Friday, 28 November 2008

Pictorial Supplement #2

A pre-christmas bonanza.

It's a kind of fish, apparently*

I happily admit to having become completely obsessed by the strange world of the song poem. My first foray into the field was the awesome Marinella by Larry London and since then I have tried my damnedest to find more examples of this obscure, peculiar art form.

Over recent months I've introduced you, dear listeners, to other examples of the genre, but if Song of the Burmese Land hasn't satiated your appetite for the downright ridiculous, then maybe this month's posting, How Long are You Staying, will do it for you.

Originally released by Bill Joy (not, one assumes, the Bill Joy who is co-founder and Chief Scientist of computer company Sun Microsystems) on the MSR label in 1980, How Long are you Staying was written by one Mary Urrutia. The gang at MSR must have laughed their socks off as they cashed the cheque from that poor deluded woman. I've managed to build up a sizeable collection of MSR releases but, as the company put out several thousand singles in their 20 year-or-so career I'm only just beginning to scratch the surface.It's another totally ridiculous piece of nonsense.

What Ms Urrutia seems to have done is find a half-dozen words that rhyme with 'disco' and then throw them, along with a few random sentences, up in the air too see what would happen when they landed. Luckily for us what landed was this bizarre lyric, with such mind-boggling couplets as "I am going to buy Crisco/to bake a cake so I can disco, disco, disco" and "If I don't get hired to do disco, disco, disco/I will take a gun and become a Cisco"!

Poor woman, there's no way she could have known that Crisco, a popular US brand of vegetable shortening, would find another - far more sinister - use on the male fetish scene...The track also appears on the rather fabulous compilation The American Song-Poem Anthology: Do You Know the Difference Between Bigwood and Brush, still available through Bar None Records, Amazon etc.


*Marisco, that is.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

It Sounds so Good

Bad records turn up in the most unexpected places.

Over 20 years ago, actually probably closer to 25 years ago now, I worked as the assistant manager and singles buyer at the HMV shop in Gloucester. One of the guys who worked at the same store, Dave, was a keen Northern Soul collector, always on the search for obscure promos to play when he DJ'd at all nighters. He would buy boxes and boxes of obscure US releases from people in the hope that the stash would yield one or two gems and I, being keen even then on bad records, always looked forward to the days when he would toss a crumb my way - a tune useless for him but an essential addition to my bulging bad record collection.

This is one such item.

I know next to nothing about the US soul combo the Polyunsaturates; I've yet to discover if they made any other records - although with its out of tune, singalong kid's choir vocals and insipid lyrics it's highly unlikely that anyone connected with the disc ever made a career out of music (unless they holed themselves up in the Sesame Street band, that is). yet it's composer, Steve Karmen, is another matter altogether. Karmen is most famous for jingles including the New York State song, I Love New York (not the Larry London paen of the same name), the Exxon Song and the Wrigley's Spearmint Gum 'Carry The Big Fresh Flavour' tune. Apparently unique among jingle writers, he was the only one of his peers to receive royalties every time one of his jingles was performed on TV or radio, rather than a flat fee, leading to his informal industry title The King of Jingles.

Originally conceived as a jingle for Diet Rite Cola (a product that had one of its ingredients, cylamate, banned by the FDA), Everybody Likes It is just one of the hundreds of jingles that Karmen has written over the years, although thankfully not all have made the transition from 30 second commercial to full-blown pop pap.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Surely one of the most idiotic of the many hundreds (thousands) of song-poems released over the decades has to be this little number, Cara Stewart's masterpiece of inter-cultural understanding Song of the Burmese Land.

Released on AIR records around 1962, it's one of a large number of four track EPs put out by this company. Written by one L Hazlewood (one would assume not Lee, the author of These Boots are Made for Walkin'), this particular release also featured Bob Brown singing You're My Lucky Number, Lang Crosby performing Little Bell by Bright McWhorter, and Sonny Marshall with the odd ode Ben Sira In The Garden.

So great is this catastrophic calypso that I feel duty-bound to share the words with you:

Burmese Land is Like Monkey Land, a bothersome, troublesome place
Burmese Land is Like Monkey Land, listen, I'll tell you so

The ??? Government told the people: When ten o'clock strikes night
Don't make a noise, don't be a nuisance, let the people sleep
Let the people sleep

If a permit you should get you can make a noise
If anyone asks, you can say: 'A permit we have got'

Always at this feast, always at that feast - Chinese, Burmese, Indian
Doom doom doom dang dang dang
Boom boom boom bang bang bang
A permit we have got
A permit we have got

Burmese Land is Like Monkey Land, a bothersome, troublesome place
Burmese Land is Like Monkey Land, to the lunatic asylum I'm going

With the recent political upheaval in Myanmar (Burma) the rediscovery of this little gem could not have come at a better time. If you fancy more like this, hike on over to the ever-wonderful WMFU, where you can download two whole collections of similar song poem nonsense, MSR Madness Volume 5: I Like Yellow Things and Volume Six: Rat a Tat Tat America!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Setting Race Relations Back a Century

Two for one today, to make up for the lack of postings over the last few months.

I just don't know what to say about this - apart from 'NOOOO!', that is!

Composed by John Kelly, also responsible for City Hospital's Patients, Cloud Nine and I've Found my True Love, it's another of the hundreds of tracks put out by one of the many shyster vanity recordings outfits such as MSR, AIR, Preview and so on in the 50s and 60s, yet another gem from the song-poem subculture. It's singer is not mentioned on the disc's label - credited as it is to the MSR Singers - but it sounds to me too much like MSR stalwart Buddy Raye to be anyone else on lead vocals.

This blatantly racist paean, which kicks off like a rip-off of the great Billie Holliday standard Strange Fruit, defies description; just listen.

God Forgives, the Black Angels Don't!

There's a chance that, if you consider yourself to be a bad record aficionado, you're probably a fan of bad movies too. I love the work of Edward D Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda et al), the exploitation films of Kroger Babb (Mom and Dad), and others far to numerous to mention; check out the listings for the Paranormal Channel (who have recently come up with such delights as the Corpse Grinders, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla and The Bat) if you want to get an idea of what I mean.

The late 60's, early 70's produced a slew of terrible movies, many of which fed on middle America's fear of pot smoking hippies and biker gangs, including She Devils on Wheels and the execrable Black Angels. Which is where we come in.

The Black Angels is a dreadful, dreadful, little piece of schlock (so bad it's actually quite good) about the turf war between two gangs, with a little race rivalry thrown in for good measure. For years the white Serpents and the black Choppers have battled each other, united only by their mutual hatred for a local police officer, Lieutenant Harper. A Chopper member is killed in a fight with Chainer, the leader of the Serpents, and after the Serpents accept new biker Johnny Reb into their ranks, they ride into town to mete out punishment. Returning to their hideout, the gang launches a wild party, which Johnny Reb further enlivens by dipping into his stash. As the gang becomes drowsy and vulnerable from the pills' aftereffects, one of the cyclists, Frenchy, discovers that Johnny Reb is actually a black Chopper member passing for white. Before Frenchy can warn the others, however, Johnny Reb stabs him to death and then signals the Choppers to attack. The two gangs massacre each other while Harper observes the bloodbath from a distant hilltop. Lovely.

But we're not here to glorify gang violence, drug taking or indeed manufacturers of Z-grade movies. What draws our attention is the brilliantly awful soundtrack. Uncredited, but performed by actor/musician Aesop Aquarian, a man whose remarkable 40-year career (occasionally under the names Aesop T. Aquarian and/or the more worldly Stephen Morrell) has included guest spots on TV shows Starsky and Hutch and the Rockford Files and appearances in movies including Don't Mess With the Zohan (often as an ageing hippy or rabbi), the soundtrack to Black Angels offers a couple of bland, nondescript rock songs, but nestled amongst them is this little gem.

The Cigarette Song is a lovely little ballad extolling the virtues of the noxious weed, including lung cancer. Have a listen, but pay close attention to the third verse...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Shooby Doobie Don't

There's an art to scat singing - that odd noise that some jazz men and women (Cleo Lane, the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and others) make, not unlike a cat being strangled but definitely nothing to do with the other definition of the word 'scat'. You either like it or hate it and personally, unless it's Ella or Louis I can live without it.

But one man made such an impression that he will forever be linked with the world of scat. Shooby 'the Human Horn' Taylor never quite managed to get it together to release an album, although his son - William Taylor Junior - has dozens of reels of his father's idiosyncratic singing (often bumbling around and making up words over the top of other, better, recordings - read on if you dare) and a cassette of 14 of these songs was released as The Human Horn and made available before Shooby's death (in 2003, aged 74).

William 'Shooby' Taylor was born in Indiana Township, PA, on September 19, 1929, but soon moved with his family to Harlem, where he spent the majority of his life. Besides Shooby's several decades of pursuing a career as a scat singer, he also worked 21 years for the New York City post office. His idol was jive scat-master Babs Gonzales, who he tried (unsuccessfully) to emulate. He claimed that the epithet Shooby was bestowed upon him by jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie. As the new York Times once wrote of him: "As he tries to approximate the sound of a saxophone solo with his voice, he hits sour notes. He spits out nonsense syllables like a machine gun, communicating in a private language nearly impossible to imitate. And he rarely meshes with his background music, whether it is the skating-rink organ in ''Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,'' songs by the country singer Christy Lane or Mozart."

The recordings that make up The Human Horn cassette were self-financed made in a small New York Studio in the early 80s. Around the same time Shooby was booed off stage just a few seconds into his act at the famous Harlem Apollo :

Here, for your delectation, is Shooby 'duetting' with the great Johnny Cash on Folsom Prison Blues:

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Sing it again, Sam

It's not often that I'm stuck for words, but honestly, this time the bon mot has well and truly escaped me.
This is an absolute pip; 12 tracks which Sam Sacks, the self-styled 'singer's singer' rattles through in just over 20 minutes, arguing with the sound engineer along the way and stopping occasionally to start over (without bothering to rewind the tape or begin a new 'take'). Posting just one track from this goldmine hardly seems appropriate. Go on, have the whole bloody album!
My favourite track, without doubt, is Sam's take on the old standard Yodel Blues - only Sam can't yodel. His 'diddly do, diddly do, diddly diddly diddly do' refrain has me rolling around on the floor in fits ever time I hear it. I also love the way he insists on introducing every song (Yodel Blues by Sam Sacks'; 'Old Man River by Sam Sacks' and so on); at the beginning of the second track, You Too, You Too, he has a little altercation with the sound engineer over this weird tick. Hysterical!
Unfortunately there's little or no info around on Sam; the sleeve notes are reverential (and idiotic) but tell us nothing about the man and his music. I'd guess it would be safe to assume this US-only release (on Arliss Records) would have come out around the same time (66-68) as the Mrs Miller/Tiny Tim phenomenon, but that's about as much as I can divulge - there's no date on the sleeve and no information available on the Arliss Record Corporation either.
Never mind; get clicky with that mouse and save (and savour) the genius that is Sam Sacks.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Are you ready Boots?

There have been some truly appalling versions of the 60s Lee Hazlewood classic These Boots Are Made For Walkin' over the decades - those by the late Paula Yates, David Hasslehoff (yes, really) and the wonderful, oft seen star of this very blog Mrs Miller come immediately to mind - and today I'd like to add to that eclectic selection by presenting you the version recorded in 1968 by Gypsy Boots.

Robert 'Gypsy Boots' Bootzin was a US fitness pioneer, credited introducing mainstream America to alternative lifestyles such as yoga and poularising organic food.

San Francisco resident Bootzin, along with a dozen or so other 'tribesmen', lived off the land, slept in caves and trees, and bathed in waterfalls. Known locally as Nature Boy, he was the inspiration for the 1948 Nat King Cole hit of the same name (later covered by George Benson among others), which was written by fellow 'tribesman', Eden Ahbez (more about him in a later instalment!).

Gaining national exposure in the 1950s through TV shows such as the Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life and the Steve Allen Show, he began to capitalise on his celebrity, issuing the books Barefeet and Good Things to Eat and the autobiographical The Gypsy in Me. He opened one of the first health food stores in the country, which became much used by Hollywood celebrities, and can lay claim to inventing the smoothie.

The man remained active until well into his 80s, and passed away in 2004 less than a fortnight before his 90th birthday.

But it is for his vocal ability that we celebrate him here. In 1968 he released the album Unpredictable on Sidewalk Records, a collection of pop covers, standards and a couple of original tunes massacred in his own unique way. Like many of the b-listers given an hour in the studio in the wake of Tiny Tim and Mrs Miller, he belts out these numbers with unhinged gusto, clearly enjoying every minute of it, but the results are predictably dire.

And, as if to prove the point, here we present his dreadful reading of These Boots...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Girl of Straw

Brigitte Bardot may be as mad as cheese these days (and a little bit of a racist to boot), but during the 60s she made some excellent yeye records - a kind of French take on the British pop phenomenon - before getting together with Serge Gainsbourg to produce some truly weird and wonderful psychedelic offerings such as the mad Harley Davidson, the druggy Bonnie and Clyde and the simply peculiar Comic Strip (Kapow! Pop! Wizz!).

Even though she was involved with a slew of great recordings, you have to admit that her voice was, to be polite, a little weak, and the poor girl often found it hard to carry a tune. Which is why although I love many of her records I feel justified in presenting this one for you, the downright dreadful 1968 single La Fille de Paille, or The Girl of Straw.

It's terrible! From the opening 'peep peep peep' backing chorus through to her inept, out of tune chundering, just about the only thing that redeems this dreadful recording is the bouncy tune and her incessant giggling. She must have known that she was on a loser here; the lyrics make little or no sense in any language (something about a girl made of straw blowing away in the breeze, catching on fire and having, in place of a heart, what Babel Fish translates as 'a large pawn mocker'!) and the performance is half hearted at best.

Still, at least it isn't Madame St Onge! There's a reasonably good clip of her, up to her neck in a haystack and miming (badly) to this from the Sacha Distel Show doing the rounds of the internet. A much better quality one than that found on You Tube is at
Enjoy, and seek out some of her other (better) recordings.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Kinko, Kinko

I make no excuse for presenting a novelty record rather than a bad record per se, as the delight submitted for your approval today deserves recognition as one of the most tasteless pieces of 'music' ever comitted to vinyl.

Kinko the Clown is the heartwarming story of a children's party clown who is infact a kiddy-fiddler (and quite likely a child killer too). Hurrah!

The Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band, from Omaha, Nebraska, existed on and off from 1970 to 1983. Essentially made up of Bill Frenzer and Bill Carey, with heavy early input from Otis XII and Jim Celer, the band's typical show featured up to 10 people on stage performing a mix of comedy sketches, musical satire and parody.

In 1976 they released their only original LP, Stuffed, on the Sunburn label. The song Dead Puppies, taken from the album, was a longtime Most Requested on the Dr. Demento radio show. Shortly afterwards the group moved to Los Angeles, working on TV, radio and in live performances. In 1979 they reissued Stuffed, this time as simply Ogden Edsl, adding two new songs, Daddy's Money and Kinko The Clown, although the group ran into trouble as quick-print service Kinko's and the widow of a real Kinko the Clown threatened to sue. Kinko quickly became a firm favourite on the Dr Demento Show and later turned up on the Rhino Compilation The World's Worst Records. The second version of Stuffed reappeared in 1985 as Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band Featuring Dead Puppies and Kinko the Clown on ALA Records (pictured here), but by this time the band had already gone their separate ways.

In October 2001 the band reunited for a one-off performance at the Ranch Bowl in Omaha, Nebraska before a hometown crowd to be inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame.


Thursday, 10 April 2008


One of the absolute classics of the genre, and one which no self-respecting lover of bad records should be without.

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was born Norman Odam in Lubbock, Texas in 1947. This unassuming chap was bitten by the music bug at an early age, performing locally at high school hops and talent shows.

Before one such show he paid for a few hours of studio time and recorded the song for which he will be forever famous: Paralyzed. Only 500 copies of the disc, with T-Bone Burnett on drums, were pressed initially, but it brought the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to the attention of the producers of the 60s TV show Laugh In. His odd collection of whoops, howls and yelps, alongside the insane drumming and franky bizarre trumpet solo was an instant hit, and his recording was soon picked up and reissued by Mercury.

Subsequent releases (including I Took A Trip - see below - and My Underwear Froze to the Clothesline) failed to recapture the distinct oddness of Paralyzed, and Ledge's star soon faded. Little more would be heard of him for over a decade, until he was brought back to prominence by Rhino Records and the Dr Demento radio show. The appearance of Paralyzed on Kenny Everett's Worlds worst records compilation lead to a contract with Big Beat records in the UK and a fairly awful album, Rock-It to Stardom.

He still gigs sporadically to this day. David Bowie is a huge fan: Ziggy Stardust was (apparently) named after the Ledge; Bowie recorded a version of Ledge's I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship for his excellent Heathen album and they've even appeared in concert together.

For more info on the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, check out

Monday, 24 March 2008

the Unique Leona Anderson

Wherever collectors of bad record gather, the late, lamented Leona Anderson will always be celebrated for her aptly-titled 1957 album, Music to Suffer By. From the same school as Mrs Miller, Florence Foster Jenkins and Mme St Onge, Anderson reveled in the limitations of her voice: according to the excellent Space Age Pop web site ( her publicity proudly proclaimed her as "the World's Most Horrible Singer."

The sister of early cowboy movie star Bronco Billy Anderson, she appeared in a number of films - thankfully all silent - in the early 1920s. One - Mud and Sand - satirised Rudolph Valentino and starred the great Stan Laurel (as Rhubarb Vaselino; Leona played Filet de Sole), another (In the Park) starred Charlie Chaplin, and a third (Bronco Billy's Mexican Wife) was directed by and starred her brother. Many years later, and shortly after the release of her only album, she also appeared in the Vincent Price horror film The House on Haunted Hill.

By the mid-1950s Leona had developed her unique singing style and made many cabaret appearances sending up opera singers. She released a single, Fish, a 78 rpm released by a small New York City label, recorded with Bill Baird (a puppeteer best known for the Lonely Goatherd marionette scene in The Sound of Music) on tuba and Tony Burrello, famous for the Dr Demento favourite There's a New Sound (The Sound of Worms Eating Your Brain), on calliope. TV comic Ernie Kovacs heard it and invited her on his show, which no doubt led Unique Records to record and release Music to Suffer By.

She died at the age of 88 in a retirement home, but left us with a small, but perfectly formed legacy for which we will be forever grateful. Here, for your listening pleasure is Rats in my Room, from Music to Suffer By.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Beatle Drag

In 1964 the Beatles invaded America, and music was never the same again. Fact. But in the year before I want to Hold your Hand raced to the top spot of the US charts, the lads struggled to crack the States, releasing a slew of singles and albums on obscure imprints as Capitol, their US distributor, refused to publish their recordings. The idiots. Within weeks of their breakthrough hit and their legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, they had the top five spots in the US singles charts. Beatlemania had arrived.

In the wake of that breakthrough dozens upon dozens of US companies tried to catch in on the demand for all things Beatle, releasing albums and singles by now long-forgotten bands who vaguely looked or sounded like the real thing. Parents giving in to their kid's incessant cries for new Beatles records would come hme with these dreadful records, disappointing their children and filling the recod bins at thrift stores for decades to come.

Pretty much all of these albums are terrible, but some stand head and shoulders above the others - either for their sheer ineptitude or their sheer cheek. Over the coming months I'll share a few of my favourites with you, but for now wallow in the mire created by The Buggs' Original Liverpool Sound. Yeah, right: the group came from from Nebraska and the album was recorded in Minneapolis!

Many of these albums feature just one Beatle song, padding out their half hour with a bunch of soundalike tracks and/or instrumentals. The cheek of this particular prize is that although it features mediocre covers of I Want To Hold Your Hand and She Loves You, the rest of the album consists of Beatle-esque rip offs one of which, Liverpool Drag, is such an obvious steal from I want To Hold Your Hand that it's beyond belief that they were never sued by Northern Songs or Maclen, Lennon and McCartney's publishers.

Here, for your delectation, are the notes from the back cover, complete with spelling mistooks:

"England has invaded America! From the banks of the Mersey River, by Liverpool, England a new sound, a new beat, has gained tremendous popular acceptance. The Mersey Beat! The Liverpool Sound! Remember these names for a new trend in popular music has arrived. The year of Beetlemania. The Mersey Beat features a strong guitar rhythm attack backed with a solid beat producing a driving, stomping, rock and rolling tempo. The Kings of the Mersey Beat to date are The Beatles, followed by Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and Jerry And The Pacemakers. In this album you will hear the original Liverpool sound recorded on location in England by The Buggs, a fast moving, well paced group that we are sure you will like."

And here we present Liverpool Drag:

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Break It!

Another WMFU find.

An exhaustive (well, five minute) search of the web has provided little information about this utterly awesome recording, but what I have found I shall share.

Gleniel, aka Gleniel Roseman, released his peculiar album Cruise It in 1985 on GRM Records, and from that album we bring you the truly wierd Cheapy Chappy and Ito. Other standout tracks include the utterly bizarre instrumental Rockin' Chips (which you can find in real audio at but it was not his only release. Oh no. There's apparently a second album, Soothing. Something Gleneil's music is anything but!

Odd is not the word. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks doing saturday night cabaret at a working men's club in the North of England, and you may be somewhere close. His drummer drops the beat, keyboards are reminiscent of Stephan Remmler's Casio noodling on the first two Trio albums, and Gleneil's voice sounds like he's just ingested a quart of helium. Anyone who has the patience to try and work out the entire lyrics gets a doughnut.

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