6 October 2010
Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show
Label: Yuk/ K-Tel
Year of Release: 1978
If Kenny Everett were still alive, I'd be delighted to find out - hope against hope, perhaps - that he was a reader of this blog. Certainly, if he gave his nod of approval, it would be like being awarded a gold star from the master professor of the topic of record industry flotsam and jetsam. The "World's Worst Wireless Show", originally broadcast on Capital Radio in London in 1977, was an incredibly popular piece of programming which filled the airwaves with nothing but flop madness from the history of recorded sound. Well-meaning but ultimately obnoxiously awful Christian country songs featured, as did dirges, bad taste tragidiscs, out-of-tune singers, and people who thought they were being radical and breaking new ground but were actually making themselves look rather silly.
I used to have all the recorded shows on an old hard drive of mine (which sadly got wiped when the disc became damaged some years ago) and Kenny was as scathing as you'd expect about these records, but there was an unsuppressed glee in his tone of voice as well, and you could sense his sheer delight that this material even existed, almost a sense of pride that he worked within an industry so democratic that any bum-note wonder got a chance to have their say. And of course, for as trivial as a topic like this is in the grand scheme of things, I'd like to think that some of these ridiculous and bold failings highlight the history of popular music just as effectively as the biggest smashes do. Somewhere in all the mess of fumbling around you can hear the earliest attempts to allow members of the public to press their own discs, attempts to stun and shock with unacceptable content long before punk broke, and even soap stars trying to use their on-screen popularity to sell below-par records.
This compilation consists of the twenty least popular tracks Everett played (or actually nineteen - I've wiped "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen off because it's still very much commercially available, and I actually always thought it was a baffling inclusion anyway). Listening to it in one shot is actually spectacularly ill-advised, as some of it is teeth-grittingly bad, and there are pieces of mind-numbing awfulness in there too. For instance, whilst I have no respect whatsoever for Jess Conrad, I'd argue his work would be dull and average were it not for the pathetic lyrical content of his singles. Despite the fact that he was largely lauded as a massive, up-and-coming British star in the early sixties - something it's easy to forget even if he's keen not to let us do so - in reality he was a sub-Cliff Richard figure, a man who made the Rock and Roll priest himself look positively dangerous. Astonishingly, he has retained many fans over the years, but not enough to have kept him out of Everett's bottom twenty, where he appeared three times, more than any other artist.
Elsewhere, "Crossroads" actor Steve Bent contributes his own tune "I'm Going To Spain", which I must confess I have a sneaking affection for - The Fall later covered this track on the "The Infotainment Scan" album, which doesn't seem entirely inappropriate as some of the lines such as "The factory floor presented me with some tapes of Elton John" seem not un-Smithlike in the first place. Bent apparently chanced his arm on "Opportunity Knocks" to showcase his singer-songwriter talent, but so far nobody has uploaded his attempts to YouTube (he didn't win, but you shouldn't need to ask).
Then, some of the religious offerings on this album such as "The Deal" by Pat Campbell would probably turn a man on his deathbed to Satanism, so syrupy, artless and weedy are they in their construction. Whatever point they were trying to make was cursed by their feeble, sub-daytime soap opera efforts at storytelling (and that's before we even talk about the cliched, anaemic musical backing).
Better almost than all of these put together are the tracks "I Want My Baby Back" (already featured on this blog before) and "Transfusion", which are deliberately milking the bad taste cow for all its worth, hoping in their hearts that they'll be hated and banned. Such records are actually more rock and roll in spirit than most of the coked-up acts of defiance that pass for that description - if Oasis had a spine, they'd have recorded a single about post-car crash necrophilia as well.
Bosses at the compilation giant K-Tel were apparently proud of their achievements in getting all this material licensed, and getting the end product to chart within the Top 40. Whilst I find it cheering that a major label put so much effort into something like this, I actually suspect that many boardroom high-fives were exchanged about the fact that they could shovel any old crap into a sleeve and get people to buy it. If only they'd paused to think about the fact that actually, this material was always waiting for an audience. It was far too absurd to remain in the shadows forever, and in those pre-Internet years this would have been a fantastic package, a real discussion piece. Actually, it still is - I defy you not to have an opinion on the contents of any track on the record, or even whether it deserves a place in the tracklisting or not. The only shame is that nobody has tried to update the project in any commercially visible way since.
1. Jimmy Cross - I Want My Baby Back
2. Zarah Leander - Wunderbar
3. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy - Paralysed
4. Pat Campbell - The Deal
5. Nervous Norvus - Transfusion
6. Jess Conrad - This Pullover
7. Mel & Dave - Spinning Wheel
8. Dickie Lee - Laurie
9. Mrs Miller - A Lover's Concerto
10. Ferlin Husky - The Drunken Driver
11. Jess Conrad - Why Am I Living?
12. The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird (NOT INCLUDED IN THIS DOWNLOAD)
13. Steve Bent - I'm Going To Spain
14. Duncan Johnson - The Big Architect
15. Jess Conrad - Cherry Pie
16. Eamonn Andrews - The Shifting Whispering Sands
17. Tub Thumper - Kick Out The Jams
18. Adolph Babel - My Feet Start Tapping
19. Skip Jackson - The Greatest Star of All
20. Raphael - Going Out Of My Head
Download it Here
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