Asia Minor (instrumental)
|Single by Kokomo|
|Format||7" vinyl 45 rpm single|
|Label||Future Records, Felsted Records|
"Asia Minor" is a 1961 instrumental recording by Jimmy Wisner (operating under the name Kokomo so as to not alienate his jazz fans). It is a rock and roll adaptation of Edvard Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A Minor", using shellac on the hammers of a cheap piano so as to induce a honky-tonk sound. He was turned down by 10 labels and had to release the track on his own label Future Records. The song became a hit, reaching No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 35 on the UK Singles Chart, despite having been banned by the BBC, which at the time refused airplay for music found to violate various standards, including pieces deemed to "[distort] melody, harmony and rhythm".
Wisner had previously had two albums out as part of the Jimmy Wisner Trio, but had the idea for adapting a famous classical song into a boogie-woogie-style piano track. Even though Wisner had many connections in the music industry, no-one was willing to take a chance on it; ten rejections later, including from Felsted Records that had released his previous two albums, Wisner decided to release the record on his own label, Future Records. To avoid alienating the jazz community, Wisner used the pseudonym "Kokomo". As a result, no interviews, photographs, or performances as Kokomo, were ever given in support of "Asia Minor".
Wisner has said the title of the song came from the fact the song was in the key of A minor, and when someone at the recording session asked what key the song was in, the reply was "Asia Minor". The song was recorded on a cheap, out-of-tune, piano bought for $50. Wisner had applied shellac to the hammers to achieve a jauntier sound. The record charted at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, the BBC had a policy of banning records which were seen to parody classical music, and this song fell foul of it. Nonetheless, the song still charted at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart.
The song spawned a number of follow-ups: B. Bumble and the Stingers' "Bumble Boogie", based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee", and Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Like, Long Hair", based on Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C-sharp minor", followed the song into the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100. Ali Hassan of B. Bumble and the Stingers recorded an adaptation of "Malagueña" by Ernesto Lecuona on Phil Spector's Philles label, though that failed to crack the Billboard Hot 100. B. Bumble and the Stingers returned the following year with "Nut Rocker", an adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet, which broke the top 40 and charted at #1 on the UK Singles Chart on original release and #19 ten years later upon rerelease in 1972.
a record much bigger than his jazz recordings, and the subsequent trips back to the well that followed on album and singles are all collected here on [Asia Minor, a 1998 compilation album]. What Wisner came up with was a one-hit novelty sound, but he had enough music behind it to make subsequent knockoffs quite listenable.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||8|
|UK Single Charts||35|
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