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. 



14 May 2017

Reupload - Wes Minster Five - Sticks and Stones/ Mickey's Monkey



Label: Carnival
Year of Release: 1964

The London blues and R&B scene is the stuff of beat legend these days, and people of my generation have only hearsay to go by.  Still, irrespective of how many obscure fringe acts were allegedly the best live bands in the world, we all know for a fact that there were endless pubs and clubs in the capital having bands playing approximations of authentic American sounds in their sweaty, smoky basement rooms. Some of these (The Rolling Stones) would go on to success of the kind that doesn't need to be emphasised, while others had to content themselves with cultish levels of appreciation.  

The Wes Minster Five were a regularly gigging unit around the London bar and club scene, and are really seldom discussed on any level these days.  Part of the problem may be that they were signed to an uber-obscure independent label without much clout, and another issue may be the fact that their recordings, while good, lack the abrasion and bite of The Pretty Things or The Birds.  Still, what we have here are two enjoyable cuts, either of which could have happily taken the A-side spot.  "Sticks and Stones" is a nice, stomping cover of the R&B classic, and "Mickey's Monkey" incorporates call and response vocals with hand clapping and a nagging enthusiasm, and nearly rips up the joint.  Both tracks have come under some criticism from aficionados for giving two respected songs a British beat production, but that, I'm afraid, was the name of the game at the time.  Very few British bands were able to ape the American styles 100% successfully (and what, indeed, would be the point of creating replicas in the studio anyway?) so putting their own blueprint on the tracks was fairly standard practice.

Consisting of Clive Burrows on sax, Dave Greenslade on keyboards, John Hiseman on drums, Brian Smith (aka Wes Minster) on guitar, Tony Reeves on bass and Paul Williams on vocals, the line-up was completed by chance purely due to Williams' connection with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames - a fan and regular attendee of their Flamingo Club gigs, he managed to convince the outfit to allow him to occasionally get on stage and sing songs with them, and eventually Fame put him in touch with the other musicians who were in the process of putting an act together.  The band are particularly notable for giving the Zoot Money's Big Roll Band two of its future members in Williams and Burrows.

Williams remains a practicing musician to this day, having worked with the likes of John Mayall and Juicy Lucy over the years, as well as gigging as a part of ensemble touring acts and as a solo artist.  You can call me soft if you want, but it always brings a bit of cheer to my heart to be able to finish a blog entry talking about a musician's continued activity.

[Update - Terry Webster - the actual lead vocalist for this group - got in touch with me to correct some details! 

"Aw! TERRY WEBSTER IS THE SINGER AND BASS PLAYER OF THESE TRACKS! Jim Ellis Drums Clive Burrows sax Paul Raymond - organ (later of Plastic Penny) Wes Minster guitar.
Wrong line up I'm afraid. Putting the world to rights before I die..

We were involved with Wes(Brian)Minster performing on the R&B circuit.We did sessions for Blue Beat label Carnival Records backing various West Indian Artistes that would be sold on Portobello Road and other London Market stalls.
It was all one take stuff, and Sticks and Stones had a dodgy wobble on the intro due to some studio or manufacturing slip up. I imagine a guy resting against the mastering equipment lighting a fag...Whoops! The producer apologised but I suppose as it was only a B side and a bit quirky they decided to leave it there.

I'm not aware that Carnival Records did anything outside the London West Indian/Carribean community. The producers seemed happy enough with their small exclusive Blue Beat market. I remember we did a session for a great character named Little Satch. A singer so named as he was little and played a trumpet but quite badly tuned. The producer only helped to tune it to a point as the track would lose that raw flavour."


Thanks to Terry for giving an accurate line-up and putting this matter to rest. 


10 May 2017

John Bryant - Tell Me What You See/ Poor Unfortunate Me



Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1965

We've touched on the work of John Bryant on this blog before, examining the ultra-obscure (£162 to you, squire) single "A Million Miles Away/ It's Dark", which was handed down to me from my parent's record collection. 

That particular single is a likeable and folky piece of work, with (as one reader pointed out to me) a flip that's very reminiscent of Cat Stevens. This single, however, was Bryant's Fontana debut and is an entirely different affair, being a distorted, snarling piece of folk-rock with distinctly Dylan leanings. Taking a very basic garage riff and piling surrealist lyrics on top ("clouds that move beneath the sea/ preachers dressed in leather") it's so beatnik it hurts - and is actually quite forward thinking for a British solo artist in 1965. Donovan might already have been around doing his best Bobby impressions, but he was seldom as rough and ready as this.

This may have been his (flop) debut single, but John Bryant actually enjoyed a long career in music after this, issuing further 45s for MCA, Polydor and Private Stock (the MCA single "I Bring The Sun" is a favourite of many collectors) only really ceasing recorded activities in 1978. He also wrote "Dear Old Mrs Bell" for The Shadows in 1968, and Cliff Richard recorded his track "She's a Gypsy".
These days he owns Abbeywood Films and the graphic design, animation and soundtrack firm Bryant Whittle, from where he's still penning music for commercial use.



7 May 2017

Steve Elgin - Don't Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear)/ Seductress



Label: Dawn
Year of Release: 1974

Regular readers of this blog have probably gathered that I'm fascinated by the extreme camp edges of glam rock and seventies pop. Well, Simon Gitter certainly did, because back in February he actually dropped me a line to bring this record to my attention. "Have you heard this one before?" he asked - and no, I most certainly hadn't. 

"Don't Leave Your Lover Lying Around (Dear)" is so camp and flamboyant that it would possibly make the corpse of Joe Orton blush. Filled to the brim with pub piano riffs, flirtatious gay remarks, a leg-kicking knees-up "Ain't She Sweet" interlude and a distinctly unsettling feel, it's like some kind of early seventies pop pantomime. Its appearance on the Dawn imprint of Pye is particularly baffling, as the point of that label was to showcase the more hippyish and progressive of Pye's signings, and while this could be described as "progressive" in the societal sense of the word, it certainly isn't otherwise. This is pure novelty pop with a twist.

The B-side "Seductress" is much more conventional, though equally flamboyant and dramatic in places. 

As for Elgin, he hailed from Bath in Somerset but moved to London in the early seventies which is where he first graced the public with live performances. This was his only release (but what a release!) and I have no information on his whereabouts these days. 



3 May 2017

Jon Isherwood - Old Time Movies/ Apple Pie



Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1969

You may remember that way back in those heady, summery, olde worlde days of August 2016 I uploaded Mike Quinn's version of "Apple Pie" to this blog. It's worth a read if it passed you by at the time, purely and simply because "Apple Pie" strikes me as representing something of a turning point in the general perception of The Beatles among their showbiz peers. In the early sixties, the group were lionised by other musicians, but by the end of the decade the piss-taking had set in as some dared to suggest that they were rather silly boys with highfalutin ideas. 

As I state on that blog entry, the emergence of the Apple boutique was a heavenly gift not just to hippy thieves, but also satirists: "Opened up as a boutique-come-talent-funding-facility-come-technological-research-lab-come-record-label-come-hippy-commune-come-whatever-the-hell-was-in-the-Fabs-heads-that-given-day, the business gullibility of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr became grimly apparent now Epstein was no longer around to keep watch. While many clothes and valuable items were stolen from the boutique by anarchic hippies, the Fabs apparently also funded some "interesting" artistic research schemes which went nowhere. The person responsible for most of this work gets highly litigious when they're mentioned anywhere, so for the sake of a quiet and uncomplicated life, let's just say that nobody can really remember whether The Beatles were promised a large quantity of Electric Paint from somebody working for them or not, or a Special Invisible Security Force Field - what we do know is that many rumours have cropped up over the years insisting that they did. And even if those rumours aren't true, they paint a very interesting picture of other's perceptions of the organisation at that time. There's no question that Apple leaked money from seemingly every department and squandered a large part of the fortune The Beatles had built up. Apple had always sounded like a tremendously utopian idea, and unfortunately it's these businesses - in the media, technology, the arts or elsewhere - which tend to hit Earth at a very rapid velocity, whatever the wealth or good intentions of their original owners."

So "Apple Pie", later compiled on the "Circus Days" compilation series issued by Strange Things, and still commercially available on the usual sites, goes for the jugular, pointing out the sheer preposterousness of the Fabs and their hangers-on. I can't include it in full here due to the fact that you can nip over to your local friendly internet music store and get yourself a copy for less than a pound, but suffice to say Isherwood's original version is the definitive one for me, full of scorn and vinegar, and packed with music hall styled silly voices mirroring both the Fab's own media obsessions and the comedic nature of their own lives at this point. Isherwood apparently had strong feelings about Apple due to a short-lived association with them which bore no fruit (no pun intended). According to the "Pompey Pop" blog, he even kept a cheque signed by George Harrison rather than cashing it, purely because he figured out that the paltry sum in the total box was worth less than the man's signature.

While "Apple Pie" has probably become Isherwood's best known track to people who aren't folk music buffs, the man was in fact one of Portsmouth's top folk singers and songwriters, producing two LPs in the seventies ("A Laughing Cry" on Decca, and "A Bellyful Of Isherwood" for Sweet Folk And Country in 1974). Rather like Connolly and Carrott, Isherwood was a tall tale telling folk performer during this period, whose natural rapport with his audiences also lead to some attention on the comedy circuit, although not to the extent that those two stars managed.

The A-side here, a cover of Hammond and Hazlewood's "Old Time Movies", has also been neglected. It's a rinky-dink piece of sixties music hall mania which hasn't been compiled anywhere perhaps primarily because it doesn't cross the line from "Quite good" to "unquestionably worthy of your attention" - but still, fans of "Apple Pie" will want to know what it took second billing to, and it's certainly a likeable listen. The Beatles old label Parlophone clearly didn't warrant it good enough to give him a second try, however, and it remains his sole release for them.

As for what Isherwood is up to now, I'm sorry to report that he died at least twenty years ago, but towards the end of his life in the nineties he upped sticks from Pompey to move to Moate in Ireland where he became a regular folk performer and much-loved character in the town.

I've only included a brief excerpt of "Apple Pie" below - if you really want to hear it in full for nowt, YouTube is your friend.



30 April 2017

Reupload - Jasmin-T - Some Other Guy/ Evening



Label: Tangerine
Year of Release: 1969

This particular single has found huge favour with various mod DJs over the last few years, to the extent that the bidding price for a copy in near mint condition has gone berserk - apparently one recently sold for £100.  Such is the desperation some people have to plug their collections with fresh-sounding vintage beats.

"Some Other Guy" is actually a pretty nifty cover of the Lieber and Stoller composition which starts off incredibly confidently with an addictive and dancefloor-friendly backbeat, all topped off with a puffing flute (puffing flutes on records seem to have been quite in vogue throughout 1969).  It doesn't really develop much beyond that initial first minute, however, which prevents the track from truly soaring into the heights it perhaps potentially could.  The flipside "Evening", on the other hand, is a fairly straightforward moody, bluesy ballad.

The identity of Jasmin-T has been a mystery to collectors for some time now, but apparently they were based in Liverpool and consisted of Brent "Lightbulb" Pickthall on bass guitar, Alan Menzies on drums, and George Eccles on lead guitar.  The band spent some time on the continent, in particular Italy where they were most popular, and played their last gig in 1976.  This scanty information is absolutely all I've managed to dig up online, so if anyone else is capable of filling in any of the blanks please do get in touch.

[A reader got in touch back in 2013 to tell me that Big Al and Lightbulb are now members of The Bootles - a top Beatles tribute act who are a popular live draw]. 


26 April 2017

Us Folk - Funny Old World/ Dives



Label: Eyemark
Year of Release: 1965

Eyemark was a peculiar and very small sixties label which appeared to have no coherent identity to speak of  - while initially they focused on the folk and Christian markets, they eventually took on beat pop, the psychedelic pop of the Purple Barrier (aka the Barrier) and, still more peculiarly, recorded highlights of steam train journeys. Perhaps their oddest and most celebrated release is the infamous Queens Park Rangers Supporters song "Supporters Support Us" which is just a psychedelic freakout with football chanting attached, as heard on Danny Baker's radio show.

There were no mindblowing surprises in store for this, their debut release, though. "Funny Old World" is essentially naive, socially conscious folk music - and certainly not a variation on "football's a funny old game" - with a heavy bathroom echo on the vocals. Acoustic, skeletal and with only the odd drum thump included as a slight concession to the folk-rock trends of the day, it's a sweet little single with a simple message, and it's delivered in a professional way. 

The flipside "Dives" apparently won the Christian Aid folk and beat competition in 1965, which would have made it top choice for the A-side, one would have thought... but Eyemark buried it. It's a more ambitious, jazzy arrangement, but it does sound exactly like you'd imagine a charity folk and beat contest winner to sound; it tries to swing, but it's as stiff as a church spire. 

I have no idea who Us Folk were, but they seem to have connections to (or possibly actually are) the West Eleven Seven, a Notting Hill based bunch of Christian folkies who also worked with the singer Sydney Carter. They apparently appeared on BBC Television during the religious programme "Seeing and Believing" in 1965. An EP of their tracks, "Notting Hill Born" seems to command some interestingly high prices online these days, whereas "Funny Old World" doesn't.



23 April 2017

Muff - Sexy Sexy Lady/ Burnin'



Label: Bell
Year of Release: 1974

One of the unfortunate things about Operation Yewtree and its associated glam rock/ seventies pop investigations and arrests is that everything has been poisoned. Everything. For instance, we all know that a lot of glam rock artists were drawing on fifties rock and roll traditions for their lyrical inspiration, so it's not unsurprising that you will occasionally find songs about hanging out at the "hop" with the teenage boys and girls. None of these were indicative of any Savile-styled "hiding in plain sight" indidents, or anything else sinister. They were just teen bop hits, that's all. 

"Sexy Sexy Lady" by Muff, though, is highly unlikely to get any airplay today. For a start, the performer's name is subject to huge misinterpretation, and in combination with the song title might even get this blog internet visitors for all the wrong reasons (hello newbies! Soz, no lady pics here). Then there's the lyrical content, about a girl who is "hardly" sixteen, and is still at school, and drinks gin on the rocks, and is a "sexy sexy lady". Mmmmm. Possibly unlike the girl in question, this hasn't necessarily aged well, but these recordings do have to be put into some kind of context. They were targeted at a teen audience and tried to strike a chord with teenage lifestyles. At the time, nobody would have batted an eyelid. Imagine it in the soundtrack to "Grease" and you're in a more appropriate ballpark. 

Still, that thumping, thwacking glam beat and those keen guitar lines are indicative of a great noise, and something which possibly could have been a hit at the time. Bell Records were churning out smash after smash at this point in the seventies, and more sympathetic airplay could have pushed this one on to Top of the Pops.

As for who Muff is, it's almost certainly Muff Murfin who owned a recording studio in Kempsey, Worcestershire around this time, and also worked occasionally with songwriter Rod McQueen. Muff is a highly successful radio station mogul these days, who also writes radio and advertising jingles, and also co-ran a record label (Birds Nest) with Elektra/ Dandelion man Clive Selwood in the seventies. A fascinating and varied career, then, and while he may have had no actual hits despite having several other singles out in the seventies, he's a lot more successful than most other people who have featured on this blog. 


22 April 2017

DJ'ing at Earl Haig Jumble Sale, Muswell Hill, Sunday 30th April

Calling all readers who are fans of both shopping for vintage clothes, second hand records, books and listening to soul, freakbeat, rock and roll and mod pop being played on vinyl in the, er... "old traditional way"...

It's been a long time, but the Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 30th April, and I'll be there again along with my good friends Jody "Jon The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning various sounds on the decks while you shop and mooch around. (Incidentally, do check out Sean's etsy shop here, which includes Roxy Music and Delia Derbyshire toys, a B52s felt play set, and an Alan Bennett felt doll).

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's an old fifties pinball machine, roast dinners next door, booze aplenty, goodie bags (if you get there early enough) and the chance to lounge around and socialise. What else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon?

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 30th April, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

Follow up events are planned for the same venue on 28th May and 25th June. 

19 April 2017

Drew Ross - Close Your Eyes And Go To Sleep/ Let It Be



Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

In common with almost all the solo artists I seem to be finding singles by at the moment, I really can't find a scrap of information on Drew Ross. I know that he had two 45s out on CBS, this one and the 1971 follow-up "I'm Going Home". I know that both records sold poorly and are difficult to find copies of these days. Beyond that... nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zip. My best guess would be that he was a keen cabaret/ working man's club performer who got the chance to release a couple of singles on a major label, but that's based on the laws of probability rather than the conclusive results of my research.

I can't speak with any confidence about any of his other recordings, but "Close Your Eyes..." is really rather good. It starts off with a similar pounding gusto to Love Affair's "Everlasting Love" and continues in a similar plastic Northern Soul vein. Packed with optimistic brassy blasts and bouyant drumming, it's actually something of a tonic - a skippy, bouncy record, and the kind of bright, immediate sixties pop that absolutely nobody seems to be either attempting to emulate or take seriously anymore. It could have been a hit at the time, but quite clearly wasn't.

The flip is a rather pedestrian cover of The Beatles "Let It Be", which really doesn't add anything new to the song, and isn't as worthy of your time. 

If you're Drew Ross, or you know who he is, please do let me know. 



18 April 2017

A Little Bird Told Me...

Finally, after nearly a decade of this blog being active, we've joined the 21st Century and got our very own Twitter account. Please do join us over here and get the latest news and information on obscure and lost music, new blog entries, recommended reading, buried YouTube videos and other such bountiful things.

"Hang on," you're probably thinking to yourselves, "didn't you already have a Twitter account?"

That's correct - the 23Daves account was originally set up to tweet mostly about this blog and other subjects relevant to it, but sadly I found myself getting sucked into Twitter's rabbit hole, and began getting involved in discussions about politics, "Top of the Pops" repeats on BBC4, comedy, poetry and writing, and these started to dwarf the actual tweets I was writing about obscure vinyl finds. This cheesed off some of the original followers who followed me mainly to read about singles on the Pye label which had only sold 34 copies, and a lot of them huffed off like ignored guests at a house party. So the new account is properly tied to this blog and will be purely be about obscure music with all the distractions and obstacles stripped away. Like a social media version of "Just Juice", this will have all the lumps and bumps removed so you won't gag on my opinions about the dancers on "Top of the Pops" or Jeremy Corbyn ever again.

Of course, if you want to read my views on "Top of the Pops" and everything else besides, feel free to follow me on both accounts, and the world will be your oyster. 

16 April 2017

Reupload - Orphan - Julie Isn't Julie In The Bath/ Timebombs























Label: Brilliant
Year of Release: 1983

Sometimes a record catches my eye in a record store or ebay which I'm aware already has a bit of a low-level internet buzz about it. By this, I mean that a simple Google search reveals all kinds of questions about its origins or raves on internet forums, but no actual real information.

This is one such (well, I wouldn't have bothered with that opening paragraph if it weren't, not unless I was trying to be all post-modern and clever).  I must admit to being aware of its reputation but never having heard a single note of it until the needle hit the groove.  It soon became apparent what the fuss was about - this is pristine eighties pop with a distinctly post-punk and psychedelic twist.  Strict and even yet somehow quirky beats and synth splashes rub up against smooth guitar riffs, utterly peculiar lyrics (why Julie isn't Julie in the bath is never quite explained) and a faintly uneasy, film noir atmosphere.  A subtle chorus also creeps up on you more and more with each play, until the entire thing has infected your brain and won't leave.  It's unassuming to begin with, then all-consuming.  Only the squeaky synth instrumental section spoils the production values, but I suspect that probably seemed cutting edge when the song was recorded in 1981.

It would seem that Orphan formed in Birmingham at some point around 1978 or 1979, containing members Phill Dunn, Phil Campion, Pete Dunn, Phil Vickers, Keith Jones, Trevor Wigley and Steve Leighton.  They had become a solid fixture on the Birmingham gig circuit by the early eighties, and seemed to get themselves attached to the label Swoop, which was run by Lee Sound Studios in Walsall.     At least three singles ("RSVPU", "Nervous" and "Love on the Lichfield Line") slipped out on this imprint, but in the manner of most boutique labels run by recording studios, the connection failed to generate any hits for them.  It seems as if this track was then licensed to Brilliant Records in 1983 in an attempt to generate a better chance of chart action. Far from being a super major with clout, though, Brilliant was an indie distributed by Spartan, and the deserved outcome of a hit single never materialised. Also, by 1983 there's a chance that the woozy New Wave sounds on display here were starting to feel a bit dated, and had it been released in 1981 when it was actually recorded, the outcome may have been different.

However, we are where we are.  The band seems to have packed it in shortly afterwards, and Phill Dunn moved on to become a film director in Singapore, still occasionally recording music with his new psychedelic rock inspired band Roxy Rejects.

Assuming this was Orphan's last release - and I can't find anything to suggest otherwise - it would seem as if they left the music business at least having given it their best shot.

(I originally uploaded this entry in December 2013. Since then, someone has pointed out to me - quite fairly - that the "Julie" in the song is probably a cross-dresser. Lyrical mystery solved.)


12 April 2017

Paul Slade - Odyssey/ Sound of Love



Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

The name Paul Slade may seem somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, but as a songwriter he managed to get credits on a number of hits in the seventies and eighties, perhaps the most well known examples being Grace Jones's "I Need A Man" and Changes' enormous disco smash "Searchin'". 

Obviously, though, our story doesn't begin there. Way back in the sixties when Grace Jones was just the stuff of our wildest nightmares, he was a jobbing bass guitarist and backing vocalist, usually working as a session musician for visiting live artists in London. Having been spotted playing at the Revolution Club in London, he was offered a management contract and a deal with Decca followed not long after, resulting in two incredibly scarce singles, "Heaven Held" and "Sound of Love". 

"Sound of Love" is, to be frank, an unexciting Bee Gees cover which may be of interest to fans of the group, but is unlikely to get casual readers of this blog hot under the collar. Slade performs it convincingly, but the arrangement is rather by-numbers and fails to sell the song at all well.

Of far more interest is the flip "Odyssey", which was co-written by Slade and is a melodramatic, moody piece of seemingly Scott Walker inspired hullabaloo about a missing lady. Punctuated by punching strings and something that sounds like the Thames TV ident (but isn't) Slade informs us "She haunted me wherever I go... And Still The Wind Carries Her Name!" It's over-the-top, frantic and fantastically arranged, putting the A-side to absolute shame. As the B-side to an unremarkable ballad, it's obviously been somewhat buried over the last fifty years, but that really deserves to change - "Odyssey" is ambitious and constantly interesting throughout its three minutes.

Paul Slade eventually signed to CBS where he began recording folk-rock records, including the LP "Life Of A Man", but he met with little success in the UK. Some appreciation on the continent, on the other hand, was forthcoming, leading to large volumes of songwriting work for French and Italian artists. Though he's largely retired and residing in rural France these days, he still occasionally produces new music. 



9 April 2017

Strange Days - Saltash/ Another Day



Label: Peeping Tom
Year of Release: 1977

Strange Days were a group from the Derby area who, while predominantly acting as a covers band on the local circuit, were a rather more credible proposition than most groups of that ilk. Rather than touring working men's clubs playing uptempo ditties like "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" or Engelbert Humperdinck numbers, they specialised in psychedelia, hard rock and progressive rock, taking on the material of - among others - The Doors (hence the name), Atomic Rooster and Moby Grape. Their solid and leftfield approach earned them support slots with some of the big names of the day, including Status Quo, Brian Auger and Zoot Money.

They weren't averse to performing self-penned material as well, though, and that's where this single comes into play. Issued on the Peeping Tom label, which was affiliated to Coventry's famous Horizon studios, it's two sides of very different musical hues. "Saltash" on the A-side is an organ-driven instrumental with a distinctly proggish feel, and would possibly have felt rather dated by 1977. Nonetheless, it showcases the group's musical abilities and has a persuasive driving style - you can imagine Saxondale powering down the road in his automobile to this one.

The flipside "Another Day", on the other hand, is a frilly, elaborate piece of pop-rock which has more of a late seventies feel to it. A moody air hangs over the busy, skittish nature of the arrangements, and it's actually really rather neat if this is the sort of thing you tend to enjoy. 

The line-up consists of Ken Cook on keyboards and vocals, Chris Camm on twin-neck guitar bass and six-string, and Bob Parsloe on drums and vocals. I'm pleased to report that they still appear to be active on the Midlands circuit as a bookable proposition for parties or events. Ken Cook also plays with the group Six Across, while Chris Camm is involved in the group Pugma Ho. There's a Strange Days site here where you can get all the details.

As for the label Peeping Tom... Horizon Studios eventually got heavily involved in the Two Tone story in later years, and really helped to give Coventry music an identity of its own.



2 April 2017

Those Naughty Lumps - Down At The Zoo (EP)























Label: Open Eye
Year of Release: 1980

Ah, Those Naughty Lumps. They were in an unfortunate situation in the late seventies. The Liverpool Punk scene ignited with all manner of legendary artists from The Teardrop Explodes to Echo & The Bunnymen to Wah! (and, over time, even the also-rans of the era would  eventually find success in the mid-eighties). Those Naughty Lumps, though, had a silly name, were given merely a passing mention in Julian Cope's excellent biography about the era "Head On", and became a group who had very little following or clout outside their home city.

Consisting of PM Hart on vocals, Bream on guitar, Kev Wilkinson on drums, Martin Cooper on bass and vocals and Bobby Carr on guitar, they were often a terribly flippant, jokey group, as witnessed on their most famous debut single, the enjoyably ridiculous "Iggy Pop's Jacket". Legends are seldom made out of groups who create such things, and despite being the second group to issue a single on the famous Zoo Records, they've been largely sidelined in overviews of the scene since.

This EP appears to have been recorded in 1978 but only released in 1980, giving the impression that it was possibly put together for a Zoo Records release which ended up being rejected or shelved. The fact that Bill Drummond gets a songwriting credit for the title track is a hint towards this - and it's probably one of the most obscure contributions he's made to music. Don't expect lightning bolts or revelations of lost genius, though. Most of the EP consists of jerky, spindly, DIY new wave sounds which were incredibly common at the time, and while some of these tracks are good, the band possibly lacked a strong identity of their own. For my money, "Love Is A Reflex" is the strongest track, with its early Teardrops styled keyboards and garage pop melodies.







29 March 2017

Reupload - Les 409 - Reviens, Reviens/ Un Amour Complique



Label: RCA Victor Canada International
Year of Release: 1967

If the Canadian band Les 409 are known for anything much at all outside their home nation (and possibly even the Quebec region) it's probably their single "They Say/ Born In Chicago", two fuzzy pieces of garage pop which are archived over on YouTube.  The single is ranked up there with Nuggets-compiled fellow Canucks The Haunted's "125", and probably would get more plays by DJs in mod/ garage clubs if only copies of the damn record weren't so hard to come by.

Back when they formed in 1963 it's true to say that Les 409 were raw and bluesy, but eventually this slick recording slipped out.  Carefully produced by Easy Listening legend (and enigma) Martin Martin, the A-side is a French translation of The Beatles single "Hello Goodbye".  The instrumental arrangements are a very sympathetic facsimile of the original, but the vocals push harder and seem slightly more abrasive - and, regrettably, sometimes less in-tune - than the original.  Like most Beatles covers, it takes few liberties and might be regarded as completely inessential if you ignore the fact that a French version of the Fab Four's most lyrically simple song is an entertainingly absurd idea.

Much better material is to be found on the flip.  "Un Amour Complique" is a wonderfully rich piece of swinging orchestrated pop which is clearly more influenced by the sixties French pop scene than anything in the UK.  Filled with beautiful flourishes and subtly addictive melodies, it sees both the band and Martin on top form, a far cry from their ballsy garage roots but still creating great music which is dramatic in an altogether different way.

If anyone knows what  became of Les 409 please let me know.  There's plenty of information about their period of activity online, but not much about what became of them all afterwards.





26 March 2017

The Hallmarks - One Way Street/ Johnny's Gone For A Soldier


Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Before they really got a grip on the UK market, Polydor released a slurry of flop singles which were barely heard at the time, and have drifted into absolute obscurity since. These were often by artists who haven't even managed to gain an entry in the usually exhaustive "Tapestry of Delights" encyclopaedia of sixties pop. 

That's certainly the case with The Hallmarks here, who appear to have been a folk rock group based in Britain (though it's hard to say for sure). The A-side here, "One Way Street", is a rather underproduced but strident piece of work, with the vocals somewhat suffocated in the mix by a treacle of chiming guitars and thumping drums. No matter - the song itself is actually an enjoyable example of the folk rock genre, containing close Mama and Papas-esque vocal harmonies, wintery sleigh bells, and a jingle jangle morning air. With a more sympathetic mix, it's possible to imagine this having been a hit, however by January 1967 folk rock was beginning to seem a bit passe, and more ambitious songwriting and production was beginning to shape the pop landscape.

Whoever they were, The Hallmarks seemingly never issued another record, and naffed off after this without leaving behind any clues to their identity. The A-side was also recorded by the Irish group Brendan Bowyer and The Royal Showband, aka The Royal Showband Waterford, so it's possible that the group were actually Irish rather than British. Equally possibly, however, "One Way Street" might have been a Denmark Street composition bought up by both bands at different times. Who knows? Certainly not me, that's for sure.

If you can identify the mystery band, please do leave a comment.




22 March 2017

Sky - On Our Way/ The Singer Is Singing His Song



Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

Here's an obscure little single. Sky were from Aldershot and boasted Sparks' future drummer Dinky Diamond in their line-up, but beyond that details of their personnel are sketchy.

Whoever they were, these are two very different sides. The A-side "On Our Way" is a Spanish holiday flavoured, anthemic pub singalong which is a bit too simple for its own good - I've been known to lift a flagon of booze and "la la la" my way to oblivion with the best and worst of them, but this track falls under the category of "not quite subtle enough for Chas & Dave", and would have become impossibly irritating if it had actually become a hit.

The flip "The Singer Is Singing His Song", on the other hand, is a vaguely popsikey effort with a similar anthemic feel, but has vague shades of the Moody Blues about it and has subtle flowery frills and melodic diversions to offer. When I first bought this single, I assumed this was the A-side and "On Our Way" was the throwaway flip, but every source I've looked at disagrees with me, so I can only assume Decca heard some commercial potential with the plug side that I just can't.

After this single failed the band would jump ship to Bell to release "Long, Long Gone", but that also stiffed and the band were long, long gone themselves shortly afterwards. If anyone can provide more information about the line-up, please let me know.





19 March 2017

Judd - Snarlin' Mumma Lion/ Stronger Than A Man (Can Only Be A Woman)



Label: Penny Farthing
Year of Release: 1970

I used to know someone called Judd, a denim-clad gentleman who had spent some time in the USA and still had a certain Transatlantic growl to his voice. "Hey geez-errrr!" he'd yell to people he knew as they entered the pub. Then he'd wander over to the jukebox, and complain "You wanna know the problem with this thing? Not enough ROCK on it".

For years I wondered if this record might just be something to do with him, but it was never likely. The Judd I knew was the kind of chap who would never have shut up about the fact that he had once made a record. And of course it's not. Judd was actually the group name given to ex-Quiet Five member Kris Ife and a group of "itinerant" session musicians, who were all produced by studio genius Mark Wirtz.

Kris has already featured on this blog, but "Snarlin' Mumma Lion" is rather unlike a lot of his other work. It has a backwater American rock vibe to it - an odd direction for him to take, but odder still for his co-songwriter and producer Mark Wirtz. This is a far cry from his "Teenage Opera" years and really showed how diverse he could be with his writing and production styles. It's a nagging, persuasive beast of a record, though, and while it can't count among Wirtz's best - or Ife's best, for that matter - it's got a punch to it that just can't be ignored.

I've covered both Ife and Wirtz before on this blog, which leaves me at a bit of a loss to say much more about their careers. Suffice to say, though, "Snarlin' Mumma Lion" wasn't a hit, though it did enjoy issues across numerous European territories, meaning there are picture sleeve versions for interested collectors to burn their cash on, if they should desire.



15 March 2017

Reupload - Boss - Mony Mony/ Live Together



Label: Deram
Year of Release: 1973

Tommy James and The Shondell's "Mony Mony" is, to this day, a bit of a floor-filler.  Whilst I can't profess to truly adore the single myself and only play it once every so often at home, there's still something incredibly potent about the track at high volume at around one in the morning.  It's a record you can tease the wallflowers with, those uncertain looking people propped up at the bar who have been frantically tapping their feet all evening as if they're about to make a move, only to uncertainly twitch away from the action.  It's also one of those records for which bouts of hand-clapping are only to be expected.  Handily, you can also follow it with just about any sixties pounder of the same tempo and keep people on the floor, even if it's an ultra-obscure flop like Chris Andrews' "Yo Yo" (I've done it).

Covers of the track have always been apparent, with attempts from Amazulu and Billy Idol working their way out of pressing plants in the eighties alone.  This particular stomping seventies glam version of the record perhaps should have been a hit at the time - whoever had the idea that the track's pounding would lend itself well to the echoing thud and slap of glitter grooves was obviously utterly on the money.  There's space and sparseness to this effort which does create a major contrast between the noisy, busy nature of the original, but for all that it's still a nagging little disc which seems determined to pull people towards the dancefloor.

As for who Boss were, I'm guessing that they were a studio group formed for the benefit of this record rather than a 'proper' gigging band.  However, the B-side "Live Together" - a cover of a track by the equally obscure group Trainer - is a very different beast altogether (beneath the scratchy noises, which I apologise for) appearing to be an almost Joe Cocker-styled ballad designed to highlight the singer's talents.  I'm guessing the members of this group will have done other things besides in their careers, and please leave a comment if you know more.



12 March 2017

Stanley Frank - Cold Turkey/ Hey Stupid



Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1977

I find it hard to believe that this is the second cover version of "Cold Turkey" I've uploaded to this site (the first was by David Byron of Uriah Heep, who contributed his vocal intepretation to a budget covers EP). My amazement largely stems from the fact that the original John Lennon single was an ignoble flop by the Beatle standards of the day, reaching a mere number 14 in the UK charts, and is very seldom heard at all these days. 

Nonetheless, a rocker from Canada called Stanley Frank took the song under his wing in 1977 and really upped the ante with it, taking the pulsing and tortured original and turning into a slice of Hard Rock. It buzzsaws its way through the Lennon tune and shoves the needles into the red, screeching its way to the inevitable climax. While no amount of reworking can disguise the fact that the original song always was a little disappointing, this to me has more energy and a greater sense of dynamics than the original - not something I would ever claim lightly. Frank makes it sound as if it was always born to be a seventies rock track and Lennon's version was just a demo.

As for our Stanley, he was from Montreal and relocated himself to the UK at the height of punk in the late seventies, too early for a revived Heavy Metal circuit, and too late for the mid-seventies rock heyday. He briefly had dealings with the Power Exchange label who tried to hype him as a "New Wave" artist, but it's doubtful that the ruse fooled more than a few people. He eventually settled on to A&M records where he issued the LP "Play It Till It Hurts" in 1980.

He remains active as a songwriter to this day, and has a website where you can sample his tunes. One of them in particular, "Run To The Sun", is a piece of West Coast soaked power pop goodness.



5 March 2017

Bryan Evans - Dont'cha Like Boys/ I Cry For Me





Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1978

Keen "Left and to the Back" readers will know that in July of last year, I uploaded Starbuck's "Do You Like Boys?" for everyone's delight and delectation. There's much more about the flop disc here (beneath the blurb about the equally fascinating Prowler single) but in a nutshell, it was a gay glam rock record which failed to pick up much radio airplay. "Do you go for a mean, aggressive bear?" Starbuck asked their listeners forcefully.

The plot gets much thicker, because a full five years after that single flopped, Bryan Evans decided to have another bash at making it a hit, albeit with Howard and Blaikley's original lyrics dramatically altered to obscure the original reading. Gone are the references to homosexual attraction, and instead the song could be interpreted as Bryan selling himself as something of a ladies man, seemingly questioning whether the woman of his desires is either asexual or a lesbian. "Dont'cha Like Boys?" he asks, while squealing analogue synths go off around him like personal attack alarms. Of course, if you've heard the Starbuck original first, it's hard to hear the question in quite such a way, and it still manages to seem flamboyant and camp. The directness is lost, and it's become an object of ambiguity instead.

It's a baffling addition to the Howard and Blaikley canon, but you can't blame them for trying to turn a brilliant single into a proper hit. By 1978, though, the analogue keyboard sounds and stomping glam beats really were yesterday's news, and it stood not a hope in hell. A shame, as this is a spirited and different approach which at another point might have lead to success.

As for who Bryan Evans is or was, he had a string of 45s out in the seventies on a variety of labels from CBS to EMI, including a much-fancied (by collectors) version of Cream's "We're Going Wrong" - but beyond the fact that he briefly worked with Giorgio Moroder, I've struggled to identify him. If you have any clues, please leave me a comment below.



1 March 2017

The Beeds - You Don't Have To/ Run To Her



Label: Team
Year of Release: 1968

This record has already been covered by a number of other blogs focussed on sixties obscurities, but given the quality of the contents on offer I felt I couldn't easily bypass it.

This is, as I believe the kids say, a nice double-header of a single, offering two sides of equal quality but distinctly different flavours. "You Don't Have To" is straight-ahead high-energy bubblegum bordering on garage, with the usual fizziness and buzziness you'd expect from such a track in this era. It's furiously catchy, determined and has the feel of a surefire hit. Unfortunately, it didn't receive much airplay in the USA and subsequently failed to chart.

Of much more interest to me is the moody folk-rock B-side "Run To Her", which is a breezy autumnal mope in one person's relationship break-up angst. So accomplished is it that it's astonishing it seemingly hasn't found a place on a sixties obscurities compilation yet - it's clearly on a par with numerous Nuggets of the same period, and is widely acclaimed across the world wide web. 

The Beeds were originally called The Cat's Meow, and hailed from Staten Island, New York. They consisted of Richard Martinis on guitar and vocals, John Ventura on lead vocals, Lester Margolies on bass, Jay Clied on drums, and Pete Carver on guitar. Their debut single "La La Lu" inched into the US Top 100, but the follow up "True True Lovin'" failed to capitalise on its interest, and the group jumped from Decca to the Buddah subsidiary Team for this 45. 

Their stint on Buddah - which forced them to change their name to The Beeds for contractual reasons - was equally brief, with only one other flop single ("Love Hurts") to their name on that label. The band seemed to have operated primarily as a live act, mostly performing covers on the thriving New York gig circuit, and once dropped by Buddah, pressing plants never heard from them again.