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.

2 May 2021

The Marksmen - Smersh!/ Orbit 3

Hard-hitting instro from 1963 which strangely failed to break through

Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1963

Strange as it may seem, The Marksmen could, with the squint of an eye and a wave of the hand, be regarded to be "proper sixties pop stars". Credited as the backing group for Houston Wells on the Joe Meek produced "Only The Heartaches" in 1963, they weren't by this point unfamiliar with press or media appearances, having acted as backing boys for a genuine Top 30 hit-maker. 

Their association was relatively short-lived, however. During a tour of Ireland with Wells, the group began to get the sneaking suspicion that the singer was exploiting them, and tore up his return ticket home in a fit of pique, determining never to work with the man again. It was probably with hope in their hearts that they entered a recording studio to record this instrumental beat 45, hoping to creep back into the spotlight with the benefits of the shine they'd received from that one minor hit. 

"Smersh!" - somewhat unusually named after Stalin's "Death to Spies" organisation - is actually a sparkling example of the electric guitar instrumental having a sharp edge. Taking its cues from the sinister title, it begins in an innocent way, guitars twanging alongside tick-tocking rhythms, but its simple tune occasionally gets interrupted by all manner of rumbles, dischords, and whinnying guitar interludes, like Stalin's lads crept up behind them and gave them a ghastly going over while they were midway through their merry melodies.