29 August 2021

T Party - You're The Only One/ Man With A Gun


Ready salted synth pop from SE Essex

Label: Wax Records
Year of Release: 1985

Just in case there are any young people in bands reading this blog - deeply unlikely, I'm sure - I'd like to give you a basic press related tip. Humbleness is not your friend, and utilising a bit of press hype does not necessarily mean sacrificing your artistic integrity. 

Confused? Let me give you an example. If you're a thoughtful acoustic performer who writes about everyday life, don't go to your first press interview and say "Well, erm, I suppose I'm just an ordinary bloke with a guitar who sings about the things I see!" That might get you on to page 32 of the Sidcup Courier, but it's not going to take things a lot further. Hell's teeth, man, do you think Bob Dylan's debut article with The New York Advertiser Incorporating Used Cars Weekly had him muttering "I just play, man"? Spin them a yarn. Give examples of how your points of inspiration differ from everyone else's - and if you can't think of anything, think harder. You don't even need to be dishonest in the process, just sufficiently self-aware about your talents. Nobody is exactly the same as the person who was in the room immediately before them, after all.

The T Party's debut interview with the Evening Echo (below) tries to make them sound plain and ordinary, which is an interesting PR technique, but is possibly partly due to the Echo's daftness as much as T Party's quotes - after all, this was a paper who ran the headline "Posh Clobber Could Clinch It For (Depeche) Mode" and suggested they'd only make it if they got some high quality suits. 

A sensible Press Officer might have asked them to suggest that while "You're The Only One" was their attempt at a solid gold hit single, offering the kind of undistllled electronic hooks and youthful thrills the somewhat sombre and middle-aged 1985 charts were sorely missing, the B-side showed that they was often a menacing element to their work as well, a faint creepiness under the bright pop spell. 

25 August 2021

Sherri & Son - Lies/ Even More Lies


Femme synth-pop with high emphasis on the "pop" element

Label: Precious
Year of Release: 1981

As eighties mania builds in collectors circles, this rather obscure disc has been attracting more attention of late and it's easy to hear why. While it's not a lost classic or a pioneering example of the synth pop which gripped the public imagination at the start of the decade, it's nonetheless hooky, cold, marginally threatening, and topped off with the kind of softly sung female vocals which suggest trouble is close at hand.

The duo - presumably not actually a mother and son duo a la Lieutenant Pigeon - are a bit more of a mystery, though. This was their only release and the only hints we have are the other credits on the label. The publisher Trisha O'Keefe had previously been the singer in the group Precious Little who we've already documented here, and the fact this release is credited to "Precious Little Productions" suggests a high amount of involvement on her part, though I wouldn't necessarily swear to her being the lead singer of this record (it sounds and seems pretty likely, though).

Whatever the facts behind this, it's an interesting and in some ways prescient pop single. The added flourish of those occasional Spanish guitar licks predates the habit for including them in synth-pop music by a fair few years, and the record has enough atmosphere and insistent, nagging melodies to sound like a possible hit for the period, but clearly being tucked away on a tiny indie did it no favours, and it fell below the waves.

22 August 2021

Berry Cornish - Questions/ Stories From The Wishing Well


One-off folk 45 from stage and screen performer

Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1973

Berry Cornish may not be an immediately familiar name, but she was certainly very active on the light entertainment circuit throughout the sixties and seventies. While not being someone who landed many regular television appearances after 1970, she nonetheless made one-off acting appearances in shows such as "Love Thy Neighbour" and "Man About The House", as well as being a regular guest (as herself) on "The Roy Castle Show" throughout his third and fourth series in 1969 and 1970.

While being someone who was just as comfortable singing as acting, her recording career appears to have been restricted to this solitary 45 on the DJM subsidiary Jam. She promoted it with an appearance on the "Benny Hill Show" on 5th December 1973 a mere two days before its official release, and out it slid to not many sales at all.

That's not altogether surprising. While Cornish is obviously a professional performer here and the arrangement is delicately handled, this sounds like the kind of folk disc you'd have been more likely to encounter at the tail end of the sixties with its hints towards people's attitudes about men with long hair and the judgemental, conservative ways of society's straights. These issues hadn't gone away by 1973, of course, but the mainstream appetite for those ideas had definitely diminished (or been absorbed by Glam and other genres).

The author of the A-side is Ann Odell who had her own LP out on DJM in the same year, and she seems to have co-produced this single as well, which would suggest a closer involvement with Berry's career than her merely being someone whose work was found on file in a Denmark Street office. 

18 August 2021

Reupload - Fable - With A Boy Like You/ She Said Yes


Astonishing mellow, almost VU-esque take on Troggs classic

Label: Penny Farthing
Year of Release: 1971

Well, here's one hell of a find on Penny Farthing, a label which seldom delivers interesting goods. The A-side is a gender-switched cover of The Troggs classic which I originally stumbled across on YouTube. I was immediately bowled over by the approach it had taken - while The Troggs original version of "A Girl Like You" had been scratchy, jagged and hormonal sounding, this cover replaced that abrasiveness with a slick but minimal arrangement, a thumping bass drum and rich bass guitar, and exotic, Nico-esque vocal lines. It has absolutely no right to work in that manner, but it does so marvellously, and the quality of the performance highlights the fact that Reg Presley probably wasn't the completely primitive garage songwriter everyone assumed him to be in 1966.

Fable were essentially members of Jason Cord's backing group The First Chapter attempting a breakaway slice of success of their own. Consisting of Paul Robbins on organ and guitar, Keith Tully on drums, Mac Bailey on guitar and Pete Bickley on bass, they added the glamorous Wolverhampton local hero Anna Terrana on lead vocals to complete the new Penny Farthing signed line-up. 

Anna Terrana had already had a fairly substantial career on the national gig circuit at this point, fronting Lady Jayne and the Royaltee (known as "Royalty" on their CBS recordings) and picking up praise and acclaim from the music press and Radio One DJs alike. You can read much more about her background on the Brumbeat website here, which goes into enormous depth.

15 August 2021

Paul Brett Sage - 3d Mona Liza/ Mediterranean Lazy Heat Wave

Bassy, funky folkiness - accept the contradictions

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1970

Paul Brett is one of those performers whose career history is far richer and broader than rock and pop history books are likely to give him credit for. As both a background session muso and group member, he played lead guitar with The Strawbs, the utterly marvellous Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, Fire, The Warren Davis Monday Band, Tintern Abbey, Al Stewart and Lonnie Donnegan, which sounds like a complete wet dream of a CV to the average sixties aficionado. 

By 1970, however, he was striking out on his own via the Paul Brett's Sage (or Paul Brett Sage) moniker, a collective which also housed band musicians Bob Voice on drums, Dick Dufall on bass, Nicky Higginbottom on flute and Stuart Cowell on guitar. The group they this bunch have the closest associations with are unquestionably Fire (of "My Father's Name Is Dad" infamy) as Voice and Dufall had both been in the group alongside Brett. 

Anyone plonking this on the turntable and expecting more toytown psychedelia or mod angst will have their expectations thwarted, however - if "3D Mona Liza" is close to any style at all, it's probably the various folk rock festival groups who littered the twilight 1970 era, with its puffing flutes, furious guitars and impassioned vocals. That's not to say it's uninspired - its frantic guitar work and primitive grooves don't have much in common with anything else going on in the period, and its a blistering single which really could have become a hit.  As things stood, the single stalled, although Paul Brett Sage continued for three LPs and their work is now greatly sought after by collectors of the period. 

11 August 2021

The Sheldons - Wonderful Land/ The Shark

German take on The Shads on an American issue 45

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1962

I regularly stumble across people (passionate music fans among them) who try to argue that The Shadows were a supremely naff group with no redeeming qualities. They're wrong, obviously, and I normally rush to recommend "Wonderful Land" to them as the first case for the defence - and God knows there's a long list of other singles besides, including the wah-wah festooned "Scotch On The Socks" which I used to enjoy DJ'ing so people could race over to me to ask who it was by. 

"Wonderful Land", though, sits high up on the tree as one of their biggest hits and most delightful sounds, being somehow simultaneously exultant and sad. Hank Marvin's yearning twanged notes and the gentle orchestra behind him seem to be pining for something that doesn't really exist - an idea of something better - rather than being present and content in the moment. The band appeared to have arrived at the title by happenstance; when one of the group commented to songwriter Jerry Lordan that it "sounded like America", another member added that it seemed like a "wonderful land", and this vague, idealistic impression of a free utopia is, by accident or design, carried right through the mood of the record. The fact it emerged just prior to the beat boom perhaps also unintentionally underlined why a change had to happen - Britain needed to feel good about itself and its own take on American ideas, not pine for far-away lands as offering an answer. 

And anyway, America didn't care for this particular love letter, or indeed most of our musical love letters prior to The Beatles. Very few people over there bought the single (issued on Atlantic) which left the ground clear for someone else to have a crack at that market with the same tune. The mysterious Sheldons, who recorded this in Germany, thus stepped forward to have another go.

8 August 2021

Flight - Overnight Sensation/ It's Only Money

Satirical sneering at the Glam Rock swindle

Label: Buk
Year of Release: 1975

Some years ago a friend of mine found a pop music history book with a publication date of 1973 in a local charity shop, and sat and sniggered to himself about the perspective from that frozen point in time. The closer the narrative got to the year it was released, the wonkier (or less accepted by modern day standards) the perspective got. In particular, the end chapter looked forward to the future and made bold claims for Glam Rock, stating that it was the pop sound of the future with far-reaching influences, a sound that would reverberate throughout the ages and flex the pop sound into brand new shapes. 

I'm a lover of Glam myself and don't want to casually dismiss its influence, but in retrospect it's apparent that there were rumblings, whinings and bleepings going on in the world of electronic music at that time which would hit much harder on the future of pop music than the thud, chant and thwack of glam. David Bowie has unquestionably been a huge influence on numerous 21st Century artists, but even his most ardent fans would have to admit that it's his Berlin era albums (when he had one ear on influential and forward looking German sounds) and "Scary Monsters" that sounded more futuristic and prophetic than the adventures of Ziggy.

These are the perils of trying to predict the future with confidence. It's far too easy to become a cheap and careless soothsayer and predict that in the year 2076 we'll be listening to the music generated by our houseplants. And anyway, even at the time not everyone agreed with the more forgiving mainstream assessment of glam, with many (particularly prog fans) seeing it as little more than tinsel and tat, a circus filled with aged opportunists and their dodgy managers, a cheap passing craze no more relevant than skateboards or hula hoops. 

In 1974, First Class stuck the boot in with "Bobby Dazzler", a brilliant, sardonic and faintly bitter single about ageing rock stars hitching a ride on the glittery comet trail. "What they trying to do to you?" they sang. "They tell you what to wear and how to comb your hair/ and everything else you do". Alvin Stardust might have winced if he hadn't been too busy to hear it (presumably). 

Then in 1975, just as the glam party was truly on the wane, Flight spat on the dying patient by putting this one out, a 10cc-esque sneer at the pop tat around them. The band adopt a Bay City Rollers chug and sing "We're the latest and the greatest to be born" through their teeth. "We're our manager's creation/ and we love the adoration" they add, just to hammer the point home. 

4 August 2021

Reupload - The Germz/ Lit Candle - No Easy Way Down/ Boy Girl Love


First outing for brilliant Goffin/King ballad by New York garage band

Label: Cotique
Year of Release: 1967 and 1969

This is becoming something of a sought-after record for 60s garage collectors, in whatever guise it takes. The Germz were formed from the remains of a New York band called Terry and the Pirates, and consisted of Wendy Hirsch on vocals, Marty Green on keyboards, Bob Tobin on lead guitar, Jefferson Travis on rhythm guitar, Doug Smith on bass and Shelly Unger on drums. After a spell of local popularity, in early 1967 they inked a deal with the Roulette subsidiary label Vertigo and headed off to record these two tracks at Miramound Studios. 

It's the B-side which tends to get all the attention in the present day, being a piece of quirky, organ-driven garage pop with the most warped and wobbly sounding clarion calls you'll have heard since The Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination". Propulsive, bouyant, and charmingly (rather than ineptly) loose sounding, it's a strange and sharp sounding recording which nags away at you long after the needle has left the run-out groove behind.

Amidst the more recent fuss, though, the A-side seems to have been overlooked or even dismissed by some, which is a deep pity. The Goffin-King composition "No Easy Way Down" has subsequently been recorded by Dusty Springfield, Carole King herself, and Scott Walker (quite drearily, actually, on his under-achieving "Stretch" LP) among others, but so far as I can ascertain this was the first released version. This might appear to have been a risky or eccentric decision on the songwriting duo's part, but I suspect the fact that the drummer Shelly Ungan was Gerry Goffin's cousin might not be a complete coincidence. Nonetheless, it's a beautiful version of the track, with Wendy's vocals sounding so youthful, spirited, spontaneous and powerful that it's hard to believe that it took the producer George Goldner twenty takes before he was satisfied with her performance. Amazingly, what we can hear is in fact the result of numerous takes of her performance being spliced together.

The resulting single hit number 48 in the local New York charts and number 35 in the Boston charts before disappearing altogether. Internal politics at the record company between Roulette bigwig Morris Levy and George Goldner caused the single to be scrapped after only 2,000 copies were released on to the marketplace, after which it did a big sod off forever. Even the master tapes were apparently wiped.

1 August 2021

Gothic Horizon - Marjorie/ Song


Folk duo back a merry melody with a moody mellotron track

Label: Argo
Year of Releaes: 1971

Gothic Horizon consisted of Andy Desmond and Richard Garrett, a pair of folkies from Hertfordshire whose LPs "The Jason Lodge Poetry Book" and "Tomorrow Is Another Day" are both now rather collectible. For their debut effort they kept things sweet and simple and folk-bound, while "Tomorrow Is Another Day" saw the group padded out by additional members to create a more rock-orientated sound. 

This particular 45 stems from their original and authentic period and has two very distinct moods. Over on side A, the pair seem to be attempting to muster up a chirpy Paul Simon styled hit out of a stripped back acoustic sound. Some will smile agreeably at the relentless cheeriness of it, whereas others will be tempted to frisbee the single across the room. 

Still, no matter, for in the shadow of the B-side lies a melancholic mellotron infused piece of folk which is more likely to please people allergic to frivolousness. "Song" romantically pleads with a significant other who is apparently underwhelmed by the pair's reassurances, and by the time the keyboard kicks in it's clear neither of the are going to get very far. Still, the song itself is subtle and intriguing and doesn't need the extra bells and whistles of a full band accompaniment to work.