30 March 2022

Desmier - Handbags and Gladrags/ Everyone Can Fall In Love

Ex-Hi Grades man with solo outing

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1972

"Handbags and Gladrags" (penned by Mike D'Abo of Manfred Mann) is one of those songs which had a long journey towards finding its mass audience, waiting until 2001 to become a number 4 hit for The Stereophonics. On its travels towards that high point, it had been recorded by Chris Farlowe who got it to number 33 in 1968, and Rod Stewart (on a B-side in the UK, though it peaked just outside the Top 40 in the USA as an A-side) as well as Chase, The Rationals, Jimmy Witherspoon and Jon English to surprisingly even less success. Nestling amidst all those well-meaning flop readings was also an early version by Brummie duo Double Feature - still by far my favourite version of the track - and this ignored 45 by Desmier.

Desmier, or Glyn Desmier to give him his full name, was by 1972 a veteran club performer, cutting his teeth in the sixties beat group The Hi Grades with future production star Phil Wainman. They managed two singles, "New Orleans" released in Sweden in 1965 while the group toured there, and "She Cared" put out in the UK in the same year. The disappointing reaction to both records caused the group to give up the proverbial ghost, but Desmier pushed on regardless, his perseverance resulting in a trio of singles on Pye in 1972, "Gotta See You Tonight", "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" and this one, all produced by Tony Hatch.

This version of "Handbags" doesn't radically alter the original arrangement but is well performed and Desmier could have been forgiven for believing he would be the one to bring the track the UK chart success it deserved. His vocal is strong and Hatch's arrangement is as well rendered as ever, side stepping any opportunities to be cornball or overly sentimental. Sadly, the British public still appeared to have little appetite for the tune and it was broadly ignored yet again, waiting to be picked up by Kelly  Jones and his boys in the new century, who apparently only ever recorded a demo of it for fun. Hardly surprising they never believed it had a hope in hell of being a hit given its history, perhaps.

27 March 2022

Turnpike - Big Machine/ Lazer Thereza

Folk Rock angst about dating glamorous celebrities

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1974

Fontana feels like a label which has been around forever, from the jazz and pop records it issued in the fifties right through to its eighties and nineties incarnation as a comfortable home for "serious" or alternative acts. Somewhat strangely, though, it was virtually wound down and reverted to a very sleepy release schedule after 1970, shoving out only the occasional Nana Mouskouri disc (whose contract I can only assume was very specifically worded). 

It was suddenly reactivated in 1974, though, issuing a brace of singles from unknowns such as Old 88, Wheeler St James, Porridge, Ice Cream and Shine. Amidst all these one single wonders Mouskouri's release schedule continued unabated and Brian Bennett also briefly visited the label with his top golf theme "Chase Side Shoot Up". Nonetheless, nothing it put out was a big money spinner for its parent company Philips and was discontinued again the very same year, only re-emerging in the eighties as a home for all things AOR and alt-rock. 

Due to their fleeting and limited presence on record store shelves, many of the groups of the 1974 Fontana era have huge question marks against them, and Turnpike are among them. The artist Tim Hollier seems to have a songwriting and production credit here which would suggest very heavy involvement and possibly even group membership - Hollier was a folk artist whose imaginatively titled LP "Tim Hollier" came out on Fontana in 1970 with the follow-up "Skysail" emerging on Philips the following year, so it figures that he may have been taking advantage of various options on his contract. 

Also getting a credit alongside him are a Voyantzia and a Petrovitch, however, and while I wouldn't want to make wild assumptions, their surnames hint towards the fact that Turnpike might not have been entirely British in origin; but don't ask me for more information than that, because I've drawn nothing but blanks so far.

24 March 2022

Reupload - The Airwave Orchestra - Fourscore (I & II)


Channel 4 ident given a full seven inches

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1982

It's possibly hard for the "kids of today" to understand, but back in 1982 the launch of Channel 4 as a new British television station was an incredibly big deal. While cable television had been an experimental concept since 1972 in the UK, it was decidedly early days for the format and most of us only had access to three stations. The introduction of a commercial alternative fourth analogue station seemed both bold and different, and the extra choice felt almost unfathomable at first.

Channel 4's four note station ident was composed by David Dundas - or more appropriately Lord Dundas these days to us mere mortals - a man who was at the time probably best known for his seventies hit "Jeans On". While that particular single was a radio airplay staple for some time (and was later sampled by Fatboy Slim) it was the Channel 4 ident that really paid Dundas a fortune in royalties. It's widely reported that each time the station played his very simple jingle, he received £3.50 in royalties, an enviable deal that saw him earning £1,000 a week until the station changed its design in 1996. That and his "Jeans" related pay-outs must have seen him earning more than most musicians with chart LPs, even at that cash-rich time for the music industry. Blimey, and indeed, let's have an extra "blimey" for good measure.

Channel 4 initially ran numerous promotional films of its shows to advertise itself to curious new viewers, and an extended version of the theme called "Fourscore" ran in the background. Really, it's a pseudo-classical tune which bases itself around the four-note jingle, and is only really good for a couple of spins before it gets rather boring. Why Polydor felt the need to launch it as a single in its own right is anyone's guess, but copies are quite rare now so it clearly didn't sell well. The first week of Channel 4's broadcasts saw frenzied media coverage, so it's possible that the label thought anything associated with the station would pick up some sales (though thank God a Richard Whiteley Countdown spin-off single wasn't in the offing).

21 March 2022



I'm going to be completely self-indulgent for a few moments and mark this blog's 14th birthday. I don't consider it an achievement as such, but it is very odd and unexpected.

When I first got things rolling on 21st March 2008, I was sat with my laptop on a cheap IKEA sofa in a poky flat in Walthamstow with a small plastic box of 45s at my feet. At that point, I reckoned I would have enough material stashed to one side to keep the blog active for a year or so, and then who knows? Certainly, the idea was never for this to be a long-term project; rather, similar to the many other corners of blogspot, my imagination didn't stretch beyond getting read by 40-50 like-minded people who enjoy a bit of a conversation before I got tired and abandoned the whole idea.

I've completely ploughed through that plastic tub of singles since, moved house twice and changed jobs (although my domestic arrangements are a separate/irrelevant issue, I realise) and for the last decade at least, the blog has been sustained by whatever records I've managed to unearth in any given month. They're sifted through, sorted into piles of uninteresting mediocrity, unexpected novelty or genuine goodness, then the best examples are ripped to mp3, scanned and uploaded. As strategies go, it's incredibly flawed and depends on me quickly finding interesting records that haven't already been given wider exposure - a harder task as the Internet gets increasingly crowded and the likes of Spotify and brilliant labels like Cherry Red become more efficient at hoovering up obscurities and making them available to the public.

If ever you've spent a month on this blog where the pickings have felt slim, that's the reason. It's only as good as the material I'm able to find, but I'm more often than not rescued by the peculiarities of the music industry - especially in the sixties and seventies - and the near bottomless pit of material out there.

Whether this blog is still here next year or not - or indeed, whether we all are - is up to so many delicate and niggling factors, but hopefully I've got another good twelve months ahead. That's as far into the future as I can ever really look. And now... back to business, I think. And a big salute to everyone else who is still mp3 blogging even though it's supposed to be a "noughties thing". 

20 March 2022

K Creation - Chariots of Fire/ Charmers Mood


Crude reggae veteran Charmers tackles Vangelis

Label: KR
Year of Release: 1982

On many occasions I've posited the theory that if a song is popular enough - whether as a hit single, part of a soundtrack or even a television theme - there's probably a reggae cover version of it somewhere out there. The list of examples is absurd and endless, from television soap themes (such as Coronation Street and Neighbours) to Elvis Costello tracks. The genre has a flexibility it's seldom given credit for and can absorb anything in its path, transforming any unlikely idea into a lush Jamaican soundscape. 

In this respect, Vangelis's theme to "Chariots of Fire" is perhaps not as ridiculous an example as it sounds. The track already dripped with honeyed sophistry so it's not as if any DJ or reggae artist stepping into its orbit really needed to do much beyond add some sweet skanking; and that's exactly what happens here. This isn't a radical reworking, just a reggae rhythm screwed on to the theme, with some lilting female vocalists (needlessly, in my opinion) singing the title being the only truly surprising addition.

What is alarming is the name of the artist behind the idea, the veteran (and oftentimes Lee "Scratch" Perry collaborator) Lloyd Charmers whose other reggae classics have included graphic titles such as "Yum Yum Pussy", "Bang Bang Lulu", "Red Bum  Ball", and plenty more besides. His output was mountainous, though, and included many numbers which didn't have adult themes, so it would be wrong to suggest that this record is exactly like Judge Dredd taking on Jean Michel Jarre - it's just slightly like that.

16 March 2022

The Supporters - On The Ball


Arsenal oriented ska influenced football capers

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1970

Well, I can hardly claim originality or exclusivity with this one. "On The Ball" was dug up from the darkest crevices of Danny Baker's record collection in the nineties and given endless exposure on "TFI Friday" as a "great lost football record". Seemingly, the hope was that with enough public pressure it would be re-recorded (or re-released) for a new audience to enjoy.

This wasn't a completely fruitless endeavour. Those reliable souls Ant And Dec jumped in to plant the chorus in their 2002 World Cup single of the same name, which despite the complete lack of a "TFI Friday" series to promote the idea did nonetheless get to number three in the charts. 

While Ant and Dec's version is the kind of swaggering post-Britpop anthem you'd expect, it lacks the mend-and-make-do cod-ska modesty of the original which really does feel like a spontaneous terrace chant rather than a calculated effort; because make no mistake, this feels like the work of your three mates, one of their Dads and some bloke from Splodgenessabounds in the studio after peak hours (and after many ales have been supped, mark my words). It has a distinct ska sound, but nonetheless one that limps slightly like a wounded pigeon rather than struts, and almost certainly wasn't recorded by bona-fide ska musicians. It's a rinky-dink, homespun and chirpily busked creation which despite its links to Arsenal wouldn't be allowed within a mile of the Premiership club these days. Curiously, it also doesn't sound especially 1970, actually more closely resembling those novelty oddments Stiff sometimes slipped out for their own amusement much later in the decade. 

Novelty records like this one either float to the upper regions of the charts or sink beneath the waves, and despite two releases (RCA also gave it a second go during the 1971 football season) the public were unmoved. This just goes to show how heartlessly wrong the public can be, though, and it feels only fair that the songwriter Harold Spiro got his rightful royalty cheque for this in 2002.

13 March 2022

Atlas - Rock and Roll Wizards/ Military Rag


Hard rock and boogie from scene veterans

Label: Reprise
Year of Release: 1973

Besides prog and demonic hard rock in the early seventies, there was no shortage of boogie on the circuit. Status Quo are an obvious example, of course, but then Chas Hodge's deeply underrated outfit Heads Hands And Feet and a vast array of other Old Grey Whistle Test feature acts had a sound which owed an historic debt to Little Richard and Fats Domino as much as it did the underground rock scene.

Atlas are a strangely neglected case in point. Formed by the singer Ronnie Charles from the Australian group The Groop (whose "Woman You're Breaking Me" single is well worth a spin in itself) with ex-members of other British bands such as Les Gough on bass (Somebody's Image), Terry Slade on drums (Sunshine) and Glen Turner on guitar (Wishbone Ash), they often sounded as much like a good-time party band as a rock outfit. 

Both sides here prove that point. "Rock and Roll Wizards" is spiritually swamped in the deep south, but has a clear fussiness to it with bags of solos and frilly drum patterns. This is boogie on its own very clear, hairy terms rather than straight-down, legs-apart Status Quo rock. While hooks do exist on both sides, they're not especially pronounced and take a secondary position to the barnstorming instrumentation. 

"Rock and Roll Wizards" and "Military Rag" were also featured on an "eponymous" LP which was released by Reprise in 1973 and is now in demand enough that you shouldn't expect to pay less than £100 for a copy. Back then, though, it was more or less disregarded and while the group continued playing live until the end of 1974, there's nothing else out there on vinyl or indeed any other format.

9 March 2022

Reupload - Lucas Sideras - Rising Sun/ One Day


Glorious piece of late psychedelia from former Aphrodite's Child drummer.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1972

This isn't an extremely rare recording as such. It was released all around Europe (and indeed Lebanon!) largely on the strength of Lucas Sideras' prior stint with Greek rock Gods Aphrodite's Child. British copies, on the other hand, are as rare as hen's teeth, to the extent that many discographers until recently assumed that this was never officially released over here - so I'm a bit bemused about how this one fell into my hands without me really trying. Call it good luck. 

I may be bemused but I'm also delighted. The A-side here is actually "One Day", which is a cuddly piece of contemplative, semi-acoustic pop. It's the B-side that really knocks my socks off, though. "Rising Sun" is a shimmering, rattling piece of psychedelic pop with some wonderfully convincing yet simple guitar lines. Fizzing over with optimism and a driving momentum, it's wasted by being buried away on the flip, although a longer version did emerge on Lucas's debut LP "End of the World".

While he would go on to release other records on the continent, so far as I'm aware Polydor didn't try to push him on the British again. His records sold moderately well elsewhere, and he eventually settled into a successful production career, before forming the group Ypsilon in 1977 and the blues rock band Diesel in 1987. He still occasionally records and releases solo material to this day.

6 March 2022

Tag - Off Down The Road/ Guitar Lover


Insistent, stomping and surprisingly under the radar glam number 

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1975

When the compilation "Velvet Tinmine" first saw the light of day in 2003, I was convinced that record collecting was about to enter its next phase and keen buyers of psychedelic rarities would move on. After all, the paisley wallpapered barrel was beginning to ring rather hollow with collectors raving about non-event discs like Barnaby Rudge's "Joe Organ & Co" - it seemed as if there might be more undiscovered fun to have in the glitter bin on the right.

In retrospect, this was naive of me. There's not an enormous amount of crossover between the two audiences and while psychedelic pop certainly had its heavily manufactured moments, glam rock was often seen - even by serious musicians at the time - as being cheap pop performed by old lags for the ears of teens who knew no better. While glam singles therefore picked up a lot of love from open-minded pop pickers, psych collectors in general couldn't have cared less and there remain quite a few glam gems which don't command excessive prices.

This, naturally, is one of them. "Off Down The Road" hasn't been included on any compilation to the best of my knowledge, and has an astonishing amount of welly. Opening with a pounding piano, it quickly picks up pace with the stomping rhythm entering rapidly, then the group lean so heavily on the song's hooks you fear they might snap, but they never do. The track builds and builds, throwing in the usual foot stomping and chants of "hey!" but never becoming tiresome for all its repetition. It's pop with a capital P, operating somewhere between Kenny and those cheeky scamps Hello.

2 March 2022

The Candy Dates - A Day Just Like That/ Well I Do


Opportunity Knocks folk-beat bunch with debut single

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1965

The Candy Dates were a much-fancied combo in 1965, having appeared on the hugely popular television talent show "Opportunity Knocks". Pye must have thought they were backing clear winners here - a group who already had huge mainstream exposure under their belts and some merry pop melodies.

In reality, the group's threadbare folk-beat sound didn't really sell through to the public very convincingly, and both this and the second single "Some Other Time" - already featured on this blog - largely sank. In this case, it's easy to hear what went wrong. It's a sandpaper rough sound, filled with harsh guitar strumming pushed to the forefront of the mix and colliding with the sugary sweet vocals. It's not unappealing, but it was surely neither pop enough, rock enough nor folk enough for 1965 audiences.

It's the b-side that's been picking up all the attention lately, with its appearance on the recent "Halcyon Days" box set putting it out of bounds for the purposes of this blog, but (luckily) freely available on both YouTube and Spotify. This is a strident, pounding mod beat sound which shows the group had many other strings to their bow.

The full line-up of the group is not well documented anywhere, although their bass player Dave Collman went on to join The Loose Ends who released the celebrated mod version of The Beatles' "Taxman" in 1966.