Two Of A Kind: TJB vs. BMB -- "Spanish Flea"

Which version is your favourite?

  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass

    Votes: 6 54.5%
  • Julius Wechter & The Baja Marimba Band

    Votes: 5 45.5%

  • Total voters
    11

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
  • The Tijuana Brass and the Baja Marimba Band have at least eight recorded songs in common.
  • Vote for your favourite version and tell us a bit about why you made your selection. (The selections are listed in release order.)
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
I never really liked the song, but I have to admit, Julius' 1971 version is a revelation relative to Herb's famous version. (I do wonder how Julius would have arranged it in 1965.) Hearing this arrangement I can't help but think Zappa could have easily enlisted Julius and his crew into his late '60s musical excursions (Uncle Meat, Burnt Weenie Sandwich). The intro alone was right out of the Mothers music, circa 1968-69.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
Another Tough one but as is the case many times Herb's version is what I heard first it wasn't until 1982 that I heard Julius's arrangement via The Foursider but I like both of them on their own merits and it got a lot of exposure as part of the Theme music used On "The Dating Game" as the Intro theme for the Batchelor asking the questions of 3 prospective ladies behind the partition
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
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Knowing Herb's version for years, I was completely shocked when I finally heard Julius' take on the AS TIME GOES BY album, and not in a good way. It's understandable what Julius was going for - a somewhat amusing take on the song. But I thought that a song of such stature deserved a bit more dignity from the composer. I mean, it's a fun arrangement, but perhaps it could have existed alongside a more straightforward take.

Bottom line, when I think of "Spanish Flea", its the TjB recording I think of.
 

bob knack

Well-Known Member
Herb's version was cool for about the first 100 times I played it but now I don't ever want to hear it again. I can't say I love Julius' version that much but there's so much going on you always hear something new there.
 

Rudy

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I never really liked the song,
I used to when I was growing up but I can't say I'll go out of my way to hear it today.

One thing I'll say about the Julius version is that using "Dance of the Cuckoos" to open it was a bit of hilarity. (Laurel & Hardy used this as their theme song.) As Time Goes By was more of a serious album, so this might have been done to remind some fans of the old days of "Cry of the Wild Goose" and similar tunes. And the "noodling" at the very end with the final "clap" was the last flight of that particular flea...
 

Mike Blakesley

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I like Herb’s, for all the same reasons Harry stated. But, I’ve heard it too many times.
 

Mr Bill

Gentlemanly Curmudgeon
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For me Herb's version is the one... However I voted for Julius's version because I've always liked his re-interpretation of his own song on this album -- from incorporating the "Laurel and Hardy" theme song to the aural gag of the flea dancing around until the "swat" at the end (is that a violin? a synthezsizer?) and that humorous audio "Oh, there it is... I found it" at the beginning.

I've always found it fascinating that the song that probably kept the Wechter family financially comfortable off royalties alone was never actually recorded/released by Julius and his Baja boys until this album. It easily could've fit on For Animals Only, but that surely would've conflicted with the near simultaneous release of Herb's Going Places which contained Herb's more famous version of the song.

As Time Goes By has the feel, arguably, of a contractually obligated album. And given where music was headed (away from Adult Contemporary and toward Rock) it probably wasn't a disgruntled artist having to deliver a final required recording to the label, but more likely the label having to release a final album in their contract. The fact that it was cut our a short time later (like Pisano and Ruff and other MOR releases of the era) only reinforces my belief that this is likely the case.

ATGB is a VERY different album than any of the previous Baja albums -- it has more in common with the pre-BMB album Linear Sketches than the entirety of the BMB catalog. Only "Spanish Flea," "Left Field" and maybe "Big Noise from Encino" and "We've Only Just Begun" come close to that original BMB sound we fans know and love. Besides, a straight forward BMB release would've included the singles that preceded this album -- "Can You Dig It?" and "Picasso Summer."

But those two tunes would not have meshed well with the Roger Kellaway arrangements and production. In fact, Kellaway's BMB cuts here play well when mixed into a playlist of Kellaway's three A&M albums. (Kellaway, incidentally, is still alive and kicking at 81. And like Paul Winter, his music was "New Age" before "New Age was a music category)...

--Mr Bill
 

Mr Bill

Gentlemanly Curmudgeon
Staff member
Moderator
You could've also included Brasil 66's version from Herb Alpert Presents (though it is a medley with "One Note Samba")

--Mr Bill
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
You could've also included Brasil 66's version from Herb Alpert Presents (though it is a medley with "One Note Samba")
Actually, I initially prepared a four-way shoot out with Nick De Caro's version. However, I could not find a source for Nick's version and given that B66's version was part of a medley, I decided to can the idea.
 

Rudy

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It's not even a medley--it's randomly throwing a few bars from "Spanish Flea" into the bridge of "One Note Samba". 😉
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
It's not even a medley--it's randomly throwing a few bars from "Spanish Flea" into the bridge of "One Note Samba". 😉
Yes, I suppose so.

(I never liked that bit, actually -- the only thing about their debut LP that always rubbed me the wrong way. Finally, after years of annoyance I pulled out my trusty GarageBand and snipped that useless buh doh buh doh dweet dweet dah doo stuff outta there and cut right to the end. Whammo! 1:01 of pure One Note Samba bliss -- and a cool night-cap way to end an extraordinary LP.)
 

Rudy

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Yes, I suppose so.

(I never liked that bit, actually -- the only thing about their debut LP that always rubbed me the wrong way. Finally, after years of annoyance I pulled out my trusty GarageBand and snipped that useless buh doh buh doh dweet dweet dah doo stuff outta there and cut right to the end. Whammo! 1:01 of pure One Note Samba bliss -- and a cool night-cap way to end an extraordinary LP.)
I grew up hearing it, so it doesn't bother me quite as much. But after hearing the proper version (which includes Sergio's original version on the Quiet Nights LP, which has the same opening vamp), it doesn't sound right.
 

Moritat

Well-Known Member
Herb's version was cool for about the first 100 times I played it but now I don't ever want to hear it again. I can't say I love Julius' version that much but there's so much going on you always hear something new there.
I agree with Bob 100%. I grew tired of the TJB version of "Spanish Flea" about 45 years ago and do not want to listen to it again. So to my ears the Baja version is new, interesting, refreshing, welcome and preferable. But if Cecil Taylor or Ornette Coleman had a version of Spanish Flea, I'd probably prefer that as well.
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
I see where I responded to this thread above, but I must have been in a hurry with my one-sentence answer.

I like the bridges (choruses?) on the BMB version, but the verses are less to my liking. It is very humorous, but I just don't like the arrangement. My favorite bits are the "dog barks" leading into the choruses and the ending bit. But, Herb still gets my vote.

EDIT: Until today I never noticed the Mexican flag motif in Julius's "body outline." That's kind of cool. I'm surprised I never picked up on it before.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Yes, I suppose so.

(I never liked that bit, actually -- the only thing about their debut LP that always rubbed me the wrong way. Finally, after years of annoyance I pulled out my trusty GarageBand and snipped that useless buh doh buh doh dweet dweet dah doo stuff outta there and cut right to the end. Whammo! 1:01 of pure One Note Samba bliss -- and a cool night-cap way to end an extraordinary LP.)
The preferred Sergio version:


Terrible audio, but you can get an idea of what it sounds like. (I swore I had uploaded my own copy, but I guess I didn't.)
 

Mike Blakesley

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Moderator
Interestingly, Herb Alpert and Lani Hall played a variation on the Brasil '66 arrangement of "One Note Samba/Spanish Flea" during the concert that we attended in Seattle. I was really surprised to hear that! But I guess it makes sense....it gives Lani one more Sergio tune to do, and it gets one of the TJB "greatest hits" out of the way.
 
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