Friday, 12 July 2019

Spelunking

I’ve been listening to a lot of what you would loosely categorise as library music and exotica recently. This is thanks primarily to my friend DJ GeorgyGirl, whose show, High Waisted Modernists, follows my own World’s Worst Records Radio Show on a Wednesday evening (and is an absolute must-listen), and to the recent purchase of a Martin Denny CD collection which pulls together eight of his albums, including Exotica, Exotica 2, Exotica 3 and Forbidden Island.


Today’s disc comes from the world of Exotica, a genre that took its name from Denny’s 1957 album and which is defined by Wikipedia as “the non-native, pseudo experience of insular Oceania, Southeast Asia, Hawaii, the Amazon basin, the Andes and tribal Africa. Denny described the musical style as ‘a combination of the South Pacific and the Orient...what a lot of people imagined the islands to be like...it's pure fantasy though.’ While the South Seas forms the core region, exotica reflects the ‘musical impressions’ of every place from standard travel destinations to the mythical ‘shangri-las’ dreamt of by armchair safari-ers.” Well, that clears that up then.

Chuck Holden’s The Cave not only encompasses the above, it also adds a wonderful layer of weird, a patina of peculiar if you will. When I found that it was also issued by Joe Leahy’s Unique Records, well I just had to have a copy.

I don’t know a lot about Holden: this is the only disc listed by him at Discogs, and that only appears to exist as promos – no one yet has turned up a stock copy. But it’s an absolute pip: Holden strums his zither (or I guess it could be an autoharp) while some unnamed, dusky sounding maiden shrieks over the top of his rather basic instrumentation. It’s mad and it’s ace! I have unearthed a few details though: as leader of the Charles Holden Orchestra he had a residency at Manhattan’s El Morocco nightclub in the 1950s and ‘60s. Credited as Charles Holden and Orchestra, they released one album, again on Unique, Dancing at “El Morocco”, 25 light jazz arrangements of popular classics including You’re the Cream in My Coffee, Putting on the Ritz and, tantalisingly, The Third Man Theme which I’ve not heard but one has to wonder if Mr. H dusts off his zither for. According to the album’s sleeve notes “the most unique and outstanding characteristic of Mr. Holden’s eight-piece group is its tremendous repertoire which includes the favorite songs of every well-known patron who frequents the club.”

Anyway, make of this what you will. I love it, and it led me down a path of discovery towards more cave-themed oddities, some of which you’ll hear if you tune in to next week’s World’s Worst Records Radio Show.

Here are both sides, The Cave and My Lost Melody. Enjoy!


Download Cave HERE

Download Melody HERE

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Bandwidth Exceeded

Just the briefest of notes.

I know many of you have been frustrated, coming here to download the latest aural calamity simply to be told that your request has been denied because we have exceeded the limits of our bandwidth and that you need to try again later.

Well, hopefully, that is now a thing of the past! For today I have started paying for extra space in the ether to store and share our audio horrors. From tomorrow (Sunday, 7 July) you should no longer have any trouble downloading any of the live links on the blog. Ain't I kind?

This blog has been running for 12 years now: the money I'm paying for that extra bandwidth is not enormous, so I'm not asking for any of you to chip in, but please remember that I make no money from this, all of the costs incurred come straight out of my pocket. If you'd like to do something tangible to show support, listen in to the World's Worst Records Radio Show, and join the Facebook page to help grow this community of like-minded mad music fiends. If you're feeling exceptionally generous, check out my books.

Ta!

Friday, 5 July 2019

Xylophones for Jesus


On my never-ending hunt for peculiar recordings, I often pick up things that look ‘different’, only to be disappointed. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have purchased a record just because I liked the otherworldliness of its cover simply to find something mediocre inside the jacket.

Today’s disc almost fell into that category, in fact, I had earmarked it for return to a charity shop or some such, but on closer inspection – and a good listening to – it proved to be not only worthy of my collection but also worth bringing to your attention, dear readers. And, as a bonus, it’s autographed by the main protagonist.

Ken Cushing Xylophone with Margaret Veal Pianoforte has to be one of the most peculiar Christian-themed records released in the UK, easily on a par with Marcy Tigner’s trombone albums. Who on earth ever thought that a man hammering away at a bunch of wooden blocks with a pair of mallets was going to lead sinners onto the path to salvation?

Searching for info, I discover that Mr. Cushing originally hailed from Halifax and had been playing xylophone professionally since at least 1942. He was still playing concerts for the Salvation Army into the mid-1970s, having himself relocated to the seaside town of Flamborough. Margaret Veal, a pianist from Abertillery in South Wales, also began her career in sacred music in the 1940s and often played Salvation Army concerts and fundraisers through until the early 1970s.

I also discovered that Ken and Marge had played together in Bristol, my hometown, in 1968. On 27 April of that year, the duo played a fundraiser for the Salvation Army Bristol’s Easton Road Corps, alongside the Bristol Easton Road Band and the Treorchy Male Choir. During the 40s Ken played in Gloucester, the city I was born in (and couldn’t get away from fast enough). Later He became involved with Christian Endeavour, an inter-denominational organisation which trains and equips young people to become church leaders. A woman called Margaret Veal worked extensively as a musical director and accompanist in the 70s and 80s, but I doubt that was our Marge, as her repertoire was decidedly more secular.

Issued by Pilgrim Records in 1964, the Ken Cushing Xylophone with Margaret Veal Pianoforte EP appears to have been Ken’s sole release, although he did appear on recordings by other artists, including the 1976 album by the Cambridge Heath Songsters, May Jesus Christ Be Praised! Ken’s photo appeared on the back of the album sleeve, even though he only performs on two songs. The same year that this EP was released, Ken and Marge played together at the inaugural Festival of Evangelical Mixed Voice Choirs at the Albert Hall, a huge choir festival that would grow to incorporate thousands of voices.

Here are both sides of this oddity. Enjoy!

Download Side 1 HERE

Download Side 2 HERE

Friday, 28 June 2019

You Silly Savage!


As today marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots, this seemed like an appropriate choice for this week’s blog.

Released in 1973 and credited to Ben Gay and the Silly Savages, The Ballad of Ben Gay is a riposte of sorts to Johnny Cash’s hit A Boy Named Sue, which Cash recorded live in concert in 1969 at California's San Quentin State Prison and that appeared on his chart-topping At San Quentin album the same year. Issued as a single it provided Cash with a Number Two hit on the Billboard pop charts (Number One on the country chart) and went Top Five in the UK.

The unidentified singer took the stage name Ben Gay from the topical heat rub (similar to our own Deep Heat) of the same name. I had always assumed that his backing group, the Silly Savages, were unrelated to the group that backed Teddy and Darrel on their album These Are the Hits, You Silly Savage, but now I’m not so sure. Teddy and Darrel were documentary maker Theodore ‘Teddy’ Charach and his friend Darrel Dee; record producer (and former Republican governor) Mike Curb produced These Are The Hits… (featuring camped-up covers of recent hits) by overdubbing their voices onto a session from his favourite studio band Arrows, led by guitarist Davie Allen. Charach and Dee also appeared with Curb on the soundtrack to the 1967 movie Mondo Hollywood. Could Darrel Dee be the same man as Darrel Gulland, co-author of The Ballad of Ben Gay?

I can’t be sure: Gulland continued to write songs for a few years after this, working with musician dale Norris, and appears to have passed away in 2000. The one thing that can be ascertained is that the disc is connected to Fabor, the country music label that was based in Hollywood, and that was owned by producer promoter Fabor Robinson. Robinson’s name appears as co-author of the flip side, Silly Savage Serenade and producer/arranger 9and co-author of the A-side) Edd McNeely also recorded for Fabor.

The silliness of The Ballad of Ben Gay follows a long tradition of campery on record. Depending on how you view these things these records are charming period pieces, badly dated Carry On-style comic cuts or complete anachronisms of a bygone age. Lispy, wispy and fey, and about as sophisticated as a hammer blow to the head the humour, such as it is, is broader than the backside of the average McDonald’s customer. This type of record reached its apogee in 1964, with the launch of the Camp Records label. Some of these records were advertised exclusively to the LGBT community through the pages of papers such as One, Vagabond and, later, Gay News.

Soon mainstream record companies would get in on the act and throughout the 1960s and 70s a string of camp 45s issued on both sides of the pond, such as The Butch Brothers’ Kay, Why? (on Thrust Records), Steve Elgins’ Don’t Leave Your Lover Lying Around (a silly song about bed-hopping issued in 1974 on Dawn Records) and Yin & Yan’s Butch Soap (on EMI). Many camp actors and comedians issued records: in the UK alone Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howerd, John Inman and Larry Grayson all put out novelty songs that pandered to their camp but closeted persona and that were meant to appeal to either children or grandparents, two demographics unlikely to blush at the tired single-entendres in a song like Inman’s Are You Being Served Sir? (‘I’m sorry that this fitting room is dark and rather chilly, just try these on and mind that zip in case you catch your…’). Interestingly, was covered by New Zealand act Des Gay And The Foolish Fag's (their misplaces apostrophe, not mine, I assure you) as the Ballad of Des Gay in 1974.

Anyway, here are both sides of this silly single. Enjoy!

Download Ballad HERE




Download Serenade HERE


Friday, 21 June 2019

Death and Taxes


I am forever amazed at the gullibility of people, especially God-fearing folk who – desperate to get into heaven (or their version of it) – plough their life savings into one scam or another, each one fronted by some charlatan claiming to be God’s representative on earth. All convicted felon Jim Bakker had to do was shed a few crocodile tears and he was quickly accepted back into his evangelist family, and he’s hardly the only one.

It seems that claiming to be God’s messenger can help you get away with anything: gold plate-reading Joseph Smith, Jr. was “subjected to approximately thirty criminal actions” during his life according to one source: another reports Smith was arrested at least 42 times. In 1978 Scientology charlatan L. Ron Hubbard was convicted of making false claims about his ability to cure physical illnesses and was sentenced to four years in prison, which he failed to serve. Just look at the sexual abuse endemic in the Catholic Church, or the evil scumbag Fred Phelps - Leader of anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church – who was convicted of disorderly conduct and battery.

In May 2012 Daniel Gaub, the scion of evangelist Kenneth Gaub, was killed in a motorcycle accident. But was it an accident, or did Dan – as many believe - commit suicide in order to avoid a hefty prison sentence and the ruination of his family? Shortly after his death, the FBI raided Gaub’s home in search of evidence to support accusations that he was scamming people with high-risk foreign currency trading, known as “forex”. The agency took computers and boxes of records. Assets, including Gaub’s 70-foot yacht and a collection of cars and motorcycles, were also seized.

Brother Nathaniel (also known as Nathan), who for many years had been Daniel’s partner in the family’s musical act (and later the teen gospel band Eternity/Eternity Express) claimed that he “never saw [his] brother make an unethical business step in his life,” but Jack Baugher, a businessman in Gaub’s hometown of Yakima, stated that “he was committing a crime every time he took money from people… and he took a lot of money from people.” Baugher invested $200,000 in Gaub’s business, and several of those ripped off by Gaub claimed that he deliberately drove into a truck because he was under investigation by the FBI for fraud: local police were investigating claims that Gaub may have defrauded investors, many of them members of Stone Church in Yakima, of millions of dollars.

Nathan Gaub said that the accusations against his brother had sickened his family. “I don’t have a clue as to anything to do with the inside workings of that business, because I was not involved,” he said. “But I am blown away by any accusations of wrongdoing because it's just out of character.” Gaub's claims of non-involvement were, at best, disingenuous: his LinkedIn profile claims that he and Daniel were the co-creators of an "unsurpassed system of forex trading". 

Within months it was announced that the FBI was indeed investigating Daniel Gaub of running a Ponzi scheme that may have netted him and his family as much as $40 million. Although Dan Gaub’s parents were not implicated, it’s interesting to note that Ken Gaub has not filed his tax returns since 2012, the year his son died. His church – which he and his family have run since 1961 - is tax-exempt but still has to file returns annually. If a non-profit religious organisation fails to file for three consecutive years they can have their tax-exempt status revoked. So far this does not appear to have happened to Gaub senior.

Anyway, in happier times Dan, Nathan, Ken and the whole Gaub family played music together and made records. As I’ve already mentioned, in the 70s Nathan and Daniel played in a teen Christian rock band, but before that the brothers, their parents and their little sister Becky played in the Kenneth Gaub family band, which issued at least two albums in the mid 60s. Here are a brace of tracks from their 1964 album, Kenneth Gaub Family Feeling Fine: Jesus Loves Me sung by young Becky Gaub, and How Great Thou Art from Nathan, Dan, and Becky.

Enjoy!

Download Jesus HERE



Download Great HERE

Friday, 14 June 2019

The Crème de la Crème


André Van der Veken, born in the Belgian city of Ninove on 19 January 1949, has had a long a varied career in the world of pop.

He first recorded under the name Andy Free, issuing a number of 45s in both Belgium and Holland during the first half of the 1970s, including Mama (Philips, 1971) and Ik Kon Mijn Ogen Niet Geloven (I Could Not Believe My Eyes, BASF, 1974). In 1978, as André Van Der Veken, he released his first full-length album Maar Zo Is't (That’s How It Is). He then moved on to a successful career as a songwriter and producer, principally with the group Dance Reaction, who issued three 45s – including the oddly titled Shanks Mare Honey and Honey Puppy Is My Name between 1981 and 1983. He continued to work throughout the 80s and 90s, with duo Leeva and Andy (guess which one he was?), D.J. Arséne, and he co-wrote both sides of the comeback single for the 60s Belgian pop band The Paramounts. In 1996 Dance Reaction’s big Euro hit, Disco Train was remixed and re-released. 

Over the years he has worked with a number of Dutch and Flemish artists, including Jimmy Frey, Jo Vally, Willy Sommers and Laura Lynn, under such names as Dré Van der Veken, André Domien and Remien. But the pseudonym we’re most interested in here is Waylon, which he used for the one-off 1979 single Crème de la Crème/The Sparrow.

Crème de la Crème was the only disc Andy/André issued as Waylon, but what a record it is. A hellish mashup of Sylvester and Boney M, this ridiculously brilliant slice of disco buffoonery was released in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Portugal but failed to chart in any of those countries, despite being issued in both 7” and 12” formats, the latter available in both yellow and white vinyl. Over the years it has developed its own cult following, and quite rightly so. It’s a very special record.

After playing the songs on The World's Worst Records Radio Show and discussing them with listeners and fellow presenters there I decided to track down Dré Van der Veken, and was honoured when he kindly agreed to talk about the single with me.

The biggest surprise was the discovery that Waylon, the young man who appears on the sleeve of the 45, does not actually sing on the disc. “We only had the song and a nice boy who could not sing,” Dré admits. “So, I was required - poor me! - to perform the song myself. It was a laugh, believe me. We thought that the record would never make it to the market.”  

When asked about the voice he used on the disc, Dré candidly admitted that “I think it was a combination of wine and too much time in the studio. Things like that happened a lot, although those times are over now. Showbiz has changed; there’s no more money for crazy things and I am getting older. Although I’m still a little crazy!

“There was never going to be a follow up to the Waylon single: it was a joke. The real Waylon went off and married his boyfriend.”

In 2013 Dré released his second full-length album, Tussen Hoogtes en Laagtes (Between the Highs and Lows), which he describes as an “active creation between man and machine ... and my cat Johnny”. The album was “recorded in the bedroom, where I operate all the keys and synths myself, sometimes just with two fingers… It had to sound the way I heard it in my head and maybe I succeeded. The arrangements and sounds, perhaps not flawless, are primarily a bed for the lyrics. These are rather dark in nature, although I do not consider myself a pessimist but rather a pessimistic optimist and bon vivant.”

He's nonplussed about the curiosity that surrounds Crème de la Crème. “I'm surprised people are still interested in the Waylon thing,” he admits. “Copies now sell for more than 30 euro, and I never saw a penny of it,” he laughs. “Maybe I have to open a bottle of wine (or more than one), compose a follow-up and find someone who can’t sing again… what you think?”

Check out both songs below. My huge thanks to Dré Van der Veken for taking the time to talk to me. You can check out his more recent music, as well as tracks from his 1978 album Maar Zo Is't, at his website: www.drevanderveken.com

Download Creme HERE




Download Sparrow HERE


Friday, 7 June 2019

The Sad Story of the Ponderosa Twins

Family groups often go through the mill, and often at the hands of their overbearing parents or management (or both), but if you thought the Jacksons had it bad with their horrific father wait until you hear about trials and tribulations of the Ponderosa Twins Plus One.

Formed in Ohio in 1970, the confusingly-named Ponderosa Twins Plus One – who, as far as I am aware had absolutely nothing to do with Bonanza - actually consisted of five members (just like a certain Jackson Five), two sets of identical twins Alfred and Alvin Pelham, and Keith and Kirk Gardner – who had been performing as the Ponderosa Twins for around a year or so - along with their chum Ricky Spicer, who joined in 1970. All five attended the Patrick Henry Jr. High School on the east side of Cleveland.

PT+1 came to the attention of Bobby Massey of soul act The O’Jays. Accompanied by Massey, they recorded three singles for Chuck Brown’s Horoscope Records. At this point, Brown took over their management. Their debut, a cover of Sam Cooke’s You Send Me peaked at number 23 on Billboard’s Soul chart. In 1971, the group released their album, 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One. It’s not a bad album at all: even Billboard reckoned that even if the group were something of “a Johnny-come-lately in the bubblegum soul sound” they were still “out of sight”.

Bound became their second single, with the label altering its name to Astroscope, and this peaked at number 47 on the Soul chart. Although they played many shows and supported a number of big-name acts, after 1973’s non-album single Tomorrow’s Train/Come Back Sunshine,  the band would make no further recordings. They disbanded in 1975: in a court deposition singer Ricky Spicer would later state that the principal reason for their parting ways was that they were broke: “The Group toured for months, sometimes performing twice in a single day. Although the Group was promised payments for their performances, Mr. Brown and Saru [his company] failed to make any payments to Ricky or the other members of the Group for any performances. In 1975, the group fell apart due to the lack of royalties and no revenue from their live shows.”

Ricky Spicer went on to work with stars including Gladys Knight and James Brown. Sadly his cohorts were not so lucky. One of the Pelham twins suffered from mental health issues, and one of the Gardner twins has been incarcerated in an Ohio penitentiary since 1980 for various offenses. Disillusioned, Ricky Spicer eventually left the music industry became a construction worker. Alvin and Alfred are now both deceased.

The band would have been forgotten for good had it not been for their track, Bound being sampled by rapper Kanye West in his 2013 song Bound 2, which featured on his huge international hit Yeezus. Ricky Spicer filed a lawsuit against West, as well as Roc-A-Fella Records, The Island Def Jam Music Group, Rhino Entertainment and Universal Music Group, citing copyright infringement. The following year Spicer sued Vogue magazine and its publisher Condé Nast, after Bound 2 was used in a promotional video for the magazine’s April edition, which featured West and his wife Kim Kardashian. According to court papers, at the time both Keith and Kirk were incarcerated, but Ricky had power of attorney to act on behalf of the Gardner twins and for the families of the late Pelham twins. The court case against West was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2016.

Here are a couple of tracks from 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One, Turn Around You Fool and Take Me Back

Enjoy!

Download Turn HERE



Download Take HERE


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