30 September 2020

Muff - Hurdy Gurdy/ Why Did You Leave Me


A piece of late popsike from future music mogul Muff Murfin

Label: Mother
Year of Release: 1971

This isn't the first time we've featured Muff (stop sniggering at the back) on this blog. His glam rock single "Sexy Sexy Lady", which combined with his name probably caused a spike of misguided Google referrals to my otherwise innocent blog, was dealt with here

His rightful full name is Muff Murfin, and these days he's a successful radio station mogul, and during the seventies also ran Birds Nest Records and "The Old Smithy" Recording Studios. His recorded output prior to all this is often worth a sniff, though. "Hurdy Gurdy" here is, for example, a Peter Lee Stirling (aka Daniel Boone) penned popsike ditty which will possibly irritate as many people as it delights with its naive lyrics and jaunty melody. The B-side, as its title suggests, is a much more straight-ahead ballad.

Muff's solo career would rapidly take a backseat to his business concerns, and besides "Sexy Sexy Lady" his only other release in the seventies was the glammish "Do The Hand Jive" on United Artists in 1975. He was a man of many styles and approaches, but ultimately he seemed to taste more success in the executive chair rather than the recording studio booth. 

27 September 2020

The Ugly's - It's Alright/ A Friend


Cult Brummie legends with widely promoted 1965 single

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1965

The Ugly's (sic - apostrophe theirs) were a highly respected group on the Midlands gig circuit, acting as local stars and an unofficial starting school for all manner of rock notables. On a national level, however, they never managed to score a hit single despite promotion from pirate stations and terrestrial television. 

Their second single "It's Alright" is probably the closest they came to success. Airplay was plentiful and an appearance on "Thank Your Lucky Stars" gave the group a chance to plug it to an even larger audience. Copies also aren't that difficult to come by at reasonable prices these days, suggesting that this sold slightly more than your bog-standard flop. It's a strange piece of gentle, slightly Kinksy baroque pop which perhaps wasn't melodically compelling or forceful enough to cut through to the masses, but points towards a softer side of the sixties beat boom.

Their next singles "A Good Idea" and a cover of The Kinks "End of the Season" sold less and caused Pye to drop them. They moved to CBS in 1967 for the 45 "And The Squire Blew His Horn", then again to MGM in 1969 for the progressively orientated "I See The Light", which was recalled by the label before it even had a chance of selling (apparently only six copies are known to exist). 

The group - who at this point consisted of Bob Burnett on guitar, Steve Gibbons on vocals, John Gordon on keyboards, Jimmy Holden on drums and John Hustwayte on bass - changed their line-up several times between 1965-69, and ended up including ELO's Richard Tandy and Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg in their ranks. The group eventually evolved into Balls who issued the superb solo 45 "Fight For My Country" which we've already featured on this blog

23 September 2020

Rabbit Mackay - Hard Time Woman/ Candy

Peel favoured gritty, rough and bluesy 45

Despite his brief appearance on the international underground scene in 1968, Rabbit Mackay is something of an engima. John Peel was moved enough by his LP "Bug Dust" to write in International Times that "in these days of very clinical recordings it is good to hear something that radiates happiness like this", and he was keen enough on this single to play it on his Top Gear show.

Across the Atlantic in Ventura County where he lived, Mackay's dirty, scruffy, bluesy folk rock tunes were impressing a number of heads at local venues, colleges and coffee houses and to a more limited extent, across the choosier, hippy friendly venues of the USA. His activity appeared to give Uni Records the incentive to issue a second LP, the perhaps unintentionally appropriately titled "Passing Through" in 1969.

Then? Nothing. Not a sausage. Another track of his appeared on a charity compilation entitled "La Conchita... Remember" in 2005, which would suggest he had continued performing throughout the intervening years - or perhaps had made an unlikely comeback - but sadly he died on 10th August 2017 without making any additional marks on record store racks.

20 September 2020

Reupload - Y Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog (EP)


Truly fantastic cover of The Beatles "Yesterday" from Welsh language folkies

Label: Sain
Year of Release: 1970

Judging from the sleeve, you'd think that Y Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog were a bunch of old-time swingers, a Welsh language version of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra producing good-time music for the gents and ladies. You would, however, be wrong. All four tracks on this EP have heavy folk leanings, albeit particularly wonky folk music infused with brassiness and, so far as I can judge, a bizarre wit.

The sleeve notes are in Welsh, which is frustrating from my point of view but entirely to be expected under the circumstances. The user TheJudge on 45cat has been kind enough to translate them, however, and hopefully won't mind me presenting them here:

"The Dyniadon Ynfyd Hirfelyn Tesog happened in the third quarter of the twentieth century, and already they are safe of their place in the gallery of pillars and pioneers of the rich culture of our dear Western Civilisation, walking alongside greats such as Ysbaddaden, Spartacus, the Son of the Hills, Mr Wimpy and others (i.e. Y Tebot Piws). Despite this, their debt is great.

It started as a group of 79, but because of transportation and other problems, there was a purge, and by today there are only 7 (oops) 6 left.

i.e. (in alphabetical order):

Aric Dafis - a pretty face and red curls; piano, guitar, trumpet
Bai Meical - a pretty smile and big glasses; guitar, banjo, cello
Cruffydd Meils - a hairt face, Nye Bevan specs; cello, foot, nose
Chenfin Ifans - one gold tooth, £5 glasses; trumpet, fingers
Dili Ifans - "like the young Mozart", "a gentleman"; fiddle, guitar
Ddewi Ddomos - the gentle giant with the fair hair; viola, washboard.

And the voices of the group. I quote the (innumerable) critics:

"Lovely"; "Ha, ha", "That second tenor's a bit flat"; "Jew, jew, they're singing in Welsh"; "That big one's on Tregaron choir"; "Fair play to them for trying, eh".

The Songs

Full Belly - written by everyone in the group except G. Meils; sung by Aric and Ddewi; won the Inter-college Eisteddfod 1970.

Yesterday - written by The Beatles; adapted to the Welsh by G. Meils; Aric's charming voice.

Bitch - written by G. Meils; having thoroughly read the cover of D. Thomas' book "Portait Of The Artist As A Young Dog".

Dixie Of The Ears - music by Kurt Weil; adapted to the old language by G. Meils; a song of tribute to the heroes of the Dyniadon.


Here's an opportunity for every member who has paid the membership fee (£3-5-9d) to get a kiss from every Dynad every ten years until 1980. Send your name and car number along with 2 (broken) Tebot Piws records on a postcard to the correct address.

Sain company does not accept any responsibility for the effect of this record on your record player."

None of which really leaves us much the wiser, if I'm being honest, but at least gives us the line-up details and the sense that the Dynads had an obvious sense of mischief and humour. Apparently the word"Jew" in this context is a phonetic spelling of the Welsh word for "God", and is therefore not meant as some kind of anti-semitic insult. 

16 September 2020

Col Truck - You're All I Need/ One Fine Day

Straight-shooting but mistimed boogie rock from 1976

Label: Baal
Year of Release: 1976

Col Truck - aka Truck as they were otherwise known two years earlier - were a rock group from Malaysia and side project of the more prolific October Cherries, whose work occasionally veered towards the psychedelic and proggish end of things. Their second album "One Fine Day", released in 1976, occasionally meanders in a particularly mellow way, interfusing their confident rock and roll boogie with occasional unexpected diversions. Have a quick spin of the track "Woe Is Me" if you don't believe me.

"You're All I Need" was their one and only UK single, and has a bit of a swagger about it but none of the fairydust which occasionally worked its way on to other tracks of theirs. It was clearly plonked out by the label as a possible hit single, but was perhaps almost a bit too straightforward to cut through. This kind of crystal clean catchy rock and roll didn't really fit in with either the growing pub rock movement, which tended to be grittier and dirtier, or the proggish tendencies of their hairy rivals. With a bit more stomp and oomph, it might have made a convincing glam single a few years earlier, but 1976 didn't really have space for this kind of thing.

Both sides slipped out pretty much unnoticed, but the group are beginning to draw more attention online for their less poppy work.

13 September 2020

Love and Tears - Needles And Pins/ And Your Love Is

Fantastic amped up wall of sound take on the classic track

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1972

Well then, of all the cheapo obscure Polydor singles I didn't expect to make an impression on me this month, this was one of them. On the surface, this sounds unpromising. The appallingly named Love and Tears were a German pop act who were previously known as The Blue Moons throughout the sixties, and under that moniker supported The Hollies on the German leg of their tour. 

Their records tended to be on the chirpy side of pop, closer to "Jennifer Eccles" than "He Ain't Heavy..." if we're comparing them to their touring partners. Feelgood records pumped full of handclaps, candyfloss melodies and fast rhythms tended to be their deal. When I stumbled on this record, then, I expected a version of The Searchers' "Needles and Pins" which didn't deviate that far from the original, but I got that utterly wrong. The song starts dramatically almost immediately, before dropping back into organ-drenched moodiness, then steadily building itself into a majestic Spector-esque arrangement. This is by far the most epic version of "Needles and Pins" you're likely to hear. Just when you suspect its hit the peak, you realise there's another steep musical slope just around the corner and it's going to climb to even greater heights, thudding, thwacking and hollering its way to the top of its emotional Everest. 

Almost unbelievably, this wasn't a hit to the same degree that their work as The Blue Moons was, and while the Love and Tears carried on until 1974, their impact was rather more muted in the seventies. Copies of their solitary "Love And Tears" LP tend to be somewhat expensive on Discogs these days, suggesting a greater demand for their epic take on classic sixties songwriting than existed at the time. 

9 September 2020

Happy Valley - I'm A Bum/ Amazon Lady

Happy-go-lucky Mungo Jerry-esque happy slappy 70s pop

Label: Young Blood
Year of Release: 1971

If you stumble on the Young Blood label in the boxes in charity shops and car boot sales, chances are it will either be scuffed copies of Python Lee Jackson's "In A Broken Dream" or Don Fardon's "Indian Reservation", usually with "Marko" or "Carol" biroed on to the label by a teen who was in the habit of taking his or her records to parties and wanted them back at the end. 

The rest of their catalogue is a weird ragbag of further Don Fardon flops, supper club soul, one-off studio bands and novelty pop. If you were being unkind, or perhaps just plain honest, the latter category is probably where you'd most easily place "I'm A Bum", a jaunty jugband styled number which seemingly cashes in on the summer feelgood frolics of those jolly hairies Mungo Jerry. The kazoos buzz and razz away against the noise of the group's bonhomie, as they sing proudly about how broke and fancy-free they are. It'll be fine for a year or so, lads, but trust me, after that you'll be dying for a nice hot bath. 

The B-side "Amazon Lady" takes a different tack altogether, being a mellow contemplation about the fate of short men with statuesque women. Despite starting in a rather unpromising way, it eventually gives way to a moody, stoned, atmospheric jam for the last minute or so, which is actually pretty good. 

Who were they? Search me. They were almost certainly a studio group put together by Miki Dallon, and I doubt anyone involved remembers a great deal about this project. It was released in Sweden and Germany as well to an equally muted public reception, and presumably everyone involved then had a shave and moved on to the next thing. 

Sorry about some of the pops and crackles on this single, especially on the B-side. 

6 September 2020

Reupload - Roaring 60s - We Love The Pirates/ I'm Leaving Town

John Carter led protest pop about the planned closure of the sixties pirates

Label: Marmalade
Year of Release: 1966

Without offshore pirate radio in Britain in the sixties, it's hard to see how the music scene would have progressed as quickly. The BBC Light Programme did dedicate some airtime to beat pop, but the needle-time it gave to American soul, noisy mod bands, early psychedelia or indeed anything else that might upset your visiting Auntie wasn't really that impressive. For those kinds of sounds, Radio London or Radio Caroline would most likely be your friend, or - if you wanted to look to more legal channels - Radio Luxembourg might just do it, provided you could get a clear signal.

However, while the offshore pirates were given a relatively easy ride from the powers that be initially, the Government began to get increasingly huffy about their easy, licence-free ride over the airwaves. The final straw was possibly the shooting and death of Radio City owner Reginald Calvert, after a scuffle with Major Oliver Smedley about an unpaid bill for a new transmitter. (Which hardly makes the venture sound very underground or hip and happening, more like a scuffle between a couple of posh men about some dodgy under-the-counter business).

From that point on, the time for all the boats was almost up, and "We Love The Pirates" represents an early cry of protest about their possible demise. "You can hear your favourite rock and roll/ rhythm and blues with a lot of soul!" The Roaring 60s sing, quite accurately. There's not a great deal of soul or rhythm in blues in their performance, though - this is more like an airy Beach Boys pastiche meeting a protest song. Nonetheless, it was reasonably popular at the time (possibly due to Pirate Radio airplay, I'd say) without actually charting, and got the new Marmalade record label off to a good enough start.

2 September 2020

Spontaneous Combustion - Sabre Dance/ And Now For Something Completely Different

Prog trio attempt two different takes on Khachaturian's most famous moment

Label: Harvest
Year of Release: 1973

It's not unfair to say that Poole proggers Spontaneous Combustion were not the most critically acclaimed performers of the seventies. While they had a good friend and professional associate in Greg Lake, were signed to Harvest - which was a badge of quality most groups wore with pride - and performed on live tours with the likes of ELO, they've become something of a footnote in the prog rock story since.

In retrospect, it's difficult to understand why so many magazines were dismissive of their long, meandering instrumental indulgences, when these very same creative habits were seemingly tolerated and even applauded in the better known and most established acts of the era. Comments were also made about them playing with technique but no soul, and with their heads rather than their hearts, but the same could also be said - and indeed has since been said about - a great many of the biggest acts.

They've been afforded a certain amount of critical reappraisal since, and this blog entry over at Bournemouth Beat Boom offers a balanced view of their three LPs ("Spontaneous Combustion", "Triad" and "Time") and their excursions into 45rpm territory.

Their third and final single is something of a puzzler. "Sabre Dance" had been covered very successfully by Love Sculpture a mere five years before, and the A side here brings nothing new to the Khachaturian orientated party - in fact, it sounds much the same as Edmunds' take, except perhaps not quite as wild and furious. While his version went to number five in the charts, Spontaneous Combustion's version went ignored.

Resting on the flip, however, is a Robert Fripp designed take on the track which possibly might have made a more interesting A-side, though it seems unlikely it would have fared any better commercially. Erasing the rapid-fire showiness and instead slowing things down and throwing in arty clattering guitar chords and moody Mellotron excursions, it's genuinely interesting and proof that the old dog "Sabre Dance" could have new life breathed into it after all. The group also resist any temptation at all to "solo" and instead let the arrangement do the talking.