Many of you know that George Martin was the producer of The Beatles. Some of you know that he produced some other bands and artists such as Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla Black and later The Mahavishnu Orchestra, America and even Ultravox.
I suspect a lot of you know that he was also a composer and arranger, crafting incidental musics for several of The Beatles’ films (A Hard Day’s Night, Yellow Submarine) and that he even played on some Beatle tracks (he plays the fantastic solo on “In My Life” from Rubber Soul).
Heck, I’ll bet there are a bunch of you who knew that he produced some recordings for the legendary Goons of The Goon Show — professional birthplace of Peter Sellars — a British comedy troupe and precursor to no less than Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
But did you know that he put out a proto-electronica single in 1962 under the pseudonym: Ray Cathode?
Don’t worry. I didn’t know about it either until recently when I learned that the Ray Cathode music has been reissued in a fascinating and fun hybrid reissue/remix project designed to benefit a community radio non-profit called dublab.
From the official press release we learn:
“Bridging six decades of electronica, George Martin Music has partnered with dublab to release a limited run of 100 numbered 12-inch vinyl EPs pairing the two songs, newly remastered by Craig Leon, with contemporary remix reinterpretations by Sparkle Division and Drum & Lace. Cut at Finyl Tweek and pressed at The Vinyl Factory, the collectible EP will be released on May 1 and sold exclusively by dublab, with all proceeds benefiting dublab’s nonprofit community radio programming and mission.”
So the back story on this release is that in early 1962 Martin collaborated with BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s Maddalena Fagandini on two electronic instrumental tracks, “Time Beat” and “Waltz in Orbit.” Released under the pseudonym Ray Cathode on the Parlophone Records label, the single came out just weeks before Martin met and recorded The Beatles for the first time.
The two original tracks are great fun. On the surface they remind me of some of the works by electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott — music you may have heard but not know from its use in cartoons ranging from Bugs Bunny to Ren & Stimpy — but they have their own vibe with elements of Nino Rota and Dave Brubeck by way of exotica / space age bachelor pad music flavors ala Les Baxter and Martin Denny.
The 12-inch 45-RPM single seems like it is pressed on standard weight, well centered, quiet black vinyl. It comes housed in a heavy cardboard sleeve, so it is more like a classic remix project than trying to recreate the vibe of the original Parlophone Records label release — the new label design somewhat mimics it, but says Ray Cathode instead.
The remixes by Sparkle Division and Drum & Lace are fun too, bringing in just enough modern DJ aesthetics without derailing the original feel of the music.
All in all Ray Cathode is a super fun reissue, bringing to light a fascinating track by one of the greatest producers in music history. In that regard it is an essential release.
So where can you get Ray Cathode? Well, there in lies the rub, Dear Readers. Only 100 copies of this instantly rare 12-incher sold out super-quickly so you will have to check places like Discogs, Popsike and eBay to try to get a copy. However, if you have access to streaming services, the Ray Cathode EP went live there late last month, including on Tidal (click here) and Spotify (click here).
To learn more about dublab, visit dublab.com. And do check out their promo video from their membership drive this year (below).