Friday, 9 April 2021

Venus Calling

Once again, your help is required.

 

Back in 2019 fellow obscure music blogger Bob, of Dead Wax and That’s All Rite Mama, sent me audio clips from both sides of a 45 that had been sold back in 2017 via a popular auction site. Since that day I’ve been trying to track down a copy, but one has yet to turn up on the sales sites I frequent.

 

A message went out to listeners of the World’s Worst RecordsRadio Show, but no one there had a copy either. Then a couple of days ago I was contacted by someone else in search of the disc. Needless to say the best I could do was offer to share my two short clips. However, that message, from Bethany at the Papa Jazz Record Shoppe in Columbia, South Carolina sent me off in search of more information about the man who created this wonderfully insane record, Lawrence Milton Boren.

 

Luckily, Bethany’s partner, Joe Buck, had already done a fair bit of digging around. Joe had discovered plenty about Boren – who also used the names Victor Luminera and Dr. Discovery – and had pieced together much of his career from the late fifties onwards, but after some further investigation of my own I can bring you a pretty comprehensive rundown of his life and crimes.

 

Larry Boren was born on 17 August 1924, in Portland, Oregon. When he was still a toddler his family moved to New Jersey, but by the age of 11 they had moved again, this time to California, where he would remain for the rest of his life.   

 

In 1948, then living in Santa Monica, Boren was arrested after his 22-year-old wife, Norma, reported him to the authorities for beating their seven-month-old son, Francis. ‘He can’t stand to hear it cry’, a distraught Norma told the officers who questioned her as to why the infant needed hospital treatment for black eyes, a bloody nose and bruises. Boren, then working as a church organist and music teacher (the cheek!) was jailed, and rightly so. The brutality was doubly shocking as Boren had been a conscientious objector during the war and, after being sentenced in August 1944, had ‘spent two years in a Washington work camp because he doesn’t believe in fighting.’ 

 

It appears that Norma divorced him while he was inside, for in 1952 Lawrence Boren married for a second time, to a woman called Eleanor Bean.

 

In 1958 he founded the non-profit World of Tomorrow Foundation, having become fascinated by the idea of life on other planets. In July that year he attended the first national convention of the Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America. From what I have been able to gather, Boren was an early convert to New Age therapies, writing about, and giving talks on, the use of colour and sound therapy. Joe has done a great deal of research already on Boren’s obsession with UFOs. Rather than regurgitate that here, why not have a read of his own blog on Boren’s career?

  

Now, this – for me at least - is where it gets interesting: in 1958 our Larry decided to try and make it as a songwriter, registering the copyright in three songs, Love is a Mystery, The Kingdom of Enchantment and Venus Calling. The following year he added two more compositions to this burgeoning portfolio, Kyra from Venus, and Venus, Land of Love. This last song, along with the previous year’s Venus Calling was recorded and issued on a red wax 7” single. Venus, Land of Love  (which, according to the disc’s label, is ‘An Outer Space Rhumba Mambo’) was credited to ‘George Dains (The Earthling) and Gloria Anne, as Kyra of Venus’, with the flip side (‘An Outer Space Ballad’, apparently) solely to ‘Gloria Anne, as Kyra of Venus’.

 

The disc was issued by Futura Records of Los Angeles and, although the songs were copyrighted under his full name, on the disc Boren credits himself as Laryon. The label states that these songs are ‘from the forthcoming musical: “From Venus with Love”.’ In December 1959 the World of Tomorrow Foundation announced that it was holding a casting call for ‘its long-planned production, “From Venus With Love”, [the] first outer space musical comedy.’ The show was due to be staged the following February at Los Angeles’ Horseshoe Stage Theatre, with Boren writing the music, lyrics, acting as producer and director, and co-writing the script alongside David Reed III. The script to the show, naturally, was ‘based on a story by Lawrence Milton Boren’. From Venus with Love was not in any way connected with the episode of the same name of cult 60s TV show The Avengers. From what I can ascertain, the only actress cast for the musical was 16-year-old Angel McCall, who accompanied Boren to UFO conventions ‘as an emissary from Venus… Wearing a futuristic costume and a four-hour make-up job that included rhinestone eyebrows, jewel-tipped eyelashes and blue face powder.’

 

While trying to drum up interest in From Venus with Love, Larry Boren introduced the world to his New Age Symphony, consisting of animated light set to music, a process, he claimed, that had been gifted to him by a group of visitors from Venus, with the chief purpose of ‘healing through color therapy.’

 

Now calling himself Doctor Boren, in 1964 he took his first foray into the film world, directing and producing the science fiction film The Incredible She which, apparently, won the ‘Los Angeles Southland Film Festival’ that same year. All traces of the film and this festival have long since disappeared, but Larry Boren did win a cash pot of $1,000 for a film entitled Opus 2. That film, described by ‘writer, producer, director, designer, cameraman and narrator’ Boren (who submitted the film to the festival ‘under the pen name of Victor Luminera’) as ‘an adventure in surrealism’, definitely was screened, at the Los Angeles Film Makers’ Festival on 13 October 1964, where it beat Andy Warhol’s ‘Banana Sequence’ to take first place. 1964 must have been a busy time, for that same year he also authored (this time as Victor Luminera) a seven-part Course in Electro-magnetic Sex.

 

In 1965, using his given name and calling himself an ‘independent research scientist’, Boren wrote and published his 125-page feminist tract Woman, a Glorious Destiny Awaits You: The Coming Reign of the Feminine Power: A New Scientific Breakthrough Revelation. The book was officially launched in Hollywood, in January 1966 at a press conference to announce the arrival of ‘a new woman’s crusade for balanced government’. Boren co-hosted the conference with veteran dancer Ruth St Denis. The following month, under the auspices of the World of Tomorrow Foundation, he copyrighted the song End of This World, which appears to have been his final attempt at anything remotely commercial within the music field.

 

Throughout the early 1970s, and now listing himself as a ‘specialist in electromagnetic lighting effects’, Boren continued to peddle his space-spirituality schtick: in 1971 he was giving talks to staff and customers of the Santa Fe savings and Loan on Space Exploration, on behalf of the Universal Life Church – the same church that ordained me (yes, I am officially the Reverend Darryl W. Bullock, the Laid of Doonans) more than a decade ago.

 

Does his film The Incredible She exist? Is it a different film to Opus 2, and could either of these works have been subsumed into his next project? The latter seems unlikely as his 1973 opus, Psyched by the 4D Witch, (that, as Luminera, he conceived, wrote and directed and, as Milton Lawrence, acted as Executive Producer) is a zero-budget, badly out of focus softcore sexploitation film similar to the worst of Ed Wood Junior’s later efforts. Again, Joe has done some research for you on that HERE, and you can find the whole thing on YouTube if you’re interested. In the opening minutes of the film we see a pair of eyes surrounded by glitter: could this be footage Boren had committed to film years earlier, of young Angel McCall, as an emissary from Venus? Incidentally, the film has a rather avant-garde score, composed by Boren, again using the pseudonym Victor Luminera, although the title song, Beware of the 4D Witch, was written by Joe Bisko and performed by Johnny By the Way (vocals) and Attila Galamb (music).

 

Sadly, there would be no more recordings from Boren. But the old roué kept himself busy. He had taken a third wife, marrying her in Las Vegas in February 1970, although that did not last long, for in December 1973 he married Cleo Williams, making her the Fourth Mrs. Lawrence Milton Boren. Early the following year he published the 95-page The Earth Set Free -- Through Reverence for Life Part 1 through Aquarian Enterprises a company, I assume like Futura Records, owned and operated by Boren himself.

 

He divorced Cleo in January 1979, after a little over five years of marriage, and then the trail goes cold. All I can tell you is that Lawrence Milton Boren died, in California, on 1 July 2013, leaving behind a fascinating and eclectic, if somewhat small, body of published work.

 

Anyway, here are short clips of both sides of that elusive 1959 release, Venus, Land of Love from George Dains and Gloria Anne, with Venus Calling by Gloria Anne solo. If anyone out there has the disc, or full MP3s of both sides, please do let me know!

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Land HERE

Download Calling HERE

Monday, 22 March 2021

Exotic Adrian, The Not-so-Sweet Transvestite

Adrian Street (born 5 December 1940) is a retired Welsh professional wrestler, known for his flamboyant, androgynous wrestling persona, Exotic Adrian Street. He’s also the man behind a bunch of rather wonderfully-bad recordings, including the 1986 album Shake, Wrestle and Roll, and as such is the subject of today’s bloggage.

 

From a Welsh coal-mining family, Street won his first fight in 1957. Initially working under the name Kid Tarzan Jonathan, by 1961 Street was touring the UK under his own name, working as a professional heavyweight wrestler. Wrestling was a popular pastime, and televised bouts were big business: in the mid-1960s Street began to make regular appearances on ITV’s Saturday afternoon World of Sport programme. Although claims in the press around that time that he was a former Mr. Universe title holder appear to have been a little, shall we say, over-generous, he became something of a star, and a popular live draw.

 

By the end of the 1960s, he was being billed as ‘Adrian Street: the Blond Headed Glamour Boy’, and was being advertised as ‘Mr Magnificent! Fabulous Gowns! Long Blond Hair! Lovely Body!’, but the increasingly outrageous look hid a man with a conscience: in 1973 he became involved in a political campaign to demand the release of Jewish civil rights activist Sylva Zalmanson from a Russian gulag. The following year he starred on TV in a drama penned by former wrestler turned actor and scriptwriter Bryan Glover, A Drink Out of the Bottle.

 

By the beginning of the 1980s, he was working in the USA, and it was here that he became Exotic Adrian, an outrageously-attired, effeminate ‘heel’ character. This gimmick was the result of his playing up to taunting from an audience one evening, with Street saying that ‘I was getting far more reaction than I’d ever got just playing this poof. My costumes started getting wilder’. In January 1983 he caused outrage when he kissed Black wrestler Ira Reese during a match. The Memphis TV station broadcasting the bout received a number of complaints about this flagrant exhibition of interracial homosexuality.

 

Egged on by second wife Miss Linda, his signature move in the ring was to kiss opponents to escape being pinned down and to put make-up on then while they were disabled. Working primarily as a heel - a wrestler who portrays a villain or bad guy and who acts as an antagonist to the ‘faces’, who are the heroic, good guy characters - and occasionally with his wife and manager (had wrestled in Britain as Blackfoot Sue) as a tag-team duo, the pair travelled all over the world.

 

Now retired and back home in Wales, he’s certainly led a colourful life, and thankfully during his career he took the time to lay down some tracks for you lucky people, beginning in 1977 with the 45 Breakin’ Bones. Three years later he issued a second single, Imagine What I Could Do To You before collecting those four sides, along with several new recordings, on the 1986 album Shake, Wrestle and Roll. He would follow this up with the cassette-only release Naughty But It’s Nice. Many of Adrian’s songs were written by Cheshire-based musician (and former member of the Four Dees) Don Woods, who has collected all of the recordings onto one CD, The Full Hit: the Complete Collection, which is available now, from Don’s website, for only £6:50.

 

Here are a couple of tracks from Shake, Wrestle and Roll to whet your wrestling whistles: A Sweet Transvestite With a Broken Nose and Breakin’ Bones. Enjoy!

 

Download Transvestite HERE

 

Download Bones HERE

  

Friday, 5 March 2021

Gob On You

I am, once again, indebted to my good friend The Squire, for notifying me of this particular horror.

 

Issued in 1981 by children’s educational recording specialist the Kid’s Stuff Company, Pink Panther Punk was an attempt to introduce the kids to pop music via their favourite Saturday morning cartoon show (or Saturday afternoon, immediately after Grandstand, if you lived in the UK).

 

One has to assume that the average American child was not that discerning, for Pink Panther Punk contains absolutely no trace of anything remotely connected with punk rock: no Sex Pistols or Ramones covers, and no baggie of gob and zero safety pins were included in the package. In fact, what you get over the course of this ridiculously short album – just 25 minutes long – are four pop covers, including is a Billy Joel song, a Doobie Brothers song, and recent hits from Blondie and Pink Floyd, with an equal number of Panther-themed nonsense from composer John Braden.

 

Braden, who started out as a solo folk singer in the late sixties, found his niche with Kid’s Stuff: his 1969 debut, a weird hybrid of Tiny Tim vocals and pop/country arrangements, met with about as much interest as his Tom sawyer-themed musical, Downriver, but by the dawn of the 80s he was churning out album after album for Kid’s Stuff, including two Panther-themed LPs in 1981 alone. His sole A&M album would later accrue some interest among collectors for featuring an incredible line-up of session musicians, including Sneaky Pete and Ry Cooder. Braden was also a member of Manhattan’s La Mama experimental theatre, writing or co-writing musicals including Silver Queen Saloon and Sixty Minute Queer Show.

 

The Kid’s Stuff label was founded in 1975 by children’s entertainer and TV personality Bob McAllister, the host of Wonderama and Kids Are People Too. Initially specialising in educational and read-along recordings, over the years the company developed partnerships a number of toy and cartoon franchises, and by the time Braden came on the scene they were pumping out albums to accompany the latest cartoon starring Strawberry Shortcake, Pac Man, Raggedy Ann and Andy, or Barbie vehicle. Soon Masters of the Universe, Transformers and giant cartoon Great Dane Marmaduke would join the catalogue, and Kid’s Stuff would enjoy a tremendously successful decade.

 

Sadly John Stuart Braden Jr., would not accompany them on that ride: the talented singer, composer and actor died in 1987, aged just 41, of pneumococcal meningitis.

 

Here are both sides of the fun Pink Panther Punk album. Enjoy!


Download Side One HERE

Download Side Two HERE

Friday, 19 February 2021

Joe Tossini - Lady of Mine

A favourite of mine for several years now, Lady of Mine is the self-funded, independently-released 1989 debut LP by self-taught Italian-American musician Joe Tossini. After only owning a poor-quality digital version of the album, I was astounded to discover that Lady of Mine had been reissued two years ago.

 

According to the accompanying press release, after being born in Sicily, Joe ‘drifted around the world between Italy, Germany and Canada, before finally settling in New Jersey. After the passing of his mother and the breakdown of a second marriage, an anxious and depressed Tossini took to songwriting as a form of therapy, crafting disarmingly candid lyrics from his extraordinary life and loves. Whatever industry savvy or musical virtuosity he lacked was made up for by unflinching resourcefulness and infectious charisma. Befriending bandleader Peppino Lattanzi at local club The Rickshaw Inn, he was encouraged to animate his singular songs with an ambitious cast of nine players and five backing vocalists, sincerely credited as his Friends.’

 

Recorded at IEA Recording Studios in Atlantic City in 1989, the album is an absolute cracker. From the defiant, Casiotone samba of If I Should Fall In Love, to the utterly peculiar Wild Dream and with its odd, jarring ‘space invader’ breaks, and the off-key vocals of the title track, Lady Of Mine hums with the inimitable magic of a true original: cabaret lounge intimacy infused with amateur lo-fi genius.

 

Issued by the short-lived IEA Records label, Lady Of Mine has, unsurprisingly, earned its own place in the outsider music canon: original copies now sell for around the $200 mark (there are a couple currently listed on Discogs, for $190 and $225 respectively). After years of enjoying a growing reputation among collectors, including being listed as one of the Top Ten Best Private Press Albums by Waxidermy, Lady Of Mine was reissued in 2019 via Joe Tossini Music, in partnership with Australian outsider reissue specialist Efficient Space, restored from original master tapes with unseen photos, extensive liner notes and Tossini’s trademark wisdom.

 

Devoutly independent, in 2016 Tossini produced the self-released album When You Love Someone, an album of instrumentals he originally composed during the 1980s but did not record until 2015, and he has also penned two books - his 2014 autobiography ‘The Accounts of My Life’ and, in 2019, a novel titled ‘The Devil In White’, which he calls ‘a fictional story about life, mystery, and murder’. Sadly his good friend and mentor, Peppino ‘Pep’ Lattanzi, passed away in 1995, far too soon for his work on this engaging album to be appreciated.

 

I am not making these downloads available for free as the album is on sale once again and I would encourage you to shove a few quid Joe's way. You can purchase the magnificent Lady of Mine on LP, CD, or digitally at https://efficientspace.bandcamp.com/album/lady-of-mine but for now, here are a couple of tracks from this engaging album.

 

Enjoy!


Friday, 5 February 2021

Beatle Babies

As I’m sure you all know, as well as writing this blog and the occasional book, I also host a weekly show, The World’s Worst Records RadioShow, on Sheena’s Jungle Room, one of the online stations available through the behemoth that is WFMU. Well, today’s disc was brought to my attention by fellow Sheena’s DJ Jan Turkenburg, my friend in the Netherlands, who hosts the fabulous Dutch pop show Yes, We Have No Mountains, as well as the brilliant Sounds Under 64 Not Allowed, where every record played has to be at least 64 years old.

 

Not only has Jan introduced me to the delights of Ronnie and the Ronnies and The Shoes, but a few weeks ago he played this, and it prompted much debate on his show’s message board, so much so in fact that I determined to go off and find out more about this ghastly little coupling.

 

Released on Artone records in 1964 and credited to De Bieteltjes (the Little Beatles), Jèh-Jèh-Jèh Gekke Pappie (Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Crazy Daddy) and its flip side Haal Die Scheiding Uit Je Haar (Get That Parting Out Of Your Hair) appear on the surface to have been performed by a trio of toddlers, but in fact – like acts including the Chipmunks, Charlie the Hamster, the Smurfs, and goodness knows how many others – the tracks were written, played and sung by fully-grown adults, the vocals manipulated to make them sound more infantile.

 

Inspired by the worldwide interest in The Beatles, the man behind these recordings was one Joop Portengen, a Dutch composer, songwriter and music publisher from the city of Haarlem who was born in December 1916. Portengen worked on stage musicals, wrote jazz, composed for orchestras and for ballet, as well as writing for countless Dutch MOR, folk and pop acts.

 

Joop Portengen had form: he had previously made similar childlike records under the names Kleine Joopie (reissued the following year as Kleine Jopie) and, as one of Drie Kleine Kleuters, scored a hit in 1956 with De Trappelzak-Boogie (Sleeping Bag Boogie). In 1966 he co-wrote the anti-drink driving hit Glaasje Op... Laat Je Rijden for Sjakie Schram. An example of carnavalschlager (or carnival songs, music popularised in pubs and at festivals during carnival season), Glaasje Op...  spent 15 weeks in the Dutch Top 40.

 

The multi-talented Mr. Portengen died in July 1981, but over a long and varied career, wrote, performed and/or arranged music for more than 100 different Dutch acts.

 

Genieten!

 

Download Pappie HERE

Download Scheiding HERE

Friday, 29 January 2021

New Town Animals

 

A fun little oddity for you today, in the shape of a one-sided flexidisc issued in 1979 by the marketing agency charged with trying to attract shoppers to Central Milton Keynes, and specifically to its new retail outlet, The Centre: MK, which was opened on 25 September 1979 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

 

Milton Keynes, now the biggest town in Buckinghamshire, was incorporated in January 1967, part of a scheme to build new towns to deal with Britain’s expanding population. Named after an ancient settlement in the area, this new town swallowed up existing small towns and villages, including Bletchley, Middleton, Stony Stratford, and Wolverton. Often ridiculed as an example of what not to do in terms of town planning and modernist architecture, the new town of Milton Keynes would also provide the subject for a 45 release by the Style Council (Come to Milton Keynes), and Sir Cliff Richard filmed his infamous roller skating video for Wired For Sound there too.  

 

The track, You’ve Never Seen Anything Like It has the credit ‘music by Ronnie Bond’, rather than ‘performed by Ronnie Bond’ or simply ‘Ronnie Bond’. Bond was the former drummer of The Troggs who, by the end of the 1970s, was starting to make a name for himself writing advertising jingles. He wrote the famous Lee Cooper ad Don’t Be A Dummy, originally recorded by Gary Numan while still a member of Tubeway Army, before being re-recorded for 45 release by John Du Cann. He also penned It’s Written On Your Body for rival denim company Levi’s, scoring a minor UK chart hit with the resulting single release.

 

But that is not Ronnie Bond singing on You’ve Never Seen Anything Like It. Bond had a very distinct, pinched nasal voice, nothing like the rich baritone on display here. I wonder who that anonymous session singer is. Any suggestions?

 

Milton Keynes was not the only town to get its own corporate anthem, of course: let’s not forget the wonderful Energy in Northampton or the remarkable It’s a Leicester Fiesta. The Centre: MK is now a Grade II listed building. Looks like the town planners had the last laugh there.

 

Enjoy!


Download Never Seen HERE


Friday, 22 January 2021

It's a Hit, By Cracky!

Here’s a fun little disc, not in any way ‘the worst’ of anything, but a real oddity that you might not have the opportunity to hear otherwise.

 

Produced in 1967, the By Cracky Beat and flip side Gikki/Gong were issued in Canada to promote the By Cracky! candy bar, for Canadian chocolate company Lowney’s, and was given away to kids at schools, via radio promotions and - I would assume - in stores.

 

Born in 1855, Walter MacPherson Lowney began manufacturing chocolate bonbons in Boston in 1883. Seven years later he established the Walter M. Lowney Company and, in 1905, he opened the Walter M. Lowney Company of Canada, Ltd., with a factory in Montreal. The company was eventually taken over by the giant Hershey corporation.

 

Both compositions are credited to Mamorsky, Zimmermann and Hamm, the owners of MZH (later to become MZH & F Music Productions), a New York-based company that specialised in advertising jingles. Morris Mamorsky (1910-2003) was an orchestra leader and composer, and once conducted the NBC Orchestra; Tommy Hamm was a member of the vocal group The Mello-larks, who released the 1959 album Just For a Lark. Jack Zimmermann was a guitarist, bass player, orchestra leader and professional whistler who, in 1956, issued the album The Whistler and His Dog on Golden Crest Records.

 

Their company was responsible for many famous jingles, including I Am Stuck On Band-Aid that was composed for MZH by Barry Manilow before he made it big. Manilow worked on many advertising campaigns, including ones for McDonald's, KFC, and Dodge trucks, and in 1976 he won an award for MHZ for composing and performing a jingle for the soft drink Tab. For a short period in the early-to-mid 70s they owned a recording studio in Manhattan, MZH Studio (which later became Celebration Studios, equipped with a 24 track Dolby dbx desk), used by Loudon Wainwright III and Meco (he recorded his disco-fied version of the Star Wars theme there) amongst others.

 

There’s no credit for the vocalists or instrumentalists on either side of this great little disc, however it has been suggested that the vocal act could be the Toronto-based Laurie Bower Singers, formed by trombone player Bowers, who did most of their work for TV and film music specialists the Canadian Talent Library. having listened to a few contemporary recordings by the Laurie Bower Singers, I tend to concur.

 

Anyway, enjoy these fun, funky slices of 60s cheese.. or should that be chocolate?

 

Download Beat HERE

Download Gong HERE

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