23 March 2009
As this blog is presently celebrating its first birthday, I thought it would be an ideal moment to post up another homebrew compilation for your pleasure (thereby hopefully making amends for the lack of updates in recent weeks as well).
The concept behind this one is purely to upload a whole bunch of sixties pop music which has seldom been played or heard anywhere since that decade drew to a close. Pickings are actually surprisingly rich - mainstream radio stations were as ruthless with their playlists then as they are now, and if a single didn't look like a surefire hit, it normally got dropped fairly swiftly. Therefore, the likes of The Onyx's "You Gotta Be With Me" most assuredly did enjoy a number of daytime spins, but when that failed to translate into sales (and I personally have to wonder how) its needle-time dropped accordingly.
There again, unlike the psychedelic compilations I've uploaded to "Left and to the Back" over the past year, "Pop" is a relatively straightforward assortment. There's not much in the way of phasing, backwards guitar solos or lyrics with even the mildest hint of acid-soaked tomfoolery on most of these tracks. What I wanted an excuse to do instead was celebrate the lesser-heard aspects of Tin Pan Alley (from where a number of these tracks definitely stemmed) rather than award points for studio innovation or ever-changing time signatures. It's true to say that a number of these tracks worked their way on to psychedelic compilations at some point, but that's due to a rather liberal definition of the term rather than because the people behind the tracks were ever present at the UFO club or wearing cool threads down the Kings Road. These are largely wannabe pop stars who were happier on the cabaret and supper club circuit rather than freaking out at the Roundhouse, where they probably would have had heavy objects hurled in their direction.
Motown, soul, The Beach Boys, and sixties beat also all make their influences felt throughout the CD, which should make it varied enough to please the most jaded of listeners. I even managed to get Eartha Kitt on there, who fits into the category of "none of the above" - what more could you possibly want?
1. The Onyx - You Gotta Be With Me (Pye - 1968)
Kicking off with probably one of my favourite flop pop records of the sixties, "You Gotta Be With Me" really is an astonishing little concoction. Combining Beach Boys close harmonies with insistent Macca basslines, soft pop harpsichord noises and a driving rhythm and top-notch chorus, it's such a combination of everything that appeared to be selling and in vogue at the time that its failure seems inexplicable.
The Onyx hailed from Waterbridge in Cornwall, although focussed most of their gigging activity in Bristol and South Wales, as one would imagine would have been entirely necessary. The lyrics of this track appear to be suggesting to a woman that if she were to become the lead singer's special friend, he could "get her into all the scenes". I'm not too sure what exclusive Cornish gig-in-a-barn he might be talking about there...
2. The Californians - Follow Me (Decca - 1967)
The Californians seemed to be near-constant support slot companions for The Walker Brothers at one point, but the name (and indeed image) is entirely a marketing gimmick. Despite their surfer-boy haircuts and beach bum complexions, they were in fact from the landlocked Midlands. "Follow Me" is a pleasing tune performed in the Beach Boys style, but the fact they weren't taken terribly seriously at the time should probably surprise nobody.
3. Peanut - I'm Waiting for the Day (Columbia - 1967)
Born Katherine Farthing and hailing from Trinidad, Peanut produced a slurry of singles throughout the sixties, all of which did nothing chart-wise, but it's possibly this cover of The Beach Boys classic with "Teenage Opera" producer Mark Wirtz which attracts the most retrospective attention. It dares to tamper with the existing arrangement, and whilst I'm frankly undecided about the end result, this does tend to get a lot of people hot under the collar...
4. Twinkle - Micky (Instant - 1969)
The writer and performer of "Terry", Twinkle probably needs little introduction, although her career was needlessly brief, so much so that she was largely deemed a showbiz has-been whilst barely out of her teens. Unlike Lauren Laverne, though, she didn't feel the need to dive headlong into a media career as a result, for which we can all be thankful.
"Micky" is actually a fantastic single which was supposed to have been an attempt at a comeback on a newly-launched subsidary of Immediate Records, but the public failed to bite. That may largely have been due to a nasty edit on the issued single which cut this version into ribbons and caused it to fade out before it even had a chance to register - the long version here (if three and a half minutes can really be considered "long") is far better.
5. Sandy Coast - Back to the City (Page One - 1969)
Dutch band Sandy Coast have had an extremely long and fruitful career in their homeland but remain less appreciated in the UK. "Back to the City" is proof that their status in Holland is no fluke at all - this sounds indebted to The Move but is a spankingly good piece of pop which, had it not been a mere B-side in the UK, might perhaps have stood a chance.
6. The Shakespeares - Something To Believe In (RCA - 1968)
Zambian band The Shakespeares were another act who failed to enjoy as much attention in Britain as their homeland. "Something to Believe In" utilises a plethora of odd sound effects behind what the critics of the day would doubtless have called "a catchy beat tune".
7. The Afex - She's Got The Time (King - 1967)
Compilation compilers have spent years attempting to seek this band out in order to gather more information about this record, but it's apparently been a fruitless task. "She's Got The Time" is a hard hitting beat track which has lit up dancefloors in retro and mod clubs in recent decades, but the heroes behind it remain shadowy, elusive figures.
8. Unit 4 + 2 - I Will (Fontana - 1969)
Nothing obscure going on here, mind you. Unit 4 + 2 enjoyed a relatively long career by sixties standards, most famously hitting the number one spot with "Concrete and Clay", which remains a steady favourite of "gold" radio stations everywhere (and Kevin Rowland). By the tail end of the decade, their image and sound had begun to seem rather quaint, however, and they belatedly attempted to modernise with the single "I Will" (backed with the equally notable and faintly psychedelic "3:30"). In truth, it wasn't much of a leap forward, but rather heartbreakingly it probably is their best single after "Concrete and Clay", and the fact it seemed passe at the time of release seems a little unjust.
9. Los Brincos - Nobody Wants You Now (Page One - 1967)
Spanish popstars Los Brincos spent most of their career combining the influences of the British beat scene with dustings of flamenco, but the UK public seemed reluctant to embrace the whole concept. "Nobody Wants You Now" is a rather good example of their fare, but even the promotional push of Larry Page made no difference to their careers on this island.
10. Jason Crest - A Place In The Sun (Philips - 1969)
Hailing from Tonbridge, The Jason Crest (a band rather than a person) are famed (or should that be infamed?) for both producing a string of whimsical pieces of psychedelic pop ("Tea Garden Lane"), some storming live Radio One sessions (which are available on a Tenth Planet album), and - perhaps more than any of these - a piece of squealing, screeching bad trip psychosis entitled "Black Mass". They came in many different flavours and varieties, and "A Place in the Sun" is but another piece of the jigsaw. Sitting on the other side of seven inch vinyl "Black Mass" occupied, this is a decidedly (moody) bluesy pop ballad. After this, no other singles came forth from the band.
11. Keith West - On A Saturday (Parlophone - 1968)
After the success of "Teenage Opera" (aka "Grocer Jack") Keith West broke away from his role as the lead singer in Tomorrow and chanced his arm at a steady pop career. It was to prove a foolish decision, even if it did produce some worthy chunks of sixties goodness. "Sam", the next piece of the Teenage Opera, is worth investigating, but this track is an oft-overlooked sunny ballad which sums up the best bits of any relationship I've ever had. Go on, say "ahhh", I dare you.
12. Young Idea - On The King's Road (MFP - 1968)
Culled from the budget price MFP compilation "With a Little Help From My Friends", "On The King's Road" is a cautionary tale to all the hip young things about London town. It could be renamed "On Brick Lane" now. Wagging their fingers like angry aunties, of course, are one-hit wonders The Young Idea, an anglo-Italian duo who had a hit with a cynical cover of "A Little Help From My Friends". They failed to replicate the success, but I'm assured a CD anthology of their work is due to be released soon.
13. July - The Stamping Machine (unreleased demo - available on compilations only)
A truly baffling burst of music from a band who seemed to specialise in creating lyrics which had worrying implications. "Friendly Man" boasted the lines "Mothers say stay away/ far as you can from the friend-er-lee man", whereas "Stamping Machine" - if I'm interpreting this correctly - appears to be about how fate (in the shape of some sinister futuristic machine) shapes our destinies. "I know it's made you cry/ but I'd rather cry than die/ so I have to thank the Stamping Machine!" they confidently trill. Quite. This is just a demo, but the pop ingredients are all intact, even if this track does frighten me a little.
14. Penny Peeps - Little Man With A Stick (Liberty - 1968)
Absolutely loathed by the band themselves who (if you listen to the B-side "Model Village") were clearly more inspired by The Who, this cover of a Tin Pan Alley tune nonetheless hits numerous pop spots, as well as having a charming story running through the lyrics. I originally uploaded this one to Muxtape last year, but it got ripped down shortly afterwards...
15. Jude - Morning Morgantown (unreleased - available on compilations only)
Jude cut a number of demos at Morgan Studios in London throughout the sixties, but none were ever developed further. This cover of Joni Mitchell's track is a charming piece of pop-folk which may possibly have been a tribute to the studio and independent record company. It deserved to at least be given a chance in the real world.
16. Outer Limits - Great Train Robbery (original mix) (Instant - 1968)
The Outer Limits were lead by Jeff Christie who failed to find much success in this particular gang, but later ended up on Top of the Pops with the clonking great seventies hit "Yellow River". "Great Train Robbery" is rather more subtle, clearly taking inspiration from The Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster" to deliver its tale of merciless steam train crooks and vagabonds.
17. Chocolate Watch Band - Requiem (Decca - 1967)
Releasing singles by new bands right into the middle of the Christmas market has by now established itself as being a complete waste of time, but things were either very different in the sixties or else music industry types were more foolhardy. Released in dark December 1967, "Requiem" failed to do the business despite having all the hallmarks of a hit, and even a mildly festive feel. This Chocolate Watch Band are not to be confused with the American Chocolate Watch Band, incidentally - they certainly sound absolutely nothing like them, either.
18. Argosy - Mr. Boyd (DJM - 1969)
Argosy (featuring Elton John and Roger Hodgson out of Supertramp) have already featured on this blog's compilation "Wallpaper", but that was with the flip side to this single "Imagine". "Mr. Boyd" is an altogether poppier, more strident issue with a distinctly Noel Gallagher-esque guitar solo. Upon hearing this, it becomes immediately easy to understand how both parties went on to enormous success - the key songwriting elements were all in place, now all they needed was a sound of their own rather than something blatantly in thrall to the pop trends of the day.
19. The Attack - Neville Thumbcatch (Decca - 1968)
A piece of complete and total bloody stupidity which later achieved cultish immortality when it was covered by Peter Wyngarde. "Neville Thumbcatch" is as frothy as sixties pop gets, and as ridiculous.
20. Cardboard Orchestra - Zebedy Zak (CBS - 1969)
Although frankly, this upbeat, chirpy tune about homelessness isn't all that far behind. Cardboard Orchestra hailed from Southend and were apparently consistently disappointed with the froth that record labels asked them to record, regarding themselves to be a rather more experimental unit. Whatever, "Zebedy Zak" is a knees-up tribute to tramps all across the land, and as such isn't particularly leftfield apart from perhaps in its subject matter.
21. Toby Twirl - Movin' In (Decca - 1969)
Again, a band rather than a person, Toby Twirl failed to hit big with this bold and brassy tune, but it's remained a compilation fave for some time now.
22. The Montanas - A Step in the Right Direction (Pye - 1968)
The Montanas had a long career on Pye despite selling next-to-nought, and were apparently much fancied at the label as being their bright new hopes, right until the end of the decade when they could hardly have been deemed "new" anymore. The persistence of the A&R folk at Pye central never paid dividends, and this number didn't help matters one bit despite having a strident chorus. One of their tracks "A Difference in Opinion" appears to be taking swipes at Bob Dylan and the entire beatnik/ hippy movement, which is a bit cheeky (although I doubt Dylan noticed). Doubtless their chicken-in-a-basket audience nodded in agreement at the time, though.
23. The Elastic Band - Eight and a Half Hours of Paradise (Decca - 1968)
There's some absolutely spiffing soul-inspired pop going on here which sounds up there with the best of the era - over-enthusiastic organ solo included. Despite the obvious promise on display here, the Elastic Band are these days only usually referenced for being the band Andy Scott was in before he became lead guitarist for The Sweet, which seems a shame.
24. We All Together - It's A Sin To Go Away (MAG - 1970)
This has perhaps been given much wider exposure now due to its appearance on the "Nuggets II" box set. Nonetheless, "It's A Sin To Go Away" really is a haunting piece of Peruvian pop which warrants the extra attention, and deserved better than to only be loved by its home country's audience. The Beatles influences can clearly be felt, but somewhere in the moody atmosphere and longer running time for this, the best of seventies pop is also being predicted.
25. Custer's Track - On The Run (Major Minor - 1969)
Another blank being drawn here, I'm afraid - nobody seems to know who Custer's Track were. This appears to have been their only single, a slightly rocky number telling tales of city bank robberies and romance. Its B-movie subject matter and confident vocal harmonies appeared not to win the general public over, but judging by the musicianship on display throughout this record, it would be surprising if the band members didn't go on to other more proggish projects. But who? And when? You tell me (although there's a photo of the band in a scanned advert on a page here).
26. Eartha Kitt - Hurdy Gurdy Man (Spark - 1972)
OK, I'm pushing my luck now - this was issued in 1972, but please forgive me. Eartha Kitt hopefully needs no introduction, but this cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" will probably come as a surprise to most people. It sounds exactly as you'd expect it to, incidentally.
27. Trash - Golden Slumbers - Carry That Weight (Apple - 1969)
Originally named White Trash until this was deemed too offensive by somebody at Apple Corps, Trash were a Scottish band who signed to The Beatles label and were then largely neglected by the company if biographical accounts are to be believed. Their manager sneaked them into the studio to do a cover of this "Abbey Road" track in a desperate bid to persuade Lennon and McCartney that they had a hit in them somewhere - McCartney disagreed and nearly read the riot act over the "wasted studio time", whereas Lennon gave this the green light.
It was finally issued as a single amidst all the wrangling and managed to peek its brow above the Top 40, but the band was doomed amidst the Fab Four's catfighting, and they subsequently gave up all hope, returning from whence they came... and perhaps that's a good place for us to sign off, too.
Click on this link to Download Part One...
...and this one to Download Part Two.
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