Friday, 21 July 2017

Steamed or Creamed?

With their roots in the early 60s folk scene, and best known for their sunshine pop hits Windy, Cherish, Never My Love and Along Comes Mary, The Association are beloved by fans for their close harmonies. The six piece (later seven piece) band will forever be famed for appearing as the opening act at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 – the first ever large scale pop music festival, but by the time they issued their fifth (and eponymous) studio album in 1969 things had soured somewhat for them, the hits had stopped and they were trying desperately to do something different.

And what they did was this: Broccoli. Ridiculous. ‘I like to eat it with my mouth’? Seriously, which other organ are you able to eat with? Written by guitarist Russ Giguere, presumably as some sort of joke, the album’s failure precipitated his leaving The Association and releasing the psych-influenced solo album Hexagram 16.

The band recorded their last album of new material, Waterbeds in Trinidad!,  in 1972. The following year founding member and bassist Brian Cole died, aged 29, of a heroin overdose, and over the next few years although the band issued several singles they struggled to find direction and gradually fell apart. Drummer Ted Bluechel kept the group going but soon retired. He began leasing the group name out, allowing oldies tour packagers to send out a version of The Association without any of the original members. After dealing with the legal issues caused by that catastrophic error of judgement (Dollar/Bucks Fizz, anyone?) several of the original members reformed the band and they have continued to tour ever since.

Larry Ramos, a former member of the New Christy Minstrels who joined in 1967, sadly passed away in April 2014, three years after suffering a heart attack and just over two months after his last appearance with the group. The Association are still gigging today, featuring original members Jim Yester and Jules Alexander plus friends and relatives: Brian Cole’s son Jordan plays keyboards for the group, and Larry’s brother Del plays bass.

Anyway, here’s a brace of songs you’ll seldom hear the Association perform, the thoroughly ridiculous Broccoli and, from the same album (known amongst fans as the ‘Stonehenge’ album), I Am Up For Europe, co-written by Brian Cole. If only they had been around for the Brexit vote…

My thanks to The Squire for alerting me to this particular vegetable.

Enjoy!




Right click HERE to download


Right click HERE to download

Sunday, 16 July 2017

No Business

A couple of days late... but here we go!

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost a decade of writing about rubbish to finally get around to blogging about The Ethel Merman Disco Album.

The veteran American Broadway performer Ethel Merman released The Ethel Merman Disco Album on A&M Records in 1979. Over the years this dreadful record – which features Merman performing several of the songs she was most closely identified with, including her signature belter There’s No Business Like Show Business - has attained the status of a camp classic, with original vinyl copies highly sought out by collectors.

Known primarily for her distinctive, powerful voice and leading roles in musical theatre, Merman recorded 14 songs for the record, although only seven were released on the original version (one of the others, They Say It's Wonderful, finally saw the light on the 2002 CD reissue; the six remaining songs have yet to see official release). Each of the songs was recorded in only one take and arranged vocally the way she always recorded them, with the ‘disco’ backing track added later. It’s probably worth noting here that the woman was 71 when this turgid monstrosity was unleashed on the world.

Stories about Merman (born January 1908, died February 1984) are legion. My personal favourite concerns her five week marriage to Ernest Borgnine (the fourth, last and briefest of her marriages). It was a disaster: Borgnine himself described it as the ‘biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney!’ Merman’s 1972 memoir, Merman, includes a chapter entitled My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine that consists of nothing more than a single blank page. Borgnine later told the Australian actor Frank Wilson that he spent most of his short marriage ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ with his wife, who was eight years his senior, and told him that ‘One day she came off the set of a film and said, ‘the director said today I looked sensational. He said I had the face of a 20 year old, and the body and legs of a 30 year old!’ I said: ‘did he say anything about your old cunt?’ ‘No’ replied Ethel, ‘he didn't mention you at all!’

Then there is her scene-stealing cameo in Airplane! (released a year after The Ethel Merman Disco Album and her last film performance), where she plays a traumatised soldier who is convinced that he is Ethel Merman.

Although she is beloved by gay men of a certain age she professed a distaste for the number of homosexuals involved in musical theatre . At a rehearsal she once shouted to newspaper columnist Jerry Berger ‘have you ever seen so many faggots in your life?’; she is also said to have accused Borgnine of being ‘a fag’ when he could not perform in bed. perhaps unsurprisingly it is rumoured that she had a lesbian affair with trash novelist Jacqueline Susann, and that Susann based her Valley of the Dolls character Anne, an ageing stage actress, on Merman.

There are those who will insist that The Ethel Merman Disco Album is great. It isn’t. And to prove my point here are a couple of primo examples of Ethel’s flirtation with the demon disco: Everything’s Coming Up Roses and I Get a Kick Out of You. Just horrible. And why the disembodied arm holding the hat? What's all that about?

The whole album is readily available on the YouTubes if you fancy more, but until next time...

Enjoy!


Friday, 7 July 2017

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

There are a multitude of reasons for this week’s post. Partly it has been inspired by Pride taking place in both London and Bristol this weekend, and partly it has come out of a number of interviews I have conducted and articles I have written recently about Pride and politics ahead of the publication of my forthcoming book, David Bowie Made Me Gay (SPOILER ALERT; lots of shameless plugs and paragraphs full of self-promotion ahead: you may wish to skip ahead to the music now!)

Yes, my new book, David Bowie Made Me Gay, is coming out soon, and people seem to like it. It’s ‘an excellent book’, according to Gay Star News, and ‘a comprehensive and compelling work, in terms of its extensive discussion of music, history and, of course, a human struggle for tolerance, acceptance and respect’ according to Nudge Books. Tom Robinson, who I had the good fortune to interview for the book, calls it ‘Lovingly detailed and exhaustively researched - easily the most readable and comprehensive guide I've seen to this fascinating hidden history.’ As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked!

Here’s an excerpt from the official blurb: ‘From Elton John to Little Richard, Bessie Smith to Dusty Springfield and Boy George to Sia – via lesser-known and cult musicians such as trans composer Wendy Carlos, Jobriath, and Divine – David Bowie Made Me Gay is a collection of hidden histories, pulling back the curtain on the colourful legacy that formed our musical and cultural landscape. Through new interviews and contemporary reports, David Bowie Made Me Gay uncovers the real story of LGBT music-makers, revealing the lives of the people who made the records, and witnessed first-hand the cultural revolution that they helped to create.’

Anyway, back to the music. I have spent the last year or so researching and writing about LGBT musicians, and on my travels I found much to admire. Sadly I also uncovered some terrible nonsense that should never have seen the light of day. And, naturally, it’s a couple of examples of the latter that I present for you today.

Anita Bryant was a beauty pageant queen, singer, actress and the spokesperson for Florida orange juice. She was also a terrible homophobe, the kind who equates homosexuality with child abuse. A perfectly passable singer, she had a few chart hits (her version of Paper Roses went Top 5 in 1960) but as she became more politically active her singing career all but dried up: her last charting 45 was in 1964.

I first came across Bryant when I read Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City in the late 1980s; Maupin’s character Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver talks about her in his coming out letter home to his parents. At the time the novel was set, Bryant was heading the political coalition Save Our Children, a right-wing Christian-led campaign to overturn local legislation that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Florida had long been opposed to LGBT rights: the city’s officials had been closing down bars and enacting laws to make homosexuality and cross-dressing illegal, and until 1975 the government was legally empowered to refuse employment to anyone thought to be homosexual. Established in 1956, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (known as the Johns Committee) hunted down LGBT people in state employment and universities and in 1964 published Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida (a.k.a. the Purple Pamphlet), a highly inflammatory document that portrayed homosexuals as predators and a threat to children.

Bryant became the bete noir of the gay community, and protests against her and against Save Our Children saw her lose a lucrative TV series. In June 1977 more than 130,000 people marched to demand equal rights for LGBT people in the United States, with marchers bearing signs attacking the former singer. Peaceful demonstrations were also held in London, where around 1,000 turned out to march, and in Amsterdam 2,000 people marched through the city carrying banners that read ‘Against the American witch-hunt on homosexuals’. In San Francisco, according to police estimates, more than 100,000 took to the streets and the gay community received heavy support from predominantly heterosexual organisations.

Naturally a number of artists recorded songs both in support of and attacking Bryant and Save Our Children: you can discover many of those at JD Doyle’s excellent Queer Music Heritage website here, but for today I’ll leave you with one of the oddest, most confused and certainly NSFW of them, renegade country singer-songwriter David Allen Coe’s Fuck Aneta Briant, which appeared on his 1978 album Nothing Sacred and was also issued as the B-side to his single Cum Stains On The Pillow. You can also have a listen to Anita’s 1962 Top 20 hit Wonderland By Night, her vocal version of the Bert Kaempfert hit. I wonder if she knew that the song was originally the theme tune to a German ‘art’ film whose story included lurid (for the time) depictions of prostitution and lesbianism?   

Published in the UK on September 7, you can per-order David Bowie Made Me Gay here (UK) and here (US). We’re holding a launch event at the British Library on September 8, with music from k anderson and Drake Jensen, and a limited number of tickets for that event are available here. I’ll be touring the country in September and October to promote the book – if you would like to keep up to date with details I have a dedicated Facebook page set up here - and if you’re in the area it would be great to see you there.

Enjoy!


Friday, 30 June 2017

The Singing Psychic

Born on March 2 1944, the daughter of Frances and William C. Swift, Frances Swift, a.k.a. Frances Tanner (otherwise known as Frances Baskerville or Frances Cannon) is notorious among bad music aficionados as The Singing Psychic. The licensed private detective, who claimed to have found 5,000 missing children (more about that later), released at least three albums over her career, all of them worth checking out for their utter oddness.

Her debut, the 1985 collection Music from Cannonville: A Brand New Sound, featured Frances singing along to an acoustic guitar. A couple of the tracks that appear on Music from Cannonville would later turn up, in radically different form, on The Singing Psychic: Miracles and Come Step Thru Space With Me.

Released in 1987, the sleeve notes to The Singing Psychic inform us that ‘Frances becomes psychic after a lumber truck hits her in 1979. She soon began to levitate objects spontaneously over hundreds of miles. Psychic healing has occured from her God-given talents. She had been studied by nine different scientists. She had been proven 85 percent accurate. She has found over 200 missing children. Some of the songs on Side Two will be in the musical “Psychic Fantasmagororia”, in which she will star. All lyrics and music written by Frances Cannon. She guides “The ET’s” with ESP. Frances hopes to win World Cup Six in International Chess with ESP communication with Bobby Fisher.’ Guides the ET’s? ‘All lyrics and music written by Frances Cannon’? Seriously, have a listen to Star’s Ghost and tell me that our Frances isn’t simply singing her own words over a karaoke version of the Bobby Darin hit Splish Splash. Seriously rare, copies of this album are nigh-on impossible to find these days and regularly fetch in excess of $100 when copies do turn up for sale.

As Frances Baskerville she released a third album, Songs From Beyond. The collection features the song Grassy Knoll, her take on the Kennedy assassination, which again employs a stolen backing track for her ‘original’ composition – this time the tune for Ode to Billie Joe. Another track, A Whale of a Tale (not to be confused with the Kirk Douglas song) features the same backing track as Star’s Ghost. You would have thought her psychic powers would have alerted her to potential claims of plagiarism. Side two of the album features the song Heaven’s Highway – which is Star’s Ghost retitled. Not re-recorded, you understand: it’s exactly the same take! So purchasers of Songs From Beyond would have been confounded to find not one but two songs ripping off Splish Splash… one of which they may have already owned under another title! She should have called herself the Shameless Psychic.

According to her own biography, Frances Baskerville, Singing Psychic opened a detective agency and became the ‘Psychic to the Stars’ including Michael Jackson who offered to send his private jet for her to read for him. Frances claimed to have been involved in an accident in which an 18-wheel lumber truck backed into her car, while she was waiting outside a beauty parlour. The lumber crashed through the roof of the car, almost killing her, and causing her to have an out-of-body experience. It was after that experience, she said, that she discovered that possessed psychic abilities.

Being a country music fan Fran thought it would be a neat idea to ‘sing’ her predictions. She made regular appearances on the Howard Stern show where she once sang her premonition that Patrick McNeill, who had disappeared outside a Manhattan bar, would be found 100 yards from his home in Port Chester, NY. His body was eventually found floating near in pier in Brooklyn.

Arthur Lyons and Marcello Truzzi wrote about her in their book The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime in 1991. ‘Frances Baskerville, the “World’s Only Singing Psychic”, who heads the Baskerville Foundation for Psychical Research [also referred to as the Baskerville Sherlock Holmes Detective Investigation Co.] in Dallas, Texas, claims to be a licensed private detective specializing in finding lost children. In a recent letter to the authors, she credits herself with having found over “five hundred persons,” [that number, as you’ll discover, fluctuated somewhat] although she regretfully states that she “only has the right” to name three, due to the fact that she neglected to get “release forms’ from the other four hundred and ninety-seven. She also claims to work with attorneys in several states helping to select juries’. By the time she appeared on the Judy Joy Jones radio show, that number had increased to 5,000.

You can listen to the whole of Songs From the Beyond at the WFMU blog, and elsewhere on the web you can listen to an interview with Baskerville from when she appeared on the Judy Joy Jones Show. Fran Baskerville passed away on August 16th 2009 at her home in Dallas, Texas.

Frances Cannon/Baskerville was certainly unusual. Here’s a flavour of her material, Dangerous Tools and Grassy Knoll from Songs From Beyond and Star’s Ghost from The Singing Psychic. There’s more out there if you need it.

Enjoy!

Friday, 23 June 2017

By Request: Gleneil

It was way back in January 2008 when I first featured Gleneil Roseman on this blog; as all of the old links are dead – and as one reader has asked for a re-up – I thought now would be an appropriate time to revisit his story and to reacquaint you with his bizarre oeuvre.

Hailing from Plainfield, New Jersey, Gleneil, a.k.a. Gleneil Roseman, released his peculiar album Cruise It in December 1985 on GRM Records. Cruise It features eight tracks, all seemingly self penned, and performed by Gleneil on bass, electric keyboards and vocals, George Reich on guitar and synth and Tom Curtis on acoustic guitar. Apparently GRM stands for Gleneil Roseman Music - a vanity project (stands to reason I guess) – and from that album I present for you the truly weird Cheapy Chappy and Ito, also issued as the B-side to the single Serious Joke, and the utterly bizarre instrumental Rockin' Chips which, unfortunately, I only had a less-than-perfect dub of that I’ve attempted to clean up for you.

The ridiculous Cruise It was Gleneil’s second album; his debut, Soothing, was issued (as GR 153031) in 1983. Soothing? As you can tell from these few cuts, Gleneil's music is anything but! In June 1985 Gleneil (as Gleneil Roseman) also released the single Reggae Danc’in Time (catalogue number Groover G 136, via his GRM Records imprint, listed in Billboard on June 1), a song not included on either of these albums.

Odd is not the word for Cheapy Chappy and Ito. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks doing Saturday night cabaret at a working men's club in the North of England, and you may be somewhere close. If that doesn’t work for you, how about the Lollipop Guild covering Dave and Ansell Collins’ Double Barrel? His drummer drops the beat, keyboards are reminiscent of Stephan Remmler's Casio noodling on the first two Trio albums, and Gleneil's voice sounds like he's just ingested a quart of helium. Anyone who has the patience to try and work out the entire lyrics gets a doughnut: ‘Wow! Like the Lineman from Wichita! Numbuddywumbuddy-moon-andagumbidy-groom-annalumbidymumbiddy-tune on a Wednesday!’

I’ve made various stabs at discovering more on this man's brilliant career over the last decade, but I’m sad to say that so far I've managed to uncover precious little more info on our hero than I am able to present here. Tracking him down hasn’t been helped by the fact that Gleneil Roseman is a pseudonym: when I first wrote about him one WWR reader, Graham Clayton, suggested that his real name is Glen M. Campbell, and that he was born in 1946. A search of various copyright databases proved this to be the case: Glen M. Campbell is listed as the copyright claimant on a number of Gleneil’s compositions (although I wonder if that should be Glen N. [as in Neil] Campbell), including all eight tracks on Soothing, plus Serious Joke, Cruise It and others. Just to confuse the issue further in 1988 he recorded a series of singularly uninspired instrumental cuts under the name Gleneil Lovel, issuing the album Midnight Moods (GRM 103135) and the 45 Quiet is the Storm/Rosita (my copy is pictured here; I haven’t put the tracks up as they’re just plain boring, like Kenny G on Ritalin). He also used the pseudonym Rhythm Line Ito on the same album.

Needless to say, copies of Cruise It - when they are offered for sale - can be very expensive: there's a copy currently on Discogs for 100 Euro if you're interested. If anyone has any further sound clips - or if they know of any other Gleneil releases - please do get in touch.

Here is a short clip of the single A-side Serious Joke (sadly edited; I have yet to track down the whole ting) plus Cheapy Chappy and Ito and Rockin’ Chips.


Enjoy!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Bye Bye Batman

Unlike a number of my friends I’ve never really been a fan of comics (apart from The Beano), superheroes and the like. I’ve never been a Doctor Who fan either, but I’ve always thought of Jon Pertwee as my Doctor Who. But I was saddened by the news this week that Adam West had passed away at the age of 88 after a short battle with leukaemia, because Adam West was my Batman. I though he was great. Funny, intelligent and aware enough to poke fun at himself – I’ve always thought of Adam West and William Shatner as cut from the same cloth.

West was born on September 19, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington. After university and a stint in the army he began acting, landing a few non-starring roles in various TV dramas (including episodes of The Outer Limits and Laramie) West was cast by producer William Dozier as Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, Batman, in the wonderfully kitsch and campy Batman series. Dozier had been impressed by the actor after seeing him perform as the James Bond-like spy Captain Q in a Nestlé Quik commercial.

The show ran from 1966 to 1968 but has remained in syndication ever since. A feature-length film version directed by Leslie H. Martinson was released in 1966. Two years after Batman was canned, West was offered the role of Bond by producer Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli for the film Diamonds Are Forever, although he turned the role down because he felt that Bond should always be played by a British actor. More recently he appeared in The , the Big Bang Theory and had a recurring role as the voice of the mayor in Family Guy.

The man was an icon… and there are very few true icons left. Screw your Clooney, Bale, Keaton, Affleck and Kilmer Batmen, for me there was only ever one caped crusader, and the world is a little poorer now he has gone.

Here are both sides of Adam’s rocking horse-shit rare 45 Miranda, which features an uncredited appearance from his on-screen sidekick Burt Ward, backed with You Only See Her, plus, for fun, the a-side of the 1966 Mike and Bernie Winter’s 45 I Like Batman.

Enjoy!

Friday, 9 June 2017

What Shall We Do?

Hailing from Kansas the Concrete Rubber Band produced just one original album – but what a record it is: Risen Savior is- by far - the best badly produced and performed psychedelic gospel record you will hear in your life.

Issued in 1974 by the Missouri-based American Artists label (AAS1164), this downright peculiar album is Christian psychedelia at its most extreme, with loads of Doors-esque organ riffs, fuzz guitar a la Junior and his Soulettes, male and female lead vocals that make you want to slit your wrists and what one reissue site has labelled ‘synthesized bubbling lava pits, frequency oscillations, distorted sci-fi vocals and short-wave static patterns’. This garage band recording is muddy, distorted and positively reeks of amateurism, yet the Concrete Rubber Band had been making music together for a number of years before they got around to delivering their debut (and so far, sole) album.

The hyper-Christian Shaggs comprised of Duncan Long, synth, electric guitar and co-author (along with his father) of all of the songs, Bob Rhodes, the drummer and Duncan’s sister Jan, the mid-price Manzarek behind the organ who also adds the female vocals. The three, from the small town of Alden, all went to the same school and the same church. ‘We didn’t perform at a lot of places,’ Duncan reveals on his own website. ‘A lot of our music was religious, but our sound was a bit too wild for any church group to sponsor us, and we didn’t want to play at dances for various reasons, but mostly because most kids only wanted dance music that they’d heard on the radio. A few brave churches, coffee houses, and youth groups asked us to play our set of songs.’

Recorded in the Long’s living room on a stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder with only the most primitive of overdub capabilities, only 500 copies of this minor masterpiece were pressed, with most of those given away free to family, friends and at gigs. Bootlegged twice, the album was officially reissued on CD – along with a dozen bonus tracks – in 2007. Copies of the original album have sold for over $2,000.

Shortly after the release of Risen Savior Jan decided to go to law school and the band split. After spending almost a decade teaching (rewarding his favourite students with copies of his masterwork), Duncan Long is now a successful graphic artist and sci-fi author; sister Jan became involved in local politics and, as Janice Pauls, is now a Republican member of the Kansas state legislature, and a keen suppressor of LGBT rights. Drummer Bob retired from the music business, moved to Colorado and raised a family.

You can read a great interview with Duncan Long on his CRB days at author Stu Shea's Ten Records blog.

For Duncan’s personal take on the whole CRB legend read his reminiscences here

The official reissue of Risen Savior is available to buy from Green Tree Records with 12 bonus tracks. 

To get you in the mood, and persuade you to spend your shekels, here are a couple of tracks from Risen Savior – Christian and the album’s opener What Shall We Do?

Enjoy!

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