31 October 2011

Second Hand Record Dip Part 76 - Nadine Expert - I Wanna Be A Rollin' Stone

Who: Nadine Expert
What: I Wanna Be A Rolling Stone
Label: CBS
When: 1978
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow, London
Cost: 50p

Oh God. This is a prime example of a single you might spot in the 50p bin and do a double take about, not because you expect any good to come of chancing upon it - let's face it, the sleeve hardly promises a great lost artistic gem - but because you hope that it has some kind of kitsch appeal. And does it? Well, you be the judge.

Information on Nadine Expert online is about as scanty as the daywear she posed in for many of her record sleeves, but the media story appears to be that she happened to "bump into" Bill Wyman at an unnamed airport whilst he was on his travels (attractive young women seemed to stumble into Wyman's path a lot at this time) and following a chat with the man was offered the opportunity of a recording career. Well, it could happen to any of us. You can only wonder at the content of that conversation which must have occurred at the luggage carousel, or perhaps whilst they were both innocently waiting for the shuttle bus to ferry them to a useful terminal. This, the first single, was a disco medley of some The Rolling Stones classics, including "Paint it Black" performed in an absurdly joyous manner. It sounds exactly as you'd expect it to, and is only really notable for predating the trend for popular disco medleys of old hits by several years.

Nadine managed some success on the continent and is still respected by some aficionados of disco music. There's a clip of her performing this very track on some unnamed European music show, where she struts her stuff in a very confident, Suzy Quatro influenced, proto-Samantha Fox hybrid kinda way. Beyond that, it's very difficult to think of anything to add.

27 October 2011

Winston's Fumbs - Real Crazy Apartment/ Snow White

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1967

So far as I'm aware, there are only two sixties singles whose lyrics are heavily focussed on interior design. One is Pregnant Insomnia's brilliant "Wallpaper", a track which gave its name to probably the best homebrew compilation I put together for this blog. The second is this, which is also surely the only rock record to heavily feature the repeated proclamation "Furn-i-ture! WOOO!" I'm not the right age to understand whether this line sounded as absurd at the time of this record's release as it does now, but it perhaps signifies how much design and lifestyle became a focus for many British sixties bands, and most especially any with a modernist agenda.

Jimmy Winston, yer man behind Winston's Fumbs, was unquestionably a man with a mod background, having previously been the keyboard player with The Small Faces. He'd already released one quite good 45 on Decca under the name Winston's Reflections, but he switched to lead guitar for this and sounded every inch the garage equivalent of Jimi Hendrix. "Real Crazy Apartment" is an excitable piece of work, so much so than the line "Take it easy now" could well be Winston addressing himself, shortly before he rattles off a list of things in his friend's apartment he particularly enjoys, including the Shakespeare volumes and the wallpaper. It's almost like Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen on uppers, combined with such a high-tempo, rattling backing that it feels almost beyond gleeful.

Much has also been made of the flip "Snow White" over the years, but to my ears it's the poorer cousin, being a rather metronomic piece of work focussed on the shortcomings of a vain female scenester.

Winston went on to work in theatre, appearing in the musical "Hair", whilst the keyboard player Tony Kaye had rather more success in the progressive monster that was Yes. There was no Fumbs follow-up, but perhaps that's just as well - this would have taken some beating.

24 October 2011

The King's Singers and Greg Lake - Strawberry Fields Forever/ Disney Girls

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1978

Sometimes I find myself wondering what on Earth I'm supposed to write about some of these records. Sometimes, instead of writing a big long description about the history of the act and what's on offer, I feel the urge to stick to the basics - so for this entry, all I'd really type is "This is the choral act The King's Singers covering the Beatles 'Strawberry Fields Forever' with The Beach Boys track 'Disney Girls' on the flip. Greg Lake produces". If I expanded on that, is there a danger I'd dampen the shock effect of the fact that the record even exists?

It most certainly does, however, and I'm probably as perplexed by it as you are. When the needle hit the grooves of this one on the first play, I must admit I was expecting a total dog's dinner of a record, another appalling Beatles cover to add to the long line of bastardised cash-in nonsense that's been released into the wild. In reality, it's neither as ridiculous as it sounds - and some of Lake's production frills actually help keep the proceedings mildly psychedelic - nor as unlikable as you'd expect. Also, as church choirs doing interpretations of modern classics has worked its way into the heart of popular culture in the early 21st Century, this probably sounds more run-of-the-mill now than it ever did in 1978. The King's Singers are obviously incredibly skilled at their craft and take the job in hand seriously, and the end production knows exactly where to draw the line in its interpretation, so there are no surprise fade-outs and fade-ins at the end, nor reverse effects. Overall, it's actually a pleasing record, like the long-forgotten sixties harmony act Tinkerbell's Fairydust taking a stab at the output of Mersey's finest sons. Oh, and the similarity of the intro to that of Bobak Jons Malone's "House of Many Windows" is, it's safe to say, coincidental.

Less excusable is the scratch and sniff sleeve containing a lady whose dignity is only covered with some strawberries. I'm sure such excesses played badly with the band's hardcore audience of Pebble Mill viewers and Christians, although who knows? The red vinyl EMI disc manages to make their disgusting seventies fawn and red label look halfway pleasing, mind.

The King's Singers were formed at King's College in Cambridge by six choral scholars in 1968, and are still active today and remain a successful live concern, performing 125 concerts a year. An adaptable approach to their set lists is one of the factors which has caused them to be a constant draw, including classical music as well as pop standards in their repertoire. After finding this one, my respect for them has actually increased tenfold.

20 October 2011

Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon - Mr Tambourine Man/ Soul Sahara

Label: Bell
Year of Release: 1971

Johnny Johnson and The Bandwagon, rather like Geno Washington, were an American soul act who had far greater success in the UK. "Breaking Down The Walls of Heartache" was a number four hit in 1968 - even though, given its subsequent influence and club plays, it feels as if it should have climbed even higher than that - and whilst the original line-up of The Bandwagon failed to last into the seventies, Johnson was keen to continue to capitalise on his success outside of the States.

A whole variety of other singles were issued, including the top ten hits "Sweet Inspiration" and "(Blame It) On The Pony Express", shortly before this one was issued to public indifference. Your eyes aren't deceiving you - it is indeed a soulful rendition of the Dylan/ Byrds classic, complete with sweat, intensity and a great big brassy horn section. On first listen, it sounds frankly unnatural and absurd. So much is done to deviate from the original tune and arrangement during the introductory seconds in particular that it's hard to even hear what it has in common with Dylan's song, and it's only when a chipper version of the chorus kicks in that you're able to connect the dots. By the second listen, however, it's a pure joy to listen to, a cover version attempted in the spirit of all the best ones, using the original track as a springboard for different arrangements rather than a score to idly copy from. Some may scream "Sacrilege!", but it's actually no more or less of a deviation from Dylan's first recording than The Byrds attempted.

The fun doesn't stop there, either. The B-side "Soul Sahara" is a thing of wonder, with Johnson whooping and hollering his way through a funky backbeat and horn section as he forcefully takes us through a history of that thing we call soul, with all its accompanying sub-genres. That neither side seems to get played very often in clubs (unlike the group's hits) is a missed opportunity in my book - "Soul Sahara" has such a furious insistence that it's impossible to stay still while it's playing, whereas "Tambourine Man" is a wonderful talking point.

And all this gets me wondering - has there ever been a song which has attracted a more varied array of covers than "Mr Tambourine Man"?

(And whilst I realise we're in danger of drowning in asides and sentences starting with "and" at this point, apologies to The Lord of The Boot Sale who I know damn well uploaded both this one and Ginger Ale's "Sugar Suzy" not long ago. It would seem as if our purchasing habits are crossing over at the moment, but I'm sure we'll deviate wildly again soon).

18 October 2011

Can't Buy Me Love Vintage Jumble Sale

I'm back DJ'ing at the "Can't Buy Me Love" jumble sale on Saturday 29 October 2011, which as always will be taking place from 12:30 - 5:30 at The Boogaloo Bar in Highgate:

312 Archway Road, Highgate, London N6 5AT

Expect the usual carefully messy mix of soul, rock and roll, garage, mod pop, and whatever else takes the fancy of both myself and the resident DJ John The Revelator. This event is picking up quite a bit of press now, so do drop by and to find out what the fuss is about.

The Facebook events page is here for anyone who needs to remind themselves using the wonders of social networking technology. I hope to see some of you there.

17 October 2011

Reupload - Kes Wyndham - Broken Bicycle

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1971

"The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who are nearly half people and half bicycles...when a man lets things go so far that he is more than half a bicycle, you will not see him so much because he spends a lot of his time leaning with one elbow on walls or standing propped by one foot at kerbstones."
Flann O'Brien "The Third Policeman"

I freely admit that I have absolutely no idea whether or not Kes Wyndham's wistful "Broken Bicycle" tune is inspired by Flann O'Brien's bike-obsessed police officers in the "Third Policeman" novel. However, lyrically it certainly seems to have several key pointers - "We were one body of flesh and of steel" he sings mournfully, whisking the listener away into a hellish, surreal world where men may become methods of two wheeled transportation at any time.

It has to be said, "Broken Bicycle" is a rum little piece of work, being a subtly orchestrated ballad about the end of one woman's love affair with her jilted Raleigh. It comes drenched in the slightly twee, pie-eyed melodies of the sixties despite its 1971 release date, and was considered good enough to work its way on to the Ripples series of compilation albums (volume three - "Autumn Almanac"). Sadly, there is no information about who Kes Wyndham was or what else he did in the booklet, which is usually the compiler's polite way of sidestepping the issue that nobody has the slightest clue. I certainly don't either, but if the possibility of some royalties cheques can't smoke Mr Wyndham out of his hole, I sorely doubt I mention on this blog will. Still, Kes - if you happen to chance on this entry, please let us know what else you got up to.

The A-side "Honey Call Me Home" is less pleasing, being a rather middle-of-the-road ballad lacking a sufficient hook. I've included it in the download so people can satisfy their curiosities. I doubt anybody would have had more luck with this single if they'd flipped the sides around, since "Broken Bicycle" is far too subtle to crash the charts, but it might possibly have established Kes Wyndham as an interesting artist to watch.

(This entry originally went live in June 2009. Kes never did get in touch - I can't say I'm particularly surprised.)

13 October 2011

Ginger Ale - Sugar Suzy/ Scoobidad

Label: Injection
Year of Release: 1972

Many moons ago, you may remember that I wrote I was due to spend a week's holiday in The Netherlands, and I promised I'd return with some records for this blog. This is the first of the bundle, and whilst it may be a push to describe it as an obscurity - the A-side "Scoobidad" hit number four in Holland - the B-side has since acquired some love as a bit of a psych-pop classic across the whole of Europe.

Ginger Ale were formerly known as Roek's Family before changing their name and subsequently dabbling with more intricate sounds. "Scoobidad" is a fairly harmless piece of seventies bubblegum, but "Sugar Suzy" is beautiful despite its rather unpromising, Archies-esque title. Filled to the brim with twanging, whining guitars and gentle, wistful vocals, it would neither be out of place on the second side of Pink Floyd's "Atom Heart Mother" nor indeed a compilation of West Coast classics. Dreamy, considered and tranquil, it's far too good to be buried away on a flipside, and had it been released at an earlier date and on the right side of a seven inch single (or tucked away on an album) it's not difficult to imagine it gaining more respect than it has done. As it stands, hopefully this will gain further popularity over the coming years.

Ginger Ale eventually went their separate ways, with drummer Richard De Bois moving on to a successful production career, and guitarist Steve Allet going on to join the psych-tastic band Ekseption.

10 October 2011

Esprit De Corps - If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1972

Throughout the eighties, the musical prowess of Mike Read became something of a standing joke for popular culture vultures and viewers of "Saturday Superstore". The presenter and Radio One Breakfast Show host surely had plenty on his career-shaped plate during the period, but he still managed to slip out a few singles under the name The Trainspotters, all of which were met with utter indifference by both critics and the public. "Mike Read and his bloody guitar" almost became a disdainful national catchphrase for Saturday mornings.

At the time, hardly anybody at all referenced the fact that he was also partly responsible for this little-known 1972 flop which was later deemed of a high enough quality to emerge on the "Rubble" series of psychedelic compilation albums. I can only concur, it's actually pretty bloody good. The B-side "Pictures On My Wall" can probably be safely ignored, but "If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)" is one of those psychedelically tinged ballads with an unsettling undercurrent, here provided by the positively woozy phasing on the string section. It's an eerie piece of work which deserved further attention, but clearly never got it, despite sonically encapsulating the giddy, doubtful feelings of love which may possibly be unrequited - far from attempting to be "trippy", I'd argue that the chaps were merely trying to replicate conflicting emotions with the skying effects here.

Joining Mike Read were other music industry dabblers Dave Mindel, David Ballantyne, Bill Pit and Alan Tomes. It would appear that they only managed one more single after this one, "Lonely", before knocking matters on the head. Esprit De Corps are one of a privileged number of acts who appeared on "Top of the Pops" despite not having a hit to their name, so they clearly were given a fair chance by Read's future BBC paymasters, but it obviously came to nothing. As for what became of Read, he was at one point so successful in the eighties that Strawberry Switchblade's record label tried to talk one of the girls into going on a date with him, just to increase their chances of getting one of their records played on the Breakfast Show (they did not comply). It's a far cry from that to this, and no mistake.

6 October 2011

Second Hand Record Dip Part 75 - Cirrus - Rollin' On

Who: Cirrus
What: Rollin' On
Label: Jet
When: 1978
Where: Wood Street Market, Walthamstow, London
Cost: 50p

Ah, chocolate for men! Where were we in the days before we had chocolate for men, eh lads? In the seventies, if you were a bloke and you wanted a chocolate bar, you had to buy Dairy Milk and end up looking like a lady in public or (as one astute YouTube commenter puts it) "a bit like Larry Grayson". Dairy Milk and Galaxy, delicious though they are, were for men of suspicious inclinations. And as no self-respecting gentleman would ever want such an image, we had to resort to stealing bars from petrol stations, eating them in the middle of the night for fear that our lady-wives and lovers would catch us, and even hiding it in the Garden Shed underneath the biggest saw we could find. Put it this way, it wasn't much of a life.

Thank God for Rowntrees, then, who put an end to the whole dilemma by producing a low quality, manly chocolate bar all chaps could enjoy without fear of criticism. "Yorkie" (also slang for "Yorkshire Terrier", which as we know isn't an especially masculine dog - I'm stunned they got away with that one) was launched with adverts including a butch, confident truck driver slowly eating the large sized bricks of the stuff with an expression somewhere between smug self-satisfaction and sexual ambition. However hackneyed and silly this idea seems now, it worked a charm in the seventies, and propelled the bar up the best-selling chocolate charts - this despite the fact that it's among the shoddiest commercial chocolate I've ever wrapped my tongue around.

The tune from the advert was clearly popular enough that Jet Records thought it could be a hit single. They were wrong, obviously, and even the aid of this novelty chocolate bar shaped and coloured record didn't help matters. It's pure cod-Country and Western, all twangs and mock American accents, and frankly sounds like a right load of old cobblers. For just a few minutes, though, you could imagine you were the gentleman in the track, that confident, swaggering brute with only miles of road ahead and loads of chocolate on your mind, and as a fetching bonus you got a peculiarly shaped disc for your record collection into the bargain.

This entry is also almost topical in that one of the lorry driving men Stuart Mungall was recently sent to prison after committing euthanasia on his wife. "Left and to the Back" isn't really the place to comment about such complex social issues, but it's such an enormous elephant in the room that I didn't think I could let the entry finish without mentioning it.

3 October 2011

The Surfaris - Shake

Label: Paramount
Year of Release: 196? (This reissue 1973)

Now here's a puzzler for your collective minds. The Surfaris are, I would hope, familiar to all readers of this blog as the authors and performers of the legendary "Wipe Out" single, a song originally composed as an off-the-cuff B-side which subsequently went on to sell in terrifying quantities as the radio play favoured track. Only yesterday I had the television on and an advert using "Wipe Out" as its soundtrack was burbling away in the background - if The Surfaris signed a reasonable contract at the time of its original release, I shudder to think how much money they've made from it since.

In 1973 Paramount acquired the rights to The Surfari's catalogue in the UK and decided to issue the evergreen single once more in the hope that it may enter the charts again. There's absolutely nothing unusual in that. What is unusual, however, is what they opted to place on the flip side. Contrary to the label's "1963" credit, their cover of Sam Cooke's "Shake" originally emerged on the Dot label in the USA in 1967 during a period when nobody much cared about the band anymore. As such, it sank like a stone. That's a bit of a shame, as the track now sounds like a mean old garage track which would sound completely at home on any compilation such as Pebbles or Nuggets - it swaggers confidently, grooves mightily and sounds more of its moment than any Surfaris record issued in the late sixties has a right to sound. Instead of sticking with the surf guitar twang, it would seem the boys diversified towards the end of their careers.

Despite all this, the track is still a bafflement to me. The Surfari's official website suggests that they disbanded around August 1966, which makes the 1967 release date seem strange. It also makes no mention of "Shake" at all, as if the damn thing never happened. But - unless there's something strange going on - it surely did, for here is the audio proof below. I've already begged you lot on Facebook and Twitter, and I'm begging you again now - anyone with the full facts surrounding this track should definitely drop me a comment. It's ace, and I'd appreciate it if I had a bit more background knowledge about how it dropped into the world.

1 October 2011

Planet E-bay

I've done it again - I've floated a few records along the great E-shaped bay, although as always it's a handful rather than a bulk lot (I tend to run out of steam quite quickly).

Readers caring to click on this link will find the following records for sale:

VOODOO QUEENS: Supermodel Superficial
PARCHMENT: Light Up The Fire (John Pantry Produced effort)
OASIS: Some Might Say 7" (Probably of little interest to readers of this blog, and I don't particularly want it either - near mint as well!)
MOODY BLUES: Everyday/ You Don't (All The Time) (Early Moody Blues flop, fairly scarce these days)
GOLIATH: Port & Lemon Lady - demo copy (I've only seen a copy of this prog/ psych/ folk effort for sale once, and that was on the day I bought it. I'm curious to see how much it actually goes for. Get the feeling this one could be all or nothing).
IDES OF MARCH: Tie Dye Princess (a relisting)

If you're interested, you know what to do. As ever, any money raised goes towards the general running of this blog, in other words it pays off our subscription fees to have the mp3s hosted.