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.
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.
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?
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.
*bootleg = a pirated copy, usually with sloppy sleeves, typo-errors, etc.
Images: A Private Collection.
Videos: You Tube from Ukulele Orchestra.