Remember the Cherry Poppin' Daddies? How about the Squirrel Nut Zippers? Big Bad Voodoo Daddy? Well, if you were around in the late nineties (which I imagine most of you were, since teenagers haven't been told yet what vinyl records were, or how they worked) you'll remember these bands as part of the inexplicable Swing music revival. For a short while, swing music was suddenly part of the pop culture lexicon, prompting a spike in sales for Glenn Miller CDs, convincing film-goers that Swingers was anything more than mediocre, and briefly rekindling the career of Brian Setzer.

Well, in the late sixties, there was a similar movement. The Sopwith Camel, along with Harpers Bizarre and a myriad of others had America flashing back decades before swing - all the way back to Vaudeville. (These bands are often lumped in as second-rate Lovin' Spoonfulls, but I find their sound much more stylized.) For a band out of California in the late sixties, Vaudeville theater may be an odd touchstone, but what I love about Sopwith is how much they embraced the style; from album cover to spoken word in their songs, they really delved into that slice of Americana. 

Here's their big hit, Hello, Hello:

[ mp3 ]: The Sopwith Camel - Hello, Hello

Okay, so the lyrics are pretty, um, dumb. Would you like some of my, tangerine? I know I'd never treat you mean. Yikes. But this is perfect music for either a Charlie Chaplin theme party, or a Charlie Chaplin-themed burlesque show. I think. I've never been to either.

Not all Sopwith songs are as vaudevillian as Hello, Hello. Postcard From Jamaica is as jaunty as a tilted derby, and you can really hear why Sopwith was continually paired with The Lovin' Spoonfull.

[ mp3 ]: The Sopwith Camel - Postcard From Jamaica

When my dad and I were listening to this, he leaned over and whispered, "The Decemberists!" At least, that's what I think he said. And if he did - then sweet! The Decemberists were on one of the mixes I gave him, and I think he ended up buying The Crane Wife. The student has become the teacher!

I went back and listened to a bit of The Decemberists, and guess what - he wasn't far off. Sopwith takes the leitmotiv a little bit further than Colin Meloy does, but that same feel is there. I guess some tropes never die.

What do you think of this one? It's pretty obscure, I know. I'll be back later in the week with something a little more mainstream...


(note - lala doesn't have this album available, so you can get full track listing here. Below are a few tracks I uploaded to lala. Let me know if you're able to listen - I'm not sure if you will be since I uploaded them myself.)
5/20/2012 06:36:54 pm

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5/20/2012 06:38:45 pm

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stefan e. asplund
4/5/2017 03:58:44 am

At last, the song with the spoken intro! For a while I thought I dreamed that intro. GREAT, lovely album as well. I guess I`m in your dad´s age because I love most of the music you put out. peace on you Stefan


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