18 February 2017

Rainbow Cottage - Cloppa Castle/ Take Good Care of My Love

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1978

Wigan's Rainbow Cottage were a rum bunch of coves - an band consisting entirely of left-handed members to begin with, they were a club act who toured the UK relentlessly and made most of their money as a covers band. However,  they did occasionally pop into recording studios to put out original material. Their most successful effort, "Seagull", reached number 33 in 1976, and was penned by Brian Gibbs of popsike wonders The Answers. 

It's possibly due to Gibbs' involvement that "Seagull" sounds uncannily like a late sixties group ballad which has somehow found itself in the charts in 1976. It's whimsical, gentle, contemplative and actually quite sweet, and wouldn't have been completely out of place on a "Circus Days" compilation LP. 

The group tried to build on the track's unlikely but modest success and failed, and continued to make most of their money from the live circuit. However, another opportunity for fame and fortune arose in 1978, namely the chance to record the theme tune for the stop motion animated children's series "Cloppa Castle", based on warring tribes in some peculiar fictional alternate reality battling over the rights to oil. 

The theme tune is a busy but datedly analogue synth driven beast, beginning with psychedelic phasing and steadily building into something both strident and ridiculous. "Everyday at three o'clock/ they all sit down for tea!" we are informed forcefully, as the group summarise the general activities of the puppets in the programme with passion and gusto. 

Is this intended for adult consumption? Probably not. Nonetheless, there are elements of the single which do, once again, echo the late sixties, and that's possibly not too surprising when you consider that Patrick Campbell-Lyons of the UK group Nirvana was involved with the songwriting (it would seem that Rainbow Cottage had a filofax filled with the contact details of everyone who was almost someone in the late sixties). With a slight, only passing similarity to the Crocheted Doughnut Ring's flop psych single "Happy Castle", it's a piece of dayglo silliness only a complete grump would hate. It wasn't a hit, obviously - and nor really was the programme it came from - but this is a perfectly nice burst of sunshine. 

Rainbow Cottage ploughed on through numerous line-up changes until 1987, when they decided to call it a day. 

12 February 2017

Rainbow Children - Rock 'n' Roll (Who Needs Rock 'n' Roll)/ (We Love Rock n'n Roll)

Label: Antic
Year of Release: 1974

Hello everyone. Sorry for the relative lack of updates on "Left and to the Back" over the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately I've been struck down with an eye infection which makes sitting down and researching and writing blog entries on top of my nine-to-five job very difficult. There's only so much staring at screens my vision can cope with at the moment, unfortunately. (It's nothing serious, by the way, but it is a pain in the arse - or a pain in the eyes at the very least).

Anyway, here's a glam rock oddity which slipped out in 1974 to some airplay but no chart action. Issued on Antic, the short-lived pop subsidiary of Atlantic Records, the A-side is a kiddy-fronted attempt at glam which seems to be using Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" as its blueprint. Unlike that record, however, it lacks the warmth of a Spector soundscape and instead sounds quite raw and beaty - not the kind of noise children's vocals work very well in tandem with, unless they're used in a really sneering, sarcastic way. Here, they're just a little bit too cute for their own good.

As a result, the flip (essentially Part Two of the track) is much better, and is even graffitied as being such by the previous owner. It's an instrumental glam guitar freak-out, and is something to slip on between your Lieutenant Pigeon records if you're DJ'ing at the local glam bop.

It looks as if the two men behind this record were Christian Paul and Marc Hammond, who don't seem to have any credits for anything else that was ever commercially released. This record was also issued in some European markets under the name Rock n Roll Children, but I'm not sure if it met with any more success there.

5 February 2017

Reupload - Three Good Reasons - Nowhere Man/ Wire Wheels

Three Good Reasons - Nowhere Man

Label: Mercury
Year of Release: 1966

Some time ago, I made a solemn vow not to upload any more Beatles covers to this blog unless there was an exceptional reason to do so, believing that far too many were just lazy xeroxes of the Fab's originals. However, bizarro novelty covers would be allowed, and so too would perfectly decent discs like this.

What the rather mysterious Three Good Reasons achieved with "Nowhere Man" is by no means radical, subversive or weird, but it is interesting. The vocals in the track are handled by female vocalist Ann McCormack, who brings a slightly spiteful, folksy tone to the proceedings. Whereas Lennon was largely writing about himself in a despondent fashion in the original but coyly buttering it up with pop melodies, Clegg sounds like a scolding finger-pointer here, which gives the track an abrasive edge it ordinarily lacks, foresaking vocal harmonies for a bit of grit. It takes a spark of originality to make a cover version sound like an enjoyable alternative to the original rather than a poor facsimile of the original, and Three Good Reasons are most definitely in the former camp here. "Nowhere Man" might not trump The Beatles, but it does strangely highlight how much they were influenced by Dylanesque folk rock by this point in their careers, and it does so in a pleasingly zippy, zinging way.

Three Good Reasons released two other singles - "Build Your Love" and "The Moment of Truth" - but never really achieved mainstream scucess. "Nowhere Man" was their best shot of the big-time, peaking at number 47, and as for where they are now, well... I'm afraid the answer is that they're nowhere (men) (and women) in the music business, unfortunately, although Ann did get in touch with me to say she still enjoys doing the odd karaoke spot.

1 February 2017

Roy Young Band - Granny's Got A Painted Leg/ Revolution

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1970

Roy Young is something of a showbiz trooper. His first taste of fame came through playing keyboards with the much-loved Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, and after that group's success dwindled, he also sessioned and played live for Long John Baldry, David Bowie, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson.

Prior to all that excitement, however, The Roy Young Band were formed, who also included Dennis Elliot (who later joined Foreigner). The group released two LPs on their own, "Roy Young Band" and "Mr. Funky", and also toured with Chuck Berry as his backing band.

If anyone is expecting a bit of rebel rousing rock and roll here, though, they're going to be rather surprised. As its absurd title hints, "Granny's Got A Painted Leg" is a complex, jazzy, brassy, thunderous piece of progressive pop, closer to Locomotive in style. Filled with unexpected twists and turns and frills, it certainly rocks, but in a particularly rambling way. I bet Bob Harris loved them.

Got to say, though, that after more than one listen "Granny" really starts to take a hold on me too. If on occasion it sounds a little too fussy for its own good, it certainly does swing, albeit in an unorthodox way. If the music of the likes of The Rebel Rousers had some sort of mainstream future in the seventies, this might have been what it would have sounded like - taking motorcycles down the winding woodland roads past the most interesting scenery, rather than Route 66.

29 January 2017

The Sad - It Ain't Easy/ Box

Label: Phoenix
Year of Release: 1991

You've probably already guessed from the very fact that I wrote about Starbuck's "Do You Like Boys" not long ago, but overtly gay glam rock fascinates me. You have to put it into historical perspective. Until 1967, homosexual activity was illegal in the UK. Glam rock may have arrived in the middle of a new, forward thinking decade, with more folk looking to the future as Noddy Holder suggested, but it was still a mere few years away from some rather heavy-handed bigotry. There were still plenty of intolerant, prudish, vinegary "silent majority" types on the prowl who might have in some instances accepted the ban on homosexual activity being lifted, but almost certainly still didn't want to hear from the people who "did that sort of thing".

Which makes singles like "Do You Like Boys" and this one, "It Ain't Easy", truly astonishing. David Bowie putting his arms around Mick Ronson on "Top of the Pops" could have been interpreted in a number of ways and shrugged off as an innocent matey gesture. This single, on the other hand, is upfront and blatant, and frankly couldn't give a fig.

Telling the tale of a married rock star who is incapable of remaining faithful to his wife, and happily sleeps with both men and women depending on which mood he's in, it's very daring for 1971. Of course, it's impossible not to feel a little sorry for his wife, though one can only assume that she was forewarned. If not, the issue of this single may have acted as a highly inappropriate public announcement. "It ain't easy for my wife to live with me!" declares the stadium chant chorus, while the singer backs this up with "There's always some young girl or even boy in sight/ and I don't care it's what I take home at night".

My copy pictured above is a test pressing, but this was officially issued on the small Phoenix label, and obviously sold very few copies indeed. A shame, but hardly really surprising. It apparently enjoyed support from Annie Nightingale at the time, but it would stun me if I learned that it picked up any breakfast radio or "drivetime" play on Radio One. While it's no lost classic, there's plenty to enjoy here, and it cuts a daring dash from start to finish.

As for who the intriguingly named The Sad were, the marvellous 70s glam and powerpop blog "Purepop" comes to our rescue once again, and informs us that they were Giorgio Uccellini on vocals, Terry Brown on bass, Stuart Wilson on drums, and Marco Uccellini on lead guitar and vocals.  An album was recorded but shelved due to Marco suffering a nervous breakdown, and the band seemed to have lost momentum thereafter. A shame, and it would be very interesting to hear what the album had to offer.