Sunday, January 9, 2011

RUST SLEEPS: Brian Rust Dies. Lesley Saroney Ain't it Glad to be Blooming Well Dead

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The Blog of Less Renown, celebrating under-appreciated unusual, unique, sick or strange Singers, Songwriters and Songs

Sunday, January 09, 2011

RUST SLEEPS: Brian Rust Dies. Lesley Saroney Ain't it Glad to be Blooming Well Dead

Brian Rust (March 19, 1922 – January 5, 2011) was a name known to dedicated music hunters. If you were serious about 78rpm discs and cylinders, and wanted to find out what you might be missing on a particular artist…you spent the big bucks to get one of his discographies. He was one of the top researchers in his field, a banker whose hobby was the "Goldmine" of collecting old records. In the 40's he got a dream job working at the BBC Gramophone Library, and in 1951 he lugged a suitcase full of rare British 78's to America so he could sell and trade them with collectors and pay for his Greyhound bus tickets and hotels and complete his book research. His first discography, "Jazz Records," was expanded and revised over the years, ultimately reaching a sixth edition in 2002 as "Jazz and Ragtime Records."

Most of his books were, and are, very expensive. They were done for publishing companies such as Praeger that specialized in library sales. Libraries, now closing and dying thanks to the Internet, were vital to niche publishers of discographies and text books. Rust's books couldn't sell 10,000 copies at $5 each, but could sell 1,000 copies at $50 each thanks to libraries willing to pay for reference books. This was not a way for an author to get rich, but at least there was token payment and a legitimate, beautiful edition as the reward. Some dedicated fans who'd routinely pay big sums to find that rare 78rpm, didn't mind paying a big price for a Rust discography that would lead them to titles they didn't even know existed.

A quick check of the Internet market reveals that Rust's out of print, small-print-run books are even more high-priced than ever. $85 will get you a volume of "The American Dance Band Discography 1917 1942," or "Jazz Records 1897 1942. 4th revised and enlarged edition," and $95 will get you "The American Record Label Book," and $100 can get you Brian's book on "King Joe Oliver" or "Discography of Okeh Records." For $125 you can get "Gramophone Records of the First World War, An HMV Catalogue." For $150, "London Musical Shows On Record 1897-1976" or the "Columbia Master Book Discography," or one of my favorites, "British Music Hall On Record."

In his honor, Rustbooks Publishing was created, and they offer "American Dance Bands on Record and Film" (1915-1942) an astonishing 5 volume 5,000 page reference work that amasses 35 years of research and sells for $625. Yes. That was no typo. $625. No doubt library sales account for most purchases, but those individuals who bought the set are obviously very serious about music and take pride in owning the books.

Rustbooks does not seem to be very interested in putting out a Kindle edition for $50. Perhaps it's because they're "old school," or they know that if they did, that helpful blogs, torrents and forums would give away copies, and sales would be almost nil. Perhaps they also think that books should be treasured and placed on a shelf, not reduced to a blip on a hard drive. Rustbooks doesn't seem to agree with the piglets of the world who say, "We think it's worth having, but not paying for, so indulge us or we'll cyber-hack you, list-bomb your e-mail, wreck your website, and steal your shit anyway with Sharebee and a websites in Communist Croatia and Russia to do it. And have a nice day selling a t-shirt or something."

One of the kings of 78rpm novelty songs was Leslie Sarony (January 22, 1897-February 12 1985). Although unknown to the average music fan today, many of Sarony's songs are timeless, still great fun to hear, and one of them ("Jollity Farm") was covered by the Bonzo Dog band. While many a British Music Hall performer who recorded in the 20's and 30's disappeared entirely in the television age, Sarony did not. He appeared on "Nearest and Dearest" and "I Didn't Know You Cared" in the U.K. The Monty Python troupe were fans, and Leslie turned up for a bit part in "Monty Python's Meaning of Life."

Wouldn't it be loverly if the late Mr. Sarony welcomed Brian Rust to the hereafter, and sang him the classic..."Ain't it Grand to be Blooming Well Dead..."



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