Thursday, 16 August 2018

Heartbreaking

Elvis Presley’s breakthrough, Heartbreak Hotel¸ was issued by HMV in Britain in early 1956. The single became Elvis’s debut UK hit, reaching Number Two and staying on the charts for 22 weeks. Sadly, it was prevented from reaching the top spot by serial WWR miscreant Pat Boone.  Reissued in 1971, the single once again hit the British Top Ten: a 40th anniversary reissue, in 1996, also entered the Top Fifty.

The success of Heartbreak Hotel inspired several artists to issue cover versions, most of which were poor, and a few which were downright awful. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?

First up is US outfit the Goofers, a quintet of Italian-American musical comedians who issued several discs in the States between 1954 and 1960. All former members of Louis Prima's band, The Goofers played the London Palladium in 1957 and 1958, the same year that they starred in the movie Bop Girl. The group was known for their crazy antics, including playing their instruments while hanging upside down on a trapeze. In 1956 they gave us Teardrop Motel and made fun of Elvis’s own delivery by making most of the words intentionally unintelligible. Issued by Vogue-Coral in the UK (an imprint of Decca), the B-side of the single was Tennessee Rock and Roll.

The same week (in the UK at least) the Pye-Nixa label had a bash at Presley, with a Mae West-inspired cover of Heartbreak Hotel, performed by Gale Warning and the Weathermen (although, confusingly, the disc credits read Gale Warning and Her Boys). Playing on the name of the Weathermen, the flip - Met Rock - saw Gale reading the shipping forecast over a big band beat. The disc was not well received and, like the Goofers, failed to chart on either side of the Atlantic.

In real life Gale was the formerly famous actress Frances Day, who I featured briefly on this here blog three years ago. Born Frances Victoria Schenk in New Jersey in 1907, the bisexual Day – lover to both Edward VIII and Eleanor Roosevelt - was reputed to be the illegitimate daughter of automobile pioneer Horace Dodge. Spotted in a New York Speakeasy she was taken to London in 1924 by Australian impresario Beaumont Alexander, who dyed her hair platinum blonde and launched her in the West End where she was known for performing in nothing but a G-string and feather boa. Day married Beaumont in 1927, but after living apart for many years, they divorced a decade or so later.

She went on to appear in countless shows and films during the 1930s but had pretty much vanished from the public consciousness when, in the late 1950s, she reappeared as a regular panellist on the TVG show What’s My Line. She died in 1984: her will stated that “there be no notice or information of any kind of my death, except for and if a death certificate is obligatory. Any persons, private or Press, you shall simply say that I am no longer at this address. ‘Gone away. Destination unknown’, and that is the truth.” Class!

Just as an aside, American humourist Stan Freberg also issued a version, backed with a parody of Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line, which was credited to Stan Freberg And His Sniffle Group. Freberg was well known in the States as a voice actor, appearing in many cartoons in a long and varied career – although, despite what you may read elsewhere, he did not voice Rocky or Bullwinkle.

Enjoy!

Download Heartbreak HERE


Download Met Rock HERE



Download Teardrop HERE


Download Tennessee HERE

Friday, 10 August 2018

How Low Can You Go?


Now here’s an odd one for you. Roz Croney, the so-called Queen of the Limbo, issued How Low Can You Go in 1963. It’s dreadful, but of massive importance to jazz collectors as it features Sun Ra, the composer, bandleader, keyboard player, and poet known for his experimental music, his prolific output, and his wildly theatrical performances.

Roz was a native of Grenada. She began to limbo after visiting Barbados, with her mother, in 1955. Two years later she was instructing actor Dorothy Dandridge how to limbo for the film Island In The Sun, and she went on to tour America as a featured performer in Larry Steele’s revue Smart Affairs of 1961. Steele was the head of the largest black entertainment touring troupe in the United States at the time. According to reports, the limber Ms. Croney could limbo beneath a bar just seven and a half inches off the floor.

In an article in Ebony magazine, Roz revealed that “she considers herself a more than passable singer, but cannot use this talent because her voice is kept hoarse by the shouts which accompany her limbo routine.” Shame she seemed to forget that when Tom Wilson, the record producer best known for his work with Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Simon & Garfunkel and The Velvet Underground, dragged her in to New York’s Mastertone Studio to record this nonsense. One assumed that Wilson was inspired by seeing Roz perform, or perhaps by the success of Chubby Checker’s 1962 single Limbo Rock, or the earlier, instrumental version of the tune by the Champs.

Sun Ra, or Herman Poole Blount to give him his given name, got the gig because for a number of years he had been working as a session musician for Edward Bland, the arranger of this travesty. For much of his career, Sun Ra led an ensemble he dubbed "The Arkestra", and he brought along several of his long-time collaborators, including Marshall Allen (alto sax), John Gilmore (bass clarinet), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Pat Patrick (baritone sax and flute) for this album. perhaps unsurprisingly, there was no How Low Can You Go Volume Two.

Here’s a handful of cuts from How Low You Can Go, Doggie In The Window Limbo, The Limbo Queen and the truly awful Whole Lot Of Shaking Going On (apparently the correct title, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin’ On was too vulgar!)

Enjoy!

Download Doggie HERE



Download Queen HERE



Download Shaking HERE

Friday, 3 August 2018

The Teenage Rage


Leonard Davis was working in EMI’s Hayes factory when he as spotted by producer and songwriter Norman Newell, the man who had also given Russ Conway and Shirley Bassey their big breaks at Columbia... and who produced the awful Songs for Swinging Children.

Born in South Wales in 1938, at the tender age of 19 Len was launched on to an unsuspecting public as “Larry Page, the Teenage Rage” but, despite issuing three singles for Columbia in 1957 and 58, he would never score a chart hit for the company. 

It’s not hard to understand why: he can’t sing! The poor boy was pushed in to the EMI studios in Abbey Road and given dreadful, anodyne arrangements of recent US hits to perform, and the results are dreadful. He explained the process in the in the book The Restless Generation: "The label saw no future in rock ‘n’ roll. They had to make all the great American records sound like Worker's Playtime; they Didn't have a clue. Consequently, I made a Mickey Mouse version of That'll Be The Day [issued as his second A-side]. I was treated as a junior employee and for my first record they gave me a copy of Start Movin' by Sal Mineo and told me to go away and learn it - which I did - every vocal inflection, every swish of the rhythm. Then you get to the studio and find they're like a marching band… I had no input, they even picked the key for me." Start Movin' was issued as the flip side to his cover of the Del Vikings' Cool Shake.

After he was dropped by Columbia he went to Saga, the same company that was soon to launch Joe Meek’s Triumph label. Page’s singles (and one EP) for Saga also flopped, and he gave up any pretence of being a singer to concentrate on orchestrations, arrangements and, later, group management. 

Larry Page would hit the big time a few years later as the manager of the Kinks and the Troggs, and as the leader of the Larry Page Orchestra, probably best known for their albums of Kinks and Beatles covers: Page’s Kinky Music album was arranged by Ray Davies and featured future Led Zep member Jimmy Page. Larry was also the founder of both Page One and Penny Farthing records, which hit the big time with Venus by Shocking Blue, Daniel Boone’s Beautiful Sunday, and Chelsea F.C.’s Blue is the Colour.

Page now lives in happy retirement in Australia.

Here are both sides of his debut 45, and - courtesy of YouTube - the appalling That'll Be The Day.

Enjoy!

Download Start Movin' HERE



Download Cool Shake HERE



Friday, 27 July 2018

ChangesTwoBowie


Well, last week’s blog post seems to have gone down well. It’s already one of this year’s most popular posts, and the feedback I’ve received so far leads me to believe that you like that sort of nonsense.

So, here’s some more.

Yes: today I present, for your enjoyment, even more ludicrous David Bowie covers. But instead of the obvious, we’re going to look at foreign-language covers of a couple of David’s early hits, namely Space Oddity and The Laughing Gnome.

First up is Spanish duo Hermanos Calatrava with their dreadful version of Bowie’s breakthrough hit, which I believe would translate as Curiosidad Del Espacio, but they kept the original title anyway. Hermanos Calatrava consist of brother brothers Manuel García Lozano (Manolo) and Francisco García Lozano (Paco), and are a pair of ‘comedians, parodists and singers’, according to their Wikipedia page. With their take on Space Oddity they’ve attempted to turn the song into some sort of satirical sketch, but it backfires spectacularly. Issued as the B-side to their 1974 single Gigi L’Amoroso, It’s just horrendous. The pair have been hamming it up since 1955: it’s about time they stopped.

Next is Italian band I Giganti with Corri Uomo Corri, a reasonable ‘straight’ version of Space Oddity that was issued in 1970, just a year after the original. It’s nothing like as bad as the Hermanos Calatrava version, although the member of the quartet who handles the introductory vocal (who, I believe, is drummer Enrico Papes) sounds to me like he needs surgery: no one should sound that much like a bullfrog naturally. The psychedelic keyboard solo is a nice touch. Popular in their native land between from the mid-60s until the early 70s, they split around 1972 but a new version of the band, featuring some original members, resurfaced in 2008, releasing an album of re-recordings of their early hits. 

Incidentally, another Italian group, Computers, issued their own, vastly superior, version of the song, as Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola, a year earlier. That translates as Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl, and is the same title Bowie used for his own Italian-language version, which he recorded in London shortly before Christmas 1969: I have found a press cutting where his then-manager, ken Pitt, states that he recorded the vocals at the beginning of January 1970, but I believe he actually did the deed on December 20. Wikipedia claims that our old friends Equipe 84 recorded a version that same year, but that does not appear to be listed at Discogs, so this may be a mistake.

Finally, I’ll leave you with the utterly charming French yéyé singer Caroline, and her single Mister A Gogo, a fun but nutso version of The Laughing Gnome, issued in 1967 and now super-rare, commanding silly prices for the original single. I love this: I hope you will too!

Enjoy!  

Download Hermanos HERE




Download I Giganti HERE


Download Caroline HERE

Thursday, 19 July 2018

I Ought To Report You To The Gnome Office


A balladeer from the 50s, Ronnie Hilton earned a place in the hearts of every Brit of a certain age for his 1965 hit A Windmill In Old Amsterdam. Hilton had a long career, first charting (with his debut release) in 1954 but issuing his last single in 1982.

Born Adrian Hill in Hull, Ronnie started singing professionally under his adopted name in 1954. Signed to HMV, he amassed 18 Top 40 hits on the UK Singles Chart, hitting the coveted Number One spot in 1956 with his cover of the Rogers and Hammerstein song No Other Love, a US hit three years earlier for Perry Como. The following year he took part in the inaugural A Song For Europe contest, although he was beaten by another singer from Hull, Patricia Bredin. In 1959 he scored a hit with The Wonder of You, the same song that Elvis Presley topped the UK chart with in 1970.

In 1967, two years after his last chart entry (with the aforementioned A Windmill In Old Amsterdam) he released the single that I wish to bring your attention to today, a cover of If I Were a Rich Man from the hit musical Fiddler of the Roof. It’s not a great version, and the utterly ridiculous inclusion of an impression of Quacker, the little yellow duckling from the Tom and Jerry cartoons in the middle takes it in to the realm of ridiculous. In fact, it’s good enough (or bad enough) to merit an inclusion here for that reason alone, but it’s the single’s flip side that’s the peach – a stupendously awful (and incredibly early) cover of David Bowie’s The Laughing Gnome.

Yes: The Laughing Gnome. It, like Bowie’s original, did not chart, although Bowie would eventually have a hit with the song when his single was reissued in 1973. At this point in his career Bowie’s manager, Kenneth Pitt, was trying to market him as a songwriter; despite beginning his recording career in 1964 he would not have a hit under his own name until 1969, and it would take another three years after that until he enjoyed his second. Ronnie Hilton was not the first artists to cover Bowie though: in January 1967 Over the Wall We Go had been covered by stage star Paul Nicholas under the name Oscar. The following year Billy Fury would issue his cover of Bowie’s Silly Boy Blue. But the honour of having the first ever cover of a Bowie song goes to actor Kenny Miller (I Was A Teenage Werewolf, Touch of Evil, Attack of the Puppet People etc.) and his 1965 recording of Bowie’s Take My Tip (credited to Davie Jones), produced by Shel Talmy of Kinks/ Who fame.

Hilton suffered a stroke in 1976. Following his recovery, he turned to radio presenting, fronting Sounds of the Fifties, a nostalgic radio series for BBC Radio 2. He died in Hailsham, East Sussex from another stroke, aged 75.

Here’s Ronnie’s preposterous version of The Laughing Gnome and, for good measure, If I Were a Rich Man. Enjoy!

Download Rich Man HERE



Download Gnome HERE

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Outer Space Elvis


Recommended by our dear friend The Squire, this is one of the weirdest, wildest Elvis covers I’ve ever heard. It puts Eilert Pilarm, Elvis Pummel and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to shame.

Dean Carter’s brilliantly insane version of Jailhouse Rock was issued in 1967. An insane mix of garage and psychobilly, Dean’s unhinged performance is a thing of wonder. The flip side, Rebel Woman, is pretty crazy stuff too.

Dean Carter was born Arlie Neaville. He began playing rockabilly in the late '50s in Champaign, Illinois, and recorded for the Ping label in 1961 under his real name, before moving on to the more established Fraternity label in 1962 as Arlie Nevil (issuing the self-composed Alone On A Star/The Skip). After that he went to Limelight, where he first recorded under the name of Dean Carter. Neaville and guitarist Arlie Miller invested in their own recording studio, Milky Way, and the pair (as Arlie and Arlie) launched their own label of the same name to issue Carter’s Jailhouse Rock single, now a highly collectable and very expensive 45. Luckily both sides, and many of the other tracks he’s recorded over his varied career, were collected on the 2002 CD release Call of the Wild.

In the early 70s he reappeared under his real name, Arlie Neaville, issuing a crazed cover of Breathless on Shout ‘n’ Shine Records. Since then he’s kept his original name, and has moved in to the gospel music field. You can find clips of his more recent work on YouTube, as well as plenty of examples of his wilder material.

Enjoy!

Download Jailhouse HERE



Download Rebel HERE

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Swingeing Swindle


One of my more peculiar recent finds was this album, Songs for Swinging Children by the Groovy Gang.

I know…

A dozen covers of popular hits, all with a kid-friendly bent. Don’t let the Sinatra-esque title or cover image fool you though, the only swinging these kids get up to is in the play park. No nelson Riddle arrangements or orchestrations, the twelve tracks included here are po-faced and perfunctory, knocked out in a spare hour in the studio (the notes on the back of the cover tell us that this recording session took place on June 10) by a bunch of tired moonlighting musos who would have probably been paid around £50 each for their trouble. It’s fairly safe to assume this was recorded in 1971: the album was issued that year and the most recent track, the Kinks song Apeman, was not issued until November 1970.

What interests me is that the album was produced by Norman Newell, whose career was closely associated with Columbia records, and artists including Russ Conway, Shirley Bassey, and Cliff and the Shadows. Newell, a songwriter as well as a producer, also acted as an A&R man for other EMI labels, and was responsible for taking acts to Parlophone (Vince Eager) and recording soundtrack albums for HMV.

Musical Rendezvous/Contour was a British company that specialised in cheap reissues of old Polydor stable recordings: the Beatles Hamburg sessions with Tony Sheridan were put out (in two different covers, both featuring the iconic Mersey Beat newspaper) around the same time, and in turn would become one of (if not the) first albums I ever purchased with my own money.

A side note: the album includes a cover of the Pipkins hit Gimme Dat Ding. When researching this I was surprised to discover that the song had originally been recorded Freddie and the Dreamers. Gimme Dat Ding was composed for a musical, Oliver in the Overworld, that formed part of the kid’s TV show Little Big Time, hosted by Freddie Garrity. Freddie and the Dreamers released a soundtrack album of Oliver in the Overworld in 1970, but it was novelty act Pipkins who scored the international hit. Songwriter Roger Greenaway performed, as a member of the Dreamers, on the first recording, and Greenaway was one half of Pipkins. Small world, eh?

Anyway, here’s a taster. The aforementioned Gimme Dat Ding and the Groovy Gang’s dull version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Enjoy!

Download Ding HERE




Download Submarine HERE 

Friday, 29 June 2018

A Little Nightair Music


A recent charity shop find, Nightair were just one of the hundreds of local showbands who decided to fund the recording and pressing of their own album, a collection of live favourites to sell out of the back of their Bedford Chevanne.

The trio consisted of married couple Lynda and Kevin Airey, and Lynda's brother Dave Knight. All three members sang, with Dave handling guitar duties, Kevin on drums and Lynda plying the rather oddly-named ‘bass machine’. Issued in 1976, it’s not a dreadful album by any measure, but it is rather insipid. This was the year punk exploded, yet the material – and their approach to it – sounds incredibly dated. And those clothes! These three seem to have bought their stage gear in a store that specialised in curtains for clowns.

Hailing from the North East, Nightair clearly fancied themselves as some sort of Carpenters/Beatles hybrid, as you can tell from the material they chose to record: the note-by-note cover of the Carpenters arrangement of Please Mister Postman, which segues awkwardly in to She Loves You, is a perfect example. Their rather avant garde (as in avant garde a clue) take on the Lennon-McCartney composition It’s For You (a hit for Cilla Black) at least shows some originality, but it’s let down by the stilted production. Other covers include Jambalaya (the Carpenters again), Without You (Badfinger/Nilsson), and songs by Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Paul Simon. The sleeve notes were written by Ray Fell, a reasonably well-known comedian working the circuit (and making many TV appearances) in the 60s and 70s. He later moved to the US and appeared for many years in cabaret in Las Vegas. Ray passed away in 2016.

I can’t tell you much else about Nightair. They had originally been a four piece, augmented by Liz Kinght (Dave’s wife), and played a 20-week season at Butlin’s in Minehead in 1973. Liz left after the birth of their son, Leigh. Their recording of Jambalaya was included on a 20-track compilation, The Entertainers, issued in December 1977. They were still gigging in 1978, playing such salubrious spots as the Old Benwell Village Club, and were being advertised as ‘New Faces Winners’: I cannot find anything to confirm this (perhaps one of you can help?) but they did appear on Opportunity Knocks in March 1977. After another hoiliday camp residency in the summer of 1978 they seem to drop off the face of the earth.

There are currently at least two other acts knocking around using the Nightair moniker; one a young US indie trio from Orange County, the other a pair of Belgian producers who released a rather anodyne version of the Eagles One of These Nights in 2014. One half of the Belgian ‘band’ is Fabrice Morvan, better known to all as one half of infamous pop puppets Milli Vanilli.

Enjoy!

Download Postman HERE



Download For You HERE

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

Friday, 27 April 2018

Oh Carolina

Today’s offering is another track recently brought to my attention by Bob at Dead Wax, and one which I simply had to own. Luckily there was an affordable copy for sale on eBay; I say ‘was’ because this little treasure is now mine!

Issued around 1976, God is So Good and its flip Because He Lives (written by William J. Gaither) were recorded by nine year-old Joel Stafford, a severely disabled boy from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Joel suffered from a rare and incurable bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta, a form of brittle bone disease. This congenital condition left his body unable to develop the collagen needed to build up his bones, and meant that he had to have steel rods implanted in his legs.

Young Joel wanted to buy an electric wheelchair: he also loved to sing in church with his family. “I’m going to buy myself a wheelchair,” he told reporters from local newspaper the Statesville Record And Landmark in September 1976. “I’m going to take it to school so I can roll myself around.” To pay for the chair Joel persuaded his parent, Wayne and Linda, to take him to a local recording studio and cut his only 45.

Instrumental support was provided by local band the Starlighters. Several bands have used the same name over the years, but these fellows appear to have been led by one Bert Starr and they released their own 45 on Unique records around the same time. Issued on his own Joel Records label, he soon sold enough copies of his disc to pay the $1,500 or so for his chair.

A strong-minded young man who enjoyed attending the Children’s Center In Winston-Salem, Joel was proud of his achievement and of his new chair, but unfortunately before long some low-down cur stole it, and he was forced to sell more copies of his 45 to pay for a second one. Luckily this time around he had support from the local community, as the press cutting here notes.

Sadly Joel appears to have passed away; his father’s obituary (Joe Wayne Stafford died in 2003) mentions that his son predeceased him, but no other details. Luckily he left us his single, a lasting legacy to a brave little boy determined not to be beaten by the hand he was dealt.

Enjoy!

Download God HERE


Download Because HERE

Friday, 13 April 2018

Angels and Devils

My latest obsession, thanks entirely to Bob at Dead Wax, is Mrs. Lila F. Daniels, also known as Lila Winton Daniels, but recognised professionally as Lillay Deay.

I can tell you next to nothing about her, apart from that she seems to have been riding on the coattails of Elva Miller and, like her, only attempted to establish a career as a singer in her dotage. The big difference though is that Mrs. Daniels wrote her own songs.

Born in 1896, she began her writing career in 1959 with The Christmas Star. In 1966 she penned the patriotic Lady of Liberty, and in 1967 she registered copyright in four songs, Appreciation, Our Beautiful Lady and Los Angeles, as well as Dancing Prancing Reindeer, the latter of which was recorded and released in 1969 (backed by Christmas Star) by the Daniel Singers or the Daniels Singers, depending on which pressing you ended up with. The ‘group’ was in no way related to the gospel vocal act of the same name. Christmas was a recurring theme for Lila. In 1969 she penned Is Santa the Man in the Moon, and 1973 brought Santa Clause Sweetheart.

Other songs I’ve found credited to Lila/Lilay include the 1968 composition I’ve Hurt All I Can Hurt; in 1970 she wrote the songs He’s No Angel and Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish. I can’t help wondering if He’s No Angel is the same song (or at least is related to) the song that first introduced me to Lillay, He’s A Devil. In 1974, she composed the music for the songs Have a Happy Birthday and the Happy Birthday Clown; the words for both of these were written by Daisy Blackwood.

Lila and her husband William hailed from Houston, Texas and had two sons, Robert and Dan. It appears that, in her 60s, she and her husband retired to California, as it was there that she set up her own record label: the few discs known to exist were issued by her own Timely Records, based in Tujunga, in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. Timely released at least three 45s, Our Beautiful Flag is Crying, Dancing Prancing Reindeer/Christmas Star and I May Look Too Old, backed with the amazing He’s A Devil (credited on the accompanying picture sleeve as You’re a Devil).

And that’s all I’ve got. If you know anything more about her, or have any more music by her, please do let me know. Here are a couple of tracks to send you on your way: the amazing He’s A Devil (stolen, with heartfelt thanks, from Bob at Dead Wax), and Our Beautiful Flag is Crying, cribbed from YouTube and cleaned up a little by my own fair hands.

Enjoy!

 Download Devil HERE



Download Flag HERE

Friday, 6 April 2018

LMW 281F

A couple of tracks today from Bill Shepherd: songwriter, producer, arranger, orchestra leader and quite possibly Paul McCartney Mark II.

Yes, even today there are still many ridiculous conspiracy theorists who claim that Paul is Dead, and that Faul (the fake Paul, geddit?) was replaced by one William Shepherd, a nascent singer and songwriter who previously led Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots. It’s not a huge jump from Billy Shepherd to Billy Shears, and from Billy Pepper to Sgt. Pepper, after all.

The clues are out there: Paul’s mysterious wonky eyebrows and his ‘are they/aren’t they’ attached earlobes; the photo of Faul from the back on the cover of Sgt Pepper, and the barefooted march across the cover of Abbey Road; cranberry sauce… Sadly, the Billy Pepper/Shears/Shepherd these idiots promote as Macca’s replacement died himself in 1988, which kind of blows their theory out of the water, ne-c’est pas? Never mind that Billy Pepper’s own singing voice and compositional skills leave rather a lot to be desired. There is no way that this man could have ever written anything as sublimely beautiful as For No One.

No, it seems that our Billy Shepherd was the same composer and arranger who later went to work for the Bee Gees. Bill Shepherd was born in Surrey in 1927, and early in his career he worked with JoeMeek, when Joe was an in-house engineer at Pye. Shepherd first achieved notice in 1959 with his work as producer/composer on the Anthony Newley comedy Idle on Parade. He worked with Peter Sellers at Parlophone (with George Martin, Beatles obsessives!) and with the Shadows, penned the B-side to Jackie Lynton’s Over the Rainbow, and worked with Gene Vincent on his single The Beginning Of The End.

Shepherd had often been called on to produce quick knock off versions of TV themes and current instrumental hits, and in early 1964 he assembled a studio group, dubbed Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots, to record a clutch of tracks in the style of the Beatles for a couple of budget price cash in albums, Merseymania and Beat!!! More Merseymania. With each album featuring nasty cover versions of a couple of Beatles tracks, plus up to eight originals written in a similar style, the cheap discs were often picked up by gullible parents wanting something Beatle-y for their kids. Both albums sold well, and have been endlessly repackaged over the years, with the band often being renamed. Billy Pepper recordings have been released under the names the Beats, the Mersey Beats of Liverpool (not The Merseybeats) and the Liverpool Beats.

Shortly after the Merseymania recording sessions, Shepherd moved to Australia and joined Festival Records, where he began his relationship with the Gibb Brothers, a relationship they would renew after the group and the arranger both moved back to the UK – independently of each other - in 1966. He was responsible for many of their arrangements, and remained closely involved with all of the group’s work until 1973, when the Gibbs relocated to Los Angeles. During the same period he also worked with the Beatles protégés Grapefruit, Ritchie Havens, Gene Pitney, the New Seekers and Arthur Mullard. He died in L.A. in 1988.

Just to add fuel to the fire, a Billy Shepherd was also wrote one of the very first books on the Fab Four, The True Story of the Beatles, published in 1964 by Beat Publications, publishers of the Beatles Book Magazine. It seems that most of the conspiracy theorists have either forgotten or conveniently ignored that. But then again it has been conclusively proven that that Billy was not our Bill, (or Paul, or Faul either for that matter); that particular Billy Shepherd was, in fact, one of the many pen names utilized by Peter Jones, a music journalist who wrote for the Record Mirror and, later, Billboard. Jones, under the pseudonym Pete Goodman, would also write the first book on the Rolling Stones.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense; here is Billy, along with his Pepperpots, with their dreadful, atonal cover of I Want To Hold Your Hand and Bill Shepherd’s own composition, the frighteningly awful Seems to Me. Oo-wee-ee-oohh indeed! If you honestly think that a Beatle would have come up with a song as bad as this you need your bumps felt.

Turn me on, dead man!

Download Hand HERE


Download Seems HERE

Friday, 30 March 2018

Alice in Blunderland

Now, I loved the Stranglers, although I’ll admit I’ve no time for their post-Hugh output. For me it was all over once he left. The first post-Hugh album, In The Night, is just horrific (‘It’s in your brainbox/It’s in your dreadlocks/It’s in my red socks’) and I gave up at that point, but I’ll happily hold my hands up and say that they were a fine singles band – one of the best of the post-punk era – and they produced some classic albums. 

Most fans will probably go for Stranglers IV (Rattus) or Black and White, but for me The Gospel According to the Men In Black and Feline are where it’s at. I just love those two records. Fans will always argue about which album is the best (or their personal favourite) from the classic line up, but the one that will always remain on the bottom of the pile is the atrocious Aural Sculpture. 

Bless them, you can appreciate that they are trying to do something different, and follow up the low key and laid-back (but rather successful) Feline with an album that takes them even further away from their punk roots, but the horrible mishmash that is Aural Sculpture should never have seen the light of day. Feline was their first Top Five LP since the Raven: Aural Sculpture saw them struggle to get in to the Top 20, and of the three singles issued, only one was a reasonable hit. 

It would have made a great mini-album, or even EP. The collection has a couple of decent numbers, notably Ice Queen, No Mercy and lead single Skin Deep, but for the most parts it’s flabby and the addition of a horn section was a shocking mistake. It’s clear that the group are going for a more soulful groove here, but many of the lyrics are of 14 year-old schoolboy level, and nowhere is that more in evidence that the absolutely dreadful Mad Hatter. Even if you can live with the obtrusive horns, and even if the more tranquil tracks on La Folie or Feline had warned you that things were indeed changing nothing – but nothing – can prepare you for the horrendous backing vocals.

Listening back to the album today, it’s actually aged pretty well, but Mad Hatter still makes me want to reach for a bucket. The group paved the way for the album with the pompous, pretentious and frankly ridiculous Aural Sculpture Manifesto, issued as a one-sided freebie with some copies of Feline and played as opening ‘music’ at live dates to promote the album. I saw them on that tour… and believe me when I tell you that it didn’t go down well with the ‘traditional’ Stranglers audience. Trivia fans might like to know that the cassette version of Aural Sculpture included a ZX Spectrum computer game, Aural Quest, which could be loaded using the Spectrum’s usual tape loading method.

Anyway, see what you think. Here’s Mad Hatter and Aural Sculpture Manifesto... the nadir of the 'real' Stranglers' career.

Enjoy!

Download Hatter HERE


Download Sculpture HERE


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