Friday, 28 December 2012

A Rose By Any Other Name

Welcome back, my friends. I trust that you all had a brilliant Christmas.

Here’s a little oddity for you: a 45 released on Film City around 1964 which, unusually, is actually performed (and I use that word loosely) by the composer.

Owned by musician Sandy Stanton, Film City was one of the most important of all the song poem companies, responsible not only for discovering Rod Rogers (aka Rodd Keith) but also for teaming the multi-instrumentalist, writer and producer up with the Chamberlin, a keyboard instrument similar to the Mellotron which used short tape loops to recreate the sound of other instruments.

Film City, like a number of other song-poem outfits, would occasionally provide budding singer-songwriters the opportunity to come in to the studio and perform vocals over an instrumental backing they had already created and, no doubt, charge them extra for the privilege. The vocalist would not get to meet the ‘orchestra and chorus’ listed on the label and therefor would never know that said orchestra was, in reality, just one man and a souped-up electric piano.

Although the vocals on the song-poem/vanity hybrid Portland Rose Song – and its B-side Voice of the Rose – are executed in flamboyant fashion by Bert Lowry, the Chamberlin work is clearly that of Rodd Keith. If Rodd had performed the vocals on these cuts chances are they would have ended up rather pedestrian (judging by the music he’s created in any case). Luckily Bert decided to do it himself – and his off-key caterwauling lifts this release from the mundane to the miraculous.  

According to the now-hibernating American Song Poem Music Archive two versions of this disc were issued, once as Film City 1096 (the version you find here) and again, later, as Film City 2085 with slightly different credits (this time Mr Keith was billed as the Film City Orchestra and Chorus) on clear blue vinyl. AS/PMA state that the sides were flipped and that the B-side was credited on this reissue as Pasadena Rose Song: my assumption here is that this is either a mistake or that the labels on the 45 were misprinted; it’s highly unlikely that Bert Lowry, a resident of Portland (the City of Roses) and a member of the city’s historical society, would suddenly be composing songs about Pasadena – almost a thousand miles away. As Bert’s home town was also home to the Portland Rose Society (established in 1889) I reckon I’m on pretty safe ground. Unless you know otherwise, of course!

Mike Donahue’s book Portland Rose Festival states that Bert (possibly credited as Burt Lowry) recorded the song For You a Rose in Portland Grows, written by local teacher Bertha Slater Smith, in 1960. However this seems to be exactly the same song as he performs here, albeit miscredited: the phrase is repeated several times during the song.

Still, whatever the truth of the matter have a listen to Bert’s histrionic performances of Portland Rose Song and Voice of the Rose. And enjoy!

Special thanks to Bob Purse, who first introduced me to this disc at WFMU

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas 2012 (Part Three)

Welcome, everyone, to the last instalment of this year’s Christmas cavalcade. Each of today’s songs comes to you courtesy of our old friend Ross Hamilton, who I can’t thank enough for sending me a copy of his home-compiled collection of Christmas-themed novelties and oddities.

First up is the truly horrible Christmas on the Moon, by Troy Hess. Probably better known by bad music aficionados for his classic Please Don’t Go Topless Mother, Troy was just four years old when he recorded this virtually unintelligible piece of nonsense, written for him by his father Bennie. Fellow music blogger Steve Carey once described his performance as ‘Huckleberry Hound talking to you on a broken telephone, with a bad connection, in a big echo-y bathroom, standing ten feet away from the phone. Also he's wearing a mask and eating a banana.’ I couldn’t have put it better. So I didn’t.

Next up, a pair of kitsch crackers from Mae West and Kay Martin. Ms West’s contribution to bad music is well documented, with a clutch of awful albums, featuring dreadful cover versions of rock and roll standards such as Twist and Shout and her own feeble attempts at composition, never better exemplified than in the horror that is Mr Criswell Predicts, her ‘tribute’ to TV psychic, Ed Wood alumnus and all round crackpot Jeron Criswell King. Here Mae performs Santa Come Up And See Me, from her 1967 album Wild Christmas, recorded when the old gal was nearing 75. Kay Martin was a model, nightclub entertainer and party album singer, who later in life became a hotelier, running the Kay Martin Lodge in Reno, Nevada. Born in Bakersfield, California she released several albums, the most popular being her 1962 release I Know What He Wants For Christmas... But I Don't Know How To Wrap It! From which this cut, Come On Santa, Let’s Have a Ball, comes from.

Finally today we have Christmas is For the Family by the Happy Crickets from their album Christmas With the Happy Crickets. Undated, but probably originally released around 1960 – ‘they’ released a 45 (a cover of the Chipmunks’ hit the Christmas Song in 1958) - Ross describes this as ‘probably the worst attempt at cashing in on the singing animal phenomenon. The singing is horrible, even when sped up, and the arrangements sound like they were slapped together by a committee of drunks’.  

Thanks again Ross for all of your contributions over the years, and especially for ruining everyone’s Christmas with these horrors. I’ll be back next week with something a little less Christmassy.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas 2012 (Part Two)

Happy almost Christmas everybody! Three slices of seasonal song-poems for you today.

First up today is a re-post from 2009, as the original link is now dead and I want so much for you all to hear this - Merry Christmas Elvis, by Michelle Cody. Originally issued in 1978 on the Safari label, which was owned by song-poem hustler Ramsey Kearney (aka Will Gentry, co-writer of Blind Man’s Penis), I implore you not to not to choke on your mince pies at the song's saccharine denouement. Backed by All I Want For Christmas is My Daddy, little Michelle had made an earlier stab at recording Jack Toombs’ song, probably in 1977 the year of Elvis’s passing, on the obscure Jimbo label.

Next is a cousin, of sorts, to last week’s post – Billy’s Christmas Wish – and one of my favourite bad Christmas records of all time, NewSong’s The Christmas Shoes. It’s the wonderful Dick Kent (Elmer Plinger/Dick Castle/Richard House) with the MSR song-poem A Christmas Rose, written by the mother and daughter (I assume) team of Dollie A. Walta and Judy J. Walta and released in the same year as Merry Christmas Elvis. It’s a sin that neither of these great bad records troubled the charts.

Robert Ravis’s performance of Let’s Go, Santa is Here, comes from the album New Favorites of Robert Ravis, issued by one of the cheapest of all the song-poem outfits Star-Crest Recordings of Hollywood. Written by a Mr (or Mrs) Troxell, Star-Crest’s conceit was to present albums jam-packed (this particular one features a staggering 27 tracks split over two sides of vinyl) with one-take recordings of ‘demos’ from amateur songwriters and issue them as though they would be serious contenders for being re-recorded (or perhaps simply published) commercially. It was a con, of course, but this little-known company issued dozens of albums like this in the late 1950s-early 1960s.

For further Christmas awfulness can I direct you to my friend Bob Purse, author of the essential blog The Wonderful and the Obscure? He has recently posted a collection of Christmas-themed song-poems at WFMU – some old favourites, some completely new to me but all well worth a listen.

See you next week with more awfulness. Enjoy!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Christmas 2012 (Part One)

Yo ho ho! It’s Christmas (well, almost), which means it’s time for this year’s Christmas cavalcade.

Today we’re paying tribute to our old friend Red Sovine, an artist who has featured on these pages several times in the past. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Red Sovine, would it?

Woodrow Wilson 'Red' Sovine, who scored his first chart hit in 1955, was responsible for a barrel load of Christmas-themed monstrosities; Is There Really A Santa Clause and Santa Is A Texas Cowboy (a surprisingly upbeat tune from this master of the morose) were compiled on his must-have 1978 collection Christmas With Red Sovine, which has to be the most miserable set of celebratory songs ever.

One song on the album, Billy’s Christmas Wish, tells a tale so desperately lurid that I can’t believe his record company had the temerity to release it. I also can't believe that I have not shared it with you before. Billy’s Christmas Wish is the tale of a homeless, father-less child who prays to Santa every year but whose sack is perpetually empty.

Have you ever been to Heaven Santa?
Why I bet you know God as good as you are
Could I just ride up to Jesus' house sir?
If it's not too awful far

He might just let me live there a while
Daddy says he likes little boys
And I wouldn't take too much room sir
I'd just sit in the back with the toys

Well, when you live in a car and your father is in jail it’s no wonder Santa has a hard time finding you. “I’m Santa! Come sit on my knee, he’d say…” Ick. Shades of Jimmy Savile. Then, wouldn’t you know it, the little swine dies. Ungrateful brat.

The Red Sovine canon is the best argument I could ever present against country and western music. In a superb twist of fate Red Sovine, known for his truck driving tributes, died of a heart attack at the wheel of his van in April 1980.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Poor Mildred

A short post this morning, partly because I’m a little short of time but also because I know very little about this particular oddity.

Released originally in the US on MGM (DJ copies also exist) and later in several other countries including Australia, Mildred, Our Choir Director by the otherwise unknown Rollo and Bolliver is one of the most peculiar records I’ve ever come across. When I first heard it I assumed it came from the mid-60’s, and would have appeared at about the same time as the slew of other campy takes on British life which America seemed so fond of, but it seems that Mildred (and it’s equally confusing B-side, the Dr Seuss-inspired The Hoobaschnob Machine) was actually issued way back in 1958, and re-issued (according to a brief review in Billboard) in November 1960, presumably to try and catch the lucrative Christmas Market.

Sayeth Billboard: ‘Mildred, poor gal, is screaming as she hangs from the cliff but the boys have little interest as they drink their tea’. There’s not a lot to add to that, other than this is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in ages. It is clearly a novelty release, which is something I normally avoid here, but does it also rate as a ' bad' record? Well, I guess that all depends on your point of view. It's certainly in bad taste.

I assume that Rollo and Bolliver are pseudonyms for the composers Marvin Moore and Bob Davis (or, more correctly it seems Bob Davie), who also wrote the classic Green Door, but I can’t be sure. I can tell you that Elvis owned a copy, but that’s about it. No doubt one of you will have some more info on this peculiar little record. A hat tip to one of my favourite record blogs Lord of the Boot Sale which featured this a couple of years back.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Tell It, Tubby

I’ve never known an artist or group (with the possible exception of the abominable Coldplay) generate as much bile and downright hatred as Meade Skelton. Google him: it won’t take you long to find people issuing death threats towards the country singer and self-proclaimed ‘good ol’ boy’, such as ‘That fat racist f***ing piece of self-absorbed inbred hillbilly redneck pigwoman dog s**t…I hope he smothers his fat f**k ass with his own bosoms in his sleep’. Phew! Mead’s music actually isn’t that bad: naïve, perhaps; mediocre certainly, but not point-blank horrible. But what makes this outsider musician so fascinating is his personality. Self-righteous and obsessed with junk food, the man who wrote an ode to a cuppa (Sweet Tea) is fanatical about protecting his image – so much so that should anyone dare to criticise his work online (at, say, Amazon or any one of a number of online forums) he will appear under the guise of one of his many alter egos to remonstrate with them. He’s also rather fond of posting four and five star reviews of his own albums to try and kid people into believing that the release they’re purchasing is in fact the work of the next Elvis.

I’m sure he’s not the only ‘artist’ doing this, but he’s been caught out time and time again and yet still does it: E P Haufe, RVACountryLover, RVACountrySinger and Elvis Fan are his favourite pseudonyms, but he’s used a number of different ones over the years.  So infamous are his attempts at self-aggrandisement that he now appears in the Urban Dictionary as an example of an internet troll.

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Meade Skelton has released a handful of albums over the 11 years since his debut, Songs by Meade Skelton, appeared in 2001, his self-composed songs distinguished by his florid piano style, pleasant baritone voice and odd – some might say downright weird – lyrical inspiration. Take a look at some of his song titles: They Called Me Porker, Proud to be a Square, It’s Hard to Love Yourself (When Everybody Hates You), I Love to Eat (and it Shows) and the brilliantly-titled Hipsters Ruin Everything among them.

But just who is Meade Skelton? Meade Skelton Haufe grew up in Virginia and began playing music at an early age. After his mother died (when he was just 11), Meade became a born-again Christian. He moved to Richmond when he was 18 and it was here that he became involved in music, playing with local bands, in coffee shops and at his local church. According to his website ( Meade’s ‘heartache meets humor style puts pop, country, jazz, Americana and gospel music into a blender’. As a member of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Meade often performs as part of the The Meadow Street Band – their rather overwrought presence provides the back up on his latest release, Meade Music (re-recorded versions of 10 Meade Skelton classics) - and he plays a large part in his church’s music ministry.

He had his own Tumblr blog for a while but this appears to have been taken down – probably as a reaction to such semi-racist posts as ‘I enjoy going to Kroger’s and getting a 2 pc chicken dinner. I get baked, not fried. (I eat healthy!). So then I had macaroni and cheese, and collard greens with it, and a dinner roll. It was very good in my mouth. I just love going there. The people that work there are really nice. Except some of them have a more uppity attitude. I notice its worse with the middle aged Negroes, than the younger ones. I guess they were taught to hate white people. Oh, well. I certainly don’t hate them.’ Responding to Meade's rant about the Kroger supermarket’s African-American employees, Regional Manager Scott O'Connell informed employees that Meade would now be banned from four local Kroger locations: "Kroger is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and strongly condemns any bias based on race, creed, sexual orientation or religion," said Scott. "Our employees are proud to work for Kroger and our decision to ban a customer does not come lightly. We stand behind our employees." Although Meade later apologised for his comments he managed to force his own foot further down his throat by referring to the now non-uppity Negroes as ‘of the colored race’….oops! ***The Krogers' ban story may be a hoax; although the Fairfax Underground forum claims the Richmond Times-Dispatch as its source there is no news story currently indexed at the R T-D site which mentions the ban***

Meade has some odd opinions about gay people too: ‘I think that many lesbians are usually women that were treated poorly by men. They might have been raped or abused. They fear men, and seek solace in other women. Homosexual men are usually under something more demonic, that controls them to lust after men. Which is sinful and unnatural.’ I can see where he’s coming from here: I often find it hard to control the outrageous overflowing of lust I have for every single man on the planet.

He’s no time for the Beatles either (although that is not why I’m including him here): ‘I think Rock music is bad music, and the only Rock artist I can tolerate is Elvis Presley. But most of it is really evil. I think that the Beatles had a deal with Satan, and also you can clearly see that when people are at Rock shows they go under a trance almost and its like pandimonium for a long time - they are under some kinda witch craft. The beat in Rock music comes from African (sic). The Africans used this beat to conjure up evil spirits when they did their tribal dances. But the Illuminati is mostly to blame, because when they made Rock albums, they dedicated them to Satan.’

It’s been suggested on various message boards that Meade may be autistic, which would certainly explain such lacks of tact as this, and he’s said himself that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. But as everything in Meade’s life is shrouded in mystery, confused by his multiple personalities and exacerbated by his outright lies, who knows for sure? It's a shame, because some of his material is not without it's own innocent charm. Maybe if he spent less time trying to market himself as a country star, embraced his outsider status and quit the bad-mouthing people might be a lot less inclined to hate him so much. Mind you, he detests Obama and supports the Tea Party, so maybe not.

I am indebted to an anonymous benefactor for introducing me to the rather strange Mr Skelton; now you take him! Here’s Fat No More from his latest album, Meade Music and, from his earlier release They Can’t Keep Me Down, the track They Called Me Porker


Friday, 16 November 2012

Full Service, Love!

I am indebted to a regular reader of The World’s Worst Records, who has asked to remain anonymous, for pointing me in the direction of today’s performer – Amy Beth Parravano – and her album Full Service Love.

Although Full Service Love is an album of Amy Beth’s originals she’s better known as one of the world’s very few female Elvis impersonators: she cheekily markets herself as Elvis’ Lil’ Sister although, to the best of my knowledge, Elvis’ beloved mother Gladys didn’t have an affair with anyone called Parravano. In character she's performed worldwide at Elvis fan festivals and, judging by the cover of this album, makes a pretty mean Ms Elvis.

Her biography reads like a who’s who of Nashville: she’s worked with Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Rodriquez and Joey Welz (of Bill Haley and his Comets); she has performed all across the United States and internationally, has recorded ten albums and produces and hosts her own television show "Amy Beth Presents". A fan of 50s music, especially Elvis, in the 80's she started her own record label, Peridot Records, and began releasing her original material. She claims to have had had a national chart record with her song North Hampton Line (although nothing appears on the Billboard charts), which resulted in her signing to Caprice Records where she ‘had a string of chart records on the US and overseas’ – which again I can find no evidence for. Her official biography also claims that Amy Bath was ‘inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame’: the official list of the 380 or so inductees so far fails to include her name. It appears that Amy Beth (or AmyBeth as she is credited when not doing her Elvis schtick) likes to be a bit fast and loose when it comes to the truth, or at least her Elvis’ Lil’ Sister persona does.

In her ‘real’ life AmyBeth is a married woman of 60 with two fully grown children and is currently a pianist at the Roger Williams Park Carousel in Providence, Rhode Island. You can catch her there every Saturday, from 2pm to 4pm, where she plays ragtime piano, nickelodeon style, dressed in a sequined waistcoat and top hat. She’s appeared as an extra in a number of movies, including Underdog, 27 Dresses and Hachiko, and even has her own local access cable TV show, the aforementioned “AmyBeth Presents”. She’s written a horror film, Broom Ride to Salem, which was screened as part of the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival, and has auditioned for American’s Got Talent, dressed as one of her other characters Amy the Mime and singing the Mamas and the Papas song Dream a Little Dream of Me, although quite how a mime is supposed to sing I don't rightly know. Still, she’s certainly a busy lady and, by all accounts, quite a character.

Anyway, for your enjoyment here’s the painful Hero For the 90s, from Amy Beth’s 2008 album Full Service Love.

Friday, 9 November 2012

No Matter

Opening up my email inbox this morning I encountered a press release from ‘Britain’s favourite astrologer’ Russell Grant…some nonsense about how the stars predict success or failure for skiving MP Nadine Dorries and the rest of the Z-list celebs featured in this year’s I’m A Nonentity Get Me Out Of Here. It couldn’t have come at a better moment, for it spurred me into digging this horror out for you.

For you see, back in 1983 the man best known for predicting the future on various breakfast TV shows during the 80s and 90s released this monstrosity, a cover of the Supremes’ No Matter What Sign You Are. Bedecked in a terrible sleeve that featured the pudgy astrologer squeezed into a spandex body suit, this awful dirge actually reached the charts, peaking at number 87!

I’ve got a bit of a grudging admiration for Russell: he always seems game enough to take the piss out of himself when needed; he’s had a successful relationship with his partner Doug for 40 years, has lost a shed load of weight (something I’ve failed miserably to do) and he’s battled severe depression and come out the other side to tell the tale. Still, he did make this piece of rubbish, so it's not all good.

Although people of a certain age (that’s me included) will remember him for camping it up on the TV-am and BBC Breakfast Time sofas, over the last decade he’s forged a new career for himself, appearing on every ‘reality’ TV show imaginable: Celebrity Fit Club, Kitchen Burnout, Five Go to..., Strictly Come Dancing and so on. I thought he’d been in the Aussie outback for I’m A Celebrity but it seems not; in fact in 2011 he told The People newspaper: “It’s not about aggrandisement. I’ve turned down I’m a Celebrity about four times and Big Brother about three. I’m not someone who really cares about celebrity.” Really?

I’ve no doubt he’ll be popping up again somewhere soon, but until then – enjoy!


Friday, 2 November 2012

Two Sides from Mrs Slydes

A serious rarity for you all today from the doyenne of bad singers, Leona Anderson.

Now, I’ve written about Leona before but it’s worth a recap, especially as I’ve unearthed a few more details about this extraordinary woman, proudly proclaimed by her own publicity as ‘the World's Most Horrible Singer’.

Born in 1885, Leona Aronson was the younger sister of early cowboy movie star Broncho Billy (not his wife, as stated elsewhere) and began her showbiz career at 15. She seriously thought about a career as an operatic singer before appearing in a number of films - thankfully all silent - in the first two decades of the century. One - Mud and Sand - satirised Rudolph Valentino and starred the great Stan Laurel (as Rhubarb Vaseline, not Vaselino as I originally wrote; Leona played Filet de Sole), another (In the Park, 1915) starred Charlie Chaplin and a third (Broncho Billy's Mexican Wife) was directed by and starred her brother.

By the mid-1950s Leona had developed her unique singing style and made many cabaret appearances sending up opera singers: she once said she chose this career because “Opera singers just can't kid themselves properly; they never can let their voices go.” She recorded a single, Fish, a 78 rpm released by the small New York City label Horrible Records (motto: if it’s really a Horrible Record it’s bound to be a hit) credited as Leonna Anderson which, the label on the disc claims, was recorded in the Holland Tunnel. TV comic Ernie Kovacs heard it and invited her on his show. That appearance led to her recording a cover of the Pattie Page hit The Mama Doll Song (backed with I’m A Fool to Care) for Columbia – of which Billboard wrote ‘her cracked tones, sadly out of tune (have) the same macabre appeal as the miserable chirping of Florence Foster Jenkins’. Both sides of her second (and last) 45 for Columbia, Limburger Lover and Yo-Ho the Crow, later turned up on her RKO/Unique Records album Music to Suffer By. (UPDATE: Leona re-recorded the tracks for the album: the cuts on the 45 are markedly different.)

A short piece on Leona which appeared in the July 1957 edition of Song Hits magazine tells us a little more about how the great lady started her recording career: ‘Leona bills herself as "the world's worst singer", although there are people who have different opinions. Leona says that an artist mustn't expect complete objectivity from everyone - there will always be those who will not appreciate her act.

‘Miss Anderson was discovered by Tom Murray and Tony Burrello, who felt that since the world was apparently interested in buying terrible records, they would help meet the demand. They organized Horrible Records, signed their songs to the Miserable Music Company and released them through Terrible Distributors.

‘She was stolen from Horrible Records by Columbia, who had her satirize other record companies' artists, with sides like "I'm a Fool to Care" and "Mama Doll". Leona wanted to do a recording based on one of Columbia's big hits, but for some reason they said no. Stanley Borden, of RKO-Unique Records, knowing how effective Leona is, signed her to record for them. They have just issued her first album, "Music to Suffer By" (or "The Worst of Leona Anderson"!).’

Shortly after the release of her only album, she appeared in the Vincent Price horror film The House on Haunted Hill (as the demonic Mrs Slydes). She died, on Christmas day 1973, in a retirement home in Fremont, Alameda County, California at the age of 88, a little less than three years after her brother.

Music to Suffer By is well-known and readily available; her first recording, Fish, turns up from time to time on compilations but, to the best of my knowledge, her Columbia debut is currently unavailable. So here, in all its glory, are both sides of that first Columbia 45: The Mama Doll Song and I’m a Fool to Care. Enjoy!

UPDATE: You can read more about Leona - and her amazing career - in The World's Worst Records Volume One.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tin Pan Treasures

Recently I’ve had the great privilege of corresponding with Annette Palazzo. Annette is a talented rock photographer who has taken pictures of some of the biggest acts in music: her shots of Led Zeppelin, the Police and XTC on stage in New York are just amazing. Better still, for lovers of bad music, Annette is the niece of the late James ‘Jack’ Covais, founder of the Tin Pan Alley song-poem company, and she and her mother have been kind enough to not only share their memories with me but to allow me to share them with you.

A quick recap: Busy since the early 50s, and now with a reputation among serious doo-wop collectors for the quality of some of the company’s earliest output, Tin Pan Alley churned out hundreds of singles over the next three decades – so many that no-one has yet managed to pull together a complete discography: given the company’s confusing cataloguing system (especially in their later years when they introduced the imprints TPA and Pageant Records) that’s hardly a surprise. Tin Pan Alley was founded, initially as a sheet music operation, in 1941 by Jack Covais a songwriter who, unable to hook up with an established publisher, wound up self-publishing instead. By 1943 he was already dabbling in song-poem publishing and by 1952 Tin Pan Alley had become a full-blown record company: their first release came out on both 10” 78 and 7” 45 that year, with both sides penned by Covais himself. Initially the company began by providing custom pressing and musical arrangement work for small bands and artists keen enough to get a record out to self-finance the project. It’s some of these records (by acts like the Melloharps and Teacho Wiltshire) which can now fetch hundreds of dollars and, because of that, have been widely bootlegged.

jack, it should be noted, was pretty serious about his business, forming his own publishing company (Juke Box Alley) and copyrighting his compositions. He was not adverse to taking the big boys to court either if he felt his copyright had been infringed:  in 1957 he sued Atlantic Records over their Laverne Baker hit Tra La La, which he claimed copied his own Check Your Heart and CBS  over their tune I Hope You Don't Know What You're Doing which, he believed, ripped off his composition What's It Gonna get You. Litigious he may have been, but it didn't seem to bother the Brooklyn-based Covais too much that there was already an outfit called Tin Pan Alley, run by Frank Capano in Philadelphia, which issued its first recordings in 1946.

Says Annette: “Jack Covais, who owned Tin Pan Alley, was my uncle through marriage. He was married to my dad's sister Lena. As a kid, my Aunt Lena would give all her adult siblings, as well as her nieces and nephews, Tin Pan Alley 45s.

“It was difficult to gauge what my aunt actually thought about these songs, she was a woman of few words, though I do remember that the family would always put these recordings on for a laugh during the Holidays and for family get-togethers! There are some real doozies in the TPA catalogue: Are You Willing/Working Overtime by Teacho Wiltshire (TPA 142/3) was a particular favourite of mine. ‘Performing the One and Only Rock 'n' Roll Waltz!’ was added to the A side!

“When I got older, I'd make mix tapes for work, adding on some of the Tin Pan Alley tunes. Teacho worked with King Pleasure, Solomon Burke and Wilson Pickett, it was clear Teacho was a professional, but not from the sounds of this recording! He was more of a band leader and pianist, than a singer. Since Teacho is the only one listed on this single, the assumption was that he was the singer, whoever was singing on this 45. We LOVED these songs at work; they really got us through the monotony of the day and 'working overtime'! When I Found Love, by Phil Celia (TPA 279), is another awesomely horrible tune; a guy at my former office would croon along when I put on the tape. I always wonder, had my Uncle Jack lived longer, perhaps he would have worked with Weird Al or some other music parody artist, because I still cannot believe Jack truly thought these inept recordings were serious, well-made pop music!

“My work colleagues could not believe what they were hearing! They thought these songs were from a parody record, or from a recording by The Bonzo Dog Band, Spike Jones or songs off the Golden Throats series of actors and actresses 'singing'. My work colleagues were shocked to find out these releases were legit recordings. I'd switch Working Overtime on when we worked overtime, hilarity ensued. At one point everyone in our art department knew the words! I always wondered how these Tin Pan Alley songs would sound if they'd been interpreted by some real singers with a great band.

“My Uncle Jack, who died around 1964, actually worked with some famous musicians. He recorded a song with R'n'B singer Pearl Woods. It was called My Donkey Wouldn't Walk (TPA 149/150; the B-side, by Pearl Woods, was You’re Getting Old, Charlie). There was a rumour that Jack Covais actually wrote Paper Roses, a hit for Marie Osmond, but no one in the family ever verified it (he didn’t. Paper Roses was written by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre and, before Marie Osmond’s 1973 version had been a hit in 1960 for Anita Bryant).

“My understanding is that Jack's nephew, Sal Covais, who took over the TPA family business, remained in the music business. I'm not sure in what capacity nor the time frame. According to information from my father, Jack Covais died in 1964 in Richmond Hill, New York, definitely not in Fort Lauderdale in 1991, as reported on the American Song-Poem Music Archive website. I think there was some confusion, because, Jack, at one point, ran the TPA business with one of his brothers. Jack was a fairly young man when he died, he was either in his late 40s or early 50s; my dad doesn't remember his exact age, although he remembers he died of cancer. His son Jack Jr. was a young teen when Jack died.

“Since both Jack and Lena Covais, as well as their daughter Carolyn Donato, have passed away, we no longer have much contact with that side of the family. His son Jack Jr. is still alive, but we only see him at weddings and funerals. As far as I know, Jack Jr. never worked in the music business.

“Hope you enjoyed my personal Tin Pan Alley story! I always get a huge laugh when I see one of those TPA 45s for sale on eBay!”

Since this first email, Annette and I have continued to correspond. Although she has asked me not to reprint her other emails in their entirety (lots of personal family detail) she does confirm, via her mother, that Jack must have passed away in either 1964 or 1965, not in 1991 as previously believed. This would explain why his name, ubiquitous on the early TPA releases, suddenly disappears from the label around 1965. Annette’s mother, now in her 80s, is still in touch with one of the Gugliotta Sisters, one of the many acts that recorded for Tin Pan Alley.

Annette, I know I have already thanked you personally for sharing these memories with me, but thank you once again for allowing me to pass them on to other Tin Pan Alley fans here at the World’s Worst Records. And thanks for the photo of Andy Partridge on stage at the Ritz too!

Here, for your enjoyment, is a selection of some of my favourite Tin Pan Alley releases: I Never Knew by Verle Clapper and the Sunset Boys, which was written by Jack Covais and issued as the very first Tin Pan Alley release; Goody, Goody, Good! by Fran Gold (co-written by Jack Covais); from the company’s later years I Tried John (Joan), a slice of silly sub-Dylan nonsense from Mike Yantorno,  and, especially for Annette’s mother, Nina and the Gugliotta Sisters with Teenage Rock And Roll


Friday, 19 October 2012

The Reco Wreckage

I am indebted to World’s Worst Record’s reader Mikael for bringing today’s slice of audio horror to my attention.

Released in by Odeon in 1971, Jolly Jolly Buddy Buddy and the even more perverse B-side Molly Cow Teddy Puff (which, even if it is billed as one composition on the disc's label, is clearly two distinct 'songs') appear to be the only tracks recorded by Reco – an obscure Swedish vocalist of whom I know very little. I can tell you that his real name was Reijo Kääriäinen and, under his own name, he released a further 45 in Finland in 1978, Pahalta Tää Kaikki Näyttää/Kuka Mä Oon? Which I believe translates as something like All the Evil In the World/Who Am I? But I’ve no doubt that some of you can put me right.

Like the previously featured Prisencolinensinainciusol, Reco’s record is sung in what appears to be fake English. It seems that Reco played most of the instruments on the tracks, with Ulf Andersson on flute and Ulf Söderholm on drums. Both songs were produced by Tommy Hallden who, in the 50s and 60s, fronted his own band The Rocking'Jupiters. And that’s where it ends. Swedish website has been trying to get to the bottom of this mystery for years. Contributor Magnus Nilsson has corresponded with Reco’s drummer, Ulf Söderholm but he has absolutely no memory of performing on the disc.

All I know is that this is brilliantly baffling and I need to own a copy.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Do It In The Night, Supergirl

A real treat for you all today - not only the usual nonsense from me, but a two tracks from song-poem performer Bob Storm over at the brilliant The Wonderful and the Obscure courtesy of my friend and fellow collector Bob Purse. Go check it out...but maybe read my bit first!

Jasper, the sole, eponymous album by the Keighly-based British band, is something I picked up for 50p on holiday: I have seen a copy, similarly autographed, on eBay recently for a tenner (even though one of the tracks was rendered unplayable by a cigarette burn) but I’d advise you not to waste your money. It isn’t worth it.

The album, issued in 1978 by Look Records, is pretty pedestrian, competent but dull and full of obvious showband covers. It would hardly have been worth a mention if not for the dismal, self-composed, second track Supergirl – a sub-Rubettes Sugar Baby Love rip-off – and track three, Do It In the Night, a failed stab at white soul: a funk-fuelled fright-fest, if you’ll allow the alliteration. Apparently this is what passed for entertainment in Yorkshire in the late 70s. Look Records was owned and operated by September Sound Studios in Huddersfield and appears to have been active between 1975 and 1982 (Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded there in 1981). There is –as far as I am aware – no connection between them and the September Sound Studios set up by the Cocteau Twins, which was formerly better known as Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie studio.

To be perfectly frank, the best thing about it is the cover. Look at those hairstyles! And the clothes! They look as though they’ve been dressed by a blind man rummaging around in Leo Sayer’s dressing up box (with understated prescience, the album features a bland cover of the singing midget’s international smash When I Need You).

Most of the members of the band had previously been part of a late incarnation of John O’Hara and the Playboys. The Playboys, originally from Scotland, had been around since the late 50s, released a couple of singles on Fontana in the mid-1960s and even appeared on the German TV show Beat Club. However the original line-up had long since disbanded and by the middle of the 1970s the band consisted of John O’Hara, Peter Baines, Steve Middleton, Anthony Waite, Chris Turner, Roy Johnson and Peter Coe. Coe, Johnson, Turner and Baines all went on to appear on the Jasper album, along with Geoffrey Alan Cartwright and Denni (Tifano) Conlan.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Roy Johnson is now a full time tutor of classical, acoustic and electric guitar as well as Irish tenor and bluegrass banjo from his home in Yorkshire. There’s a Chris Turner who has carved out a career as a musician on cruise liners, but I sincerely doubt that he is the same musician, as he would have been 12 years old when this album was released. Drummer Peter Coe continued to work as a session drummer and is now living on the Isle of Wight where, coincidentally, I discovered this little treasure. I guess he has a stack of them and is dropping them off in charity shops around the island.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Love Me Don't

As today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Love Me Do, it seems appropriate to provide you with something for the weekend Beatle-related.

Now, it’s no secret that I am a huge Beatles fan, however regular readers of The World’s Worst Records will know that I am not blind to their more trite group and solo efforts. There are many who would say that the Beatles (both individually and as a group) are incapable of doing wrong. Balderdash. Each one (yes, even Saint John) has ballsed up somewhere along the line – in Paul McCartney’s case it often seems as if it’s harder to find the gold in the sea of turds he calls a solo career.

Now I could pull out a bad cover version (God knows there are enough of them, as we’ve discovered before) but I thought instead that I’d bring you something precious and rare from one of the fab Four themselves, I equally could have mined the band’s trough of sickness – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da; Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and so on – but as Apple are rather litigious and this is a rather special anniversary I thought better of it.

So today, for your delectation I present yet another classic from Sir James Paul McCartney: it was almost Morse Moose and the Grey Goose from London Town but I don’t want to admit to having heard a track that awful, let alone owning a copy.

Oobu Joobu (honestly…) was the title McCartney gave to a radio show he created 1995 which aired on the American radio network Westwood One (apparently the name was inspired by a BBC production of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Cocu). The series included demos, rehearsals, live performances, and unreleased recordings of Paul McCartney and The Beatles, as well as several versions of the ridiculous ‘theme’ tune. He also released six edits – of between seven and ten minutes each – of ‘highlights’ of this self-indulgent tosh as B-sides to the three singles from his 1997 album Flaming Pie. The series has, unsurprisingly, been widely bootlegged.

As I know many of you are also fans of the fab four and therefor some are bound to already own the released versions, here is the incredibly rare ‘rehearsal ’version of the Oobu Joobu theme tune that appeared in the first instalment of the radio show but has never been issued officially in this form. Thankfully it’s very short.


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