Friday, 25 May 2012

That's The Way To Do It

35 years ago this week the Sex Pistols were making their assault on the British monarchy and the British establishment, unleashing God Save the Queen (inarguably one of the most important recordings EVER) on the record buying public. Unfortunately they had to sit back and watch as the establishment (in the form of the BBC) ensured that their treasonous ditty was kept from the coveted Number One spot by a miserable Rod Stewart single.

It’s easy to forget that, although 1976 is seen as the birth of Punk and 77 as the year that many of the bands broke through, the UK charts in 1977 were dominated by American soul-lite, TV stars singing twee ballads and novelty acts. New Rose by the Damned, routinely cited as the UK’s first punk 45, struggled to make number 81 in late 1976 and the would not trouble the charts again until 1979; The Sex Pistols’ first single barely scraped the top 40, although they would go on to enjoy seven top 10 hits; The Clash did not have a major hit until 1979 – of their first nine singles only Tommy Gun managed to spend one miserable week inside the Top 20.

At the same time as the Pistols were barrelling up the charts with their anti-monarchist anarchy, this week’s song was hovering around the lower reaches of the British Top 30.

Joy Sarney, born Joy Crabtree in Liverpool in 1944, started her singing career in the Crabtrees, a mid-60s folk-comedy trio consisting of Joy, her brother Hal and their friend Derek Marsden. After marriage she became a reasonably successful session singer, a job which no doubt led to her being offered this tripe.

Naughty Naughty Naughty, engineered by Chris Tsangrides who only 12 months earlier had engineered Judas Priest's Sad Wings Of Destiny album, is a bizarre song featuring Joy singing about her love for a Mr Punch doll and promoting the hooked-nosed one’s wife-beating prowess. Sounds ridiculous? The middle eight of this atrocity begins "He's been in trouble with the law for Grievous Bodily Harm…but I believe his temper’s just for show.” Jeepers H Crackers; how many bruised women have uttered similar lines when asked why they don’t leave their abusive partners?

Tsangrides, in a 2001 interview for Sound on Sound magazine, had this to say: "A chap came with a funny idea for a song and he wanted a very cheap studio rate and somebody who was a bit zany to work on the track — so the studio said I could do it! This chap arrived with a Punch and Judy man and an ex-singer called Joy Sarney who had become a housewife in Southend. We recorded this love song between Joy and Mr Punch. The bloody thing was atrocious but it was a hit single.

“It will haunt me, but I'm grateful because it was a break and it gave somebody confidence in me.”

The track was issued by Alaska Records, a company that specialised in novelty records and easy-to-digest pop music, which was set up in 1972 by record producer and musician John Schroeder, co-author of the Helen Shapiro hit Walkin’ Back to Happiness and the man responsible for giving Status Quo their first big break (damn him!). I’m guessing by the time Joy walked into the studio that Mr Schroder had spent all of his royalties, as it seems there was little in the way of readies available to record a proper B-side, and Naughty Naughty Naughty was backed by a dreadful comedy country track called Letters of Love, credited to Friends of Joy.

As this was a minor hit (number 26, fact fans) a follow up was arranged but Angling for a Kiss, released later that same year, disappeared without a trace and so, it seems, did Joy. Joy appeared on Top of the Pops bravely – but perhaps stupidly - performing an off-key live vocal, surrounded by balloons – which must have pleased Schroder no end. But then nothing. She would later turn up as one of the backing vocalists with Southend-based rock and roll revivalists the Mickey Jupp Band for a short while but that, as they say, is that; your archetypal one-hit wonder.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sing It Again, Bruce

A shorter than usual post today – I’ve been rather busy with mundane things like work but I didn’t want the weekend to pass without shoving up something to annoy you all. And apologies to the WWR regular (possibly Ross Hamilton or Mick Dillingham - I honestly can't recall) who brought this horror to my attention many months ago.

Originally appearing on their 1970 release 3, Lucretia MacEvil by Blood Sweat and Tears is a white funk classic; six minutes of urgent horns, raspy vocals and driving electric guitar. Unfortunately when covered by Bruce Forsyth – the doyenne of Saturday night British TV for more than half of the last century – it becomes three minutes of anaemic, strip-show cabaret performance. Bruce may be a consummate TV host but honestly, he injects about as much soul into this performance as Natalie Casey did into her recording of Chick, Chick, Chicken.

It’s also rather incongruous; Bruce’s version of the track originally appeared on his 1973 album The Musical Side of Bruce – an album which consists primarily of cabaret standards (What the World Needs Now, If I Ruled the World, My Way), a handful of singer-songwriter covers (If, You’ve Got a Friend), a few songs from musicals including Hit the Deck and High Spirits (hence the album’s title) and even a cover of the theme tune to Coronation Street, the world’s longest-running soap opera.  Set against that selection Lucretia MacEvil sounds positively bonkers.

Unless you’ve spent the last five decades living under a rock I don’t need to give you a full run down of the career of Sir Bruce Joseph Forsyth-Johnson CBE, do I? He made his first TV appearance, singing and dancing on a BBC programme called Come and be Televised in 1939 and was soon treading the boards as Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom. His big break came in 1958 when he was offered the role of host of the popular TV show Sunday Night at the London Palladium, which began a TV career that has encompassed quiz shows (the Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, the Price is Right), comedy, light entertainment reviews and – more recently – hosting the BBC’s popular Strictly Come Dancing show.  At the grand old age of 84 he shows no signs of giving up – although it’s high time he did something about that ridiculous toupee.

Anyway, I’ll be back next weekend with even more awful offerings but, until then, enjoy Brucie’s take on Lucretia MacEvil.

Friday, 11 May 2012

You Crazy Fruit!

Something a little different this week: a record I genuinely believe to be one of the best things ever committed to vinyl. You may, of course, disagree but I love it.

I originally discovered Banana – What A Crazy Fruit! at Rockin’ Jeff’s Junk Shop Juke Box, one of the many vinyl blogs I frequent, and I immediately went off both to search of my own copy (I just had to own it, you understand) and to discover more about the artists – Rusty Canyon and the Banana Boys.

Born in 1922, Rusty Canyon was one of the many noms de plume of Gerald Emmett Teifer who, during a long and varied career in music, went intermittently by the names Rusty Canyon, Jerry Teifer, Bob Bundin, Gerry Teifer and Mickey Moon. A former insurance agent, Teifer’s first big break in the music business came in 1952 when he sold his song Full Time Job to Country-Western singer Eddy Arnold. Credited to Gerry Teifer, the song was later re-recorded by Doris Day, Johnnie Ray and many others.

He moved from his home town of Muskegon to New York in the 1950s where he soon started to build up a bit of a reputation. He released several singles on Wing (including Lady Love/Ten Times in 1955, which was also issued in Europe by Mercury) and Epic Records including the minor hit Poco A Poco (1963), and Heartaches/Blue Brazil (1965) all of which highlighted his whistling prowess. Teifer has performed with Leon Redbone (that’s him whistling on Redbone’s 1977 recording of Shine On Harvest Moon), his song I Don't Care (As Long As You Care For Me) was performed regularly on the Liberace TV show  and he even co-wrote the New York Yankees theme song.

An army paratrooper during World War II and a touring table tennis champion, during his career in the music industry Teifer became the first General Manager of the CBS publishing company April/Blackwood Music, President of Metromedia Music, President of RCA Records publishing division Sunbury-Dunbar Music in New York and Vice-President of the ATV Music Group. An unusual claim to fame is that, in 1965, Gerry Teifer successfully pitched a live talent search show to Columbia Records, years before Simon Cowell was to do the same thing for Sony which – of course – is one and the same company.

In 1958 he wrote the incidental music for the Broadway play Tall Story, a comedy about college basketball which ran for 108 performances in the first five months of 1959. It was around this time that he met Joe Hornsby and Ben G. Allen, who wrote the songs for that play as well as composing both sides of this 45. A real oddity, it appears to have been the only 45 issued on the Teenerama label, and although promo copies feature the song King Size Kisses as its B-side all of the stock copies I’ve come across feature the rather banal kiddie song The Storyman by Rajah Leo and the Banana Boys. I guess it’s possible that these songs were composed for another Broadway outing, but I’ve yet to discover if that was the case or not. Incidentally, Joe Hornsby also co-wrote Stop, Look And Whistle, the B-side to Poco A Poco and Teifer and Hornsby appeared together on legendary TV host Jack Parr’s 45 Blue Wiggle.

Gerry/Jerry retired to Dunedin, Florida where he passed away, in 2004, at the age of 82. Thankfully he left us with this – released, I believe, around 1958 – and easily one of the most fun 45s ever.


Download Banana here

Friday, 4 May 2012

Casual Racism in Country Music

Finding new bad music for you each week is no easy challenge: mind you, as the blog is called The World’s Worst Records I could just post a Coldplay track every day for the rest of my life and fulfil my remit. However to day I bring you a track which I’ve been promising myself I would post for several months now, but something else always seemed to crop up. Today we revisit the world of casual racism; specifically casual racism is country music.

George Jones released his version of The Poor Chinee in 1968, first on the album If My Heart Had Windows and then as the B-side to the top 10 country hit Say It’s Not You. Still going strong at the grand old age of 81, Jones has frequently been referred to as the greatest living country singer. Throughout his long career he has made headlines for his drinking, his occasionally stormy relationships with women and for his violent rages as much as for his prolific recording career – he has around 120 albums to his name and has had over 150 chart hits as a solo performer or duetting with other artists. His wild lifestyle led to Jones missing many performances, earning him the nickname "No Show Jones" although, thanks to the efforts of his fourth wife, Nancy, he has been sober for over 10 years.

The Poor Chinee was co-written by Eddie Noack (1930-1978) who, in the same year, recorded the classic Psycho which has been covered by, amongst others, Elvis Costello. But the song is based – well, pretty much stolen wholesale - from a much earlier music hall song called Ching Ching. Have a look at the lyrics and you’ll see what I mean:

My name is Ching Ching, come from China,
In a big large a shipa come along here,
Wind blow very hard, kick up bublee,
Make a poor Chinaman a feel very queer;

And now the Noack/Jones version:

My namee Sin‑sin, me come from China,
Biggie‑low ship, me come along here
Wind blow hard, it kicky‑up bubble‑y,
Ship make‑a China boy feel very queer

Inspired; that must have taken seconds to re-write.

Now the 60s were a difficult period for the good ol’ US of A, it was a decade that had already been scarred by Kennedy, King, the civil rights movement, the summer of love and the Vietnam war by the time that Jones recorded this. I guess it was only 25 years after Pearl Harbour, and that just about the only oriental faces your average American saw on a regular basis were Sulu or Hop Sing. Even so you’d think that George Jones would have thought twice before committing this atrocity to vinyl. Maybe it was okay to poke fun at the funny little foreigners. Maybe it was the war that inspired him? After all, one yellow skin is pretty much the same as the other, right? Or maybe he’d taken his eye off the ball with regards to the quality of the material he was recording – after all at the time he recorded this he was divorcing wife number two and shacking up with Tammy Wynette.

Just an aside, but the pair christened their poor daughter Tamala Georgette Jones. School for her must have been hell. Also, Tammy’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E was a huge hit in the UK in 1975, the same year that she and George split –although it has been recorded back in 1968, the same year that George recorded Poor Chinee, when she was splitting from husband number two to marry George. Weird, huh?


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