NUMA RECORDS:

The Formative Years Archive

DB 8189:

Tar and Cement

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TAR AND CEMENT

Released 1967

ON COLUMBIA RECORDS, INC.

DB 8189

Demo 7 " single 45 r.p.m.

Columbia Records, 1967

§01  Tar and Cement (2:56)

§02  This Sporting Life ( 3:08)

TRACK INFO

Track 01, "Tar and Cement" (a.k.a. "La maison oúj'ai grandi"):  original French version written and

composed by Luciano Beretta,  Adriano Celentano and Michele Del Prete; English Version written by

Lee J. Pockriss, Paul Vance and Adriano Celentano; produced and arranged by Mark Wirtz.

Track 02, "This Sporting Life" (a.k.a. "Sporting Life Blues"): written by Brownie McGhee and Sonny

Terry; produced, arranged and conducted by Mark Wirtz

Please direct all inquiries, corrections, comments and additions to Karl.Sherlock@gcccd.edu.  Written

content and web design © 2006-2010 Karl Sherlock.

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COMMENTARY

"Tar and Cement" is Caroline Munro's first single, which she recorded at the age of 17 while

she was still in school.  By this point, she had already performed her first modeling gigs, so

the song represents those initial, tenuous steps to cross over from fashion and advertising

into legitimate entertainment.

The song is actually an English language adaptation from the French "La maison oúj'ai

grandi," which is characteristic of the French influence on mid 60s pop and lounge music

exemplified by other popular artists like Jacques Brels.  Ardent critics of this style of music

might regard the young Miss Munro's "Tar and Cement" as merely a neutered take on a blues

anthem--one that, like Caroline's life as a model, blandished substance for the sake of style.

Such claims are not without merit either:  one can easily imagine how Janice Joplin, for

example, would have made "Tar and Cement" substantively her own while retaining its core

inspiration as a blues song.  On the other hand, . . . why not?  Why shouldn't Munro's very

controlled--call it "sanitized" if you like--version belie her experiences as a construct of

fashion and style; a free spirit aching to step out from behind the carefully designed but

ultimately artificial image that others have used to blandish her own personality in favor of

one that is more commercially safe?  Besides, the recent so-called reality programs that

chronicle the emergence of artificially constructed pop bands demonstrate just how readily

the public responds to music as a product beholden to market trends, commercial

investment, and the indispensable role of songs covered and remade in the image of that

market culture.  Munro's "Tar and Cement"/"This Sporting Life" is hardly the worst example of

this, nor is it the earliest.  Granted, if critics don't care for the style, then, fine, leave it at that

and accept it as a difference in taste rather than as an indicator of dodgy talent.  Besides, it

was her first recording, for cryin' out loud, so give her a break!

TAR AND CEMENT

Those who are working backward from her recording of "Pump Me Up" on the Numa Records

label might find "Tar and Cement" a bit shocking in that it seems far afield from the music one

might expect a seventeen-year-old in 1967 to be singing.  But it does attest to the easy-

listening roots of Munro's music, to which she would return again after her stint with Numa.  In

her October 2001 webzine interview in Horror-Wood, Munro tells writer Dave Hagan, "I was

very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Gary 'Cars' Numan. . . . ['Pump Me Up'] was a

very different sound ala Numan, and I believe the single did very well in Europe. I had

recorded quite a bit before working with Gary, and have done quite a lot since then."

Unfortunately, the "different sound" of which Munro spoke was not quite the sound that best

suited her talents as an easy-listening vocalist.  Although the single did moderately well in

Italy, it was generally a commercial failure.

In fact, Munro rarely seemed to have been in control of her own destiny as a recording artist,

and virtually from the beginning she pursued recording opportunities by allying herself with

other established musicians and singers.  Whether it be with Gary Numan on "Pump Me Up"

Adam Ant on his music video for "Goody Two Shoes," or even her ex-husband, Judd

Hamilton, on their collaborations, "Love Songs," and "You Got It," there was throughout an

unfortunate dependency on other artists that surely must have caused a gnawing feeling of

disappointment at times for a woman who earnestly wished to make a name for herself as a

singer.  Adding to this is the fact that, of all her recordings, "Tar and Cement" is the one most

staunchly defended today as the best in her career.  In truth, Munro has recorded many

songs that are a truer example of her singing talent and are better arranged and produced,

so this unyielding impression that she peaked in her singing career before she even had one

must be quite frustrating.

THIS SPORTING LIFE

On certain demo pressings, Columbia Records might have mistakenly credited Roberto

Gerhard for authorship of this B-side to "Tar and Cement."  Gerhard, in fact, did compose a

song titled "This Sporting Life" as part of the musical score for the 1963 film of the same

name; in fact, the film's star, Richard Harris, was the first to "sing" this eponymous

composition from the soundtrack.  However, Caroline Munro and Mark Wirtz actually adapted

and arranged the 1930s Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee song, "Sporting Life Blues," and

renamed it "This Sporting Life" for the Columbia Records single.  (A shout of thanks goes to

Kimberly Lindbergs for clarifying this in her article "A Little Night Music." Cinebeats:

Confessions of a Cinephile 11 Dec. 2009.)

Munro's vocal styling on the Columbia Records demo possesses a contrived world-

weariness that is inevitable when a seventeen-year-old sings about the existential angst of

old age and loss:  it was material well beyond Caroline's ken, and therefore lacked credible

soul needed to give a blues song its melancholic depth.

On the A-side, however, Munro shares the spotlight in a fortuitous

collaboration with other talented artists who likewise received

their start with "Tar and Cement".  The single's backing musicians

included Eric Clapton; Steve Howe of Yes; and Ginger Baker and

Jack Bruce of Cream.  As a result, this Columbia Records demo

is highly collectible on the secondary market--that is, if you can

find it at all.  When it does make the rare appearance on the

auction block, its usual valuation reaches into the hundreds of

dollars.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Respect and adoration go out to Caroline Munro, whose Official Fan

Club has been a steadfast supporter of the work appearing on these

pages.  Please visit the Official Caroline Munro Fan Site to find out more

about other aspects of Caroline's career.  Additional thanks go to Sonny

Müller in Berlin, for locating the difficult-to-find "This Sporting Life"

recording on the internet.  Thank you, Sonny.

© Karl J. Sherlock 2006

 

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