Santa Monica Pier (1968)
LP and digital download.
It may win the prize for worst artwork and most bizarre sleeve notes of any of Noel's albums, but the music on Santa Monica Pier actually makes it one of his best records.
The fact seven of the 11 tracks were included on the compilation Life is a Dream reveals the quality here. Certainly the stand-out track is I Shall Remember - the second best song Noel has ever recorded, after The Windmills of Your Mind.
So Long, Marianne, Highway in the Wind and Dress Rehearsal Rag are also brilliant.
Unfortunately the tracks left off Life is a Dream are nothing to shout about. Let's Not and The Same Thing Has Happened to You are reasonable, Noel Coward-style tunes, but only the cover of Show Me the Way to Go Home really demands a repeat listen.
In their review of the record on May 25, 1968, Billboard magazine said: "Noel Harrison has another easy-going LP with his voice pattern lending a folk quality to such material as Highway in the Wind and the title song. Ring Around the Rosie Rag and Dress Rehearsal Rag have an English music-hall sound. The old favourite Show Me the Way to go Home also receives a fine treatment."
Santa Monica Pier *
So Long, Marianne *
In Your Childhood *
I Shall Remember *
Ring Around the Rosie Rag
The Same Thing Has Happened to You
Leitch on the Beach *
Highway in the Wind *
Dress Rehearsal Rag *
Show Me the Way to go Home
*featured on Life is a Dream.
Listen to and download Santa Monica Pier:
By Stan Cornyn
Above her hung a sign - ‘It’s fun to Shop in Santa Monica.“ I had parked beside the Pacific Coast Highway, six lanes buzzing to my rear and to my front, a clean booth and a clean lady and illustrated brochures. “I’d like some information” I offered. With a practiced gesture she scooped up the beginner’s set, four leaflets about Santa Monica. As she handed them up to me I looked into her face. At a glance. I could tell she believed that smiling is good to do.
I read my brochures:
One of the West‘s most alluring cities. SANTA MONICA (Annual rainfall 14.78 inches) is situated on a gently sloping plateau, overlooking Santa Monica Bay and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
Santa Monica borders the sparkling Pacific Ocean with a three mile expanse of wide, sandy beach separating the surf and the famed Pacific Coast Highway.
The rugged Santa Monica Mountains form a backdrop of majestic beauty for the breathtaking views of silvery sea and blazing sunset afforded visitors to the “Playground of Los Angeles County.”
It is from these mountains that millions of travellers to the Golden West have enjoyed their first view of the Pacific Ocean.
I walked past the gorgeous geranium bed to Santa Monica Pier. I passed a historic landmark with this sign: “This Breakwater Dedicated by the Native Sons of the Golden West. August 5, 1935.”
Santa Monica Pier is, in truth, two piers, featuring harbour rides, pier and sport fishing, boat rentals and marine stores, plus an array of seafood cafes, gift and amusement spots.
The first pier, called Santa Monica City Pier, was dedicated according to a bronze plaque, on “Sept, 9. 1909 T.H. Dudley, Mayor, T.H. James, City Engineer,. Designed by Edwin Hall Werner. Stutzer Cement & Grading Co,. Contractors.”
I had with me a letter from Mrs. Enid Newcomb Winslow, who now owns the other of the two piers. Her letterhead had the piers motto: “Where Fishing is Good and the Fishermen Like it.” Her letter absorbed me in history:
In March, 1917, what was originally called Loof Pier, was built alongside the City Pier, to its south. This pier extended 900 feet into the ocean beyond the mean high tide and ran for 247 feet along the promenade.
Within a few years, the two were popularly known as Santa Monica Pier, and in May 1924, the combine was taken over by a group of local businessmen. The pier was rebuilt, lengthened and new amusements were added, including a merry-go-round. At this time the beautiful La Monica Ballroom was built on the pier, at the cost of half a million dollars.
You can stroll unmolested out the pier, so long as you are not on a commercial vehicle over 6.6 tons. I did. Below me the sparkling Pacific Ocean was hammering at Stutzer Cement and Grading’s pylons trying to undermine my confident steps. To my left, a row of stores offered all the delights of life:
A glass-enclosed carousel owned and operated by the Gordon Brothers, its ancient and tame horses bobbing children over sagebrush mesas. I rode three mesa worth, unmindful of the smells of salt and seaweed.
And Al’s Kitchen, serving the stuff of life - strawberry soda pops served in booths under a twelve foot mural of Lake Sierra.
The Playland Arcade, where I played Skeeball for Prizes, but passed up a curtained booth, slightly rusting, urged me to take my own photograph, four poses in complete privacy.
And next to that stood an ultimate weapon: The Arcade’s Plastimatic Machine. It offered to Seal Anything in Plastic.
With only one more store yet to visit, I paused and turned back, away from the sparkling Pacific Ocean. I turned back to take in that gorgeous geranium bed, that gently sloping plateau. To my surprise, from this point, I could clearly see the whole of the Los Angeles Basin, tumbling down from those rugged Santa Monica mountains. I have been told this basin was created by a geological insecurity known as the San Andreas Fault. I have been told that it is only a matter of time until this geological prank of Nature upheaves, until the San Andreas Fault quakes and dumps the entire Los Angeles Basin down into the sea. Taking with it, one must assume, this Santa Monica Pier.
My final stop was in front of a smallish store. In red neon burned her name: Dorena the Psychic Advisor. Her signs advertised her comforts: Psychic, Clairvoyant, Tarot Cards, Palmistry, Astrology, Cards, Crystal, Handwriting and Readings.
I paused, wondering if I should warn her of the San Andreas Fault.
No, I told myself, no, my impulse drowned into the jingle, from far down the pier, of the Gordon Brothers’ merry-go-round tinkling round-round-round.
About me, the Pacific Ocean sparkling, the sun fireballing into the sea , the mountains holding their breath.
I hurried back to shore, passing a small “No Jumping” sign.