30 August 2014

Eastside Kids - Subway Train/ Sunday Stranger

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1965

It's always faintly frustrating when I locate a single I really like, but the artist(s) behind it seem so elusive that I'm unable to offer you good people any kind of background whatsoever. In this case, this bunch of Eastside [one word] Kids seem to have no relation to the other Los Angeles based East Side [two words] Kids who arrived later in the sixties and issued several singles, although there seems to be some dispute online about that fact.

Billy Carl co-authored the A-side "Subway Train" and there's evidence to suggest that this is Billy Carlucci who eventually served in the 1910 Fruitgum Company. It seems probable that he was a member of this very short-lived outfit too. As for the rest? No idea. No data. If you know, please pass your knowledge on. 

Whatever, what we have here is two thrilling instrumental sides, with the W.E. Strange penned flip "Sunday Stranger" having by far the best sound to my ears. The combination of ripping guitar riffs, organ grooves and pounding drum patterns makes it an absolute shoe-in for any mod or garage night, and it's a delight. My feet haven't stopped twitching yet. One of those records I picked up at a very reasonable price indeed, and I'm delighted for having done so.

28 August 2014

Sam Apple Pie - Call Me Boss/ Old Tom

Label: DJM
Year of Release: 1972

Walthamstow… so much to answer for. Actually, scrub that, Walthamstow in East London doesn't really have its name up in big rock and roll lights, instead tending to humbly get along with its business without too much fuss. It may be where Ian Dury went to art college, the place where the semi-legendary punk label (and shop) Small Wonder records was based, the home of Grime, and where (of course!) East 17 hailed from, but despite these facts to most people it will always be a dormant outpost of London. Though not, of course, if the Estate Agents who are irritatingly remarketing the area as Awesomestow have anything to do with it.

Blues rockers Sam Apple Pie are another band we can add to the area's hall of fame. Despite achieving only very modest success in their time, they were present at the first Glastonbury Festival line-up in 1970 and were mainstays of the pub and student union circuit for most of the decade. Their eponymously titled debut album was issued in 1969 on Decca Records and is available to buy all over the place, but it's their 1973 follow-up "East 17" (no, I'm not making this up) on DJM which is harder to come by. With the line-up consisting of Sam Sampson, Bob Rennie, Andy Johnson, Denny Barnes and Lee Baxter Hayes at this point, "Call Me Boss" was the sole 45 from this period, and emphasises a flair for deeply catchy hooks which wasn't always apparent across their albums. Part rough hillbilly magic, another part sprightly pop, it perhaps could have registered with more people in those peculiar days when Mungo Jerry were top flight hit makers and merry rawness of this ilk stood half a chance of success. It was, however, not to be. 

Sam Apple Pie are an outfit who seem to attract the statement "You really had to see them live to understand how great they were!" across the Internet, which is very unfortunate for somebody like me who was born too late to appreciate them in that context. The vinyl is really all we have, and it's still pretty smart - just not worthy of excessive superlatives. Those with memories of their live shows may well be able to invest much more enthusiasm into their work than me, though. 

The band finally ceased their activities for good in 1980, and member Andy Johnson regrettably passed away in 2010. 

24 August 2014

Geebros - Made In Hong Kong/ One Word Song

Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1970

I've said before that the Netherlands can be a great country to visit if you want to delve deep into a number of record store boxes containing 7" singles.  So many Dutch records were moderate sellers over there yet remain practically unknown elsewhere that you're bound to come home with at least one half-decent disc to pleasantly surprise your friends with.

In this case, though, a Nederbeat act appeared to get this single licensed through the British independent label Beacon. It's a rum choice to say the least, as even in their own country Geebros were not really hit makers - the faintly irritating "Henry The Horse" got to number 24 in the Dutch charts, but so far as I can see, that really seems to have been their lot despite numerous cracks at success.

"Made In Hong Kong" is, fortunately, a bit more of a groover than "Henry" and chugs along determinedly, another one of those very early seventies singles which nodded towards the approaching glam rock storm. The flip "One Word Song" is more sought-after by lovers of psychedelic pop, being the kind of peculiar, Sergeant Pepper inspired music hall tweeness the British tend to think only they can do. The megaphone channeled vocals and downright peculiar lyrics are an unusual cocktail - "The two lesbians dance oh-oh/ it's a silent romance" they inform us, apropos of nothing, at one point. Best not to read too much into it all, I think.

Geebros were, as their name suggests, all brothers. AndrĂ©, Ben and Henk Groote also recorded under the name Goldstar Brothers and The G Brothers before eventually settling on the Geebros moniker. They eventually changed their name yet again - probably solely to confuse people writing mp3 blogs in the future - to Crying Wood and issued the single "Blue Eyed Witch" which, like a great deal of their output, has since become highly collectible. 

21 August 2014

Cockpit (Featuring FR David) - Fifi/ Father Machine

Label: Butterfly
Year of Release: 1971

If you're a British person reading this blog entry, it's reasonably safe to assume that you know FR David for one thing and one thing only - the colossal global 1983 megahit "Words". A slightly fey, flowery and despairing ballad about one man's mammoth struggle to write a slightly fey, flowery and despairing ballad, its strangely meta subject matter clearly struck a chord with 8 million record buyers on Earth. "Well, I'm just a music man," shrugged David by way of explanation, "my words are coming out wrong". It was hard not to feel sorry for this gentle fellow, like some sort of parallel universe Elton John who was not only humble rather than arrogant, but had also failed to meet his Bernie Taupin.

Way, way before "Words", however, the Tunisian-born David (born Robert Fitoussi) had a long career in France with several records which are surprisingly overlooked by sixties pop aficionados. He began his career in 1965 as a member of the garage band Les Trefles who changed their name to Les Boots after one EP. Success was not forthcoming, so he split to go solo and issued, among other singles, the somewhat startling minor French hit "Symphonie". A berserk, hyperactive approximation of orchestral psychedelia, "Symphonie" is a single I've longed to own for years, but despite its hit status copies are irritatingly difficult to track down, and nor do mp3s of it seem to be readily available. Someone, somewhere needs to sort this out.

Seemingly restless, FR David shortly formed the rock group The David Explosion, who were known as Cockpit in some territories for reasons I can't fully fathom out. "Fifi/ Father Machine" was their first single, and it still has the spirit of the sixties coursing through its veins. The A-side sounds like his own garage days revisited with a three-chord roughness spearing its way through the middle of the track, whereas the B-side is faintly psychedelic in a solo McCartney way and slightly bizarre. His vocals encased in a tune riddled with mellotron noises, David exhorts "Father Machine" to allow humanity and emotions to return to a cold, logic-infested planet once more - it's not hard to form a clear line in your mind from this to "Words", but unlike his best-known work, "Father Machine" wobbles just on the right side of oddness. Hell, the Super Furry Animals have released worse slabs of sci-fi psychedelia than this one (you can imagine Gruff singing this, I swear).

I've often argued that a record company somewhere really should issue a compilation of "surprising psychedelia" from unexpected sources, and FR David would obviously be damn high on the list, and deservedly so. His career had ups and downs sales-wise from this point on, but he remained - and presumably remains - a respected figure in France whatever his fortunes.

Meanwhile, I have to confess that whatever appeal "Words" may have is likely to always be lost on me. It soundtracked my life in a dominant way twice - once in the Spring of 1983 when it finally became a hit in Britain, and my parents moved into a run-down house in Essex they were renovating. Living in an old, draughty house with its strange creaks and bangs in the night, it took forever to acclimatise to both my living situation and the local school, where the children gave me an equally frosty reception. "Words" seemed to be constantly in the background on the radio, ever-dependant. Then in 2005 I moved into a horrible, vermin infested flat next to a derelict bingo hall in East London. The apartment was directly above a Spanish Cafe which regularly played the same tape of eighties Euro-hits at an intense volume, day in, day out. "Words" was on there too, and the cockroaches on the wall tended to waggle their antenna in time to its swaying rhythm. None of this is FR David's fault, but it does mean the odds of me ever giving it a fair reappraisal are next-to-nil. The music videos I have in my head for that single are also even worse than the official one.

16 August 2014

Soul on Delivery - Hustle (Dance Of The Day)

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1975

You know, this isn't necessarily the kind of blog where I'd expect much support for this statement, but there was a period in the mid-seventies in the UK (post-glam, pre-punk) which would have been utterly dead if not for the dancefloor. Northern Soul continued to keep its grip on parts of the nation, and far besides that funk began to really take hold too, and then… disco. Yes disco, my friends. Some of the slickest, richest grooves ever, many still loved to this day.

One huge atmospheric disco hit of 1975 was "The Hustle" by Van McCoy, all puffing flutes, cooing vocals and deep-voiced exhortations to "Do it!" Oo-er. It wasn't Chic and it wasn't James Brown, but it was pretty damn good, and for what was essentially an instrumental, it caught the public's imagination rather strongly. "Hustle (Dance Of The Day)" appears to be something of a cash-in, but is actually a lot rougher and groovier - squeaking electric organs bump up against insistent basslines and abandoned alley car-chase funk. It's a treat.

The man behind it is Mike Vernon, a man with a long history in music behind him by this point, having created the British blues label Blue Horizon which launched Fleetwood Mac. Besides that, he produced David Bowie's early work, Dr Feelgood, Level 42 and Focus in his career. His seventies disco work was better served by the great Olympic Runners, but this is a nice addition to the discography.