28 November 2011
Year of Release: 1976
It's another cheap Second Hand record from Bell. Aren't you the lucky ones? Bell were the glam rock label in the seventies, churning out endless pieces of tinsel from their dayglo production line, and it just so happens that it's these records which clog up charity store bins, remainder boxes and even rubbish skips the most. And no, that isn't a lazy, off-the-cuff remark, either - hundreds of rare glam singles recorded by Freddie Mercury under the name Larry Lurex were once found in a skip, discarded by some fool who believed them worthless.
By 1976, glam rock was starting to look a bit worn out, and bands falling back on the genre were frequently disappointed by the time the chart rundown was released. Even the established acts often struggled, so new ones - like Screemer here - found that Britain was hostile to their stomping sound.
In Screemer's particular case, however, one has to wonder if they were a mite too OTT even for the glam genre, if that's possible. I have come across many records in my time, but few have sounded as ridiculously theatrical and camp as this, a tune about introducing rock and roll to the people of the twenty first century (presumably they thought we'd all be blasting around on jet packs and listening to Jean Michel Jarre by now). Starting off with an airy synthesiser noise and a peculiar, Mystic Meg-styled vocal (which you just know the lead singer delivered with a suitably vacant stare), then building into a Rocky Horror Picture Show styled epic number, "Interplanetary Twist" is baffling. It's like The Sweet after they've eaten far too many sweets and are on a sugar rush, or Spinal Tap with some new space-age props. I've never seen a photo of Screemer, but I hope and pray they all wore futuristic space suits and had ridiculously ambitious fringes, otherwise the image I've got of them in my brain will be shattered.
I don't want to trick anybody into thinking that this is some kind of golden nugget of spacerock - although it is actually huge fun for five minutes, which is precisely what all good novelty pop should be. Just thank your lucky stars (no pun intended) it wasn't a hit and we didn't all have to hear it a hundred times, otherwise this could be a very different blog entry indeed.
Once again, the B-side ("Billy") isn't much cop, I'm afraid - but what more did you want from these intergalactic rockers, eh?
(Update - this entry was originally posted in August 2008, and I'm not too sure I care for its dismissive, flippant tone these days, but I suppose this blog was a young pup back then, I was still learning, and I'm entitled to have off days. Whilst I did originally purchase this from a bargain box for 50p, its value has increased dramatically in the years since and it changes hands for daft money on ebay now, the only one of the discs I've so far featured in the "Second Hand Record Dip" section of the blog to do so (to the best of my knowledge). This is largely due to it being featured on a glam rock rarities compilation, and proves if nothing else that my Larry Lurex comment at the start of this entry was somewhat prophetic. One man's junk is definitely another man's treasure.
As for Screemer - who knows? They still seem to be shy.)
26 November 2011
Just added another auction lot to ebay, and this will be the last I attempt this year, since I really don't want to get bogged down in the Christmas postal rush. Anyone who has run auctions on ebay at this time of year will know that emails along the lines of "I live in the Falkland Islands and want to know whether your copy of 'Sadie and Her Magic Mr Gallahad' by The New Generation will reach me in time for Christmas so I can wrap it up for my Niece" are only too common. Well, OK, they tend not to refer to obscure psychedelic records much, but you take my point all the same. I usually aim to get all records out within a day of two of getting the money, but that still doesn't mean to say that the stars of our mystical global postal services will align to cause a fast delivery.
Anyway, this time around, click here to see (amongst others):
FEDERATION: Blake's 7 Disco (I know one of you has surely got to want to own this)
EASYBEATS: Hello How Are You
HEINZ: You Were There
TIME MACHINE: Summer Of Love/ Another Dream In Black and White
BARNABY RUDGE: Joe Organ & Co
PULP: His n Hers (vinyl copy)
PULP: This is Hardcore (Promo Remix 12")
BUGGY: Harry The Keeper
TERRORVISION: Oblivion (Promo one sided 12")
SUPERGRASS: Lenny (Promo 12")
You popsikers should be particularly interested in the Morgan records by Barnaby Rudge and Buggy, and the Bam Caruso oddity by Time Machine. Some of these sales even have Box.net soundclips on them, so it's like a blog only... er... not as good. But you can buy what's on it. Yes.
Any questions, feel free to ask. Unless they're intricate questions about the Brazilian festive postal service.
24 November 2011
Year of Release: 1970 (recorded in 1969)
Remember what I said about rare psychedelic/ dancefloor crossover records? One would have imagined that the era would have been shot through with such gems, but the reality is that those thoughtless hippies left behind very few records which swung. For all their versatility, even The Beatles left only slow groovers like "Get Back" and "Ballad of John and Yoko" behind, neither of which tend to set people's feet on fire (although you can - kind of - move a bit to "Paperback Writer" if you're feeling ambitious).
Here's another exception to the rule, then. "Clear Mud" is a messy, domineering, bongos-and-organ driven workout which slipped out in Britain in January 1970, long past the point where anyone cared for chipper little records with cheery hippy vocals in this country. A deep shame, because beneath the puffing flutes and bashed bongos lies a record which sounds like a distant cousin of Deep Purple's "Hush", utterly loose, carefree and actually quite wonderful for all that. Whereas most psychedelic pop had an obsession with the idea of catchy choruses, this is more interested in the rhythms and the mantra-like repetition of the song title, giving it more in common with a lot of the soul and mod records being released during the late sixties than perhaps you'd rightfully expect it to have.
The flipside "Wiser" restores order to the proceedings and is a brief, wistful ballad mentioning hope and rainbows. It's OK and comes with plenty of studio-glossed shimmering effects, but fails to defy your expectations in the manner of the A-side.
Little is known of The Calliope, but their line-up was apparently Jim Andron on guitar, organ and vocals, John Ray on guitar and vocals, Tony Riparetti on guitar, Sue Ferrel on flute and vocals, Dan Protheroe on bass guitar and Jim Saad on drums and vocals. Online evidence points towards a band active in Santa Barbara who had a couple of minor local hits but failed to take America as a whole. How "Clear Mud" ending up getting issued in the UK is a mystery which is clearly perplexing some record collectors online as we speak - US psych flops could hardly have been in much demand in Britain by 1970, and there's no evidence to suggest that this picked up any unexpected radio or club play prior to release. Nonetheless, here it is, proof that UK pressings of obscure records from across the Atlantic should never fail to surprise in their quantity.
Sorry about the surface noise on this record in some places, by the way. I did my best to minimise it, but unfortunately I don't have a perfect copy of this record.
21 November 2011
Label: Decca (Belgium)
Year of Release: 1969 (?)
You say "popsike", I say "borderline bubblegum, actually" - let's call the whole thing off. As the sixties drew to a close and The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" dominated the number one spot in numerous countries around the world, a similar chirpiness began to leak out of recording studios from (often manufactured) acts hoping to replicate that carefree feel. A lot of psychedelic pop had similar world-loving breeziness in its favour, of course, but also peculiar undercurrents and effects. By 1969, a lot of pop had dispensed with these elements entirely to produce something a lot more straightforward, whilst the heavy dudes got into the beginnings of hard rock and prog instead.
Don't let that put you off, though, because whilst "If You Do What You Gotta Do" isn't the most challenging thing you'll hear all year, it's addictively gleeful stuff. The chipper string arrangements and honking organ noises create a track which sounds a cut above most lightweight productions, and the chorus has a mighty power to it which may have driven people mad had the record managed to be a hit in the UK. The less said about the B-side, however, the better.
It was actually issued by Penny Farthing in 1970 in this country, but failed to attract much attention. I have a suspicion that this may have managed to become a hit on the continent, however - this is a Belgian pressing and we can hopefully safely assume that this is where The Pipe Dream are from. Information on the band is scarce, and all I've managed to ascertain is that they are definitely not the American harmony band who released the LP "Wanderers/ Lovers" in 1969. It's over to you lot, I'm afraid - any further information you can give me on this lot would be welcome.
17 November 2011
Year of Release: 1995
It's common enough to upload tracks by sixties outfits for whom background information is scarce, but nineties bands - especially nineties bands who were signed to well-known labels - seldom fall through the cracks so easily. By that stage in history we were all just starting to go online and leave dirty great Internet trails about exciting new bands we'd just seen and heard, and much of that information is still available today.
Superalmendrado, on the other hand, are an absolute mystery. Signed to Dedicated, the home of Spiritualized, The Cranes and Chapterhouse, this seems to be the only release of theirs which made it out into the public realm, and even then I've only ever seen Promo copies of it, leading me to suspect that it never received an official release. This is a jarring, dischordant piece of work which makes use of angst rock drumming, needles-on-the-nerves guitar lines, and forlorn vocals to bring three tracks which are not easy on the ear. Whether you consider this to be genius or utterly unlistenable may depend upon your tolerance of rock music's more experimental strands - but one thing's for sure, this isn't pop.
The whereabouts of the band presently remains as big a mystery as the full details of the line-up, but Craig Ward appears to have been the most active since, leaving Superalmendrado to join cult Belgian band dEUS not long after this single crept into the world. Whether his departure spelt the end for the band as a going concern or not is difficult to ascertain, but on the face of the little evidence we have available to us, it's probably safe to say that it won't have helped.
Anyone with any other background information on this band should get in touch to fill in the blanks. I'd be grateful for any help received.
1. Gotta Give It Up
3. The Ballad of John Harlow
14 November 2011
Year of Release: 1968
As a friend of mine wisely observed a couple of weeks ago, most psychedelic pop records do not make for good DJ'ing material - all that whimsy, introspection and feyness seldom leads to people shaking some action on the dancefloor. As with all genres, however, crossover records exist, and this is one of them.
Issued in 1968 just as the summer of love was beginning to seem a bit passe, "Mr. Carpenter" makes up for that by having a great fat bouncing groove going on, as well as some repetitive and nagging (if rather meaningless) lyrics. "Hey Mr Carpenter, won't you come on round and mend the door?" the band ask urgently, then follow it up with "Hey Mr Geetar-man, would you play me a song, I'm feeling down?". It's highly unlikely all these nagging favours would come to anything if the requests didn't come backed by a buzzing sitar riff, a marvellous psychedelic guitar breakdown, and some lovely stomping rhythms. Frankly, after three minutes of this I'd happily act as the band's general maintenance man. It's a gleeful soundtrack to a Saturday night, if lacking in the pseudo-profundity of a lot of its paisley painted brothers and sisters - but its poppy dumbness works endlessly in its favour.
The identity of The Fox is a mystery. They're certainly not the same Fox who signed to GTO in the seventies, and nor are they the same sixties band who issued the brilliantly titled LP "For Fox Sake". Nonetheless, rumours abound that this release features Dave Mason of Traffic on sitar, and it was produced by John Goodison who later got involved with songwriting for various glam rock bands including Mud (clearly he was getting a bit of stomping practice in early with this one). If anyone has the full lowdown on the band, please let me know. Otherwise, I may just assume that they were a studio based creation.
And yes, I really can't resist saying it - the lyrics to this are similar to Vic Reeves' "Oh Mr Songwriter" in places, aren't they? I highly doubt the man ever heard it, though.
12 November 2011
I've put some more stuff on ebay, if any of you readers are interested. Among the goodies on offer are:
dEUS - Worst Case Scenario (Limited Edition Audiophile Vinyl)
SAM THE SHAM AND THE PHARAOHS - Lil' Red Riding Hood (UK Pressing)
DEEP FEELING - Skyline Pigeon
BUZZ CLIFFORD - Baby Sittin' Boogie
BUD ASHTON - Telstar (Embassy remake of the Joe Meek classic)
MUSIC EXPLOSION - Little Bit O' Soul
OASIS - Definitely Maybe (double gatefold vinyl)
HANK THOMPSON - I'm Not Mad Just Hurt
And a bunch of other stuff besides. Please click here if you're interested.
10 November 2011
Who: Natural Life
What: Strange World
Where: de Plaatboef, Oude Gracht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Cost: 50 Euros
It was a funny time, the early nineties, filled with a combination of political angst and grooved up music. It might sound perverse and desperately unfashionable now, but back then (my son) you could form bands with very specific political lyrical agendas and squeeze endless albums out of them, whether their specialism happened to be feminist, Marxist or Anarchic rhetoric. Not only that, but people actually thought they were slightly cool as well.
Natural Life are a particularly odd case in point, having been promoted as an environmentally conscious rock band with long hair, recycled record sleeves and singles which had a rather hollering, angsty outlook combined with big guitars and shufflesome beats. Subtlety never seemed to be on their particular agenda - this disc, for example, mentions shotguns very close to the call-and-response line "Sing it to me sist-errrr!" suggesting that their ambitions were to fill huge arenas rather than the local bar. Like a number of otherwise forgotten bands in this peculiar post-eighties period, there was a flavour of both the rapidly exiting baggy bands and the stadium ambitions of Then Jericho in their work, a dominating sense that all bases were being covered to appeal to as wide an audience as possible so their messages could be heard by all and sundry.
The B-side exercises their alternative roots a bit more keenly, being a dub-rock excursion which sounds incredibly like the festival-goers dance music of choice back in those days when Glastonbury was only just beginning to seem like it might be important.
This was their debut single which failed to chart, but the follow up "Natural Life", complete with a video featuring the band running, skipping and jumping through the Spanish wilderness posing with unplugged instruments, jumped into the UK Top 50 after Radio One and ITV Chart Show support. That proved to be their swansong - their album failed to chart, no follow-up was forthcoming, and like David Icke, the concept of Green rock music never really bothered the mainstream in the UK again. The drummer Shovell would later find gainful employment in M People, the whereabouts of Jon Spong, Darren Hunter, Liggy Locko, Mark Mathews, Ray Wilson and 'Big' Sydney Holdforth remain less clear.
The video for "Natural Life" also seems to be unavailable on YouTube - although I'm guessing somebody somewhere must have an off-air of the Chart Show episode it was broadcast on - but you can see them performing "Strange World" live here.
7 November 2011
Year of Release: 1979
Yes, another example of a reworked or otherwise tampered television theme finds its way into the "Left and to the Back" archives, although to be frank in this case it's easy to see what the BBC were playing at. They'd already released an approximation of the theme tune in 1978 (rather than the theme itself) and presumably thought that a cult sci-fi hit like "Blake's Seven" was always going to be good for a bit of milking. Hence (presumably) this "disco" version of the theme emerged in 1979 as well. And why did they stop there, you have to wonder? Why not a whole album full of alternate versions of the "Blake's Seven" theme done in a whole wide range of styles?
Perhaps the full stop to any such grand schemes coming into fruition really had to come when this flopped, and I'll be blunt, that might have a lot to do with the fact that it really isn't much cop - even the most desperate sci-fi completist would turn their noses up. Driven by a squeaky synth rendition of the theme which sounds for all the world as if it's being sung by Sweep (now actually, that would have been a version worth hearing) some hideous, half-asleep psuedo-funky basslines, and the irritating and unrealistic "handclap" noise on a drum machine, this could be the demonstration setting on a Rumbelows home MIDI synthesiser unit and nobody would be any the wiser. It sounds like the work of session people who despised what they were being asked to do, and wanted to get the whole exercise over with as swiftly as possible so they could nip down to the pub.
More interesting - and perplexing - is the flipside "Disco Jimmy", which so far as I know appears to have no connections with the programme at all, and just consists of some bagpipes, a disco beat, and a drunken Scotsman sounding off, although I think it's safe to say that the man isn't a native.
Equally confusing is the "Beeb" label, which seemed to run parallel to the BBC label in the seventies, but didn't really have a different release policy at all. You wouldn't get away with that now without the tabloid press running a week of headlines about the Beeb wasting licence payer's money. Nice cheerful picture of a bee in the logo, though.
Update: This blog entry was written in January 1991. I have nothing to add, as nobody responsible for the recording has come forward - wisely, I'd say - but "Here Is A Box" blog author Tim Worthington did correctly point out that "Blake's 7 Disco" does bear a certain resemblance to Pulp's out-take "We Can Dance Again", although the only version of that I can find online is Chevette's cover).
3 November 2011
Year of Release: 1968
The mod movement is regarded by most listeners and pop pickers as being an inherently British phenomenon, and whilst overseas mod acts most certainly did exist, it's curious to see how they presented themselves. The Motions, for example, posed beneath Big Ben for the sleeve of one of their earlier singles "Everything (That's Mine)", complementing the clanging Who-ness of the disc with distinctly familiar Anglo orientated imagery. That they hailed from The Hague in The Netherlands and were at that point produced by Americans Scott Walker and John Walker apparently presented no issues to them.
Despite (or perhaps because of) their rather un-Dutch image, The Motions were a force to be reckoned with in their native land, issuing dozens of singles and containing plenty of national musical legends in their line-up. Singer Rudy Bennett had a successful solo career after The Motions called it a day in 1971, drummer Sieb Warner became sticksman for Golden Earring, and perhaps most notably Robbie Van Leeuwen became one of the founding members of the ridiculously under-rated (in Britain, at least) Shocking Blue.
"Take The Fast Train" perhaps isn't their best single, but its raw, bluesy riff cuts through the sweet vocal harmonies in such a contradictory fashion that it's a compelling listen. The influence on Shocking Blue in particular can clearly be heard here - this is basically late sixties hard rock with a slightly sugary edge. Flip side "Hamburg City" is a lot less jagged (and therefore less interesting) being an almost Manfred Mann styled tribute to the German city.
The Motions are pretty much the Godfathers of the Nederbeat movement, and can even be found on the "Nuggets II" box set issued by Rhino. That they didn't do much business outside of their home country is unfortunate, but in the case of Britain they barely tried (notching up only a few gigs to their name there, despite Scott Walker's encouragement). Some members would, however, get their shot at international fame in other bands, and the Motions must therefore be considered one of the better schools of Rock in Holland, as well as releasing some furiously good singles.
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