23 June 2019

Susan Fassbender - Merry-Go-Round/ Reasons

Slightly neurotic but hooky new wave pop from the under-rated Fassbender

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1981

"Left and to the Back" has keenly supported Susan Fassbender's work before now. Her debut single and hit "Twilight Cafe" is probably the most persuasive and brilliantly penned one hit wonder of the eighties, and deserved to chart a lot higher than its final number 21 placing.

CBS only took Susan Fassbender on when it was clear that "Twilight Cafe" was going to be too in-demand for her original label Criminal to cope with, and there's a sense that they weren't entirely behind her work after that point, seeing her as an adopted stray rather than one of their A&R Department's own special discoveries. Her second single, the perky "Stay", made very little impression, and "Merry-Go-Round" ended up as her final release. After this, there was no LP, and no additional 45s.

This was a ridiculous move on their part. The demos that were recorded by her and Kay Russell have since been released, and point towards an assured pair of songwriters with plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Given the fact that numerous one hit, three-chord wonder punk acts were being kept on the books of various labels in the hope of further success, Fassbender's ejection from the premises of CBS felt very premature.

"Merry-Go-Round" is actually a solid single which was unlucky not to have charted, and in a more established act's hands probably would have done. Sugary but faintly neurotic, it has Teardrops styled keyboard lines and a confident if rather bubblegum chorus.

20 June 2019

Clive Sands - A Very Lonely Man/ You Made Me What I Am

Peter Sarstedt's brother with some breezy but introspective pop

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1969

We've featured Clive Sands on this blog before with his frankly brilliant version of "Witchi Tai To", though this single is a bird of a very different feather. Where "Witchi Tai To" was a piece of summery psychedelic fantasia, all woozy chanting and haunting organ lines in a heat haze, "A Very Lonely Man" is breezy pop. The sort of pop that turned up more frequently in the early seventies, in fact - you can imagine Edison Lighthouse covering this one.

The flip "You Made Me What I Am" has a much more bluesy feel and will probably appeal much more to "Left and to the Back" readers, coming across like a Stones track being given a pop makeover. In fact, it was the work of Clive Sands' own pen.

Somewhat sadly, this release didn't transform Robin Sarstedt's luck, and was as much of a flop as his previous three releases on Simon Napier Bell's SnB label. After this, CBS clearly opted not to release any more of his recordings, and he shifted over to RCA to release a couple of other flops under the name Clive Sarstedt. By 1976 he was back on Decca under the name Robin Sarstedt with the top three single "My Resistance Is Low", and his previous struggles were quickly forgotten.

16 June 2019

Reupload - Trademark - The Days of Pearly Spencer/ Baby, You Make It Real

A super-feelgood disco version of "Days of Pearly Spencer"? Well, why not.

Label: RSO
Year of Release: 1978

"Days of Pearly Spencer" is possibly the most iconic sixties single never to have been a hit in the UK. Largely but not entirely thanks to Marc Almond's hit nineties cover version, it's since been rediscovered afresh and given the respect it deserves. Propelled by the same intense melodrama as Scott Walker's bleakest best and focusing its lyrical attention on some kind of doomed, poverty stricken post-apocalyptic scenario ("Iron trees smother the air/ but withering they stand and stare/ through eyes that neither know nor care/ where the grass has gone") it's the kind of record that probably could only have been written around that time. 

Like a lot of doom-laden pop, however, what it does do is tread a very fine line between genius and adolescent preposterousness, which is probably why I nearly hit the floor laughing the first time this version leaked out of my stereo speakers. For this, for reasons known only to its creators, is a pumped-up, adrenalised seventies disco version of "Pearly Spencer". My first thought was that this was such a mismatch of ideas that it was tongue-in-cheek in its intentions, but it seems doubtful. Someone clearly heard the original and noticed, somewhere buried in its grooves, the soundtrack to a pumping Saturday night. 

Many liberties are taken with the original arrangement here. The chorus is altered so that the phrase "Pearly Spencer! Pearly Spencer!" is repeated by enthusiastic backing singers, akin to denizens of a doomed city sounding the melodic signal for a Batman or Mighty Mouse styled super-hero. The gothic melodrama is thus reduced to sketchy cartoonish action, film noir translated into an explosion of Zaps and Kapows. 

12 June 2019

Slimy & The Gibbons - The Banana Song/ RSM One Day

The "British Lenny Bruce" on a strangely Goodies styled tip

Label: Evolution
Year of Release: 1970

While he's seldom discussed these days, John Paul Jones, aka John Paul Joans, aka John Davidge, was a peculiar outlier in the British comedy scene who pointed possible ways forward. While most working men's clubs booked acts who were either fast-popping gag machines or specialists in blue material, Jones strode about the stage defiantly talking about banning the bomb and sexual deviancy - seriously way-out fare for the early seventies.

We've already dissected both his career and its tragic end in enormous detail here,  as well as mentioning his peculiar recording career which turned out several strange releases. This is another one, under another bloody pseudonym, and is probably the most off-brand effort of all. It's possible to hear some psychedelic hippy-dippy whackiness in these grooves, but ultimately it's a childish piece of cartoonish oom-pah quirk about the joys of bananas. Novelty psychedelic pop? Possibly, but if so, it landed at least three years too late. 

The flipside is a baffling army tune which seems as if it must have a satirical point, but none becomes immediately apparent. 

9 June 2019

T.N.T. - Big Trouble

The rock/dance crossover starts here? Certainly, the flipside is manic stuff indeed. TAME THOSE DRUMS!

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1972

A worthy two-sider here. On the A-side it's yet another piece of gruff, mean, funky rock of the sort you could imagine being favoured by fictional Yorkie lorry drivers. Snarling and clip-clopping its way alongside slick percussion, "Shaft" inspired strings and parping horns, it clearly means serious business. "Take out some life insurance!" growls the singer at one point, which, of course, is often good advice anyway. 

The flip, on the other hand, while acting as "Part Two", is a manic, bongo driven frenzy which sounds not unlike the kind of minimal anarchy which got collectors hot under the collar for Angelo and Eighteen's single "Midnight Flight" not so long ago. Unlike that record, though, this one decides that there couldn't possibly be any such thing as too many beats per minute, and for those who like their dancefloor action ridiculously frenzied, it's a real treat.