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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