Little orphan albums

Sometime this morning I was quietly listening to Tina Dico, following up on a recommendation made by Sean. And one of the tracks reminded me of a song by Sandy Denny on an album called Fotheringay, by a band with the same name. I was brought up staunchly Wodehousian, so I have no choice but to pronounce it Fungy :-). It’s one of my favourites, but it’s a strange album. Nothing before, nothing after. A collection of people who came together for a reason, made some beautiful music, and then went merrily on their way again.

My father’s lifetime was contained in one job. I will probably have seven. My children will probably have seven —- but in parallel, not like my sequential efforts.

As the cost of travel and communications continues to drop, and as social networking begins to impact our lives, I think we may see the same thing happen to bands. In my father’s time a musician belonged to one band. In my lifetime musicians belonged to seven. My children will see musicians belonging to seven bands at the same time.

So maybe we’ll see many Fotheringays. A group of people who come together for a small number of sessions, do one album and move on. I tend to think of Fotheringay as an “orphan album”, in the sense that it doesn’t connect easily to a single other artist or group.

I have many albums. Very few of them are orphans. In fact, off the top of my head, I can only think of three others:

Blind Faith: Blind Faith
Super Session: Bloomfield, Kooper and Stills
On the Road To Freedom: Alvin Lee and Mylon Lefevre

I can hear the purists screaming already. How dare you mention Fotheringay and On The Road To Freedom in the same breath as Blind Faith and Super Session? Relax, take it easy. What the four have in common is their orphan status, there’s something very-individual-yet-everything-is-miscellaneous about them. If I was forced to be pedantic I would give Blind Faith and Super Session a whole category to themselves.

Of course, there are other albums that share this characteristic. They’re called live concerts for a purpose. So my Woodstock and my Concert for Bangladesh are orphans as well, except that I can classify them as concert albums.

Do any of you have favourite non-concert orphan albums?

37 thoughts on “Little orphan albums”

  1. The concept of the “orphan album” is predicated on mythology: “Nothing before, nothing after. A collection of people who came together for a reason, made some beautiful music, and then went merrily on their way again.” The primary myth is that the album is the metric of accomplishment. Anyone foolish enough to try to write a history of the performance of classical music during the twentieth century would either ignore Sergiu Celibidache or consign him to a footnote, because he opted out of having his performances recorded (in studio or “live”) for almost all of his working career. In jazz the same goes for Lennie Tristano, who felt you could only “come together to make beautiful music” if you sustained yourself with some other day job.

    Albums are the artifacts of a business process that is, for the most part, at odds with the “regular social practices” (as Giddens put it) of those the business alleges to serve. (The premise that the business serves the musician is, of course, the secondary myth.)

  2. All that might be true. The truth I understand is something different. And that is this: I have been blessed by having access to albums by Blind Faith and by Bloomfield’ Kooper and Stills. And I am grateful. That is no myth, that is my reality.

  3. JP, we have been here before, when you were using Taleb’s BLACK SWAN thesis as an opportunity to muse about “scalability and hit cultures and long tails and all that jazz.”

    Much of that argument also had to do with the tension between the practices of making music and the inevitable influences that emerge from trying to make a business out of music. Since I take you for a denizen of the business world, I would have expected you to recognize this tension; but I shall not try to shatter the faith upon which your reality is grounded. Each of us has the right to live in the reality we have chosen to construct.

    Having just heard Taleb speak (on Book TV), however, I now have a better understanding of the foundation for his own thinking. To invoke Habermas-speak, he has an impressive command of empirical-analytic thinking. However, his command of the empirical-analytic is so strong that it has led him to deny the relevance (if not the existence) of the historical-hermeneutic. Thus, one cannot refute one of his conclusions by arguing that one or more data points can only be interpreted in their historical context, because he would deny the validity of that “argumentative move.” It would therefore be a waste of time for me, individually, to challenge any of the conclusions in his book, since he would not recognize them as challenges.

    On the other hand I found him the perfect challenger to Charles Murray (HUMAN ACCOMPLISHMENT), which is what he was doing in the event recorded for Book TV. Murray tries to explain the extraordinary but can do little more that babble off one just-so story after another. It was almost child’s play for Taleb to refute these stories simply by appealing to hard data (which, as you know, I much admire). Since the data points he invoked did not require considerable (if any) historical context for their interpretation, Murray could do little more than repeat the same stories and disregard the data!

  4. Your prediction of the proliferation of Fotheringays is to an extent already a reality and to comment on my own observations:

    I have a number of musician friends who are in their twenties, typify the Myspace generation, frequently hop from band to band playing in up to 3 or 4 at any given time, and often have a ‘day job’ also to pay the bills. Whilst they would not identify as session musicians and they perform live they appear to increasingly put less value on loyalty to any particular band. This is fuelled by the hungry A&R of major labels keen to offer them recording contracts, and in cases without having heard the bands output and based on the knowledge that a band member was previously in another band that has enjoyed some success or media attention. Or say because a successful band has mentioned liking them. And to my shock it appears to have become the case that with many a record deal is no longer a big thing, and have witnessed more than one walk away from them in the middle of label funded recording sessions.

    I also know of people who have put together compilations of recordings from the late 70s and early 80s, which were at the time very limited releases on obscure tiny labels, but have since gained cult status and become highly coveted. Tracking down who owns the rights to some of these recordings, if they are still even with us, can I believe be an incredibly arduous task. I have heard of releases being done without access to master tapes, by just cleaning up an vinyl copy and sending that off for mastering. And then on the packaging encouraging whoever owns the rights to get in touch for their share of the proceeds. Whilst I’m not sure of the legality of this I know of at least one case where as a result an artist has received their first payment for a recording made 30 years ago.

    I think it is interesting when you put these two observations together and consider that recordings of the new generations of ‘Fotheringays’ will exist in robust digital formats, and will be shared around amongst all and sundry. And when you consider also that some of that which does not get a release now may go on to gain cult status, and there may be an incentive to release it in years to come. But perhaps by then nobody will be paying for music and so this is a moot point.


  5. Andrew, thanks for this. You touch upon three points that I consider important. One, that the long tail is here to stay as far as music is concerned, and if anything it is exaggerated by the Fotheringay effect. Two, that we have the opportunity to preserve things that would otherwise have been lost, as a consequence of reduced search and discovery costs, itself a consequence of the long tail. And three, the way we pay for music will continue to change.

    If you take your 30-year wait musician as an example, I think we will see something else operate soon. We will start donating money to artists who did something magical years ago, and who are now facing difficult circumstances.

    I think there is a lot of scope for what I call “delayed patronage”. Maybe I will write about it as a separate post.

  6. And I thought I was the only person who possessed ‘On the Road to Freedom’ …
    There is an ‘orphan’ album I would like to find in digital form – about 30 years ago Guitar Player magazine brought together a collection of guitarists such as Lee Ritenour, BB King, Barney Kessell/Herb Ellis, Larry Coryell, Albert Collins and a few others and recorded a double vinyl album – not strictly speaking a supergroup, as they didn’t all play together … but a fine collection of music all the same.

  7. I have a worn, scratched vinyl LP from my early childhood called “The Super Record of the Super Heroes” that has incredibly amazing sixties/seventies rock versions of super heroes theme songs. With lyrics like “Here he comes, Flash Gordon/All the girls love Flash Gordon/But there’s no time for love and no time for courtin’ ’cause/Flash Gordon has more important things to do.”

    and, singing of “The Phantom”: “He’s got muscles that he never has used, so watch your step or you’ll get the news/that the Phantom (heh heh heh) is lookin’ for you”

    The album cover has been stapled back together where the seams burst, and is covered with my childhood doodles, and the label on the record itself has the icons my Mom drew in blue fountain pen so I could tell which side was which before I could read (a tiny Hornet, and a tiny Batman mask).

    Its mostly incredible for the song writing, but I’ve always imagined that the session players were really rock-n-roll giants just doing it for a laugh. The credits only list the artists as The Super Dupers.

    I’d dearly love to find a clean electronic version of this material and some background on how it came to be!

    Beck, Bogert, and Appice come to mind as a more mainstream orphan album (,_Bogert_&_Appice)

  8. Hi Ric, could this be what you are looking for?

    MCA/ MCA2-6002
    Laurindo Almeida, Irving Ashby, John Collins
    Larry Coryell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, B. B. King
    Joe Pass, Lee Ritenour
    2 LP SET, GF, RARE
    1977 US VG+/NM 25.00

    You may strike it lucky and find that Joey Bolt at Bolt Beats Records can get you one. You can find him at I have never used Bolt Beats, but they have come up in some of my more esoteric searches. I’ve written to them anyway, let’s see what happens.

    I think Rhino Records have also carried the Guitar Player records, if they are the right ones.

  9. The Super Dupers lp Super Heroes was on the Design label and the Happy Time label. The song “Batman & Robin” on it was released as a single on Smash, “The Green Hornet” was on a Cricket 45 (C168), as was “March of Tarzan” (C-169). Both were backed by the same instrumental titled “Blue Mirage” (C168) and “Jungle Jingle” (C169).
    The 1966 album was a result of JJ Cale’s 45 “Dick Tracy” released on Liberty in December, 1965. There is an interesting history to the project, which I reveal in my book about Leon Russell, David Gates and JJ Cale. I have cdr versions of the Super Dupers if anyone is interested.

  10. I’m interested. How and where do I order? Will you ship internationally? Is it a download? Can I pay by credit card or PayPal? Let me know and I can do the rest.

  11. I too am very interested in getting a CDR of the Super Dupers LP! How can I go about getting one?


  12. JP, have you been able to get a hold of William Sargent in regards to the Super Dupers CDR?

    I don’t see an e-mail address anywhere and since his and your posts were from a few weeks ago I’m not sure if he’ll return to this forum to read new messages…


  13. Hi Robert, I believe I have his contact details and will pass them on to you in the next couple of days. regards JP

  14. Thanks, J.P.! Did you already get a copy? How is the quality? Oh, who cares, I’m just excited to get to hear this music again after all these years!

    Thanks again!

  15. JP? Are you still around? I was out of town for almost two weeks between your final response on 2/28 and my reply on 3/13…I hope I didn’t miss out on getting a copy of the Super Dupers CD-R…

    William Sargent? I’d still like to get a copy if someone can let me know how to go about it…

  16. Hi Robert, I have e-mailed you William Sargent’s contact information again today, let me know if it doesn’t get to you. I used the mail address on your comment.

  17. Paul, you buying or selling? Do you want me to put you in touch with William Sargent, who has some to sell? Just wondering.

  18. I’d love a copy of The March of Tarzan/Jungle Jingle single. Are the other Super Dupers songs as good as this single?

  19. William,

    I would love to get a copy of the Super Dupers cd-r. Does it include March of Tarzan and Jungle Jingle? I had it as a little kid and am dying to hear it.

  20. An old friend introduced me to the Super Dupers in the mid-80s. It was a tape of a few of the songs, which I think he said he copied from a fellow in the dorm in college. I used to play it all the time. I’d love a copy of the whole thing.

  21. I had The Super Dupers lp Super Heroes album back in the 70’s, and I’m sure it got thrown out in one of our moves gowning up. I’d love to be able to get a copy of the whole album. I’d even take some mp3’s of the songs. Can someone contact me with how to get a copy? Thanks!

  22. Yes, someone please contact me about CD-R or… whatever option works out best. Thanks!

  23. Wm. Sargent or someone who has his contact email, I’m very interested in getting a cdr of the Super Dupers lp. Like some others, I had this record as a kid in the 60s. The Flash Gordon song really sticks in my head-amazing lyrics. Please send contact info so I can order. Thanx

  24. William, I am also interested in buying the cd-r version of the Super Dupers lp. I inherited it from my brother, but it got lost somewhere over the years. Please send me your contact info so I can order. Thank you.

  25. I had a friend turn my Super-Dupers’ LP of the Superrecord of Superheroes into M4A (Itunes), and I have it in MP3 format. I’d be happy to send it to anyone who wanted it free of charge. The recording is okay. The album was the one I had as a kid, but it’s got all the songs on it, though they’re a bit scratchy. I’d love to have clean copies, but I’ve got them if you want them. [email protected] (be sure to put Super Duper in the subject line. This is an email account I give out for public forums so I mostly get spam and junk on it)

    Peter Coogan
    Director, Institute for Comics Studies

  26. I would really love a copy of the Super Dupers doing the Super Heroes album. William Sargent was offering them, is he still around?

  27. I’ve now mailed all the people who recorded an interest in getting Super Dupers with William Sargent’s contact details.

  28. I googled the Flash Gordon lyrics and found this posting. Had the record as akid, cassette taped it 18 years ago for my kids, but it’s long gone now. My kids can still sing the Flash Gordon song, it’s a hoot. PLEASE help me get this on mp3 od cd, something. I’ll have grandkids one day!

  29. I am looking for a 1966 single by The Spotlights on Smash titled “Dick Tracy” and the 1966 Smash album Batman and Robin by The Spotlights. Anyone??

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