30 January 2019

Peter Anathan - No More Love/ Georgia On My Mind

"Northern! Mod Dancer!" the vinyl sellers say. "If you say so", I say.

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1966

Once every so often I'm forced to observe collectors enthusing about a single online which I think is just a bit of vaguely enjoyable, serviceable pop and little more. This, I hate to confess, is one of those moments, but rather than ignore it completely I thought it would make sense to upload this single so you could all judge for yourselves.

The A-side "No More Love" is the one causing all the fuss here. Yet another Howard Blaikley composition - did the pair ever stop writing songs, I ask you? - it seemed to have appeared at almost exactly the same time another version emerged on Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich's debut LP. Whereas their version is a slightly quirky but otherwise recognisably DDDBMT-ish affair, Peter Anathan here appears to be trying to make it a dancefloor hit. This has got the same springy, pounding, jiggy swing to it you'd expect of a lot of 66's bigger hits, the trouble is it's hampered by a slightly stiff, formal arrangement. It should fly, but it never quite makes it.

27 January 2019

Reupload - Graffiti - Come Together/ Dear Prudence

Smooth, slithering and effective mid-70s reworking of The Beatles track

Label: Beeb
Year of Release: 1976

I'm enough of a Beatles bore to continue to find the cornucopia of cover versions of their work fascinating. True, most are flawed and a horrible waste of vinyl, but once every so often I stumble on a relatively obscure cut which is actually worthwhile. 

This version of "Come Together", for instance, sounds like The Beatles in a parallel seventies universe. The original was reasonably raw and rugged, but there's a smooth and slithering creepiness here which highlights a sinister side I never sensed in the "Abbey Road" cut. The piano chimes, the guitar wails a new riff which wouldn't sound out of place in an early evening crime drama, and the backing rhythm cooks a tauter, meaner groove. Perhaps more crucially, the changes to the template are subtle rather than dominating, meaning you're nudged closer to what "Come Together" might have become as opposed to listening to a complete reinvention. 

The B-side "Dear Prudence" is less successful, but attempts to psychedelicise the original, adding rumbling analogue synths and vocal effects into the mix. For all its efforts, you can't help but be reminded that Siouxsie and the Banshees did the same to far greater effect in 1983. Still, you can't win them all. 

24 January 2019

Radio Active - Ten Years After/ All Time Needletime Loser

Unexpected John Peel approved punk parody on the flipside of this celebratory BBC single

Label: Beeb
Year of Release: 1977

BBC Records and Tapes is a label with an absurd and fascinating history, and the singles that worked their way on to both the parent label and its Beeb imprint have been fully explained and catalogued in Tim Worthington's brilliant book "Top of the Box". It's a lovingly compiled tome which brings sense to what might otherwise seem utterly mysterious - so many of these released themes are for television series which have long since been forgotten, or in one case, never even aired.

While you don't need to have his attention to detail to immediately understand what this record is about - the clue is in the title, the release date, and Radio 1's launch - he does inform us that this was recorded by a band of BBC studio staff, including Radio 1 producers Malcolm Brown on guitar and Mike Harding on keyboards, with BBC Radiophonic Workshop's Paddy Kingsland on bass and assistant controller Bryant Marriott on drums.

The net result sounds rather like a piece of happy, catchy music which might have been perfectly serviceable as the theme to a documentary or a promotional jingle for the anniversary of the station, but was a slightly optimistic single release. Were the kids really going to rush out and buy a ditty about Radio 1 being ten years old then dance around their bedrooms to it in celebration? Auntie Beeb obviously thought so - lyrics like "With your top DJs and the toons they play" and "if you love us you must join us/ raise your glass and say cheers" litter the disc, but it sounds more like the kind of thing you'd find on a High Street bank's freebie flexidisc than a record most people would be willing to shell out money for. I've no criticism of the production or even the songwriting here, which serves its purpose, but it's not a chartbound sound.

Fear not, though, for nestling on the flip is an unexpected quickie punk parody which John Peel managed to get his hands on and plug on his show rather enthusiastically. "All Time Needletime Loser" leans more towards Eddie and the Hots Rods styled pub rock than pure punk, to be honest, but is still surprisingly raucous, with all concerned clearly showing an aptitude for the form. It proved that while Radio 1 took tentative, nervous, circling steps around punk like a cat casing out a potential threat, they had staff who understood where it was coming from, and were old enough to remember the more caustic sounds of The Who, The Kinks and The Stones and reappropriate them accordingly.

20 January 2019

Y Trwynau Coch - Methu Dawnsio/ Crach - Putain Rhad

Two pieces of raw Welsh language pub/punk rock from 1980

Label: Recordiau Coch
Year of Release: 1980

Welsh language folk and prog records from the sixties and seventies are often highly sought-after curios, and that's often not without reason - those performances, while usually only heard on Welsh radio, often deserved a much wider audience. What is perhaps less discussed or explored is the effect that their dominance had on Welsh music as a whole.

Y Trwynau Coch were a Welsh punk group whose style most closely resembled The Jam; in reality, they were a group clearly itching to get closer to old school rock spontaneity rather than delicate harp strumming. The Sex Pistols they were not. However, their debut single, the chirpy "Merched Dan 15" (which translates roughly as "Girls Under 15") was banned from Swansea Sound not for its subject matter, but for the "lack of professionalism" in their delivery. While even Radio One was playing the odd bit of slapdash commercial punk by that point, the media in Wales seemed unmoved by its possible merits.

Such a blackout inevitably fascinated John Peel who immediately began to take an interest in the band and gave them airtime where regional Welsh radio failed. This was a huge shot in the arm and allowed the group to continue releasing their frantic 45s until 1981, before they split. A complete set of their recordings is available on iTunes and other outlets, but you can also hear this track on YouTube, which is a lovely example of a storming punk-mod sound.

Over on the flip sit the rather more obscure Crach, a band who may seem entirely disconnected from Y Trwynau Coch apart from their Welsh heritage, but actually contain a common member in singer-songwriter Huw Chiswell. If Y Trwynau Coch sounded distinctly of their time, Crach leaned more much on spirited pub rock takes of fifties rock and roll. "Putain Rhad" is a prime example of this - all Chuck Berry riffs and high energy quiff-shaking. The back-to-basics approach of both groups shows that the towns and cities of Wales were vibrating with these sounds too, they just got much less UK-wide exposure at the time. 

16 January 2019

The Secrets - Sha La Ley/ Runway Run Away

Smooth and very catchy seventies pop from unknown group

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1972

Friends, sometimes finding suitable records for this blog is hard. Knowing where the next drops of 'groovy gravy' (as surely nobody has ever called recorded music) are coming from is tricky. Sometimes you get lucky and have an avalanche of obscurities falling into your hands in one month. Other times it's a barren crop; and it does have to be said, the weeks just preceding and following Christmas do tend to be some of the trickiest. Record shops don't tend to get a lot of donations then, and ebay sellers tend to have other things on their mind.

It's brilliant that reader Daniel Williams got in touch with me last month to ask whether I'd be interested in some needle-drops of a few singles he'd found, then, not least because one of them - this one - had been on my wants list for awhile. He's obviously much better at Christmas surprises than anyone in my family. 

The A side here is a lovely piece of light bubblegum boogie which bears a very faint resemblance to The Sweet's "Co-Co" stylistically. The flip is seemingly a bit of a cast-off, having a very cheap sounding mono mix (ignore that "Stereo" stamp on the label, it's lying to you) and if I didn't know better, I'd assume it was a demo recording taking up the spare space.

Please don't ask me who the hell the band were, though. There was an American group called The Secrets in the sixties, and also the Clifford T Ward lead Secrets on CBS in the same era, but I'm 99.9% certain this release has nothing to do with either of those. There was also a Dutch group called The Secrets in the early seventies who put out a number of 45s, but there's nothing to suggest this is them either - this wasn't released in the Netherlands, and neither of the songwriters credited here ever had anything to do with them.

13 January 2019

Reupload - Out On Blue Six - Party Mood (EP)

Fantastic, aggressive and jagged post-punk funk from these one-single wonders

Label: Hungry Rooms
Year of Release: 1981

While - in the UK at least - the late seventies is commonly regarded as being the birth of the 'proper' punk indie label and DIY pressed singles, and the mid-eighties is regarded as the explosion of the indie-pop sound, you'd be a fool not to look at what went on in between those two poles. The post-punk period is awash with unexpected indie riches, as the lovingly compiled "Indie Scene" series of compilation CDs sought to prove, and actually arguably surpasses the twee end of the spectrum in terms of sonic innovation. Where indie-pop sweetly jangled, post-punk indie often kicked like a mule.

Take Out On Blue Six, for example. Consisting of Mike Daly on drums, Carl Marsh on guitar, Kate Sekules on vocals, Geoff Woolley on keyboards and Nigel Holland on bass and vocals, this was their sole single, a three track self-produced effort. The blurry sleeve and brilliantly minimalist plasticrap label give no clues about the contents, but waiting in the grooves of the A-side is one of the most aggressive pieces of jagged funk you're likely to hear. "Party Mood" furiously throws around discords and barking terrier vocals to a rhythm that's immediately infectious, and the whole concoction is utterly impossible to forget. They also sound as if they'd be unforgettable live, although whether Hawkwind fans would agree is another matter - once when they were unfortunate enough to support that act, a hail of beer cans rained down over them throughout their set. Kate Sekules apparently dealt with the problem by finishing with a song whose lyrics largely consisted of "Dirty smelly greasy apes".

Besides this single, Out On Blue Six recorded two sessions for John Peel (one in 1980, the other in 1981) and apparently little else. You would have hoped that a more organised indie label could have found space for them on its roster, but it would seem that nobody bit, and this is their sole physical product.

9 January 2019

Lincoln Black - Famous Last Words/ You Built Me Up So High

Fuzz guitars lead into breezy pop chorus on this early 1970 single

Label: Penny Farthing
Year of Release: 1970

Sometimes when you're record shopping, you turn up a ton of material by a certain producer or songwriter without really even looking for it. A mere one entry ago on here, I talked about Ben Findon and Peter Shelley and the latter's pre-Alvin Stardust career, and lo and behold, here they both are again with another ditty from that era.

"Famous Last Words" is yet another of those singles that fell off the production line on the cusp of the sixties and seventies, and has elements of both in its sounds. The fuzz guitars and creeping sense of menace in the intro make you wonder if we're going to get some mod pop action, but the chorus is all delightful seventies pop treacle and sounds as if it could just have easily been given to Edison Lighthouse. The vocals, however, have a rather Hollies-ish feel about their harmonies, and in all, the resulting brew is a pleasant listen, though not one strong enough that it leaves you wondering why it didn't sell in greater quantities.

6 January 2019

Love Children - Paper Chase/ My Turkey Snuffed It

A great yet late arrival to the psychedelic harmony pop fayre

Label: Deram
Year of Release: 1970

The songwriter Peter Shelley - not to be confused with the recently deceased Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks - was all over the seventies charts like a rash. He wrote hits not just for himself but also Alvin Stardust, and was also the co-founder of Magnet Records, home to the aforementioned Mr Stardust and also Darts, Chris Rea, Silver Convention and Guys 'n' Dolls. 

His career in the music business was slightly lower-key prior to his first huge hit, however, and he focused most of his time as an independent writer and producer, working with Ben Findon to turn out a number of solid pop sides that were nonetheless largely ignored.

Love Children's "Paper Chase" is probably one of the most famous examples to collectors of psychedelic compilations. The long unavailable "Great British Psychedelic Trip" series found space for it on Volume 4, where its irrepressible cheerfulness sat neatly alongside some of the heavier pieces of psychedelia on offer.

Therein, I suspect, lies the reason this single wasn't a hit. Really, 1970 was a little bit too late in the day to drop both sitar intros and buoyant West Coast styled harmony vocals into any record's mix, and perhaps with a little bit of rearranging Shelley might have been able to turn this track into something a bit more radio friendly. Had he done that, though, we'd have been denied what is actually a truly swinging piece of late popsike - this is music to go running in the park to while throwing flowers to the cider drinkers and frisbees back in the direction of children. If you're not trying to do star-jumps in the living room halfway through the second chorus on this one, then you may be a lost cause.

3 January 2019

Paul Conway - Come A Little Bit Closer/ Be Lonely Little Girl

Lovely bit of Orbison-influenced beat from a disappeared performer

Label: Piccadilly
Year of Release: 1964

Over the years, "Left and to the Back" has paid host to the work of a number of recording artists who  have just disappeared into the shadows. As such, there's absolutely no harm in kicking off 2019 with another person whose present whereabouts remain utterly unknown.

Paul Conway (real name Roger Newell) had also worked under the name Vern Rogers, and issued four singles on Oriole under that name  from 1962-64 ("Be Everything To Anyone You Love", "He's New To You", "I Will" and "Anna (Go To Him)". All these records failed to chart, and he clearly decided to change his name to Paul Conway to ensure he was no longer saddled with the "flop artist" tag. 

A new contract with the Pye subsidiary Piccadilly delivered two additional records, "Don't Make Fun of Me" and this effort. I've yet to hear the former release, but this is a lovely piece of old-school beat drama about a likely lady, filled with quivering vocals, dramatic brass lines and a neat, pounding chorus. The track had previously been recorded by Jay and The Americans who had issued it as a successful 45 in the USA a few months before - this version has a bit more drama about it, though, and may end up becoming your favourite.