I'm Sitting on Top of the World - Les Paul and Mary Ford
June 11th, my Dad's birthday, he would be 109 if he were alive today.
On Friday afternoons in Bahrain, (a holiday and the equivalent of Sunday here) I would go to the Cinema and when I got back my Dad would be sitting in an easy chair, in shorts and yellow flip flops, drinking Tuborg Beer and smoking a large cigar, at the optimum point in front of his stereo speakers, the point where if you closed your eyes, you could imagine the orchestra, or the performers, sitting there performing in front of you.
Mostly his taste to was too Mantovani / George Feyer / Bert Kaempfert for me, or too orchestral, but I loved the musicals. And I also loved his pop collection, which was pre Elvis and brilliantly gave a vivid picture of the music world of America before doo wop and rock and roll hit.
My favourites of his “modern” music were two 10 inch LP compilation albums from Capital: Today’s Top Hits from Today’s Top Artists Volumes VIII and IX both from 1953.
And this was one of the tracks from Volume VIII.
Les Paul was a terrific innovator and did invent his own electric guitar –“ the log” as he wasn’t satisfied with the capability and range of the guitars on the market, but the famous “Gibson Les Paul” guitar, wasn’t invented by him, the manufacturers used his name as a guitarist to endorse it.
And what a guitarist he was, as this track shows, the Eric Clapton of his day, very showy, but somehow never taking over the song, always letting the lead have the lead. He also was really into using the latest technology to try something new, in this case triple tracking the vocals of Mary to produce a kind of dream like pseudo Andrews Sisters’ effect. It’s very weird, almost as though they are (all three Mary’s) on drugs, so laid back are they. But listen to that guitar go;
and then there’s that heavenly extra dreamy bit where Mary sings solo with the balmy warm backing vocals in the background and I’m back there with a lump in my throat, sneaking behind the chair, peeking out and seeing the thin cotton sleeves of Dad’s white and light blue short-sleeved shirt and his freckle-clustered arms.