Friday, 25 April 2014

Something for the Weekend

Last summer I posted a record by one of the few stars of the 70s who had avoided having his name dragged through the mud in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, David ‘Diddy’ Hamilton.


David has been broadcasting now for 55 years. Born in Manchester in 1938 he began his career in 1959, starting out with Forces Radio before becoming an on-screen announcer for ABC-TV. In 1962 he began his long association with BBC radio, starting out with The Beat Show for the Light Programme and moving on to present family Choice on the fledgling Radio One in 1967.
 

It was while he was appearing on the ABC-TV show Doddy’s Music Box that Liverpudlian comedian Ken Dodd gave the height-challenged Hamilton the ‘Diddy’ nickname, which has stuck ever since. Hamilton was a regular foil to Dodd on the show, which featured many of the biggest pop acts of the day plugging their latest releases. Sandie Shaw, Tom Jones, Peter and Gordon and the Scaffold were among the dozens of acts who appeared on the programme, which ran for just 18 episodes, broadcast in two series January-March 1967 and January–March 1968.
 

Since then he has had regular shows on national and local radio in the UK and is still a regular face on TV, with recent appearances on Pointless Celebrities, Cash in the Celebrity Attic, Sport Relief, Loose Women, the One Show and many others. He’s also one of the few presenters of vintage episodes of Top of the Pops that the BBC can still broadcast without fear of giving airtime to a sex offender.
 

The record I featured last June, Just Like That – is an aural abomination which may as well have been purpose-built to be a bad record, with a dreadful, out-of-tune kiddy choir, stupid lyrics and banjo and euphonium accompaniment. The B-side, Have You Heard the News, is little better, a naïve anti-nuclear song where David is once again accompanied by those pesky kids.
 

What I didn’t know at the time was that this wasn’t the first record that David had made. Oh no: I soon discovered that there had been an earlier audio nightmare, and it’s that disc that I present for your enjoyment today: A Special Goodnight to You and its B-side Just For the Weekend.
 

But enough from me; I’ll let David explain in his own words. “The record came about like this,” he told me after I contacted him recently to try and find out a little more about the disc. “I was appearing with Ken Dodd on the series Doddy`s Music Box on ABC TV. On one show I sang a few bars of a song and girls ran on and screamed and pulled at my clothing. I hasten to add that they were not fans, but extras! Some people based in Liverpool suggested I make a record which they thought might sell on the popularity of the TV series. I think the year was 1968.”
 

“Two songs were hastily written by Ricky Woodruff, the pianist with the ABC orchestra and Fred Lloyd who produced the record,” David adds. “A Special Goodnight To You (was) based on the phrase I used as an announcer to close down the station at night; Just for the Weekend was the time that ABC was on air in the North and Midlands. It was the first – and possibly only – release on Spectre Records.


“At their suggestion, we promoted it hard, visiting record shops and bingo halls where it sold very well.  Sadly, being an independent record company, Spectre had poor distribution and this success was not repeated in other record shops around the country. Although I sold a lot of records across the counter, I didn`t receive a penny in royalties.” David recalls that the tracks were recorded at the fabled Abbey Road studios which, at the time, were home to the Beatles, Pink Floyd and countless other major acts. “It just shows that not everything that came out of Abbey Road was a smash,” he laughs.

Thanks for sharing your reminiscences with us David, and thanks too for being such a good sport. 
 

Enjoy!

 
 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Yo no soy un animal


Meet Los Punk Rockers, the Spanish act who, in 1978, covered track-by-track the entire Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols album for their one-off cash-in Los Exitos de Sex Pistols.
 

A swiftly-produced rip-off of the Sex Pistols’ only album proper, rumours persist that the band playing on the album is Spanish rock act Asfalto, formed in 1972 and, up until that point, best known for their cassette-only release Tribute to the Beatles, another note-for-note collection of covers. Having compared the two recordings I can report that there are similarities; I contacted the manager of Asfalto recently and asked him if nay members of the band were involved in the Los Exitos de Sex Pistols project, but he has yet to answer. If anyone knows for sure, please do get in touch.
 

Whoever it is, they hardly covered themselves in glory. The band sound like they’ve had less than ten minutes to learn the material and the vocalist has clearly never heard the original recording, performing a phonetic approximation of John Lydon’s agitprop lyrics in a pantomime villain voice.
 

The uncredited producer’s attempt to disguise the singer’s failings by slathering his vocals with reverb fails abysmally. The lyrics to Bodies, for example, bear little relation to the original


She was a nowhere, a conscious baby
She had a little bondage cash queen
She was an hour ago
She was a lot of cow
Hey! I’m gonna like them all!
Hey! I’m gonna like them all!
 

The chant I’m a lazy sod from Seventeen becomes I’m a lazy seven. John Lydon may once have been an angry young man (rather than the butter-peddling, tweed-wearing upstanding member of the establishment that he’s become) but at no time did he ever sing the line we’re so pretty, oh so pretty, we will cut her. Anarchy in the UK is certainly anarchic, but for all the wrong reasons. It’s an almost unrecognisable parody of itself; punk rock performed by a wedding band, with the bride’s tone-deaf grandfather on vocals. It’s bonkers and brilliant, and you have to hear it.


But buyer beware: original copies of Los Existos... are almost impossible to find these days and cost a small fortune when they do turn up for sale. Thankfully, for those of us with  more shallow pockets, the album has been pirated on at least two different occasions, making it accessible even if it is via the black market. If you’re holding out for the real thing then the fakes are easy to spot: the first pirate pressings are missing the Nevada Records logo from the bottom right-hand corner of the front sleeve and the disc’s labels are printed in shades of pink. The second batch of copies feature the logo and the correct label colours (brown & orange) but are missing the address of the record company on the rear of the sleeve and use translucent rather than opaque yellow lettering on the front (as in the image above). This pressing is also on very heavy vinyl. Both copies feature the date (1978) on the top right hand corner of the rear sleeve. Originals do not.
 

Here's a handful of tracks from Los Exitos de Sex Pistols for you to marvel at: Anarchy in the UK, Pretty Vacant and, of course, the supremely silly Bodies.

 
Enjoy!

 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Daddy...oh Brother!


I originally discovered today’s selection on the wonderful blog Frances Favorite 45s which, sadly, hasn’t been updated for a while but is well worth checking out – especially if you have a taste (possibly bad taste) for obscure country 45s .
These days the owner of two gospel music radio stations in Arkansas (KMTL and KWXT), George Virgil Domerese – known professionally as Little George Domerese - has been broadcasting for more than half a century. He’s also made a name for himself by promoting country music shows on stage, including his Johnson County Jamboree which held a regular Saturday night spot at the Strand Theatre, Clarksville from 1958.

George began performing as part of a duo with mandolin player Carl Blankenship in 1956. The pair hosted a six-day a week, hour long show on KWHN until 1964 and, on his own, he fronted a country music hour on KFDF Van Buren (a station he owned for 34 years) which began around 1960.

Now 87 years young, married to Earla and with two sons (James and Timothy) and two daughters, at some point in the mid 60s George recorded this diabolically-awful self-composed 45, issued on the tiny Power record label, of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

And what a shocker it is. On Daddy, Dear Daddy I’ll Pray For You George pretends to be a small child praying for his father, who is fighting in Vietnam. At the end of this side of this manipulative piece of trash we find George’s Mom crying after receiving a letter, as the badly-plucked notes of the Last Post ring from George’s guitar. By the time you flip the record over for A Message From Daddy in Heaven, George’s daddy has become another casualty of the conflict. Yet even though he’s gone, he wants to reassure his scion that his prayers did not go unanswered.  

Even if ‘daddy’ had gone to war at the outset of the conflict in 1956, George Domerese would have been 29 – hardly ‘just a little boy’. However both sides of the disc refer to the prohibiting of state sponsored prayers in US schools, which became law in 1963. That means that Little George had to have been at least 36 when he recorded this calculated slice of Christian propaganda. Ick.

I’m working on the assumption that he was known as ‘little’ George because he was (still is, I guess) short of stature. It is, of course, possible that he earned the nickname as a child performer, but if so why would he still be using the epithet well into his 30s? I'm not aware of any other recordings issued by George during his long career; there's nothing on iTunes, YouTube or Amazon, and a scour of the internets revealed very little information about George's career. If you know otherwise, do share.

Enjoy!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Mr Vance and Mr Jordan


Born in 1929, American songwriter and record producer Paul Vance has over 300 songwriting credits to his name: with Lee Pockriss he co-wrote Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, which was a US Number One for Brian Hyland in 1960 (and a UK Number One in 1990 for Bombalurina, aka Timmy Mallet), the Perry Como standard Catch a Falling Star, a couple of Top 10 hits for Johnny Mathis and the Cuff Links hit Tracy. Vance, still alive today although he retired from the entertainment industry in the 1980s, specialised in catchy, singalong songs and made a very successful career out of the game: 20 gold records, multiple Grammy nominations and a wall full of awards. Not bad for a man who, in his own words "lacking a formal education, rose from the depths of the gutters and escaped from the inevitable consequences of growing up on the tough streets of New York".

In 1972, Vance and Pockriss penned the sickly sweet Playground In My Mind, which was recorded by Bournemouth-born Las Vegas entertainer Clint Holmes - and became a Number Two hit in the US the following year. Clint Holmes is not, as other sites might try and claim, the brother of fellow WWR miscreant Rupert Holmes: Rupert was also born in Britain, but with the given name David Goldstein. Based around a kid’s nursery rhyme, Vance's son Philip – who sadly died aged just 44 in 2009 - sang on the chorus of the song: he was just seven at the time. Playground In My Mind would be the last success for the duo of Vance and Pockriss. Vance changed songwriting partners; life would never be the same again.


Paul Vance’s new songwriting buddy was Jack Perricone, usually credited as Perry Cone (not Perry Como!) The two of them wrote a series of singles characterised by overblown, melodramatic histrionics, including the huge hit Run Joey Run by David Geddes. Released in 1975, the song reached the Top Five on the Billboard charts that year. This time the chorus was sung by Vance’s 15 year-old daughter Paula.


Opening with a clearly underage girl pleading with her father...
Daddy, please don't, it wasn't his fault. He means so much to me!
Daddy, please don't, we're gonna get married; just you wait and see.


...Run Joey Run has got everything: teenage pregnancy, parental abuse and a violent death. It’s no wonder that this insane soap opera of a song would reach the Billboard Top Five and provide Geddes – who had recorded unsuccessfully with a number of labels and had at one point turned his back on music to study law - with his only major hit. His follow-up, produced but not written by Vance, was the peculiarly-monikered and revoltingly schmaltzy The Last Game of The Season (A Blind Man In The Bleachers), included here because it is so excruciatingly awful.


Later that same year Vance and Cone pulled out all the stops, issuing what must be one of the worst  Christmas singles of all time: An Old Fashioned Christmas (Daddy’s Home) by Linda Bennett. That horror has been featured on this blog before (and gets a brief mention in the book The World’s Worst Records Volume One): you can hear it here. I think we can safely assume that the Vance kids were once again roped in to flesh this particular horror out.

Then in 1976 came Without Your Love (Mr Jordan), a revolting song recorded by country singer Charlie Ross about a couple who on the surface appear to be deeply in love with each other but who in reality are both conducting illicit affairs. There was even a follow-up, Without Your Love (Mr Jordan Part Two), issued a year later which failed to chart.

Shortly after Paul Vance retired from the industry, his recent spate of three minute musical melodramas out of sync with an audience clamouring for disco and New Wave. Not that he should care: the man had amassed a catalogue of hits that would put many a more 'respected' songwriter to shame. All was quiet for a number of years, with just the sound of the royalty cheques falling through the letterbox to break the boredom when, in 2006, a widely circulated news story reported that he had died. Needless to say, Mr Vance was not happy. It transpires that an imposter had been claiming the authorship of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie and the real writer only became aware of this when one of his grandchildren read his obituary and called up in a panic. The scare inspired Paul to begin writing his autobiography, Catch a Falling Star, which is due later this year.

Hats off to you, Mr Vance: I hope you continue to enjoy a long, and well-deserved, retirement.

Enjoy!

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