16 September 2021

Reupload - The La De Das - Come Together/ Here Is Love


Slick and likeable cover of Beatles track from Kiwi heroes

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1969

The La De Das were one of New Zealand's premier rock groups in the sixties, scoring regular top ten hits in their home country and styling themselves in a slick mod fashion. Their 1966 number 4 NZ hit "How Is The Air Up There" has such a raw, raucous sound that it was an obvious shoe-in for the "Nuggets II" box set issued by Rhino Records, holding its own very comfortably alongside the garage and psychedelic rackets offered up by other international groups on the compilation.

In the manner of many groups "down under", they got itchy feet and began to seek out touring opportunities in the northern hemisphere by the late sixties. These plans included a stint in Britain in 1969, resulting in recording sessions which created this particular single. Clearly hearing an opportunity in the singles market place for a cover version of The Beatles "Come Together", this slick, reverb-ridden version emerged at the beginning of October 1969 (under the name The La De Da Band for some baffling reason) a mere week after "Abbey Road" was released, and a few clear weeks before The Beatles "Something/ Come Together" double A-side hit the shops. It's an interesting cover which doesn't take many liberties with the original arrangement, but somehow does have an unfamiliar, mellow warmth. While The Beatles version has a faintly threatening edge, this one beckons the listener into the studio jam in a welcoming fashion.

Suffice to say, most members of the British public were quite happy to wait until The Beatles version was released before parting with their money, and this single was a complete flop (and to be honest, even The Fabs could only get it as high as number four). The group eventually made their way back to New Zealand and continued to have a recording career there until the mid-seventies. They remain thought of incredibly fondly as one of New Zealand's most significant and popular homegrown rock bands, and were admitted into the Australian Blues Foundation's Hall Of Fame in 2003. 

12 September 2021

Race Marbles - Like A Dribbling Fram/ Someday

Novelty word salad Dylan parody

Label: Capitol
Year of Release: 1965

When Radio DJs try to parody or mock the dominant musical trends of the day, we tend to get a flavour of how invested they really are. A lot of radio DJs, after all, view themselves as being part of a strange branch of light entertainment which involves being a charismatic chatterer between bits of music being played. They often didn't forge their careers out of a love of music but a desire for more people to hear their voices. To mock a singer, band or movement, you really have to get under the skin of it first and listen; a tough task for that tribe. 

Occasionally radio DJs have chanced their arm and put out their own parody tunes on 45, and it's seldom above the level of mediocre. There have been moments in the UK where someone has hit the nail on the head unbelievably well  - Steve Wright's crew managed to invent Scooter with their Terminator inspired 45, for example, and Chris Morris' parody of Pixies is so spot on it hurts - but in general, it's not an area filled with rich pickings.

So let's take a look at this exhibit. Over in Toronto in 1965, DJ Gary Ferrier was obviously troubled by Bob Dylan's top three hit "Like A Rolling Stone" and felt that it was a bloody strange racket at best. He responded with this, a parody of the record which mocks the "nonsense" lyrics (which, certainly by Dylan's standards, are anything but) and the threadbare roughness of the sound. Word salad lyrics ("Are you cleaving your scram? / Is your clam in a jam? / Like a dribbling fram") meet amateur musicianship and a tuneless squawking harmonica hits notes randomly while the lyrics whack into berserk, child-like imagery.

What's interesting about the 45 is that we're hearing Dylan through Ferrier's ears, and/or the ears of some of the era's "squares" as well. Listening back to it now in 2021, "Like A Rolling Stone" is a coherent piece of classic rock, overloaded with bitterness, passion, triumphalism and despair, a sweet and sour concoction which is always placed near the top of Dylan's achievements for many good reasons - very few 45s manage to overload so many emotions into such a brief performance. However, certainly for a number of listeners in 1965, this noise sounded unusual, incoherent and unacceptable, an overload of bad singing, strange imagery and amateurism. This is the gallery Ferrier is unquestionably playing to, and it worked. "Dribbling Fram" was a minor Top 40 hit in his home country and even picked up attention in the USA (where it was also released). 

8 September 2021

The Kinsmen - It's Good To See You/ Always The Loser

A cut from the Aussie heroes early career in the UK

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1968

To most British listeners, The Kinsmen are best known - if they're recognised at all - for their version of the John Pantry track "Glasshouse Green Splinter Red" which worked its way on to the "Rubble" compilation series in the eighties. The collision of the vocal group's close harmonies and the mysterious lyrical subject matter about a lonely old gardener led many to file it under "popsike".

In their native country of Australia, however, The (Four) Kinsmen eventually became well-known and loved light entertainers, mixing humour with their vocal abilities and gaining support slots with Ray Charles and Pat Boone. It's highly doubtful that they would ever have deemed themselves "psychedelic" at any point in their careers, preferring the certainties of the theatre and supper club circuit over student underground nights. 

This 45, cut in Britain before they were big news back home, is probably much more representative of their sound. "It's Good To See You" is a bouyant A-side which is drenched in sunshine, but I prefer the more strident, boisterous flip instead which drops the politeness and kicks its legs out somewhat.

5 September 2021

Aitch - Let It Be Me/ Let Me Say This

Austere and minimal 45 from ex-Bent Frame member

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1971

Many moons ago, I had a friend who decided to start calling himself Aitch for no reason any of us could discern. True, his surname began with the letter H, but it wasn't a nickname anyone else had foisted on him, he just began answering the phone with the introduction "Alright! Aitch here!" in the hope we'd all pick up on it. It's better not to judge, really - each of us deals with our identity crises in our teens and early twenties in different ways.

In a similar fashion, Aitch here is, so far as I can judge, John Hetherington of the Roger Daltrey managed group Bent Frame trying to give himself a unique new identity. By this point, he'd already recorded a few tracks with that group which had not seen commercial release, among them the compelling "Fairy Lights" (which eventually saw daylight on the "Circus Days" compilation series in the nineties) and a version of Thunderclap Newman's "Accidents" as well as a track called "It's Only Me" which was released as a solo single of his by RCA in 1970. 

This March single under a temporary new identity appears to have been a one-off for Decca, and is a strange 45 to say the least, taking its arrangement cues from John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" or possibly early T Rex. A minimal, pounding rhythm pattern joins a simplistic melody to create something anthemic but threadbare, and how much you enjoy it is going to depend on your attitude to underground campfire singalong discs. 

1 September 2021

Reupload - Mr Joe English - Lay Lady Lay/ Two Minute Silence

Mellow soulful take on the Bob Dylan classic

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1969

Now here's a bit of an interesting find - an obscure and, so far as I can tell, almost completely ignored soul cover of a Bob Dylan track. This version of "Lay Lady Lay" is mellow, atmospheric, and filled to the brim with basslines so fat you could fill a jar with the drippings from them. With a relaxed, smoky vibe around it which almost recalls the pace and atmosphere of Dusty Springfield's "Son of A Preacher Man", Mr English's voice is expressive and takes the song to new and blissful places - in all, a cover worth looking out for.

The B-side has picked up a few fans online already, but also remains obscure. "Two Minute Silence" sounds like a bit of a funky studio jam, but definitely shows what English and his studio guests were capable of as soon as some energy was injected into proceedings. 

I have absolutely no idea who Joe English was. A man of that name turned up in Paul McCartney's Wings as their drummer, obviously, but this almost certainly isn't the same person. Nor is it the J English who turned up on Count Shelly records in 1973, who was Junior English, aka reggae performer Errol English, operating under another name.