28 July 2021

Niki True - Too Much/ Woman Of My Dreams

Propulsive and absurdly obscure eighties synth-pop

Label: Sad Frog
Year of Release: 1984

From a record collecting perspective, it does sometimes feel as if the golden genres of the sixties and seventies (freakbeat, mod, reggae, soul, psychedelia, glam, prog, new wave and punk) have been picked dry. We all dream of chancing upon a fantastic psychedelic pop acetate in the dusty plastic storage basin beneath the LPs at our local Guide Dogs For The Blind outlet, but in reality the game is almost up, certainly in terms of UK releases.

Eighties synth pop, on the other hand, is proving itself to still be an embarrassment of riches and a fertile period for creativity. Flowering during the post-punk era when the Do It Yourself mentality still appeared to make economic sense, the technology was getting more accessible and a plethora of tiny indies were perfectly happy to shove out electro experiments which sold in the hundreds, but it's still considered neither "muso" nor "counter-cultural" enough to tempt a lot of collectors. Trust me, though, it's worth digging in.

Despite its relative recency compared to a lot of the material I plonk on this blog, this release is so damn obscure I can find absolutely nothing about the performer. On the basis of this single, though, we can deduce that Niki True (no relation to Everett, I can only assume) was a master of hormonal, needy electro-pop. Side A "Too Much" is the sound of one bedroom electronics geek's knees knocking in the presence of a sophisticated lady with fine jewellery in the local wine bar. Synths zap and squelch all over the place while he sings about shimmering lipstick and the unlikely prospect of sex. You can almost feel his frustration in the vibrations the single emits. 

The B-side also suggests that Niki had something of a single-minded attitude to life, focusing on his desperate search for romantic companionship. Melodically and even stylistically "Woman Of My Dreams" bears a faint, passing relation to Teardrop Explodes "When I Dream", though I'm sure that's just a coincidence (and I'm sure Copey would have eschewed the sax solo at the end).  

25 July 2021

Eleanor Toner - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow/ Between The Window And The Phone

Ex-showband star covers the Shirelles classic with aplomb

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1965

Very few Irish showband stars managed to replicate their success outside of Eire and Northern Ireland, however many miles of road they'd covered and however much stagecraft they had learned on the way. Beat groups in the UK could get a record deal (but often probably shouldn't have) and airplay within six months of forming, whereas polished Irish showbiz royalty frequently had to fight to get noticed amidst the sixties noise.

Perhaps inevitably, Eleanor Toner from County Down - formerly of the hugely successful Hilton Showband - was no exception. Her first two solo singles popped up on the small folk label Beltona before Decca saw her potential and signed her up for an April release of "All Cried Out" in 1965. When that flopped, this was the next single, produced with extraordinary but typical care by Ivor Raymonde. Toner's vocals are as heartfelt, if not more so, than those on offer on the original and Raymonde's arrangement totally resists the temptation to ape Spector's wall of sound and instead gives the tune a widescreen clarity. The claustrophobia of the original version is of course not something that necessarily needed changing, but this version takes a teenage box room Dansette melodrama and transforms it into something more panoramic and adult - "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" is just as valid a question for developing teenagers with short attention spans and couples two years deep into their relationships, obviously.

Unfortunately for Eleanor, the British public weren't especially interested in a cover version of the track a mere four years after it was last a big hit, and it slid out largely ignored. That didn't stop her from appearing on shows such as "Gadzooks! It's All Happening" and "The New London Palladium Show" that year and generally having a strong live profile - but her next two Decca singles "Danny Boy" and "Black Rose" also failed to cut much more ice.

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.