Monday, February 21, 2022

Vinyl Records Made In Singapore: Spaghetti Western Theme Songs: Fake/Bootleg

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:
Hugo Montenegro & Orchestra. 
Video by: jazzman amos

I have a collection of vinyl records that are actually bootleg [not original] ones and bought them when Sungei Road was around. Very cheap too, about one dollar each. 

I accidentally dug out two 7 inch vinyl records, the first is a single (image 1, 2: black/white) and the other an Extended Play (image 3, 4: yellow).  The single is a scratched and used single vinyl with a torn sleeve, while the other is a shiny looking bootleg E.P. And I've never played them before.

While the single has the hits, For A Few Dollars More and Coffin For A Gunfighter, the E.P. has the same two numbers plus Titoli and La Resa Dei Conti on the front cover. These titles were translated as, The Killer and Fistful of Dollars.
The Single

Both Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef came alive with Ernio Morricone's iconic music when I put the single on the turntable and Coffin For A Gunfighter came loud and clear on the speakers. 

With the second track, the whistling from For A Few Dollars More took me back to my youth as the sound filled the room with what many knowledgeable fans during yesteryear would term as spaghetti western instrumentals.

For the uninitiated, these instrumentals were so popular that even our Singapore record producers in the mid 60's went full gear to employ part-time session musicians to record the songs so they can make a few dollars more. 
The particular single I have, boasts Charlie and His Orchestra printed on the cover.  I remember very clearly there was also a Charlie and His Go-Go Boys when a-go-go music was in vogue and Charlie and The White Cloud Orchestra when the Chinese song White Cloud was popular. 

In fact Charlie and his many orchestras became so popular that his records flooded the local market in the 1960's and 1970's as many instrumental hits were produced. But was the orchestra actually music from the keyboard with its variety of gadgetry sounds?  You know, push a button, trumpet sound, push another guitar sound, and so on. Was it a one-man show?  

This particular single (i.e. with two songs) is a Star Swan Brand and sold over the counter as a legitimate cover version. As I explained earlier, mine is a near new record.
The E.P.

The Extended Play (King Records) looks brand new too and seemed untouched, and unblemished on surface; it was invitation enough to be played. The cardboard sleeve cover, however, is old with some dirt markings. Even a clean-up job did no good. Strange.

Then came the revelation. When I played the first track, I was shocked to find more than 5 repeat grooves. Thrashed to bits, it was fit for the trash can. I had to abandon the track but continued with the second one. Perfect. 

How much money these pirates made is hard to tell but the amount of illegal vinyls generated those years were tremendous, so much so that they were in the market for sale even before the genuine pieces were out. 
The reason why people were buying these records instead of the original ones was because they could get four songs on one vinyl piece. It was convenient and cheap. Furthermore, these movies and music made up the Dollars Trilogy that were a draw. (The movies collected more than $55 million from the big screen. It is still big money today, what more in the 60's).

Starting with A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), the songs from spaghetti westerns came full circle with, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). To cater to the large Chinese listeners, the pirated version printed the language to attract them for easy reference and sale.

And, as usually the case, by the time genuine Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra (RCA) came on the dusty streets with holstered guns, the big duel was over. Mr. Bootleg won! The reward money was worth it.

And cheap recordings done with one person on an electronic keyboard!
*bootleg = a pirated copy, usually with sloppy sleeves, typo-errors, etc.

Images: A Private Collection.
Videos: You Tube from Ukulele Orchestra.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. 
This version will rejuvenate the funny bones. 
Watch to end.


Henk Madrotter said...

And let's not forget the version from Singapore's Charlie & The White Cloud Orchestra :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Henk,
Thanks for the upbeat and visit.
Yes, seen it but left it alone.
Good of you to send the connection.


Bootleg records are pirated ones.
Spaghetti westerns are movies made especially in Europe with unknown western actors.
However Clint Eastwood became famous through these spaghetti films.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Stephen for this very informative piece.
You are certainly familiar with pop 60s music, even with its vinyl records.


Oh yes these days there r so many bootleg discs,, especially rare westerns n movies that r hard to find,, if U know d Loyang around than U can get what U want here,,

What to do it's d only way to seek something U cannot get properly after searching everywhere,, no doubt it's pirated but it's d only way,,!!??

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

hi, yes you are realistic and practical too.
Better a non-original copy than no copy at all. 🙂
Thanks for connecting all this time.

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Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

I have that pirate EP on the King label. I played it last night and it sounded great. That's a real orchestra there for sure. It is probably Hugo Montenegro. I'd keep that record if I was you. The Good,The Bad And The Ugly was also done by Maurice Patton and The Melodians. Very original version.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Steve.
My record player is out.
Looks like it's got Covid.
Must revive it and play the record you mentioned.

Hope all's OK down south.
Been a dozen years since we last met.
Thanks for keeping in touch.