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]