Friday, 27 January 2012

It's Mavin Again

I had started to think, that after five years of compiling this rubbish, that I would run out of material to bring you. Luckily people like Ross Hamilton would chip in with the occasional track, or remind me of any howling omissions – as he did when he emailed me recently to draw to my attention that I still had not posted any Mrs Miller recordings (don’t worry, I will!).

Still, I had worried that there may be a finite life to this blog. But then Mick Dillingham got in touch.

Mick, for those of you who don’t know, is a music writer, record collector and was co-compiler (along with Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond) of the essential Music for Mentalists, a 33-track CD of obscure and bizarre music which includes several tracks – such as Dance With Me by ReginaldBosanquet and Together in Iceland by Mavin James – that I have previously featured here.

Since his first email, which supplied the tracks here today, Mick has sent me a slew of great material, much of which I was unaware of and some of which has me laughing fit to burst. I’m enormously grateful to Mick for providing such a bounty and you’ll be hearing some of those tracks over the coming weeks and months, but first – and certainly most importantly – he has kindly supplied us with the second Mavin James single.

And what a corker it is (pun very much intended). If you thought that Mavin’s He-Be – Har-Be was overproduced and would prefer something more akin to My Dad you’re in for a real treat: You’re Just Like a Bubble in Wine is a low-fi, two-track delight. According to the sleeve notes ‘Single 2, which might be considered to be amongst the best two-track recordings made, was recorded without mixing facilities and Mavin was only able to achieve this high standard of work as a result of continual practice’. Priceless.

Of its B-side Nothing to Do, another understated low-fi gem, the notes proclaim that Mavin ‘tends to sing in those moments in life when all appears lost.’ Says Mick of his find: "If the first single is his Trout Mask Replica and the third single his Sgt Pepper then this single is his Frampton Comes Alive..."

I’m still trying to track down more info about Mavin; perhaps there was a fourth single? Maybe somewhere in Rochester there’s a box containing the tapes of his unreleased album? Unfortunately what was once the home of Havasong Records, Mavin’s company, is now a car park. Perhaps we’ll never know anything more about the enigmatic Mr James. But at least we have these six sides.


Friday, 20 January 2012

The Return of Mavin James

A real treat for you all today: the debut single by our very own Mavin James. If you thought Together In Iceland was strange have a listen to both sides of this utterly peculiar record and wonder.

For these tracks Mavin is joined by the Venatics (aka Russ, Joan and Neill). I’m assuming these three people are related to Mavin in some way – perhaps his long-suffering wife and two adult children? You can almost hear them cringing with embarrassment as they sing the lines of He-Be – Har-Be (All Join In), described on the label as a ‘disco/dance’. Released on Mavin's own Havasong label, I love the way that he has stolen its chorus from the Salvation Army’s battle cry, and the two-note trombone solo is a thing of pure joy, reminiscent in some way of the guitar solo on the Buzzcock’s Boredom – itself appropriated by Edwin Collins for the Orange Juice classic Rip It Up. Its flip Me-Me and You (a ‘disco/ballad’ apparently) is a sweet little love song with some nicely atmospheric guitar touches. But disco it ain’t.

Unfortunately no further information on the man has surfaced since I posted Mavin’s third single back in November, so you’ll have to make do with Mavin’s own sleeve notes – printed in urgent capitals on the actual cover, which I’ve transcribed for you here complete with original syntax and punctuation errors intact:

Mavin James was born and at the age of only 2 years following the positioning of his high chair near the piano, soon found he could master the theories of music. Within a very short time original melodies were flowing from his toes and his future seemed assured. However the advent of shoes ruined this promising career and he was a has-been at the age of 2½.

Later in his life having found that fingers play better than toes he continued to play piano but eventually settled on playing the organ to the consternation of his family and friends.

Discounting the first 50 tries which didn’t really count he sat down to write and play his debut record and at first try completed he-Be – Har-Be, Immediately following up with his disco ballad me-Me and You, which is particularly suitable for close dancing when you’re in a don’t care mood.

Somewhere between the brilliant He-Be – Har-Be/Me-Me and You and the even more wonderful My Dad/Together in Iceland is a second Mavin James single. I’ve yet to track it down, but the hunt is on.


Saturday, 14 January 2012

repair work

Just a quickie: a couple of WWR followers have contacted me to let me know that the Mavin James tracks My Dad and Together in Iceland were not working. Well, they should be now.

If you notice any other links misbehaving do let me know and I'll fix them too. Incidentally, I'm aware that many of the old Rapidshare links are now defunct; if there are any tracks you're particularly after let me know and I'll repost.

New music next Friday.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Onions Onions

What a peculiar record. Recorded by the otherwise-unheard of Laurie and released in the UK by Decca records in June 1966 the original version of I Love Onions, by folk singer Susan Christie, barely scraped the US charts (peaking at 63) but somehow made number 6 in Canada. Laurie’s version – a carbon copy of the original - was featured heavily by Kenney Everett on pirate station Radio London, and made Big L’s Top 40 (just) although neither this nor Laurie’s other known disc troubled the main UK charts.

I can’t tell you much about Laurie, apart from the fact that she also released an earlier Decca 45, He Understands Me/Fools Will Never Learn, in March 1966 (F12347 – a number of test pressings as well as stock copies exist). Both were produced by Noel Walker, an extraordinary man responsible for a number of unusual hit records, including Whistling Jack Smith’s top 5 hit I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman, Amen Corner’s Bend Me, Shape Me and waxings by the Big Three, the Fortunes, Ron Grainer, Cat Stevens and countless others. The Kaiser Bill story is a complicated one: Walker is widely believed to be the performer, although Whistling Jack’s true identity is unknown - he could simply be one of the many members of the Mike Sammes Singers, the uncredited group who back up the lead whistler on the single. Coby Wells, aka Billy Moeller, was used by Deram, the Decca subsidiary that released the single, to ‘front’ later releases and TV appearances but he was recruited after the initial single was recorded and in his TV appearances simply lip-syncs (or whistle-syncs) to the track; John O'Neill, who whistled the main theme to the Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is also occasionally cited as the original performer.

The music director on I Love Onions was Ivor Raymonde, grabbing a credit here for doing absolutely bog all – he’s simply recreated the Susan Christie arrangement note for note, including the breathy vocals, the kazoo and the backing chorus. Ivor often worked together with Noel Walker, but today is best remembered as the co-author and arranger of several Dusty Springfield tracks, including her breakthrough solo hit I Only Want to Be with You. He has also worked with artists as diverse as Anne Shelton, Ian Dury, Frankie Vaughan, Julio Iglesias, and the late Edward Woodward. After working as a musical arranger at the BBC, Ivor became a producer at Philips, working with Marty Wilde and with folk trio the Springfields. When Dusty decided to go solo in 1963 Ivor offered her a tune he'd written with lyricist Mike Hawker: I Only Want to Be with You. Ivor continued to work with Dusty until the late '60s, when she moved toward a more American-style soul sound. His son is Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins.

I Love Onions is truly odd; the a-side is clearly meant to be humorous, yet the B-side, I Want Him, is a belter, an out-and-out stormer of a track which could easily have been a big floor filler and gone on to become a hit if it had been promoted as the plug side. I’ve included it here for you. Have a listen: doesn’t that backing sound EXACTLY like the Zombies?


Friday, 6 January 2012

Hughie's Right Wing Rants

Happy New Year everybody - and welcome to the World's Worst Records. I can't believe I'm now beginning my sixth year of blogging. I'm going to try and be a bit more on the ball this year and bring you a new track (or more) every week.

To start the ball rolling today I bring you both sides of a 45 which helped to destroy one of the most successful television careers of all time.

One of the biggest stars of 50s, 60s and 70s British TV, Hughie Green is best remembered these days for having illegitimately fathered the late TV presenter Paula Yates and for his fiery temper, which reared its ugly head every time someone dared to criticise him or his work.

Born in London in 1920 to a Scottish father and English mother, by the age of 14 the prodigious young Hughie had his own BBC radio show and toured extensively with his own all-children concert party Hughie Green and his Gang. Within a year he had appeared in his first film, Midshipman Easy, and was the highest paid child star in the UK. However Britain couldn’t contain him: soon he was off to the States, appearing in Hollywood films including Tom Brown's School Days and Master of Lassie (AKA Hills of Home), in a night club act at the famous Cocoanut Grove and had toured Canada with his cabaret act.

Canada looms large in Hughie’s legend: he fathered his first illegitimate child (a boy called Barry) with a Canadian usherette at the age of 17 (the loose limbed lothario is credited with at least five other illegitimate children as well as a boy and a girl by his first wife) and served as a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He eventually married Montreal-born Claire Wilson and took Canadian citizenship, working in the aircraft industry before returning to London.

TV fame soon followed: over the course of the next few decades Hughie fronted a selection of Britain’s favourite TV shows, including Double Your Money, The Sky's the Limit and the talent show which his name will always be associated with, Opportunity Knocks: his memorial, in Golders Green crematorium, reads ‘You were the star that made opportunity knock. You will never be forgotten’.

Opportunity Knocks was the first big talent show on British TV – a monster of a programme which regularly brought in three times the number of viewers shows like the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent achieve today. Opportunity Knocks, which began as a radio show in the 1940s before transferring to TV, ‘discovered’ Les Dawson, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres, Paul Daniels, Royston Vasey (AKA Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown) and Mary Hopkin among dozens of others. However viewing figures, and Green’s standing with his production team, started to wane, especially when Hughie, already known for his right-wing leanings, began pushing his political views on his teatime audience.

In December 1976, at the end of an episode of Opportunity Knocks, Green ‘sang’ a bizarre rant about the state of the United Kingdom. Called Stand Up and Be Counted, the words to the ‘song’ were brought up on the screen during its performance, just to make sure that everybody watching got the message. Stand Up and Be Counted was released as a single by Philips in 1977 (backed with a grotesque rewrite of Land of Hope and Glory that was originally planned for a 1975 broadcast) with the distinctly patriotic catalogue number GB1 - the assumption here is that GB stands for Great Britain, rather than Green's Bollocks.

This wasn’t Hughie’s first attempt to crack the pop charts, he released several singles during the 60s and 70s including That’s Entertainment (EMI 1974), The Puppet Song (Decca 1961) and Cuddle Up Baby (Columbia 1966). Viewed by many as in support of Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher, Hughie was disciplined by Thames Television over his performance of Stand Up and Be Counted, but he continued to make political comments. After numerous viewer complaints, Thames axed the show in March 1978.

It’s odd, in hindsight, that Thames took this view. This is the same company which had made the white versus black race comedy Love Thy Neighbour – which screened its final episode less than a year before Hughie’s on-screen rant. The ITV network, of which Thames were part, produced a slew of offensive, race-based ‘comedies’, including Mind Your Language, Mixed Blessings and Curry and Chips, featuring a blacked-up Spike Milligan. It’s much more likely that they were exasperated with Hughie’s insistence that he was bigger than the show he devised.

Hughie spent his last years in relative obscurity, drinking heavily and taking increasingly larger doses of barbiturates. It wasn’t until his funeral in 1997 that it was revealed – by a reporter and former friend – that he was the real father of Paula Yates, a fact the poor woman was unaware of until she herself read it in the News of the World. Until then she had been convinced that her real father was Jess Yates, popularly known as ‘the Bishop’, who presented the ITV religious programme Stars On Sunday and who had produced Green in The Sky’s the Limit and Opportunity Knocks. Jess Yates was fired from his job in 1974 because scandalous stories began appearing in the newspapers about his private life, specifically over an affair with the actress Anita Kay. The source of these stories was Hughie Green, who fed them to journalist Noel Botham - the same reporter who later revealed Paula’s true parentage.

So here, for your delectation, we present both sides of Hughie Green’s appalling 1977 45 Stand Up and Be Counted/Land of Hope and Glory. Enjoy (if you can).

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