Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Liz Damon's Orient Express - "1900 Yesterday" (1970)

Liz Damon's Orient Express - "1900 Yesterday" (Billboard #33, entered 12/26/70; easy listening #4). Written by Johnny Cameron. Produced by George J.D. Chun. 45: "1900 Yesterday"/"You're Falling in Love" (Makaha 1970; White Whale 1970). LP: Liz Damon's Orient Express (Makaha 1970; White Whale 1970).

Written by soul songwriter and producer Johnny Cameron, "1900 Yesterday" first showed up as a B-side for Betty Everett's "Maybe" (not a cover of the Chantels classic) in 1969. This version by Liz Damon's Orient Express - a group featuring three female vocalists and six instrumentalists - first appeared on the Makaha label, after which White Whale picked it up once it caught fire. In a 1971 issue of Billboard, KKUA's Scott Edwards (who ran the "sunset sounds" shift from 6 to 9 p.m.) receives mention as the DJ who "broke" the record.

I'll always be crazy for this nighttime song, with its "smoke from a cigarette" catchphrase, ambiguous time-traveling lyrics, and disembodied vocals. It also has capering bone-marimba lines that remind me of some of the Morton Stevens "busybody" instrumental music on Hawaii Five-O I'd once written about.

Liz Damon and her troupe had another massive Hawaii-only hit in 1973 with their version of Bacharach and David's "Me Japanese Boy (I Love You)," which Damon, evoking Karen Carpenter, sings with a chorus of children's voices a la the Carpenters' "Sing."

Liz Damon's Orient Express - "1900 Yesterday"

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