Friday, 28 November 2014

Wacko Jacko

Welcome to the final ‘proper’ WWR post of 2014: next week we will commence our annual Christmas Cavalcade (and I’ve got some real horrors lined up for you) but for now we’re going to visit the career of one of the biggest stars of all time. Well, sort of.

To ‘celebrate’ the release of even more scrapings from the bottom of the Queen barrel (or the official issue of the Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury/Queen duet There Must be More to Life Than This if you prefer) we’re going to have a quick butcher’s at a few of the low spots in the King of Pop's oeuvre.

Jackson was one of the most creative people in pop music; he was also a total nutjob. He recorded some truly remarkable records but, like most artists who allow their egos to run rampant, he was not always on the ball, quality control-wise. Have a listen to The Girl is Mine, the first of the three – seriously, three – duets he recorded with Paul McCartney. The horrendous spoken tag (including the infamous I’m a lover, not a fighter line) is enough to make anyone puke. Written by Jackson and produced by Jackson and Quincy Jones, The Girl is Mine was released as the first single from Jackson's mega hit Thriller album. Jackson and McCartney would go on to record the duets Say Say Say and The Man for McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. Although it was released as a single, Jackson never performed the song live - I wonder why? 

This dull duet peaked at Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number Eight in the UK. In 2008 one –man ego factory remixed The Girl Is Mine, thankfully wiping McCartney’s dire vocals, adding his own and slathering the whole thing with a new drum track. Unfortunately it was no better than the original.

Jackson had real form when it came to performing with others. Admittedly he got it right occasionally, but more often than not his duets are simply dreadful.  A full decade after his recordings with McCartney he decided to add his vocal chops to a track from Eddie Murphy’s third album Love’s Alright: Watzupwitu. Voted by MTV viewers in 1999 as the third worst music video of all time, not even Jackson’s performance could compensate for Murphy’s shortcomings as a singer. Michael would, of course, revisit the thin eco message of the song’s pathetic lyrics in Earth Song. Murphy's album also included covers of songs by U2 and the Beatles and featured Paul McCartney amongst a number of stellar guest artists. I'm sensing a pattern here.

To round off today’s post a couple of Michael-related tracks. First up is When the Rain Begins to Fall, a rubbish slice of hi-NRG Europop by Michael’s brother Jermaine and failed actress turned singer Pia Zadora. This piece of drivel was – perhaps unsurprisingly – a huge hit in Europe, reaching Number One in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and Number Two in Switzerland and Austria.

Taken from the dismal 1984 movie Voyage of the Rock Aliens, When the Rain Begins to Fall was written by Peggy March (who, as Little Peggy March, had enjoyed a Number One hit of her own in the US in 1963 with I Will Follow Him), Michael Bradley and Steve Wittmack. Zadora remains best known for her first two film roles, in the 1964 kiddie flopperoo Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the 1982 sexploitation mess Butterfly - that's the film that focusses on an incestuous relationship between Zadora and Stacy Keach and includes a cameo from Orson Welles as a scenery-chewing judge.

Finally for this month and for this year (bar next month’s Christmassy countdown) here’s the cheesy novelty I'm in Love with Michael Jackson's Answerphone by Julie (sometimes credited as Julie B). Co-written and produced by Biddu – the man behind a bunch of UK hit singles in the 70s including Action Speaks Louder Than Words, Kung Fu Fighting, Now Is the Time and I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance) – this October 1984 single rips off several MJ themes (most notably Billie Jean, Beat It and Don't Stop Til You Get Enough) but even so was a miserable flop. With its whiny teenage vocals, cheap and dated keybord and drum machine sounds and a pathetic Michael impersonator to boot what's not to love?


Friday, 21 November 2014

Oh Mother!

I've featured several Spanish acts here previously - including Los Punk Rockers, the pseudo-punk group who covered the entire Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks note for note, and the flamboyant, cross-dressing disco dunce Josmar Gerona - but until now I've not featured today's act, Jose Angel.

And I've ignored Joe principally because I've been unable to track down any information about him. Although the song I feature here today is all over the internets the dozens of posts, YouTube videos and references all seem to stem from the same single copy of his solitary single - the heart-warming ballad Mother I am a Gay Christian (Madre Soy Christiano Homosexual). 

Sounding like an outtake from an early Almodovar soundtrack – or the music to an 80s chocolate commercial – this 1979 single appears to be Jose’s one and only release. I've found his name attached to three other songs on MySpace, but of those there's only one that could possibly have any link - a song entitled No Te Modernices, performed by Juan Manuel but (possibly) written by our Jose.

Looking for all the world like legendary porn star Ron Jeremy (sans his famous moustache), in Hawaiian shirt, white slacks and brown loafers, Jose's song is a cry for acceptance, one that - I guess - will resonate with many men who struggle to balance their personal lives with their sexuality and their religious beliefs:

Mother, do not be sad, face of the Virgin,
I'm here for you
Mother, go ahead, You do not have fear

I am not a thief stealing hearts,
I have a heart, and it’s a good heart.
Who marginalises us is committing an error.

Mother, in my soul I feel a great pain,
For those who are marginalised without reason.
Mother, those who marginalise us, I think, sin against God

We think of the body and the soul
But I have a fragile heart,
Who marginalises us makes a error

Mother, I'm gay Christian,
It doesn’t matter that they’re whispering that I am a gay Christian.
Mother, I'm a gay Christian,
It matters more that I communicate,
Because I am a Christian homosexual

I mean, everyone, especially those who marginalise us,
We homosexuals are people like them, they will see.
We are not animals come from hell, we already carry a very large cross in life
So get over it; put that accusation behind us.
Think for a moment about the possibility of having a gay son.
My intention is not insulting, but I want you to accept me as a person.
So my song says: Mother, I am a Christian homosexual.

If it were not for the earnestness of his words I would have assumed that this was a spoof - perhaps something put together for a comedy show. the song has also turned up on the CD-only compilation La SANA Presenta Spanish Bizarro Volume 6. If anyone has any further info on Jose of his obscure disc please do let me know.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Dolly Wow!

Here’s a fine example of how the world – even the part of the world we cherish for our children – has been ‘dumbed down’ over the years.

Pedigree Dolls & Toys created Sindy in 1963. A rival to Barbie, Sindy's wholesome look and range of fashions and accessories made the little plastic doll one of the best selling toys in the UK - in fact she was the best selling toy in both 1968 and 1970. After an unsuccessful attempt to introduce Sindy in the United States in the late 1970s, Sindy was remodelled to look more American – a move which resulted in a decline in popularity and a lawsuit from Barbie’s manufacturer Mattel for copyright infringement, which was only settled after the doll’s then-owner Hasbro agreed to remodel Sindy's face. During the 1990s, Barbie's share of the doll market continued to grow while Sindy's diminished, but she was relaunched in 1999 and again in 2003, in celebration of her 40th anniversary.

Issued in 1966 Sindy Meets the Dollybeats is a fun little pop record issued by the manufacturers of Britain’s answer to Barbie. Side one contains the story of how she got to meet her favourite band of all time – faux Liverpudlian accents, Mary, Mungo and Midge sound effects and all. Side two features a song written by Cliff Warwick, the leader of the fictitious Dollybeats, especially for the little vinyl girl. Dolly wow!

The sleeve is a gas too. The flip of the cover bears short biographies of each member of the Dollybeats, and here we discover that it is Terry Coombes and not Cliff Warwick who is the lead guitarist of the Dollybeats, as the narrator of the A-side would have us believe. We also find out that Cliff was a former student at a Liverpool art school (remind you of anyone?) and how ‘thrilled’ Sindy is with her song. It’s a wonderful time capsule of an innocent era.

A few years later it was a whole different story. Gone is the childlike excitement, replaced by the anodyne disco drivel of Everybody Boogie!/We’re Havin' a Party! By the videO Kids (note the capital O and K, as if it’s OK to like this crap) who, as far as I can ascertain, are in no way related to the ‘other’ Video Kids featured on this blog previously  Apparently this coupling comes from the ‘forthcoming album Let’s have a party – an all-star spectacular’. I’m not aware of the album ever being released, but the videO Kids did issue an album – You’re Never Too Young to Dance.

Apparently the videO Kids producers, Steve Gilston and Paul Lynton felt that the music industry was ignoring the pre-teens and aimed to give them something to dance to. Recording commenced in 1979; the 45 was given away free with certain Sindy dolls – it certainly was available inside the box of the Party Time Doll (circa 1981), and the success of the Sindy with a single lead to the release of the album You're Never Too Young to Dance in the same year. Peter Doyle – the former member of the New Seekers who sadly passed away in 2001 - sang lead on two of the tracks, and the album also features the talents of Sky/Blue Mink alumnus Herbie Flowers.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Crud From the Heart

Every once in a while I come across a record so diabolically awful that It makes me consider the possibility that I may have finally come to the end of my quest: that I have finally found the World’s Worst Record.

Released in 1981 Cry From the Heart, backed with My Thankful Song, is a double-sided horror, two pro-life songs written and performed by a Franciscan monk who has spent more than 50 years spreading God’s word. Apparently being a member of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor (OFM Cap) – whose lives, according to their founder St Francis of Assisi "consist in living in obedience, chastity and without property" – gives you the right to guilt women into abandoning their plans for abortion. As father Francis says on the reverse of the sleeve: “I would like to dedicate this song to any young girl or woman who may listen to it and decide not to have an abortion. Life is God's gift.”

According to ‘the song has saved many babies from abortion. Their pregnant mothers heard the song and decided not to go ahead with abortion...Father Francis met a young boy who told him that his mother heard the song when pregnant and decided not to have an abortion. The boy said he owed his life to the priest. Father Francis has received over 20 other similar testaments of babies being saved.”

It’s no secret to followers of this blog – or to anyone who has read my book – that I am 100 percent pro-choice. That alone would make me hate this record, but its’ winsome lyrics and the priest’s sickly delivery shoot it into the stratosphere of bad records. Have a look at some of Father Francis’s words:

Why are we lying down, being drawn on four wheels?
Bang! We go through the door and there’s people dressed in green.
Everything seems so strange and so clean.
Mummy, if they hurt you, just let out a scream
And I know someone will come to help you and me.

Mummy what’s going on? I am starting to cry
Come quickly they are forcing me to die.
They are killing me mummy, they are pulling me apart
My arms and my legs and now they’re at my heart.

It’s all very Diary of an Unborn Child, isn’t it?  And before you get all holier than thou on me, or claim that I wouldn't ridicule this depressing pile o toss if it were performed by a Muslim rather than a Christian think again:  I'd be aiming brickbats at anyone - irrespective of their faith - who thinks that they have the right to guilt other people out of what must be one of the most traumatic expriences of their lives.

The words, written by Father Francis himself, were – it is claimed on the sleeve – inspired by a poem written by a 13 year-old Glaswegian boy. The music is credited to Irish musician Phil Coulter, co-author of Puppet on a String, Congratulations, Forever and Ever (the Slik hit, not the Demis Rousoss song) and Back Home amongst many others.

Father Francis Maple has been singing in public form many years – he’s known in Catholic circles as the Singing Friar - and has released at least nine albums, containing  a mixture of secular and religious songs, which were mostly recorded in Amazon Studios, Liverpool.  According to the good Father ‘has raised over £1m for charity. He has also written several books (sermons, cooking recipes, jokes), and has contributed (and still does) to many newspaper columns and Catholic newspapers and magazines. He spends a lot of time travelling throughout the UK leading Missions in various Catholic churches’.

Well, good for him. Appearing in schools, churches and concert halls around the UK, he’s perhaps best known for his habit of singing the Lord’s praises in shopping centres – a habit which had him forced into a standoff with a town centre warden in Nuneaton in 2005. Said warden was branded a jobsworth after he tried to move on the busking monk, who had been visiting Nuneaton for over a decade to bolster his fundraising. The then 68-year-old priest was drawing crowds, belting out hits by the Dave Clark Five, The Searchers and – of course - Cliff Richard when the warden told him to cease and desist. “He was determined to get rid of me,” said Father Francis. “He said I should move and asked what authority I had to be here. He was like the warden in Dad's Army. I said he would have to move me - and I am fourteen and a half stone!”

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