28 October 2015

The Chasers - The Ways Of A Man/ Summergirl

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1967

Romford's The Chasers grafted their way around the British gig circuit in the sixties. Consisting of Roger Pincott on vocals, Len Tuckey on guitar, Jack Chambers on bass and Lenny Butcher on drums, they were formed in 1960, beginning by performing straight-ahead beat pop before hardening their sound to an R&B approach in 1963. This gave them many more opportunities to break out of the local Romford area and perform in clubs nationally, achieving notable support slots with other R&B acts of the day such as the Downliners Sect.

While apparently being a strong live proposition, they failed to break through with any of their three releases across three different record labels during that period. "Hey Little Girl", issued by Decca in 1965, and "Inspiration", issued by Parlophone in 1966, were largely ignored by the public and poorly promoted by both institutions.

Top songwriter (and recording star in his own right) Chris Andrews was friends with the band, and produced all their work. By 1967 Pincott had jumped ship and the band replaced him with Bobby Rio, and there might have been a sense that if they couldn't strike it lucky with a third single, the goose could be cooked. It would certainly explain why Andrews chose that moment to step in and give them an original and powerful composition of his own to work with.

"The Ways Of A Man" is much poppier than the previous singles and lacks a brittle R&B edge, instead sounding very identifiably like a melancholy Andrews track. The delicate nature of the song makes for a compelling listen, but the style doesn't quite suit the band who sound noticeably hemmed in, and as a pop ballad it's crying out for Sandie Shaw's mournful tones to raise it to another level. Unsurprisingly, it followed their other far stronger singles into the dumper, and remains one of Andrews' less frequently heard and undeservedly unappreciated tunes as a result.

Rio also abandoned The Chasers after the failure of this single, and the group limped on as a trio for a few months before giving up when Tuckey joined The Riot Squad.

Excuse the pops and clicks on both sides of this single - it's not a perfect copy, I'm afraid.

25 October 2015

The London Boys - Eyes of Kazan/ All My Life

Label: BASF
Year of Release: 1971

There are, to the best of my knowledge, two bands with the "London Boys" moniker. One seemed to be a project of the jobbing songwriter (and Flowerpot Men member) John Carter. The other was an eighties Eurodisco act with flashy dance moves who somehow ended up doing backing vocals to charged political pop on Microdisney records (apparently angrily suggesting to Cathal Coughlan that he was sick in the head before they sang backing vocals to lines such as "There's nothing wrong with the young would-be rich/ that a headful of lead would not cure"). It shouldn't be too tricky to work out which one this is.

"Eyes of Kazan" is an odd release for two reasons. Firstly, it's a slice of psychedelic pop which was issued in 1971, long after most record buyers had shown any signs of caring about this kind of thing. It was also released in Germany only, failing to reach the shops in any other European markets (including the UK). I can only speculate as to why this was - it's possible that it was an old John Carter composition which had been gathering dust which BASF were persuaded to issue, but the (slightly cack-handed) stereo mix suggests to me that it's more likely to be a seventies recording.

It's actually pretty good as well. There's a copped Beach Boys bass riff (from "You're So Good To Me") and a thumping, stoned McCartneyesque feel to the whole thing, and while it lacks the necessary hooks to truly sound like a hit, it's neatly persuasive and proof positive that when digging the record racks for psychedelic pop, one needn't stop at 1969. There are other gems to be found beyond that end-date.

21 October 2015

Ignatius Jones - Like A Ghost/ Seductive Ways

Label: Ensign
Year of Release: 1982

Australian actor, contortionist, journalist and singer Ignatius Jones is an odd sort. He's most famed in his home country for being the lead vocalist in "shocking" new wave band Jimmy and the Boys, whose act apparently included S&M and mock rape. Footage of their shows sounds ripe for inclusion in one of those "It Was Alright In The 70s" clip shows, by the sounds of it, except none seems to be available. However, YouTube allows us to watch them covering The Kinks in a peculiar fashion and see TV footage of their Tim Finn penned top ten hit "They Won't Let My Girlfriend Talk To Me", and with that we should presumably be content.

Once Jimmy and the Boys split, Ignatius set about trying to establish a solo career for himself. The results were not as successful. "Like A Ghost" was the first release, and is actually rather good, awash with an eerie, empty synth-pop simplicity as a complete antidote to the absurd theatrics of his previous band. Apparently a minor hit in the gay clubs on the American West Coast, it was obviously deemed notable enough to be granted a UK single release, unlike anything Jones did before or since… but for all the record label enthusiasm, it wasn't a sizeable seller on either side of the planet.

After the follow-up single "Whispering Your Name" failed to gain any traction, Jones formed the briefly lived Arms and Legs before then joining the swing-jazz band Pardon Me Boys.

He arguably found bigger success outside the fields of acting, music or journalism when he became an Events Director and was given the role of Creative Director for the 2000 Sydney Olympic opening and closing ceremonies. It's a far cry from being a member of the most shocking New Wave band in Australia, viewers.

18 October 2015

Hackensack - Moving On/ River Boat

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1972

In the late sixties and early seventies, music began to be appraised by certain selective punters not just by how melodic or innovative it was, but how loud and heavy, especially in the live environment. Bands began to obtain huge amplifiers and stacks affordably, and thus acts such as Blue Cheer described themselves as being capable of turning the air to cheese with their sheer racket. Presumably nobody asked for a refund when the venue around them didn't transform miraculously into rich Brie.

Hackensack were renowned for being one of Britain's heaviest blues rock bands in the early seventies, and became quite a draw on the live circuit, chalking up 270 gigs - but naturally, their high voltage and volume attacks failed to cross over into record shop sales. 1974's Polydor released album "Up The Hard Way" was cultishly successful, but not enough to convince anyone that they had a reasonable commercial proposition on their hands, though it has since become a highly collectible item. Thus Hackensack were kicked back on to the small venue circuit before giving it all up, an unissued live album apparently languishing in the Pye vaults.

This is their solitary single, and consists of two quite different halves. The A-side "Moving On" chugs along and swings merrily, and actually has an almost glam rock chorus which sounds like it might have been borrowed from Iron Virgin or one of the many flop tinseltowners of the day. It's perfectly good, but it's the B-side that really shows what Hackensack were capable of. "River Boat" is an absolute dumb-ass assault, riddled with a primal, almost garage rock riff which needles away throughout. Vocals scream, cymbals crash, and the whole thing is a fine example of how the 60s punk tradition naturally morphed into Serious Rock in the early seventies. So downright distorted and compressed is the track that I had to have three goes of ripping it from vinyl before getting the right volume control - it sends all the needles flying into the red even at low recording volumes. I still can't decide if I over or under did it.

Lead singer Nicky Moore went on to be a key player in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal with Samson, guitarist Ray Majors went on to join British Lions before eventually hooking up with Mott The Hoople, and drummer Simon Fox joined Be Bop Deluxe. The whereabouts of bassist Stu Mills is less clear.

11 October 2015

Back very soon...

I moved into the new house a month ago, and you can see from the picture above the chaos that awaited… the previous owners simply locked the doors and left a pile of junk behind, most of which was of such a poor quality that even the local charity shops wanted nothing to do with it. Cheap old chipboard wardrobes from the eighties, scratched and scuffed drinks cabinets, a wheelchair, a very old radio (pictured - I'll try to test this at some point, as soon as I can find a new lead for it), even an ancient 70s kitchen sink with a slightly rusty residue… moving our own stuff in was a challenge, viewers, and we're still trying to work out the cheapest way of getting a lot of the old junk sent to landfill.

The question you're naturally asking is "But did they leave any vinyl behind?" And of course, no, they didn't. The one pile of junk I would have been delighted to have been left as an unlisted feature of the house wasn't to be found. So it's been a slow process of shifting things hither and tither, tidying, painting, removing horrendous carpeting from the floors, and generally getting a run-down property up to some sort of inhabitable scratch. The boiler was also shot, so we didn't even have hot water for the first few weeks.

All that said, Virgin Media have been brilliant at getting us back online, managing to get us hooked up in half the time BT managed during the last house move. This despite the fact that they had to get roadworks permission from the council, dig up the kerb outside, and wire the cable into our property. To achieve all that in a fortnight is actually unbelievably good.

I'm also hopeful enough that the chaos in my life has been reduced to the extent that I can start putting regular entries back up on "Left and to the Back", although the flow may be disrupted from time to time whenever the builders are in. 

I also think I'll ditch the "Emerging" section of the blog unless anyone has a begging need to see more from it. Nobody seemed to ever read or comment on the entries, which leads me to suspect that this really should remain as a blog for obscure old music, not up and coming artists (however enthusiastic I am about them). Send your letters of complaint to the usual address… but I highly doubt I'll get any.

See you soon, then.