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.


WWR Most Popular Posts