly, sometimes while smoking. Mina was radical in other ways, mocking the Pope’s “banning” of her music after having a baby from an affair, which only increased her popularity and record sales among Rome’s godless youth. Her fame was such that, by the release of the 1965 single “L’Ultima Occasione,” her name was not even printed on the sleeve. After leaving RiFi, she started her own label, PDU, working with superstars like Lucio Battisti and songwriter Mogol. The Morricone-penned “Se Telefonando,” with its swirling choir, deep trombones, and siren-inspired 3-note structure, is a great starting point for delving into her massive catalogue. We are linking to her famous RAI premiere of the song from a Studio Uno broadcast in 1966. Its pounding B-side “No” is equally accomplished, with nice multi-tracking of vocals and echoey, high-in-the-mix acoustic guitars. LISTEN
The Italian media loved to play up the great diva rivalry between Mina and Milva but it’s unclear how much of that was journalistic fantasy. Milva was dubbed “La Rossa” both because of her red hair and her outspoken socialist beliefs (a big fan of Brecht, she has performed his work regularly throughout her career.) Her first fame came covering Edith Piaf’s “Milord.” She then went on to release tons of albums and singles between 1960-65, mainly on the Fonit Cetra label, in a variety of musical styles and in multiple languages. Among her great Italian songs from this early period are “Tango Italiano,” “Flamenco Rock,” “Una Storia Cosi,” “Nessuno Di Voi,” and Morricone’s “Quattro Vestiti.” One of her Spanish 7″ 45 EPs also includes a gloomy take on Agnes Varda’s “Cleo Dalle 5 Alle 7.” In 1967, she would move towards a heavier orchestral beat sound for a few singles, the best being “Uno Come Noi,” a smoking A-side on Ricordi that is a favorite (a lamer version of this song, by guy band Los Bravos, beat her at San Remo.) That same year saw “Dipingi Un Mondo Per Me” b/w “Io Non So Cos’È,” the latter using Nora Orlandi and her 4+4 ensemble to great effect. Among her LPs, the only one I have heard is her Ricordi collaboration with Morricone from 1972, called Dedicato A Milva Da Ennio Morricone, with “Metti Una Sera A Cena” being one of many standouts found there. LISTEN
Although far less popular than Mina or Milva at the time, Rita Monico was one of the best. She began performing as a child, cutting songs for labels Cricket and Red Record. In 1964, Fonola signed her for a couple of shared split 7″ sides, released to coincide with San Remo. Her greatest works came on the ARC label, starting that same year, with “Se Tu Non Mi Vuoi” b/w “Di Sera.” The A-side showed a new explosive range and experimentation with multi-tracked vocals while the B was a study in meticulous phrasing that used the melody of Elvis Presley’s “It Hurts.” She collaborated with Ennio Morricone, then staff arranger at ARC, three times in her career. The first was the stunner “Thrilling (La Regola Del Gioco)” in 1965, full of great nasally sustains and powerful vibratos that propel the track forward. Next came “Non È Mai Tardi” b/w “Gocce Di Mare, Gocce Di Sole.” In “Tardi,” reworking the Shangri-Las “Dressed in Black” melody, Morricone and Monico shift from near silence and whispers to piano-pounding, choir-fueled angst. “Gocce” is a classic summer beach song; Cantori Moderni with sea strings and horn blasts of sun. Although she had no Italian albums, RCA France issued a 7″ 45 in September 1966 that compiled her best ARC sides onto a four-song EP. She simultaneously branched out into the Spanish market with two singles, including the standout “Puede Ser” b/w “Lo Que Me Pasa A Mi”; her English language versions of these tracks remained in the vaults until a few years ago. In 1966 and 1968, she cut two more 45s for ARC, “Nata Per Amare Te” and “Tu Perdi Tempo.” She subsequently moved to European United Record for three final releases, only one of which I have heard, “La Pace Nel Cuore.” After a long hiatus, she appeared briefly in 1975 for one final 7″ outing with Morricone, the proto-disco wah-wah jammer “Sono Mia,” for television show Pianeta Donna. LISTEN
Dominga started on New Star in the mid 60s with a 3-songer 7″ 45, “Ho Dimenticato Per Te.” The switch to Decca in 1969 brought a new look and sound, with a Brooksian helmet bob, black boots, and better material. Dominga’s best record that I’ve heard is 1970’s “Dimmi Cosa Aspetti Ancora” b/w “Cieli Azzurri Sul Tuo Viso,” the A-side sporting a melody by Daniela Casa whose chorus, a chiming synthesis of voice, piano, acoustic guitar, and percussion, embodies all the best earwormy elements of orchestral Italo-pop; an uptempo Migliacci composition with staccato strings is on the B-side. She then put out “Sto Con Te” b/w “Una Ragazza Sola,” again backed by Piero Pintucci’s orchestra. Her subsequent Decca singles are a mixed bag and a bit on the schlagery side. LISTEN
Mara Brunetta Pacini
Using just Brunetta for most of her career, she started as a teen singer for Ricordi in the early 60s, backed by I Cavalieri (whose lineup included a young Luigi Tenco.) She then moved to RiFi-subsidiary Primary and recorded in a similar style, using Mara Pacini. Her fame today rests on a recording session she did in 1966 with backing band The Balubas from which two RiFi singles were culled, the most popular being the A-side “Baluba Shake,” which, while a cool beat, does reek of a racist, Euro-colonialist African “exoticism” in much the same way as Janko Nilovic’s “Mao Mao,” Sladana’s “Das Licht Von Kairo,” or Louiselle’s “Cammelli E Scorpioni.” The double-sider and strongest single of her career “Solo Per Poco Tempo” b/w “Dove Vai?” followed, the B-side featuring a superb use of the “Summer Wine” melody for solo voice. In March 1968, she recorded her last RiFi 45, pairing with The Sounds for “Felicità Felicità” b/w “Il Nuovo Tema Dell’Amore.” Her final two 7″ releases, “Ti Costa Così Poco” and “Senza Te,” were ballads which she also co-wrote. The B-side of the latter, a track called “Grazie Amore,” is probably the best song from this later period. (FYI: as of this writing, all versions of “Solo Per Poco Tempo” on YouTube and Spotify are really her song “Perdono”.) LISTEN
Today, Casa is primarily remembered for her groundbreaking experimental LPs, including America Giovane N. 2, Società Malata, and Arte Moderna, recorded for a variety of Italian labels in the mid 70s. Some of these were compiled by Finders Keepers on the compilation Sovrapposizione Di Immagini, in 2014. She had a brief stint as a pop singer early on, releasing the single “L’Amore Estivo” b/w “Beati Voi” in 1964, on Fonit. Later on came “Uomo” b/w “Poesia” for Mimo. She then shifted strictly into prog and electronic music. Her pop songwriting credits for others include two classic 7″ melodies by women artists on this list: the A-side “Dimmi Cosa Aspetti Ancora” by Dominga, and the B-side “Ci Vuole Coraggio” by Peggy March. She continued working into the 80s, releasing one LP, Breeze, under the name Elageron in 1983. Her premature death from cancer in 1986 was a huge blow to Italian music. LISTEN
Published women songwriters in the 60s Italian pop market were rare. Casa was one, Loredana Ognibene was another. Her only release was a renowned collaboration with Donatella Moretti called Diario Di Una Sedicenne (Diary of a 16-Year Old Girl), on RCA Italiana in 1964. It was an early concept album, with actress Valeria Ciangottini, from La Dolce Vita, journaling on the front cover and elaborate gatefold photo montage, “cast” as the physical container for Donatella Moretti’s voice. Moretti penned a lengthy dedication of sorts inside, purposefully forging bonds with teen girls, whom she listed among the project’s active participants (“This record therefore is ours: yours, mine, Loredana’s, and Valeria’s.”) The exterior packaging highlights this, with Loredana Ognibene adorning the entire back cover, in a moody “writing music” pose lit low-key; there are no track listings or any words at all, apart from her name, which is unusual for LP paratext from this era. Arrangements are by Morricone, with one track flagged by R.A.I. for controversial content, called “Matrimonio D’Interesse” (“Marriage of Interest”). A second great song, the album’s opener, “Mille Gocce Piccoline,” apparently also generated some controversy. Throughout the 60s, Moretti continued to work with RCA and Morricone on singles. Her best two were B-sides: 1966’s “Era Più Di Un Anno” and 1965’s “Non M’Importa Più.” She later moved to Parade. She had a resurgence in the disco years as the powerhouse voice behind D.M. System Orchestra. LISTEN
Cuomo’s first two 7″s came out under her real name, Maria Cuomo, on a small label called KappaO. In 1966, she had her big break, signing to Parade to record a song for a Bruno Nicolai score, released as the A-side “Love Love Bang Bang.” In 1968, “Chiedi E Ti Darò” b/w “Ieri Solo Ieri” was released on Cetra, the latter being one of her best tracks. The only other single of hers I have is an unreleased promo on a label called Hello Records, where she records in English under the name Mary Featt, “It Takes Too Long To Learn To Live Alone” b/w “Yes, I Will.” The A was written by African-American songwriter Leon Carr, and the B has a periodic reverb-drenched male vocal sound during the chorus that is odd and fascinatingly weird. LISTEN
Maria Luigia Bis / Brenda Bis / Maria Luigia
Another confusing artist who recorded using three names. Her first release was on CBS circa 1964, under Maria Luigia Bis, “Siamo Al Mare” b/w “A Chi Dai Il Bacio Della Buonanotte?” and was possibly part of a promotional swimsuit tie-in. Three years brought a dramatic Dusty-sized drop in vocal register for 1967, when Brenda Bis came out with a brilliant 7″ on the CBD label, “Per Vivere Insieme” b/w “Hold On! I’m Coming,” the A-side using the melody of “Happy Together.” Starting in 1968, Maria Luigia appears at the new indie Clan Celentano label, releasing two singles. Of these, “Ai Quattro Venti” b/w “Sento Una Canzone” is maybe the better of them. LISTEN
Rosy (Rosanna Negri)
Rosy’s first recording session for RCA was in 1963 with Morricone arranging. The resulting self-titled LP, issued in 1964, contains many great tracks, several of which were released as singles, including “La Prima Festa Che Darò” and “Tutto L’amore Del Mondo.” “Ti Voglio Come Sei” uses the melody of “I Can’t Stay Mad At You” by Skeeter Davis. Also of note is a Jenny Luna cover, “Chiodo Scaccia Chiodo.” My favorite record of hers came out in 1965, the A-side “L’Amore Gira,” which has this great descending choir signature throughout and is a precursor to where Morricone and Mina would go the following year with “Se Telefonando.” LISTEN
Borelli recorded under her own name and also La Ragazza 77. Her first two singles were on King Universal, from 1964-65; “In Questo Momento” features some splattery guitar accents, but otherwise, they are somewhat flat. Her best work came after she moved to Ricordi in 1967, starting with the A-sides “Il Beat Cos’è” and “Il Paradiso Della Vita,” credited to La Ragazza 77. The classic A-side groover “Mela Acerba” (Bad Apple), released on Ricordi in 1969, is probably her finest song. (Super rare promotional video, but with damaged audio, can be seen here.) LISTEN
Mainly an actor, Gastoni released two singles that I know of, both of which were tied to films. The best is her gloomy minor-key A-side “Una Stanza Vuota” from the crime drama Svegliati E Uccidi, which features a signature piano riff from Morricone, over Allesandroni’s guitar, that would pop up elsewhere in his soundtracks. A few years later she appeared in another film called Maddalena, releasing “Chi Mai…” in support. LISTEN
Marita released three 45s, all on a small subsidiary of Durium, called Sun. The best is from 1968, the double-sider “Pata Pata” b/w “I Primi Minuti.” The Miriam Makeba cover is explosive, with an Augusto Martelli orchestral arrangement that puts voice, choir, piano, and horns over a drum beat that never deviates. The latter incorporates the melody of “I Say A Little Prayer.” Her other two releases are from around the same year but not quite as catchy, “Non Ti Credo” and “Torna Questa Estate.” LISTEN
Christy’s subacquatic masterpiece “Deep Down” is from the Danger: Diabolik soundtrack. I think her film version featured English dubbing for the lyrics used in its cues, which might have also used a slightly different backing track. Regardless, the Italian-language version is the stellar B-side of a 1968 Parade single that pairs Piccioni and Morricone film songs, both sung by Christy, the A-side being “Amore Amore Amore Amore.” Another single side of hers, “Run Man Run,” is also great and, like Rita Monico’s “Non È Mai Tardi,” runs the scales of silence and scream. It was recorded for La Resa Dei Conti in 1966 and released on the Eureka imprint of Parade the following year, as an A-side. Later on, in 1968-9, she would release another great Morricone melody, the ballad “Al Messico Che Vorrei.” She continued to release 45s on Parade, RCA, and Carosello throughout the late 1960s. LISTEN
Primarily a jazz pianist and vocalist, Dora Musumeci recorded one excellent pop single for RCA Italiana, with Morricone arranging: 1961’s “Qualcuno Ha Chiesto Di Me” b/w “Caffe E Camomilla.” Although its ballad A-side is more accomplished or “adult,” featuring Musumeci on voice and piano track, it is probably most known for its phenomenal B-side, with its string plucks, gravelly vocal shouts, and catchy harpsichord, which Musumeci might have played as well. It seems to have been a one-off for her, perhaps even a novelty side at the time. Nevertheless, its sound has endured, being included on several Morricone pop music compilations over the past twenty plus years. LISTEN
Most of Louiselle’s best 7″ singles can be found on ARC, taken from sessions she did with Morricone throughout 1964-65. The best of these is probably “La Mia Vita” b/w “Sorridono,” although “Quello Che C’È Fra Me E Te” b/w “Anche Se Mi Fai Paura” is a close runner-up. A move to the Parade label saw her paired with different backing bands with mixed results. The most interesting of these is her collaboration on the psychy A-side “Cammelli E Scorpioni” from a 1966 single, which is credited to Louiselle E I Suoi Arcieri (or “Her Archers”). LISTEN
Indentici has a few great singles and a lot that I have never heard. Among her early sides on Ariston is a rare cover version of Ginny Arnell’s classic “I Wish I Knew What Dress to Wear,” called “Lo Stile Adatto A Me.” 1967’s “Tanto Tanto Caro” b/w “Una Stretta Di Mano” and 1968’s “Non Calpestate I Fiori” (Don’t Trample the Flowers) b/w “Non Mi Cambierai” are her finest releases, with strong A/B sides on each. LISTEN
Italian-American Margaret “Peggy March” Battavio recorded several sessions for RCA in Italy that deserve mention. Her first release was in 1963, “Te Ne Vai” b/w “Così.” The A-side is an Italian rewrite of her hit “Hello Heartache, Goodbye Love” and uses the same Sammy Lowe Orchestra backing track as that song, with new vocal overdubs. The B-side was the first song released from new sessions she’d just recorded in Rome with Morricone, material that would comprise her next two singles: “Passo Su Passo” b/w “Carillon” and “Gli Occhi Tuoi Sono Blu” b/w “Eh, Bravo.” In 1964, the Italian album version of Little Peggy March was released, with roughly half being new tracks with Morricone and half being Italian-language overdubs onto the Lowe masters. Apart from the singles, her best two songs from the record are called “Ora Che Sai” and “Cielo.” Later on in the decade, she had two more 7″s on RCA Italiana: 1966’s “Che Cosa Fa Una Ragazza” and 1969’s “Che Figura Ci Farei,” whose B-side contains a great Daniela Casa melody. LISTEN
In Tokyo Boogie-Woogie: Japan’s Pop Era and Its Discontents, Hiromu Nagahara talks about western influences in Japanese pop music emerging 100 years ago. Jazz journeyed back over the Pacific on steamers by citizens traveling abroad, first in sheet music form, and then as 78s. It was a woman singer named Sumako Matsui who got it all going, in 1914, with a shellac side called “Katyûsya No Uta” which sold an unheard-of 20,000 copies. It was the beginning of a genre called ryûkôka (‘fashionable songs’). The trend continued into the 1920s as the recording industry matured and began cross-marketing music and cinema, with Chiyako Sato’s title track from the film “Tokyo March” so successful, it caused one critic to worry that “the taste of the citizens of Tokyo will become depraved beyond salvation.” As in the West, patriarchal fears of feminine empowerment were palpable as modernity and capitalism upended traditional gender roles. Japan’s militarist expansion from 1936-45 resulted in the banning of western music, but America’s postwar occupation brought Kasagi Sizuko’s runaway hit “Tôkyô Boogie-Woogie” whose lyrics incorporated words like ukiuki (‘buoyant’) and zukizuki (‘throbbing’) to rhyme with boogie-woogie.
Television and radio were key to the dissemination of imported rockabilly and surf music. The Ventures visit in 1962 is often referenced as a key moment in Japan on par with The Beatles landing at JFK in America. Japanese kids went wild for this new sound, dubbed ereki bûmu (‘elec boom’). Post-British Invasion, it became gurûpu saunzu (‘group sounds’), with vocal harmony and beats taking center stage. Although women were largely absent from these bands, they continued to be driving forces in enka and kayōkyoku, the two genres that had diverged from ryûkôka. Enka was ballad-centric, traditionalist, and has been compared to the Blues due to its melancholic tone. Kayōkyoku (‘pop songs’) borrowed heavily from western melody. Just as in the West, masculine attitudes surrounding rock music continued to dominate the discourse and define the parameters of what was worthy or authentic. As much as it was used to describe, Kayōkyoku was used to deride those who sang commercialized material written by others.
The Girl Group explosion that peaked in 1963 in the U.S. never really caught on in Japan. There were a few duet teams–The Peanuts, Jun & Nene–but most women artists were solo acts until the early J-pop era. Oddly, very few covered any of the U.S. Girl Group hits so common in other Asian states, like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore; Japanese teen women singers were more likely to cover white adult-pop-market acts like Connie Francis than black teenagers like The Chiffons. Almost all of the top artists worked with original material, written for them by songwriting teams, much like a Brill-Building arrangement. Western covers were often album filler, with few appearing as 7″ releases. One exception to this is Italian singer Mina, who was hugely influential among artists like The Peanuts, Kayoko Moriyama, Maria Anzai, and Mieko Hirota, all of whom recorded and released Japanese-language versions of her songs as singles.
Biographical information in English is limited. Japanese name order has been flipped to reflect Western conventions. Anyone wanting to know more on the above period should check out Hiromu Nagahara’s book.
Without question, Misora is the most famous woman singer in the history of postwar Japanese pop music. Due to the fact that she was a child star, had yakuza mob connections, and embraced kitschy stage attire, writer Hiromu Nagahara called her the Japanese equivalent of Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley. Her first recordings mimicked rival Shizuko Kasagi’s colonialist boogie music, but the 1950 release of “Echigo Shishi No Uta” introduced a new synthesis of East and West that silenced her early critics and put her on the path to superstardom. She recorded thousands of songs in a variety of genres, mainly in the enka style. Her biggest kayōkyoku hit came out on Columbia in 1967, an A-side called “Makkana Taiyō” (Deep Red Sun), where she is backed by Jacky Yoshikawa & His Blue Comets, one of the best Group Sounds bands. LISTEN
That’s Mayuzumi in tears as our profile pic, getting the news over the telephone that she had just won a prestigious music award in 1968. She was massively famous and had a great vocal range and dynamic stage presence, spending the majority of her career recording for Capitol Japan. Her debut 7″ release “Hallelujah” from 1967 started a long string of great songs: “Otome No Inori”; “Angel Love” b/w “Black Room”; “Something Feelin’ and it’s Saturday Night”; “First Heartache”; and “Among the Clouds” b/w “Dreamin’,” a B-side that starts ingeniously with a fake skip. Few kayōkyoku house bands could compare to Mayuzumi’s (live TV performance of “Angel Love”; “Hawaiian” sounds and themes were popular in Japanese and Indonesian pop music in the 60s.) In the early 70s, she would switch to Phillips and gradually shift her sound towards ballads as the decade wore on. Since most are already familiar with the brilliant “Black Room,” listen to what she does with this traditional Japanese song “Yagi Bushi” from her 1969 album Recital, recorded live at Tokyo’s Sankei Hall, with Akira Ishikawa on drums. LISTEN
Another Japanese superstar of mixed Korean ancestry (like Hibari Misora), Wada’s deep bluesy sound is immediately distinguishable from all of her kayōkyoku peers. In terms of her chesty voice, and also being embraced early on by the LGBTQ community, she could be called Japan’s equivalent of Britain’s Dusty Springfield or Yugoslavia’s Beti Đorđević. Like them, Wada excelled at big power ballad numbers and could easily match the volume of her supporting orchestras, while always managing to swing her phrasing in a soulful way. Like many here, she also starred in films, famously playing a biker gang girl, along with Meiko Kaji, in Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, from 1970, in which she sings a portion of her famed flip-side to “In The Pouring Rain,” a B-side jammer called “Boy & Girl.” For us, it rarely gets better than the vibrato acrobatics, subsonic trombones, and tastefully sprinkled fuzz featured on this 1971 single on RCA, “Sotsugyou Sasete Yo.” LISTEN
Yumi & Emi Ito (The Peanuts)
Twin sisters Yumi and Emi Ito are best known in the U.S. for their groundbreaking role in the 1961 Toho film Mothra, where they play humanoid anti-nuclear activist fairies who can communicate telepathically with a giant radioactive moth through song. Their repertoire is more varied and international than most singers on this list; attempts at U.S. marketing fell flat, but they were popular in Germany and Austria’s schlager scene. As for their LPs, 1970’s Feelin’ Good: New Dimension of the Peanuts is their pop-psych songbook album, with super covers of “Spinning Wheel,” “And I Love Her,” and “Moanin’.” They appeared constantly on Japanese television variety shows until their early retirement from the industry in 1975. Although many solo singers double-tracked their voices, the Itos achieved that by default, sometimes even double-tracking their backing vocals which could create a cavernous choir sound. “The Woman of Tokyo” is probably their best known single, a shimmering spacey example of late 60s orchestral pop. But we are uploading a fave B-side called “Happy’s Coming” that features some cool vocal counterpoint. LISTEN
Writing of enka at the time and defending it against charges of vulgarity, Hiroyuki Itsuki said it was “like the sound of groaning coming from someone who is being oppressed, discriminated, and trampled on; someone who is suffering and yet attempting to resist. That song is needed by people who don’t belong to a large organization, religion, or other forms of solidarity–people who are dispersed and alone” (Nagahara). Such is the sound of Chiyo Okumura, who fluctuates between smoky subtlety and a high-pitched assertive vibrato that borders on the emotionality of enka. Her layered voice could get frenetic in the middle parts of songs, then spiraling into an orchestral backing track. Her first teenage releases covered French singer Sylvie Vartan, but she had better success in 1967 with a song called “Kitaguni No Aoi Sora,” a vocal rendition of a melody from a Ventures song, “Hokkaido Skies.” After that came a stretch of really great releases, including “Namidairo No Koi,” “Koigurui,” and “Koi No Dorei.” Her LPs, the few we’ve heard on Toshiba, are less interesting in terms of non-single offerings. Our hands-down favorite is her 1969 A-side jammer “Koi Dorobo,” a 45 that never leaves our DJing box. It’s also found on most of her greatest-hits albums. LISTEN
Ogawa has been sadly neglected on contemporary anthologies, although she was prominent on girl-singer compilations back in the day on her home label Toshiba, where she was often paired with peers Jun Mayuzumi and Chiyo Okumura on joint releases. Like Miki Hirayama, she tossed in a couple of popular English-language tracks per album, her best being an electrified fuzz-laden cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” from her first LP, around 1968. She also has several great 45s that are worth tracking down. Our favorite, which we are uploading, is a B-side called “Futari Ni Naritai,” a smooth eruption of cool-jazz saxophone, muted trumpet, and piano fills over periodic crashing drums and Ogawa’s soaring vocal sustains. LISTEN
Akiko Nakamura recorded prolifically for the King label, mainly singles, and also starred in several films. Her first 7″ was in 1967, “Nijiiro No Mizuumi” (Rainbow-colored Lake), where she is backed by Masaaki Hirao & All Stars Wagon (she also performed this track live in a film, backed by The Jaguars; see here.) “Suna No Jujika,” or “Cross In The Sand,” followed in 1968. She continued to record up until the early 80s. Like Okumura, she was more of a singles act, and her King LPs can get repetitive, re-using past hits as filler while neglecting her best B-sides, of which she had many. To that end, we’re uploading an energetic B-side called “Koi No Magunoria” (Love’s Magnolia) from 1968. LISTEN
Japanese women singers had an affinity for their Italian contemporaries, especially Mina, whose Italdisc single “Tintarella di Luna” (Moon Tan?) was covered by many, including a young Kayoko Moriyama on her early smash hit “Tsukikage No Napori.” She started on the tail end of Japan’s rockabilly/beach movie craze, her two early 10″ releases featuring covers by Western women like Connie Francis and Alma Cogan. Her biggest hit came much later, on a transcendent 1970 A-side called “Shiroichonosanba”, or “Butterfly Samba,” that came out on Toshiba and went through multiple pressings. She had one LP released around the same time, on Denon. LISTEN
Information is hard to find on Kiyoko Itoh. Her first LP was in 1969, called Ballads of Love, and a renowned collaboration with Kuni Kawachi and The Happenings Four followed, Woman At 23 Hour Love-In. She had a handful of singles before then, released on CBS. Our favorite is “When the Apple Blossoms,” a track saturated in warm tones that, like classic early Hibari Misora, creates a sonic mish-mash of “East” and “West.” She recorded this song twice, the second version being slower and jazzier. We have uploaded the original 45 A-side version, issued on Columbia in 1967. LISTEN
Jun & Nene
Another act for which little information exists in English. The duo consisted of Jun Chiaki and Nene Sanae. Our favorite song of theirs is called “O Netsui Naka”, which is a B-side released in 1969 on King Records. It is also on their first album, released that same year. Like The Peanuts, the vocal fill bits of their double-tracked voices could really make a song; in this one, listen for their cool overdubbed choral fades between lines, during the verses. LISTEN
All of Miki Hirayama’s fantastic early 45 sides–“Beautiful Yokohama”, “Noah’s Ark”, “Don’t You Know, I Love You!”–can conveniently be found on her debut album My Beautiful Seasons, issued on Columbia in 1971. Among her great LP-only cuts is her uptempo, piano-propelled cover of Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” which booms deeply between organ and snazzy horn blasts. Like Yuki Okazaki, she went synthy in the late 70s and continued to record and work hard into the 80s, singing on television regularly. LISTEN
Nakao recorded a slew of groovy singles for Victor. Her first 7″ was in 1962, a cover of “Pretty Little Baby” by Connie Francis. French covers of France Gall and Sylvie Vartan followed. Like Kayoko Moriyama, she was a versatile singer and dabbled in jazz standards and also cinema. Her best pop 45 came out in 1968 and is an absolute double-header, the fuzzy powerhouse “Koi No Sharock” b/w “Sharock No. 1.” Both are essential but we are linking to the former because of that amazing overlapping chorus. LISTEN
Yamamoto was brilliantly hammy. Her over-the-top stage persona was a clear forerunner of late-70s J-Pop acts like Pink Lady, and she caused a scandal with her stage outfits, with their exposed midriffs, honking bell bottoms, and overall extroverted flamboyance. Her early releases on Minoruphone are pretty run-of-the-mill, but she embraced her dancing side on the Canyon label, from 1971 onward. Since then, her career has gone through several renaissance periods and she continues to perform today. LISTEN
Another superstar that enjoyed a long and prolific career, Ishida’s early sides on Victor are difficult to find, so we can’t comment on those. Her big break came in 1968, with “Blue Light Yokohama,” her first 7″ release on Columbia Japan, which went to number #1 on the pop charts. The powerful “Taiyou Wa Naiteiru” followed. She continued to record throughout the 1970s. LISTEN
Like Kayoko Moriyama, Hirota started her career young at the Toshiba label, covering western pop songs like “You Don’t Own Me,” “Be My Baby,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” and Mina’s “Renato.” Her most interesting work came post-1965, on the Columbia label, where she matured as a singer and grew increasingly funky, with standout LPs like Exciting R&B Vol.2. In the 70s, she moved more strictly into jazz and pop standards. From the Columbia period, after Vol.2‘s blistering “Knock On Wood,” her best side that we’ve heard is undoubtedly the famed flip of “Ballad of a Doll’s House,” a track called “On A Sorrowful Day.” LISTEN
Melodies recorded by the Ventures were highly popular among kayōkyoku singers, with new lyrics written to be sung over the main instrumental riff, similar to how jazz bop singer Annie Ross composed lyrics to Wardell Gray’s saxophone solos in 1952. Along with Okumura’s “Hokkaido Skies,” Yuko Nagisa’s “Kyoto Doll” is probably the finest example of this trend, released on Toshiba in 1970. Primarily a singer of darker ballads, there are only a few uptempo Nagisa songs from this period. We have not heard her LPs. She subsequently released a second follow-up Ventures song, called “Reflections in a Palace Lake.” LISTEN
Okazaki was a movie star. Unlike some kayōkyoku singers who struggled to find a new style in the late-70s, she switched to the disco and boogie scene very well, with the twin albums Do You Remember Me and So Many Friends, from ’80 and ’81, still highly regarded today (see live clip here). During her earlier period, she recorded at least two LPs for Toshiba. Our favorite song from that era is the B-side of her first 7″, called “Hanabira No Namida,” a spectacular acoustic mix of voice, vibraphone, trumpet, and strings. LISTEN
Ouyang Fei Fei
Fei Fei was a Taiwanese-Japanese singer who started her career in 1971 with a hit on Toshiba, “Ame No Midōsuji.” From there, she had continued chart success for several years, easily transitioning into the disco scene in 1978-79. We’ve only heard one of her Toshiba albums, which is half- Japanese/half-English, containing covers of Karen Carpenter’s “Superstar” and Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend.” Our pick that we are uploading is the splendid A-side of her second 45, the torrential tarmac drama “Ame No Eapōto” (Rain Airport). LISTEN
Sources for Intro:
Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. “Twentieth-Century Popular Music in Japan.” Written by Mitsui, Tôru; edited by Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru and J. Lawrence Witzleben. Routledge, 2001.
Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop. Michael Bourdaghs. Columbia University Press, 2012.
Tokyo Boogie-Woogie: Japan’s Pop Era and Its Discontents. Hiromu Nagahara. Harvard University Press, 2017.
The following interview was transcribed from a Weekend Family Music Hour broadcast which took place on July 21st, 2018 on Freeform Portland. Jim (from the show Center for Cassette Studies) and I had the privilege to interview organist, singer and solo artist Frank Izuora. Izuora was a founding member of the Nigerian band Question Mark. Other members included his brother, bassist Amehi (Joe) Izuora; Chyke Okafor on drums; Uzoh Agulefo on percussion, and Victor Egbe on lead guitar. Their incredible debut release, Be Nice to the People, was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria in the mid 70s and is a masterpiece of psychedelic rock. Released by EMI’s Nigerian subsidiary, it was produced by the legendary Odion Iruoje, talent scout extraordinaire and the man behind the board for Ofege’s Try and Love and The Last of the Origins, C.S. Crew’s Funky Pack, Butley Emeka Moore’s Kiss & Smile, Apples’ Mind Twister, and literally hundreds of other Nigerian recordings that today inspire music aficionados around the globe.
Original copies of Be Nice to the People are highly coveted and never show up on the used market. Shadoks in Germany reissued a limited vinyl release (likely unauthorized) in 2007, which is how we came to know of it. A CD reissue came out several years later. Similar to Ofege, Be Nice to the People is known for its driving fuzz guitar passages and catchy rhythmic grooves, one-upping the UK hard rock scene at its own game. But Question Mark had a progressive pop lyricism that their peers lacked, an ability to craft ballads about the goodness of love and the importance of compassion and humanism, songs that, rather than being breathers between big guitar jams, are ones you would put the record on for. At the forefront of this unique sound was the voice and organ of Frank Izuora.
Izuora currently resides in Houston, TX, and he is still writing and composing music. He has a current recording available on Amazon called, Cruise Out.
He is also counselor who specializes in working with couples, families and children. Frank is a warm soul and multi-faceted human being whom we adore, and we are deeply thankful to him for granting us this opportunity. — Karen
Karen: How did Question Mark form as a band?
Frank: We formed our band through our social networks. Much like a domino effect, the one person I knew very well was my brother who was a bass player. I went to the same school my father went to, Dennis Memorial Grammar School. There was a young guy who played soccer there named Chyke, and his last name was Okafor. His nickname was Chykzilly. He knew I played guitar and the keyboards. He in turn knew Ekelaw Uzoh –I know it’s hard for Americans to pronounce African names because it can be jaw breaking! — so from there we formed a band. We knew an engineer in Enugu, his name was Goddy, sort of like Godwin. We went to his studio and recorded some sample tracks, and while we were there, we met Victor and he played lead guitar for Question Mark. So I played keyboard for the band. From there we got together: Joey, myself, Chykzilly, Victor, and Uzoh and we formed the band Question Mark.
Karen: How did you get signed by EMI?
Frank: It’s interesting because I knew Chykzilly who knew Uzoh, and Uzoh who was a congo player and percussionist; he had contact with EMI recording studios, so through Uzoh we met this guy and we started talking about our songs. He said we sound good enough and we did some recordings, so that’s exactly what we did.
Karen: Was it produced by Odion Uroje, I think he was the talent guy for EMI, I think he also was the producer for Ofege?
Karen: Did you spend some time in the U.K growing up?
Frank: Yeah, we have an in interesting family background. My father went to London and took the whole family, including my mother, myself, and my only sister and my two brothers. We sailed on an ocean liner. Back in those days it was quite popular and flying in an airplane was quite expensive. So we went on an ocean liner which took us about a month to get there from Nigeria. Along the way we stopped in various countries. In 1960 we got to London and spent 6 years there. I went to school there. I just got back from London recently and I went to my old elementary school. We were there from 1960-1966 and returned back to Nigeria. When I was in London I was exposed to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles at a early age. I was tuned into all the stars that were around, like Elvis Presley. We returned back to Nigeria in 1966 and 4 years later I seriously started to learn how to play the guitar. From there I met other musicians and played in garage bands and honed my skills and then met Question Mark band members much later.
Karen: If I could be in the U.K, I think 60-66 in terms of music would be a great time to be there.
Frank: Yes! I remember a competition between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and I believe in my mind, The Beatles won. When I hear my music I think of old girlfriends or analogies like that.
Karen: Have people tried to contact you prior to us about your music, or asking if Question Mark would get back together?
Frank: I was talking about that to my brother, you know that’s 30 years ago and the drummer is dead and it’s like getting the Beatles back together again, you can’t. Chykzilly passed away a number of years ago. The percussionist Uzoh is actually here. He’s the guy sitting on the extreme right of the album cover with afro hair and Chykzilly is the guy beside him with his arms crossed. Uzoh is a professor in Dallas at a university. Who knew he would end up being a professor…but the track “Hey Hey Girl” was one of the few tracks we wanted to remix. We were all living on school campus and we decided to go to EMI studios in Lagos to record these songs. We all got into a car and drove 8 miles to Lagos to record Be Nice to the People. We were supposed to have spent 3 days recording the album but we just spent a day and a half. We were rushed and a lot of things we wanted to remix such as the drums, some guitar parts and vocals; we had to rush back to high school, coming back on a Sunday so we had no time. It’s like when you hear on recordings, certain areas need tweaking, so when I’m relistening to my music I say, here it comes. Oh it’s that part needs changing! Where today’s artists their perfectionists who spend 2-3 days. We spent a day and a half on ten songs.
Karen: The lyrics are so great on Be Nice to the People and Didn’t Want to Lose You…
Frank: Interesting because in the song, “Love,” the lyrics were not my lyrics, they were written by my sister. She was a child prodigy who passed away. She spoke 3 languages, she was a bass player, she played classical music like Mozart and Handel. When you listen to the lyrics of “Love,” it has a lot of substance and so she wrote that and I didn’t sing it. My younger brother Joe sang it. As I said I just visited Joe in London and we were listening to Question Mark because your show wanted to interview me. So we were listening to the entire album in the car on CD and like most musicians they are very critical of their own work; more so than listeners. So when Joey sang the words, “Love was really out to hurt me,” I wasn’t really a lyricist. I’m a very spontaneous person, where if I see something right away, I will write words about it. My sister Elizabeth would put a lot of thought into how to write a song. I admired her for that. Now that I’m a therapist, I put a lot of thought into my words, like when I see my clients or play with other musicians I am not trying to overpower them, I’m trying to blend with them. It’s all about harmony and the give-and-take and relationships and everything you do in life. I was supposed to have sung that song, and it was really late at night in the studio. We convinced my brother Joe to sing that song. He said “I’m not a vocalist” and I told him he would go down in history. He was tired, so tired.
Karen: Did you guys tour very much as a band apart from recording?
Frank: We did, we played at parties, we opened for BLO and we played on TV. My mother was a director at a TV station in Enugu in the eastern part of Nigeria before the Biafran war she was in charge of a TV show called Curtis Club, which featured young people who could sing, dance, play the piano or tell stories. We went on that talent show and performed for the first time. That was the first time we played live. We thought we can go in there and tear the place down. As soon as we saw the camera rolling and hear the producer say you’re on the nervousness sets in. It’s a lot different performing live than being in a recording studio.
Karen: Did you guys attend a music school like Ofege?
Frank: No, my sister and I had an Italian music teacher strictly for the piano who was hired by my parents. Unfortunately, I think I had ADHD or something because while she was teaching us I could hear my friends kicking the soccer ball so I went to join them instead. My sister learned to read music and play piano. I never really gave myself the opportunity to read and write music. I learned strictly by ear. I learned how to play the guitar for all the wrong reasons after seeing how he attracted girls when he played music. So I had my friend show me a few chords, I started to listen to Beatles songs again and rehearsed guitar parts and then used my own creativity to produce something similar. You can hear some of that in Oh My Girl. I didn’t play guitar on that track but I showed the guitarist what to play. There was no one who could play the piano, so I took that instrument.
Karen: How did your solo record come to be?
FI: I left Nigeria and came to the States in 1977 and I went to Buffalo State College in Buffalo NY. I returned to Nigeria in 1982 and recorded a solo album. I played all the instruments and did it myself, I decided to quickly write songs and practice. The producers at the TV station where my mother worked on the talent show heard me playing so he started helping me out in recording my solo album. I wanted to record my album before I headed back to Buffalo. So the producer helped me. So I went to meet a guy, Goddy Oku–Oku in Nigeria means fire or light in English. He had a band called the Hykkers who were known in eastern Nigeria. So I went to Oku’s recording studio with them, and it took quite some time recording my album but I got it all done before going back to college.
Karen: Didn’t Want to Lose You was also pressed at Wilfilms, which was William Onyeabor studio. So you’re giving us an incredible history lesson…
Frank: I can tell you a whole lot more. It’s very interesting history, do you guys know about the history of the Nigerian Biafran War? Well, my mother knew the head of state Ojukwu, so when Nigeria broke away, he was aware of our band. He purchased instruments for us and at the time we were not Question Mark, we were The Questions. In The Questions my sister was playing the bass guitar and my cousins who were my mother’s half sister’s daughters were on vocals. So through Ojukwu after buying us instruments he flew us to Gabon during the Biafra war to perform for the president of Gabon. I think his name was Bongo something, he was a really short guy, he was sitting on a couch and his feet barely touched the ground and I was telling myself, he’s the president of a country…We performed to raise money for the troops and we were flying there on a relief plane and they were shooting at us in the plane we were flying in. We actually raised money for the troops and we evolved from Question to Question Mark and then we performed for the first time on TV on the talent show.
Karen: There was another band called The Wings who also performed for the military….
Frank: My mother knew them as well. My mother knew quite a few bands that helped us we knew bands who rehearsed and played through the war, we rehearsed in a garage with a band called The Fractions.
Karen: Have labels contacted you about reissuing Question Mark?
Frank: I think I could have done things differently, at that time about 9 years ago they had us sign papers and they reissued that. I still own the rights to my own solo record. The song “Freaking Out” and the story behind that song. My father’s brother who was a doctor and musician in the Army returned from Germany, he played music for the fun of it. He returned with a bass guitar and my brother Joey played guitar and he had an amplifier. He gave us his bass as a gift and I looked at my brother and he looked at me and I said, hey let’s freak out! And so we wrote and titled the song “Freaking Out”.
Karen: Now Again reissued Freaking Out and Scram Out on their compilation Wake Up! Is it strange to hear your original record is worth quite a lot now?
Frank: Yeah! Remember that old phrase, one man’s trash…when we recorded these songs I wasn’t thinking of business. We were having fun. I think sometimes when you feel what you do isn’t really all that valuable. I think as human beings we don’t stay put and life is a journey. You improve who you are as a person, musician work on your style and keep on making progress. It fills my heart with pleasure/appreciation to hear that people appreciate the music I have made many years ago. If the whole world could appreciate each other it would be a better world.
Karen: Through your music and lyric writing I hear how much positivity you have…
Frank: Music is my first love and I am a musician first. I am also a LMFT (Licensed Marriage Family Therapist), I’ve run into people who have so much emotional stress and through my profession and my personal life I’ve come to realize that when a person loses a sense of self and purpose, I try to come in and show them who they are and bring that out, and gain self esteem. When I was young I was extremely shy and when I tried to talk to girls, I would write down things to talk about. I would call them on the phone and then drop the phone because I was so nervous. I’ve realized it takes two to make a relationship. It inspired me to write songs to appeal to both sexes and inspire people.
Karen: What are your musical projects now?
Frank: I’m working on some new material. I have a new instrumental album called Cruise Out. I am also working on a new vocal album that will have some lyrics that reflect the same philosophies I have. My songs are going to make people appreciate life and have a really good time. When I get through with my new songs, I’ll let you guys know.
Karen: Would you ever tour Didn’t Want to Lose You?
Frank: I would tour in Portland, OR if I can get back up musicians. I’ll think about it and figure out a possibility to have people play old and new stuff. I left London and I was talking to Joey about people wanting to interview me. I ran into musicians on the plane, people who played with Heart and Bad Company. It was a coincidence and I think there is some positive karma going on right now. Hopefully one of these days I get to meet up with you guys, as we say in Nigeria, eyeball to eyeball.
The very start of the 1978 liner notes for Grace Ekpeyong’s Morning Prayer puts it bluntly: “Although the Nigerian entertainment industry, especially the musical sector, has grown enormously over the past two decades, the incidence of outstanding female performers on the scene remains rare and isolated.” Women were often on backing vocals, transforming good records into great ones in the process; see William Onyeabor’s “The Moon and The Sun,”The Wings’ “Someone Else Will,” or anything on N’draman Blintch’s “Cosmic Sounds” record. If they assumed a headlining role, it was sometimes through collaborative partnerships with musician spouses (Grace and Jack Ekpeyong) or through family in the industry (Lorine Okotie, sister of Kris). Joe Ngozi Mokwunyei was already a young academic when she recorded her landmark Boys & Girls LP in 1979, as Joe Moks. Many point to the success of Oby Onyioha’s breakthrough I Want To Feel Your Love in 1981 as the big tipping point. From the pre-80s era, the most well-known Nigerian women singers outside of the country were probably the Lijadu Sisters and Christiana Essien. Essien was a teenage T.V. star when she recorded her first LP Freedom for Anodisc in 1977. The Lijadu Sisters were perhaps culturally acceptable because harmonizing sisters often get a societal pass. By their own account, gender bias and exploitation played a role in their acrimonious split from Decca’s Nigerian subsidiary label Afrodisia, in 1980.
Biographical details are scarce to non-existent. We have linked to the best YouTube rips we could find and noted any good reissues. We are just amateur fans so please forgive any errors, poor assumptions, or general ignorance on display. Thanks to Nigerian pop music expert Uchenne Ikonne for graciously answering our questions and for all he has done to get many of these great records re-issued.
Sandra Smith Izsadore
It’s ironic that women artists are so absent from Nigeria’s early afrobeat scene given that it was an African-American woman in California, Sandra Smith (now Izsadore), who had such a profound impact on its most renowned male figure, Fela Kuti. According to drummer Tony Allen’s autobiography, when they toured America for the first time in 1969, it was she who turned Kuti on to the importance of black nationalism, colonial history, and cannabis. Sandra was a turning point in Kuti’s sense of political identity, the one who, in his words, “Africanized” him. After her influence, his records became sonic attacks on western dominance, augmented by Lemi Ghariokwu’s anti-imperialist art design. And it is Sandra’s voice that forms the centerpiece of our favorite Kuti side, 1976’s Upside Down, credited to “Sandra Sings With Fela & Africa 70” and recorded during her 6-month stay at Kuti’s commune, Kalakuta. LISTEN
Bola Onagoruwa & Ukachi “Ukay” Ofurum
Some contributions by women on records headlined by men were absolutely transformative. Such is the case with the first LP from Grotto, At Last…, which was issued in 1977 by EMI Nigeria. According to its liner notes, Bola and Ukay were classmates of Grotto’s guitarist and composer Martin Amenechi, at St. Gregory’s College. During a second session of vocal overdubs in December 1976, they were invited to participate, recording over the previously laid-down men’s vocals. Bola’s classic lead on “Come Along With Me,” the album’s opener, is a mesmerizing collision of musical influences. Likewise, Ukay’s contributions to “Grottic Depression II” and “Change of Tide” helped elevate this LP to a new plateau of afropop greatness. Check out “Funk From Mother,” where both Bola and Ukay trade off lead vocals with male members of the band. Original pressings rarely surface and fetch hundreds of dollars when they do. Luckily, At Last… was just re-issued by Odion Livingstone, a Nigerian label run by Odion Iruoje, the original producer, and Temitope Kogbe, a record collector and DJ. Highly recommended. LISTEN
Mary Afi Usuah
Classically-trained singer Mary Afi Usuah released several beat singles for the Italian market, as Mary Afi, before returning to Nigeria to record two highly-regarded LPs. She is one of the few artists here who has received a topnotch reissue in full, courtesy of archivist (and former Usuah pupil) Uchenna Ikkone; all should seek out Ekpenyong Abasi, her first LP with the South Eastern State Cultural Band. She later released African Woman on Clover, which we have yet to hear. From the first record, the slow escalation of “From Me To You” is six soulful minutes of power, strength, and sadness. “Mma Ama Mbo” is also a must hear. LISTEN
Like Mary Afi Usuah, Joy Nwosu studied voice in an Italian conservatory, initially researching African cinema and writing a book on the topic in 1968, entitled Cinema e Africa nera. She then returned to Nigeria and began recording a mixture of her own compositions and new arrangements of folk songs, which became Azania on Afrodisia, her only LP. Among its standout vocal accomplishments are “Egwu Oyoyo (Oyoyo’s Dance)” and “Ile (What the Tongue Can Do).” The A-side of a 7” single released just prior was included on an anthology called Nigerian Blues 1970-76. Nwosu later became an academic in ethnomusicology and now lives in New Jersey. A great 2014 interview with her can be found at Cinemafrica (this link to online journal is dead now, sorry; she said some great things about racism in Italy in 1970s, wish I’d saved it now). LISTEN
Christy Ogbah recorded three stellar LPs in her career that we know of: two for Duomo (pop) and a third for Mosokam (highlife), which is credited to Christy Ogbah & Her Melody Group. While best known for her wall-of-fuzz dance track “Advice”–her only English-language song–Ogbah excelled at slower synth-heavy pop, sung in Ishan, that was strictly neither disco nor funk but a far more fascinating mashup. Songs like “Iyiye” and “Iyebhado” become plodding loops of multi-tracked vocals and melodic Moog accents, a sort of odd boggie-drone. At times, her layered voice sounds almost like a sythesizer. The 1980 LP Advice, packed side to side with deep hooks, is our fave Duomo release (its three best tracks are on Odion Livingstone’s indispensable 2017 Duomo Sounds Ltd.) Its follow-up, Iziegbe, shows Ogbah further exploring intersections of highlife and Lagos disco, melding the hybrid sounds found on her first two recordings. According to the liner notes of Duomo Sounds Ltd., she was a police officer at the time of these recordings. LISTEN
Joe Ngozi Mokwunyei (Joe Moks)
Comb & Razor put the song “Boys & Girls” on their superb Brand New Wayo anthology, which led to its rapid spread through DJ disco sets around the world. The track was taken from Joe Moks’ LP of the same name, released on Afrodisia in 1979. Like Ogbah’s Advice, it is a synthy dance bomb from beginning to end, meticulously sequenced and arranged by Moks and Tony Okoroji, without a bad track. Apart from the title song, “Being In Love Is Being Involved,” “Closer Than Skin,” and “Insure My Love” are all particularly outstanding. Today, Dr. Mokwunyei continues her teaching and research at the University of Benin, specializing in subsects of Nigerian musicology, most recently among the Anioma and their use of a woodwind instrument called the akpele which serves as a melodic surrogate for the human voice. LISTEN
Grace Ekpeyong (Grace Jackson ‘E’ & The Galaxy)
Ekpeyong started off as the lead singer for an all-girl Army band called The Tranquilizer in 1975, but they broke up later that same year. She then met and married bassist Jackson Ekpeyong, with whom she assembled her fantastic backing band, The Galaxy. Her first EMI LP Morning Prayer from 1978 unfortunately lacks band credits but elements of The Galaxy already sound in place. Standout tracks are the two “think” songs closing each side, “Think of Tomorrow” and “Think of Yourself.” So many of her songs are philosophical, socio-political statements whose lyrics somehow transcend time. The three EMI records that followed throughout 1979-80–Don’t Treat Me Like a Fool, Woman Needs Love,I Need You–are all full of addictive melodies and electronic sounds. DTMLAF is arguably the best of the three (Mike Umoh on trap drums!) and includes the trancey title song, the conflict-resolution epic “For Better for Worse,” and “Give Me Your Love.” Woman Needs Love is more reggae, simultaneous released in Nigeria on EMI and France on Pathé. I Need You is ballad-centric and melancholy, with great use of Moog accents, as with DTMLAF, courtesy of keyboardist Coll. Jonas. In 2014, the lead cut from WNL, “I’m Gonna Get You,” was bootlegged onto a 7″ by Ximeno Records, albeit in edited form. This link is to the full LP version. LISTEN
It was South Africa’s Miriam Makeba whose beats exploded refreshingly into the European market in the 1960s, with her worldwide hit “Pata Pata” being covered by women artists from Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and France. She became a pan-African source of pride and inspiration for women, as evidenced on the lead track “Great Miriam Makeba” from Commy Bassey’s first LP, In Solitude, released in 1978 on Clover. Bassey wrote and composed all but one song, with Original Wings guitarist Charles Effi Duke helping out with arrangements. Her voice was deeper than others on this list, with a unique drawl, both single and double-tracked. Although In Solitude suffers somewhat from Clover’s claustrophobic production sound, the performances are solid. “Pretty Angel” and “Smiles” punctuate rhythm with silence. But it’s the lead on Side 2, “Looking for My Man,” that’s the big jammer. Anodisc’s Let’s Dance, released two years later, saw Bassey finding her niche in the disco scene and offers up such essential clap-heavy grooves as “Now That I’ve Found You,” “I Need Someone,” “We Want Togetherness,” and “Let’s Dance.” LISTEN
From all accounts, Afrodisia had a bad habit of signing artists, releasing one LP, and not offering much in the way of follow-up, promotion, or helping them get established. This might have been the case with Eme Ballantyne, an obscure singer for which we can find no information. Her sole LP is called Remember Me, which came out in 1981. The piercing timbre of her double-tracked voice as it repeats “My life is like a rainbow in the sky” throughout the opening ballad “My Life” manages to sound both old and contemporary at the same time. LISTEN
Carol Bridi’s synth-groover “Shake The Dust” comes from her debut LP called One Family, which was released on an indie label called Otto Records at the height of the Lagos boogie explosion, in 1984. Other standout performances include “Where You Are” and “Soul On Fire.” The crisp spacey sound owes much to the wonderful engineering and production of George Achini and Remy Njoku, who also worked with such greats as Esbee Family, Bassey Black, Christy Essien, and Oby Onyioha. LISTEN
The lack of legit Christy Essien reissues is particularly odd given her popularity at home, and the fact that DJs have sampled her songs so heavily over the past fifteen years. She started out with the perfectly-realized Freedom in 1977 on Anodisc. Patience immediately followed, before a move to the Blackspot label for Time Waits For No One. Decca then picked her up for her two most popular records, One Understanding and Give Me A Chance on Afrodisia. Her sixth release, Ever Liked My Person?, was the biggest success of her career and saw her moving towards a more polished (but less funky) sound. She later became the founder and first woman president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria and was involved in social advocacy causes for women, including against female circumcision. Check the swinging rhythmic groove between band and voice on “Feel So Good Sometime.” LISTEN
Apart from her music, we know next to nothing about Doris Ebong. She recorded one colossal LP for Phonodisk in 1982, All I Need Is Your Love, produced by Tony Essien and with songwriting credits split between the two of them. Ebong’s own contributions, or the ones that she co-wrote–like the frenetic “Disco Drive” and the ground-shaking “I Won’t Let You Down”–are the album’s shoulda-been megahits that today fill dancefloors worldwide. The Shirley-Ellis-meets-Catfish-Collins instructional “Boogie Trip” was the mind-blowing centerpiece of the Lagos Disco Inferno compilation a few years back, which is essential listening. Willy Nfor’s exceptional bass playing graces all tracks. LISTEN
Mona Finnih recorded three collaborations with former Aktion and MonoMono guitarist Jimi Lee. The first and best, EMI’s A Stroll In The Moonlight from 1980, is a wonder to behold, packed with horn-heavy tracks like Lee’s majestic funky title cut, Finnih’s “People of the World,” and her pounding tour-de-force of empowerment “I Love Myself.” In 1984, they released Almighty on Afrodisia and Eni Ma Bimo on Emona. More highlife than disco, Lee’s “Iwa Ika” is the standout from the latter, a tight swirling mass of percussion, Hawaiian guitar, saxophone accents, and multi-tracked vocals. In 2014, Voodoo Funk compiled two of her best tracks from the Moonlight LP onto a 12” release. LISTEN
Eunice Mokus Arimoku
Like label-mate Christy Ogbah, Eunice Mokus Arimoku was affiliated with the early-80s Lagos club scene. Her first record was on Duomo, Onye Oni Me, while her second was self-released five years later on her own label, Unimokus Records, called I Am Glad You Are Mine. The track “Loneliness” from the latter is her big jammer, a loud echoey sprawl of voice and synth over a single looping guitar signature. From her first LP, “Ariro” is a standout, recently anthologized on the Duomo compilation from Lagos-based Odion Livingstone. Her powerful multi-tracked voice propels all of these songs forward in profound ways that we can’t articulate. LISTEN
Onyioha’s acclaimed I Want To Feel Your Love represented the launch of a new era for women artists in Nigeria. While industry prejudices remained, a steady stream nevertheless began changing disco conventions and embracing a more mellow 80s dancefloor sound. Time, Tabansi, Phonodisk, and Taretone all began to sign and record more women artists, like Stella Monye, Lorine Okotie, Julie Coker, and Martha Ulaeto. Onyioha recorded a second LP in 1984 on Sunny Alade, entitled Break It, but its success failed to match I Want To Feel Your Love. While you can’t beat the driving force of its title song, we’re partial to “Enjoy Your Life,” the smooth swinging side closer that includes a line about “humpty dumpty stuff” that we can’t ever really make out due to the cool jabby synth pan. Check out the compilation Doing It In Lagos from Soundway for this track and others. She’s now an anthropologist; seek out the YouTube interview where she discusses the importance of the pre-Gregorian African calendar. LISTEN
Lastly, there isn’t much we can add to the story of Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu. The talented twins toured the world and knocked out a string of flawless records during the latter half of the 70s: Danger, Mother Africa, Sunshine, and Horizon Unlimited. While Danger is usually the fan fave, be sure to check out “Set Me Free” and “Reincarnation” from Sunshine. Instead of a song, we’re linking to an incredible documentary clip from 1980 that finds them grappling with the exploitation they’ve experienced at the hands of Decca’s Afrodisia label, but also optimistic about the roles for women artists moving forward. “It’s only this industry that has a problem of a shortage of female artists…I wouldn’t be surprised in the next five years if we don’t have more females in this profession than men.” LISTEN
(We are deeply indebted to original band member Manford Best Okaro for everything below. See his incredible book History of the Wingsfor additional information.)
In 1966, civil war erupted in Nigeria. Hostilities had been building since the bloody Kano riot of 1953, and the discovery of additional oil reserves in the east reignited the conflict. The Prime Minister and his cabinet were killed in a coup by Igbo secessionists who declared themselves the breakaway Republic of Biafra. “The perpetrators brazenly looted properties, raped women and committed unfathomable atrocities under the guise of a religious uprising,” Wings guitarist Manford Best recounts in his book, History of the Wings. “This exodus led to an influx of refugees and caused untold hardship such that hunger and starvation became the orders of the day.” Young men in Biafra were expected to fight for the survival of the new republic, but the safer gig was logistical support for the military. This included bands to perform at bases and official events, and to boost overall troop morale. Hence, the Biafran Air Force created a band called BAF Wings.
BAF Wings consisted of two distinct units of musicians: a popular highlife section, led by established bandleader Adolf King; and a second smaller line-up geared towards the “beat” pop music of the day. This pop band consisted of Dream Lovell (Dan Ian) on lead guitar, Gab Zani on lead vocals, Jonathan “Spud Nathan” Udensi on rhythm guitar, Arinze “Ari” Okpala on bass, and Manford Best on drums, with Frank Moses Nwandu acting as manager. The military paid for instruments, amplifiers, and a bus for transportation between assignments. The two sections continued on until the collapse, as recounted by Manford Best:
“After Christmas 1969, it became clear that Biafra was about to lose the battle. When non-stop gunfire and mortar shells started landing everywhere indiscriminately, we knew that advancing Federal soldiers had finally broken through in several sectors. As people in general including the highlife section ran for their dear lives in different directions on foot, members of the pop music section decided to converge at Azia, which was Spud Nathan’s village. Despite the fact that there was no time for a thorough movement plan, we were able to salvage two amplifiers, three microphones, loud speakers, the drumset and two guitars as we fled. Thereafter, we went to our various villages to reunite with members of our families and for them to be aware that we survived the war.”
A ceasefire came in 1970. The country was devastated, especially the east, with civilian deaths a staggering 500,000 to 3,000,000, mainly from famine and disease caused by the blockade. Nigeria was temporarily divided into four states, and the renowned sounds created by the funk bands of the defeated Biafran independence movement quickly began to take hold and spread across the nation. The reformed band, now simply The Wings, decided to base themselves in Enugu, the new capital of eastern Nigeria, focusing on hotels as their mainstay. If you could get steady work at a hotel, you could become a sort of house band there, building a following and making enough to live on. Any spare income earned by the band was invested back into improved equipment (synthesizers and organs were notoriously hard to maintain), and through this process, they became regulars at the Dayspring Hotel on Sunday afternoons, playing primarily pop/soul numbers by The Beatles, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Otis Redding.
A significant setback occurred when lead guitarist Dan Ian (later of Wrinkar Experience) and singer Gab Zani (later of One World) decided to leave the band, which effectively ended their tenure at the hotel. Just as the band was on the verge of splitting, their manager was approached with a fortuitous offer of a 1-year contract with 33rd Brigade Headquarters in Maiduguri. This meant a monthly salary, free housing, health care, all new musical gear, plus a new bus. The members of the band agreed that it was a great opportunity, despite the lack of autonomy that went along with being a military attachment; at least there was no war. They quickly grabbed two new members to flesh out the lineup: Okechukwu “Okey” Uwakwe, a lanky guitarist from a band called The Wavelengths; and Pius Dellin, a keyboard player from neighboring Kano. The band’s existing rhythm guitarist Spud Nathan, who had already been singing some highlife numbers during the band’s hotel sets, mainly to give vocalist Gab Zani a break, stepped in to lead vocals and began honing his voice.
It was now 1971 and pop music was making inroads on the African highlife scene. Fela Kuti and his drummer Tony Allen, inspired in part by Sierra Leone’s funk stars Geraldo Pino & the Heartbeats, are credited with coining the term “Afrobeat” to describe this new sound. EMI’s Nigerian subsidiary began scouting local talent to sign, as did Decca. When not performing for military functions, The Wings were free to gig around the city of Aba at will, and they quickly became a fixture in the burgeoning club scene, primarily at the Ambassador and Unicoco hotels, where they played with house band The Funkees. This led to their being signed by EMI.
In early 1972, the band headed to Lagos and recorded their first 7” single, entitled “You’ll Want Me Back” b/w “Catch That Love.” The release sold well and brought them nationwide radio exposure for the first time. This was followed within six months by “Afam Efuna” b/w “Had I Known” on the HMV label. At this point, due to increasing opportunities and regional fame, they opted not to renew their contract with the military, which resulted in a punitive confiscation of all gear and equipment which the military had purchased, including their bus. Once more, the band was destitute and on the verge of financial ruin.
Jake Sollo and The Funkees, looking to relocate to England, arranged for the sale of their instruments to The Wings through negotiations with EMI, the label of both bands. This enabled the recording of their third and most successful single to date, in October 1973: “Someone Else Will” b/w “I’ve Been Loving You.” Former member Dan Ian played guest rhythm guitar on the track while his two sisters, Callista and Meg Mbaezue, sang backing harmony over Spud’s vocal. The band’s popularity accelerated quickly, culminating in their appearance on the premier musical program on NTA, the Nigerian Television Authority.
For reasons unclear but purportedly to strengthen the rhythm section, additional percussionists Emma Dabro and Dandy Aduba were hired. Manford Best moved from drums to rhythm guitar, replaced by veteran highlife drummer Joel Madubuike, who is credited only as “Noel” on the back jacket of their first LP. It was with this lineup that The Wings entered EMI Studios in Lagos in April 1974 to record their first and only full-length album, Kissing You So Hard, with Pal Akalonu producing. The album was a regional success and stands today as one of the finest Nigerian pop records of all time, starting with Spud Nathan’s anthem “Single Boy” and ending with Uwakwe’s prophetic and plodding groove “Gone With The Sun.” (Due to a manufacturing issue, several songs are reversed in the running order for all copies I’ve seen.)
The production sound is cavernously wonderful and strange, with bursts of guitar and organ moving up high in the mix, disappearing, then surging back, all held together by Ari Okpala’s tight bass lines; check out “Make Me Happy,” with its two distinct passages of Uwakwe’s fuzzed-out guitar and Dellin’s organ breaks, punctuated with Madubuike’s precision drum fills. On the technical aspects of the recording process, Manford Best states that “while all the instruments were being played with the singing going on, the engineer skillfully recorded all the inputs at a go.” The album’s philosophical centerpiece is Spud Nathan’s cut “But Why,” in which he bleakly describes his “struggle to exist” when “emptiness drowns his whole life.” The song’s brooding spirituality would obsess fans for years, especially in light of what was shortly to come.
December 26, 1974. The band played a gig at Mbaukwu. Stories differ as to what went down from this point forward with regard to a disagreement that night within the band. According to Best’s recent account, it was an established practice to rotate a leader monthly between the band’s core four members (Spud, Manford, Ari, and Okey). Spud was supposed to hand over leadership to Manford on December 24th, but he refused to do so for reasons unclear; the latter theorizes it was because a lucrative show was coming up in Port-Harcourt, and Spud wanted to be the one to collect and distribute the money. Tempers flared but Spud ultimately agreed to hand over control to Manford and rode with him in his newly-purchased Toyota to the next gig as a conciliatory gesture. At 4:00am, the band departed in separate vehicles to the town of their next show. Spud and Okey rode in Manford’s car and slept. What happened, according to Manford, is as follows:
“At about 6:00am, two kilometers after crossing the notorious Njaba bridge, we reached Azara-Obiato village and I was turning a corner when suddenly I saw a woman crossing the road. I tried to avoid her by swerving to the left but on seeing an oncoming vehicle swerved back to the right, lost control of the car and knocked her down in the process. The car skidded over the embankment and somersaulted in the bush resting finally on its side. The noisy impact of the crashing car and the alarming cries of the injured woman attracted villagers to the scene. They turned over the car to its normal position, forced the door open and carried Okey and I out while others rescued the woman. When I regained consciousness I stood up and heard Okey moaning and saying some indistinguishable words. I tried to help him stand up but he could not. This was because of the excruciating pain resulting from his injuries. I looked around and could not find Spud so I started shouting.”
Spud Nathan had been thrown from the car’s window; his neck snapped. Okey, writhing in pain and unable to stand, was placed on a bus and transported to two different hospitals, since the first lacked the expertise to handle the traumatic damage done to his spinal cord. The rest of the band, traveling in a different vehicle, would not learn of the crash until the following day. Word traveled fast throughout the region about the wreck and the circumstances behind it, feeding rumors and conjecture among fans and friends. Internally, between the bad blood from the fight beforehand, Best’s comparatively superficial injuries, and the mysterious unidentified “woman on the bridge,” suspicions arose immediately. Existing rifts between Best and the other founding members, especially Ari Okpala, erupted. According to Best, an assassination attempt was made on his life shortly after the crash, which he attributes to either Okpala or Spud Nathan’s sister in London. Ari Okpala and the other members decided to dissolve the band for two years in honor of their dead friend.
True to their plan, in 1976, Ari Okpala founded a new outfit called Original Wings International. Of the Kissing You So Hard lineup, only Okpala on bass and the hired percussionists, Dandy Aduba and Emma Dabro, remained. Johnny Fleming, who had briefly toured with an earlier pre-1974 iteration of the band, returned to replace Pius Dellin on keyboards. With Okey Uwakwe now paralyzed, Charles Effi Duke took over on lead guitar while Jerry Demua was hired to replace Spud Nathan on lead vocals. Drummer Joel Madubuike, who had already split to join the popular funk band The Apostles, was replaced by Emma Chinaka, a.k.a. Emma China.
Meanwhile, keyboardist Pius Dellin (also excluded from the Original Wings relaunch) alerted Manford Best of the brewing betrayal by their old comrades. Furious and feeling slighted, he immediately formed a rival band called Super Wings, with Pius on keys and four other musicians: John-John Duke on bass; Johnson Hart on drums; and George Black and Jerry Boifraind on vocals/percussion. Afraid of getting beaten to the punch and wanting to stake their claim to the name, they rushed into the studio to record a new album, signing to Lagos-based label Clover Sound, run by Ben Okonkwo. The resulting LP called Men of the People was, by Manford Best’s own account, a bit of a mess in the mix department, despite some ace performances, particularly the tracks “Lonely World,” “Trust Your Woman,” and Dellin’s shimmering “Sunshine of Tomorrow.”
Although Men of the People is revered today as a classic, back then, this mad dash to the marketplace backfired. Sales of the LP were flat, and their second-rate status was soon sealed, when, just weeks later in 1976, Ari Okpala’s Original Wings released their own album, entitled Tribute To Spud Nathan, on Nigeria EMI, its cover sporting a photo of Spud, arms outstretched and in belled sleeves, singing onstage at a University of Nigeria show. Starting off with the tribute song “Spud Nathan,” which acknowledged the acrimonious splintering and promised peace from this point forward, it is a meticulously crafted record from start to finish, every bit as good as its forerunner Kissing You So Hard. Inspired rhythmic standouts include “Tell Me,” “Don’t Call Me A Fool,” and “Love Is Meant For Two.” It was, by all accounts of the time, a major comeback in the Nigerian pop scene.
Super Wings would persevere for one more record, again on Clover and with Ben Okonkwo producing. Most of the lineup remained, sans Jerry Boifraind, who left to record his first two solo LPs for Anodisc and Love Day. Lessons were clearly learned from the rushed release of Men of the People, and 1977’s My Love Is For You is the band’s creative apex. Manford Best’s crisp, reverb-drenched riffs, mixed with Pius Dellin’s organ and new vocalist Allwell Opara’s radical warbly vibrato, make for a distinctive and powerful unifying sound throughout its nine tracks, including “My Own People,” “Papa Was So Good,” and “Something (Love)’s Missing.” In true competitive form, that same year also saw the release of the Original Wings LP You’ll Want Me Back, which featured a re-worked version of the first 7” release by The Wings. While a fantastic record (“Stoop To Conquer,” “Help Yourself” and “Anonymous Man” are high-energy standouts), the balance between Original Wings and Super Wings was now shifting a bit.
But it didn’t matter. The market was changing. Nigerian Disco and the spinoff scene later codified as Boogie were on the ascent. Funk bands across the country began closing up shop, with some musicians shifting increasingly into arrangement and production work. Manford Best shut down Super Wings and recorded two renowned solo albums. Original Wings released the superb Change This World in 1979 before Ari Okpala decided to dissolve this iteration of the band permanently. Some members, or at least Dandy Aduba on rhythm guitar, would return as backing band Wings International on Okpala’s synth jammer record Better Love, released on EMI Nigeria in 1985. It is the last release of his that I know of.
Founding lead guitarist Okey Uwakwe’s eventual death in 1977, from spinal injuries sustained in the car crash years earlier, was the sad closing coda for both outfits. Today, “The Wings of Aba” and the name of Spud Nathan are legendary in Nigeria.
[NOTE: Written in 1998 as graduate project in Book History. Several editions have been published since which are not covered below. This version is missing the bibliography.]
“American books constitute packages and I imagine that the same rules which apply to pill boxes and canned food must apply to books…We have three kinds of packages for books–those which attract as flowers attract insects, those which establish their profundity with stern dull covers (since profundity is generally believed to be dull), and finally, those which by illustrations on their jackets indicate or lie about its contents. All of it is a fly catching process.” — John Steinbeck, in an open letter to the Trade Book Clinic, 1951
“Where shall I begin my tale? This one has neither beginning nor end, but only a perpetual unfolding, a multi-petaled blossom of strange botany.” — Endore’s Narrator, The Werewolf of Paris
Perhaps the above quotes best define the evolution of the novel I am about to discuss. Endore’s description of his work–or rather, his narrator’s description of the discarded manuscript he happens across–as a “multi-petaled blossom of strange botany” is no exaggeration; and likewise, Steinbeck’s cynical analogy between readers and insects is not so off the mark considering the tactics the publishers used to make this “strange botany” marketable, tactics which, depending on the audience and the decade, utilized either gaudy sensationalism, dull profundity, or a combination of the two. Given the dichotomy often taking place between text and paratext, it should come as no surprise that the work was destined for obscurity, being neither “Horror” nor “Literature”, comprised of both fiction and nonfiction. This inconsequentially is only exacerbated by the historical separation between high-culture and low-culture that has been synonymous with American literary scholarship in the 20th century. Nevertheless, since its initial publication in the early 1930s, the text has survived, primarily due to the ease with which it fit into the packaging strategies of the pocket paperback presses during and after the Second World War. In the following analysis, I will trace this evolution as it pertains to the paratexts, both authorial and publisher’s.
Brief mention should be made here of the nomenclature created by scholars in order to study those “outer” elements of a text. Philippe Lejeune, in his Le Pacte autobiographique, defines these paratextual elements as “a fringe of a printed text which in reality controls one’s whole reading of a text.” This idea was further elaborated on by French writer Gerard Genette in his study Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation: “The ways and means of the paratext change continually, depending upon period, culture, genre, author, work, and editon, with varying degrees of pressure.” The paratext, then, can be divided into two areas: the peritext–those elements directly, or physically, linked to the book itself, such as preface, postface, blurbs, synopses, illustrations, dustjacket design, etc.; and the epitext–those elements detached from the physicality of the text but which nevertheless manipulate the reader’s interaction with, and interpretation of, a given text, such as reviews, advertisements, personal correspondence, word-of-mouth gossip, etc. Using these concepts, I will examine the ways in which The Werewolf of Paris changed under these degrees of pressure and how the work’s various manifestations served to manipulate audience interpretation of text.
A Communist Werewolf Novel
With the exception of its modernist intro that establishes a sort of meta-narrative, Guy Endore’s The Werewolf of Paris is a novel set in mid-19th Century France, from around 1850 through the Siege of Paris, and culminating in the Commune uprising of 1871. The principal characters are Bertrand Caillet (the werewolf) and Aymer Galliez (Bertrand’s “uncle”, though they are unrelated), with the plot spending more time on the latter than the former. It can be seen as both a parody of 19th Century European literature (including fake footnotes) and an extension of the new American simplicity visible in the writings of socialist peers like John Dos Passos. The work’s greatness lies in its technique of juxtaposing the lesser inhumanity of the werewolf against the greater inhumanity of industrialized capitalism, matter-of-factly placing Bertrand Caillet’s handful of “feedings” alongside the butchery and mass starvation of the Franco-Prussian War and the slaughter that followed, when the Parisian working classes and National Guard formed an alliance calling itself the Commune and attempted to oust the failed French bourgeoisie. The Communards maintained control of the Parisian government for about ten days, but when the military returned home from the front, they sided with the rich; and in only a week of street fighting, 20,000 men, women, and children of the Commune were murdered by governmental forces, and another 300,000 arrested. In both spirit and organizational zeal, it was to serve as the model for working class insurrections that followed, most importantly the Russian Bolsheviks.
Even by 1933 standards, the novel isn’t remotely horrifying in a conventional sense, as its clearly more concerned with social iniquities and the horrors mankind inflicts upon itself. Not that Endore uses the genre as an empty platform for an overt political message, for there are indeed reports from the 19th Century (most notable in Sabine Baring-Gould’s 1865 treatise The Book of Werewolves: Being an Account of a Terrible Superstition) that tell of a 1st Infantry junior officer named Bertrand, who was accused of desecrating Parisian graveyards and leaving “bodies lying about the tombs in fragments”. Initially the crime was so savage they assumed the perpetrator to be a “wild beast’, hence the author’s portrayal of Bertrand as a lycanthrope. Therefore, the novel’s strengths today lie in its esoteric information on French history and social mores; or, as one horror critic put it, Endore’s “annoying tendency to de-emphasize the werewolf” in favor of “historical digressions” that prevent a “straight-forward, action-packed narrative” (Ball, 5). On the contrary this tendency is its greatest asset, for within these digressions, class injustices are laid bare: the carriage driver who is wrongly convicted, belittled for his legal ignorance by a domineering judge; the foreclosing bankers, who sell off forests to clear-cutters who ruin the topsoil for generations; the selling of zoo animals to enterprising butchers, who offer rich Parisians exotic meats like ostrich, dingo, tapir, and kangaroo; and how, in the end, even Castor and Pollux, the two famous resident elephants, were finally sold to the Jocky Club’s chef for 27,000 francs; or how the Imperial Zoological Society convened to discuss new and affordable cuisine alternatives for the bourgeoisie (“Venison ragout of rats”, “Jugged cat with mushrooms”, “Consommé of horse with millet’), with the dinner ending in the creation of a public-relations campaign entitled “The Rat is Good Food!”
The novel’s ironic sense of humor set it apart from other prior works in the genre, such as Alexandre Dumas’ The Wolf-Leader (1857), George W. M. Reynolds’ Wagner: the Wehr-wolf (1846-47), and H. Warner Munn’s The Werewolf of Ponkert (1925), all of which suffered from an excess of Victorian romanticism, overblown sensationalism, or the odd plot conventions (climax upon climax) of an extended serialized piece of fiction. The Werewolf of Paris becomes the first modern commercially and critically successful attempt in the genre, a “great peak in a sea of mediocrity” (Copper, 138). It also set a new standard for an upcoming generation of leftist horror writers, including Psycho author Robert Bloch, who wrote the foreword to Citadel’s 1992 reissue; and Bloch, unlike many, first and foremost praises the work’s social commentary instead of deriding it as preachy.
Farrar & Rinehart initially published The Werewolf of Paris in March of 1933, with a run of five printings; three in March and two in April. Endore allegedly sold the manuscript outright to Farrar & Rinehart for a total payment of $750, although this could be apocryphal. Since Endore’s previous novel, The Man From Limbo, published by the same house in 1932, had sold poorly, such negotiations are not unlikely given the economic insecurities of the Great Depression. Farrar & Rinehart had achieved moderate success with Endore’s biography of Joan of Arc, The Sword of God: Jeanne D’arc (1931), as well as his translation of German philosopher Max Picard’s The Human Face (1930). Still, for reasons unknown–possibly because the above rumor is true, possibly due to its controversial content–Farrar & Rinehart did not publish Babouk (Vanguard, 1934; the author’s follow-up to Paris), a novel dealing with the famous slave revolt against French imperialists in Saint Domingue, present-day Haiti. Babouk was a critical success but a commercial disaster, and soon after its publication Endore found himself in Hollywood, earning a living as a screenwriter. The success of The Werewolf of Paris was a curse of sorts. It effectively pigeonholed Endore, up until the mid-1950s, as a horror writer; and as a result, most of his initial script assignments contained a supernatural slant. With the rise of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he was blacklisted due to his political views, thus facilitating his return to writing, where he had success in 1956 with Simon & Schuster’s publication of King of Paris, a biography of Alexandre Dumas. He continued with biographical novels on Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade, Voltaire! Voltaire! (S&S, 1961) and Satan’s Saint (Crown, 1965) respectively. He died in 1970.
Like several of his contemporaries–one being Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (Simon & Schuster, 1935), an archetypal example of the crime novel with an existentialist, anti-capitalist subtext–Endore manipulated genre in a way that was both entertaining and political; and like McCoy, who was forever stamped with the “hardboiled” label, so Endore would be associated with the “school of the macabre” throughout his lifetime. In a sense, this association was unavoidable considering the sheer number of pocket/pulp publications of The Werewolf of Paris between Farrar & Rinehart’s clothbound original in 1933 and Citadel’s trade edition in 1992. Within this sixty-year gap, its physicality went through drastic changes that altered the ways in which readers interacted with the text: certain facets of the novel are exaggerated, others ignored, many deliberately distorted, in order to appeal to the expectations of a given publisher’s target market.
Revolution and Man-As-Animal
In their paratexts, the initial publications of The Werewolf of Paris, both the clothbound Farrar & Rinehart original (1933) and Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint (1934), set themselves apart from subsequent editions in a variety of ways; these include the placement of the work within a historical context, an emphasis on mass social/political instability (as opposed to a latter preoccupation with the Individual, or Individual vs. Victim), and, to a lesser extent, the depiction of the classical Western European lycanthrope known as loup-garou in France, lupo mannaro in Italy, etc. In addition, they are the sole examples of the work as it was designed to appeal to an educated, adult-oriented market.
Upon its release, The Werewolf of Paris was a tremendous success for the newly-founded house of Farrar & Rinehart, who, along with Simon & Schuster, was looking to publish “young authors” and works deemed too controversial by more traditional publishers. Perhaps some of this success can be attributed to the ambiguous role of reading in Depression-era America and how the criteria for selection differed between groups. According to data collected by the Social Science Research Council in 1937, “most men are divided in their allegiance to ‘all other’ magazines, for the most part technical, local, fraternal, or ‘high-brow’, as against detective and adventure stories” while “women prefer “parents’ and women’s magazines and movie, love, and radio” (Waples, 154). The study goes on to say that “heavy readers in modern society are those with little else to do–students, teachers, some housewives, editors, writers, and a few persons of leisure” (Waples, 185).
Obviously one must not assign too much weight to this study, especially in light of the fact that Waples draws a distinction between “an increase in the proportion of good fiction books to ‘other’ fiction books” in his analysis (Waples, 154). Nevertheless, this elitist, lowbrow/highbrow attitude exemplifies the cultural biases inherent in many educated sectors of society against genre fiction that worked on the sensibilities of the “lay” reader, namely, romance, mystery, horror, and westerns; or, as the report’s authors describe them, “the bloodthirsty adventure story and the erotic novel”; incidentally, it is interesting to note that some of the language incorporated in the SSRC report is not unlike some of the milder pulp blurbs seen in future pulp paratexts, such as the assertion that “most thrill seekers want their sensations raw” and “erotic novels are the best vehicles for thrills delivered wholesale” (Waples, 197). It was further asserted that the “stories of wild adventure” served to “compensate the dreariness of daily living” associated with the hardships of the Great Depression, a sentiment reinforced by the parallel success of the “escapist” motion pictures of the time. The SSRC’s report concludes: “Steady consumers of ‘Westerns’ today have been found largely among men of all ages with less than high school education. Their mental maturity is about that of a normal ten-year-old boy, who has not yet developed an interest in sex. Steady consumers of pornographic prints are but slightly more advanced. Both groups predominate among those who suffered most during depression” (Waples, 197). Since they are all believed to fulfill the same escapist function in the face of social disparity, one can safely extrapolate this same attitude to other so-called “sensationalist” or “titillating” genres as well.
Despite its success, there is ample evidence embedded in the paratext that The Werewolf of Paris was expected to appeal to this type of “underdeveloped” horror reader, hence the scarcity of its appearance in periodicals reviewing “educated” literature. Other Farrar & Rinehart titles from the same year, such as Anthony Adverse and Always A Grand Duke, warrant a considerable amount of advertising space in The New York Times Book Review, The Saturday Review of Books, and The New York Herald Tribune Books supplement, but The Werewolf of Paris is given a marginal amount of attention, often just a single ad upon the week of its release. At first glance, this gives the impression that, although they wouldn’t mind making a few bucks off of the book as a curio for fringe types and immature perverts (to paraphrase Waples), they do not exactly want to broadcast its publication to the literary establishment at large. Oddly enough, since this lack of promotion continues long after rave reviews and multiple printings, the publisher’s reluctance seems neither profit-driven nor out of fear of critical ridicule; on the contrary, maybe Farrar & Rinehart knew that one of the cheapest and most effective forms of promotion for a novel such as this was word-of-mouth, that “subversive” texts do not promote themselves through educated channels of communication and rely instead on the “fly catching process” bemoaned by Steinbeck, a process which places top priority on an eye-engaging design that will attract the reading public (Gerard Genette’s defines this public as not only the sum of actual readers, but also those who buy, but do not necessarily read, the book.)
The montage on the first editon dustjacket is a visually stunning mash-up, with original illustrations synthesized into a piece of well-known medieval art, all compartmentalized and divided by an L-shaped banner containing the title. De Koven, the designer as credited, created images of events occurring in the novel, a technique typically avoided in the pocket formats of the 1950s and 1960s, where innuendo reigned supreme. These representative illustrations are not, however, displayed in any position of prominence but are instead relegated to the corners and margins of the design. In fact, there are only three images of the traditional loup-garou: two images of wolves and one anthropomorphic transformation scene in the lower left corner. Given this, apart from the “catchpenny” title, there would be no reason for the reader to consider this a text on lycanthropy. If anything, one would assume the work dealt with revolution, medievalism, or the Black Plague. The painting used, Pieter Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death (1562), covers roughly two-thirds of the jacket, stretching across the front, the spine, and the back. The carnage is graphic: a horse-drawn cart with skulls driven by skeletons; emaciated dogs looming over discarded children; the dead and dying captured within nets while skeletons steal gold coins from overturned barrels, which becomes an interesting example of symbolic greed ignored by subsequent designers. This gruesome scene segues into another at the center of the spine, with the back portion of the painting showing an army of skeletons massacring a crowd of people, immediately conjuring associations with the Black Death and, if one looks closer and notices the crucifix-embossed shields used by the skeletons, the Crusades. Brueghel the Elder is often compared to Hieronymous Bosch, and the composition and color choices reflected in The Triumph of Death closely mirror the third triptych of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights.
One original aspect of F&R’s design, when compared to subsequent editions, was the choice to ground the novel visually within a historical context by emphasizing the brutality of revolution and war, not the evils (usually sexualized) of the protagonist. Here, the focus is on the government’s violent suppression of the Commune: the Goya-esque execution scene, the burning skyline, the mob and the crumbling of classical columns, etc. Since the execution scene is the only one of these incidents directly referenced in the text, these illustrations serve to create an atmosphere rather than provide graphic reproductions of actions occurring in the book, an approach that does not reveal too much of the plot for the reader. One only comes away with the impression of a collapsing authority, the attempted overthrow of the State, the blurring between man and animal. This “man as animal” motif is emphasized throughout the text, focusing on psychological duality as opposed to physiological metamorphosis. This paratextual emphasis, more philosophically centered than the cinematic archetypes of the pocket era, visually supplements Endore’s tacit question: Who is more savage, man or werewolf? After Farrar & Rinehart in 1933, this question vanishes from the paratexts, with minor exceptions, until Citadel in 1992.
On the dustjacket’s end-flaps, the eye is immediately drawn to the bold sans-serif type stating “Fourth Large Printing In Ten Days”, an unusual end-flap feature since printing information is normally relegated to the verso of the title page. The decision to include it so prominently, along with a duration of time, strikes me as a device to imply that volumes are flying off booksellers’ shelves quicker than the publisher can print them (this marketing technique was common with Farrar & Rinehart in the beginning, as many of their advertisements in The New York Times Book Review include such bylines.) Immediately underneath this, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is mentioned: “Dracula was a vampire–but Bertrand was a werewolf!” What significance this is supposed to have, if any, apart from associating this text to the former, is unclear. This headline serves as an introduction to a succinct, not-overly-sensationalistic synopsis of the plot, describing Bertrand Callais as “a creature from the hideous depths of demonology”, a line that sounds quite bland compared to the later pulps’ penchant for “flesh-torn corpses” and women “whose bloody wounds were drained by the lips of a man-wolf!”
A series of excerpts from critical reviews fill out the remainder of the end-flaps, including quotes from highly-respected literary sources The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Herald Tribune, and The Saturday Review of Books. I will discuss these in-depth when covering the epitext, but some mention of their basic function should be made here. The publisher manages to squeeze in two more Dracula references via blurbs from The New Yorker (“Mr. Endore has boldly gone after the overrated scalps of Dracula and Huysman’s Las Bas…”) and The Saturday Review (“…If the story of a mere vampire can attain the large popularity attendant on Dracula, Mr. Endore’s record of helpless, wanton wolvery should win a tremendous audience”), both of which assert the book’s similarity, if not superiority, to Stoker’s work. This seems an early instance of what will become a standard marketing tactic in the successive pocket-book paratexts, namely, the publisher’s attempt to form an association in the reader’s/buyer’s mind with cinematic conventions rather than literary ones. Farrar & Rinehart, however, are much more subtle in their evocation of Universal Studio’s tremendously-successful Dracula from 1931 than are the pulp presses, who shamelessly incorporate the iconography of film in order to appeal to their target audiences. This difference in audience, and the lack of a cinematic equivalent to lycanthropy, prevents such marketing tactics from occurring in 1933, a void that will be filled to capacity after the postwar paperback explosion.
The non-Dracula reviews, all relegated to the rear end-flap, vary with regard to their content. For example, The Herald Tribune comments on the text’s philosophical leanings and assumes the target audience’s grasp on European history (“…Builds the medieval legend of the werewolf into a story of Paris in the bloody days of the Commune…Reaches a crescendo of philosophic horror.”) Conversely, World Telegram’s tone is silly and condescending, showing the degree of literary seriousness allocated to lowly genre fiction by the critics (“Alexander Woollcott [writer of New Yorker review] is all a-quiver at this yarn…Brrrrrr–werewolves!”) The publisher’s decision to include a personal mention of Woollcott in the excerpt is interesting, and it clearly indicates an expected degree of familiarity on the part of the reader, who would be expected to understand and participate in this in-joke between literary colleagues.
The final excerpt, from The New York Times Book Review–“The reader who wishes to sup full of horrors will find enough of them in this extremely gory tale”–is perhaps the most significant, as it will be handed down from edition to edition with little to no revision, even appearing prominently on Ace’s front cover in 1962, some thirty years later. In fact, almost all of these reviews will be found scattered piecemeal throughout future pulp paratexts, seldom credited and in various states of abridgement, but typically forming the body of the blurbs themselves. In subsequent editions, it should be noted, the names of individual critics will no longer be included in the recycled reviews, but only the names of their parent publications.
Farrar & Rinehart’s interior peritext introduces elements that will later be condensed and edited in much the same fashion as the critical excerpts. Seldom will another publisher allot such breathing space to the text, donating an entire page to the epigraph, the dedication, and the half-title. The generosity is short lived, for Grosset & Dunlap’s 1935 budget reprint (identical in most respects to the original) introduces the traditional “If you liked this book, then…” section, which I will discuss momentarily. What this original edition does use, however, is the “Books by Guy Endore” device on the verso of the half-title. Four works are listed: Casanova: His Known and Unknown Life, The Man From Limbo, The Sword of God: Jeanne D’arc, and The Werewolf of Paris, all of which, with the exception of Casanova (John Day, 1929), were published previously by Farrar & Rinehart. Although this paratextual device will reappear later, with several additions, its impact here is quite different, as it reinforces impressions of the work’s historical origins by associating it with factual biographies of Casanova and Joan of Arc. Therefore, one would infer by this list, the critical mention of the Siege of Paris, and from the revolutionary images on the dustjacket, that the text has some basis in historical truth.
These historical inferences are further substantiated by Endore’s selection of an epigraph:
These creatures live onely without meats;
The Chameleon by the Air,
The Want or Mole, by the Earth,
The Sea-Herring by the Water,
The Salamander by the Fire,
Unto which may be added the Dormouse, which lives partly by sleep,
And the Werewolf, whose food is night, winter and death.
(AN OLD SAYING)
This is located in its traditional location, that is, the first right-hand page after the dedication but before the introduction. Of the four epigraphical functions outlined by Genette in Paratexts, Endore’s acts primarily as a commentary on the text, as opposed to a commentary on the title, which is “catchpenny” and self-evident enough. The occasional use of the epigraph as a sign of culture, or, as Genette says, a “password of intellectuality”, does not seem to apply here since the saying’s author remains anonymous. One could argue that this lack of attribution could derive from the fact that Endore himself created it especially for the text, as he did the fictional footnotes.
One interesting note concerning the book’s cloth boards: at the beginning of the 20th century, yellow covers were synonymous with licentious French literature; so, in addition to matching the red and yellow color scheme used on the jacket, the yellow boards could also be interpreted as an indicator of content, or as an ironic twist on this color/content association. The remainder of the book’s construction shows signs of Great Depression cost-cutting: the stitching used in the sewn binding is highly acidic and burning through the signatures in places; the paper quality, though far superior than that used for pulp publications, is still dingy and coarse. While many would criticize these inferior materials from a preservationist standpoint, they nevertheless possess an aesthetic which only adds to the archaic, ominous ambience of the work, a work whose storyline is–appropriately enough–structured around the retrieval of a manuscript from a Parisian rubbish pile.
Enter Budget Line
These same qualities carry over into Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint edition in early 1935, which consisted of two printings, one in February, the other in March. Since this printing is not dissimilar to Farrar & Rinehart’s initial trade run, I will not dwell on it extensively here; however, several paratextual modifications warrant mention. First, the book is ¾” smaller than its predecessor, with no adjustments or reductions made for typography or dustjacket design. This results in reduced margins and truncated illustrations on the jacket, with the ¾” divided evenly between top and bottom. This cost-saving measure results in the deletion of designer De Koven’s signature, an oversight that would be of importance if one could actually make out the events occurring on the hideously-reproduced jacket; everything is so dark, grainy, and faded that only those few scenes with high tonal contrast can be deciphered, thus sacrificing, in the reproduction process, not only the intricacies of the artwork, but also the vital information relayed to the reader through these illustrations.
Second, although the jacket’s illustration is (in theory) identical, the end-flaps have been altered to suit this new printing’s audience, which is, judging by some paratextual hints, both the horror lover and the romance reader. One major difference is the publisher’s synthesizing of the critical reviews into a single blurb, with only the New York Times Book Review’s (now attributed to simply the New York Times) used in full. Indeed, the “sup full of horrors” quote takes precedence over the others in less than a year; and although others will resurface, this review perseveres as the authoritative opinion for decades. The amalgamated quotes retain some of the language (“Commune”, “gory days of the siege”), but apparently those deemed too wordy for the bargain printing’s target market are deleted (“phosphorescent”, “ensanguined”). Along these same lines, which could be argued as a “dumbing down” of the text, the single quote that acknowledged and praised the work’s “philosophical crescendo” has been removed, thus impressing upon the reader that the text is nothing more than the tale of a “man by day, ravenous beast by night”, another soon-to-be archetypal, paratextual line that introduces sexual overtones into the publisher’s marketing strategy.
Another departure between the original edition and Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint is an increased emphasis on Dracula, both explicit (Bram Stoker’s) and implicit (Universal Studios’). Only one of Farrar & Rinehart’s more subtle allusions is duplicated in toto for this edition: the “Dracula was a vampire…” headline remains in its prominent position underneath the title on the front-end flap. The publishers, however, obviously feel this reference to be insufficient, so an advertisement for Dracula fills the rear-end flap, with, oddly enough, absolutely no emphasis placed upon the Grosset & Dunlap printing of that work. This is an interesting paratextual device, and I believe it to be an early forerunner of what will become the predominant marketing strategy for this book in the postwar era, namely, the suggestive association of the text with its cinematic counterpart, not to be confused with the “novelization” of a film. The same 1937 Social Science Research Council study I mentioned earlier takes note of this fact, reporting that “changes in popularity of authors like Buck, Dickens, Dumas, Tarkington, and Wells are largely explained either by the filming of their novels or by the date of a recent bestseller” (Waples, 177). Granted, when set against the shameless incorporation of film iconography inherent in the pocket editions, these allusions seem mild; but nevertheless, without the enormous success of Universal Studios’ Dracula in 1931, I seriously doubt the publishers would have devoted an entire end-flap to the work without at least marketing its own edition of the book, as they do so blatantly in the posterior peritext.
Judging from other parts of its peritext, it is a safe assumption that Grosset & Dunlap appealed, at least in this instance, to working-class women readers. On the recto and verso of the page preceding the rear flyleaf are advertisements directed at this audience. The recto, headlined “Romances of the Modern Girl”, offers “a list of books by well known writers of romance stories for the modern girl”, such as Puppy Love, Blonde Trouble, Sinless Sin, and Marriage a la Mode. The verso is more specialized, restricting itself to “Novels of Vida Hurst”, all of which are listed on the previous page, albeit without synopses. These Vida Hurst synopses are relatively uniform in their romanticism, with many emphasizing sacrificial love (“Here is the absorbing story of a girl’s battle for a love she considers dearer than life–a story thousands of girls will weep over as their own experience”), the dangers of diverting from convention (“The story of a girl who thought love more powerful than society–more important even than marriage”), and plenty of love-conquers-all idealism; I will, however, leave the interpretation of Second Hand Lover’s description that “Janice found there were no thrilling men out of bondage” to the reader’s imagination.
In this context, the advertisement for Dracula on the rear end-flap exacerbates the atmosphere of romanticism through its use of language, bringing to mind the sensual undertones of the text, “the mystery of its unfolding and the suspense of its climax”, as opposed to the horror associations one might conclude if viewing the advertisement singly, or in conjunction with the allusive headline on the front end-flap. Thus, this exemplifies how paratextual meaning can change when parts of the peritext are combined, or separated, from one another. One gets the impression from such double meanings that the publisher put a great deal of thought into their marketing strategies, incorporating techniques designed to attract several types of “insects”, depending upon both the intake, and the order of intake, of these paratextual devices.
In many ways, Pocket Books’ 1941 publication of The Werewolf of Paris is a paratextual milestone, exhibiting unique characteristics that do not appear again in any subsequent edition of the novel. It is an important transitional link in studying the publishers’ shifting emphasis from inhuman behavior by men acting as if possessed by wolves to the straightforward, less ambiguous one-werewolf/one-victim motif that will dominate the paratexts for more than thirty years. Thus, while adhering to the classical European conception of le loup-garou, Pocket Books simultaneously ushers in the novel’s pulp era, setting new standards for its paratext that will be adopted and modified in a variety of ways by the postwar presses, all of which eliminate the attention to detail so prevalent in this edition.
Given the origins of Pocket Books, this paratextual attention to detail is evidently intended to canonize the text itself. Pocket Books, founded in 1939 by Robert De Graff, was the first American mass-market paperback company to strike a balance between production and profits, a success due primarily to a combination of timeliness, clever marketing, and De Graff’s altruistic ideals of inexpensive literary salvation for the masses. Its only serious predecessor had been Modern Age Books in the mid-1930s, who, due to mismanagement, esoteric titles, and lackluster marketing, was unable to achieve commercial success. To reduce overhead, De Graff instituted the incongruously-named “perfect binding” (a cold glue process previously implemented by Penguin in the UK) and the Perma-Gloss lamination technique for covers. He also reduced the size of the format by a 1/2 -inch vertically, borrowed the original plates whenever possible, and increased print runs to ten times that of the typical cloth run (Davis, 39). De Graff’s selection process consisted of scouring the The New York Times Book Review and buying up the rights to as many bestsellers as possible, no doubt the method used to acquire The Werewolf of Paris.
Pocket Books’ success was immediate, and this phenomenal growth rate had much to do with their magazine/newsstand distribution model, which also included department stores and pharmacies. By the Spring of 1941, total sales had reached 8.5 million units, with Lost Horizon, Wuthering Heights, and The Good Earth topping the list (Davis, 43). New titles were announced in clusters of fifty, and it is within this second series, from 50-100, that Paris makes its paperback debut, at #97.
Unfortunately, later that same year, Endore’s novel, along with Appointment in Samarra, became the first casualty of paperback censorship due to complaints from readers and distributors alike (Davis, 43). The exact motivations behind this decision are difficult to ascertain, although it’s safe to say that it probably has something to do with the sexual relations between the priest and the young servant girl, i.e. the protagonist’s mother and father. Pocket’s quick compliance to pull the title should come as no surprise since they were an aspiring, young press unwilling to spark any controversy at this early stage in the game, before they had solidified their place in the publishing industry. First and foremost, it is safe to assume that, although Pocket’s target market was the literary-minded middle and lower classes “on the go”, they undoubtedly failed to take into consideration the fact that adolescent could easily obtain these books due to their 25-cent price point and, for those who couldn’t afford it, their “pocketable” size. This oversight was only exacerbated by the broad dissemination of Pocket paperbacks via magazine/newspaper channels of distribution, as opposed to trade hardbacks’ reliance on booksellers. All of these factors could have contributed to De Graff’s decision to delete the title from the company’s catalog. Since no reports of censorship surround the original 1933 release, whose content was identical, one may conclude that this ease of accessibility for the young–and their exposure to this “unholy union”– was the primary cause for the public outcry.
De Graff’s “altruistic” desire to provide fine literature at reasonable prices is reflected in his selection of the first one-hundred Pocket releases, which range from previously canonized classics to more modern authors, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck; in fact, it is not unlike the roster of clothbound reprint publishers then carving out their own niche, like Modern Library or Triangle Books, with perhaps a few more classical erudite titles thrown in to round things out. However, the buying public, and therefore the distributors, did not share in De Graff’s enthusiasm concerning the canonization of Endore’s novel, making it very clear that works containing such licentious and vulgar subject matter would not be allowed to enter the paperback pantheon alongside the likes of Shakespeare and Twain.
Although it does not overtly make any claims at canonization, as Triangle does two years later, Pocket’s design nonetheless reflects this adult-oriented target market, through both its exterior, and, even moreso, its interior peritext. The exterior contains visual references to both historical context and the loup-garou, and also utilizes straightforward language that is more concerned with the accurate representation of content as opposed to the deceptive sensationalism. Notre Dame, the visual cue used to convey setting, is famous enough to be recognized by the average reader, in lieu of the Eiffel Tower’s anachronistic absence. This edition marks not only the final concrete visual example indicating location, but also the last representation of the loup-garou, and the sole example of this archetype as an illustrative centerpiece. The victim makes its debut here as well (one of the rare instances on which a man fulfills this role), pinned under the foot/paw of the predator. This configuration (victor on top, victim on bottom) will be reintroduced into Avon’s 1951 edition, with an added emphasis on sexual dominance which I will discuss momentarily.
The second important contribution to the exterior peritext is the inclusion of an extended synopsis on the back cover, written in a fashion that is both a throwback to the mid-1930’s paratext and a departure towards the sensationalist blurbs used to sell the mass-market manifestations. “The two most exciting legends of the human race are the Vampire Legend and the Werewolf Legend” is an obvious comparison to Dracula somewhat exhausted by earlier hardbacks. However, other uses of language are interesting. For example, the publisher attributes the quality of the novel itself to Endore’s research efforts (“…and now, after a thorough research of the werewolf legend through the ages, Guy Endore has written a horror story to stand beside Dracula”), in addition to mentioning dates for the Prussian siege and the Communards’ insurrection (“…during the days of the siege of 1870 and the Commune…”). Perhaps one factor leading to its eventual censorship was the succinct manner in which the synopsis spoke of the relationship between “a peasant girl and a priest”, obviously unaware of the controversy this may cause in conjunction with the availability of the cheaper format; ironically, they decline to elaborate on the specificity of what they describe as the “grotesque and unmistakable sign of the werewolf”, which is later spelled out in no uncertain terms by several sexually-laden pulp editions.
Even more so than the exterior, Pocket’s interior peritext contains several unusual devices, all of which function primarily as canonical tools. The first can be found on the verso of the half-title and the recto of the title page, where Pocket Books Edition (on the verso) and The Werewolf of Paris (on the recto) are printed in a similar typeface and enclosed within identical borders, thus giving the impression that they are both of equal importance, that the publisher shares an equal responsibility with the author. Pocket further asserts its authority by stating underneath its “title”, the space occupied by “Guy Endore” on the title page, that “This book is NOT a digest or condensation of the original. It is the COMPLETE book.” It is interesting that Pocket Books stresses “Complete and Unabridged” as a major selling point while the succeeding publication of Paris, by Avon in 1951, emphasizes “Newly Revised and Edited” in their marketing strategy.
The second interior device appears on the verso of the half-title and is entitled “The Printing History of The Werewolf of Paris”. This supplies the reader with an in-depth breakdown of the novel’s publication thus far, providing month, year, and print run for Farrar & Rinehart, Grosset & Dunlap, and the current Pocket version. In conducting my research for this study, information regarding the book’s initial printing history was virtually non-existent until I located this comprehensive list, and this strange attention to detail affords the Pocket edition with a certain stately feel that reinforces the publisher’s justification for canonizing the work.
The last piece of interior peritext, and arguably the most important, is the closest The Werewolf of Paris ever gets to an anthumous postface–an autobiographical “About the Author” section immediately following the novel’s conclusion. Considering the incredibly small amount of public information available on the author, this three-page profile provides the reader with a considerable amount of insight, not only on his personal life, but also into his authorial intentions. Endore writes: “The writer’s task is to amuse, to interpret, to exhort. It is my aim to do all three together, whenever possible, in the form of novels, short stories, biography, etc.” He continues on with comments directly linked to the social-political slant of the text: “For my part I have not yet decided which is worse, the muted miseries of peace and industry, in which there are some spoils to be distributed, no matter how unjustly, or the clamorous horrors of revolution where success is hazardous and the spoils are nil.” In summing up, Endore admiringly states: “In politics I tend towards communism and the establishment of the classless society.” Although this admission no doubt came back to haunt him during the McCarthy witch hunt, its sincerity and lack of waffling qualifiers is refreshing. Paratextually, it serves to intensify the novel’s leftist political lens for the reader, a lens employed tenfold for the follow up Babouk.
These comments alter textual interpretation in various ways, perhaps less so since they are postface, not preface; however, the intent behind its inclusion is curious, as the postface can no longer effectively perform what Gerard Genette maintains are the two main functions of the preface: holding the reader’s interest and guiding them by explaining why and how they should read the text. Genette observes: “If the first function is not fulfilled, the reader will perhaps never have an opportunity to reach a possible postface; if the second function is not fulfilled, it will perhaps be too late for the author to rectify in extremis a bad reading that has already been completed” (Genette, 123). The fact that Pocket Books did not incorporate this paratextual device into all of its publications only confuses matters and leads one to believe that they did so whenever possible and affordable, and perhaps when the device could act as a canonical tool for the text itself.
The second transitory edition of The Werewolf of Paris, published in October 1943, approaches the canonization of the work much more explicitly, preying upon the audience’s fear of cultural inferiority by manufacturing the desire to build a comprehensive modern library. Triangle Books, a division of Doubleday, specialized in 39-cent hardback reprints that, according to the full-page advertisement on the back cover of the dustjacket, bring the reader “new, cloth-bound editions of famous books by authors of international reputation at a price never before thought possible. Here are real library editions–not small or expurgated books–with colorful, newly designed jackets, and printed complete from the expensive plates of the original” (Triangle’s emphasis). This publisher’s blurb is interesting for several reasons. First, it attacks the substandard quality of the mass-market editions while simultaneously adopting those substandard aesthetics: the garish jacket design, the sensationalist blurbs, the shoddy construction, etc. The emphasis on the abridgement practices of “small or expurgated” books, which are not worthy of a “real library”, is somewhat irrelevant since the success of Pocket Books had already facilitated a movement away from that practice, giving little credence to their accusations. Finally, Triangle’s tireless quest to attain the “expensive plates of the original” is quite humorous in light of the fact that Grosset & Dunlap’s reprint claimed that their reduced price was due in part to the use of these same pricey plates.
Since this interior peritext is identical to the original (except for the extremely acidic paper), Triangle’s jacket design offers the most vivid paratextual clues as to publisher intention and target market. Directly above the quote already discussed, an illustration shows “today’s family” of avid readers, voraciously partaking in their extensive library of Triangle editions–their true password into intellectualism and cultural modernity–while dialogue bubbles emphasize the diversity of the selection. All of the middle-class stereotypes are present: the financially-obsessed father (“Yes, it’s mighty satisfying to own good books at such a low price”), the mother preoccupied with familial behavior (“Reading has become our family’s most popular pastime”), the collegiate son with the Cub-Scout vocabulary (“Boy! Look at these top notch mystery and adventure stories!”), and the romantic star-struck daughter who automatically associates literature with film (“I like these love stories–and books on which ‘hit’ movies are based”).
This explicit cinematic association, the first of its kind, is no coincidence, especially when examined in conjunction with the newly-renovated jacket design of which Triangle boasts so proudly. Here we see an extension of the predator vs. prey motif initiated by Pocket two years earlier, with two significant alterations: first, the premier of the female victim and sexual subjugation; and second, the rejection of the loup-garou in favor of the “wolfman”, an archetype owing more to American 20th-century pop culture than European folklore. Indeed, the visual cues used to convey setting are quickly vanishing from the paratext, with only apparel (Bertrand’s top hat and cloak, the woman’s beret) and architecture (European facades, cobblestone streets) remotely indicative of France, thus showing Triangle’s inability to completely divorce the novel from its geographical context, a reluctance not shared by subsequent mass-market publishers throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
A Shifting Archetype
The paperback explosion following on the coattails of Pocket Books’ phenomenal success ushered in an endless string of pulp Paris’s that specialized in sensationalism, marketing sex and/or violence, and often both, to a less-literary and perhaps proletarian audience. In these mass-market editions, the aesthetics of cinema–particularly promotional materials–dominate over those of literature, with garish design and illustration more closely resembling the paratextual equivalent in that medium (one-sheet posters, lobby cards, etc.) than the work’s forerunners from the 1930s. Several factors give rise to this change. First, De Graff from Pocket Books and his early competitors had their origins in book publishing, which meant that they naturally adopted the conservative marketing strategies associated with those parent organizations, albeit with slight modifications for level of readership. On the other hand, the mass-market publishers who fought to get in on the postwar paperback action were almost exclusively from the magazine industry, naturally embellishing their editions of Paris with all of the eye-catching contrivances they could manage without crossing the line into censorship, a line that had apparently blurred to inconsequentiality since the outcry over Pocket’s edition in 1941. Gone were the altruistic intentions of these earlier pioneers, as insincere as they might have been, for now it was purely a game of profit, plain and simple, with no symbiotic relationship between text and paratext necessary. In fact, the dissonance occurring between this text and paratext is precisely what makes these editions fascinating. The Werewolf of Paris was by no means alone in this dissonance, although it can be argued that it lent itself quite easily, like so many others, to sensationalist paratextual representation, all the more so because of its catchpenny title and controversial content.
To cover the sensationalist aesthetics used by each individual mass-market publisher would be a lengthy and excruciatingly repetitive task. Therefore, for purposes of this study, I will examine only a handful of distinctive characteristics that act as vital links in understanding the evolution of the paratext. Suffice it to say that between the years 1951 and 1963, Paris saw no less than four pulp manifestations: Avon (1951), Studio Publications (Toronto, 1952) Ace Books (1962), and Panther Books (U.K., 1963). I will focus primarily upon the first two, Avon and Studio, as they contain the most interesting–and sometimes bizarre–paratextual devices.
Over ten years had transpired since Pocket’s aborted attempt to publish the novel and much had changed in the paperback industry, especially the intensity of the competition. The very elements which resulted in retraction in 1941 were now expounded upon and made into selling points, making Pocket’s paratext harmless and benign by comparison. Naturally, there was no shortage of lawsuits to go around. Pocket Books, who struggled to maintain their quasi-highbrow standards among a sea of scantily-clad women, won the suit against Avon which stipulated that the latter could not use the word “pocket” anywhere on its cover, nor could it continue to stain its edges red. “Complete and Unabridged!” had long ago become the standard, making its constant appearance all the more irrelevant. Oddly enough, in 1951, Avon opted for a different approach in its marketing campaign, proudly proclaiming “Specially Revised and Edited!” instead. My first impression–that this was simply a positively-slanted euphemism for “Condensed and Abridged”–proved misguided after I examined the content of the deleted passages. It is difficult to ascertain exactly who edited what and for whom. According to a piece of correspondence between Guy Endore and Rinehart & Company, dated November 1950, all of the publisher’s rights, title and interest on The Werewolf of Paris, The Man From Limbo, and The Sword of God were turned over to Endore per his request, although the two accompanying works were never reprinted; perhaps Endore’s initial letter would clarify the reasons behind this request, but I could not uncover it for this study. Nevertheless, it could be assumed that he wished to edit the novel especially for Avon, a publisher known in the paperback industry for its stringent maximization of page space. The verso of the title page states “Published by arrangement with the Author” but no indication is given regarding the editorial decisions, thereby tacitly distributing this responsibility equally between author and publisher.
Although it is not my intention to examine the textual, or non-paratextual, changes made to this edition, a few words should be said about the deletions since such attention is drawn to them in the paratext. Apparently Avon, unwilling to bore its audience with historical facts and esoteric information on 19th-century France, edited out any passages that did not contain scenes involving violence, sex, and/or the werewolf; I say that Avon and not Endore instigated this mainly because all subsequent mass-market editions revert to the original 1933 text. Since only about a third of the book actually centers around Bertrand Callait, this results in sizable deletions, dropping the book down to a scant 188 pages from Pocket’s unabridged 325, thus resulting in a version that conforms more closely to the conventional horror novel. The above-mentioned Zoological Society dinner is heavily edited, as are the political aspects of the novel’s final third. Gone, too, are the lengthy sections in which the narrator quotes from Aymar Galliez’s (the “uncle”) manuscript on Bertrand, sections which comprise some of the most lyrical passages in the novel. In a sense, the publisher could have been trying to compensate for the fact that the hyperbolic language used in the blurbs completely distorts the reader’s expectations of the writing style, which is so drastically different when compared to the language in the paratext.
The second important modification made by Avon can be found on the page following the title but before the introduction, a section entitled “Principal Characters”. Here, descriptions are given of the book’s five major characters in a style consistent with the exterior blurbs: for example, Bertrand Chaillet (sic) is summarized thusly: “Illegitimate son of an ungodly union, he was accursed by horrible longings–and a series of mutilated corpses showed his method of satisfaction!” (Avon’s emphasis). Although this technique is used in both drama and screenwriting, primarily as a tool to help the reader visualize the final product, in this context it attempts to influence reader expectations while simultaneously compensating for the dryness of Endore’s writing style. The italicized “clencher” attached to each description immediately conjures up the booming, dramatic voice associated with the most prevalent motion picture paratext–the trailer, or “teaser”, shown before a film.
Thus, with Avon, cinematic associations begin to dominate the paratext, not only in the area of language mentioned above, but also with regard to illustrative and design decisions. In 1941, The Wolf Man, starring Lon Chaney Jr. in the lead, was an enormous success and went on to spawn countless sequels and spin- offs (Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man , The Three Stooges Meet the Wolf Man , etc.) In hopes of cashing in on this success, publishers began adopting the “wolfman” archetype established by Hollywood as the new standard, thus abandoning Endore’s mythological loup-garou–the human fully transformed into a wolf–in favor of the anthropomorphic, extra-hairy individual in ripped clothing. Although Triangle’s 1943 edition first showed signs of this major switch, they at least kept some of the visual cues to indicate Paris as a center of action, unlike Avon, whose cover bears little resemblance to Paris; not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the swampy setting for the Lon Chaney Jr. film, with willow trees hanging overhead and rings expanding from the pool of water in the background. According to the note in the interior cover, however, this is “the artist’s interpretation of Bertrand in his monster form, with one of his victims, La Belle Normande, after striking her down in the Bois de Boulogne!!!” When one compares this to the blonde woman (also in a red dress so presumably the same scene being portrayed) smoking indifferently on Triangle’s jacket, not under the werewolf but standing upright–and perhaps defiant–before him, it is easy to see the emergence of the objectified sexual victim as a marketing tool.
The second significant mass-market edition, released by Toronto’s Studio Publications in 1952, takes this sexual subjugation one step further while incorporating design elements that will reach their full potential some forty years later. The cover avoids showing the werewolf and instead only shows the victim: a woman, who resembles a Tennessee Williams’ heroine, clinging to a doorway in her slip, staring off to her left in horror at something unseen (the film adaptation of Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire had premiered the preceding year). This in itself would be an odd addition to the novel’s paratextual history, but what really pushes this edition into its own is the strange enlargement and duplication of the victim’s terrified expression as a backdrop, or as “wallpaper”, for the scene itself. In fact, Studio Publications goes to such an extreme to reduce the novel to pure sexual sensationalism that they leave the realm of folklore lycanthropy, defined as a supernatural, physical state of being, and inadvertently cross over into early psychology’s notion of lycanthropy as a mental disorder, completely divorced from any physiological transformation. This shift in focus conjures a great deal of ambiguity as to the identity of the werewolf, blurring the distinction between predator and prey (Is she staring at the werewolf? Is she the werewolf?), an uncertainty only clarified by the inclusion of the “he” in the cover’s blurb (“Enslaved by loathsome desires, he reigned as Satan, in a city not easily shocked by sin”). Again, an allusion to the setting of Williams’ Streetcar, New Orleans.
Another fascinating effect is how this instability carries over into the text itself: the paper is cheap, the type splotchy and smeared, as if applied with an ink stamp, with many of the letters reproduced as blurry double-images; both the dedication and epigram are ignored, and many “metatextual” footnotes are arbitrarily deleted; and yet, all of these things, as intrusive as they are, only add to the intense feelings of uneasiness, giving the reader the impression that the book was printed on contraband equipment, in a rushed state of panic, as if death were at hand during the print run.
This psychological slant, and the avoidance of the wolfman archetype, makes Studio’s edition a unique paratextual event that admittedly had little influence on subsequent publishers. Both Ace, in 1962, and U.K.’s Panther Books (Fig 15&16), in 1963, revert to the earlier Avon formula, with the exception of Panther’s use of a male victim instead of a woman, which is hardly revolutionary. Ace, obviously confusing vampires and werewolves, illustrates Bertrand with fangs, pointy ears, cape, and a widow’s peak, an allusion to Dracula that seems more the product of an incompetent illustrator than a regression to an older marketing strategy.
After this run of mass-market editions, The Werewolf of Paris sinks into obscurity, not resurfacing until the mid-1970s, in England, and remaining out of print in the United States until 1992. By the time the book does reappear, Endore is dead, thus laying the groundwork for the posthumous preface that, arguably more than any other element, affects reader interpretation of a text.
The Allographic Paratexts
The two most recent editions of The Werewolf of Paris finally show signs of the inevitable retrospective homage that is so common among books with long printing histories. Both Sphere and Citadel, in 1976 and 1992 respectively, include what Gerard Genette calls “allographic prefaces” by authors in their paratexts, each with its own agenda and personal motivations. Sphere’s is a curious addition to the line-up in that it is the only version that associates the novel with another author as part of the title, in this case, The Dennis Wheatley Library of the Occult, of which Paris is Volume 2. The illustration on the cover is a revamped version of Avon’s 1952 edition (wolfman, swamp, full moon, female victim), with the exception that the illustration is now framed within a circle covered with symbols of the zodiac. Apparently Wheatley is the author of many novels, which are offered for sale on the last page of the text, along with other volumes in this series, thereby giving his editorial selection quote a bit of credibility, provided you know who he is. This type of highly specialized publication, which would only appeal to an audience who either knew Wheatley, knew Endore, or who was curious about what type of “satanic” reading would be considered “occultish”.
The first thing that strikes the reader, especially those unfamiliar with Wheatley, is the arrogance with which he, or the publisher, plasters his name everywhere. As always, the novel begins with a self-reflexive section entitled Introduction, in which Endore establishes his “doctoral researcher” narrator and details the discovery of the manuscript which forms the foundation of the story. Wheatley confusingly places his own preface immediately under the Introduction heading, which causes his preface to blend directly into Endore’s text. The two-page preface itself merely summarizes the first half of the novel, ending with a “but I’ll let you find out the rest” conclusion that leaves one wondering why the preface was included at all. The remainder of the paratext is nothing extraordinary, with cliche language (“unholy union”, “man by day, wolf by night” etc.) and advertisements for both Wheatley’s own works and other books in the Library of the Occult. Oddly, Wheatley, a proponent of British imperialism with a hatred of the working class, makes no mention of the Commune or the book’s leftist leanings.
On the other hand, Citadel’s edition includes a canonical forward by Robert Bloch and incorporates design elements that combine both the chaotic man-as-animal motif, from the original 1933 Farrar & Rinehart edition, and the psychological duality that worked so effectively for Studio Publications in 1952. Bloch, whose novel Psycho formed the basis for Hitchcock’s film of the same name, discusses Endore’s life, the novel’s printing history, and the non-horror elements that have been virtually ignored in the pulp paratexts up to this point. Personal information, including his accidental meeting with Endore in Hollywood and his blacklisting, is incorporated into his analysis of the text, thus giving it a much more human feel than Wheatley’s superficial synopsis of the storyline. The discrepancies surrounding the facts of Endore’s life are apparent here, as Bloch mistakenly gives the author’s blacklist-era pseudonym for his birth name (he was born Samuel Goldstein, but following his mother’s suicide, his father changed the family name to Endore in an effort to eradicate the past, and possibly as a buffer against American antisemitism). Many of these inconsistencies were only clarified with the publication of Alan Wald’s “The Subaltern Speaks”, an analysis of Endore’s Babouk which appeared in the The Monthly Review in April of 1992; to my knowledge, it is the only scholarly analysis of any of the author’s works, its strengths lying primarily in Wald’s examination of Endore’s personal papers at UCLA. These small discrepancies aside, Bloch’s forward goes to great lengths to undo the years of sensationalism that have stigmatized The Werewolf of Paris since its first edition state, placing an emphasis first and foremost on the “savage combination of misanthropy and lycanthropy”, the way it “soars beyond the supernatural or the purely psychopathological” (Bloch, 1).
In addition, these observations are augmented by Bloch’s brief overview of the author’s works, most notably his first little-known novel The Man From Limbo (1930), and the two psychological mysteries, Methinks the Lady (1945) and Detour at Night (1959). With the latter texts, Bloch mentions Endore’s interest in Freudianism, an interest elaborated upon by Brian Stableford in Magill’s reference work Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature (1983), where, in the full-page entry dedicated to the novel, Stableford notes the relationship between Methinks and Paris, asserting that the werewolf itself is the embodiment of the unleashed Id, aspects of the text which went mainly ignored in 1933 reviews.
Citadel’s sophisticated design reflects those new psychological interpretations, showing simply an upper row of teeth–human teeth, it should be noted, and not animal canine teeth, a change which marks a return to both Farrar & Rinehart’s original “anonymous societal victim” motif and Studio’s aforementioned focus on psychological duality. Perhaps more importantly, Citadel emphasizes the ambiguity between chaos and order, between man and animal, that was first and foremost in the original edition’s paratext. On the other hand, Citadel contains residual effects of the novel’s mass-market history, the most prominent being its use of Ace’s plates and the blood splattering effects on the back cover that are somewhat reminiscent of Avon’s bloody-footprint-to-pawprint design. Still, the minimalism is quite impressive in light of the constant onslaught of sex and misrepresentative blurbs that cluttered the prior editions for decades, and it admirably leaves much to be discerned by the reader’s imagination.
The notion that an author being “pocketed” is a sure sign of canonization is somewhat misleading, depending on the publisher and whose canon you are speaking of. If simply the number of pocket printings of an author’s work was the sole criterion for entering into the canon, The Werewolf of Paris would no doubt be a contender; however, the fact that it refuses to conform to the preconceived expectations of the various audiences, both Horror and Literary, means that perhaps it will languish in obscurity forever.