28 June 2020

Reupload - Kris Ife - Give and Take/ Sands of Time

Former Quiet Five hit-maker in less successful solo guise. A borderline case for the Northern Soul files, though.

Label: Music Factory
Year of Release: 1968

Pop music history is littered with people who were relatively successful for about six months before losing relevance. Often their career's decline from mid-table chart finishers to niche fanbase performers isn't too unkind - they might suffer the ignominy of the occasional "What Exactly Is Kate Nash Doing These Days?" styled article, but they're still able to maintain a gentle media presence.

Others just disappear from the gaze of the mainstream press without explanation. Kris Ife was one example - as a member of The Quiet Five in the mid-sixties, he managed a couple of well-received singles which just about charted, "When The Morning Sun Dries The Dew" and "Homeward Bound". When he jumped off that particular ship to forge a solo career, it would seem that record companies invested a great deal of faith in him building on those foundations - MGM financed three singles in total (including this one on their short-lived Music Factory subsidiary) and Parlophone two. United Artists gave him a third crack of the whip in the late seventies.

Despite the promise, as a solo performer he never really seemed to shift units, and by the mid-seventies his recorded output dried up. That's not to say that he didn't leave a very firm mark on music history in the process, mind - his version of "Hush" was popular in clubs and was the one that members of Deep Purple heard in a Manchester nightclub before deciding to record it themselves. Without him, maybe Kula Shaker would have been denied an extra top five hit... and far beyond "Hush", his Mark Wirtz produced single "Imagination" is one of the more unreasonably ignored bits of lost British psychedelia.

24 June 2020

Duffy - Running Away/ The Joker

Thumping cowbell dominated groover from Switzerland based rockers

Label: Chapter One
Year of Release: 1973

Life's unfair. When unknown British groups score hits in the USA, we always make a huge fuss about it, marvelling at their superhuman ability to get to number 25 in the Billboard 100. "Bring out your Union Jack flags, British rock is back on the map again!" journalists cry, while people in the streets of Idaho claim never to have heard of whoever the hell it is we're celebrating.

When British bands score success in mainland Europe, on the other hand, we tend not to care and it seldom wins extra headlines or favours. This is probably how Duffy only managed to get one single out in the UK despite scoring some minor success across the Common Market with "Rock Solid". 

There's no good reason for that, of course. Their sole UK 45, "Running Away", proves that Duffy were a powerful proposition, offering a thumping groover which owes as much to early seventies hard rock as it does the dominant rumble of glam. The flipside "The Joker" is even heavier and more impressive, moving into freak-rock territory with a pair of heavy hands.

The group consisted of Barry Coote on guitar, Joe Nason on keyboards, Stuart Reffold on lead vocals, Patrick Serjeant on bass and backing vocals, and Will Wright on drums. Reffold managed to put out a solo single in 1978 ("Kiss Your Lover Goodbye") and join groups such as Rock Island Live, Poker and The Fugitives, but apart from that, the group's activities as both musicians and a working group seemed to have petered out in all "territories" by the end of 1975.

21 June 2020

Greengage - 20 Flight Rock/ Don't Cry Little Girl

Under-the-radar Moog-infested glam rock

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1975

Given the numerous CD compilations which have sought to hoover up the best glam rock offcuts of the seventies, it's surprising how many decent singles are still lying beneath the radar of even most collectors. Take this one, for example - it's a cover of Eddie Cochran's "20 Flight Rock" which rips the original out of the fifties and slams it nose-first into a Moog with loose greetings card glitter all over its keys. 

Clearly, Greengage were working to a successful formula here already, and they wouldn't be the first or last artists of the era to take a fifties rock and roll classic and paint it dayglo. It's an unfamiliar joy, though, and will have you stomping your feet around your boudoir and distressing your downstairs neighbours in no time. Those Moog screeches and whines only add to the sense of crunching anarchy and excitement.

Greengage consisted of Denny Brooks, Geoff J. Lord, Lee Stevens, Mike Brooks, Paul Haines and Phil Stonehouse, and managed to put out seven singles in the seventies, four on RCA and three on Philips. Despite the faith shown by both labels, they never managed to produce a hit, and as the eighties dawned only appeared on vinyl again through vanity pressings presumably intended for the cabaret and working man's club circuit. Judging from the noise on offer here, there's little doubt they'd have been in demand for knowing their way around a rocker, and the B-side hints at their abilities with starry-eyed weepies too, although it's a little bit too teenie in its tones for my taste.

17 June 2020

Larry Grayson - Shut That Door/ Slack Alice

Comedy catchphrase pop from British comedy giant

Label: York
Year of Release: 1972

While generalising about any art-form is a risky business, it's reasonably safe to say that comedy catchphrases usually serve two primary purposes - to either act as the pay-off line to a sketch or gag, one which the audience can usually sense is going to happen but are kept on tenterhooks finding out how, or as a unifying, call-and-response device to the audience (think Bruce Forsyth's "Nice to see you, to see you... nice!") Even in the hands of surrealists like Vic and Bob, catchphrases are normally inserted into the dialogue at the appropriate points rather than being disruptive, though the word "appropriate" often has an entirely different meaning in their world. 

Larry Grayson's random, irritated use of the phrase "Shut that door!" feels like a bit of an anomaly then, and one so absurd I find myself giggling just thinking about it. Frequently Grayson would be in the middle of a tall tale or a routine, when his brow would furrow, his lips would quiver and fall silent and he would suddenly blurt out the catchphrase in an aggravated fashion, occasionally followed by explanations such as "The draft in here is wicked!" before he picked up the threads of his routine again. It gave a lot away about his onstage character, this prissy, fussy man who was over-sensitive and irritated by mess, disagreeable temperatures, dust and dirt, but it otherwise often acted as an interruption and an unusual pause. It wasn't the only one in his routine, either, which was often littered with asides, pauses and diversions. He was clearly not afraid of possibly ruining the arc of any gag or tale he told. 

The catchphrase apparently originated from a live show he did at the New Pavilion Theatre at Redcar, where somebody had left a stage door wide open causing the cold sea air to blast across the stage (though alternative stories about its origins have also been told). The hilarity caused by this interjection clearly inspired him to work it into every show, where it remained even when he became a host of The Generation Game at the very peak of his career. It didn't really belong in the middle of a quiz show either, and it was no less incongruous being plonked slap at the start of the show's theme tune ("Shut that door and enjoy the Generation Game!" trilled the female singers) - but why mess with a formula that clearly worked? That idle stage-hand in Redcar can't possibly have known what a gift they gave Grayson by not doing their job properly.

Almost inevitably, there was also a "Shut That Door" single in 1972, which I present for your delight here. "Shut that door, shut that door, there's a terrible draft in here" sings Larry in his usual obsessive-compulsive manner, and the tune gayly swings along, tripping over numerous double-entendres on its way. It's everything you'd expect it to be, and further descriptions from me here aren't going to shed more light on his world. 

14 June 2020

Reupload - Something Pretty Beautiful - Something Pretty Beautiful (mini-LP)

Julian Cope's brother Joss with a compilation of his group's first two EPs

Label: Creation
Year of Release: 1990

People with famous relatives don't always have an easy ride.  A few years ago I wandered into a local charity shop and found a signed copy of Julian Lennon's debut album "Valotte" on sale for 25p.  You would have thought that an item once touched by the hands of John Lennon's son would be worth more than the price of a small child's lollipop, but don't look at me.  I don't make the rules of the marketplace up.

Something Pretty Beautiful were a band put together by Julian Cope's brother Joss, and in an utterly expected fashion failed to scale the career highs of everyone's favourite mic stand clamberer, despite producing some fine records.  They were snapped up fairly quickly by Alan MacGee and signed to Creation Records, who put out their debut EP "Freefall" in October 1989 to some critical interest but not a great deal of sales action.  The second EP "Freak Outburst" was scheduled for an April 1990 release, but amidst Creation's financial turmoil somehow didn't actually materialise, the label instead opting to cobble the tracks intended for that issue together with the songs from "Freefall" to create this mini-LP.

It's actually a refreshing listen, taking a hard edged indie guitar sound and marrying it with buoyant, summery, Byrdsian melodies.  "Expect A Miracle" in particular showcases the band's ability to create sharp, breezy and compelling pop songs with polite English vocals.  Not entirely unlike The Doctor's Children (who we examined a long time ago) Something Pretty Beautiful seemed to occupy a space favoured by the numerous psych-influenced independent guitar bands who littered the eighties, and perhaps their sound seemed rather stripped back and lo-fi against the bolder, funkier statements being made by bands such as The Stone Roses at the time.  Listening to them now in 2012, though, it's noticeable how invigorating their sound could be.

10 June 2020

Adam Surf & The Pebble Beach Band - Fun Fun Fun/ Blue Surf

Retro take on those Californian surfin' sounds which failed to get caught in the slipstream of The Beach Boys revival

Label: Paladin
Year of Release: 1976

1976 was an unexpectedly grand year for The Beach Boys. Prior to that point in the seventies, they had become reduced to almost a cult concern, releasing albums which charted modestly and produced no hit singles - all a far cry from their peak. When the compilation "Twenty Golden Greats" came out in '76, however, the public were clearly reminded of the power of their finest work, and a huge revival tour was created and new success "enjoyed".

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some record labels took a chance on Beach Boys soundalikes in the hope that their noise could be approximated to new success as well. It wasn't really until 1981 when Gidea Park finally charted with "Beach Boy Gold" that this paid off. Prior to that point, most attempts to ape the Wilson sound tended to fall on deaf ears in the UK.

This arguably unnecessary cover of "Fun Fun Fun" is an early example of the post-Golden Greats cod-Californian sound. It's a curiosity in that it does inflate and modernise the work somewhat, using more sophisticated seventies studio techniques and beefing up the tune slightly with more prominent guitars. This facelift clearly failed to connect with record buyers, however, and the single sold poorly. 

The flip "Blue Surf" is the group's own work and is a much more interesting parody of the original sound, although the bass backing vocals feel as if they've been accidentally dropped in from a Big Bopper tribute act in the next room.

7 June 2020

The Inquisitive People - Big White Chief/ Rhapsody Of Spring

One-off curio from Immigration Officers and would-be pop stars

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1967

Some records sold so poorly and received so little press attention that there are virtually no facts out there about the groups that recorded them. Sometimes, and more unusually, there's a little scrap of information sitting on the Internet confirming some basic details, but not the full picture, and certainly not any verifiable sources.

So, this is where I nervously announce that's where I stand with The Inquisitive People. So far as I'm aware, two of this four man group - namely Robbie Dunlop and Colin Birt - were HM Immigration Officers with a penchant for live performance in their spare time. Beyond the apparent existence of a signed copy of the record also offering the names "Jayce" and "Colin", I've no idea who the other two members were.

"Big White Chief" is a strange little record, wherein the group perform a minimal Hammond and Hazelwood number about racial equality. "He ain't gonna buckle to the big white chief/ no, he ain't gonna buckle anymore" they gently inform us as an orchestra builds and swells around them, and some bongos tap persuasively in the background. It's a gentle statement rather than a thundering lecture and sounds a bit naive from this distance, but it was undoubtedly well-meaning, and having made its point it finishes surprisingly quickly, shuffling over the hills and out of sight.

3 June 2020

Gimpo - Gimpo/ Version

KLF minder and roadie pushed into the spotlight

Label: Kalevala 
Year of Release: 1997

I've been slowly uploading Bill Drummond and Zodiac Mindwarp's Kalevala singles on to "Left and to the Back" over the last ten years or so for one simple reason - they've been given a place on here as and when I've found them at a price I don't find eye-watering. That has understandably taken quite a bit of time, as they're often flogged at unreasonable prices. 

A summary of the (limited) history of the label and its concept can be found here. If the idea was to unleash Z and Drummond's vision of how some fictional Finnish bands mentioned in the book "Bad Wisdom" sounded, however, this is probably the single which lets the fantasy down most. Gimpo, aka Alan Goodrick, was (and presumably occasionally still is) the KLF's roadie and minder, an ex-squaddie who is a well-known character to fans. He filmed the pair burning a million pounds, organises the regular 25 hour rally around the M25 (so he can find out where the road actually goes to) and generally emerges in the background at many of their events, sometimes piping up rather loudly. You can't disguise Gimpo as an undiscovered Finnish pop star - he's Gimpo. He's too loud to be mysterious, and his face doesn't fit into the theme of this series at all.

Nonetheless, we are where we are, and this is what we've got. "Gimpo" is a juddering piece of hard techno-rock using samples of the man talking about his exploits and escapades. "Gimpo Gimpo Gimpo!" voices roar in the foreground, like gowned cult members demanding the centre-stage return of their rightful leader. It's messy, noisy and chaotic, all hard edges and jagged pulses, but probably not the best KLF related record you'll ever hear. 

The not-at-all safe for work flipside is really a sweet and simple tale of Gimpo failing to score some crack off a Soho prostitute, in the man's own words, and is a salutary lesson for anyone who thinks "But she stole my drugs" is an adequate defence to offer a police constable for your irate actions. When the KLF burnt a million pounds, Gimpo claimed his mother was appalled, exclaiming "You hang around with people who do things like that?!" I can only wonder if she's heard this single. Probably not.