31 January 2018

The Grapevine - Things Ain't What They Used To Be Anymore/ Ace In The Hole

Label: Liberty
Year of Release: 1968

This track was apparently lifted from the soundtrack of the 1968 sci-fi/mod crossover film "Popdown". This unlikely flick apparently consisted of the adventures of two space aliens as they ambled through Swinging London encountering men with Hank Marvin glasses and women in mini-skirts. Despite this enticing mix of ideas, and the fact that cult psychedelic stars Dantalian's Chariot "appear as themselves", it was recently dismissed by Time Out magazine as "embarrassingly dated and tedious".  That's not going to put me off tracking down a copy, readers.

It's not clear who The Grapevine were, although the involvement of Harold Winn and Joseph Hooven in the producer's chairs would suggest they were from the Los Angeles area (unless they were just session musos drafted in to do a bit of soundtracking work). The A-side is a bouncy piece of elaborately arranged and soulful pop of a faintly psychedelic hue. Filled with strings and an aching nostalgia, it's over before you've really had enough of it and - I so very rarely say this - could easily have stretched its playing time out a little bit more. 

The flip is a bird of a different feather, being some rather moody hippified pop, and almost sounds like the work of a different band entirely. 

If anyone has access to a copy of "Popdown", they know who to call. 

28 January 2018

Reupload - Public Skool - Baby Come Back/ Walking The Rat

Label: Logo
Year of Release: 1980

By 1980 British punk was pretty much dead, but there were still a few pops and snaps going on in the fireplace  after the flames had been urinated out.  The "Oi!" movement, feverishly promoted by everyone's favourite British tabloid hack Gary Bushell, continued to give punk some occasional music press and radio presence.  Then, besides that, there were still a few records created by music industry session folk and chancers who hadn't quite realised that the game was almost up.

All the evidence points to this being a record made by a studio group having a laugh with the idea of making a Mockney punk record, much like The Strawbs attempt to go punk under the name The Monks a couple of years before.  The A-side, a cover of "Baby Come Back", is actually pretty good despite this, adding a football terrace edge to a track which wasn't short of foot-stomping qualities to begin with.  New Wave keyboards combine with "Oi!" vocals and glam banging to create a track which is fun without being essential.

The B-side is odder still, and if it isn't a piss-take then I'm sending my bullshit detector right back to the branch of Maplin I bought it from.  "Walking The Rat" is a wide-eyed punk track about taking a pet rodent out for a walk in public on a leash rather than a dog. Oh the anarchy.  "He's walking, walking the rat!" chant the backing vocals enthusiastically, and to cap it off we learn that the animal is called Pat.  I think I can detect a tiny bit of contempt here, and if this isn't a record made by serious session musos who felt that punk was either a bit silly or had made a mess of their careers, I'll be amazed. The presence of David Mindel on the production credits may be a clue - here was a man who wrote the "Jim'll Fix It" theme in the seventies, and was also in a band with Mike Read, penning the phased popsike classic "If (Would It Turn Out Wrong)" on his way.  It may be that a punk band were offered him as a producer for this session and simply accepted him as the right man for the job (those dog-rough glam rock credentials on the original 'Jim'll' theme perhaps did partly qualify him) or it may have been that he was in on a joke here.

Whatever, we're left with a punk curio which has been a guilty pleasure for many people over the years, and I suspect I'm not alone in enjoying this a wee bit more than I should do.

24 January 2018

Susan Singer - Hello First Love/ Gee! It's Great To be Young

Label: Oriole
Year of Release: 1962

Spare a thought for the talented relatives of big stars. They're forever destined to talk about their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and cousins way before they're even allowed to mention their debut single. If they succeed in pop, it's because of their fortunate family connections. And if they fail, well, it serves them right for daring to hint they were in the same league. Nobody talks about Aretha Franklin's cousin David Bryant these days, and Julian Lennon's stock has fallen so low that a few years ago I chanced upon a signed album of his in a Salvation Army charity shop for 50p (though yes, I did buy it and keep hold of it).

Susan Singer, then, was cousin to the mighty Helen Shapiro, and had a similar vocal style but none of the hits. "Hello First Love" was her debut, and showed what she was capable of. Both sides are incredibly tightly arranged, having the skippy, peppy swing of a lot of pre-Fab sixties pop, and Susan's performance has bags of character and power behind it. The A-side sounds like a possible hit single, and perhaps if it had been placed with a slightly more powerful label than Oriole it might have stood more of a chance. 

The flip "Gee! It's Great To Be Young" is, by comparison, utterly unashamed teen pop with lots of mentions of barbeques, twists, dates, record shops, jivin', and all that jazz. "What wants to be old?" sneers Singer, sounding strangely close to Pete Townshend's dismissiveness with her incredulous delivery. Rock this definitely isn't, though - the orchestral accompaniment and backing vocals of "diddy diddy diddy" hail from a (slightly) earlier time when pop art and destructive tendencies were not part of teenage music.

Susan managed four more singles on Oriole, many of them extraordinarily scarce these days, before re-emerging on Columbia as Susan Holliday in 1964. EMI's healthier coffers didn't seem to make any difference, though, and she was dropped by them in 1965 having failed to make an appearance in the hit parade. You could argue she deserved a lot better. 

21 January 2018

The Troys - Gotta Fit You Into My Life/ Take Care

Label: Tower
Year of Release: 1968

Chicago's The Troys were something of a starting base for numerous people who went on to join other (arguably more significant) musical projects. Featuring the likes of Mark Gallagher, who joined The Litter,  Michael Bean, who later graced Lovecraft and The Call with his presence, and having this single penned by Bob Susser who later went on to become a writer and performer of children's music, there was certainly no shortage of talent in the group.

Both sides of this 45 consist of lushly arranged, orchestrally backed pop with harmony vocals at the forefront. The A-side is pleasant but possibly doesn't have a strong enough hook to really stand out - for my money (and it is, after all, my money) the flip has more of a swing and an organ-based groove to it, and might please readers of this blog a bit more. Either road, though, leads to slightly hippified sunshine pop, and that can never be a totally bad thing. 

After release flopped, The Troys seem to have popped up again as Pendragon for their last release on Tower "Never Gonna Go Back", which was recently included on the "High All The Time" compilation series.

17 January 2018

Daryl Quist - True To You/ Above And Beyond

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1964

Daryl Quist was part of Larry Parnes' stable of artists in the early sixties, which was filled to the brim with young, professional artistes who would excite the teenagers but not upset the Mums and Dads too much by being needlessly uncouth or raucous. Arriving on these shores fresh from Canada as the dancer in Tommy Steele's panto "Humpty Dumpty", he was promptly spotted by Parnes and groomed for success - a challenge, as Parnes claimed "he hadn't sung a note in his life, except in the bath" - but despite a good contract with Pye and four singles on that label, he just couldn't break through. A further release on Decca in 1965 also paid no dividends.

To be brutally honest, there's nothing on either side of his third release "True To You" that's going to excite readers desperate for a bit of mod pop or freakbeat, and the A-side in particular is a rather twee Merseybeat-lite production. The flip "Above and Beyond", on the other hand, is a nice enough skip through sixties beat pop, zinging along at speed, and impossible not to find cheering. You have to wonder if this single would have fared better if the sides had been switched.

All this is speculation, of course, and Quist, along with the otherwise unrelated but equally unfortunate likes of Tommy Quickly, Ted "Kingsize" Taylor, The Undertakers, The Lancastrians and others is now a naggingly familiar name to record collectors and teenagers of the early sixties beat era, but certainly not often heard on oldies radio. His whereabouts these days aren't easy to trace, but it seems safe to assume [citation needed - ed] that once his singing career hit the skids, he returned to dancing and the theatre stage.

14 January 2018

Reupload - Egton Runners - Won't Somebody Play My Record?/ Flip Me

Label: DJM
Year of Release: 1979

[I originally uploaded this entry in February 2010, but a polite reader called William Farthing very unexpectedly contacted me last week asking me to put it on the blog again, as the old mp3 links had expired. This I am now doing, though I have to confess to being slightly bewildered that this was on anyone's list of wanted obscure tunes - though the experiences I've had over the last decade of running this blog should have taught me to never be shocked!]

This particular novelty track may be of minor interest to sixties-heads purely and simply because one of the songwriters responsible, John Carter, was also responsible for a number of oddly shaped psych-pop trinkets. Probably his finest and oddest hour was the lost classic "Laughing Man", released on Spark in 1968, which you can hear over on Spotify

"Won't Somebody Play My Record?", on the other hand, is either a desperate pean from a desperate man or a bit of studio tomfoolery (or both?). It's the sad and sorry tale of a record company plugger desperately trying to get his record played on a record station. If nothing else, the lyrics paint a vivid picture of the narrow options available in the industry at the time, as the plugger's entire efforts revolve around banging on one BBC door and then another. If he tried that now, he'd be booted out of the company offices by lunchtime.

The countrified pop on offer here sadly didn't really get played on the radio, and as a result it joins the long, teetering pile of novelty singles nobody much cared about or picked up on at the time. John Carter gave up on pop music the very same year, and focussed his career on penning advertising jingles instead, writing work for Vauxhall and Rowntree amongst others. Despite this, he apparently still markets his back-catalogue through Sunny Records, including a great deal of unreleased material - here's hoping there's a few more "Laughing Man"s out there in the can.

10 January 2018

Buckley - Let's Have A Little Bit More/ Right Sky

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1973

So far as I can tell, Buckley were not a proper group as such, but a project managed and produced by Tremeloes veterans Alan Blakley and Len Hawkes. Issuing four singles across three labels (Bell, CBS and Epic) between 1971 and 1973, success was clearly expected, but the Trems magic touch - fading rapidly by the early seventies anyway - failed to pay dividends.

Their fourth and final single "Let's Have A Little Bit More" is regrettably not an early draft of the closing Reeves and Mortimer song from the "Smell Of" series, though it's closer to that than you might suppose, being riddled with innuendo and cheeky music hall banter. It could easily have been a summer novelty smash, but the record buying public were not receptive to its seaside postcard charms.

The flip "Right Sky" is a different kettle of fish, having a similar mood and atmosphere to The Kinks "Big Sky" off "Village Green Preservation Society" (though melodically distant enough that it's probably a huge coincidence). Simple, raw and pleasing, it sounds like the work of a completely different group, and deserves a few more pairs of ears to hear it. 

7 January 2018

Kodiaks - Tell Me Rhonda/ All Because You Wanna See Me Cry

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

Kodiaks are a rather mysterious lot. A number of record collectors online have been asking themselves who they were, and only recently drawing conclusions. This, their only single, managed a release on Decca in Britain and Scepter in the USA, leading some to intially speculate that they might have been an American act. However, there was an act called The Kodiaks in the Rotherham area around the same time, and this is almost certainly them.

Apparently fronted by Dave Cardwell on vocals with Howard Hall and Ian Walker on other undisclosed duties, Kodiaks managed to produce a stormer with this, their solitary single. The A-side is a pounding, pleading record with a faintly Eastern feel in places, simmering with frustration and heartache, akin to a Northern Soul disc in places (note - I'm not trying to claim that it ever actually was spun at a Northern Soul night). It's a solidly pop/beat outing, and not quite as psychedelic as others have claimed, but nonetheless it sounds like a potential hit. It's not that surprising that the Americans also took a gamble on releasing it.

The flip side isn't bad either, having the same kind of yearning and urgent drive. What became of the group after this is a mystery, but copies of this aren't chanced upon too often these days. Mine is slightly scuffed, so if you want to hear one in a less loved condition, YouTube is your friend

3 January 2018

Dave Carey - Drum Beat/ Come Light Your Fire

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1962

Let's kick off 2018 with a nice big brassy POW of a record, shall we? Make no mistake, "Drum Beat" by Dave Carey is a real slap around Batman and Robin's chops, waking up individuals with even the worst case of the winter blues. It's filled to the brim with pounding drum beats high in the mix, a faintly cheesy, easy listening vocal style (you can almost hear the winks-to-camera) and a fantastic Wally Stott arrangement. It's such a punchy piece of work that it seems absurd that it wouldn't have been keenly revived by now.

Dave Carey's solo career is only one small segment of his music industry CV. He had been a drummer in Lou Stone's Orchestra in the forties and fifties, before he changed direction and became a vocalist for chart-toppers and multiple NME award winners The Stargazers. That act are widely believed to have released the first ever British rock and roll recording with "She Loves To Rock" in August 1956, even if it didn't particularly shift many copies (try finding either a 45 or 78rpm copy anywhere these days - it's rarer than a bar tender willing to accept fifty pound notes). 

His solo career seemed to consist of three singles, of which this and the previous release "Bingo" are the most interesting. That particular 45 was used as pre-game music in a number of Mecca Bingo Halls in the UK, which still wasn't enough to push it into the charts. I suspect it sold slowly and steadily in the towns and cities which were most exposed to it, however. 

Once the hits dried up, Dave Carey pursued other business interests, opening the "Swing" record shop in Streatham, South London which specialised in blues music, and running Nova Recording Studios. Sadly, he passed away in October 2015, aged ninety.