Friday, 14 January 2022

Another Trip to Venus

A short post today, but an interesting one (I hope).


Last April I wrote about a disc I was desperate to source, a little thing called Venus, Land of Love, composed by Lawrence Milton Boren and recorded by George Daines and Gloria Anne, as Kyra of Venus. Sadly, despite extensive searching and even the promise from one blog reader to rip MP3s of both sides of the disc I have still been unable to track the tracks down.


Well, just after Christmas, friend Bob of the always-excellent Dead Wax blog got in touch. He informed me that a related single was being offered for sale on a popular and well-known auction site. Needless to say, your intrepid blogger immediately purchased said disc. I should have waited: it cost me well over £20, including shipping from the States, and there's a copy right now on Discogs that I could have had for under a fiver! Ah well, here it is anyway, for all to enjoy.


It seems that, in 1978, almost 20 years after his first attempt to get his musical off the ground, Larry Boren had the idea to relaunch it, this time adding a disco beat to his songs in an attempt to make it more attractive to a contemporary audience. Originally titled From Venus, With Love, but now called Far Out Encounters, a band calling themselves the Wizards of Wonder recorded two new versions of Venus, Land of Love, an instrumental and a vocal, the latter featuring a duet from the mysterious duo of R. Parnes and H. Daveen. The disc was the only release from Golden Age Records of Hollywood... I assume 


That's all I've got: there is absolutely no information whatsoever on the 'net about Larry Boren's second attempt to get his Venusian musical launched, or about the two mysterious singers credited on the A-side. As always, if anyone knows anything more, please do let me know.  


Download Duet Version HERE

Download Instrumental version HERE 

Friday, 7 January 2022

Mavin James Revisited

I’ve written about Mavin James before, both here and in my book The World’s Worst Records Volume 1, but to accompany the recent discovery of a previously-unknown fourth single release, here’s a bit of a recap. 

I was first introduced to the delights of Mavin James via Music For Mentalists, a CD compiled by Mick Dillingham and Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond. It’s a great compilation, but by far and away the best track on the disc is Together In Iceland by one Mavin James.

Together in Iceland was originally the B-side to My Dad, Mavin’s third single, issued by Havasong Records, of Rochester, Kent in 1986. There's something utterly beguiling about Mavin's delivery of the A-side; it's a sweet, naive little ditty that you could easily imagine being performed by Clive Dunn. However, nothing can prepare you for the B-side. Drenched in reverb and redolent in blippy organ sounds, Together in Iceland comes across more like a lost Joe Meek masterpiece than the mid-80s electro-pop you would assume Mavin was going for.

Through the sleeve notes to his singles we get to learn a little about Mavin, and with a mixture of self-mockery and self-aggrandisement he lets us into his rather odd world. Once fined 15 shillings for having left his car more than 20 minutes in a 15-minute waiting zone (something Mavin does not refer to once in his sleeve notes, but it’s just about the most interesting thing about him prior to the launch of his recording career), on the back of the My Dad sleeve he informs us of how he came to be living in Rochester and how he started writing and performing, but it is via the notes on the reverse of his first 45, the oddly titled He-Be - Har-Be/Me Me and You, we begin to learn something of the great man’s formative years (reproduced here exactly as they appear on the sleeve itself): 

'Mavin James was born and at the age of only two years following the positioning of his high chair near the piano, soon found he could master the theories of music. Within a very short time original melodies were flowing from his toes and his future seemed assured. However the advent of shoes ruined this promising career and he was a has-been at the age of two and a half.

'Later in his life having found that fingers play better than toes he continued to play piano but eventually settled on playing the organ to the consternation of his family and friends. Discounting the first fifty tries which didn’t really count he sat down to write and play his debut record and at first try completed He-Be – Har-Be, Immediately following up with his disco ballad Me-Me And You, which is particularly suitable for close dancing when you’re in a don’t care mood.’

On that first 45 Mavin was joined by the Venatics, a band whose members are listed on the label as Russ, Joan and Neill. I assumed at the time that these people were related to Mavin in some way, and I now know that Russ was his son, Gary Russell Hirst-Amos. The single’s flip, Me Me And You (a ‘disco/ballad’ apparently), is a sweet little love song with some nicely atmospheric slide guitar touches, but disco it most certainly ain’t. The production values on this first single are a cut above the rest of Mavin’s catalogue – he’s clearly gone into a professional studio and had some help with mixing and multi-tracking. Sadly, or perhaps happily for lovers of the perverse and peculiar, the rest of his catalogue – including second single You’re Just Like a Bubble In Wine/Nothing to Do - was recorded direct to two-track: no overdubs, no guest musicians or backing vocalists, just Mavin and his trusty Bontempi organ.

Mavin, on the surface at least, appears to have been a rather lovely middle-aged guy who simply wanted to make the world smile a little. His fourth and last single, The Soldier on His Horse was issued in 1988, and by that time he had run out of steam. The flip side features an instrumental version of the plug side, Drum Beat and Music Track, and in the sleeve notes Mavin refers to the fact that this is only the seventh song that he had written and recorded. Perhaps more recordings followed, but nothing appears to have been released. Maybe somewhere in Rochester there is a battered old cardboard box containing the tapes of his unreleased album?

It could happen, as that’s exactly how I managed to get hold The Soldier on His Horse. Neil Pearce, the son of one of Jim’s friends, found a box in his late father’s garage with a handful of Mavin James 45s inside, including the copy of The Soldier on His Horse you can hear here. Perhaps one day, just like Joe Meek, someone will purchase a tea chest full of material at auction and slowly piece together a fuller picture of Mavin’s creative genius. What was once the home of Havasong Records, Mavin’s label, is now a car park; not that that fact will upset him. For the truth of the matter is that there never was a Mavin James.

Born in 1931, Jim Amos, or, to give him his full name James Mavin Hirst-Amos, was - according to drummer, songwriter and graphic artist Bruce ‘Bash’ Brand – ‘a television tube repair man by trade… who claimed on numerous occasions that he once wrote a song for Georgie Fame.’ He was, Neil tells me. also a keen snooker player and a bit of a gambler. Switching his first two given names and assuming the nom-de-plume Mavin James, Jim set up his own company – the jauntily-named Havasong – to publish his own compositions. Havasong swiftly mutated into a record company of sorts, issuing the four Mavin James singles already mentioned and working with a number of local acts, chief among them the Prisoners, the Milkshakes and the amazingly prolific Thee Headcoats – the last two of which featured Billy Childish and Bruce Brand.

Jim Hirst-Amos died in 2003 (wife Jean joined him in 2012), blissfully unaware of the notoriety his records would one day gain in collectors’ circles. I hope he’s up there somewhere, sitting at his organ, watching over us all and smiling. I know that his grandchildren are proud (and rightfully so) of his recorded legacy. Maybe, if they ever get to read this, his family will open up those boxes sitting in the corner of their garage and dust them off.


Download Soldier HERE 

Download Drum HERE

Friday, 31 December 2021

Le Streak, C'est Chic

 A fun little disc for you today to round of the year… perfect for your New Year’s Eve party!

 

Born in Quasqueton, Iowa as Larry Lee Blankenburg, Larry Lujack was a US Top-40 radio DJ who worked throughout the States for almost 50 years. Beginning in 1958, in his then-hometown of Caldwell, Idaho, he would become best-known while living and working in Chicago, where he ruled the airwaves for almost 20 years. He retired in 1987, after his son was killed in an accident and he underwent heart bypass surgery, but he was persuaded to return to the microphone several years later, finally retiring for good in August 2006.

 

Larry’s sole single, The Ballad of the Mad Streaker came out in 1974, the same year that novelty records supremo Ray Stevens had an international hit with The Streak, that funk band High Voltage issued their single Streakin’ backed with Here Come's The Streaker, and that blues singer Arelean Brown released her 45 I Am A Streaker.

 

Just in case you were unaware, ‘streaking’ is the act of taking off your clothes and running naked through a public area – it could be for publicity, as a prank, a dare, or even as a form of protest. In the early 1970s streaking became associated with sporting events, and the press was filled with photographs of nude men and topless women (in Britain, Erica Roe earned a place in the nation’s hearts after streaking at a cricket *rugby* match in 1982), usually pursued by sporting officials or policemen.

 

For a short time records about streaking were everywhere. In the UK, Willie Flascher and The Raincoats issued (Everybody Wants To Be A) Streaker which, for some odd reason was retitled Everybody Wants To See A (Streaker) when it was reissued in New Zealand, and reggae trumpeter Bobby Ellis issued Streaker Disco. Controversial comedian Rudy Ray Moore released his album The Streaker around 1975 in the US, and many more would follow. Elephant’s Memory, famed for their association with John and Yoko and the Beatles’ Apple label, released Rock 'N' Roll Streaker, and I’m sure that none of you will be remotely surprised to discover that there are several song-poems about streaking, including Lee Scott’s The Streaker, and Ralph Lowe’s Harold, the Drag Strip Streaker.

 

The flip side of the Lujack 45, Music to Streak By, is simply a slightly extended instrumental version of the plug track that really does not work as a stand-alone, unless you have some perverse reason to perform the song karaoke-style, that is. Anyway, here are both sides of Larry’s 1974 single… just in case you do fancy streaking in a karaoke bar!

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Ballad HERE

Download Music HERE

Friday, 17 December 2021

Christmas Cavalcade 2021: Part Three

The big day is getting closer, but we still have time for a few more festive fails.

 

First up was suggested to me by my friend The Squire, over at the Squire Presents. Our annual Christmas chin-wag will be up for streaming soon, but here’s a little disc he thought you might enjoy, Marlene Paula and her 1956 single I Want to Spend Christmas With Elvis. Paula, aka Marlene VerPlanck, was the wife of jazz bandleader J. Billy VerPlanck, and once sang with the Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

 

This particular 45 was backed with the rather dull Once More It’s Christmas, but at around the same time that she was hoping to find Elvis the Pelvis under her tree, she was also claiming that I Got the Asian Flu for Christmas, in a spectacularly badly timed release aimed squarely at the children’s market. The Asian flu pandemic of 1956 to 1958 eventually resulted in the deaths of approximately two million people, nearly 70,000 of whom were in the US, and therefore lost potential customers for her discs. I’ve not been able to find a copy of that particular disc on the ‘net, but if anyone here has a copy they are willing to rip for me I would be incredibly grateful.

 

Next up is another disc brought to my attention by the Squire, its Reece Shipley and Santa Miss Those Missiles. Originally issued around 1960, at the height of the paranoia over the impending Cold War (and two years before the Cuban Missile Crisis) on his own Shipley records, the track was later compiled on the 2003 collection Tennessee Swing.

 

The third and final track for today is Honky, the Christmas Goose issued by Johnny Bower in 1965. Bower was goalkeeper for the Toronto Maple Leafs (surely that should be Maple Leaves?), and the flat as a pancake kiddie voice that accompanies him on this disc came from his son, John Junior. Recorded at the studios of CBC in Toronto on November 5 that year, the song was the brainchild of CBC producer Chip Young and composer Orville Hoover. Bower, apparently nominated for the role by his teammates, was the perfect choice for vocalist  - the veteran player regularly took on the role of Santa Claus at team Christmas parties, and he was enormously popular with young fans.

 

‘I told Chip the only singing I did was in the shower,’ Bower admitted in a 1992 interview. ‘But the challenge appealed to me and he talked me into it. He came over to the house and wanted to get my son, John Jr., who was about 11, involved in a little choir. So we all went down to the studio -- a bunch of neighborhood kids who couldn't sing worth a hoot and myself -- and we made the record.’

 

Enjoy! 

Download Elvis HERE 

 

 Download Santa HERE

 

 Download Honky HERE

Friday, 10 December 2021

Christmas Cavalcade 2021: Part Two

Over the years, I have featured a number of festive-themed, Beatle-related novelties during the Christmas Cavalcade. In fact, it’s almost become a tradition In It’s Own Write (see what I did there?) There are so many Beatle-themed Christmas songs out there, ranging from the wonderful to the totally awful; why not grab those that I have already featured, add them to the ones from today’s post and compile your own album?

 

First up is Santa Bring Me Ringo, the 1964 single from Christine Hunter. Co-written by Angelo Badalamenti (yes, Mr. Twin Peaks himself) in one of his first credited studio roles, and covered in Britain by Ray Alan and his tearaway schoolboy puppet Tich (as featured on this very blog last year). According to Discogs, at the time she recorded this, Christine was a member of Capella Cordina, an American early music ensemble founded in 1963 by Alejandro Planchart and disbanded in 1975.  It is, of course, perfectly possible that there were two Christine Hunters recording around the same time.

 

I’ve also included the flip side of the disc, the oddly-titled Where Were You Daddy (Q) (When Santa Got Stuck In The Chimney Chute). Both sides of the disc were arranged and conducted by Badalamenti, and although he did not take a writer credit for this tune, both sides were co-authored by Murray Semos, best known for having co-written the wonderful Busy Line for Rose Murphy, the Chee-Chee Girl.

 

Next up, and again from 1964, is Ringo Bells from the Three Blonde Mice. The lyrics, credited to record producer George T. Simon, have been set to the tune Jingle Bells (as if you hadn’t already guessed), and the flip featured a cover of the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. As well as working as a producer, Simon was a jazz critic and former drummer in the Glenn Miller Orchestra; the following year the Three Blonde Mice issued a Chipmunks-esque cover of the Ray Charles classic What’d I Say, again produced by Simon.

 

Last up is I Want a Beatle For Christmas, by Patty Surbey and the Canadian VIPs, issued like all of the above in time for Christmas 1964, the year that the Beatles made their big breakthrough Stateside. First brought to my attention last year by blog follower Brett Alan, this is the third different song with the same title issued that year, alongside The Fans and Becky Lee Beck, both of which have featured on the blog previously. It’s not a bad record at all, and is included here simply because it follows my theme; Patty and her VIPs would issue one more 45, Hey Boy!, the following year.


Enjoy!


Download Santa HERE 

Download Daddy HERE

Download Bells HERE 

Download Beatle HERE

 

Friday, 3 December 2021

Christmas Cavalcade 2021: Part One

Welcome, everyone, to the first installment of this year’s Christmas Cavalcade. Yes, it’s December already, which means that every blog post between now and Christmas day will be given over to the discussion, and appreciation, of terrible yuletide tunes.

 

And what better place to start than with a magnificent Christmas collection from song-poem giant M.S.R.?

 

For those of you new to, or with just a passing acquaintance to, the genre, song-poems are paid-for recordings, where amateur lyric writers are encouraged, usually through semi-display advertisements in the small ads, to send in their scribblings (alongside a rather meaty money order, naturally) to companies who promise to turn them into potential hit singles. M.S.R. (the initials stand for founder Maury S. Rosen) is one of the giants of the song-poem world, and alongside Preview, Columbine and Halmark one of the most productive of all of the song-poem stables, producing in excess of 3,000 45s and 300 albums over its lifetime.

 

The tracks today come from M.S.R.’s 1975 Christmas Album, 16 songs from thirteen different writers (Thomas Guygax Sr., Mabel M. Jost and Nana Smith all contribute two lyrics apiece) issued, unsurprisingly, in late 1975. Nana Smith, who clearly forgot to send in her photo alongside her cheque, is the only author not featured among the baubles on the cover. The tracks are performed by the Sisterhood, M.S.R.’s go-to all-girl vocal group, which consisted of regular M.S.R session singers including Bobbi Blake. She also recorded as Bobbi (or Bobbie) Boyle, but I‘m not sure if that’s the same Bobbi Boyle from Encino, California who recorded a number of songs and appeared on the soundtrack to the Incredible Two Headed Transplant.

 

I’ve chosen to share a few tracks with you today: to be honest, like most of the Sisterhood alums this collection is a mostly dull affair, with that horrid washy synth sound that permeates M.S.R. productions from this period, but here are three of my favourites, Earl Wyer’s silly Those Elves Have Got To Go (the highlight of the album for me), Thomas Guygax Sr.’s typically wordy and peculiar During Evening and the Christmas Wish, written by Ken Cummings.

 

if you like these and want more, obscure music collector Sammy Reed posted the entire album on his blog a couple of years ago and it’s still available to download.

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Those Elves HERE

Download Evening HERE

Download Wish HERE

Friday, 19 November 2021

There's A New Sound

Here's a classic I've not included on the blog before, despite having written about the artist on the B-side... and it also gives me a good excuse to look into the work of pianist, composer and music teacher Anthony Tamburello.


Known professionally as Tony Burrello and Tony Burrell, Tamburello is probably best known around these here parts for his novelty release There’s a New Sound, the flip side to the Leona Anderson (incorrectly credited at Leonna) classic Fish.

 

Issued in 1953 on their own Horrible Records, There’s a New Sound and Fish were both written by Burrello and Tom Dwight Murray, although Burrello had been writing (both solo and with Murray) since at least 1950, while still working as a teach at New York’s Anthony Scotti School of Music, Drama and Dance.

 

Murray and Burrello (variously credited as Burrell or as Anthony Tam Burrello) had worked together for several years, with a slew of novelty songs to their names, including Pastafazool, I Didn’t Want To But I Did, and Fulton’s Folly Blues. But major success eluded them, until There’s a New Sound gave them the breakthrough they had been looking for. Time called the song 'an unrelenting and fairly unforgettable satire on such gimmicks as echo chambers and dog barks', and reported that, after an intial pressing of just 500 copies, the pair had received orders for 100,000 more. In August 1953 Billboard reported that the pair were now in great demand, and ‘experiencing a windmill of activity’. Soon they were writing for Tony Bennett, and they even turned their hands to writing commercials, penning several tunes for Coca Cola.

 

The duo continued to work with Leona when she moved, first to Columbia Records and then to Unique, with Burrello co-writing Limburger Lover (with Simon) and Rats in my Room with Murray. In the same year as …Worms, Murray and Burrello had also written God Bless Us All, a sugary-sweet kiddie ditty recorded by a number of artists including Spike Jones (with vocals by George Rock), Brucie Weill, Jimmy Boyd, Mollie Bee and Baby Pam. and covered in the 1980s by NRBQ.

 

The following year, Burrello and Murray composed How Do You Want Me To Sing My Love Song?, a novelty for singer Larry Foster on which Foster imitates several big-name singers of the time, including Nat “King” Cole, Al Jolson and Perry Como. The flipside, A Trip to Hollywood, featured Foster imitating a number of movie stars, including Edward G. Robinson, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart.

 

Burrello (rear right) with Murray
After working with Leona, Burrello moved back to his first love, jazz, issuing several albums including Jazz a la Waller, on the tiny Manhattan Productions label (also available on Cambridge Recordings as Salute to Fats Waller) with his own Tony Burrello Trio, as well as accompanying Broadway star Pat Northrop on the LP I Love New York. In the late 1950s the Tony Burrello Trio issued at least two 10” LPs, Selections from Oklahoma and South Pacific and The Songs Of Hoagy Carmichael, on the British budget label Solitaire, which appear to have been licensed from the US owners of the masters, rather than recorded in Blighty. He continued to work with Tom Murray however, the duo writing material for singer Jerry Vale (for his 1963 season at New York’s Copacabana club),

 

Under his given name, Burrello has achieved lasting fame with cult TV fans and library music aficionados by composing the instrumental Party Dress, a tune featured in Arrival, the opening episode of the Prisoner, but which first turned up on a Chappell Recorded Music 10” in 1957.


After a long and varied career, which included time in the studio with Sinatra and tours with Tony Bennett, Tony Burrello died in September 1992.

 

For an insight into Tony’s work in the novelty field, here he is with the magnificent There’s a New Sound, plus Baby Pam and the sickly God Bless Us All, and Larry Foster with How Do You Want Me To Sing My Love Song?

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Sound HERE

Download Bless HERE

Download Sing HERE

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