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! 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Brady Brats

Did we ever 'get' the Brady Bunch in Britain? I have vague memories of the spin-off cartoon series, The Brady Kids, airing on a Saturday morning in the mid 70s – but maybe as we already had our own version of the kids from broken homes coming together (in the fondly remembered Wendy Craig sitcom And Mother Makes Five) it’s probably not surprising that the show, made between 1969 and 1974, didn’t air in the UK until 1975 (according to www.televisionheaven.co.uk) and even then was mostly ignored.

But it was a reasonable success in the US, especially with kids, and sure enough it wasn’t long before someone had the genius idea of pushing the young cast (and their TV parents) in to a recording studio. After all, the same thing had worked wonders for the Partridge Family

First up was the reasonably safe A Very Brady Christmas, issued in 1970. The kids combo Christmas caterwauling is reasonably listenable – although once they head off to do a solo, as Bobby Brady did with his version of The First Noel or little Cindy did with Frosty the Snowman (included below) the result is particularly disturbing. The poor girl sounds positively petrified. 1972’s Meet the Brady Bunch is an offensive little collection, with pop classics American Pie and Badfinger’s brilliant Day After Day crucified by the kids. This was followed the same year by The Kids from the Brady Bunch, a horrifying record that includes a ghastly big band version of the Beatles’ Love Me Do. The album is mostly made up of original songs written specifically for the kids, including the terrifying You Need That Rock 'N Roll (included here) and Merry-go-Round, but also includes a rather unpleasant cover of Michael Jackson’s ode to his pet rat Ben.

The parents were back for their final outing, the 1973 collection The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album which, for the most part, is actually quite a listenable bubblegum pop album, but there would be no more, although actors Chris Knight (Peter Brady) and Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) did issue an album, funnily enough titled Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick (also in 1973). The following year the show was cancelled and that was that.

A few TV specials (one produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, another concentrating on the Brady girls’ marriages) would follow and, in the 90s a brace of po-mo films brought the Bradys (this time portrayed by different actors) back in to the public consciousness. But nothing can compare with the originals - and here, for your delectation, are four cuts that prove the fact.

Enjoy!

Apologies - it looks like there's a copyright infringement on posting the other two songs here. Never mind - here are links to them on YouTube (where, apparently, copyright issues do not apply)

Friday, 20 January 2017

Don't Dilly Dally

Today is one of the darkest says in world politics; it’s also the 50th anniversary of the Beatles recording their masterpiece A Day in the Life – and should the tangerine hate machine push the button, I would be quite happy if that apocalyptic piano chord at the end of the song were the last thing I ever heard. Incidentally it was a discussion with a friend about A Day in the Life that reminded me of the track I present for you today. I figure a few of us will need some cheering up, so here is a fun favourite to help you pass the day with a smile on your face and an earworm in your head.

Those of us of a certain age will have fond memories (well, memories at least) of the Dilly Sisters, the Mariachi moppets who regularly turned up on the Banana Splits Show to sing Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay or somesuch. Well, in 1968 the pair of little darlings released a one-off 45, coupling the classic Cu Cu Rru Cu Cu Paloma with a nutso cover of the Standells song Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White - a top 50 US hit for them on September 1966. Written by Ed 'Tainted Love' Cobb, the song was also later covered by US hardcore band Minor Threat.

Legend has it that only 500 copies of this brilliant 45 were pressed by Mexican music specialist Gordo Enterprises (tagline: ‘Chicanos are Happening!'), part of Eddie Davis’s Rampart Records company. Certainly it’s a rare thing, and copies usually fetch in the $60-$100 region. After their brief brush with televisual fame the Dilly Sisters vanished: sadly there’s nothing else I can add (don’t get confused by the existence of another 60s girl group called the Dilly Sisters from Washington). If any one has an mp3 rip of the a-side do let me know!


Enjoy!

Friday, 13 January 2017

From Cyprus With Love

Emin Hassini (or possibly Hussini) was born in Cyprus in 1948. In 1965 he moved to New York as a 17-year-old to join his brother, Anthony Hassini who, in 1968, would become the founding member of the International Magicians Society. Looking alarmingly like Kevin Godley of 10CC, Emin enrolled in the New York University, fell in love and married a woman named Hulya Aziz.

In late 1970, as Marc Mundy, Emin recorded his only, eponymous, album. Produced by his brother, the disc is distinguished by Marc’s rather amateurish Middle Eastern-accented vocals and the equally amateurish playing. The record features his wife on backing vocals, but Paul and Linda McCartney they ain’t. A vague Middle Eastern melodic flavour permeates the collection, though the musical arrangements are fairly typical of those found on early-‘70s singer/songwriter albums. Guitarists Robert (Peppermint) Arlin (variously known as Bob or Bobby Arlin) and John Beck, drummer Tom Ambrose Ray and bass player Jim Pons had all previously been members of psych-folk band The Leaves. Pons also played with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Beck appeared on recordings by Judee Sill. The playing on the record is mediocre at best, so I'd guess that the boys - clearly seasoned musicians - had very little rehearsal time.

Just 500 copies of the album were pressed. Called ‘a truly unique, private-press curiosity rescued from obscurity’, Marc Mundy was reissued on CD (with historical liner notes) by Companion in 2006. Anthony Hassini remained in New York and, as Tony Hassini, worked as a cameraman and director, filming ads for, among others, Burger King. Tony has also overseen the growth of the International Magicians Society, which has since become the world's largest magic society (as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records) with over 37,000 members worldwide. Emin/Marc returned to his native Cyprus to become a maths teacher in high school and vanished.

Still, he did leave us with this one album. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.

Enjoy!

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