When I first obtained a copy of “An Evening in Copenhagen” in the early 1990s, I could tell that most of the tracks on the lp were actually dubs from Ray’s 78 releases – you can hear the surface noise of the original 78 rpm records in the tracks.
I wasn’t sure about “The Wedding” and “The Raid”. Both of those tracks sounded very clean, as if they might have originated on tape. Now, after obtaining direct-to-digital dubs of all of Ray’s 78s, I’ve finally been able to compare them with the lp versions on “An Evening in Copenhagen” and, yes, those two tracks came from 78s. But they’re also skillfully edited for content. Those edits remain in the tracks through reissues of the album in 12″ format through the early 1970s.
In this post, I’ll include audio samples of both the lp and original 78 versions of the tracks so you can hear what you’ve been missing on “The Wedding” and “The Raid” for so many years.
“An Evening in Copenhagen” is an oddity in Ray’s UTC discography. It’s the only one containing dubs of 78s; the other nine lp records in the series contain original material sourced from tape, recorded especially for the lp format.
The first six albums in the series were released in a 10″ format, popular in the early 1950s. Based on the title of the first release, “An Evening in Copenhagen”, we can date at least that first lp to around 1952 or ’53, when Christine Jorgensen’s sex change operation first hit the news here in the United States and “Copenhagen” became synonymous with the place where this type of procedure was done.
The 10″ versions of the albums were in print through at least the mid-1950s. “Copenhagen” was released with a couple of different covers, but the releases were otherwise consistent. In 1956, all six of the ten inch lps were released in a box set called “The Best of Bourbon”; all copies we’ve seen of the set were signed by Ray and contain stock copies of the albums, each one contained in a plain glassine sleeve. All were mastered using a pre-RIAA curve.
Sometime in the mid-fifties, these six lps were remastered in a 12″ format, with most containing one or two extra tracks. All were mastered with the standard RIAA curve. These 12″ records, except for a couple of oddities with “Copenhagen”, used the same tape masters as the 12″ versions, so the edited versions of tracks on “Copenhagen” were carried over to the 12″ releases.
These 12″ versions of the albums remained in print through the early 1970s. At least some of the albums in the 70s had new master plates done from the original tapes – on these later pressings of a couple of the albums, you can hear some pre-echo on the tapes that had developed since the original master plates were done sometime in the 1950s.
The original 10″ track line up for “An Evening in Copenhagen” was:
- The Wedding (from New Bourbon AAA 78, two sides) (edited)
- Mr. Wong (from New Bourbon 103-A)
- Erma’s Weekend (from New Bourbon 102-A and 102-B)
- The Raid (from New Bourbon AAA 78, two sides) (edited)
- Mrs. Bevington Swope (from New Bourbon 103-B)
- A Gentleman’s Gentleman (from New Bourbon 101-A)
- Sisters of Charity (from New Bourbon 102-B)
- Extended Play (excerpt from end of second side of New Bourbon AAA, “The Raid”)
“Extended Play”, a short bit about the difference between 12″ and 10″ records, is actually from the end of the original 78 release of “The Raid”. I have heard reports that it is omitted from some of the early 10″ copies of the record, but I’ve not been able to confirm this – it appears on all of the 10″ copies of “Copenhagen” that I have seen.
Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s, “Copenhagen” had a new master pressing plate made up, substituting the version of “Mr. Wong” recorded for UTC-8, rather than the original 78 release. Oddly, it starts out with a tape machine coming up to speed – the version heard on UTC-8 doesn’t have this speed anomaly.
“Irma’s Weekend”, originally a two-sided 78 recording, was edited slightly at the beginning, middle side change, and at the end to make it sound more like a continuously recorded routine, rather than a 78 release. It wasn’t edited for content, as was “The Wedding” and “The Raid”.
Edits to “The Wedding”
“The Wedding”, Ray’s monologue, supposedly based on a true story about a gay wedding that took place in Chicago in the 1920s, was heavily edited for release on the lp record. The original 78 spanned two sides, with Ray asking you to turn over the record, and this side change was edited out. But the lp version also contains several edits, apparently because of the content.
Here’s the full lp version of the track, if you’re not familiar with it.
Below are the edits. In each sound file, you’ll hear an excerpt from the lp version and then how it originally was heard on the 78.
The first three edits appear to have been done to take out the word “faggot”.
The fourth edit takes out the word “joint” – odd, since Ray is clearly using the word to refer to a place, rather than an illicit drug.
The last edit is at the side change. The “belch” is included in the 10″ version of the lp, but edited out of the 12″ version of the disc. (The first excerpt is from the 12″ version of the album.)
There are no more edits to the track after this point. Oddly, after removing all instances of “faggot” from the first side of the 78, the lps leave in one instance of the word later in the routine when Ray refers to Diamond Tooth Lil.
Edits to “The Raid”
“The Raid”, a monologue again based on a true story about the police raiding a gay party in San Francisco, is similarly edited for content.
Here’s the full lp version, if you’re not familiar with the track.
The first edit removes the word “faggot”.
The second edit removes a reference to “breaking wind”.
The third edit appears to take out a reference to a person, “Jackie Maye”. Jackie Maye was a female impersonator heard on the New Bourbon “Finnochio’s” 78 set.
The fourth edit removes a “faggot” reference.
The fifth edit removes more “faggot” references.
The sixth edit is at the side change, eliminating references to Ray asking you to turn the record over and to watch the sharp point of the needle.
The seventh edit removes the word “lesbian”.
The lp version of the track abruptly ends. On the original 78, Ray’s dialogue continues as he goes into the short “Extended Play” bit, which was cut into a separate track on both the 10″ and 12″ versions of the lp.
We have no way of knowing why these edits were made to the material.
It’s doubtful that Ray would ask for them to be done, since the material had already been released and distributed a few years before on 78. Ray never held back when performing and he was known for a “blue” show, so I don’t think he was suddenly trying to clean up his act.
Ray apparently had no problem getting the original 78s of “The Raid” and “The Wedding” pressed by Allied in the 1940s. (I’ve run into a single-sided Allied vinyl pressing of “The Gossips” from this period and I think vinyl test pressings were used as a source for “The Wedding” and “The Raid” for the lp.).
I don’t know if there were any restrictions on content by lp manufacturers in the early to mid-fifties that would have prevented the tracks being released in the lp format unexpurgated.
Perhaps the editing was done by someone at Music Minus One who was working with Ray on the lps and was offended by the language or concerned that it might not get mastered and pressed by the company handling their contracts. Or perhaps it was edited by someone at the stage where the master lacquers were cut, but I’m doubtful of that since the pressing plant would probably send back the tape master if they couldn’t handle it for content or other reasons.
Unfortunately, the masters and paper records for Ray’s UTC releases no longer survive. Until some new documentation turns up, we have no way of knowing why the edits to these tracks were made and it remains one of those odd little mysteries in Ray’s life.