Friday, 17 November 2017

Kermit the Frogg

Even though it was from the same stable that had produced the successful Sesame Street, the Muppet Show failed to spark in the States, and it wasn’t until ATV’s Lew Grade picked it up that it became a hit. The show debuted in the UK in September 1976, and Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, Animal and their friends were soon charming British audiences of all ages.

Riding the back of the Muppet craze, Puppet Love by the Froggs was issued in May 1977. A comedy record that isn’t funny - as far as I can make out, the ‘joke’ is that the Muppets get shot one by one until there’s no one left to finish the song – and copying the well-known Muppets theme tune but making ‘just’ different enough to avoid any claims of plagiarism, it’s a hideous mess. A parody of a parody, and the irony of that seems lost on all involved.

Written and produced by Keith Bonsoir, who also produced (and added backing vocals and keyboards to) the Pinkees recordings, the flip side is the throwaway instrumental Wheeling, included here for completists. Promo copies were issued with ‘this is not a Muppett record’ [sic] stamped on the cover. Sadly the copy I picked up for a quid in Bristol’s Wanted Records this week is lacking that particular detail. I have yet to discover who is playing on the disc, but best guess would be that piano and vocals are handled by Monsieur Bonsoir himself.

The disc was issued on the short-lived Paladin label, which appears to have been connected in some way to singer-songwriter, record producer, music entrepreneur, television and radio presenter and sex criminal Jonathan King: King issued a disc on Paladin (under the pseudonym The Joker), and Bonsoir, who wrote and/or produced a number of tracks for Paladin, had also worked on productions at UK, King’s own label. Paladin existed for less than a year (September 1976-June 1977), but Keith Bonsoir had been making records since the early 70s, and had also worked with John Holt, Geno Washington and cruise ship singer turned actress Sally Sagoe, who appeared in EastEnders for a couple of years in the mid 80s. He had a fair bit of success in Europe, with pop-disco acts including the Bear Brothers, and was also the voice of Alphonse the Horse, a kid’s cartoon/book/record franchise which never quite took off.

After Paladin Bonsoir went to Creole Records, where he produced The Pinkees and 53rd and 3rd among others. The latter act had scored a hit with King and the song Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes Love It) in 1975 and issued at least three 45s on UK. I, like many I would assume, had thought that 53rd and 3rd was just another King pseudonym, but apparently not. King also recorded for Creole, issuing the dreadful God Save The Sex Pistols under the alias Elizabeth, (and impersonating Queen Liz). Prince Charles, apparently, asked for six copies of the disc to be sent to Buckingham Palace. King is due back in court to answer charges of historic sexual abuse in June 2018, but sadly I have been unable to discover the current whereabouts of Mr Bonsoir.


Download Puppet HERE

Download Wheeling HERE

Friday, 10 November 2017

I Lost 200lb Instantly!

This is one of those albums that regularly turns up in worst records lists, but I’ll bet very few of you out there have ever actually heard it. Well you’re in luck, for here’s the whole album, just for you

Crying Demons was issued some time in the early 60s by the A. A. Allen Revivals of the appropriately named Miracle Valley. Arizona. Side one is the transcript of one of Reverend Allen’s services recorded, as noted on the label, ‘under the Miracle Revival Big Top’, and includes the good Pastor trying to exorcise the demons within a suicidal woman. Side two is the gold: actual recordings of the aforementioned demons jabbering away. My favourite is the demon who doesn’t like books and appears to suffer from haemophilia. Poor, illiterate thing!

Asa Alonso Allen (March 27, 1911 - June 11, 1970), was a controversial evangelist with a Pentecostal healing and deliverance ministry, dragging an enormous big top – which, reportedly, could house 22,000 people and was the largest gospel tent in the world - across the nation to hold his powerful revival services. He was born in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas to poor, mixed race parents. At the age of 23, Allen became a Christian at the Onward Methodist Church in Miller, Missouri.

Allen, one of the country's best-known evangelists and faith healers, built his ‘nondenominational Christian’ religious group into a multimillion dollar organisation that sponsored Allen’s frequent tours around the nation and published the monthly Miracle Magazine, with a circulation at its height of 350,000. Miracle Magazine is an absolute hoot, replete with stories of how an overweight woman lost 200lb during a service (‘I weighed over 500 pounds when Brother Allen prayed for me; the lord took 200 pounds off me instantly’), how a man was ‘cured’ of being an hermaphrodite and of how audience members at Allen’s tent revivals grew new hips and even new toes.

He also put out an unknown number of records on the Miracle Revival Recordings label with gospel singing, sermons, miracle cures and exorcisms. Allen’s extensive discography includes the brilliant I Am Lucifer, God Is a Killer, and he Died as a Fool Dieth.

A popular televangelist, one of the first to use TV to enhance his ministry (you can find a number of his shows on YouTube), Allen died at the age of 59 in the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco. Although it was initially claimed that he died from a heart attack the coroner, Dr. Henry Turkel (who, apparently, was the inspiration behind Quincy M.E.) told the inquest that his death was the result of ‘acute alcoholism and fatty infiltration of the liver.’ His father had also been an alcoholic. Allen’s followers and family dispute the cause of death, claiming that Dr. Turkel later recanted his testimony. Dr Turkel committed suicide shortly after, but some of Allen’s followers have claimed that the Reverend himself arose, Lazarus-like, from the dead.

Allen was buried at his 2,400 acre Miracle Valley headquarters.


Download HERE and HERE

Friday, 3 November 2017

Acid Raine

Now this is an unusual post: I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about a record that I didn’t have before, or at least didn’t have access to a copy of. But I need your help, so here goes.

I had no idea of this disc’s existence until this August, when the briefest of clips aired during a TV documentary I happened to be watching, but ever since I became aware of it I have been desperate to track a copy down. I can’t imagine it will cost me much, but neither can I believe that many copies remain in circulation after 60 years. It’s not even listed on Discogs, and has not turned up on Ebay once in the last four months. I know it will turn up in a junk shop pile one day… but maybe one of you out there owns a copy?

Released in June 1957 on both 78 and 45, Luck's In Love With You was performed by Her Grace The Duchess Of Bedford. The record’s b-side, I'm In Love, is credited to Mrs Gerald Legge. Both sides feature Geoff Love and his Orchestra, and the b-side has vocal accompaniment from the Rita Williams Singers.

Barbara Cartland penned lyrics to both sides, and the disc was issued to raise fund for charity, Mrs Legge’s Fund for Old People. Mrs Gerald Legge was Cartland’s daughter Raine McCorquodale, who would achieve notoriety as the ‘wicked stepmother’ to Diana, Princess of Wales. Dame Babs, of course, would go on to release the gruesome Barbara Cartland’s Album of Love Songs, which I’ve featured here before.

Reviewed by John Oakland in Gramophone magazine in August of that year as ‘an interesting record, for while it is obvious that neither artiste is a professional entertainer vocally, their voices have a certain something that disarms criticism even if their raison d'etre in the studio did not, and I can honestly say I would rather listen to either or both than to many of the more recognised "singers" from either side of the Atlantic’, so I’m itching to know exactly why the NME labelled the disc the ‘worst record of the year’! The a-side isn’t completely dreadful, which may have had something to do with the fact that The Duchess of Bedford at the time was Lydia Russell, whose mother was music hall singer Denise Orme… but the short clip I’ve heard of the flip leads me to believe that that’s a howler. 

Mrs Legge also fancied herself as an interior designer: for the 1958 Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition she fashioned a bedroom and bathroom. Raine was described by The Spectator as ‘the Boadicea of gracious living — whose own programme note reads, “People who are afraid of colour are afraid of life. I am not afraid of anything, so my ideal room is all flame and aquamarine, with glowing, golden furniture.” And acknowledgments to “my mother, Barbara Cartland, my grandmother, Polly Cartland, aged eighty, my son, William Legge, aged eight, my brother, Glen McCorquodale, my brother, Ian McCorquodale, and my son, Rupert Legge, aged seven.” I don't suppose they’re afraid of anything, either.’ Oh wow! ‘All flame and aquamarine, with glowing, golden furniture.’ Now that’s something I’d love to see. I’ll bet it was hideous!

If you have a copy of I'm In Love please share.. but until then, enjoy!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Now She's in Purple, Now She's a Turtle

Now, as you know, I seldom post novelty records here but the story behind this one is just too good to ignore. Here’s Crazy Little Men by the world’s best-known trans woman, Christine Jorgensen.

Born in May 1926 (as George William Jorgensen Jr.), Christine grew up in the Bronx, convinced that she was trapped in the wrong body. After graduating from school in 1945 young Jorgensen was drafted in to the Army, where she came across an article about a Danish doctor who was experimenting with gender therapy by testing hormones on animals. Shortly after leaving the services Christine began a course of hormone therapy to build up the amount of oestrogen in her body – the first step in her journey towards gender reassignment. In 1950 she headed to Copenhagen; her family were Danish, and it wasn’t hard to explain away a trip to the Old Country. However Christine chose not to tell anyone about her real intentions – to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

In 1952, shortly after the surgery took place, Christine wrote to her parents: ‘Nature made a mistake which I have had corrected, and now I am your daughter.’ Then, on December 1, 1952 the New York Daily News ran a front-page story Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty, telling readers that Jorgensen had become the recipient of the first ‘sex change’. She wasn’t: Danish artist Lili Elbe transitioned in 1930, and there had been unsuccessful attempts at surgery in the 1920s, but she was the first American to break cover. Christine’s experiences, as I’m sure you already knew, were liberally adapted by the auteur Ed Wood Junior for his film classic Glen or Glenda, a.k.a I Changed My Sex.

Christine became an overnight sensation, a regular guest on talk shows and earned money as a nightclub performer, talking about her experiences and singing in a very passable, Dietrich-esque smoky voice. In 1953 she played the famous Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas, and in 1954 it was reported that she was earning up to $8,000 a week – a phenomenal sum. She also managed to get caught up in the 50s craze for ‘little green men’ novelty discs, releasing the incredibly rare (I snaffled this - and the image - off the internet, although there is a copy currently for sale at Discogs) 45 Crazy Little Men, along with the Transfusion-influenced b-side Nervous Jervis, on the tiny Jolt Records in late 1959. Sounding to all the world like Lucia Pamela, Crazy Little Men is a nutso record, well worthy of its inclusion here.

Jolt had been set up by Joe Lederman, a well-known juke box operator from Newark, New Jersey in September of that year, and Christine as the first artisit signed to the company. ‘Miss Jorgensen is going to record albums and singles for us,’ Lederman announced to Billboard. ‘We have already heard from a number of writers with special material for her. The first project will be a sort of party type of LP record, but there will be nothing offensive about her songs. Her first single will contain Crazy Little Men and Nervous Jervis.’ As far as I am aware, the scheduled album did not appear. Other artists signed to the company included singers Dolly Dawn and Cathy Castro, ‘a luscious looking doll of 19 who will easily be the next Connie Francis’. Indeed!

A biographical film, The Christine Jorgensen Story, appeared in 1970. Christine also released an interview album, Christine Jorgensen Reveals, in 1958 and a live album of her nightclub act, I Enjoy being a Girl, in 1983. Gay performer Ray Bourbon claimed that he too had surgery and announced to the world, via his album Let Me Tell You About My Operation, that she was now to be known as Rae - however it seems that Ray never actually underwent gender reassignment. You can read more about him (and his crazy life) in my latest book, David Bowie Made Me Gay.

An eloquent spokesperson for trans rights, Jorgensen died of cancer in 1989. She was 62. You can find out more about Christine at JD Doyle's Queer Music Heritage site.


Download CRAZY here

Download NERVOUS here

Friday, 20 October 2017

Burt's a Singer

Burt Reynolds: 70s sex god, all-round macho man and seemingly, aware of his shortcomings. ‘I was an asshole,’ he once told the Mirror’s Rod McPhee. ‘I made some stupid mistakes and I haven’t been the nicest guy in the world about keeping my mouth shut about women’. It’s not just his mouth he should be guarded about, as the former women in his life who have talked openly about domestic violence and spousal abuse would no doubt agree.

Reynolds is an actor who gets that the whole notion of celebrity is faintly ridiculous… as ridiculous as that wig he insists on wearing (which, unlike some actors and singers we could mention, at least he acknowledges). Still, celebrity he is… and we all know what that (potentially) means.

Yes, in 1973 Burt, still riding the crest of a wave of fame brought about by his starring role in the film Deliverance the previous year and his appearance as Cosmopolitan magazine’s first nude male centrefold, made a record. He was nominated for Academy Award for his performance in the movie, but it was the Cosmo spread that turned him into a bone fide celeb. After more than a decade beavering away on TV and in low budget movies, he was a star; a star who was about to launch his singing career. The thoroughly dreadful record in question contains eleven cuts of vaguely-country flavoured schmaltz, ‘sung’ by a man who cannot sing. Not that it should surprise any of you that I was going to hate Ask Me What I Am, as the whole project was masterminded by that arch fiend Bobby Goldsboro.

It’s catastrophically bad. Goldsboro’s songs are as sickly sweet as you’d expect and he pulls every trick out of his albeit limited bag: there are songs about children and childhood, relationships, spoken word pieces and, oh dear lord, there’s even one of his trademark religious epics in There's A Slight Misunderstanding Between God And Man. Burt tries his best, God love him, but the whole album is dreadful and There's A Slight Misunderstanding Between God And Man is every inch as awful as you’d hope.

Accompanied by a pull out poster featuring the oh-so hairy gentleman clad from head to toe in baby blue polyester, Billboard liked it, calling the album a ‘good personality-as-singer package with lots of Burt beefcake photos’, and claiming that the ‘actor actually has pleasing, pro-quality voice’. Evidence, as if you needed it, to believe in the old maxim ‘don’t believe everything you read in the press’, as Burt’s voice on this album is paper-thin and as fragile as sugar glass. This record is easily as bad as anything Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner produced.

Despite everything Burt and Bobby remained friends. The same year the album was released Goldsboro and Reynolds appeared on the TV special Burt Reynolds’ Late Show and the following year the pair were brought together on a US telethon, helping raise money for people with cerebral palsy. In 1993 Goldsboro would provide the music for Burt’s hit TV comedy Evening Shade.

According to the engineer on the sessions, Ernie Winfrey (writing on YouTube) ‘I have to give Burt credit for having the balls to even try it. My boss, and his friend Buddy Killen, got together with Goldsboro and decided that, considering Burt's huge popularity at that time, they would sell tons of records based solely on his fame.

‘I know that Burt knew in his heart that he didn't really have the chops to bring it off but he may have expected me to perform miracles on his voice. I know this because when I was out adjusting his mic he whispered “Ern, please help me sound as good as you can”. As you can see I have only so much control over that; all the effects in the world will not make a bad singer sound good.

‘But the most important thing to me was how humble he was and how down to earth he was. After we finished recording all his vocal tracks Buddy invited him to go out and eat. They left and I was putting all the tapes back in the boxes and I heard “Hey Ern!” Burt stuck his head in the door and said “Come on man...We can't forget our engineer.” That’s the type of guy he was. I understand that it was the stunt men and crew that Burt hung out with on his movie sets.

‘The most endearing thing that Burt did was to call Dinah Shore (who he was dating at the time) every night after that days sessions were over and play her the results holding the phone up to the speakers. I kept his vocal down in the mix so it was hard to tell how really bad it was. But he seemed to be so proud of his shot at being a recording artist. Although Burt will never be that recording artist he wanted to be, I can truthfully say from my observation that he is one of the nicest, most humble guys I've ever worked with in the studio. It kills me to see the problems he’s gone through the past few years.’

The problems that Ernie Winfrey alluded to include divorce from wife Loni Anderson and her revelations of his abusive behaviour, bankruptcy (in 2011 his 153 acre ranch, where many of the scenes for Smokey and the Bandit had been filmed, was seized), addiction to prescription painkillers (which he began taking after an on-set accident), back surgery, and a quintuple heart bypass in February 2010. Reynolds, who apparently was once in the running to play James Bond (producer Cubby Broccoli went with George Lazenby instead) and Han Solo in Star Wars, is now a frail 81 year old. He’s a fighter though and he’s still acting, appearing in five movies this year alone.

This would not be the only time that Burt flexed his tonsils. Apart from singing on a number of TV variety shows (including the Dinah Shore Show) he also sang the song Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial on the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit 2. Here’s a brace of tracks from Burt’s 1973 album Ask Me What I Am, Room For a Boy and the title track.


Download I Am here

Download Room here 

Friday, 13 October 2017

It Took Two

Seriously. Footballers cannot sing. We’ve proved the point on numerous occasions in the past but here is yet more irrefutable evidence that no footballer should ever be let loose in a recording studio.

Yes, it’s infamous ladies man and famous alcoholic George Best as ‘a creepy computer voice’ (as Howard Wolowitz would put it), the man who – in my household – is important only because his moniker provided the name for the debut album by the awesome Wedding Present.

Back in the 80s there was this mad fashion for celebrity keep fit albums. Kick started by Jane Fonda (although less well-known names had been making exercise records since at least the 1930s), by the time Georgie Best Superstar (wears frilly knickers and a Playtex bra) had teamed up with Mary Stavin (Swedish actress, former Miss World and Best’s current squeeze) to release this abortion the Shape Up And Dance series had reached nine – yes, nine – volumes. A whole nine albums worth of wretched nonsense from the likes of Isla St Clair, co-presenter of the TV show the Generation Game, Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz, actress Felicity Kendal, newsreader Angela Rippon and (of course) Lulu. The series would end, after just three years, with volume 10 presented by singer Patti Boulaye.

The music featured on the albums usually consisted of anonymous cover versions of hit records, so what a coup the producers of the series must have felt when they managed to persuade George and Mary to record a cover of the Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston hit It Takes Two. Sadly, although the track was also issued as a single (coupled with an instrumental version), it was not a hit (neither was the album it was culled from) and is to the best of my knowledge the only time George attempted to launch a career in pop music… although he may well have appeared on other, football related recordings by any of the various teams he played for. The b-side, Sasquatch, is thoroughly ridiculous and will give you a taste of the rest of the album.

Stavin, who had previously released the Eurodisco single Feeling Good, Being Bad in 1979, appeared in two of Roger Moore's James Bond films. In Octopussy (1983), she played an Octopussy girl, and in A View to a Kill (1985), she played agent Kimberley Jones. She also played the Icelandic businesswoman Heba in Twin Peaks (Season 1, Episode 6), and appeared in the videos for two Adam (and the) Ant (s) singles, Ant Rap and Strip. Once described by The Irish Football Association as the ‘greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland’, Best sadly died in 2005 of multiple organ failure, the legacy of a lifetime of heavy drinking.

Download TWO here

Download SASQUATCH here

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Trials of Hercules

I’ve just spent a couple of days in the wonderful city of Edinburgh, ostensibly promoting the new book, but also taking advantage of the city’s numerous charity shops for a spot of obscure record hunting. I found a few doozies, one of which I lovingly present for you today, Running Bear backed with Come Back Hercules by Hercules and the Three Bears.

Hercules the Wrestling Bear (1975-2001) was a trained grizzly bear. Professional wrestler Andy Robin and his wife Maggie, a former show jumping champion, brought him up, having bought him as a cub (for £40 according to the Daily Record; Wikipedia will tell you they spent a whole £50 on him) from the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie in 1976. Andy, having once wrestled a bear named Terrible Ted in Maple Leaf Gardens in 1968, hit upon the idea of adopting his own bear to create a star.

Hercules first appeared with Andy in his act on the UK wrestling circuit in the late 1970s. Playing the role of a gentle giant, the bear regularly drew audiences of 15 million viewers on ITV’s World of Sport programme. But it was for an event in 1980 for which he is best remembered – an event that spawned at least two ‘tribute’ 45s.

While filming a television commercial in the Outer Hebrides in August 1980, Hercules escaped; the bear was missing for 24 days. Hundreds of volunteers formed search parties to look for Hercules with no luck until a crofter spotted the animal swimming. Hercules was shot with a tranquilliser dart, netted, and flown by helicopter back to Andy and Maggie, who had built a special compound complete with log cabin and swimming pool for the animal. Being used to eating cooked food Hercules had lost almost half of his body weight during his three weeks on the run, and it was this reputation as a gentle giant that led to the ‘Big Softy’ Kleenex campaign, which kicked off his film career. In 1983 he appeared in the James Bond movie Octopussy starring alongside Roger Moore, and other film and documentary roles followed.

Hercules’ three weeks on the run spawned this dreadful disco version of the Big Bopper-penned Running Bear (originally a hit for Johnny Preston) performed by an unknown female vocal act and issued by Sonet imprint Royale Chimes Records. Brian Spence, former guitarist and vocalist for the Scottish group Bilbo Baggins, wrote the b-side. The other disc, by Donnie MacLeod and a vile children’s choir, can be heard on Youtube

Hercules died in 2001 and was buried on the Robins' estate, Big Bear Ranch, in Glendevon, Perthshire. When the couple sold the ranch in 2013 they dug up his remains and re-interred them next to a statue of the bear in a wood on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.


Download Running Bear HERE

Download Come Back Hercules HERE

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