Songs Of The Day 9/30/2015: The Three Suns – “Volcano” + “Cha Cha Charleston”

Vital Organs – Not many vaudeville or straight-up pop musicians from the 1930’s and 40’s survived the cultural gut-check of rock and roll in the 1950’s. Many gave up, or withstood terrible bouts of nausea, or retired to the countryside with a good book. The Three Suns were a big exception, though, and proof positive that coming into the game weird, sometimes you might just outfox everyone else and end up ahead. They began in the 1940’s as a power trio: acoustic guitar, accordion and organ. Sort of a cross between They Might Be Giants, Sominex and an overworked ballpark organist. But the sound was atypically hearty. The Suns scored a hit in 1944 with their version of “Twilight Time,” lovingly encrusted with celeste and a very laconic drum brusher. And “Peg O’ My Heart” blew up in 1947. That’s Artie Dunn on the organ – I believe it’s the still-a-baby Hammond B3 – and Morty Nevins on the accordion. It’s really wonderful music. It’s what David Lynch’s film music would sound like if he made family movies. Well, I guess you could consider Blue Velvet a family movie, just not my family. Wait a minute – it’s totally my family. We’ll pick this up at a later date.

Anyway, like I was saying, rock and roll came around and the Three Suns could have packed it in. But they didn’t: They took the Tusk route, went nutters and decided to stretch out a little bit, with new arrangements, recording techniques and additional instrumentation. The result was popular with a lot of the lounge cognoscente, and floated the bills well into the 1960’s. Artie and Morty in particular maintained their inexplicably attractive drawbars-and-squeeze-box punch with a series of really irresistible covers of standards and showtunes. But if you ask me, their 1958 single “Volcano” was straight-up rock and roll – sort of a pre-launch blend of “Tequila” and “Telstar” – and so is the B-side, “Charleston Cha-Cha,” at least in the drum part, and some of Artie's more concise, almost comic detuned falls. It’s when you hear these two songs, the two I mentioned in the first paragraph, and maybe their entire One Enchanted Evening album that you realize there’s probably no way the music of The Three Suns will ever not be cool.

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