23 April 2017

Muff - Sexy Sexy Lady/ Burnin'

Label: Bell
Year of Release: 1974

One of the unfortunate things about Operation Yewtree and its associated glam rock/ seventies pop investigations and arrests is that everything has been poisoned. Everything. For instance, we all know that a lot of glam rock artists were drawing on fifties rock and roll traditions for their lyrical inspiration, so it's not unsurprising that you will occasionally find songs about hanging out at the "hop" with the teenage boys and girls. None of these were indicative of any Savile-styled "hiding in plain sight" indidents, or anything else sinister. They were just teen bop hits, that's all. 

"Sexy Sexy Lady" by Muff, though, is highly unlikely to get any airplay today. For a start, the performer's name is subject to huge misinterpretation, and in combination with the song title might even get this blog internet visitors for all the wrong reasons (hello newbies! Soz, no lady pics here). Then there's the lyrical content, about a girl who is "hardly" sixteen, and is still at school, and drinks gin on the rocks, and is a "sexy sexy lady". Mmmmm. Possibly unlike the girl in question, this hasn't necessarily aged well, but these recordings do have to be put into some kind of context. They were targeted at a teen audience and tried to strike a chord with teenage lifestyles. At the time, nobody would have batted an eyelid. Imagine it in the soundtrack to "Grease" and you're in a more appropriate ballpark. 

Still, that thumping, thwacking glam beat and those keen guitar lines are indicative of a great noise, and something which possibly could have been a hit at the time. Bell Records were churning out smash after smash at this point in the seventies, and more sympathetic airplay could have pushed this one on to Top of the Pops.

As for who Muff is, it's almost certainly Muff Murfin who owned a recording studio in Kempsey, Worcestershire around this time, and also worked occasionally with songwriter Rod McQueen. Muff is a highly successful radio station mogul these days, who also writes radio and advertising jingles, and also co-ran a record label (Birds Nest) with Elektra/ Dandelion man Clive Selwood in the seventies. A fascinating and varied career, then, and while he may have had no actual hits despite having several other singles out in the seventies, he's a lot more successful than most other people who have featured on this blog. 

22 April 2017

DJ'ing at Earl Haig Jumble Sale, Muswell Hill, Sunday 30th April

Calling all readers who are fans of both shopping for vintage clothes, second hand records, books and listening to soul, freakbeat, rock and roll and mod pop being played on vinyl in the, er... "old traditional way"...

It's been a long time, but the Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 30th April, and I'll be there again along with my good friends Jody "Jon The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning various sounds on the decks while you shop and mooch around. (Incidentally, do check out Sean's etsy shop here, which includes Roxy Music and Delia Derbyshire toys, a B52s felt play set, and an Alan Bennett felt doll).

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's an old fifties pinball machine, roast dinners next door, booze aplenty, goodie bags (if you get there early enough) and the chance to lounge around and socialise. What else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon?

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 30th April, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

Follow up events are planned for the same venue on 28th May and 25th June. 

19 April 2017

Drew Ross - Close Your Eyes And Go To Sleep/ Let It Be

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

In common with almost all the solo artists I seem to be finding singles by at the moment, I really can't find a scrap of information on Drew Ross. I know that he had two 45s out on CBS, this one and the 1971 follow-up "I'm Going Home". I know that both records sold poorly and are difficult to find copies of these days. Beyond that... nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zip. My best guess would be that he was a keen cabaret/ working man's club performer who got the chance to release a couple of singles on a major label, but that's based on the laws of probability rather than the conclusive results of my research.

I can't speak with any confidence about any of his other recordings, but "Close Your Eyes..." is really rather good. It starts off with a similar pounding gusto to Love Affair's "Everlasting Love" and continues in a similar plastic Northern Soul vein. Packed with optimistic brassy blasts and bouyant drumming, it's actually something of a tonic - a skippy, bouncy record, and the kind of bright, immediate sixties pop that absolutely nobody seems to be either attempting to emulate or take seriously anymore. It could have been a hit at the time, but quite clearly wasn't.

The flip is a rather pedestrian cover of The Beatles "Let It Be", which really doesn't add anything new to the song, and isn't as worthy of your time. 

If you're Drew Ross, or you know who he is, please do let me know. 

18 April 2017

A Little Bird Told Me...

Finally, after nearly a decade of this blog being active, we've joined the 21st Century and got our very own Twitter account. Please do join us over here and get the latest news and information on obscure and lost music, new blog entries, recommended reading, buried YouTube videos and other such bountiful things.

"Hang on," you're probably thinking to yourselves, "didn't you already have a Twitter account?"

That's correct - the 23Daves account was originally set up to tweet mostly about this blog and other subjects relevant to it, but sadly I found myself getting sucked into Twitter's rabbit hole, and began getting involved in discussions about politics, "Top of the Pops" repeats on BBC4, comedy, poetry and writing, and these started to dwarf the actual tweets I was writing about obscure vinyl finds. This cheesed off some of the original followers who followed me mainly to read about singles on the Pye label which had only sold 34 copies, and a lot of them huffed off like ignored guests at a house party. So the new account is properly tied to this blog and will be purely be about obscure music with all the distractions and obstacles stripped away. Like a social media version of "Just Juice", this will have all the lumps and bumps removed so you won't gag on my opinions about the dancers on "Top of the Pops" or Jeremy Corbyn ever again.

Of course, if you want to read my views on "Top of the Pops" and everything else besides, feel free to follow me on both accounts, and the world will be your oyster. 

16 April 2017

Reupload - Orphan - Julie Isn't Julie In The Bath/ Timebombs

Label: Brilliant
Year of Release: 1983

Sometimes a record catches my eye in a record store or ebay which I'm aware already has a bit of a low-level internet buzz about it. By this, I mean that a simple Google search reveals all kinds of questions about its origins or raves on internet forums, but no actual real information.

This is one such (well, I wouldn't have bothered with that opening paragraph if it weren't, not unless I was trying to be all post-modern and clever).  I must admit to being aware of its reputation but never having heard a single note of it until the needle hit the groove.  It soon became apparent what the fuss was about - this is pristine eighties pop with a distinctly post-punk and psychedelic twist.  Strict and even yet somehow quirky beats and synth splashes rub up against smooth guitar riffs, utterly peculiar lyrics (why Julie isn't Julie in the bath is never quite explained) and a faintly uneasy, film noir atmosphere.  A subtle chorus also creeps up on you more and more with each play, until the entire thing has infected your brain and won't leave.  It's unassuming to begin with, then all-consuming.  Only the squeaky synth instrumental section spoils the production values, but I suspect that probably seemed cutting edge when the song was recorded in 1981.

It would seem that Orphan formed in Birmingham at some point around 1978 or 1979, containing members Phill Dunn, Phil Campion, Pete Dunn, Phil Vickers, Keith Jones, Trevor Wigley and Steve Leighton.  They had become a solid fixture on the Birmingham gig circuit by the early eighties, and seemed to get themselves attached to the label Swoop, which was run by Lee Sound Studios in Walsall.     At least three singles ("RSVPU", "Nervous" and "Love on the Lichfield Line") slipped out on this imprint, but in the manner of most boutique labels run by recording studios, the connection failed to generate any hits for them.  It seems as if this track was then licensed to Brilliant Records in 1983 in an attempt to generate a better chance of chart action. Far from being a super major with clout, though, Brilliant was an indie distributed by Spartan, and the deserved outcome of a hit single never materialised. Also, by 1983 there's a chance that the woozy New Wave sounds on display here were starting to feel a bit dated, and had it been released in 1981 when it was actually recorded, the outcome may have been different.

However, we are where we are.  The band seems to have packed it in shortly afterwards, and Phill Dunn moved on to become a film director in Singapore, still occasionally recording music with his new psychedelic rock inspired band Roxy Rejects.

Assuming this was Orphan's last release - and I can't find anything to suggest otherwise - it would seem as if they left the music business at least having given it their best shot.

(I originally uploaded this entry in December 2013. Since then, someone has pointed out to me - quite fairly - that the "Julie" in the song is probably a cross-dresser. Lyrical mystery solved.)

12 April 2017

Paul Slade - Odyssey/ Sound of Love

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

The name Paul Slade may seem somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, but as a songwriter he managed to get credits on a number of hits in the seventies and eighties, perhaps the most well known examples being Grace Jones's "I Need A Man" and Changes' enormous disco smash "Searchin'". 

Obviously, though, our story doesn't begin there. Way back in the sixties when Grace Jones was just the stuff of our wildest nightmares, he was a jobbing bass guitarist and backing vocalist, usually working as a session musician for visiting live artists in London. Having been spotted playing at the Revolution Club in London, he was offered a management contract and a deal with Decca followed not long after, resulting in two incredibly scarce singles, "Heaven Held" and "Sound of Love". 

"Sound of Love" is, to be frank, an unexciting Bee Gees cover which may be of interest to fans of the group, but is unlikely to get casual readers of this blog hot under the collar. Slade performs it convincingly, but the arrangement is rather by-numbers and fails to sell the song at all well.

Of far more interest is the flip "Odyssey", which was co-written by Slade and is a melodramatic, moody piece of seemingly Scott Walker inspired hullabaloo about a missing lady. Punctuated by punching strings and something that sounds like the Thames TV ident (but isn't) Slade informs us "She haunted me wherever I go... And Still The Wind Carries Her Name!" It's over-the-top, frantic and fantastically arranged, putting the A-side to absolute shame. As the B-side to an unremarkable ballad, it's obviously been somewhat buried over the last fifty years, but that really deserves to change - "Odyssey" is ambitious and constantly interesting throughout its three minutes.

Paul Slade eventually signed to CBS where he began recording folk-rock records, including the LP "Life Of A Man", but he met with little success in the UK. Some appreciation on the continent, on the other hand, was forthcoming, leading to large volumes of songwriting work for French and Italian artists. Though he's largely retired and residing in rural France these days, he still occasionally produces new music. 

9 April 2017

Strange Days - Saltash/ Another Day

Label: Peeping Tom
Year of Release: 1977

Strange Days were a group from the Derby area who, while predominantly acting as a covers band on the local circuit, were a rather more credible proposition than most groups of that ilk. Rather than touring working men's clubs playing uptempo ditties like "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" or Engelbert Humperdinck numbers, they specialised in psychedelia, hard rock and progressive rock, taking on the material of - among others - The Doors (hence the name), Atomic Rooster and Moby Grape. Their solid and leftfield approach earned them support slots with some of the big names of the day, including Status Quo, Brian Auger and Zoot Money.

They weren't averse to performing self-penned material as well, though, and that's where this single comes into play. Issued on the Peeping Tom label, which was affiliated to Coventry's famous Horizon studios, it's two sides of very different musical hues. "Saltash" on the A-side is an organ-driven instrumental with a distinctly proggish feel, and would possibly have felt rather dated by 1977. Nonetheless, it showcases the group's musical abilities and has a persuasive driving style - you can imagine Saxondale powering down the road in his automobile to this one.

The flipside "Another Day", on the other hand, is a frilly, elaborate piece of pop-rock which has more of a late seventies feel to it. A moody air hangs over the busy, skittish nature of the arrangements, and it's actually really rather neat if this is the sort of thing you tend to enjoy. 

The line-up consists of Ken Cook on keyboards and vocals, Chris Camm on twin-neck guitar bass and six-string, and Bob Parsloe on drums and vocals. I'm pleased to report that they still appear to be active on the Midlands circuit as a bookable proposition for parties or events. Ken Cook also plays with the group Six Across, while Chris Camm is involved in the group Pugma Ho. There's a Strange Days site here where you can get all the details.

As for the label Peeping Tom... Horizon Studios eventually got heavily involved in the Two Tone story in later years, and really helped to give Coventry music an identity of its own.

2 April 2017

Those Naughty Lumps - Down At The Zoo (EP)

Label: Open Eye
Year of Release: 1980

Ah, Those Naughty Lumps. They were in an unfortunate situation in the late seventies. The Liverpool Punk scene ignited with all manner of legendary artists from The Teardrop Explodes to Echo & The Bunnymen to Wah! (and, over time, even the also-rans of the era would  eventually find success in the mid-eighties). Those Naughty Lumps, though, had a silly name, were given merely a passing mention in Julian Cope's excellent biography about the era "Head On", and became a group who had very little following or clout outside their home city.

Consisting of PM Hart on vocals, Bream on guitar, Kev Wilkinson on drums, Martin Cooper on bass and vocals and Bobby Carr on guitar, they were often a terribly flippant, jokey group, as witnessed on their most famous debut single, the enjoyably ridiculous "Iggy Pop's Jacket". Legends are seldom made out of groups who create such things, and despite being the second group to issue a single on the famous Zoo Records, they've been largely sidelined in overviews of the scene since.

This EP appears to have been recorded in 1978 but only released in 1980, giving the impression that it was possibly put together for a Zoo Records release which ended up being rejected or shelved. The fact that Bill Drummond gets a songwriting credit for the title track is a hint towards this - and it's probably one of the most obscure contributions he's made to music. Don't expect lightning bolts or revelations of lost genius, though. Most of the EP consists of jerky, spindly, DIY new wave sounds which were incredibly common at the time, and while some of these tracks are good, the band possibly lacked a strong identity of their own. For my money, "Love Is A Reflex" is the strongest track, with its early Teardrops styled keyboards and garage pop melodies.

29 March 2017

Reupload - Les 409 - Reviens, Reviens/ Un Amour Complique

Label: RCA Victor Canada International
Year of Release: 1967

If the Canadian band Les 409 are known for anything much at all outside their home nation (and possibly even the Quebec region) it's probably their single "They Say/ Born In Chicago", two fuzzy pieces of garage pop which are archived over on YouTube.  The single is ranked up there with Nuggets-compiled fellow Canucks The Haunted's "125", and probably would get more plays by DJs in mod/ garage clubs if only copies of the damn record weren't so hard to come by.

Back when they formed in 1963 it's true to say that Les 409 were raw and bluesy, but eventually this slick recording slipped out.  Carefully produced by Easy Listening legend (and enigma) Martin Martin, the A-side is a French translation of The Beatles single "Hello Goodbye".  The instrumental arrangements are a very sympathetic facsimile of the original, but the vocals push harder and seem slightly more abrasive - and, regrettably, sometimes less in-tune - than the original.  Like most Beatles covers, it takes few liberties and might be regarded as completely inessential if you ignore the fact that a French version of the Fab Four's most lyrically simple song is an entertainingly absurd idea.

Much better material is to be found on the flip.  "Un Amour Complique" is a wonderfully rich piece of swinging orchestrated pop which is clearly more influenced by the sixties French pop scene than anything in the UK.  Filled with beautiful flourishes and subtly addictive melodies, it sees both the band and Martin on top form, a far cry from their ballsy garage roots but still creating great music which is dramatic in an altogether different way.

If anyone knows what  became of Les 409 please let me know.  There's plenty of information about their period of activity online, but not much about what became of them all afterwards.

26 March 2017

The Hallmarks - One Way Street/ Johnny's Gone For A Soldier

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Before they really got a grip on the UK market, Polydor released a slurry of flop singles which were barely heard at the time, and have drifted into absolute obscurity since. These were often by artists who haven't even managed to gain an entry in the usually exhaustive "Tapestry of Delights" encyclopaedia of sixties pop. 

That's certainly the case with The Hallmarks here, who appear to have been a folk rock group based in Britain (though it's hard to say for sure). The A-side here, "One Way Street", is a rather underproduced but strident piece of work, with the vocals somewhat suffocated in the mix by a treacle of chiming guitars and thumping drums. No matter - the song itself is actually an enjoyable example of the folk rock genre, containing close Mama and Papas-esque vocal harmonies, wintery sleigh bells, and a jingle jangle morning air. With a more sympathetic mix, it's possible to imagine this having been a hit, however by January 1967 folk rock was beginning to seem a bit passe, and more ambitious songwriting and production was beginning to shape the pop landscape.

Whoever they were, The Hallmarks seemingly never issued another record, and naffed off after this without leaving behind any clues to their identity. The A-side was also recorded by the Irish group Brendan Bowyer and The Royal Showband, aka The Royal Showband Waterford, so it's possible that the group were actually Irish rather than British. Equally possibly, however, "One Way Street" might have been a Denmark Street composition bought up by both bands at different times. Who knows? Certainly not me, that's for sure.

If you can identify the mystery band, please do leave a comment.

22 March 2017

Sky - On Our Way/ The Singer Is Singing His Song

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

Here's an obscure little single. Sky were from Aldershot and boasted Sparks' future drummer Dinky Diamond in their line-up, but beyond that details of their personnel are sketchy.

Whoever they were, these are two very different sides. The A-side "On Our Way" is a Spanish holiday flavoured, anthemic pub singalong which is a bit too simple for its own good - I've been known to lift a flagon of booze and "la la la" my way to oblivion with the best and worst of them, but this track falls under the category of "not quite subtle enough for Chas & Dave", and would have become impossibly irritating if it had actually become a hit.

The flip "The Singer Is Singing His Song", on the other hand, is a vaguely popsikey effort with a similar anthemic feel, but has vague shades of the Moody Blues about it and has subtle flowery frills and melodic diversions to offer. When I first bought this single, I assumed this was the A-side and "On Our Way" was the throwaway flip, but every source I've looked at disagrees with me, so I can only assume Decca heard some commercial potential with the plug side that I just can't.

After this single failed the band would jump ship to Bell to release "Long, Long Gone", but that also stiffed and the band were long, long gone themselves shortly afterwards. If anyone can provide more information about the line-up, please let me know.

19 March 2017

Judd - Snarlin' Mumma Lion/ Stronger Than A Man (Can Only Be A Woman)

Label: Penny Farthing
Year of Release: 1970

I used to know someone called Judd, a denim-clad gentleman who had spent some time in the USA and still had a certain Transatlantic growl to his voice. "Hey geez-errrr!" he'd yell to people he knew as they entered the pub. Then he'd wander over to the jukebox, and complain "You wanna know the problem with this thing? Not enough ROCK on it".

For years I wondered if this record might just be something to do with him, but it was never likely. The Judd I knew was the kind of chap who would never have shut up about the fact that he had once made a record. And of course it's not. Judd was actually the group name given to ex-Quiet Five member Kris Ife and a group of "itinerant" session musicians, who were all produced by studio genius Mark Wirtz.

Kris has already featured on this blog, but "Snarlin' Mumma Lion" is rather unlike a lot of his other work. It has a backwater American rock vibe to it - an odd direction for him to take, but odder still for his co-songwriter and producer Mark Wirtz. This is a far cry from his "Teenage Opera" years and really showed how diverse he could be with his writing and production styles. It's a nagging, persuasive beast of a record, though, and while it can't count among Wirtz's best - or Ife's best, for that matter - it's got a punch to it that just can't be ignored.

I've covered both Ife and Wirtz before on this blog, which leaves me at a bit of a loss to say much more about their careers. Suffice to say, though, "Snarlin' Mumma Lion" wasn't a hit, though it did enjoy issues across numerous European territories, meaning there are picture sleeve versions for interested collectors to burn their cash on, if they should desire.

15 March 2017

Reupload - Boss - Mony Mony/ Live Together

Label: Deram
Year of Release: 1973

Tommy James and The Shondell's "Mony Mony" is, to this day, a bit of a floor-filler.  Whilst I can't profess to truly adore the single myself and only play it once every so often at home, there's still something incredibly potent about the track at high volume at around one in the morning.  It's a record you can tease the wallflowers with, those uncertain looking people propped up at the bar who have been frantically tapping their feet all evening as if they're about to make a move, only to uncertainly twitch away from the action.  It's also one of those records for which bouts of hand-clapping are only to be expected.  Handily, you can also follow it with just about any sixties pounder of the same tempo and keep people on the floor, even if it's an ultra-obscure flop like Chris Andrews' "Yo Yo" (I've done it).

Covers of the track have always been apparent, with attempts from Amazulu and Billy Idol working their way out of pressing plants in the eighties alone.  This particular stomping seventies glam version of the record perhaps should have been a hit at the time - whoever had the idea that the track's pounding would lend itself well to the echoing thud and slap of glitter grooves was obviously utterly on the money.  There's space and sparseness to this effort which does create a major contrast between the noisy, busy nature of the original, but for all that it's still a nagging little disc which seems determined to pull people towards the dancefloor.

As for who Boss were, I'm guessing that they were a studio group formed for the benefit of this record rather than a 'proper' gigging band.  However, the B-side "Live Together" - a cover of a track by the equally obscure group Trainer - is a very different beast altogether (beneath the scratchy noises, which I apologise for) appearing to be an almost Joe Cocker-styled ballad designed to highlight the singer's talents.  I'm guessing the members of this group will have done other things besides in their careers, and please leave a comment if you know more.

12 March 2017

Stanley Frank - Cold Turkey/ Hey Stupid

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1977

I find it hard to believe that this is the second cover version of "Cold Turkey" I've uploaded to this site (the first was by David Byron of Uriah Heep, who contributed his vocal intepretation to a budget covers EP). My amazement largely stems from the fact that the original John Lennon single was an ignoble flop by the Beatle standards of the day, reaching a mere number 14 in the UK charts, and is very seldom heard at all these days. 

Nonetheless, a rocker from Canada called Stanley Frank took the song under his wing in 1977 and really upped the ante with it, taking the pulsing and tortured original and turning into a slice of Hard Rock. It buzzsaws its way through the Lennon tune and shoves the needles into the red, screeching its way to the inevitable climax. While no amount of reworking can disguise the fact that the original song always was a little disappointing, this to me has more energy and a greater sense of dynamics than the original - not something I would ever claim lightly. Frank makes it sound as if it was always born to be a seventies rock track and Lennon's version was just a demo.

As for our Stanley, he was from Montreal and relocated himself to the UK at the height of punk in the late seventies, too early for a revived Heavy Metal circuit, and too late for the mid-seventies rock heyday. He briefly had dealings with the Power Exchange label who tried to hype him as a "New Wave" artist, but it's doubtful that the ruse fooled more than a few people. He eventually settled on to A&M records where he issued the LP "Play It Till It Hurts" in 1980.

He remains active as a songwriter to this day, and has a website where you can sample his tunes. One of them in particular, "Run To The Sun", is a piece of West Coast soaked power pop goodness.

5 March 2017

Bryan Evans - Dont'cha Like Boys/ I Cry For Me

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1978

Keen "Left and to the Back" readers will know that in July of last year, I uploaded Starbuck's "Do You Like Boys?" for everyone's delight and delectation. There's much more about the flop disc here (beneath the blurb about the equally fascinating Prowler single) but in a nutshell, it was a gay glam rock record which failed to pick up much radio airplay. "Do you go for a mean, aggressive bear?" Starbuck asked their listeners forcefully.

The plot gets much thicker, because a full five years after that single flopped, Bryan Evans decided to have another bash at making it a hit, albeit with Howard and Blaikley's original lyrics dramatically altered to obscure the original reading. Gone are the references to homosexual attraction, and instead the song could be interpreted as Bryan selling himself as something of a ladies man, seemingly questioning whether the woman of his desires is either asexual or a lesbian. "Dont'cha Like Boys?" he asks, while squealing analogue synths go off around him like personal attack alarms. Of course, if you've heard the Starbuck original first, it's hard to hear the question in quite such a way, and it still manages to seem flamboyant and camp. The directness is lost, and it's become an object of ambiguity instead.

It's a baffling addition to the Howard and Blaikley canon, but you can't blame them for trying to turn a brilliant single into a proper hit. By 1978, though, the analogue keyboard sounds and stomping glam beats really were yesterday's news, and it stood not a hope in hell. A shame, as this is a spirited and different approach which at another point might have lead to success.

As for who Bryan Evans is or was, he had a string of 45s out in the seventies on a variety of labels from CBS to EMI, including a much-fancied (by collectors) version of Cream's "We're Going Wrong" - but beyond the fact that he briefly worked with Giorgio Moroder, I've struggled to identify him. If you have any clues, please leave me a comment below.

1 March 2017

The Beeds - You Don't Have To/ Run To Her

Label: Team
Year of Release: 1968

This record has already been covered by a number of other blogs focussed on sixties obscurities, but given the quality of the contents on offer I felt I couldn't easily bypass it.

This is, as I believe the kids say, a nice double-header of a single, offering two sides of equal quality but distinctly different flavours. "You Don't Have To" is straight-ahead high-energy bubblegum bordering on garage, with the usual fizziness and buzziness you'd expect from such a track in this era. It's furiously catchy, determined and has the feel of a surefire hit. Unfortunately, it didn't receive much airplay in the USA and subsequently failed to chart.

Of much more interest to me is the moody folk-rock B-side "Run To Her", which is a breezy autumnal mope in one person's relationship break-up angst. So accomplished is it that it's astonishing it seemingly hasn't found a place on a sixties obscurities compilation yet - it's clearly on a par with numerous Nuggets of the same period, and is widely acclaimed across the world wide web. 

The Beeds were originally called The Cat's Meow, and hailed from Staten Island, New York. They consisted of Richard Martinis on guitar and vocals, John Ventura on lead vocals, Lester Margolies on bass, Jay Clied on drums, and Pete Carver on guitar. Their debut single "La La Lu" inched into the US Top 100, but the follow up "True True Lovin'" failed to capitalise on its interest, and the group jumped from Decca to the Buddah subsidiary Team for this 45. 

Their stint on Buddah - which forced them to change their name to The Beeds for contractual reasons - was equally brief, with only one other flop single ("Love Hurts") to their name on that label. The band seemed to have operated primarily as a live act, mostly performing covers on the thriving New York gig circuit, and once dropped by Buddah, pressing plants never heard from them again. 

26 February 2017

Reupload - David Essex and Jeff Wayne (aka The Us) - You're OK With Us/ Tomorrow

Label: Sound Department
Year of Release: 1970

In some respects, I suspect that life was easier for the non-hit singer or songwriter in the sixties and seventies.  Not only were there more venues out there to play and a greater demand for live music, there was also the sheer range of work available for anyone plucky enough to step forward and offer their services.  Budget albums and EPs consisting of cover versions of the hits of the day would often find themselves home to quickie Elton John and David Bowie vocals, for example.

The world of Hallmark Records aside, adverts back then seemed to be filled to the brim with original music, meaning better cash was available if you were happy to go into a studio and sing about the benefits of a regular bowl of cornflakes or the delightful smell which can be dispersed via the latest household cleaning product.  The vast majority of artists who contributed to the music industry in this dubious way have since sunk without trace, doomed to only be remembered through strange earworms heard by bored shoppers in modern supermarket aisles (after all, which one of us can't walk past "Shake n Vac" without hearing the sodding tune in our heads?)  As always, though, there are exceptions, and here's a star-studded one.

Back in the sixties and seventies, a deodorant called "Us" was produced, which came in a terrifyingly bulky and ugly white can, making it look like a WD40 dispenser or a paint spray by modern standards.  The accompanying advert for the product consisted of a band (some of whom look like future "Top Gear" presenters, though they're not) playing in a sweaty nightclub with confidence.  Presumably the average viewer could witness these cool kids smiling on stage and would equate the wearing of the bathroom product with super-fun times.

"You're OK With Us" was the tune the band "played", but the special promotional single the manufacturers Johnson Wax released sounds somewhat different - and that's because this version has star-in-waiting David Essex contributing vocals.  Arranging the instruments and on songwriting duties is Jeff Wayne, future "War of the Worlds" man who at this point in his career was dashing off ditties for hundreds of adverts and apparently making a fine living from doing so.  Despite its dubious origins, the track is actually likable enough to pass, and whilst numerous ebay sellers have been trying to pass it off as a "garage rock" or "psychedelic" single ever since, it's really much more of its time than that.  Despite the rather distorted guitars, it's typical of the kind of tune that emerged at the cusp of the seventies as the more commercial end of radio pop gradually slid into the messiness of glam.  I wouldn't bother playing it myself at either a glam or sixties night - unless somebody persistently requested the track, that is, which seems unlikely - but it's definitely a fascinating curio, and an insight into the workings of two people who would later go on to have a huge influence on music in the seventies.

The flip "Tomorrow" stems from a bath salts advert, of all things, and sees Essex and Wayne managing to pre-empt John Lennon's "Imagine" by a few years.  It's another of those mournful songs which expresses nostalgia for a late sixties ideology which by that point had barely passed - "But what about the songs we used to sing/ of Brotherhood and love?" demands Essex forcefully. "Remember when we sang that we shall overcome?" Steady on, sir, there's no room for politics whilst one is enjoying a relaxing bath.  Did you not read your briefing papers on the way into this session?  Whatever the appropriateness of the tune, it joins Elton John and Roger Hodgson's early non-hit "Imagine" and Denis Couldry's "Tea and Toast Mr Watson" as being a nostalgic, hippy-sympathising track somewhat peculiarly recorded either during the summer of love or shortly after it.

You won't need me to tell you that David Essex became a massive star with a string of hits in the UK a mere few years after this work, and would be reunited with Jeff Wayne on "The War of the Worlds" project in both an acting and singing capacity (during which he seemed to suggest that he would be a President in some underground sewer community - which is inappropriate talk for a man who had previously promoted deodorant).  To think that it may have been due to this advert work that the pair met - platinum history created by underarm scent receptacles.

Sorry for the pops and clicks on the B-side.  This promotional single was pressed very quietly (apart from the announcer's thunderous but unenthusiastic declaration at the start, which sounds more like a terrible YouTube "mock") and it was very difficult to wipe out the surface noise without also removing some of the more subtle parts of the record.

22 February 2017

Jean Bouchety - Marley Purt Drive/ Portrait of Nancy

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1969

Major Minor is a label I tend to look for in second-hand racks quite often, because while it issued a lot of records of questionable merit (like all record labels) it does also have some perfectly good and relatively unheard and uncompiled sixties pop in its catalogue. So when I clocked the Gibb brothers credit on this record, I snapped it up quickly. Too quickly, really, as the original LP this was taken from ("The Rhythms, Sounds and Melodies Of...") retails at around half the price online.

Jean Bouchety is actually a French composer of numerous television and film soundtracks, and contributor to several library music LPs (including some issued by Burton music). So, this version of "Marley Purt Drive" is actually just a slick and swinging piece of easy listening with occasional cooing female vocals - the kind of thing you could stroll along Carnaby Street swinging your man-bag in time to, if anybody ever actually did or does that sort of thing.

It's actually rather nice, but not worth the money I paid for it, and while it is a very scarce 45 with few documented owners, sadly its obscurity hasn't hidden any mindblowing or even remotely odd interpretations of the Bee Gees work.  The lovely basslines and a careful arrangement mean it's not a total wash-out, however.  

18 February 2017

Rainbow Cottage - Cloppa Castle/ Take Good Care of My Love

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1978

Wigan's Rainbow Cottage were a rum bunch of coves - an band consisting entirely of left-handed members to begin with, they were a club act who toured the UK relentlessly and made most of their money as a covers band. However,  they did occasionally pop into recording studios to put out original material. Their most successful effort, "Seagull", reached number 33 in 1976, and was penned by Brian Gibbs of popsike wonders The Answers. 

It's possibly due to Gibbs' involvement that "Seagull" sounds uncannily like a late sixties group ballad which has somehow found itself in the charts in 1976. It's whimsical, gentle, contemplative and actually quite sweet, and wouldn't have been completely out of place on a "Circus Days" compilation LP. 

The group tried to build on the track's unlikely but modest success and failed, and continued to make most of their money from the live circuit. However, another opportunity for fame and fortune arose in 1978, namely the chance to record the theme tune for the stop motion animated children's series "Cloppa Castle", based on warring tribes in some peculiar fictional alternate reality battling over the rights to oil. 

The theme tune is a busy but datedly analogue synth driven beast, beginning with psychedelic phasing and steadily building into something both strident and ridiculous. "Everyday at three o'clock/ they all sit down for tea!" we are informed forcefully, as the group summarise the general activities of the puppets in the programme with passion and gusto. 

Is this intended for adult consumption? Probably not. Nonetheless, there are elements of the single which do, once again, echo the late sixties, and that's possibly not too surprising when you consider that Patrick Campbell-Lyons of the UK group Nirvana was involved with the songwriting (it would seem that Rainbow Cottage had a filofax filled with the contact details of everyone who was almost someone in the late sixties). With a slight, only passing similarity to the Crocheted Doughnut Ring's flop psych single "Happy Castle", it's a piece of dayglo silliness only a complete grump would hate. It wasn't a hit, obviously - and nor really was the programme it came from - but this is a perfectly nice burst of sunshine. 

Rainbow Cottage ploughed on through numerous line-up changes until 1987, when they decided to call it a day. 

12 February 2017

Rainbow Children - Rock 'n' Roll (Who Needs Rock 'n' Roll)/ (We Love Rock n'n Roll)

Label: Antic
Year of Release: 1974

Hello everyone. Sorry for the relative lack of updates on "Left and to the Back" over the last couple of weeks, but unfortunately I've been struck down with an eye infection which makes sitting down and researching and writing blog entries on top of my nine-to-five job very difficult. There's only so much staring at screens my vision can cope with at the moment, unfortunately. (It's nothing serious, by the way, but it is a pain in the arse - or a pain in the eyes at the very least).

Anyway, here's a glam rock oddity which slipped out in 1974 to some airplay but no chart action. Issued on Antic, the short-lived pop subsidiary of Atlantic Records, the A-side is a kiddy-fronted attempt at glam which seems to be using Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" as its blueprint. Unlike that record, however, it lacks the warmth of a Spector soundscape and instead sounds quite raw and beaty - not the kind of noise children's vocals work very well in tandem with, unless they're used in a really sneering, sarcastic way. Here, they're just a little bit too cute for their own good.

As a result, the flip (essentially Part Two of the track) is much better, and is even graffitied as being such by the previous owner. It's an instrumental glam guitar freak-out, and is something to slip on between your Lieutenant Pigeon records if you're DJ'ing at the local glam bop.

It looks as if the two men behind this record were Christian Paul and Marc Hammond, who don't seem to have any credits for anything else that was ever commercially released. This record was also issued in some European markets under the name Rock n Roll Children, but I'm not sure if it met with any more success there.

5 February 2017

Reupload - Three Good Reasons - Nowhere Man/ Wire Wheels

Three Good Reasons - Nowhere Man

Label: Mercury
Year of Release: 1966

Some time ago, I made a solemn vow not to upload any more Beatles covers to this blog unless there was an exceptional reason to do so, believing that far too many were just lazy xeroxes of the Fab's originals. However, bizarro novelty covers would be allowed, and so too would perfectly decent discs like this.

What the rather mysterious Three Good Reasons achieved with "Nowhere Man" is by no means radical, subversive or weird, but it is interesting. The vocals in the track are handled by female vocalist Ann McCormack, who brings a slightly spiteful, folksy tone to the proceedings. Whereas Lennon was largely writing about himself in a despondent fashion in the original but coyly buttering it up with pop melodies, Clegg sounds like a scolding finger-pointer here, which gives the track an abrasive edge it ordinarily lacks, foresaking vocal harmonies for a bit of grit. It takes a spark of originality to make a cover version sound like an enjoyable alternative to the original rather than a poor facsimile of the original, and Three Good Reasons are most definitely in the former camp here. "Nowhere Man" might not trump The Beatles, but it does strangely highlight how much they were influenced by Dylanesque folk rock by this point in their careers, and it does so in a pleasingly zippy, zinging way.

Three Good Reasons released two other singles - "Build Your Love" and "The Moment of Truth" - but never really achieved mainstream scucess. "Nowhere Man" was their best shot of the big-time, peaking at number 47, and as for where they are now, well... I'm afraid the answer is that they're nowhere (men) (and women) in the music business, unfortunately, although Ann did get in touch with me to say she still enjoys doing the odd karaoke spot.

1 February 2017

Roy Young Band - Granny's Got A Painted Leg/ Revolution

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1970

Roy Young is something of a showbiz trooper. His first taste of fame came through playing keyboards with the much-loved Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, and after that group's success dwindled, he also sessioned and played live for Long John Baldry, David Bowie, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson.

Prior to all that excitement, however, The Roy Young Band were formed, who also included Dennis Elliot (who later joined Foreigner). The group released two LPs on their own, "Roy Young Band" and "Mr. Funky", and also toured with Chuck Berry as his backing band.

If anyone is expecting a bit of rebel rousing rock and roll here, though, they're going to be rather surprised. As its absurd title hints, "Granny's Got A Painted Leg" is a complex, jazzy, brassy, thunderous piece of progressive pop, closer to Locomotive in style. Filled with unexpected twists and turns and frills, it certainly rocks, but in a particularly rambling way. I bet Bob Harris loved them.

Got to say, though, that after more than one listen "Granny" really starts to take a hold on me too. If on occasion it sounds a little too fussy for its own good, it certainly does swing, albeit in an unorthodox way. If the music of the likes of The Rebel Rousers had some sort of mainstream future in the seventies, this might have been what it would have sounded like - taking motorcycles down the winding woodland roads past the most interesting scenery, rather than Route 66.

29 January 2017

The Sad - It Ain't Easy/ Box

Label: Phoenix
Year of Release: 1991

You've probably already guessed from the very fact that I wrote about Starbuck's "Do You Like Boys" not long ago, but overtly gay glam rock fascinates me. You have to put it into historical perspective. Until 1967, homosexual activity was illegal in the UK. Glam rock may have arrived in the middle of a new, forward thinking decade, with more folk looking to the future as Noddy Holder suggested, but it was still a mere few years away from some rather heavy-handed bigotry. There were still plenty of intolerant, prudish, vinegary "silent majority" types on the prowl who might have in some instances accepted the ban on homosexual activity being lifted, but almost certainly still didn't want to hear from the people who "did that sort of thing".

Which makes singles like "Do You Like Boys" and this one, "It Ain't Easy", truly astonishing. David Bowie putting his arms around Mick Ronson on "Top of the Pops" could have been interpreted in a number of ways and shrugged off as an innocent matey gesture. This single, on the other hand, is upfront and blatant, and frankly couldn't give a fig.

Telling the tale of a married rock star who is incapable of remaining faithful to his wife, and happily sleeps with both men and women depending on which mood he's in, it's very daring for 1971. Of course, it's impossible not to feel a little sorry for his wife, though one can only assume that she was forewarned. If not, the issue of this single may have acted as a highly inappropriate public announcement. "It ain't easy for my wife to live with me!" declares the stadium chant chorus, while the singer backs this up with "There's always some young girl or even boy in sight/ and I don't care it's what I take home at night".

My copy pictured above is a test pressing, but this was officially issued on the small Phoenix label, and obviously sold very few copies indeed. A shame, but hardly really surprising. It apparently enjoyed support from Annie Nightingale at the time, but it would stun me if I learned that it picked up any breakfast radio or "drivetime" play on Radio One. While it's no lost classic, there's plenty to enjoy here, and it cuts a daring dash from start to finish.

As for who the intriguingly named The Sad were, the marvellous 70s glam and powerpop blog "Purepop" comes to our rescue once again, and informs us that they were Giorgio Uccellini on vocals, Terry Brown on bass, Stuart Wilson on drums, and Marco Uccellini on lead guitar and vocals.  An album was recorded but shelved due to Marco suffering a nervous breakdown, and the band seemed to have lost momentum thereafter. A shame, and it would be very interesting to hear what the album had to offer.

22 January 2017

Jon Ford - Ice Cream Song/ This Was The Time

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1969

John Bradford was already a veteran of the Wolverhampton music scene by the time this landed in the shops - originally a member of Brad Ford and the Sundowners alongside Dave Hill (later of Slade fame, if this really needed to be underlined!) he eventually rejected sharing fame with his bandmates for the temptations of a solo career. Renamed Eli Bonaparte by his keen manager and given a spot on "Top of the Pops" for his single "Never An Everyday Thing", his future seemed bright.

However, the record was withdrawn from the charts after suspicious buying patterns were noticed and hype was suspected. While "Never An Everyday Thing" is now occasionally regarded as an undeserved flop and one of the most frequently heard "buried" sixties records, the incident did him no favours. He changed his name again to Jon Ford and continued a hitless career.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a lot of the Jon Ford era recordings have since found a keen home at Northern Soul clubs, most especially "You've Got Me Where You Want Me" which was a regular Wigan spin. One listen to this flop cover version of The Dynamics "Ice Cream Song" should tell you that the man's voice was up to the task, however, and his taste in dramatic, uptempo R&B numbers made him a shoe-in for the soulies. 

Is it better than the original? Arguably not, but it's still a damn fine listen and his vocal delivery is almost blissful in places. A number of his singles command high prices these days, and indeed this one isn't usually especially cheap - however, as you can hear, mine was a cut-price offering due to heat damage near the start of the record. If you want to hear a clean version, YouTube is your friend.

18 January 2017

Reupload - Embassy Big 4 - Anyway Anyhow Anywhere/ Mr Tambourine Man

Label: Embassy
Year of Release: 1965

We've been here before, and regular readers will know the drill, but for the benefit of those of you who have just tuned into this blog... Embassy were a tireless label in the early sixties, churning out endless discs of session musicians covering the hits of the day. Their platters would then end up in the budget rack of Woolworths waiting to be purchased by punters who felt that their approximations of hit singles were affordable alternatives to the real thing. So infamous were their offerings that John Lennon even jokingly referenced the label as a possible home for The Beatles when their chances of getting signed seemed slim.

Like the "Top of the Pops" albums that followed them, Embassy recordings were a decidedly mixed bag, ranging from faithful interpretations to wayward messes. This "Big Four" EP is particularly absurd in that it contains two ballads and two counter-cultural anthems, so Gene Pitney's "Looking Thru The Eyes of Love" shares Side One with "Anywhere, Anyhow, Anywhere" by The Who, and Side Two pairs "Mr Tambourine Man" with Lulu's top ten ballad "Leave A Little Love". If ever you needed proof that such things as youth splinter groups and demographics hadn't been fully defined by 1965, here it is staring at you in the face.

"Left and to the Back" readers are likely to be more interested in "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" by The Who and "Mr Tambourine Man", and their interest will probably be inflated further still when they realise that neither version is particularly faithful. "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" is, in particular, a really interesting approximation due to the fact that Embassy studio band The Jaybirds clearly don't know what to do with The Who's sound. The drumming sounds primitive and punkish rather than copying Keith Moon's ambitious style, the lead vocals yelping, desperate and close to the style of Jim Sohns of The Shadows Of Knight (though don't get excited - I'm not suggesting it is him) and the feedback-heavy break of the original is replaced with something a bit more synthetic and measured. It sounds more like a bunch of teenagers in a garage trying to copy The Who, and whilst I doubt that's actually the case, it's a peculiar old listen to say the least. It doesn't top The Who's original, but something about the hollow, primal simplicity of it almost reminds me of The White Stripes, which is no bad thing at all.

Meanwhile, The Typhoons - a session band previously known to handle The Beatles material on Embassy, although I don't know if the personnel remained the same throughout all their recordings - battle with "Mr Tambourine Man". It's a fey, gentle take which sounds influenced more by English folk than the American folk rock scene that spawned The Byrds, sounding sleepy and contended rather than urgent, preaching and elated. Readers won't be in a hurry to replace The Byrds version on their iPods with this one, but once again the different approach is at least an interesting interpretation.

As for Terry Brandon's take on "Looking Through The Eyes of Love" and Sally Hyde's version of "Leave A Little Love" - I hate to be dismissive, but neither track really captured my imagination in the first place, so my opinions on these reinterpretations are unlikely to be balanced or fair. They're here for anyone who feels curious enough to hear them, though.

And I hate to say it, chaps, but sorry for the surface noise on some of these recordings. It's difficult to find Embassy records in Excellent condition, and what we've got is the best I can obtain at the moment.