4 December 2022

Sharon Campbell - All The Loving You've Got/ Did We Ever See The Sun


Chirpy pop with a breezy summery feel 

Label: Trend
Year of Release: 1970

Trend really was a peculiar little label. Run out of a record shop in Westbourne Grove, you would have thought its independence would have led to a heap of underground artists tumbling on to its roster. While it did boast relatively hip bands like Swegas and Warm Dust, it also seemed to have a bit of a fetish for straight-ahead, smoothly produced and orchestrated pop. 

In some respects, this should have lined it up neatly for success as the sixties waved goodbye. At that point, sunshine melodies with lush arrangements were selling in huge quantities, but despite their production stylings living up to their company name by 1970, business problems were never far away and it was wound up by the High Court in 1971.

Sharon Campbell's "All The Loving You've Got" is another example of a string-laden pop sound with jollity and breeziness at its core, bit parts sixties girl-pop and the New Seekers. It's impossible to dislike and while its production occasionally feels a bit too hemmed in to really let Campbell's performance fly as much as you suspect she'd prefer, it's still another one for the list of obscure summery pop songs that existed on the cusp of the sixties and seventies.

Differing accounts of Campbell's identity are given depending on who you ask, with some people identifying her as the singer who would later enjoy success as a session vocalist in the seventies and eighties (most notably with Leo Sayer, Neil Innes, Dennis Waterman and Sheena Easton) and others insisting she's a different performer. Given the fact that the name is unbeliveably common - to the extent that I was once in a band with someone called Sharon Campbell, and no, it's definitely not her either - I should probably exercise some caution here, but it doesn't seem improbable that this was a very early release for her before her session career took off.

30 November 2022

Bob Rogers & Playground - Take Advantage/ Get Yourself Together


Respect to all milkmen and women everywhere

Label: Express
Year of "release": 1971

Hello readers. Do you remember drinking water out of hosepipes? Do you remember when binmen WERE binmen and bikes WERE bikes? Do you remember eating out of tins of Spam during power cuts and feeling grateful, and your Dad giving you a slap if you refused to suck the jelly on the top of the can up with a straw for his own grotesque amusement? DO YOU? And did it do you any harm? And do you remember the milkmen? Hold up, though...

Door to door milk deliveries may feel like they belong among Internet memes celebrating somewhat forgotten ways of life, but are very much still "a thing". My milk, for example, is delivered by electric float from Parker Dairies of Woodford Green who service the suburban East London area (they haven't paid me to say they're very reliable, but I will say it anyway - when I move house they'll lose my custom and somebody else should rebalance things by stepping into the fray). When I first started utilising their services during the lockdown of 2020, however, my next-door neighbour - who wasn't born in this country - was outraged, responding furiously: "Why are they just leaving drinks on your doorstep? They could get stolen. RING THEM AND TELL THEM TO DO THEIR JOBS PROPERLY! They should knock on your door and give it to you!" I tried to explain to her that milkmen knocking on my door at five in the morning wouldn't be welcome, but she walked off shaking her head at the drivel I was apparently spouting. Such is the lowly profile of the milk roundsperson in 2022. 

Back in 1971, however, business was booming and Express Dairies saw fit to hire seasoned performer Bob Rogers and plonk him in the studio to record a promotional flexidisc extolling the virtues of cow udder juice. Bob was by this point a popular cabaret performer with holiday camp residencies to his name, playing covers of the pop hits of the day, but had previously been a member of the instrumental beat combo The Ted Taylor Four who were with the Oriole label for five singles between 1958-1961 ("Fried Onions" is an interesting one).

For "Take Advantage", however, he croons away about the special deals your local milko could offer you, making it clear - as Benny Hill also did in adverts of the day - that you could also obtain other non-dairy products from him, including chicken, bread, potatoes and eggs ("take advantage, save your legs!") in all weathers. From a 21st Century perspective, this feels like an early example of direct food delivery which in its digitised form is the mainstay of all supermarkets who are serious about modernising their services. In truth, Unigate and Express and all their other milk round rivals and cohorts were offering such services halfway through the twentieth century. It's enough to make you weep with pride.

27 November 2022

David Cumming - Rubber Rabbit/ The Parrots of Simple Street

Renowned scriptwriter immortalises his musical ideas on wax

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1967

David Cumming's name isn't bandied around often nowadays, but back in the sixties he was all over the end credits of many top rated television shows. As a comedy scriptwriter for The Dick Emery Show, Baker's Half Dozen, The Stanley Baxter Show and Horne A'Plenty (with Kenneth Horne) his output was prolific and while he may not have usually been visible on screen, his gags kept many of these series afloat for series after series.

It's a wonder he had the time to dabble with pop music, but dabble he obviously did. This little 45 slipped out in 1967 at the peak of his scriptwriting activity, apparently after the songwriter Peter Lee Stirling made a few encouraging noises in his direction. The A-side "Rubber Rabbit" is pure whimsical sixties pop, the kind of organ-driven tweeness you're amazed Bam Caruso didn't pick up for their "Circus Days" compilation series. Some might call it "popsike", and with its mentions of toy bunnies, goldfish and fairground activity, I think we should probably allow them that liberty, though it remains uncompiled and generally unremarked upon.

Over on the flip he gets somewhat spiky with "The Parrots of Simple Street", a folky sneer at all the wannabe Kerouacs and Dylans of the world and the people who idolise them and hang on to their every word. You have to wonder what triggered this one - did one of them say "The Dick Emery Show? Hey, I don't dig that scene, man, I like Gurney Slade" to him in a coffee bar, to the tittering approval of a lovely lady? We might never know. Despite being compiled on "Piccadilly Sunshine", though, it feels to me less compelling than the bright, fluorescent pop on the plug side. 

David Cumming's recording career seemed to come to a halt after this and he returned to the typewriter, eventually moving to Australia in 1984 where he also managed to appear on screen, getting his mug on "Sons & Daughters" playing the role of a Minister. Despite writing credits for "Three Of A Kind" that decade, his work rate slowed down and he generally appeared to settle into a much less visible lifestyle before sadly passing away in 2011.

23 November 2022

Reuploads - The Chances-R - Talking Out the Back Of My Head and Turn A New Leaf Over


Two singles from relentless Southampton rockers and Melody Maker Beat Contest finalists.

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1967

While Battle of the Bands contests are seen as a bit passé now, back in the sixties the Melody Maker National Beat Contest was a huge opportunity for aspiring groups. Shining a spotlight on bands away from the London hub, anyone who made the final at the London Palladium was at the very least a powerful live act. The competition tended not to leave itself open to mere fashion and hype - if you couldn't deliver, you didn't get through.

Rob Chance and The Chances-R went through a number of heats to earn the opportunity to perform in the final in 1966, and lead singer Rob decided that the best way of impressing the judges and audience would be to sing "Maria" and "Somewhere" from West Side Story. It has been suggested that this stunt reduced them to mere third place, as while Chance's performance was strong, it clearly wasn't in keeping with the other sharp bands on the bill raving it up. In the end, Neath's Eyes of Blue took the top prize, which seems to make perfect sense to me ("West Side Story" errors of judgement from the bronze placed band or not). They were widely regarded to be a fierce live act in their day.

The publicity was obviously valuable to The Chances-R, and they signed to CBS the following year. First out of the traps was "Talking Out The Back Of My Head" in March 1967, a skippy, jolly beat offering with vague Motown undertones, which ironically sounds very slightly like Eyes of Blue circa "Supermarket Full Of Cans". With tight vocal harmonies, an insistent chorus and one of the most dangerously long false endings I've ever heard, it's only fault is probably the nagging use of "la la la la" vocal lines, which are overdone.

It wasn't a hit, but their next release would be a bit sharper and livelier. (Entry continues beneath the sound files)

20 November 2022

Take 6 - Whiter Shade Of Pale/ There Goes My Everything/ Carrie Anne/ Groovin/ Okay/ Here Come The Nice


Pocket money covers of tip-top chart hits, from the faithful to the ghastly

Label: Take 6/ Avenue
Year of Release: 1967

While they're probably never going to command huge prices, budget sound-a-like hits compilations have been picking up casual interest from collectors of late, not least because some of the session players on these stocking filler discs later went on to become famous. Elton John grabbed the opportunities that were afforded keenly and was noted for his adaptability in the studio, although sometimes the results were rather unexpected. Likewise, David Byron of Uriah Heep wasn't averse to popping in for a cup of tea and a rendition of one of the day's hits in exchange for a few pounds (such as this cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey").

"Take 6" was a short lived and not particularly successful six-track EP series issued by Avenue Records which worked to the same familiar business model as all the others - get some seasoned musicians in quickly to accurately record the hits of the day (and absolutely no fannying about with "alternative interpretations" or fresh arrangements) then get the product on the shelves whip-smart to rival the official versions. They retailed at the cost of a standard seven inch single and must have been tempting to the uniformed or the unfussy who deemed it worth their while to own six A sides for the price of one. 

To give them full credit, the session musicians mostly managed to produce fair forgeries of the original work, and that's borne out by track one here, a cover of "Whiter Shade Of Pale" which just about manages to retain the mystical heat haze of the original. True, it sounds more like Van Morrison singing than Gary Brooker (but don't get excited, it's almost certainly not) but the rest is a faithful replica with only the thinness of the production showing itself as a marked difference.

And so the pattern follows throughout most of the EP, being filled with competent, efficient versions of top hits,  until you get to the main track I bought this for, The Small Faces under-the-radar paean to drug purchasing "Here Come The Nice". This was actually a very smartly, carefully produced and arranged number in its official incarnation with a depth, tricksiness and slickness which was going to be very difficult to pin down by any would-be interpreters, and so it proves. The pinging guitar notes at the start quickly give way to ludicrous falsetto vocals somewhere between Tiny Tim, The Pipkins and Donald and Davey Stott, then the session players deliver a Youth Club bash-through the song, which it really didn't deserve. Still, it's as terrible as I'd hoped, and sometimes hearing people fall flat on their arses trying to perform something wonderful is actually masochistic fun. I hope for their sake that nobody famous was involved in this monstrous three minutes; as no credits are ever given on these releases, we will probably never know.