Friday, 18 October 2019

Shake Me, I Prattle


Little Beverley Bunt, from the village of Indian Queens in Cornwall, was just seven years old when she recorded her first - and so far only – EP for His Master’s Voice back in 1959. 

According to the sleeve notes, even at that young age Bev was already something of a veteran, having won several singing competitions including the Junior Vocal Championship of Cornwall.

Arranged and conducted by Ron Goodwin, the four songs on this release are just lovely: The Queen’s Highway attempts to teach children how to cross the road safely, and predates the Tufty Club and the Green Cross Code Man by years. Open Up Your Heart has also been recorded, notably by Little Marcy, as Let The Sunshine In

Me And My Teddy Bear had been recorded by dozens of artists before, including a pre-Little Marcy Marcy Tigner, on her one-off EP for Angelus, which I featured on this very blog back in 2013. My Choc’late Rabbit, credited on the disc as having been written by a gentleman by the name of Pascal Marks was, in fact, co-written by American songwriters Gerald Marks, the author of All Of Me and Milton Pascal. The song had previously been recorded by Rosemary Clooney in 1950, the year before she hit the big time with Come On-a My House

Bev did not release a record under her own name again, although she did pop up in 1968 in the regional heats of a Miss Cornwall competition, and she also appears to have done some session work at Roche Studios in Cornwall in the late 1970s.

The name Indian Queens, incidentally, seems to have come from an 18th Century public house and rather than Pocahontas or Queen Victoria, the one-time Empress of India.

Here are all four tracks from this charming little release. Enjoy!

Download Teddy HERE


Download Heart HERE


Download Rabbit HERE


Download Highway HERE

Friday, 11 October 2019

It's The Jesmonds


Love Is All, the only EP release from lounge act the Jesmonds, comes from the same label that brought you the wonderful Joanne Duo, Eron.  

Issued in 1980 “to satisfy the demands of their innumerable fans” (it says here), the Jesmonds were another woeful cabaret trio made up of brothers Kevin (keyboards) and Andy Hyde (drums) who, according to the sleeve notes, “had played together for about five years and won outright at an 'Opportunity Knocks' show and later, at a Butlins talent competition.” In September 1979 they took on vocalist Roy, who the brothers at another Opportunity Knocks show (my assumption is that these were regional talent shows, rather than the TV version), where Roy and the brothers tied for first place.

Managed by the brothers’ father John Hyde, by the time they came to record their EP they were “one of the most popular acts in Kent at hotels, clubs and at dinners,” apparently. that’s something I find hard to accept, although having listened to most of the Joanne Duo’s output it’s fairly obvious what passed for entertainment in the hotels and social clubs of Kent in the late 70s and early 80s. there’s very little (read: no) information about the trio online, although according to the sleeve notes their act was full of “energy and dynamism” as well as showcasing their “excellent visual presentation and their likeable personalities.”

I’ve found a listing for the trio playing a summer season at Romney Sands Holiday Park in 1983, but that’s all I’ve got, I’m afraid. The usual shout out for anyone who may have more information about the band, but until then here are a couple of tracks from the EP: Cracklin’ Rosie and Love Is In The Air.

Enjoy!

Download Love HERE


Download Rosie HERE


 Thanks to Conrad Zimmer for the info!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Wheely Great


Not much is known about the two young men behind the insanely rare Wheelz of Steel Volume One, brothers Raymond and Richard Markowski of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But what follows is what I been able to glean so far.

Born in 1961 and 1962 respectively, the brothers were born with Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited genetic condition that gradually causes the muscles to weaken, leading to an increasing level of disability. Unable to get around without assistance, the boys were not going to let their situation get the better of them, and with commendable good humour and a certain irony (and a nod, no doubt to British NWOBHM band Saxon), named their band Wheelz of Steel after the wheelchairs they were confined to.

Issued in 1983, the self-funded and self-released album features the brothers swapping guitar and bass duties, with vocals handled by Richard. Throughout they are accompanied by their trusty Roland drum machine, credited on the reverse of the sleeve as “T.R”. All eight songs were co-written by the boys themselves.   

It’s a dreadful record, but you have to admire their spirit. How many of us in a similar situation would have been able to write, perform on and release our own LP? Not only that, but they even performed live, entering into a local Battle of the Bands competition and winning. Admirable stuff.

Sadly, both of the Markowski brothers are no longer with us: Raymond passed away, aged just 32, in 1993. Richard died in September 2011 aged 49 after power was lost at the Milwaukee home he shared with his mother in an overnight windstorm, cutting off the electricity supply to his ventilator. Richard’s mother, Beverly, called 911 when his ventilator started to beep, but she told emergency personnel that she had backup batteries, so they left. She called 911 again shortly afterwards because her son was struggling, and the alarm was beeping again. He later died at a hospital. According to the county medical examiner’s report, Mrs. Markowski believed that the batteries had a longer life. A sad end to a short, but accomplished, life.

Have a listen to a couple of tracks from the brilliant Wheelz of Steel Volume One here: Outerspace Man and Mad Man. If you want more, the whole thing is available on YouTube,

Enjoy!

Download Outerspace HERE



Download Mad HERE

Thursday, 19 September 2019

A Demo


Kenneth Higney’s absurd album Attic Demonstration, issued on his own Kebrutney Records in 1976, has gained a reputation as an outsider classic over the years.

The album was originally recorded to promote the former truck driver’s work as a songwriter, with Higney roping in friends Gordon Gaines (guitars, drums), John Duva (bass guitar), and Mark Volpe (guitar, percussion) to help fill out the sound. The collection of demos was never intended for commercial release,  however when none of Higney’s songs proved sellable he had a limited run of just 500 copies pressed, “because I figured it was easier than constantly making up cassette tapes to send out,” he explained in a 2011 interview for It’s Psychedelic Baby magazine.

One of those 500 discs found its way to the editors of Trouser Press, who called Higney’s work a “cross between Lou Reed and Neil Young without the aid of melody”. That’s a pretty accurate description, and although Higney was none too flattered, he did like the idea of his work being mentioned alongside such luminaries as Reed and Young. In 1980 he released a 7”, I Wanna Be The King/Funky Kinky, a tribute to New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders backed with a hideous stab at disco. The single, limited to just 1,000 copies, again featured Gaines and Volpe, plus John Lynch on bass. It’s a delightful mess.

After years in obscurity, occasionally issuing recordings by other artists through his Kebrutney label, Higney resurfaced in 2003, reissuing Attic Demonstration (or “A Demo”) as a limited run of 3,000 CD copies and adding the two sides of the single in for good measure. He followed that six years later with a new album, American Dirt. Many of the songs on the album were written around the same time as those on Attic Demonstration, which featured musicians such as Jack Pearson, formerly of The Allman Brothers Band. Two years later he issued his third album, Ambulance Driver: a collection of newer songs but still with one – Nonsense – from the Attic Demonstration days.

You can purchase all of Kenneth’s work via his own website, http://www.kebrutney.com/

Here are a couple of the standout tracks from Attic Demonstration, Quietly Leave Me and Night Rider, Higney’s song about the Ku Klux Klan.

Download Quietly HERE

Download Night HERE


Friday, 13 September 2019

Buddy Repeats Himself


History Repeats Itself by Buddy Starcher, first issued by BES – Starcher’s own label - in 1965, is a truly mad record, a conspiracy theory put to music and issued just as the American public were waking up to the horrors of the Vietnam war. It’s brilliantly nuts, comparing the death of Abraham Lincoln with that of John F Kennedy and suggesting that more than mere mortals were involved in both assassinations. 

The disc didn't do much until it was reissued by the Boone Record Company in 1966. Shortly afterwards the far bigger Decca Records heard the potential, picked it up for distribution and took the track to Number 39 on the Billboard pop charts, and Number Two on the magazine’s Country chart. An album, also called History Repeats Itself, made the Country Albums Top 40.

Born in Ripley, West Virginia Oby Edgar “Buddy ”Starcher (16 March 1906 —2 November 2001) was an American country singer who released his first record way a full 20 years before this, his only chart hit. According to Wikipedia, History Repeats Itself  was co-written by American country comedian Minnie Pearl, who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years and will be best remembered for her “How-deeeee!” catchphrase. However, all of the releases credit Starcher, who starred on his own show on WCHS-TV from 1960 to 1966 as either sole arranger or composer.

The flipside, Sniper’s Hill, is equally memorable, a country song that sounds alarmingly like a Halmark song-poem, about the last days of a GI framed as a letter from the young man to his wife, who has just given birth to his first (and, presumably, only) child. As we all know, there was a rash of such songs issued around the time of the Vietnam conflict, and this is a wonderfully maudlin pip accompanied by healthy dollops of Christian guilt and flag-waving humbuggery.

Enjoy!

Download History HERE

Download Sniper’s HERE


Friday, 6 September 2019

The Art of Falling Apart


I’ve heard some sick records in my time, but this genuinely takes the biscuit. 

Issued in October 1969 by Capitol, We Love You, Call Collect by Art Linkletter made number 42 in the Billboard charts on 22 November (it was 46 on the Cash Box chart the same week), almost six weeks to the day after the subject of the recording, Linkletter’s daughter Diane, committed suicide. In an even uglier twist, the flip side of the disc, Dear Mom and Dad is credited to Art Linkletter and his Daughter, Diane and features the ghost of Diane narrating her reply interpolated with portions of the plug side. Mindblowing.

Linkletter, real name Arthur Gordon Kelly, will be an obscure name to most outside of the US, but the Canadian-born radio and TV personality was the host of House Party, which ran on CBS radio and television for 25 years, and People Are Funny which aired on NBC radio and television for 19 years. The most popular feature of House Party was Kids Say the Darndest Things, where Linkletter would interview youngsters and the audience would howl at their naïveté. A series of books followed which contained the humorous comments made on-air by the kids, and serial sex abuser Bill Cosby would steal the idea for his own TV series in the late 1990s. In Britain troubled TV personality Michael Barrymore would do the same thing at the same time with Kids Say the Funniest Things. There’s a lesson in this: don’t host TV programmes about kids unless you want to screw up your career.

Diane Linkletter was a troubled soul, a wannabe actress forever in the shadow of her far more famous father. After dabbling with LSD (well, it was the 60s) and suffering from depression over her lack of career, she jumped to her death from her sixth-floor apartment. Linkletter senior blamed the drugs, however police reports confirm that the acid was not to blame, and friends confirmed that she had become increasingly depressed in recent weeks.

We Love You, Call Collect was first issued, earlier that same year, by Christian record label Word, and – in a deeply cynical move - picked up for distribution by Capitol after Diane’s death. Her untimely passing would also inspire fledgling movie director John Waters, who assembled his cast of Dreamlanders - Divine, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pierce – the day following her death to produce a mostly improvised short film based on the tragedy. The film features clips from both sides of the disc, used without permission. Waters himself called The Diane Linkletter Story “the worst taste thing I ever did.”

In the summer of 1971 Linkletter and Word issued a full length album We Love You, Call Collect Plus Interviews With Young Drug Users. In the sleeve notes, penned by Linkletter himself, Art hopes that “this album could be the jumping-off point in a family rap session which might then serve as the beginning of a communication bridge between the young and the old.” Given the circumstances, you have to admit that was an unfortunate turn of phrase…

Enjoy!

Download Call HERE


Download Mom HERE

Friday, 30 August 2019

The Joanne Duo Revisited

Way back in the mists of time, well, last November to be exact I first introduced you to cabaret lounge act The Joanne Duo, and bemoaned the fact that, although I knew of at least four releases by them, I had only been able to track down a copy of one, the Feelings EP. Well now, thanks to my friend Conrad Zimmer, I am able to bring you a couple of select cuts from their album, Together.

Issued on the Kent-based Eron label in 1977, Together is one of the most despondent records you will ever hear. And there’s the rub. The Joanne Duo worked - a lot. How could an act that maintained a successful career for around two decades and kept themselves busy working cabaret clubs, cruise ships and the like have made such an appallingly bad record?

Recorded “in the summer of 1977 when the duo were playing their second successful season at Maddieson’s Chalet Hotel, St. Margaret’s Bay, Kent”, some of the blame has to lie with the producer. Sure, Eron was a small outfit and had tight budgets, but surely they could have afforded a few extra hours in the studio to fix the numerous fluffs and mistakes? And why does everything sound so unmitigatedly miserable? Where’s the spark? How can a couple who wore sequins for a living sound like they’ve just od-d on Mogadon? It doesn’t make any sense. They must have kept audiences happy with their live act, but my God you’d be disappointed if you queued up after a performance to buy a copy of this album from the boot of their car. Try to imagine the horror as you slapped this on your record deck and heard Tom’s appalling Louis Armstrong impersonation. Ghastly.

The album’s sleeve notes give us some idea: “The album was recorded without the doubtful benefit of double-tracking and there are no added instruments or session men. Thus the sound listeners hear on this record is a fair reproduction of the duo’s normal playing - bearing in mind, of course, that the record cannot reflect the duo’s professionalism in their visual performance, which is an important part of their act.” Joanne, as I previously revealed, was also a drummer (as can be seen from the EP sleeve here: the same photo was used for the front cover of the album), but she’s not playing drums here: all the ‘rhythm’ comes from her organ’s inbuilt drum machine. It all makes for a rather funereal feel.

Anyway, thanks to Conrad – and to label owner/producer/Joanne Duo manager Ron Milner’s copious sleeve notes - I can now bring you a bit more information about the couple that I had last year.

At 16, Joanne was playing accordion with small dance bands in her native Yorkshire and taking part in amateur musical productions. She later emigrated to Australia and during the crossing entertained the passengers with her musical prowess. On her return to Britain, she worked for a while at a Pontin’s holiday camp, and as a resident solo accordionist in a hotel in Wetherby, where she met Tom. According to the notes on their first EP, Joanne “ was equally successful as a fashion model and appeared briefly in the film Holiday on the Buses.” She’s not credited at IMDB, so my assumption here is that she appeared as one of the many uncredited extras.

Tom began playing the flugelhorn in a brass band at the age of seven, and by 21 had mastered most brass instruments. He played with the Yorkshire Copper Works Band, the Leeds Musical Society Symphony Orchestra, and played semi-professionally on the local pub circuit. Meeting Joanne at the Alpine Inn in Wetherby (destroyed in a fire in 2006) they decided to form a duo, both musically and in life, marrying shortly afterwards.

Joanne went on to master the electric organ (as you’ll hear on the tracks below) and Tom generally played tuba, trumpet, ukulele, and harmonica. They toured extensively and were a particularly popular draw at US forces bases in Europe. The duo issued their first EP, again via Eron, in 1976, having moved south and settled in Kingsdown, Kent, in a bungalow overlooking the Channel.  

You can learn more about Eron and its roster at Conrad’s site HERE 

I hope that both Joanne and Tom are still with us and that they're both happy. They clearly adored each other and I'd feel a lot less mean knowing that they were still at home in their bungalow overlooking the Channel, reflecting on a long and successful career and not caring tow figs what I might think of their recorded output. For now, here are the standout tracks from Together: Until It’s Time For You To Go and By the Time I Get To Phoenix. Enjoy!

Download Until HERE





Download Phoenix HERE


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