Friday, 29 November 2013

Mother: Oh Dear!

It's almost December, which means that it's almost time for this year's Christmas Cavalcade. Over the next few weeks, as in previous years, I'll be bringing you an album's worth of bad Christmas-themed music - noise enough to ruin your holiday.

But first, let's have a listen to something truly horrific and completely non-Christmas related: a pair of tracks from Danny La Rue's 1978 album To Mother, With Love.

Easily the most famous drag act in the world, Danny La Rue was born Daniel Patrick Carroll, in Ireland, in July 1927. At the age of nine he moved to London with his four siblings and his widowed mother Mary, however he was evacuated during the Blitz and spent the next few years in the Devon village of Kennford, near Exeter. He became interested in performing while serving in the Royal Navy, appearing in regular concert party reviews and, when he left the service, he spent years in repertory and in variety shows, touring Britain and honing his craft.

He opened his own nightclub in London in 1964. Visitors to his revues included Judy Garland, Noel Coward, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Margaret. TV and film fame soon followed. He made regular appearances on the BBC-TV show The Good Old Days, was given his own TV specials, was the first drag act to appear in the Royal Variety Show and, in 1972, starred in his own film, Our Miss Fred. In a career which spanned over 60 years, Danny (always known as Dan to is friends) established himself as one of the most popular performers in Britain. He was the only male performer to take the lead in two female stage roles (in Hello Dolly and Oh, What a Lovely War!)

The highest paid entertainer in the UK (at one point in the early 70s he was earning over £20000 a week), even Liberace was a fan. In many ways Dan was Britain's Liberace: like Liberace, Dan kept his sexuality a secret for most of his life (even though he lived with his partner and personal manager Jack Hanson for 40 years until Hanson's death in 1984) and, like Liberace, he was a horrible, horrible singer - as is amply proved by the brace of tracks I present for you today. His version of On Mother Kelly's Doorstep reached number 33 in the UK singles chart in 1968, but this would be his only chart appearance.

His limited vocal range reminds me of Barbara Cartland: Barbara Cartland drunk, imitating Rex Harrison at one of Noel Coward's soirees. He may have been a fabulous entertainer, but he could not carry a tune in a sequined, fur lined bucket, as these two tracks prove. To Mother With Love, penned specifically for this set, is a fright, but the last track on the collection - Say it With Flowers - is simply horrific.: the soliloquy at the beginning is barf-inducing.

His last years were blighted by illness: he suffered a stroke in 2006 and then revealed to fans that he had been battling prostate cancer for several years. Further strokes and a bout of cancer of the throat followed before he finally passed in 2009 at the age of 81 - shortly after making his last live apearance in Spain. He was buried next to Hanson in Kensal Green, London. 


Friday, 22 November 2013

Keep Your Pecker Up

Picked up in a charity shop earlier this week, today’s offering, Woodpeckers From Space, is a miserable slice of 80s Eurodisco from the Video Kids.

Most believe that the group was led by Dutch DJ and producer Peter Slaghuis and also featured singer Bianca Bonelli. However the act had already been about for several years, releasing the album Never Too Young to Dance in 1981, before Slaghuis and Bonelli were picked to appear in the video for Woodpeckers From Space. The vocalists on the track are actually Dick van Dam & Astrid Leuwener. Slaghuis would, under the name Hithouse, go on to have several hits (his Jack To the Sound of the Underground was a UK top 20) before dying – tragically young – in a car accident in 1991. Bonelli scored a minor Dutch hit with her single Je Veux L'amour.

This dismal piece of crap was a hit in several European countries and the Video Kids went on to release three further 45s and two more albums, The Invasion of the Spacepeckers in 1984 and Satellite in 1985. Written by the Dutch production duo Adams and Fliesner a cover of Woodpeckers From Space, by Café Society, was a No. 1 hit in South Africa in July 1985.

It’s simply dire: the rap is awful (in all fairness, English wasn’t van Dam's first language), the lyrics are plain stupid and the instrumentation is basic at best. I bet the estate of Walter Lanz had a field day suing them for stealing the Woody Woodpecker laugh (originally voiced, incidentally, by Mel Blanc who, as we all know, got in to trouble when he paired up with Pat Boone for his huge hit Speedy Gonzales). And seriously, what is that thing on the front cover supposed to be? Clearly the designer had never seen an actual woodpecker.

Anyway, have a listen for yourself and see what you think. I’ve also include the B-side - Rap And Sing Along – which is simply a truncated instrumental version of the flip.



Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Partridge Calamity

If you feel the need to blame anyone for today’s monstrosity, don’t blame me: blame TheSquire Presents.

A couple of weeks ago the Squire invited me to contribute to his upcoming Christmas podcast. We spent a great afternoon chatting about some of my favourite bad Christmas records and he introduced me to some of his. I’m not going to spoil the surprise by telling you which discs we chose, but one of the songs he played – and one I was, until then, unaware of, was by a four year-old moppet by the name of Ricky Segall. The song sounded to me as if it were being performed by Ike Broflovsky, Kyle’s adopted Canadian brother (if you don’t watch South Park you’ll not understand that reference). It was hideous.

Needless to say, I had to track down a copy of little Ricky’s one and only album. And I’m so glad that I did.

Ricky Segall and the Segalls Singing Selections from “The Partridge Family” Television Show, to give it its full title, is truly abhorrent. Ricky himself was, at the time, a four year-old child actor who had been drafted in to the hit US TV series The Partridge Family to add some light relief to the show’s final series – and hopefully distract the audience from the fact that teen heart-throb David Cassidy would soon be moving on to pastures new. Unfortunately the fourth series, the one that introduced his character (Ricky Stevens), would also become the show’s last.

All of the songs on the – thankfully short – album are written by Ricky’s dad Rick and feature Ricky’s parents prominently. Rick Senior scored a songwriting contract with Colgems, the musical arm of the giant Columbia Pictures organisation and the company behind The Monkees’ recorded output, and the album features such top-ranking musicians as noted drummers Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon. It still stinks. And why is the little urchin rising out of a giant egg on the front cover? There’s a Freudian nightmare if I’ve ever seen one.

Richard Robert Segall III was born on in New York on March 10, 1969. Now known as the Reverend Richard Segall, little Ricky is a minister at The Church On The Way in San Antonio, Texas but he still takes on the occasional acting role. He released his second album, A Time to Dance, in 1999 – described as an ‘explosive, hi-tech, electronic dance CD’. I’ll take Amazon’s word for it.

The two tracks I present for you today tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this project. Say, Hey, Willie – which opens the album and introduces Ricky’s parents to an uncaring and uninterested audience – is a ‘tribute’ to American baseball legend Willie Mays, whose nickname was the Say Hey Kid apparently. Mr President is Ricky’s stab at a protest song – at least I think that’s what it is. You decide. I’ve sat through this crap three times now this morning and my brain is starting to atrophy.


UPDATE, DECEMBER 2015: both links  - long broken - have now been replaced and should work fine. To download, simply click on the Tindeck logo and the download page will open in a new window

Friday, 8 November 2013

Uh-oh Mum

Two slices of shlock today from the 80s, specifically from the canon of one Adrian Gurvitz; famous for his guitar prowess, his corkscrew perm and his distressed leather jacket.

These days a respected songwriter and producer – he’s behind songs for Pixie Lott, Hot Chocolate, Eddie Money, REO Speedwagon and a host of others. In the 60s and early 70s he had hits of his own (with his brother Paul an ever-present consort) with The Gun (Race With The Devil reached the UK Top 10 and was No. 1 in many European countries), the Baker-Gurvitz Army and Rupert’s People. He played as part of the Graham Edge Band and also wrote England, We'll Fly The Flag,  the B-side to the 1982 single by the England World Cup Squad (and a Number Two hit) This Time (We'll Get It Right).

In that same year he released his third solo album, Classic. The title track – a twee piece of soft-focus garbage with lyrics so bad they could have been written by Steve Miller – made the Top 10 in the UK and was a sizeable hit around the world:

Gotta write a classic
Gotta write it in an attic
Baby, I'm an addict now
An addict for your love

I was a street boy
And you were my best toy...

Just horrible: 'You were my best toy'! It makes you wonder exactly who - or what - was the object of his affection. A deaf woman? Or a Rubik's Cube? Two further singles were released from the album: neither of them made much impression. A little over a year later he issued the non-album 45 Hello Mum, a record so ghastly it almost defies description, and with lyrics that make Classic look like...well, a classic.

This is a tribute song
Through the years you’ve been so strong
And sometimes you think that we don’t care
We’re all here today
With these words to say
But they couldn’t ever mean as much as you do

What utter, unmitigated rubbish; as sugary as a pixie stick and about as satisfying. If I had presented this morass of misery to my mother she'd have - quite rightly - hit me around the head with it.

Put out in time for Christmas, and issued in a special festive sleeve complete with space for you to write a dedication to your own mother, not even the addition of a dreadful kiddie choir could help drag this piece of sentimental crap up the charts. Thankfully he would not release another single for seven years. Someone must have liked it though: Gurvitz was later hired by Walt Disney Records to produce and write songs for their in-house pop puppets, a contract which has netted him several gold albums.


Note: to download, right click on the icon and choose 'download document'.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Download issues

I understand that several of you have been unable to download recent posts. The tracks appear to be streaming - I always check this before I make a post 'live' - but for some reason the privacy settings at DivShare seem to have changed and many of you have been thwarted in your attempts to grab the most recent audio atrocities.

Never fear - a solution is here!

Here are the audio files from the last four WWR posts. Grab 'em now. And then, while your enjoying a moment in musical hell, go buy my book! To download the tracks simply right click on the player and choose 'download document' or similar.

Let me know if you have any other problems. I know the Box player is ugly compared to the DivShare one, but if this works better for you all I'll use The Box in future - unless anyone knows of a more elegant solution.


Jess Conrad: Mystery Girl

Jess Conrad: The Big White House

David Wigg: Life is Complicated

David Wigg: Turning Round

Jimmy Arthur Ordge: Storytime & Prayers

Wink Martindale: Deck of Cards

Max Bygraves: Deck of Cards

Robert Powell: Once Upon a Time

Friday, 1 November 2013

Once Upon a Time

Here's a real horror for you: a single by former Jesus, and Jasper Carrot sidekick, Robert Powell.

A treatise on the subject of creation - how ironic that it would be delivered sonorously by a man who will forever be identified with the part of Jesus of Nazareth - It should come as no surprise that the man behind this pretentious prattle is one Richard Hewson - aka the RAH Band. Outside of his 70s hits as the RAH Band, Hewson is best known for his work as an arranger, having scored strings for the Beatles (he worked with Phil Spector on the string arrangements for the Let It Be album) Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Cliff Richard and many, many more.

For some odd reason this wasn't a hit. Issued by Logo Records (an RCA imprint) in 1978 - that same year that Powell took the leading role of Richard Hannay in the third film version of John Buchan's the Thirty Nine Steps - The track turned up recently on the catch-all compilation You Are Awful...But We Like You. I haven't bothered with the B-side (the ridiculously-titled Laudate) as it's exactly the same track with Bob's vocal performance wiped.


WWR Most Popular Posts