Travis Edward Pike | Odd Tales and Wonders: Stories in Song

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Odd Tales and Wonders: Stories in Song

by Travis Edward Pike

Two pretty ballads, one kicking rocker and seven coffeehouse novelty songs for party fun, with an emphasis on "Till the End" (the Vampire Song) and "Loup Garou" (the Werewolf Song.) Most folks love scary songs, but younger kids may freak!
Genre: Rock: 60's Rock
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  Song Share Time Download
1. End of Summer
3:39 $0.99
2. Land of the Giant Bugs
3:11 $0.99
3. Ali Baba Ben Jones
2:49 $0.99
4. Red-Backed, Scaly, Black-Bellied, Tusked, Bat-Winged Dragon
3:23 $0.99
5. Till the End (The Vampire Song)
4:25 $0.99
6. Oh Mama
2:54 $0.99
7. The Sorcerer's Waltz
2:50 $0.99
8. Screamin' Caretaker Blues
4:53 $0.99
9. Loup Garou (The Werewolf Song)
3:41 $0.99
10. The Likes of You
3:37 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Most of these songs were introduced to wounded VIetnam era servicemen in Chelsea and Portsmouth Naval Hospitals and then to the college crowd in some of Boston's most popular coffeehouses in the mid to late sixties. End of Summer and The Likes of You are love ballads, Land of the Giant Bugs, Ali Baba Ben Jones, the Red-backed, Scaly, Black-bellied, Tusked Bat-winged Dragon and the Sorcerer's Waltz are a lot of fun, but with Till the End (a Vampire Song),Screamin' Caretaker Blues (shades of Planet of the Apes), and Loup Garou (about a Cajun werewolf stalking a Louisianna bayou, there's enough spookiness to spice up your Halloween gathering, too. Fresh recordings by one of Boston's most popular and prolific singer-songwriters of the period. Great imaginative fun, especially by candlelight.

END OF SUMMER (Runtime 3:36)

This song is not what you might expect in "Odd Tales and Wonders: Stories in Song in that, apart from having verses in both English and German, it is a lovely, simple ballad, and not particularly odd at all. It was included in this collection because of its long and unique history. Although Travis sang this song at nearly every performance, apart from the score to the movie, "THE SECOND GUN," a feature-length documentary film about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, it was never recorded for release to the public until now. On this cut, Travis does the finger-picking, and sings the song. His younger brother, Adam, played all the other instruments.


You may want to have a can of bug spray on hand when you listen to this number. Travis Pike's Tea Party made a demo of this novelty song in 1967, but never released the record, which made it a perfect candidate for inclusion in this album. Freed from the limitations of having to create all the sound effects live, on stage, trying to set the scene with cymbal swirls and fuzztone guitar, Travis sings it in his "pirate" voice, and selected authentic sound effects of a stormy sea, pounding surf, and a wide enough variety of genuine buggy noises to make any listener's skin crawl.

ALI BABA BEN JONES (Runtime 2:45)

Although they never heard this novelty number, “Ali Baba Ben Jones” was originally composed for The Five Beats’ Beduin Show. A 1967 demo was recorded, but never released by Travis Pike and the Boston Massacre, and the song ended up in Travis Pike’s Tea Party’s performance repertoire. In this, its newest incarnation, Ali Baba Ben Jones is no longer an Arab, but the “baddest man in Rajasthan,” operating in the Thar Desert (Great Indian Desert), the only true desert in the Indian subcontinent – which is why it features sitar, flute and unique drum sounds native to the region.

The song would not be complete without the rocking electric guitar, bass, drum set, and unmistakeable American character voice singing the song. For this tune, Travis’ vocal interpretation is based on the voice of the American rodeo performer, film and television actor, Slim Pickens, who rode the atomic bomb dropped in the 1964 movie, “DOCTOR STRANGELOVE.” Travis also voiced the “Rajasthani commentator,” but the chorus is all Adam, who also played most of the sampled native instruments heard in the song.


Composed in 1961 as the title song for a proposed animated fantasy adventure about the dragon on the flag of Wales, this song was a popular staple in all of Travis’ performances in New England coffeehouses and concert halls. This “English Music Hall” piano arrangement was played by Travis dear friend, David Carr in 1984. Travis’ fellow vocalists, swooners and screamers were David, Lonnie Snyder, Julie Long and Mary Moyers. A mutual friend, Philip Moores engineered the session and when his father, opera and symphony conductor Michael Moores dropped by the studio to see how Philip was getting along, Travis pressed him into the chorus, too.

Adam salvaged the piano demo and the Pike brothers so enjoyed the energy in the performances that they decided to simply add a tuba, drums and fire alarm. Otherwise, this is that original recording, dedicated to the memory of David Carr, whose sudden passing in 2011 was a shock and loss to all who knew and worked with him.


In this Halloween favorite, “Till the End,” the focus is on the storytelling. The lyrics must be clear and easy to understand, and the music should enhance the storytelling, not draw attention away from it. Travis’ “Bela Lugosi” voice at the very start, his “Boris Karloff” voice for the vampire’s narrative and the monster’s fiendish laughter create a perfect mood for Halloween fun.

When recording a vampire skit, it helps to have a chorus of “creatures of the night,” to which end Travis and Adam created a sound palette from single wolf howls and answering wolf pack howls, single and multiple bat sounds, and even synchronized the monster’s final fiendish laugh to crossfade with a single screeching bat, suggesting that, at the end, the vampire changes into a bat and flies away. Other creepy sound effects taken directly from nature included sounds captured in a snake pit and individual hissing serpents for the “pits on the way.” Nature also provided the single thunderclaps and rolling thunder long associated with Frankenstein’s castle, and Travis talked his friend, artist, writer and filmmaker Colleen Stratton, into providing the victim’s scream, heavy breathing, whimpering and ultimate surrender. WARNING: If you listen “Till the End,” your Halloween will never be the same.

OH MAMA (Runtime 2:51)

In 1968, the first week Travis Pike’s Tea Party played at THE POSH, a dance club in Pomona, California, they learned they had to play requests for contestants selected for the Saturday Night dance contest. The band had only played the club for four days before the contest, so their original material was not likely to be selected for the dance contest. In fact, eight dancing pairs requested “Land of a Thousand Dances,” a song Wilson Pickett covered in 1965, and still regularly played on local jukeboxes. One couple requested Johnny Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love?” Fortunately, the Tea Party could play them, but Travis, who composed all the original songs the band regularly played, ended up sittng out those nine requests. The tenth couple requested Travis’ song, “Oh Mama.” Who won that dance contest is anybody’s guess, but the following week, there was one request for “Who’s Making Love?” (likely by the same couple from the week before), and nine requests for Travis Pike’s Tea Party’s “Oh Mama!”

Not particularly odd, “Oh Mama” enjoys a wonderful history that supports its inclusion in “Odd Tales and Wonders Stories in Song.” Travis Pike’s Tea Party regularly featured vocal harmonies, but the most dominant feature of “Oh Mama” was always the powerful drum rhythm established right at the start, inspired by a marching drum beat Travis heard in 1963, when he was stationed at the U.S. Naval Training Center in Bainbridge, Maryland. For this recording, Travis sang the lead vocal and Adam sang both harmony parts, but thinking back to that beat played by the Fire Control Technicians as they marched to classes, Travis dropped the old guitar lead and substituted a new flute lead he wanted to hear with the marching drum rhythms.


This was the first song Travis cut from his proposed animated feature film, The Red-backed, Scaly, Black-bellied, Tusked, Bat-winged Dragon. Akimera, the evil sorcerer, was just not the type to sing to his dragon. Travis sang the song in character against a piano scratch track. Then, with Adam’s excellent samples library, the brothers began building the score with violins, violas, cellos and contra-bass, tastefully adding bassoon and a French horn pad as required. Early on, the melody and counter melody lines were parsed between the strings and woodwinds, in particular oboe, flutes and clarinet. As the arrangement progressed to its darker movements, they brought in trombones, trumpets, tympani, snare and cymbals to bring power, motion and emotion to the horn pad for the King’s “most ferocious knight.” Finally, with a sprinkling of harp for color, a triangle for accent, "The Sorcerer’s Waltz" became this delightful invitation to the dance. It is easy to imagine it played, sans vocal, for a figure skater’s routine at the Winter Olympics. When you hear it “played the way a dragon walks,” you’ll know why this enchanting song is included in “Odd Tales and Wonders: Stories in Song.”


Going through his back catalog, Travis came across "Mad About You," a bizarre song he originally composed for “CHANGELING,” an early attempt at a rock opera. As he considered it, and all the animals present in the song, it began evolving into a song suggesting the story line from the 2011 movie, “RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.” With Adam’s help, he was able to create effects tracks suggestive of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the original, 1968 movie, “PLANET OF THE APES.” Early on, the Pike brothers determined the “color effects” they would need to suggest their program. Adam chose a gorilla-sized Kalimba for the primitive percussive effect and a vibroslap for the rachet sound. Travis sang the “hoo” and, lacking enraged gorilla sound clips, with a little help from Adam and his transposition software application, Travis growled them out, too. (The lack of an enraged gorilla in Adam’s extensive sound library may be because the only way to record an enraged gorilla is to actually enrage one – which might well result in both the recordist and his equipment never being seen again.)

Travis sang the part of the caretaker, Roger. His wife, Judy, voiced the shelter owner’s parts. Their friends, Colleen Stratton played "Stephanie," and Terry Hagerty played "Peter". The sound effects are deliberately orchestrated throughout the song. First, with the elephants, the Pikes established the atmosphere, then introduced the Goldsmith-like zingers they created. Even the bizzare song of an unknown monkey species featured in the instrumental section is rhythmically placed for maximum effect. And, of course, as the song progresses, the zingers repeat more frequently, building toward the climactic all-out attack of the killer apes. WARNING: While this piece may be great fun for middle school kids and up, this piece may be unsuitable for younger, especially pre-school children.


“Loup Garou” draws its inspiration from Cajun and Creole folklore. From the start the Pikes’ decided to record it with a shuffle beat, the way they imagined it might be played in a piano bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, with guitars, bass and drums accompaniment. They outlined the song with Travis’ Taylor guitar, and Adam’s bass and drum parts, to which Travis sang a scratch track. Adam then improvised the piano parts and Travis sang the song in his best “Creole” accent. By the time the backup vocals were finished, Adam, Travis’ wife, Judy, Terry Hagerty, Colleen Stratton, Kris Snyder and Barbara Jordan had sung the unrehearsed bar crowd parts brilliantly -- twice! (Well, the second time, they were a little bit rehearsed, but not so you’d notice.)

All that was left, then, was to add audio effects for the werewolf’s howls and the alligators’ feeding frenzy. As for Travis’ vocal characterization, he admits, right up front, “I ain’ no cajun, me.”

THE LIKES OF YOU (Runtime 3:36)

Originally, Travis played and sang “The Likes of You” in coffeehouses as a solo with guitar accompaniment. In 1967, it became the flip side of the Alma Records Travis Pike’s Tea Party single release, “If I Didn’t Love You Girl.” By the time Travis figured out what his 1987 progressive rock musical “Morningstone” was all about, “The Likes of You” had become little more than a song he composed and recorded 20 years earlier. Years later, listening to the old Tea Party version, Travis became aware of its deeper significance and realized it belonged to the same inspiration that had evolved into “Morningstone.” The question then became whether and how to introduce “The Likes of You” into his previously developed “Morningstone” property.

Currently adapting his “Morningstone” screenplay into a book, he has set the main character’s hitherto unknown demo recording of “The Likes of You” as the catalyst that sets in motion a present day probe into Morningstone’s mysteries and revelations, to which end, Travis recorded this “demo” version. The joy of this is, that apart from its more pertinent lyrics and the obbligato line, beautifully sung by Karen Callahan, played on Travis’ Taylor guitar and his solo vocal is the closest thing in all the most recent albums to his original coffeehouse performances. Travis credits “The Likes of You” with being his earliest connection with “Morningstone’s” mysteries, fitting seamlessly into that otherwise fully developed musical fantasy with a well-defined purpose previously unrecognized. (A fully orchestrated recording of “The Likes of You” is included on the Morningstone Music CD.)



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