18 March 2018

Lucas Sideras - Rising Sun/ One Day

Glorious piece of late psychedelia from former Aphrodite's Child drummer.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1972

This isn't an extremely rare recording as such. It was released all around Europe (and indeed Lebanon!) largely on the strength of Lucas Sideras' prior stint with Greek rock Gods Aphrodite's Child. British copies, on the other hand, are as rare as hen's teeth, to the extent that many discographers until recently assumed that this was never officially released over here - so I'm a bit bemused about how this one fell into my hands without me really trying. Call it good luck. 

I may be bemused but I'm also delighted. The A-side here is actually "One Day", which is a cuddly piece of contemplative, semi-acoustic pop. It's the B-side that really knocks my socks off, though. "Rising Sun" is a shimmering, rattling piece of psychedelic pop with some wonderfully convincing yet simple guitar lines. Fizzing over with optimism and a driving momentum, it's wasted by being buried away on the flip, although a longer version did emerge on Lucas's debut LP "End of the World".

While he would go on to release other records on the continent, so far as I'm aware Polydor didn't try to push him on the British again. His records sold moderately well elsewhere, and he eventually settled into a successful production career, before forming the group Ypsilon in 1977 and the blues rock band Diesel in 1987. He still occasionally records and releases solo material to this day.

14 March 2018

Happy Magazine - Who Belongs To You/ Beautiful Land

Bouncy ska-influenced pop from Newcastle band managed and produced by Alan Price.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1969

Happy Magazine were a highly reckoned group in the late sixties. With fellow Newcastle boy Alan Price acting as their manager, and even contributing songs - their debut single "Satisfied Street" was also penned by him - they certainly had a valuable mentor to steer them through pop's choppy waters. 

The fact that their singles are still reasonably easy to find these days would appear to indicate that they didn't flop as badly as some records on Polydor during this period (I've mentioned on Twitter before now that some of Polydor's singles from the 66-69 period are so scarce I have to wonder if they even sold more than fifty copies). Despite this, they certainly weren't chart hits either, and that feels a bit unjust under the circumstances. In this case, "Who Belongs To You" bounces along as neatly and nicely as one of Price's own compositions from the same period. Possibly the fact that the group felt the need to add "(Ooby Dooby Doo)" in brackets after the song title put some punters off; it's certainly something that caused me to nearly not buy this record, fearing some incredibly trite bubblegum sound. 

The flipside here is a fairly mediocre slice of twee popsike which was recently compiled on to the "Piccadilly Sunshine" series of compilation albums, and remains commercially available. You can hear it on YouTube if you're really interested, but it's a simple, child-like tune which probably won't do much to squeegee your third eyeball. 

The group consisted of Kenny Craddock on organ, Pete Kirtley on guitar, Alan Marshall on vocals and Alan White on drums. This was their last single, and the instrumental talent in the group walked off to form Griffin who released the "I Am The Noise In Your Head" single later in the same year. Craddock and White then joined Ginger Baker's Airforce when Griffin failed to cause many record buyers to part with their pennies.

11 March 2018

Reupload - Mad Hatters - Humphrey Song

Stomping novelty glam rock about demonic drinking straws stealing milk - or something like that.

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1976

He'd never believe it - and I suspect even if he did find out, he wouldn't care much - but the songwriter Mike Batt is indirectly responsible for two things that traumatised me as a child. The first and obvious thing would be the Wombles. Not the fictional litter-gathering characters who I liked, but their incarnation as a musical group. As a three year old child in a Butlins holiday camp, four towering men in Womble costumes gathered around me for a perfect photo opportunity. Seeing these fat, giant, Pete Townshend-nosed furballs stood behind me, glaring with vacant eyes in a manner I took to be menacing, I burst into floods of tears and had to be taken out of the room.

Then, Humphrey the phantom milk-drinker. Jesus Christ. You can talk to people of a certain generation about these adverts and they'll stare at you blankly - who? What? But they were the stuff of appalling darkness to me at the same age. In the adverts, Humphrey is an unseen force, never in camera shot, who steals milk from various surprised or terrified celebrities. Sometimes his emergence would be met with a booming, bellowing "He's behind you!" The fact that Humphrey was never visible caused me to conclude that this was a horrible, Triffid-type monster. I visualised a giant, striped, snaking straw, coiled and ready to strike, slithering into rooms and strangling people before sucking the milk bottles from their fridge dry. Again, tears emerged from my eyes and I had to be taken to a safe place in the house. Thanks a fucking lot, Mike Batt (though to be fair to the songsmith, he only came up with the tunes for these horrible creatures, I doubt he was behind the concept, or my own warped mind's visualisation of the unseen).

I didn't realise that there was a glam rock Humphrey single released to coincide with the adverts, although it's safe to say that only a particularly cruel adult in my house would have considered buying it for me as a gift. On top of a thudding beat and a honking Soho sax, things only get more mysterious. "Though Humphreying is against the law/ they'll Humphrey a bit then Humphrey some more" Batt warns us. "Hey they don't need no reason!/ Hey baby, this is the Humphrey season!" he adds, while a sinister, prolonged psychedelic Floydish whisper hisses "Humphreeeeeyyyy!" in the background. Absurdity and anarchy abounds. I didn't know Humphreys had seasons, or that there were specific laws against the very act of Humphreying itself.

There's no reason why this shouldn't have been a hit. The adverts were very well-known and popular (with everyone except me), Batt's original jingle was familiar to all and a huge factor behind their success, and the track is enough fun to be worth more than the usual couple of plays most novelty singles end up being granted. Doubtless the BBC were reluctant to playlist something so closely linked to a major ITV advertising campaign, and it failed to pick up attention elsewhere. But it could be that I'm biased - while you're probably hearing a very innocent glam ditty, I'm actually hearing bleak, monstrous terror and cow-juice drinking chaos. This track has enough darkness to it to never be pure 'novelty pop' to me. Do indeed watch out, people.

Sorry I couldn't include the ballad on the B-side in this upload, but it's absolutely scratched beyond use on my copy, I'm afraid.

7 March 2018

Julie Stevens - After Haggerty/ A Long Way From Home

Theatrical folkiness from - I presume - the Avengers actress and future Play School presenter

Label: Trend
Year of Release: 1971

It's an absurdly scarce record, this one, being the final single the tiny Trend label managed to put out before being compulsorily wound up in the High Court. Suffice to say, while it did get an official release, it seems unlikely that many copies were distributed or sold.

It's an interesting little single which really doesn't sound like chart-bound material, to be honest, so it's highly unlikely it would have turned the label's fortunes around. I assume that Julie Stevens is the singer and actress who also starred in The Avengers and eventually became a presenter on Play School and Playaway, and the track itself begins with a subtle jazzy backdrop as Stevens' theatrical vocal performance begins to build. It gradually becomes a strident march before dropping back into its original hushed performance, which is lyrically riddled with literary references.

The early seventies were awash with sophisticated, confidently performed and orchestrally arranged solo discs of this nature, but very few of them actually sold well, and "After Haggerty" is one of the more obscure examples. Whether you enjoy it or not will depend entirely on your feelings on such material, but Stevens' performance certainly showed that she could have cut it as a serious solo artist (and certainly West End musical star) if need be. So far as all that was concerned, she managed one more single on MCA ("Tally Man") before calling it quits. 

4 March 2018

Cinnamon - So Long Sam/ Broken Hearted Me Evil Hearted You

Sprightly girl-pop from the pen of singer-songwriter Barbara Ruskin.

Label: President
Year of Release: 1969

Barbara Ruskin has become something of a collectible artist these days, with her singles commanding enough interest for the compilation "A Little Bit Of This" to have been issued on CD. Her range throughout the sixties was certainly incredible, seeing her attempting stomping Motown styles, Carnaby Street pop, popsike, and delicate folksy material. 

Born in East London in 1948, she became a determined and eager performer, hustling deals along Denmark Street. She was one of the very few female singer-songwriters on the circuit at one point in the sixties, and between 1965-72 managed to issue a whopping seventeen singles as a result of her tenacity, none of which charted. In 1969 she even penned the track "Gentlemen Please" for the Eurovision Song Contest, but the evening's vote was not on her side, and Lulu ended up performing the rather more simplistic "Boom Bang A Bang" instead. 

Her songwriting activity also saw two singles placed with fellow female solo artist Cinnamon. The first, "You Won't See Me Leaving", was issued by Beacon Records in 1968, and the second and final effort "So Long Sam" fell into record shops in July the following year. Neither sold well, and both are fairly difficult to track down these days.

"So Long Sam" is a sprightly, airy track with a driving beat behind it and a careful pop arrangement. What's interesting about this is that it differs quite a lot from Ruskin's original demo, which is a slower and more reflective piece of work (and is actually a bit better for it). Cinnamon's interpretation punches its fist in the air to celebrate the end of a relationship, whereas the demo clearly explores the bittersweet possibilities.

For my money - and it is my money - the flipside here is more successful, sounding like the kind of thing that might light up retro dancefloors on a good night. Filled with a buoyant and faintly Northern Soul-esque orchestral arrangement, it has attitude and heartbreak to spare. Only a slightly rigid arrangement stops it from truly flying to its full potential.

I have no idea who Cinnamon actually was, and if anyone can enlighten me I'd be grateful. Some have speculated that Cinnamon were a performing group who had Ruskin among their number, but the sleeves for their/her Dutch and Italian releases show pictures of a leggy woman with a brunette pixie haircut. I'm slightly confused and I suspect I'm not the only one.

Ruskin, on the other hand, continued her career as a singer-songwriter until 1972 before packing up her acoustic guitar and moving on to other things.

Sorry about the surface noise on these mp3s, readers. I did the best I could.

28 February 2018

The Langleys - Green Island/ You Know I Love You

Brother-sister duo from Belfast with pretty beat pop. 

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1965

The Langleys were Jerry Langley and Mary Perpetual Langley from Belfast who both enjoyed rich and varied careers, whether as part of the duo, or as solo artists. 

"Green Island" was their first crack at the big time, and as a duo is certainly their biggest selling single, even if it failed to chart. This isn't particularly surprising - despite its fluffy naiveté, it's nonetheless a touching and deftly performed song about their native country. The frothy chorus may have some readers reaching for their sickbags, but for me it stops just short of being saccharine and sounds like exactly what it probably is; two teenagers who have yet to become too weary and cynical about the world performing a very pretty track.

The flip "You Know I Love You" is a bit more credible, being a slice of faintly soulful beat pop which was penned by the male half of the duo. Both sides are aided by very effective, but uncredited, arrangements.

Of the pair, Mary - or "Perpetual" as she was occasionally more commonly known - went on to have the most successful recording career, scoring contracts with both Shel Talmy's Planet label and CBS. Her recording of "Surrender" with its Talmy production is frequently heralded as her best piece of work, and while she never managed to score a proper hit, her performances were always very strong indeed. With a bit more luck, and perhaps more care with her promotion, there's every possibility she would have had a more prominent career.

Sadly, she died in an accident in 1988 at the age of 38, apparently at a point in her life where another record contract seemed likely. Her brother Jerry went on to pen "Ask Any Woman", which was one of Sandie Shaw's possible songs for the "Eurovision Song Contest" in 1968, and is still active as a musician. 

24 February 2018

Reupload - Austin Van Driver and the Morrismen - Salt & Vinegar

Chirpy 70s cockney punk-pop about everyone's favourite chippy condiments. 

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.

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 credible influences of Madness and Ian Dury 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, as well as work for Slaughter and the Dogs and The Fall.  This particular single is probably stylistically halfway between Brian & Michael and The Buzzcocks, and as bizarre as you'd expect given that.

21 February 2018

Chuckles - Never/ Painting The Day

Tightly arranged and performed 60s pop from Mancs featured on "Piccadilly Sunshine"

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1969

Chuckles - or "The Chuckles" as they were known prior to the late sixties - were a powerful gigging band with a solid reputation in the Manchester area. Starting off as a soul group and gradually evolving into a slick pop style, they were known for their highly competent cover versions, including an apparently impressive live take on the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" (which I'd have been very curious to hear).

They were signed to Polydor in 1966 after a rep from that company spoke to their manager on the phone while he was present at one of their gigs, and heard the wild audience applause in the background. This must surely count as one of the few group signings done on the basis of overheard noise over a phone call. While Polydor didn't regret the deal and put out "Three Short Days", the single completely flopped, and they were cut loose for awhile, only to re-emerge on CBS for two singles in 1968.

"Never" was their last shot at a hit, and is very smartly arranged and smoothly delivered, filled with warm vocal harmonies and bright, brassy sounds. While it failed to perform much better in terms of sales, it's since picked up some keen admirers online, and the flip side "Painting The Day" has become commercially available again thanks to an appearance on the "Piccadilly Sunshine" compilation series. For that reason we can't include it for download here, but head over to YouTube if you want to hear more.

There's also a section on the "Manchester Beat" website giving much more information on the group's line-up and history. 

18 February 2018

The Learning Process - Who Killed Carol? (EP)

Superb atmospheric eighties alternative rock.

Label: Bucket
Year of Release: 1988

In the public's rush to buy all manner of obscure self-released/ indie records from the eighties, it's often staggering how little sense the prices on the collector's market make. You can expect to pay three figure sums for some frankly uninspiring generic pieces of gloomy bedroom No Wave, and then records like this sell for under ten pounds.

"Who Killed Carol?" is exactly thirty years old this month, and enters sounding like a slice of common-or-garden harmony driven folk music, and gradually builds, sweeping across a monochromatic landscape which grows more dramatic as jangly guitars join icy synths, pounding drums and hollering vocals. Stylistically, it owes as much a debt to Talk Talk as it does to The Smiths, meaning The Learning Process ultimately end up falling between the cracks of mid-eighties indie and the more dramatic, adventurous elements of post-punk.

The EP in general shows a group much more interested in meandering atmospherics than classic, catchy pop, which will alienate probably as many readers as it attracts. Track 3 "From The Outside In" sounds pleasingly vast, whereas the final track "My Greatest Fears" combines a propulsive, industrial drive with delicate, ever-shifting arrangements and keening vocals. Staggeringly, I've stumbled across bands in London venues in recent years who sound exactly like this - The Learning Process sound surprisingly current for a band of such a vintage.

The sleeve lists the band's membership as Dermot O'Dea on guitar and vocals, Brian Hoyle on drums, Alan MacLardy on Keyboards, John Kerslake on guitars and Martin Gilbert on bass guitar. The EP was recorded at the Suite 16 studios in Rochdale, so it's fair to assume the band were probably local. There appear to have been no follow-ups, and beyond that, I know nothing - but thanks to all of them for producing such fine piece of work. It's a shame we didn't get to hear much more.

14 February 2018

The Clown - He Was A Singer/ Rock n Roll Man

Falsetto singing clown with a rather bombastic tune. Don't ask me. 

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1977

While my curiosity was tweaked by the seller claiming that this was a "glam rock" record (don't get excited - it's not), I have to admit I really bought it on the strength of the sleeve. Just look at that clown. See his moody, masculine gaze, staring out into the middle distance, beyond the flaps of the big top, out into a world where he could be a super singing star... it's both absurd, amusing and slightly frightening all at the same time (and it might even feed into the fantasies of anyone out there with a clown fetish).

The track itself is a melodramatic piece of orchestral bombast with vocals that occasionally veer into a high falsetto. "He is a winner/ but sometimes a sinner/ THE CLOWN... he's the fire/ we are the flame... THE CLOWN" the singer informs us somewhat disturbingly. Melodically, it pushes closely towards "Delilah" and the soundtrack to a seventies disaster film. If this doesn't bring lots of images of the BBC Testcard into your mind's eye, or weird incidents in the middle of "The Poltergeist", you're a stronger person than I.

The flip "Rock N Roll Man" is a bit of rock and roll bar-room boogie which is surprisingly mid-paced and gentle and lacks the kind of dynamism you'd expect given the title.

I have absolutely no idea who "The Clown" was, apart from perhaps a metaphor for showbusiness and the deep, dark depression behind the jokes and gags of the humble circus entertainer. This appears to have been his only single, and so far as I can ascertain it was only released in Germany. If anyone has any more information, they know what to do.

11 February 2018

Reupload - The Daytonas - Faster Gimpo Faster Kill! Kill! Kill!

Bill Drummond & Zodiac Mindwarp produce a very convincing 60s surf rock record.

Label: Kalevala
Year of Release: 1997

Some time ago, you may remember me talking about Zodiac Mindwarp and Bill Drummond of the KLF collaborating on a project in Finland consisting entirely of imaginary bands releasing one-off singles in limited runs of 500 copies on the here-today-gone-tomorrow label Kalevala records.  I have already written about one of these items, Dracula's Daughter's "Candy", and I was absolutely staggered to see this one turn up in a local charity shop for £1 recently. Obscure limited edition singles with links to the KLF don't just turn up in thrift stores with dismissive price tags attached, after all - that's the stuff of fantasies, like Beach Boys acetates being left on garden walls.

It's an especially thrilling turn-up for the books as this is one of the prime cuts of Drummond's last real music industry folly.  While some of these Kalevala singles trough into mediocrity or just plain silliness, "Faster Gimpo Faster Kill! Kill! Kill!" is a spot-on parody of early sixties surf guitar music, featuring throttling guitar riffs, a squeaking organ, a stripped back drum kit, dramatic flourishes and hollering backing vocals akin to the Red Army Choir.  Only the stereo mix betrays the modern origins of the record and makes it sound like a nineties rather than sixties construction, the roughness and rawness of the sound is in all other respects perfect.  If this were an actual obscure sixties record, there's no question it would have made it on to this blog on its own merits.

The B-side, on the other hand, isn't a proper remix as one might suspect but the original track overloaded with sixties studio effects.  Even Joe Meek would have stopped short of calling it a good idea.

As for why the Kalevala project existed in the first place, Drummond is oddly forthcoming in his book "45": "The fact was, none of these bands existed anywhere but in our imagination.  Mind you, that's where all great bands exist. Being in a band or into a band is all about building, living out and worshipping (or loathing) a myth.  Doing it this way, Z and I were safe from confusing our various alter egos with our real selves".  

He goes on further: "When people ask me, 'Don't you miss the music business, Bill?' I try to tell them that the music business is about making unsuccessful bands successful.  Successful bands by their very definition are as interesting as packets of cornflakes.  No, it's strange, weird, fucked-up, unsuccessful pop music I dig.  Deluded pop music that wants to be successful and can't understand why it isn't…. records from places far away, by people who have no understanding of how things work in the worlds of London or LA but think they do. Records with crap sleeves".  

Perfect sentiments for this blog, really.

8 February 2018

The New Survivors - Pickle Protest/ But I Know

Odd 60s garage rock record referencing the protest movement. 

Label: Scepter
Year of Release: 1968

Here's a bit of a mystery. This 1968 garage rock record has a sparse organ-driven arrangement and a southern USA accented lead vocal, and appears to be referring to the protest movement and trying not to get itself into a tizz about the fact that "Red China's got the bomb". We are urged quite strongly that one way of not getting ourselves into too much of a panic about the world ending might be to just move our "happy feet".

I can't argue with that, really, since this attitude is what has made most popular music such a powerful force for time immemorial, through wars, recessions, and general uncertainty, but the lead singer's continual hiccups of laughter throughout - which sound like an accident initially, but are clearly staged - make me think this whole affair is a bit of a piss-take. It's intriguing, and quite catchy, and presumably made a lot more sense in 1968 than it does now and was possibly referencing a specific incident ("What is a 'pickle protest' anyway?" you might ask, and I can't help you there).

The B-side "But I Know" is a much more serious and soulful ballad which is actually a preferable listen for me. When I originally ripped these sides to mp3, I had to double-check my sources to check that "Pickle Protest" definitely was the original plug side - and it would seem that was the case.

It apparently picked up quite a bit of airplay in some US states, but wasn't a hit as a result, and The New Survivors seemingly didn't go on to record anything else. I've no idea who they were, but if anyone can enlighten me, I'd be grateful.

4 February 2018

Bill Oddie - I Can't Get Through/ Because She Is My Love

A serious crack at a conventional pop hit from Oddie, and it's a moody delight.

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1966

Bill Oddie is, it's safe to say, mostly famed for two things - one is The Goodies, the other his birdwatching activities. He's also been no slacker on either front, given that The Goodies is one of those strangely under-rated shows which deserves more repeats than it gets, and his outspoken views on wildlife conservation show that his other passion goes far beyond mere hobbyism.

However, Oddie's musical chops have been rather under-explored. This is possibly because The Goodies put out a slew of novelty singles in the seventies which, while well arranged and written, weren't likely to cause the ears of hip collectors to prick up. A keen viewer of The Goodies, however, might have picked up on how sharp, clever and even absurd many of their musical parodies could be - "R-O-C-K Rock", for example, was a minimal and chaotic piss-take of fifties rock & roll which sounded both like a work of brilliant comedy, and also something you might have heard on the John Peel show at 11:30 in the evening. And if that sounds outlandish, it's not - Peel signed Oddie to his Dandelion label for one single as well, to record a version of "On Ilkla Moor Baht'at" in the style of Joe Cocker's version of "With A Little Help From My Friends".  

Going back way before that, however, Oddie did very briefly try his hand at becoming a conventional pop star, and this attempt really hits the bell. Beginning with the kind of slow, creeping bassline regularly utilised by The Walker Brothers, then slowly unfolding into an epic piece of soulful moodiness, it's a very good piece of songwriting and production with a surprisingly powerful vocal performance on top. Oddie is clearly inspired by Gene Pitney's melodramatic delivery, but his voice has a confident ache of its own. Not for no reason has this regularly been described as one of the best 'serious' singles put out by a celebrity (even Craig Charles gave it a spin on his radio show recently). 

The B-side "Because She Is My Love" is another showcase for Oddie's vocals, though is rather more easy listening than its more intense plug side. 

So far as I'm aware, Bill Oddie has no plans at all to revive his musical career, but singles like this one are enough to make you wish he'd had a more determined crack at it back in the sixties. Music's loss was comedy's gain. 

Sorry for the pops and clicks in the version below, but if you want to hear a cleaner version, YouTube can help. 

31 January 2018

The Grapevine - Things Ain't What They Used To Be Anymore/ Ace In The Hole

Label: Liberty
Year of Release: 1968

This track was apparently lifted from the soundtrack of the 1968 sci-fi/mod crossover film "Popdown". This unlikely flick apparently consisted of the adventures of two space aliens as they ambled through Swinging London encountering men with Hank Marvin glasses and women in mini-skirts. Despite this enticing mix of ideas, and the fact that cult psychedelic stars Dantalian's Chariot "appear as themselves", it was recently dismissed by Time Out magazine as "embarrassingly dated and tedious".  That's not going to put me off tracking down a copy, readers.

It's not clear who The Grapevine were, although the involvement of Harold Winn and Joseph Hooven in the producer's chairs would suggest they were from the Los Angeles area (unless they were just session musos drafted in to do a bit of soundtracking work). The A-side is a bouncy piece of elaborately arranged and soulful pop of a faintly psychedelic hue. Filled with strings and an aching nostalgia, it's over before you've really had enough of it and - I so very rarely say this - could easily have stretched its playing time out a little bit more. 

The flip is a bird of a different feather, being some rather moody hippified pop, and almost sounds like the work of a different band entirely. 

If anyone has access to a copy of "Popdown", they know who to call. 

28 January 2018

Reupload - Public Skool - Baby Come Back/ Walking The Rat

Label: Logo
Year of Release: 1980

By 1980 British punk was pretty much dead, but there were still a few pops and snaps going on in the fireplace  after the flames had been urinated out.  The "Oi!" movement, feverishly promoted by everyone's favourite British tabloid hack Gary Bushell, continued to give punk some occasional music press and radio presence.  Then, besides that, there were still a few records created by music industry session folk and chancers who hadn't quite realised that the game was almost up.

All the evidence points to this being a record made by a studio group having a laugh with the idea of making a Mockney punk record, much like The Strawbs attempt to go punk under the name The Monks a couple of years before.  The A-side, a cover of "Baby Come Back", is actually pretty good despite this, adding a football terrace edge to a track which wasn't short of foot-stomping qualities to begin with.  New Wave keyboards combine with "Oi!" vocals and glam banging to create a track which is fun without being essential.

The B-side is odder still, and if it isn't a piss-take then I'm sending my bullshit detector right back to the branch of Maplin I bought it from.  "Walking The Rat" is a wide-eyed punk track about taking a pet rodent out for a walk in public on a leash rather than a dog. Oh the anarchy.  "He's walking, walking the rat!" chant the backing vocals enthusiastically, and to cap it off we learn that the animal is called Pat.  I think I can detect a tiny bit of contempt here, and if this isn't a record made by serious session musos who felt that punk was either a bit silly or had made a mess of their careers, I'll be amazed. The presence of David Mindel on the production credits may be a clue - here was a man who wrote the "Jim'll Fix It" theme in the seventies, and was also in a band with Mike Read, penning the phased popsike classic "If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)" on his way.  It may be that a punk band were offered him as a producer for this session and simply accepted him as the right man for the job (those dog-rough glam rock credentials on the original 'Jim'll' theme perhaps did partly qualify him) or it may have been that he was in on a joke here.

Whatever, we're left with a punk curio which has been a guilty pleasure for many people over the years, and I suspect I'm not alone in enjoying this a wee bit more than I should do.

24 January 2018

Susan Singer - Hello First Love/ Gee! It's Great To be Young

Label: Oriole
Year of Release: 1962

Spare a thought for the talented relatives of big stars. They're forever destined to talk about their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cousins way before they're even allowed to mention their debut single. If they succeed in pop, it's because of their fortunate family connections. And if they fail, well, it serves them right for daring to hint they were in the same league. Nobody talks about Aretha Franklin's cousin David Bryant these days, and Julian Lennon's stock has fallen so low that a few years ago I chanced upon a signed album of his in a Salvation Army charity shop for 50p (though yes, I did buy it and keep hold of it).

Susan Singer, then, was cousin to the mighty Helen Shapiro, and had a similar vocal style but none of the hits. "Hello First Love" was her debut, and showed what she was capable of. Both sides are incredibly tightly arranged, having the skippy, peppy swing of a lot of pre-Fab sixties pop, and Susan's performance has bags of character and power behind it. The A-side sounds like a possible hit single, and perhaps if it had been placed with a slightly more powerful label than Oriole it might have stood more of a chance. 

The flip "Gee! It's Great To Be Young" is, by comparison, utterly unashamed teen pop with lots of mentions of barbeques, twists, dates, record shops, jivin', and all that jazz. "What wants to be old?" sneers Singer, sounding strangely close to Pete Townshend's dismissiveness with her incredulous delivery. Rock this definitely isn't, though - the orchestral accompaniment and backing vocals of "diddy diddy diddy" hail from a (slightly) earlier time when pop art and destructive tendencies were not part of teenage music.

Susan managed four more singles on Oriole, many of them extraordinarily scarce these days, before re-emerging on Columbia as Susan Holliday in 1964. EMI's healthier coffers didn't seem to make any difference, though, and she was dropped by them in 1965 having failed to make an appearance in the hit parade. You could argue she deserved a lot better. 

21 January 2018

The Troys - Gotta Fit You Into My Life/ Take Care

Label: Tower
Year of Release: 1968

Chicago's The Troys were something of a starting base for numerous people who went on to join other (arguably more significant) musical projects. Featuring the likes of Mark Gallagher, who joined The Litter,  Michael Bean, who later graced Lovecraft and The Call with his presence, and having this single penned by Bob Susser who later went on to become a writer and performer of children's music, there was certainly no shortage of talent in the group.

Both sides of this 45 consist of lushly arranged, orchestrally backed pop with harmony vocals at the forefront. The A-side is pleasant but possibly doesn't have a strong enough hook to really stand out - for my money (and it is, after all, my money) the flip has more of a swing and an organ-based groove to it, and might please readers of this blog a bit more. Either road, though, leads to slightly hippified sunshine pop, and that can never be a totally bad thing. 

After release flopped, The Troys seem to have popped up again as Pendragon for their last release on Tower "Never Gonna Go Back", which was recently included on the "High All The Time" compilation series.

17 January 2018

Daryl Quist - True To You/ Above And Beyond

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1964

Daryl Quist was part of Larry Parnes' stable of artists in the early sixties, which was filled to the brim with young, professional artistes who would excite the teenagers but not upset the Mums and Dads too much by being needlessly uncouth or raucous. Arriving on these shores fresh from Canada as the dancer in Tommy Steele's panto "Humpty Dumpty", he was promptly spotted by Parnes and groomed for success - a challenge, as Parnes claimed "he hadn't sung a note in his life, except in the bath" - but despite a good contract with Pye and four singles on that label, he just couldn't break through. A further release on Decca in 1965 also paid no dividends.

To be brutally honest, there's nothing on either side of his third release "True To You" that's going to excite readers desperate for a bit of mod pop or freakbeat, and the A-side in particular is a rather twee Merseybeat-lite production. The flip "Above and Beyond", on the other hand, is a nice enough skip through sixties beat pop, zinging along at speed, and impossible not to find cheering. You have to wonder if this single would have fared better if the sides had been switched.

All this is speculation, of course, and Quist, along with the otherwise unrelated but equally unfortunate likes of Tommy Quickly, Ted "Kingsize" Taylor, The Undertakers, The Lancastrians and others is now a naggingly familiar name to record collectors and teenagers of the early sixties beat era, but certainly not often heard on oldies radio. His whereabouts these days aren't easy to trace, but it seems safe to assume [citation needed - ed] that once his singing career hit the skids, he returned to dancing and the theatre stage.

14 January 2018

Reupload - Egton Runners - Won't Somebody Play My Record?/ Flip Me

Label: DJM
Year of Release: 1979

[I originally uploaded this entry in February 2010, but a polite reader called William Farthing very unexpectedly contacted me last week asking me to put it on the blog again, as the old mp3 links had expired. This I am now doing, though I have to confess to being slightly bewildered that this was on anyone's list of wanted obscure tunes - though the experiences I've had over the last decade of running this blog should have taught me to never be shocked!]

This particular novelty track may be of minor interest to sixties-heads purely and simply because one of the songwriters responsible, John Carter, was also responsible for a number of oddly shaped psych-pop trinkets. Probably his finest and oddest hour was the lost classic "Laughing Man", released on Spark in 1968, which you can hear over on Spotify

"Won't Somebody Play My Record?", on the other hand, is either a desperate pean from a desperate man or a bit of studio tomfoolery (or both?). It's the sad and sorry tale of a record company plugger desperately trying to get his record played on a record station. If nothing else, the lyrics paint a vivid picture of the narrow options available in the industry at the time, as the plugger's entire efforts revolve around banging on one BBC door and then another. If he tried that now, he'd be booted out of the company offices by lunchtime.

The countrified pop on offer here sadly didn't really get played on the radio, and as a result it joins the long, teetering pile of novelty singles nobody much cared about or picked up on at the time. John Carter gave up on pop music the very same year, and focussed his career on penning advertising jingles instead, writing work for Vauxhall and Rowntree amongst others. Despite this, he apparently still markets his back-catalogue through Sunny Records, including a great deal of unreleased material - here's hoping there's a few more "Laughing Man"s out there in the can.

10 January 2018

Buckley - Let's Have A Little Bit More/ Right Sky

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1973

So far as I can tell, Buckley were not a proper group as such, but a project managed and produced by Tremeloes veterans Alan Blakley and Len Hawkes. Issuing four singles across three labels (Bell, CBS and Epic) between 1971 and 1973, success was clearly expected, but the Trems magic touch - fading rapidly by the early seventies anyway - failed to pay dividends.

Their fourth and final single "Let's Have A Little Bit More" is regrettably not an early draft of the closing Reeves and Mortimer song from the "Smell Of" series, though it's closer to that than you might suppose, being riddled with innuendo and cheeky music hall banter. It could easily have been a summer novelty smash, but the record buying public were not receptive to its seaside postcard charms.

The flip "Right Sky" is a different kettle of fish, having a similar mood and atmosphere to The Kinks "Big Sky" off "Village Green Preservation Society" (though melodically distant enough that it's probably a huge coincidence). Simple, raw and pleasing, it sounds like the work of a completely different group, and deserves a few more pairs of ears to hear it. 

7 January 2018

Kodiaks - Tell Me Rhonda/ All Because You Wanna See Me Cry

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

Kodiaks are a rather mysterious lot. A number of record collectors online have been asking themselves who they were, and only recently drawing conclusions. This, their only single, managed a release on Decca in Britain and Scepter in the USA, leading some to intially speculate that they might have been an American act. However, there was an act called The Kodiaks in the Rotherham area around the same time, and this is almost certainly them.

Apparently fronted by Dave Cardwell on vocals with Howard Hall and Ian Walker on other undisclosed duties, Kodiaks managed to produce a stormer with this, their solitary single. The A-side is a pounding, pleading record with a faintly Eastern feel in places, simmering with frustration and heartache, akin to a Northern Soul disc in places (note - I'm not trying to claim that it ever actually was spun at a Northern Soul night). It's a solidly pop/beat outing, and not quite as psychedelic as others have claimed, but nonetheless it sounds like a potential hit. It's not that surprising that the Americans also took a gamble on releasing it.

The flip side isn't bad either, having the same kind of yearning and urgent drive. What became of the group after this is a mystery, but copies of this aren't chanced upon too often these days. Mine is slightly scuffed, so if you want to hear one in a less loved condition, YouTube is your friend

3 January 2018

Dave Carey - Drum Beat/ Come Light Your Fire

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1962

Let's kick off 2018 with a nice big brassy POW of a record, shall we? Make no mistake, "Drum Beat" by Dave Carey is a real slap around Batman and Robin's chops, waking up individuals with even the worst case of the winter blues. It's filled to the brim with pounding drum beats high in the mix, a faintly cheesy, easy listening vocal style (you can almost hear the winks-to-camera) and a fantastic Wally Stott arrangement. It's such a punchy piece of work that it seems absurd that it wouldn't have been keenly revived by now.

Dave Carey's solo career is only one small segment of his music industry CV. He had been a drummer in Lou Stone's Orchestra in the forties and fifties, before he changed direction and became a vocalist for chart-toppers and multiple NME award winners The Stargazers. That act are widely believed to have released the first ever British rock and roll recording with "She Loves To Rock" in August 1956, even if it didn't particularly shift many copies (try finding either a 45 or 78rpm copy anywhere these days - it's rarer than a bar tender willing to accept fifty pound notes). 

His solo career seemed to consist of three singles, of which this and the previous release "Bingo" are the most interesting. That particular 45 was used as pre-game music in a number of Mecca Bingo Halls in the UK, which still wasn't enough to push it into the charts. I suspect it sold slowly and steadily in the towns and cities which were most exposed to it, however. 

Once the hits dried up, Dave Carey pursued other business interests, opening the "Swing" record shop in Streatham, South London which specialised in blues music, and running Nova Recording Studios. Sadly, he passed away in October 2015, aged ninety.