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Cool 78 of the Month

April 2006

Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass
The Mexican Shuffle
Stateside SS.338 (India)

In a manner similar to Joe Meek's tinkering in his granny's shed, Herb Alpert's career as a producer began in a garage where he tinkering with overdubbing giving birth to his first hit, The Lonely Bull. As with Phil Spector, Herb's musical genesis grew out of Fairfax High School in Los Angeles California. In many ways, Alpert's musical history unified all of skills of both men as he is notable for his work as an instrumentalist, singer, producer, composer, and owner of a record label, A&M records.

Herb began playing trumpet when he was 8 years old and as a student at the University of Southern California in the late 1950s marched with the USC Trojan Marching Band. He would put pen to paper with his partner Lou Adler and write hits like Sam Cook's Wonderful World. The early surf sound of Jan and Dean would be produced by him. In 1962 he and partner Jerry Moss (the M of A&M) would form Carnival records and release Herb's earliest recordings, albeit under the stage name of Dore Alpert. Upon discovery of another Carnival records label, Herb and Jerry no doubt gave little consideration to H&J for a record label name, settling on the name A&M, a name that would see release by the famous and the infamous.

Herb's 1963 release of The Lonely Bull began life as a variation on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The addition of mariachi musicians, cheering crowds, and a thundering trumpet fanfare made the track into one of Herb Alpert's signature pieces, rocketing into the top 10 as a single. As a follow up, a group of studio musicians gathered to create the album of the same name. These musicians would be known as Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass. By 1965 the group itself came together due to public demand for live shows.

For the next 30 years, the hits would keep on coming around the world for Alpert, both as a solo artist as well as with the Tijuana Brass. These hits alone would be enough to ensure him a place in pop music history. However just the announcer on TV game shows would say, thats not all! A&M records would also play host to artists such as the Carpenters, Rick Wakeman, Styx, Simple Minds, and for a short but explosive period, the Sex Pistols. Even Phil Spector would get involved with A&M re-releasing the masterpiece of Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High as a 45, sadly to American ignorance yet again, and one of biggest latter day hits Sonny Charles and the Checkmates Ltd's Black Pearl on a custom A&M imprint that featured a Phil Spector caricature and logo.

As to the aforementioned TV game shows, they too came under the influence of the Herb Alpert touch, with many Tijuana Brass tunes acting as themes and background music for shows such as The Dating Game and its counterpart The Newlywed Game. This trend started with the song that was released as our Cool 78 of the Month.

The May 1964 release, The Mexican Shuffle (A&M 642 - USA, Quality 1636X - Canada, Stateside SS.338 - UK) wasn't one of Herb and Co's biggest hits. It only reached number 85 in the USA and didn't even chart in the UK or Canada. Chances are, though, that by the mid 60s everyone could hum it. A highly successful advertising campaign for the uniquely flavoured Teaberry gum, a product of the D L Clark Company of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, would be launched with the Mexican Shuffle as a catchy part of the ad. By this time the song was so connected with the gum, that it became known as The Teaberry Shuffle.

Its release on 78 in India shows just how big the sound of Herb Albert's trumpet was around the world. A distribution deal with Stateside records, a label that EMI used to showcase tracks licenced from the USA, was arranged for A&M releases in the UK. As a tag-along, Stateside releases also saw release in far flung areas such as India, where the 78 lived on in 1964.

This fact leads to a wonder of speculation of other Stateside releases on 78 in India as Stateside also licenced recordings from the likes of Tamla Motown and Musicor. What this means is that tracks such as Gene Pitney's I'm Gonna Be Strong on Stateside SS.358 more than like certainly exists on 78 there, in addition to other of his releases known to exist on 78 via the Renown label in South Africa and Musicor in the Philippines. Even more exciting is the distinct possibilty that Where Did Our Love Go by the Supremes released on Stateside SS.327 and Baby Love on SS.350 could be found at 78 rpm in the subcontinent. The archeology continues.

B Side
Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass
Numero Cinco