22 March 2018

Ten Years of Left & To The Back - Six Of The Best

Us crate diggers may be optimistic souls, but I'd like to think that we're not too unrealistic. When we're in our local charity shop or Music and Video Exchange, we're not there expecting to find 'lost classics'. In the digital age, almost anything half-decent has already been posted to YouTube within days of the buyer finding it. Actual classic LPs or singles? Forget it, buster. Beauty will always be in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder, but the chances of that vanity pressed folk LP from 1975 actually being amazing, and me being the first person to actually properly listen to it since then... well, if I believed in such regular occurrences, I'd have a very heavy direct debit set up for the National Lottery twice a week.

Like most people of my ilk, what I'm hoping to find are good new noises that will give me an unexpected kick througout the next working week, and perhaps beyond if they're good enough to have any longevity. If I can find some amusing howlers or some baffling oddments on the way (and more on those later) that might also enliven my days too.

What I'd like to think "Left and to the Back" has managed to do over the last ten years is very occasionally  find records that in a just and sane world would have been hits, and certainly could have gained a wider, more appreciative audience. Here's six such records I would urge you to investigate if you haven't done so already.

1. Orphan - Julie Isn't Julie In The Bath (Brilliant)

Uploads from the eighties tend to get a rather weak response from this blog's readers, but this one really is a wonderful piece of work. New Wave with a vaguely psychedelic bent which focuses its lyrical attention on the secretive life of a transsexual, this boils over with everything - a subtle chorus which just sounds better with each play, some none-more-eighties synth and guitar riff interplay, and driving beats. Sounding like a lost top ten hit, it seemingly only suffered due to its issue on a small indie label, and the fact that it was really Orphan's last throw of the dice before splitting up. Nothing tends to kill interest in a single more than it being released by a group who have already been a hitless going concern for years.


2. Black Velvet - African Velvet (Beacon)

While this one is reasonably well-known to anyone who attends the kind of retro soul and funk nights which take place in pub backrooms, it's never really gained a wider audience despite a number of reissues. A pounding and incessant piece of work which can't seem to make up its mind whether it's a bass-heavy piece of funk or a bouncy piece of ska, it's so forceful that it actually finishes too soon. To my delight, though, you can hear the group gearing themselves up for another run around the block just as the fade-out is nearly over, almost as if they kept the jam going long after the recording studio red light went off.

Black Velvet were a London-based group who were regulars on the gig circuit throughout the sixties and seventies, but never quite broke into the mainstream.

3. Action Spectacular - I'm A Whore (Bluefire)

While the song title "I'm A Whore" may give you the impression that Action Spectacular were a noisy, uncouth bunch of sorts, and the track certainly starts with a furious thrash, that eventually gives way into a yearning piece of indie-pop about pointless dead-end careers and McJobs.

The lines "I'm a slag who's been had/ in ten years I'll be my Dad/ look at all the worthless things I do" pop up in the first verse, and things don't really improve from there - but the song's heart-wrenching mood, and the final rant at the end about meeting St Peter, are instantly relatable to anyone who has spent three-quarters of their career dealing with mundane situations. If BMX Bandits "Serious Drugs" is one of the most oddly wistful yet moving songs about depression, "I'm A Whore" rivals its mood for dayjob angst.

4. Leather Head - Gimme Your Money Please (Philips)

Proto-punk in the area! Although that does depend a little bit on how you look at it. While this 1974 single does sound uncannily like Guildford's finest The Stranglers, the reality is that The Stranglers owed such a debt to sixties garage groups that it's possible both were sipping from the same water supply. Coincidentally though, both groups hailed from around the same area.

"Gimme Your Money Please" was Leather Head's only single, and is obviously a cover of the Bachman Turner Overdrive track, but the snarling vocals and menacing organ lines here give it a dastardly pub rock menace that the original never had. Superb stuff which probably hasn't been appreciated by enough readers of this blog.

5. Clive Sands - Witchi Tai To (SnB)

This somewhat obscure single has never really been a collectible, and when it turns up for sale you can frequently get hold of it for very reasonable prices indeed. This is unjust, for while "Witchi Tai To" is a cover of a slice of rather serious-minded American psychedelic rock, Clive Sands - aka Peter Sarstedt's brother - adds a bit of British popsike fairydust to his version, and it's much better for it.

Filled to the brim with throbbing keyboard sounds and a slowly swelling arrangement, by the time the needle lifts from the groove you'll be convinced that summer is finally here.

6. Patterson's People - Shake Hands With The Devil (Mercury)

A rare example of a bruising soul sound eminating from the depths of Aylesbury, this record screeches, yells and entices listeners to greet Satan and have sex with him. By the point of its conclusion you're not really left with any impression about how many takers there are to this offer, but if the horned one introduced himself with sounds like this, you would have to worry.

Impossible to ignore and instantly attention-grabbing, "Shake Hands With The Devil" was possibly a tad too raunchy and blasphemous to pick up the airplay it needed in 1966. All the more reason to give it the time of day now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This is a serious birthday cake, thanks David for this wonderful posting

Greetings Albert