Friday, 31 October 2014

Take Time Out to Cull


I occasionally feel a bit mean when taking a pot shot at a charity record – after all, if it’s for a good cause surely you can overlook the wretchedness of a recording? But not today: this record is an abomination, and as such is a worthy inductee here at the hall of infamy we call The World’s Worst Records.

Issued in 1986, the same year that its top-billed miscreant was suspended for two months by the England and Wales Cricket Board for smoking cannabis, Take Time Out to Care is as miserable a slice of hokey country and western as is ever likely to assault your eardrums. Credited to cricketer Ian Botham plus Bobby Buck and Poacher (a country music act from Warrington in Cheshire who won TV talent show New Faces in 1977), the song is a dull as ditch water strum-along which barely features the main artist: Botham turns up for a couple of spoken lines in the middle of this muddle and that’s it. No doubt he went off on one of his Land's End to John O'Groats walks (in the interest of fairness I should probably note that Botham has helped raise more than £12million for good causes and was knighted for ­services to ­charity in 2007).

Take Time Out to Care is backed with the equally poor Caribbean-influenced Ian, Viv and Me (although Botham is again credited, this time he didn’t even bother to phone it in). A truly horrid song, in which Buck proceeds to tell the world how everything will be better when he gets together with his great mates Botham and Viv Richards, at least it doesn't feature the A-side's whiny lines about 'the helpless kids out there' and Botham's feeble, one-verse recitation. Nor does Buck affect a fake black accent, a la last week's entry, Mike Read and the UKIP Calypso. Luckily neither Buck nor Botham bothered the record buying public again.

Botham has long irritated me: actually to say he irritates me is an understatement. According to Wikipedia ‘he is generally regarded as being England's greatest ever all-rounder’. I’d go further: I think he’s an all-round prat.


I was working at the St Pierre Golf and Country Club in Chepstow many years ago (1987 to be precise, just 12 months after he was so kindly trying to raise funds for leukaemia research) when a drunken Beefy – there to take part in a pro-am celebrity golf tournament – verbally and physically assaulted several members of staff, actually headbutting one (a waiter named Marcus, fact fans) and throwing tomatoes at another (a waitress named Fran), all the while bellowing ‘do you know who I am?’ The incident – which made front page headlines and is recounted in Simon Wilde's biography Botham: the Power and the Glory –was apparently the result of a drinking contest between Botham, Welsh‘comedian’ Max Boyce and golfer Ian Woosnam. Botham talks about drinking with Woosnam at St Pierre in his won boook My Sporting Heroes but tactfully skips over his bully-boy braggadocio.


Enjoy!


Friday, 24 October 2014

Calypso to Collapso

Today’s bad record (well, bad download) appears here by request. The fact that the track – UKIP Calypso by The Independents - has now been ‘withdrawn’ and so (in theory) will soon become harder to find is an added bonus. Grab it while you can – if you can be bothered.

The Independents are, or rather is, DJ and professional Cliff Richard impersonator Mike Read. On Wednesday of this week (October 22), Read turned to the press to announce that he was pulling his own song, a track he had happily promoted just two days before, following criticism that it was racist.

He said that he was sorry for “unintentionally causing offence” with the tune, which he performs in a fake Caribbean accent. Read had defended his song after some objected to his using calypso music to promote Ukip’s anti-immigration agenda. “It was never meant to be remotely racist,” he said. “It’s an old-fashioned political satire … you can’t sing a calypso with a Surrey accent.” The song’s withdrawal ruined Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s hope that the song would reach No 1.

Read said: “I’m so sorry that the song unintentionally caused offence. That was never my intention and I apologise unreservedly if anyone has taken offence. I’ve asked the record company to withdraw the single immediately.” Clearly his 'record company' wern't listening: at the time of writing the track was still available through Amazon.

Currently fronting a post-lunch magazine show on BBC Radio Berkshire, the ghastly Read has a history of issuing bad recordings: in 2009 he released – as The Shooting Stars - the dismal download-only single My Christmas Card to You. Fellow former Radio 1 DJ David Hamilton – who has previously appeared on this blog – turns up in the video but doesn’t actually perform on the song. Issued to raise money for charity, I can’t imagine the modest royalties this piece of trash would have garnered would have bought many bandages. Read has claimed that UKIP Calypso was also issued to raise funds for a charity, this time for the Red Cross and the fight against Ebola. The Red Cross have issued a statement saying that they would not accept a penny from the sales of Read’s racist rant.
And racist it is. Ignore his pathetic claim that ‘you have to sing a calypso in a Jamaican accent. I like Jamaicans; honest’ or whatever the twice bankrupt looser said, you cannot escape the fact that any song that contains the couplet ‘open the borders let them all come in/ Illegal immigrants in every town’ is a tad less than welcoming to non-Brits. UKIP Calypso is not Read’s first brush with political posturing: the smug dick is a former Tory supporter who, in 2006, entertained guests at a Conservative Conference dinner with a ten-minute political rap!


UKIP Calypso is awful: production values are non-existent and the 'cover' art must have taken about two  minutes to toss off. One can't help wondering if this pile of crap was issued with the express intention of its being banned or withdrawn, simply in order to gain more press overage for the racist, homophobic, right wing nutjobs currently masquerading so successfully as a proper political party. Read's ridiculous song is not the first to bolster the party faithful: last year Anna-Marie Crampton issued the appalling dance tune Better Vote Ukip which - like its author - sank like a stone. Ms Crampton was suspended by the party soon after over reports that she had posted anti-Semitic comments online. 

Read’s attempts to realise musical greatness go back 35 years. In 1979 he wrote and performed the song High Rise under the name The Trainspotters and followed this in 1980 with My Town as The Ghosts. He wrote the lyrics to the theme from the TV series Trainer, recorded by his idol Cliff Richard as More to Life. In 1991 he provided a guest rap on Slade's UK Top 30 hit Radio Wall of Sound. More recently he’s had minor chart hits with re-recordings of Hank Mizell's Jungle Rock and Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime and, in 2005, his song Grief Never Grows Old (released by the One World Project, which again included Sir Cliff in its number) actually made the UK Top Five, raising money for charities working with tsunami victims. He’s also written music to accompany poems written by John Betjeman and has staged a number of musicals, including Young Apollo (a musical about the life of Rupert Brooke); Oscar (a 2004 show about Oscar Wilde which was derided by critics and closed after one performance) and Cliff - The Musical (which closed after three months, probably because Read took one of the lead roles).

Well known to TV viewers for presenting the 80s shows Saturday Superstore and Pop Quiz, in 2004 he was one of the contestants recruited for the outback-based ITV show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, although his stay in the jungle was short-lived and he became the first ‘celebrity’ to be evicted. Two days later John Lydon walked out of the show (it’s unlikely that the two events were in any way related).

If all that wasn’t enough to hate, in 2007 he foisted his Choc Art on the world: ‘paintings’ made with liquorice allsorts and other sweets – including a reinterpretation of the Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road and Sgt Pepper sleeves that look like they were slung together by a five-year-old. Oh, and he was entirely responsible for having Relax banned from the airwaves (even though he’s since tried to claim otherwise). Would you be surprised to discover that he once worked as an estate agent? 


If you'd like to know more about the shady world of music and politics there's a whole chapter on the subject in The World's Worst Records Volume Two - although for that you'll have to wait until next year!


Enjoy! 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Dante's Dragons



Today’s post was inspired, once again, by WWR follower Graham Clayton who, by bringing one of these discs to my attention, reminded me that I had not posted the other.

The first disc, one I had never heard before Graham mentioned it, comes from the New York-based psychedelic act the Blues Magoos. Pretty much unknown in the UK, they scored a solitary hit in the US in 1967 with the single We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet. Originally formed in 1964 as the Trenchcoats, by 1968 – after releasing a string of flop singles - the band had fractured in two and, after issuing a couple of poorly-selling albums, by 1972 they were gone for good.

Or so it seemed. In 2008 the Blues Magoos (featuring original members Ralph Scala, Peppy Castro and Geoff Daking) reunited for two concerts, including one supporting The Zombies at the Fillmore New York. Since then the band has continued to play live and, in 2012, they issued their first new album in 42 years, Psychedelic Resurrection.

However the track we feature today comes from the B-side to their 1967 flop single One By One. The utterly peculiar Dante’s Inferno, credited to all five members of the band, is a shockingly awful psychedelic jam that should never have been committed to tape and, quite obviously, took about as long to record as it does to listen to. The Brian Auger-like keyboard stabs, ridiculous guitar work and Yoko Ono-esque wailing make it sound like a Mothers of Invention live outtake. Ignore the crackling at the beginning of the disc: it’s not scratched – them’s ‘flames’ you can hear.

Hearing that abomination reminded me of another B-side by another 60s US outfit, this time the much more successful – with well over a dozen hits on the Billboard charts - The Turtles. The band, led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (who would later become known as Flo and Eddie and would join Zappa in the Mothers of Invention) are best known for their international hit Happy Together, although they scored their first hit with a cover of Bob Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe in 1965 and would continue to make the charts until 1970. 

Umbassa and the Dragon was originally issued as the B-side to their 1968 single Sound Asleep: the backing track to the ‘song’ is actually the fade out of the A-side slowed down. Such invention! This ridiculous noise was ignored when the band came to compile their next album and was all but whitewashed from musical history until Rhino Records decided to include it on their collection The World’s Worst Records Volume One (Hmm…where have I heard that phrase before?)

Enjoy! 


Friday, 10 October 2014

Cursing Matilda


Recommended to me by WWR follower Graham Clayton, today’s disc, the peculiarly-named Shadow Valley and Iron Triangles, is three minutes of turgid Australian jingoistic nonsense masquerading as a call to arms to support the conflict in Vietnam . The title isn’t mentioned in the ‘song’, but it’s fairly safe to assume the ‘shadow valley’ part references the Lord’s Prayer; according to Wikipedia ‘In United States politics, the iron triangle comprises the policy-making relationship among the congressional committees, the bureaucracy, and interest groups’.

Written by Andrew Jones MP (who, at the time, was the youngest person ever elected to the Australian House of Representatives: he’s not the same Andrew Jones MP who is currently serving as the Conservative member for Harrogate) Shadow Valley and Iron Triangles is credited to the group The Young Australians but is actually narrated by Rex Heading, a former DJ turned TV exec who went on to create the popular Aussie kids’ character Humphrey B Bear, over a version of the standard Waltzing Matilda. Issued in 1967, although the song was banned by several radio stations it was a sizeable hit in certain parts of the country, even reaching Number One in the Adelaide district.

Young and idealistic he may have been, but Jones – who was elected to the House of Representatives in November 1966 – was perhaps not the best person to be playing at politics.  In the same year that he had his hit single the naive young Liberal MP made the mistake of telling a journalist that "half the MPs in Parliament are drunk half the time". His faux pas ended in humiliation: he was forced to stand in the House of Representatives and apologise to Parliament.

The song later appeared on the 1986 double album Bob Hudson & Glenn A. Baker Present Antipodean Atrocities: Dubious Ditties, Patriotic Pap and Enthusiastic Excesses that Made Australia Grate. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to track down an audio clip of the song’s B-side Too Many Twisted Trails. Anyone out there help with that?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Ouch!

Welcome to the utterly deluded world of Melvin G Fromm Jr, the singer-songwriter who, for the last 15 years or so, has quietly been beavering away at the coalface of country-lounge music. Hailing from the town of Gap in Pennsylvania, since 1999 Fromm’s fertile mind has been responsible for more than 270 finished and recorded songs: all of which are, at the very least, a little off-kilter and some of which are hideously brilliant. 

When listening to the wild song stylings of Melvin G Fromm Jr I am immediately reminded of two of my favourite bad singers – Nicholas Gilio and W L Horning, both of who have featured on this blog before. Often, as was also true of both Gilio and Horning, Melvin has employed modern-day song-poem outfits and session singers to add a bit of spit and polish to his tunes. Again like both Wesley and Nick, Melvin also occasionally takes his own turn behind the microphone – with spectacularly inept results.

“A lot of people always ask me how did I get started in music,” says Melvin on one of his many internet pages. “Well I sat down and wrote a song about my then girlfriend, now wife, and sent it with other songs I wrote to overseas radio on CD just to see what would happen. I had a Canada DJ named Carmen Kilburn like my music and we became good friends & he really helped me in my music in a big way. Carmen past away (sic) in 2006 but he will always have a special place in my heart for all he did for me as he told me I should start my own record label for my own music.”

That Canadian DJ has a lot to answer for – although don’t get the idea that he was the Kenny Everett of the Canucks: Carmen Kilburn, who actually departed from this earth in June 2005, only became a volunteer DJ on community radio after retiring from a lifetime working in law.  Discover for yourself what Mr Kilburn saw in our Mel by listening to the two tracks I’ve included here: Bowled a Strike and Ouch, Love Struck Me (are you sensing a theme here?)

Inspired by his international success, Melvin formed the four-piece band Fromm's Country Music to create what his official press release describes as ‘an exciting, diverse sound which appeals to lifelong country fans as well as bright eyed newcomers. With plenty of contemporary pop sensibilities and a strong inflection of Christian values, Fromm's Country Music fits comfortably into fan's minds and hearts’.The band has issued four albums along with many, many download-only tracks.

More recently Melvin has attempted to branch out into the song-poem field on his own, offering would be hit songwriters the chance to have their poems enhanced by a Melvin G Fromm tune. I’m guessing his latest business venture proved unsuccessful: at the time of writing Mel’s website www.frommscustomsongs.com is in hibernation.

All of Mel’s tracks can be purchased from www.productiontrax.com and a whole bunch are available via CDBaby and iTunes. Go have a listen…you’ll find some perfectly ordinary country songs performed by various members of Fromm’s Country Music as well as many. Many examples of Melvin at his best (or worst).

Enjoy!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Who Loves Ya, Baby?

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I’m sure that the vast majority of you can recall that jaw-dropping moment when you first heard Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas open up his maw to destroy the David Gates song If; his flat, emotionless ‘sing-speak’ performance inexplicably catapulting the TV cop to Number One in the UK charts in 1975.

What you may not know is that Telly released a string of awful albums and singles during a decade-long personal vendetta against decency and good taste. And here are a couple of prime examples from his 1974 album Telly  - You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling (issued in several countries as the follow-up single to If) and his cover of the Peter Skellern hit You’re a Lady, plus the A-side of his obscure 1975 UK single Who Loves Ya Baby.

Greek-American actor Aristotelis "Telly" Savalas (January 21, 1922 – January 22, 1994) enjoyed a career which spanned four decades. The second of five children, he was best known for playing the title role in the 1970s crime drama Kojak, which ran for five years and built on Telly’s success in the TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1972). Savalas’s other credits include parts in the movies The Young Savages (1961), Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), the Battle of the Bulge (1965) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). He played supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). A fine actor he may have been: a world-class poker player he may have been as well – but a singer he certainly wasn’t...as these three tracks amply prove.

Telly's recording career kicked off in 1972, pre-Kojak, with the album This Is Telly Savalas (featuring covers of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash songs) for DJM. However it was only after he gained worldwide fame as the lollipop-sucking detective that he struck pop gold. Over the next 10 years he released a further half-dozen albums in the US and Europe. He was surprisingly popular in Switzerland, where he somehow managed to record and release two different songs – Some Broken Hearts Never Mend (which unbelievably topped the Swiss charts in 1981) and Lovin’ Understanding Man (recorded the same year) - utilising almost exactly the same backing track!

As an aside his brother George - who appeared in Kojak as the inept sidekick Sergeant Stavros -  also recorded, although his album of traditional Greek melodies - Hellas, You're Beautiful, I Love You - is actually quite good.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Life in Hell

I find something deeply offensive about this kind of music: it actually sickens me to the core. It's not because I hate classical music or classical performers - far from it. I just cannot fathom why anyone would attempt a crossover as ridiculous as this. I hate the recent glut of pseudo-classical vocal acts knocking out pop standards (come the glorious day I'd gladly put people like Il Divo and those awful Welsh brothers who won the X Factor in front of a firing squad). Pavarotti's attempts at pop were beyond embarrassing, and don't get me started on Freddie Mercury's ridiculous diva act.

But before anyone had heard any of Russell Watson's godawful 'pop' output a half dozen posh boys from King's College, Cambridge began their now 45-year career bastardising the great pop songs of the day. This 'band' The King's Singers, are responsible for some of the most reprehensible recordings ever made, including the one I present for you today - their unfathomably bad version of David Bowie's classic Life on Mars.

The King's Singers are a British a cappella vocal ensemble founded in 1968, but whose roots reach back as far as 1965. Named after King's College in Cambridge (where the group was formed), prior to the establishment of the six-piece, male-only group several of the parts were taken by other singers.

Although the line up has changed over the years (none of the original members are still in the group and at one pint they even – shock, horror – had three female singers) the six man Singers gave the first concert on May 1, 1968 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London and they are still an inexplicably popular draw today: the ensemble travels worldwide, appearing in around 125 concerts annually in Europe, the U.S, the Far East and the People's Republic of China. These concerts are typically divided into five distinct groups of pieces, with madrigals, folk songs and so on from the acts ‘serious’ material, followed by a selection of ‘lighter fare’, including songs by The Beatles, Billy Joel and Queen. And, it would seem, David Bowie.

The King’s Singers have released around 50 albums so far. Given an average running time of 40 minutes, that’s over 33 hours of this nonsense. And that doesn’t include the endless list of compilations. Two of the founding members – Alistair Hume and Simon Carrington – managed 28 years with the group (1965-1993): David Hurley is the act’s current longest-serving member, having joined in 1989 and still performing today. 

Anyway, here are the King's Singers and their horrid version of Life on Mars, from their 1982 album For Your Pleasure. As a bonus, I've also included their murderous version of American Pie from their 1991 collection Good Vibrations.

Enjoy! 


 

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