19 July 2017

Pierre Cour - Letter To A Teenage Bride/ Love Letter



Label: Charisma
Year of Release: 1975

Oh dear. Readers, I try to be as generous and magnanimous as possible on this blog, frequently not bothering to upload or comment on crap records. There are plenty of other folk online who will happily lob their invective towards unsuccessful targets, some brilliantly, some just for cheap and easy laughs. Nobody really needs my added input, and anyway, there are far too many good records out there which have gone largely unheard. Sometimes, though, I encounter something so gobsmackingly awful that I almost feel I have to share it just as a discussion point - and this is one example of how even the most atrocious, inappropriate work can slip through the music industry net and into the world at large.

"Letter To A Teenage Bride" really is an example of a single that manages to get absolutely everything wrong. Sticking rigidly to a tedious orchestral melody that offers no melodic progression or surprises, it wouldn't even be passable as an instrumental. The whimpered female backing vocals of "Oh my Daddy! Oh Daddy, Oh Mama!" also repeat every five seconds and continue for the full four minutes of its playing time. In terms of songwriting alone, then, it's a deeply irritating dud.

That's not really my main area of concern, though. Throughout this track, Pierre Cour decides to rival Peter Wyngarde in the "bad taste lyrics" stakes, with a spoken word tale of how frustrated an older lover is by his teenage wife's demands to see her family. He implores her to understand how much fun they have together without the interference of these unwanted interlopers, chiding, snapping and sneering coldly as he does so. The record then steadily works itself to a dreadful climax (of more than one kind) with Cour making vocal demands about his conjugal rights, turning the track into some kind of sophisticated vintage wine drinker's take on The Specials' "The Boiler". 

Initially, it's tempting to be charitable and assume that Cour is trying to satirise the behaviour of grown adult men with teenage lovers, but if that's the case, it really isn't clear. All we hear about is the man's frustration with the girl's immaturity, with added hints of manipulation within the relationship. The arrangement appears to be suggesting we should side with him - the man is, after all, sophisticated and mature, whereas the girl is a constantly protesting, whining alarm call throughout without any character to speak of. At least with a song like "Come Outside", you had a sense that you knew both characters reasonably well by the time the needle left the groove. Here, the girl is just a prop for Cour's frustrated narrative.

And by God, his narrative is also poorly delivered. He can't speak fluent English, and his mutterings and murmurings slop and slick their way across the record incomprehensibly, being ponderously delivered and in places ridiculously over-acted. Even Tommy Wiseau would weep at his effort. The whole single is a total horrorshow, managing to be offensive, badly written and poorly delivered. It's utterly impossible to even pinpoint one area where it manages to get something right (it's particularly surprising that someone as skilled as Zack Laurence would be involved with this dreck). 

We've become fond of saying "the past was a foreign country" in the UK, using it to explain away the casual acceptance of all kinds of perverse (and criminal) behaviour. This isn't always true, though. In 1975, this single was apparently greeted with huge hostility by the women in the press department at Charisma Records, who refused to promote it. Faced with poor airplay and PR staff who weren't prepared to work on the single, Charisma allegedly ended up stuffing a large number of stock copies of this disc into a cupboard, never to see the light of day (though melting the lot down and recycling the vinyl towards a more worthwhile cause would have been a better response). The copy in my hand appears to be one that did manage to drift into the real world, purchased by me for the princely sum of 50p despite its scarcity. Some would argue that's at least fifty pence too much. 

Pierre Cour was a highly successful French songwriter who had penned numerous tracks for his country at Eurovision, and had embarked on a rewarding working partnership (for both parties) with Roger Whittaker by the seventies. His songs had also previously been recorded by many luminaries, such as Petula Clark, Nana Mouskouri, and Paul Mauriat. Why he needed to blot his copybook with this creepy mess is a good question, and one we will probably never get an answer to. 

Kenny Everett eventually span this on his radio show as an example of one of the worst records of all time, and that's a judgement I really don't have a quarrel with. The only thing I might debate is whether it should actually be named the worst record ever, not "one of" the worst. 

Sorry for the pops and crackles on the mp3s below, though to be perfectly honest they should be the least of your worries (and I doubt you'll want to listen to this more than once). 




16 July 2017

Autumn - Down Down Down/ October



Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1973

Autumn just about qualify as one hit wonders by the skins of their collective teeth. Their debut single "My Little Girl" was a Tony "I wonder how many hits you've had" Rivers composition which was a slab of highly effective retro sixties harmony pop. Nudging the Top 40 at number 37, it allowed them an appearance on "Top of the Pops" where they appeared wearing natty matching suits, deliberately looking like throwbacks to another era. Nostalgia certainly isn't what it used to be.

The band struggled to build on that modest success, however, and follow-up singles "Not The Way She Looks" and "Hazy Crazy Days" didn't chart, and nor did this, their last effort for Pye before being dropped. Of all their singles, "Down Down Down" is the oddest and the most unexpectedly raucous sounding, featuring the usual slick sounding harmony vocals meeting pounding rock noises, and a guitar instrumental break which somewhat unexpectedly combines the initial melody of "Layla" with "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye". There are lots of sudden hairpin bends in its arrangement, and as such, it ends up sounding more like a lost bit of Pye popsike from 1968 or 1969 than its 1973 release date would suggest (if you suspend disbelief about the release date of "Layla", that is). Perhaps because of that, it's not overly surprising it wasn't a hit. It's short, sharp and ever-so-slightly on the wrong side of commercial (whatever the group's intentions). An LP was recorded by the group for release by Pye, but apparently never saw the light of day. 

The band consisted of Keith Parsons on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Charlwood on drums, John Court on guitar, Peter Cramer on bass and backing vocals, and Ron Shaughnessy on guitar and backing vocals. I'm not too sure what the group ended up doing after this single, but I can rather sadly confirm that Ron and Keith have since passed away.

The "Alshire USA Production" credit appears on all their singles, incidentally, and is something of a mystery. Alshire were a budget label in the USA whose works could generally be found lingering in the wire racks in supermarkets, usually consisting of rush-recorded soundalike compilations and easy listening cash-ins, such as "Tribute To Jimi Hendrix" by The Purple Fox or "Award Winning Scores From The Silver Screen" by 101 Strings (a less typical and more inexplicable example would be The Animated Egg's eponymously titled LP). It's not clear to me how Autumn ended up associated with the label, unless they were signed up to do some harmony pop work for a cheapo LP and found that one of their recorded tracks took off in its own right in the UK. I'd be very grateful if somebody could clear this puzzle up, as the standard biographies of the band online and offline make no mention of the US deal. 


13 July 2017

Sally Sagoe - A Little Bit Of Love/ Stop



Label: Dart
Year of Release: 1975

If you're a skint DJ (or just a tightarse like me) and desperate to impress your next audience with a new Northern Soul spin they might not have heard before, your options are beginning to get rather limited. By the time you hit a certain price threshold, you're firmly in the realm of rapidly diminishing returns - and there are some real cash-in stinkers from the mid-seventies waiting out there to trap the unwary.

This, then, is a pleasant surprise and one that can occasionally be spotted in thrift stores for a mere 50p (it does happen). While Van McCoy's songwriting involvement should hint towards the fact that this isn't an "authentic" Northern record, it sounds as close as damnit to the real deal to be worth it. Smooth and swaggering and yet filled with all the euphoric, emotional peaks you'd expect, this is a beautiful slice of danceable poptimism. Normally when modern seventies producers tried to emulate these sounds, they ended up with a product which whiffed more of sausage rolls and ale from the local Working Man's Club than talcum powdered dancefloors - some of the cash-ins on Spark and Pye are testimony to that. Sally Sagoe is a classy performer, though, and sells the song incredibly well. It sounds confident and urban as a result.

Even the B-side "Stop" has its fans, though there's no question to me that it sounds less accomplished and slightly more rushed than the plug side. 

Unfortunately, Sally Sagoe didn't have any hits during her singing career, and eventually had more luck as an actress, earning a fairly long-standing role in "Eastenders" as Hannah Carpenter in 1985, then eventually as Mrs Jackson in the children's TV series "The Tomorrow People". 



9 July 2017

Reupload - Perfect People - House In The Country/ Polyanna


Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1969

It's tempting to think that absolutely every last half-good drop of British popsike is in wider distribution now, but as this particular disc proves, there are still lesser known surprises out there.  The official A-side to this record ("House In The Country") has already been compiled on "Piccadilly Sunshine" and is available on iTunes and Amazon and no doubt other commercial sites besides, so I'm not going to trouble myself too much with the contents of that one beyond providing you all with an edited 45 second clip of its charms.

The B-side "Polyanna", on the other hand, would have been a more logical choice, and it's somewhat surprising it was overlooked.  The simplistic but frankly bizarre lyrics appear to be exhorting a young lady not to commit suicide by throwing herself into a river, but this is pure rainbow-coloured sixties pop in all other respects.  Basslines swoop and plunge majestically in a manner Macca would respect,  the horn section kicks into the chorus giddily imitating the vertigo of a high bridge over a river, and the whole thing has a merry urgency about it and enough hooks to drag in even the biggest popsike cynic.  The vocals are perhaps slightly too gruff to truly compliment the contents of the rest of the song, but this is a fine piece of work otherwise - and when you spot Mike Leander's name in the credits, it becomes clear why.  Whilst he later became widely known for introducing Gary Glitter to success, in truth the Walthamstow born Leander had cut his teeth as an incredibly skilled arranger long before, working to brilliant effect on excellent records by David McWilliams, Ben E King, The Rolling Stones and Colin Blunstone before this one.  He also arranged The Beatles "She's Leaving Home" while George Martin was unwell, putting him in the unique position of being the only other arranger to work with them.

"Polyanna" isn't a lost classic to file next to the Fabs, but it's potent sixties pop which deserves a lot more attention than it's received so far. "House In The Country", on the other hand, seems to be a Manfred Mann off cut (penned by Hugg, Man and Hugg) which is merely OK-ish - twee, chipper and pleasant, the kind of fare you'd find halfway through the sixth volume of "Circus Days".

As for who Perfect People are, my guess is that they were a studio group rather than a "proper" live gigging band, but if anyone knows differently, please do get in touch.



5 July 2017

The Lucky Ones - Psychedelic Girl/ World Gone Mad



Label: Groove Quest
Year of Release: 1986

I picked up this record from one of the stalls at the Earl Haig Jumble Sale in Crouch End where I regularly DJ, and it took me slightly by surprise, feeling a bit like finding a meerkat on Streatham Common. The Lucky Few were an American Paisley Underground group from South Carolina featuring Micah Gilbert, a sixties-inspired singer songwriter who later went on to produce more baroque sounding work with Glass Bead Game, then later Magister Ludi. 

Suffice to say, this - their only single - wasn't granted a release on UK shores, so it was either imported by a fan of that genre or was one of a number of leftover copies dumped somewhere by Micah himself, as I understand he lives on these shores at present. Whatever, it's a sharp, angular, and driving little single which has an eye on the rear view mirror at both classic sixties songwriting on the horizon, and the close but fading punk and new wave moment in the near distance. "She's my psychedelic girl - and she Psychs me!" snaps the chorus enjoyably, nailing its colours to the mast but not taking itself too seriously in the process.

Micah Gilbert is still active as a songwriter and has a Bandcamp page filled with his most recent work. 


2 July 2017

The Cisum - Medal of Honor/ Mrs Orange



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.

The group hailed from New York and consisted of Phil Galdston on keyboards and vocals, Dave Brightman on lead guitar and vocals, Rich Bronsky on rhythm guitar and vocals, Gary Mandel on bass and vocals, and John Glowa on drums. Apparently a full album was recorded, but never released - now might be a good time to think about putting that one for sale online, chaps. Just a thought.


28 June 2017

Claire - Mouth/ Hole In My Shoe


Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

The twilight years of Decca are a delight for obscure pop pickers. Once the label lost their distribution rights to RCA and The Rolling Stones jumped ship, they entered a long, slow death filled with increasingly desperate kicks against their inevitable demise. A quick visit to the marvellous 45cat site reveals that Decca's seventies catalogue was filled with one-record wonders, artists signed to the label who were presumably supposed to be new stars, but whose records are so scarce that they probably only sold a hundred or so copies nationally (if that) before being dropped. 

What must have been a rather grim time for employees at the label has ended up being an adventure for us, then, although not one with any obvious conclusions. Take this record, for example. I haven't the foggiest idea who Claire is, why she was so shy about revealing her surname, or what she went on to do. She certainly wasn't Claire of eighties "Claire and Friends" fame ("It's Orrible Being In Love When You're Eight and a Half") as she hadn't been born at this point. 

"Mouth" on side A is a twanging piece of Brit-country which is nicely performed and written, but nothing to get anyone particularly excited. It's the B-side, a cover of Traffic's psychedelic classic "Hole In My Shoe", that's most likely to tweak the interest of collectors. And it's... not quite what you'd expect, but an interesting take all the same. Removing all the psychedelic elements from the track, it instead pares it down to its root basics and adds a faint country tinge to the effort. It sounds cracked and rugged and as if Claire is singing about a trip she took the week before and hasn't quite recovered from yet. It's OK, darling, it was just some magic tablets you swallowed. There are no elephants or bubblegum trees here now, trust me. 

[Every right-thinking person's favourite DJ Andy Lewis got in touch with me on Twitter to offer some information about this. Apparently it's the actress and singer Patti Somers operating under one of her pseudonyms. He points towards her single "These Four Walls", under the name Pattie Lane, as an absolute must-listen.

Perhaps most unexpectedly, though, it would appear that the A-side here "Mouth" was written by Sandie Shaw and her then husband Jeff Banks (hence the "Sandie" and "Banks" element of the songwriting credits). So I suspect this release must have received some publicity at the time, despite its poor sales. 

Thanks for getting in touch, Andy, I didn't expect this mystery to be resolved so quickly.

You can visit Patty's website here]



25 June 2017

Reupload - Brian Bennett - Chase Side Shoot Up/ Pegasus



Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1974

The sheer versatility and experience in the line-up of The Shadows isn't really commented on often enough, people being more keen to focus on their most well-known and stylistically consistent work.  Sadly, ploughing through a bog-standard Shads hits list would ignore Marvin and Farrar's brilliant stabs at Crosby Stills and Nash styled pop in the seventies, Tony Meehan's endless production work, and drummer Brian Bennett's mind-bogglingly varied array of library music work which you'll almost certainly have heard before, whether you think you have or not.

Here is perhaps the most famous and immediately recognisable example.  "Chase Side Shoot Up" is best known as being the theme to the BBC golf coverage in Britain, where it's acted as the introduction to the swish and thwack of badly dressed men with golf clubs since 1980.  Its strange but effective mix of laidback beats combined with dramatic melodic flourishes probably made it a dead cert for the coverage as soon as the BBC Executives wrapped their ears around it, and its been stuck in people's brains in the UK ever since - another classic example of a record very few people bought enjoying a greater recognition factor (and probably more royalty pay-outs) than many hits.

As you'll gather from the date on the label, however, "Chase Side Shoot Up" had a history prior to the BBC taking a shine to it, and in fact its synthetic flourishes were originally enjoyed in nightclubs - and even apparently some Northern Soul nights [citation needed - ed] - in the mid-seventies.  It might seem absurd to imagine those "thumpa-thumpa-thumpa" drum noises being accompanied by genuine dancing rather than the gentle thud of the palm of your hand against the arm of the sofa, but that apparently was the case.  How widespread its club plays were is a difficult thing to ascertain, and any attempts to play it now (in Britain at least) would surely be greeted with bafflement and derision, but there was a time when the squealing synths on this seemed futuristic and dancefloor orientated rather than accepted as a background noise.  Viewed objectively as a piece of music rather than an iconic theme, it's perfectly good but stubbornly sticks to its central riff despite threatening to spin off into other interesting ambient areas at points - there's a vague whiff of missed opportunities here across the full three minutes. 

The flip "Pegasus" would perhaps go down better these days, being a beautifully drama-filled piece of electronic funk which brings to mind men rolling under cars, pistols at the ready for that inevitable high action crime scene in a seventies flick.  In fact, the Moog and tropical funk action here is so notable that numerous websites recommend this as a lost groove, and the demand for the record on ebay is possibly more driven by the B-side than the famous A-side these days. Not surprising - this is a marvellous bit of work which really deserved better than to sit on the back side of this single.  

Brian Bennett continues to produce library music and soundtracks, and has won three Ivor Novello awards for his work, which has included sophisticated and considered orchestral arrangements as well as catchy jingles.  Even his under-exposed library music work is highly sought after by collectors, with prices shooting up (if you'll pardon the pun) all the time.  


22 June 2017

Trifle - All Together Now/ Got My Thing



Label: United Artists
Year of Release: 1969

Another Beatles cover version to add to this blog's growing collection. There was no shortage of the things in the sixties, for sure, but surprisingly few of them hit the big time, although Marmalade's smash version of "Ob La Di Ob La Da" may not give that impression. 

The Mike Batt produced "All Together Now" is yet another single to add to the "as obscure as Beatles related records get" list. The catchy little ditty was pulled from the safety of the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack by an enthusiastic Trifle, a band who had been formed from the ashes of sixties pop group George Bean and the Runners. It's not a particularly daring reinvention, and was clearly intended as a light, frothy chartbound sound, but sold incredibly poorly in the UK despite some critics noting its commercial promise. 

"Left and to the Back" readers are likely to be more interested in the flip, "Got My Thing", which has a spirited soul swing to it, and couldn't be less like the A-side. That's not too surprising. Trifle were usually a progressive group by nature, and following the flop performance of this single dashed off to sign a contract with Pye's progressive imprint Dawn, where they released the now very rare and sought after "First Meeting" LP. Their careers were rudely cut short not long afterwards by the tragic sudden death of their leader George Bean.

And meanwhile, if you really want to hear a truly odd cover of "All Together Now", look no further than German group Joy Unlimited who do the honours with style



20 June 2017

Earl Haig Jumble Sale - Sunday 25th June

Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 25th June, and I'll be there with Jody "John The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning on the decks while you shop around.

Tell you what, the last time I Dj'd here back in May, the place had tons of cheap vinyl and CD stalls, selling lots of interesting records dirt cheaply, from garage rock to 50s novelty rock and roll to 80s LPs. Now, given that the stalls are booked up way in advance by people with various things to trade, I can't guarantee that it will be the same situation this time - but it's worth a look. And if all else fails, there's a very good Oxfam Book and Record store around the corner too.

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 25th June, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello. If people who read this blog don't turn up, I promise I will play my collection of Giorgio Moroder inspired, vocoder infested disco records. (Though I might do that anyway). 

18 June 2017

Angel Pie - Jake (LP)





















Label: Oxygen/ MCA
Proposed Year of Release: 1994

Back in January 1994, a basic four-track LP preview promo cassette with a cheaply printed text only inlay fell into my student inbox at university. Nothing unusual about that. I regularly wrote music reviews for the student newspaper, and while our readership was tiny, it still reached a local youth audience record labels were often keen to tap into, especially if our town was on a proposed tour map for any of the groups on their roster.

What was unusual was the fact that I hadn't heard of the group "Angel Pie" this cassette was promoting, who appeared to be a joint project between "dance diva" Marina Van Rooy and producer Mark Saunders with unknown others. Back in those days I was usually very quick to spot new acts, especially if they had signed a significant record deal, but this lot rang no bells at all. Not expecting much, and deeming them to be some kind of A&R rep's afterthought, I left the cassette on my "to do" pile for a couple of days before putting it in my cheap Saisho combi stereo and pressing play.

I loved what I heard immediately, from their previous 1993 single "Tin Foil Valley" (which I had neither heard nor heard of) and its cheery but jittery electronic fizz, to the other three tracks "She", "Tipsy Q Horses" and "Frozen Fling". All made me convinced I might have just been sent a demo preview of one of my favourite LPs of the year. "She", in particular, was a much-favoured play of mine throughout 1994, and I wrote about it in much more depth over here.

Problematically for the group, their first two singles "Tin Foil Valley" and "She" sold poorly, and MCA appeared to get the bum's rush after that and failed to issue more of their records, including the album. I waited for news of the LP's release, but none was forthcoming. MCA's press office only had the comment "Ooh, dunno about that one, I'm afraid" to offer. By the time 1995 rolled around, I'd given up all hope of ever hearing it.

Behold the brilliance of the Internet, then, because a week or so ago I was contacted by Dustin Rainwater who had read my blog entry about "She" and said that he had been sent an incomplete version of the album (with only two tracks missing rather than eight) a while ago. He asked if I would like a copy, and I fired off a positive response as soon as I had receipt of his email.

My first cautionary observation would be that I've actually waited to hear this LP for longer than I've waited for a third Stone Roses album to emerge. I've also gone from being a confused first year student at university to having a job in the civil service, so my "head" isn't in quite the same place, and nor, I suspect, is anyone else's. Blairism has come and gone in that time, babies born in 1994 have grown up and begun professional careers, and Coco Pops have changed their name to Coco Krispies and back again. It's been a long journey for us all.

"Jake" has to be put into some sort of context, then, and I suspect one of the reasons the four track demo made such an immediate impact on me was that, amidst of sea of dodgy grunge bands and industrial chancers, it actually harked back to the only recently dead indie-dance days. Marina Van Rooy's vocals are blissed and seductive, synths bubble and chime away optimistically, and guitars rumble and scrape away quite low in the mix, giving the tracks a slightly harder, more alternative edge.

"She" still sounds unspeakably wonderful, and remains one of my favourite singles of 1994. Pitched somewhere between the background ambient atmospherics of Depeche Mode's "Somebody", a psychedelically inclined easy listening track, Saint Etienne's "Avenue" and the forthcoming trip-hop explosion, it's almost impossibly rich with detail, an enchanted garden of a track.

Other tracks like the aforementioned "Tin Foil Valley" and "Tipsy Q Horses" echo the child-like, giddy optimism of the early nineties rave period, while marrying those ideas to twittering and atmospheric pop structures. Problematically, though, it makes "Jake" - or what we have of it so far - an easier piece of work to digest in bite-sized chunks rather than to listen to as a whole. With the exception of "She", it's one long breezy, sugary high. While Van Rooy's pie-eyed vocals and child-like cotton candy observations and dayglo nineties New Age ideas are charming at first, they steadily begin to pall when you're in their company for longer than twenty minutes. If the two missing tracks "Cactus Fruit" and "Set Yourself Free" are ambient interludes of some kind or slower numbers, that would make absolute sense and would break up the sherbet flavoured fizziness of this LP somewhat - but unless someone comes forward with those (and Dustin and I are very keen to hear them if you have them) we'll never know.

Still, "Jake" is definitely a good and often incredibly inventive and well-crafted LP which would have fared much better in the British music scene a couple of years before, and possibly in more capable hands than MCA's. I wouldn't hesitate to regard it as being a lost indie-dance gem in the same breath as numerous other lauded but badly selling records at the back end of that period, with the crucial difference being that it was never even released. It's a real privilege to finally hear most of it, and thanks so much for Dustin for making it available.

If you were involved in the "group" in any way and want me to remove this LP for free download, get in touch and let me know. More than that, however, if you have sound file copies of those missing tracks "Cactus Fruit" and "Set Yourself Free", please assuage my curiosity.

Dustin also sent me an unreleased Angel Pie track "Wendy House", which I've included in the download bundle. I'm not too sure what the intentions for this were, but I'm going to assume it was an unreleased B-side or demo for a planned piece of future work.

Download it here 

14 June 2017

Teddy Munro - Bayswater Bedsitter/ Get Out Of My Head



Label: Gemini
Year of Release: 1972

You may remember that way back in March 2016, I uploaded a folk track by The Academy called "Munching The Candy" with Polly Perkins on vocals. In that, I incorrectly assumed that the only other single she released afterwards was 1973's "Coochi Coo", but lo and behold, it would appear that she adopted the name Teddy Munro for this one single as well, which managed to slip under my radar.

"Bayswater Bedsitter" doesn't really have anything much in common with The Academy's output, being a leg-kicking piece of cabaret pop celebrating skint bohemia. Bayswater has historically always been a good region of London to seek out bedsits (or "studio flats" as they're now misleadingly called) but whereas in the sixties and seventies they were ideal accommodation for young creative types on a budget, these days you'd need a well-paid professional job to meet the monthly rent. Still, Polly takes us back to the old boho days with good effect, singing jazzily about tinned soup, Baby Belling ovens and cramped living spaces. It's enough to make you feel envious.

The flipside "Get Out Of My Head" is arguably stronger, being a soulful number about post-breakup obsession, which actually showcases Perkins' vocals to a more flattering degree. 

Following the failure of her musical career, Perkins turned her attention to acting instead and got much further, even appearing in "Eastenders" as Dot Cotton's sister between 2011-12. Chances are she's recognised much more for that these days than the string of obscure singles and LPs she left behind in the sixties and seventies. 


11 June 2017

Reupload - Meckenburg Zinc - Hard Working Woman/ I'd Like To Help You



Label: Orange
Year of Release: 1970

Another mystery to add to the "Left and to the Back" canon of mysteries, I'm afraid - nobody has the faintest clue who Meckenburg Zinc were, whether they were a gigging act, a studio aggregation, or perhaps a metalworks company indulging in a musical hobby (although the latter is obviously the 10,000-1 shot).

What we do know for sure is that John Carter co-wrote the A-side.  He was frequently associated with the Carter-Lewis songwriting duo whose credits took up large quantities of label space in the sixties with the likes of the Flowerpot Men and The Music Explosion, and Internet rumours suggest that he may have performed on the track as well.  Whatever the truth of the matter, "Hard Working Woman" is a neat slice of seventies pop which seems West Coast influenced in both its songwriting and performance, all close harmonies and chirpy arrangements.  It wasn't a hit, but copies of the disc have sold for $50 on ebay in the last few years which suggests a keen demand for the track.

As for the curiously designed Orange label, it was in fact a hitless and short-lived subsidiary of the Orange amplifier company.  So you've possibly come out of this blog entry learning something new at least.  


7 June 2017

Mystery Artist - Negotiations In Soho Square























Label: [none]
Year of Release: Unknown

We all love a mystery acetate, don't we, readers? Certainly, few things brighten my day up as much as a previously unheard recording pressed on to metal lacquer, but as you'll all have worked out by now, I don't get out of the house much.

This one has really thrown me, though. So far as I know, the only release the song "Negotiations In Soho Square" has ever had has been The Tremeloes version, which is a bright, bouncy and sparkly piece of guitar pop. While they wrote the song, I'm quite confident this acetate has nothing to do with them - it takes the tune and turns it into a a piece of brass-ridden, swinging, sweaty basement soul, sounding more like the work of someone like Cliff Bennett or Georgie Fame than anyone else (note - I'm not actually trying to definitively claim that it is).

Someone out there must know who was responsible for this. In the meantime, we can all enjoy its driving, smoky basement sound.

4 June 2017

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



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. 

31 May 2017

The Airwave Orchestra - Fourscore (I & II)























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).

As for Dundas, while he was blessed with a £1,000 per week guaranteed income, he was by no means entirely idle, working as an actor and scoring music for numerous films, most notably for 1987's cult classic "Withnail and I".



28 May 2017

Reupload - Willy Zango And The Mechanics - Hot Rod/ Goom


Label: Jam
Year of Release: 1973

Sometimes, just sometimes, rock thrills come from the dumbest of places.  For some people that might involve The Ramones thrashing away whilst throwing idiot slogans about the shop, for others that might be primal sixties garage rock, but in truth, the seventies glam rock movement had plenty of slack-jawed brilliance to spare too.

This one is no exception.  Consisting initially of a burst of engine noise then bursting into stomping rhythms, buzzing and swooping analogue synth noises and men who were probably old enough to know better chanting "Hot Rod! Hot Rod, Hot Rod!" incessantly like children on a themed day out at Silverstone racing track, it's like The Peppers' "Pepper Box" smashing into an Earl Brutus recording session.  The first time I heard this, I found myself completely involuntarily pumping my fist in the air.

Willy Zango or his Mechanics failed to chart with this, but there was a follow-up single on DJM entitled "The Voice of Melody" which had "Hot Rod" on its B-side.  Peculiarly, "The Voice of Melody" appeared to be a protest song against dance-orientated music and its invasion against lilting melodic sounds, but it barely contained any itself, consisting instead of pissed-off gravelly vocals and a dumb riff.  It also wasn't very good, unfortunately.

I suspect that actor, songwriter and performer Kaplan Kaye, the author and producer of both sides on offer here, is responsible for all this daftness.  Kaye seems to have penned many seventies discs under a number of bizarre guises (among them Puzzle and Bendy Dog) and perhaps more credibly co-wrote the song "If I Was President" which was recorded by Wyclef Jean.  Less credibly, but more amusingly from our point of view, he also played on the John McEnroe baiting novelty smash "Chalk Dust - The Umpire Strikes Back".

I'm more impressed with this than either of those tunes, however, and I'm incredibly glad this brilliant piece of absurdity got out of the traps.



24 May 2017

Offered With Very Little Comment #3 - Patricia Abigway, Johnny Spence Orchestra, Bob Britton, Toby, Glyn Poole

This is the third in an occasional series of singles I really can't find much to say about - either because the artists are difficult to trace, or the songs aren't overly rich or rewarding, or I just plain can't be bothered.

But rather than let those singles gather dust on a lonely shelf in my living room, or remain ripped to mp3 with nobody listening to them, I thought I'd treat you the readers to their delights.

This time round, there's Moogs, film soundtracks, Disco and popular but largely forgotten seventies child stars.



Artist: Patricia Abigway/ Solid Gold Orchestra
Title: "The Moon and I" b/w "The Moon and the Moog"
Label: Survival
Year of Release: 1975

First up, the a moog-riddled 1975 single on the independent Survival Records. This one is an ambitious Gilbert and Sullivan cover consisting of buzzing guitars, analogue synths and soulful musings. It didn't break through, however. I've no idea who Patricia Abigway was, but that's surely a pseudonym. 





Artist: Johnny Spence Orchestra/ Bob Britton
Title: "The Limbo Line" b/w "Here I Go Again"
Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1969

The 1968 film "The Limbo Line" seems to have evaporated from the collective memory banks of the Great British public, but was a Cold War thriller involving the ongoing battles against a series of defectors. 

Spark clearly thought it was a popular enough film to bother to issue this soundtrack single, however, which sold nish and isn't chanced upon all that often these days. It sounds exactly as you'd expect a 1968 Cold War spy thriller theme to sound, and comes with the easy listening ballad "Here I Go Again" on the flip (without seeing the film, I couldn't tell you how or where that fitted into the plot).






Artist: Toby
Title: "Lester Klaw"/ "We Just Wanna Dance"
Label: RAK
Year of Release: 1976

A RAK Disco single! Well, there's something you find every day. "Lester Klaw" has a strange and interesting title which suggests a dark and sinister groove, but in fact it's fairly run-of-the-mill. 






Artist: Glyn Poole
Title: "Sally Sunshine"/ "Sing A Happy Song"
Label: York
Year of Release: 1974

Glyn Poole was a seventies child star who regularly appeared on shows such as "Stars on Sunday" and "Junior Showtime", treating the public to his precocious talents. He apparently still performs to this day. 

"Sally Sunshine" is a well-meaning racially aware song about a young girl who stays cheerful despite the attitude of those in her bigoted neighbourhood. Quite a socially rich topic for a small child to take on as a song, then, though it possibly doesn't have the required effect as her life doesn't sound like a very bad thing after all. Racial abuse and reduced life opportunities? Ptfh! Accept your lot with a skip and a grin, kids, and don't grumble. 


23 May 2017

Another Earl Haig Jumble Sale

Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 28th May, and I'll be there with Jody "John The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning on the decks while you shop around.

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's roast dinners next door, lots of booze (but none of it for free, who do you think we are?) and the chance to lounge around on sofas and socialise. It's the perfect way to lounge around on a Sunday bank holiday weekend.

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 28th May, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

A follow up event is planned for the same venue on 25th June. 

21 May 2017

Fabulous Wealthy Tarts - The Last Time/ The Chase Is On
























Label: Bright
Year of Release: 1983

I was watching "Top of the Pops" on BBC4 a few weeks back, and Paul Young appeared to perform "Come Back and Stay" with his backing group The Royal Family. There were two surprises to be enjoyed in that nostalgic televisual package. The first was that "Come Back And Stay" was a far better single than I remembered it - maudlin, eerie, slightly angular and as unusual as a mainstream, bluesy pop track can get away with being. The second surprise was the camera panning round on to the backing singers, one of whom I remembered having a weird childhood crush on. "Didn't they actually have a single out of their own?" I asked Twitter.

And here we are. Kim Lesley and Maz Roberts were singers not just for Paul Young, but also as participating members of Jools Holland and His Millionaires. Finding that their career as session voices for hire wasn't delivering everything they wanted out of life, they broke away to record this single. It's unsurprising that they were given the opportunity - they stood out visually, having an in-your-face, fun-loving, camera-friendly image which ensured that they hogged almost as much screen time as Mr Young when they appeared with him.

The small Bright label picked up the tab and let them in the studio to record this, a cover of The Rolling Stones "Last Time". In common with a vast array of other sixties covers in the eighties, this takes the minimal riffs of the original and gives them a rigid, staccato synth pop backing. This may have worked once for Soft Cell's take on the Northern Soul smash "Tainted Love", but for other contenders (including Tik and Tok's "Summer In The City" and Glass Museum's "Daytripper", and Naked Eyes "Always Something There To Remind Me" - though that was, to be fair, a hit in some countries) it proved fruitless, and this was no exception. Not helped by the fact that the prissy BBC took exception to the group name Fabulous Wealthy Tarts and apparently refused to play it, "Last Time" sank faster than the gumboots of a man foolishly trying to cross the Thames Estuary by foot at low tide.

As to whether it deserved that fate, judge for yourself. In common with many of Paul Young's covers, it's a complete reboot, taking the raw stomp of the original and replacing it with laser-eyed modernity.  When people take risks and attempt complete rewrites of songs rather than performing mere bog-standard covers, it's usually to be applauded. In my considered opinion, though, tracks like "The Last Time" mainly work because they're so gritty and grimy sounding in the first place - as soon as you scrub them clean and remove that aggressive swing, what you're left with is very polished, precise repetition with little atmosphere. The pair try to take the song in interesting new directions, but ultimately it's too bluesy and slight to be up to the challenge.

They never did release another single, but returned to their other duties instead. As for the woman I had a strange "Top of the Pops" crush on, she (Maz Roberts) entered a relationship with Paul Young's bass master Pino Palladino, and eventually married him. Who could blame her? He managed to create noises I never could summon from the depths of my bass guitar, and he also had the distinct advantage of not being an incredibly underage boy, thereby enabling her to have a normal relationship which wouldn't involve being placed on the sex offender's register. But he's still a git anyway.



17 May 2017

Ryder - Ain't That Nice/ Sugar Mama



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 That 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.