14 April 2013

Rest Cure

After over five years of continual updates, I've decided to take a rest from this blog for a few months.  There are a myriad of rather boring, trivial reasons for doing so (not least the fact that maintaining this is more time-consuming than it probably looks) but two specific things are definitely weighing on my mind at the moment:

1. The purpose of this blog was always to attempt to highlight tracks which were otherwise commercially unavailable, and preferably not available on other sites as well.  In March 2008 this was shockingly easy to do, but as time has pressed on it's become more and more difficult.  Spotify launched later in 2008 and began expanding their catalogue, then in the last couple of years record companies have become much more adept at exploring the darker corners of their archives (you wouldn't believe just how much obscure stuff is on iTunes is now - Candy's "Baby Baby I Still Love You" anyone? I know, I thought that one would be unavailable as well). This has meant that finding a buried disc which is worth writing about has become an incredibly tough and often expensive mission.  You don't want to know how much I paid for a copy of Willy Zango's "Hot Rod"....

2. I do have a pile of odd records sat in my lounge at home, but none are particularly worth writing about. They're largely dull, and would mean that the next two months (at least) would be taken up with me waffling on about discs I doubt anyone will be interested in.  If I can't convince myself about them, how will I convince anyone else?  That said, if anyone does want a copy of The Best of Noel Edmonds' Funny Phone Calls, I have at least digitised that one...

It may be that I have to rethink the way this blog looks and is run, reverting to Soundcloud or Tumblr or even starting an entirely different kind of music blog with a different tack, or starting a podcast - I'm not sure.  But I'll leave these thoughts to settle for a bit, and in the meantime I'd be grateful if you stayed linked to "Left and to the Back" until it's clear what I plan to do.

See you soon.

11 April 2013

Reupload - Le De Das - Morning, Good Morning

Label: HMV
Year of Release: 1972

I've previously mentioned the fact that one rarely finds genuine rarities in random piles whilst visiting second hand stores. There is only one tale I can tell which contradicts that fact, and it harks back to a time I was staying and working in Melbourne, and living close by to a giant thrift store on Chapel Street known as The Bazaar.

One of the stall holders in this giant indoor market had a wooden crate filled with old seven inch singles. Much of it was the usual fare you'd expect to find - Cliff Richard hits, The Beatles, Jimmy Little (remember how we talked about him?), and the usual load of old orchestral cover versions of the hits of the day. Nestling in that box, however, were some peculiarities that nearly made my heart stop. An Australian pressing of the Standells. Some Kinks singles with A-sides which were never issued in that form in the UK. Led Zeppelin singles.

Sadly, in each and every single case, I'd pick it up and it would be the same old story - whilst the singles all had unharmed sleeves, the condition of the contents was shockingly bad. I nearly cried when some US garage single looked as if somebody had been roller skating over the top of it - even with the naked eye, I could see the thing was completely unplayable. Had I been back in London, I might have bought these just as a talking point, especially as I had no knowledge that some of them even existed - there was absolutely no point in shipping them back from Australia, though.

I managed to find two exceptions in the box, a Led Zeppelin seven inch of "Black Dog", and the single you see above. The former was slightly warped around the run-in grooves, the latter torn around the label (as you can see) and slightly scratched, but still playable.

In case you're unaware, The La De Das were a New Zealand band who were quite successful in their home country for a period, and are best known in the UK for their storming garage punk single "How Is The Air Up There?", which found its way on to the Nuggets II box set. One of the finest garage singles not to emerge from America, it consists of sheer fuzz mayhem, a squawking organ, and some of the most sneering class warrior lyrics of the period about a wealthy girl.

By the seventies, however, the La De Das sounded like an almost entirely different band, to the extent that I found myself wondering if there were two bands of that name when I first played "Morning, Good Morning". It sounds nothing like a bunch of pissed-off blokes from Detroit singing through gritted teeth and smashing away at their instruments, and sounds more like a laidback bunch of bearded good old boys from Alabama playing with maximum proficiency. It was almost as if they'd spent their entire careers slowly travelling south across the USA, shifting their style as they went. It wasn't a hit in New Zealand, and they never did make it in the UK either, although a cover version they did of The Beatles "Come Together" apparently came close... until the Beatles released their version as a single (yet another example of this ludicrous sixties phenomenon for your notebooks.)

To be bluntly honest, the seventies La De Das leave me quite cold, but the below mp3s may be of interest to some people who are just interested to hear what became of their sound.

(I originally uploaded this entry in July 2008, and I don't have a great deal to add at this point).

10 April 2013

"Utter Shite!" - Saturday 27th April

Hallo Spaceboy. As a reader of "Left and to the Back", you might be interested in the fact that I'm DJ'ing until late playing nothing but one hit wonders and novelty records at a night called "Utter Shit!" (hosted by Richard Tyrone Jones - pictured) on 27th April.  This is the first (and probably the last) time that the darkest, dingiest corners of my vinyl collection have been aired in public, so it's sure to be an event of sorts.

But if listening to flop Eurovision Song Contest entries, ditties from the "That's Life!" team and French seventies electronica isn't your bag, there will also be a wide range of  spoken word performers delivering three minutes and 33 seconds of pure nonsense and rubbish, among them Tim Wells, Lee Nelson, Dildo Dando, James Ross, Dan Simpson, Leanne Moden, Alan Wolfson, Alain English, Dave Bryant (that's me), Mark Dean Quinn, Michael MacIntyre (apparently) & Christian Ward (apparently).

It's £3.33 entrance at the Star of Kings, 126 York Way, London N1 0AX (nearest tube Kings Cross).  There's also a special prize bingo session.  The Facebook invite page is here.

For the sake of entertainment, and also in a possibly vain attempt to ensure that I still have some friends left at the end of the evening, I cannot guarantee that the contents of my DJ'ing will be 100% shite - there may be some actual beef in this particular value lasagne.  But I won't accept any requests for refunds. 

8 April 2013

The Cavalry Twill - All You Need Is Love

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1967

Another Beatles cover for your delectation, good readers, except unlike most Beatles covers this does actually attempt to shake the original arrangement up a bit to create something fresh-sounding.  This version of "All You Need Is Love" is an instrumental which attempts to outdo George Martin in terms of ambitious arrangements, adding frills and flourishes along the way which in places make the original tune reasonably hard to recognise if you're only half-listening.  For all that, however, it still manages to poke its head through all the tinsel when it comes to the chorus, and given that "All You Need Is Love" was never the finest Beatles single in my book - the "event" of the live global satellite broadcast overshadowing the rather basic tune - it's an easy track to take liberties with.

This was almost certainly a one-off studio experiment with leanings towards the easy listening market, and so far as I can ascertain The Cavalry Twill didn't release anything else, or at least not under that name.  It would seem that Neil Levenson was heavily involved in this - he is credited for production work and the gentle song "The Girl" on the flip.  He was a songwriter based in the USA who is perhaps best known for penning the song "Denise" for his group Randy and the Rainbows, which later became a huge hit for Blondie under the title "Denis".  This really is just a tiny footnote in his discography next to that effort.

4 April 2013

Willy Zango And The Mechanics - Hot Rod/ Goom

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1973

Sometimes, just sometimes, rock thrills come from the dumbest of places.  For some people that might involve The Ramones thrashing away whilst throwing idiot slogans about the shop, for others that might be primal sixties garage rock, but in truth, the seventies glam rock movement had plenty of slack-jawed brilliance to spare too.

This one is no exception.  Consisting initially of a burst of engine noise then bursting into stomping rhythms, buzzing and swooping analogue synth noises and men who were probably old enough to know better chanting "Hot Rod! Hot Rod, Hot Rod!" incessantly like children on a themed day out at Silverstone racing track, it's like The Peppers' "Pepper Box" smashing into an Earl Brutus recording session.  The first time I heard this, I found myself completely involuntarily pumping my fist in the air.

Willy Zango or his Mechanics failed to chart with this, but there was a follow-up single on DJM entitled "The Voice of Melody" which had "Hot Rod" on its B-side.  Peculiarly, "The Voice of Melody" appeared to be a protest song against dance-orientated music and its invasion against lilting melodic sounds, but it barely contained any itself, consisting instead of pissed-off gravelly vocals and a dumb riff.  It also wasn't very good, unfortunately.

I suspect that actor, songwriter and performer Kaplan Kaye, the author and producer of both sides on offer here, is responsible for all this daftness.  Kaye seems to have penned many seventies discs under a number of bizarre guises (among them Puzzle and Bendy Dog) and perhaps more credibly co-wrote the song "If I Was President" which was recorded by Wyclef Jean.  Less credibly, but more amusingly from our point of view, he also played on the John McEnroe baiting novelty smash "Chalk Dust - The Umpire Strikes Back".

I'm more impressed with this than either of those tunes, however, and I'm incredibly glad this brilliant piece of absurdity got out of the traps.

1 April 2013

The Village East - Building With A Steeple/ Tumblin' Down

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1967

I'm not really too sure why or what's happened, but a freightload of American Sunshine Pop records - a lot of them on MGM, and almost all of them relatively obscure - seem to have washed up on British shores in recent months.  Some collectors assumed that this one never made it past the promo stage, for example, but here's the stock copy as living proof, live and at large in the UK.

"Building With A Steeple" is probably the best example I've found yet, scrubbing away any edgy credibility it might have with a Christian message and yet sounding so downright lovely it's hard to understand how anyone could resist.  There's not much originality present here as the vocal harmonies and arrangements echo the likes of The Mamas and Papas, but crucially it's not inferior to their work in any way and was clearly extremely unlucky not to have sold in greater quantities.  There's a yearning to the vocals and an intricacy to the delicately strummed and plucked arrangements which would soothe the most troubled soul, and like all the best West Coast sounds from the period it sounds simultaneously lush and sincere.  The very concept of sanctuary in a church on a blazing hot Californian day sounds thoroughly appealing here.

Sadly, The Village East didn't release any singles after this one effort, as apparently the lead singer (whose name I've been unable to locate) immediately left to pursue an unsuccessful career as a solo artist after this flopped.  There's a sense that a lot of potential was wasted here, and my guess is that if they'd released some more tracks of a similar quality they may have broken through.  As for the song, it was also recorded by The Eighth Day (with a near-identical arrangement) and Frank Sinatra Jr.