27 November 2008

Lysergic Diversions

Lysergic Diversions

Since "Wallpaper" (the last homebrew psychedelic compilation I uploaded) went down so well, here's another attempt, complete with the usual dodgy GIMP created sleeve.

The rules remain the same. These tracks are the work of artists who, generally speaking, created a few nuggets of perverse, skew-wiff pop music during the late sixties before sinking without a trace again, or - if they had longer careers - certainly didn't get the success they deserved. This is, for the most part, the sound of artists who were clearly starting to fall in love with the possibilities of the recording studio as much as their own live performances, throwing almost every piece of modern technology into the mixing process and - in the case of the Silver Apples - even using instruments most of the rest of the music industry were still regarding as novelty items. Even though most of these tracks had sod all influence on the music industry at large, you can get a sense of the textures which were being created by the technology of the time, which would eventually help inform the self-indulgence of prog in the seventies, and the overwhelming production gloss of the eighties. The material on offer here, however, is considerably snappier and (hopefully) much more fun.

Once again, most of these tracks have been featured on sixties compilations before, and I'm not claiming any sort of exclusivity with this effort - but I hope it's an enjoyable listen.

1. Francois Wertheimer - Le Compagnon de Voyage (Byg Records - 1970)
French psychedelia, no less, which without question has a flavour which is noticeably different from the rest of this compilation. Starting off like a wrist-slashing Euroballad, then slowly descending into a mire of sound effects, groans, and violent orchestral noises, "Le Compagnon De Voyage" is an unsettling affair, perhaps made more so by the fact that its sleeve featured a picture of Hitler in a dress. Francois later became something of a player on the French prog scene, and eventually worked with Vangelis on a variety of projects. This, on the other hand, wasn't a big hit for him at home or anywhere else in the world.

2. John Carter and Russ Alquist - Laughing Man (Spark - 1968)
John Carter had a reasonable amount of chart success as a songwriter throughout the sixties, writing for the Ivy League, Tom Jones, The Troggs, and (cough) Max Bygraves, but this effort with his chum Russ Alquist is something else altogether. By their own confession created whilst smoking a lot of marijuana, "Laughing Man" is almost disturbing in its jollity and distorted vocals, especially by the time you get to the downright sinister spoken word segment. It's safe to say that Max Bygraves didn't record this one, and that's for sure...

3. July - I See (Major Minor - 1969)
More Eastern-influenced psychedelia from the London band who dubbed themselves "The Eastern Hollies". "I See" is a gently persuasive piece of work with an unexpected and perplexing ending.

4. Geranium Pond - Dogs in Baskets (unreleased)
Featured on the Marmalade Skies Toytown series of CDRs, "Dogs in Baskets" pushes every lever and knob in the recording studio to get across its tale of... well, I've never been able to work out quite what they're going on about, to be honest. Little dogs with no silhouettes feature in the lyrics prominently, and from that you can deduce what you will.

5. The Fingers - I Hear The Sun (unreleased)
The Fingers were one of the first British groups to badge themselves as "psychedelic". They apparently brought a monkey on stage with them who gave off "psychotic smells", but beyond that it has to be said that their earliest material was somewhat tepid beat fare, without a whiff of incense (or indeed monkey dust) to be smelt. Lest we be tempted to forever accuse them of cynical marketing gimmicks, however, they really push the Magic Bus out for this one. "Trees try to gas me!" they cry, which could only mean that they're in the Outback of Australia, where the only trees which release noxious chemicals exist. Doubtless that place is also where the sun would be the "loudest" if you were trying to hear it. Lyrical puzzle solved.

6. Blossom Toes - What On Earth? (Marmalade - 1967)
That The Blossom Toes failed to sell records in the sixties is quite criminal - their mixture of music hall japes combined with their suss for Beatlesy tunes made them the missing link between the more cabaret elements of the era (such as the Bonzos) and the wonders of the Fab Four. "What On Earth?" is also so bouyant it could have been recorded by The Polyphonic Spree.

7. The Factory - Red Chalk Hill (CBS - 1969)
Written and sung by the Southend born John Pantry, "Red Chalk Hill" is a strong piece of period pop with appropriately mystical lyrics. Pantry eventually turned his back on the music industry to become a vicar, partly spurred on by some Christian folk bands he produced in the seventies. He still preaches in Essex, where he is occasionally bothered by psychedelic buffs entering his church asking him about his obscure past.

8. Rifkin - Continental Hesitation (Page One - 1968)
"How about some Leyton Oriental mystery?" It's very difficult to tell quite how serious this recording is, and I've often wondered if it's supposed to be a pisstake of hippy trends - but it's still a hugely enjoyable piece of psychedelic pop with the spikey undertones of mod running through its core. Nobody has ever been able to trace or uncover the identity of Rifkin, and this track is the B-side of the only single which was ever issued by them. Somebody somewhere must know who they are, and they should get in touch.

9. The Liverpool Scene - Baby (RCA - 1969)
If you want proof that Simon Armitage isn't the only poet to have dabbled with this pop music lark, listen to this, Adrian Henri's outfit bringing poetry to the masses. Roger McGough frequently got involved with this band's live gigs and studio recordings, and the end results quite frankly sound like Half Man Half Biscuit and Art Brut being well and truly pre-empted. "You make me feel like Woolworth's aftershave, baby" indeed. In a sane world, we wouldn't be waffling on about John Cooper Clarke's forays into the recorded medium as being in any way groundbreaking.

10. The Smoke - My Friend Jack (Demo Version - 1967)
This is the original version of a single which was a massive continental hit (to the extent that it was covered by Boney M, ffs) but failed to make the charts in Britain due to the BBC getting sniffy about its lyrical content. In the re-recorded version (which the BBC still refused to consider) the lyrics were toned down to talk about Jack's merry travels rather than his love for sugarcubes with certain special toppings, but the demo version here is quite plain in its intent.

11. The Orange Machine - Real Life Permanent Dream (Pye - 1968)
The Orange Machine were an Irish psychedelic band who appeared to arrive on the scene in the UK just as the party was drawing to a close. This cover of Tomorrow's "Real Life Permanent Dream" is much more aggressive and insistent than the original.

12. Russell Morris - The Real Thing Parts 1 and 2 (Decca - 1969)
This has already been mentioned as a YouTube entry on this blog, but this is the full six minute version (rather than the video edit) for your listening pleasure. A number one hit in its native Australia, UK pressings of this are almost impossible to find.

13. Pugh - Love Love Love (Metronome - 1969)
Swedish psychedelic star Pugh never managed to replicate his status in other nations - despite managing to creep out an album in America with all the tracks sung in his native language - but that doesn't stop "Love Love Love" from being one of the more demented Beefheartian pieces of Scandinavian pop you're ever likely to hear.

14. Neo Maya - I Won't Hurt You (Pye - 1967)
A solo effort from Graham Carter Dimmock of Episode Six (a band which also featured Ian Gillan and Roger Glover who would go on to join Deep Purple). This is a cover of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's album track, but whilst their version favoured understated gentleness, Neo Maya's version goes for the bold stroke of a thunderously loud orchestra halfway through. Both versions are ace in their own different ways, and if forced to pick a favourite, I probably couldn't.

15. Silver Apples - Oscillations (Kapp - 1968)
The Silver Apples are the only American band on this compilation, and really very little else needs to be said about them. This is apparently one of the first ever electronic singles to be released, and whilst it was seen as a foolhardy move at the time, this sounds absolutely fantastic to this day - no mean feat given the primitive technology involved. But while we're on the subject...

16. Crocheted Doughnut Ring - Nice (Polydor - 1967)
...this was actually slightly ahead of the game too. An experiment with studio technology using the master tapes of its A side, this is a pleasing piece of work which features an array of ambient noises which excited pirate DJs so much at the time that the record company preferred side was almost completely overlooked. And speaking of that...

17. Crocheted Doughnut Ring - Two Little Ladies (Azalea & Rhododendron) (Polydor - 1967)
...I can't resist slipping it in afterwards. Unlike its flip, this is fairly straightforward McCartney inspired pop, but it gets us back into the land of the relatively sane in one easy step.

18. David McWilliams - Three O'Clock Flamingo Street (Major Minor - 1969)
My campaign to get the work of McWilliams reassessed continues, and really, why not? Proving that "The Days of Pearly Spencer" was absolutely no one-off, "Flamingo Street" is a brash and busy piece of work which, had it featured on a Scott Walker album, would probably be trumpeted all over the Internet as we speak. McWilliams lacked Walker's consistency, and occasionally recorded political pop which was rather clumsy in its sentiments, but gems like this really don't deserve to remain buried.

19. The Magic Mixture - Moonbeams (Saga - 1968)
A true oddity from the budget Saga label, who used to supply Woolworths with cheapo stock pressed up on appalling vinyl (and I'm now wondering if the fact this compilation has two Woolworths references on it was an act of my subconscious whilst putting this together). Unlike their TV themes albums or their dashed-off-in-a-day LPs introducing us to the marvellous world of trumpet sounds, The Magic Mixture were a band with songs of their own who were bunged into a makeshift recording studio in an Infant School hall to produce an album in an evening. "Moonbeams" is one of the stand-out tracks, and its believed the echo wasn't an intentional effect, but created by the dynamics of where the band recorded. Quite accidentally, the track therefore has a fantastic eerie, spacey feel to it. The album, somewhat surprisingly, also has some other strong moments, although it didn't lead to fame and fortune for anyone concerned.

20. David - Light of Your Mind (Philips - 1969)
Another band nobody has quite managed to track down. Their sole single "Light of Your Mind" was later recorded by James Griffin out of Bread, whose version I also have an MP3 copy of - but rest assured it's not as good.

21. Joy Unlimited - Mr Pseudonym (Page One - 1968)
Sounding like a lost end theme to a spy film, "Mr Pseudonym" is another track thick with atmosphere. The German band Joy Unlimited attempted to break the UK market with this, but it was not to be - a shame, as there's a certain Julie Driscoll meets Procol Harum charm to this which is hard not to warm to.

22. Gordon Waller - Rosecrans Boulevard (Columbia - 1968)
Gordon out of Peter and Gordon's debut solo effort, this Jimmy Webb song is baffling even by his usual standards. "She was a stewardess, you know", he tells us near the end, only managing to confuse matters still further in the process just as we thought we were beginning to make sense of them.

23. Kaleidoscope - Music (Fontana - 1968)
Now, this is studio trickery in action. The producer and engineer sound desperate to try everything here - panning music across speakers, chucking absurd effects on voices, even slipping in a recording of a coin spinning around at a slow speed. It's six minutes of studio anarchy, and seems as good a place to rest this compilation as any... and life goes on.
This Kaleidoscope were an English band who should not be confused with their American counterparts from the same era. Not if you want to avoid upsetting me, at least.

Part One:

Part Two:

25 November 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 21 - Ron Grainer Orchestra - Theme from "Tales of the Unexpected"

Tales of the Unexpected

Who: The Ron Grainer Orchestra
What: Tales of the Unexpected (b/w "Theme from 'Paul Temple'")
Label: RK Records
When: 1979
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p

The always entertaining, never predictable blog "Out on Blue Six" mentioned a perplexing phenomenon in a recent entry, that being the tendency of record labels to release bizarrely souped up versions of TV theme tunes. Whilst this didn't always apply with every release, and as such we were thankfully denied the novelty disco version of the "Minder" theme by the Dennis Waterman Band, people still frequently meddled with perfectly good work where there was no need.

Take the "Tales of the Unexpected" theme tune as an example. Admittedly it would make for a rather short single kept as it stands, but what already exists is a classic atmospheric burst of eeriness which is immediately recognisable to everybody of a certain age. Whereas this, on the other hand... is a slightly chirpy version, replete with early synthesiser noises and funky guitar soundz. I don't know what the majority of people purchasing the theme tune from their local Woolworths were expecting, but by Christ, I'll be betting it wasn't this (which may help to explain why it didn't chart).

The only possible bonus I can see from this arrangement is that some of the synth noises sound slightly like "Separations" era Pulp, so you could, if you so desired, amuse yourself by doing a Jarvis Cocker monologue over the top of the record, softly waffling on about an unexpected night time visit by a shadowy lady, who was probably Martha up the road who worked with Denise at the local outlet of Threshers, and you know because you observed her body under her tight black dress whilst she was walking Joe to school the other day... something like that, probably.

Anyone complaining that I've pissed off and left this blog unattended for a whole week and then just come back with a crap version of a TV theme will be happy to know that there is a more substantial entry I'm working on. Sit tight, why don't you...

15 November 2008

Interlude Part 3


Left & To The Back is going to be taking a break for a week or so whilst I kick back, relax and focus my attention on other things. You can expect to see a new update at some point around 26 November - but, if you're hungry for other listening thrills in the meantime, why not wrap your ears around the following:

The Marmalade Skies Trip to Toytown Collection

This is sheer overkill in terms of quantity including 119 tracks, but it's the most delightful kind of overkill I can think of. Those wonderful people at the Marmalade Skies psychedelic website have created a Toytown chart filled with the most twee, childlike and effervescent pieces of sixties pop, and included a 5 CD download so you can listen along. From Geranium Pond's "Dogs In Baskets" to Kenny Everett's "A Little Train Number", there's something for everyone here - it's an exhaustive list which mentions the obvious candidates (although nobody too obvious) as well as some tracks I've never heard of in my life, much less actually heard.

Utterly brilliant, and if doesn't keep you busy for the rest of the month, never mind a week, I don't know what will: It's the best "virtual" box set I've ever come across in my entire time online.

Sweeping The Nation C99

Lovers of indie may prefer the C99 compilation Sweeping the Nation have uploaded for our pleasures. Their C98 and C97 comps focussed on the indie margins, bringing back bands time has overlooked like Earl Brutus (good move!), Solex, Spearmint, Ten Benson, Ultrasound and Bennet, and C99 carries on the work by reminding us that Scott 4, Brassy, Murry The Hump (thumbs up again) and The Make-Up all produced solid stuff.

It can be found here:

45junkee's Record Collection

I've mentioned this before, and I don't want to end up becoming a bore on the subject, but Mr 45junkee has been very busy uploading his vinyl 45s to Youtube, and it's become like the jukebox of any right thinking person's fantasies. Click on the link, watch and listen to the record play in high quality audio (and even watch it spinning if you're that way inclined). It's the only place you'll find Leonard Rossiter and The Yardbirds sitting side-by-side.

See you when I return.

Peter & Gordon - Hot, Cold & Custard

Peter & Gordon Hot Cold & Custard

Label: Capitol
Year of Release: 1968

He buys sweets for little children/ and they refuse him... He's my old Uncle Hartington/ he needs us, we don't need him/ There goes the doorbell/ Oh, don't let him in..."

This album has been under a lot of discussion on the Internet forums recently as being a "great lost classic" (it remains unavailable on CD) and whilst I'd love to join in with the jumping up and down, I have to forewarn you that if you press play expecting such wonders you may end up sorely disappointed. Really, I feel that this deserves to be filed under 'interesting' rather than 'classic'.

"Hot, Cold & Custard" is, it has to be said, a fantastic period piece, but frequently borders on the kitsch. Right down to the sleeve design, I've sometimes wondered to myself if this is where Reeves and Mortimer got the inspiration for Mulligan and O'Hare from - there's a disturbed yet gentle folky oddness about it which instantly puts one in mind of men addicted to hormone replacement therapy tablets.

Besides that, the album is littered with clumsy philosophical references (try "The Quest for the Holy Grail" for some interesting thoughts on religion), childlike naivete in tracks like "The Magic Story of the Park-Keeper and His Fairy Godmother" - which incorporates some very odd honking, experimental improv-jazz noises - and the sheer determined stridancy of the track "I Feel Like Going Out (And Doing Something Quite Important)" (my brackets, not theirs) can't be ignored either. The word I would use to describe "Hot, Cold & Custard" is 'charming' rather than 'brilliant'. It has a restrained feel about it and an innocence which make it a peculiarly gentle piece of hippy-ish work. Once every so often you can detect a note of agitation in either Peter or Gordon's voice, only for it to be soothed down by the next lilting chorus.

What really cannot be ignored is the volume of people - and particularly psychedelic collectors - who seem to adore this album, so perhaps my personal viewpoint is rather unfair. There's also no question that there are some top quality moments to be had on here, the track "Uncle Hartington" being one particularly humorous moment which, if you're a fan of the more toytown end of psychedelia, you'll absolutely love.

That the album didn't find an audience probably shouldn't be considered too surprising, as it's neither fish nor fowl. Not way-out enough to find favour with the hippy movement, nor lyrically straightforward enough to please the Mums and Dads, "Hot, Cold & Custard" was Peter and Gordon's final piece of work. Following its failure, Gordon Waller went solo and recorded Jimmy Webb's "Rosecrans Boulevard" which really pushed the boat out and is a must-hear - but that's another story.

Sorry to say that I downloaded this album from a bit-torrent site as well - I try to only include my own CDs and vinyl on this blog, but I thought that this one was too interesting to let go.


A1. I Feel Like Going Out
A2. Freedom is a Breakfast Food
A3. Never Ever
A4. The Magic Story of the Park Keeper and His Fairy Godmother
A5. Sipping Wine
A6. Greener Days
B1. You've Had Better Times
B2. The Quest for the Holy Grail
B3. She Needs Love
B4. Uncle Hartington
B5. 'Cos You're A Star

13 November 2008

The Camel Drivers - Sunday Morning 6'o Clock (b/w "Give it a Try")

Camel Drivers - Sunday Morning 6 O'Clock

Label: Buddah
Year of Release: 1967

This one may be rather more obscure than I originally thought, since the band have presently only managed to clock 12 plays on Last FM. Twelve plays, I ask you! Even the most unsightly of unsigned bands can hope for more than that these days, so it's difficult, if not impossible, to explain how Michigan's The Camel Drivers have been so roundly ignored by so many for so long.

Y'see, they produce a variety of sixties sunshine pop which, whilst definitely lacking in an identity of its own (hundreds of other bands from the same era could easily have produced this single) still has a vibrancy and a spring about it which should at least mean a prominent slot on a sixties obscurity CD somewhere. "Sunday Morning 6 O Clock" is a fair piece of work in itself, but I'm much more interested in the flip "Give it a Try", which is so brassy and bouyant it would bring a smile to even Sir Alan Sugar's face.

According to an interview with the drummer (Here: they mainly toured around Michigan, New Jersey and Ontario in Canada, and didn't really manage to acheive any national impact in America, never mind international impact. This single seems to have been their only fully fledged national realease, with other singles coming out on Top Dog recordings locally in the Michigan area.

The Camel Drivers seem to have been one of those sixties American College bands who came within a whisker of turning their music into a career, but perhaps fell by the wayside when this single on Buddah didn't do the business. "And how did it end up in Camden Town, then?" I hear you ask again, and once again my answer is "search me". It's almost easier to buy flop American sixties singles in London than British ones at the moment - it's like some sort of Yank garage/psych vinyl slick.

11 November 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 20 - Buggy - Harry the Keeper

Buggy Harry the Keeper

Who: Buggy
What: Harry the Keeper (b/w "The Rolly Pole Coaster")
Label: Parlophone
Year: 1970
Found: Reckless Records, Soho (RIP)
Cost: One pound

Now, this is more like it. This is the kind of thing you dream about digging up when you approach the bargain section in the corner of the second hand record shop, dipping in for possible underpriced gems. The clues are there for all to see, and whilst I'd be happy to print them upside down at the bottom of this blog entry as some sort of quiz feature, it's probably more sensible if I just outline them. This is a Morgan production by Danny Beckerman and Geoff Gill. The former would be enough to make this a compelling curiosity, but the fact that Beckerman and Gill are involved makes it doubly interesting, as the pair have been engaged with some of the more cultishly successful collectable psychedelic records of the period.

Buggy's "Harry The Keeper" has been late to pick up any sort of critical praise from the usual British Psychedelic websites (it only began to get noticed shortly after I bought this, actually, which partly explains its ridiculous low price) but it is beginning to be appreciated by lovers of the twee, toytown end of the spectrum. It's the usual sort of twisted childlike nonsense about a zookeeper cheerily feeding his friends to the lions, the kind of lisping innocence with a nasty underbelly that the period churned out in enormous quantities. There's no question that it will be best appreciated by those who like "that sort of thing", and utterly despised by everyone expecting something akin to The Grateful Dead. If you have an aversion to the frothier end of McCartney inspired psychedelic pop, you'd do well not to bother clicking on the download button.

The flip side "Rolly Pole Coaster" would indicate that rather like Kidrock's "Ice Cream Man" (see the "Circus Days" entry) this single may have been aimed at the junior market whilst still retaining a period sound. I'm sorry to say that the effects put on the vocals on the B-side make it sound as if its being sung by Joe Pasquale, and subsequently it becomes extremely irritating within a matter of seconds. Still, I'll leave it bundled in so you can be the judges of its quality (or otherwise).

10 November 2008

The Pale - Dogs With No Tails

Pale Dogs with No Tails

Label: A&M
Year of Release: 1992

From one Irish band who sound slightly like somebody else to another who sound like nobody else I can think of... although, rather like The Frames, they are apparently still going today. Before I get into trouble with any Irish readers, I may as well remind everybody that the focus of this blog is strictly what entered the UK Top 40, and despite Wikipedia claiming that the band "did well" in Britain, I rather beg to differ... unless charting at Number 51 with this single and then never returning to the Top 75 again defines success.

Sticking with Wikipedia for a minute, though, it's worth noting that the band are referred to there as being influenced by: "Eastern European, reggae, ska, bluegrass, world music, and pop". Normally when bands are described in this absurd way it's because their Press Officer has had the equivalent of a psycho attack in a genre shooting gallery, and has hurriedly overemphasised their originality purely to grab the attention of journalists on the look-out for something fresh and new. Far too often such descriptions are given to bands who are (as one commenter has already pointed out on my Bark Psychosis entry) simply leaning towards prog rock. Quite uniquely, The Pale genuinely were queer fish, however, and could fairly be described as an act who were (and are) difficult to pigeonhole. "Dogs With No Tails" sounds like some late seventies New Wave band smashing up a Greek Taverna, and other releases veered slightly towards Stumpish territories whilst somehow also retaining an Eastern leaning flavour.

Apparently (and somewhat unsurprisingly) they are still a highly regarded band in Turkey and Israel, which begs some questions as to why Ireland don't just enter them for Eurovision next year. They could hardly do worse, could they?

Sorry for not including the B-side on here, but it's scratched to buggery, and you'll be happy to know that you're not missing out on a great lost flip-side as a result of my carelessness with this one.

7 November 2008

The Frames - Masquerade

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1992

In some respects, it's tempting to include The Frames on a blog like this just for the sake of it, because typing "Pixies soundalike band lead by the bloke who played Outspan Murphy in the film 'The Commitments'" is just so damn satisfying. You'd never have thought whilst watching the film that he had an inner Frank Blank punching at his rib cages and troubling his very soul.

In other respects, I'm aware that the above paragraph seems slightly dismissive for all its factually correct qualities. There's no question that during their earliest days The Frames were sorely indebted to The Pixies and were perhaps signed before they were ready to face the world, but "Masquerade" is still a truly brilliant track, featuring one of the best riffs of the year and a genuinely uninhibited vocal performance. It's a barking, screaming, savage little bleeder of a thing with just enough commercial oil to stop it all from sounding too much like a "John Peel airplay only" affair. To my mind, it was one of the best debut singles of 1992 - lacking in an identity of its own, certainly, but still a lot better than a great many other borderline-parody bands who were around at the time and seemed to get a much easier critical ride.

The band are apparently still very active in Ireland and as such probably don't really deserve to have a place on this blog, but I can possibly get away with putting them down as "The Frames mk I" as there have been numerous line-up changes in the past sixteen years.

The video, as you probably noticed, is taken from the Chart Show and features backing singer Noreen O'Donnell mugging for the camera in the manner of a frustrated lead, flaying her arms around and flicking her eyes skywards like a small child after too many Trebor Fruit Salads. She left in 1996, whether to a band of her own or not I really couldn't say (in fairness, it's something she probably would have done well). Lead singer Glen Hansard, meanwhile (for it is he, Outspan Murphy) seems to be doing his best to look rugged and psychotic, banging at his own reflection in frustration and suchlike. No, it's not the best promo flick in the world, but never mind.

The single, as you may also have noticed, hasn't been put up for download on here. I do own a copy and would have been quite willing to Sharebee it up for you all, but rather unbelievably it's still available for sale on iTunes and doubtless numerous other online stores as well, so I avoided sticking it up as a freebie in order not to incur the wrath of Island/ Universal.

Thanks to craydee75 for the YouTube upload.

5 November 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 19 - The Stampeders - Carry Me

Stampeders - Carry Me

Who: The Stampeders
What: Carry Me (b/w"I Didn't Love You Anyhow")
Label: Polydor
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Year of Release: 1971
Cost: One pound

Following the US Election I was desperately trying to think of a themed blog entry to put up. With a typical lack of foresight I'd wasted Mason Profitt's "Vote" months ago, so the best I could really do was this. It's a Canadian country rock band attempting their first serious shot at the American market, and failing completely due to that old devil called politics (and no, not record company politics on this occasion).

Whilst "Carry Me" was a massive hit in its native Canada, its failure to translate to success across the border has long been attributed to its subject matter, and most especially the weary line "Carry me away from this old war/ I don't wanna fight no more" which was apparently seen as being critical of the efforts in Vietnam by many radio station programmers. A shame they had to be so picky, because the song isn't necessarily a finger-wagging, fight-pickin' piece of political pop, but a very gentle, despairing track which probably encapsulated the mood of many people at the time, even those who honestly thought that the battle was one worth fighting. And lo and behold, it's equally applicable to another well-known situation today.

The band managed to notch up a couple of bona-fide US hits a bit later in their career with "Sweet City Woman" and "Hit The Road Jack", but this was one of their biggest smashes at home, and to my mind one of their most interesting (if simple) pieces of work.

On the subject of why so many cheap American singles suddenly seem to be cropping up in second hand stores around London, your guess is as good as mine.

3 November 2008

Lieutenant Pigeon - I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen

Lieutenant Pigeon

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1974

I've already written about Lietenant Pigeon in some depth on this blog, and once you've written a band who had a member's mother on piano and specialised in Joe Meek-styled honky tonk recordings, you've said all there really is to say. What more do you want? In-depth analysis of their concept? I've tried, believe me, but it's all rather unfathomable.

There are people out there - Jarvis Cocker, for example - who maintain that the band were a work of genius, but I'm much more tempted to downgrade my rating to "eccentric good fun". There's an argument to be made that they broke some production barriers with their home recording techniques, but those who argue that they advanced on what Meek had already achieved are probably deluding themselves, as even under their serious "Stavely Makepeace" guise there are no noticeable leaps and bounds in technique, just a lot of likeable material which happened to be recorded in an ordinary house rather than a plush studio.

Whilst their career stopped dead in Britain after their second hit "Desperate Dan", they went on to have another chart entry in Australia with this particular disc which, as you can probably tell by the label, is Aussie in origin. It's yet more chirpy whistles and party piano pops, as you'd expect, but the flip "Big Butch Baby" is rather unusually a vocal effort with glam rock leanings. Sorry for the fact that this record isn't exactly in mint condition, but the scratches do start to clear up a little bit after the first 30 seconds or so.