Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Divin' into Memories

The long-term consolation I have received for losing many of my 45s to the Great Meltdown has been the opportunity to reacquire a number of those records. Sometimes I have found them on CD, as was the case with the first reacquisition, "People Sure Act Funny (When They Get a Lot of Money)" by Titus Turner. Others will never make it to CD, like "Jealous" by Danny Kellarney. It's especially fun, though, to own again the actual 45 that was part of my memory going back to 1972, the year of the Meltdown.

I wrote a couple of months ago that, on one occasion, I had retrieved from my memory a song I had essentially forgotten. There are a lot of strong memories in my head, and I have found, and bought, most of the 45s I remembered having lost. There are also some partial memories, including a song called "You Can't See the Forest (For the Trees)," which had a red label with black serrated edging. I can't remember the artist, and so I've not been able to locate the 45 to purchase it.

I also know I had 45s on Liberty, Argo, SOMA and Wand that have disappeared. I have looked at label discographies in an attempt to jog my memory, but I haven't recalled anything so far.

On one beautiful evening, though, an attempt to pull out deep musical memories succeeded spectacularly. I have been waiting all year to tell this story, and now it's time.

In September, 2003, I was adjusting to life in St. Cloud, Minnesota, after having lived five years in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was busy with my new job at the College of St. Benedict, and I was usually worn out. On this evening, I decided to make myself take a time out. The best way to ensure that I wouldn't start working again was to jump in the bathtub and do some light reading by candlelight.

I read a few pages of some murder mystery, and then I started thinking about a couple of 45s I was in the process of recovering. One was from eBay, and another was from a vinyl website. I made a mental list of other 45s I remembered wanting, and then I decided to try to visualize my box of records (pre-Meltdown) to see if I could recall any others.

After a couple of minutes, I suddenly saw myself holding a 45 with a white label that had a sort of maroon checkerboard wave across the middle. The label? Swan. I jumped out of the tub, dried off so I wouldn't short out my keyboard, blew out the candles so I wouldn't burn down the apartment, and looked online for a Swan discography.

I found one easily, thanks to bsnpubs.com, and I nailed the song right away: "Skin Divin'" by Eddie Rambeau (Swan 4077). The title and artist had been lurking in the background, and immediately I recalled the chorus and started singing it, thirty years after the last time I had played the 45.

Some of my non-charting 45s were disasters, but "Skin Divin'" was a pretty fine song. It was written by a successful songwriting team, the production was superb, and the vocalist was a lot more talented than some of the other Johnnys, Timmys, Tommys and Bobbys who came out of the Philadelphia area around 1960.

"Skin Divin'" was, in fact, a regional hit in 1961, but it didn't quite get over the top. Three-year-old caithiseach had a grand time making it a Top Ten tune at his house. What's not to love about a song with a mermaid in it?

Being able to recall much of the chorus wasn't quite enough, of course. I scoured the internet for a CD version, and there was none. I did learn that someone had recently purchased the Swan catalogue, and I wrote to that party but received no response.

I wanted this 45 anyway, and I found it online easily enough. When it arrived, I was disappointed by a bit of a hiss in the groove, but I had the song back. Though it was just one of a dozen or so victims of the Great Meltdown that I have recovered on vinyl, I felt especially satisfied when I dropped the needle on this one.

Eddie Rambeau is yet another artist who came to me via a flop single but made a name for himself in other ways. Ed was born Edward Fluri on June 30, 1943. You will find that Joel Whitburn stubbornly refuses to correct his last name from Flurie to Fluri. Hailing from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, Ed went to Philadelphia to record for Swan in 1961. "Skin Divin'" and its flip (Saturday's song) were his first recordings.

I don't have some details of those early days at hand, so I'll get to them Saturday, but I can tell you that, when I asked Ed who the female vocalists are on "Skin Divin'," he told me he was 17 years old and too intimidated to ask their names.

You would never know that he was 17 or that he was intimidated when he sang the song. It's one of the smoothest vocal performances to come out of that era and that label, about which I'll share more on Saturday.

Apart from "Skin Divin'," Ed recorded two other solo singles for Swan, and he cut a single with Marcy Jo(e) as well. After his Swan songs, he moved to Bob Crewe's DynoVoice label, where Ed recorded a cover of Unit Two Plus Four's "Concrete and Clay." Ed's version spent two weeks in the Top 40, debuting on June 5, 1965, peaking at #35.

Ed also made a name for himself as a songwriter at this time. He and his discoverer/songwriting partner, Bud Rehak, wrote "Navy Blue" and "Kiss Me Sailor" for Diane Renay. Bob Crewe has a co-writing credit for "Navy Blue" as well. On the strength of his hit, Ed appeared on Shindig twice.

Several years later, Ed wound up in the cast of Hair, though not the original cast. He also performed in several other plays on Broadway.

Ed hasn't really stopped there. He has continued to record, and he is finishing up a new album of original tunes as I write. He is also a talented digital photographer.

"Skin Divin'" was written by Mike Anthony and Paul Kaufman, a pair whose main claim to songwriting fame was "Poetry in Motion" for Johnny Tillotson. Anthony has written nearly 400 songs, and Kaufman almost 200. As you will hear, "Skin Divin'" boasts the same understated drive as "Poetry in Motion."

You can learn more about Ed at his site, www.edrambeau.com. When I was looking for his 45, I signed his guestbook. I mentioned that I had just found his 45 again, long after my copy melted. By return email, Ed sent me an mp3 of "Skin Divin'" that sounded a lot better than my replacement 45.

Now, the owners of the Swan masters have made "Skin Divin'" available digitally. You can get it at iTunes or eMusic, and probably at Rhapsody. It's not available at Amazon.

I am posting the transfer from the master tapes, but I do request that, if you like the song as much as you probably will, you download it for 99 cents from your favorite source. Ed, and the people who were kind enough to reissue the tune, deserve that.

More Saturday on Ed and his varied career. See you on the flip side!

Eddie Rambeau, Skin Divin'


Anonymous said...

Having trouble voting: "This page cannot be found"

Please advise...

caithiseach said...

Thanks for trying to vote! I like to see the results, and very few people do that for me.

The voting module seems to go offline once in awhile. If you check back, and sometimes even if you refresh the page, it will reactivate, and you can vote. Thanks for your patience--it's Google's fault.