Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The World's Worst Records Radio Show

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Mr. Fab, of the oh-so-excellent obscure music blog Music For Maniacs. He wanted to know if I was interested in getting involved in a new project he was launching, via WFMU, called Sheena's Jungle Room, an internet radio station dedicated to obscure, exotic and downright odd music. I, quite naturally, said yes.

So, here's what's happening. At 7pm this evening (that's UK time, 2pm EST) The World's Worst Records Radio Show goes 'live'. 

The hope is to bring you one full hour of nonsense, including a Death Disc of the Week, a spotlight on a Singing Actor and more rubbish than you can shake a stick at. 

It's the same as you've been enjoying here for the last 11 years, but now you'll also get to hear me, in all my West Country glory. This is new, I've not tried anything like this before and I'd appreciate any feedback, good or bad. You can tune in at https://www.wfmu.org/playlists/WR


If everything runs to plan I will be online, via the WFMU message boards, to answer any questions and join in any chat during the show. Come and keep me company, and keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates as we get closer to showtime. Do remember though that this is a brand new project and there are bound to be a few teething issues!

Let me know your thoughts and, if you wish, let me know which of your preferred bad records you'd like me to play in future episodes. There will be a Christmas special full of the worst Xmas discs of all time, so why not nominate your own particular favourite.

Friday, 2 November 2018

This is Allen Scott (or is it?)

Some more song-poem madness for you today, and a handful of songs from the star of the Royal Master song-poem outfit, Allen Scott.

I love Royal Master, and it's odd that I've only previously featured one of their Christmas songs (if I recall correctly), because the company is a classic example of everything that is wrong about the song-poem industry. There's zero quality control here... they would happily take the stupidest words anyone sent them, slather on a piss-poor country backing and have one of their inept 'singers' emote over the top.

And, my friends, of the singers that they employed, Allen Scott has to be the most inept of them all.

Royal Master was owned by songwriter Alex Zanetis. Zanetis had a bone fide hit in 1964, his song As Usual was recorded by Brenda Lee and went to Number 12 on the Billboard chart. RM gave Will Gentry, a.k.a. Ramsay Kearney his first song-poem break (and encouraged Kearney to set up his own Nashco song-poem empire). A former (apparently) friend of the late Jim Reeves, Zanetis put out hundreds of compilation albums through Royal Master, most if not all having a heavily religious bias.Zanetis would later write a whole gospel country opera, The Carpenter's Son: A Musical Dramatization of the Life of Christ, a double album issued by RCA in 1973.

But who is (or was) Allen Scott?

Well, for starters, he's the same singer that appears on Nu-Sound records - yet another song-poem outfit - as Todd Andrews. Like Royal Master (or Kearney for that matter) they would issue any old garbage. Utterly mercenary. Don't forget, Kearney is the shyster who happily took his thirty pieces of silver for Blind Man's Penis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Allen Scott does not exist, for I believe that Allen Scott/Todd Andrews is (or, again, was) a pseudonym for Alex Zanetis himself. There's no evidence of this on any of the Royal Master releases, but if you compare the voice on the Allen Scott or Todd Andrews recordings with Zanetis' own voice on his 1986 single Are You Ready For The Lord it's clearly the same person.

A caveat here is that Zanetis issued an album under his own name in 1964, Writes and Sings the Stories of the Oil Fields, and the voice there is entirely different. Perhaps something happened to Zanetis between 1964 and the mid to late 70s, when Royal Master began operating, to affect his voice? I'm sure someone out there has the answer.

To add to the confusion, in 1971 Moodisc Records issued the reggae single Guilty credited to Alex Zanetis, but that is definitely not our man. This disc was actually performed by the Jolly Brothers, and I've no idea how the release came to be miscredited.

Anyway, a few examples of the artistry of Allen Scott.

Enjoy!

Download Love Letters HERE



Download Boppin' In Flip Flops HERE



Download A Corner Of Your Heart HERE

Friday, 26 October 2018

Lest We Forget

1941 was an awful year. But, at the height of the Second World War, at least we could enjoy Vera Lynn singing about bluebirds over Dover and hoping that we’ll all meet again.

And, in America, there was this horror. The act on this maudlin mess is credited as Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye, with vocals by The Glee Club (on Remember Pearl Harbor) and Allan Foster (Dear Mom). Issued by Victor just days before Christmas, it was an ill-conceived effort to pull on the heartstrings.

Sammy Kaye (born Samuel Zarnocay Jr., in March 1910) was an American bandleader and songwriter, whose tagline, “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye”, became one of the most famous of the Big Band Era.

Born in Lakewood, Ohio, Kaye and his orchestra made a large number of records for Vocalion, RCA Victor, Columbia, Bell, and Decca and was also a hit on the radio. Kaye was known for an audience participation gimmick called “So You Want to Lead A Band?” where audience members would be called onto the stage in an attempt to conduct the orchestra, with the possibility of winning batons. Popular on television in the 50s, the bandleader passed away in 1987. A year after passing on his own baton to his friend Roger Thorpe, who still leads the Sammy Kaye Orchestra to this day.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941, Sammy Kaye wrote the music (well, ‘adapted’ it from Ohio University's Alma Mater) and Don Reid wrote the words to Remember Pearl Harbor. The disc was recorded on December 17, and it was in the shops before Christmas. I understand the patriotic gesture, but to me the haste, and the saccharine sentiment, make this all a bit indecent. Couple it with the mawkish flipside and you have all the ingredients of a truly miserable record.

Enjoy!

Download Harbor HERE


Download Mom HERE

Friday, 19 October 2018

mmm... Butter!

“i-so-metric push up!”

American fitness instructor Milton Teagle “Richard” Simmons (born July 12, 1948) is a cultural icon who has appeared on countless TV shows since the late 1970s. He promotes weight-loss programs, prominently through his Sweatin' to the Oldies line of aerobics videos, and is known for his eccentric, flamboyant, and energetic personality.

An obese and unhappy child, Simmons began his weight-loss career by opening a gym called Slimmons in Beverly Hills, California, catering to the overweight, and he became widely known through exposure on television and through the popularity of his own range of consumer products. He is often parodied (remember the Robotic Richard Simmons in The Simpsons? “C’mon, big boy! Shift some butter off those buns!”) and was a frequent guest of late night television and radio talk shows, such as the Late Show with David Letterman and The Howard Stern Show.

However, and oddly for one so prominently in the public eye, he has not appeared in public since February 2014; his gym quietly closed in late 2016 without him making any public statement, and his disappearance led to speculation that he was being held hostage by his housekeeper. In March 2017, LAPD detectives visited his home, and later issued a statement saying that Simmons is “perfectly fine”, and “very happy”. Detective Kevin Becker later told People magazine that “we went out and talked to him he is fine, nobody is holding him hostage. He is doing exactly what he wants to do. If he wants to go out in public or see anybody he will do that. I don’t know what he is going to do, but right now he is doing what he wants to do and it is his business.”

The following month, following a spell in hospital, Simmons made his first public comment in over a year, posting a Facebook message to say that “I’m not ‘missing’, just a little under the weather”. Yet speculation grew, and a media witch-hunt ensued - quite literally when a ‘friend’ claimed that he was under the spell of witchcraft. A tracking device was attached to his car and paparazzi camped outside his home in the hope of grabbing an elusive, exclusive, snap. Although he made it clear that he did not want to be seen, in a telephone interview Simmons gave a few clues as to why he had gone to ground. “Sometimes we get lost in our sadness,” he revealed. In an interview in 2013 Simmons was close to tears when he stated that “when the king gest depressed, he doesn’t call for his wife, or the cook, he calls for the little man with the pointy hat. And he says to the Court Jester ‘Make me laugh’… and I am that Court Jester.” He underwent a double knee replacement that, for someone so used to being so fit and agile, must have been hell for him.

In May 2017, Simmons sued the National Enquirer, Radar Online and American Media, Inc. for libel after claims were made that he was undergoing gender reassignment. He lost the lawsuit, and was ordered to pay the defendants’ fees, with the judge ruling that “misidentification of a person as transgender is not actionable defamation.”  If you want to know more about his whereabouts you can tune in to the six-part Missing Richard Simmons podcast, hosted by former The Daily Show producer Dan Taberski.

Now 70 years old, Richard, we hope that whatever personal demons you’re battling with you come out the other side happy and healthy. But until then, here are a couple of cuts from his 1983 exercise album Reach.


Enjoy!

Download This Time HERE


Download Don't Tell Me HERE

Friday, 12 October 2018

They Call Me Mister Pollard

Now, here’s a peculiar little disc I can guarantee few of you will have heard before: it sold poorly, has not been included on any compilation of exotica (at least not one that I am aware of) and is not available on YouTube. At least I can remedy the latter.

Luckily April In Paris, and its flipside ‘S Wonderful, issued on the Pye subsidiary Piccadilly in 1962 by Mr. Pollard, did get a write up in the Daily Mirror and the Aberdeen Evening Express, so I have been able to piece together some info about both the disc and its performer.

Mr. Pollard was a women’s clothier whose business, S. B. Pollard Couture, was based in Mayfair, one of London’s most upmarket areas. “[It’s a] wholesale business, but I supply only the tip-top,” he confided to the Mirror’s Patrick Doncaster. Although Mr. Pollard was keen not to let too many skeletons out of his rather well-stocked closet (not even his age), he did allow Doncaster a brief peek into his past: “You can say that I am an ex-teenage Charleston champion of the Twenties.”

The Charleston craze hit London in 1925, and the first Charleston Ball took place at the Royal Albert Hall in 1926. If our Mr. Pollard was in his teens around this time, he would have had to have been somewhere between 49 and 55 when he made his first, and only, disc. According to the Aberdeen Evening Express Mr. Pollard had “reached a ‘dignified’ age” by the time his disc was issued.

“I think you’ll agree that the record is positively different,” Mr. Pollard told Doncaster. Apparently, he undertook his own market research before cutting the disc, visiting around 60 record stores in London to gauge reactions. Paid for out of his own pocket, he then took his tapes to Pye, who issued it in June 1962. It merited a brief mention in The Gramophone magazine, where Mr. Pollard was described as being “a gentleman with a sibilant bass voice that sounds like a cross between Whispering Jack Smith, Stanley Unwin and Popeye. He is accompanied by a strangulated trumpet and piping clarinet, with rhythm… I have an idea it might be meant as a macabre sort of joke on the lines of Jonathan and Darlene. Just for that, it’ll probably be a hit.” It wasn’t.

Incidentally, Whispering Jack Smith should not be confused with Whistling Jack Smith. Whispering Jack was an American-born baritone singer active from the 1920s through until the late 1940s, a popular radio and recording artist who occasionally also appeared in films. Jonathan and Darlene Edwards were a musical comedy double act developed by American conductor and arranger Paul Weston, and his wife, singer Jo Stafford.

I’m undecided on the true identity of Mr. Pollard. I can find no reference to his wholesale dress empire, nor any reference to Mr. Pollard himself outside of the three short articles I’ve found on the disc. In fact, if it were not for a small photograph of Mr. Pollard appearing alongside the Daily Mirror article, and the Aberdeen Evening Express confirming his Christian name as Sam, I could easily believe this was a spoof: it could easily be by, say, Lionel Bart and the Temperance Seven.

Still, here are both sides of Mr. Pollard’s “positively different” single.  As always, let me know if you have any other information.

Enjoy!

Download April HERE



Download Wonderful HERE 

Saturday, 6 October 2018

King Solomon's Mind

 Although I have been writing about music from outside the mainstream for more than ten years, making fun of the oddball and the obscure through this very blog, I have often felt uncomfortable about finding humour in what U.S. writer and DJ Irwin Chusid labelled ‘outsider music’. Although some outsider musicians – The Shaggs, for example – have found cult acceptance for their naïve musical meanderings, many of the artists whose work has found itself lumped into this loosest of genres have been battling with drink, drugs, and other demons. I find it hard to laugh at someone (say, Zappa protégé Wild Man Fischer) whose work so often and so clearly reflects their own mental health issues.

 So where does that leave legendary outsider musician Jerry Solomon?

Originally from San Diego, Jerry recorded several singles during the 1960s and issued three albums in the 1970s, all of which are completely insane; Jerry rambles, croons, hoots and shrieks through his material like a psychotic. Andy Kaufman was a fan, and Jerry made a brief cameo in the Jim Carry film about Kaufman, “Man on the Moon”. Very few copies of these albums exist, and so sought after are they that when they do come up for sale it’s usually for silly money.

U.S. company Sundazed Music/Modern Harmonic have just re-issued Jerry’s outsider magnum opus Past The 20th Century, as well as a double album compiling the vast majority of his rocking horse-shit rare 45s in one place for the very first time, Virginity For All. Sadly his first recording, Crying Over You, which he made as a teenager around 1959 or 1960, is the one missing chapter in the bizarre but absolutely essential collection. Keenly sought after by collectors, the complete Jerry Solomon discography – thirteen 7” singles, an EP and three albums issued on his own Sunlite and Fountain labels (the latter of which Jerry himself described as “probably the smallest record company in the world” and sold on the street, often with handcrafted sleeves - would previously have set you back several months’ wages.

According to Mike Ascherman, in the book Acid Archives, Jerry “sounds like a late ’50s vocals group from the Twilight Zone. His self-accompaniment consists of a repetitive one-chord (maybe two) guitar strum that predates Jandek and a toy piano that is ‘strummed’ and sounds like a lysergic zither from the Third Man soundtrack. The songs range from nostalgia for the earlier years of his life to total despair.”

Jerry’s recordings all sound as if they were knocked out in his bedroom, with him trying not to disturb his roommate – or perhaps his mother. In fact, many of Jerry’s early recordings were made at Ted Brinson’s Recording Studio in Los Angeles: from his garage, former bass player Brinson had recorded the doo-wop hit Earth Angel (by the Penguins) and had worked with Little Richard.  Jerry’s other albums, Through the Woods and Live at the Show Biz, were recorded on a portable cassette player, the former in his apartment… quite possibly in that bedroom.

In his 30s, Jerry – who had what he describes as “a phobia” about narcotics - was given a dangerous drug as a joke by a friend, a self-described junkie, and suffered brain and heart dysfunction. The happy-go-lucky man became paranoid and mentally impaired, and what followed was a decade-long battle with misdiagnosis, missing hospital records and mistreatment. He quite literally lost his mind. It would take him more than ten years to regain some of his former functions, nearer twenty to get back to what he feels is normality. Jerry’s book, A Drug Free Life and a Glass of PCP (revised and expanded as A Drug Free Life and a Glass of PCP Book Two), details his experience (as best he can recall it) in harrowing detail.

The odd thing is that almost all of Jerry’s recordings were made before he partook of that fateful drink.
He’s spent many years on the periphery of showbiz, appearing as an extra in a number of TV shows (including Barney Miller) and performing at stand up and open mic events around L.A. Now in his mid-70s, and pretty much fully recovered from his journey into the unknown, Jerry is still trying to carve a showbiz career for himself. He’s quite a character: a few years ago, he auditioned (unsuccessfully), for America’s Got Talent, singing a self-composed song about Viagra to the tune of O Sole Mio! He had his own cable show – a couple of uncomfortable-to-watch clips are on YouTube – he ran for Governor of California in the early 90's (and received a total of 12 votes), made appearances on The Gong Show and has appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
To celebrate the re-release of these incredible records, Sundazed/Modern Harmonic have put out a short film, narrated by Jerry himself, about his wild career. It makes for fascinating viewing, and includes Jerry’s ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameos in Wayne’s World and Barney Miller. 

To buy Past The 20th Century and Virginity For All go to https://sundazed.com/jerry-solomon.aspx
Enjoy!

Friday, 5 October 2018

House!

It’s been a while since we had a song-poem, so here’s a pip from the dying days of the Preview label for you, starring Barbara Foster. Bingo and Just for You are two fairly predictable slices of Country cheese, until you scratch beneath the surface.

The A-side tells the story of a bored husband whose wife is always out with the girls playing housey housey. On the flip, the protagonist talks about painting their face, wearing a mini-dress and giving the family home an interior makeover to make it look like a bar. What makes this fascinating (well, to me at least) is that on the plug side Barbara is singing from a man’s point of view, and on side two from a woman’s. That’s not exactly unheard of, but in this day and age you could look at it another way. Was author Michael R. Guesman an early trans pioneer who was gently outing himself through his song lyrics? Is he going to put on make-up and a mini to please his man, after the bar-hopping jackass has come back from a night with his fag-hag girl pals playing bingo?

Of course not. I’m just pulling your proverbial.

What does make this interesting is that Michael R. Guesman was a musician who gained some small amount of fame on the Country scene, so how did he end up writing for Preview? My best guess is that he simply paid to have these songs cut for use as a demo and that he wrote both words and music, rather than sending his poems in to have Preview’s staff set them to a mediocre melody.

Born on 7 January 1935, in Carmichael, Pennsylvania, Michael Guesman served with an Air Force crash and rescue team during the Korean War. He married his wife, Rachel, in 1955 and moved to Warren, Ohio in 1969. They had seven kids, four boys and three girls. For ten years he worked for the Packard Electric Division of General Motors.

A noted guitar player, in 1965 he wrote the music to a song called Rena by George A. Cole. Other compositions include Lonely Room (1976), Go Home, Virginia and Please Mr. Jukebox in 1977, and 1978’s The Many Loves of Mary, and the brilliantly-titled Your Clown Left Town.

According to his local newspaper, The Vindicator, Michael “was recognized in 1980 by the Country Music Association and the Grand Ole Opry as a country music pioneer for his songwriting, and was invited to participate in the family reunion of country music artists at the 9th International Country Music Fanfare in Nashville.” I’m not quite sure what that means, as I can find no record of this event, but the International Country Music Fanfare is now part of CMA Fest, a four-day Country fan convention, which has been running annually since 1972.

Michael passed away, aged 66, at his home in April 2001.

Download Bingo HERE



Download Just HERE

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