30 December 2018

Reupload - Orange Colored Sky - Mr. Peacock/ Knowing How I Love You

Label: Uni
Year of Release: 1969

The constant waves of neo-psychedelic bands since the nineties have ensured that the ideas in the genre remain current, but even so, some psychedelic pop records sound much more of their moment than others. It doesn't impinge on their overall quality, but - to throw one example to the jury - Donovan's "I Love My Shirt" doesn't sound as if anyone would have recorded it in the last twenty years. Its slightly humorous, whimsical take on comfortable Carnaby Street wear seems somewhat quaint now. 

And so we come on to "Mr Peacock", a cheery ditty with harmony vocals largely celebrating the "grooviness" of a particular individual. This is the part of the era that "Austin Powers" filtered off and turned into a giant action cartoon - the garish, the silly and the celebratory. But within the context of its original purpose, it makes a lot more sense. The "Mr Peacock" to whom they refer is Don Knotts' character in the film "The Love God?", a dorky, awkward individual who turns into a sexual magnet when he accidentally becomes custodian of a successful pornographic magazine. This single was ripped from the soundtrack, and the line between Powers and Peacock is narrow enough to assume that tongues were probably firmly in cheek within the ranks of Orange Colored Sky as well.

While never blessed with an enormous amount of success, Orange Colored Sky (consisting of Larry Younger, Walter Slivinski, Vinny Younger and Tony Barry) were busy boys on the live gig circuit, spending periods as the house band at New York's Peppermint Lounge, as Burt Bacharach's opening live act, and working the club circuit in Los Angeles. Their 1970 track "Press A Rose" also managed to creep into the Billboard Top 100. Known for their professional live shows, a steady stream of  appearances continued until the eighties when they shut up shop.

23 December 2018

It's Christmas

All bloggers have been taught from hard experience - or perhaps just the application of some common sense - that updating their sites over the festive period is a lot of work for an even smaller readership than usual. And a lot of grief, too. You're supposed to be at the dinner table carving the poultry or helping Mum wash up in the kitchen, not uploading your seasonal guide to Christmas singles with psychedelic phasing on them. How would you explain doing that to your relatives? Where would you even begin?

So then, this marks the only point in any ordinary year where "Left and to the Back" takes a break for a week or so. I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas to all readers, and may the second hand record shops and junk stores of 2019 bring you many surprises. Fingers crossed they will do for me too.

I'll be back online before December is over, but 'til then... stay safe and warm, and remember, Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" can never really be overplayed, and anyone complaining about it will have me to answer to. 

22 December 2018

Tommy Eytle (Gramps off Eastenders) - A Christmas Tree From Norway/ Roehampton Was Her Name

Calypso musician and actor with strange late-period single

Label: Double AA/ Airborne
Year of Release: 199?

Here's an odd 45 which presumably has some kind of back-story, but one that doesn't seem to be documented anywhere. In fact, the record label doesn't even offer the year of release.

Tommy Eytle is probably best-known for playing the role of Gramps off Eastenders, which he held from 1990-1997. He was introduced as part of the Tavernier family, who were parachuted into the soap to balance the diversity of the cast (prior to that point, the cast of "Eastenders" didn't even come close to representing the mix of cultures in the East End, and indeed it could be argued the series still doesn't. We'll save the debates about mainstream soaps holding an accurate mirror up to their local worlds for another time.) 

Prior to this major acting role, however, Eytle was also a respected jazz guitarist and calypso singer who gigged at numerous clubs up and down the country, as well as performing the "Narrative Calypso" in the film "The Tommy Steele Story" in 1957. 

His "Eastenders" role also occasionally afforded him the chance to have a good old-fashioned singalong in The Queen Vic, and perhaps that's why this single emerged. Or there was possibly another reason - the "Gordons of Langford Play" credit at the bottom of the label seems to point towards an acting job in either a local community or fringe theatre production. 

19 December 2018

Slush - White Christmas/ Rich Man

A punk rock take on White Christmas - they're gonna spit at the snowman

Label: Ember
Year of Release: 1978

Nil points for originality here. The last time anybody bothered to properly sit down and count, there were over 500 cover versions of "White Christmas" in every genre known to man - from reggae and techno to metal. None have captured the public's hearts even a fraction as much as Bing Crosby's original 1942 recording, but as a seasonal standard it's become something many musicians learn to play before they've left childhood behind, if only to impress their families at the appropriate time. 

This, however, is a cheeky punk take on the track, which takes Irving Berlin's original for a race around the icy pub car park in a knackered Hillman Imp. Tongues are clearly completely in cheek throughout, and you could probably accurately imagine for yourself what it sounds like before you even hear a single note. (E.g. I'm - chugga-chugga-chugga - dreamin' ovva - WHITE - chugga-chugga-chugga - CHRIST-MUSSS! - chugga-chugga-chugga...) It possibly reckons itself a little bit subversive by treating a toasty-warm winter classic in this way, especially so soon after Bing's death, but really it's just the equivalent of doodling some crayon glasses and a beard over a photocopy of the Mona Lisa. No damage is really done here, and on the few occasions it was actually heard in 1978 - one of them being on the children's TV show "Magpie" - it was probably deemed to be some silly festive hi-jinks rather than outright sacrilege.

In case you hadn't already guessed, Slush weren't really bona-fide punks by most people's measures. They were the cult power-poppers and Isle of Wight dwellers The Pumphouse Gang operating under an assumed name, and that accounts for the rather better B-side "Rich Man" here, which was clearly penned by individuals who had the energy and punch necessary to survive on the live circuit in the era, but also had an approach closer to Nick Lowe than Sham 69.

16 December 2018

Annie Rocket Band - A Little Smile on Christmas Morning/ Apology For Living

If The Zombies celebrated Christmas, it might sound a bit like this

Label: Jayboy
Year of Release: 1969

Despite the fact that the much-loved Marmalade Skies website once listed this as one of the Top 120 toytown psych songs of all time, its lyrical focus on the Christmas season has made it a strangely under-compiled effort since. That's a shame, as either in or outside of the period, "A Little Smile On Christmas Morning" manages to be soft, sweet and intricate rather than whacking you over the head with a giant set of sleigh bells. 

In fact, those hushed vocals, considered arrangements and gentle, everyday lyrics about a child witnessing her father coming home for Christmas resemble The Zombies quite significantly; not a smart commercial move in 1969, but one which feels much more credible and relevant now. It's such a velvety sounding disc it will probably clean your record player's needle as the vinyl spins round. 

The flip-side leans towards marginally more progressive ideas, and is actually rather good with its jaunty, Barretty chorus and odd, ever-shifting moods.

12 December 2018

Next of Kin - Merry Christmas/ Sunday Children Sunday Morning

Interesting attempt at festive ska from Mitch Murray and friends

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1969

Well, ho ho ho, what have we here in Santa's sack? Blow me down if it isn't a bit of cod-ska co-written by the songwriter Mitch Murray, of "How Do You Do It?", "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Is This The Way To Amarillo?" fame. Ho ho ho, off you go young man, get off my knee, there are others waiting, this record didn't bloody sell and I've got tons to get rid of, you know.

Mitch was, it's safe to say, not a man who had probably even holidayed in the Caribbean, much less been a member of a ska band. The Mike Leander production credit also indicates that there wasn't somebody from that background present to steer the ship towards those waters, so by rights, this disc should be a hopeless shambles.

It's interesting to find out that it's not terrible, then. It wouldn't pass muster with the average sixties skin who would almost certainly sniff out the distinctly Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da styled fake accents, but those cheap brass sounds, the raw production and the repetitive nature of the tune make it a strong parody of a late sixties ska track at the very least. It's unquestionably a cynical cash-in on a "current sound", but the attention to detail is impressive.

9 December 2018

Tiger Tim - Merry Christmas, Mr. Christmas/ Moving On

Radio Clyde veteran takes a stab at the Christmas charts and fails nobly

Label: President
Year of Release: 1975

Given that singles released by radio DJs are normally either super-whacky novelty items or embarrassing attempts by fading names to gain a future on the cabaret circuit, I expected the worst here. Shockingly though, "Merry Christmas Mr. Christmas" is a bit of a festive corker released in a decade that wasn't short of them. 

Pleasingly arranged with an unobtrusive and not at all sickly orchestra, an incredibly sticky chorus and subtle melodic changes, it sounds full of warmth and goodwill, and very much like a hit. If the Bay City Rollers had put it out, you can guarantee it would have been enormous, but in the hands of a local radio star who had little presence outside Scotland, it disappeared from view. 

"Tiger" Tim Stevens began working as a radio DJ in the West of Scotland in 1973, spending most of his career on Radio Clyde where he remained until 2010. 1975 saw him going off-air to attempt a career in music, of which this single and "Stargirl" on the GTO label were the only results. Despite the fact that "Stargirl" used a slightly more voguish glam sound, it also failed to generate sales.

5 December 2018

Carnegy Hall - The Bells of San Francisco/ Slightly Cracked

A psychedelic Christmas single? Oh, go on then

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Let's face it, it's doubtful anyone's surprised by the fact that a psychedelic Christmas single was released at the tail end of 1967 - what's truly surprising is that the market wasn't flooded with kaleidoscopic Christmas elves and festive carols with groovy phasing. (Though at the very least Syd Barrett said that "Apples and Oranges" had a 'touch of Christmas' about it, I suppose).

Sadly, anyone expecting anything authentic here is going to be sorely disappointed. It's a rather flippant novelty cash-in, and while it starts promisingly with its bells and an ominous whirring sound, it quickly descends into child-like whimsy. While we're informed that Father Christmas is on his "psychedelic way", the track itself is more akin to Scott MacKenzie on a tight budget than Soft Machine. "Ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling, a very hippy Christmas Day" the track continues, making you wonder if this was one of the key markers towards the "hippy wigs in Woolworths" moment in society. 

The songwriter Geoff Stephens seems to be the driving force behind the track, who by this point had already chalked up an impressive tally of enormous hits for Manfred Mann ("Semi Detached Suburban Mister James"), Dave Berry ("The Crying Game"), The New Vaudeville Band ("Winchester Cathedral"), and The Applejacks ("Tell Me When"). He would later go on to write "There's A Kind of Hush", "Sorry Suzanne", "Silver Lady" and "Lights of Cincinnati" among others, so the fact this record flopped probably hasn't featured in his nightmares much over the last fifty years. 

2 December 2018

The Rubber Band - Hendrix Songbook (LP)

Strange but oddly satisfying studio tribute to everyone's favourite guitar biter

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1969

It would be tempting to cock a snook at this LP if you saw it in the racks of your local second hand record shop. It looks cheap, has a crap sleeve, and sixties tribute albums almost always tend to veer towards either bland easy listening arrangements or a group of hurried session musos trying to sound as much like their subject matter as possible. Buy enough of these things and you realise that most of them aren't even good for laughs.

This, however, is unexpected enough to be interesting. It consists almost entirely of uniquely arranged instrumental versions of respected Hendrix tunes, though the inclusion of "All Along The Watchtower" seems to indicate that all concerned were more concerned with whether Hendrix had ever performed, rather than penned, the tracks. It's not the kind of deluxe, carefully crafted culture clash you'd expect of such a project today, but there are enough puffing flutes and wailing guitars to prick up the average Hendrix fan's ears.

The Rubber Band were a Los Angeles based studio group consisting of Stan Ayeroff on guitar, Steve Baim on drums and Michael Lloyd on keyboards, bass and vocals. The player of most interest to "Left and to the Back" readers in that line-up is probably Ayeroff, who was originally in The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and subsequently moved into the world of jazz. As a session player  and arranger, he has also worked with Rod Stewart and Roger Daltrey.