24 March 2018

Ten Years of Left & To The Back - "Where Do You Get This SHIT FROM?!"

Hello readers. We're continuing our journey of some of the most interesting moments on "Left and to the Back" over the last ten years. What? Did I hear someone at the back mutter "self-indulgent"? Of course it is. I don't get paid for this, you know.

The title of this blog entry is borrowed from one of my wife's catchphrases. She tends to shout these words out when she walks into a room while I'm playing a record featuring a falsetto singing German clown, or a fictional Finnish death metal band, or a cheesy disco cover of a Beatles classic. The delivery of the line tends to change depending on the nature of the song. Sometimes it's shocked, sometimes despairing, sometimes downright angry (in these cases, it will be followed up with the line "Just... just take it off, for Christ's sake").

While the "World's Worst Records" blog should always be your prime go-to source for howlingly terrible discs, I'd like to think I've done a little bit to spread some misery into the world too. It's been a constant source of fascination to me over the years how much absolute shite executives at record labels have signed off as suitable for the public at large. Indeed, some of this stuff possibly shouldn't even have been thought up, never mind recorded, which brings us neatly on to our first single.

1. Pierre Cour - Letter To A Teenage Bride (Charisma)

Words almost fail me. On the surface, this appears to be a single about the rough marital rape of a reluctant teenage bride pining for her parents, with the monologue delivered by someone who sounds like Kenny Everett's character Marcel Wave. Well, I say "on the surface"... if you think further listens reveal hidden artistic depths, subtle satire or perhaps a joke lost in cultural translation, you'd be mistaken.

I'd never heard this single in my life before I played it on my stereo, and after the first listen I stayed rooted to the spot in a state of shock for about thirty seconds wondering if I'd really heard correctly. It's as if Pierre Cour heard Peter Wyngarde's "Rape" and felt the track was far too subtle for its own good, and needed a decent narrative and some extra layers of vulgarity to really hit home.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, female staff at Charisma Records refused to handle the publicity or marketing for this one, and it didn't get a proper release as a result. If you don't want to listen to it, I frankly wouldn't blame you.

2. Derek Jameson - Do They Mean Us? (Polydor)

With its sleeve apparently depicting a dishevelled and seemingly drunken Jameson masturbating outside Number 10 Downing Street, you'd expect some sort of political message from this record, however basic and coarse. You'd be disappointed, though, as "Do They Mean Us?" just features Jameson ranting and rambling indecipherably across three minutes while occasionally demanding "Show us yer British bottle!"

As I said at the time: "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."

The B-side "Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus" shows Jameson's sensitive side and at least makes some coherent sense, but is no less odd, not least because by the time it finishes his quivering, emotional tones force you to suspect that he really does think Father Christmas is real. What a strange man he was.

3. Grahame Lister - Fish 'n' Chips In Spain (Bark)

Conceptually, there's nothing all that wrong with "Fish 'n' Chips In Spain". It's just a harmless novelty record about a fun holiday abroad, filled with daft quips ("Si Si seƱorita Monty Pyfon is me bruvva-in-law") and a bit of a line-dancing groove.

For some reason, though, I've found it particularly potent in its ability to irritate, not only due to its naff jokes and nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more atmosphere, but also the bar-room musical arrangement (just wait to hear that "b-dum bum bum" bass guitar solo as the song reaches its crescendo). Lister had been involved with The Firm's "Star Trekkin" so you could argue he was no stranger to irritating records, but this doesn't so much take the biscuit as push an entire family pack of Party Circles down your throat all at once without taking off the outer wrapper. Rumour has it that Lister presently works for Putin and is successfully composing songs so teeth-grittingly annoying that they cause the heads of Russia's enemies to explode.

4. Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth - We Wanna Be Famous (BBC)

For some reason, the studio audience of "That's Life" found punks hysterically funny in the late eighties, hooting with laughter whenever one of Esther Rantzen's smiling stooges vox-popped them in the street. In fact, by 1987 the only time you seemed to see non-celebrity punks on mainstream television would be when Adrian Mills asked one of them to yodel outside their local Woolworths, which caused one spiky young man to tell him to piss off and stop being so silly. ("Good, I'm glad somebody's actually told him" - my Mum).

Perhaps mindful of this, Mills and his cohort Grant Baynham recorded this point-missing monstrosity for an episode, which doesn't really sound like a parody of a punk single so much as two drunken tramps bashing around on some random instruments they've found while shouting about Terry Wogan and Sue Lawley. It does feature the inspired but faintly inexplicable line "We're gonna spit at the camera-man!", though, which is its sole saving grace. Otherwise, one of the most diabolical records I've ever heard, and the fact that it achieves that status partly by design doesn't excuse it.

5. Jimmy Cross - I Want My Baby Back (Wanted)

No real surprises here. "I Want My Baby Back" won Kenny Everett's World's Worst Records programme in the seventies, and it hasn't aged well either. However, in my opinion the four records above it are worse, proving that the more time passes, the more dross miraculously escapes from record company headquarters.

"I Want My Baby Back" is about the tragic death of a young man's girlfriend in a vehicle crash, and takes the death disc concept to a whole new level with its ghastly punchline. Like "We Wanna Be Famous", this single clearly wants to be disliked for humorous effect, but what's seldom mentioned is how much of a one-play wonder it is. Once the joke is revealed, there's nothing here to really make you want to play it again. It's a slightly trite, bad taste comedy sketch committed to vinyl, the sixties equivalent of an attention seeking sicko YouTube video.

6. Nadine Expert - I Wanna Be A Rollin' Stone (CBS)

If your wish is to hear an ex-associate of Bill Wyman's seductively yelping and purring her way through a disco medley of Rolling Stones songs (including an absurdly joyous rendition of "Paint It Black") while struggling to hit any of the right notes, then everything you could possibly want is here. The sleeve of this single is arguably the most tasteful thing about it.


CL said...


Arthur Nibble said...

"Headlights" by Driver 67 must have been a close call...

23 Daves said...

I thought long and hard about that one, but having two "sex pest" records on the list seemed like a bit too much (and people might have thought I was unnaturally obsessed with these things...)

Arthur Nibble said...

That's a decent reason. One of the continental picture sleeves of Nadine's single shows her left nipple, to make it look like her stage name's Nadine Experto!