6 February 2012

The Silver Eagle - The Astor Disaster (The Tragic Ordeal of Theodore Nobbs)

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1967

Yet another band whose identity and history has remained a mystery to me, which is a pity as "The Astor Disaster" is a fine piece of baroque harmony pop with pitch black humour attached. Dealing with the ordeals of a gentleman known as Theodore, the record trills along merrily whilst outlining his flawed suicide attempt from the upper storeys of the Astor hotel. Rather than being allowed to jump to his death, the sorry individual is instead noticed by so many members of the general public it instead becomes a spectator sport.

"The chestnut man is marching down to make a sale or two/ followed by the ice cream vendor" the band sing happily as the twee pinging of the ice cream van becomes audible. A combination of popsike and satire, it's hard to think of any notable equivalents in this genre, although it could be argued that the Bonzo Dog Band came close on a few occasions.

Whilst a merry track about a failed suicide might have been a huge novelty hit, the public seemed to give it a rather cold reception in the USA and it appears not to have charted nationally. MGM then chanced their arm with a UK release - where the track was known as "Theodore", presumably to prevent confusion amongst British people about what the "Astor" actually was - but it was equally unsuccessful on these shores. The band seemingly sank into obscurity thereafter, but in recent weeks I have managed to find a full page Cashbox advert for the record being sold on ebay, which at least gives us an idea of what they looked like. I also wonder if the grave and dramatic tone the copywriter came up with really gave everyone an accurate idea of the flavour of the record. Tsk. Record companies, eh?

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