Saturday, 11 September 2021

To Be Perfectly Frank

Four cuts today, recorded at La Motte Street studios in St. Helier, and issued by Mousehole Records of Jersey (the in-house, custom label of Mousehole Studio) in 1983, the entire Jersey’s Love EP from Francisco Javier.


Sung in English by a heavily-accented, non-native singer, the four songs are tales of love dedicated to Francisco’s newly-adopted home in the Channel Islands, and to the most important women in his life.


Jersey’s Love (subtitled ‘Song of the Summer’) would probably be more correctly titled Jersey Is Love, although Francisco’s delivery makes it difficult to understand what the lyric writer was after. As the sleeve announces, the song is both ‘dedicated to those in love’ and ‘very personal’, phrases that could just as easily apply to the other cuts on the EP: Time Of Love For Evelyn, Date In New Street, and She Is Gone.


Francesc Xavier Charles Gòdia was born in Alcarràs, Lleida, on 16 November 1945, and is better known as Frank Charles. Starting his recording career in Madrid in 1966, and issuing a Spanish-language version of Winchester Cathedral the following year, he became a well-known face on Spanish TV, appearing on many talent and musical shows, performing around the country and winning awards. During the 1970s he appeared with the group Francis Charles y sus Cinco Go Gos (Francis Charles and his Five Go Gos) and spent three years living and working in London, appearing on UK television programmes alongside Cliff Richard and Tom Jones.


In the 1980s he moved to Jersey, making a home on the island and becoming well known as a singer in local restaurants, hotels, and cabarets. In 1982, the same year that he recorded the four cuts I present for you today, he was hosting Spanish-themed dinner and dance nights at the Panorama Restaurant in Ouaisne Bay.


I would love to be able to tell you why he recorded this EP under the pseudonym Francisco Javier, when he was still working on the island as Frank Charles. This becomes more of a conundrum when you discover that his next release, the 1986 single Himne D´Estat Català was credited to Francesc Xavier Charles, and that, following that release, he would revert back to his Frank Charles persona. My assumption is that he was under contract to a Spanish label as Frank Charles, so had to issue this self-penned, self-financed single under a different name… but perhaps someone out there knows the whole story?


Now living in Barcelona, over the years Frank has written songs in honour of the Barcelona Olympics, Barcelona FC, Jersey, Madeira, and even Diana, Princess of Wales: according to Frank’s website, Tears And White Roses For A Caring Princess ‘was recognised by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and Harrods department store,’ the latter, one assumes, for services to the Al Fayed family. His most recent success was the 2012 composition The Scent Of London, apparently ‘the first song dedicated to the London Olympic Games, credited and recognised by Queen Elizabeth II and Boris Johnson, [the then] Mayor of London.’ It’s clear Boris had not heard Jersey’s Love though, as both songs use the same tune and arrangement… which begs the question, why not call it London’s Love?


Now in his late 70s, Frank is still performing today, 55 years after he made his debut. Check out his YouTube channel HERE


Download Jersey HERE

Download Evelyn HERE

Download New Street HERE

Download Gone HERE

Friday, 3 September 2021

When Is a Smurf Not a Smurf?

Enough with the song poems already… although if you are interested in song-poems, especially those from Ted Rosen’s hallmark stable, I urge you to check out Bob Purse’s latest post and then this fascinating blog from Bruce Baryla which offers some fascinating info that could go some way to clearing up the mystery of the two Bob Storms AND the origin’s of Ted’s music beds. [UPDATE 4/9/21: link dead... I'll fix as soon as I can!]


But back to today.


Papa, Schenk Mir Einen Teddybär (Father, Give me a Teddy Bear), released by Die Schlümpfe in Germany in 1975 is notorious: the sleeve turns up in all of those ‘terrible record art’ lists, but few people have actually heard it. In fact, the sleeve is so ridiculously bad that for a long time I assumed it was a fake. But no, not only does it exist, but here are both sides for you to enjoy (or endure).


The duo’s name, Die Schlümpfe, may seem familiar to you. That’s because Die Schlümpfe is the German name for The Smurfs, although as far as I can ascertain these two Smurfs have no connection to Peyo or to Father Abraham… in fact, the only thing that seems to connect them is their love of blue and white and the ridiculous, cartoonish voices employed on the disc.


Doris Kocks, author of the A-side (and co-author of the flip) worked in children’s television in what was then East Germany. She was one of the producers of the popular kid’s puppet show Das Spielhaus (The Playhouse) throughout the 1980s. Kai Holland, the co-author of B-side, Der Kaiser Mitschliki, would later find fame as an artist, specialising in collage. However, the male voice on the disc, and the man pictured on the front of the single sleeve, was a singer known only as Felix, who was still performing and recording well into the mid-2010s.


5,000 copies of the disc were pressed and issued on the Blackfield Tonstudio label, based in Kirchhellen, In what was then West Germany. Blackfield specialised in custom recordings and pressings, so the chances are that Doris, Kai, and Felix funded production themselves. Felix recalled (in 2013) that although the disc received no publicity at the time, it sold well at the duo's performances.

I have read that there was supposed to be a second single by Die Schlümpfe, but this has been denied by Felix. However, while writing this blog I discovered an earlier release from Die Schlümpfe, issued in 1974 on Storec Schallplatten, of Munster. This 45 features a different recording of Papa, Schenk Mir Einen Teddybär, backed with another song, Nichts Gegen Liebe, also penned by Doris Kocks. To me the male vocalist on both versions of Papa, Schenk Mir Einen Teddybär sounds the same, but I guess it is possible that Felix only sang on the second version, which would explain why he was unaware of the existence of a second Die Schlümpfe single.

Anyway, here are all four Die Schlümpfe tracks. Enjoy!


Download Papa 75 HERE

Download Kaiser HERE

Download Papa 74 HERE


 Download Nichts HERE

Friday, 20 August 2021

Another Collection of Cacophony from Columbine

Another four tracks from my personal Columbine stash for you this week, this time the entire 1983 release, Columbine EP-189. It's a fairly mediocre release, but the final cut is a real pip!


Katherine Maynard’s They’re Coming After Me is a deeply confusing song. A typical country shuffle, the lyrics make it sounds as if the protagonist, presumably Maynard herself (although here voiced by Kay Weaver) has some sort of death wish and is praying to the Lord above for release. Who are the two little angels though? Has Katherine murdered her own twins, presumably back in Nashville if any kind of sense is to be extrapolated from her lyric, and now she’s on the run from the law and seeking absolution from the divine? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it.


G.B. Tan’s lounge bossa nova Whene’r I Make My Wish is a peculiar little song about yearning. Ms. Tan’s wishes she had been brought up in the country, win a room that had a window sill (not a window, you understand: G.B. seems to have the ability to be able to see through wood or concrete) so that she could gaze out into the night. Now, irrespective of what part of the country she had been raised in, what kind of parents bring up a child in a windowless – and window sill-less - room? The Fritzl-esque monsters!


There’s not much to say about the third track on the EP, You Bring Tears to My Eyes. With lyrics penned by W.G. Lassetter, it is a slow, dull plod delivered in Miss Weaver’s usual slow and plodding style. The tune owes something to the Beatles’ This Boy, but there’s little to recommend it apart from the rather wonderful line ‘I’m flying high in a gay paradise’.


Finally, the reason we’re all here: Pansy Loop’s marvellous Disco Blues, credited like all four tracks on this particular EP to Kay Weaver, but clearly sung by the unctuous John Muir, who of course worked for Preview as Gene Marshall, but whose real name is Gene Merlino. The lyrics are wonderfully inane and often downright stupid - just what does ‘let’s rent out those blue jean shoes’ actually mean? – but our Pansy was lucky enough to also have her song included on one of Columbine’s many, many The Now Sounds of Today compilations, this time correctly attributed to Muir. They may have given her this as a sop for miscrediting the original release, or more likely conned poor Pansy out of even more money to have her song featured as the album’s opening track.




Download Coming HERE


Download Wish HERE


Download Tears HERE

Download Disco HERE

Friday, 13 August 2021

Four More Columbine 'Hits'

Another bunch of cuts from Columbine for you today, another four song-poems for you to ‘enjoy’… if that’s possible.


I had intended to give you all four tracks from one EP, but on playback I realised that two of the cuts had flaws, so instead here are four tracks from two different EPs, ripped from my own collection.


First up is a brace of cuts from EP-176. This particular EP is undated, but the subject matter of at least one of the tracks makes it clear that it cannot have been released before 1981. It also features one of the later Columbine vocalists, Kate Markowitz on three tracks, with Sonny Cash – the veteran singer who also recorded as Buddy Ray and, for MSR, under the names of Dick Castle and Dick Kent, but whose real name was Elmer Plinger – on the opener.


And it is Sonny who kicks off side one of the disc with Why Should You Care, a question that collectors have been asking of song-poem lyricists for decades. It’s a dull little song with Sonny’s vocal accompanied by a trio featuring bass guitar, a plodding piano, and a clearly bored drummer. The lyric was written by Prince O. Williams, born in 1929 in the colourfully-sounding Prosperity, South Carolina, and who passed away in New Jersey in November 2014.


Peter Sirbopoulos’s tribute to the recently murdered John Lennon was penned, according to the author, shortly after the former Beatle’s death, and copyright registered in May 1981. Of Greek heredity, his great Grandfather (also called Peter, or Petros) emigrated to the United States in November 1902 but it seems as if, in later life, our Peter moved back to Athens: he was certainly living there between 2001 and 2003, but has dropped off the radar since then. Performed by Kate Markowitz, John Lennon could be viewed as a companion piece to Sonny’s To Yoko, which I featured on this very blog last September:


Talking about Sonny brings us nicely to the next track. As well as working under the names mentioned above, Sonny Cash has also been credited, erroneously, as Ralph Lowe, leading several writers – including me – to assume Sonny/Elmer and Ralph were one and the same, but the ‘real’ Ralph Lowe (if indeed there was a ‘real’ Ralph) has a deeper, more stentorian voice. And, as if to prove my point, next up is the ‘real’ Ralph Lowe with Kenneth Skasick’s C.B. Heartbreak


Issued in 1977 on Columbine EP-39, on C.B. Heartbreak Ralph is accompanied by the same piano/bass/drums trio that act as sidemen to Sonny Cash on Why Should You Care. Authorship of the lyric is credited to one Kenneth Skasick, and I’ve only ben able to find two men with that name: one was born in Missouri in 1930 and seems to have spent much of his working life in the employ of the US Air Force. He passed away in 2002. The other, born in 1972 (so he would only have been 25 when this disc was issued), was once arrested for stealing a cooker from an abandoned house and several years later needed hospital treatment after being attacked by a pair of pit bulls while trespassing, and for some reason, to my mind, this makes him a less likely candidate.


The final track comes from the same 1977 EP, and is once again performed by Ralph Lowe, with the ubiquitous trio now augmented with an electric guitar player. Nobody Else For You Except Me was written by James Travagline, who I believe may have come from Saskatoon and (if that is the case) passed away in 2015. 

I really cannot tell you anything else about it, but as the other two cuts on the EP were performed by the dull and derivative Kay Weaver I simply thought that you would appreciate this more.



Download Care HERE  

Download Lennon HERE  

Download Heartbreak HERE  

Download Nobody HERE  

Friday, 6 August 2021

A Crop of Crap From Columbine

It's been a little quiet around here of late, hasn't it? Well, let's make up for that right this very now, with the first of a bunch of stiffs from the ever-popular Columbine label of Hollywood, one of the greatest - and most prolific - song-poem outfits of all time.

Best known for the hundreds of compilations issued in the 70s and 80s, under such titles as the Now Sounds of Today, Music of America, New Favorites Of…, Gospel Jubilee and so on, for the next couple of posts on the blog I'm going to be concentrating on their 45 and EP output, a series of releases less well documented, but which also adds up to hundreds of discs.

First up we have all four tracks from a Columbine EP issued in 1977, with two songs each from Kay Weaver and the redoubtable Ralph Lowe. 

The first cut, the opening track of the EP if you will, is the fairly forgettable You're My Spark, composed by John P. Kane, and performed in her usual disinterested style by Kay Weaver. The song, copyrighted in October 1977, is dull, and Weaver's performance lacks any of the 'spark' that the title infers. Kay Weaver had a secondary career as a performer of religious music, and her bland country-western rambles might work quite well in that genre, but for me she only really gets going as a song-poem stylist when offered rockier tunes to torture.

Next up is Ralph Lowe, and My Love Is Going Away, composed by the colourfully-monikered Alvaro de Jesus Buenfil. Copyright in this 'classic' was registered in November 1977, and Alvaro had already submitted other songs to Columbine for their careful consideration: Lowe performed his classic In The Way of Dancin' on one of the company's Music of America collections. Confusingly the title of the song does not appear in the lyric at all.

Flip the disc over and we're back with Kay Weaver and Dola Lindsay's When Our Song Starts To Play. Dola Lindsay came from Port Orchard, Washington and, like our friend Alvaro, had also contributed other songs to Columbine: her composition Shadow of Your Heart appears on the seventeenth iteration of the New Favorites of Kay Weaver series.    

The final track on the disc is the real highlight. From erstwhile lyric writer Glenn Aldrich comes the harrowing My Darling's Grave. Like John Kane, Glenn registered copyright for the song, words and music no less, in October 1977, and this performance, by song-poem titan Ralph Lowe, is simply wonderful. Glenn's lyric is rendered utterly devoid of emotion, and Ralph's doleful delivery is driven by boredom, not sentiment, plodding along like a carthorse rather than a funeral cortege.  


Download Spark HERE

Download Love HERE

Download Song HERE 

Download Grave HERE

Friday, 2 July 2021

Pancho Sings!

Regular Blog reader Dave Schmidt has been kind enough to send me several tracks recently, and today’s pairing comes from his collection. so it’s him you should be either thanking or cursing, depending on your standpoint! 

Pancho the Parrot, ‘the amazing parrot with the voice of an opera star’ was one of the major attractions of the San Diego Wild Animal Park’s Bird Show. Making his debut at the park in 1979, along with his friends Bobby and Lolita, Pancho – a Mexican double yellow-headed parrot - would squawk his way into visitors’ hearts. Pancho and his pals became celebrities in their own right, with the taloned talent appearing on a number of TV shows, including The Tonight Show with the legendary Johnny Carson, That’s Incredible and the Mike Douglas Show.


In April 1981 the feathered friends released their sole 45, the A-side of which features Pancho – accompanied by an unnamed vocal group, ‘singing’ a medley of popular tunes, to whit I Left My Heart in San Francisco, When It’s Springtime in the Rockies and Bali Hai. The flip features Bobby (an African grey) and Lolita (a yellow-naped Amazon) squawking their way through a song called, perhaps unsurprisingly, Bobby and Lolita, a cheap and shameless rip-off of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana (At the Copa). The disc came about after Escondito DJ Clip Helps (what a great name!) of Radio KOWN telephoned the park’s bird trainer and had Pancho sing When It’s Springtime in the Rockies live on air.


Selling for $3.50 in the Parks’ gift shop, within a few months the disc had sold over 4,000 copies. Such was the demand for this souvenir soundie that a cassette version was issued as well, although it seems that neither Pancho, Bobby nor Lolita were ever called upon to record a follow-up. Perhaps the parrots were a one-trick pony?


Anyway, here are both sides of this marvellous monstrosity. Dave’s copy of the 45 appears to be slightly off-centre. adding an extra dimension and a wonderfully ethereal feel to the whole thing. If you want one with less wobble, the tracks are readily available on YouTube.




Download Pancho HERE 

Download Bobby HERE

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Two Faces of Virginia

Virginia Anne McKenna, OBE, is an English stage and screen actress, author, and wildlife campaigner, who this month celebrated her 90th birthday.


Best known for films including A Town Like Alice (1956), Born Free (1966), and Ring of Bright Water (1969), as well as her work with animal charity The Born Free Foundation, she landed her first film role in 1952. In 1954 she married the actor Denholm Elliot. The marriage was a disaster: Elliott was a closeted homosexual and the marriage failed after a few months, although they did not divorce until 1957. Soon after she married actor and decorated war hero Bill Travers: the couple went on to have four children and would remain together until Travers’ death in 1994.


Virginia had taken singing lessons while at drama school, and had appeared in a number of musicals, from the raging success of The King and I  with Yul Brynner through to the dismal flop Winnie… a musical about Winston Churchill starring Robert Hardy. As she admitted herself (in her autobiography The Life in My Years) ‘Although I was never a particularly talented singer, I don’t think I was ever happier as a performer than when I was in a musical atmosphere.’ Luckily for us, this sense of self-awareness did not prevent her from recording her own album of love songs.


McKenna has been involved with several film and stage soundtracks, but to date, Two Faces of Love remains her only pop music outing. First issued in 1975 through Rediffusion’s Gold Star imprint, with a cover illustration from her sister-in-law Linden Travers, the album was reissued four years later in a different sleeve by RIM, aka Rediffusion International Music Ltd.


‘I fear I am not wildly “pop”,’ she confided in the Daily Mirror’s Paul Callan. ‘I’m a bit too old for that.’ Revealing that she had composed two of the album’s dozen tracks herself, she told him that ‘One does get so terribly tabbed as an actress.’ Two Faces of Love was relatively well-received in some quarters, with acting trade newspaper The Stage stating that ‘Though she has no pretentions at being a great singer, Virginia McKenna has made a highly effective and sensitive album… Reciting some lyrics, singing others and sometimes combining the two, she steers away from sentimentality and in the process delivers as affecting a version of “Send in the Clowns” as one is likely to hear.’ Well, there’s no question that Ginny’s reading of the Sondheim classic is far superior to that from fellow Thespian Elizabeth Taylor.


Here are a couple of tracks from the album for you: The Love That I Have (Violette) which was also issued as the album’s sole single, and The Windmills of Your Mind.




Download Love HERE  

Download Windmills HERE  

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