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", or anything sinister. They were just teen bop hits, that's all. 

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

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

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


22 April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 April 2017

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



Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

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

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

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

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



18 April 2017

A Little Bird Told Me...

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

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

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

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

16 April 2017

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























Label: Brilliant
Year of Release: 1983

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

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

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

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

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

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


12 April 2017

Paul Slade - Odyssey/ Sound of Love



Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

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

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

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

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

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



9 April 2017

Strange Days - Saltash/ Another Day



Label: Peeping Tom
Year of Release: 1977

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

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

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

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

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



2 April 2017

Those Naughty Lumps - Down At The Zoo (EP)























Label: Open Eye
Year of Release: 1980

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

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

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