31 May 2017

The Airwave Orchestra - Fourscore (I & II)























Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1982

It's possibly hard for the "kids of today" to understand, but back in 1982 the launch of Channel 4 as a new British television station was an incredibly big deal. While Cable television had been an experimental concept since 1972 in the UK, it was decidedly early days for the format, and most of us only had access to three stations. The introduction of a commercial alternative fourth analogue station seemed both bold and different, and the extra choice felt almost unfathomable at first.

Channel 4's four note station ident was composed by David Dundas - or more appropriately Lord Dundas these days to us mere mortals - a man who was at the time probably best known for his seventies hit "Jeans On". While that particular single was a radio airplay staple for some time (and was later sampled by Fatboy Slim) it was the Channel 4 ident that really paid Dundas a fortune in royalties. It's widely reported that each time the station played his very simple jingle, he received £3.50 in royalties, an enviable deal that saw him earning £1,000 a week until the station changed its design in 1996. That and his "Jeans" related pay-outs must have seen him earning more than most musicians with chart LPs, even at that cash-rich time for the music industry. Blimey, and indeed, let's have an extra "blimey" for good measure.

Channel 4 initially ran numerous promotional films of its shows to advertise itself to curious new viewers, and an extended version of the theme called "Fourscore" ran in the background. Really, it's a pseudo-classical tune which bases itself around the four-note jingle, and is only really good for a couple of spins before it gets rather boring. Why Polydor felt the need to launch it as a single in its own right is anyone's guess, but copies are quite rare now so it clearly didn't sell well. The first week of Channel 4's broadcasts saw frenzied media coverage, so it's possible that the label thought anything associated with the station would pick up some sales (though thank God a Richard Whiteley Countdown spin-off single wasn't in the offing).

As for Dundas, while he was blessed with a £1,000 per week guaranteed income, he was by no means entirely idle, working as an actor and scoring music for numerous films, most notably for 1987's cult classic "Withnail and I".



28 May 2017

Reupload - Willy Zango And The Mechanics - Hot Rod/ Goom


Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1973

Sometimes, just sometimes, rock thrills come from the dumbest of places.  For some people that might involve The Ramones thrashing away whilst throwing idiot slogans about the shop, for others that might be primal sixties garage rock, but in truth, the seventies glam rock movement had plenty of slack-jawed brilliance to spare too.

This one is no exception.  Consisting initially of a burst of engine noise then bursting into stomping rhythms, buzzing and swooping analogue synth noises and men who were probably old enough to know better chanting "Hot Rod! Hot Rod, Hot Rod!" incessantly like children on a themed day out at Silverstone racing track, it's like The Peppers' "Pepper Box" smashing into an Earl Brutus recording session.  The first time I heard this, I found myself completely involuntarily pumping my fist in the air.

Willy Zango or his Mechanics failed to chart with this, but there was a follow-up single on DJM entitled "The Voice of Melody" which had "Hot Rod" on its B-side.  Peculiarly, "The Voice of Melody" appeared to be a protest song against dance-orientated music and its invasion against lilting melodic sounds, but it barely contained any itself, consisting instead of pissed-off gravelly vocals and a dumb riff.  It also wasn't very good, unfortunately.

I suspect that actor, songwriter and performer Kaplan Kaye, the author and producer of both sides on offer here, is responsible for all this daftness.  Kaye seems to have penned many seventies discs under a number of bizarre guises (among them Puzzle and Bendy Dog) and perhaps more credibly co-wrote the song "If I Was President" which was recorded by Wyclef Jean.  Less credibly, but more amusingly from our point of view, he also played on the John McEnroe baiting novelty smash "Chalk Dust - The Umpire Strikes Back".

I'm more impressed with this than either of those tunes, however, and I'm incredibly glad this brilliant piece of absurdity got out of the traps.



24 May 2017

Offered With Very Little Comment #3 - Patricia Abigway, Johnny Spence Orchestra, Bob Britton, Toby, Glyn Poole

This is the third in an occasional series of singles I really can't find much to say about - either because the artists are difficult to trace, or the songs aren't overly rich or rewarding, or I just plain can't be bothered.

But rather than let those singles gather dust on a lonely shelf in my living room, or remain ripped to mp3 with nobody listening to them, I thought I'd treat you the readers to their delights.

This time round, there's Moogs, film soundtracks, Disco and popular but largely forgotten seventies child stars.



Artist: Patricia Abigway/ Solid Gold Orchestra
Title: "The Moon and I" b/w "The Moon and the Moog"
Label: Survival
Year of Release: 1975

First up, the a moog-riddled 1975 single on the independent Survival Records. This one is an ambitious Gilbert and Sullivan cover consisting of buzzing guitars, analogue synths and soulful musings. It didn't break through, however. I've no idea who Patricia Abigway was, but that's surely a pseudonym. 





Artist: Johnny Spence Orchestra/ Bob Britton
Title: "The Limbo Line" b/w "Here I Go Again"
Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1969

The 1968 film "The Limbo Line" seems to have evaporated from the collective memory banks of the Great British public, but was a Cold War thriller involving the ongoing battles against a series of defectors. 

Spark clearly thought it was a popular enough film to bother to issue this soundtrack single, however, which sold nish and isn't chanced upon all that often these days. It sounds exactly as you'd expect a 1968 Cold War spy thriller theme to sound, and comes with the easy listening ballad "Here I Go Again" on the flip (without seeing the film, I couldn't tell you how or where that fitted into the plot).






Artist: Toby
Title: "Lester Klaw"/ "We Just Wanna Dance"
Label: RAK
Year of Release: 1976

A RAK Disco single! Well, there's something you find every day. "Lester Klaw" has a strange and interesting title which suggests a dark and sinister groove, but in fact it's fairly run-of-the-mill. 






Artist: Glyn Poole
Title: "Sally Sunshine"/ "Sing A Happy Song"
Label: York
Year of Release: 1974

Glyn Poole was a seventies child star who regularly appeared on shows such as "Stars on Sunday" and "Junior Showtime", treating the public to his precocious talents. He apparently still performs to this day. 

"Sally Sunshine" is a well-meaning racially aware song about a young girl who stays cheerful despite the attitude of those in her bigoted neighbourhood. Quite a socially rich topic for a small child to take on as a song, then, though it possibly doesn't have the required effect as her life doesn't sound like a very bad thing after all. Racial abuse and reduced life opportunities? Ptfh! Accept your lot with a skip and a grin, kids, and don't grumble. 


23 May 2017

Another Earl Haig Jumble Sale

Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 28th May, and I'll be there with Jody "John The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning on the decks while you shop around.

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's roast dinners next door, lots of booze (but none of it for free, who do you think we are?) and the chance to lounge around on sofas and socialise. It's the perfect way to lounge around on a Sunday bank holiday weekend.

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 28th May, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

A follow up event is planned for the same venue on 25th June. 

21 May 2017

Fabulous Wealthy Tarts - The Last Time/ The Chase Is On
























Label: Bright
Year of Release: 1983

I was watching "Top of the Pops" on BBC4 a few weeks back, and Paul Young appeared to perform "Come Back and Stay" with his backing group The Royal Family. There were two surprises to be enjoyed in that nostalgic televisual package. The first was that "Come Back And Stay" was a far better single than I remembered it - maudlin, eerie, slightly angular and as unusual as a mainstream, bluesy pop track can get away with being. The second surprise was the camera panning round on to the backing singers, one of whom I remembered having a weird childhood crush on. "Didn't they actually have a single out of their own?" I asked Twitter.

And here we are. Kim Lesley and Maz Roberts were singers not just for Paul Young, but also as participating members of Jools Holland and His Millionaires. Finding that their career as session voices for hire wasn't delivering everything they wanted out of life, they broke away to record this single. It's unsurprising that they were given the opportunity - they stood out visually, having an in-your-face, fun-loving, camera-friendly image which ensured that they hogged almost as much screen time as Mr Young when they appeared with him.

The small Bright label picked up the tab and let them in the studio to record this, a cover of The Rolling Stones "Last Time". In common with a vast array of other sixties covers in the eighties, this takes the minimal riffs of the original and gives them a rigid, staccato synth pop backing. This may have worked once for Soft Cell's take on the Northern Soul smash "Tainted Love", but for other contenders (including Tik and Tok's "Summer In The City" and Glass Museum's "Daytripper", and Naked Eyes "Always Something There To Remind Me" - though that was, to be fair, a hit in some countries) it proved fruitless, and this was no exception. Not helped by the fact that the prissy BBC took exception to the group name Fabulous Wealthy Tarts and apparently refused to play it, "Last Time" sank faster than the gumboots of a man foolishly trying to cross the Thames Estuary by foot at low tide.

As to whether it deserved that fate, judge for yourself. In common with many of Paul Young's covers, it's a complete reboot, taking the raw stomp of the original and replacing it with laser-eyed modernity.  When people take risks and attempt complete rewrites of songs rather than performing mere bog-standard covers, it's usually to be applauded. In my considered opinion, though, tracks like "The Last Time" mainly work because they're so gritty and grimy sounding in the first place - as soon as you scrub them clean and remove that aggressive swing, what you're left with is very polished, precise repetition with little atmosphere. The pair try to take the song in interesting new directions, but ultimately it's too bluesy and slight to be up to the challenge.

They never did release another single, but returned to their other duties instead. As for the woman I had a strange "Top of the Pops" crush on, she (Maz Roberts) entered a relationship with Paul Young's bass master Pino Palladino, and eventually married him. Who could blame her? He managed to create noises I never could summon from the depths of my bass guitar, and he also had the distinct advantage of not being an incredibly underage boy, thereby enabling her to have a normal relationship which wouldn't involve being placed on the sex offender's register. But he's still a git anyway.



17 May 2017

Ryder - Ain't That Nice/ Sugar Mama



Label: Cube Records
Year of Release: 1974

Once again, I'm sorry to tell you that I haven't a clue who Ryder were (or Ryder is, assuming that it's the name of a person rather than a group). I'm absolutely positive they weren't the same Ryder who represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986, though... and nor is it Steve Ryder who rather confusingly also had a different record out called "Ain't That Nice".  Beyond that, I have no information to give you. 

A shame, because "Ain't That Nice" is a smooth and cocksure bit of rock 'n' funk which slithers around your turntable like a conga eel. Seemingly dealing with one particular gentleman's unfortunate experiences with the ladies, it's a very simple but highly funky piece of work which has never really picked up much recognition from collectors. While nothing about it screams "hit single", it's a strong and sultry release which deserves better than the low price tags it's been going for.

If you know who was responsible for this record - and I suspect it may have been a studio aggregation rather than a proper group as such - please do let me know. 



14 May 2017

Reupload - Wes Minster Five - Sticks and Stones/ Mickey's Monkey



Label: Carnival
Year of Release: 1964

The London blues and R&B scene is the stuff of beat legend these days, and people of my generation have only hearsay to go by.  Still, irrespective of how many obscure fringe acts were allegedly the best live bands in the world, we all know for a fact that there were endless pubs and clubs in the capital having bands playing approximations of authentic American sounds in their sweaty, smoky basement rooms. Some of these (The Rolling Stones) would go on to success of the kind that doesn't need to be emphasised, while others had to content themselves with cultish levels of appreciation.  

The Wes Minster Five were a regularly gigging unit around the London bar and club scene, and are really seldom discussed on any level these days.  Part of the problem may be that they were signed to an uber-obscure independent label without much clout, and another issue may be the fact that their recordings, while good, lack the abrasion and bite of The Pretty Things or The Birds.  Still, what we have here are two enjoyable cuts, either of which could have happily taken the A-side spot.  "Sticks and Stones" is a nice, stomping cover of the R&B classic, and "Mickey's Monkey" incorporates call and response vocals with hand clapping and a nagging enthusiasm, and nearly rips up the joint.  Both tracks have come under some criticism from aficionados for giving two respected songs a British beat production, but that, I'm afraid, was the name of the game at the time.  Very few British bands were able to ape the American styles 100% successfully (and what, indeed, would be the point of creating replicas in the studio anyway?) so putting their own blueprint on the tracks was fairly standard practice.

Consisting of Clive Burrows on sax, Dave Greenslade on keyboards, John Hiseman on drums, Brian Smith (aka Wes Minster) on guitar, Tony Reeves on bass and Paul Williams on vocals, the line-up was completed by chance purely due to Williams' connection with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames - a fan and regular attendee of their Flamingo Club gigs, he managed to convince the outfit to allow him to occasionally get on stage and sing songs with them, and eventually Fame put him in touch with the other musicians who were in the process of putting an act together.  The band are particularly notable for giving the Zoot Money's Big Roll Band two of its future members in Williams and Burrows.

Williams remains a practicing musician to this day, having worked with the likes of John Mayall and Juicy Lucy over the years, as well as gigging as a part of ensemble touring acts and as a solo artist.  You can call me soft if you want, but it always brings a bit of cheer to my heart to be able to finish a blog entry talking about a musician's continued activity.

[Update - Terry Webster - the actual lead vocalist for this group - got in touch with me to correct some details! 

"Aw! TERRY WEBSTER IS THE SINGER AND BASS PLAYER OF THESE TRACKS! Jim Ellis Drums Clive Burrows sax Paul Raymond - organ (later of Plastic Penny) Wes Minster guitar.
Wrong line up I'm afraid. Putting the world to rights before I die..

We were involved with Wes(Brian)Minster performing on the R&B circuit.We did sessions for Blue Beat label Carnival Records backing various West Indian Artistes that would be sold on Portobello Road and other London Market stalls.
It was all one take stuff, and Sticks and Stones had a dodgy wobble on the intro due to some studio or manufacturing slip up. I imagine a guy resting against the mastering equipment lighting a fag...Whoops! The producer apologised but I suppose as it was only a B side and a bit quirky they decided to leave it there.

I'm not aware that Carnival Records did anything outside the London West Indian/Carribean community. The producers seemed happy enough with their small exclusive Blue Beat market. I remember we did a session for a great character named Little Satch. A singer so named as he was little and played a trumpet but quite badly tuned. The producer only helped to tune it to a point as the track would lose that raw flavour."


Thanks to Terry for giving an accurate line-up and putting this matter to rest. 


10 May 2017

John Bryant - Tell Me What You See/ Poor Unfortunate Me



Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1965

We've touched on the work of John Bryant on this blog before, examining the ultra-obscure (£162 to you, squire) single "A Million Miles Away/ It's Dark", which was handed down to me from my parent's record collection. 

That particular single is a likeable and folky piece of work, with (as one reader pointed out to me) a flip that's very reminiscent of Cat Stevens. This single, however, was Bryant's Fontana debut and is an entirely different affair, being a distorted, snarling piece of folk-rock with distinctly Dylan leanings. Taking a very basic garage riff and piling surrealist lyrics on top ("clouds that move beneath the sea/ preachers dressed in leather") it's so beatnik it hurts - and is actually quite forward thinking for a British solo artist in 1965. Donovan might already have been around doing his best Bobby impressions, but he was seldom as rough and ready as this.

This may have been his (flop) debut single, but John Bryant actually enjoyed a long career in music after this, issuing further 45s for MCA, Polydor and Private Stock (the MCA single "I Bring The Sun" is a favourite of many collectors) only really ceasing recorded activities in 1978. He also wrote "Dear Old Mrs Bell" for The Shadows in 1968, and Cliff Richard recorded his track "She's a Gypsy".
These days he owns Abbeywood Films and the graphic design, animation and soundtrack firm Bryant Whittle, from where he's still penning music for commercial use.



7 May 2017

Steve Elgin - Don't Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear)/ Seductress



Label: Dawn
Year of Release: 1974

Regular readers of this blog have probably gathered that I'm fascinated by the extreme camp edges of glam rock and seventies pop. Well, Simon Gitter certainly did, because back in February he actually dropped me a line to bring this record to my attention. "Have you heard this one before?" he asked - and no, I most certainly hadn't. 

"Don't Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear)" is so camp and flamboyant that it would possibly make the corpse of Joe Orton blush. Filled to the brim with pub piano riffs, flirtatious gay remarks, a leg-kicking knees-up "Ain't She Sweet" interlude and a distinctly unsettling feel, it's like some kind of early seventies pop pantomime. Its appearance on the Dawn imprint of Pye is particularly baffling, as the point of that label was to showcase the more hippyish and progressive of Pye's signings, and while this could be described as "progressive" in the societal sense of the word, it certainly isn't otherwise. This is pure novelty pop with a twist.

The B-side "Seductress" is much more conventional, though equally flamboyant and dramatic in places. 

As for Elgin, he hailed from Bath in Somerset but moved to London in the early seventies which is where he first graced the public with live performances. This was his only release (but what a release!) and I have no information on his whereabouts these days. 



3 May 2017

Jon Isherwood - Old Time Movies/ Apple Pie



Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1969

You may remember that way back in those heady, summery, olde worlde days of August 2016 I uploaded Mike Quinn's version of "Apple Pie" to this blog. It's worth a read if it passed you by at the time, purely and simply because "Apple Pie" strikes me as representing something of a turning point in the general perception of The Beatles among their showbiz peers. In the early sixties, the group were lionised by other musicians, but by the end of the decade the piss-taking had set in as some dared to suggest that they were rather silly boys with highfalutin ideas. 

As I state on that blog entry, the emergence of the Apple boutique was a heavenly gift not just to hippy thieves, but also satirists: "Opened up as a boutique-come-talent-funding-facility-come-technological-research-lab-come-record-label-come-hippy-commune-come-whatever-the-hell-was-in-the-Fabs-heads-that-given-day, the business gullibility of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr became grimly apparent now Epstein was no longer around to keep watch. While many clothes and valuable items were stolen from the boutique by anarchic hippies, the Fabs apparently also funded some "interesting" artistic research schemes which went nowhere. The person responsible for most of this work gets highly litigious when they're mentioned anywhere, so for the sake of a quiet and uncomplicated life, let's just say that nobody can really remember whether The Beatles were promised a large quantity of Electric Paint from somebody working for them or not, or a Special Invisible Security Force Field - what we do know is that many rumours have cropped up over the years insisting that they did. And even if those rumours aren't true, they paint a very interesting picture of other's perceptions of the organisation at that time. There's no question that Apple leaked money from seemingly every department and squandered a large part of the fortune The Beatles had built up. Apple had always sounded like a tremendously utopian idea, and unfortunately it's these businesses - in the media, technology, the arts or elsewhere - which tend to hit Earth at a very rapid velocity, whatever the wealth or good intentions of their original owners."

So "Apple Pie", later compiled on the "Circus Days" compilation series issued by Strange Things, and still commercially available on the usual sites, goes for the jugular, pointing out the sheer preposterousness of the Fabs and their hangers-on. I can't include it in full here due to the fact that you can nip over to your local friendly internet music store and get yourself a copy for less than a pound, but suffice to say Isherwood's original version is the definitive one for me, full of scorn and vinegar, and packed with music hall styled silly voices mirroring both the Fab's own media obsessions and the comedic nature of their own lives at this point. Isherwood apparently had strong feelings about Apple due to a short-lived association with them which bore no fruit (no pun intended). According to the "Pompey Pop" blog, he even kept a cheque signed by George Harrison rather than cashing it, purely because he figured out that the paltry sum in the total box was worth less than the man's signature.

While "Apple Pie" has probably become Isherwood's best known track to people who aren't folk music buffs, the man was in fact one of Portsmouth's top folk singers and songwriters, producing two LPs in the seventies ("A Laughing Cry" on Decca, and "A Bellyful Of Isherwood" for Sweet Folk And Country in 1974). Rather like Connolly and Carrott, Isherwood was a tall tale telling folk performer during this period, whose natural rapport with his audiences also lead to some attention on the comedy circuit, although not to the extent that those two stars managed.

The A-side here, a cover of Hammond and Hazlewood's "Old Time Movies", has also been neglected. It's a rinky-dink piece of sixties music hall mania which hasn't been compiled anywhere perhaps primarily because it doesn't cross the line from "Quite good" to "unquestionably worthy of your attention" - but still, fans of "Apple Pie" will want to know what it took second billing to, and it's certainly a likeable listen. The Beatles old label Parlophone clearly didn't warrant it good enough to give him a second try, however, and it remains his sole release for them.

As for what Isherwood is up to now, I'm sorry to report that he died at least twenty years ago, but towards the end of his life in the nineties he upped sticks from Pompey to move to Moate in Ireland where he became a regular folk performer and much-loved character in the town.

I've only included a brief excerpt of "Apple Pie" below - if you really want to hear it in full for nowt, YouTube is your friend.