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. 



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.