Friday, 14 June 2019

The Crème de la Crème


André Van der Veken, born in the Belgian city of Ninove on 19 January 1949, has had a long a varied career in the world of pop.

He first recorded under the name Andy Free, issuing a number of 45s in both Belgium and Holland during the first half of the 1970s, including Mama (Philips, 1971) and Ik Kon Mijn Ogen Niet Geloven (I Could Not Believe My Eyes, BASF, 1974). In 1978, as André Van Der Veken, he released his first full-length album Maar Zo Is't (That’s How It Is). He then moved on to a successful career as a songwriter and producer, principally with the group Dance Reaction, who issued three 45s – including the oddly titled Shanks Mare Honey and Honey Puppy Is My Name between 1981 and 1983. He continued to work throughout the 80s and 90s, with duo Leeva and Andy (guess which one he was?), D.J. Arséne, and he co-wrote both sides of the comeback single for the 60s Belgian pop band The Paramounts. In 1996 Dance Reaction’s big Euro hit, Disco Train was remixed and re-released. 

Over the years he has worked with a number of Dutch and Flemish artists, including Jimmy Frey, Jo Vally, Willy Sommers and Laura Lynn, under such names as Dré Van der Veken, André Domien and Remien. But the pseudonym we’re most interested in here is Waylon, which he used for the one-off 1979 single Crème de la Crème/The Sparrow.

Crème de la Crème was the only disc Andy/André issued as Waylon, but what a record it is. A hellish mashup of Sylvester and Boney M, this ridiculously brilliant slice of disco buffoonery was released in Belgium, Holland, France, Germany and Portugal but failed to chart in any of those countries, despite being issued in both 7” and 12” formats, the latter available in both yellow and white vinyl. Over the years it has developed its own cult following, and quite rightly so. It’s a very special record.

After playing the songs on The World's Worst Records Radio Show and discussing them with listeners and fellow presenters there I decided to track down Dré Van der Veken, and was honoured when he kindly agreed to talk about the single with me.

The biggest surprise was the discovery that Waylon, the young man who appears on the sleeve of the 45, does not actually sing on the disc. “We only had the song and a nice boy who could not sing,” Dré admits. “So, I was required - poor me! - to perform the song myself. It was a laugh, believe me. We thought that the record would never make it to the market.”  

When asked about the voice he used on the disc, Dré candidly admitted that “I think it was a combination of wine and too much time in the studio. Things like that happened a lot, although those times are over now. Showbiz has changed; there’s no more money for crazy things and I am getting older. Although I’m still a little crazy!

“There was never going to be a follow up to the Waylon single: it was a joke. The real Waylon went off and married his boyfriend.”

In 2013 Dré released his second full-length album, Tussen Hoogtes en Laagtes (Between the Highs and Lows), which he describes as an “active creation between man and machine ... and my cat Johnny”. The album was “recorded in the bedroom, where I operate all the keys and synths myself, sometimes just with two fingers… It had to sound the way I heard it in my head and maybe I succeeded. The arrangements and sounds, perhaps not flawless, are primarily a bed for the lyrics. These are rather dark in nature, although I do not consider myself a pessimist but rather a pessimistic optimist and bon vivant.”

He's nonplussed about the curiosity that surrounds Crème de la Crème. “I'm surprised people are still interested in the Waylon thing,” he admits. “Copies now sell for more than 30 euro, and I never saw a penny of it,” he laughs. “Maybe I have to open a bottle of wine (or more than one), compose a follow-up and find someone who can’t sing again… what you think?”

Check out both songs below. My huge thanks to Dré Van der Veken for taking the time to talk to me. You can check out his more recent music, as well as tracks from his 1978 album Maar Zo Is't, at his website: www.drevanderveken.com

Download Creme HERE




Download Sparrow HERE


Friday, 7 June 2019

The Sad Story of the Ponderosa Twins

Family groups often go through the mill, and often at the hands of their overbearing parents or management (or both), but if you thought the Jacksons had it bad with their horrific father wait until you hear about trials and tribulations of the Ponderosa Twins Plus One.

Formed in Ohio in 1970, the confusingly-named Ponderosa Twins Plus One – who, as far as I am aware had absolutely nothing to do with Bonanza - actually consisted of five members (just like a certain Jackson Five), two sets of identical twins Alfred and Alvin Pelham, and Keith and Kirk Gardner – who had been performing as the Ponderosa Twins for around a year or so - along with their chum Ricky Spicer, who joined in 1970. All five attended the Patrick Henry Jr. High School on the east side of Cleveland.

PT+1 came to the attention of Bobby Massey of soul act The O’Jays. Accompanied by Massey, they recorded three singles for Chuck Brown’s Horoscope Records. At this point, Brown took over their management. Their debut, a cover of Sam Cooke’s You Send Me peaked at number 23 on Billboard’s Soul chart. In 1971, the group released their album, 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One. It’s not a bad album at all: even Billboard reckoned that even if the group were something of “a Johnny-come-lately in the bubblegum soul sound” they were still “out of sight”.

Bound became their second single, with the label altering its name to Astroscope, and this peaked at number 47 on the Soul chart. Although they played many shows and supported a number of big-name acts, after 1973’s non-album single Tomorrow’s Train/Come Back Sunshine,  the band would make no further recordings. They disbanded in 1975: in a court deposition singer Ricky Spicer would later state that the principal reason for their parting ways was that they were broke: “The Group toured for months, sometimes performing twice in a single day. Although the Group was promised payments for their performances, Mr. Brown and Saru [his company] failed to make any payments to Ricky or the other members of the Group for any performances. In 1975, the group fell apart due to the lack of royalties and no revenue from their live shows.”

Ricky Spicer went on to work with stars including Gladys Knight and James Brown. Sadly his cohorts were not so lucky. One of the Pelham twins suffered from mental health issues, and one of the Gardner twins has been incarcerated in an Ohio penitentiary since 1980 for various offenses. Disillusioned, Ricky Spicer eventually left the music industry became a construction worker. Alvin and Alfred are now both deceased.

The band would have been forgotten for good had it not been for their track, Bound being sampled by rapper Kanye West in his 2013 song Bound 2, which featured on his huge international hit Yeezus. Ricky Spicer filed a lawsuit against West, as well as Roc-A-Fella Records, The Island Def Jam Music Group, Rhino Entertainment and Universal Music Group, citing copyright infringement. The following year Spicer sued Vogue magazine and its publisher Condé Nast, after Bound 2 was used in a promotional video for the magazine’s April edition, which featured West and his wife Kim Kardashian. According to court papers, at the time both Keith and Kirk were incarcerated, but Ricky had power of attorney to act on behalf of the Gardner twins and for the families of the late Pelham twins. The court case against West was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2016.

Here are a couple of tracks from 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One, Turn Around You Fool and Take Me Back

Enjoy!

Download Turn HERE



Download Take HERE


Friday, 31 May 2019

Elvis... From Beyond the Grave


Issued just two years after he died, The Elvis Presley Séance  has to be one of the most bizarre Elvis-related albums of all time – and the most tasteless.

The album, released to coincide with the second anniversary of Presley’s death, features an ‘unedited’ recording of a seance with Elvis Presley that was conducted on 24 July 1979 at a Spiritualist Church in North London, according to the rather vague sleevenotes: the event actually took place in a hall in Watford. The seance was led by Carmen Rogers (a renowned medium, apparently, again according to the sleeve notes), narrated by Stuart Colman, and was attended by Theresa Currie (representative of the official Elvis Presley fan club), two reporters and a photographer from the Sunday People and a handful of others, including Rogers’ and Coleman’s respective spouses. Perhaps unsurprisingly this was not the first Elvis séance album issued: a similar record appeared the previous year in the States: A Séance With Elvis: The King Lives On and Talks to the World From Beyond the Grave

Shadow records pressed 5,000 copies of The Elvis Presley Séance, a large number of which ended up in bargain bins: you can still pick up copies today for under a tenner. 


The Watford séance was featured in an article in The Sunday People the following weekend, an article that Shadow Records used to promote the sales of the album. It didn’t help. It's just so random. Why would the ghost of Elvis suddenly turn up in London, a city he never visited? Unsurprisingly Elvis fails to speak on the album, however Carmen Rogers assures those present that he spoke very clearly to her.

In 2004 the Sydney Morning Herald featured its own list of the 20 “strangest albums ever made” and included the Elvis Presley Seance at number 13. The same list had Marcel Marceau Speaks at number six and Ali and His Gang vs Mr Tooth Decay at number three. that reviewer commented that “Elvis seances are often held on his birthday (January 8) or the anniversary of his death (August 16), and it can only be hoped that they are not all as boring as this one.” How right he was.

Carmen Rogers had previously made the papers when, In March 1976, Reveille magazine published her account of the most notorious murderer in British history. Carmen called him Charlie the Ripper and described him as “a nondescript sort of man, with a thin face and pasty complexion, deceptively strong in the arms and hands, aged about thirty-four, or thirty-five, and who worked in the fish trade. He was unable to form normal sexual relations with women, hence took out his frustration by killing and mutilating them instead.” The previous year she had been called on to help with regular sightings of a ghostly apparition on a runway at Heathrow Airport. She announced that the ‘ghost’ was of a man called Thomas Alperton who had died in a crash in 1948. Alperton, she claimed, did not know he was dead, but after she made contact with him he did not appear again.


Anyway, here’s the whole damn thing for you. I've not added streaming links as no one in their right mind is going to want to listen to this pap for pleasure, however, if you are as perverse and twisted as I am I guess you may well want to download a copy.
 
Enjoy!

Download Side One HERE

Download Side Two HERE



Friday, 24 May 2019

Good Morning Good Evening


Regular readers of this blog will know that I love advertising records. I’ve featured a few over the years, including the wonderful Trimettes slimming aids disc back in January, and here’s another for you.

Issued in 1964 (I believe, although 45Cat has it listed as 1961), Butlin Holiday by the Trebletones was either sold in gift shops or given away to visitors of Britain’s Butlin’s holiday camps, founded by Billy Butlin in 1936 to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families. Labelled as “A Butlin Souvenir Disc”, both sides are practically identical: the only difference being the “Good morning…” lyric of the A-side changing to “Good evening…” on the reverse. The song was written by veteran showtunes composer Vivian Ellis.

A band called the Trebletones issued a 45 on Oriole in 1963, one of Britain’s first independent record labels, but to me, this looks like it may have come from Pye's Tranco pressing plant, in Mitcham, Surrey. The big giveaway is the raised circle inside the centre, which you'll also see on Pye releases from 1964 onwards.

It's also possible that it came from another early independent pioneer, Ember, set up in 1960 by Jeffrey Kruger, one-time owner of Soho’s Flamingo Club. He sold the club to the Gunnell brothers to concentrate his efforts of his record company, converting his first record press from an old button making machine, and issued custom discs for a number of companies during the early 1960s. One of Ember’s earliest releases was a second pressing of the hit Angela Jones, originally issued by Joe Meek’s Triumph label. Meek gave Kruger the masters for the disc in the hope of making a few bucks while setting up his new operation, RGM Sound, at his fabled Holloway Road studios.

The thing that makes me doubt that the disc was pressed by Ember is that the vast majority of their pressings from this period have three-prong centres, not four-prong, so for now I'll stick with my assertion that Tranco/Pye pressed this and therefore it cannot have been released before 1964. 

Any thoughts? Your comments, as always, are much appreciated. But for now, here are both sides of Butlin Holiday.

Enjoy!


Download Morning HERE


Download Evening HERE

Friday, 17 May 2019

You Bet Your Bippy


Just over a year ago I introduced you, via Bob at Dead Wax, to the amazing Mrs. Lila F. Daniels, also known as Lila Winton Daniels, but recognised professionally as Lillay Deay.

At that time I only had a couple of poor condition MP3s to share with you but, having recently purchased my own copy of her classic 1969 single I May Look Too Old, I can now bring you both sides of this incredible disc in the best quality you will find anywhere on the net: in fact, it seems that until today I May Look Too Old has never been made available before.

And what a song it is! Beginning with a salutation to her grandson, Slimy Jim, the amazing I May Look Too Old throws in a reference to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, and has our Lila sounding like Edith Massey’s The Egg Lady as she warbles along to the out of tune guitar. It’s a delight.

Born in 1896, Lila Daniels began her writing career in 1959 with a song called The Christmas Star. In 1966 she penned the patriotic Lady of Liberty, and in 1967 she registered copyright in four songs, AppreciationOur Beautiful Lady and Los Angeles, as well as Dancing Prancing Reindeer, the latter of which was recorded and released in 1969 (backed by Christmas Star) by the Daniels Singers, later amended to the Daniel Singers, presumably to avoid confusion with another Daniels Singers, a gospel troupe, or it could simply have been a typo. Christmas was a recurring theme for Lila. In 1969 she penned Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star, the Joys of Christmas and Is Santa the Man in the Moon, a waltz which was recorded, along with her later composition Santa Clause Sweetheart, by Dick Kent for song-poem titans MSR.

Other songs I’ve found credited to Lila/Lillay include the 1968 compositions I’ve Hurt All I Can Hurt, Lonely So Lonely and Blue, Sweet Little Flower, Our Beautiful Flag is Crying, Peace Love and Charity and Since You, Sweetheart, Said You’d Be Mine; 1969 also brought the wonderfully-titled The Angels of Mercy (On Flight 303), as well as Little Tommy Doubted. 1970 was an exceptionally busy year, with Lila penning the songs He Is No Angel, Love Means More, Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish, A Lifetime of Heartaches, Stay Buttoned Up, I Had To Have a Transplant (what a title!) and the salacious Sex, Sex, Sex. After a quiet couple of years she resurfaced in 1974, composing the music for the songs Have a Happy Birthday and the Happy Birthday Clown, to words written by Daisy Blackwood.

Lila and her husband William hailed from Houston, Texas and had two sons, Robert and Dan. It appears that, in her 60s, she and her husband retired to California, as it was there that she set up her own record label: the few discs known to exist were issued by her own Timely Records, based in Tujunga, in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. Timely released at least three 45s, Our Beautiful Flag is Crying (backed, I assume, by Peace, Love and Charity as both were copyrighted at the same time), Dancing Prancing Reindeer/Christmas Star and I May Look Too Old, backed with the amazing He’s A Devil (credited on the accompanying picture sleeve as You’re a Devil).


Enjoy!

Download Old HERE

Download Devil HERE

Friday, 10 May 2019

Looking... Talking... Looking again


A very recent purchase this, it only arrived on Wednesday, but it’s one I needed to share with you ASAP.

Released by VEL records of Chicago in 1975, the two sides of Lavon Lambeth’s 7”, Looking At Myself and Talking To Her, are in fact short extracts from longer tracks of the same name. Those two longer versions make up the entire contents of his album Man and His Awareness, issued that same year.

Over the piano tinkling of Vince Willis (aka Vincent Jerome Willis), Lavon Emmett Lambeth – who studied for a BA in History at The University of Michigan in the late 1950s – invites you inside his deeply troubled mind. Lavon is part poet, part self-help guru of seduction. Very much in the style of Barry White, on this disc he bravely discusses how his sexual shenanigans and physical prowess still leave him doubting his desirability, something that he assumes many of his listeners can empathise with.

Very much the New Age man, in the same year that Man and His Awareness was issued, Lavon also published a book (or booklet, more likely) called Man to Woman, Love and the Zodiac.

Lavon appears to have begun his songwriting career in 1969. That year he and his friend, Chicago-based producer and arranger Nate Vincent, wrote the songs Love is Where You Find It, I’ll Always be Around, Remember Me My Love, Help This Girl and Nothing In This World – but I’m much more intrigued by a brace of songs he wrote with Vince Willis the year before Looking at Myself came out. In 1974 the pair came up with The Guy I’ve Always Wanted to Marry and So Much Love to Give. I’ve no idea if these songs were ever recorded, but I’d be fascinated to find out if they were, and if the singer was Lavon himself. It would put a whole different spin on today’s selection!

I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more about Lavon – he certainly does not appear to have recorded or released anything outside of this one album and its associated 7” – but, as always, if any of you know anything, please do get in touch.

Enjoy!

Download Looking HERE

Download Talking HERE


Friday, 3 May 2019

Mel Torment


I believe that there is a special place in hell for crooners, jazzers and the terminally unhip with the temerity to attempt ‘smooth’ covers of pop and rock songs, especially those from the flower power or psychedelia years. Last week’s post, with the Lettermen butchering the Doors, is a prime example.

As is this.

One track each today from the brace of lounge albums Mel Tormé released on Capitol in 1969 and 1970, A Time For Us and Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head. For some peculiar reason the singer John Lennon used to call Mel Torment would not issue a studio album of new material again for eight years, I wonder why?

In all fairness, most of the covers on the first of the two albums are reasonably palatable. I had intended to include his version of the Turtles Happy Together, but I found myself quite enjoying that. Instead, from A Time For Us I’ve chosen Mel’s version of the Beatles’ She’s Leaving Home, a recording that although poppy enough, drains all of the emotion and longing form the original. From Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head comes the criminally awful Sunshine Superman, Donovan’s summer of ‘66 US Number One.

By the way, here in the UK the two albums were mashed together. Both US releases feature 10 tracks apiece: A Time For Us was not issued here, but both of today's tracks appear on the UK-only 14-track version of Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head.

There’s nothing wrong with The Velvet Fog’s vocals: he’s a consummate performer and there’s a campy, lounge-y charm to these albums. I can’t fault the band either, it’s red hot. It’s just the choice of material. I feel exactly the same about opera singers attempting pop songs: just because you can sing doesn’t mean you should sing… as anyone who has heard Pavarotti duet with Barry White (or Brian May, for that matter) will attest.

Enjoy!

Download Leaving HERE




Download Sunshine HERE


Friday, 26 April 2019

I'll have a P Please Bob


The Lettermen are an American male close-harmony vocal trio that has been performing since 1959, and making records since 1961.

The group’s line-up has changed many times over their 60-year history, but in that time they have enjoyed 20 Billboard Top 100 entries (including two Top 10 singles), 32 consecutive Billboard chart albums, 11 gold records, and five Grammy nominations. The current Lettermen consists of original founding member Tony Butala, Donovan Tea (who joined the group in 1984), and Bobby Poynton (who first joined in 1989, left for a period and recently returned to the group).

The had their first hit in 1961, with The Way You Look Tonight, have appeared on TV around 200 times and have played over 10,000 live shows, a truly remarkable feat.

I realise there is an audience for this kind of thing – you cannot sustain a 60-year career without an audience - but the Lettermen’s trademark white bread covers are a bit too syrupy for me. I’ve nothing against good easy listening music, but I would suggest that, on occasion, the group’s choice of material has been a little misguided, as demonstrated on their 1970 album Reflections, which includes reworkings of songs made popular by Aretha Franklin (Natural Woman becomes Natural Man), the Doors, the Supremes, The Temptations and The Drifters among others.

Appropriately the only track that really works is their cover of Bread’s Make It With You.

So, from that very same album of pop and soul covers, here are the Lettermen with The Doors’ Touch Me and Diana Ross and the Supremes’ Reflections

Enjoy!


Download Touch HERE

Download Reflections HERE
 

Friday, 19 April 2019

The Odd Couple


C&W, issued in 1977, was the only album from actress, singer, dancer, and comedian Carol Channing (who sadly died earlier this year just a couple of weeks shy of her 98th birthday) and Webb Pierce, honky-tonk vocalist, songwriter and guitarist and one of the biggest country stars of the 1950s, whose band included such stellar musicians as pianist Floyd Cramer and guitarist-vocalist Faron Young.

Referred to on the reverse of the album sleeve (twice, no less) as “this unlikely duo”, the couple on the front of the sleeve look like they’re going to a Hallowe’en party, not a recording studio. Carol brandishes one of her toy guns as she walks arm in arm with Webb, whose badly dyed bouffant makes him look like Johnny Cash impersonating Dracula. But it’s the music inside that really grates.

Carol’s trademarked cracked voice is no match for Webb’s baritone. Thank goodness the whole sorry assemblage only lasts for less than half an hour. Issued by Shelby Singleton’s Plantation records, C&W includes reworkings of some of Pierce’s big hits, but the pairing of country legend and Broadway superstar just doesn’t come off. Bizarrely Channing and Singleton thought otherwise, and Channing followed this album with another for the label, a collection of duets entitled Carol Channing and Her Country Friends.

In his later years, Pierce became known for his excessive lifestyle. He had North Hollywood tailor Nudie Cohen, who had made flamboyant suits for Pierce, line two convertibles with silver dollars. He built a $30,000 guitar-shaped swimming pool at his Nashville home which became a popular paid tourist attraction — nearly 3,000 people visited it each week — causing his neighbours, led by singer Ray Stevens, to file a court action against Pierce to end the tours.

Here are a couple of tracks from this peculiar collection: Take Your So Called Love and Tennessee

Enjoy!

Download Tennessee HERE



Download So Called HERE

Friday, 12 April 2019

Let's Stick Together


A peculiar little song-poem/vanity hybrid for you today, originally unearthed many years ago by fellow blogger Bob Purse.

Scotch Tape/Close to You, credited to Lana Johnidas and the Swinging Strings, was an early release from Sandy Stanton’s Film City label, which means it was issued circa 1964. Being that early the chances are that the Swinging Strings – Sandy’s ever-present Chamberlin – are played by either Sandy himself or the great Rodd Keith. Both songs were written by Ms. Johnidas, and my feeling is that she probably paid for this disc to be cut to demonstrate her songwriting prowess, for shortly after she joined the ranks of Hollywood-based Our Productions/Your Management, whose offices were in the Capitol Tower on Sunset and Vine.

Her career as a performer/composer was managed by Michael Goldberg, who also looked after the careers of such stellar names as Friar Tuck, the Plastic People, Jacobson and Tansley, and Epic recording act The Kaleidoscope. Sadly, it does not look as though that career amounted to much, as outside of this one disc I’ve been unable to find a credit for Lana on any other record. A shame, because this is a fun little record and her voice, with that hint of a giggle in it, is rather infectious.

Los Angeles-based publisher Flex Songs was closely associated with Stanton: recordings featuring Stanton and published by Flex appear on Excel, Fable and Film City. I can find no evidence, but years of experience would lead me to believe that Stanton was at very least a partner in the company, if not the
outright owner.

That’s about it. As usual, any further info would be appreciated. Thanks Bob, for unearthing this gem.

Enjoy

Download Scotch HERE


Download Close HERE

Friday, 29 March 2019

Pass the Bottle

I’m on holiday for a week from tomorrow; no doubt I’ll be scouring the charity shops of the tip of Cornwall in hope of finding some more strange, obscure and downright awful noise for you all.

When I was holidaying in Yorkshire last year I came back with a fistful of terrible vinyl, much of which I’ve yet to blog. Let’s start to put that right now with two tracks from one of those records, Don “Lofty” Estelle’s Lonely Wine.

My copy of Lonely Wine, like I assume the majority of Don’s albums gathering dust somewhere, is autographed. It’s a standing joke among bad music enthusiasts that – like Father Francis – it’s harder to find a non-signed copy of any of the actor/singer’s albums. I love the cover: a sad bottle of that 60’s favourite Mateus Rose sitting on the sand. On the reverse, just to let us all know that The Don knows his stuff, he’s photographed sitting at a desk accompanied by two loose apples and a bottle of Blue Nun. It couldn’t be any chintzier… unless it came with a free bottle of Thunderbird or Bull’s Blood, that is.

Don really gets his groove on in the two tracks I’ve chosen for you today, both of which have multiple links: both were originally recorded and released in 1984; both were originally on Motown and both are connected in some way with blindness.

Perhaps the title of the album should have been Blind Drunk.

Anyway, let’s all enjoy Don’s whiter-than-white bread covers of Lionel Richie’s Hello and Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called To Say I Love You, and I’ll see you all in a fortnight. Don’t forget you can always get your fix of madness by tuning in to the World’s Worst Records Radio Show each week, or by streaming episodes at your leisure.

Enjoy!

Download Hello HERE



Download Called HERE

Friday, 22 March 2019

Can Ken Cope? Ken Can!


Kenneth Cope is the much-loved actor who people of a certain age will remember fondly for playing the role of dead detective Marty Hopkirk in the cult TV show Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), which aired in the US under the title My Partner, the Ghost.

Cope trained at Bristol’s Old Vic, making extra money by working part-time as a hospital porter. Still with us at the grand old age of 87, during his distinguished career he has appeared in more than 30 movies, and in such iconic TV shows as The Avengers, Coronation Street, Brookside, Casualty. Minder, a Touch of Frost and Doctor Who.


But there’s one thing that I’m pretty sure the Liverpool-born actor would rather forget, his one stab at pop success. In May 1963 he issued a Mike Sarne-inspired one-off single for Pye records, Hands Off, Stop Mucking About backed with Why Am I So Shy. Credited to Ken Cope and the Breakaways, the disc came out while he was still a regular cast member of Coronation Street and, at the time, Cope boasted that “It’ll get me a golden disc if one in every 24 folk who watch ‘Coronation Street’ go out and buy the record,” but sadly, despite the promotion the disc received, the TV watching public did not all rush out at once, and it sank without a trace.

The Breakaways, incidentally, were a Liverpudlian vocal trio who recorded a handful of discs for Pye between 1962 and 1965: Breakaways member Margo Quantrell penned the flip side of the disc, with the A-side co-written by Tony Hatch under the pseudonym Mark Anthony. With so much local talent on offer you would have thought the scousers would have gotten behind the disc, but as Disker (a.k.a. Tony Barrow) wrote in the Liverpool Echo “Mike Sarne has pumped every ounce of value from the Cockney comedy approach to love-making and love-resisting and The Vernons Girls have already done the same for the Liverpool parallel. ‘Hands Off’ is moderately amusing and it has a jolly, catchy tune, but it lacks that extra something which might have made it a best-seller.”

Anyway, here are both sides of this fun little 45.

Enjoy!

Download Mucking HERE



Download Shy HERE

Friday, 15 March 2019

Well and Truly Plastered


You’ll recall in my last blog post I mentioned Dustin Gee, the former comedy partner of Les Dennis, and his 1976 album Plastered With the Pink Elephant. To be honest, I thought I had posted tracks from that some time back, but it was brought to my attention, by my good friend The Squire, that this was not, in fact the case. Let’s remedy that right now.

Plastered With the Pink Elephant was Dustin’s one and only album, issued by the small Manchester-based label Indigo, and sold out of the boot of his car at gigs on the Northern working men’s club circuit. It’s an odd mix of comic songs, cabaret favourites and one or two seriously peculiar – one would assume personal – choices, evinced by the three cuts I offer here for you today.

Born Gerald Harrison in York, after leaving school at 15 Dustin studied at art college. He worked mainly with stained glass and did some repair work on the windows of York Minster. In the evenings he played in a band called the Dare Devils, who eventually became Gerry B and the Rockafellas. After the group disbanded, Gee became first a compere, then a comedian.

He got his big break on the ITV impressions show Who Do You Do?. His future comedy partner Les Dennis also appeared on the show. In 1980 Gee joined the cast of BBC-TV’s Russ Abbot's Madhouse: two years later Les Dennis joined the crew, and Gee and Dennis formed a comedy double act. In the summer of 1982 Gee had a minor heart attack when doing a summer season with Jim Davidson in Torquay, but soon recovered enough to be able to continue with his television work.

In April 1984, Gee and Dennis began their own TV comedy show, The Laughter Show (retitled Les & Dustin's Laughter Show for the third and final series).  In May 1985 Gee fell ill while on stage at the North Pier in Blackpool. He was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where a minor heart attack was diagnosed. Gee was also told that he had dilated cardiomyopathy and that he should take it easy. Despite doctors’ orders, after a month he was back on stage, and continued until the show closed at the end of September.

Gee and Dennis were appearing in pantomime at the Southport Theatre, Merseyside when, on 1 January 1986, Gee suffered a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Southport General Hospital, where he died two days later. Believing in the old showbiz adage that “the show must go on”, Dustin was replaced in the pantomime by Jim “Bullseye” Bowen.

Here are three cuts from Plastered With the Pink Elephant Covers of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ Please Don’t Touch (later covered by Motorhead and Girlschool, as Headgirl), The Beatles’ Piggies and David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Enjoy!

Download Touch HERE

Download Piggies HERE

Download Space HERE

Friday, 1 March 2019

Ohh Betty!

It’s not often that I post novelty records, but once in a while something comes along that just has to be shared – as is the case with Les Dennis and The Imagination Game.

I have to admit, I knew not of the existence of this horror until last weekend, when fellow collectors, bloggers, Tweeters and friends of WWR Stephen ‘Beany’ Green and Dame Agnes Guano brought it to my attention.

Recorded shortly after young Les won talent show New Faces, The Imagination Game gives the young comedian and impressionist opportunity to preserve his act for posterity. Over two sides the Liverpool-born charmer channels Michael Crawford (as Frank Spencer), Deputy Dog, Andy Devine, John Wayne, Mr. Magoo, Bruce Forsythe, Tommy Cooper, James Stewart, James Bolam (at least that’s who I think it is), Telly Savalas and countless others. But sadly, he also proves that he’s no singer.

Winning New Faces catapulted the youngster, then still only 20, to fame. He landed a recurring role on the ITV impressions show Who Do You Do and, in 1982, he joined the team on primetime BBC show Russ Abbot's Madhouse, forming a comedy partnership with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee. That lead to a hit series of their own, The Laughter Show which sadly folded after three series following Gee's sudden and unexpected death in 1986. In 1987 Dennis became the host of ITV’s long-running quiz show Family Fortunes remaining with the popular show until 2002. Since then he has moved into acting, appearing in such TV shows as Brookside, Casualty, Extras, Midsomer Murders and Coronation Street, and – presumably after a few vocal coaching sessions - on stage in Hairspray, Chicago and me and My Girl.

My hugest of huge thanks to Dame Agnes Guano for admitting to owning a copy of this!

Enjoy!

Download Part One HERE


Download Part Two HERE

Friday, 22 February 2019

I'm Your Puppet

Today’s horror is the 1961 offering from disgraced talent show host and right-wing megalomaniac Hughie Green, The Puppet Song and The Valley Of Peppermint Springs

Green will always be remembered for hosting TV talent show Opportunity Knocks. The show began on radio, initially on the BBC Light Programme where it ran from February to September 1949, before moving to Radio Luxembourg It was first shown on ITV from 20 June 1956 to 29 August 1956, but a second run, that commenced in July 1964 and lasted until 20 March 1978, saw it become one of the highest rated shows on British television.

Opportunity Knocks was huge, and the list of people that went on to carve out a career in entertainment is endless: the show helped make stars out of Mary Hopkin, Les Dawson, Paul Daniels, Lena Zavaroni, Pam Ayres, Peters and Lee, Bobby Crush and countless others. As hit rates go, it did better than either the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. But Green didn’t always get it right. In 1975, after an audition in Surbiton Town Hall, he passed on a young three-piece band from London who went on to find fame as The Jam.

The show was axed in 1978, shortly after Hughie went on a crazed political rant on-air. Inspired by the rise of Maggie Thatcher and a resurgent Tory Party, In December 1976, at the end of an episode of Opportunity Knocks, Green performed a bizarre piece about the state of the United Kingdom, Stand Up and Be Counted, which was released as a single by Philips in 1977 (backed with a grotesque rewrite of Land of Hope and Glory) with the distinctly patriotic catalogue number GB1. You can read more about that particular debacle HERE 

Opportunity Knocks was revived by the BBC and ran from March 1987 to June 1990, hosted initially by Bob Monkhouse (under the title Bob Says Opportunity Knocks!) and subsequently by former winner Les Dawson. Green never got over the humiliation of being axed and sank into a mire of alcohol-fuelled self-loathing. He was not the nicest of men: one of his mistresses killed herself when he left her by pouring petrol over herself and setting herself on fire, but he left the best until last. At his funeral in 1997, it was revealed that he was the real father of TV presenter (and wife of Bob Geldof) Paula Yates, a fact the poor woman was unaware of until she herself read it in the News of the World. There’s little doubt that this contributed to poor Paula’s personal problems and death, from an accidental overdose, in 2000. 14 years later her second-oldest daughter (and Hughie’s granddaughter) Peaches also died of a heroin overdose, aged just 25.

Anyway, here are both sides of the 45.

Enjoy!

Download Puppet HERE


Download Peppermint HERE


(if the links aren't working, give them a couple of hours and try again!)


Friday, 15 February 2019

Bittersweet Sinfonia

Although I seldom post about novelty records there have been one or two notable exceptions over the years. This is one of those records that always makes me laugh, and I think its about time I shared it with you.

The Portsmouth Sinfonia was founded by English composer Gavin Bryars and a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in 1970 and was open to anyone that either had no musical training or who chose to play an instrument that they were unfamiliar with. The only rules were that everyone had to come for rehearsals and that people should try their best to get it right, not intentionally play badly. Their first recording¸ a one-sided flexi disc of Rossini's William Tell Overture, was sent out as the invitation for the 1970 degree show. Their debut album, Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics, followed in 1973.

The orchestra remained something of a cult, selling out the occasional live performance but not really attracting anything like a large audience until, in 1979 they issued their third album, 20 Classic Rock Classics, which gained a fair amount of airplay. After that, the orchestra was approached by Island records and, inspired by the “Hooked on Classics” series, in 1981 they released Classical Muddly – which became a top 40 hit in September of that year.

In 2011 the Portsmouth Sinfonia was the subject of a Radio 4 documentary. In that programme Bryars claimed that idea that members were required to be novices at their instruments was a "scurrilous rumour put about by the BBC". As if!
Here’s their 1981 hit single Classical Muddly (originally backed with a liver version of the Hallelujah Chorus, recorded at the Albert Hall) and, from their 1973 Brian Eno-produced album Portsmouth Sinfonia Plays the Popular Classics, the ridiculously fun Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Enjoy!
Download Muddly HERE

Download Sprach HERE

Friday, 1 February 2019

Baby Baby Baby Baby

Today’s terrible tune comes courtesy of drummer Martin Samuel, the former sticksman for the late 60s/early 70s pop/rock band Heatwave (not to be confused with the mid 70’s Brit disco band of the same name), and it’s the truly awful Baby by Sensation.

A bit of background. Based in London, Heatwave (according to Martin Samuel, the band was never known as Heat Wave) were signed by Larry Page, the former Teenage Rage (and manager of the Kinks and the Troggs), to his Penny Farthing label. They released one single, the psych-influenced Sister Simon (Funny Man)/Rastus Ravel (Is A Mean Old Man) in November 1970. Also released in Europe and Japan, as Martin says, “It's on the Penny Farthing label and, so far, we have not seen so much as a penny or a farthing from it!”

The A-side featured the Ladybirds (three former Vernons Girls who were the go-to vocal backing act of the time); the flip had a young man called Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Doris Troy on backing vocals. Both songs were written by John Edward, the former pirate radio DJ who would go on to huge success with Metal Mickey and Renee and Renato.

In the middle of the following year Martin left the group. “Although Heatwave kicked me out for suggesting we play more originals (we did two of mine) and songs not by Mr. Edward, it was really as a result of Edward recording singles using session players and only the vocalists, as did The Beach Boys, from the bands in his agency,” he explains. “I wanted no part, and they were worried I’d blow the whistle.”

He auditioned for (and almost joined) Badfinger, as a replacement for Mike Gibbins. “Mike had been doing serious session work as a drummer. He felt playing with them was cramping his style and he wished to expand as a drummer so, it was a friendly mutual agreement. I had the gig until Pete asked if I wrote songs. Having recently been replaced for just such a reason, for the first and last time in my life I lied and told him, ‘No, I'm only a drummer’. Later I discovered they were looking for an all-writing band!” Missing out on the Badfinger gig, he instead joined the Jonathan King-affiliated Crew.

Sensation (or The Sensation), the band that Heat Wave became after Martin left, found a new drummer (a chap called Stumpy), stuck with John Edward and recorded a new single, the glammy Black Eyed Woman (not a bad record at all) which was backed by the dreadful Baby... a song whose lyric must have taken John Edward months to write.

Martin rejoined not long after, “on condition we play more of ‘our’ originals and record them ourselves. Such did not transpire so I jumped ship, flew to Jersey and joined Simon Raverne.”

By an odd twist of fate, in 1980 Martin almost joined Badfinger again. “I was a studio session drummer in Los Angeles and met up with Joey Molland, who was working part-time as a carpenter/odd-job man, when Tom Evans flew in from the U.K. to discuss what was to be the aptly-named Badfinger album, ‘Say No More’. They wanted an all-Brit band including Tony Kaye, but Tony would only play if his drummer pal was in the band so, once again, I was ousted. As it turned out, they recorded the album in Miami (where Gibbins later passed away) with a totally different drummer!”

A lifelong drummer, Martin is still playing and composing today.

You can find out more about – and hear more from - Heatwave and their associated bands at http://www.heatwave.n.nu/ Col Wolf has also written a detailed history of the band, which you can find here: http://www.forumusic.co.uk/heatwave.html

My huge thanks to Martin for taking the time to get in touch, and for providing the illustrations. Here are both sides of the Sensation 45. Enjoy! 

Download Baby HERE



Download Black HERE

Friday, 25 January 2019

Pipes of Peace

What can we say about Liberace that has not been said before? Not much, to be honest. The saccharine-sweet ivory tinkler is a bit much for me, fascinating though he is/was. But he's one of those artists that keep on popping up on my radar, and yet in the more than 11 years that I've been writing this blog I've yet to 'do' him, as it were.

So, allow me to make amends with his hateful 1959 B-side Let There Be Peace On Earth And Let It Begin With Me.

Issued in Britain as the flip to his instrumental version of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic You'll Never Walk Alone, the release followed a turbulent few years for Wladziu Valentino Liberace (known to his family and friends as Lee), who made his first recordings in 1946.

Revered as one of the world’s greatest entertainers, his enormous success relied on his position as America’s non-threatening, asexual ‘mama’s boy’, and his low-brow popularisation of high-brow music would never have happened if his audience – including the 35 million that regularly tuned in to watch him on TV - had seen him as anything other than sexless. 

In 1956 an article in the British newspaper The Daily Mirror (by columnist William Connor, writing under the pen name Cassandra) described Liberace as ‘the summit of sex - the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love’. Liberace, at the time the highest paid entertainer in the world, sent a tongue-in-cheek telegram to the Daily Mirror that read: ‘what you said hurt me very much. I cried all the way to the bank’, although he would later sue the newspaper for libel, testifying in a London court that he was not homosexual and that he had never taken part in homosexual acts. 

Lee testified that, at a performance in Sheffield, ‘there were cries from the audience of “queer” and such things as “go home, queer”,’ which upset him ‘very much, and it upset the audience too.’ He won the suit, perjuring himself in the process, and the £8,000 damages he received led Liberace to repeat his new ‘I cried all the way to the bank’ catchphrase to reporters.

The Daily Mirror was not the only publication prepared to take a pop: the headline in the July 1957 issue of the US magazine Confidential trumpeted that ‘Liberace’s Theme Song Should Be “Mad About the Boy”!’ Liberace also sued Confidential, this time filing a $20-million libel suit and telling the press that ‘this story is a damn lie and I’m damned mad. If it takes every nickel I’ve got I’ll guarantee it will never happen to anyone else as long as I live. All of us take a certain amount of kidding about ourselves and our work, but when they come out in print and tell such lies, I’m going to move. It’s real heartbreak to see your life’s work destroyed so viciously by a magazine in an article of this kind. It’s a lie. It’s trash.’

Lee kept up the pretense to the end, even after his former chauffeur and lover Scott Thorson filed a $113 million lawsuit against him (in the first same-sex palimony case in the US), he denied any kind of homosexual involvement. In December 1986, less than two months before he died, Liberace settled the case for $95,000. The week after his death (on February 4, 1987) the Daily Mirror made a half-hearted attempt to recover the money from his estate, running the headline ‘Any Chance of a Refund’. 

Let There Be Peace On Earth And Let It Begin With Me is a rarity in the Liberace canon, in that it contains a vocal performance by the pianist. Lee would flex his larynx on occasion, but the results were always pretty dire... and never more so than this. The song, incidentally, was composed in 1955 for the International Children's Choir: it has since been covered by dozens of artists, including country singer Vince Gill and Carlos Santana.

Here are both sides of the 45.

Enjoy!

Download PEACE here

Download WALK here

Friday, 18 January 2019

Touched By the Hand of Cicciolina

Today's post was inspired by the rather wonderful Mr. Weird and Wacky. Blame him!

Immortalised by Pop Will Eat Itself (and Eurotrash), Elena Anna “Ilona” Staller – Cicciolina – is a former member of the Italian parliament, former actress, former porn star… and former disco singer.

Born in Hungary, if her ‘official’ biography is to be believed in 1964 (at the age of 13!) she began working as a model and, later, spy, passing information about American diplomats on to the Hungarian authorities. Soon she met and married Salvatore Martini and moved to Italy.

It was there that she met pornographer Riccardo Schicchi and adopted the name Cicciolina. Her first starring role was in the 1975 softcore lesbian romp La liceale (The Teasers) and, in 1978, the same year that she began her recording career, she became the first woman to bare her breasts live on Italian TV. By 1983 she had moved into producing her own hardcore movies, and this was followed by a tell-all book, The Erotic Confessions of Cicciolina, and an appearance on the cover of Playboy (the first of many).

Her political ambitions began in 1979, when Ilona stood as a candidate for Italy’s Green party. In 1985, she switched to the Partito Radicale, campaigning against nuclear energy and NATO membership, as well as for human rights. She was elected to the Italian parliament in 1987, the same year that she released her most infamous song, Muscolo Rosso, a paean to the penis. While in office, and before the outset of the Gulf War, she offered to have sex with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in return for peace in the region. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was not re-elected at the end of her term in 1991.

Having gone ‘legit’, in more recent years she has appeared in the film Replikator and had a role in the Brazilian soap opera Xica da Silva. In 2008, she was a contestant on the Argentine version of Strictly Come Dancing.

Here are both sides of her 1979 disco single, a cover of Lief Garret’s I Was Made For Dancin’ and Save The Last Dance For Me, originally a hit for the Drifters.

Enjoy!

Download Dancin' HERE



Download Dance HERE

Friday, 11 January 2019

It's Time To Swing 'n' Slim

Who doesn’t love a good advertising record?

Trimettes, which enjoyed their heyday around 1963/64 were biscuits, available in three flavours, lemon & Chocolate, Orange or Cheese, which dieters were expected to use as a meal replacement – a proto Slim Fast bar, if you like. They came in packs of 12, which represented three meals: it was suggested by the manufacturers that for rapid weight loss you replace every meal with your four biscuit allowance and a glass of milk and, one you had achieved the desired weight, you could then maintain your figure by replacing just one meal a day with Trimettes biscuits.

Established to compete in the burgeoning slimmer’s market with Limmits, a similar meal replacement biscuit that had been around since the middle of 1961, Trimettes were manufactured by Universal Laboratories of Folkestone, Kent, who also made Daxaids, an indigestion medicine, Soothe chilblain cream, and Dascote cold and flu remedy as well as countless other ‘over the counter’ medicines.

Not exactly sensible, the biscuits’ main ingredient was sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, a thickener derived from wood pulp that is still used today in diet foods and in everything from paint to laundry detergent. Yum! By the early 1970s the range had increased to include fruit shortbread biscuits, chocolate fingers, lemon crisps and other tasty treats

Anyway, like a lot of other slimming aid manufacturers (Energen crispbread, for example) the good people behind Trimettes decided to produce a keep fit record, to encourage their loyal customers to add a few aerobic exercises into their diet regime. Sadly the disc, which came in a groovy fold-out cover featuring illustrations and directions for each of the exercises, gives away very few clues as to who was involved, although judging from the catalogue number it's clear that it was manufactured by CBS Special Products around 1965.

I know I know the narrator’s voice, I just can’t put my finger on his name. It’s almost definitely a pirate radio DJ. But what we do know is that the fantastic background music on Trimettes Swing ‘n’ Slim came from the Chappell music library, and features such now-revered composers as John Hawksworth and Jack Dorsey.

Here are both sides of this wonderful slice of 60s kitsch. Enjoy!

Download Side One HERE


Download Side Two HERE

Friday, 4 January 2019

Witches Brouhaha

Janie Jones, I hear you say. Where do I know that name from? Didn’t the Clash have a song called Janie Jones?

Yes they did, and this is the very Janie Jones they sang about, and who they – and a couple of members of the Blockheads - would later join forces with under the name Janie Jones and the Lash for the single House of the Ju-Ju Queen.

Born in 1941 in Seaham, County Durham as Marion Mitchell, Janie Jones has had a colourful career, at one time vying with Cynthia Payne as Britain’s most notorious madame. She started out as a clog dancer, winning championships in County Durham before becoming a cabaret artist in late 1950s London. It was then that she began to get herself in trouble.

In 1956 she was given 12 months’ probation for shoplifting, and in 1957 she was jailed for nine months for trying to smuggle a hacksaw in to prison. The following year she was fined £50 for allowing her home to be used “for the purpose of habitual prostitution.” She performed at the Windmill Theatre and reached notoriety in August 1964, when she attended the film premiere of London in the Raw wearing a topless dress.

Shortly afterwards Janie embarked on a career as a pop singer. Issued in November 1965, her debut single, the cackling novelty number Witches Brew, peaked at number 46 in the UK Singles Chart in 1966, despite one reviewer reporting that “the bubbling cauldron sounds more like a washing machine in full spate.” Later the same year that she was at the centre of an S&M vice scandal, and was charged with attempting to blackmail one of her clients for £2,450. After a lengthy trial Janie was acquitted, but just over a fortnight later – while she was performing in cabaret at the Astor in Berkeley Square (with Jack Hammer, author of Down In the Subway) she was arrested again, this time charged with running a brothel from her flat in Kensington Park Gardens. In May 1967 she was found not guilty.

It’s hardly surprising, given the notoriety Janie attracted, that subsequent releases failed to chart, despite her appearances on television programmes including Thank Your Lucky Stars and the Mike and Bernie Winters show. After a few years out of the spotlight she hit the headlines again after holding sex parties at her home, and in April 1974 was jailed for seven years for running what the papers of the day referred to as “a VIPs vice racket.” Janie was released on parole in 1977, the same year that The Clash sang about her on their debut LP. Five years later they returned the favour, backing Janie on the 1983 single House of the Ju-Ju Queen.

Here are both sides of her debut 45, Witches Brew and Take-a My Tip, plus the A-side to her third single, the ridiculously fun Tickle Me Tootsie Wootsies. You can find out more about Janie's colourful career at http://janiejones.info

Enjoy!

Download Witches HERE

Download Take-a HERE

Download Tickle HERE

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