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


Friday, 23 March 2018

The Wild One

From acting and film royalty (grandfather was the great actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree; his uncle was the film director Sir Carol Reed), Robert Oliver Reed (13 February 1938 – 2 May 1999) was an English actor known for his upper-middle class, macho image, hellraiser lifestyle (he was close friends with, among others, Keith Moon), and tough guy roles.

Although in his home country he’s best remembered for his many embarrassing drunken appearances on British chat shows, Reed was a talented actor whose appearances in several swinging 60s classics (including The System (1964), The Trap (1966), and the career-defining role of Bill Sikes in Oliver!) helped define the era. Closely associated with the films of Ken Russell - Women in Love (1969), The Devils (1971), and Tommy (1975) – he also starred as Athos in The Three Musketeers (1973), and as pervy author Gerald Kingsland in the dreadful Nic Roeg film Castaway (1986).

Reed made his film debut in 1955, as an extra in the Diana Dors vehicle Value For Money. As well as making many minor (and often uncredited) television appearances over the next five years he appeared in a dozen movies, such as the Norman Wisdom comedy The Square Peg (1958), as an over-the-top camp chorus boy in The League of Gentlemen (1960) and as a nondescript teen in the cult musical Beat Girl (1960). By now he was beginning to make waves, and over the next two years would appear in bigger and bigger roles in a succession of bigger and bigger hits: he played a bouncer in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll for Hammer, the leader of a gang of Teddy Boys in another Wisdom film, The Bulldog Breed, an artist in the Tony Hancock comedy The Rebel and as Lord Melton in Hammer Films’ Sword of Sherwood Forest.

Good looking in a brutish sort of way, naturally the record companies soon came a-calling.

Ollie first stepped in to a recording studio in 1961, laying down two tracks for a Decca single: the Jim Dale-penned The Wild One (a song he would perform, drunk, on TV in the 80s), and Lonely For a Girl. Both are excruciatingly awful: the production and arrangement of The Wild One owes a great deal to Joe Meek (and, in turn, owes a lot to Buddy Holly), but that’s about the only thing the plug side has going for it. The B-side is worse: Ollie can’t hit the notes, and the little spoken interlude is diabolical. Wonderful! Was written by Mitch Murray who would go on to write How Do You Do It, recorded by two groups from Brian Epstein’s stable. On both tracks Reed sounds uncannily like another of Decca’s singing stars, Jess Conrad.

The Decca single sank without a trace. Unperturbed, Reed’s management hustled him over to Pye, where he cut a couple of sides for their Piccadilly imprint: Sometimes was written by Dave Clark and Ron Ryan (the Dave Clark Five were signed to Piccadilly around the same time), while the B-side – Ecstasy – was a cover of the song written by Phil Spector and Doc Pomus, and first released by Ben E. King. If anything, its worse than the Decca 45.

Next was a dreadful ‘comedy’ cover of Baby It’s Cold Outside, sung as a duet with Joyce Blair… who, of course, would go on to release Christine – a novelty single inspired by the Profumo affair - under the pseudonym Miss X. Ollie only appeared on the A-side.

That was it. He would appear on the soundtrack to the movie Oliver!, and as the narrator on a version of The Ancient Mariner, but no more pop singles would be issued under his name until the 1990s, when he released a horrible version of the Troggs’ classic Wild Thing, a recording that even featured a guest appearance from snooker legend Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins. But by that time he had become better known for falling over drunk and insulting women on chat shows than for his acting ability. Starring roles in shockingly bad movies such as A Touch of the Sun (later re-released as No Secrets!) did nothing to improve his lot, although his reputation was somewhat salvaged with his final on-screen appearance, as Antonius Proximo, the gruff gladiator trainer in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Released posthumously, Reed would be nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here, for your delectation, are all five of Ollie’s stabs at 60s pop stardom.

Enjoy!

Download Wild HERE



Download Lonely HERE



Download Sometimes HERE



Download Ecstasy HERE



Donload Baby HERE

Friday, 16 March 2018

This could be a job for Mulder and Scully

Gillian Anderson: actor, activist, writer… pop star?

Released in 1997, Extremis was Gillian’s only credible stab at the pop charts. The actor met musical collective Hal when Gillian narrated BBC documentary series Future Fantastic. Hal - a quartet that included house producer Pascal Derycke, Duncan Lomax – a.k.a Savage - Padi Staid and Raheem, the stage name of the late Paul Gallagher – produced the soundtrack for the series and Gillian let it be known that she would like to work with them. Extremis, built around a tune the musicians had already composed for the title sequence, was the result.

It’s not actually that bad, in a Madonna Erotica kind of way, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, and the lyrics are just awful:

A melting of minds, a cerebral mesh,
A union of liquid and virtual flesh.

Automaton love, your caress is pneumatic.
I'm a slave to your touch, my response automatic.

The circuits burn out, and the paradigm shift,
It’s elision. My emotions drift.

Two of the band appeared with Miss Anderson on TV to promote the single. As Gillian told it: ‘I don’t sing [but] Virgin was interested in doing something if I put down some sort of vocal something… it’s their music and I just kind of slipped in and put down a few words.’ The original release featured four different mixes of the same song. Thankfully the team decided not to reunite for a follow up, although Anderson did compile a double CD of electronica, which featured the track as well as other music by Brian Eno, Harold Budd and others.

Released at the height of X-Files mania, Extremis made the UK Top 30 and, apparently, did rather well in a number of other countries. It was denied the Number One spot in Greece by the Spice Girls. Derycke, as Halspirit, is still making ambient music today.

‘We had a lot of fun, and that, basically, is what this has been about,’ Gillian told Rodrigo Stecher of Axcess magazine. ‘It’s not about me putting out a single, and it’s not about me and my song, and it’s not, “Hey, look at me, I have an album,” you know? It’s got nothing to do with that. It was just an idea that expanded and expanded and we have a little song. I did not for one second feel that this is the beginning of a pop career, nor do I want it to be.’ I like her attitude.

As there's only one track today, I've also included the video. 

Enjoy!

Download Extremis HERE



Friday, 9 March 2018

Statement Free

Time for some classic outsider madness!

Norwegian legend Arvid Sletta has issued nine albums to date. The latest, Fast And Slow, is credited to Arvid Sletta and his regular collaborators Anders Sinnes and Oddbjørn Tvervåg, and was released earlier this year. Sinnes and Tvervåg are accomplished musicians, and their sheen adds an interesting polish to his work, but I prefer the oddball earlier works, all solo and all utterly mad.

Born in January 1960, Sletta began his music career in the mid 1980s in the band Easy Riders with his brothers Reidar and Øyvind. The band – according to Wikipedia, anyway - issued one 45 (Call Me Tonight/You Drink Too Much) and two cassette-only collections Brilliant Kind Of Works (1988) and In Love (1990), although they all appear to have been incredibly limited. However you can find much of their output on YouTube, if you search for 'Easy Riders (Frøya)'. 

The band split in the early 1990s, by which time Arvid had already issued his debut solo album. His music has been featured in the short films Size 5, No Coke, Statement Too (a documentary about Arvid which was dong the international Film Festival circuit a couple of years back) and Little Red Hoodie.

Here are a couple of tracks from his rather wonderful early work, his debut LP Statement and second album Name. Issued in 2005, a full 15 years after Statement, Name features 31 tracks, many of them under a minute in length and only two over two minutes long. Statement is the only one of Arvid’s albums to appear on vinyl, all of the others have been self-published on CD. If you want more there’s plenty on YouTube, Spotify and iTunes for you to discover.


Enjoy!

Download I Love You HERE


Download Sexism HERE



Friday, 2 March 2018

Touched by the Hand of George

A rogue, a cad… immortalised on the silver screen in countless iconic roles, including the brilliant Addison DeWitt in All About Eve (for which he won an Academy Award), married to a Gabor, the voice of Shere Khan, Batman’s Mr. Freeze… George Sanders was a true star.

Russian-born but raised in Britain and of aristocratic stock, Sanders and his family fled to Britain in 1917. He began his career on the stage in musicals, after his friend Greer Garson suggested he take up acting. Prior to that he had run a tobacco plantation and worked in advertising. His first recording, Regency Rakes, was from the 1934 production of Noel Coward’s Conversation Piece.

He appeared in several British movies during the 30s, but it was when 20th Century Fox cast him as the villain in Lloyds of London that sanders started to attract attention. Lloyds of London was a big hit and Fox put Sanders under a seven-year contract. His first leading role came the next year, in Lancer Spy. Next he was cast as The Saint in a series of movies, and began a successful association with Alfred Hitchcock, appearing in both Rebecca and Foreign Correspondent. When RKO, the producers of The Saint series fell out with author Leslie Charteris, they created the role of The Falcon for Sanders.

He bore a striking resemblance to his elder brother, Tom Conway (real name Thomas Charles Sanders), and the latter was often cast in Sanders-esque roles. Conway took over the role of The Falcon from his George, the two of them appearing together in that film. The only other time they appeared together on screen was in Death of a Scoundrel (1956), in which they also played brothers. Tom Conway died, of alcoholism, in 1967. His career never reached the same heights as his brother, but like him he had also worked for Disney, voicing two minor characters in 101 Dalmatians.

Released in 1958, The George Sanders Touch is not the worst singing actor album you’ll hear, but it is still awful. The lush orchestrations – by Nick Perito (who was closely associated with Perry Como for much of his career) and Don Costa (best known for his work with Sinatra and Paul Anka) – are gorgeous, but Georgie boy is out of his depth. His bass-baritone croon is ok, and he just about gets away with it on Try A Little Tenderness, but his range is severely limited, as you can hear for yourself on the dreadfully out-of-tune As Time Goes By. It’s all downhill from there. He murders September Song, one of my favourite songs, with a ridiculous (and, frankly, obscene) spoken word intro that lifts him in to the stratosphere that will later be occupied by Barbara Cartland. Rather appositely he performs If You Were the Only Girl In The World, massacred by Dame Babs herself on her Album of Love Songs. The song Such Is My Love, was composed by Sanders himself. 

In later life Saunders suffered from dementia. He became deeply depressed and, when he found that he could no longer play his grand piano, he dragged it outside and smashed it with an axe. On 23 April 1972, he checked into a hotel in , a coastal town near Barcelona. He was found dead two days later, having gone into cardiac arrest after swallowing the contents of five bottles of the barbiturate Nembutal. He left behind three suicide notes, one of which read:

Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.

Sanders’ last role was in the low-budget British horror movie Psychomania (released in the US as The Death Wheelers), which hit cinemas in 1973.

Here’s George crooning a couple of tunes. Enjoy!

Download September HERE



  Download Time HERE

Friday, 23 February 2018

The First (and Last) Noele

A couple of weeks a go, during a small social gathering at a friend’s house, conversation turned (as it so often does with me) to bad music. During that conversation I was reminded of a record that, I believed, I had featured here years ago. I was amazed to discover that, in fact, I had not. So, it’s time to put that right.

Noele Gordon will be best known to British readers for playing the part of Meg Mortimer (nee Richardson), the imperious owner of the eponymous Motel in the long-running soap opera Crossroads.

A trained dancer, Joan Noele Gordon (she got her middle name because she was born on Christmas Day, 1919) first appeared on the screen in 1945, in the British film 29 Acacia Avenue. She was also the first woman to ever appear on colour television in the UK, appearing in several tests made by the BBC in the 1940s. Stage success followed (she was in the London cast of Brigadoon) before, in 1955, she joined the fledgling Independent Televison network, first as a presenter for Associated Television’s first-ever programme, The Weekend Show before helping launch ATV Midlands in 1956. For the best part of a decade she worked both as an on-screen presenter and, behind the scenes, as a producer. Then, in 1964, Crossroads was launched. The character of Meg Richardson, head of the family-run motel, was created especially for her.

Crossroads was famed for its wobbly sets and ridiculous storylines: many of the earlier episodes were broadcast live, and the acting often left a lot to be desired. However the show was enormously popular with viewers, and Noele went on to win the TV Times award for most popular television actress on eight occasions. Her sacking came about while ATV was being restructured (it became Central TV on 1 January 1982). The programme was an embarrassment: network bosses hoped that audiences would abandon the show and they could cancel it. Bizarrely that didn’t happen, and it limped on for several more years.

She died of cancer aged 65, just four years after she was sacked, in 1985. Many then and now blame her untimely demise on losing her job as matriarch of the Crossroads family. Sadly for her many fans the show had been planning to bring her character back…

But anyway: the music. Noele (or Nolly as her friend Larry Grayson would always refer to her) left us with several classically awful recordings. A few of the stage shows she appeared in have associated ‘original cast’ releases, but it is her solo discography I wish to celebrate today. It began in 1974 with the diabolically awful To My Daughter, issued on Jonathan King’s UK record label. Luckily for those of a nervous disposition, she did not appear on the disc’s b-side. To My Daughter is diabolical: a spoken word atrocity in which the unmarried Noele waxes lyrically about a baby girl born eight-weeks premature. It’s brilliantly bad.

Shortly after a whole album of Noele doing her best Barbara Cartland impersonation appeared. Noele Gordon Sings features the great woman massacring such classics as These Foolish Things and The Nearness of You, and her on-screen marriage to Hugh Mortimer (played by John Bentley) resulted in an album’s worth of nonsense, sold to viewers as the Crossroads Wedding Party. Mixed up with tracks by Stephanie de Sykes, duets with Bentley, medleys from the Crossroads cast and (naturally) the theme to the show itself, were highlights from the show’s wedding service. It’s a camp classic.

Noele’s recording career ended the same year as her Crossroads career did, with the 45 After All These Years/Goodbye. A quick attempt to cash in on the publicity around her sacking, it sank without troubling the charts.

Here, for your delectation, are a couple of cuts from Noele, her first single To My Daughter, and her last one, Goodbye. I’ll rip After All These Years when my copy (purchased this morning from Discogs) arrives and add that later!

Enjoy!

Download Daughter HERE


Download Goodbye HERE



Download After HERE

Friday, 16 February 2018

Trouble on the Old Plantation

I was blissfully unaware of the tracks in today’s selection, until WWR regular Nigel Richardson alerted me to one and, like the Alice down the rabbit hole, I became lost in an alternate universe.

I was a little surprised to discover that I had not blogged about American record producer and record label owner Shelby Singleton before, especially when I have written several pieces on his contemporary, Major Bill Smith. Smith, producer of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, was the man who brought the original version of Hey Paula to Singleton (on Smith’s LeCam label); Singleton then reissued the disc through Philips and an international hit was born.

At the age of 17 he married his first wife: Margaret was just 13 at the time. It seems highly appropriate then that he went on to produce (and, through his acquisition of Sun, control much of the back catalogue of) that other celebrity child-marrier Jerry Lee Lewis. After serving in the US Marine Corps in Korea (he was wounded and spent the rest of his life with a metal plate in his head), Singleton worked in a munitions company before being hired to promote the country music catalogue of Starday Records. Starday was distributed by Mercury Records, and when that deal came to an end he moved over to the larger company. Throughout his career Singleton exhibited an unusual flair for picking hit novelty records, including Ray Stevens’ Ahab the Arab, and he was also involved in the careers of Roger Miller, George Jones, Faron Young and many others.

In 1966, after eight years with Mercury, Singleton branched out on his own, forming several music labels, including SSS International and Plantation Records. Two years later he was rewarded when Jeannie C. Riley’s recording of Harper Valley PTA went to Number One (remember that title: it’ll come in handy later!) In 1969 he purchased Sun Records from Sam Phillips, including its rock and roll catalogue.

But it’s Plantation we want to look at today.

Plantation was an odd label, and a place where pretty much anything went. It’s a company that is impossible to categorise, with everything from space-age pop instrumentals to political polemics, with a dash of yodeling CB/trucker trash thrown in for good measure. Here are just a few of the many oddities.

First up – and the song that took me down that rabbit hole in the first place - is The School Bus by T. Tommy Cutrer. Cutrer was a DJ and television presenter who also cut a number of rock and roll sides for, among others, RCA and Dot. Cutrer had also recorded for Starday (as T. Tommy “the Big Daddy”) when Singleton was working for the company. However his one-off 45 for Plantation, The School Bus, defies belief. Make of it what you well. Is it pro-segregation? It’s certainly anti-government, and utterly horrible.
 
Johnny Moore’s Sold to the Highest Bidder starts off as your typical country tearjerker, but 22 seconds in it turns in to a real-live action, presided over by real-live auctioneer Colonel Tex Herring. Odd doesn’t begin to describe it. Finally, here’s a cover of Singleton’s biggest hit, Harper Valley PTA, re-imagined in ‘comedy’ Chinaman style as Happy Valley CIA by Ray “Wong” Riley. Wong? It’s just wrong, on so many levels. Saki to me!

If you want to hear more I can highly recommend the two disc, 58 track collection called Plantation Gold: The Mad Genius Of Shelby Singleton Jr. via Australia’s Omni Records.

The Nashville-based Singleton died, aged 77, on 7 October 2009, following a battle with brain cancer. Several years earlier he had been arrested for growing a 14ft marijuana plant, the biggest that narcotics officers had ever seen.

Enjoy!

Download SCHOOL here



Download BIDDER here



Download HAPPY here

Friday, 9 February 2018

Carphone Cathouse

Naomi Campbell: superstar. One of the original super models (although I’m sure Janice Dickinson would argue that one), she’s an infamous diva, a former drug addict and, apparently, a bit of a bully (with a spot of community service to show for it). Oh… and she also released an album.

First issued in 1994, Naomi Campbell’s Babywoman is regularly ridiculed as one of the worst albums ever. The album was a commercial flop here in the UK, although it did better in some other countries (especially in Japan) and has sold over a million worldwide. Not bad. It was not her first foray in to the music biz: three years earlier she had appeared on the lead track to the Vanilla Ice flop film (and soundtrack album) Cool as Ice (Everybody Get Loose).

To be honest, it’s not as awful as it could be. Helped by a stellar line up of guest musicians, writers and producers (including Chrissie Hynde, Luther Vandross, PM Dawn, bits of it are passable pop of the period. The Millie Jackson-esque photo adorning the front is a nice piece of self-depreciation. But it is seriously patchy, and that’s not helped by having eight different producers and using six different studios to record in. Opener Love and Tears (a Top 40 hit in the UK) starts off ok, with Naomi’s breathy vocals luring you in. Co-written by Bomb the Bass’s Tim Simenon and Gavin Friday of the Virgin Prunes, this really doesn’t sound too bad, you reason. In all fairness Naomi’s years of stage training (her mother was a dancer, and from the age of three, Campbell attended the Barbara Speake Stage School and, later, the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts) mean that she knows how to sing, even if she’s not a ‘natural’. The reviewers were probably just being snobbish.

But then she starts to shout. Well, bray like a sick donkey would be a better description. The voice that tempted you in over the first verse goes to pieces, and by 3:45 - when she mangles ‘tee-hee-hee-hears’ it’s all over.

Her cover of Marc Bolan’s Ride a White Swan is truly horrific. She sounds like a a million other women attempting the song at a karaoke session after a particularly hard-drinking weekend. It’s given a vaguely trip-hop sheen by producer Youth - whose credits include Killing Joke, The Fireman (with Paul McCartney), Kate Bush, Bananarama, The Orb, Pink Floyd and Yazz – but, and let’s be honest here, it’s dreadful, as most vanity projects usually are. Campbell once made headlines for hitting her maid in the head with a mobile phone; after listening to this you’ll wish that the offending instrument had been travelling in the opposite direction.

Enjoy!

Download LOVE here


Download SWAN here

Friday, 2 February 2018

Father Francis Revisited

Back in November 2014 I featured a disc that, at the time, I raved about being quite possibly the worst thing I had ever heard in my life, a single by Father Francis the Singing Franciscan Monk. Diabolical, it was. Truly horrible.

Well, while recently trawling the net I cam across a veritable goldmine of Father Francis albums for sale, and I can tell you from experience that once you have gone down that particular rabbit hole there’s no return. You see, Father Francis has released 41 – yes, 41 – albums. And then there’s the DVDs, the joke books, the Father Francis tea towel… He also likes to crochet, and Dr Who fans can by a Tom Baker scarf, hand crocheted by their favourite Franciscan, for just £9 (plus P&P) from his website.

But let’s put the Catholic homeware aside for a moment, as were here to talk about the music. 

Father Francis’s take on the John Lennon classic Imagine comes from his 31st album, Ave Maria. I cannot imagine (if you’ll excuse the pun) how this came about. There’s no way that the Lennon Estate would have ever given permission for Father Francis to change the lyrics of Lennon’s anti-religion epic in to this anodyne paean. It defies belief. Every line, every message, every single sentiment in the original has been twisted. ‘Imagine there’s no heaven’ becomes ‘Imagine there’s a heaven’; ‘No hell below us, above us only sky’ becomes ‘there’s a hell below us, you’d better choose before you die’. It’s simply abominable. And while we’re on the subject, Father, why is it ‘Imagine there’s a heaven’ anyway? Surely if you believe ion such things then there’s no ‘imagine’ about it at all?

The album also includes such perverse covers as I Just Called to Say I Love You, Sylvia’s Mother and The Living Years. This is hateful stuff… although the contrarian in me would simply love to hear Father Francis tackle a whole album of Andy Partridge’s atheistic compositions. ‘Dear God, glad you got my letter, thank you for making it all better down here… We all need another 10p on a pint of beer…’ And I need to buy a copy of his album of Abba covers, Thank You For the Music, if just to hear what he makes of Does Your Mother Know.

The good Father is still preaching today, and still doing good works: he’s particularly interested in helping raise funds for starving children (and that’s a very good thing indeed). In fact he seems like just the kind of priest you’d hope for: humble, wise and kind. It’s just a shame he feels the need to perform musical transubstantiation in this way.

Anyway, here’s two cuts from Ave Maria, Imagine and He’s My Forever Friend. And yes, I know it’s the wrong cover image (above) but the sleeve of Pot Luck is so ridiculous that I just had to share it.

Enjoy!

Download Imagine HERE


Download Friend HERE

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