Thursday, 19 July 2018

I Ought To Report You To The Gnome Office


A balladeer from the 50s, Ronnie Hilton earned a place in the hearts of every Brit of a certain age for his 1965 hit A Windmill In Old Amsterdam. Hilton had a long career, first charting (with his debut release) in 1954 but issuing his last single in 1982.

Born Adrian Hill in Hull, Ronnie started singing professionally under his adopted name in 1954. Signed to HMV, he amassed 18 Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart, hitting the coveted Number One spot in 1956 with his cover of the Rogers and Hammerstein song No Other Love, a US hit three years earlier for Perry Como. The following year he took part in the inaugural A Song For Europe contest, although he was beaten by another singer from Hull, Patricia Bredin. In 1959 he scored a hit with The Wonder of You, the same song that Elvis Presley topped the UK chart with in 1970.

In 1967, two years after his last chart entry (with the aforementioned A Windmill In Old Amsterdam) he released the single that I wish to bring your attention to today, a cover of If I Were a Rich Man from the hit musical Fiddler of the Roof. It’s not a great version, and the utterly ridiculous inclusion of an impression of Quacker, the little yellow duckling from the Tom and Jerry cartoons in the middle takes it in to the realm of ridiculous. In fact, it’s good enough (or bad enough) to merit an inclusion here for that reason alone, but it’s the single’s flip side that’s the peach – a stupendously awful (and incredibly early) cover of David Bowie’s The Laughing Gnome.

Yes: The Laughing Gnome. It, like Bowie’s original, did not chart, although Bowie would eventually have a hit with the song when his single was reissued in 1973. At this point in his career Bowie’s manager, Kenneth Pitt, was trying to market him as a songwriter; despite beginning his recording career in 1964 he would not have a hit under his own name until 1969, and it would take another three years after that until he enjoyed his second. Ronnie Hilton was not the first artists to cover Bowie though: in January 1967 Over the Wall We Go had been covered by stage star Paul Nicholas under the name Oscar. The following year Billy Fury would issue his cover of Bowie’s Silly Boy Blue. But the honour of having the first ever cover of a Bowie song goes to actor Kenny Miller (I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Touch of Evil, Attack of the Puppet People etc.) and his 1965 recording of Bowie’s Take My Tip (credited to Davie Jones), produced by Shel Talmy of Kinks/ Who fame.

Hilton suffered a stroke in 1976. Following his recovery, he turned to radio presenting, fronting Sounds of the Fifties, a nostalgic radio series for BBC Radio 2. He died in Hailsham, East Sussex from another stroke, aged 75.

Here’s Ronnie’s preposterous version of The Laughing Gnome and, for good measure, If I Were a Rich Man. Enjoy!

Download Rich Man HERE



 Download Gnome HERE

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Outer Space Elvis


Recommended by our dear friend The Squire, this is one of the weirdest, wildest Elvis covers I’ve ever heard. It puts Eilert Pilarm, Elvis Pummel and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to shame.

Dean Carter’s brilliantly insane version of Jailhouse Rock was issued in 1967. An insane mix of garage and psychobilly, Dean’s unhinged performance is a thing of wonder. The flip side, Rebel Woman, is pretty crazy stuff too.

Dean Carter was born Arlie Neaville. He began playing rockabilly in the late '50s in Champaign, Illinois, and recorded for the Ping label in 1961 under his real name, before moving on to the more established Fraternity label in 1962 as Arlie Nevil (issuing the self-composed Alone On A Star/The Skip). After that he went to Limelight, where he first recorded under the name of Dean Carter. Neaville and guitarist Arlie Miller invested in their own recording studio, Milky Way, and the pair (as Arlie and Arlie) launched their own label of the same name to issue Carter’s Jailhouse Rock single, now a highly collectable and very expensive 45. Luckily both sides, and many of the other tracks he’s recorded over his varied career, were collected on the 2002 CD release Call of the Wild.

In the early 70s he reappeared under his real name, Arlie Neaville, issuing a crazed cover of Breathless on Shout ‘n’ Shine Records. Since then he’s kept his original name, and has moved in to the gospel music field. You can find clips of his more recent work on YouTube, as well as plenty of examples of his wilder material.

Enjoy!

Download Jailhouse HERE



Download Rebel HERE

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Swingeing Swindle


One of my more peculiar recent finds was this album, Songs for Swinging Children by the Groovy Gang.

I know…

A dozen covers of popular hits, all with a kid-friendly bent. Don’t let the Sinatra-esque title or cover image fool you though, the only swinging these kids get up to is in the play park. No nelson Riddle arrangements or orchestrations, the twelve tracks included here are po-faced and perfunctory, knocked out in a spare hour in the studio (the notes on the back of the cover tell us that this recording session took place on June 10) by a bunch of tired moonlighting musos who would have probably been paid around £50 each for their trouble. It’s fairly safe to assume this was recorded in 1971: the album was issued that year and the most recent track, the Kinks song Apeman, was not issued until November 1970.

What interests me is that the album was produced by Norman Newell, whose career was closely associated with Columbia records, and artists including Russ Conway, Shirley Bassey, and Cliff and the Shadows. Newell, a songwriter as well as a producer, also acted as an A&R man for other EMI labels, and was responsible for taking acts to Parlophone (Vince Eager) and recording soundtrack albums for HMV.

Musical Rendezvous/Contour was a British company that specialised in cheap reissues of old Polydor stable recordings: the Beatles Hamburg sessions with Tony Sheridan were put out (in two different covers, both featuring the iconic Mersey Beat newspaper) around the same time, and in turn would become one of (if not the) first albums I ever purchased with my own money.

A side note: the album includes a cover of the Pipkins hit Gimme Dat Ding. When researching this I was surprised to discover that the song had originally been recorded Freddie and the Dreamers. Gimme Dat Ding was composed for a musical, Oliver in the Overworld, that formed part of the kid’s TV show Little Big Time, hosted by Freddie Garrity. Freddie and the Dreamers released a soundtrack album of Oliver in the Overworld in 1970, but it was novelty act Pipkins who scored the international hit. Songwriter Roger Greenaway performed, as a member of the Dreamers, on the first recording, and Greenaway was one half of Pipkins. Small world, eh?

Anyway, here’s a taster. The aforementioned Gimme Dat Ding and the Groovy Gang’s dull version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Enjoy!

Download Ding HERE




Download Submarine HERE 

Friday, 29 June 2018

A Little Nightair Music


A recent charity shop find, Nightair were just one of the hundreds of local showbands who decided to fund the recording and pressing of their own album, a collection of live favourites to sell out of the back of their Bedford Chevanne.

The trio consisted of married couple Lynda and Kevin Airey, and Lynda's brother Dave Knight. All three members sang, with Dave handling guitar duties, Kevin on drums and Lynda plying the rather oddly-named ‘bass machine’. Issued in 1976, it’s not a dreadful album by any measure, but it is rather insipid. This was the year punk exploded, yet the material – and their approach to it – sounds incredibly dated. And those clothes! These three seem to have bought their stage gear in a store that specialised in curtains for clowns.

Hailing from the North East, Nightair clearly fancied themselves as some sort of Carpenters/Beatles hybrid, as you can tell from the material they chose to record: the note-by-note cover of the Carpenters arrangement of Please Mister Postman, which segues awkwardly in to She Loves You, is a perfect example. Their rather avant garde (as in avant garde a clue) take on the Lennon-McCartney composition It’s For You (a hit for Cilla Black) at least shows some originality, but it’s let down by the stilted production. Other covers include Jambalaya (the Carpenters again), Without You (Badfinger/Nilsson), and songs by Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Paul Simon. The sleeve notes were written by Ray Fell, a reasonably well-known comedian working the circuit (and making many TV appearances) in the 60s and 70s. He later moved to the US and appeared for many years in cabaret in Las Vegas. Ray passed away in 2016.

I can’t tell you much else about Nightair. They had originally been a four piece, augmented by Liz Kinght (Dave’s wife), and played a 20-week season at Butlin’s in Minehead in 1973. Liz left after the birth of their son, Leigh. Their recording of Jambalaya was included on a 20-track compilation, The Entertainers, issued in December 1977. They were still gigging in 1978, playing such salubrious spots as the Old Benwell Village Club, and were being advertised as ‘New Faces Winners’: I cannot find anything to confirm this (perhaps one of you can help?) but they did appear on Opportunity Knocks in March 1977. After another hoiliday camp residency in the summer of 1978 they seem to drop off the face of the earth.

There are currently at least two other acts knocking around using the Nightair moniker; one a young US indie trio from Orange County, the other a pair of Belgian producers who released a rather anodyne version of the Eagles One of These Nights in 2014. One half of the Belgian ‘band’ is Fabrice Morvan, better known to all as one half of infamous pop puppets Milli Vanilli.

Enjoy!

Download Postman HERE



Download For You HERE

Friday, 22 June 2018

Knowles Your Limits


Why do so many television personalities think that they can sing? Why, after decades of consistently being proved wrong, do record companies still feel the need to pull slebs in to a recording studio and allow them to release their anodyne drivel?

Today’s entry in the genre comes from Nick Knowles, the smiling front man of the BBC’s hit show DIY SOS. A former labourer, over a varied television career he has presented dozens of shows, many of them in the ‘real life’ category, including Who Dares Wins, Real Rescues, Wildest Dreams and quiz shows including Perfection, Family Reunion and Who Dares Wins. He also co-wrote the movie Golden Years, filmed in Bristol. You can often see Knowles wandering around the city: the production offices for DIY SOS are also here.

Despite being thought of as a ‘man of the people’, he was born Nicholas Simon Augustine Knowles in September 1962 in Southall, West London. Twice married, and with at least one child born to a third woman he dated while with his first wife, he has a son called Tyrian-J… seriously, is that a Christian name or a brand of lavatory cleaner?

That’s unfair. Nick seems like a decent person, although if you read the tabloids you’ll know him as a love rat who avoided paying a decent amount of child support for Tyrian-J. Then again, he does loads for charity, and supports the children's anti-bullying charity Act Against Bullying. Life is complicated, and I’m not judging. Ex-lovers can be vindictive, and after he split from his last wife she accused him of physical and emotional abuse, claims he strenuously denied.

But we didn’t come here to discuss his personal life, we came to mock his singing.

His album, Every Kind of People, entered the UK charts last year at 92. And then vanished. And a good thing too, because it is horrendous, stuffed with tortuous, laid-back versions of well-known soft pop songs. Nick plays reasonable rhythm guitar (certainly better than me), but he has that annoying habit of singing in a faux-American accent and adopting that nasal bark peculiar of every annoying karaoke singer you’ve ever had to suffer. The cover of Here Comes the Sun is simply dull and boring, but his version of You’re the First, the Last, My Everything is abominable, and would have Barry White spinning in his ample grave. His acoustic strum through of the Louis Armstrong classic What a Wonderful World makes me want to blow up the planet... or at least the plant where this atrocity was pressed.

As one Amazon reviewer put it: “I had to request my wife strapped me into a chair lined with sharp rusty knives and force me to watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop on repeat for several days in order to remove the trauma of having heard Mr Knowles’ new album.”

Here are a couple of tracks: I’ve chosen the tile song, Every Kind of People, as it perfectly exemplifies my point about the nasal Americanisms. What in God’s name is a ‘jowb’, Nick? And then there’s his cover of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, probably better known to Nick’s intended audience via Adele’s recording. For some reason, Nick has chosen to gargle with gravel before recording his vocal, one assumes in an effort to emulate Sir Bob. 

Anyway, enjoy!

Download People HERE



Download Love HERE

Friday, 15 June 2018

To Funk Or Not To Funk

Right: let’s get one thing straight from the off. This David Arnold is not that David Arnold. Despite what Discogs might want you to believe, the man we’re ribbing today did not compose the score to Independence Day, the last five James Bond movies or Benylin Cucumberpatch’s Sherlock, nor did he work with Massive Attack, Bjork and Shirley Bassey. No. Our Dave is a conductor, arranger and composer who, over a lifetime in music, has worked for Classic Fm, the BBC, and whose career has been closely associated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – whose ranks he first joined as a percussionist in the 1970s.

Both men are superb musicians and very good at their jobs. But they’re not the same person and they are not related. Our Dave is, however, responsible for a reprehensible series of pop/classical crossover albums that appeared in stores in the 1980s… and, ever since, in bargain bins and charity shops throughout the country.

Taking his lead from colleague Louis Clark, the former member of the Electric Light Orchestra who foisted the hideous Hooked on Classics on the world by dubbing a disco beat over fairly straight orchestral arrangements, Arnold took the ball (or, rather, the baton) and ran with it. Clark - inspired by the success of the late 70s Classic Rock series -  expanded the vision, bringing in pop and rock musicians, including Roy Wood and Herbie Flowers, to augment his sound, popifying popular classical tunes for an indolent audience. Hooked on Classics was an enormous international success, and Arnold went straight for the jugular, rearranging the same classical tunes and adding not only the obligatory disco beat but that repugnant ‘scratchy’ funk guitar sound so beloved of British sitcom theme writers, stabs of synthesiser and other pseudo-funk sounds from his grab-bag of tools.

He began with the god-awful 45 Hooked on Christmas, before unleashing the peculiar horror that is A Classic Case of Funk on the world - an album that the word ‘ghastly’ was invented for. 14 cuts, including Funky Swan, Funky Brandenburg and Radetzky's Got A Brand New Bag… I’m not quite sure what this 1982 album is, but it certainly ain’t funk. James Brown had the funk, Mr Arnold and the assembled members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra definitely do not. We probably shouldn’t blame Arnold for the whole catastrophe, but he did conduct the orchestra and rook co-producer and arranger credits. So it is mostly his fault.

I’ve always hated these kind of crossover albums: it’s music designed specifically to appeal to people who don’t like music. Like Coldplay. Opera singers should not sing pop, pop singers should never attempt opera and orchestras cannot play rock music. Orchestral arrangements have enhanced some of the greatest pop and rock recordings of all time, but no one in their right mind wants to listen to Puccini’s One Fine Day played at breakneck speed over a ‘four on the floor’ beat. No one.

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from the record... you make up your own mind.

Emjoy!

To Download The Gilbert and Sullivan Case click HERE



To Download A Patriotic Case of Funk click HERE

Friday, 8 June 2018

Pass Me a Bucket

A huge nod to Mr Stephen 'Beany' Green for today's suggestion.

Mike Leander (born in 1941 as Michael Farr) first entered the British pop scene in the early 1960s, landing a job as an arranger with Decca in 1963. He worked with Lulu, the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithful and scores of others. Prolific and prodigious, his hits include Under the Boardwalk for the Drifters, Lady Godiva for Peter and Gordon and Paul Jones’ High Time. He also wrote the string arrangement for the Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home.

In the latter part of the Sixties, he signed a six-figure contract with MCA Records as a writer and producer. While at MCA he brought in singer Paul Raven, who had been struggling to make a name for himself since releasing his first 45, Alone in The Night, back in 1960. As well as trying to launch Raven on the pathway to superstardom, Leander produced and arranged hits for several artists, was executive producer of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice concept album Jesus Christ Superstar (which featured Paul Raven as ‘Priest’), and produced the soundtrack album of Godspell. With his friend Edward Seago Leander produced worldwide hits for Englebert Humperdinck, Cliff Richard and Vanity Fair.

Leander was responsible for turning the failed singer Paul Gadd, a.k.a. Paul Raven, in to Rubber Bucket, before finally letting him loose on to the world as Garry Glitter. Apart from writing, arranging and producing 11 consecutive Top Ten hits for Glitter, including three UK Number Ones, Leander played all the instruments on the records except the brass, forming a backing group, the Glitter Band, for live dates and TV appearances. The Glitter Band would go on to have a short but successful career of their own, again masterminded by Leander.

After Glitter’s bubble burst, Leander wrote the musical Matador, which included the Tom Jones hit The Boy From Nowhere. Leander died in 1996, thankfully before the word discovered what a disgusting old pervert Gadd/Raven/Bucket/Glitter was (or, rather, is): Glitter was convicted of possessing child pornography in 1999, jailed and put on the sexual offences register. In 2005 he was arrested in Vietnam, and charged with having had sex with girls as young as eleven. The following year he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison after committing obscene acts with two girls, aged 10 and 11.

On 5 February 2015 Glitter was convicted of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault, and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13. Three weeks later Judge Alistair McCreath sentenced Glitter to 16 years in prison. That May, Glitter, under his real name, Paul Gadd, began an appeal that was ultimately denied by the Court of Appeal, which said there was nothing "unsafe" about the conviction.

Glitter isn’t the only rock ‘n roll’s icon with a taste for young girls, of course: Elvis began dating Priscilla when she was 14, although they don’t appear to have started making the beast with two backs until after he got out of the army and she was around 17. Jerry Lee Lewis wed his 13-year-old cousin. Bill Wyman was having sex with Mandy Smith when she was 14. Steven Tyler ‘adopted’ a teenage groupie (some reports state she was 14: in 2011 Julia Holcomb broke her silence and claimed she had just turned 16) so that she could live with him legally… and not only got her pregnant but forced her to have an abortion.

But back to Rubber Bucket. For We’re All Living in One Place, Leander and Seago simply took the traditional song Amazing Grace and added new lyrics. They would not be the last, of course, to do this:  Sir Cliff Richard would employ the same trick for his chart-topping Millennium Prayer. By a twist of fate, Leander had worked with Cliff in the early 60s.

We’re All Living in One Place is horrible: the opening verse is sung so out of tune it’s embarrassing. The ridiculous hippy sentiment was already outdated by the time the single came out (1969). The flip side, Take Me Away is marginally better, although the waltz-time tune has been liberally cribbed from another song – which I can hear in my head but cannot put my finger on just now! Immediately after cutting this single, Gadd/Raven took on another persona, this time as Paul Monday, to record an insipid version of the Beatles'  Here Comes the Sun. Glitter and Seago would also work together on another pre-Gary 45, this time credited to Banzai.

Enjoy!

Download Place HERE




Download Away HERE

WWR Most Popular Posts