19 June 2016

The Sundowners - The Gloria Bosom Show/ Don't Look Back

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1968

A slight surprise to find this single relatively cheaply priced and sitting around all unloved. It's not a lost classic by any means, but nonetheless it's an interesting psychedelic pop curio on a highly collectible label, and on top of that it's an early piece by seventies singer-songwriter Clifford T Ward.

Ward is often dismissed by some critics for being slightly middle-of-the-road, but like most writers and performers of that era, there was actually a wonky, peculiar edge to much of his work. His track "Home Thoughts From Abroad" - later covered by Jack Jones of all people - is a delicate, heart-tugging ballad about separation from a significant other, which somehow manages to crowbar the line "Does the cistern still leak?" into its lyrics. If any other ballad has managed to mention toilets and still sound sincere, and been covered by an easy listening superstar, I'd like to hear about it. 

Ward was apparently rather eccentric and difficult to work with. His manager Clive Selwood once wrote that his refusal to tour and dislike of public appearances and the naive demands he made of his record label (at one point asking that they buy him the house of his dreams so he'd "be happier and write better songs") made his career rather more difficult to promote than it might have been. That's possibly why his solitary top ten hit "Gaye" remains his best known work by far.

Way before any kind of success struck, however, Ward was both a performer and a jobbing songwriter. Psychedelic aficionados who haven't kept up with music magazines in awhile are often shocked to learn that The Factory's astonishing "Path Through The Forest" was his work, written under the pseudonym "Rollings". And then there's this track he passed on to The Sundowners, which... well, OK, doesn't hold a candle to "Path Through The Forest". But nonetheless, it's a quirky, music hall influenced effects-laden track about the mysterious Gloria Bosom, a lady with her own radio show. "She just knocks me right through the floor/ every time I hear her speak" sings the lead singer, seemingly through some kind of megaphone (so some aspects of "Forest" were intact). Like some kind of popsike premonition of The Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star" colliding with one of Kenny Everett's peculiar ideas, it's a rum old burst of pop whimsy which is actually pretty charming. It probably lacked enough of a hook to really catch on with the public, but it's certainly on a par with many psych recordings of the period, so the lack of attention its received is a little baffling.

The Sundowners were apparently from Scotland and usually served as the backing band for Tommy Trousdale, and indeed managed one single on Thistle Records with him in the early sixties. They consisted of Steve Robbins on bass and vocals, Barry John Weitz on banjo, guitar and vocals, and Dave Silverman on everything else. This appears to have been the last 45 they managed to record, but the predecessor to this disc - "Dr. J. Wallace-Brown" - is very scarce and also apparently incredibly weird, according to one 45cat user. I'll keep an eye open for a copy, but I'm not holding my breath.

As for Ward, sadly he passed away in 2001 after complications from Multiple Sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 1987. He continued recording right up until the end, recording his final proper album "Julia and Other New Stories", while crawling on all fours in his home recording studio.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this " hard to find" B-side of the only single on SPARK label !!

Greetings Albert

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, David Silverman was from Hackney. Barry and Steve probably were too and if not nearby. I know this as I am David's nephew.