Friday, 18 August 2017

Sing It Again, Sue!

There can be no doubt that whichever anonymous person (or people) put together the post-mortem compilation Songs By Sue did it out of love. There can also be no doubt that they were less that au fait with some of the song titles: La Bamba is rendered La Bomba, Hava Nagila as Hava Nagaela. Add to that the fact that something has clearly gone wrong in the mastering process, and that one of Sue’s well-meaning friends has added their own basic synthesiser overdubs to several of her tunes and what you have is an album with a uniquely ethereal, otherworldly quality that is at times maddening and at others naively beautiful.

So who exactly was Sue? Well, that I can’t tell you, as the compilers of this collection sadly forgot to include any details at all on the cover or label of the disc: no surname, no songwriter credits, no publisher details, no information on where any of the songs were recorded and no date either. My best guess is that the album was put out in the mid 70s… but that is nothing but a guess. The whole album lasts for less than 20 minutes: I assume, because of the varying quality, that the ten tracks presented here are the only songs Sue ever recorded.

Most of what I can tell you about Sue is contained in the scant sleeve notes: ‘Sue, always full of joy and laughter, in love with life. She started to sing before she could walk, then on to dancing. She was struck with polio in her second year. She could not dance again but she kept singing. Even though Sue was in a wheelchair twenty-seven years she worked weekends to get through college and went on to become an activities director at the St. Therese Nursing Home and an art teacher at Good Shepherd School.  She left us recently’ My assumption is that the author is referring to St. Theresa’s nursing home the Good Shepherd Catholic School, both of which are in St Louis Park, Minnesota.

After Sue passed away this album was pressed by her family and/or friends to celebrate her life. Originally posted on the Swan Fungus blog last year, the copy I pilfered this image from (the same copy; maybe the only one still in existence?) is now up for grabs on eBay.

For the record I do feel a little mean about featuring it here, but if I did not how would the majority of you fine people ever discover it? Here are a couple of tracks from Songs By Sue, the opener If I Had A Hammer, and Hava Nagaela.

Enjoy!

Download Hammer Here


Download Hava Here

Friday, 11 August 2017

Rocbuafro and Roll

Often written about in revered tones, and just as often compared to the atonal outsider music of Jerry Solomon, New York-based Jerry Rayson’s Taking Over (more popularly known as The Weird Thing In Town) has been feted as some sort of psychedelic masterpiece. Don’t let them fool you; the 1969 album is a cacophonous, clattering mess. It’s The Legendary Stardust Cowboy on acid.

Everything about this record is wrong: the acoustic guitar Jerry strums throughout is hideously out of tune, the drummer has clearly never heard of a click track or a metronome, and Jerry’s singing voice is little more than a holler. It’s an unholy mess. ‘My theory of music is to explore in the unknown vibrations of sounds, to create psychadelic [sic] ways of thinking which I make mostly with primitive sounds by adding them together…’ Well, that’s one way of putting it. The Acid Archives called Jerry’s album ‘spaced out fringe folk with unusual inner-city vibe and Puerto Rican tangents.’ That sums it up pretty well. Jerry coined the word Rocbuafro for his ‘sound’ describing it as ‘combined by three primitive sounds which are Rock & Roll, Caribean Latin [sic] and African combined together. It is a lowly, primitive type of space music which in the future will be developed in to all kinds of musical sounds from all parts of the world and will combine in to one sound’. Thankfully Jerry’s zeitgeist has yet to surface.

‘Hey you guys, keep quiet down there or I’ll call the cops!’ Jerry shouts at the beginning of third track El Bacelon de lo Junkie, (which almost translates as The Junkie Balcony) telling ‘you hobos, you bums’, anyone who believes in free love and his junkie neighbours, ‘you addict, you pot heads, you speed heads’ that he’s going to call the cops if they don’t let him sleep. Jerry also throws in a little racism, just in case we needed it confirmed that the man clearly hates everyone. As Jerry appears to have Latin roots, perhaps we should allow for the possibility that he is singing in character here, and that he is one of the aforementioned bums or addicts being berated.

As well as the album, Jerry also self-released two 45s on his own Psychedelic Worlds Records: all of his discs came in hand crafted covers and, as he writes on the extensive album sleeve notes: ‘all of my musicians read and write music and they play without discipline in ordr to get their natural feelings… we have recorded this album for listeners who enjoy something different and natural based on psychadelic [sic] thinking’. Yeah, right! The ‘musicians’ are simply credited as ‘band’ on the sleeve; Jerry credits himself as producer, recording director, cover design, cover photo and audio engineer. Oh, and for writing the words and music, naturally.

Here are a couple of tracks to whet your appetite: album opener My New York Woman and one of the shortest – and most musical – tracks on the album, Rocbuafro With L.S.D (incidentally, the album’s shortest ‘song’ Maybelle comprises of 33 seconds of silence; John Cage, or John Lennon, should have sued). The whole album is out there if you want to find it.

Enjoy!

Download My New York Woman HERE



Download Rocbuafro with L.S.D HERE

Friday, 4 August 2017

I 'Ave My Rights!

This is probably the most jaw-droppingly disturbing record I have ever presented at the World’s Worst Records, so those of a nervous disposition may wish to leave now. I originally discovered this horror on one of my ‘go to’ blogs for obscure music, the magnificent Left And To the Back. Sadly the copy available there was pretty beaten up. This one is in far better shape, apart from the occasional static crackle... not that that is necessarily a good thing, as you will soon discover.

Pierre Cour was a French songwriter with an impeccable pedigree: it’s almost beyond belief that he should also be the originator of this tasteless trash, possibly the most disquieting record I have ever heard, and that includes the vile racism of acts like Skrewdriver and Johnny Rebel. Letter to a Teenage Bride is the kind of song that gives Peter Wyngarde's Rape a run for its money. Naturally I had to find a copy for my own collection.

Born in 1916, Cour served in the French Air Force and became a PE instructor; after France was liberated, Cour became a journalist before moving into acting under the name Pierre Lemaire. Landing a job on radio first as a keep fit instructor and later on in the role of Régisseur Albert on the popular comedy show Silence... Antenne, he quickly moved in to full-time lyric writing. His first hit came in 1952, when Les Compagnons de la Chanson recorded Mon Ami, Mon Ami. Cour wrote songs for a number of successful acts from the 1950s through to the 70s, including Roger Whittaker (the massive hits Durham Town and The Last Farewell among others), Petula Clark, France Gall (Si J’étais Garçon), Sacha Distel, Brigitte Bardot (Tu Veux Ou Tu Veux Pas) and Nana Mouskouri among many others. With composers André Popp and Hubert Giraud he co-wrote a number of Eurovision Song Contest entries, including Tom Pillibi, which won the competition for France in 1960 and L'Amour Est Bleu (Love is Blue) which, when performed by Vicky Leandros, came forth for Luxembourg in 1967. Paul Mauriat would later have a huge international hit with an instrumental version of the same song. His song Frère Jacques – a disco rewrite of the nursery rhyme - came 16th in 1977 for singer Anne Marie B.

Master though he was of lush pop balladry and the fine art of yé-yé, none of these hits can hold a candle to the distinctly dodgy Letter to a Teenage Bride. It is simply ghastly.

Describing, in all-too graphic detail, the rape within marriage of a barely legal young woman, Letter to a Teenage Bride is genuinely repulsive. ‘Oh my Daddy! Oh my Mama!’ the poor young protagonist whispers breathily all the way through this revolting record as her oily other half insists on his conjugal rights. Happily, after Pierre demands ‘Right! We’ll see! Come here darling! I ham you ‘usband! I ‘ave my rights!’, her entire ordeal lasts for less than 20 seconds, and with one short ‘ughh’ (it’s there, two minutes and 27 seconds in if you can bear to listen for that long), Pierre spills his seed - almost a full decade before Frankie Goes to Hollywood would be banned from the airwaves for doing the same. Clearly the French had yet to discover the joys of Viagra. Incidentally, the song was originally called Love Letter to a Child Wife, but someone at Charisma had the good taste to change the title to something marginally less offensive.

The B-side, Love Letter is little better, describing the morning after and how our Lothario is already bored with her. Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that Cour sounds for all the world like Kenny Everett’s Marcel Wave, the disc was not broadcast by Everett during his World’s Worst Wireless Shows or two Bottom 30 compilations, although I have no way of knowing if he ever dared air it on his regular Capital Radio show.

Issued on St. Valentine’s Day 1975, legend has it that altering the title was not enough to placate the sales staff and pluggers working at the Charisma office: despite at least two pressings of the sexist song most of the stock ended up being thrown in to a cupboard and forgotten about – which is why it’s easier to find A-label promos than finished, shop stock copies. Pianist and orchestral arranger Zack Laurence is better known these days for his work in television: he wrote the themes to Treasure Hunt and The Crystal Maze as well as acting as musical arranger on series including The Flame Trees of Thika. In an earlier life he was known as of Mr Bloe, and hit the UK charts with Grooving With Mr. Bloe in 1970: a later, France-only Mr Bloe 45 had both sides written and performed by Elton John. 'Record Supervision Ltd', the company credited with the production, was once one of the UK's leading independent producers. RSL operated out of the Lansdowne Recording Studios in London's Holland Park, where everyone from the Sex Pistols to Shirley Bassey, the Plastic Ono Band and Queen had recorded, and where Joe Meek had cut his teeth before setting up on his own.

Cour died, aged 79, in 1995. Hopefully he’ll be remembered for his many pop hits, and not this dreadful blip in an otherwise thoroughly respectable career.

Enjoy!



Download Teenage Bride HERE



Download Love Letter HERE

Friday, 28 July 2017

Never Mind This Bollocks

A stopgap of sorts, as the disc I had intended to bring you today has yet to arrive on the mail. Here’s 60’s pop icon Paul Jones, the former vocalist with Manfred Mann, performing a pair of punk hits, courtesy of producer Tim Rice in what he called a ‘sophisticated, beautifully orchestrated’ style. The pair had collaborated before: in 1976 Jones performed the role of Juan Peron on the original concept album of Rice and Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita.

Based, Rice candidly admits, on ‘a weird idea of mine to rearrange a Sex Pistols song to sound like an easy listening ballad,’ this horrific disc was issued by RSO in April 1978, and you’d have to assume that all involved must have thought it a jolly good wheeze. Well it isn’t. It’s dreadful, and it should never have been allowed. Thankfully it did not chart.

So, a short post this week but a worthy one nevertheless. Here’s Paul Jones singing Pretty Vacant and its b-side, a cover of the Ramones classic Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.

Enjoy!


 Download Vacant HERE


 Download Sheena HERE

Friday, 21 July 2017

Steamed or Creamed?

With their roots in the early 60s folk scene, and best known for their sunshine pop hits Windy, Cherish, Never My Love and Along Comes Mary, The Association are beloved by fans for their close harmonies. The six piece (later seven piece) band will forever be famed for appearing as the opening act at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 – the first ever large scale pop music festival, but by the time they issued their fifth (and eponymous) studio album in 1969 things had soured somewhat for them, the hits had stopped and they were trying desperately to do something different.

And what they did was this: Broccoli. Ridiculous. ‘I like to eat it with my mouth’? Seriously, which other organ are you able to eat with? Written by guitarist Russ Giguere, presumably as some sort of joke, the album’s failure precipitated his leaving The Association and releasing the psych-influenced solo album Hexagram 16.

The band recorded their last album of new material, Waterbeds in Trinidad!,  in 1972. The following year founding member and bassist Brian Cole died, aged 29, of a heroin overdose, and over the next few years although the band issued several singles they struggled to find direction and gradually fell apart. Drummer Ted Bluechel kept the group going but soon retired. He began leasing the group name out, allowing oldies tour packagers to send out a version of The Association without any of the original members. After dealing with the legal issues caused by that catastrophic error of judgement (Dollar/Bucks Fizz, anyone?) several of the original members reformed the band and they have continued to tour ever since.

Larry Ramos, a former member of the New Christy Minstrels who joined in 1967, sadly passed away in April 2014, three years after suffering a heart attack and just over two months after his last appearance with the group. The Association are still gigging today, featuring original members Jim Yester and Jules Alexander plus friends and relatives: Brian Cole’s son Jordan plays keyboards for the group, and Larry’s brother Del plays bass.

Anyway, here’s a brace of songs you’ll seldom hear the Association perform, the thoroughly ridiculous Broccoli and, from the same album (known amongst fans as the ‘Stonehenge’ album), I Am Up For Europe, co-written by Brian Cole. If only they had been around for the Brexit vote…

My thanks to The Squire for alerting me to this particular vegetable.

Enjoy!




Right click HERE to download


Right click HERE to download

Sunday, 16 July 2017

No Business

A couple of days late... but here we go!

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost a decade of writing about rubbish to finally get around to blogging about The Ethel Merman Disco Album.

The veteran American Broadway performer Ethel Merman released The Ethel Merman Disco Album on A&M Records in 1979. Over the years this dreadful record – which features Merman performing several of the songs she was most closely identified with, including her signature belter There’s No Business Like Show Business - has attained the status of a camp classic, with original vinyl copies highly sought out by collectors.

Known primarily for her distinctive, powerful voice and leading roles in musical theatre, Merman recorded 14 songs for the record, although only seven were released on the original version (one of the others, They Say It's Wonderful, finally saw the light on the 2002 CD reissue; the six remaining songs have yet to see official release). Each of the songs was recorded in only one take and arranged vocally the way she always recorded them, with the ‘disco’ backing track added later. It’s probably worth noting here that the woman was 71 when this turgid monstrosity was unleashed on the world.

Stories about Merman (born January 1908, died February 1984) are legion. My personal favourite concerns her five week marriage to Ernest Borgnine (the fourth, last and briefest of her marriages). It was a disaster: Borgnine himself described it as the ‘biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney!’ Merman’s 1972 memoir, Merman, includes a chapter entitled My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine that consists of nothing more than a single blank page. Borgnine later told the Australian actor Frank Wilson that he spent most of his short marriage ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ with his wife, who was eight years his senior, and told him that ‘One day she came off the set of a film and said, ‘the director said today I looked sensational. He said I had the face of a 20 year old, and the body and legs of a 30 year old!’ I said: ‘did he say anything about your old cunt?’ ‘No’ replied Ethel, ‘he didn't mention you at all!’

Then there is her scene-stealing cameo in Airplane! (released a year after The Ethel Merman Disco Album and her last film performance), where she plays a traumatised soldier who is convinced that he is Ethel Merman.

Although she is beloved by gay men of a certain age she professed a distaste for the number of homosexuals involved in musical theatre . At a rehearsal she once shouted to newspaper columnist Jerry Berger ‘have you ever seen so many faggots in your life?’; she is also said to have accused Borgnine of being ‘a fag’ when he could not perform in bed. perhaps unsurprisingly it is rumoured that she had a lesbian affair with trash novelist Jacqueline Susann, and that Susann based her Valley of the Dolls character Anne, an ageing stage actress, on Merman.

There are those who will insist that The Ethel Merman Disco Album is great. It isn’t. And to prove my point here are a couple of primo examples of Ethel’s flirtation with the demon disco: Everything’s Coming Up Roses and I Get a Kick Out of You. Just horrible. And why the disembodied arm holding the hat? What's all that about?

The whole album is readily available on the YouTubes if you fancy more, but until next time...

Enjoy!


Friday, 7 July 2017

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

There are a multitude of reasons for this week’s post. Partly it has been inspired by Pride taking place in both London and Bristol this weekend, and partly it has come out of a number of interviews I have conducted and articles I have written recently about Pride and politics ahead of the publication of my forthcoming book, David Bowie Made Me Gay (SPOILER ALERT; lots of shameless plugs and paragraphs full of self-promotion ahead: you may wish to skip ahead to the music now!)

Yes, my new book, David Bowie Made Me Gay, is coming out soon, and people seem to like it. It’s ‘an excellent book’, according to Gay Star News, and ‘a comprehensive and compelling work, in terms of its extensive discussion of music, history and, of course, a human struggle for tolerance, acceptance and respect’ according to Nudge Books. Tom Robinson, who I had the good fortune to interview for the book, calls it ‘Lovingly detailed and exhaustively researched - easily the most readable and comprehensive guide I've seen to this fascinating hidden history.’ As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked!

Here’s an excerpt from the official blurb: ‘From Elton John to Little Richard, Bessie Smith to Dusty Springfield and Boy George to Sia – via lesser-known and cult musicians such as trans composer Wendy Carlos, Jobriath, and Divine – David Bowie Made Me Gay is a collection of hidden histories, pulling back the curtain on the colourful legacy that formed our musical and cultural landscape. Through new interviews and contemporary reports, David Bowie Made Me Gay uncovers the real story of LGBT music-makers, revealing the lives of the people who made the records, and witnessed first-hand the cultural revolution that they helped to create.’

Anyway, back to the music. I have spent the last year or so researching and writing about LGBT musicians, and on my travels I found much to admire. Sadly I also uncovered some terrible nonsense that should never have seen the light of day. And, naturally, it’s a couple of examples of the latter that I present for you today.

Anita Bryant was a beauty pageant queen, singer, actress and the spokesperson for Florida orange juice. She was also a terrible homophobe, the kind who equates homosexuality with child abuse. A perfectly passable singer, she had a few chart hits (her version of Paper Roses went Top 5 in 1960) but as she became more politically active her singing career all but dried up: her last charting 45 was in 1964.

I first came across Bryant when I read Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City in the late 1980s; Maupin’s character Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver talks about her in his coming out letter home to his parents. At the time the novel was set, Bryant was heading the political coalition Save Our Children, a right-wing Christian-led campaign to overturn local legislation that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Florida had long been opposed to LGBT rights: the city’s officials had been closing down bars and enacting laws to make homosexuality and cross-dressing illegal, and until 1975 the government was legally empowered to refuse employment to anyone thought to be homosexual. Established in 1956, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (known as the Johns Committee) hunted down LGBT people in state employment and universities and in 1964 published Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida (a.k.a. the Purple Pamphlet), a highly inflammatory document that portrayed homosexuals as predators and a threat to children.

Bryant became the bete noir of the gay community, and protests against her and against Save Our Children saw her lose a lucrative TV series. In June 1977 more than 130,000 people marched to demand equal rights for LGBT people in the United States, with marchers bearing signs attacking the former singer. Peaceful demonstrations were also held in London, where around 1,000 turned out to march, and in Amsterdam 2,000 people marched through the city carrying banners that read ‘Against the American witch-hunt on homosexuals’. In San Francisco, according to police estimates, more than 100,000 took to the streets and the gay community received heavy support from predominantly heterosexual organisations.

Naturally a number of artists recorded songs both in support of and attacking Bryant and Save Our Children: you can discover many of those at JD Doyle’s excellent Queer Music Heritage website here, but for today I’ll leave you with one of the oddest, most confused and certainly NSFW of them, renegade country singer-songwriter David Allen Coe’s Fuck Aneta Briant, which appeared on his 1978 album Nothing Sacred and was also issued as the B-side to his single Cum Stains On The Pillow. You can also have a listen to Anita’s 1962 Top 20 hit Wonderland By Night, her vocal version of the Bert Kaempfert hit. I wonder if she knew that the song was originally the theme tune to a German ‘art’ film whose story included lurid (for the time) depictions of prostitution and lesbianism?   

Published in the UK on September 7, you can per-order David Bowie Made Me Gay here (UK) and here (US). We’re holding a launch event at the British Library on September 8, with music from k anderson and Drake Jensen, and a limited number of tickets for that event are available here. I’ll be touring the country in September and October to promote the book – if you would like to keep up to date with details I have a dedicated Facebook page set up here - and if you’re in the area it would be great to see you there.

Enjoy!


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