Friday, August 16, 2019

Roger That: Part 1 of a Tribute to Roger Roger

Roger Roger (that was his given name) lived from 1911-1995 and did most of his composing work for various stock music providers. 
These companies produced a variety of recordings designed for radio, TV and movie licensing. These "needle drop" compositions could be slotted in as background music for commercials, as themes for local programming, and aural wallpaper as announcers delivered local events of interest, etc.
Two films make powerful use of library music: 1960's The Brain that Wouldn't Die and 1968's Night of the Living Dead. As well, Edward D. Wood's infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space and the George Reeves Superman TV series are rife with library tracks.
That listeners would want to hear this music on its own, and know who the composers were, never dawned on anyone who toiled in this cottage industry. Beginning in 1955, Roger Roger created a series of needle-drop albums for Chappell Music. These albums make for schizophrenic listening in their native form. The discs strived to give licensers a wide swath of moods and feelings--from light 'n' airy shopping music to tongue-lolling "clowneries" to deep, dark melodrama. Faux-classical pieces, military marches, anonymous-yet-patriotic themes, children's ditties: all went into the musical Mixmaster.
You can read a short and illuminating account of RR's life HERE. He had a distinguished career, for someone so seldom in the spotlight on his own merits, and his music wound up in the dog-gonedest places.
For your listening and downloading pleasure, here is the first in an intended series of skimmings from RR's Chappell albums. As you might imagine, not every track is a winner. While I admire the arranging and conducting skill that went into every track, some of them are a dead loss musically. There is far too much forced frivolity for my liking. I've included "Clowneries," a superior example of this frothy goof. And several dull classical pieces likely served their purpose as theme tunes for serious programs--as they were intended. Elsewhere, faux-Oriental and Mediterranean tunes produce a mild millenial cringe. 
The idea that anyone would want to sit down and listen to this stuff on its own would have made the Chappell people laugh back in the day. Yet people remembered these haunting melodies from their random use on TV and radio, and when the source albums were discovered, they became sought-after collectibles.
Chappell employed a number of prominent figures in the library music genre. Roger Roger was arguably the best of the talent pool. His melodic sense, choice of instrumentation and sense of adventurous arrangement often knocks one's socks off. I've tried to select the finest pieces in this series. Volume one comprises highlights from Chappell Mood Music Volumes 1-3, 5, 6 and 9. (Missing volumes are multi-composer anthologies and don't contain any RR contributions.)
Some of these tunes may be familiar to those who own Grands Travaux, the Basta CD from 1995 that re-created Chappell selections. There are pieces that couldn't be avoided because they're so striking and affecting. There are some choice selections not on this tribute album (well worth acquiring if you like what you hear here), and there's something solid and pleasing about these monophonic originals.
This is some of my favorite music, and if it's new to you, I hope you cotton to it. There will be more of these anthologies soon.

This first collection can be had HERE.

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