30 December 2010

Lazycame - Yawn

Lazycame - Yawn

Label: Guided Missile
Year of Release: 2000

Following the dissolution of The Jesus and Mary Chain in 2000, William Reid popped up again unexpectedly quickly with a new project he called Lazycame.  This initial release "Yawn!" was oddly like early McCartney in its basis, although not in overall sound.  Just as everyone's favourite cheeky thumbs-aloft Scouser returned looking slightly bedraggled and bedroom studio-bound for his initial lo-fi works, so too did Mr Reid come back with something which sounded like a smorgasboard of sounds waiting to be fleshed out.  The rush-release appeared to many fans to offer two things - value (the final track "Commercial" is 43 minutes long and consists of a lot of ideas meshed together) and a relieving statement of intent.  There's a sense of "down but not yet out" about the whole project.

Still though, the rambling experimental nature of the first track "Drizzle" must have jolted everyone at the time, and the release is also notable for featuring an extended version of "Male Wife", originally found on Earl Brutus's "Tonight You Are The Special One" long player.  This always was credited as being a joint Reid/ Sanderson track, so it's possible that both parties got to use it in their own marginally different ways.  The Brutus version is a short sharp shock, whereas the Lazycame version extends the scattershot mayhem out to five minutes.

JAMC eventually reformed, of course, and Lazycame got put on the backburner, largely to be forgotten by all but the most hardcore fans.  I still think that throwing out an hour's worth of music on a small indie label for the price of a single was a brilliant way of settling a new project down, however, and if only other ex-members of bands would be brave enough or generous enough to go through their chrysalis stage in a similar way.  Mentioning no names, of course.

1. Drizzle
2. K To Be Lost
3. Who Killed Manchester
4. Male Wife
5. Commercial

Download it Here

22 December 2010

Private Eye Sings - Recorded at Llandudno, October 1962

Private Eye Sings 1

Label: Private Eye
Year of Release: 1962

It's been a rum old 2010 here on "Left and To The Back".  We've been recommended in "The Guardian", had more unique visitors in one calendar year than ever before, and found a hundred more pieces of garbage, goodness, gold-dust and novelty gilblets in second hand record shops (I couldn't think of another word beginning with 'g' - sorry).  Whilst wondering what I could upload here for your pleasure before waving farewell to you good people until the end of the month at least, this little item in the back of one of my record boxes immediately sprang to mind.  It is, to the best of my knowledge, Private Eye magazine's first ever excursion into recorded sound, although be warned... satire from 1962 can seem rather dated in places.

I hope you're at least surprised by this, and I shall see you with more treats and surprises soon.  Have a very merry Christmas, and keep an eye on the blog for another update once the last of the turkey is scraped off the bone and the final useless present is bunged in the local Oxfam.


Side One
1. Overture - A Letter From Sir Herbert Gussett
2. Lift Up Your Parts
3. The Common Market - A Great Nation Speaks

Side Two
1. Dramatic Readings From "The Times" - The National Theatre
2. A Word From Mervyn Poove
3. The True Story Of James Gaithen (Written By Christopher Logue)

20 December 2010

El Vez - Feliz Navidad

El Vez - Feliz Navidad

Label: Poptones
Year of Release: 2000

Say what you like about Alan McGee - and most people do, so there's no reason to hold back - Creation Records was probably one of the best independent labels in music history.  As prone to folly as genius, the uneven nature of the label's catalogue understood exactly what it was like to be a true music fan, and be in love with esoteric bits of plastic as much as you are the genuine, stone-cold classics.  For every "Screamadelica" there was a piece of bemusing ballast such as Bill Drummond's "The Man" (I must upload that one day, actually) or records by Les Zarjaz, a baroque styled musician who sang songs about nuclear fall-out shelters to the accompaniment of a harpsichord.  I could, if I really wanted, spend a whole three months doing nothing on here but exploring the flops of Creation's back catalogue, or I could also offer up nothing but classic output from the label for the same period of time as well.  In short, a whole blog could be created focussing on nothing but Creation Records.

When Creation shut up shop and McGee opened up the doors at Poptones, he still seemed to love blasting the odd oddment into record stores, and this was one late period Alan-shaped wonder.  El Vez is a middle aged Mexican-American rock and roller who performs both cover versions of other songs and his own material in a greased up, swaggering style.  In this case, he mashes up Public Image Limited's "Public Image" with the yuletide standard "Feliz Navidad".  This did actually receive a fair volume of airplay from alternative radio stations at the time, but disinterest in the record seemed to reign in spite of this.  Clearly the kids weren't ready for the Lydon/ Feliciano crossover, which saddens but fails to surprise me.

I'm also unsurprised by the fact that El Vez has a whole Christmas album online ready for download, which includes this track - hear snippets of both it and its B-side below.

And incidentally, that concludes this year's Christmas offerings on "Left and to the Back".  I'll be back on the 22nd with a surprise, mind you, so don't give up on the blog just yet.

18 December 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 67 - Marty Feldman - A Joyous Time Of The Year

Marty Feldman - A Joyous Time Of The Year

Who: Marty Feldman
What: A Joyous Time Of The Year/ The B Side
Label: Decca
When: 1968
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow, London
Cost: 50p

It's surprising how infrequently Marty Feldman's name crops up in the British media these days.  At his peak, he was one of the foremost comedians of the sixties and seventies, winning two BAFTA awards, and appearing on a stream of TV shows which utilised his apparently "jazz influenced" comedy style to enormous success.  Here he is with John Cleese, and you can witness him playing the part of Igor here if that's your particular bag.

One of life's irrepressible performers, and by all accounts a bag of insane and unpredictable energy at times, Feldman took to the music industry in a manner which many of his contempories must have envied.  Whilst flop singles from British comedians are so ubiquitous in second hand shops that it seems pointless even mentioning it, Feldman's work is among the few I would argue is undeserving of the infamy.  His tunes are an extension of his personality, and the frothy excitement behind most of the work almost manages, in some cases, to give the impression that it was partly improvised (not entirely impossible, actually).

His Christmas single "A Joyous Time Of Year" is a sarcastic piece of nastiness stabbing a dirty digit at the inconveniences of Yuletide.  In it he lists the various miserable aspects of the season - the cost of his wife's present, for example, "could have bought Mornington Crescent", and idiots buying children trumpets ("blowing dischords in my ear") is another inconvenience which is given an airing.  The song is capped off brilliantly by Feldman listing an itinerary of utterly hopeless presents (which still sound better than my haul last year, incidentally).

More interesting still is the B-side where Feldman decides he can "say whatever he wants" because nobody listens to flipsides of records anymore, and proceeds to spread slander about various radio DJs, saving most of his unpleasantness for Tony Blackburn.  Perhaps they did hear the B-side after all, for this single simply did not sell, and Feldman's career as a comedy singer failed - but unbelievably, both tracks and his album "I Feel A Song Going Off" have been made available on iTunes by Decca Records.  To listen to the tracks in full, purchase them either from there or from another online retail outlet.  In the meantime, enjoy the snippets below.

15 December 2010

The Snowmen - Nik Nak Paddywack

Hello - if you're reading this because of an old episode of TOTP2, go here to read an update on who The Snowmen actually were (just don't shoot the messenger, that's all). 

Label: Priority
Year of Release: 1986

Stiff Records will probably be known by most music lovers for dropping Ian Dury, Madness and Elvis Costello on to a country that had until then failed to realise that it really needed such characters as its pop stars.  It will forever be remembered as a label that had a run of success which - Alvin Stardust and Tracy Ullman singles aside - wouldn't really have been predicted by most music industry insiders.  It's hard to imagine a successful label now being bankrolled by artists such as a thirtysomething man with polio inflicted disabilities, a bespectacled serious singer-songwriter with the first name Elvis, and a large gang of whacky but earthily intelligent lads running around like Gumby-esque idiots playing a ska derived racket.

Perhaps the fact that Stiff seemed to tap into the glory of unrestrained English eccentrics encouraged the owner Dave Robinson to dabble in some rather peculiar areas with slightly more mixed results.  Spoken about less frequently are the mysterious Snowmen, whose "Hokey Cokey" was a slightly surprising number 18 hit in 1981 (Slade had shamelessly tried their luck with the very same track two years before to be greeted with utter disinterest).  The 'band' - if it could really be described as such - was represented by four costumed gentlemen on "Top of the Pops" rather unable to do most of the gestures described in the song due to the restrictions of their outfits.  Or perhaps that was part of the joke.

At the time, rumours were rife that this was Ian Dury messing around, and whilst those have persisted to an extent, there is - as "Sweeping the Nation" blog mentioned some days ago - little evidence to suggest this is the case.  Given that Dury has now no longer been with us for some time, one would have hoped that if he had anything to do with the four Snowmen singles which were issued, we'd know something about it by now.  Jona Lewie was another rumoured contributor to the project, which seems more realistic.  Lewie wasn't above making novelty records, having issued "Seaside Shuffle" under the name Terry Dactyl and the Dinosaurs in the seventies, and the gruffness of the voice also isn't laughably far away from his normal vocal stylings.

The word "might" is key here, however, and the fact remains that for the last twenty-five years now we've been left in the dark about which Stiff employee - if any - was responsible for all this.  "Nik Nak Paddywack" was really their last hurrah, and by the time it came out Stiff had gone belly-up, leaving Priority Records to handle the issue, which failed to enter the Top 75.  All the familiar elements are intact, including the utterly inappropriate fifty-a-day child-stalker vocals, festive bells and chimes, and utter relentless stupidity.  It's not a record which deserves to be heard necessarily, and nor is it a record which should have charted, but it is a perplexing little piece of a puzzle.  Will the real Snowmen please stand up?  My money personally is on my chain-smoking, gruff voiced, Mark E Smith lookalike Chemistry teacher from school, but then it always was.

12 December 2010

The Jackpots - Tiny Goddess/ Jack in the Box

Jackpots - Tiny Goddess

Label: Garagelands
Year of Release: 1968 (this reissue 1987)

Whilst in these post-Abba years we've grown to accept the fact that the Swedish music industry is actually marvellous, the sixties were somewhat barren years for that nation's records outside of Scandinavian countries.  Gothenburg's The Jackpots, for example, were huge stars in their own country, famed for their studio psychedelia, close harmonies, and way with a memorable melody.  Here in the UK, they may as well not have existed.

Their cover of Nirvana's (or Nirvana UK as they seem to now be known in some quarters) "Tiny Goddess" doesn't really change the original drastically, but does add glitters of wintery harmony to the original's slightly more polite arrangement.  It's a marvellous tonic, and sounds ever so faintly festive in the same manner that John Cale's "Paris 1919" and the Dukes of Stratosphear's "Pale and Precious" seem Christmassy without having that intention behind them.

A full version of "Tiny Goddess" can be heard on YouTube here, or if you really want, you can purchase The Jackpot's material over on iTunes.   Contained below are some brief, edited versions for you to sample.

11 December 2010

Technical Difficulties

It's with a certain degree of frustration that I have to report that for the second time in a row, Blogger has just shredded my most recent update, reducing it to a blank page.  To those of you who logged on hoping to read about The Jackpots, I apologise - I really would try and write something for you all again for the third flaming time in a row, but:

a/ I have a busy Saturday ahead where I have other things to do
b/ My love for this Swedish psych-pop band doesn't stretch as far as doing two rewrites in a row.

"But you should copy and paste the text content and save it to Word, Dave, especially when you've already had issues!"
"I'll give you 'issues' in a minute, young man..."

As the BBC used to say whenever their tapes failed, we will return to The Jackpots as soon as we possibly can.  That won't be anytime today, though.

Oh yes - and all the Sharebee links seem to also be down this afternoon, and I have no idea whether this is a temporary glitch or a more permanent action - so you all know just as much about this as I do...

8 December 2010

One Hit Wonders #17 - Parchment - Light Up The Fire

Parchment - Light up the Fire

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1972

Christian music, in its many forms, has traditionally received an awkward mainstream media response. Even if it's by Cliff Richard and the results actually sell, radio stations generally tend not to bother much with it, and the mere mention of "quite a good Christian band" you're aware of will usually brings waves of incredulity crashing in your direction.  This isn't, in my opinion at least, completely without justification.  There have been many different kinds of Christian pop and rock, and even some New Wave orientated attempts by the likes of The Reps (who were actually responsible for the first gig I ever attended, although it should be noted that it was a special lunchtime performance at my school).  Most, however, seem to have a smug piousness about them which is more of a turn-off than anything else, like celebratory hook-laden football songs performed by teams you don't support.  It only makes sense to people who are already on the inside.

Parchment are considered by some pop-psych connoisseurs to be the exception to the rule that Christian music is always naff and fit only for believers who want to celebrate their choice of religion.  This is largely thanks to the involvement of John Pantry, who we previously discussed over at the entry for The Factory's "Try A Little Sunshine".  Tired of the inward looking, selfish and decadent nature of the traditional rock circuit, he gave up producing acts with mainstream potential (or even cult underground potential) and focussed on Christian rock and pop instead.  Parchment were his first quarry, and some of his fairydust is evident on the odd track of theirs, not least "Love Is Come Again" which I've included as a bonus example below.  That effort is reminiscent of psychedelic Christian folk, if such a hybrid ever really existed, all zinging sitars and childlike wonder.

"Light Up The Fire", on the other hand, was Parchment's sole Top 40 hit, climbing to number 31 largely thanks to a campaign to get a song about Jesus on to "Top of the Pops" (chart bothering campaigns, whether done on Facebook or by the church, are absolutely nothing new).  I'm afraid it's rather more traditional fare, a very saccharine track which gives the converted cause to cheer in campfire unison, but seems absolutely, utterly baffling to non-believers.  That's not to say that with Pantry at the wheel Parchment didn't produce a few tracks of note outside their one minor hit, however, and they're songs which make me feel frustrated he crossed the waters into Christian radio rather than sticking around with the likes of The Factory that little bit longer.

In the meantime, I've decided to make this the first "Left and to the Back" entry of December which has a tenuous (or otherwise) link to Christmas.  Rather than diving straight into the Christmas buffet, we're going to slowly sink ourselves in bit by bit until the tenuous connections become actual ones.

4 December 2010

Granny's Intentions - Story of David

Granny's Intentions

Label: Deram
Year of Issue: 1967

"David Miller was a cock..."

Well, that's just charming.

"Wrote poetry... using only seven English verbs"

Ah, now I understand.  I've had dealings with such characters myself.

Granny's Intentions were a Dublin based outfit who, like rather too many Irish acts in the sixties, were largely ignored in Britain, being forced into the position of supporting various showbands in their home country instead.  Apparently slavered over by a cult following on the Irish gig circuit, their apparent absence from the usual array of sixties compilations is a curious case which should surely be remedied soon.  "Story of David" may not quite be up there with "My White Bicycle", but nonetheless its pounding organ riffs, bellowing blue-eyed soul meets mystic seer vocals, and beatnik-bashing lyrics make it very of its time.

Indeed, "The Story of David" appears to be a cautionary warning about delving too deep into the complex and unappreciated world of experimental poetry.  David Miller, we learn, was rejected from endless publishers for his hip appearance and bizarre prose, forced to live on unemployment benefit, and we are finally told that really, he should simply stop snubbing convention and "Go back to work".  One can almost see the pointing of several nagging, wagging fingers when that line is collectively delivered by the band in a harmonious fashion.  Who David Miller is or was (almost certainly not the Australian poet listed on Wikipedia) and what business any of this happened to be of Granny's Intentions shall possibly forever remain a mystery, but the end result appears to be a critique of underground dabblers, placing this track on a rarified list of psychedelic songs which either dis the scene that spawned them (The Montanas "Difference of Opinion", Dave Clarke Five's "Lost In His Dreams") or make rather conservative judgmental noises about the homeless or jobless (Falling Leaves' "Beggar's Parade").

The Intentions also briefly counted Gary Moore amongst their line-up, who played on several tracks on their sole album "Honest Injun".  Thus, they are arguably the least obscure of all the remaining unsung underground sixties acts.

1 December 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 66 - Disco 2000 - I Gotta CD

Disco 2000 - I Gotta CD

Who: Disco 2000
What: I Gotta CD
Label: KLF Communications
When: 1987
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p

If there's one thing Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty out of the KLF never seemed to do, it was explain their actions.  Their dislike of the five W's - the Who, What, Where, When and Whys so beloved of all qualified journalists - was so pronounced that they even referred to their distaste for such questions in their fan newsletters.  Given this, it's never been terribly clear what the point of the very seldom-referenced Disco 2000 project was.  It seems to have become the least respected KLF moniker by far, causing the twelve inch singles to slip into the lonely corner of the Music and Video Exchange, reduced to a mere 50p.  Why yes, I did do a double-take upon finding this one there in such good condition.

Fronted by Jimmy's wife Cressida Cauty and June Montana who previously sang lead vocals in his band Brilliant, it's tempting to rubber stamp this as a vanity project and move on, but I suspect there may have been more going on than that.  The three singles by Disco 2000 which slipped out largely unnoticed have a definite Justified Ancients of Mu Mu feel to them, but whilst Jams discs frequently had an anarchic darkness in their grooves, being filled with sampled interruptions and sinister slogans, Disco 2000 records tended to fizz along with a cheery rabidity.  It's possible that Cauty and Drummond were attempting to crack the pop charts by taking what they'd learnt from the sample-a-thon of "1987" and getting two slightly more conventionally charismatic figures to front the mayhem.  If this should be in any doubt, it's worth noting that two of their singles had promo videos, and the third and final Disco 2000 single "Uptight" came with a record store campaign which made it all the way down to Southend where I lived at the time.  Colour posters announcing the single's issue were stuck to the entrance door of my local record emporium, which seems like rather a lot of trouble to go to for the sake of larks (especially given how cash-strapped the KLF apparently were at the time).  There again, you never can tell.  Conventional logic never seemed to apply to the individuals concerned.

Whatever the intentions, Disco 2000 did not break through in the same manner as the Timelords project, or in the manner that the KLF themselves did at a later date, and the press seemed not to jump on the concept with quite the same degree of enthusiasm.  After "Uptight" failed, the project was shelved.  What we're left with is a curious trio of singles which sound halfway between the snarling of the Jams (Bill Drummond's voice can even clearly be heard on some of the tracks, including "I Gotta CD" below) and a hyperactive British version of Salt-n-Pepa.  Unlike Stock Aitken and Waterman's production efforts - which Cauty and Drummond were unquestionably inspired by - these records sound distinctly hand made and hammer their rhythms home almost violently.  It's an unsubtle, sticklebrick kind of pop, not as finely crafted as the ambient or Stadium House work which came later,  nor as brutal as the Jams - but they're an interesting piece in the puzzle, a halfway house in the development of the KLF's style.

As for the frontwomen behind this, Cressida Cauty - or Cressida Bowyer as she is now known - eventually moved on to being responsible for some astonishing design and choreography work for the KLF.  Having abandoned the music industry since their demise, she is presently finishing her PhD at the University of Brighton, doing research on liver cancer.  A greater leap away from the chaos of Trancentral could surely not be made (she also appears to be working with a lecturer there I've had professional dealings with in the past myself, but that's another story).  June Montana's whereabouts are harder to trace, and more information would be welcome.

(and I wonder how many people will actually come this way looking for mp3s of Pulp's "Disco 2000"?  Hmmm... and yes, before you say anything, I did know that Jarvis Cocker originally wanted Bill Drummond to produce "Different Class").

27 November 2010

The Impossible Dreamers - This House Built On Sand

Impossible Dreamers - This House Built On Sand

Label: Arcadia
Year of Release: 1984

At the risk of boring you all - because I'm sure I've said it before - the mainstream media notion of what British eighties indie-pop actually was has become very one-dimensional.  If we believe the carefully edited version of events, at the tail end of the decade "baggy" or "Madchester" sounds dominated, and prior to that the popular notion is that the mid-eighties were filled with twee C86 jangle-pop or, in the early part of the decade, post-punk.

Truth be told, the eighties indie scene was filled with a cornucopia of critically acclaimed sounds, from bone-shaking discordant rock to intelligent Cohen-inspired solo performers to anarcho-punks to... stuff like this.  Material which sounds inspired by an imagined, sophisticated coffee house culture which never really occurred effectively in Britain at any time.  It's slick, carefully constructed, knowing and definitely listenable, taking its cues from The Style Council, The Dream Academy and Sade as much as it does the low budget racketeers of the surrounding underground circuit.

Exeter's Impossible Dreamers enjoyed a lot of positive press in the weekly music papers in Britain - including one NME Single of the Week - and had one song ("August Avenue") which was produced by Johnny Marr.  Both factors would ordinarily be enough to make sure a band remained permanently fixed in cult indie databases up and down the land, but it's difficult not to conclude that the mainstream edge the Dreamers kept to their work caused them to be ultimately become less well remembered.  Still, unlike many a "Left and to the Back" contender, they do have a website of sorts here outlining a lot of information about the group's discography and history.

24 November 2010

Herbie & The Royalists - Soul of the Matter

Herbie & The Royalists - Soul of the Matter

Label: Saga
Year of Release: 1968

"In the last eight months Herbie & The Royalists have acquired a tremendous following in London and the provinces.  Fans delight not only in their music but also incurable sense of humour.
The effervescent HERBIE captivates his audiences, expounding energy and vitality, "above and beyond the call of duty".
The Royalists themselves are excellent musicians whose music is exciting, original and varied.
"Baby I Love You" is fast and lively, featuring exciting guitar work by IAN MILLER (lead guitar), "Dirty Old Town" is slow, sentimental and nostalgic, depicting HERBIE's home town in Barbados.
A number with a heavy beat and interesting harmony backing from BRIAN COOPER (drums), STEVE FIELD (bass) and IAN is "A Day in the Life of Julie", but perhaps the most sensational number on the album is the dramatic "Lost Voyage", a powerful and original instrumental.
The only other instrumental on the LP is "Royal Suite", based on Handel's "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba".  Arrangement on this was by organist DENIS LASCELLES.  The number displays a perfect blend of classical and popular music.
Alien to HERBIE's happy personality are the sentiments of "My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse", the cry of a lost and angry young man in a powerful hard-hitting number.  The album closes romantically on "It's All Because Of You".  And it's all because of Herbie & The Royalists that you will enjoy this album - because they get right to the SOUL OF THE MATTER."

Hmm, yes.  "Mulligan and O'Hare" styled sleevenotes aside, this album often crops up in passing conversation as being one of the few relatively untapped mines of sixties goodness, so please let me begin this blog entry on a critical note - it's largely very average indeed, and when it troughs, by God does it trough.  Disclaimers aside, however, there is at least one track on here I'm incredibly surprised has never found its way on to a British psychedelic compilation.

To understand the potential failings of the album, you need to consider the fact that Saga Records specialised in quickly bashed out budget albums designed for the cash-strapped patron of Woolworths and the record department of Boots the Chemist.  From the sleeve design to the recording and pressing of the vinyl, very little expense was spared.  Bands were given contracts to sign which entitled them to a one-off payment and no royalties at all on sales.  The recording itself would take place in cheaply assembled studios in unlikely places, with several items in the Saga back-catalogue (most notably the Magic Mixtures album) having been recorded in an Infant School Hall at night.  The session would generally last only slightly longer than a straight run-through of the band's material would take, so there were few (if any) retakes allowed, and the production seemed non-existent.  It takes an exceptional band performing under top flight circumstances to pull the necessary on-the-one genius out of the bag, and Saga weren't dealing with bands at the top end of their profession, just hungry musicians desperate to get some product in the shops and their name known.

Given these mitigating factors, it is possible to see "Soul of the Matter" in a much more flattering light.  Herbie admittedly isn't the best singer the Royalists could have hoped for, and his voice probably is more suited to frustrated howlers such as "My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse" rather than romantic ditties.  However, there are a few tracks here which arguably would have made the miniscule asking price of the album worth anyone's while.  Besides "Fuse", there's the decidedly unsoulful psychedelic trip of "Lost Voyage", which starts off in a subdued, metronomic fashion only to burst into kaleidoscopic colour and life two minutes in, filled with a blistering, soaring guitar break up there with the finest instrumental Pink Floyd pieces of the same period.  "Royal Suite" too is as good a take on classically influenced pop as any I've heard, and it leaves me wondering what Herbie and his gang would have been capable of with more production time and a better studio.  As this appears to have been their only recorded output, we'll probably never know.

It's not clear to me what happened to the band after this release, but Saga have gone from strength to strength and now own a radio station, as well as specialising in holidays, private finance and insurance. As such, they're probably a lot more bankable than EMI at present... Perhaps Herbie & The Royalists work in one of their offices.

For people who want to skip downloading the whole album and just listen to "Lost Voyage", I have provided a stand-alone mp3 below.


Side One
1. Baby I Love You
2. Dirty Old Town
3. Please Forgive
4. A Day in the Life Of Julie
5. Forever Yours
6. Flowers All Surrounding
7. Lost Voyage

Side Two
1. Royal Suite
2. Try to Find Me
3. Too Blind To See
4. I'll Never Stop
5. My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse
6. I'm Breathing Heavy
7. It's All Because of You

Download it Here

20 November 2010

Windmill - I Can Fly/ Such Sweet Sorrow

Windmill - I Can Fly

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1970

Almost exactly one year ago on this blog, we pondered the failure of the enthusiastically backed Windmill to break through in the late sixties and early seventies.  Here, after all, were a band with the Blaikley/ Howard songwriting team behind them and MCA at the wheel.  I concluded that the problem was mainly that the band's sound was too damn dated by the time of their media unveiling, and the unearthing of a mint copy of this single hasn't done anything to change my mind.

"I Can Fly" really is just a burst of bouyant popsike occurring at least three years too late, having originally been released by The Herd back then.  The deep vocals about "ghosts and phantoms", the puffing flutes, and the celebratory away-with-the-fairies chorus all gels together to create something distinctly paisley patterned.  Whilst I wouldn't want to give more ammo to the continual myth that psych-pop just didn't chart in the early seventies - Hawkwind's "Silver Machine" alone proves that wasn't the case - it isn't unfair to note that it stood much less of a chance of breaking through with the fashion obsessed public.  This is a shame, as "I Can Fly" is an irrepressibly jaunty piece of work.

The rest of the Windmill story is summarised over at my previous entry, and if I ever do find a copy of "Wilbur's Thing" I can afford, rest assured you lot will be among the first to find out.

17 November 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 65 - Mojams feat. Debbie Currie - You Can Do Magic

Mojams featuring Debbie Currie - you can do magic

Who: Mojams feat. Debbie Currie (actually, Sinitta)
What: You Can Do Magic
Label: Gotham
When: 1997
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street
Cost: 50p

Whilst truth is indeed frequently stranger than fiction in the music industry, sometimes when things seem too absurd to be true, it's because they are.  This single is a supremely odd confirmation of that fact, a scam so subtle in its execution that to this day, you can still see references to it on national newspaper websites as being a bona-fide piece of work.

Debbie Currie, the daughter of "outspoken" Conservative MP Edwina Currie, was attempting a career as a journalist when the team behind the investigative programme the "Cook Report" approached her with an intriguing offer.  The deal was that she would pretend to front a single produced by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken, and they would hire a gang of "hypers" to artificially push its position up the charts.  The aim was to ultimately expose the British charts as being open to abuse despite the BPI's continual assurances that hype was now easily spotted, and a thing of the distant past.

In reality, Sinitta sang the vocals, and all Currie really appears to have done is displayed her stomach on the sleeve (above) and posed for a few publicity shots.  The gossip columns of newspapers also ran a few short pieces about "sexy" Debbie Currie's new pop band which gave the project an air of authenticity, which was eventually blown on prime-time television.

I suspect that the "Cook Report" team would have liked to have seen the single chart within the Top 40, but in reality - despite the production team behind it, and despite the publicity - the single stiffed at number 81.  The end programme appeared to gamely claim that they'd exposed the fact that chart rigging still existed, but it's hard not to conclude that an average pop single produced by Stock and Aitken would have been expected to chart within the lower reaches of the Top 100 at the very least.  Music industry mogul Clive Selwood also dismisses the show's scoop in his biography "All of the Moves But None of the Licks", stating that the single should probably have charted higher on its own merits, and questions should have been asked of the distributors.  All it proved, he concluded, is that people can easily be tricked out of money for non-existent services, which is admittedly fraud, but not exactly headline news.

Perhaps it's due to the failings of the documentary to make a concrete point that to this day, journalists still cite Debbie Currie's "failed pop career" as evidence of the fact that she's "Edwina Currie's rebellious, wild child daughter".  This is an utterly incorrect version of events, and Debbie has gone on record as saying that she would never have seriously considered a career in music, and that her friends assumed that she was having "some sort of breakdown" at the time whilst she kept the pretence up.

As for "You Can Do Magic" itself, it's a passable little single, perfectly pleasant in a quickly recorded Saint Etienne B-side kind of way.  In a quiet week in January it might actually have performed moderately well in its own right, and it's certainly a strange tune to pick to prove a chart hype point.  Perhaps if something noticeably below par had been used, the researchers and producers behind the show might have worried that the authorities would have smelt a rat.

Interestingly, there's also an information service advertised on the sleeve, asking us to write to "Mojams, Freepost 1276, PO BOX 4100, London, SE1 0YW".  One wonders what anybody who scribbled a note to that address got in return - a signed picture of Roger Cook angrily pointing, perhaps.

13 November 2010

One Hit Wonders #16 - The Second City Sound - Tchaikovsky One

Second City Sound Tchaikovsky One

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1965

Sometimes obscure-sounding vintage-looking records leap out at you from the record racks, and you snap them up cheaply on the off-chance it's some killer little flop which has remained ignored by the wider public.  You get home, you put it on the turntable, conclude that it's quite an interesting little number and that you might be on to something.  Then you check ChartStats, and realise that it's just a minor hit single you've never heard before.

Still, this blog has a "One Hit Wonder" section now, and Brum instrumentalists The Second City Sound certainly fit that particular category.  "Tchaikovsky One" is much what you'd suspect it to be from the title, being a beat driven take on classical music, something I've always found nigh on impossible to listen to without hearing Peter Sellers' character Tommy Iron in my head saying "We'll cover anything that's out of copyright, like".  As wrong as it could potentially be, though, there's a Meek-like care about the record which seems immediately delightful, and the band shared Meek's love for technology.  Keyboard player Ken Freeman wanted to have a Mellotron on the track, but finding himself strapped for cash had to use a Clavioline instead, which gives the track a slightly eerie, dreamy air.

The B-side "Shadows" doesn't appear to be a tribute to the band of the same name, but rather a sinister, edgy piece of instrumental work with occasional bursts into pounding piano boogie.  I actually prefer it to the A-side.

As for The Second City Sound, no further hits were forthcoming after this reached number 22, but at least one of their number went on to have an influence on the music industry. Ken Freeman might not have been able to afford that ultra-desirable Mellotron, but he went on to build and market synths of his own, creating the Freeman String Symphonizer.  He also worked with Mike Oldfield and Jon Anderson, and perhaps most notably of all Jeff Wayne on the "War of the Worlds" album.  It's difficult to hear quite where his career was going to go on the basis of this little single, but for all its chocolate box arrangements, this probably sounded like a startlingly modern piece of work in 1965.  If Joe Meek didn't start hurling objects around his Holloway Road flat after hearing it, then I'm a Dutchman.

10 November 2010

Techno Twins - Falling In Love Again & Karel Fialka - Armband

Techno Twins - Falling In Love Again

Label: PRT
Year of Release: 1981

On the surface, there's no real connection between Karel Fialka and The Techno Twins, who I've lumped together for the benefit of this entry - to the best of my knowledge, they've never been on the same live bill, they probably don't attend each other's dinner parties, and it's entirely possible that they'd be insulted by the mere suggestion they had anything in common.

In my own lazy way, then, the main reason I've lumped them together is that for me, they represent a forgotten aspect of eighties electronic pop.  The Human League, Soft Cell, and even OMD had a tenderness to their work which breathed human life into the electronic squall.  The most timeless work of that period wasn't recently revived by many a Brit school contender and A&R department for no reason (although it's probably going off the boil again as we speak).  Whilst there was a suspicion in some quarters around the late eighties that the earliest synthetic music would quickly become irrelevant, sounding like a decadent pop experiment from another era with no possible connection to the real 21st Century world, it's as strong as ever.  In the same way that Joe Meek's earliest experiments with sound still resonate with a fragile hope, so does the work of most of the more mainstream eighties contenders.

Except... if you dig deep enough in the second hand store racks, oddities crop up all the time which seem to have no connection at all to the present.  They invariably sound like relics, as far from "Open Your Heart" or "Tainted Love" is it's possible to get.  They may as well have not even have been part of the same scene.  The Techno Twins, for example, look strangely out of sorts in the picture above - almost like a fancy dress store approximation of Futurism or New Romanticism, the kind of blurred, misty photo you'd find on a party store package containing some novelty wigs.  Their cover of "Falling in Love Again" is actually sweet enough, but what dates it is the way it uses electronics robotically and rigidly.  It jitters and judders all over the place, sounding custom made for novelty robotic mime artists Tik and Tok.  Instead of integrating the electronics smoothly into the melody and thinking about how the synthesisers might in the very near future be a crucial part of the pop story, it's led by the novelty of them.  The Techno Twins have been credited with inventing the word "techno", but the way they used the instrumentation seemed bound by a "Tomorrow's World" past filled with awkward, jerky machinery.   There is no humanity to be found here at all.

To me, this sounds fascinating purely because I can't think of a single artist making pop music remotely like this now.  Bands like Stereolab may have looked backwards to a Moogy Wonderland past, but nobody at the moment seems to be mimicking the early eighties artists who had watched "Metropolis" rather too keenly.

Karel Fialka - Armband

Label: Blueprint
Year of Release: 1979

And on to Karel Fialka, a man who would later hit the charts with "Hey Matthew", a song which some people have since claimed is a brilliant and perceptive pop song which juxtaposes the way children and adults watch the telly and view the world.  I still find it bloody irritating myself.

Still, way before that he too sounded as if he existed in a futuristic dystopia, making singles like "Armband" which sounds simultaneously emotionally distant and also full of dread.  Dramatic drums pound away from the very beginning, electronic seagulls screech away, and Karel has a good old rant about inflatable life-saving wear (which I think is almost certainly supposed to be a metaphor for the safety cushion of relationships).  It has the same jerkiness and awkwardness as The Techno Twins record, and none of the gentle observations his later work would have.  These days, it actually sounds faintly absurd, which is curious - he actually got on "Top of the Pops" with another single from this era ("The Eyes Have It") which achieved an enormous volume of airplay.

Flip side "Metal Urbane", on the other hand, focusses on the fact that we are all being watched by metal men.  Poor Karel didn't realise that intelligent humanoid robots of the future might be made of silicon.

Beyond the aural evidence, it's worth noting that both these singles have another thing in common - they were flops marketed by the ailing Pye Records company (or Prelude Records and Tapes, to give the organisation its eighties name).  Evidence would not suggest, however, that they had an entire roster filled with artists of this ilk.

6 November 2010

One Hit Wonders #15 - Joy Sarney - Naughty Naughty Naughty

Joy Sarney - Naughty Naughty Naughty

Label: Alaska
Year of Release: 1977

So it's like this - John Schroeder's Alaska label spent most of the seventies releasing what could only be considered to be commercially viable (although often gimmicky) material.  Discs with the disco in mind were put out, as were populist ballads, and even football songs.  The public remained unmoved.

Perhaps this record should therefore be taken as proof that winning formulas come in unlikely packages, for this is the only single on the label to succeed in getting one of their artists on "Top of the Pops" - and lo and behold, it's a ballad to Mr Punch out of Punch and Judy sung by sultry ex-session singer-turned-housewife Joy Sarney.  Alaska went to the trouble of actually hiring a professional Punch and Judy man for the session, gave Joy a bunch of extremely peculiar lyrics about her love for the hooked-nose one ("He's been in trouble with the law for Grevious Bodily Harm... I'm his puppet, but he won't pull my strings") mashed the lot together with the kind of bouncy lightweight rhythm frequently reserved for Paul Nicholas singles, and watched as to their delight they enjoyed their only hit.  If you created a computer randomiser to pick up subject matter and style for a record, you'd probably come up with something which seemed less absurd.

It doesn't seem as if anyone else involved with the making of the single thought it would break through.  The then-rookie engineer (and these days well-paid producer) Chris Tsangardies has gone on record as saying "The bloody thing was atrocious... it will haunt me, but it was a break".  Reportedly, Joy herself is good humoured about the record, and is under no illusions about its status in the grand scheme of things.  On top of that, only recently the BBC included it in a list of clips of the worst "Top of the Pops" appearances of all time, largely by dint of the unusual nature of the record rather than as a comment on Joy's performance.

After "Naughty Naughty Naughty" peaked at number 26, it would seem that an attempt was made at pulling Joy back into the music industry full-time, as a follow up "Angling for A Kiss" was released later that year.  However, it failed to chart, and that seems to have been the end of that.  In the meantime, online conversations rage about whether Joy Sarney actually hails from Liverpool or Southend.  I spent my teenage years growing up in Southend, but on the basis of evidence I've been presented with, I'd say it's probably safe to conclude that she lived and worked in both places at one point or another.  Let's not fight about who can rightfully place her on their local walk of fame, eh readers?  We can share the credit.

Please don't ask me who the credited "Friends Of Joy" are on the B-side singing the cod-country track "Letters of Love", either.  I'm sure it was probably an afterthought on the part of everyone concerned.

3 November 2010

The Frugal Sound - Norwegian Wood

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1966

It wasn't completely unheard of for English folk artists to cover The Beatles - The Overlanders did just that with "Michelle" and took it all the way to the top spot in the British charts.  In fact, by the time the sixties were up, The Beatles had been covered by all and sundry from soul singers to reggae artists to easy listening superstars, so the existence of some gentle acoustic pondering of their finer moments from musicians of a more traditional style should be no real surprise.

"Norwegian Wood" always did have enough of a vaguely mysterious, pastoral feel to it to be a relatively easy fit for any self-respecting folkie, and so it proves - this version is gentle, whimsical and decidedly Autumnal sounding single (enough for it to end up on the "Autumn Almanac" compilation put out by Sanctuary Records a few years ago).  It doesn't tear the original to pieces, but the vocals are less nasal and slightly warmer, the close harmonies sounding well suited to the song.  It's a record to play whilst lounging around the fireside with a glass of something intoxicating, or perhaps whilst sitting around the three bar fire if you're really stuck.  

The flip "Cruel To Be Kind" gives a better impression of what The Frugal Sound could create when away from the Lennon-McCartney songbook, being a heartfelt ballad with a female vocal lead from Rosalind Rankin which knows exactly where to draw the line.

30 October 2010



I'm afraid I'm forgoing the usual weekend update.  Here's the truth, should you want to hear it - I've been very pressed for time over the last fortnight or so, and simply haven't had the time to digitise the teetering pile of vinyl which presently sits over by the old Elizabethan Astronaut record player in my front room.  Also, finding cheap, interesting material over the last month or so has been a massive chore, and rather than upload any old toss, it's probably better to have a brief breather for today.

But while you're here - a mystery has reared its head.  On several blogs, the mp3 you see at the bottom of this page has been credited as being "Oo Chang A Lang" by The Blue Orchids.  It's a brilliant piece of garage punk riffery which seems to predate Riot Grrrl by several decades, and sounds defiantly abrasive.  There's a small problem, though.  It's not "Oo Chang A Lang" by The Blue Orchids.  This is "Oo Chang A Lang" by the Blue Orchids, a piece of cod-Spectorism which is innocent and puppy-eyed, and couldn't sound less like the track I've got in mind.

So, who is the track by, and when was it released?  If a reader is able to put me out of my misery, I'd be a happy man.  It probably will turn out to be an embarrassingly obvious answer I should know already, but I'm prepared to weather that.

27 October 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 64 - Topol Sings Israeli Freedom Songs

Topol Sings Israeli Freedom Songs
Who: Topol
What: Sings Israeli Freedom Songs
Label: Ember
When: 1967
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street

Cost: One pound

If popular culture myths are to be believed, 1967 was the year the world went wonky, LSD fell into the reservoirs, and everyone wigged out.  Nonsense, of course.  Somebody genuinely would have had to spike the water supplies of every major town and city on Earth to have inspired such a seachange, and in reality, life for most people simply rolled on as usual.  The closest my father came to witnessing the psychedelic underground up close was when Peter Starstedt popped into his Peckham local for a pint - and let's be honest, Starstedt wasn't really any underground hero, and apparently came quite close to being given a thorough drubbing.  Wherever his lovely went to, it clearly wasn't pubs off the Old Kent Road.

So then, whereas 1967 to some people may involve Pink Floyd, The Beatles going ker-azy, the UFO club, and all manner of absurdities besides, in reality for other people it might have meant Ken Dodd and Engelbert Humperdinck (saleswise, Eng was something of a runaway victor in that year).  And whilst others dictated peace and love, other recording artists were going quite berserk with other more militant concerns, which finally brings us on to Topol, star of the musical "Fiddler on the Roof".  When the 1967 Israel-Syria conflict came to a head, he decided to down tools as a performer and fight for his country.  Not only that, he produced a concept album of songs about it.

Originally, I was tempted to post the sleeve of this record up for public viewing and leave it at that.  Extra comment seemed somehow superfluous.  This entire album is not in English, so it's impossible to hear exactly what he's telling us, but with song titles like "The Canon Song", "World's End", "One Hundred and Twenty Men" and "We Are Coming To You", it's perfectly possible to fill in some of the blanks yourself.  The accompanying sleeve notes written by Benny Green of The Observer newspaper also give us some background: "...when his homeland was threatened, he stopped fiddling on the roof and returned to what was in effect a beleaguered Nation, fulfilling the first duty of every citizen of that astounding country, which is to die for it before seeing it destroyed... The songs he sings on this album, seen in the context of the national crisis which inspired them are an inspiration not only to Israelis but to everyone who believes that fundamental human rights are worth any sacrifice".

I don't want to get sucked into a debate about the moral rights or wrongs of this record, but I don't think it's remotely unfair to say that in peacetime (if not before) the sleeve image of Topol hollering into a hand grenade instead of a microphone isn't so much of a powerful image as a truly preposterous one.  Even the worst, bargain basement Clash-inspired punk band would have turned down such a sleeve art suggestion.  It doesn't cause one to stop and think, it just immediately suggests that the poor bastard may have had a bit of a funny turn when it came to the photo session.  Nor should it surprise anyone to learn that in Britain at least, this album did not sell, but just you try seeing it in the reduced racks of a second hand record store and looking the other way... It's just a shame I can't find any English translations of the lyrics anywhere.

Sorry for not uploading the whole album, by the way.  I couldn't face it.  If enough people desperately need to hear the rest I may reconsider.

23 October 2010

Owen Gray & Maximum Breed - Sitting in the Park

Owen Gray & Maximum Breed - Sitting in the Park

Label: Revolution Rocksteady
Year of Release: 1969

Whilst uploading Count Prince Miller's bizarre cover of the "Rupert the Bear" theme some weeks ago, it occurred to me that I had yet to devote space on this blog to a rocksteady version of "Sitting in the Park" which, to my ears, is among the finest cover versions ever recorded.

It might not be quite the right time of year to hear this record - at least, not for readers in the northern hemisphere - but "Sitting in the Park" is transferred from being the simplistic pop hit Georgie Fame produced into something which broods across five and a half minutes, pulling itself in half with its atmosphere and lyrical focus; on the one hand, there's the optimistic, carefree mentions of summer breezes, but the chorus homes in much more on the notion of being stood up in a city's recreational facility, and positively howls for mercy.  Anyone who has been kept waiting for somebody to turn up on a date very early in a relationship will know how Owen feels, although I doubt any of us have ever wailed "Why oh why oh why oh why oh why, tell me why!", at least not in public.

The arrangement of "Sitting in the Park" is also brave enough to be restrained, and lets subtle changes seep up as the record progresses, from the cooing female backing vocals, right through to the delightful, gentle organ riff that begins to bubble through to become a more dominant feature towards the end.  Seldom have I ever had cause to refer to a record as "lazy" and mean it as a compliment, but this single is deceptive in its idleness.  It may sound as if Owen is hanging in a hammock in Hyde Park letting his band relax with light alcoholic beverages, but in reality there's so much going on here sweating away to give the listener that impression.  Even after nearly six minutes of noise, you're left irritated that the fade kicks in, as well as admiring of Owen's cheek when he publicises the fact that he'll be releasing a new single soon right near the end.  Now that, my friends, is laidback cool.

Owen Gray (and yes, that is the correct spelling of his name despite the misprint on the label above) has had a long history in music.  As a member of the Folks Brothers act he cut the original version of "Oh Carolina" - later covered by Shaggy to enormous success, of course - and was marketed heavily by Island Records in the seventies as being a crossover artist to rival Bob Marley.  In reality, his career did not really rise above the levels of cultish success, even though, as "Sitting in the Park" proves, his records could periodically pack an astonishing punch.

Sitting on the flip of "Sitting in the Park" is a different character with the Maximum Breed backing band, namely Pete Hunt.  Less is known about this man, although there has been some speculation that he is actually the very same Pete Hunt who drummed for mod band The Quik.  There have also been rumours that the Maximum Breed band contain Pete Gage who later joined Dr Feelgood, but again, you'd never get such mutterings past a Wikipedia moderator, and I'd suggest you treat this information with a lorry load of gritting salt.  "You've Got It" is a jaunty little ditty, and markedly different from the official A-side.  I probably wouldn't have bothered to upload it under other circumstances, but hey folks, you've got it (ha ha!) now.  And if I ever make a weak gag around a record's title like that again, feel free to send me threatening emails.

20 October 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 63 - Peter Sellers - Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Peter Sellers - Thank Heaven For Little Girls

Who: Peter Sellers aka Chef Inspecteur Jacques Clouseau
What: Thank Heaven For Little Girls/ Singin' In The Rain
Label: United Artists
When: 1978
Where: Out on the Floor Records, Camden Town, London
Cost: Two Pounds

Peter Sellers was absolutely no stranger to the album and singles charts by 1978 - his reinterpretations of The Beatles "Hard Day's Night" and "She Loves You" sold incredibly well for comedy records, as did his oft-quoted novelty hit "Goodness Gracious Me".  Then there was a run of hits with The Goons, of course, which took in such strange top ten hits as the "Ying Tong Song" and "I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas".  Whereas most comedians and comic actors usually become one hit wonders (if they're lucky) when recording studio time beckons, Sellers was, in comparison, a bankable star.  No Lenny Henry was he. 

Recorded for the benefit of the "Revenge of the Pink Panther" motion picture, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" was a rare misfire, and one which has since become quite collectible amongst Sellers fans.  It's not hard to see why the public ignored this one, as without the visual accompaniment of Inspecteur Jacques Clouseau's awkward body language and pratfalls, we're left with tunes which add (and comedically subtract) very little to or from the originals.  True, there's the blare of car horns at the end of the B-side "Singin' In The Rain" which hints towards Clouseau's idiotic awkwardness, and there are amusing vocal inflections to enjoy, but it's not particularly close to gold, feeling like a strange promotional exercise rather than a fully-fledged comedy record.  It's a peculiarity, and a much-forgotten novelty record which seems to have been wiped from Sellers' CV since.

The prices for this one vary bizarrely on the market.  I've seen collectors trying to sell it for anything between £6-£22 before now, but I managed to pick up this (admittedly not mint) example for a couple of shiny golden coins.  As somebody who isn't a collector of all things Sellers, it's safe to say I probably wouldn't have bothered to pay much more than that for it.  

16 October 2010

Eddy Phillips - Limbo Jimbo (re-up)

Eddy Phillips - Limbo Jimbo
Label: Charisma
Year of Release: 1976

So many flop would-be pop stars of the sixties managed to find success in the seventies that it's tempting to argue that the decades weren't really as distinct as most would suppose, and almost bled into each other stylistically speaking.  Mud, Marc Bolan and The Sweet tried and failed to find favour initially in the former decade, as did David Bowie.  So much of glam rock owed an almighty debt to previous sounds, and in its most basic form was essentially just the earliest rock and roll and beat records produced with a more crunching, working man's club friendly stomp.

Given this, the fact that Eddy Phillips of cult mod heroes The Creation would have tried to find favour with the pop market halfway through the seventies probably shouldn't be surprising.  The way he went about it, on the other hand, beggars belief.  "Limbo Jimbo" is a Typically Tropical-styled reggae version of their minor hit "Painter Man", the lyrics seemingly being a jokey knock-about piece of fun about - how can we most politely put this? - black immigrants who came over and didn't quite understand English culture and made tools of themselves.  Nope, there's no way of politely or decently putting it, is there?  Whilst "Limbo Jimbo" sounded like it could have been a hit, the lyrics make you thank the heavens it came nowhere near.  We are treated to tons of cringeworthy false Jamaican accents, observations about how our man Jimbo was arrested for "limbo dancing under a lady's door" (as could so easily happen), and how he wants to return to the land of "cheap rum" and "DA TORNADOS!"  It's not quite as bad as it sounds - Phillips shies away from outright mockery - but it is a horrible case of lazy stereotyping.

Given that "Painter Man" is something of a sixties mod pop classic, this is a fine way to piss on its legacy, so the fact that barely anyone has heard this record is probably a blessing.  That also means that barely anyone has heard the country-rock of its flip "Change My Ways" too, which is actually pleasing in a much more adult way, sounding rather like The Who in the seventies if they'd taken a trip down some winding hick roads.  This B-side leads me to suspect that Phillips had some more interesting material up his sleeve, but we'll probably never know that for sure (unless somebody did pay for studio time and his demos are still locked away in the vaults somewhere).

Otherwise - this record is a classic example of how not to revisit your own work.  Next week, we'll take a closer look at The Downliners Sect's aborted seventies comeback single "Gaylord Gary" (to the lawyers of the Sect - this doesn't exist, obviously).

Readers who know their pop history will also obviously observe the fact that whilst this version of "Painter Man" didn't chart, Boney M did take a rather more dancefloor tinged version of it to the top ten in 1979, either being unaware or perhaps being otherwise unbothered by this particular effort.

13 October 2010

Bud Ashton - Telstar

Bud Ashton - Telstar
Label: Embassy
Year of Release: 1962

Way before those dodgy "Top of the Pops" low budget compilation albums we've already talked about, chock full of frequently inaccurate cover versions of the day's hits, came Embassy Records.  Whereas Hallmark, Pickwick, Contour and endless other budget labels in the seventies crammed non-original artist takes of twelve hot hits across twelve glorious inches, Embassy were a bit more modest.  The racks of Woolworths were filled with their singles offering one song per side.  If you were hard up for cash and not especially fussy, you could walk out with a record by The Typhoons rather than The Beatles and see if anyone noticed at your next house party (they'd have to be either very drunk or tone deaf not to observe the differences, mind you).

For me, it's always more interesting when the session musicians attempt to take on anything with either a technically advanced production or complex arrangement.  The "Top of the Pops" gang managed to create a creditable version of "Bohemian Rhapsody", but for the most part, the least convincing tracks in any budget sound-a-like marketing formula are those which simply couldn't be created effectively in one quick recording spree.  "Telstar", then - one of the most unique sounding records of its day - would surely be screwed, wouldn't it?

The answer is a somewhat surprising yes and no.  Bud Ashton, whoever he may be (somebody hiding behind a pseudonym, I don't doubt) begins gamely, trying to replicate Joe Meek's effects-fest at the start of the record, and not failing entirely, even if there's a tad more squeakiness to it all.  The intro builds convincingly, the keyboards buzz confidently, and it seems like we're blasting off into a reasonable enough replica.  But then the track gets going, the bass line plods in a timid and out-of-depth manner, some of the arrangements sound very muddy indeed, and the faults begin to show.  By the time the record gets to the tail end, Mr Ashton can't even be bothered to re-do the sound effects which clearly bookend Joe Meek's original effort.  Perhaps he ran out of time.

If anything, it shows that many of the strengths of the proper version of "Telstar" lay not in its melody, but in the depth and adventure shown in its production, apparent to this day.  Ashton's version begins to sound boring and repetitive a minute and a half in, whereas Meek's paces its ideas neatly, allows the instruments room to breathe, and is beguiling as a result.

The flip side to this is a version of Adam Faith's "Don't That Beat All" by Rikki Henderson, but please pardon me if I don't waste too much time dissecting it.  I've included it below for the benefit of the curious, however.

9 October 2010

The Brilliant Corners - Delilah Sands

The Brilliant Corners - Delilah Sands

Label: SS20
Year of Release: 1987

Perhaps it was just my particular social circle this applied to, but way back when The Brilliant Corners pestered the indie charts, there was a sense that they were very much seen as a novelty twee band.  Unlike the bands on Sarah Records who supposedly meant every gentle word they frailly breathed, Davey Woodward's gang seemed to be perceived as a bunch of piss-taking bastards from Bristol who would churn out observations such as: "We fumbled around in front of the budgie/ she started to laugh - what was so funny?"

Admittedly, in the adolescent angst stakes they weren't turning out tunes like "I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist" (although they did write a single entitled "Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him When You Could Go Out With Me?" - arguably superior, in my view) but, as any fool with a collection of Madness albums knows, there's nothing wrong with knowing wit.  Laughing at themselves and their audience, the Corners turned out some brilliant little indie pop singles through the eighties, of which "Delilah Sands" is just one.  It doesn't seem to have worked its way on to any of their commercially available compilations, which is a shame as the track has a spring and bounce which is immediately endearing, and substitutes the usual humour for lyrical peculiarities.  "I'd bite you if I had the teeth" sings Davey Woodward bizarrely, which is almost evidence itself of the fact that they enjoyed taking the idea of grotesque outsiderdom to ridiculous extremes.  If Morrissey was going to pretend to need a hearing aid, they'd simply pretend their lack of teeth let them down in the bedroom.  Top that, ugly girl/ boy.

The video for this ended up being played as part of the Chart Show Indie Chart, leading my mother to comment: "Ooh, who is this?  Is it Roxy Music?  Well, I don't like it anyway".  For years since I've been trying to work out what the hell she was talking about, as well as squinting my eyes to ascertain any possible resemblance between Bryan Ferry and Davey Woodward, so perhaps one of you can enlighten me.  They certainly weren't as successful, although the cult niche audience they developed has ensured that almost any British alternative music fan of a certain generation has heard of them, irrespective of their lack of mainstream hits.

6 October 2010

Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show

World's Worst Record Show - Kenny Everett

Label: Yuk/ K-Tel
Year of Release: 1978

If Kenny Everett were still alive, I'd be delighted to find out - hope against hope, perhaps - that he was a reader of this blog.  Certainly, if he gave his nod of approval, it would be like being awarded a gold star from the master professor of the topic of record industry flotsam and jetsam.  The "World's Worst Wireless Show", originally broadcast on Capital Radio in London in 1977, was an incredibly popular piece of programming which filled the airwaves with nothing but flop madness from the history of recorded sound.  Well-meaning but ultimately obnoxiously awful Christian country songs featured, as did dirges, bad taste tragidiscs, out-of-tune singers, and people who thought they were being radical and breaking new ground but were actually making themselves look rather silly.

I used to have all the recorded shows on an old hard drive of mine (which sadly got wiped when the disc became damaged some years ago) and Kenny was as scathing as you'd expect about these records, but there was an unsuppressed glee in his tone of voice as well, and you could sense his sheer delight that this material even existed, almost a sense of pride that he worked within an industry so democratic that any bum-note wonder got a chance to have their say.  And of course, for as trivial as a topic like this is in the grand scheme of things, I'd like to think that some of these ridiculous and bold failings highlight the history of popular music just as effectively as the biggest smashes do.  Somewhere in all the mess of fumbling around you can hear the earliest attempts to allow members of the public to press their own discs, attempts to stun and shock with unacceptable content long before punk broke, and even soap stars trying to use their on-screen popularity to sell below-par records.

This compilation consists of the twenty least popular tracks Everett played (or actually nineteen - I've wiped "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen off because it's still very much commercially available, and I actually always thought it was a baffling inclusion anyway).  Listening to it in one shot is actually spectacularly ill-advised, as some of it is teeth-grittingly bad, and there are pieces of mind-numbing awfulness in there too.  For instance, whilst I have no respect whatsoever for Jess Conrad, I'd argue his work would be dull and average were it not for the pathetic lyrical content of his singles.  Despite the fact that he was largely lauded as a massive, up-and-coming British star in the early sixties - something it's easy to forget even if he's keen not to let us do so - in reality he was a sub-Cliff Richard figure, a man who made the Rock and Roll priest himself look positively dangerous.  Astonishingly, he has retained many fans over the years, but not enough to have kept him out of Everett's bottom twenty, where he appeared three times, more than any other artist.

Elsewhere, "Crossroads" actor Steve Bent contributes his own tune "I'm Going To Spain", which I must confess I have a sneaking affection for - The Fall later covered this track on the "The Infotainment Scan" album, which doesn't seem entirely inappropriate as some of the lines such as "The factory floor presented me with some tapes of Elton John" seem not un-Smithlike in the first place.  Bent apparently chanced his arm on "Opportunity Knocks" to showcase his singer-songwriter talent, but so far nobody has uploaded his attempts to YouTube (he didn't win, but you shouldn't need to ask).

Then, some of the religious offerings on this album such as "The Deal" by Pat Campbell would probably turn a man on his deathbed to Satanism, so syrupy, artless and weedy are they in their construction.  Whatever point they were trying to make was cursed by their feeble, sub-daytime soap opera efforts at storytelling (and that's before we even talk about the cliched, anaemic musical backing).

Better almost than all of these put together are the tracks "I Want My Baby Back" (already featured on this blog before) and "Transfusion", which are deliberately milking the bad taste cow for all its worth, hoping in their hearts that they'll be hated and banned.  Such records are actually more rock and roll in spirit than most of the coked-up acts of defiance that pass for that description - if Oasis had a spine, they'd have recorded a single about post-car crash necrophilia as well.

Bosses at the compilation giant K-Tel were apparently proud of their achievements in getting all this material licensed, and getting the end product to chart within the Top 40.  Whilst I find it cheering that a major label put so much effort into something like this, I actually suspect that many boardroom high-fives were exchanged about the fact that they could shovel any old crap into a sleeve and get people to buy it.  If only they'd paused to think about the fact that actually, this material was always waiting for an audience.  It was far too absurd to remain in the shadows forever, and in those pre-Internet years this would have been a fantastic package, a real discussion piece.  Actually, it still is - I defy you not to have an opinion on the contents of any track on the record, or even whether it deserves a place in the tracklisting or not.  The only shame is that nobody has tried to update the project in any commercially visible way since.

1. Jimmy Cross - I Want My Baby Back
2. Zarah Leander - Wunderbar
3. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy - Paralysed
4. Pat Campbell - The Deal
5. Nervous Norvus - Transfusion
6. Jess Conrad - This Pullover
7. Mel & Dave - Spinning Wheel
8. Dickie Lee - Laurie
9. Mrs Miller - A Lover's Concerto
10. Ferlin Husky - The Drunken Driver
11. Jess Conrad - Why Am I Living?
12. The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird (NOT INCLUDED IN THIS DOWNLOAD)
13. Steve Bent - I'm Going To Spain
14. Duncan Johnson - The Big Architect
15. Jess Conrad - Cherry Pie
16. Eamonn Andrews - The Shifting Whispering Sands
17. Tub Thumper - Kick Out The Jams
18. Adolph Babel - My Feet Start Tapping
19. Skip Jackson - The Greatest Star of All

20. Raphael - Going Out Of My Head

Download it Here

2 October 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 62 - Count Prince Miller - Rupert The Bear

Count Prince Miller - Rupert The Bear

Who: Count Prince Miller
What: Rupert The Bear
Label: Penny Farthing
When: 1972
Where: Wood Street Market, Wood Street, Walthamstow, London
Cost: 50p

Proof is right here, if we really needed it, that no cover version has ever been considered too absurd or too outlandish for a reggae artist.  For this is indeed the children's TV theme given a decidedly mellow feel, with high-pitched, screeching (and I presume studio-treated?) vocals delivering the chorus.  Whilst sixties psychedelia played with the idea of fairytales and backgarden creatures being drug-influenced, I'd be tempted to say that this tackles the subject of everyone's favourite Nutwood dwelling bear from a rather more doped-up perspective.

The B-side "When We Were Children" even continues the theme gamely, referring to the songs mothers sing to their offspring and the simplicity of those comforting times, which lyrically is very close to the same under-explored topic as Pink Floyd's "Matilda Mother".  It didn't seem as if anyone in 1972 was really ready for toytown reggae or twee reggae, though, but the thought of a gang of menacing looking skinheads grooving on down to the "Rupert The Bear" theme tune is an enticing one.

Count Prince Miller had a cult reggae hit the previous year with "Mule Train Parts One and Two", but is perhaps better remembered in mainstream society for his role as Vince in the eighties sitcom "Desmond's".    Both these performances outshine "Rupert The Bear", but it's a peculiar career blip and anomaly I couldn't resist uploading here.

29 September 2010

Rita - Erotica/ Sexologie

Rita - Erotica

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1969

Sometimes when you obtain second-hand records, you're given subtle clues about the personal preferences and habits of their previous owners.  My copy of "Flames" by Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, for example, has "MILLWALL FC" scrawled over-enthusiastically across the label - though I can't really think of a link between the two myself.  This record, I'm sorry to say, had a sticky mess across the vinyl I had to remove with an alcohol based cleaner.  Whether the sticky mess was actually the substance I had in my worst fears or not I wouldn't like to say.

"Erotica" is, after all, probably one of the saucier "Je T'Aime" related records to have leaked out during the late sixties.  It's five minutes of the inappropriately named Rita (I mean, really, Rita has to be one the least erotic names ever, surely?  Or a couple of rungs down from Ursula at least) puffing, groaning and climaxing to a funky rhythm.  Atop the groove is a psychedelic, organ driven jam which isn't terribly unlike Pink Floyd during their prime, ending in some bizarre "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" styled disorientation, making this a pretty unusual choice for a single.  It was certainly never going to get airplay, and there's nothing soft, sensual or gentle about the track itself, so it was primarily depending on shock value to generate the sales which never came.  It is a genuinely engaging piece of work, though, and if it weren't for the porno feel to the entire thing I'm sure we'd have heard a lot more about it - and given the fact that Lil Louis' "French Kiss" was an orgasmic club hit in the nineties, it's surprising that a few more retro-minded DJs haven't picked up on this yet.

The B-side "Sexologie" is rather more restrained, sounding as if it could be the new theme tune to "Bottom" should Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson ever get a chance to make another series.  Which is appropriate, given that "Erotica" is the kind of single the character Eddie would have owned and treasured himself...