29 December 2016

Offered With Very Little Comment #2 - Amboy Dukes, IPOH, Fumble

Hello, my little post-Christmas tinkers. You may remember that back in October, I uploaded a brace of leftover singles in one entry which I could find very little to talk about. They'd been ripped to mp3 and their labels had been taunting me from my "action pile" for months (if not longer in one case).

This, then, is three more singles I've been meaning to upload for awhile, but really don't have much to say about. If there are any interesting facts about them you want to share, please do so in the comments section - but so far as I can tell and hear, there's nowt unusual or notable about these.

Band: Amboy Dukes
Title: He Came To See Me Yesterday/ Easy Going Me
Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1968

We talked about the British Amboy Dukes back in May 2015, introducing two of their singles. Therefore, my brevity this time is due to the fact that we already have this lot covered, not that they aren't interesting in and of themselves (they are - "High Life In Whitley Wood" is a single that's very high on my 'wants' list, and I occasionally spin "The Marquis" at Northern Soul nights).

"He Came To See Me Yesterday' is more of the same, really, though takes things at a steadier, gentler pace. Not one of their more 'in demand' sounds. 

Band: I.P.O.H
Title: Caveman Billy/ Doggy
Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1973

IPOH stands for "In Pursuit of Happiness", and the group were led by Island of St Kitts ex-pat Hamilton King, and featured cult blues performer King Rollo in their ranks. This was their sole Pye release, and rather oddly is a cover of a Hot Chocolate B-side. 

The flip, "Doggy" is a bit more interesting.

Artist: Fumble
Title: Mama, Don't You Hit That Boy/ Tonight
Label: DJM
Year of Release: 1979

Fumble were a rather popular rock n roll revival act in the 70s and 80s who, despite their keen live following, never quite managed to climb as high up the charts as Shakin Stevens, Darts, Showaddaywaddy or even Matchbox. Staggeringly, they even supported David Bowie on his "Ziggy Stardust" tour. Quoth the starman: "I adore them. They're very unpretentious about revamping that whole era".

So here they are, then, for your pleasure. There's also a website here.

22 December 2016

Merry Christmas!

See that on the left? That was the Christmas Tree the local council put up in Streatham Hill a couple of years ago, right outside the local butchers. I felt that I'd seen better tinsel trees obtained from Woolworths in the seventies, and took a photo to share with everyone how sad, spartan, lonely and lacking in ambition I felt it was. I wasn't trying to have a dig at the Council or anything like that - at least, not on this particular occasion - it just amused me, and I thought it would make other people laugh as well.

The tree on the left has nothing to do with "Left and to the Back", really. It has nothing to do with lost music, good or bad, all it represents is Christmas in its most austerity-driven South London form. And 2016 has been a very mixed year for most people, but I do hope you have a good rest over Christmas...  I used to dread the fact that late December provided me with only long stretches of inactivity, with repeats and old films on television, clubs closed, no gigs to speak of and not much news. After this year I'm beginning to form the opinion, however, that sometimes having nothing happening isn't such a bad deal. Sometimes I think we all just need to stop for a bit, and if not have Christmas, then at the very least have a long lie down in a dark room. "If we don't all occasionally stop moving to look at where we've got to, how will we know if we've ever arrived?" as I'm sure somebody said once, but I can't quite work out who to attribute that piece of popular philosophy to. It might even be Prince (Rest in peace, sir). It's definitely not David Bowie (ditto). But perhaps it was AA Milne or even Geri Halliwell.

And where has this blog got to? Well, "Left and to the Back" will be entering its ninth year in 2017. Some children have grown up and journeyed from Junior School to University in that period - a scary thought to contemplate. They've steadily learned how to formulate complex arguments in essays while I still have made absolutely no progress in my ambition to keep my wallet in my pocket while in record shops. Some of us learn, some of us don't.

When I launched this blog back in 2008, I promised myself that it would be updated at least twice a week, and it usually has been. I just thought that by setting myself that target, I'd ensure that things would actually happen and the blog wouldn't just grind to a halt after three months like so many of them do. However, while I want to keep the blog alive, I'm sure I probably will be scaling my ambitions back a little next year and introducing more reuploads and less frequent updates. The Internet has changed almost completely since this blog launched, and it's become increasingly hard to find records which are relatively unheard or unavailable (and harder still to find ones which are actually any good or interesting). What I could do with almost ridiculous ease in 2008 is now quite tough and expensive to fulfil.

One day I'm sure I'll admit defeat and call time on this faintly silly hobby of mine purely because it will prove too impractical (if nothing else) but... there will be another blog entry before the New Year comes round, I assure you. In the meantime... have a nice break.

And if you like what I do here, please do link back through your blog, or on social media, or wherever takes your fancy. All blogs need referrals to keep their audience levels afloat, and with the demise of many of the mp3 blogs which used to direct here (RIP Lord of the Boot Sale in particular) "Left and to the Back" definitely needs new troops who are willing to spread the word.

See you soon. 

20 December 2016

Heathcliffe - Hollybush and Mistletoe/ My World

Label: Tangerine
Year of Release: 1968

Tangerine was a tiny and short-lived label, issuing a mere thirteen singles between 1968-69, of which this was the first. While some of their output by Adam and Dee and Jasmin-T had faintly psychedelic leanings, this opening salvo was a rich old slice of easy listening. No great surprises there - as the success of Engelbert Humperdinck made clear to everyone, the gentler side of popular music still had a massive audience at this time, and was often a better gamble for new independent labels than the latest fashionable sounds.

Heathcliffe - whoever he may be - takes on both these tracks with a deep, rich voice and almost sounds like a British Bing in places. The A-side is a Christmas track which didn't sell amazingly well, but clearly sold enough copies to not be especially rare these days, while the flip is a sentimental but very specific and appropriate wedding song. 

Both sides were in the safe hands of the arranger Alan Hawkshaw, but don't go expecting anything wigged out or organ-driven here. This is gentle, smooth and unobjectionable stuff.

18 December 2016

Reupload - Justified Ancients of Mu Mu - Downtown

Label: KLF Communications
Year of Release: 1987

Christmas records obviously meant a great deal more to the KLF than pop historians have perhaps given them credit for.  Their collaboration with Tammy Wynette on "Justified and Ancient" contained sleigh bells and was released slap into the middle of the Christmas market, and the peculiar and flawed "I Wanna 1-2-1 With You" was another attempt to get festive sales.  However, way before those ventures into tinseltown came this oddity.

Drummond and Cauty had already got themselves into trouble with lawyers around the release of their debut album "1987 What The Fuck Is Going On", which provocatively sampled large chunks of music without seeking out copyright permission.  As if to prove they had learned few lessons from their experience, "Downtown" sampled Petula Clark's classic, and the pair took the strange step of quoting from the Bible in interviews of the period, citing Proverbs 26:11: "As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly".

The Christian element continued with their collaborators.  Recorded with the London Gospel Community Choir, this is one of their more polished and well-realised early works, combining sour, cynical and heavily accented Glaswegian rapping with a joyous, happy-clappy chorus.  "Glory!" sing the choir. "What glory?" answers Bill Drummond (aka King Boy D) "In a wine bar world?  In a tenement block?"  Conquering the charts with a Christmas tune was clearly not on his agenda at this point, as despite the overwhelming pop and fizz of the chorus here, the tune is torn in two directions.  The Community Choir are pulling towards the holiness, the preciousness and the generosity of the season, whilst Drummond points out the harsher mid-winter realities, only for a sampled and stammering Petula to chip in at irregular intervals.  "Neon signs are pretty" she sings, sounding pathetic and weak in this context, before another hard-edged, shouted, Special Brew-sozzled verse barges her out of the way.

Early KLF records were often clumsy and awkward, and whilst "1987 What The Fuck Is Going On" was a groundbreaking and copyright busting album, it seldom had grace on its side, being filled with often clumsily placed distorted samples.  By the time "Downtown" emerged, they sounded as if they'd finally got the hang of their direction and could no longer be criticised as being a novelty act - this (along with most of the album "Who Killed The Jams?") is pop music with a bitter underbelly, the sound of a band absorbing the sounds and culture around them and criticising and distorting it.  By the end, even the choir are singing "Jesus, what can we do?"

This is probably the finest early KLF single, and whilst you can't quite hear the future they'd have as mega-selling Stadium House releasing millionaires, it's a step closer towards that.  It's certainly a pivotal indie release, and it deserves to be heard a lot more often.

14 December 2016

Yellow Pages - Dougal/ Mister Snowman

Label: Sovereign
Year of Release: 1972

Yes, you're right, it's a fair cop, I did buy this one because I thought it might be psychedelically tinged in some way. And no, it's not at all. Oh go on, laugh away, but it's not your wallet, is it? But never fear. I didn't bet the farm on this record, and it's an interesting little piece of novelty history in itself. 

There tend to be two types of people on this planet - those who feel tears pricking their eyes as soon as they hear children singing, and those who feel that unless they're on a Lou Reed album or a Pink Floyd number one, they should never be heard on vinyl. I am in the latter camp, and "Dougal" is, sadly, a track involving lots of kiddiwinks singing merrily.

Before you surf away, though, this appears to be something of an oddity. The children are actually singing "I want to ride with Dougal on the Magic Roundabout" in an homage to the hugely popular television show. It's an odd request to make, since Dougal very seldom rode all that much on the Magic Roundabout, and spent most of the series neurotically whinging and wittering away like a Skye Terrier possessed by the spirit of Tony Hancock. Nobody ever got killed for asking, though, and "I want to spend time with Dougal while he whinges and witters away like a Skye Terrier possessed by the spirit of Tony Hancock" doesn't scan very well.

The track chimes and clops along merrily, but is far too melodically slight to have ever been a hit. In fact, this seems to be horribly obscure, with copies turning up incredibly infrequently. I have to wonder if it was ever properly released at all, since I've never seen a copy without "Demo record - not for sale" stamped on it, but it's hard to prove, and collectors tend not to have much knowledge about novelty records aimed at children.

The B-side "Mister Snowman" is much more Christmassy and fits in neatly with the present season. If you're Judy Finnegan, you'll doubtless shed a tear. 

I obviously have no clue who the people behind this record were, but Ben Nesbit also wrote the theme from "White Horses", which was sung by the legendary Jackie Lee. 

11 December 2016

Derek Jameson - Do They Mean Us?/ Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1986

I'm really not a morning person. If you're going to try to start a conversation with me in the morning, especially before caffeine, it's best to keep it a bit light, humorous and convivial. Don't bark orders at me. Don't get on a soapbox about something in the newspaper. Don't be loud. It's DAWN outside, goddamn you, we're not in a nightclub at two in the morning. I feel delicate.

Perhaps given that this is my general temperament - always has been, probably always will be - it's probably no surprise to you all to learn that Derek "You've Got To Get Up Early In The Morning To Catch Me Out, Mate" Jameson is officially my least favourite breakfast show host ever. His stint on BBC Radio 2 ruined so many school mornings, from his grizzled bark of "MAWNIN'! JAMESON 'ERE!" onwards, that I suspect he may have buggered up some of my education.  Here was a man who could discuss a news item, snarl "I THINK WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, DON'T YOU!" with an exclamation mark on the end rather than a question mark (he was big on demands, low on questions, was our Jameson) then plonk some soothing Frank Sinatra on the stereogram. It was almost frightening as the show careered from one extreme to the other.

Whatever I felt, and I surely couldn't be alone, Jameson was a late eighties broadcasting behemoth, and a man who seemed to succeed at everything he set his mind to. From having TV series of his own, to guest-hosting Wogan, to being given the country's most prestigious Radio Two slot, he really commanded the airwaves during that strange period.

Jameson's life had actually been absurdly eventful even up to that point, with his very humble beginnings in a children's home, and some time spent begging on the streets, eventually leading to trainee reporter work at Reuters and then a slow climb up the career ladder in Fleet Street. He documented all these details in a book entitled "Touched By Angels", so titled to reflect his beliefs that Guardian Angels watched over him at all times. You can even see an advert for the Sun's serialisation of the tome over on YouTube.

Jameson held numerous impressive editorial positions, including editor-in-chief at The Daily Star at the point of its launch, which he allegedly promised would be "Tits, bums, QPR and roll your own fags" (which sounds like a line from an Earl Brutus single). However, he wasn't always completely blessed. A large amount of rot set in when BBC Radio 4's "Week Ending" comedy programme cracked the gag that Jameson was so ignorant "he thought erudite was a type of glue", and Jameson promptly decided to sue. He lost the case, and most of his own personal fortune, when the jury decided this was fair comment. Naturally, more people have since retold this joke than ever heard it on its original Radio 4 broadcast, so not only did he effectively burn an enormous stack of money on a pointless court case, he also spread the insult further and wider than ever before. Rupert Murdoch also removed him as editor of News of The World in 1984 after a disagreement about a newspaper article. A career at the BBC, ironically the very institution which wronged him in the first place (in his eyes, at least) was presumably one way of making some money back quickly.

But what has any of this got to do with "Do They Mean Us?" Good question, and no doubt Jameson, if he were still alive, would be rapping me around the knuckles with a ruler and asking me to make that point a few paragraphs higher ("AND CUT OUT ALL THE GUFF ABOUT ERUDITE!"). Well, in truth, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever why this single needed to be released unless it was a desperate bid to top up his post-court case bank balance. An odd spin-off single from his BBC series set to a jaunty music hall melody, it's a truly ridiculous piece of vinyl, featuring Jameson's cackling ramblings about a cornucopia of disjointed "issues", ranging from the state of the Labour Party to the EEC. "SHOW US YOUR BRITISH BOTTLE!" he barks in every chorus. It's like being drunk and tired in the back of a black cab, dozing off while the cab driver shouts his various grievances to you, then waking up again only to find that you've lost the thread of whatever the fuck he was talking about in the first place, and he's moved on to something else... then repeat to fade.

More disturbing still is the B-side, which was once played by Chris Morris on Radio One purely to bemuse the nation. Jameson's reading of the age-old chestnut "Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus" (we've covered Neil Spence's version elsewhere on this blog) is soft and woolly and reveals his sensitive side, and is a little like sitting on Uncle Del's knee and being told a story when he's slightly sozzled after the Queen's speech. "Uncle Derek, why are you crying? And why is there onion and sage stuffing secreted in your shirt pocket?" you would probably ask him.

Once Jameson's radio career came to an end, he settled down in Brighton and led a rather more sedate life, penning weekly columns for the Brighton Argus. In one of these, he hinted that should such a position ever be created for the town, he might like to become a directly elected mayor. "I'd sort the police out. No excuses from officials! No statistics! No saying we can't do it, there's not enough money! I'd say, 'Just get on with it, mate!' Yes, I think I'd like to be mayor!" was the general gist of the piece. Say whatever else you want, but you could never describe him as being anything less than fascinating and possibly a tiny bit ahead of his time. 2016 would have loved him, and he probably would have become mayor of somewhere, though probably not Brighton.

7 December 2016

The Gibsons - Night And Day/ City Life

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1967

We've already covered the career of The Gibsons in some depth on "Left and to the Back", providing entries on their singles "Only When You're Lonely" and "Magic Book". You should all head off to the entry for "Only When You're Lonely" right now for a read about their Australian origins, and their unfortunately rather hitless UK career.

"Night And Day" is perhaps most famed for its flip side "City Life", which has worked its way on to numerous psychedelic compilations, and deservedly so - its a slightly pithy, bitter observation on London life with numerous period production flourishes. However, there's no reason why "Night And Day" shouldn't also be heard by you good readers. Despite its groovy organ opening, it's nothing like as good as its B-side, but is nonetheless an interesting and accomplished harmony pop take on the Cole Porter song. Not really paisley patterned, but slightly swirly and groovy in its own way.

"City Life" is available to buy all over the Internet, and so isn't included here. If you want to try before you buy, nip over to YouTube where you can hear it in full

4 December 2016

Roof Tops - Astro Projection/ Tequila Samba

Label: AA
Year of Release: 1973

I must admit that getting hold of this one got me all hot under the collar. It's an Icelandic rock band's self-released 1973 single "Astro Projection", and I don't know quite what I was expecting, but something odd, low-budget but unquestionably proggy was my ultimate hope.

In reality, this is pretty much straight-ahead bar-room hard rock which is slightly muffled sounding in places (Not helped by the poor pressing I have). Filled with flashy, showy guitar runs and powerful vocals, it's clear where the band's ambitions lay, but the muted production - especially around the rhythm section - diminishes the potential power of the tracks somewhat.

I know very little about Roof Tops, but you can see a picture of the lads over at 45cat. The Icelandic rock circuit carried few opportunities in 1973, but was certainly established - Thor's Hammer had already ripped huge holes in the country's venues with their barnstorming sound throughout the sixties. Roof Tops are rather more laidback in their sound and proved a wider variety of sounds had emerged by this point. 

Sorry about the knackered B-side label and the scuffs, pops and clicks on these recordings. It looks as if my copy of this single has been through some strange battles in its time.