31 August 2009

One Hit Wonder #3 -No Way Sis - I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing

No Way Sis - I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1996

Suffice to say that this wasn't really very high on my list of potential blog uploads, and has been sitting waiting in those mythical mp3 wings for some time already... but when the news that Noel Gallagher was quitting Oasis broke, I couldn't resist a rare dip into relative topicality.  Let's face it, we couldn't have got less topical than "Loadsamoney (Doin' Up The House)" a few days ago, so a chance to be in synch with current events feels like a rare treat.

Before we focus on this single, I may as well say that I feel (at best) indifferent to Oasis' split.  Yes, I was a fan once, and still rate "Whatever" as being one of the more exciting Christmas releases ever - I can remember playing it non-stop all evening when I first got hold of a copy, thrilled by its energy and optimism.  By the time of "Be Here Now", however, the plot appeared to have been lost, nobody either within the band or outside of it appeared to have the knack of using a nice sharp pair of editing scissors on their material, and eventually they became reduced to the level of an occasionally good singles band whose albums were immensely patchy.  It wasn't supposed to happen that way, but anyone who wishes to argue with my perspective is wasting their time - I've heard it all before (both the arguments and the less-than-supersonic albums) and nowhere sums up the failings of "Be Here Now" better than the Sweeping the Nation blogsite here, which gives a blow-by-blow assessment of the album's content.  Nope, save your comments.  Honestly.  If you're hearing something I'm not, I'm thrilled for you, but no amount of  superlatives are likely to make me change my mind at this late stage.  Few British bands have had more written about them in the last fifteen years than Oasis, after all, and I've had plenty of time to change my mind.

Back in December 1996, however, I would happily argue the band's merits to anyone wishing to dismiss them as "plagiarists" or "thugs", and it was back then this bizarre little single was issued by none other than their tribute band.  This wasn't the first occasion a tribute band has sneaked into the charts, the Abba tribute act Bjorn Again managing much the same thing with the "Erasure-ish" EP in the early nineties - but suffice to say, it's not exactly a common occurrence.  ABCD, Alike Cooper and The Bootleg Beatles have yet to gain entries in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.

The story behind the track is perhaps more unlikely still.  The Coca Cola Company allegedly refused to allow Oasis to use the line "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" in their "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing"-apeing "Shakermaker" single.  The fear at the corporation's head office was that the Mancs would cause the public to associate the soft drink with cocaine, which would never do.  Cocaine hadn't been part of the recipe for some time, after all.  When No Way Sis decided to cover the track directly, however, the corporation decided to give the whole arrangement the green light.  Presumably as Oasis' tribute act, the cocaine which they may or may not have been alluding to would simply be pretend cocaine, and therefore would not ruin the brand's image.  This, at least, is the only explanation that's ever made remote sense to me.

To give credit to No Way Sis, this single nails their sound particularly well, parodying some of the Oasis riffs and cliches which were already becoming familiar and apparent, and it's not half-bad - but it really wasn't good enough to be a Christmas number one as some had rather optimistically hoped.  In the end, it had to settle for a number 27 position before waving goodbye to the charts in early 1997, and EMI rather ungraciously tore up the band's contract to record an album not long after (although why anybody thought there was a need for an Oasis tribute band to record an entire long-player is a moot point, and one which probably doesn't need much more emphasis).

Whilst having your own tribute act on Top of the Pops might seem like a major achievement for any band, 1996 was really the last window of opportunity anyone would have to cash in on Oasis' success.  Unlike The Beatles, who saw endless cover versions and novelty singles parodying or covering them charting throughout the sixties, the mania surrounding Oasis wouldn't weather the disappointment of "Be Here Now" in '97.  No Way Sis' release, then, was the last nod to the phenomenon of the Gallagher brothers, following Mike Flowers' effort the previous year, and festive follies around their catalogue would not make annual chart appearances.  A shame, as I wouldn't have minded hearing The Bootleg Beatles taking on "She's Electric" in 1997, but you can't have everything you asked for on your Christmas wishlist, can you?

Full tracklisting:

1. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing
2. The Quick Sand Song
3. Good Times
4. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (Instrumental)


29 August 2009

Second Hand Record Dip Part 41 - Harry Enfield - Loadsamoney (Doin' Up The House)


Harry Enfield - Loadsamoney (doin' up the house)
Who: Harry Enfield
What: Loadsamoney (Doin' Up The House) (B/w "The B side")
When: 1988
Label: Phonogram
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p


This single came out with a flurry of press hype at the time. Harry Enfield's comedy career had just taken off in Britain, aided chiefly by his Loadsamoney character, a brash, arrogant, boastful plasterer whose primary hobby appeared to be bragging about his wage packet and mocking the poor. It was, in fact, a pretty well observed satire of southern working class treachery. All around London and the Home Counties during the eighties, young men and women on the make were heard to sneer at their less fortunate unemployed peers. "I've done it, why can't they?" appeared to be the mantra of the times, even though the disparity of job availability between the south and the north of the country clearly helped matters none.

Sociological and political lessons aside, Enfield's character rapidly became popular with the very characters it was supposed to be mocking, and far from being wounded by Loadsamoney, they ended up shouting the slogan at people themselves. It was at this point, probably at the peak of the character's popularity, that this record was conceived. Produced by Beth Orton's boyfriend and (perhaps more notably) studio mainstay of many a Madonna record, William Orbit, the press were quick to have high hopes. "It's a comedy record that will actually be good!" many predicted, ignoring the fact that there have been plenty of good comedy records, it's just they either don't register with the mainstream (most of the Bonzo Dog Band's output) or if they do, they become over-exposed and the jokes wear thin and become irritating (Spitting Image's "The Chicken Song").

What did we get out of the collaboration, then? Not a lot, if the truth be known. Orbit contributes a basic repetitive riff he clearly found down the back of his keyboard, whilst Enfield shouts various things obnoxiously over the top for four minutes. The closest thing on the entire single there is to actual humour is the line "All this scratching's making me rich!" Even that isn't particularly great.

You've got to wonder what both parties make of the collaboration now - it certainly doesn't seem to get mentioned much by anybody anymore - and whether it was regarded as a giant mistake. The popularity of the character ensured that the single became a hit, but although I'm usually reluctant to use the phrase "it's dated badly", the fact the central riff sounds suspiciously like a Garageband loop now means that by 21st century standards, you're left to marvel at the fact that you could probably just as easily have created a similar track yourself within an hour.

The B-side is a dialogue between Enfield and Paul Whitehouse as his "Lance" character, who would later re-emerge in his TV series. This is interesting for comedy fans who can hear the beginnings of one of his characters emerging, but again, the jokes are few and far between. Fortunately, Enfield would continue his comedy to the present day with much better ideas, and wouldn't bother a recording studio again. William Orbit would be forgiven and would continue to have a fine career, the track didn't get played so frequently that it became too much of an irritant, and all was generally well with the world.

Now, if only I could find Mark Williams' "I Wanna Be Together" ecstasy comedown single... which does exist, by the way. I saw a copy of it once in a secondhand store, but by the time I'd returned with enough money, the bloody thing had been bought...



27 August 2009

The Time Machine - Summer of Love

Time Machine - Summer of Love

Label: Bam Caruso
Year of Release: 1986

From the original press release:

"It's Summer Time again - and to mark the occasion Bam Caruso are releasing what is sure to become this summer's most played record...

THE SUMMER OF LOVE by THE TIME MACHINE.

A catchy tribute to summers gone, this tune is a medley of hits from the summer of '67.  Included are such gems as 'Paper Sun', 'Flowers in the Rain', 'San Francisco', 'Whiter Shade of Pale', 'California Dreaming' and 'All You Need Is Love'.

THE TIME MACHINE faithfully reproduce these hits with amazing accuracy and skill (you can't see the joins!)

A MUST for all beach parties this year!!.. and not a chicken in sight".

Now, Bam Caruso were a fantastic label in the eighties, unearthing and issuing tons of hidden sixties gems for the general public's enjoyment, and their crowning achievement was unquestionably the Rubble series of albums.  Seldom will I hear a bad word said against the organisation.

This single, however, baffles me.  Its purpose was surely to lampoon the Stars on 45 styled discs which cluttered up the charts at one point, but their time had come and gone when "Summer of Love" was issued, and Jive Bunny had some years to arrive.  More to the point, the comment about "seeing the joins" - whilst clearly ironic - also jangles on the nerves a little when you consider that the joins are so apparent on this single in places that it sounds like an ITV Chart Show rundown rather than a medley.  At least Starsound and Jive Bunny kept a consistent rhythmic flow going, for all their obvious faults.

It is a thoroughly bizarre part of their catalogue, and does have a curiosity value of sorts, but more worthy of your attention is the flipside "Another Scene (In Black and White)" which is eighties psych revival pop to a tee (or perhaps that should be 'to an English tea'), with squeaking Casio keyboards switched to a sixties setting, vocals delivered in a Robyn Hitchcock style, and mystical guitar lines.  The eighties psychedelic revival material somehow could never quite escape the decade of its origin, and - as is also apparent on the Syd Barrett tribute album "Beyond the Wildwood" - always had a smoothness and clarity to it the original material lacked.  

I doubt that many people will seriously regret missing this first time around, but it's a nice enough addition to your mp3 playlist, and may prove to be a party talking point should you ever feel like digging it out for that purpose.


24 August 2009

Group X - There are Eight Million Cossack Melodies - And This Is One of Them


Group X - There are Eight Million Cossack Melodies and This Is One of Them


Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1963


The sixties guitar-based instrumental act is seldom looked upon with much fondness or regard. True, there are some Joe Meek productions out there which some like to spin, and few would object to the likes of Dick Dale on their stereo, but there were sheer volumes of twangy-guitar playing, foot shuffling smiling boys (they usually were boys) on the circuit back in the early part of the decade. The NME et al would generally have "Best Instrumental Group" categories in their year end polls, which The Shadows normally won hands down.

Perhaps the spectre of The Shadows and Hank Marvin's perceived naffness eventually did for instrumental acts everywhere, but it's when you come across inventive little ditties like this one that you almost mourn the passing of the genre. Group X were apparently a studio-based affair, but this oddly titled tribute to the Ukraine/ Russian region (I wonder if Peter Solowka out of the Wedding Present was listening?) is everything an instrumental pop record of the period should be - fizzing, buzzing and twanging with so many hooks it earworms its way into your brain immediately. Here seems to be the primary difference between vocal acts and their instrumental cousins of the time - when lyrical phrases were lacking, the melody lines had to have an extra added potency to hit home, and so they frequently did. Once again, this is hyperpop stuff, very very infectious and with little time for subtlety.

"There are Eight Million Cossack Melodies..." wasn't a hit despite (or perhaps because of) its preposterously long title, but the number of online mentions its received on forums recently would suggest that its remembered by many. Group X never did go on to any sort of faceless success, but I'm sure they found other session work to occupy their time.


23 August 2009

Venus and the Razorblades - I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are


Venus and the Razorblades - I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1977

Kim Fowley, bless him, has given us so much over the years, from novelty UFO records to warped pop music about taking drugs, to early Soft Machine recordings, to Gene Vincent comebacks.  He also apparently went through a phase of greeting any would-be business partners with the explosive phrase "Hey! Grease me some of that teenage dogshit!" which is possibly the best business greeting in the world, although so far it's done my career no favours whatsoever.  

Venus and the Razorblades were his attempt at creating a female-fronted New Wave band, although like many of his projects, the whole thing appeared to run out of steam in a matter of months.  "I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are" sounds not unlike one of the songs off the flop film "Times Square", having a grit which sounds slightly more glam than punk - although there's admittedly a Star In Their Eyes-styled Patti Smith feel to the whole thing too.  "I wanna fight like the boys fight!" spits Dyan Diamond defiantly, who Fowley later tried to groom for solo success.  

This single does sound very dated and slightly contrived, and it's not surprising it regularly gets overlooked in favour of other records for punk compilations, but it has a very rough and ready charm which means it shouldn't be completely disregarded, and it does showcase Fowley's ridiculous flexibility when it comes to fashions and genres in Rock.





20 August 2009

Update - Marnie and Blessed Ethel


The phrase "slim pickings" springs to mind.  If it weren't enough that I'm personally quite overworked at the moment, on the recent occasions when I have had a chance to nip into a second hand record store to consider their wares, I've found very little to get excited about.  The overpriced sixties hits are all present and correct, but there's little else to shout about.  If the only thing you've even been marginally tempted by is a copy of Rory Bremner's legendary "Nineteen Not Out" satirical cricketing disc, then that's a poor month by anybody's standards.  Do second hand record stores have summer lulls just the same as everyone else, I wonder?

Still, such disappointments give me a chance to do a bit of an update on people we've previously featured on the blog.  Ever since starting this site up I've noticed that no sooner do you write about a band and upload their material than you spot another single or album of theirs weeks later you could quite easily have added to the original entry.  It may seem as if I'm lumping two female fronted indie bands together for the sake of it here, but the reality is just that more material of theirs showed up quite recently.

Marnie - Voices/ Vision

Artist/ Title: Marnie: "Voices/ Vision"
Label: Progression
Year of Release: 1996

First out of the traps here is Marnie.  I put out a request for further information about them last time around, and got no responses at all from anybody.  I will repeat my plea again now - it's extremely rare for any band, however marginal, to simply "disappear from view" after they released a few records in the nineties.  Most acts from that era leave a dirty great Internet snail trail, or are such keen vanity Googlists that they pop up to say hello within weeks of you posting the original entry.  Unlike the sixties hippies and beat bands, they don't simply get dayjobs running pet supply stores and forget that anything ever happened.  

This single is really more of the same scratchy, angsty melodrama from the girls known as Olga and Michelle, with the same snappy A-side/ doomy, atmospheric B-side combination as their last release.  Once again, Roman Jugg out of The Damned was at the producer's controls, but beyond that I know nothing.  Come on, somebody must have seen Marnie live once or have something to report about them.  


Blessed Ethel - Dog

Artist/ Title: Blessed Ethel: Dog (b/w "Something Weird" and "Crystal Tips")
Label: 2 Damn Loud
Year of Release: 1993

Then, of course, there's Blessed Ethel, the band who famously beat Oasis in a Battle of the Bands contest, winning a battle but plainly failing to win the war.

Information on them is rather more conclusive since they generated quite a bit of press at the time, but I have nothing much to add beyond my last entry.  "Dog" is a bit psychotic, sounding part Suzi Quatro, part grunge fed through a variety of gnarling studio effects.  


End of update.  Soz kids - there is some new stuff waiting in the wings, but I'm waiting until I've got a decent enough pile of it before I have a vinyl ripping session.


16 August 2009

Thurman - Lux

Thurman - Lux

Label: Righteous
Year of Release: 1995

This may turn out to be the least popular blog entry I've ever written on here.  To most critics, you see, Thurman were considered a dreadful band, so mind-bogglingly awful that even their plagiarism was unsubtle.  Their lead singer's hair was mocked in Select magazine (and to be fair, it did look rather like a Royal Guardsman's Busby at one point) the album was derided in the weekly press, and the fact that nobody bought it and it regularly appears in second hand store bargain bins today should surely be no surprise.  It was cursed.

Thurman allegedly bought much of this upon themselves.  Rumours circulated throughout the mid-nineties that they had originally been a heavy metal band who had been asked to change their style to Britpop to get signed.  Wikipedia is still quoting this as fact today.  I feel somewhat ambivalent about this story.  Interfering A&R executives do indeed tamper with the sound of bands regularly in order to get chart action out of them, but a leap from heavy metal to Britpop sounds rather like asking a techno artist to change tack to recording soul ballads.  Why not simply sign one of the several thousands acts out there playing the right genre already?  It may of course be that Thurman did indeed change tack when Britpop was brewing out of their own choices, but they'd be no less guilty of doing that than certain members of Menswear if other popular rumours are to be believed, and the latter didn't exactly have negative press to start with.

Despite this, it's impossible to ignore the fact that "Lux" does sound like a very cheeky, chancey little album, and it's actually that aspect of it which makes me grin from ear to ear at times.  Numerous tracks are so derivative that it's a wonder the band didn't get their arses kicked by a team of lawyers, and in fact I'm sure they would have done had the album sold in any reasonable quantities.  "Loaded" is "Children of the Revolution" all over again, right down to the vocals.  The opening riff to "Cheap Holiday" is as close to "All The Young Dudes" as you can possibly get without directly cribbing every single detail.  There are numerous other naggingly familiar sounding riffs and melody lines throughout the album that show a band determined to pilfer their way through the classic rock catalogue, stopping at nothing.  However, as Elastica were doing much the same thing at the same time to widespread praise for their supposed post-modern daring, why were Thurman rapped around the knuckles by the critics for having keen ears for somebody else's tune?

There have been some rabid online defenses of this record since, but the truth frequently lies between two stools, and in my humble opinion, "Lux" is actually quite a good album - neither a lost classic nor a complete dud, just an enjoyable listen.  There's a gleeful cheek to the whole thing which makes it sound very much of its time even though its clearly in thrall to the past, and rather like the neo-psychedelic bands which littered the eighties, Thurman appeared to be taking elements of mod and glam into their work and parodying them affectionately rather than tip-toeing gently around them.  "Oh... what a luv-er-ly day/ To drink some English Tea" they proclaim during the rather Move-ish track of the same name, banging most of the period details firmly on the head.  Other tracks such as "Famous" chime along in the manner of so many mid-sixties pop 45s, feeling breezy and effortless.

Part of me wants to believe that this album is indeed the work of metallers pissing around and parodying a movement - if so, that makes tracks like "English Tea" pieces of Spinal Tap-esque genius.  Whatever the truth, it's not a bad record, and is probably actually the most typical record of its era that's ever been made.  In the year 2050 when they've finally invented a computer which can produce an album in any style you care to name, and you ask to hear the mighty Hal's version of mid-nineties Britpop, this will be what the great machine spits out, and not "Parklife" like you thought.  Relax with it, and have fun - it's only an album nobody bought.

Tracklisting:
1. She's a Man
2. Loaded
3. Cheap Holiday
4. Strung Out
5. It Would Be
6. English Tea
7. Famous
8. Now I'm a Man
9. Clowns
10. Lewis Brightworth
11. Talk to Myself
12. Automatic Thinker
13. Flavour Explosion


12 August 2009

Jim Jiminee - Town and Country Blues



Label: Cat & Mouse
Year of Release: 1989

Well, lumme... I uploaded this video to YouTube nearly two years ago, and the intention was always to blog about it at some point or another, but I never quite got around to it, being too excited by other things I found along the way.  

I never saw Jim Jiminee live, but the verdict of everybody who did seems to be that they were an unforgettable proposition, being a sweaty and raucous act who tore plenty of small pubs and clubs to pieces with their enthusiasm.  This single, released shortly before they finally split, epitomises that completely, filled with the melodic suss of Madness and the speed and energy of some demented fifties skiffle group.

The recording career of the band seems to have been disappointingly brief, beginning in 1987 with the "Do It On Thursday (EP)" which made its way on to the Chart Show (click on the link for an appearance four songs in) then ending with this two years later.  Although they were aligned with the tweepop movement by some, it's clear to anyone with a clear pair of ears that they were much tighter than the vast majority of their C86 rivals, and more inspired by the grooves of bygone eras.  They actually sounded tremendously out of place in the late eighties, and had they carried on into the nineties would doubtless have seemed even more quaint.

None of the band went on to much success after the split, and they remain something of an under-referenced act, not really namechecked as an influence by anybody, nor dug out at retro indie discos anywhere.  Still, their solitary album "Welcome to Hawaii" has been reissued, and is actually worth a purchase, consisting of some simple but marvellous pieces of three minute pop.  Click here to download the above mentioned track and also "Do It On Thursday".


10 August 2009

Laptop - Whole Wide World/ Solex - You're So Square


Laptop Solex Fierce panda


Label: Fierce Panda
Year of Release: 1999

Ah, Fierce Panda... somebody really should set up an obscure mp3 blog somewhere devoted entirely to their releases, because whilst as a label they've made some rather famous A&R decisions (Coldplay - yes, they're partly to blame), they've also pissed their scent on some very unusual projects as well.  We can waffle on about Supergrass, The Bluetones, Art Brut, Ash and The Polyphonic Spree, and doubtless bump up our webstats in the process, but what, my dear friend, of Pullover?  Or Coin Op?  Or Tiny Too?  

Going on-topic, as one would expect me to by the second paragraph, this Laptop/ Solex double-header is probably one of my favourite Fierce Panda releases, from a period when the music industry in Britain was completely and utterly confused and throwing all kinds of things which didn't smell too Dadrock at the wall.  Laptop were (and, apparently, still are) essentially the rather retro-styled electronic project of one New Yorker Jesse Hartman, releasing records which sound as if they'd find more favour now than they ever had a hope of achieving in the late nineties.  His version of Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" is, in fact, not dis-similar in approach to Giorgio Moroder's version of "Nights in White Satin" I uploaded some weeks back - all static and sex, and not necessarily better, just fantastically different.

Solex, on the other hand, were a project of Elisabeth Esselink in Holland, whose kitchen sink approach to songwriting and sampling either jars or sounds fantastic according to what mood you're in and also what track you're listening to.  "You're So Square" here sounds like a riot in a record store's remainder bins, which, given that Esselink used samples from records nobody wanted to buy sums the situation up quite well.  If she started a blog, it would probably be better than this one.  

It's frequently tempting to slam Fierce Panda for unleashing a lot of fairly predictable NME-approved nonsense on to the public and then expecting to almost be given medals for it, but we need to take a deep breath, get some perspective, and remember that they do actually have a bit of an eccentric and varied discography.  This single alone proves that.



5 August 2009

The Yamasukis - Yamasuki

Yamasukis - yamasuki

Label: UK
Year of Release: 1971

In Clive Selwood's bitter-sweet and brilliantly sprawling music industry memoirs "All of the Moves, But None of the Licks", he mentions that this single was the only one John Peel put out on his Dandelion Records label which was "gifted" to them by their chief distributors (in this case, Warner Brothers).  Whilst the idea behind the label was always that Peel would act as a talent scout and help to sign numerous acts, it would seem that in this case something of a compromise was reached - albeit not one which many people noticed, since the disc sank like a stone despite heavy promotion.

It would seem that in the very same year it flopped, it was picked up again, this time by Jonathan King's UK Records, who also had Clive Selwood on their payroll for a time.  Coincidence?  It's doubtful, I'd say, but don't go away to Wikipedia or Chartstats to see how well it sold on its second outing, as it failed to chart again.  It would seem that some things were just never meant to be.  

Despite the fact that this record apparently achieved better sales on the continent, you can only conclude that it really is a bizarre concoction of noises which would be lucky to sell well anywhere.  A Japanese choir sings, whilst a very enthusiastic man barks loudly in Japanese over the top of them, ranting and raving about matters which are obviously indecipherable to me, and the backing music chimes naively and sweetly behind all of them.  It sits in no sensible category, being too odd to be straight pop, too saccharine to be rock, and too simplistic to be progressive or psychedelic.  It would be tempting to blame all the above on the gulf between Japanese and Western music being huge, but that would ignore the fact that the whole project is actually the work of the French production team Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde, both attempting a Euro-Japanese crossover record.

It actually gets even odder than that.  The B-side here "AIEAOU" was later re-adapted by Bananarama and put out as their first single, this time under the title of "Aie a Mwana".  It is doubtful those enthusiastic Banana girls knew about the background behind the song, however, as their version appears to be a cover of a cover, taking its cues from another version produced by Black Blood, which was a psuedo-African single in its stylings (If you're not hopelessly and utterly confused by now, you're doing very well, whatever hour of the day it may happen to be).  

Kluger and Vangarde would later go on to greater success producing singles for the Gibson Brothers and Ottawan, making them by far the most populist artists to have ever had a sniff around John Peel's short lived label.   Meanwhile, I am informed that this particular record is apparently now commonly used as a tool to teach European students how to speak Japanese, which I doubt was ever the original intention behind it.

Excuse me, I think I'm going to have to take a bit of a lie down after all that.

(sorry about the awful scan of the label, by the way - the silver font is extremely difficult to capture, and matters haven't been helped by some daft bastard of a second hand record store employee plastering a price label across it).


4 August 2009

Second Hand Record Dip Part 40 - Wonderdog - Ruff Mix

Wonderdog - Ruff Mix

Who: Wonderdog
What: Ruff Mix
Label: Flip
When: 1982
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p

"Bitten by a radioactive flea when but a puppy, Bark Kent, a mild mannered mongrel from Mutropolis became possessed of super canine powers, and thus became Wonder Dog.

Scorning the tediously traditional role of super hero, and sometimes reporter for the Barking Gazette, he embarked on a career as a musical artiste to start with, it was ruff, but with dog-eared perseverance he clawed his way to the top.

Wonder Dog commenced his career doing shows for the terriertorial army, but his first bite at success came supporting Bow Wow Wow and the Korgis with his girlfriend and backing vocalist Lois Dane.  Whilst streaking towards stardom Wonder Dog never forgets his first commitment - truth, justice and the canine way!"

Rrrright....  There's fiction, and then there's the reality, if you'll excuse the slightly obvious pun.  You see, Wonder Dog was obviously the work of some music industry chancer, but precious few people seem to realise that yer man in question happens to be Simon Cowell, and this was his first proper music industry release.  

What you get here is something which made me nearly cry with laughter as a child, but actually bores me terribly as an adult (proving perhaps that Cowell had an early knack of marketing records to children).  It's an entire single of sampled dogs barking to a rather unmemorable disco tune, like the Singing Dogs of the fifties updated for the electronic eighties.  There's really nothing more I can add beyond that - to analyse the musical content of this disc in even the most flippant fashion would be a criminal waste of my evening, and yours too.

"Ruff Mix" just about charted inside the Top 40 and set Cowell's career up as a music industry hustler, leading us towards the path of Zig and Zag, Robson and Jerome, and the entire TV talent show revival.  On top of that, the ridiculous blurb on the back of the single quoted above does make me worried that Wonderdog might have been the inspiration for the Ford Timelord character The KLF cooked up for "Doctorin' The Tardis".  There's enough of a difference for us not to be too concerned, as well as considerably more humour and inventiveness on Bill Drummond's side, but even so...


Then see the Youtube clip here... and observe how much the dog character even looks like, and has the mannerisms of, his creator...

2 August 2009

New Life - Strollin' Sunday Mornin'

New life - strollin' sunday mornin'


Label: Amaret
Year of Release: 1968


Anyone who downloaded volume two of the Garagelands compilation series here could hardly fail to have noticed the New Life track on there, "Ha Lese (Le Di Khanna)". One of the most vicious, hollering and downright addictive garage tracks out there, it's unutterably brilliant - a view shared by several friends of mine and even my mother! That it has been reserved for a few fringe compilations and bootlegs and largely forgotten about seems somewhat sinful on the whole.

You can imagine my excitement when I found this waiting in the sixties singles section of a second hand record store, then, behind the pop hits and Cliff Richard discs. Although the title "Strollin' Sunday Mornin'" didn't suggest more high throttle thrills, the B-side title "Only for Our Minds" sounded promising, and when I delicately put the needle on the record at home I hoped for something even half as good as the one song I'd heard by the act.

So then, revelation time... both sides are perfectly nice, paisley wrapped pieces of Californian guitar pop, but there's nothing to jolt the average listener in any way. "Strollin' Sunday Mornin'" is chipper, summery and brassy, skipping along in a slightly dazy way, and "Only for Our Minds" is more of the same, with a slightly dated beat feel behind the West Coast hairiness. Aficionados of sixties West Coast pop and people who are just curious about what else the band got up to may find these tracks worth a download, but sadly there's a reason why the majority of sixties rarities compilations haven't rushed forward to find them a place on their track listings.

Back when I first became aware of the New Life, I was mislead into believing that they were South American in origin - this is apparently untrue, and they were actually from Minneapolis, relocating to San Francisco to catch the passing wave of the hippy movement there in the late sixties. They were responsible for the soundtrack to the "Sidehackers" biker film (see here), released three singles in total, then vanished without a word of explanation. Other details - such as band personnel, and what they did before or after - remain very sketchy indeed.

As ever, more information would be appreciated, especially if it transpires there are other fantastic psychedelic New Life rockers in "the can" somewhere.