Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My World Fell Down

In the last posting there were comments about the song My World Fell Down by Sagittarius which was a personal pick on the latest KFXM survey. Here's an article with some background information about the song. Including a comment about the bridge.

Sagittarius (band)
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Sagittarius was a late-60s studio group devised by producer and songwriter Gary Usher. Usher had been involved with music as a songwriter since the early 60s (including writing lyrics for some of Brian Wilson's earliest songs), and soon branched out into production work. After considerable success as a producer, he eventually became a staff producer for Columbia Records. It was at this position that, during 1967, he found himself producing the pop group Chad & Jeremy. They had played him several songs, which he felt lacked any commercial potential. He had heard a demo around that time for a song called "My World Fell Down" (also recorded by British pop group The Ivy League), and he played it for them, thinking that it was a sure-fire hit. They balked at the idea of covering the song, and Usher felt that, if they weren't going to record it, he'd do it himself.

So, he brought in the top Los Angeles session musicians, as well as drafting friends such as Beach Boys touring alumni Glen Campbell (who did the lead vocal on the track) and Bruce Johnston for vocals. He finished off the recording by adding a musique concrete bridge. He presented it to Columbia executives under the group name Sagittarius, named after his astrological sign.
The single, despite the uncommercial nature of the bridge, did manage to reach #70 in the national charts, and when there was pressure from Columbia for the group to tour, it was revealed that a group didn't exist. Usher did, however, start working on an album for Columbia under the Sagittarius name. Most of this work was done in conjunction with a young songwriter, producer and musician named Curt Boettcher.

Usher had met Boettcher when he was working with a group that he led and produced called The Ballroom. The group was signed to Warner Bros., and they recorded an album which wasn't released at the time. Usher, however, was impressed enough by Boettcher's talents that he utilized him as a songwriter, musician, and producer (indeed, two of the album's tracks were the same recordings made for the unreleased Ballroom album, though they appeared in stereo) throughout the album.

Prior to releasing an album, another single appeared, with the song "Hotel Indiscreet" as the a-side (it should be pointed out that the b-sides for some of the Sagittarius singles for Columbia consisted of instrumental jams that Usher had originally recorded for another studio project called The Astrology Album). As was the case with "My World Fell Down", the bridge featured an unrelated comedy bit by The Firesign Theatre, another recent Usher discovery, but unlike the previous single, it failed to chart.

In 1968, the Present Tense album was released, though it was a commercial failure. Due to the fact that Clive Davis disliked the usage of musique concrete in the two singles, Usher removed these segments from the album versions (though it is worth pointing out that the album version of "My World Fell Down" featured a few bars of additional music between the first and second verses that didn't appear in the single version, and both were mixed in stereo for the album).
However, in 1969, Usher made a bold move in deciding to leave his job at Columbia Records in order to start his own label, Together Records. Once again, Usher started work on another Sagittarius album, The Blue Marble, but this time, he contributed more as a musician, particularly as a vocalist. As he had done with the Byrds album The Notorious Byrd Brothers, he made extensive use of a Moog synthesizer throughout the record.

A cover of "In My Room", culled as a single from The Blue Marble, became a minor hit, peaking at #86 on the charts, though the album itself failed to chart. Several more non-album singles were released by Together Records, but the death of the label guaranteed the obscurity of later Sagittarius material.

Both Sagittarius albums have been reissued on CD, and both contain bonus tracks (including single versions of Sagittarius songs, which differ considerably from the album versions in some cases).
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