Al Goodman & His Orchestra – Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) and And I Love Her [Diplomat Records, 1964]

Al Goodman - Ringos themeThis cludgy and overly-long album title continues straight down the center of the jacket along with an explanation that this music is “From the history making motion picture A Hard Day’s Night.” In smaller type below that the cover reads, “This is not the original soundtrack,” followed by larger type with, “Plus other beautiful string themes – Al Goodman & His Orchestra.” All of these appellations are crowded around a disembodied cartoon Beatles hair-cut, sans head, floating dead-center against a red background.

If you could describe a rip-off LP, look no further than this one. The fine folks at Diplomat Records (“A Product of Synthetic Plastics Co.” reads the back cover) have dished up a smorgasbord of who-knows-from-where it originally came from and who-the-hell ever came up with this album idea?? Images of a hamfisted mobster replete with pinky ring and a stale chomped cigar dangling from the side of his mouth invariably form in the imagination. You can just see him commanding his secretary to “make ‘im a Beatles-like album – they’re HOT, we’ll make hunnerds!”

Who was the target audience for this musical mish-mash? Certainly not the younger crowd recently turned-on to the Beatles’ type of rock ‘n roll. They’d immediately demand their money back after sitting through an LP reminiscent of the slowest moments from the Lawrence Welk show. More than likely this was an attempt to draw those same Lawrence Welk fans ever-so-gently (and ever so backhandedly) into an introduction to that new Beatles sound currently sweeping the country. Imagine John and Mable browsing the LP’s at the local Woolworth’s. They stumble across the name “Beatles,” recall that this band is currently a “big thing,” and decide to hear what all the ruckus is about for themselves. They might even recognize the name Al Goodman, and find comfort that their rock ‘n roll will be punctuated by periods of “beautiful string themes.” But that’s probably giving those in control of Diplomat Records a little too much credit. Some large cigar-chomping studio “executives” somewhere in a back room simply wanted to cash-in on the Beatles and really didn’t care what the hell went onto the vinyl, as long as the cover promised the Beatles and that much sought-after Liverpool sound.

The first cut on the album is a genuine Beatles tune. And I Love Her kicks things off with a marimba beat led by claves (those wooden sticks you bang together) and conga drum, while the melody is sawed through by a moderate string section which in turn is backed by a small brass ensemble. This track, along with “Ringo’s Theme,” are the only two “original” pieces thrown onto this platter. Ringo’s Theme begins Side B and sounds like a VERY mis-directed attempt at a swinging rhythm and blues/doo-wop hybrid complete with an incredibly tinny-sounding electric guitar. Now whether or not these two tunes can be credited to the Al Goodman Orchestra mentioned on the front cover is anyone’s guess. Diplomat could have conceivably paid a very minimum fee to create two “Beatlesque” tunes (you really shouldn’t call them that) specifically for this record.

Al Goodman and his Orchestra were quite prolific, releasing lots of albums such as Camelot on the Ambassador label, and The Mikado, and H.M.S. Pinafore for RCA. Goodman seemed to specialize in recording Gilbert and Sullivan tunes. You can still purchase his slow, antiseptic arrangements to this very day. There’s even a CD box-set(!) called Music from the Great Shows available. It’s highly probable that ALL of the songs on this album were swiped from different Al Goodman recording sessions for various albums.

The rest of the LP is a conglomeration of different musical pieces obviously lifted from these prior recordings. All of the additional cuts sound like out-takes to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, Swan Lake, or take your pick. A couple of tunes were painfully obvious to these ears; Strangers in Paradise with the melody lead by accordion backed by more weeping strings, and an old “chestnut” that I’ve heard as the backing music to advertised “Best of Beautiful Music” compilations on late-night local TV. The title given to this particular cut is We Love You(!!??) while the Strangers in Paradise cut is re-named “London.” This “pick ‘n choose” method of naming tracks shouldn’t surprise the record listener by this point into the album, as it follows the haphazard method of how this entire mess was cobbled together.

This isn’t a good record, it’s not really worth seeking out. It’s certainly not worth the time I spent scrubbing the mold and mildew out of the grooves and off of the cover. But the album was so strange, so “goofy” that I couldn’t help but haul the whole battered and stained mess home with me. It had obviously spent many years face-down on the floor in the corner of a damp basement somewhere west of Route 40 for many years. Surprisingly, the LP wasn’t warped, and it cleaned up rather quickly with a hot rag and soapy water. The strange decision to turn the Beatles’ I Love Her into a cha-cha finger-snapper was an interesting listening experience but that track alone can’t salvage the audacity and “we’re here to rip you off” nonchalance that oozes from this album’s very soul.

However, that brazen defiance alone warrants that this album be remembered. Now, admittedly, that’s a dubious distinction for Ringo’s Theme (This Boy) and And I Love Her to stand on, but it’s a distinction none-the-less. In the cut-throat world of second-hand record shopping, and which albums will stand-out and be recognized among such detritus as Sing Along With Mitch and Montovani, you gotta find any method necessary to get out of those musty, dirty thrift-store bins and back onto the shelves of an individual household. Gee… that’s exactly the same type of thinking that sold this album in the first place!

Nathan Miner

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