14 July 2019

Reupload - The Colours - The Dance/ Sinking

60ft Dolls man Rick Parfitt in early mod revival incarnation. This is ace, by the way. 

Label: Loco
Year of Release: 1983

While the early eighties are generally remembered as being a time of enormous musical progress - be that through groundbreaking developments in synthesised sound, increased glossy production values, or the more interesting ideas in prog getting absorbed into the more commercial strain of New Pop - it was also a time of enormous revivalism or adaptions of pre-existing sounds. And certainly, out there in indie-land, it was considerably easier for a band with basic, stripped back ideas to get the sound they wanted out into the shops than for an act with aspirations towards the big, expensive Trevor Horn sound. Away from the Woolworths racks, the basic guitar pop sound often reigned. 

The Colours, then, hailed from Newport and were one of many, many bands during the period to clearly be inspired by the sharp, snappy immediacy of the mod revival sounds going on around them. "The Dance" is actually a very smart example, too, having a kicking edge to it that all the best examples of that period did as well as a highly memorable chorus. Their restricted studio budget may even have actually helped keep a necessary roughness to this. There's a firm Dexys edge here, as well as a confident, aggressive swagger. 

This was their only single, and it's very tricky to find any details about their full line-up. However, apparently the Parfitt in the "Parfitt-Rose" songwriting credit is Richard Parfitt who went on to join the moderately successful The Truth, leading to The Colours demise. Perhaps more notably, he was also a founding member of cult nineties indie band 60ft Dolls, and once they split became a session musician and songwriter, both performing for and penning numerous tracks for fellow Welsh popstar Duffy. In fact, Duffy credits Parfitt with discovering her and "changing her life". 

10 July 2019

Doubloon - Go Anywhere/ Look Every Day

Soul influenced flop from the Australian "Nickel Queen" film

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1972

I can't claim any credit for finding this one. Rather, "Left and to the Back" reader Eduardo Ojeda Marins got in touch with me a month ago to tell me that he was a collector of the Jam label, and to ask if I wanted to hear any more examples of their catalogue. Of course I did!

The Jam label has always intrigued me. From its messy toddler-sodding-up-a-formica-table-in-a-B&B design to its connections with stars like Edward Woodward and Mike Read and flash in the pan acts like Blackfoot Sue, it's always seemed like one of those seventies labels without much focus but with lots of curiosities in its discography. Some of these records also sold so poorly that finding copies now is an uphill struggle.

Doubloon was their 28th release, plopping into record stores in November 1972 to rather limited interest. We are handily informed that it could originally be heard in the soundtrack to the Australian film "Nickel Queen", though the name Doubloon was only given to the UK issue - in its native country, the single was issued under the name of the two key performers, Kerrie Biddell and Terry Kaff. The former was a prominent and respected jazz performer down under, whereas the main activity I can see from Kaff apart from this single is a Neil Diamond covers LP.

That makes an awful lot of sense when you hear his Bisto-rich voice introducing the opening lines of this record - "Blimey, that man sounds like he might be heavily influenced by Neil Diamond!" I found myself thinking before even bothering to do any research - but no matter. The arrangements of both sides of this record owe as much to the soul trends of the day as they do to the performer of "I Am I Said", and those sweeping orchestral sounds are as likely to remind you of the slower, sweeter moments on a Northern Soul obscurities compilation.

7 July 2019

The Wanted - In The Midnight Hour/ Here To Stay

Storming, urgent garage rock burst of the Pickett classic

Label: A&M
Year of Release: 1967

"In The Midnight Hour" is one of those songs which has has always been buzzing somewhere in the background all my life - on the radio, at parties, in the set of that well-meaning sixth form college covers band who played 'all the classics' their teenage abilities could cope with, on a relative's Atlantic soul compilation in the car... and there is probably nobody reading this right now who hasn't heard it.

However, in the sixties its simplicity made it an attractive set choice for the numerous young garage bands popping up all over the USA, meaning that besides Pickett's powerful and popular original rendition, there are a number of others which sound like a bunch of speedy spotty herberts thrashing around as if the 'midnight hour' in question couldn't come quickly enough. 

The Wanted's rendition is probably my favourite of that set. Sacrificing groove and soul for thrash and fury, it picks the song up, grabs it by the arms and swings around their cramped quarters, bashing it against the walls and ceiling and leaving it in a heap after less than two minutes. Like the best garage tracks, it translates the energy and attitude of a strong but chaotic live show to vinyl with effectiveness, making you feel as if you can taste the cheap, fizzy beer on tap and smell the armpits of the fat bald man in front of you (so maybe it's not all good, then). 

The group were from Grosse Pointe in Michigan. They consisted of Arnie DeClark on rhythm guitar, Dave Fermstrum on organ, Bill Montgomery on bass, Tim Shea on lead guitar and Chip Steiner on drums. According to the Garage Hangover website, the owner of the Detroit Sound label they began releasing records on was the drummer's father Irv Steiner, a mightily convenient connection that presumably enabled them to put out rockers like this one on a label usually reserved for proper soul releases. Sometimes nepotism can work out well for all of us.

3 July 2019

Simon Groom - Can't Help Falling In Love/ Goldie

Rather poor cover of the classic song by ex-Blue Peter presenter Groom.

Label: Own label
Year of Release: 1992

If any moderately famous television personalities happen to be reading this blog, here's a little bit of advice for you - if you've recorded a track, and it's not for charity, and you can't get any record company interested in it, even though they surely know that it's guaranteed at least some publicity... well, forget it. You've clearly become far too invested in the process to understand something that's crystal clear to them, which is that nobody is going to care. Once you've blown a wad of notes on recording studio time it might feel wasteful, but releasing the thing on your own label and paying for the marketing and distribution out of your pension savings almost never results in a return. Just ask Tom Watt, aka Lofty off "Eastenders".

The enthusiastic, lovable Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom's cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love" is possibly one of the more baffling examples of such a vanity disc. Issued on his own label in 1992 in a high-gloss, full-colour sleeve and available in a variety of formats (a friend of mine bought the cassingle version as a joke birthday present for someone) it was clearly no low-budget undertaking. The recording itself is also clearly not the work of slackers, featuring up-to-the-minute Stock Aitken and Waterman-esque basslines, juddering rhythms and synth-trumpet fanfares. Anti-pop musos may find it somewhat "plastic" sounding, and it does veer close to elevator music at times, but it's certainly not unpolished. In the promotional appearance Groom made to plug the single on "Blue Peter" (which you really do need to watch) he was even accompanied by accomplished, smiling dancers, choreographed within an inch of their lives and doing their best to present it as a serious piece of work.

The problems really begin and end with Groom's vocals. They're frail and periodically out of key, and not in the charming, authentic or frail way Bernard Sumner, Robert Smith or Jarvis Cocker all occasionally manage. There's no anger or fragility here, no folkish earthiness. When his voice wobbles out of key, it's always because he's straining hard to hit the right notes like a Las Vegas pro and falling short. It's like a bar-room karaoke performance that almost gets it right, but doesn't quite make it over the line. He hasn't accepted his limitations or found his true singing voice, and a few more lessons prior to getting into the recording studio booth might have elevated this single from "bad" to "surprising but unremarkable".

Groom had appeared performing Elvis Presley numbers on "Blue Peter" before, and was known for being a huge fan of the man. At the point of the release of this record, he said that it had always been his ambition to release an Elvis tribute record. With this, it got ticked off his bucket list, but it didn't find an audience despite his efforts. Perhaps in the end, that didn't matter all that much to him.

30 June 2019

Repload - Sarah Jane - Listen People/ The World Is Round

Hushed, delicate and haunting take on the Graham Gouldman track

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1966

The post-nineties music scene has been completely flooded with female stars after a long period of women in rock and pop - and certainly female singer-songwriters - being rather sidelined. That some of the largest selling records of the last fifteen years have been made by Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and (*sharp intake of breath, wince*) Dido is a sign of the marketplace becoming a lot more even, not through any kind of concerted right-on media campaign, but entirely through consumer choice.

It's easy to forget that back in the sixties there was a similar push and rush of female artists, although back then a hell of a lot more of them failed to get more than one hit, and many more didn't chart at all. For every Sandie Shaw there was an Adrienne Poster, for every Lulu a Bobbie Miller. In fact, I'm going to mention Twinkle's late non-hit "Micky" at this juncture not because it's especially relevant to the record in hand (it isn't at all) but because its failure to chart is one of the era's biggest injustices. It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.

But moving on to the matter in hand - Sarah Jane's version of the Gouldman-penned "Listen People" is an understated proposition to say the least. In fact, it almost turns understated into a genre of its own. A delicate orchestra brushes strings in the background while Sarah Jane sings so softly it's as if the whole performance is being carried on a summer breeze. Even turning the volume up to ten probably wouldn't trouble the neighbours. It wouldn't be the last time such a style took hold, and nor was it the first - Marianne Faithfull also had similar subtle ways to begin with, and Vashti Bunyan would certainly usually favour the delicate arrangement over the strident. Unlike either of those artists, however, Sarah Jane would neither score immediate success nor achieve eventual acclaim, and this single seems to have been her only outing.

26 June 2019

The Castells - Two Lovers/ Jerusalem

Dreamy psychedelia or gentle, easy pop? Or both? You decide.

Label: Masquerade
Year of Release: 1967

This one comes firmly recommended from a number of sources online, with the words "dreamy" and "psychedelia" often being used in close proximity to each other in people's descriptions. As I'm a sucker for the kind of swirling, mid-summer haziness of many of 1967's releases, I decided to take a gamble on this one while it was still cheap. 

And guess what? I'm not really sure it is especially psychedelic, but I'll leave you to judge for yourselves on that point. What it certainly does is take the melody from Adagio in G Minor, plonk it on a shimmering church organ, place the most delicate brushes of rhythms behind it, and push a cooing female vocal about romantic reminiscence to the forefront. If this makes matters sound rather saccharine, that's probably unfair - the song has a very melancholic, nostalgic air and focuses on memories of youthful love rather than the giddy rush of the present. No sooner has it made its point than it fades, dream-like, into the dawn. There's no doubt it's exceptionally well arranged and performed, and a solid recording all round, but claims of "lost psych classic!" or even "lost sixties smash" seem to be exaggerated.

Nestling on the flip is a somewhat muted version of the old Last Night Of The Proms classic, William Blake's "Jerusalem". There's a touch of the Ronnie Hazelhursts about the arrangement here, and I doubt it will be replacing Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty's version at the end of "It's Grim Up North" as top contemporary cover anytime soon. 

23 June 2019

Susan Fassbender - Merry-Go-Round/ Reasons

Slightly neurotic but hooky new wave pop from the under-rated Fassbender

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1981

"Left and to the Back" has keenly supported Susan Fassbender's work before now. Her debut single and hit "Twilight Cafe" is probably the most persuasive and brilliantly penned one hit wonder of the eighties, and deserved to chart a lot higher than its final number 21 placing.

CBS only took Susan Fassbender on when it was clear that "Twilight Cafe" was going to be too in-demand for her original label Criminal to cope with, and there's a sense that they weren't entirely behind her work after that point, seeing her as an adopted stray rather than one of their A&R Department's own special discoveries. Her second single, the perky "Stay", made very little impression, and "Merry-Go-Round" ended up as her final release. After this, there was no LP, and no additional 45s.

This was a ridiculous move on their part. The demos that were recorded by her and Kay Russell have since been released, and point towards an assured pair of songwriters with plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Given the fact that numerous one hit, three-chord wonder punk acts were being kept on the books of various labels in the hope of further success, Fassbender's ejection from the premises of CBS felt very premature.

"Merry-Go-Round" is actually a solid single which was unlucky not to have charted, and in a more established act's hands probably would have done. Sugary but faintly neurotic, it has Teardrops styled keyboard lines and a confident if rather bubblegum chorus.

20 June 2019

Clive Sands - A Very Lonely Man/ You Made Me What I Am

Peter Sarstedt's brother with some breezy but introspective pop

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1969

We've featured Clive Sands on this blog before with his frankly brilliant version of "Witchi Tai To", though this single is a bird of a very different feather. Where "Witchi Tai To" was a piece of summery psychedelic fantasia, all woozy chanting and haunting organ lines in a heat haze, "A Very Lonely Man" is breezy pop. The sort of pop that turned up more frequently in the early seventies, in fact - you can imagine Edison Lighthouse covering this one.

The flip "You Made Me What I Am" has a much more bluesy feel and will probably appeal much more to "Left and to the Back" readers, coming across like a Stones track being given a pop makeover. In fact, it was the work of Clive Sands' own pen.

Somewhat sadly, this release didn't transform Robin Sarstedt's luck, and was as much of a flop as his previous three releases on Simon Napier Bell's SnB label. After this, CBS clearly opted not to release any more of his recordings, and he shifted over to RCA to release a couple of other flops under the name Clive Sarstedt. By 1976 he was back on Decca under the name Robin Sarstedt with the top three single "My Resistance Is Low", and his previous struggles were quickly forgotten.

16 June 2019

Reupload - Trademark - The Days of Pearly Spencer/ Baby, You Make It Real

A super-feelgood disco version of "Days of Pearly Spencer"? Well, why not.

Label: RSO
Year of Release: 1978

"Days of Pearly Spencer" is possibly the most iconic sixties single never to have been a hit in the UK. Largely but not entirely thanks to Marc Almond's hit nineties cover version, it's since been rediscovered afresh and given the respect it deserves. Propelled by the same intense melodrama as Scott Walker's bleakest best and focusing its lyrical attention on some kind of doomed, poverty stricken post-apocalyptic scenario ("Iron trees smother the air/ but withering they stand and stare/ through eyes that neither know nor care/ where the grass has gone") it's the kind of record that probably could only have been written around that time. 

Like a lot of doom-laden pop, however, what it does do is tread a very fine line between genius and adolescent preposterousness, which is probably why I nearly hit the floor laughing the first time this version leaked out of my stereo speakers. For this, for reasons known only to its creators, is a pumped-up, adrenalised seventies disco version of "Pearly Spencer". My first thought was that this was such a mismatch of ideas that it was tongue-in-cheek in its intentions, but it seems doubtful. Someone clearly heard the original and noticed, somewhere buried in its grooves, the soundtrack to a pumping Saturday night. 

Many liberties are taken with the original arrangement here. The chorus is altered so that the phrase "Pearly Spencer! Pearly Spencer!" is repeated by enthusiastic backing singers, akin to denizens of a doomed city sounding the melodic signal for a Batman or Mighty Mouse styled super-hero. The gothic melodrama is thus reduced to sketchy cartoonish action, film noir translated into an explosion of Zaps and Kapows. 

12 June 2019

Slimy & The Gibbons - The Banana Song/ RSM One Day

The "British Lenny Bruce" on a strangely Goodies styled tip

Label: Evolution
Year of Release: 1970

While he's seldom discussed these days, John Paul Jones, aka John Paul Joans, aka John Davidge, was a peculiar outlier in the British comedy scene who pointed possible ways forward. While most working men's clubs booked acts who were either fast-popping gag machines or specialists in blue material, Jones strode about the stage defiantly talking about banning the bomb and sexual deviancy - seriously way-out fare for the early seventies.

We've already dissected both his career and its tragic end in enormous detail here,  as well as mentioning his peculiar recording career which turned out several strange releases. This is another one, under another bloody pseudonym, and is probably the most off-brand effort of all. It's possible to hear some psychedelic hippy-dippy whackiness in these grooves, but ultimately it's a childish piece of cartoonish oom-pah quirk about the joys of bananas. Novelty psychedelic pop? Possibly, but if so, it landed at least three years too late. 

The flipside is a baffling army tune which seems as if it must have a satirical point, but none becomes immediately apparent. 

9 June 2019

T.N.T. - Big Trouble

The rock/dance crossover starts here? Certainly, the flipside is manic stuff indeed. TAME THOSE DRUMS!

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1972

A worthy two-sider here. On the A-side it's yet another piece of gruff, mean, funky rock of the sort you could imagine being favoured by fictional Yorkie lorry drivers. Snarling and clip-clopping its way alongside slick percussion, "Shaft" inspired strings and parping horns, it clearly means serious business. "Take out some life insurance!" growls the singer at one point, which, of course, is often good advice anyway. 

The flip, on the other hand, while acting as "Part Two", is a manic, bongo driven frenzy which sounds not unlike the kind of minimal anarchy which got collectors hot under the collar for Angelo and Eighteen's single "Midnight Flight" not so long ago. Unlike that record, though, this one decides that there couldn't possibly be any such thing as too many beats per minute, and for those who like their dancefloor action ridiculously frenzied, it's a real treat. 

5 June 2019

Lord Fred & The Littermen - 500 Tons Of Paper/ Lonely Theme

Pseudonymous novelty record about litterbugs

Label: Ember
Year of Release: 1967

I've got a certain amount of affection in my heart for Ember Records, while not necessarily being a wild fan of all their output. Plucky independent labels weren't just uncommon in the sixties, they were also often doomed to failure - so Ember's moderate successes are heartwarming and reassure me that even in the most unsympathetic business environment, the cottage industry can find a way to succeed.

Between the minor hits (and Glen Campbell's big ones) lay quite a few oddments and flops, though, many of which have since been compiled on to rarities CDs. This one, for example, has remained untouched and mysteriously unclaimed. It's not clear who Lord Fred and The Littermen were, though the contents are pure music hall jaunt and the lyrics seem to point towards a "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign. (I've some sympathy with the theme, in fact - somebody needs to drive around the streets of Ilford playing this through a deafening loud hailer until people stop trashing the area). 

The flipside seems to be the work of Mike Sammes Singers, so perhaps he was involved with the A-side too. Whatever, this is another example of a novelty single that didn't quite strike home, proving once again that trying to score a hit based on little more than a cheery, vaguely comedic lyrical theme and a catchy tune is a huge risk.

2 June 2019

Reupload - Nicky James - Reaching For The Sun/ No Life At All

Birmingham scene stalwart and future Moody Blues collaborator on an epic, Reg Guest produced journey

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1969

After the first 30 seconds of playing this one, I really thought I'd found a surefire winner here, a record that makes you want to go on Google and check you're not going mad or remembering 60s rock history incorrectly - because initially, it seems unthinkable this wouldn't have been compiled or talked about somewhere else already.

"Reaching For The Sun" is unbelievably confident sounding at first, charging through your stereo speakers like Roy Orbison and Scott Walker riding together on stallions. Reg Guest - who also arranged a great deal of Walker's work - is partly to thank for exercising as much thundery drama from the track as possible, and typically for Guest, managing to find a way of expressing an epic idea without falling back on the worst easy listening cliches. Rather, "Reaching For The Sun" has the kind of clanging bells and rolling drums of a contemporary late sixties track like The Herd's "From The Underworld", and measures up to the best of his other arrangements from this period.

Ultimately though, "Reaching For The Sun" is one of those tracks that promises something awe-inspiring and then slides back into mere goodness. The epic roll of the first minute isn't really followed up with a convincing peak of a chorus, and you're left to wonder what could have been achieved with a few careful rewrites. But even as it stands, it's an unjustly obscure piece of work - not even listed on the artist's Wikipedia page, for shame - which deserves a bit more respect.

Nicky James had a long and varied career from the early sixties onwards, never managing to become much more than a Birmingham scene hero in the process. Born in Tipton, but shifting to Birmingham as a young man, he was initially a member of Denny Laine and the Diplomats before recording solo work for Pye, and was also briefly in The Jamesons with John Walker of the Walker Brothers. Famed locally for his extremely powerful vocals, he issued a brace of singles throughout the sixties, following his acclaimed 1963 Pye single "My Colour Is Blue" with issues on both Columbia and Philips, but none were hits. His B-side "Silver Butterfly" was compiled on to volume 17 of the Rubble series of compilation albums, but beyond that his output has been largely untouched since.

29 May 2019

Paul Arnold - Bon Soir Dame/ Don't Leave

Ex-Overlander on rustic, folky solo pop mission

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1968

If they're mentioned at all these days, The Overlanders usually have the 'one hit wonders' tag prefixed to their name, thanks to their UK chart-topping version of The Beatles "Michelle". It's a fair assessment of their chart career, as their follow-up releases fell so far short of the Top 40 as to make their earlier success feel anomalous, but it ignores their long career on Pye initially as a niche folk-harmony group, and their moderate success in other countries prior to their biggest hit. 

Indeed, Pye kept them on their roster for twelve singles before pulling the plug, starting in 1963 with "Summer Skies and Golden Sands", and ending in 1966 with the super-scarce final release "Go Where You Wanna Go". "Michelle" was actually their tenth single, which puts the label's faith into some perspective - record labels in the sixties tended not to hang on to groups for years unless it was clear there would eventually be some kind of return on their investment.

Despite this, the crashing disappointment all involved must have felt once the follow-ups to  "Michelle" flopped is unimaginable, and singer and guitarist Paul Arnold had enough by the end of 1966, choosing to depart The Overlanders to try a solo career.

His first Pye release "Somewhere In A Rainbow" is also bloody scarce, suggesting few sales. This follow-up also seems to have fallen by the wayside, but at least very occasionally pops up in the collector's racks. The A-side "Bon Soir Dame" is irritating novelty pop which might have got airplay on the Light Programme some years previously, but the flip is a slightly more poppy, rustic tune with a woody folk-rock feel. It's strong enough to make me wonder why it didn't get compiled on the "Ripples" series, as it sounds like a natural home for it. 

26 May 2019

Tony Merrick - Lady Jane/ Michelle

A Stones cover one one side + Beatles cover on the other = near-hit single

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1966

Depending on how far you want to push or stretch the term, Tony Merrick could be regarded as a one hit wonder thanks to this single. It spent a solitary week at number 49 in June 1966 before dipping back down under the waves again - so close and yet so far.

It's not too surprising it was at least faintly in-demand for awhile. Both sides cover the two biggest hitting bands of the sixties, with "Lady Jane" taking on Jagger and Richards and "Michelle" naturally being another cover of The Beatles track. The A-side here is beautifully arranged, sounding like a touching and innocent piece of baroque styled pop, with strumming harpsichord sounds meeting plucked nylon guitar strings. Merrick's vocal performance is gentile and ever so slightly arch, suiting both the song and the arrangement.

"Michelle" on the flip side is less interesting, unfortunately, though it's not a Beatles track of which I'm especially fond, so your experience of it may differ.

22 May 2019

The Candy Dates - Some Other Time/ Show Me How To Live

Folk-beat group with Opportunity Knocks pedigree

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1965

For a group who managed a mere two singles on Pye before disappearing, The Candy Dates did seem to have a reasonably high media profile in 1965. This was largely due to their presence on the Opportunity Knocks programme, where their jaunty folk-beat songs obviously struck a chord with family audiences - sweet vocal harmonies for the Mums and Dads, and a steady beat to keep the kids happy.

Despite their mainstream exposure, the group's debut single "A Day Just Like That" sold poorly, and it was perhaps only to be expected that if "Some Other Time" didn't perform better, Pye's patience would snap. Lo and behold, readers, it didn't, and the band were dropped.

It is a bouyant and sugary effort, though, with lots of perky organ riffs and cute boy-girl harmony vocals. The flipside "Show Me How To Live" is much slower and more autumnal, and worked its way on to the "Ripple" compilation series some years ago.

Without wishing to sound as if I'm giving the group a back-handed compliment, part of the appeal of their sound is their cute naiveté. Their performances are largely solid, but the occasional wobble in the vocal harmonies and the simple riffs point towards a bunch of musicians who were offered recording opportunities at a point where they weren't necessarily tightly developed. Nonetheless, I'd like to think that if Pye had persevered and let them develop rather than treating them as a passing talent show fad, their third or fourth single might have broken through.

19 May 2019

Reupload - David and David - In The City/ Good Morning Morning

Like Elton John covering Nick Drake. Kinda. I suppose. 

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1970

While this piece of popsike hasn't quite slipped through the net - it did end up on a "Curiosity Shop" compilation recently - it has, it's safe to say, been rather largely ignored since its release despite the Gus Dudgeon production credit. Shunned even by the mighty Bible of all things sixties and esoteric, the "Tapesty of Delights" encyclopaedia, it's inexplicable that this one has been left to gather dust for so long.

There's an unquestionable Moody Blues air about the proceedings on "In The City", with a great deal of melodramatic vocalisations and despairing orchestrations about the angst of urban life, but the song has enough of a pop edge to succeed by the time the chorus rolls around. It's naive, charming, slightly silly and sweet and also somehow a tad epic with it, qualities that rarely occur in the same song at the same time. If Elton John actually had got around to covering Nick Drake, it might have ended up sounding a bit like this.

David and David were clearly a duo (and spare me the jokes about David Steel and David Owen of the Liberal/ SDP alliance, please). The identity of one of these Davids is unclear, but the other is clearly David Mindel, who would later go on to join the widely compiled Esprit de Corps whose "If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)" has been a mainstay of sixties rarity LPs. I think this is a slightly better single than that, though - not as woozy or psychedelic sounding, despite its earlier release date, but certainly a much more convincing and strident piece of work.

16 May 2019

Rhys Eye - Yellow Submarine/ I Just Can't Lose That Tune

Fascinating but sombre reading of the jaunty Beatles tune

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1975

"Yellow Submarine" is probably one of the less analysed Beatles songs in their oeuvre, despite being one of the best known. At my infant school, it was wheeled out for sing-a-longs in school assemblies in halls that whiffed of chips and baked beans, and it was a track I was used to hearing on cartoons or during intervals at local children's theatre shows. Marrying upbeat melodies to nonsense lyrics, it seemed like the very definition of "harmless fun".

Clearly not everybody thought that way, though. Paul Phillips, who would later on find brief fame as Driver 67, was troubled by the sense it was an "other-worldly excursion into all sorts of sub-conscious emotions that I couldn’t put my finger on". Whether this was something he talked about to his friends or decided to keep to himself, when he eventually had gainful A&R employment at CBS he was surprised to find someone who agreed with him turning up to an audition.

Peter Bennett, who recorded and wrote under the name Rhys Eye, dropped by insisting he had a fantastic idea, but if he simply told Phillips what it was there was every possibility he would be cut out of the picture and find it being used by another artist on CBS. Phillips arranged for a legal waiver to be signed stating that whether he accepted or rejected the idea, it would remain the intellectual property of Mr. Eye.

And this, amazingly, was it - something that confirmed Phillips wasn't the only one bowing his head to Ringo's honking about strangely coloured submersible warships. Bennett's idea was simply a heartfelt, bluesy, troubled take on a Beatles song most listeners haven't really bothered to read much into. In Rhys Eyes' hands, "Yellow Submarine" becomes reflective and regretful, sounding like a hymn to lost childhood, lost friends and perhaps lost innocence - or, more than that, a nostalgia for absurd, exaggerated things that were never truly as the singer believed eating away at him like a deadly, slow poison. 

Whether it works is something not everyone is going to agree on, but it certainly fits the current decade's model of finding sorrow or opportunities for plaintive, melancholy expression in the most unlikely source material. If an advertising executive from John Lewis hears this and doesn't use it in their next Christmas campaign, then I'll be lost for words.

12 May 2019

Mortimer - Dedicated Music Man/ To Understand Someone

New York garage rockers The Teddy Boys taking an unexpectedly folk-pop turn prior to becoming Beatle proteges

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1967

The late sixties saw lot of groups suddenly changing tack stylistically, some because they took the special tablets so widely associated with the later era, and others because they realised the times they were a-changin' and didn't want to be seen as irrelevant. It's impossible to say how many had authentic, pure motivations and how many were just being cynical - and in the end, it doesn't matter terribly if the results are worthwhile.

Mortimer, consisting of Guy Masson, Tom Smith, and Tony Van Benschoten, had largely operated under the name The Teddy Boys, who were a storming garage rock group perhaps best known for their single "Jezebel". By February 1967 they'd changed their name to Pinnochio and The Puppets to issue "Fusion" on Mercury, then they appeared to throw all their electrified instruments into a skip to pursue a rather more semi-acoustic, hippy-ish, harmony driven direction.

Tony Secunda's (Move/ Procol Harum manager) cousin Daniel Secunda swooped down to take over the group's affairs, and they became quite hot property in New York, regularly performing to enthusiastic audiences. "Dedicated Music Man" was probably their closest crack at the hit parade, and showcases their abilities, which bear a strong and striking resemblance to the folk-rock scene of the time. The song has a strong, determined pop chorus as well, but was possibly not powerful enough to stand a chance in the very crowded 1967 marketplace.

8 May 2019

Offered With Very Little Comment #6 - Dora Hall, Dick James, Afro Akino, Tony Hatch, Chamber of Kommerce

Five 45s from the back of the box

Once again, readers, it's time to delve deep into the dusty crevices of my 45 collection and focus on a load of weird and occasionally wonderful cuts.

As usual, I've uploaded these en masse purely because I've ummed and ahhed over the contents of the recordings and researched the groups in question and can't really think of much to say beyond the observations you see below. Sometimes less is more (and anyway, you didn't seriously expect me to write a sixth Dora Hall blog entry, did you? I really don't want any of my friends to feel they need to stage an intervention).

If any of you feel you want to discuss the contents in more depth or highlight something I might not know, feel free to comment away.

(And remember, readers - simply refresh the page if Box is deciding to be an arse today).

5 May 2019

Reupload - Sunchariot - Firewater/ The Only Girl I Knew

Monty Python songwriter in rather earlier glam rock styled guise

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

A trend has emerged in recent years for compiling psychedelic pop and rock obscurities from the early seventies on to CD compilations. Now that the sixties era seems to have been largely hoovered clean, obscure quirky rock and art pop with psychedelic influences from that period is gaining popularity. Sunchariot seem to have escaped a place on one of these albums so far, but there's no good reason for that.

Take "Firewater" for example. It's a truly berserk piece of rock music about the plight of the Native American, filled to the brim with hollering noises, dramatic tribal vocals and an urgent instrumental break. There are shades of stomping glam about this, but nothing dominant in that sense. For the most part, it sounds like the work of a proper rock band swimming around in a period concept for all it's worth (and indeed, the seventies was awash with these ideas. Hard to know who started it, but I suspect Jeff Lynne got the ball rolling with the Idle Race's "Days Of Broken Arrows", and finished it with ELO's "Wild West Hero" - but perhaps that's too simplistic an overview).

1 May 2019

The Gaspar Netscher Ensemble - Get Out Of Bed My Darling/ Until You're Here Beside Me

Highly obscure but light-hearted sixties music hall inspired pop 

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1968

If a cumbersomely named award for the "least documented sixties group with more than one single to their name" ever comes into existence, The Gaspar Netscher Ensemble would surely be in with a shot. This was their second single on Pye, the follow-up to the equally obscure "There Is Nothing In This Whole Wide World Like Love", but it did nothing to push them towards the charts or get them documented in "The Tapestry Of Delights", on YouTube or anywhere else.

It's an interesting piece of work which closely resembles a lot of the music hall inspired 45s that emerged in the late sixties, recalling in particular The Almond Lettuce (if readers want a recent example of a group who adopted a similar frivolous sound on this blog). "Get Out Of Bed" occupies itself with the tale of a frankly nightmarish sounding wedding, cataloguing inappropriate behaviour from the guests and a seemingly sleepy and inert bride. The whole track has a continual merry bounce and a trombone that continually wails "ha ha" like Nelson off The Simpsons, just in case you're in any doubt that it's all in the name of good fun (the track probably could have been improved with the removal of this element, to be honest).

The identity of the group is a bit of a mystery to me, but I'm going to put forward a theory that the "R. Netscher" credited as songwriter here is Robin Netscher who apparently served as one of the  members of The Londonairs who we discussed back in March. The style of this track is slightly more sophisticated, but nonetheless it's possible to hear similarities.

28 April 2019

Colorfull Seasons - Out Of The Blue/ It's Gonna Break My Back

Super-obscure but likeable cover of the Tommy James & Shondells track

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1968

Like most record collectors, I have a regularly updated 'wants list' of scarce records I'm keeping an eye open for. This one sat on it for years on end... so long, in fact, that by the time a copy actually turned up a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't remember why I'd started looking for it in the first place. Doh! What am I like, eh?

The trouble is, I still can't remember. My best guess is that some years ago I was tipped off about this being a good record by a trusted fellow vinyl lover, and took a note of it without giving it an awful lot of further thought. It's a very pleasant and very well performed cover of Tommy James & The Shondells "Out Of The Blue", given a slightly West Coast harmony pop arrangement. Problematically, though, I doubt that the group are actually from the USA, despite its presence on the MGM label or the style of the record (or indeed the use of the word 'color'). This didn't appear to get released over there, and the production team behind this (Harry Robinson and Finito) are UK based, with the former in particular having his fingerprints all over the British sessions of the day.

Who is responsible, then? Search me. I have a hunch that Jackie Lee may be involved somewhere in this mix on vocal duties, as that "Moore, Lee" credit on the flip appears on a couple of her records as well. I've nothing but blanks to offer you alongside that, though, and this was the group's only release so there are no further clues to be had. 

25 April 2019

The Majamood - 200 Million Red Ants/ Faces Amassed

Lo-fi fuzz-guitar ridden folky protest about Chinese communism

Label: WIRL
Year of Release: 1966

All record collectors come across vinyl that bothers them in the wee small hours of the morning, not just with the questions "Who did this?" but "Who enabled them?" The music business may be many things, but it's seldom generous with its money - it knows its markets, and few releases are ever done as favours or frivolous gestures. Everyone, from the band to the record label owner, usually expects some kind of dividend to emerge from a release, whether it's an increase in credibility or proper sales.

On those standard levels, then, this release makes no sense at all. The WIRL label, which stands for West Indies Records Limited, dealt in the kind of regional fare you'd expect. Anyone anticipating a reggae or ska release in this instance, however, would be surprised by what they hear when the needle hits the grooves - this is fuzz guitar infested folk with the kind of production values you'd expect from a group recording in a community hall after-hours. 

The A-side "200 Million Red Ants" worked its way on to the "Circus Days" series of compilations, which is how I first became aware of it. It's a doomy, sombre meditation on the rise of communism in China and how a serious watch needed to be kept on such things - well, it's either that or a literal protest song about red ants on the lawn (my garden got colonised by the little bastards last year, and let me tell you, they do destroy the lawn. It also counts as the only time I've ever had this single as an earworm). The flip is yet more of the same, leaving you with the impression that the group had an obsessive focus on this particular topic. 

22 April 2019

Reupload - High Broom - Dancing In The Moonlight/ Percy's On The Run

The remaining members of Jason Crest ploughed on under another name, but failed to have a hit with an early version of this timeless track

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1970

If at first you don't succeed, try again… and again… 

"Dancing In The Moonlight" really is a song which took years, arguably decades, to reach its full "classic" potential. A minor cult hit for the American band Boffalongo, whose member Sherman Kelly penned it, it slept soundly for another couple of years until Sherman's brother Wells, who drummed for King Harvest, introduced it to the band in 1970. Smelling a top tune immediately, they covered it and happily watched it climb to Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Before King Harvest got their mitts on it, though, the remnants of the Tonbridge, Kent based group Jason Crest recorded it for British release. Consisting originally of Terry Clarke on lead vocals, Terry Dobson on lead guitar, Derek Smallcombe on rhythm guitar, Ron Fowler on bass, and Roger Siggery on drums, they had a long and chequered history. Formed in 1964 as The Spurlyweeves, changing their name to the Good Time Brigade in 1967, then finally Jason Crest upon earning a contract with Philips, the cult popsike legends had cut many fantastic sides by the end of the sixties, not least the semi-legendary, psychedelic doomy screamer "Black Mass" - once heard, never forgotten. Sales had not been on their side, however, and after five years of loyal but presumably skint service the lead singer Terry Clarke quit in 1969. Shortly prior to this, bassist Ron Fowler had left to be replaced by John Selley.

Rather than giving up entirely, the group quickly recruited Brian Prebble from the Riot Squad, and drafted in Brian Bennett from Leviathan to add an additional guitar to the mix. Philips gave them the heave-ho, the new moniker High Broom was adopted, and a contract to produce one LP for Island Records was signed. However, aside from this version of "Dancing In The Moonlight" and its flip, nothing else emerged from the agreement. Stylistically it is impressive to hear how the band had managed to jump from their slightly woozy, small-town back-street alley popsike into a harder, rougher country rock sound. This sounds so damn North American that you'd never guess any member of Jason Crest had anything to do with it, and it possibly could have been a hit under the right circumstances. The flip "Percy's On The Run" also rocks out, being about as psychedelic as a bottle of sour mash bourbon.