Friday, 22 June 2018

Knowles Your Limits


Why do so many television personalities think that they can sing? Why, after decades of consistently being proved wrong, do record companies still feel the need to pull slebs in to a recording studio and allow them to release their anodyne drivel?

Today’s entry in the genre comes from Nick Knowles, the smiling front man of the BBC’s hit show DIY SOS. A former labourer, over a varied television career he has presented dozens of shows, many of them in the ‘real life’ category, including Who Dares Wins, Real Rescues, Wildest Dreams and quiz shows including Perfection, Family Reunion and Who Dares Wins. He also co-wrote the movie Golden Years, filmed in Bristol. You can often see Knowles wandering around the city: the production offices for DIY SOS are also here.

Despite being thought of as a ‘man of the people’, he was born Nicholas Simon Augustine Knowles in September 1962 in Southall, West London. Twice married, and with at least one child born to a third woman he dated while with his first wife, he has a son called Tyrian-J… seriously, is that a Christian name or a brand of lavatory cleaner?

That’s unfair. Nick seems like a decent person, although if you read the tabloids you’ll know him as a love rat who avoided paying a decent amount of child support for Tyrian-J. Then again, he does loads for charity, and supports the children's anti-bullying charity Act Against Bullying. Life is complicated, and I’m not judging. Ex-lovers can be vindictive, and after he split from his last wife she accused him of physical and emotional abuse, claims he strenuously denied.

But we didn’t come here to discuss his personal life, we came to mock his singing.

His album, Every Kind of People, entered the UK charts last year at 92. And then vanished. And a good thing too, because it is horrendous, stuffed with tortuous, laid-back versions of well-known soft pop songs. Nick plays reasonable rhythm guitar (certainly better than me), but he has that annoying habit of singing in a faux-American accent and adopting that nasal bark peculiar of every annoying karaoke singer you’ve ever had to suffer. The cover of Here Comes the Sun is simply dull and boring, but his version of You’re the First, the Last, My Everything is abominable, and would have Barry White spinning in his ample grave. His acoustic strum through of the Louis Armstrong classic What a Wonderful World makes me want to blow up the planet... or at least the plant where this atrocity was pressed.

As one Amazon reviewer put it: “I had to request my wife strapped me into a chair lined with sharp rusty knives and force me to watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop on repeat for several days in order to remove the trauma of having heard Mr Knowles’ new album.”

Here are a couple of tracks: I’ve chosen the tile song, Every Kind of People, as it perfectly exemplifies my point about the nasal Americanisms. What in God’s name is a ‘jowb’, Nick? And then there’s his cover of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, probably better known to Nick’s intended audience via Adele’s recording. For some reason, Nick has chosen to gargle with gravel before recording his vocal, one assumes in an effort to emulate Sir Bob. 

Anyway, enjoy!

Download People HERE



Download Love HERE

Friday, 15 June 2018

To Funk Or Not To Funk

Right: let’s get one thing straight from the off. This David Arnold is not that David Arnold. Despite what Discogs might want you to believe, the man we’re ribbing today did not compose the score to Independence Day, the last five James Bond movies or Benylin Cucumberpatch’s Sherlock, nor did he work with Massive Attack, Bjork and Shirley Bassey. No. Our Dave is a conductor, arranger and composer who, over a lifetime in music, has worked for Classic Fm, the BBC, and whose career has been closely associated with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – whose ranks he first joined as a percussionist in the 1970s.

Both men are superb musicians and very good at their jobs. But they’re not the same person and they are not related. Our Dave is, however, responsible for a reprehensible series of pop/classical crossover albums that appeared in stores in the 1980s… and, ever since, in bargain bins and charity shops throughout the country.

Taking his lead from colleague Louis Clark, the former member of the Electric Light Orchestra who foisted the hideous Hooked on Classics on the world by dubbing a disco beat over fairly straight orchestral arrangements, Arnold took the ball (or, rather, the baton) and ran with it. Clark - inspired by the success of the late 70s Classic Rock series -  expanded the vision, bringing in pop and rock musicians, including Roy Wood and Herbie Flowers, to augment his sound, popifying popular classical tunes for an indolent audience. Hooked on Classics was an enormous international success, and Arnold went straight for the jugular, rearranging the same classical tunes and adding not only the obligatory disco beat but that repugnant ‘scratchy’ funk guitar sound so beloved of British sitcom theme writers, stabs of synthesiser and other pseudo-funk sounds from his grab-bag of tools.

He began with the god-awful 45 Hooked on Christmas, before unleashing the peculiar horror that is A Classic Case of Funk on the world - an album that the word ‘ghastly’ was invented for. 14 cuts, including Funky Swan, Funky Brandenburg and Radetzky's Got A Brand New Bag… I’m not quite sure what this 1982 album is, but it certainly ain’t funk. James Brown had the funk, Mr Arnold and the assembled members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra definitely do not. We probably shouldn’t blame Arnold for the whole catastrophe, but he did conduct the orchestra and rook co-producer and arranger credits. So it is mostly his fault.

I’ve always hated these kind of crossover albums: it’s music designed specifically to appeal to people who don’t like music. Like Coldplay. Opera singers should not sing pop, pop singers should never attempt opera and orchestras cannot play rock music. Orchestral arrangements have enhanced some of the greatest pop and rock recordings of all time, but no one in their right mind wants to listen to Puccini’s One Fine Day played at breakneck speed over a ‘four on the floor’ beat. No one.

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from the record... you make up your own mind.

Emjoy!

To Download The Gilbert and Sullivan Case click HERE



To Download A Patriotic Case of Funk click HERE

Friday, 8 June 2018

Pass Me a Bucket

A huge nod to Mr Stephen 'Beany' Green for today's suggestion.

Mike Leander (born in 1941 as Michael Farr) first entered the British pop scene in the early 1960s, landing a job as an arranger with Decca in 1963. He worked with Lulu, the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithful and scores of others. Prolific and prodigious, his hits include Under the Boardwalk for the Drifters, Lady Godiva for Peter and Gordon and Paul Jones’ High Time. He also wrote the string arrangement for the Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home.

In the latter part of the Sixties, he signed a six-figure contract with MCA Records as a writer and producer. While at MCA he brought in singer Paul Raven, who had been struggling to make a name for himself since releasing his first 45, Alone in The Night, back in 1960. As well as trying to launch Raven on the pathway to superstardom, Leander produced and arranged hits for several artists, was executive producer of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice concept album Jesus Christ Superstar (which featured Paul Raven as ‘Priest’), and produced the soundtrack album of Godspell. With his friend Edward Seago Leander produced worldwide hits for Englebert Humperdinck, Cliff Richard and Vanity Fair.

Leander was responsible for turning the failed singer Paul Gadd, a.k.a. Paul Raven, in to Rubber Bucket, before finally letting him loose on to the world as Garry Glitter. Apart from writing, arranging and producing 11 consecutive Top Ten hits for Glitter, including three UK Number Ones, Leander played all the instruments on the records except the brass, forming a backing group, the Glitter Band, for live dates and TV appearances. The Glitter Band would go on to have a short but successful career of their own, again masterminded by Leander.

After Glitter’s bubble burst, Leander wrote the musical Matador, which included the Tom Jones hit The Boy From Nowhere. Leander died in 1996, thankfully before the word discovered what a disgusting old pervert Gadd/Raven/Bucket/Glitter was (or, rather, is): Glitter was convicted of possessing child pornography in 1999, jailed and put on the sexual offences register. In 2005 he was arrested in Vietnam, and charged with having had sex with girls as young as eleven. The following year he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison after committing obscene acts with two girls, aged 10 and 11.

On 5 February 2015 Glitter was convicted of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault, and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13. Three weeks later Judge Alistair McCreath sentenced Glitter to 16 years in prison. That May, Glitter, under his real name, Paul Gadd, began an appeal that was ultimately denied by the Court of Appeal, which said there was nothing "unsafe" about the conviction.

Glitter isn’t the only rock ‘n roll’s icon with a taste for young girls, of course: Elvis began dating Priscilla when she was 14, although they don’t appear to have started making the beast with two backs until after he got out of the army and she was around 17. Jerry Lee Lewis wed his 13-year-old cousin. Bill Wyman was having sex with Mandy Smith when she was 14. Steven Tyler ‘adopted’ a teenage groupie (some reports state she was 14: in 2011 Julia Holcomb broke her silence and claimed she had just turned 16) so that she could live with him legally… and not only got her pregnant but forced her to have an abortion.

But back to Rubber Bucket. For We’re All Living in One Place, Leander and Seago simply took the traditional song Amazing Grace and added new lyrics. They would not be the last, of course, to do this:  Sir Cliff Richard would employ the same trick for his chart-topping Millennium Prayer. By a twist of fate, Leander had worked with Cliff in the early 60s.

We’re All Living in One Place is horrible: the opening verse is sung so out of tune it’s embarrassing. The ridiculous hippy sentiment was already outdated by the time the single came out (1969). The flip side, Take Me Away is marginally better, although the waltz-time tune has been liberally cribbed from another song – which I can hear in my head but cannot put my finger on just now! Immediately after cutting this single, Gadd/Raven took on another persona, this time as Paul Monday, to record an insipid version of the Beatles'  Here Comes the Sun. Glitter and Seago would also work together on another pre-Gary 45, this time credited to Banzai.

Enjoy!

Download Place HERE




Download Away HERE

Friday, 25 May 2018

Cheese and Oignons


French pop music. An oxymoron? 

Actually j’adore a lot of French pop, especially yéyé and freakbeat, from the 1960s, but by the mid 70s French pop had seriously lost its way: there was nothing original, inspiring or exciting about it at all. Everything is either boring ballads or derivative disco. In the 60s we had Jacques Dutronc, Nino Ferrer, France Gall, Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot and others. The 70s gave us Sheila and B. Devotion (admittedly Spacer is great, but that’s more down to Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers than to Sheila’s Gallic charm), and Charles Aznovoice.  

Laurent Voulzy was born in Paris. He originally led the band Le Temple de Vénus, a group heavily influenced by British psychedelia who were signed to RCA in France, before he joined balladeer Pascal Danel. He worked as his guitarist from 1969 to 1974. More recently he’s recorded with Andrea Corr and Roger Daltrey (not at the same time I hasten to add).

After leaving Danel, Voulzy went solo. And it’s here where we meet him. A big star in la belle France – not Jonny Halliday big, but still a major hit maker – in 1977 he scored an international hit with Rockollection, a song about growing up listening to the radio, which was sung in French (he later re-recorded the song in Spanish) but featured lines, in English, from hit songs of the 1960s.
Split over two sides of a 45, as Rockollection Part 1 and Rockollection Part 2, the grim nostalgia-fest predated Stars on 45 by a couple of years, and is probably at least partly guilty for unleashing the slew of medley discs that invaded the British charts in the early 1980s.

It’s still horrible. The backing vocals are flat and out of tune, and the whole thing is a dull, dreary waste of vinyl. Despite being a perfect example of lazy writing, bizarrely the song proved incredibly popular;, the single became a hit in several countries and sold over four million copies. Voulzy has re-recorded and updated the song several times over the years, and still performs it live to this day.

Here are both sides of his 1977 hit Rockollection. Enjoy!

Download Rockollection Part One HERE


Download Rockollection Part Two HERE

Friday, 18 May 2018

The Many Sides of Dobie Gillis

The name of Dwayne Hickman won’t mean much to British TV viewers, but in America Dwayne was a superstar, thanks to his role as the title character in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Running from 1959 until 1963 (but available in syndication ever since), Dobie Gillis was the first American television programme from a major network to feature teenagers as leading characters; previously, teenagers were only ever portrayed as supporting characters in a family story. Dobie Gillis also broke new ground by depicting the rising teenage counterculture, although even then many of the portrayals were highly stereotypical, the teenage tough, the long-haired beatnik and so on. Still, the show was a huge hit, and co-star Bob Denver, who played Dobie’s best friend, Maynard Krebs, would go on to play Gilligan on the phenomenally successful Gilligan’s Island. It did not matter that the actor playing the teenage Dobie was 25 when the series started, and close on 30 when it finished.
Before landing the starring role in Dobie Gillis, Dwayne had featured (as Chuck) in another hit sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show. Chuck was the break-out character of the series (much like Maynard Krebs would prove to be), and a big hit with the younger viewers. So what do you do when you have a hit on your hands? Why, you drag him (or her) in to a TV studio to cut some recordings, of course!
Dwayne’s first brush with pop fame came courtesy of the faux-rock n’ roll 45 School Dance, backed with Pretty Baby-O. It’s not the worse cash-in you’ll ever hear, but it is fairly appalling. The horrible, screeching backing vocalist do their best to drown Dwayne out, but his flat delivery wins through. Reviewed by Billboard in March 1958, they thought it would be a hit. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Not that that would upset Dwayne much, for within a year of issuing his first disc he was a bone fide star with his own television show. And what do you do when you’re the producer of a hit TV show with a popular and attractive young man in the starring role on your hands? Why, you drag him in to a TV studio to cut some more recordings, of course! The resultant album, Dobie, finds our Dwayne strolling through a few ineffectual slices of pre-beat boom pop, nothing great and nothing too offensive. Nothing that reached the heights (or plumbs the depths) of his debut.
After Dobie Gillis, Dwayne went on to star in the cult movies How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine with Frankie Avalon and Vincent Price. More recently he popped up as a guest star on episodes of shows including Sister, Sister and Murder She Wrote. Dwayne is also a talented artist, and had been offering his own paintings for sale on his website, although sadly that does not appear to have been updated for a number of years.
Enjoy!
Download SCHOOL here

Download PRETTY here

Friday, 11 May 2018

Blurred Vision

It’s that time of year again.

Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the camp cheesefest that is the Eurovision Song Contest, this year my Husband and I have decided to have a few friends over, open a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps (well, alright then, a bottle of cava and a packet of grissini... I do have standards, you know) and watch the whole wretched thing from start to Finnish. My money’s on Netta, the Israeli Bjork, with her Chinese lucky cats and her electro chicken song, although I can see Saara Aalto doing well too. With Brexit on the horizon there's no way the UK's entry, Storm, a perfectly passable song performed by SuRie, will take the top spot. A shame, as it's easily one of the best entries this year. Even without Brexit we still would not do well: our position as America's lapdog ensures that most countries will vote against us on principle. It's 21 years since we last won, and since then we've only scored in the top ten three times and taken last place three times as well.

The Eurovision Song Contest is the longest-running international TV song competition in the world. Beginning in 1956, each participating country submits an original song to be performed live, and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the competition’s winning entry. One of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures of up to 600 million internationally, the annual show often falls victim to tactical voting, but with both Russia and Azerbaijan out this year, who will those countries vote for?

This time last year we took a look at some of the worst UK entries of recent years, but in an all-embracing effort to include everyone, ahead of this year’s Eurovision I thought I’d give you a few examples of the worst from some of the other countries involved. By the way, you don’t have to be European to take part, qualifying countries simply have to be members of the European Broadcasting Union, or to have paid a fee to the EBU to allow them to join in. It’s that mercenary.

It’s hard to select the lowlights from a sixty-two year-old festival dedicated to the worst imaginable Europop excesses. There are so many, from rubber-masked rock band Lordi taking the honours in 2006 with Hard Rock Hallelujah, to the ‘comedy’ of Iceland’s Sylvia Night and her abysmal Congratulations, but here are a handful of stinkers that really stand out – for me at least.

From Lithuania comes LT United’s boastful (and factually incorrect) We Are The Winners, easily one of the most annoying and tuneless efforts viewers of the contest have ever had to suffer through. Obviously LT United were not the winners, although they did respectably well, ending in sixth place. Apparently the single went platinum in Lithuania, although to do that it only had to sell 5,000 copies.

Even though it fell at semi-final stage, Ireland’s Dustin the Turkey (a cheaply made puppet being wheeled across the stage in a shopping trolley) deserved to reach the finals with Irlande Douze Pointe, a song which understands exactly what the show is all about. And what can you say about Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus and Euro Neuro? Apart from WTF, that is.

Finally, seven-time winner Israel seemingly lost the plot with the truly abysmal Ping Pong, and Sameach from the 2000 contest, a bouncy pop tune that rips off Taffy’s 1985 hit I Love My Radio and features a lead singer who could not carry a tune in a bucket, surrounded by a bunch of people jumping around like drunks at a particularly chavvy wedding. It placed twenty-second out of twenty-four entries that year, with a measly seven points.

Enjoy!


Friday, 4 May 2018

Poddcast


A classic bad album, one that often turns up in the lists of the world’s worst, but one which is seldom heard. 

Hailing from Michigan, Three Peas in a Podd (the name on the album sleeve is incorrect) were Dick Wallace, Wild Wally Klejment and Jerome ‘Mr Shop’ Byville, a three-man cabaret band whose members met while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Together from 1968 until 1983, before becoming Three Peas... the trio had also worked together under the names The Dan D Trio, The Wally K Combo and (post album) as Patchwork. 


Wild Wally later began using the name Max Effort (love it!). Back in 2008 Max (via WFMU) revealed that he “played the Sanovox on the Three Peas album and provided some of the singing. There were two vocalists; I was the lesser quality of the two being hampered by out-of-control allergies and a bad cold. The congestion really played havoc on my breathing and my vocal range. Yes, we should have rescheduled the recording date when I was healthy, but we couldn't afford to lose our deposit. The entire album was recorded in just a couple of hours as that's all our budget allowed.”

Everything about this record is wrong: the off-key trumpet, the out of tune vocals, the ‘unique’ spelling and use of punctuation in the title, although, as Max said: “It has been our experience that those who criticize the loudest are the ones with the least knowledge and experience. You may like our music; you may not like our music. But no one has any right to declare it right or wrong. No one has ever been granted that authority. People who have contracted with us over the years (many times, repeatedly) did so because they had a good time. That was our job - to entertain.” I for one certainly find it hugely entertaining, although I disagree about Max’s view of criticism (well I would, wouldn’t I?). If you put your art out there for other people to experience they are bound to critique it. Dealing with criticism is part of the job; everyone has an opinion.

If the following couple of taster tracks leaves you wanting more, you can still find the whole album at WFMU. Here’s Goin' Out of My Head and The Shadow of Your Smile.

Enjoy!

Download Goin' HERE




Download Shadow HERE

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