Wednesday 21 March 2007

Calendar Girl

Showing those old LP covers a couple of weeks back made me remember a treasure I once owned and now It's 'melancholy March, meet melancholy me' (to quote a line from the precious artefact) because I let it go (can't even remember when... undoubtedly during one of those periods I was strapped for cash.) I found it in a junk shop way back in '78, one evening when I was walking home from work at the factory. I didn't know anything about Julie London at the time, but this object was just too beautiful to not take a chance on. Calendar Girl, an Lp with twelve songs, six on each side, one for each month of the year (there's another version of this lp with an extra song thrown in... I think the British edition must have logically thrown that one back out... or something) and on the cover Julie London herself poses in idiomatic costume twelve times, one for each month.

Maybe it was her famous Cry me a River turning up on the V for Vendetta soundtrack that brought her recently back to mind. That was a track from her first Lp, which had a pristine and perfect pared down accompanimant of only guitar (the first rate jazz guitarist Barney Kessel) and base, and was a big success against the odds in the year that rock'n'roll arrived in the public consciousness, 1955. It was produced, as were her first handful of albums, by her husband Bobby Troup, himself famous as writer of the song Route 66. Her second album, Lonely Girl was even more sparse, with just a soft guitar. Calendar Girl was her third, and an orchestra was brought in this time. Half of the numbers were standards and the rest were written specially including two by Troup himself and two by the guy who wrote Cry me a River.
While googling around i found a chap named Godfrey King mulling over one of these,
breaks the Winter's icy chain,
that's a song I heard so long ago"
I think he must have been recalling Sara Coleridge's (1802 - 1852) poem known as 'The Months'...the second line goes
"February brings the rain, Thaws the frozen lake again". It is at least an adaption from it and, as her father ST Coleridge
is my favourite poet , the song becomes a shared memory beautifully sung by Julie.

the album affects people like that.
I recently was able to retrieve it to some extent when it appeared on a cd, but it was paired with her 1959 album which had an orchestra arranged and conducted by a young Andre Previn in a godawful syrupy style. After Calendar Girl they started mucking about trying to find a winning approach, and there was an occasional return to form, but the 1955-57 albums are the best. My favourite Chet Baker session went for the same kind of simplicty. Dated 1957 it was probably carefully taking note of London's first outing. That's on Embraceable You. The record company apparently decided that wasn't saleable and put it in the vault for thirty eight years.

I scanned the above piccies from the cd booklet, but there's a site here with a far superior scan of the original lp sleeve, and lots of information on Julie London and her recordings.

My brain turned to Calendar Girl in 1997 when I needed a story for the Bacchus serial Banged Up. The set-up was that Bacchus was in jail and each of the various characters he meets there has his own story. Thus the book becomes a little set of short crime stories, including the man who killed santa Claus, the punk who pissed on the grave of Elvis, etc. This story was titled The Snatching of Miss July. An old inmate finds that his favourite pin up has been stolen out of a calendar that he has kept for years. The other pinups comment on the stituation:
Miss June: "I was looking the other way at the time."

Miss August: "It happened right under my nose but I aint saying nothin. More than my life's worth."
Miss December: "you ask me, she got what she deserved. She was so up herself, all that flag wavin' an' bugle blowin'."
It turns out in the end that Miss July was the old geezer's wife of twenty-odd years ago, and he's still doing time for her murder.

The attraction of the story was that I was able to draw on one of Pete Mullins' strengths, the depiction of that kind of period style cheesecake, and have him do a great deal of the art on that chapter. We had a lot of fun with it. You can just see my drawings of Bacchus and his cockeyed mayhem behind the pin-up of Miss January, which appears to have been left lying over the artwork. It wasn't unlike the kind of tricks Eisner used to pull in the great days of the Spirit.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julie London also sang "Cry Me A River" (and appeared) in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield/Tom Ewell movie "The Girl Can't Help It"

21 March 2007 at 00:50:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

Andrew Preview!

21 March 2007 at 04:22:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Cry me a river" was also the opening theme on an episode of Cracker.

21 March 2007 at 06:56:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

And every episode of McCallum, though not the Julie London version.

This point is kind of moot but I couldn't have Mr White out-trivia me.

21 March 2007 at 07:19:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Ooo. Nice cheesecake!

I don't have that Bacchus. Will have to locate a copy. What collection is it in?

21 March 2007 at 16:39:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great cover, nice typeface too (Bernhard Modern, if ya must know...).

12" vinyl is still produced, albeit in limited quantities. And there's a very healthy collectors' market for vinyl now. Those big record sleeves may have been a technological accident--we might well have ended up listening to some kind of cylinder system, pre-CD--but their large surface area was a gift for designers.

I started out doing record sleeves; CD packages make a very poor substitute. (I'm designing one at the moment, as it happens.) Not only for the cramped size but CD plants don't always print things very well. CDs are also wasteful from an environmental point of view, less easy to recycle. All those "jewel cases" are cluttering up the world with even more useless plastic.

21 March 2007 at 16:59:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Martin Wisse said...

I remember that story, back in the days when I faithfully bought the Bacchus comic every month.

Julie London was the subject of a BBC4 documentary recently, which lead me to get her debut album, which is as lovely as you describe it as.

There's something really interesting about that whole late fifties cultural period, just before youth culture permanently conquered the world, a sort of sophistication that has been lost ever since.

21 March 2007 at 17:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Thanks for the comments. the Bacchus is Banged UP, the last in the series. There is a link in my post above to the Topshelf page.

And as for Julie, I got all full of longing after writing the post and went up to my local music shop and found a couple of her albums I don't already have. I've got eleven altogether, but on cd.
lovely lady. passed away not so long ago in 2000, just after I rediscovered my affection for her music. Aint it always the way.

Dammit, i wish i had that Lp sleeve back.

21 March 2007 at 20:55:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...


re the design space in cds

You suceeded in making a lot of extra space for yourself in the Alan Moore cd s, particularly Snakes and ladders. Where you offered it or did you have to fight for it?
readers, see

Though on reflection, isn't it criminal to have something like that folded up six ways and put away like a pound note in a purse.


21 March 2007 at 21:40:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

What I miss most about LPs are the wonderful graphics. That's been a great loss. And the neat shit one sometimes used to find within the album sleeves. Sometimes posters. Sometimes songbooks. Sometimes booklets full of photos and histories and behind-the-scenes trivia.

And who can forget the Alice Cooper album that came dressed in a pair of panties?

And colored wax?

And picture discs?

And double/triple fold-out albums?

Crap. Now I'm bummed out.

21 March 2007 at 22:13:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Moon & Serpent CDs were okay to do as it was for Steve Severin's label and him being a musician from the days of vinyl (ex-Siouxsie & the Banshees) he was amenable to suggestions. He'd also already done long fold-out inserts for his own CDs, something we did with Angel Passage.

I'm a big connoisseur of the gimmicky album sleeve of the seventies, even written a couple of posts about them. Barney Bubbles sleeves for Hawkwind were classics, of course, then there's things like the real zipper for Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones, the windows in the brownstone building for Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin (and the moving wheel and die-cut holes on Led Zep III), the anamorphic sleeve for No Earthly Connection by Rick Wakeman that had to be viewed with a rolled tube of reflective paper that came with the album... And so on.

21 March 2007 at 22:58:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And colored wax?

And picture discs?

And double/triple fold-out albums?

You can still have these novel features if you actually - let's say - "go into a shop" and "purchase" a new release on vinyl.

22 March 2007 at 23:30:00 GMT-5  
Blogger mrjslack said...

And on "McCallum", Cry Me A River was sung, I believe by Mari Wilson... who of course lists Julie London as one of her major musical influences.

mister (I may not know much, but I know tv) J.

25 March 2007 at 03:31:00 GMT-5  

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