11 March 2013

Austin Van Driver and The Morrismen - Salt & Vinegar

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1979

It's a work-in-progress bedroom demo for Blur's "Parklife"!  It's Mike Skinner of The Streets with a Casiotone demo of his missing chippy "dinnertime" track from "A Grand Don't Come For Free"!  It's Eddie Argos out of Art Brut doing an ironic advert for the British Potato Council!  It's Chas and Dave getting unusually belligerent and demanding in a Leytonstone Fish and Chip shop!  It's... well, it's all of these things, but it's actually none of these things as well.  Sorry.

However, we can definitely classify this as a curio from the arse-end of the life of Pye Records which was clearly meant to be a summer novelty pop smash.  Had a particularly influential daytime Radio One DJ taken a shine to this it probably would have been a hit, but we can only assume that they failed to see the potential - or rather, that Pye at this stage in their corporate lives were utterly incapable of getting anyone's attention at the Beeb.  As it stands, I've never seen an actual officially released version of this record for sale, only promo copies, which makes me wonder if it did ever get an official release.

There's something very cheesy and cheap about the record, and it's received thorough drubbings elsewhere on the Interweb, but I genuinely like it - it's unpretentious, snappy and decidedly silly, siphoning off the influences of Madness and Ian Dury that were credible at the time and squeezing them into a novelty blender.  The lyrics focussed entirely upon the act of putting salt and vinegar on chips are utterly facile and ridiculous, but sometimes pop music needs such idiocy.  Had it been even a minor hit, there's a strong probability it would have become awfully irritating very quickly, but as a flop it's harmless, cheerful and sprightly.

It's not clear who Austin Van Driver and the Morrismen were, but certainly the involvement of Phil Hampson on the songwriting credit is something of a giveaway to the fact that they were a one-off project.  Hampson has produced numerous pieces of soundtrack work and one-off novelty singles over the years, including "The Sparrow" by The Ramblers,  "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs" by Brian and Michael, and (perhaps more credibly) the "Spiral Scratch" EP for The Buzzcocks.  This particular single is probably halfway between Brian & Michael and The Buzzcocks, and as bizarre as you'd expect given that.


Patrick Pending said...


Finella said...

I do have a copy of this 'Salt & Vinegar' bought in a sale for 10p but probably not far off the time of its production (I am very old!) How can I discover if it is a 'promo' copy or not?

23 Daves said...

If the A-side label says "Not For Sale" on it on the left hand side, it's a promotional copy for journalists and radio stations. If not, it's an official release (meaning this did find its way out into the wild).

I suspect if its not obvious yours is probably a sale copy! So that's that mystery solved.

Anonymous said...

Phil Hampson also did the first records of punk legends The Fall and Slaughter and the Dogs. Sadly Neighbours Madge And Harold Xmas single in 1989 was a step too far.