30 August 2011
I'm back on ebay again selling a number of items - please do nip by and see me by clicking on this link. And just in case you're curious, the records on offer are:
ALAN PRICE/ GEORGIE FAME: Follow Me/ Sergeant Jobsworth
HOT BUTTER: Percolator
GLEN CAMPBELL: Galveston (BBC Record Library disc)
MANSUN: Flourella/ Skin Up Pin Up
IDES OF MARCH: Tie-Dye Princess (really pristine condition demo with soundclips available)
FLYING MACHINE: Yes I Understand
RAY MORGAN: Long and Winding Road
QUEEN: Save Me (picture sleeve version)
OLIVER SAIN: Apricot Splash/ Party Hearty
Any funds raised by the auction go towards the server costs incurred by storing mp3s on Box.net.
29 August 2011
Who: Mr. Food
What: "...and that's before me tea!"
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow, London
It's been over three months since the last "Second Hand Record Dip" entry, such a long gap in the service that I feel almost obliged to remind you all of what the hell the concept actually is. Essentially, it involves a dig into the remaindered section you find in the second hand record store, the unloved vinyl that gets tossed into the plastic crates on the floor near the back (or, in particularly uncared for cases, on the pavement outside) for the passing cheapskate to contemplate whilst on their bended knees praying for budget miracles. I've had some fantastic finds in the 50p box before now, but SHRD doesn't focus on the gems but the oddities - the flotsam and jetsam that may have stayed there forever had not somebody with a blog to write passed by.
Ex-BBC Radio One DJ Steve Wright has already cropped up in this section of the blog, and it's frankly no surprise to find him getting mentioned again. In the great musical box of fireworks, Wrighty has always been responsible for the fast-burning ones which do little more than make a few farting noises, mostly to the amusement of the assembled children and grandparents. Even his hit and near-hit singles remain largely forgotten by the General Public and are certainly no longer commercially available. Like slumber parties and roller discos, his melodic output does not appeal once you reach adulthood (One possible exception might be his effort under the name of Arnee and the Terminaters, whose single managed to prophesise the career of Scooter, so now is amusing for reasons entirely separate to the ones he originally intended).
So then, I'd stopped listening to Steve Wright's show by the time the jingle this single was based on begun to air on his show, having developed what I thought was a more grown-up interest in moodily listening to indie bands, and have no idea what the hell the context of it was - although context meant very little to our Steve, so it's safe to say this was probably played endlessly for the hell of it. It consists of a Geordie character known only as Mr Food delivering a Pam Ayers-esque series of lyrics about how much he enjoys eating over a basic, jaunty piano backdrop. And that really is it. The title of the single itself is the punchline to the joke, so that's out of the bag before the needle even hits the groove. It's the kind of thing you hear at open mic nights up and down the country when a musical comedy act takes the stage after being encouraged by their well-meaning friends, delivers a ditty to polite laughter, then promptly naffs off never to be seen again. With Wrighty's help, however, this managed a staggering number 62 position in the charts, hardly a life-changing triumph for anyone concerned, but certainly more than most indie-distributed discs of the era could hope for.
This record probably wouldn't be worthy of further mention were it not for the fact that the gentleman behind the mask of Mr Food, David Sanderson, went on to craft several pastoral neo-psychedelic pop songs under the name of Flowerbed, and his efforts can be found here. When he wasn't titting around with Steve Wright and The Afternoon Boys, clearly he was taking the time to study his Lilac Time and XTC albums closely. Sanderson is also a contemporary classical music composer who has had his work performed at several major concert halls in Britain and abroad, and if you honestly expected this entry to end in such a manner, you're far more wised up than I was when I began to research the man behind the disguise. Sometimes even these ridiculous chance finds can lead to interesting places.
For those of you wondering what was on the flip side to this, by the way - because I know at least one person will be - it appears to be exactly the same song all over again in the guise of a "remix". A mis-press or satire? You be the judge. And while you're sitting thinking about that, there's a low quality copy of the promo video to watch over on YouTube.
25 August 2011
Year of Release: 1966
So then - Left and to the Back - it's a blog focussed on flops and obscurities, isn't it?
Yes, it is. We're there first with that essential oddity every time, and you know it!
So why have you included this one, then? A minor hit in 1966, I believe.
Well, we occasionally...
And don't use the "One Hit Wonder" excuse. Gary Walker wasn't really a One Hit Wonder, was he?
No, he had two minor hits. This got to number 26 in 1966, as did "Twinkie Lee" in the same year, and he had more hits than I could count in Britain with the Walker Brothers, who as we all know released one of the most played and purchased records of the period in "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"...
Yes, yes, yes, I knew all that. So what is he doing on here, then?
I don't really have a good reason, other than that it's an absolutely cracking record. The fuzz guitar on this, and the aggression behind the vocals, actually make it one of the more striking sounds of the period. It's safe to say that Gary Walker was also an unlikely source for something of this nature - popular though The Walker Brothers were, they weren't exactly a credible band outside of mainstream circles.
But still, I refer you back to the purpose of the "Left and to the Back" blog.
It was a minor hit, it's true, but that didn't put the "Chocolate Soup for Diabetics" series of albums from compiling it along side all manner of flop artistes. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
So if the compilers of "Chocolate Soup for Diabetics" joined The Taliban, you'd do it too, would you?
Well, there's no need for that!
Sorry. But you take my point. And why have you written this blog entry in the style of The Guardian's "Pass Notes", a much-aped journalistic cliche which already seemed tired by 2001?
Well, as a retro-leaning blog, I felt it was time to revisit the format of Pass Notes, and see if it had any life left in it...
Stop making excuses. You're bereft of inspiration aren't you, you pathetic man?
I am not!
I put it to you that you've had this record for some time now, and just can't think of anything interesting to say about Gary Walker's career.
That's slander! I'll have you know that The Walker Brothers are, in my opinion, one of the era's more under-rated groups amongst snobs/ aficionados. "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" is of course a classic, but beyond that there were even gems tucked away on B-sides like "Arcangel", which utilised a church organ way before "A White Shade of Pale" had even been thought of - a radical move some have been tempted to suggest inspired Procul Harum. For all that, though, Gary Walker's talents were never given much exercise within the unit - largely due to some perverse contractual obligations preventing him from contributing much - and some of his solo material and group material with The Rain shows an artist who was actually rather more hip and swinging than the times gave him credit for. A lot of his non-Brother related output, and most especially this single, still stands up very well today in a mod pop vein, and deserves a lot more attention. His work may be terribly overshadowed by Scott Walker's monumental achievements with the classic albums Scotts 1-4, but there's plenty to appreciate, even if it doesn't cover the same cinematic, melodramatic ground.
Oh. Well, why didn't you say all that in the first place?
You're never going to write an entry in this style again, are you?
I doubt it very much, mate.
(And after all that, I'm afraid that this song is now legally available to buy on iTunes, so I've taken down the mp3s and will instead direct you all there. Sorry!)
24 August 2011
Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be DJ'ing at the Can't Buy Me Love summer vintage jumble sale market at the Boogaloo in Highgate (North London) this Saturday. The event runs from 12:30 - 5:30 and it should be a great place to have a quick drink and shop.
Far apart from the vintage items on sale, you'll get to hear me spinning some soul and rock and roll on the turntables, including some "Left and to the Back" favourites.
The pub can be located at:
312 Archway Road N6 5AT
And the Facebook invite with all the necessary details is here. See you there, hopefully.
22 August 2011
Label: Polydor (European Issue)
Year of Release: 1971
This one already featured on the Purepop blog a couple of years ago, but I couldn't not upload my copy on to here for two very particular reasons:
1. The utterly glorious European picture sleeve you see above, featuring Giorgio Moroder and his slightly sinister Basset Hound. Truly, if such a dog-walking sight appeared over the brow of a hill in your locality, you would surely feel at least a bit flustered? If not, you're a less easily alarmed person than I.
2. The B-side "Watch Your Step" is worth a listen in itself.
Also, any chance to wax lyrical about this record is welcome. Way before Moroder developed a career as one of Europe's foremost synthesiser experts, he crafted a number of records which were variable in quality and often not particularly adventurous. In the take-it-or-leave-it corner rests some bubblegum experiments which added little to the world of music, the likes of "Looky Looky" being a head-on collision between The Beach Boys and The Archies without as much of the charm as either. By 1971, however, he'd produced this marvel, a twisted gem of a record which has never really received the full attention it deserves.
"Underdog" is an epic piece of glam pop which tells the tale of an unfortunate rural type who finds himself trying to make a name for himself in the city. Throughout his stay, he finds himself being bullied by his demanding boss, and being rejected by prostitutes who laugh at his very presence in their brothel (even whores have standards, you know). This largely preposterous, exaggerated tale of failure is propelled along brilliantly by the kind of minimalist violin riff later utilised to good effect on many Italian pop records, and a simplistic building structure which, after a period of respite in the middle, begins scaling new heights for the latter half of the record, twisting the whole thing around into a more optimistic and aggressive finale. It's a record that does a great deal with very little, and in many respects reminds me simultaneously of much of The Sparks output (who Moroder would later go on to produce) and also Pulp's "Common People", though in the latter case the differences are great enough to attribute to coincidence. Still, it has wit, ludicrousness, an ambitious amount of power behind it, and it's such a domineering piece of work that from the very first note, it's impossible to ignore. When you combine that with reverb-heavy drums and a fantastic pop guitar solo, you're really in Glam Rock heaven.
Moroder's achievements with electronic music were so astounding that it's unsurprising something like "Underdog" should be ignored by critics exploring his back catalogue, making it perhaps his most appropriately-named single. It doesn't quite fit the Moroder story, as it fails to break any new ground, unlike Donna Summer's "I Feel Love". Despite that, it's still a track I simply can't stop playing, a track which causes me to beam from ear to ear every time it comes on my iPod, and if it's unfamiliar to you, I predict a similar response.
Over on the flipside, "Watch Your Step" doesn't quite have the same effect, but any primitive, punkish glam rock track criticising the police force has to be worth a few spins at least. "Just you cut your hair, and take my advice/ when he passes by try to be so nice" advises our hero in rather hesitant English. It's a double-sided disc of victimhood, this one, but what fun there is to be had in hearing about these misfortunes. Put simply, this is probably one of the best records I've ever uploaded on to this blog.
(Sadly, I've had to take this down as its actually become reavailable - and remastered - on iTunes. So go there to grab it, you won't regret your decision in the slightest).
18 August 2011
Year of Release: 1965
In the same way that the ghost of psychedelia still haunted record stores in the early seventies (just ask anyone who bought a Hawkwind single) and leftover punks made their presence felt in the early eighties, Elvis Presley's particular brand of rock and roll could still be observed in the clubs and dancehalls long after Merseybeat changed the mainstream settings of the pop scene.
Beau Brummell Esquire's vocalisings on this record are, to all intents and purposes, rather akin to the kinds of professional sneering Elvis-isms we can all hear these days from performers in certain restaurants up and down the land where birthday parties and stag dos are welcomed. "I Know, Know, Know" isn't necessarily a retread of the old fifties discs and has enough sixties swing to have made it sound reasonably contemporary - but still, the swaggering confidence behind the main performance belongs sounds as if it belongs underneath a major quiff, and the record even comes complete with an Elvis cover version on the B-side. Despite the similarities to the King of Rock and Roll, though, this record doesn't half pack an energetic and addictive punch, and Brummell should be applauded for the self-penned top side.
Beau (if I may call him that, although his real name is Mike Bush) was a South African who was attempting to launch his career in Britain in the early sixties. Backed by the Noble Men, a band previously known as The Detours, his live performances were apparently the subject of much discussion throughout their career, being invariably described as charismatic and energetic. With that force of personality apparently also came a major flaw, according to many internet rumours. Stories abound to the effect that whilst the club venue PAs of the day could cover up his shortcomings with their distorted and indistinct sound, his lack of vocal prowess was more noticeable in the studio. One estimate suggests that "I Know, Know, Know" took a hundred takes as a result of his flat delivery, which sounds like an exaggeration, and you certainly can't hear that struggle in the grooves. The final product sounds as if it could have been a hit, and surely would have been had it been released a few years earlier.
Success did not come Mr Brummell's way with this single or any others, and in the end he returned to South Africa to set up a naturist valley in the Northern Transvaal, whereas The Noble Men became The Penny Peeps who have been featured on this blog before. You can see an unbelievably detailed timeline of the group's history over on the impeccable "Garage Hangover" site, which provides biogs of sixties bands the official rock biographers never really cared about.
15 August 2011
Year of Release: 1998
You've got to move fast to catch Gilbert and George, they're fit old geezers...
Somewhat strangely, "Whatever happened to Soho?" is a question I've encountered on the Interweb more times than I ever really expected to. I'm not referring to the region of London, either, but the one hit wonders who sampled the Smiths "How Soon is Now?" on 1990's "Hippychick". It seems to be appreciated much more in retrospect than it was at the time - now the sneers of "cheap cash in!" appear to have given way to an appreciation of the single.
One small part of the puzzle can certainly be solved via this blog entry, because band member Tim London moved on to this particularly bizarre electronic project Yossarian. Unlike Soho, it was an utterly hitless and frankly rather unusual venture which slipped out largely unnoticed ten years ago, and you'd still be hard pressed to find anyone online who cares.
That's not to say that the general public are necessarily always right, of course, for whilst I find "Hippy Chick" to be a faintly irritating piece of fluff, "Gilbert and George" has wit, originality, and sonic scariness to spare. The tribute to the notorious British artists is lyrically a bit baffling, but somehow pleasing all the same with its carefully phrased but randomly tossed around references to "slightly scuffed shoes", men dressed like Mr Chips, and being stalked by the artists in question down London streets (an image which is probably meant to be worrying, but I find quite pleasing for some reason). It is backed up by primitive electronic noises, deep, stomach churning groans and oscillating whoops, and a basic, lo fi backbeat. It screams "home made", but still sounds more adventurous than most big league productions.
It's also a double A side, and the other "A" on offer here, "They Are Naked and They Move", is five minutes of Krautrock rhythms, guitar freakouts and retro space age noises. It's not as good as its partner, but certainly dominates the room impressively as soon as you slip the needle into the grooves.
And if you're still wondering what happened to Soho after "Hippychick", look here for something I uploaded some time ago:
Update: Tim London got in touch with me to assure me that, in fact, Soho were alive and well and an ongoing venture (or at least were in September 2008 when I originally put this entry online). Their site can be found here.
Tim added: "Yossarian hung up his boots after a few albums/ EPs etc for Satellite/Soul Jazz. Fabio, who played drums, has a beautiful piece of vinyl out with his group Washington Rays. Kirsa, who played Transcendent 2000 and glock, is a mum in south London. She was (is?) also the vibes player with proto Arcade Fire-ish Copenhagen.
I'm back doing pop music as a producer after a break to make films (the feature-length Gordon Bennett would probably qualify for this site, if it was a film site). Look out for Young Fathers (hip hop boy band from Scotland) and Her Royal Highness, also from Scotland."
Tim also offered to help me get the above video unblocked on YouTube, which is more than I should really expect from somebody whose earlier work I harshly dismissed as "irritating" in the original blog entry. He is, therefore, officially a good chap.
11 August 2011
Year of Release: 1979
I've blogged at some length before about how much revisionism has occurred on the topic of eighties (or in this case, cusp seventies/ eighties) electronic music. This isn't necessarily surprising in itself - history is generally written by the winners, and why would the Great Book of Rock and Pop waste its time devoting entry space to Karel Fialka, The Techno Twins, Tik and Tok and other such robo-jerking comrades when the battle was conclusively won by people who attempted to give machines a soul, who realised that focussing all their artistic and lyrical efforts on the novelty of modern electronic devices would eventually be regarded as nothing more than a novelty itself?
Indisputable though this may be, "Left and to the Back" has never been about analysing victories in pop, and "I Like Lectric Motors" by Patrick D Martin is yet another electronic obscurity which, instead of utilising electronics gracefully a la Soft Cell, New Order and The Human League, judders all over the show like a giant angry mutant wasp zig-zagging its way towards the party food. Focussing its lyrical efforts on the benefits of non-combustion engines, and being a damn sight better at predicting the future than most music of this era in the process, "I Like Lectric Motors" manages to avoid sounding hackneyed by actually being damn good. A simple idea based upon stomping, jerky repetition, it's brief, to the point, and a welcome splash of cold water to the face. A popular DJ spin choice at the "Blitz Club" at the turn of the eighties, it's been surprisingly overlooked by revivalists since, turning up for mere buttons in record stores and on internet auction sites.
As for who Patrick D Martin was and what else he did, good question. Another strangely prophetic song entitled "Computer Dating" came forth from his pen (whoever he was, he was certainly good at this malarky, perhaps he should have become a Science Fiction writer) and he appeared to get minor press reviews in, amongst other places, "Billboard" magazine, but beyond that there's very little to go on. Please do comment if you know more.
And remember - Electric motors have no fears.
8 August 2011
Year of Release: 1969
A few entries back when we discussed Alexei Sayle's hit single, I (possibly unnecessarily) listed many of the comedians who - for better or worse - had issued vinyl from the fifties onwards. I neglected to mention Irish comedian Dave Allen, whose sole 45 is possibly one of the most unlikely releases there's ever been.
Before we really get stuck into the contents of this disc, it's worth me getting on my soapbox and arguing that I genuinely regard Allen to be a legend. His lengthy television career from the sixties to the nineties is a testament to his surprisingly broad appeal, but what's less appreciated in some quarters is quite how revolutionary he was in his own understated way. Way before Ben Elton steamed in with his "bit of politics", Allen weaved tales of hypocrisy in the church, lampooned authority figures and generally (and perhaps most successfully) highlighted the absurdities of human life. Allen certainly traded on grouchiness and his material frequently landed him in trouble, but unlike many comedians with an axe to grind, there was a warmth to his story-telling which still seems unique today. His sign-off line to audiences everywhere was "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you", an entirely non-cynical and utterly ecumenical statement which, despite my lack of belief in a "God" as such, I can't help but find touching.
So perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that a comedian choosing to sign off his shows in such a giving way released this record, in which he appears to read soft but slightly weary poetry to the accompaniment of an orchestral backing. "The Good Earth", despite its rather sentimental leanings, manages to sum up Allen's personality rather well, using an astronaut looking down upon the planet as its focus, then signing off with the resigned statement: "Why can't we be good on the Good Earth?" The wonder of space travel may seem like a rather corny focus for such a thought in the present day, but in 1969 this was doubtless a very modern, contemporary message.
The B-side "A Way Of Life" is actually more absurd still, being akin to "The Sunscreen Song" long before that God-foresaken record was ever issued. To the accompaniment of "Greensleeves", Allen advises all his listeners on the best ways to approach life, offering gems such as "Listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant - they too have their story" and "For all that is sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a very beautiful world". It's easy to laugh for all the wrong reasons at such a record, but maybe this was the closest we got to the softer side of Allen, almost - although not quite - uninterrupted by thoughts about the planet's aggressive absurdities. And whilst neither side of this record would ever be likely to win the Forward Prize for Poetry, it means well without being nauseating.
It wasn't a hit, but when a Radio Two DJ played the record again in the nineties and asked in a rather perplexed manner why Allen put it out, he was unembarrassed and unrepentant, stating simply that he just saw it as a good opportunity to put some spoken word material with a message he happened to like to music. Of all the novelty or spin-off singles I've ever uploaded, this one feels the least like a cash-in, and certainly among the least likely to ever actually stand a hope of charting. I, for one, believe his version of events.
6 August 2011
I've started an ebay auction of several items which you can view here.
As you'll doubtless realise, most record collectors - and especially collectors who are obsessive enough to blog about it - do this sort of thing with a slightly heavy heart. Even if there are items in my collection I don't really want or have any further use for, I generally don't enjoy waving farewell to them (unless they're Freddie Starr items, which just go straight to the Salvation Army charity shop up the road).
Despite all this, I live in a tiny London flat which seems to be getting pokier by the day. This isn't helped by the collection of crates up against one of the walls. And far apart from that, I presently have to pay server fees to Box.net to keep this blog up and running without overload issues, and if I can claw back all of my monthly fees by doing this sort of thing on a regular basis, that will no longer feel like a loss during tight financial times.
There are ten singles for sale at the moment, some of which will be familiar to you. Hopefully one will be something you've thought you might quite like to own. Please do bid if so, and I await with interest to see if "100,000 Morrisseys" actually goes to a new home.
4 August 2011
Year of Release: 1980
Once every so often I'll choose to upload a single on to "Left and to the Back" not because I particularly think it's good, but because I know a number of readers will have been trying to track it down. Certainly, the existence of this one completely passed me by until I saw it sitting in the record racks of a backstreet Camden Town record store, so I've no doubt there are other people out there who will be perplexed by it.
You see, it's a widely acknowledged fact that everyone's favourite minimalist rock duo (if we don't count The White Stripes) Medicine Head split up in the seventies. This record, a complete one-off released in 1980 with no follow-ups to be had, is therefore surely a good-natured reunion? Well, no. It would appear that the disc is little more than Ray Majors out of Mott The Hoople and John Fiddler out of Medicine Head using the latter band's name to try and bump up sales (I suspect both they and the record label would rather have used Mott The Hoople's name had there not been greater obstacles in the way of doing so). What you'll hear below sounds very little like the Medicine Head of yore, and much more like a slickly produced piece of eighties rock-pop, so far removed from their usual output that it's like sticking a Dansette logo on to a luxury Sony stereo system.
Whatever your moral view on the use of the band name for this project, it all came to nought anyway. The single flopped, it doesn't appear on any of the commercially released Medicine Head albums, and appears to have been airbrushed out of the band's discographies. One quick listen to either side will make it clear how this happened, although I suppose there might be the odd fan out there who sees this as a good and forgotten example of eighties AOR. Personally, it leaves me cold, although the B-side "Tenderhooks" is a reasonable enough stab at Springsteen-styled pop.
Sorry for the pops and clicks on this one, by the way - no amount of filtering could cover up the scratches without suffering significant loss of quality of sound elsewhere.
1 August 2011
Year of Issue: 1968
I doubt Paul Jones is unfamiliar to many readers of this blog. One of Portsmouth's finest sons, Jones enjoyed huge success as the lead singer of Manfred Mann, before departing their unit in 1966 to become a solo superstar. Or, at the very least, that was the plan. The reality was rather different, as the public chose to continue purchasing Manfred Mann singles without him as lead singer, whilst his own musical career seemed to plummet into ever-more diminishing returns and selective audiences. Rather than licking his wounds quietly, Jones became incredibly adept at diversifying his career, appearing in films and television programmes, and even becoming a DJ on the cultishly popular BBC Radio Two Rhythm and Blues programme.
This particular 1968 flop release is a peculiar affair indeed, having a rather hymnal Bee Gees composition on the A-side which, to be frank, doesn't bear much scrutiny or analysis. It's the track unfairly tucked away on the flip which is the real jaw-dropper. Featuring Jeff Beck on guitar, Paul McCartney on drums and Paul Samwell-Smith on bass, "The Dog Presides" is a supergroup track in all but name, and is a raw, pounding beast featuring all members playing to the best of their abilities. Bluesy, furious and insistent, even Jones' harmonica playing sounds spontaneous and ragged, and being present in the studio at the moment this was recorded must have been a very memorable occasion indeed. The fact that it's talked about so infrequently these days is really due to the fact that EMI seemed to completely fail to capitalise on the collective and merely hid the track out of sight behind a pop number - the phrase "missed opportunity" barely covers their error.
Unfortunately, due to the commercial availability of both tracks I can't really upload them in full here, although you can buy "The Dog Presides" on iTunes, and of course there's a full YouTube clip of it should you care to go wandering in that direction.
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