20 May 2018

Jefferson - Spider/ Can't Get You Out Of My Mind

Fantastic version of the creeping, vaguely psychedelic Kenny Young track

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1971

"Spider" is one of those songs which really should have been a smash. First released by its writer Kenny Young (of "Under the Boardwalk" fame) on the CBS label in July 1969, it contained all the drama and raunchiness the hit parade needed. After nobody bit, Clodagh Rogers covered it, but decided to relegate it to the B-side of her hit single "Biljo", where it was later rediscovered in charity shops by delighted people like me.

For my money, though, the 1971 attempt by Jefferson is the one to go for. On this disc, you get to hear everything being thrown at the wall in an attempt to make the record a hit - wailing guitars, thundering orchestral arrangements, rip-roaring vocals and a general air of sultriness combine to create a record which drips with atmosphere. A slightly sleazy atmosphere, admittedly, but one with such a powerful punch that you almost don't notice. 

17 May 2018

Erasmus Chorum - Oh Lord/ Holy House (On Sunday)/ Mary Jane

Earnest early rock single from future glam rockers 

Label: Chapter One
Year of Release: 1972

A curious one, this. An epic, overloaded three track single with two meaty rock tunes on the A-side and a six minute organ-driven slice of angst called "Mary Jane" on the flip, its tight grooves at 45rpm result in a horribly crap and under-powered sound (especially on my scuffed copy) but will probably gain some fans nonetheless. 

The A-side appears to be two separate, unconnected rock gospel pieces with an optimistic sheen, and its possible that the odd decision to put two tracks on side one confused the hell out of radio stations. Certainly, the fact that copies of this are near-on impossible to find now indicates a general lack of interest. Nonetheless, both show off a group who were clearly polished performers, and only a slightly limp production lets the side down.

13 May 2018

John D Bryant - Mr. Tambourine Man/ Lady Came From Baltimore

Lush, adult orientated 70s take of the Dylan/ Byrds classic. 

Label: Private Stock
Year of Release: 1978

John D Bryant has been on this blog before, and it's difficult to find much more to say about him. Beginning his career as a rather Dylanesque beatnik figure in the mid-sixties and gradually progressing into brighter, more tightly produced singer-songwriter fare, he managed to issue tons of records without once scoring a hit. Of these, debut 45 "Tell Me What You See" is the most abrasive, having a raw, garage feel, whereas the rather Jeff Lynne-esque "I Bring The Sun" is much fancied by psychedelic pop pickers.

By 1978, he'd been taken under the wing of Private Stock Records and "No Strings" and "Mr Tambourine Man" were his last singles. It has to be said, this one is an unusual release, being a smooth-as-silk AOR take on the Dylan classic, feeling strangely like "Rumours" era Fleetwood Mac in places. Clearly it was an attempt at harnessing the nostalgic pangs of an adult hippy audience who had since moved on to rather slicker fare. It has to be said, The Tremeloes' Alan Blakley does a good job in the producer's chair - the strings, female backing vocals and soaring arrangements give the track a yuppie euphoria it almost certainly didn't have before.

9 May 2018

Reupload - Cockpit (Featuring FR David) - Fifi/ Father Machine

The "Words" songsmith in an earlier, slightly more psych/ garage phase

Label: Butterfly
Year of Release: 1971

If you're a British person reading this blog entry, it's reasonably safe to assume that you know FR David for one thing and one thing only - the colossal global 1983 megahit "Words". A slightly fey, flowery and despairing ballad about one man's mammoth struggle to write a slightly fey, flowery and despairing ballad, its strangely meta subject matter clearly struck a chord with 8 million record buyers on Earth. "Well, I'm just a music man," shrugged David by way of explanation, "my words are coming out wrong". It was hard not to feel sorry for this gentle fellow, like some sort of parallel universe Elton John who was not only humble rather than arrogant, but had also failed to meet his Bernie Taupin. Not picking moss off a roof and getting "cross", just apologising... a lot.

Way, way before "Words", however, the Tunisian-born David (born Robert Fitoussi) had a long career in France with several records which are surprisingly overlooked by sixties pop aficionados. He began his career in 1965 as a member of the garage band Les Trefles who changed their name to Les Boots after one EP. Success was not forthcoming, so he split to go solo and issued, among other singles, the somewhat startling minor French hit "Symphonie". A berserk, hyperactive approximation of orchestral psychedelia, "Symphonie" is a single I've longed to own for years, but despite its hit status copies are irritatingly difficult to track down, and nor do mp3s of it seem to be readily available. Someone, somewhere needs to sort this out.

Seemingly restless, FR David shortly formed the rock group The David Explosion, who were known as Cockpit in some territories for reasons I can't fully fathom out. "Fifi/ Father Machine" was their first single, and it still has the spirit of the sixties coursing through its veins. The A-side sounds like his own garage days revisited with a three-chord roughness spearing its way through the middle of the track, whereas the B-side is faintly psychedelic in a solo McCartney way and slightly bizarre. His vocals encased in a tune riddled with mellotron noises, David exhorts "Father Machine" to allow humanity and emotions to return to a cold, logic-infested planet once more - it's not hard to form a clear line in your mind from this to "Words", but unlike his best-known work, "Father Machine" wobbles just on the right side of oddness. Hell, the Super Furry Animals have released worse slabs of sci-fi psychedelia than this one (you can imagine Gruff singing this, I swear).

6 May 2018

John Davidge - Fear Of Love/ Cold Road

'The British Lenny Bruce' on a gloomy Leonard Cohen tip

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1972

The British Alternative Comedy boom of the late seventies/ early eighties seemed to explode out of nowhere, but as key figures such as Alexei Sayle have noted, some of the elements were already in place. Out on the folk circuit, keen story-tellers such as Billy Connolly, Mike Harding, Jasper Carrott and Richard Digance delivered observational material a world away from the punchy gagmeisters on the working man's club circuits, and formed an interesting (and increasingly popular) splinter group of their own. This helped shift expectations of what could and could not be accepted by live audiences. 

On the working man's club circuit itself, there were also weird outliers, performers such as John Cooper Clarke who understood how to keep their audiences onside while also going in unexpected new directions with their material. John Davidge - aka John Paul Joans - was, however, possibly the biggest fish out of water in these venues; a man who, if the video evidence we have is anything to go by, couldn't have given a fig whether the audience 'got him' or not. Prowling around the stage menacingly while talking about 'wars, IRA and all this nonsense' (according to Bernard Manning), he had long hair and was also prone to hippified musings on love, peace and 'the bomb'. Understandably, while a few young people in the audience appreciated his stance, others didn't enjoy their meal of pie and peas being disrupted with such heavy topics of conversation, and were even openly shocked by his material. 

Davidge's left-wing leanings, wild, anarchic behaviour and ghoulish delight at being heckled or dismissed by audiences feels, while rough around the edges, very ahead of its time for the early seventies, and indeed he himself predicted it was the comedy of the future. He openly boasted to a Granada documentary crew: "Audiences are more aware now... and somebody has to provide the new jokes." His forward thinking nature didn't go entirely unnoticed, with Bob Monkhouse enthusiastically praising him as "Britain's answer to Lenny Bruce" and a "brilliantly bitter and hilariously tasteless comedian".