[Harp-L] harmonica-bashing

   I have a harmonica-related hobby; I like to collect and
chronicle examples of harmonica-bashing.  Never a shortage of material.
Stumbled upon this one recently about halfway through James Kaplan's
excellent new 979 page biography of Frank Sinatra's later years, "SINATRA
The Chairman."
   On page 479:

Earlier that fall, a box postmarked "London W1" landed on the desk of
Capitol Records' head of international A&R, Dave Dexter Jr.  The carton
contained eighteen records sent by Capitol's British parent company, EMI,
to be considered for U.S. distribution by the American label.  Though
Capitol didn't have an anti-rock policy---the Beach Boys were racking up
big sales---Dexter didn't think twice about turning down one of the discs,
a song called "Love Me Do," by the new British group the Beatles.  The fact
that the record was climbing the charts in the U.K. meant nothing to him.
"I didn't care for it because of the harmonica sound," he recalled.  "I
didn't care for the harmonica because I had grown up listening to the old
blues records and blues harmonica players, and I simply didn't . . . I
nixed the record instantly."

   I get the feeling Dave Dexter Jr. wanted to say something more here but
either couldn't articulate it or else realized he might regret it later.
Was something racial about to slip out of his mouth?  Or a socio-economic
stereotype about the kind of folks that enjoy harmonica?  Painful childhood
memory?  Did his old man take a belt to him while Sonny Terry was whooping
the blues in the background on the family hi fi?
   Who knows?  Bottom line, Dexter the blues harmonica detester probably
cost his employers a few million bucks in lost sales.  I believe Vee Jay
Records took "Love Me Do" and a few other Beatles tunes Dexter rejected and
made a pile of money with them.  Several lawsuits followed.
   Would Dexter have approved the tune if George Martin had gotten Tommy
Reilly to play the harmonica part on a chromatic harmonica instead?
not.  According to my buddy Pat Missin, John Lennon actually was using a C
chromatic in the key of G anyway.  A chromatic that he had shoplifted from
a Dutch music store.

Mick Zaklan

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