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").