30 May 2011

Reupload - London Pleasures - Summer of Love/ London Pleasures

Label: Paperback
Year of Release: 1982

This one has been stuck in my "to upload" pile ever since I started this blog, but I've never got around to it purely because... well... the strength of feeling was never quite there, I must be honest. Despite the fact that this single has been listed on several collector's sites (and record stores) for rather ambitious sums of money, I've never quite understood what anybody might be seeing in it beyond the fact that it's yet another reasonable early indie single with a limited pressing.

The London Pleasures were indeed a London-based band (despite this coming out on a Peterborough based record label) who consisted of Mark Wragg on guitar, Brian Thorpe on Bass, Paul Addie on Drums and Phil Brammer on guitar and vocals. Judging from the two sides presented here, their particular schtick was a slightly new wave styled noise with sixties influences tacked on. Like a great many bands of their ilk, however, they were cursed with ultra-cheap production values which mean that neither track seems to rise much above demo tape quality, and frequently doesn't even hit the highs of the decade eighties recording technology was supposed to supersede. By the time the messy, noisy basics of punk had faded away, the DIY approach of many a bedroom indie label was left looking rather exposed when bands tried to record more complicated material.

Still, there's some nice ideas going on throughout the disc, and a sense that if they'd been given a bigger budget to play with and further releases, something more striking might have come out of the London Pleasures camp. Their theme tune "London Pleasures" is timeless lyrically at least (as well as being the stronger side), bemoaning the impossibility of anybody young actually living a swinging life in the hostile capital, whilst "Summer of Love" apes psychedelia and marries it with a fat, beefy bassline, a pleasing riff, and more lyrics protesting about the fact that the eighties were basically the evil yin to the sixties yang. There's also a gentle groove going on here which would probably have pleased Edwyn Collins and his Orange Juice cohorts more than the numerous piss-poor Postcard copyists who littered the indie scene for years afterwards. 

Sadly, nobody rushed forward to finance any further releases, and this seems to be the sole offering from the band. Paperback Records apparently released one other single by another act before giving up too (although the Internet doesn't seem to have any data as to who this was by) and what we're left with is a whole bunch of guesswork about both the band and label. Still, don't go off and pay fifteen quid for this, for God's sake, just download it below. 

(So why reupload it then, you may ask, given that you said the above on 10 April 2009?  Well, purely and simply due to the fact that a couple of people felt that this was a perfectly good example of early eighties indie with elements of psychedelia that acts on Creation would adopt a few years later, and that my original assessment above was downright harsh.  So here it is again, being given a bit more of a fighting chance).  

26 May 2011

Black Velvet - Clown/ Peace and Love Is The Message

Black Velvet - Peace and Love/ Clown

Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1969

Right at the start of this year I uploaded a couple of Black Velvet singles - including the astounding "African Velvet" - and announced that I'd drawn a total blank on the band.  I asked for more information, but the only answer I've received so far is from the DJ Pete Jennings who declared them to be a brilliant live act.  Nobody else came forward, and thus they remain an elusive act despite the fact that a number of records of theirs were issued.

This particular one is perhaps the most unusual of them all.  The A-side "Peace and Love Is The Message" is a decent enough slab of hippy-infused soul, the type of which was cropping up regularly towards the tail end of the decade.  It's the flip which is beginning to attract attention for its warped and peculiar tones, however.  "Clown" is a shimmering, discordant piece of psychedelia with demonic laughter, swirling organs, out-of-tune whistling, and descriptions of a "happy, smiling" clown I never want to meet in my life.  Chipper and cheerful in the way that Alexei Sayle was in the introductory sequence for his "Merry Go Round" series, "Clown" is black-streaked psych with a smile on its chops and evil in its heart, more Papa Lazarou than Ronald McDonald (although it's a fine line).

And come on, somebody out there must know who this lot were and what became of them.

23 May 2011

Medium Wave Band - Radio

Medium Wave Band - Radio

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1974

The hiss and crackle of the BBC Light Programme through a Bakelite radio set, the treble-heavy brass and string sounds, the light-hearted, humorous lyrics about far-flung colonial outposts... the pop music of the early part of the twentieth century may seem to have been revived relatively infrequently, but there have been patches of activity here and there.  The Bonzo Dog Band are the most obvious example if we're naming revivalists, but the classic pre-45 rpm pop obsessions of Tiny Tim, the New Vaudeville Band, The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, and even odd rogue examples like Sting's "Spread a Little Happiness" have all echoed that era.  And if you really thought it was safe to avoid now, a new craze for Shellac Discos is sweeping London, where the DJs play only 78s.  The old music hall and showtime world is, for all its seeming irrelevance, fairly irrepressible.

The Medium Wave Band here demonstrate how to do it with a reasonable degree of faith, trying their hardest to recall the production values of those days where dogs stared down gramophone horns and after-dinner sherries were supped before cranking up the player.  It's not quite up to the Bonzo Dog Band standards, but it's still a charming oddity which sings the praises of radio.  Queen's rather more orthodox attempt at lionising that form of broadcasting was considerably more successful, however, and this novelty item failed to fly out of the shops.  Still, enough copies of it turn up to convince me that it can't be too rare, and therefore must have shifted some units at the time.

Who The Medium Wave band are or were is less clear, and my guess would be that they were session musicians pulled into Southern Studios with the aim of performing on a novelty record.  They are almost certainly not the sixties pop act Davey Payne and The Medium Wave.  As ever, if you know who they are, get in touch.  This tune has been cheering me up lately, as it's utterly impossible not to warm to a record that mentions "Housewife's Choice" and "Hancock's Half Hour" in a polite, chipper tone.

21 May 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy me Love

Just a quick update to let you all know that I'll be DJ'ing at the Vintage, Crafts, Jumble and Flea Market "Can't Buy Me Love" on Saturday 28th May from 1:30pm - 3:30pm (or thereabouts. I don't think anyone will have their finger on a special retro clock timer). 

It's taking place at:
The Boogaloo
312 Archway Rd, N6 5AT

And the Facebook details are all here.

Also spinning discs on the day will the be the DJ John The Revelator.

For me personally, events like these serve a number of purposes. You can turn up and browse and buy to a great soundtrack, have a swift drink and then disappear off into the daylight, having had a more fulfilling time than you might had you chosen to join the hordes along a usual shopping street on a Saturday afternoon. Or alternatively, you can turn up, browse, find nothing you want, but decide to stay and have a few drinks and listen to some great music in a fantastic pub anyway. It's a win-win situation - there is no way you can lose. Unless you expect me to play novelty glam records.  Or indeed sell my stash of them.  

See you there, maybe?

19 May 2011

Southern Sound - Just The Same As You

Southern Sound - Just The Same As You

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1966

Southern Sound were just one of many sixties bands who released one extremely interesting single before the record label seemingly told them "No more - your record didn't sell and this isn't working.  Back to the pub circuit with you".

Unlike so many of those one release wonders, Southern Sound were an abrasive mod band from whom further releases would have been welcome.  "Just The Same As You" is, in itself, impressive - all shimmering yet abrasive guitar work, defiant lyrics about living the high life on the dole (way before Wham! had the same idea but made it sound less exciting) and a slowly building menace.  Like a number of mod discs, this is almost punk before its time both in delivery and message, both the band and their audience being made to sound like vampiric club-dwelling outcasts.  When they sing "We're just the same as you" it doesn't sound reassuring so much as daring the audience to disagree.

The flip side "I Don't Wanna Go" is also bloody-minded, and almost psychedelic in a Joe Meek-esque way (although he had nothing to do with the release).  A hollow, minimal arrangement places thundering drums not far behind the sneering rock and roll vocals in the mix.  Pop art?  Not 'arf!

For a 1966 release this is actually quite progressive stuff, but only one member of the band (so far as I'm aware) Robbie Blunt went on to any success, working in Robert Plant's band and also playing with Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.  That kind of material is a far cry from this.

16 May 2011

Off Side - Match of the Day/ Small Deal

Off Side - Match of the Day

Label: Pye International
Year of Release: 1970

Since its introduction in 1970, the "Match of the Day" theme on the BBC has become one of the most instantly recognisable television themes in Britain - if not, according to the Performing Rights Society, the most recognisable.  More suggestive and indicative than any news broadcast theme (even the BBC World News channel's bleeping ambient effort) or even the wailing harmonica of "Last of the Summer Wine", some of us were born with this theme and know, within the first few milliseconds of the first note, what it's representing. 

Trying to listen to it with a fresh pair of 2011 ears strapped firmly to my aging head, it does seem a strange choice for a tune despite its endearing familiarity, and I'm clearly not alone in thinking that - my Canadian wife when she first heard it burst out laughing at the absurdity of a celebratory Herb Alpert styled quasi-Mexican ditty introducing a modern British football programme.  Clearly at the time of commissioning the piece had South American connotations which seemed entirely synonymous with the big game, but there's definitely something a little unlike Auntie Beeb about the whole thing.  However, I for one am happy about the fact that it's what we've got - it's a happy, chirpy clarion call which you can imagine beckoning members of any British family in from their bedrooms, kitchens and even bathrooms, like some soccer orientated Pied Piper of Hamlet with, er... a football for a head. 

Whatever your personal feelings on the piece, it's one of the few television themes which has wormed its way so much into the British psyche that it conjours up memories and emotions from even the the most steely hearted football fan.  As Paul Whitehouse once observed on an episode of "The Fast Show" in the guise of Ron Manager - "Match of the Day?  Da da da da da-da-da-da da?  Somehow comforting, isn't it, you know?"  In summary, then - do I expect any non-British reader to really get the appeal of this record?  No, not really.  In the absence of any context at all, it probably sounds like a cheery piece of easy listening and not much more (and I'd be really curious to read your thoughts on it if it's unfamiliar to you, actually). 

The single you can hear below isn't, of course, the original theme commissioned by the BBC but a very close and crafty approximation recorded by Mike Vickers for the benefit of Pye Records.  It wasn't a hit, but in recent years has become a massive collector's item purely due to the B-side, a Vickers-penned piece called "Small Deal", which has apparently become popular with DJs who are keen on the "funky loops" it offers.  To my ears, "Small Deal" is a dramatic piece of library music which offers nothing especially outstanding, but my DJ'ing chops are definitely not adequate enough to be able to hear what possibilities it might afford.

Mint copies of this frequently go for £20 plus on ebay.  As you can hear, mine isn't exactly mint, but it's good enough, and certainly gives you a fair idea of what's on offer.  Not that, in the case of the A-side, you'd really need telling.

(Sorry for all the horrible typos this entry had when it went live this morning - I've been having a bad week.  Which isn't much of an excuse, but still...)

12 May 2011

Chris Andrews - Hold On

Chris Andrews - Hold On

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1967

"Babeeee you're just tooooo much!" screeches Chris Andrews at the start of this record, before seductively uttering: "And I waaaaant you".  Hearing such lines over the years has frequently made me wonder just how much self-confidence you'd need to have, either in the studio or on stage, to deliver bold sexual declarations without the slightest hint of irony.

In the context of this record, all is forgiven.  "Hold On" is such a needle-into-the-red mod screecher that it seems entirely appropriate that the lyrics should essentially be a human version of a mating call.  It's yet another example of a sixties record which really acts more as a declaration of sexual frustration for teenagers everywhere than a studied, lyrically thoughtful piece of work.  Guitars squeal and wail, the chorus hammers itself into your cranium, Chris is so unsubtle in his delivery that he may as well be beating his chest, and its so relentless that you can only jump around along to it whether you sympathise with the bedroom related plight of Mr Andrews or not.

Of course, Chris Andrews had a successful career prior to this record, writing many of Sandie Shaw's biggest hits ("Girl Don't Come", "I'll Stop at Nothing") as well as working with The Mamas and The Papas and Adam Faith.  On top of that, he'd managed hits of his own with "Yesterday Man" and "To Whom it Concerns".  Despite this, his career begin to stall once the music of the period became more diverse and experimental, and like so many beat boys before him, could only watch helplessly as the flops piled up.  "Hold On" was his last single for Decca who by 1967 had clearly given up all hope of him having any kind of mainstream presence again.  One has to wonder whether the record was in some way nixed by the label's pessimistic attitude towards it, as "Hold On" sounds to my ears like one of his finest recordings - it's brittle, punchy and incredibly addictive, and is an astounding track to blast loudly around a room.  I've yet to hear the record played once in a club, but I'd be willing to place money that any DJ who dared to spin it would get a favourable reaction.

Irrespective of my personal views, the public didn't take to it at the time, and Andrews moved to Pye Records to deliver three more flops.  A comeback of sorts was attempted in 1977, but once again nobody bit, and the utterly astonishing "Nothing Less Than Brilliant" single he co-wrote with Sandie Shaw in the eighties also found little appreciation outside of late-night Radio One play.  Hopefully the royalties he receives from his prime hits are enough to keep the wolf from the door - he certainly deserves the security, as many of his records are actually supremely under-rated in the UK, and he's surely due a major reappraisal soon.

10 May 2011

Animals That Swim and July return, and other less interesting tales...

Silver Rays/ Tiny Lucifer

If it were up to me, many of the bands featured on this blog would reform at some point or another.  True, I'd be willing to make exceptions for people like The Egton Runners, who really shouldn't bother checking into a rehearsal room any time soon to prepare for a comeback tour.  Broadly speaking, however, running a blog like this one has been an unfortunate reminder of just how much talent falls by the wayside for no other good reason apart from poor timing, poor management, poor record labels, or just the backwardness of the general public.

I'm absolutely delighted to report, then, that two favourite bands of mine (both featured on here before) have reformed.  First and foremost, Animals That Swim have decided to get back together to release a new single, the minimally brilliant double A-side "Silver Rays/ Tiny Lucifer".  Their first release in over ten years, it shows they've lost none of their talent for haunting lyrical content, wit, or indeed beguiling tunes.  "Tiny Lucifer" is a doomy piano ballad focussed on a stuffed toy bear who, amongst other things, pisses on garden wildlife. It's a story worthy of one of the grittier tracks on "Workshy" told from the viewpoint of a child's toy - clearly parenthood has done peculiar things to the band.   "Silver Rays", on the other hand, is a delicate pean apparently about "moments of epiphany or disintegration that can come over you anywhere".  An album has been written, so please show your support for this single by going over to iTunes now and buying it.  This simple act might mean that an entire LP eventually gets to see the light of day.  Even if you don't like Animals That Swim, consider it an act of charity towards me - they were the first band I ever featured on this blog for the pure and simple reason that I could think of no more appropriate act to begin matters with than the most under-rated British band of the last twenty years.


For the psych-heads amongst you, however, there's further good news.  July have reformed and recently played a live comeback show at the Lexington in Kings Cross, London.  I didn't manage to attend myself, but reports back from the frontline so far have been extremely positive, with some new "slightly doomy" material apparently peeking its way out of the setlist.  An interview with Peter Cook of the band can be found here on the "Psychedelic Baby" website, and further shows at the 100 Club are planned.

And after all that... I hate to break up all the jollity with a housekeeping message, but it has to be done.  Firstly, Facebook have (for reasons known only to themselves) decided that they're going to close down our old "Left and to the Back" group, and have told me that I should instead create a new "page" which is apparently better suited to ventures such as mine.  As one does exactly as one is told on Planet Facebook without quibbling, I've had to comply - the results are here.  Please do join this page if you are presently a member of the existing group (and even if you're not) which is due to be mothballed and rendered redundant at some random date of Facebook's choosing.

Additionally, I've had a few hiccups uploading mp3s to, and I've received one complaint from a reader regarding mp3s not downloading properly via Firefox.  If you can't hear the tracks properly or download them on the browser of your choice, please do let me know.  The traffic this blog gets means that I could not longer obtain mp3 hosting services for free, so I'm presently paying a monthly subscription fee to to keep things ticking over.  If things are getting a bit wobbly it's therefore vitally important you let me know!

9 May 2011

Second Hand Record Dip Part 73 - Colorado - California Dreaming/ Space Lady Love

Colorado - California Dreaming

Who: Colorado 
What: California Dreaming (b/w "Space Lady Love") 
Label: Pinnacle 
When: 1978 

Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden High Street, London 
Cost: 50p

Hot on the heels of the last "Second Hand Record Dip", Tik and Tok's eighties electronic version of "Summer in the City", comes this - a disco version of the Mamas and the Papas evergreen hit "California Dreaming".  Covered by a multitude of artists over the last forty plus years, "California Dreaming" does admittedly feel like something of a cliche these days, but this at least is not a xerox copy.  Instead, it attempts to shift the sound on to the seventies dancefloor.  

This particular version was widely anticipated to be a hit at the time, so much so that the group were allowed to appear on "Top of the Pops" despite not having a Top 40 slot to their names.  It made very little difference despite their best efforts, as the single stalled at number 45.  Whilst this version does indeed vamp up the original with some sultry disco noises, there's something a little bit too clinical and contrived about it, and I smell the suspicious whiff of stale sweat and lager of various session musos in action under an assumed "band name" here (although I'd be happy to be proved wrong).

The flip side, however, is a lovely piece of disco dancefloor action you would have hoped somebody at the label would have had more faith in.  "Space Lady Love" is full of Eurodisco and Giorgio Moroder lifts, complete with that squelching, grumbling electronic undertow which characterised so much of the output at the time.  The high pitched vocals are the kind of thing The Scissor Sisters got their notebooks out for at the peak of their careers, and whilst I'd be surprised to learn that they listened to this particular B-side of a flop single, it's certainly jumping up and down and doing the splits under a very similar mirror ball.  

Despite their TOTP appearance I have absolutely zero information on the band, so it's up to some other wise sage to fill in the blanks.  

And... once again, please excuse the pops and clicks.  I have tried to clean this audio up a bit, but the below is really the best I can do.  

(Incidentally, "Left and to the Back" will be updating with mp3 entries on Monday and Thursday mornings as of this entry - random news and housekeeping updates notwithstanding, of course.  I sincerely doubt that even the most regular readers will have noticed the Saturday/ Wednesday update schedule the blog had dropped into, but shifting the timings around a little makes more sense as it leaves me able to write new entries at the weekend then queue them for release.  You don't need to know this, and I don't need to announce it, but... erm... Oh, whatever).  

7 May 2011

Re-upload - Goliath - Port and Lemon Lady


Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

As the sixties waved goodbye and everyone wept - or so popular culture would have us believe, but it's safe to say that wasn't universally true - the old guard didn't so much change their stripes as gently mutate into other beasts. The bubblegum brigade largely turned their attentions to glam (Mud and The Sweet had both been around and been ignored during the sixties, lest we forget). The garage rock acts frequently morphed into full blown hard rock bands. And then the psychedelic hippies, seemingly for want of anything better to do, carried on exploring their pastoral and experimental influences until, in some cases, we got something rather like this lot.

Goliath were one of several prog-folk acts to emerge almost exactly at the same time as the sixties faded, and whilst as a genre it didn't really have any big-hitting names like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin, it nonetheless ploughed its own particular furrow for a rather long period of time. Unlike many of their rivals (or perhaps we should say "fellow travellers") however, Goliath had a distinct blues influences to their work as well, and were probably one of the only acts of the era to combine raunchy vocals- courtesy of lead singer Linda Rothwell - with puffing flutes. As the various cultures clash and compete for your ear's attention across the grooves, it should be a tremendous mess, but amazingly it all hangs together very well.

"Port and Lemon Lady" was CBS's choice for the single off their sole eponymous album, and is a rather merry little number which I personally find close to irritating, but the B-side "I Heard About a Friend" is rather more serious and satisfying and displays the band's strengths much more successfully. 

Some critics referred to them as being the British Jefferson Airplane - whether that's the case or not, they seemingly never had an opportunity to record another album, and petered out a few years later. Their sole long player has never been reissued, and is now extremely collectible - the single features nothing which isn't already on the album and is as such less desirable, but still pretty scarce. Enjoy, although I do feel that this is probably an acquired taste, more like gin in that respect than Port and lemon.

(This blog entry was originally uploaded in May 2009, since when Goliath's sole album appears to have been re-issued on CD.  All's well that ends well, then!)

4 May 2011

Underground Sunshine - Birthday/ All I Want Is You

Underground Sunshine - Birthday

Label: Intrepid
Year of Release: 1969

You know the drill with cheeky cash-in Beatles cover versions from the sixties by now - or if you don't, here's a handy guide which was doubtless followed by music industry hucksters at the time:

1. Listen to a copy of the latest Beatles LP, preferably a pre-release if you can obtain one.
2. Get that ailing band whose career you're worried about to record one of the stronger tracks as quickly as possible.  Don't waste money on orchestras, complex arrangements, or production values, just bang the bastard out at speed - you'll need to release it before anyone else gets the same idea, and time is of the essence.
3. Release the disc, and hope with your fingers tightly crossed that it launches some new stars.
4. If it flops, drop the band like hot bricks.  If it charts, watch with a sinking heart over the next year as it becomes apparent that they will never have another hit ever again.

So many band's careers followed the above pattern that it's amazing anyone in the industry was still bothering with the technique by 1969.  The Young Idea, The Truth, The Overlanders, Ray Morgan... all these artists had a short, sharp hit of success by riding on the back of Lennon and McCartney's tunesmithery, only to be relegated back on to the Working Man's club circuit within the twelve month.

I had assumed that in the USA this was less common practice, but Underground Sunshine managed to climb to number 26 on the Billboard Chart with this, their slightly limp-wristed cover of "Birthday".  Whereas the original has oomph, wah-wah piano, and a thumping proto-glam rock performance from Ringo Starr, the Sunshine here turn it into a bubblegum affair.  It's not bad, but it adds nothing and subtracts a fair amount, rendering the exercise as pointless as the ones their British cousins over the water attempted.

Far better is the B-side "All I Want Is You" where the band shine through in their true colours, sounding almost mod-ish and turning out a groovesome mix of hypnotic organ washes, laidback vocals, funky guitar lines and a non-fussy, raw delivery.  I must confess that I wasn't terribly sure about uploading this one - initially I felt it may be a bit too laissez-faire for its own good - but completely without prompting a number of friends have given it the thumbs-up upon hearing it, which has given me enough faith to deliver it to you good readers.

Underground Sunshine eventually issued a full-length album entitled "Let There Be More Light", but as this and subsequent singles (including the David Gates cover "Don't Shut Me Out") failed to chart convincingly, their number was up by 1970.