6 October 2010

Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show

World's Worst Record Show - Kenny Everett

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


Mondo said...

Had this comp - on disgusting coloured vinyl. A mate and I played it to death. I Want My Baby Back and Transfusion were favourites. Strange how time has turned Surfin' Bird from a Worst Record and Goofy Great into a Garage Classic, although I always thought it was a fab tune..

Mondo said...

PS - yes, a CD re-issue is well overdue

Anonymous said...

One of the most articulate and informed commentaries I've ever read on a blog. You say 'The only shame is that nobody has tried to update the project in any commercially visible way since'. - This is not likely to happen either. Everett was a broadcasting genius. Since almost every radio station (except the BBC) has stifled creativity and the spawning ground (bored and talented radio pirates cooped up on a ship with a battery of recording equipment) sadly no longer exist it's fair to say we will never ever hear the like of his type of creative genius (which sparked this car crash) again. Keep up the magnificent work! Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I was look around for this the other week, thanks for posting !

Kenny's worst record shows are on line, just do a quick 'Google' and you'll find them.

23 Daves said...

Mondo - I thought that was odd, too, although that's not the real reason I left it off the download (that had more to do with me having suspicions that the appearance of the track had caused previous uploads of this album to be taken down from other blogs). But yes - what sounds like brilliant mayhem now must have sounded like a disorganised, incoherent noise to Capital Radio listeners in 1977.

Also, thanks Anonymous. I try to be optimistic about new radio talent coming through the BBC, but sadly I'm seldom presented with anything to get that cheery about.

The Confused said...

I'm pretty sure I read somewhere over the years that this was actually a limited edition album - they pressed a set amount of copies, it sold out quickly but they didn't press any more hence it's not actually that easy to find... I've certainly never encountered one over the years of trawling record fairs and charity shops... or else I'd had snapped it up!

Jess Conrad? Unbelievable to think he was given his own movie vehicle, "Rag Doll" which was a disaster. Most intriguingly, he performed the hapless "Why Am I Living?" and the band behind him on screen should look familiar - an early line up of The Dave Clark Five! It's here on YouTube...


And what else can one possibly say about the man whose sole album was entitled "Jess For You?" Well, a lot but this isn't quite the place!

An ex-mate of mine did a short stint as a commercial radio DJ in Summer 2005... I guested on his final show, playing an hours worth of um... interesting music, but the week before that he stopped me in my tracks by playing Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Baby Back" and followed it with The Pretty Things' "Death"! lol... no surprise then he was not asked back for a regular show. In my hour guest spot I played stuff by The Shaggs, Ivor Cutler, Vivian Stanshall, Geoff Goddard's "Sky Men" and most amusingly, Landscapes' "Norman Bates" which hugely amused my pals who tuned in to the show.

The Eamonn Andrews track always brings my mind to a complete halt with his over cheery delivery seemingly forgetting the fact he was in a recording studio as opposed to a live TV studio. To think many people actually bought that for it to chart... and they wouldn't had bought it for amusement value either...

23 Daves said...

That's interesting... I had no idea it was limited (I also didn't pick it up for a particularly high price, but perhaps I was just lucky).

Until you mentioned it just now, I also had no idea whatsoever that the Eamonn Andrews track charted. I'd always assumed, without even bothering to check, that it was a ghastly old flop. However, Chartstats states clearly that it got to number 18 in the charts. Absolutely unbelievable.

Of course, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and Nervous Norvus both did modest "novelty" business in America. I also actually prefer NN's follow-up "Ape Call", where he tries to woo ladies by making loud ape noises. I believe that's on YouTube somewhere.

Ken said...

I KNEW I hadn't dreamt it! Thanks for this - it brings back memories... this was one of two albums that was constantly played in the warehouse of a record distributor I once worked for. the other was the Best of Gilbert O'Sullivan!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this !

I own the record for over 20 years now, and though you can`t avoid tasteless music when you turn on the radio, it`s a classic.

I never saw another copy here in Germany, but I guess they all have that vomit-after-drinking-red-wine-coloured vinyl - ?

My favourite: This Pullover...


23 Daves said...

The vinyl does come in ludicrous colours, yes - the justification given on the sleeve is that once you've had enough of listening to the contents, you can use it as a placemat for "hot soup".

Sir Henry said...

Does it not call itself 'vomit-coloured vinyl'? That's always been how I remember it, but then again my copy was destroyed in a fire decades ago. Thanks for posting this; I'd decided to base a radio show around the album and was dreading having to hunt down each track individually. If it's OK I'll steal some of your blog for the show too. ;)

23 Daves said...

It is indeed described as "vomit coloured vinyl".

Would be interesting to hear your radio show Sir Henry, so please do let me know when it goes out.

Ade42 said...

Im restoring the last couple of hours of the show with my own LP rip.

Im also restoring all the Kenny Everett Video Shows!


altered ego said...

upoienSeriously, I could kiss you. I've been trying to get this record (again) for years but wasn't keen on paying what was being asked, thank you. Dan the very happy man

23 Daves said...

Only too happy to help!

altered ego said...

I cant stop playing it now, Mrs Miller is going to be the death of me

Rob said...

I have compiled all of the tunes into a Youtube playlist, for anyone that wants to stream it.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who loves the World's Worst Records would also surely love Music for Mentalists - see http://artintodust.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/music-for-mentalists.html for more.

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