16 August 2017

Grazina - Be My Baby/ I Ain't Gonna Knock On Your Door



Label: HMV
Year of Release: 1963

Grazina Frame may not be an instantly recognisable name to most record buyers, but nonetheless she loaned her voice to a number of high-profile films and projects. She was the dubbed singing voice of Carole Gray in the Cliff Richard film "The Young Ones", and then did the same job for Lauri Peters in "Summer Holiday".  Her parallel career as an actress also lead to roles in a number of British films.

While she did issue a brace of singles throughout the sixties, her chart career was non-existent despite her obvious talent. Her debut single "Lover Please Believe Me" is a Geoff Goddard penned melodramatic galloper, and was deeply unlucky not to have sold better (it's also staggering that Meek wasn't involved in the production of the record, since several of his stylistic tropes are apparent). From there, things didn't really get much better, with HMV issuing a series of flops with diminishing public interest.

"Be My Baby", however, was a somewhat crafty release on EMI's part, given that it was put out into the UK marketplace in September, ahead of The Ronette's October release date. This gave it a head start over the official product for listeners who really hadn't experienced the full scale of Spector's vision yet. Despite this, it wasn't a hit, and it's not difficult to understand why. Minus the wall of sound and those astonishing harmonies, the song really sounds somewhat pedestrian and skeletal, even when left in the hands of someone as capable as Grazina. With more thought and time put into the production, it's possible that everyone concerned might have been able to produce a fair facsimile of the original, but this is a simple, straightforward rendition which is hard to relate to.

The B-side "I Ain't Gonna Knock On Your Door" is likely to be of more interest to readers, being a chiming, pinging, and sprightly piece of summery girl-pop. It's not a lost A-side by any means, but it's genuinely charming and Grazina pitches the idea perfectly.

Sadly, I've only included an edit from "Be My Baby" here, since it remains commercially available and you can buy it in full online if you're that way inclined.



13 August 2017

Fable - A Girl Like You/ She Said Yes



Label: Penny Farthing
Year of Release: 1971

A few weeks back I mentioned this on the blog's Facebook Page as an example of a single I was desperately trying to find an affordable copy of. In the end, I paid rather more for this copy than I'd hoped to (£17 - ulp!) but I still consider it to be worth owning even at that price.

I had originally stumbled on it on YouTube and was immediately bowled over by the approach it had taken - while The Troggs original version of "A Girl Like You" had been scratchy, jagged and hormonal sounding, this cover replaced that abrasiveness with a slick but minimal arrangement, a thumping bass drum and rich bass guitar, and exotic, Nico-esque vocal lines. It has absolutely no right to work in that manner, but it does so marvellously, and the quality of the performance highlights the fact that Reg Presley probably wasn't the completely primitive garage songwriter everyone assumed him to be in 1966.

Fable were essentially members of Jason Cord's backing group The First Chapter attempting a breakaway slice of success of their own. Consisting of Paul Robbins on organ and guitar, Keith Tully on drums, Mac Bailey on guitar and Pete Bickley on bass, they added the glamorous Wolverhampton local hero Anna Terrana on lead vocals to complete the new Penny Farthing signed line-up. 

Anna Terrana had already had a fairly substantial career on the national gig circuit at this point, fronting Lady Jayne and the Royaltee (known as "Royalty" on their CBS recordings) and picking up praise and acclaim from the music press and Radio One DJs alike. You can read much more about her background on the Brumbeat website here, which goes into enormous depth.

Fable were, unfortunately, a fairly short-lived proposition by comparison, offering us only two 45s (this and the 1970 single "Minstrel Boy" which preceded it). Both sides of this single are marvellous. Even the flip, "She Said Yes", is a pretty piece of beaty, early seventies harmony pop.

If you want to listen to more of Anna Terrana's work, she appears to have her own Reverb Nation site here. You'd be well advised to listen to head over and get stuck in, as there are plenty of other gems to uncover.



9 August 2017

The Germz/ Lit Candle - No Easy Way Down/ Boy Girl Love



Label: Cotique
Year of Release: 1967 and 1969

This is becoming something of a sought-after record for 60s garage collectors, in whatever guise it takes. The Germz were formed from the remains of a New York band called Terry and the Pirates, and consisted of Wendy Hirsch on vocals, Marty Green on keyboards, Bob Tobin on lead guitar, Jefferson Travis on rhythm guitar, Doug Smith on bass and Shelly Unger on drums. After a spell of local popularity, in early 1967 they inked a deal with the Roulette subsidiary label Vertigo and headed off to record these two tracks at Miramound Studios. 

It's the B-side which tends to get all the attention in the present day, being a piece of quirky, organ-driven garage pop with the most warped and wobbly sounding clarion calls you'll have heard since The Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination". Propulsive, bouyant, and charmingly (rather than ineptly) loose sounding, it's a strange and sharp sounding recording which nags away at you long after the needle has left the run-out groove behind.

Amidst the more recent fuss, though, the A-side seems to have been overlooked or even dismissed by some, which is a deep pity. The Goffin-King composition "No Easy Way Down" has subsequently been recorded by Dusty Springfield, Carole King herself, and Scott Walker (quite drearily, actually, on his under-achieving "Stretch" LP) among others, but so far as I can ascertain this was the first released version. This might appear to have been a risky or eccentric decision on the songwriting duo's part, but I suspect the fact that the drummer Shelly Ungan was Gerry Goffin's cousin might not be a complete coincidence. Nonetheless, it's a beautiful version of the track, with Wendy's vocals sounding so youthful, spirited, spontaneous and powerful that it's hard to believe that it took the producer George Goldner twenty takes before he was satisfied with her performance. Amazingly, what we can hear is in fact the result of numerous takes of her performance being spliced together.

The resulting single hit number 48 in the local New York charts and number 35 in the Boston charts before disappearing altogether. Internal politics at the record company between Roulette bigwig Morris Levy and George Goldner caused the single to be scrapped after only 2,000 copies were released on to the marketplace, after which it did a big sod off forever. Even the master tapes were apparently wiped.

"Yes," you may well ask, "but what on Earth do The Germz have to do with The Lit Candle, whose single is pictured above?"

That's a fair enough question, but one that apparently even the group can't really answer. The Lit Candle single was issued in 1969 and is completely the same two recordings. The group were not informed of its release or their enforced name change, and suspect some corporate dodginess was afoot. Taking a less cynical view, it's possible that the growing popularity of other recorded versions of "No Easy Way Down" caused Cotique Records to take an interest in the original version, and it's also possible that they thought The Germz was too much of a garagey sounding group name for either 1969 or such a majestic ballad. Unless someone who was behind the decision to release the record gets in touch, however, we will probably never know why this pressing actually exists.

Whatever the facts, The so-called Lit Candle's "version" appears to have fared even less well than the original release, and seems to be the more scarce of the two pressings as a result. The group were no longer an active concern anyway, having disbanded shortly after the failure of the Vertigo issue. Wendy Hirsch and Marty Green went on to get a job together as songwriters at Screen Gems/ Columbia. After that career path failed, it proved to be the end of their professional relationship, but not their personal one - they got married and had a family not long afterwards.

I gleaned a lot of the above material from a moving YouTube video put together in the style of "Pop Up Video" by Wendy's son Matt to celebrate her fiftieth birthday. If only every garage group left such a simple and easy trail of information behind themselves...



6 August 2017

Reupload - Tik and Tok - Summer In The City/ Crisis
























Label: Survival
Released: 1981

Readers of a certain vintage may have hazy memories of Tik and Tok, a robotic dance duo who appeared on all manner of television programmes in the early eighties.  Robotic dancing in the present day and age is popularly regarded to be the folly of Covent Garden street performers rather than cutting edge cabaret, but like mime, the Jim Rose Circus and puppets that emit cuss words, there was a brief point in time where it seemed an exotic and thoroughly modern affair.  Such things usually have a shelf-life of six months to a year before the allure fades and the talent becomes a gimmick, and so it proved with this duo, whose career high wasn't especially prolonged.

For a time, however, Tik and Tok were actually quite mainstream, popping up on Kenny Everett's television programmes and The Royal Variety Show, and supporting Gary Numan on tour (as well as being supported by a young Depeche Mode).  Until I stumbled across this record in the racks of "Music and Video Exchange", I had no memory of what they sounded like, and was expecting the kind of staccato, psuedo-futuristic and alienated fare we've already heard from The Techno Twins and Karel Fialka.  On the contrary, their cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City" here is actually surprisingly upbeat and effective.  Taking the simplistic stomping rhythms of the original and highlighting them for robotic effect, it's a piece of electronic music that's dated amazingly well, sounding almost like a piece of noughties post-modern pastiche.   The original song is good enough to weather most changes to the original arrangement, but Tik and Tok manage to make it sound as if it always was a piece of eighties electro-pop right from the first hearing, which is actually an astonishing feat for a familiar, evergreen single.  I bought this half-expecting to burst out laughing on the first spin, only to find myself getting strangely into it and promptly putting it on my iPod playlist.

The B-side "Crisis" has aged well too, sounding inspired by Kraftwerk and German electronic pop, and featuring a strange and jarring piece of dialogue which is supposed to be one of the Kray Twins dialling a wrong number and getting through to the robo-duo's HQ.  Again, it manages to give the impression of Shoreditch and Hoxton circa 2005 rather than the Kenny Everett Video Show circa 1981, although whether that's innovative or a grave war crime depends upon your personal perspective.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tik and Tok are still performing today, and apparently regularly appearing at Star Wars conventions thanks to their appearance in "Return of the Jedi".  It almost feels as if I should finish this blog entry on a sarcastic or ironical comment, but actually... why should I?  It would be far too lazy and far too easy, and unnecessary given the fact that I like this single.



3 August 2017

Conclusion Is - This Is Not My Country/ Angie And The Human Race



Label: Parlophone
Year of Release: 1970

It's very rare to find a popsike single that hasn't already been compiled on an LP entitled something like "The Afternoon Turquoise Crumpet and Butter Teashow", but I think I might just have managed it here. Sadly, though, I have close to sod-all information on the people responsible.

From what I can gather, the oddly named Conclusion Is were a studio based act who worked at Eden Studios, which was owned by Piers Ford-Crush and Philip Love. One of them, Ray Owen, was also a member of the rock group Ray Owen's Moon who recorded for Polydor, whereas David Early also worked with him on the novelty 1972 Supporter's United single "Up For The Cup" (which I've never heard or seen anywhere, but sounds curious).

The A-side "This Is Not My Country" is a piece of acceptable acoustically driven angst about being a refugee. The flip "Angie And The Human Race", on the other hand, is rather more popsike, consisting of discreet trumpet and organ lines and a gentle, bouncing psychedelic pop feel. My copy is a tiny bit scratchy, but those melodramatic toytown melodies seep through effectively. 

I have no idea what became of either musician, but this is the only record the pair had out under the name of "Conclusion Is". After both it and the Supporters United single flopped, it seems likely that Parlophone lost interest. 




30 July 2017

Hard Meat - Rain/ Burning Up Years



Label: Island
Year of Release: 1969

This is yet another one of my purchases from the vast, overflowing 45 collection of Robin Wills, and what an interesting one it is too. Hard Meat were a late sixties rock outfit consisting of two Brummie brothers, Michael and Steve Dolan, who were joined by Mick Carless on drums and other fellow travellers later on in their careers. Generally specialising in progressively leaning material, they're not a rich or fertile source for psychedelia.

Nonetheless, their debut single on Island was a cover of The Beatles "Rain" which predates the nineties trends for slow, stoner/ slacker rock by some margin. The band take the original song, tie it to their ankles and drag it across a swampy landscape. It's a lazy, hazy redraft of the track, and while at first there's a temptation to force the disc to spin at a slightly higher speed to bring it closer to the original beats per minute, eventually their sludgy vision starts to appeal. Those shimmering, clanging guitars soon win you over and cause you to flop back in your chair in blissful admiration. 

The B-side "Burning Up Years" reveals a more typical side of the group, being a six-minute melodramatic workout which takes the recorded grooves very close to the edge of the Island label. It has been compiled in other places and was covered by Kiwi psych-heads Human Instinct - take a listen on YouTube if you want to hear what the fuss might be about.

Hard Meat issued two LPs, neither of which featured "Rain". The first eponymously titled album emerged on Warner Brothers and is a cultishly popular hard rock effort which gets some denim-clad collectors hot under the collar. The second, "Through A Window", is more acoustically inclined and less frequently discussed.

Steve Dolan eventually moved on to Pete Sinfield's group Under The Sky, but very sadly passed away in May 2000. His brother Michael Dolan also eventually died on 2nd August 2014, meaning the pivotal members of the group are no longer with us. 

26 July 2017

Soul Agents - Don't Break It Up/ Gospel Train



Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1965

Not the original article, this one - as I keep on reminding you all, I'm not made of money - but a bootleg copy I picked up fairly recently. Still, it's a fine sounding bootleg and worth the fiver I paid for it. 

The Howard Blaikley penned A-side has been compiled to death and is available all over the place, but the mighty instrumental flip "Gospel Train" is slightly more elusive. "Don't Break It Up" is a hammond organ driven killer which can be heard on YouTube - filled with a raw, brittle energy and sounding for all the world as if it might be an American garage effort. 

The flip "Gospel Train" is a bit of a hidden gem as well, though. It's a swaggering, groovy instrumental with - once again - that sixties organ sound right at the forefront, and some fantastic, energetic, hyperactive drumming. A bit of a buried gem, in all.

The Soul Agents hailed from Southampton and had something of an ever-changing line-up. The cast list on this particular 45, though, was Roger Pope on drums, Don Shinn on organ, Ian Duck on guitar, Dave Glover on bass, and Pete Hunt on vocals. Roger Pope eventually upped sticks to join The Loot, Don Shinn joined Renaissance, and Ian Duck and Dave Glover joined Hookfoot. Pete Hunt, meanwhile, became a session drummer. 

23 July 2017

Reupload - Jamie Lyons Group - Gonna Have A Good Time/ Heart Full Of Soul II



Label: Laurie
Year of Release: 1968

To start with, a guilty confession - I didn't walk into a record shop and buy this one.  On the contrary, the esteemed blogger of seventies obscurities and member of The Barracudas Robin Wills sold me a copy on ebay.  Mp3 bloggers bumping into each other on ebay is more common than you'd suppose, actually, and probably not all that surprising given the sheer amount of flotsam and jetsam there is cluttering up our houses.

Jamie Lyons was the lead singer with the brilliant Ohio garage rock band The Music Explosion who had a sizeable hit Stateside (though not, bafflingly, in the UK) with "A Little Bit Of Soul".  This release was presumably intended to create a profile for him as a solo star, and with a Harry Vanda and George Young penned A-side he probably should have had this one in the bag.  Sadly, the single perhaps lacks the bite of a lot of their other compositions and also the Music Explosion's output - it's a strong enough song which could have used a little more wildness in the studio.  

The B-side, however, will definitely be of interest to mods who enjoy cool grooving, organ led instrumentals - "Heart Full O' Soul II" is a typical example of this fare and swings with pride and conviction.  Although almost all B-sides of this ilk were intended as throwaway items at the time, they're an utter boon to retro DJs in the present day, and this is a rather unlikely and unexpected source for one.  


19 July 2017

Pierre Cour - Letter To A Teenage Bride/ Love Letter



Label: Charisma
Year of Release: 1975

Oh dear. Readers, I try to be as generous and magnanimous as possible on this blog, frequently not bothering to upload or comment on crap records. There are plenty of other folk online who will happily lob their invective towards unsuccessful targets, some brilliantly, some just for cheap and easy laughs. Nobody really needs my added input, and anyway, there are far too many good records out there which have gone largely unheard. Sometimes, though, I encounter something so gobsmackingly awful that I almost feel I have to share it just as a discussion point - and this is one example of how even the most atrocious, inappropriate work can slip through the music industry net and into the world at large.

"Letter To A Teenage Bride" really is an example of a single that manages to get absolutely everything wrong. Sticking rigidly to a tedious orchestral melody that offers no melodic progression or surprises, it wouldn't even be passable as an instrumental. The whimpered female backing vocals of "Oh my Daddy! Oh Daddy, Oh Mama!" also repeat every five seconds and continue for the full four minutes of its playing time. In terms of songwriting alone, then, it's a deeply irritating dud.

That's not really my main area of concern, though. Throughout this track, Pierre Cour decides to rival Peter Wyngarde in the "bad taste lyrics" stakes, with a spoken word tale of how frustrated an older lover is by his teenage wife's demands to see her family. He implores her to understand how much fun they have together without the interference of these unwanted interlopers, chiding, snapping and sneering coldly as he does so. The record then steadily works itself to a dreadful climax (of more than one kind) with Cour making vocal demands about his conjugal rights, turning the track into some kind of sophisticated vintage wine drinker's take on The Specials' "The Boiler". 

Initially, it's tempting to be charitable and assume that Cour is trying to satirise the behaviour of grown adult men with teenage lovers, but if that's the case, it really isn't clear. All we hear about is the man's frustration with the girl's immaturity, with added hints of manipulation within the relationship. The arrangement appears to be suggesting we should side with him - the man is, after all, sophisticated and mature, whereas the girl is a constantly protesting, whining alarm call throughout without any character to speak of. At least with a song like "Come Outside", you had a sense that you knew both characters reasonably well by the time the needle left the groove. Here, the girl is just a prop for Cour's frustrated narrative.

And by God, his narrative is also poorly delivered. He can't speak fluent English, and his mutterings and murmurings slop and slick their way across the record incomprehensibly, being ponderously delivered and in places ridiculously over-acted. Even Tommy Wiseau would weep at his effort. The whole single is a total horrorshow, managing to be offensive, badly written and poorly delivered. It's utterly impossible to even pinpoint one area where it manages to get something right (it's particularly surprising that someone as skilled as Zack Laurence would be involved with this dreck). 

We've become fond of saying "the past was a foreign country" in the UK, using it to explain away the casual acceptance of all kinds of perverse (and criminal) behaviour. This isn't always true, though. In 1975, this single was apparently greeted with huge hostility by the women in the press department at Charisma Records, who refused to promote it. Faced with poor airplay and PR staff who weren't prepared to work on the single, Charisma allegedly ended up stuffing a large number of stock copies of this disc into a cupboard, never to see the light of day (though melting the lot down and recycling the vinyl towards a more worthwhile cause would have been a better response). The copy in my hand appears to be one that did manage to drift into the real world, purchased by me for the princely sum of 50p despite its scarcity. Some would argue that's at least fifty pence too much. 

Pierre Cour was a highly successful French songwriter who had penned numerous tracks for his country at Eurovision, and had embarked on a rewarding working partnership (for both parties) with Roger Whittaker by the seventies. His songs had also previously been recorded by many luminaries, such as Petula Clark, Nana Mouskouri, and Paul Mauriat. Why he needed to blot his copybook with this creepy mess is a good question, and one we will probably never get an answer to. 

Kenny Everett eventually span this on his radio show as an example of one of the worst records of all time, and that's a judgement I really don't have a quarrel with. The only thing I might debate is whether it should actually be named the worst record ever, not "one of" the worst. 

Sorry for the pops and crackles on the mp3s below, though to be perfectly honest they should be the least of your worries (and I doubt you'll want to listen to this more than once). 




16 July 2017

Autumn - Down Down Down/ October



Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1973

Autumn just about qualify as one hit wonders by the skins of their collective teeth. Their debut single "My Little Girl" was a Tony "I wonder how many hits you've had" Rivers composition which was a slab of highly effective retro sixties harmony pop. Nudging the Top 40 at number 37, it allowed them an appearance on "Top of the Pops" where they appeared wearing natty matching suits, deliberately looking like throwbacks to another era. Nostalgia certainly isn't what it used to be.

The band struggled to build on that modest success, however, and follow-up singles "Not The Way She Looks" and "Hazy Crazy Days" didn't chart, and nor did this, their last effort for Pye before being dropped. Of all their singles, "Down Down Down" is the oddest and the most unexpectedly raucous sounding, featuring the usual slick sounding harmony vocals meeting pounding rock noises, and a guitar instrumental break which somewhat unexpectedly combines the initial melody of "Layla" with "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye". There are lots of sudden hairpin bends in its arrangement, and as such, it ends up sounding more like a lost bit of Pye popsike from 1968 or 1969 than its 1973 release date would suggest (if you suspend disbelief about the release date of "Layla", that is). Perhaps because of that, it's not overly surprising it wasn't a hit. It's short, sharp and ever-so-slightly on the wrong side of commercial (whatever the group's intentions). An LP was recorded by the group for release by Pye, but apparently never saw the light of day. 

The band consisted of Keith Parsons on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Charlwood on drums, John Court on guitar, Peter Cramer on bass and backing vocals, and Ron Shaughnessy on guitar and backing vocals. I'm not too sure what the group ended up doing after this single, but I can rather sadly confirm that Ron and Keith have since passed away.

The "Alshire USA Production" credit appears on all their singles, incidentally, and is something of a mystery. Alshire were a budget label in the USA whose works could generally be found lingering in the wire racks in supermarkets, usually consisting of rush-recorded soundalike compilations and easy listening cash-ins, such as "Tribute To Jimi Hendrix" by The Purple Fox or "Award Winning Scores From The Silver Screen" by 101 Strings (a less typical and more inexplicable example would be The Animated Egg's eponymously titled LP). It's not clear to me how Autumn ended up associated with the label, unless they were signed up to do some harmony pop work for a cheapo LP and found that one of their recorded tracks took off in its own right in the UK. I'd be very grateful if somebody could clear this puzzle up, as the standard biographies of the band online and offline make no mention of the US deal. 


13 July 2017

Sally Sagoe - A Little Bit Of Love/ Stop



Label: Dart
Year of Release: 1975

If you're a skint DJ (or just a tightarse like me) and desperate to impress your next audience with a new Northern Soul spin they might not have heard before, your options are beginning to get rather limited. By the time you hit a certain price threshold, you're firmly in the realm of rapidly diminishing returns - and there are some real cash-in stinkers from the mid-seventies waiting out there to trap the unwary.

This, then, is a pleasant surprise and one that can occasionally be spotted in thrift stores for a mere 50p (it does happen). While Van McCoy's songwriting involvement should hint towards the fact that this isn't an "authentic" Northern record, it sounds as close as damnit to the real deal to be worth it. Smooth and swaggering and yet filled with all the euphoric, emotional peaks you'd expect, this is a beautiful slice of danceable poptimism. Normally when modern seventies producers tried to emulate these sounds, they ended up with a product which whiffed more of sausage rolls and ale from the local Working Man's Club than talcum powdered dancefloors - some of the cash-ins on Spark and Pye are testimony to that. Sally Sagoe is a classy performer, though, and sells the song incredibly well. It sounds confident and urban as a result.

Even the B-side "Stop" has its fans, though there's no question to me that it sounds less accomplished and slightly more rushed than the plug side. 

Unfortunately, Sally Sagoe didn't have any hits during her singing career, and eventually had more luck as an actress, earning a fairly long-standing role in "Eastenders" as Hannah Carpenter in 1985, then eventually as Mrs Jackson in the children's TV series "The Tomorrow People". 



9 July 2017

Reupload - Perfect People - House In The Country/ Polyanna


Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1969

It's tempting to think that absolutely every last half-good drop of British popsike is in wider distribution now, but as this particular disc proves, there are still lesser known surprises out there.  The official A-side to this record ("House In The Country") has already been compiled on "Piccadilly Sunshine" and is available on iTunes and Amazon and no doubt other commercial sites besides, so I'm not going to trouble myself too much with the contents of that one beyond providing you all with an edited 45 second clip of its charms.

The B-side "Polyanna", on the other hand, would have been a more logical choice, and it's somewhat surprising it was overlooked.  The simplistic but frankly bizarre lyrics appear to be exhorting a young lady not to commit suicide by throwing herself into a river, but this is pure rainbow-coloured sixties pop in all other respects.  Basslines swoop and plunge majestically in a manner Macca would respect,  the horn section kicks into the chorus giddily imitating the vertigo of a high bridge over a river, and the whole thing has a merry urgency about it and enough hooks to drag in even the biggest popsike cynic.  The vocals are perhaps slightly too gruff to truly compliment the contents of the rest of the song, but this is a fine piece of work otherwise - and when you spot Mike Leander's name in the credits, it becomes clear why.  Whilst he later became widely known for introducing Gary Glitter to success, in truth the Walthamstow born Leander had cut his teeth as an incredibly skilled arranger long before, working to brilliant effect on excellent records by David McWilliams, Ben E King, The Rolling Stones and Colin Blunstone before this one.  He also arranged The Beatles "She's Leaving Home" while George Martin was unwell, putting him in the unique position of being the only other arranger to work with them.

"Polyanna" isn't a lost classic to file next to the Fabs, but it's potent sixties pop which deserves a lot more attention than it's received so far. "House In The Country", on the other hand, seems to be a Manfred Mann off cut (penned by Hugg, Man and Hugg) which is merely OK-ish - twee, chipper and pleasant, the kind of fare you'd find halfway through the sixth volume of "Circus Days".

As for who Perfect People are, my guess is that they were a studio group rather than a "proper" live gigging band, but if anyone knows differently, please do get in touch.



5 July 2017

The Lucky Ones - Psychedelic Girl/ World Gone Mad



Label: Groove Quest
Year of Release: 1986

I picked up this record from one of the stalls at the Earl Haig Jumble Sale in Crouch End where I regularly DJ, and it took me slightly by surprise, feeling a bit like finding a meerkat on Streatham Common. The Lucky Few were an American Paisley Underground group from South Carolina featuring Micah Gilbert, a sixties-inspired singer songwriter who later went on to produce more baroque sounding work with Glass Bead Game, then later Magister Ludi. 

Suffice to say, this - their only single - wasn't granted a release on UK shores, so it was either imported by a fan of that genre or was one of a number of leftover copies dumped somewhere by Micah himself, as I understand he lives on these shores at present. Whatever, it's a sharp, angular, and driving little single which has an eye on the rear view mirror at both classic sixties songwriting on the horizon, and the close but fading punk and new wave moment in the near distance. "She's my psychedelic girl - and she Psychs me!" snaps the chorus enjoyably, nailing its colours to the mast but not taking itself too seriously in the process.

Micah Gilbert is still active as a songwriter and has a Bandcamp page filled with his most recent work. 


2 July 2017

The Cisum - Medal of Honor/ Mrs Orange



Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1968

God knows why, but whenever summer arrives it becomes exceedingly hard to find interesting rare records. This isn't something I've ever had cause to think much about before starting this blog, but because I now have to keep finding new material to write about here, I notice the change of the seasons much more these days. It's almost as if as soon as mid-June hits, everyone decides they can't be bothered to cash in their old vinyl at the local second hand record store.

Still, this is a very recent cheap find I'm quite pleased with, and it's in better condition than the horribly battered label might lead you to believe (this isn't saying much, admittedly). This is actually two sides of interesting American psychedelic pop - the A-side bounces along with a sarcastic smile on its face, mainly concerning itself with a dead relative returning from Vietnam and the insulting ceremony surrounding a post-humous medal of honour. "Thanks a lot for all you've done!" the band trill with a sneer, acknowledging the futility of the gesture.

The flipside "Mrs Orange" is actually as strange as the title would suggest, focussing its attention on a lonely, troubled woman and her citrus fruit peeling obsession - it's the kind of lyrical idea which could have come from the pen of Brian Wilson. Both sides showed the band were obviously far more creative and interesting than many of their more earnest, free-form psychedelic rock brothers and sisters, but despite this (or perhaps because of it) the record was a flop.

The group hailed from New York and consisted of Phil Galdston on keyboards and vocals, Dave Brightman on lead guitar and vocals, Rich Bronsky on rhythm guitar and vocals, Gary Mandel on bass and vocals, and John Glowa on drums. Apparently a full album was recorded, but never released - now might be a good time to think about putting that one for sale online, chaps. Just a thought.


28 June 2017

Claire - Mouth/ Hole In My Shoe


Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

The twilight years of Decca are a delight for obscure pop pickers. Once the label lost their distribution rights to RCA and The Rolling Stones jumped ship, they entered a long, slow death filled with increasingly desperate kicks against their inevitable demise. A quick visit to the marvellous 45cat site reveals that Decca's seventies catalogue was filled with one-record wonders, artists signed to the label who were presumably supposed to be new stars, but whose records are so scarce that they probably only sold a hundred or so copies nationally (if that) before being dropped. 

What must have been a rather grim time for employees at the label has ended up being an adventure for us, then, although not one with any obvious conclusions. Take this record, for example. I haven't the foggiest idea who Claire is, why she was so shy about revealing her surname, or what she went on to do. She certainly wasn't Claire of eighties "Claire and Friends" fame ("It's Orrible Being In Love When You're Eight and a Half") as she hadn't been born at this point. 

"Mouth" on side A is a twanging piece of Brit-country which is nicely performed and written, but nothing to get anyone particularly excited. It's the B-side, a cover of Traffic's psychedelic classic "Hole In My Shoe", that's most likely to tweak the interest of collectors. And it's... not quite what you'd expect, but an interesting take all the same. Removing all the psychedelic elements from the track, it instead pares it down to its root basics and adds a faint country tinge to the effort. It sounds cracked and rugged and as if Claire is singing about a trip she took the week before and hasn't quite recovered from yet. It's OK, darling, it was just some magic tablets you swallowed. There are no elephants or bubblegum trees here now, trust me. 

[Every right-thinking person's favourite DJ Andy Lewis got in touch with me on Twitter to offer some information about this. Apparently it's the actress and singer Patti Somers operating under one of her pseudonyms. He points towards her single "These Four Walls", under the name Pattie Lane, as an absolute must-listen.

Perhaps most unexpectedly, though, it would appear that the A-side here "Mouth" was written by Sandie Shaw and her then husband Jeff Banks (hence the "Sandie" and "Banks" element of the songwriting credits). So I suspect this release must have received some publicity at the time, despite its poor sales. 

Thanks for getting in touch, Andy, I didn't expect this mystery to be resolved so quickly.

You can visit Patty's website here]



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.