21 July 2021

Reupload - Hard Meat - Rain/ Burning Up Years


Brilliantly sludgy, hazy, slacker cover of the Beatles classic

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1969

Hard Meat were a late sixties rock outfit consisting of two Brummie brothers, Michael and Steve Dolan, who were joined by Mick Carless on drums and other fellow travellers later on in their careers. Generally specialising in progressively leaning material, they're not a rich or fertile source for psychedelia.

Nonetheless, their debut single on Island was a cover of The Beatles "Rain" which predates the nineties trends for slow, stoner/ slacker rock by some margin. The band take the original song, tie it to their ankles and drag it across a swampy landscape. It's a lazy, hazy redraft of the track, and while at first there's a temptation to force the disc to spin at a slightly higher speed to bring it closer to the original beats per minute, eventually their sludgy vision starts to appeal. Those shimmering, clanging guitars soon win you over and cause you to flop back in your chair in blissful admiration. 

The B-side "Burning Up Years" reveals a more typical side of the group, being a six-minute melodramatic workout which takes the recorded grooves very close to the edge of the Island label. It has been compiled in other places and was covered by Kiwi psych-heads Human Instinct - take a listen on YouTube if you want to hear what the fuss might be about.

Hard Meat issued two LPs, neither of which featured "Rain". The first eponymously titled album emerged on Warner Brothers and is a cultishly popular hard rock effort which gets some denim-clad collectors hot under the collar. The second, "Through A Window", is more acoustically inclined and less frequently discussed.

18 July 2021

Consortium - Melanie Cries Alone/ Copper Coloured Years

Melancholic West Coast harmony pop via Shoreditch

Label: Trend
Year of Release: 1970

Consortium - or West Coast Consortium as they were known for their first two singles - were undoubtedly influenced by harmony pop sounds across the pond. As numerous others have already pointed out, you would assume they were formed close to the beaches of California rather than the (then) slightly unglamorous confines of Shoreditch, East London. 

Some of their early work, such as "Sergeant Colour Lillywhite" on Pye, had distinct psychedelic influences but as time moved on they became increasingly trad, presumably hoping for a conventional hit. Sure enough, that came with "All The Love In The World" in 1968 which reached a none-too-shabby number 22 in the UK charts, but following it up was obviously challenging and their other Pye releases failed to chart.

That seems to have resulted in a jump to the small independent Trend label in 1970, ran out of the Disci record shop in Westbourne Grove in London, with manufacture and distribution still handled by Pye. Neither of their singles on that label - this or "Annabella" - charted either, and the group sodded off back to the gig circuit to become more "progressively orientated", recording demos for a possible RCA deal which while promised, never actually materialised.

14 July 2021

Express Delivery - Lazy Butterfly/ Leaving Home Number 9

Folksy hippy festival pop backed with bluesy blow-out

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1971

Mungo Jerry - so much to answer for. The soaraway success of "In The Summertime" led to a number of other bright, bouncy and slightly rustic festival-friendly tracks seeping into the marketplace, very few of which had any major impact. There's no doubt that there was room for catchy, rootsy simplicity as well as hard rock in the post-psychedelic hippy scene, but that space seemed to be limited to only a couple of artists at a time.

Whatever the odds, I'd argue that Express Delivery were utterly doomed by the release date of this track. Launched on 10th December 1971 at a point where butterflies weren't so much lazy as stone cold dead, the track's carefree skipping down country lanes cried out for a summer release. In the run-up to Christmas, it must have sounded ludicrously out of place with the general public mood.

The B-side "Leaving Home Number 9" takes a different tack, being a bluesy work-out which might find more appreciation among "Left and to the Back" readers. As you can hear, my copy is faintly scratched and needle-damaged on that side, so whoever previously owned it obviously gave the flip a lot more plays and appreciation. 

Once again, Express Delivery were one single wonders and I have no idea who they were or what became of them. I'm going to hazard a guess that the Kitteridge credited on the A-side was Les Kitteridge, who also wrote "Go Call Mary" for Abel Fletcher, an equally obscure release which came out on the small Concord label in 1970. Certainly, Campbell Connolly, who owned that label, get the publishing credit which is a huge giveaway. As for whether he was actually a member of Express Delivery or a jobbing songwriter, though - I'm afraid I know as much as you (or possibly less).

11 July 2021

To-morrow's People - Hey To-night/ Love Is Where You Find It/ Time Is On My Side


Mysterious CCR cover by unknown Irish band

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1971

Let's face it, keeping a blog like this one is a slightly eccentric endeavour, but also not an easy task. The fantastic thing about writing about established artists is that their history is known, and they had a clear place - however fleeting - in the ever-revolving and fast-moving world of popular culture. The very mention of a group like Traffic, for example, carries a weight of assumptions, tasty myths and background colour. Some of these assumptions and popular myths are of course worth challenging, and by the time you've finished, blow me down if you don't already have something approaching an essay on your hands (and that's before you've even talked about the music itself).

It's trickier to write about groups whose records sold in the hundreds or dozens, and harder still to focus on bands who issued one 45 then evaporated into the great unknown. I can presume a lot about how they fitted into the context of the era, and why they failed and how they might have succeeded, and I can knowingly nod towards their imaginative (or alternatively pedestrian) use of the stylistic tropes of the time. That's often where it begins and ends, and as you'll probably gather from this overly long preamble, that's usually when I feel I'm shortchanging readers - if you can really shortchange somebody who is getting content for free, that is.

So here we are again. This Irish single threw me completely when I stumbled across it, and 45cat didn't even have it logged in their database. It's pretty damn clear that the A-side is a cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Hey Tonight", of course (which was somewhat buried on the flipside of that group's 1971 single "Have You Ever Seen The Rain") and the band also tackle Marmalade's "Time Is On My Side" on the flip. 

The version of "Hey Tonight" is interesting in that it takes the rough, rumbling and shaky bluesiness of the original and sands it down and reinterprets it as something close to bubblegum pop. Gone is the roar of the original, and instead a squeaky organ, clear, rounded vocals and a chiming guitar are placed upfront, making CCR sound closer to a mid-sixties pop ensemble trying to restyle themselves as a chewy seventies pop outfit. It's not clear whether this shining up is deliberate or accidental, but it is certainly interesting.

7 July 2021

Reupload - The Cisum - Medal Of Honour/ Mrs Orange


Satirical Vietnam inspired psychedelic pop from New York

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1968

God knows why, but whenever summer arrives it becomes exceedingly hard to find interesting rare records. This isn't something I've ever had cause to think much about before starting this blog, but because I now have to keep finding new material to write about here, I notice the change of the seasons much more these days. It's almost as if as soon as mid-June hits, everyone decides they can't be bothered to cash in their old vinyl at the local second hand record store.

Still, this is a very recent cheap find I'm quite pleased with, and it's in better condition than the horribly battered label might lead you to believe (this isn't saying much, admittedly). This is actually two sides of interesting American psychedelic pop - the A-side bounces along with a sarcastic smile on its face, mainly concerning itself with a dead relative returning from Vietnam and the insulting ceremony surrounding a post-humous medal of honour. "Thanks a lot for all you've done!" the band trill with a sneer, acknowledging the futility of the gesture.

The flipside "Mrs Orange" is actually as strange as the title would suggest, focussing its attention on a lonely, troubled woman and her citrus fruit peeling obsession - it's the kind of lyrical idea which could have come from the pen of Brian Wilson. Both sides showed the band were obviously far more creative and interesting than many of their more earnest, free-form psychedelic rock brothers and sisters, but despite this (or perhaps because of it) the record was a flop.

4 July 2021

The Wrigleys - A Little Bit/ Come Down Little Bird


Mark Wirtz produced slice of whirligig bubblegum

Label: Page One
Year of Release: 1969

It's unusual for a song to feature more than once on "Left and to the Back", and even stranger to find two versions of a flop record - but this one was significant and strange enough for me to be bothered to make the effort.

Back in 1969, an artist known only as Richard recorded the Miki Anthony penned track "A Little Bit", with Wirtz producing. We covered it in some detail here. At that point, I don't think I was aware of this version which was also recorded and produced by Wirtz and released an entire month later, one of the quickest attempts at giving a flop song a second chance that I'm aware of. 

The Wrigleys version here amps the bubblegum factor up slightly more, creating a slightly chewier, fruitier tune, but in all honesty... in terms of the backing track it sounds more like a subtle remix than a full-blown reimagining. The lead singer here has a much less rounded, polite delivery than Richard's though, and it adds a certain grit and dynamism to the track it didn't have before. 

Meanwhile, the flip side "Come Down Little Bird" is a neat, pretty little track which won't disappoint readers feeling short-changed by the duplicated tune, with a sound sitting halfway between a Jeff Lynne ballad and The Tremeloes. 

30 June 2021

Robert Peters - Fun Lovin' Kind/ A Climber

Chipper, zippy piece of sixties pop which has fallen into hopeless obscurity

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1966

Well, here's a truly baffling find. "Fun Lovin' Kind" wasn't completely ignored at the time, managing to pick up enthusiastic Radio London airplay, but its sales were abysmal and subsequently it seems to have disappeared from the memory banks of the general public (and certainly the internet). Proof, if proof were needed, that airplay hits tend not to generate the kind of affection that bona-fide sales hits do.

"Fun Lovin' Kind" veers towards the swinging Carnaby Street end of middle-of-the-road pop, having a zinging, hurried arrangement and a likeable bounce. Peters' voice is wry and knowing, though his accent suggests that he may not have been English (some of the pronunciations here sound slightly Dutch?) It's not the kind of 45 which would find favour with the mod set and nor does it usher in the new psychedelic era, but it's an interesting example of what else was happening in 1966.

If anyone knows anything more about Robert Peters, let me know. So far as I can see, he had one follow-up single in 1967 ("Somewhere In The Sun", also on Parlophone) before disappearing, but I would imagine he did go on to produce other work. 

27 June 2021

Ravin' Image - Echoes/ Woman of Misfortune


Atmospheric piece of yearning psychedeic pop

Label: Capitol
Year of Release: 1969

Here's a slightly odd and very minimal 45 with psychedelic tinges. "Echoes" is on the surface a delicate and very simple ballad, very close to a wind-up music box melody in its simplicity. It steadily builds on its original simple idea with added moody organ lines, reverb and increasingly desperate vocal lines. 

This was Texan group the Ravin' Image's solitary release, but in that name only - members John Esposito and Ronnie Tourso were also both in The Utopia Parkway who issued the single "Come With Me" on United Artists  the following year, and had also been in Gentle'Men who put out the garage punker "Come On (If You Can)" on Cameo in 1966. Why they were so keen on pushing out singles under a multitude of different names is something of a mystery and will probably remain one unless someone comes forward to help us get wiser.

None of their singles seem to have sold in particularly large quantities, yet the Ravin' Image and Utopia Parkway efforts have a haunting yet naive air to them, simple, sweet yet ever so faintly troubling around their edges. Had they been given an opportunity to progress further, it would have been interesting to hear what else they came out with.

23 June 2021

Reupload - John Bryant - Tell Me What You See/ Poor Unfortunate Me


Rough and ready fuzz guitar ridden folk-rock 

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1965

We've touched on the work of John Bryant on this blog before, examining the ultra-obscure (£162 to you, squire) single "A Million Miles Away/ It's Dark", which was handed down to me from my parent's record collection. 

That particular single is a likeable and folky piece of work, with (as one reader pointed out to me) a flip that's very reminiscent of Cat Stevens. This single, however, was Bryant's Fontana debut and is an entirely different affair, being a distorted, snarling piece of folk-rock with distinctly Dylan leanings. Taking a very basic garage riff and piling surrealist lyrics on top ("clouds that move beneath the sea/ preachers dressed in leather") it's so beatnik it hurts - and is actually quite forward thinking for a British solo artist in 1965. Donovan might already have been around doing his best Bobby impressions, but he was seldom as rough and ready as this.

This may have been his (flop) debut single, but John Bryant actually enjoyed a long career in music after this, issuing further 45s for MCA, Polydor and Private Stock (the MCA single "I Bring The Sun" is a favourite of many collectors) only really ceasing recorded activities in 1978. He also wrote "Dear Old Mrs Bell" for The Shadows in 1968, and Cliff Richard recorded his track "She's a Gypsy".
These days he owns Abbeywood Films and the graphic design, animation and soundtrack firm Bryant Whittle, from where he's still penning music for commercial use.

20 June 2021

The Look - If I Were A Carpenter/ Can You Do (The Things I Want)

Sharp garage take on the Tim Hardin track from the very youthful Alessi Brothers

Label: Verve
Year of Release: 1967

Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" has been picked up and kicked around by numerous performers and groups across the stylistic spectrum. Bobby Darin took it on, as did The Four Tops, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Bob Seger, Raymond Lefevre, Johnny Hallyday and even Robert Plant. Sometimes songs come along which are universal and adaptable enough to fit soul, supper club schmaltz, country, easy listening and rock without losing much in the interpretation, and even if Hardin never had a hit with the track himself, he hopefully managed to earn considerable royalties from those who did.

Low, low down on his royalties sheet with its figures to the right of the decimal point might sit this 1967 garage rock take on the tune. The Look - actually the West Hempsted, New York garage group Country Gentlemen under another name - take Hardin's original and begin sympathetically at first, before kicking the chorus around those four bare breezeblock walls. The track may as well be retitled "If I Weren't In Some Garage Group and Had A Fancy Office Job, Would You Marry Me?" It takes the original and turns it into a tantrum, which is an interesting way of handling the goods on offer.

The Country Gentlemen consisted of twins Billy and Bobby Alessi (on Guitar, Organ and Vocals and Guitar and Vocals respectively), Don Drodge on bass and Bob Pelicane on drums. Their debut 45 "Saturday Night" is actually a thumping great rock and roll groover, but obviously didn't cut through to mainstream success. 

16 June 2021

Herbie's People - One Little Smile/ You Never Know


Bilston beat boys back on the blog again 

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1966

Herbie's People are no strangers to this blog - back in 2015 we covered their debut single and near-hit "You Thrill Me To Pieces". "One Little Smile" was their follow-up effort.

To summarise, they were unlucky coves, being the first group to record "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James" before watching in horror as Manfred Mann nabbed the song shortly afterwards and sent it sailing chartwards. They were therefore denied one near-certain hit and didn't manage to stumble into an equally strong opportunity again. 

To aficionados of popsike, they're probably best loved for their excellent final single under the name Just William, "I Don't Care/ Cherrywood Green", issued on Spark in 1968. Their earlier material is much beatier and chirpier and lacks those moody, quirky harmonies. The Carter/Lewis penned "One Little Smile" is evidence of this - it's commercial pop music from the days when songs with few mixed messages or negative undertows could rule the roost. You meet someone, you fall in love with their smile, you write a two minute chirpy pop song about it. The pure innocence of it would probably have already seemed slightly quaint by April 1966 and it undoubtedly does now, but it passes the old grey whistle test with flying colours.

Sadly, despite this it sold incredibly poorly and did not build on the momentum created by their first disc. They would issue another single for CBS, "Humming Bird", in February 1967 before being dropped by the label and finding themselves on Spark the following year. 

15 June 2021

The End of the Email Alerts

It looks as if Blogger will be ending email alerts for all blogs at the end of this month, meaning anyone who wants to receive an alert about a new entry on this blog - which, flatteringly enough, huge numbers of you have opted to do over the years - can't. Well, not through that method at least.

If you rely on getting that regular email to tell you a new entry has gone live, contact me with your details and I'll see what else I can sort out. I'm not guaranteeing an immediate solution but I'll certainly see if I can get something put in place shortly.

I generally whine and bitch when websites and apps reduce their functionality for no good reason, but all that tends to get me is emails saying "Hey, we hear you! But I think we can still collectively appreciate the brilliance of what we otherwise offer!" so let's not prod the corporate misery puppies to lick our faces yet again. I know when I'm beaten. 

Alternatively, as a general rule, entries on "Left and to the Back" usually go live on Wednesday and Sunday mornings at 8am Greenwich Mean Time, so you could all just remember that. Sometimes I'll have extra entries in a week where I've got lots to say, or I'll be late on a week where life has been somewhat complicated, but the rule of thumb is a good one. 

13 June 2021

The Guild - You Can See The Trees (But Not The Forest)/ Who'd Ever Thought

Eerie folk-rock from feted live act

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1966

This was the only release from the folk-rock outfit The Guild. While the press were hardly burning up with front page stories and wild praise about their act, 1966 certainly saw complimentary reviews turning up firmly stamping them as "ones to watch". In the 8th October 1966 edition of "Billboard", a September live show of theirs is given a keen nod, noting that they were "excellent", "versatile" and also featured comedy in their set.

The comic aspect sounds intriguing, as the very last thing "You Can See The Trees" sounds like is a barrel of laughs; rather, the track has an eerie, gothic folkiness running through its core, with a string section whining in the background like hornets ready to strike, and a claustrophobic chorus and autumnal air. This, of course, is also why it's highly worthy of a listen - it's folk rock with a damp chill in the air, the smell of backyard bonfires on the breeze, as well as hints of unease in the lyrics. Those who like their folk rock to feel slightly Pagan and have a tight knot at its centre will get a lot out of this (Matt Berry would probably love it).

Billboard once again came out to bat for the group when this single's release date was announced, making it a top pick for the Hot 100. This wasn't an accurate prediction and given how few stock copies of this record seem to be in circulation these days, I'd suggest it actually sold very poorly indeed.

9 June 2021

Reupload - Heavy Jelly - I Keep Singing That Same Old Song/ Blue


Skip Bifferty in disguise (without glasses)

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1968

Well, this is bloody confusing. There were actually three groups called Heavy Jelly in this era. One bunch had Jackie Lomax and John Morshead in their line-up. The other were a mysterious set of coves who had one single out on Avco entitled "Humpty Dumpty". Then there's this bunch... who were originally the rather excellent Skip Bifferty but renamed themselves for this one 45 and an LP on Island. 

Skip Bifferty were from Newcastle and were originally managed by rock heavyweight Don Arden, and issued three marvellous singles (of which the highlights are the ace "On Love" and "Man In Black") and one long player, but despite constant evening airplay and acclaim for their frantic live shows, never broke through. "I Keep Singing That Same Old Song" was really their last hurrah, a fresh start with a new name (which was probably instigated to keep Arden off their backs, to be fair) and an unusual and risky gimmick. With an epic running time of 7:49 this was the longest single ever issued on seven inch single in the sixties, and made "Macarthur Park" seem like a concise ditty by comparison. The grooves on my copy are tighter than a gnat's chuff and run close to the label - hats off to the pressing plant for managing to handle this without making it sound like a complete mess. 

While it wasn't a hit in the UK, it did break through in other European countries, and has been compiled to death in the years since. If you do want to listen to it, there's a full YouTube video over yonder.

Less referenced since has been the B-side "Blue", which I actually prefer. Unlike the bloated top side which could do with having some fat trimmed off its edges, it has the usual conciseness and masterful energy of a Skip Bifferty single, albeit with a lot more bluesy rockiness in its mix. Once again, the group sound perfectly capable of reaching the by-then bourgeoning heavy rock crowd, but success never materialised, and they split not long after. 

6 June 2021

Jacqueline - Some Fine Day/ Do I Love You


Tremeloes produced mystery one-off 45 

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1972

I've said this many, many times before on this blog, but mystery solo female artists litter the label discographies of the sixties like flytipped furniture on an East London side street (although most are more pleasant to come across than that). In their quest to find the next Lulu, Sandie Shaw or Cilla Black, labels signed numerous women to quickie deals which sometimes only offered them a single or two to prove they had what it took. Most inevitably didn't, or if they did, the deals weren't generous enough to allow them to prove it.

By the seventies things had improved somewhat, so it was surprising to find a 45 by this one-single wonder who has become nigh-on untraceable. Going only by the name Jacqueline, with no surname to aid our search, I don't expect to find out who the artist was and what else she did anytime soon. Nonetheless, this production was overseen by Alan Blakley and Len Hawkes of The Tremeloes, meaning that clearly she was given a lot of studio attention by two decent stars of the time.

Somewhat surprisingly, while it's possible to hear traces of "Yellow River" about "Some Fine Day", overall the track feels like a sixties throwback, a basic, chirpy, top-heavy pop stomper at a point where tastes were beginning to get more sophisticated. It has a celebratory air to it and, perhaps more unusually towards the end, some slightly Match Of The Day styled brass fanfares. Solid, likeable and lovely, but not the stuff chart revolutions or new beginnings are made of. 

2 June 2021

Kissing The Pink - Stand Up/ Certain Things Are Likely


One-hit wonders on an extremely convincing comeback trip

Label: WEA
Year of Release: 1988

In the weird, bleak post-Christmas weeks, record companies generally try to slip out records which might fall between the cracks at other times of the year. It's the perfect time to launch new releases by cult bands, long-standing artists with loyal but modest fanbases, new hopes and groups who are down on their luck.

Kissing The Pink were definitely firmly in the latter category by 1989 when this single made minor in-roads into the winter Radio One playlist. Their solitary hit "The Last Film" had charted in 1983 and their follow-ups had all fallen unnoticed outside the Top 75, and they were becoming widely regarded as one-hit wonders. This should have left them feeling hopeless, but in fact the changing musical environment in the late eighties apparently seemed to boost their confidence - in interviews and press releases from the period, they said the current music scene made them feel "much more at home". They set about work recording with PWL supremo Phil Harding and came back with some very confident sounding singles, of which "Stand Up" was the last under their contract with Magnet, and arguably the toughest.

Unbelievably, this wasn't a hit even though it couldn't sound more "late eighties smash" if it tried. Rattling synth rhythms and a sharp-as-Wilkinson-Sword chorus combine with an arresting video, and it sounds like an easy top ten entry. Sadly, the public appeared to have different opinions to my own and it sold in disappointing numbers, not enough to even register in the icy January Top 75. If you're confused by this point, imagine how the band must have felt.

30 May 2021

The Calliope - We Made It/ The Friends of Mrs. Fisher


Defiant youth anthem from hippy group who later became New Wavers

Label: Shamley
Year of Release: 1969

The Calliope are arguably one of the more unfairly overlooked groups of the late sixties hippy scene. The youthful bunch from Santa Barbara penned the infectious "Clear Mud" which actually got a release in the UK as well as the US, and also the eerie and utterly mesmerising "Ryan 5". While that brooding tune should never really have been a 45, its rich, organ drenched atmosphere would still be talked about today if Pink Floyd had written it in their post-Syd sixties phase (except Floyd would never have managed such gorgeous vocal harmonies).

"We Made It" was their follow-up single and strikes a much more strident tone. The lyrical contents of this one apparently caused controversy at the time for the sneering generational sentiments. There's nothing in here as bold as Townshend's snapping "Hope I die before I get old" line, but the chaps certainly seem keen to let us all know that the strides they've taken in life were done without the help - and against the hinderances - of their parent's generation. "We made it through the hang-ups and the screw-ups of the grown-ups!" they declare haughtily, and that's just the opening line. Naturally, this led some older critics to refer to the sacrifices their elders and betters had made which allowed them their freedom and creative outlets. Seasons change and time moves on, but older generations never seem to stop being over-sensitive about what young people think of them, never seeming to realise that a kickback or a reaction isn't only to be expected, it's perfectly natural. 

As a single, this one lacks the strength of their other two efforts, but does have a direct punch which makes it somewhat tasty. Not a chartbound sound, but a pretty good addition to the ever-expanding pile of likeable US psych garage sounds. 

26 May 2021

Reupload - Ryder - Ain't That Nice/ Sugar Mama

Smooth and slippery funky rock which is far better than you'd expect

Label: Cube Records
Year of Release: 1974

Once again, I'm sorry to tell you that I haven't a clue who Ryder were (or Ryder is, assuming that it's the name of a person rather than a group). I'm absolutely positive they weren't the same Ryder who represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986, though... and nor is it Steve Ryder who rather confusingly also had a different record out called "Ain't It Nice".  Beyond that, I have no information to give you. 

A shame, because "Ain't That Nice" is a smooth and cocksure bit of rock 'n' funk which slithers around your turntable like a conga eel. Seemingly dealing with one particular gentleman's unfortunate experiences with the ladies, it's a very simple but highly funky piece of work which has never really picked up much recognition from collectors. While nothing about it screams "hit single", it's a strong and sultry release which deserves better than the low price tags it's been going for.

If you know who was responsible for this record - and I suspect it may have been a studio aggregation rather than a proper group as such - please do let me know. 

23 May 2021

Funky Bottom Congregation - Hara Krishna/ Things About Yourself

Paul Nicholas and his boys with a genuinely great psych dancer

Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1969

Paul Nicholas is probably best known in the UK for two things - his run of light pop hits in the seventies, including "Grandma's Reggae Party" (who could forget?) and his role as Vince Pinner in the romantic sitcom "Just Good Friends". Anyone who can't hear Nicholas' soft voice saying "Sorry Pen" in their heads at the mere mention of the show clearly wasn't among the tens of millions who tuned in avidly at the time.

For all that, though, Nicholas' music career had fairly credible beginnings, not quite being underground, but certainly sitting on the giddier side of pop. He took on David Bowie's "Over The Wall We Go" under the name of Oscar while signed to Track Records, and recorded the snappy, Eastern flavoured drone of "Lamplighter" while on Polydor. The latter in particular began to be spun at sixties nights in the noughties, though seems to have largely disappeared off the menu for the time being.

His career also received an enormous boost while he was a performer in the musical "Hair", and that's essentially where we're arriving for this single. The A-side is a track from the musical performed faithfully but is a rather dull four minutes to my ears - a nice souvenir of the theatre experience if you attended, I expect, but it couldn't sound less like a chart hit (or an exciting leftfield experience) if it tried.

All the fun is nestling on the flip, as it often is on Nicholas's records. "Things About Yourself" is a piece of psychedelic pop with a bouncy arrangement, vocal phasing, brassy fanfares and a decidedly paisley pop feel. It's also utterly ace, feeling like The Small Faces at their most wigged out or, to draw a more obscure comparison, those other Beacon signings The Sound Barrier. "Went out to the butchers and came back and had a joint/ and why nooo-oooo-t?" sings Nicholas, the silly scamp, trying to slip in a gratuitous drug reference even though the song was on the B-side and he could be as blatant as he wanted. Whatever would Pen have said? ("You're a rat, Vince" probably.)

19 May 2021

Fuze - Falklands/ Follow Me Home


Lo-fi party sounds from Manchester

Label: Relentless
Year of Release: 1982

Weird, under-produced lo-fi singles were two a penny by the eighties, of course, and the indie underground was so huge by the middle of the decade that for a brief period 7" singles with folded paper sleeves were all over the mainstream press. 

By 1982, the DIY punk attitude to be found on many of these releases had evolved into something slightly more challenging, and numerous bands were producing music which was somewhat more forward-thinking. Fuze seem to sit in the early eighties crossfire between dancefloor friendly rhythms and post-punk awkwardness, with "Falklands" on the A-side here sounding like a spotty herbert's conga in a Manchester squat. 

The B-side is slightly more interesting, with the group trying their hand at reggae and actually managing to sound very deep and dubby in the process. While both sides are slightly disadvantaged by a very cheap production and questionable vinyl pressing quality, with a better budget "Follow Me Home" in particular could have been a serious winner.

16 May 2021

Flavor - Heart Teaser/ Yea I'm Hip

Screaming mod rave-up from America

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1968

In general, UK mod bands haven't been received as enthusiastically in the USA. The Small Faces were greeted with relative indifference stateside, as were The Who until Roger Daltrey's dippety-do hairstyle blossomed into a terrifying lion mane. Likewise, the mod revivals in the eighties and nineties seemed to matter little.

That's what makes this single such an unusual find. Flavor were no strangers to taking soul and R&B sounds and transposing them on to a hard beat style - their cover of "Dancing In The Street", featured on this very blog in 2013, proved they knew what they had to do. Unlike that effort, though, "Heart Teaser" pushes the needles into the red from the first moment, featuring euphoric vocals, honking organ lines, and a screeching, full throttle delivery. It's so close to the Small Faces and Spencer Davis Group in its delivery that it's almost possible to kid yourself it is them.

The flip is more subdued but is a sneering, knowing sideways look at the too-cool-for-school hip cats on the scene. It hardly touches the high octane noise of Side A, but makes this a superb double-sider.

15 May 2021

Left and to the Back Discogs store is back online

You'll probably be thrilled beyond measure to know that the "Left and to the Back" Discogs shop is now back online.

I temporarily closed it back in April 2020 when the Covid-19 restrictions began to kick in, after an unfortunate experience in the local Post Office where a young lady appeared to be hacking her lungs up and having breathing difficulties while I queued directly behind. "Sod this for a game of soldiers," I thought, and came home and decided to cease selling for a bit. I'm not particularly keen on spending time in an ICU unit just so I can sell a rare Waterproof Candle single for £18. 

Since that time, things seem to have calmed down enough that I feel safe enough setting foot in the local Post Office regularly again and - who knows! - perhaps I'll never be particularly worried again. So I'm back. And I'll continue adding records for sale whenever I get time, so keep an eye on the latest stock.

Unfortunately, due to prohibitive postal rates and confusing tax situations, I'm not shipping to the EU or USA anymore. That may change as soon as I get my head around things (the postage situation to the EU is unbelievably confusing post-Brexit in particular).  

12 May 2021

Reupload - Steve Elgin - Don't Leave Your Lover (Lying Around Dear)/ Seductress

Outrageously and overtly camp flop 45 - not to be ignored

Label: Dawn
Year of Release: 1974

Regular readers of this blog have probably gathered that I'm fascinated by the extreme camp edges of glam rock and seventies pop. Well, Simon Gitter certainly did, because back in February he actually dropped me a line to bring this record to my attention. "Have you heard this one before?" he asked - and no, I most certainly hadn't. 

"Don't Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear)" is so camp and flamboyant that it would possibly make the corpse of Joe Orton blush. Filled to the brim with pub piano riffs, flirtatious gay remarks, a leg-kicking knees-up "Ain't She Sweet" interlude and a distinctly unsettling feel, it's like some kind of early seventies pop pantomime. Its appearance on the Dawn imprint of Pye is particularly baffling, as the point of that label was to showcase the more hippyish and progressive of Pye's signings, and while this could be described as "progressive" in the societal sense of the word, it certainly isn't otherwise. This is pure novelty pop with a twist.

The B-side "Seductress" is much more conventional, though equally flamboyant and dramatic in places. 

9 May 2021

Force West - Like The Tide Like The Ocean/ I'll Be Moving On

Bristol beat stalwarts with another neat 45

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1968

Force West have appeared on this blog twice before now, in relatively short order - back in February 2020 we took a look at their final single "Sherry/ Mr Blue", and in September their third single "When The Sun Comes Out". 

Readers wanting the full line-up details of the band and all the relevant Who, What, When, Where and Why facts should head right over to the "Sherry" entry where they will find everything they need, and also get to hear the agreeably Jeff Lynne-esque flipside "Mr Blue". 

This single really does sound like the one that got away, though. "Like The Tide, Like The Ocean" is generally commercially available these days thanks to a compilation of Mike Hurst productions, but perhaps what's most surprising is the fact it made such little impression to begin with; it's filled with the kind of breezy, sweeping harmonies which were cutting through all the time by 1968, and far later than that, in fact. Its November release date may have doomed it somewhat; surely this should have been booming from car stereos on the seafront in July? Nonetheless, this just screams hit single and in a just world would have been a breakthrough 45 for the band.

Its commercial availability puts it off-limits for this blog, but its on YouTube and naturally available to buy on mp3 all over the place as well.

5 May 2021

Dennis Conoley - So Ashamed/ Don't Ever Leave Me

Steve Harley produced pop contender 

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1975

While Steve Harley is generally more appreciated for his own work these days, it's a little-known fact that he has acted as producer for a number of acts as well. He was a big enough name to offer potential bumps to the careers of Dutch singers Yvonne Keeley and Patricia Paay in the UK, for instance, but sadly while his involvement may have increased their music press presence, none of their records were hits here as a result.

Dennis Conoley was another client of Harley's in 1975, and while Conoley would eventually have more success as a songwriter and studio manager, this single also slipped out. It's an interesting record which starts off sounding like a woebegone keyboard driven ballad best suited to late night solo taxi rides home, before gradually hitting a glammish stride. The influence of Harley can be strongly felt throughout and arguably prevents the track from getting too mired in its own depressive, regretful streak - it's neatly produced and knows exactly when to shift the dynamics to enable Conoley's ideas more space to express themselves. 

Sadly, this was his only single for Pye and while he continued recording, he was able to find more success as a songwriter and by owning the Purple Studios recording complex. He eventually wrote "Ten Minutes On A Tuesday Afternoon In Buffalo" for Billy Ray Martin, which takes a similar tack to "So Ashamed" but shoves it through a distinct electronic filter.