Friday, 30 December 2011

No Way!

Rumours persist that the ‘group’ responsible for today’s atrocity were put together by someone within the music industry as a joke, and that two A&R men bet each other that they could get the worst song imaginable to number one. Well, I ain’t laughing.

Possibly the homeliest foursome ever to trouble Saturday morning TV, Vanilla was a girl group from Barnet, London consisting of sisters Frances and Alison Potter, plus their friends Alida Swart and Sharon Selby. Releasing just two singles for EMI in 1997 and 1998, it is the first of these we feature today.

No Way No Way reached the dizzying heights of number 14 in the UK Singles Chart. Based on the late Italian film composer Piero Umiliani's one-off novelty hit Mah Nà Mah Nà (later popularised by the Muppets and by its inclusion in many Benny Hill episodes), the video which accompanied the single (filmed, incidentally, in Brockwell Lido – not Charlton as claimed by Wikipedia) won the dubious title of Worst Music Video Ever on the 1997 ITV Chart Show end-of-year special. The song itself was voted number 26 on Channel 4's 100 Worst Pop Records.

Pretty much forgotten now, the band was just one of a plethora of appalling girl combos put together in the rush to find a second Spice Girls. One can imagine how it went in the planning meeting: “We need another ‘zig-a-zig-ahhh’!” “What about ‘mah-na-mah-na’? It sounds a bit similar; it’s got the same number of syllables.” “Perfect: gold discs all round!”

The follow-up, True to Us, managed to scrape in at 36 in the UK charts: the foursome failed to release any further singles, were dropped by their company and quietly disbanded.


Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cavalcade 4

Two bites of the glace cherry today to finish off our 2011 Christmas Cavalcade, although admittedly I’m cheating a bit with one of them as it’s not a record per se, having never appeared (at least not so far) on vinyl or CD

First us is the ridiculous Cheeky Girls with Have A Cheeky Christmas – just the sort of tune you should be kicking up your heels over after enjoying too much turkey and before settling down to the Queen’s Speech. Principally famous these days for one half of the Transylvanian twins having been knobbed by useless former LibDem MP and wannabe celebrity Lemsip Nodick, the duo first came to fame on the TV ‘talent’ show Popstars: The Rivals, achieving chart success with four top ten hits between 2002 and 2004, the biggest being their debut single, Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum), which has sold more than 1.2 million copies worldwide but was voted the worst pop record of all time in a Channel 4 poll.

A tad unfair, I think, as this particular offering is far, far worse…even if it did manage to scrape into the UK top 10 in 2003. Inane lyrics in comedy broken English, the CD single even included a Christmas remix of their insufferable debut, which was pretty much exactly the same song with a bunch of sleigh bells tacked on. Ugh.
The second track, and the final one for this year’s Christmas Cavalcade, is not exactly a record, but I felt you masochists would enjoy it anyway. It’s a brand-spanking new version of the Band Aid hit Do they Know It’s Christmas put together by a bunch of British journalists – including former New of the World showbiz reported Dan Wootton, the Sun’s TV editor Colin Robertson and the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh. A little bit of fun which has been doing the rounds of Twitter for the last few days, it should provide the ideal way to clear your house of any unwanted visitors over the Festive season.

Have a great Christmas - I’ll be back soon with more horrific noise for you all.


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas Cavacade 3

Here we go then, this year’s penultimate Christmas instalment. One more week of this garbage then, I promise, back to normal at WWR Towers.

First up is Snoopy’s Christmas, the follow up to the Royal Guardsmen’s inexplicably popular 1966 hit Snoopy Versus the Red Baron – a number eight hit in the UK and number two in their native America. Although this particular song (just one of a slew of tracks the band released about either the Red Baron, Snoopy or both, including The Return of the Red Baron, Snoopy for President and 2006’s Snoopy Vs. Osama) did not chart in the UK or US it was, for some peculiar reason, a number one hit in New Zealand. Originally released on Laurie records in the US (and on London in the UK), the song tells the tale of how Charlie Brown’s mutt had to go out and fight the Red Baron on Christmas Eve, the two mortal enemies setting aside their differences for the night, sharing a drink and then flying off to meet another day.

The ridiculously flat bass playing on Snow Man, from Bob Gerard, is typical of a great number of the offerings from Tin Pan Alley, one of my absolute favourite song-poem labels. Luckily this particular horror clocks in at just 97 seconds. Bob was the ‘performer’ of one of the best song-poems ever, Tin Pan Alley’s Jodey Is a Wise Guy, a real stinker which I may well bring you once the festive season is through.

Track number three, The Christmas Shoes, came my way courtesy of Ross Hamilton. Its perpetrators, Christian rock phenomenon NewSong, should have been shot for this horrifically sentimental pap: written by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstromy this garbage, about a small boy who wants to buy his mother some new shoes that she can wear when she meets God later that night, provided the inspiration for an equally sickening film of the same name. Truly music to slit your wrists to, The Christmas Shoes made the coveted number one spot on Billboard for one week in January 2001. This song made me feel so ill I was forced to play Rock Music by the Pixies incredibly loudly just to get the evil noise out of my head. NewSong are one of the biggest acts on the Xian music scene, and founders of the Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, the United States' largest annual Christian music tour.

Today’s final two ‘songs’, if you can call them that, come from Christmas in the Stars, the Star Wars Christmas Album. You may recall that we featured another track, R2D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Jon Bon Jovi’s professional recording debut, here last year. Today we present a bunch of droids singing Merry, Merry Christmas and C3PO, aka Anthony Daniels, retelling the classic T’was the Night Before Christmas (retitled here A Christmas Sighting) with a suitably Star Warsian bent. It won’t be long before George Lucas decides to remaster this album, add in a CGI JarJar Binks and repackage it as Star Wars Episode 5a, or some such nonsense.

On Friday I’ll bring you the final instalment in this year’s Christmas Cavalcade. Until then…enjoy!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Cavalcade Part Two

It should come as no surprise that the festive season has been providing song-poets with a bottomless barrel of maudlin sentiment for decades. Along with US Presidents, Elvis and life-threatening diseases or injuries Christmas is easily one of the most popular subjects for budding lyricists. As another Christmas approached your average song-shark would have been rubbing his calloused hands with so much glee it’s a wonder they didn’t catch fire.

The first three tracks in today’s slice of festive hokum come from the MSR release 1978 Christmas Album. I’m not a huge fan of latter-day MSR, that omnipresent washy synthesiser is a real turn off for me (as it is for fellow song-poem collector and blogger Bob Purse), but if you look past that you’ll discover some real stinkers, such as those presented for your enjoyment today.

Most of this album is just mediocre, the songs wouldn’t sound out of place playing in a lift or as muzak in a supermarket, but the first track, Merry Christmas From Tonga, the Friendly Island, which comes from the splendidly-named Sione Lavemai Finau (an author who provided the ‘lyrics’ to three tracks on this particular compilation) is an exception. 1978 was a particularly creative (and probably expensive) year for Sione, as he also managed to get a song placed on another MSR release, the Special 1978 Gospel Album.

Next up is the distinctly un-cheerful Christmas Cheer, with words by song-poet Joan Tomaini. I believe Joan is being thoroughly altruistic in asking her listeners to think of those less fortunate than themselves during the Christmas period, but the line ‘does anyone ever think of those whose life compares to a dead rose’ has me in stitches.

The final cut from this particular album, Christmas Events (with words by Joseph Pullum) is shameless, stealing snatches of music and lyrics from Christmas standards luckily no longer protected by copyright. It’s a jolly romp though, and wouldn’t be out of place on a 70s BBC Christmas special. Like Sione, Joseph also decided to take another crack at the Christmas charts courtesy of MSR – he has two songs on this collection and a third, Christmas Time, appears on their album A Gift of Christmas Spirit for 1980.

Last, but by no means least, I’ve included a track from another song-poem album, My Gift To You on the Royal Master label released, I’m guessing (as there’s no date mentioned anywhere) at around the same time. Sung by Linda Lane, with lyrics by Florine Fisher, Christmas is Coming is pretty standard stuff but has some wonderfully stupid words. I particularly like how mundane this particular family’s wants were – a shawl, a pair of house shoes, some gloves, a scarf, a doll, a train set and a pipe. Come on people, it’s Christmas! What about a PS3, a flat-screen TV or an iPad?

There are worse Christmas-themed song-poems out there: check out the excellent compilation Daddy, Is Santa Really Six foot Four for some real howlers, but the four I've chosen for you today have not - to the best of my knowledge - been shared on the interwebs before. So, as ever, enjoy!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Christmas Cavalcade Part 1

It’s December, which means it must be time to torture you, dear readers (and listeners) with a barrage of bad Christmas records. It’s my hope that, come Christmas Day, you’ll have enough material to compile a CD’s worth of terrible tunes; a festive farrago if you will. The music in today’s batch comes from my good friend and long-time WWR follower Ross Hamilton.

I’m seriously indebted to him for bringing this first horror to my attention, as it’s one I’d not come across before: The Night KITT Saved Christmas.

Now, I’m sure that most of you are aware that the former-Knight Rider, former-Baywatch, former-Britain’s Got Talent host David Hasselhoff has somehow managed to carve himself a secondary career (especially, for some unknown reason, in Austria) as a balladeer – his first career, of course, being that of a drunken, cheeseburger-demolishing bad parent. He’s actually released 16 albums since his first, Night Rocker, appeared in 1985. This track predates that by a couple of years (Dr Demento featured it on his radio programme in 1984) and it seems that Hasselhoff had yet to discover his singing chops, instead ‘rapping’ his way through this abortion. As Ross himself puts it: “The Hoff has committed quite a few crimes against music down the years but this is one of the earliest, as far as I can tell. It is sung over the Knight Rider theme and tells how Santa disappears over Christmas and so KITT must steam in and pull the reindeers along. Oh dear God, this is bad.”

The next track, also supplied by Ross, had me laughing out loud. Based on the blind singer-songwriter Leon Payne’s song of the same name (more famously covered by Elvis Costello and the Attractions), Psycho by Thirsty Dave's Western Caravan – who claim to be the best-known, most-booked western swing band in New York - is genius. Formed in 1995 and still going strong, Psycho is taken from their 2001 album Yellow Texas Moon. The original song was inspired by a visit by the Payne to ‘see’ Hitchcock’s Psycho (according to his daughter Myrtie) rather than the long-believed story that it was composed by Payne in reaction to Charles Whitman who, in 1966, strangled his mother to death, stabbed his wife and then climbed to the top of the tower at the University of Texas Library, opening fire on the unsuspecting crowd below and killing 16 people.

Today’s final cut is from Red Sovine, featured earlier at WWR for his maudlin monstrosity Teddy Bear. This offering, Santa Is A Texas Cowboy, is surprisingly upbeat for the master of the morose; released in 1974 and credited to Red Sovine and the Girls (it reappeared on his 1978 album Christmas With Red Sovine), it actually features ole Red singing, a break from his usual monotonous spoken-word delivery.

Thanks Ross, for this batch of horrors. More next week.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Say May-Vin

A quick, slightly early post to round off November. From next week I'll be bringing you the usual annual debauchery known as the World's Worst records' Christmas Countdown. Until then, let me introduce you to  Mavin James.

I know very little about Mavin (Say May-Vin) James apart from the fact that this middle-aged crooner released at least three 45s on his own Havasong label, based in Rochester, Kent, in 1986/87.

The following info is almost entirely gleaned from the sleeve of this particular single, the third in the series, My Dad/Together in Iceland (complete with any errors in punctuation, spelling and/or syntax):

Mavin was born in King’s Cross and lived in Bloomsbury, London until the age of 10, when he moved with his family to Greenford, Middlesex. There he lived until the age of 22 thereafter moving to Rochester in Kent and becoming by adoption a “MAN OF KENT”.

Whilst living in Greenford he began Playing Piano at Parties and soon found, that in addition to enjoying himself he was also being paid. His enthusiasm knew no bounds and soon he was known to one-and-all as HE WHO NEVER STOPS, himself considering no party a success, unless all were exhausted.

Moving to Rochester, by now lucky enough to have a lovely Wife, fortune smiled and life was able to be lived to it’s full, Piano playing becoming but a distant memory. INEXPLICABLY MANY YEARS LATER whilst working, Mavin began to sing. Two Hours later his first Song was complete, Words and Music.

Thus was born, Mavin the Songwriter.

Single 3, written by Mavin some time ago, relates to most everybody in varying degrees and Side B, is for those who enjoy a Lively beat.

I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a ‘Lively beat’? Clearly Mavin himself was a bit of a fan: his first single – He-Be-Har-Be/Me-Me and You – is described on the sleeve as a ‘Disco Dance’, and you don’t get a more lively beat than that. Incidentally there was a second Havasong Music, which existed at the same time as Mavin’s company, which published songs by Billy Childish (for acts including the Milkshakes and Thee Headcoatees) and the Prisoners. By strange coincidence Childish (real name Steven John Hamper) originally hailed from Kent, but he had already been living in London for some time when the two Havasongs were in business.

There's something utterly beguiling about Mavin's delivery of the a-side; it's a sweet, naive little ditty which you could easily imagine being performed by Clive Dunn. However nothing can prepare you for the b-side. Together in Iceland, drenched in reverb and with its blippy organ sounds more like a lost Joe Meek masterpiece than the late 80s electropop you'd assume Mavin was going for.

I'll guarantee after a listen or two you'll be humming this one, or suddenly catch yourself singing snatches of the infectious lyrics: "I'll come with you to Iceland, I'll be there to keep you warm," or "In Iceland together, together we'll be."

So, enjoy both sides of Mavin James' third - and seemingly last - single: My Dad/Together in Iceland.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Broken Face

A wonderfully pugnacious, mean spirited and misogynistic piece of pop from Norm Buns (this time accompanied by the Five Stars), the chief vocalist on the Sterling song-poem label during its golden years and the performer of such song-poem classics as The Human Breakdown of Absurdity, Black and I’m Proud, Darling You Make Me Angry and Set Your Date on Time.

There are a number of song-poem records about spousal abuse (My Husband, Lover, Friend by Bobbi Blake, for example, written by a stupid woman who forgave the asshole who beat her) but this particular track, Hard Head, is exceptionally vicious: “When I’m through with you the doctor’s will scream, your face will look like it’s been in the mixing machine….”, “I’ll strangle you”, “I’ll break up your nose” and so on. It reads like a check list for the Women’s Aid helpline; the fact that it comes all dressed up in a happy, country-lite sauce only serves to underline how little respect is shown (or at least used to be shown) to the victims of domestic violence.

The song is credited to Charles Storr (the man who obviously had issues with his Missus) and Lew Tobin, the Boston-based song-poem veteran who set up Sterling records and also ran the Five Star Music Masters demo facility. Lew’s song-poem empire was one of the longest-running of them all, having kept itself busy from the 1940s up until the 1990s soliciting lyrics from would-be songwriters with ads in magazines such as Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Billboard, Railroad Magazine and, later, Ebony. Tobin himself was active from the 1920s: he co-wrote a song called Lonesome Willie Blues, which was copyrighted in 1925, and he scored the music for an unknown number of songs for the song-poem sheet music company Nordyke in the 30s and 40s before establishing Five Star, Sterling and their various spinoffs. His wife, Shelley Stuart, was also a singer who appeared on a number of Lew’s releases, notably Yummy, Yummy Dum-Dum (recorded by Five Star for Delicks Records and the brilliantly-named album The 12 Most Unpopular Songs) and Vampire Husband.

It's just a shame it's so short: at a touch over 100 seconds long Hard Head  must beone of the shortest songs I've posted for you so far; but it;'s also one of the best. 


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Jailhouse Sucks

Welcome, my friends, to the mad, mad world of Eilert Pilarm – a land where every day is Christmas and everyone spends their evening at karaoke. Born Eilert Dahlberg in 1953 in Anundsjö, Sweden, Eilert Pilarm (the name chosen because it had the same initials as his hero) has to be the world’s worst Elvis impersonator. In a world full of bad Elvis impersonators, that’s one hell of a boast.

The former farm hand and labourer began performing in 1992, almost always to backing tapes, and started to build up a loyal following. TV and radio appearances in Scandinavia and further afield followed (he even appeared on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast in 1999) and by 2001 he was the most-booked live act in Sweden. Eilert’s TV appearances were, to put it mildly, often rather odd: on many programmes he would turn up, bedecked in an Elvis-ish jump suit, and start cooking, imitating Elvis at the same time. Kind of like the Muppet’s Swedish Chef, but dressed by Liberace and singing a bad version of In The Ghetto.

He self-released three cassettes - the stunningly originally-titled Elvis 1, Elvis 2 and Elvis 3 - before the big time came a-knocking: his debut CD Greatest Hits was released in 1996 on MCA, the same year that Eilert finally got to visit Graceland. "I can't work out whether he's brilliant or just incredibly stupid and doesn't realise what he's doing," said iconic DJ John Peel at the time, calling Greatest Hits one of his favourite albums of 1996.

Three more CDs followed; Eilert is Back! In 1998, Live In Stockholm in 2000 and Eilerts Jul (Eilert's Christmas) the following year, a collection which often appears in lists of the worst album covers of all time.  His rise to notoriety amongst bad record aficionados was complete when he appeared in the Irwin Chusid book (and accompanying CD) Songs in the Key of Z, the must-have guide to the world of outsider music.

After performing more than 600 gigs, the Swedish Elvis retired from live appearances in 2002. However we still have Eilert’s music and here, for your enjoyment, is what must rank as the highlight of his entire recorded oeuvre – Eilert Pilarm’s version of the Elvis classic Jailhouse Rock.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bob and Bobby

Here’s a real stinker for you, another song poem from one of my all-time favourite performers and companies.
Bob Storm‘s Bobby, an ode to the assassinated Robert Kennedy, is another great from the Halmark stable. Typical of Halmark’s output, the song sounds like it was recorded in the 50s, although Kennedy didn’t meet his untimely end, at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan, until June 1968 and Halmark itself had been established in 1967. With lyrics by Stella Smith, the music was written by song-poem pioneer Ted Rosen and it appeared as the B-side to a dreary little ditty entitled Rosary of Kisses.
The lyrics to Bobby are just awful, and full of the usual song-poet non-sequiturs: 

Far away from home and family
Lying in a cold and silent grave
Is the man we knew as Bobby
And we never shall forget
Taken away from his nation by a cruel assassin
In the prime of his life

Now that voice is stilled forever
We’ll never miss him in days to come
He was loved by millions
‘Round the world and everywhere

Many hearts are saddened
Because he is not here
And for the oppressed
Bobby always did his best

Ted Rosen, who we’ve featured on these pages before, grew up in Boston, spending his time, according to his son Jeff (who these days runs the company his father established) with “a smile on his face and his head up in the clouds, writing new songs every day”.  Moving to New York in pursuit of his dream of working as a full-time songwriter, his first break came when he wrote the children's song Herkimer the Homely Doll. Released as a 78, in a rather fetching picture sleeve, by Sterling Holloway on Decca in April 1954 Jeff would have you believe that ‘it ran up the Billboard charts’; it didn’t, but you can’t blame a son for being proud of his dad, and it was heavily featured on the hit kid’s TV show Captain Kangaroo which began its record-breaking 30-year run the following year. Ted also claimed to have written a hit song for Rosemary Clooney, but nothing obvious appears in the Clooney discography.

His companies - Talent Incorporated, Halmark, Grand and Chapel – often used the same musical beds for their output; this means that the same music track would appear as backing to a political song on Halmark, an overwrought ballad on Grand and as the tune to a hymn on Chapel, for example – and he didn’t care how often these tracks were used. It made life simple for his stable of performers: all they had to do was walk into the studio, have a quick squint at the lyric sheet and fit them as best they could around a track they had heard time and time again. One particular bed turns up so often it’s unreal: Memories (Genevieve Leahy), A Friend to All (G M Fogarty), the Galveston Rose (Nathan Ricketts & Don Richards), Near to Your Heart (Walter D Rogers), Tomorrow (Mrs Marvell Wyrick) and countless other would-be hit writers have had their material shoehorned into this tune.  

Unusually, Rosen was hauled over the coals by the Songwriter's Review magazine, a publication which existed almost exclusively to advertise the services of other song-poem outfits, in 1972. ‘Listen to what Ted Rosen told the Better Business Bureau and didn't tell you or the other 7,000 amateur songwriters he does business with. He [said] his services appeal to the egos of the would-be Hammersteins and the chances of any amateur receiving royalties or making money are very remote...He also doesn't promote nor sell songs; all you're sure of receiving is one record. As for his own experience, Rosen said only one of his songs, entitled "Herkimer the Homely Doll", resulted in royalties. You all remember what a smash hit that was! ‘

Never mind. We love Ted Rosen here at the World’s Worst Records…and I promise that this will not be the last time you hear from him.


Friday, 28 October 2011

Oh Reggie!

Our friend, and bad music aficionado, Ross Hamilton has once again come up trumps; this week he has supplied me with a clutch of truly terrible tunes, a real embarrassment of wretches.

Today I bring you one of those tracks: a gobsmacking, jaw-dropping foray into the world of disco by none other than the late ITN newscaster Reginald ‘Reggie’ Bosanquet, himself forever immortalised in song by Pamela Stephenson on the great late 70’s/early 80’s BBC comedy series Not the Nine O’clock News. Released on Pye records in 1980 (a year after NTNOCN’s Oh Bosanquet) Dance With Me, backed with Newsletter, is utterly awful. Bosanquet slurs his way through the lyrics (such as they are), the seemingly sozzled newscaster trying his damnedest to lure lovely ladies into his very own disco hell. Intoxicating stuff.

Reggie, the son of the cricketer Bernard Bosanquet, inventor of the "googly", was on the staff of ITN from its earliest days, becoming head anchor in 1974, when Alastair Burnet left to join the BBC's current affairs show Panorama. But he was not without his critics: at times he struggled with unfamiliar words, and his trademark slurred delivery led to suspicions that he was a heavy drinker. There are many stories circulating about Reggie wandering around the halls of ITN with a glass (or two) of wine, or something stronger, in his hands, stories which led to such nicknames as Reginald Beaujolais and Reginald Boozalot. However, many of these stories are apocryphal: his co-anchor (and national treasure) Sir Trevor Macdonald was branded a liar by colleagues in 2008 for stating that Reggie “had to be dragged out (from a bar across the street from the ITN studios) at five minutes to 10 and persuaded to sit down”.

Remembered chiefly these days as much for his terrible toupee as his reputation as a drinker and womaniser, Reggie was one of the most recognisable faces on British TV during the 1970s. It was his retirement from ITN’s flagship News at 10 in 1979 which prompted the NTNOCN team to immortalise him in song. Shame that a year later he was persuaded to ‘perform’ what was to become his own musical epitaph.

Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer just four years after his one brief sojourn into the disco field, aged just 51. It has been suggested since his death that he suffered from epilepsy, which may account for his less-than-erudite delivery. Oh Reggie, you know something? All news is bad news since you went away….


Friday, 21 October 2011

The Lions Roar

Today’s audio abomination was found in Booty, a second hand store in Bristol, just a couple of doors away from my office. I was browsing the shelves there yesterday and came across this horror, resplendent in its dreadful sleeve (left), and knew right away I had to have it. There’s no date anywhere on the disc or sleeve, but I’d date this at around 1979/1980, and it’s release was prompted by the wish to raise money for the Lions Club International Foundation, the charitable arm of Lions Club International, the world's largest service club organisation which currently boasts 1.35 million members in more than 46,000 clubs worldwide.

Recorded at Kaley Studios in Rotherham (where Pulp would later record) and released on the Doncaster-based Future Earth Records, this is a terrible record. The insipid lyrics - “what’s the matter with the world? Why can’t we live together? What’s the matter with the world? Let’s love one another” - are enough to set my teeth on edge (the lyrics of the B side – What A Beautiful Dream – are even more vomit-inducing) but there are a few other things about this particular disc that make it a must for the World’s Worst Records. The sappy, maudlin, sub-McCartney lyrics and de rigueur key change present on both sides would normally be enough, but the discovery that the man behind this bland bucket of hippy-dippy clichés, Lion John Pickles (as he’s credited on both label and sleeve), went on to help create Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers elevates it above its all-pervasive mediocrity.

DJ and producer Les Hemstock (also from Doncaster) created and mixed the first Jive Bunny track for the 22nd monthly Mastermix, a specialist DJ-only release from the company owned by John Pickles. John, his son Andy and Hemstock – along with DJs Ian Morgan and (later) John Smith - went on to create something of a global phenomenon with Jive Bunny, enjoying 11 UK chart singles (including three number ones) in a little over two years and a number of hits worldwide. John Pickles is now the Chairman of the Music Factory Entertainment Group (son Andy is Deputy Chairman), owners of Mastermix and Jive Bunny. To date Jive Bunny has released close on 20 albums, all of which are available from the Mastermix website.

I realise that should be ashamed, taking the Mickey out of a record released with the sole aim of raising funds for good causes, but the fact that its composer and performer was instrumental in the creation of one of the all-time musical criminals just meant that I had to share it with you. Oh, and the letter on the back of the sleeve, from the Vice President of the International Association of Lions Clubs, is so self-congratulatory (‘we have provided a ray of hope and comfort to those with little to live for’)  makes me want to go out and kill someone.

So, enjoy both sides of Lion John Pickles’ single What’s the Matter With The World/What a Beautiful Dream.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sweatin, Smokin, Snortin

Todd Andrews, who recorded almost exclusively for the Nashville-based Nu Sound label, is one of my favourite of the many Song Poem singers. His plaintive yet disinterested style is so ill-suited to some of the material he was forced to sing that it adds to its absolute ‘wrongness’; this is miserablist country of the highest order. It’s clear from his intonation and phrasing that he never bothered to give any of these songs more than a single run through, the ‘country-by-numbers’ backing is so safe and similar that anyone with more than a passing interest in singing could work out which way the tune was going to lead them. The fact that he almost always breaks off into a spoken-word passage only enhances that sense of ‘I really can’t be arsed to learn this garbage’ for me.

I’ve tried to find out some info about the life of Todd Andrews but have drawn a complete blank. He’s certainly not to be confused with the much younger Todd Andrews currently gigging around the States (a relative, perhaps?), the comedian or the chess master of the same name. Our Todd, judging by his performances, must have been in his fifties during the 1970s - the time most of these sides were recorded. Other than that I know nothing. All info gratefully received.

Nu-Sound was an odd set up, knocking out the occasional vanity or self-funded 45 but specialising primarily in song poems: from 1967 onwards a Nu Sound Recording Studio operating in Nashville, was advertising its demo facility in Billboard while in the same magazine an ‘established, progressive’ Nu Sound Records of Nashville was looking for country singers. Other Nu-Sound companies exist (or existed): one based in Ohio, another in Kentucky, a third in Brooklyn and a fourth which was primarily a reggae label. All of these seem to be unrelated, and I’m sure there are even more out there somewhere.

So, apologies for the lack of info on today’s artist, but enjoy the great Todd Andrews on a couple of truly dreadful sides - Sweating It Out (Nu Sound 79N 1404, the b-side to the equally hideous Three Little Children by Carolyn Boyle) and his cautionary tale of a night spent at a pill popping party, the utterly brilliant Smokin’ Dope and Snortin’ Coke.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Dirty Hippy

Devotees of the bizarre will already know that the French-born actor Peter Wyngarde (a.k.a Cyril Goldbert), famous for his roles in 60s action dramas Department S and Jason King and infamous for hanging around the gents loos in Gloucester bus station, an incident (and subsequent arrest) which pretty much killed his career overnight, released a rather odd album on RCA in 1970.

Titled Peter Wyngarde (and more recently reissued by RPM under with a new cover under the name When Sex leers Its Inquisitive Head) the album, unusually for the time, does not feature Peter crooning his way through a series of standards but rather contains more than a dozen mostly spoken word tracks with a range of different backings, from folk to country and western.

What's most notable about the album is how utterly bonkers it is. A concept album of sorts, it begins with Monsieur Wyngarde inviting you into his home, offering you a drink and asking you to relax as he slowly build up the seduction. The centerpiece of the album, Rape, is easily one of the most peculiar tracks ever committed to vinyl - three minutes of racist jokes to a go-go backing and someone constantly howling RAPE in the background. It doesn't get much better, but often gets worse: an odd, jazzy rendition of The Attack's 1968 single Neville Thumbcatch, the terrible mess that is Jenny Kissed Me and/or Jenny Kissed Me And It Was... and the track I present for you today - the perverse, peculiar and downright puddled Hippie And The Skinhead.

It's clear that the three men responsible for this self-indulgent nonsense, Wyngarde and producers Vic Smith (who, under his own name and his nom de plume of Vic Coppersmith-Heaven also produced The Jam, Black Sabbath, Cat Stevens and others) and Hubert Thomas Valverde had a grand old time putting this together. What isn't clear is who it was intended for. Today's track, Hippie and the Skinhead (here in an edited version, ignoring the rambling intro) is full of gay innuendo: the line 'then one night he went to troll the Dilly' translates, for those in the know, as 'one evening he went off looking for sex, probably with a bit of rought trade, in Picadilly Circus'. Wyngarde's sexuality, although no great secret in acting circles - he was known off-stage as Petunia Winegum apparently - was kept hidden from his adoring female fans, which is why his arrest for cottaging (in my home town! I'm so happy!) put paid to his TV career. Yet listening to this it almost seems that he's begging to be outed.

Still, if you like this get along to your nearest independent record store (or Amazon if you must) and buy a copy. I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Happy Fourth Birthday

Thank you; thank you from the heart of my bottom. Not just for sticking with me these past four years but also for suggesting, between you, over a dozen pieces of crap I had not heard before. My cup genuinely overfloweth. And thank you too to Charlie Claggett, of Record Finders in Virginia for sending me a wonderful Grace Pauline Chew 78 to add to my collection. I’ve already started a bit of a restoration job on that and I’ll bring you evidence soon.

But back to you, my wonderful WWR followers. Over the last week you’ve lead me towards an embarrassment of riches. A couple of those I’ve yet to track down but believe me I will: The Music Of Guatemala by the San Lucas Band is an absolute must, judging from what I’ve learned over the last few days – but as a copy went for almost $120 on eBay recently it might have to wait until a cheaper route appears. I also need to find a copy of Gary S. Paxton's The Big "A" = The Big "M", which UglyRadio calls “a cheerful anti-abortion song that manages to make Lil' Markie's Diary of an Unborn Child seem tasteful by comparison.” I can’t wait.

But today I’m bringing you two of my new favourites.

 WWR visitor Matthew Gilbert was kind enough to introduce me to the first, (I'm) Football Crazy by Giorgio Chinaglia. Says Matthew: “The Welsh-Italian World Cup 'star' (he sat on the Italy subs bench at least once during the 1974 tournament) launches into a beautiful ditty about how he's the best footballer of them all, and how he looks forward to the occasions when the manager allows him to have sex.

 “Yes, it really does contain the line 'trainer says some love tonight, allll right'. It is just immense on so many levels. Brilliant backing singers as well.”

He’s right of course; this is an immense find. Although born in Italy, Giorgio Chinaglia grew up and played his early football in Cardiff and began his career with Swansea Town in 1964. A year the 19-year old Chinaglia returned to Italy to play, first for Massese, then Internapoli and finally joining Lazio in 1969, scoring 98 goals in 209 league appearances and earning 14 international caps with Italy. In 1974, the same year he played for Italy in the World Cup, he released his one and only single, (I’m) Football Crazy, from the film The Referee.

In 1976, Chinaglia left Lazio to sign with the New York Cosmos, a team in the North American Soccer League. He retired in 1983 as the NASL's all-time leading scorer with 243 goals. In 2000, Chinaglia was inducted into the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame and was named the greatest player in Lazio's history during the club's centenary celebrations. However six years later Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Chinaglia and eight others for attempting to influence the price of Lazio shares, and in 2008, he was charged with acting as a front for the Camorra crime organization in its attempt to acquire the club for money laundering.

Don’t you just love it when a god boy goes bad? Thank you Matthew; thank you for introducing me to this horror.

Today’s second track comes courtesy of WWR visitor (and regular poster at the excellent Music for Maniacs) Windbag. I had already picked up the track in question via Music for Maniacs but it had slipped my mind. Thanks to his prompting I happily present it here for you today.

As he says of the brilliantly awful Ray Odom 45 I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love with You: "The label says 1972, Wooten Recording Company, Memphis. I can't get anything on this label, but Ray Odom can't carry a note nor get the timing.” Kind of says it all really. 

Odom was a hugely important on the nascent Country circuit, but not as a vocalist. He began his career as a DJ in 1946, starting by training at the Cambridge School of Radio Broadcasting in New York whilst still in the Navy. He graduated with honours and went on to work at KSTA in Coleman, Texas as a disc jockey, sports reporter and newscaster, moving to KRBC-TV to report on local football and basketball matches. He moved around a couple of other radio stations before ending up working in radio and TV in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the years he built up an impressive career, doing loads of voice-over work for companies as diverse as Dodge, Coca Cola and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Ray served as Director of the Country Music Association for two terms and is credited with launching the first Country music station, KMOP in Phoenix, in 1957. Much loved on the country scene, Ray was the regular presenter of Saturday night country gigs, known as the Arizona Hayride, at Phoenix’s own Madison Square Garden.

But dear God, no-one should ever have let him anywhere near a recording studio. But they did; not once, but twice. Ray followed this monstrosity with a second 45, the Cowboy’s Prayer, a horrid, schmaltzy piece of Christmas hokum which I may well bring you at a later date. But for now here’s Ray Odom with the truly terrible I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love with You.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Little Help?

Hey everybody - I need your help. I started the World's Worst Records blog on September 28 2007, almost exactly four years ago. For a special anniversary posting I'd like to know the record you'd rate as the World's Worst (or just a favourite bad record) and that I've not yet featured on the site. The one that gets the most votes - or the one I like best - will be posted next weekend.

You can comment here or on the Facebook page. Thanks!

Mayhams Mayhem

Now, you all know how much I love song poems, but there are few people I love more in this shady world that the god-like genius that was Mr Norridge Bryant Mayhams. In a career which spanned from the late 30s until his death in 1988 Mayhams – usually under his nom de plume Norris the Troubadour - authored a body of work that Phil Milstein of the American Song-Poem Music Archives rightly calls: “staggering in its scope, quality and general strangeness, with a fast-and-loose approach to crediting his work that confounds discographical comprehension.”

It’s a long and complicated career. Norridge began playing in coffee shops and on the college circuit; he worked with Chick Webb and even Gypsy Rose Lee and he went on to cut a handful of 78s – a curious mix of originals, covers, religious pap and bawdy blues – with his group the Blue Chips for a number of different outfits including Melotone, Decca and Oriole. He even authored a booklet – Experiences of a Collegiate Singer, in 1947 (reissued in 1973). During his recording sessions Norridge would usually sing lead, but the man had no shame, often roping in his rapidly expanding family to help out on backing vocals and occasionally co-authoring songs with his daughter Betty. It was this paring that gave Norridge Mayhams his first and lone bone fide hit: We’ll Build a Bungalow, later recorded by a number of artists including Johnny Long, who had a top 30 hit with the song in 1950 and even Lucille Ball – who sang the song along with then-husband Desi Arnaz on their hit TV show I Love Lucy in 1952.

The Success of We’ll Build a Bungalow inspired Norridge to form his own label Co-Ed Records. And it’s here that his troubles started.  First he got stiffed for the royalties on his hit (it took him until 1978 to finally sort this issue out) and then he was forced to abandon Co-Ed when another company of the same name sued. But he never gave up, forming a new label, Mayhams (later Mayhams Collegiate), a publishing company Sorority Fraternity and, realising perhaps that his own singing style was out of step with what the kids wanted in the 60s and 70s, employing a number of song-poem outfits to either re-record his old material or perform new compositions

Cataloguing Norridge’s recordings is a nightmare: he used the names Norridge and Norris interchangeably, and the names of other family members including wife Shirley, daughter Betty and the name Smalls - his wife's maiden name thinks Milstein – pepper his writing credits. The same songs turn up time and time again, sometimes re-recorded, often not, with slight variations in title. More than this employing a simple alpha-numeric numbering system was beyond him and his command of English language is random to say the least, dropping and adding apostrophes willy-nilly, misspelling words like ‘potatoe’ and even miscrediting himself on his own records. Just when you think you’ve found everything another odd variant turns up: at least five different discs exist which all use the catalogue number Mayhams 1958, for example.

I could pull out almost anything from Norridge Bryant Mayhams’ bizarre, bewildering and brilliant catalogue; it’s all good. But today I’m going to give you one of my all-time favourites - a song which, unsurprisingly, he recorded on at least two occasions and at least 20 years apart: Mary Ann McCarthy. A traditional song more often sung to the tune of John Brown’s Body, Norridge decided to update the lyrics and provide it with a wonderfully peculiar backing all of its own, complete with fuzz guitar, odd keyboard effects and a vocalist (not Norridge on this occasion, although he did perform the earlier version on Co-Ed) who struggles to keep up with Norridge’s tongue-twisting words.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

On a Wing and a Prayer

A regular visitor to the World’s Worst records, Mark Lammas, wrote to me recently and reminded me that I’d yet to post anything by Wing. Let’s put that right this instant.

The New Zealand-based Wing Han Tsang, known simply as Wing, was born in Hong Kong in 1960. She took up singing as a hobby after emigrating to New Zealand, entertaining patients at nursing homes and hospitals in and around Auckland. Despite her unconventional style she was encouraged to record an album and, after receiving a grant from Manukau City Council she released her debut – Musical Memories of Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera - a selection of popular easy listening and show tunes to the accompaniment of a programmed electronic keyboard. To date she’s released 18 – yes, 18 – albums in all (including such titles as Wing Sings the Carpenters, Wing Sings AC/DC and, the latest, Wing Sings For All the Single Ladies and Raps for all the Safe Parties) and shows no sign of slowing up.

More Madame St Onge than Mrs Miller, Wing came to international prominence in 2005 when she starred in episode three of the ninth series of South Park: co-creator of the series Trey Parker received a letter of thanks from her for the sales boost she enjoyed as a result of the show. Two years later she made her US concert debut and, in 2008, she performed at Radio 1's Big Weekend festival. Since then she’s successfully toured the US (in the cheekily-titled Wing Over America tour) and has buddied up with Seattle-based nerdcore rapper Rappy McRapperson for the thoroughly bizarre single Safe Computer: "Jam on it! Jam on it! Wiki wiki wiki wikipedia!"

Says Mark: “She sounds like some species of mouse trying to sing loudly, but failing utterly. Her voice seems to be entirely in the high register. Her attempts to sing AC/DC songs are gobsmacking, and she must rank among the worst Beatles cover artists ever, with her version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Personally I think Wing’s version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds is on a par with the brilliant William Shatner version, and her take on I Want To Hold Your Hand is hysterical..

She seems to be a genuinely lovely, humble lady, and it takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of an audience not knowing if they are laughing with you or at you; it’s such a shame that when she opens her mouth she sounds like someone boiling a cat. Still, I like her; with her fractured diction and strained English she’s not a million miles away from early Shonen Knife, and I absolutely love them.

So, here for your delectation, I present a track from the amazing Wing culled from her 2006 album Dancing Queen – her rather off-kilter version of the Abba classic Mamma Mia (oh, if only Meryl Streep had sung it like this!) If you want to hear, and buy, more, visit her website – where you can even get her to record a phone message for you or have her sing a very personal Happy Birthday.

Friday, 9 September 2011

You Think I'm Psycho, Don't You?

Hello everybody. Well, we’ve spent a lot of time in America and in the UK, and have so far visited Spain, Canada, Liberia, Germany and France in the search for the World’s Worst Record. Our travels are far from over, but today we take a trip to Greece, an island of culture, history and extraordinarily good food (except doner kebabs, of course), to catch up with one of the most atrocious examples of 80s synth pop foolishness it’s ever been my misfortune to possess.

The Greek band Psycho was formed in early 80s by vocalists Dora Antoniadi and Stefanos Kotatis, the pair releasing their first album, Montage Fatal, in 1982. The album was preceded by a single – and the track I present for you today – their ‘unique’ version of the Talking Heads classic Psycho Killer.

Not an obvious choice for a cover, the duo struggle with the English lyrics, and when it comes to the French section poor Dora fails miserably, her efforts much like those of Joey from Friends.

The group’s odd mix of European rock music, ethnic Greek instrumentation, 80s keyboards and operatic vocals did little to stimulate sales, although the single was also released in a few other European countries, including Portugal and Holland: I picked up my copy, a Dutch pressing, in around 1984. As Talking Heads’ original had just missed the top ten in that country it’s hardly surprising that someone in the record company thought they could have a minor hit on their hands. Sadly, they didn’t.

Almost all of the instruments on the album – including both acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, electric piano, bouzouki, mandolin, synthesizer and autoharp – were played by Stamatis Spanoudakis, who went on to have a phenomenally successful career in New Age/Classical music and who has written the scores for several TV and movie projects in his native country. The one exception seems to have been veteran musician Gary Wright, former member of Spooky Tooth, who played keyboards on the track The Prisoner. Gary has had his own illustrious career: he’s the man who played piano on Nilsson’s version of Without You; he appears on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album and, more recently, has toured (in 2008 and 2010) with Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. He also enjoyed a couple of US top five hits of his own, most notably Dream Weaver.

Psycho followed Montage Fatal with a second album, 40 days, in 1987. Unfortunately I know little else about them apart from the fact that Stefanos Kotatis later went into the business side of the music business, working as a sales manager for Warner Music Greece before moving to EMI Greece as a marketing manager. He’s currently the marketing and sales manager for the company Lights International. Still, for now, enjoy their unbelievable version of an incredible song.

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