Wagner Advance!

After the massive success of Whipped Cream, Herb Alpert thought he could do no wrong...

...but he was wrong--way wrong--and so was "Mariachi Opera." If Whipped Cream is the album that made A&M, Richard Wagner & Other Delights is the one that almost broke it.

Herb had dallied with the classics once before. Herb Alpert's Ninth, however, was just a gimmick--it contained no Beethoven music, it was just Herb's ninth album. (It did include a light-hearted send-up of Bizet's Carmen, however.)

Alpert was not so cautious on his next (and last) foray into the classical world. On Richard Wagner & Other Delights he would actually attempt to translate the works of the revered composer into the mariachi sensibility. And while the album has a certain goofy charm, Wagnerians on the whole are not renowned for their sense of humor. Any Wagnerian who likes this album probably thinks dragging a statue around the world for photo ops is funny. By that I mean, of course, that most Wagnerians hated it. Non-Wagnerians? They were just confused and ignored the album entirely. Even the Columbia Record Club refused to carry it.

The ultra-rare copy of Richard Wagner & Other Delights pictured below is one of Deuce of Clubs's most prized possessions--it's one of only 23 copies known to have survived the massive A&M recall resulting from Alpert's belated discovery that America's record club members, more accustomed to Ray Conniff and Jerry Vale, were not ready for such experimental genre-mixing.

This debacle did not destroy, but severely diminished, Alpert's pioneer spirit. He remained daring enough to sign The Sex Pistols to A&M after EMI dumped them, but he dumped them himself a mere seven days later when A&M director Derek Green threated to quit. "Look," Herb told him, "if it's a choice between the Pistols and you, you stick. Pistols, I don't care. These things come and go."

No, Herb, record company directors come and go. Try this little thought-experiment: compare the number of books that have been written about the Sex Pistols with the number of books that have been written about Derek Green. Mmm-hmm...wrong again, Herb.

But you're still my pal for mariachizing the old boy. Though if I were you, when I died, I'd avoid running into Wagner if I could help it. (Come to think of it, I'd better follow that advice myself...)

Wagner Advance!