Friday, 15 March 2019

Well and Truly Plastered


You’ll recall in my last blog post I mentioned Dustin Gee, the former comedy partner of Les Dennis, and his 1976 album Plastered With the Pink Elephant. To be honest, I thought I had posted tracks from that some time back, but it was brought to my attention, by my good friend The Squire, that this was not, in fact the case. Let’s remedy that right now.

Plastered With the Pink Elephant was Dustin’s one and only album, issued by the small Manchester-based label Indigo, and sold out of the boot of his car at gigs on the Northern working men’s club circuit. It’s an odd mix of comic songs, cabaret favourites and one or two seriously peculiar – one would assume personal – choices, evinced by the three cuts I offer here for you today.

Born Gerald Harrison in York, after leaving school at 15 Dustin studied at art college. He worked mainly with stained glass and did some repair work on the windows of York Minster. In the evenings he played in a band called the Dare Devils, who eventually became Gerry B and the Rockafellas. After the group disbanded, Gee became first a compere, then a comedian.

He got his big break on the ITV impressions show Who Do You Do?. His future comedy partner Les Dennis also appeared on the show. In 1980 Gee joined the cast of BBC-TV’s Russ Abbot's Madhouse: two years later Les Dennis joined the crew, and Gee and Dennis formed a comedy double act. In the summer of 1982 Gee had a minor heart attack when doing a summer season with Jim Davidson in Torquay, but soon recovered enough to be able to continue with his television work.

In April 1984, Gee and Dennis began their own TV comedy show, The Laughter Show (retitled Les & Dustin's Laughter Show for the third and final series).  In May 1985 Gee fell ill while on stage at the North Pier in Blackpool. He was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where a minor heart attack was diagnosed. Gee was also told that he had dilated cardiomyopathy and that he should take it easy. Despite doctors’ orders, after a month he was back on stage, and continued until the show closed at the end of September.

Gee and Dennis were appearing in pantomime at the Southport Theatre, Merseyside when, on 1 January 1986, Gee suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Southport General Hospital, where he died two days later. Believing in the old showbiz adage that “the show must go on”, Dustin was replaced in the pantomime by Jim “Bullseye” Bowen.

Here are three cuts from Plastered With the Pink Elephant Covers of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ Please Don’t Touch (later covered by Motorhead and Girlschool, as Headgirl), The Beatles’ Piggies and David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Enjoy!

Download Touch HERE

Download Piggies HERE

Download Space HERE

Friday, 1 March 2019

Ohh Betty!

It’s not often that I post novelty records, but once in a while something comes along that just has to be shared – as is the case with Les Dennis and The Imagination Game.

I have to admit, I knew not of the existence of this horror until last weekend, when fellow collectors, bloggers, Tweeters and friends of WWR Stephen ‘Beany’ Green and Dame Agnes Guano brought it to my attention.

Recorded shortly after young Les won talent show New Faces, The Imagination Game gives the young comedian and impressionist opportunity to preserve his act for posterity. Over two sides the Liverpool-born charmer channels Michael Crawford (as Frank Spencer), Deputy Dog, Andy Devine, John Wayne, Mr. Magoo, Bruce Forsythe, Tommy Cooper, James Stewart, James Bolam (at least that’s who I think it is), Telly Savalas and countless others. But sadly, he also proves that he’s no singer.

Winning New Faces catapulted the youngster, then still only 20, to fame. He landed a recurring role on the ITV impressions show Who Do You Do and, in 1982, he joined the team on primetime BBC show Russ Abbot's Madhouse, forming a comedy partnership with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee. That lead to a hit series of their own, The Laughter Show which sadly folded after three series following Gee's sudden and unexpected death in 1986. In 1987 Dennis became the host of ITV’s long-running quiz show Family Fortunes remaining with the popular show until 2002. Since then he has moved into acting, appearing in such TV shows as Brookside, Casualty, Extras, Midsomer Murders and Coronation Street, and – presumably after a few vocal coaching sessions - on stage in Hairspray, Chicago and me and My Girl.

My hugest of huge thanks to Dame Agnes Guano for admitting to owning a copy of this!

Enjoy!

Download Part One HERE


Download Part Two HERE

Friday, 22 February 2019

I'm Your Puppet

Today’s horror is the 1961 offering from disgraced talent show host and right-wing megalomaniac Hughie Green, The Puppet Song and The Valley Of Peppermint Springs

Green will always be remembered for hosting TV talent show Opportunity Knocks. The show began on radio, initially on the BBC Light Programme where it ran from February to September 1949, before moving to Radio Luxembourg It was first shown on ITV from 20 June 1956 to 29 August 1956, but a second run, that commenced in July 1964 and lasted until 20 March 1978, saw it become one of the highest rated shows on British television.

Opportunity Knocks was huge, and the list of people that went on to carve out a career in entertainment is endless: the show helped make stars out of Mary Hopkin, Les Dawson, Paul Daniels, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres, Peters and Lee, Bobby Crush and countless others. As hit rates go, it did better than either the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. But Green didn’t always get it right. In 1975, after an audition in Surbiton Town Hall, he passed on a young three-piece band from London who went on to find fame as The Jam.

The show was axed in 1978, shortly after Hughie went on a crazed political rant on-air. Inspired by the rise of Maggie Thatcher and a resurgent Tory Party, In December 1976, at the end of an episode of Opportunity Knocks, Green performed a bizarre piece about the state of the United Kingdom, Stand Up and Be Counted, which was released as a single by Philips in 1977 (backed with a grotesque rewrite of Land of Hope and Glory) with the distinctly patriotic catalogue number GB1. You can read more about that particular debacle HERE 

Opportunity Knocks was revived by the BBC and ran from March 1987 to June 1990, hosted initially by Bob Monkhouse (under the title Bob Says Opportunity Knocks!) and subsequently by former winner Les Dawson. Green never got over the humiliation of being axed and sank into a mire of alcohol-fuelled self-loathing. He was not the nicest of men: one of his mistresses killed herself when he left her by pouring petrol over herself and setting herself on fire, but he left the best until last. At his funeral in 1997, it was revealed that he was the real father of TV presenter (and wife of Bob Geldof) Paula Yates, a fact the poor woman was unaware of until she herself read it in the News of the World. There’s little doubt that this contributed to poor Paula’s personal problems and death, from an accidental overdose, in 2000. 14 years later her second-oldest daughter (and Hughie’s granddaughter) Peaches also died of a heroin overdose, aged just 25.

Anyway, here are both sides of the 45.

Enjoy!

Download Puppet HERE


Download Peppermint HERE


(if the links aren't working, give them a couple of hours and try again!)


Friday, 15 February 2019

Bittersweet Sinfonia

Although I seldom post about novelty records there have been one or two notable exceptions over the years. This is one of those records that always makes me laugh, and I think its about time I shared it with you.

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was founded by English composer Gavin Bryars and a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in 1970 and was open to anyone that either had no musical training or who chose to play an instrument that they were unfamiliar with. The only rules were that everyone had to come for rehearsals and that people should try their best to get it right, not intentionally play badly. Their first recording¸ a one-sided flexi disc of Rossini's William Tell Overture, was sent out as the invitation for the 1970 degree show. Their debut album, Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics, followed in 1973.

The orchestra remained something of a cult, selling out the occasional live performance but not really attracting anything like a large audience until, in 1979 they issued their third album, 20 Classic Rock Classics, which gained a fair amount of airplay. After that, the orchestra was approached by Island records and, inspired by the “Hooked on Classics” series, in 1981 they released Classical Muddly – which became a top 40 hit in September of that year.

In 2011 the Portsmouth Sinfonia was the subject of a Radio 4 documentary. In that programme Bryars claimed that idea that members were required to be novices at their instruments was a "scurrilous rumour put about by the BBC". As if!
Here’s their 1981 hit single Classical Muddly (originally backed with a liver version of the Hallelujah Chorus, recorded at the Albert Hall) and, from their 1973 Brian Eno-produced album Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics, the ridiculously fun Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Enjoy!
Download Muddly HERE

Download Sprach HERE

Friday, 1 February 2019

Baby Baby Baby Baby

Today’s terrible tune comes courtesy of drummer Martin Samuel, the former sticksman for the late 60s/early 70s pop/rock band Heat wave (not to be confused with the mid 70’s Brit disco band Heatwave), and it’s the truly awful Baby by Sensation.

A bit of background. Based in London, Heat Wave (also, confusingly, known as Heatwave) were signed by Larry Page, the former Teenage Rage (and manager of the Kinks and the Troggs), to his Penny Farthing label. They released one single, the psych-influenced Sister Simon (Funny Man)/Rastus Ravel (Is A Mean Old Man) in November 1970. Also released in Europe and Japan, as Martin says, “It's on the Penny Farthing label and, so far, we have not seen so much as a penny or a farthing from it!”

The A-side featured the Ladybirds (three former Vernons Girls who were the go-to vocal backing act of the time); the flip had a young man called Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Doris Troy on backing vocals. Both songs were written by John Edward, the former pirate radio DJ who would go on to huge success with Metal Mickey and Renee and Renato.

In the middle of the following year Martin left the group. “Although Heatwave kicked me out for suggesting we play more originals (we did two of mine) and songs not by Mr. Edward, it was really as a result of Edward recording singles using session players and only the vocalists, as did The Beach Boys, from the bands in his agency,” he explains. “I wanted no part, and they were worried I’d blow the whistle.”

He auditioned for (and almost joined) Badfinger, as a replacement for Mike Gibbins. “Mike had been doing serious session work as a drummer. He felt playing with them was cramping his style and he wished to expand as a drummer so, it was a friendly mutual agreement. I had the gig until Pete asked if I wrote songs. Having recently been replaced for just such a reason, for the first and last time in my life I lied and told him, ‘No, I'm only a drummer’. Later I discovered they were looking for an all-writing band!” Missing out on the Badfinger gig, he instead joined the Jonathan King-affiliated Crew.

Sensation (or The Sensation), the band that Heat Wave became after Martin left, found a new drummer (a chap called Stumpy), stuck with John Edward and recorded a new single, the glammy Black Eyed Woman (not a bad record at all) which was backed by the dreadful Baby... a song whose lyric must have taken John Edward months to write.

Martin rejoined not long after, “on condition we play more of ‘our’ originals and record them ourselves. Such did not transpire so I jumped ship, flew to Jersey and joined Simon Raverne.”

By an odd twist of fate, in 1980 Martin almost joined Badfinger again. “I was a studio session drummer in Los Angeles and met up with Joey Molland, who was working part-time as a carpenter/odd-job man, when Tom Evans flew in from the U.K. to discuss what was to be the aptly-named Badfinger album, ‘Say No More’. They wanted an all-Brit band including Tony Kaye, but Tony would only play if his drummer pal was in the band so, once again, I was ousted. As it turned out, they recorded the album in Miami (where Gibbins later passed away) with a totally different drummer!”

A lifelong drummer, Martin is still playing and composing today.

You can find out more about – and hear more from - Heat Wave and their associated bands at http://www.heatwave.n.nu/ Col Wolf has also written a detailed history of the band, which you can find here: http://www.forumusic.co.uk/heatwave.html

My huge thanks to Martin for taking the time to get in touch, and for providing the illustrations. Here are both sides of the Sensation 45. Enjoy! 

Download Baby HERE


Download Black HERE

Friday, 25 January 2019

Pipes of Peace

What can we say about Liberace that has not been said before? Not much, to be honest. The saccharine-sweet ivory tinkler is a bit much for me, fascinating though he is/was. But he's one of those artists that keep on popping up on my radar, and yet in the more than 11 years that I've been writing this blog I've yet to 'do' him, as it were.

So, allow me to make amends with his hateful 1959 B-side Let There Be Peace On Earth And Let It Begin With Me.

Issued in Britain as the flip to his instrumental version of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic You'll Never Walk Alone, the release followed a turbulent few years for Wladziu Valentino Liberace (known to his family and friends as Lee), who made his first recordings in 1946.

Revered as one of the world’s greatest entertainers, his enormous success relied on his position as America’s non-threatening, asexual ‘mama’s boy’, and his low-brow popularisation of high-brow music would never have happened if his audience – including the 35 million that regularly tuned in to watch him on TV - had seen him as anything other than sexless. 

In 1956 an article in the British newspaper The Daily Mirror (by columnist William Connor, writing under the pen name Cassandra) described Liberace as ‘the summit of sex - the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love’. Liberace, at the time the highest paid entertainer in the world, sent a tongue-in-cheek telegram to the Daily Mirror that read: ‘what you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank’, although he would later sue the newspaper for libel, testifying in a London court that he was not homosexual and that he had never taken part in homosexual acts. 

Lee testified that, at a performance in Sheffield, ‘there were cries from the audience of “queer” and such things as “go home, queer”,’ which upset him ‘very much, and it upset the audience too.’ He won the suit, perjuring himself in the process, and the £8,000 damages he received led Liberace to repeat his new ‘I cried all the way to the bank’ catchphrase to reporters.

The Daily Mirror was not the only publication prepared to take a pop: the headline in the July 1957 issue of the US magazine Confidential trumpeted that ‘Liberace’s Theme Song Should Be “Mad About the Boy”!’ Liberace also sued Confidential, this time filing a $20-million libel suit and telling the press that ‘this story is a damn lie and I’m damned mad. If it takes every nickel I’ve got I’ll guarantee it will never happen to anyone else as long as I live. All of us take a certain amount of kidding about ourselves and our work, but when they come out in print and tell such lies, I’m going to move. It’s real heartbreak to see your life’s work destroyed so viciously by a magazine in an article of this kind. It’s a lie. It’s trash.’

Lee kept up the pretense to the end, even after his former chauffeur and lover Scott Thorson filed a $113 million lawsuit against him (in the first same-sex palimony case in the US), he denied any kind of homosexual involvement. In December 1986, less than two months before he died, Liberace settled the case for $95,000. The week after his death (on February 4, 1987) the Daily Mirror made a half-hearted attempt to recover the money from his estate, running the headline ‘Any Chance of a Refund’. 

Let There Be Peace On Earth And Let It Begin With Me is a rarity in the Liberace canon, in that it contains a vocal performance by the pianist. Lee would flex his larynx on occasion, but the results were always pretty dire... and never more so than this. The song, incidentally, was composed in 1955 for the International Children's Choir: it has since been covered by dozens of artists, including country singer Vince Gill and Carlos Santana.

Here are both sides of the 45.

Enjoy!

Download PEACE here

Download WALK here

Friday, 18 January 2019

Touched By the Hand of Cicciolina

Today's post was inspired by the rather wonderful Mr. Weird and Wacky. Blame him!

Immortalised by Pop Will Eat Itself (and Eurotrash), Elena Anna “Ilona” Staller – Cicciolina – is a former member of the Italian parliament, former actress, former porn star… and former disco singer.

Born in Hungary, if her ‘official’ biography is to be believed in 1964 (at the age of 13!) she began working as a model and, later, spy, passing information about American diplomats on to the Hungarian authorities. Soon she met and married Salvatore Martini and moved to Italy.

It was there that she met pornographer Riccardo Schicchi and adopted the name Cicciolina. Her first starring role was in the 1975 softcore lesbian romp La liceale (The Teasers) and, in 1978, the same year that she began her recording career, she became the first woman to bare her breasts live on Italian TV. By 1983 she had moved into producing her own hardcore movies, and this was followed by a tell-all book, The Erotic Confessions of Cicciolina, and an appearance on the cover of Playboy (the first of many).

Her political ambitions began in 1979, when Ilona stood as a candidate for Italy’s Green party. In 1985, she switched to the Partito Radicale, campaigning against nuclear energy and NATO membership, as well as for human rights. She was elected to the Italian parliament in 1987, the same year that she released her most infamous song, Muscolo Rosso, a paean to the penis. While in office, and before the outset of the Gulf War, she offered to have sex with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in return for peace in the region. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was not re-elected at the end of her term in 1991.

Having gone ‘legit’, in more recent years she has appeared in the film Replikator and had a role in the Brazilian soap opera Xica da Silva. In 2008, she was a contestant on the Argentine version of Strictly Come Dancing.

Here are both sides of her 1979 disco single, a cover of Lief Garret’s I Was Made For Dancin’ and Save The Last Dance For Me, originally a hit for the Drifters.

Enjoy!

Download Dancin' HERE



Download Dance HERE

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