Friday, 29 July 2016

There's The Rub

This thoroughly ludicrous recording is a product of the same school that taught you that Robert ‘Jesus’ Powell’s Once Upon a Time was acceptable. Well that isn’t, and nether is this.

But it is apposite: this year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and it’s entirely right that we should do our own little bit to celebrate that fact. Let’s kill him off all over again, to a ‘5am in Ibiza’ beat. There’s the rub, the rub, the rub, the rhuuuuubbbb!

Richard E Grant, star of the ultimate slacker movie Withnail and I, recorded To Be Or Not To Be in 1997 – around the same time that he was filming Spice Girls: the Movie. The single finds Richard reciting the well-known soliloquy from Hamlet over a house track from Orpheus, as well as singing during the choruses. To Be Or Not To Be was intended to launch a whole album of Shakespeare readings, featuring a number of actors including Kenneth Branagh, Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman – although that project seems not to have seen the light of day. Presumably because this turned out to be such a dead duck.

‘I told them I couldn’t sing!’, Grant told the Melody Maker. ‘It just shows that anything goes, anything can happen if somebody thinks it’s daft enough to buy. I don’t expect anybody to take it any more seriously than I did.’

The ‘them’ in this case is anonymous musical collective Orpheus. Ken Gibson (who co-wrote and produced the song) is better known for his work with John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, although he has also worked as an arranger with Alison Moyet, Craig David and Neil Hannon. He is also the producer for the singer Nancy Nova, backing vocalist on To Be Or Not To Be.

‘They said, “Do it straight and then we can do stuff, muck about with it.” Then they asked me to sing this chorus and I did it full-pelt, but they didn’t want that. They wanted it to be as melancholic as possible. And they made a dance track out of it.

‘This all happened by accident. It was not my intention at all to set myself up as a serious pop star. I’m not trying to give Oasis sleepless nights about this. My eight-year-old daughter thought it was danceable…. I just laughed. I thought, “Oh my God, I’ll never get a job as a serious Shakespearean actor at the RSC having done this!”’

He was even more revealing in the NME, admitting that ‘I suppose I should bullshit you that I’m a great singer, but I approached this with a large, leviathan tongue in my left cheek. I can’t be serious about it. But if this could constitute me as some aging Spice Boy, then great.’ A video, featuring Virgin Radio DJ’s Russ & Jono dressed as Shakespearian fools, was filmed but has yet to finds its’ way to YouTube.

The CD single contained four versions of this nonsense. Here are two of them.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Japanese Boy

I originally discovered these tracks a few years ago at the – now, sadly, no longer updated – Cartilage Consortium blog, and much of what you’re about to read has been cribbed from there. Apologies, but information on this incredibly odd and obscure album is otherwise impossible to come by.

Taken from the self-released CD Kyô Kawanishi Volume One, as the cover states what you are about to hear is ‘the first work song in the language of the universe’. Kyô Kawanishi is, according to Cartilage Consortium, a Japanese gentleman ‘whose lyrics are for some reasons often historically obsessed by the situation of Korean people’ and who credited himself with having composed ‘more than 1000 songs written between 1988 and 2007’. Kyô Kawanishi was the name of the character played by Kyû Sakamoto in the 1962 film Ue o Muite Arukô, so it’s highly likely that the man hiding behind the hockey mask is using a pseudonym - possibly to protect his family from his horrible music.

This is nuts: his voice is all over the place, the primitive keyboard backing at times sounds like the soundtrack to the Clangers, and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in a karaoke bar. It’s all very amateur – and, in a way, quite charming. Apparently our Kyô Kawanishi is known to have played several gigs. But then again, so did Eilert Pilarm…

Back to Cartilage Consortium: ‘It would be hard to render the unique syntax by translating song titles such as "Spaceship of the Maruberu Break". Directly connected to the universe, he's also a bashful perfectionist, who couldn't help apologising in his booklet for the recording quality.’

If this is only Volume One you have to wonder how many others are out there, just waiting to be discovered.

Anyway, here are a couple of songs from the album, Andromeda Maruberu Seijin (roughly Maraberu Alien from Andromeda) and Maruberu Pause no Uchuusen (the aforementioned Spaceship of the Maruberu Break). Make of them what you will.


Friday, 15 July 2016

The Horror! The Horror!

The Greek Fountains were Danny Cohen, Tommie Miceli, Don Chesson, Duke Bardwell and Cyril Vetter. Formed in 1962, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based quintet were a popular attraction, and over a five year career the band supported visiting acts including The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, Paul Revere and The Raiders and Sonny and Cher.

The Greek Fountains issued at least half a dozen 45s including Countin’ the Steps/Blue Jean (with the odd credit of ‘vocal producer Shelby Singleton Jr’) on Philips in 1966. They also put out a fuzz-drenched version of the Monkees classic (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone, a rocking cover of Donovan’s Hey Gyp (as Buy You A Chevrolet), and a reasonably faithful copy of The Who’s I’m A Boy - although they clearly did not have access to a copy of the lyrics at the time.

Failing to score a hit, they acquired a couple of new members – Luther Leonard (a.k.a. Luther Kent, a.k.a. Duke Royal) and Butch Swann – and changed their name to The Greek Fountain River Front Band in 1967, releasing the album The Greek Fountain River Front Band Takes Requests. Unfortunately this would be the band’s last hurrah. Drummer Cyril Vetter, who wrote the hit Double Shot of My Baby's Love, went off to serve in Vietnam. Since his return he has enjoyed a varied career as an attorney, a TV executive, a record producer and an author. Miceli went on to become a well-known ER doctor in Baton Rouge, and for some time Chesson was involved in aviation.

Danny Cohen (who, along with Vetter, wrote most of the band’s original material) moved to New York City, changed his name to Casey Kelly and kept working, often alongside Duke Bardwell. Bardwell is probably the band’s best-remembered musician, having toured with Elvis Presley’s band, written for Jose Feliciano, opened for Loggins & Messina (with Cohen/Kelly), toured with the Byrds’ Gene Clark and recorded with Emmylou Harris. Named, like every other member of his family, after a university (seriously, he had a brother name Harvard!) he still plays and records today. Cohen/Kelly moved to Nashville where he has written for Kenny Rogers (he was Grammy nominated for the country number one Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight), Helen Reddy, George Strait and Tanya Tucker amongst others.

The Greek Fountains were a respectable garage/r’n’b act, but the perverse b-side An Experimented Terror - the flip of their Hollies-inspired single I Can’t Get Away and named after the 1962 movie Experiment in Terror - has to rank alongside Lieutenant Pigeon’s Opus 300, the Turtles’ Umbassa and the Dragon and the Beatles’ Revolution Nine as one of the most wilfully ridiculous pieces of music ever to be placed on a pop record. Sampled by Quasimoto for the song Shroom Music, here are both sides of this highly collectable, and rather expensive, 45.

I wonder why Bardwell is the only member of the group not to receive a writer credit?


(image peterh at

Friday, 8 July 2016

What a bunch of Mormons

Saturday's Warrior is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-themed musical written by and serial WWR offender, the three-times married father of 10 Alexis “Lex” de Azevedo (Ric King, Mrs Miller). The musical tells the story of a group of children that are born into a Mormon family but whose relationship with each other goes back to a time before they became mortal.

Two of the children, Jimmy and Julie, encounter personal struggles that help them rediscover and fulfil their mission in life. The musical explores the Mormon doctrines of ‘premortal’ life, ‘foreordination’ (the idea that, before birth, God selected particular people to fulfil certain missions during their mortal lives), and eternal marriage. It depicts abortion and birth control as being contrary to the divine plan: in the same year that the musical was first staged the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement which read ‘The Church opposes abortion and counsels its members not to submit to or perform an abortion except in the rare cases where, in the opinion of competent medical counsel, the life or good health of the mother is seriously endangered or where the pregnancy was caused by rape and produces serious emotional trauma in the mother. Even then it should be done only after counseling with the local presiding priesthood authority and after receiving divine confirmation through prayer.’

That still hold true today, and what else would you expect from a ‘faith’ that teaches that God used to be a man on another planet, that he became a God (that’s ‘a’, not ‘the’) by following the laws of the God on that planet, that he came to earth with his wife, and that their children included Jesus, the devil, and you – oh, and that you have the potential of becoming gods of your own planets and are then able to start the process all over again. And don’t get me started on gold plates, magic hats, seer stones and whatnot.

As an aside, what would be the point of praying to God to allow you to have an abortion after being raped? Surely if God existed he/she would have prevented the rape in the first place? Just sayin’…

Saturday's Warrior was first staged in 1973, with the soundtrack issued by Embryo Records the following year. A huge hit with the LDS community, in 1989 a horribly overacted video version of the musical was produced (which you can find on YouTube if you have nothing better to do). In a peculiar twist, a year after the video was issued two men – Karyl Eugene Harkins and Peter R. Jepp – were sued by Robert Williams of Fieldbrook Productions Inc (who owned the rights to the video performance) for illegally producing 1,000 copies of the videocassette for sale in Utah. Williams claimed that Harkins had copies made from another copy (i.e second generation) and that they were of poor quality. Selling them would ‘irreparably damage the reputation and marketability’ of the original video. Harkins, who has practiced in naturopathic and homeopathic medicine at Salt Lake Homeopathy since 2002, is no stranger to run ins with the law: in 2014 he was charged with Unlawful and Unprofessional Conduct for practicing homeopathic medicine without a license. According to charging documents undercover agents went to Harkins' practice and claimed to have various ailments like pressure in the head, shoulder pain, frequent urination, and frequent thirst. Harkins allegedly placed two fingers on the investigator’s arm, asked him questions, then diagnosed him with ‘Worms, fluxes, bacteria in his body, and 26 kinds of tape worms.’ Harkins then allegedly sent the undercover agent home with $259 in supplements.

Anyway, I digress. This ridiculous mish-mash of American cheese, religious cliché and rock ‘n roll has  - a staple of LDS households for the last 40 years - hit the big screen this year, after a Kickstarter campaign raised over $10,000 to fund it. Universally panned (outside of the LDS community, that is), according to the movie’s website ‘When Lex de Azevedo wrote the iconic chords that have become immediately and emotionally recognizable to fans around the world, he had no idea the impact that they and Saturday’s Warrior would have. The story and the songs gave voice to, and filled a need for, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In the 60’s and 70’s rock music had become the pulpit of a generation and that pulpit was preaching values that were opposed to what the LDS church believed. Saturday’s Warrior was the first time that LDS people saw their culture represented through the medium of popular music and it was an immediate phenomenon.’

And there you have it; clearly the LDS chose to ignore the phenomenal rise of the Osmonds – who, naturally, de Azevedo had also worked with. Four years after Saturday’s Warrior debuted, our Lex lent his musical chops to another Mormon musical, the much less successful My Turn on Earth, and in 2007 Lex’s co-conspirator Doug Stewart debuted The White Star, the sequel to Saturday’s Warrior, only this time without Lex’s involvement. 

I'm not sure what, if anything, I've learned from listening to this - apart from that stuttering is a mortal sin, or something. Still sit back, put a hat over your face and indulge in a brace of cuts from the soundtrack to Saturday’s Warrior: Pullin' Together (complete with awful, shrieking children), and the apocalyptic power ballad Zero Population.


Friday, 1 July 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Wow! Just wow! This will split listeners: some of  you will find the vocals irritating, but I have to tell you that I absolutely love this album. 

Welcome one and all to the world of kid-funk superstar Angela Simpson. In a similar vein to the Jr and his Soulettes album Psychodelic Sounds (which I featured way back in 2009) this, I promise you, is killer stuff!

Young Angela Simpson was born to sing: she started performing before she was three years old when, reciting bible verses in church, she would punctuate her praise with arm swoops and the occasional drop to her knees, James Brown-style. The Harlem-born Miss Simpson went on to perform at the legendary Apollo Theatre before, at the age of six, recording her only album Angela.

Issued by Spectrum Records in 1972, many of the proto-rap songs on the album were based on the poetry of Langston Hughes, an American social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist who was one of the earliest innovators of jazz poetry. Angela’s mother was also a poet, and she instilled in her daughter a love of literature.

L’il Miss Simpson would go on to appear at several large-scale gospel gigs and a couple of 45s were culled from the album, but none of her releases troubled the charts, and the child prodigy soon vanished from the New York stage.

In 2005 – still living in Harlem - Angela quit her job as a teacher of Black Literature to home school her children. She is not – I hasten to add - the same Angela Simpson who, in August 2009, murdered the wheelchair-bound Terry Neely in Phoenix, AZ.

Here are a couple of tracks from Angela – the super funky Rapping and Angela’s description of her hood, Lenox Ave.


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