In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking! Now heaven knows, anything goes…Good authors, too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose! Anything goes!
When Cole Porter wrote “Anything Goes” in 1934, could he have had any idea that his commentary would prove just as relevant more than thirty years later, and indeed, even today? In 1967, three years after the esteemed songsmith’s passing, the members of Harpers Bizarre unleashed their second album onto the world, choosing Porter’s song for its title track. In the year of the Summer of Love, producer Lenny Waronker’s “subversive choirboys” made waves by reaching back, with the album cover trumpeting “ANYTHING GOES: Including ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo!” That latter-named Mack Gordon/Harry Warren standard – Billboard‘s first-ever gold disc in Glenn Miller’s rendition – was recent compared to “Anything Goes,” having been written in 1941. Well, now was then, and then is Now, with Now Sounds’ just-released Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition of Anything Goes (CRNOW 31)!
For their sophomore effort, the members of Harpers Bizarre looked to reprise the success of their first album but with some crucial differences. For starters, two original band compositions were included, both from Dick Scoppettone and Ted Templeman: “Hey, You in the Crowd” and “Virginia City.” Van Dyke Parks, whose “Come to the Sunshine” both opened and set the tone for Harpers’ debut LP Feelin’ Groovy, instead closed Anything Goes with “High Coin.” One of Parks’ most-covered and most adaptable songs, it’s also been performed by singers as diverse as Bobby Vee and Jackie DeShannon. In reissue producer Steve Stanley’s new liner notes, Lenny Waronker recalls Parks actually singing on the track, too: “Van Dyke and Ted really did the vocals because I think Dick was off in the service. I love that song, and it’s how I was introduced to Van Dyke.” Waronker couldn’t believe that Parks was a member of the younger generation when he composed the song: “It sounds like it comes from another time!” Harpers Bizarre’s otherworldly vocals lend a memorable new dimension to the song.
That look at nostalgia through the somewhat ironic eyes of youth served Harpers Bizarre well. In addition to the title track (piano by Van Dyke Parks and arrangement by Harry Nilsson’s close collaborator Perry Botkin Jr.!), Cole Porter’s songbook was also tapped for “Two Little Babes in the Wood,” not one of the urbane composer’s most famous songs. The 1924 tune was written by Porter for The Greenwich Village Follies of 1924 and has likely received its widest airing to date on Anything Goes! Porter himself is even heard on the album via a vintage recording, warbling his own “Anything Goes” on the introductory track’s mock radio broadcast and on a later reprise! More recent, but still belonging to another generation, was Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Pocketful of Miracles,” written for Frank Capra’s 1961 film of the same name. Frank Sinatra was slated to star in the film when he clashed with the studio over the script; Glenn Ford took over, but Sinatra still popularized his pallies’ jaunty, Academy Award-nominated song. Even Edith Piaf was paid homage via a cover of her 1959 chanson “Milord.”
On the more modern end of the spectrum was Randy Newman. He had contributed three songs to Feelin’ Groovy, and offered two more for its follow-up. “Snow” is one of Newman’s most delicate works, also recorded by Claudine Longet, Liza Minnelli, Harry Nilsson and others. “The Biggest Night of Her Life” was also recorded by The Nashville Teens, but Waronker remembers it having been written to order for Harpers. Nick DeCaro arranged the latter Newman song, while Bob Thompson handled the former. New York folkie David Blue, at the time a transplant to Los Angeles’ hallowed Laurel Canyon, wrote “You Need a Change,” heard in an arrangement by Ron Elliott of the Beau Brummels, and future Bread winner James Griffin wrote “Jessie,” with its symphonic overtones.
Now Sounds’ new edition of Anything Goes expands the original album with nine bonus tracks. Two non-LP mono singles are present (The Addrisi Brothers-penned “Malibu U” and Kenny Rankin’s “Cotton Candy Sandman”) along with the mono single version of “Anything Goes.” Six instrumental tracks round out the new set, allowing the stunning musicianship and inventive orchestrations to shine in a new light.
Although Anything Goes itself hardly sounds like anything else recorded in 1967, the band emphasized the Bizarre portion of their name for their next effort, The Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre, on which Frank Loesser, Harold Arlen, Paul Williams and Roger Nichols and even Burt Bacharach and Hal David (with one of the most offbeat songs the duo ever wrote!) are represented. Now Sounds promises an expanded edition of that ambitious 1968 album will follow, but in the meantime, Anything Goes is available for order now. You’ll find a link below. The world has gone mad today, and good’s bad today, but the music of Harpers Bizarre is as potent a balm as any!
Harpers Bizarre, Anything Goes: Deluxe Expanded Mono Edition (Warner Bros. W-1716, 1967 – reissued Now Sounds CRNOW 31, 2012)
- This is Only the Beginning (T. Koehler–H. Arlen)
- Anything Goes (C. Porter)
- Two Little Babes in the Woods (C. Porter)
- The Biggest Night of Her Life (R. Newman)
- Pocketful of Miracles (S. Cahn–J. Van Heusen)
- Snow (R. Newman)
- Chattanooga Choo Choo (H. Warren – M. Gordon)
- Hey, You in the Crowd (D. Scoppettone–T. Templeman)
- Louisiana Man (D. Kershaw)
- Milord (Monnot–Moustaki)
- Virginia City (D. Scoppettone–T. Templeman)
- Jessie (M. Gordon–J. Griffin)
- You Need a Change(D. Blue)
- High Coin (V. D. Parks)
- Malibu U (Non-LP single) (D. Addrisi – D. Addrisi)
- Cotton Candy Sandman (Sandman’s Coming) (Non-LP single) (K. Rankin)
- Anything Goes (Mono Single Version) (C. Porter)
- The Biggest Night of Her Life (Instrumental) (R. Newman)
- Hey, You in the Crowd (Instrumental) (D. Scoppettone–T. Templeman)
- Malibu U (Instrumental) (D. Addrisi – D. Addrisi)
- Snow (Instrumental) (R. Newman)
- Jessie (Instrumental) (M. Gordon – J. Griffin)
- High Coin (Instrumental) (V.D. Parks)
Tracks 1-14 from Anything Goes, Warner Bros. LP W-1716, 1967
Track 15 from Warner Bros. single 7063, 1967
Track 16 from Warner Bros. single 7172, 1968
Track 17 from Warner Bros. singles 7063, 7123 & 7388, rec. 1967
Tracks 18-23 previously unreleased