Playlist 321 - July 29 2014 - Trunk Records Special

A Trunk Records Special before the summer break for the show, paying tribute to the wonderful, varied catalogue on that esteemed English label.

It's associated with cratediggers and record collectors a lot - possibly novelty records too - but really there's plenty of very accessible material in its archive. It manages to accommodate artists operating on the fringes or the shadows alongside household names (although fewer of the latter in fairness). Certainly, there's no snobbery attached, something you sometimes find in collector circles. It's a label quite obviously run by music fans. There's something in it for everyone, the kind of comment that might be taken as derogatory but is the highest compliment in this case. The archive is also the result of curation and the utmost commitment to promoting lost treasures in many cases. I've discovered quite a few of my favourite albums of all time from Trunk.

Full playlist and further background info below. And of course you should also check out the Trunk website here - Apart from the musical treasures, the blurbs are astute and hilariously funny in equal measure.

Trunk Records Special w/ Eden Ahbez,Joe Meek,Wicker Man,Glenn Gould,Basil Kirchin,Sven Libaek++ by Theundergroundofhappiness on Mixcloud

The Underground of Happiness
uplifting pop music of every creed

Playlist 321 – Trunk Records Special
Tues July 29 2014
(repeated on Tuesdays 8.30pm)
UCC 98.3FM
listen live on the web at
*listen back to this show here

Eden Ahbez – Eden’s Cove
Jonny Trunk – Multiplication
The Vernon Elliot Ensemble – Oliver Postgate Intro and Main Ivor Theme (from the tv series Ivor the Engine)
Bernard Cribbins – Gossip calypso
Douglas Wood – Icicles
Joe Meek – The Dribcots Space Boat
Paul Giovanni & Magnet – Corn rigs (from the soundtrack of the film The Wicker Man, 1973)
John Cameron – Opening and Titles (from the soundtrack of the film Kes, 1969)
Edward Williams – Japanese Macaques: Warm baths in a snowscape (from the tv series Life on Earth)
Sven Libaek – Nature waltz (from the tv series Nature walkabout)
Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliveiro – LIfe saver girls (from the soundtrack of the film Mondo Cane, 1962)
Annie Cordy – A la petanque
Barbara Moore Singers – The elf
Basil Kirchin – Negatives
Yusef Lateef – Ching Miau
Julie London – Cry me a river
Delia Derbyshire (as Li De La Russe) – Delia’s Psychedelian Waltz
Mike Sammes – Timex
John Baker – Big Ben News Theme
John Baker – Woman’s Hour (Reading your letters)
Glenn Gould – Bach’s Goldberg Variations: Aria

*the next show is Tue Sept 2nd, following the station’s summer shutdown

e-mail the show on
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Conor O'Toole,
c/o UCC 98.3FM,
Áras na Mac Léinn,
Student Centre,
University College Cork,

And so as promised, some more background info on the playlist.

1. Eden Ahbez - Eden’s Cove

This is one of those aforementioned, one of my favourite ever albums, Eden’s Island from 1960, which I discovered through Trunk a few years ago. George Alexander Aberle was born in New York but moved to Los Angeles, changed his name and lived a kind of hippie lifestyle before that was even a word, apparently camping out with his family under one of the "L"s of the Hollywood sign. He busked and played in coffee houses around the city. He's best known for writing 'Nature Boy' which became a huge hit for Nat King Cole in the late 1940s. I was always a big fan of that song but really this album is in another league of mysticism and intrigue. If this is hippie music, it's some of the strangest ever created, exotic and otherworldly, having more in common with Esquivel than The Mamas & The Papas. You'll find some more background on the album here.

2. Jonny Trunk – Multiplication

A lovely little piano piece from the label supremo himself, featuring an intriguing vocal sample. It comes off like the less brash but more interesting older brother than one of those Fat Boy Slim bangers. From the Scrapbook compilation released in 2009, a collection of very appealing musical doodles. Plus I think it's only right to include something in this set from Mr Trunk.

3. The Vernon Elliot Ensemble – Oliver Postgate Intro and Main Ivor Theme

Theme music from the English children’s tv programme Ivor the Engine dating from the late 50s/early 60s, which is well before my time. (From the bits I've seen, it looks quintessentially English which might mean it didn't fit the Irish cultural narrative of the 1970s, when I were a lad - Scooby Doo and The Roadrunner on the other hand fitted right in, presumably.) But no prior knowledge is needed to appreciate the glorious piano, tuba and clarinet arrangement, it's an absolute gem. The voice at the beginning, by the way, is that of Oliver Postgate, the animator/creator of the show, who was also responsible for Pogles’ Wood and Bagpuss among other shows.

4. Bernard Cribbins – Gossip calypso

I've come to love this tune, taken from a compilation nattily titled A combination of Cribbins. It falls into that novelty category a little bit but let's look past that and focus on the quality. An English actor, not so much singing as inhabiting several characters, an inspired, breezy jazz calypso backing and a hilarious lyric about Cockney housewives one-upping each other with the latest scandal. Get it into you.

5. Douglas Wood – Icicles

One for the cratediggers, perhaps. Taken from G Spots, a fascinating selection from the Studio G library catalogue, featuring folk, electro, horror and loads of other film or radio style cues. Thanks again to Trunk for shining a light on this kind of thing, which goes unheralded and ignored in the mainstream.

6. Joe Meek – The Dribcots Space Boat

Joe Meek is another shadowy, cultish figure, although one whose reputation seems to be growing of late thanks to namechecking by a new generation of rock bands (off the top of my head, The Horrors, for one). He was of course a genuine creative genius in the studio. This track is from an album of his own, I hear a new world: An outer space music fantasy by Joe Meek, recorded in 1959 with a band called The Blue Men, a skiffle group who were regulars chez Meek. This album was his attempt "to create a picture in music of what could be up there in outer space", something of an obsession for him. To 2014 ears, it might come across with a bit of a comedy hue (I'm thinking Wallace & Gromit's trip to the moon, or something like that), but that's not to undermine the groundbreaking character of it, done from scratch with all manner of homemade echo and reel to reel tape.

7. Paul Giovanni & Magnet – Corn rigs

A classic soundtrack cut from the cult film The Wicker Man from 1973, which is as sublimely unsettling as the Christopher Lee/Edward Woodward movie. Influential isn't the word (I mean it is) - suffice to say that this soundtrack has become one of the main planks of modern psych folk.

8. John Cameron – Opening and titles

Another classic film, Kes by Ken Loach from 1969, about a boy in the north of England and his pet kestrel, although the soundtrack could possibly do with a gee-up (exactly Jonny Trunk's thoughts, I'd suspect). The arrangement is a quite beautiful, pastoral thing built around flute, acting as an inspired metaphor for the freedom of flight, optimism and escape from drudgery. It's wonderful.

9. Edward Williams – Japanese Macaques: Warm baths in a snowscape

This is from another one of my all-time favourite albums, the soundtrack to the seminal David Attenborough tv series from 1979, Life on Earth. It was – amazingly - unreleased at the time by the BBC, so its only ever issue has been on Trunk, in 2009. The arrangements are always unexpected and full of drama. I suppose it would qualify as avant garde if it wasn't so lush and melodic, and emotionally moving. A triumph, no other word for it.

10. Sven Libaek – Nature waltz

Another slightly cultish character in certain circles, a Norwegian who went to live in Australia after touring there with his band The Windjammers. While there, he developed a new career composing music for film and television. This track is taken from an Australian tv series called Nature Walkabout from 1966. The tune is undoubtedly lighter than Williams' compositions (it reminds me a bit of that Roald Dahl Presents theme music, remember that?), but no less brilliant with a sumptuous bed of brass and gorgeous marimba flourishes. Speaking of cultish, Libaek was also featured on the soundtrack of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the Wes Anderson film - it's quite possible old Wes is on the Trunk mailing list too.

11. Riz Ortolani & Nino Oliveiro – Life saver girls

Slightly bonkers (but all the more brilliant for that) Italian film music from 1962, it also hits that beautiful, sentimental sweet spot. The film is Mondo Cane from 1962, a kind of anthropological documentary about life and customs all over the world, showcasing the weird and wonderful variety of human existence - from high class Hong Kong diners to fishermen in India, and African tribal ceremonies to European catwalk models to drunkards on the Reeperbahn. Among the musical pleasures are cha-cha-chas, tarantellas and various other forms of lushly orchestrated boogie, with a few glorious weepies thrown in - this track lands on the statelier end of that spectrum, all swooping strings. You can check some clips from the film on this link from the blog. They’re well worth a look too.

12. Annie Cordy – A la petanque

A song from a compilation called Ici Paris originally released in 1962, also featuring the likes of Edith Piaf & Charles Trenet among others. I don’t know anything about Ms Cordy but there’s something about French folk pop music that tends to make you think all is right with the world.

13. Barbara Moore Singers – The elf

A completely unhinged song taken from the Fuzzy Felt Folk compilation in 2006. It’s like an English version of The Free Design or something – that’s great obviously. Watch out, you could well find yourself singing along to this for the rest of the day –

See him hop
See him skip
See him jump
Running around

14. Basil Kirchin – Negatives

A true outsider figure, Kirchin started off playing drums with his father’s big band in the 1940s but is known mainly for composition through field and sound recordings and tape manipulations. For example, he slowed down recordings of birdsong creating sounds previously unheard, basically. But he also composed jazz and soundtrack music. Most of this work was unreleased at the time. And he was employed by the De Wolfe Music Library, recording sounds and cues. His life story has a poignant but also stoic quality to it, plugging away with his work unbeknownst to most of the world – although well known by Brian Eno, Nurse With Wound and other such underground types. There’s a lovely piece on the Trunk website about him from the time of his death in 2005. This track was previously unreleased but featured on the Trunk compiilation Now We Are Ten . It’s a beautiful keyboard (harpsichord?) and flute combination, a little as if Ennio Morricone had relocated to the English countryside.

15. Yusef Lateef – Ching Miau

16. Julie London – Cry me a river

Jazz is something you’ll find plenty of in the Trunk catalogue. Here is something from Lateef’s Eastern Sounds album from 1961, an exploration of Middle Eastern music where he plays Chinese globular flute a lot rather than saxophone (although not on this track). And of course Julie London is well known, as is this song which reached no 9 on the US chart in 1955. But as I said above, you’ll find plenty of so-called standards on Trunk, in among the obscurities. No snobbery, just commitment to the tunes.

17. Delia Derbyshire (as Li De La Russe) – Delia’s Psychedelian Waltz

18. Mike Sammes – Timex

19. John Baker – Big Ben News Theme

20. John Baker – Woman’s Hour (Reading your letters)

Delia Derbyshire and John Baker both worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the mid 1960s dropping pearls that would be picked up by later generations of musicians in rock and pop. I particularly love the piece where Baker explains how the theme music to Woman’s Hour was created, using the sound of water pouring from a cider bottle. It’s mind boggling and not a little inspiring to think that something so avant garde and progressive – musique concrete – was lurking on prime time BBC radio. I also love how Trunk retrieve something as supposedly kitsch as an advertising jingle and place it on an equal footing with the rest.

21. Glenn Gould – Bach’s Goldberg Variations: Aria

Glenn Gould is another maverick in music history. He was a child prodigy at piano but left that concert career behind to make quite odd and wonderful documentaries for Canadian national radio. I think this album was his only classical release. It’s something special beyond words, even to a non-classical head like myself.


  1. Hi Conor - great show, really enjoyed it! I'm a massive Trunk Records fan(you could almost say obsessive), and have been folloiwng the exploits of Jonny Trunk for over 10 years now. I've been introduced to a wide variety of beautiful music not only on the label itself, but from the always entertaining and educational Recommendations which Jonny puts up on the web site from time to time. His OST Show on Resonance FM every Saturday afternoon is also a must hear. The man is a genius - and a really nice guy to boot, always enthsiastic about the music and getting it out there for others to hear.



  2. cheers eamonn, yes mr trunk comes across as a thoroughly down to earth guy and as you say all about shining a light on the music, the artists. I must get around to checking out that resonance show, it sounds like the business - most of my radio listening still tends to be through the wireless. thanks again for getting in touch.


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