Thursday, 23 March 2017

Clothing Optional

Easily one of the most peculiar albums issued is the 1962 release Strip Along With Us – ten tracks recorded by a nightclub quartet of music to take your clothes off to. Well, probably not your clothes, but the clothes worn by ‘the lovely Darlene’, ‘the lovely Devin Saint John’ or any other third rate burlesque artist you care to name.

Subtitled Authentic Strip Music for the Discriminating Stripper, the hoots, whoops and whistles from the studio audience were clearly added to give the album a 'sleazy joint' sound, yet the entire album was recorded not on location (the Club Sina, as the anonymous announcer claims) but at the Jaysina Sound Studios in Brooklyn, run by Morty Jay and Sandy Sina. Jay was an organist, arranger and conductor who had also worked with vocal quartet the Crew-Cuts; Sina (real name Santo Nessina) was an engineer who specialised in the Latin American market. Strip Along With Us was issued by Strand Records, who also issued Jay’s solo album Organ Favorites. Morty is probably best known for the tittyshaker/surf instrumental Saltwater Taffy, although both men were invloved in breaking JFK impersonator Larry Foster, co-writing and producing Foster's 1962 hit My Christmas Message to the World.

The sleeve notes are a hoot: ‘the concept of this album is authenticity’, they proclaim. ‘This “on location” treatment puts the emphasis where it belongs – on the bumps and grinds.’ The author attests that the mistakes made by the band are intentional, included to accentuate that ‘authenticity’, although I would argue with his claim that ‘it’s been every woman’s hidden desire to try a strip routine, and every man’s hidden desire to watch one.’ As the sleeve announces, ‘the cover photo was used with permission of one of the country's foremost performers, Miss Libby Jones, The Park Avenue Playgirl’. Libby (real name Adlyn Morris) does not actually appear on the record itself, although one track, My Heart Belongs to Daddy does feature a vocal from a fake stripping chanteuse going under the guise of ‘the lovely Arlene Bartell’.

The Strand label, which specialised in bargain bin dross, cheaper-than-cheap reissues and cash ins was only in existence for around six ears (1959-65); in 1960 they issued Sick Along With Us, an album of mental health-themed ‘humour’, and the rest of their output included recordings of hymns, easy listening jazz and exotica, a tribute to the late Clark Gable (Dear Mr. Gable, by Karen Chandler: the title song had originally been sung by Judy Garland) and, of course, the aforementioned Organ Favorites.

Anyway, here’s the whole album for you, split over two files (side one and side two). Make of it what you will! The track at the end of side one, which purports to be Night Train, is hysterical.

Enjoy!

Friday, 10 March 2017

A Road Trip with the Swinging Strings

A song poem record today, originally posted by our good friend Bob Purse over at the no longer updated WFMU blog. I’m reposting this for a couple of reasons, firstly because you need to get a copy before the WFMU links stop working and secondly because I’m off on a road trip myself this weekend and the subject matter seemed apt.

This particular disc, Scotty Scott’s Chattanooga, Nashville, Battlecreek Trek backed with the amazingly awful Antique Hunter’s Craze was issued by the Film City label at some point in the (I would guess) mid to late 60s. Film City was formed by Sandy Stanton, the guitarist, bandleader and erstwhile record company mogul who had already founded one other company - Fable – and who would go on to launch several others, including J-Rad, Opossum and Wesley. Rodd Keith was Stanton’s first star performer, and when he moved on to Preview he replaced Rodd at the Chamberlin with Ron Solovay (a.k.a. Leigh Crizoe, read here) and then Frank Perry. The keyboard work on this particular disc is rather stilted, which makes me think it’s unlikely to be either Rodd or Frank, who were both more stylish and ‘bouncy’; it could be Ron Solovay, but it’s more likely to be Sandy Stanton himself.

Like all the best (or worst) song-poem records little attention has been paid to detail. The rhyming couplets are awful, the lyrics have been awkwardly shoehorned in to fit the music and no one, not even our Scotty, can be arsed. Heaven.

Antique Hunter’s Craze reminds me of Singin’ Jack Curran’s The Barber Shop, from song-poem/vanity record maven Dolly O Curran (featured almost exactly six years ago on this very blog and reposted below). Dolly O Stech-Curran began her song-poem career sending in lyrics to Preview: Suzie and Rodd, a.k.a. Rodd Keith and Suzie Smith recorded one of her songs, I’m the Wife.

Scotty Scott issued at least one other 45, A Friendly Smile backed with I’m Crying Again, which seems to have been the debut release from the tiny Chime Records of Hempstead, New York. Both sides of that single were written by Will Wheeler and one J. Gardener: the same pair of songsmiths composed several of the tracks issued by Chime, and Wheeler also produced many of the singles issued by the company, including Groovin’ is Easy by Paper Cup (CH 111) and Homer Briarhopper’s My Happy Clown (CH 107). Chime also issued the rather groovy garage classic Mr. Zeppelin Man by Nick D’Angelo’s Farmers. Guitarist, songwriter and singer Nick now goes by the name of Nirantara Däsa and devotes his life to spreading the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Enjoy!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Do You Want to Lick Me?

Paris-based Phil O’Kings, or Phill O’Kings or perhaps even Phil O’Kins (he was credited with a different spelling on each of his 45s) released a handful of Eurodisco singles in France in the mid 80s. He also appeared, as part of a conglomeration of 75 French stars, on the charity single Liban (Lebanon), issued in 1988.

From what I’ve been able to glean there were three singles, each issued on a different label: Good Time Break (released around 1984 and clearly influenced by the breakdancing craze), the 1989 release Chasseur du Charme, and the truly terrible Homo Gay issued in 1985, the 12” mix of which features almost six minutes of Monsieur O’Kings’ out of tune caterwauling.

The lyrics of Homo Gay make no sense in either language, but the first verse seems to be about our Phil’s obsession with a cute English boy with wavy blond hair and a penchant for wearing tweed. In verse two Phil sings about an androgynous-looking person with skin like black plastic. My assumption is that it’s this section that inspired the sleeve designer/photographer to take an image of Phil doing his best Grace Jones impersonation.  Luckily the chorus is pretty self-explanatory.

And how did I discover this nonsense, you ask? Well, for the last 10 months or so I have been writing about the history of LGBT music and musicians for a book, due to be issued this November, entitled David Bowie Made me Gay. Those of you who follow this blog via Facebook will probably know that I recently held a workshop on homophobia in music and it was through a discussion on what tracks to use that we found this gem. During my research I’ve uncovered some of the most peculiar records I’ve ever heard – some of which I’m going to share with you, you lucky people!

As each of Phil’s singles features just one song (all other tracks are either remix or instrumental versions of the title track) I’ve included both Good Time Break and Chasseur du Charme as well as the execrable Homo Gay.

Jouir!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Wrestling with the Past

Robert Pawlikowski, better known by his professional name  Zoogz Rift, was an American musician, painter and professional wrestler.

Born on July 10, 1953, Zoogz issued more than 20 albums, many of them on Black Flag’s label SST, beginning with the cassette only With No Apparent Reason (1976) and ending with 2001’s Born in the Wrong Universe. They include the brilliantly-titled Can You Smell My Genitals From Where You're Standing? (cassette only; 1983), 1988’s Murdering Hell's Happy Cretins and Five Billion Pinheads Can't Be Wrong (1996).

Feted and hated in equal measure, Trouser Press described Zoogz as ‘an iconoclastic original… as imaginative and stimulating as he is irritating and vitriolic.’ Keyboard Magazine described Rift’s album Island of Living Puke as ‘moments of outstanding free-form rock, sandwiched between scrupulously obscene interruptions.’ Often chaotic and cacophonous, his collaborators included Henry Kaiser, Marc Mylar and John Trubee, known to everyone here for writing the lyrics to Blind Man's Penis. I hear traces of Zappa, Beefheart and Barnes and Barnes in his work: I will leave it up to you to decide if the guy was a genius or simply a chancer.

In the mid 1980s Zoogz  began to discuss his plans to enter professional wrestling. ‘If somebody would cut me the break I’d love to get into that business,” he said. ‘Either as a performer or even front office. I have over 600 hours of wrestling on video tape, and I’m still taping, watching, studying. I’ve been heavily into the WWF since the late Sixties. Nothing is more fun than watching wrestling. It’s better than eating. It’s better than getting laid. It’s better than taking a shit.’ He joined the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), becoming Vice-President in 1995 alongside founder Herb Abrams. After Abrams died the following year, the UWF promotion closed and Zoogz was left without a job. Undeterred, he went on to host an online wrestling show, Puke-A-Mania, with Zoogz giving insight on wrestling issues. Zoogz died on March 22, 2011, at the age of 57, due to complications from diabetes.

Here, for your edification, are a couple of tracks from the extensive Zoogz Rift canon: ‘I Did So’ from the 1979 album Idiots on a Miniature Golf Course, and ‘Rediscover Downtown Patterson’ from his 1986 album Island of Living Puke.

Enjoy!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Hot Sauce


I feel I have sorely neglected all of you song-poem fans of late, so to make up for that here’s a brace of badness from the 2008 Hilltop Records compilation America. Hilltop is that rarest of song poem outfits, a company that still exists today and is still taking money from unsuspecting rubes.

Operating out of Los Angeles, in all fairness Hilltop’s productions are pretty easy on the ear, and many of the songwriters who have submitted their material seem to be pretty happy with the results - if the testimony page on the Hilltop website is anything to go by. But like all song-poem outfits income is more important than the quality of the source material, and no matter how professional your singers or musicians are, there’s not a lot you can do when the lyrics supplied are somewhere between mediocre and downright awful.

Summer’s End is a perfect example. Nice to listen to but the lyrics are utterly brainless: the opening lines ‘My eyes looking ‘cross fields of dying flowers with tears of sadness I see dying as they see each one giving its offspring the same sense of pleasure, same wonder of colours they gave to me’ are tongue-twistingly terrible. Composer Charles A. Hopkins should stick to writing poetry for his church magazine: these words read far better as prose than lyrics.

Crystal Gable’s Jalapena Senorita‘doing the salsa, shaking the maracas like hot sauce’ - is downright peculiar: a thinly veiled lesbian love song to a Mexican woman whose ‘body should be in the Hall of Fame’. The song’s original intention is obscured by being sung by a male vocalist, one Cody Lyons (who also handles the vocal on Summer’s End), but seriously, what on earth could Ms. Gable have been thinking?

Enjoy!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Maturing Disgracefully

Here’s a real oddity, a sex education album with a religious bent, issued in 1968 by Monsann Enterprises of New York.

Featuring well-known session musicians including jazz guitarist Eric Gale, bassist Chuck Rainey, trumpeter Joe Newman and harp player Corky Hale, For Mature Adults Only is an attempt to ‘bridge the generation gap by letting the teenager have his own say about life, faith and love’, well according to the sleeve notes it is, anyway. For Mature Adults Only began life as a stage show, first presented in March 1968 in St. Louis. The album, which was intended to be used in schools, churches and youth groups, features re-recordings of songs and monologues from the show and was originally accompanied by a book and lesson plan.

For Mature Adults Only was the brainchild of Doctor Norman C. Habel. Born in 1932 and still with us today, Dr Habel is a noted Australian Old Testament scholar and author. At the time For Mature Adults Only came out he was a professor at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, which train pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, chaplains, and church leaders for the Lutheran Church. A prolific author, among Dr Habel’s other works are A Bloke Called Jesus and two volumes of ‘Habel Hymns’.

Subtitled ‘honest teenage cries, poems and prayers collected and narrated by Norman Habel with music by Richard Koehneke’ and featuring The Martin Luther High School Choir, the album was reissued by Fortress Records of Philadelphia in 1974. It’s a fun, albeit listen and very much of its time: the naïve plea for equal rights contained in the monologue Willie - about ‘a quiet Negro kid’ who was blamed for ‘the rats and the riots and the rubbish of the city’ – and the song Adam Was a Man (‘why blame the Negro for so many things?’)  must have seemed out of date in ’68 but you can’t knock the intention.

Enjoy!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Here Kitty Kitty


Turkish adult film actress Figen Han, born Nevval Karpuz in February 1950, appeared in 73 movies – many of them insane sex comedies - between 1966 and 1983. Known as (literally ‘sex fury’) these films have such wonderful titles as The Cruel Also Love, First Love Then Kill, Crazy But Sweet, Warm Lips and my personal favourite, Perversion Death Terminator. These Italian-inspired softcore comedies were big business in Turkey, and the Seks Furyasi genre would remain a favourite with audiences until the 1980 coup, after which the government strictly prohibited graphic sex in the cinema.

The real-life sex kitten likes cats – as you can probably tell from the noises she makes on the a-side of this thoroughly bizarre record, Pisi Pisi (Kitty Kitty), issued in 1977 when she was at the height of her fame. The B-side, Haydi Bastir is virtually instrumental, apart from our Figen whispering ‘Haydi Bastir’ every 30 seconds or so. Figen also appeared in a film of the same name in 1977, so it’s a fairly safe assumption that this was used as the theme tune. For some peculiar reason the ‘song’ appears on the disc’s label as Haydi Bastirrr. The movie itself is unwatchable soft porn nonsense: it’s available to stream on Daily Motion – sadly with the opening and end credits lopped off - if you’re so inclined, but I'd be very wary about Googling Figen Han and 'Turkish sex movies' if I were you. Some of the results are definitely NSFW!

Up to date info on Figen is scarce, but apparently she has retired from acting and currently lives in a basement flat in Sisli, Istanbul with her many, many cats.

Here are both sides of Figen's rare, one-off 7". Apologies for the quality, but mint copies sell for around $80-$100 these days.

Enjoy! 

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