Friday, 3 April 2020

Boy Blunder

 This week I have a disc for you that, I’m sorry to say, I did not know existed until a few days ago. Not, in fact, until regular WWRRS listener Dennis Bookwalter brought it to my attention. And I will never forgive him!

Issued at the height of Batmania, Burt Ward’s 1966 45 Boy Wonder I Love You had somehow passed me by. Odd as I’ve ever-so-slightly obsessed with the recording carers of the actors and actresses who appeared in TV’s first (and, let’s be honest here, best) Batman. I’ve already featured Adam West, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin on this blog and have for some time been planning a special Batman-themed episode of the WWRRS, which will also include some cuts from the ridiculous Jan and Dean Meet Batman.

What makes this insane spin-off even more delicious is that the A-side, based around Burt – as Robin – reading a parody of a fan letter – was written, arranged and conducted by Frank Zappa! The flip side, a godawful off-key rendition of the standard Orange Colored Sky (credited on promo copies as Oranged Colored Sky), was again arranged and conducted by Zappa, and features several members of the Mothers of Invention including Jimmy Carl Black and Elliot Ingber, who would later join Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band under the name Winged Eel Fingerling. Both sides were produced by Tom Wilson, who also produced the Mothers and the Velvet Underground. It’s just nuts. Batman himself, Adam West, performed Orange Colored Sky on TV show Hollywood Palace, in full Bat-drag, but does not appear on these recordings.

As Burt himself recalled in his autobiography, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights: ‘I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records - I wouldn’t have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott [sic] was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

‘Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can’t believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell’s Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals. Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.

‘Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior. For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked “Orange Colored Sky.”

‘I can’t bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording. But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I’m not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.

‘In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, “Boy Wonder, I Love You!” Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, “I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!” The lyrics ended with “I hope you know that this is a girl writing”.’ Just brilliant! 

Zappa himself expunged any mention of these sessions from his own story; thank goodness Ward had the good sense to record his memories for posterity. Although the disc was recorded and issued in 1966, Zappa did not register his copyright in the A-side until July 1968.

Ward, who also made a guest appearance on Adam West’s 45 Miranda, issued another 45, I’ve Got Love For My Baby, on Soultown records in 1970 (he did not feature on the instrumental flip, Robin’s Theme, credited to Burt Ward’s band) – a pretty awful record which is now something of a collectable in Northern Soul circles. A bonus for lovers of the bad: Orange Colored Sky was co-written, back in 1950, by Milton DeLugg. DeLugg also composed Hooray for Santy Claus, the theme song for the dreadful – but essential - low-budget 1964 motion picture Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and was a long-time collaborator of TV producer and host Chuck Barris, working on The Gong Show, The $1.98 Beauty Show and many other projects.


Download Wonder HERE

Download Orange HERE

Friday, 20 March 2020

Just Quackers

A recent discovery for me, but apparently somewhat well-known in the North of England at the end of the 70s and into the early 80s is comedy ventriloquist Penny Page and her little multicoloured friend, Googi the Liverpool duck.

The first anyone outside of Liverpool would have heard of Penny and Googi would have been when they were selected to appear on the first show of a new BBC-TV talent series, Rising Stars… only then they were known as Pepe and Poppets. It was only in September 1979, just as recording was about to begin, that the duo changed their name. the ‘clever and funny’ act (according to The Stage) did well on the show, their reception no doubt aided by the fact that it was filmed in Blackpool, virtually their own back yard.

The pair made it through to the finals of the show, presented by the terminally unfunny Lennie Bennet, and issued their first single, Googi the Liverpool Duck the day before the final was due to air. Young Penny was hoping for great things, and convinced that their big television break could boost their earnings form around £150 a week to over £1,000, when a blackout by BBC technicians meant that the show did not make it to the screen.

Wallasey-born Penny (real name Joan Critchley) had been in the business since 1974, winning a Sunday People sponsored talent show, although she had her first break at the age of 12, winning first prize for her vent act at Butlin’s. Her TV exposure brought offers of work flooding in, and that Christmas penny and the Wacker Quacker appeared in panto with comedian Tom O’Connor at the Liverpool Empire and, apparently, stole the show. Soon Liverpool’s Lewis’s department store was selling Googie hand puppets, but when the final of Rising Stars finally aired (more than three weeks after it was originally scheduled) they lost out to 16-year-old singer Jacqui Scott.

Still, they soon landed a summer season at Pontin’s holiday camp, and similar bookings would follow, including a residency over Easter 1981 at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, where she had first appeared as a teenage ‘lido lovely’ in a local revue. It seems that another well-known Scouse singer, Cilla Black, was even asked to perform Googi the Liverpool Duck by an audience member when she performed in Australia.

Penny married Welsh-born singer David Alexander, who also recorded for Ace Recordings. She adapted her show, with Googie getting into trouble for using colourful language (to go with her colourful hair and wellies), but by 1986 Penny was tiring of the local scene and the expectation that her act would become more blue, deciding instead to concentrate on entertaining children. She introduced a new puppet to her act, Skittles the dog, but before long was back playing to adult audience with Googie accused (by The Stage) of possessing ‘the foulest of foul mouths’. The pair appeared on Guys and Dolls an international talent show which aired on BSB’s Galaxy channel (no, nor me…) in late 1990, and continued to perform locally, usually on a bill with David Alexander, until 1995 when, sadly, David passed away. It appears that penny put Googi back in her box for good at that point, but she continues to promote David’s work, repackaging his many albums and making them available for his fans.

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from Penny and Googi: the a-side of their first 45, Googi the Liverpool Duck and their 1981 release That Bird Song.


Download Duck HERE

Download Bird HERE

Friday, 13 March 2020

Sing, Anna-Lisa, Sing!

A new discovery, well new to me anyway, the bonkers-as-all-get-up Swedish singer Anna-Lisa Ingemanson.

Born in Stockholm in 1909, she released at least two albums, Musik Med Trio and Med Orkester, and a half-dozen Eps and 45s, the first (Songs for Solo Piano) on Sela sometime in the late 1960s, and all the rest on her own ALI label, with titles such as Den Lycklige Nudisten (the Happy Nudist) and Var Jag Går I Skogar, Berg Och Dalar, or Where I Walk In Forests, Mountains And Valleys. All of these self-released discs seem to date from around 1971-1975.

She became something of a star on Swedish TV, turning up on variety shows such as Bättre sänt än aldrig (Better Seen Than Never) with one of her pooches to sing a song. There’s footage from one of these shows on YouTube, Anna-Lisa caked in white makeup, in a white dress with white fur trim, cracking a whip accompanied by a nonplussed white poodle. She looks like a cross between Leona Anderson and the Del Rubio Triplets, and sings like the orphaned niece of Mrs Miller and Natália de Andrade. What’s not to love? 

In 1976 she appeared, as Emma Messerschmidt-On-The-Rocks, on three tracks (including a re-recording of The Happy Nudist) on the musical comedy album Lasse Mansson Presents Bad Old Days, a direct spin off of Bättre sänt än aldrig. from what I can gather this would be her last recording, although she continued to perform for at least another decade. It appears that Anna-Lisa was still making the occasional live appearance in the mid-1980s. Swedish music blog Sunkit reports that she once turned up to a gig, complete with the obligatory poodle and with a cassette player over her shoulder. She explained that, ‘my piano teacher must not be up this late’, before launching into her set with her usual whip-cracking gusto.

More recently one of her recordings, Oxdragarsång (the opening track of her debut album Musik Med Trio), turned up on a cassette-only release Club Sunk in Sundsvall Hit Explosion Volume One, a tribute to some of Sweden’s more outré performers put together by Peter Webb and Daniel Westin, who ran an outsider music club night. Others have collated Anna-Lisa’s recordings onto CDr, but no official compilation has been issued… yet. She died in February 2003, at the grand old age of 93.

Here are a couple of tracks to whet your whistle: Oxdragarsång, from her 1972 debut album Musik Med Trio, and from her second album, the 1973 release Med Orkester, Oh, En Sån Underbar Morgon or Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.


Download Oxdragarsång HERE

Download Underbar Morgon HERE

Friday, 6 March 2020

Katinka, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor

The House of Music (or The Music House Volume One as the title appears on the disc’s labels), is one of the oddest things I have purchased recently. Just seven tracks, totalling a tad under 19 minutes, this blue vinyl, 12-inch, 45 rpm release is more of a mini-album or EP than a full blown LP.

The songs on The House of Music were composed by Bridget Harrison, arranged by Kenny Clayton and sung by a six-year-old child luxuriating in the name Katinka. Issued in 1980, The House of Music appears to have been the only disc issued by independent label Tatti Records of Penrith, Cumbria, however, two of the tracks were picked up and released on 7” by Carrere later that year on a one-off Tatti/Carrere custom label.

I can tell you a little about Kenny Clayton’s career, which can be traced back to at least a decade before The House of Music saw the light of day. As both a producer and musical arranger he worked with Matt Monro, Petula Clark, Anita Harris, Spike Milligan and countless others. However I’ve not been able to find a single word in print or on the ‘net about the two ladies involved in the project – Bridget and little Katinka. Although Katinka would now be 46, so perhaps not quite so little anymore.

Never mind, because this is a truly wondrous release. ‘Nonsense Nursery Rhymes are a part of childhood yet there have been no new ones for over 100 years,’ the brief note on the reverse of the sleeve announces. ‘This record makes the context more topical and uses the music of today to which children can dance and play’.

Harrison wrote songs in a variety of styles for this bizarre little project, clearly in the hope of appealing to kids too savvy for your average nursery rhyme recording. The album includes two disco tracks, I Am A Twinkling Star which rather worryingly recommends that six-year-olds drink champagne, wear fur coats and use make-up if they want to make a splash, and the less celebrity-conscious A Double Decker Bus. The aforementioned seven inch featured a version of I Am A Twinkling Star remixed for single by Carrere staffer Freddy Cannon (not THE Freddy Cannon), and the album version of Watching Tele. If that sounds like an odd choice for a potential chart hit, remember this was the same year that the St Winifred’s School Choir hit big.

Other cuts on the album included kid-friendly fare about ponies, hens and lollipops, plus a religious song, My Very Own Prayer to Jesus, sung beautifully out of tune by Katinka. It’s mad, and hugely entertaining.

I wish I could tell you more about it. Ah well, what I can do is share some of this with you. So here, for your delectation, is Katinka singing My Very Own Prayer to Jesus and the album version of I Am A Twinkling Star.


Download Jesus HERE

Download Star HERE

Friday, 28 February 2020

No Business

 The King Brothers were a British pop vocal trio who achieved the peak of their fame in the early years of British rock ‘n’ roll.

Best remembered for recording Six-Five Jive, written specifically for Jack Good’s TV show Six-Five Special, and their cover versions of Standing on the Corner (a number four hit in 1960), and A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation) (number six in 1957), the group was composed of three brothers – Michael, Anthony and Denis King - who first performed together professionally on the TV show Shop Window in 1952.

The trio had eight chart hits and were named "top vocal group" in the NME reader's poll in 1957 and 1960, the same years that they enjoyed their two biggest hits. But by 1961 things were changing, and although they would continue to record together until 1967 they would not have another chart entry after their cover of 76 Trombones made number 19 in the spring of 1961.

But that’s not the reason we love the King Brothers here at The World’s Worst Records. Oh no.

In 1967, at the very tail end of their career, the brothers recorded a four track EP – There’s no Business Like Our Business – ­to be given away to people attending that year’s Tupperware Distributors Conference, held in London. Three of the songs were hastily re-recorded versions of Broadway or Hollywood standards (There’s No Business Like Show Business, High Society and Good News), with the Kings accompanied by piano and drums, but the fourth track was a song specially written and recorded for the conference itself.

The Tupperware Brigade was co-written by the youngest King brother Denis (his name misspelled Dennis on the EP sleeve) and comic actor and scriptwriter John Junkin, Shake the roadie in the Beatles' A Hard Day’s Night and a well-known face on British TV and in films since the start of the Sixties. Junkin, who was once described as ‘looking like a lugubrious potato’, was also the first voice broadcast by pirate station Radio Caroline, appearing in their very first test transmission.

The King Brothers would not record again in the UK, although they did release a one-off 45 in Italy in 1969 with both sides co-written by Denis King and John Junkin - and by the end of the Sixties had broken up. Denis King became an award-winning composer for television, film, and musicals, writing the theme music for The Adventures of Black Beauty (which won the Ivor Novello Award), and composing themes and incidental music for over two hundred television series including Within These Walls, Dick Turpin, Two's Company, and Lovejoy as well as written over one hundred jingles for radio and television adverts. He has also worked on films, writing the scores to films including Holiday on the Buses (1973), Sweeney! (1977), and Privates on Parade (1982).

Anyway, here is the thoroughly wonderful The Tupperware Brigade along with the title track to the EP, There’s No Business Like Show Business.


Download Tupperware HERE

Download Business HERE

Friday, 21 February 2020

That's Really Super, SuperClaire

Blog readers of a certain age will have memories – fond or otherwise – of It’s ‘Orrible Being In Love (When You’re Eight and a Half), the solitary hit single from Claire and Friends, issued by BBC records in 1986 and reaching the dizzying heights of number 13 in the UK singles chart in July of that year.

But did you know that Claire Usher (the apparently friendless Claire) also issued a full-length album? No, nor did I. Until a fortnight ago, that is.

Now I am the proud owner of a copy of SuperClaire, titled after her second single Superman (apparently a continuation of the ‘Orrible Being In Love story) and also containing Big Sister, the flip side to her hit. And it should come as no surprise that the man behind this ghastly project was one Michael Coleman, the Michael of Brian and Michael, of Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs fame, and also at least partly responsible for the dreadful St. Winifred's School Choir hit There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.

Stockport schoolgirl Claire Usher was ‘discovered’ by Coleman and producer Kevin Parrott (the Brian of Brian and Michael) when she was a pupil at St Winifred’s. The hit-making duo had her record a demo of Coleman’s song about a childhood crush, which Usher’s mum submitted to a talent-spotting feature on the BBC-TV children's programme Saturday Superstore, where – apparently - it beat a thousand other entries. After recording SuperClaire she appeared on one further 45, Welephant with the Singing Fireman, Graham Walker, before turning her back on fame for good.

Winning the show was exciting, she says, but her parents helped keep her feet on the ground. When she was invited to come back on the show a year later to hand over her trophy to the next winner, she turned them down because she had a netball match she could not miss as she was captain.

In adulthood, Claire Usher obtained a degree in drama and became a dancer, appearing in the stage show Riverdance on Broadway in 2000, and in the show's UK tour. She later wrote songs for indie pop band Shrag before becoming a teacher. Now married and living in Manchester with a daughter of her own, Claire Usher-McMorrow is that rarest of things, a former child star who is happy to be famous no longer. According to an article in The Guardian, every so often she gets a call from Where Are They Now-type shows, which she declines to go on because ‘you end up looking like a right idiot’. She also confided that she had no ambitions to enter her own child into a talent contest. ‘I can't imagine – to put your child up there to be criticised. Ugh… I'd like her to be the world champion of tiddlywinks. Become good at something totally random.’

Here are a couple of tracks from the wonderfully naff SuperClaire: Big Sister and her cover of the Mary Wells hit My Guy. Enjoy!

Download Sister HERE

Download Guy HERE

Friday, 14 February 2020

A Song-Poem Valentine (or Two)

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, everyone!

A couple of Valentine-themed song-poems for you today: if you’d like to hear more can I suggest you check out this week’s World’sWorst Records Radio Show – a two-hour special featuring 60 minutes of vomit-inducing Valentine’s songs.

First up is a corker from the Halmark stable, credited to Bob Storm but actually featuring him duetting with Halmark’s ‘other’ (i.e. not Mary Kimmell) female singer, Dodie Frost. You can kind of forgive the ridiculous lyrics to Valentine’s Song as their composer, Kiro Obetkovski, clearly did not have English as his first language. With a co-composer credit nabbed by Halmark head honcho Ted Rosen – a bit of a liberty if you ask me, as he’s simply used one of the company’s clapped out song beds again – it’s an absolute hoot.

Born in 1943 in Macedonia, and currently (I believe) a resident of Indiana, Kiro Obetkovski, fancied himself a bit of a poet and, as O Kiro, self-published a slim volume – Alexandar’s [sic] Best Poems - in 1977. If the dreadful lyrics to Valentine’s Song are anything to go by, then that book must be essential reading.

Next is Norm Burns and the Five Stars and My Lovely Lovely Valentine, another effort from Lew Tobin’s Sterling label. Like Rosen, Tobin had a penchant for taking credit for the music on many of his song-poem releases; unlike Rosen, Lew at least attempted to compose something original most of the time. The lyrics to My Lovely Lovely Valentine are by Ruth Ekey, who also wrote the words to a couple of other songs copyrighted in 1973, Walkin’ Down a Country Road and I Sing to Keep From Crying. This particular disc appears to have been issued in 1972.


Download Bob HERE

Download Norm HERE

Thanks to Bob Purse for the image!

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