Friday, 18 May 2018

The Many Sides of Dobie Gillis

The name of Dwayne Hickman won’t mean much to British TV viewers, but in America Dwayne was a superstar, thanks to his role as the title character in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.
Running from 1959 until 1963 (but available in syndication ever since), Dobie Gillis was the first American television programme from a major network to feature teenagers as leading characters; previously, teenagers were only ever portrayed as supporting characters in a family story. Dobie Gillis also broke new ground by depicting the rising teenage counterculture, although even then many of the portrayals were highly stereotypical, the teenage tough, the long-haired beatnik and so on. Still, the show was a huge hit, and co-star Bob Denver, who played Dobie’s best friend, Maynard Krebs, would go on to play Gilligan on the phenomenally successful Gilligan’s Island. It did not matter that the actor playing the teenage Dobie was 25 when the series started, and close on 30 when it finished.
Before landing the starring role in Dobie Gillis, Dwayne had featured (as Chuck) in another hit sitcom, The Bob Cummings Show. Chuck was the break-out character of the series (much like Maynard Krebs would prove to be), and a big hit with the younger viewers. So what do you do when you have a hit on your hands? Why, you drag him (or her) in to a TV studio to cut some recordings, of course!
Dwayne’s first brush with pop fame came courtesy of the faux-rock n’ roll 45 School Dance, backed with Pretty Baby-O. It’s not the worse cash-in you’ll ever hear, but it is fairly appalling. The horrible, screeching backing vocalist do their best to drown Dwayne out, but his flat delivery wins through. Reviewed by Billboard in March 1958, they thought it would be a hit. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Not that that would upset Dwayne much, for within a year of issuing his first disc he was a bone fide star with his own television show. And what do you do when you’re the producer of a hit TV show with a popular and attractive young man in the starring role on your hands? Why, you drag him in to a TV studio to cut some more recordings, of course! The resultant album, Dobie, finds our Dwayne strolling through a few ineffectual slices of pre-beat boom pop, nothing great and nothing too offensive. Nothing that reached the heights (or plumbs the depths) of his debut.
After Dobie Gillis, Dwayne went on to star in the cult movies How to Stuff a Wild Bikini and Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine with Frankie Avalon and Vincent Price. More recently he popped up as a guest star on episodes of shows including Sister, Sister and Murder She Wrote. Dwayne is also a talented artist, and had been offering his own paintings for sale on his website, although sadly that does not appear to have been updated for a number of years.
Enjoy!
Download SCHOOL here

Download PRETTY here

Friday, 11 May 2018

Blurred Vision

It’s that time of year again.

Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the camp cheesefest that is the Eurovision Song Contest, this year my Husband and I have decided to have a few friends over, open a bottle of pop and a bag of crisps (well, alright then, a bottle of cava and a packet of grissini... I do have standards, you know) and watch the whole wretched thing from start to Finnish. My money’s on Netta, the Israeli Bjork, with her Chinese lucky cats and her electro chicken song, although I can see Saara Aalto doing well too. With Brexit on the horizon there's no way the UK's entry, Storm, a perfectly passable song performed by SuRie, will take the top spot. A shame, as it's easily one of the best entries this year. Even without Brexit we still would not do well: our position as America's lapdog ensures that most countries will vote against us on principle. It's 21 years since we last won, and since then we've only scored in the top ten three times and taken last place three times as well.

The Eurovision Song Contest is the longest-running international TV song competition in the world. Beginning in 1956, each participating country submits an original song to be performed live, and then casts votes for the other countries’ songs to determine the competition’s winning entry. One of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures of up to 600 million internationally, the annual show often falls victim to tactical voting, but with both Russia and Azerbaijan out this year, who will those countries vote for?

This time last year we took a look at some of the worst UK entries of recent years, but in an all-embracing effort to include everyone, ahead of this year’s Eurovision I thought I’d give you a few examples of the worst from some of the other countries involved. By the way, you don’t have to be European to take part, qualifying countries simply have to be members of the European Broadcasting Union, or to have paid a fee to the EBU to allow them to join in. It’s that mercenary.

It’s hard to select the lowlights from a sixty-two year-old festival dedicated to the worst imaginable Europop excesses. There are so many, from rubber-masked rock band Lordi taking the honours in 2006 with Hard Rock Hallelujah, to the ‘comedy’ of Iceland’s Sylvia Night and her abysmal Congratulations, but here are a handful of stinkers that really stand out – for me at least.

From Lithuania comes LT United’s boastful (and factually incorrect) We Are The Winners, easily one of the most annoying and tuneless efforts viewers of the contest have ever had to suffer through. Obviously LT United were not the winners, although they did respectably well, ending in sixth place. Apparently the single went platinum in Lithuania, although to do that it only had to sell 5,000 copies.

Even though it fell at semi-final stage, Ireland’s Dustin the Turkey (a cheaply made puppet being wheeled across the stage in a shopping trolley) deserved to reach the finals with Irlande Douze Pointe, a song which understands exactly what the show is all about. And what can you say about Montenegro’s Rambo Amadeus and Euro Neuro? Apart from WTF, that is.

Finally, seven-time winner Israel seemingly lost the plot with the truly abysmal Ping Pong, and Sameach from the 2000 contest, a bouncy pop tune that rips off Taffy’s 1985 hit I Love My Radio and features a lead singer who could not carry a tune in a bucket, surrounded by a bunch of people jumping around like drunks at a particularly chavvy wedding. It placed twenty-second out of twenty-four entries that year, with a measly seven points.

Enjoy!


Friday, 4 May 2018

Poddcast


A classic bad album, one that often turns up in the lists of the world’s worst, but one which is seldom heard. 

Hailing from Michigan, Three Peas in a Podd (the name on the album sleeve is incorrect) were Dick Wallace, Wild Wally Klejment and Jerome ‘Mr Shop’ Byville, a three-man cabaret band whose members met while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Together from 1968 until 1983, before becoming Three Peas... the trio had also worked together under the names The Dan D Trio, The Wally K Combo and (post album) as Patchwork. 


Wild Wally later began using the name Max Effort (love it!). Back in 2008 Max (via WFMU) revealed that he “played the Sanovox on the Three Peas album and provided some of the singing. There were two vocalists; I was the lesser quality of the two being hampered by out-of-control allergies and a bad cold. The congestion really played havoc on my breathing and my vocal range. Yes, we should have rescheduled the recording date when I was healthy, but we couldn't afford to lose our deposit. The entire album was recorded in just a couple of hours as that's all our budget allowed.”

Everything about this record is wrong: the off-key trumpet, the out of tune vocals, the ‘unique’ spelling and use of punctuation in the title, although, as Max said: “It has been our experience that those who criticize the loudest are the ones with the least knowledge and experience. You may like our music; you may not like our music. But no one has any right to declare it right or wrong. No one has ever been granted that authority. People who have contracted with us over the years (many times, repeatedly) did so because they had a good time. That was our job - to entertain.” I for one certainly find it hugely entertaining, although I disagree about Max’s view of criticism (well I would, wouldn’t I?). If you put your art out there for other people to experience they are bound to critique it. Dealing with criticism is part of the job; everyone has an opinion.

If the following couple of taster tracks leaves you wanting more, you can still find the whole album at WFMU. Here’s Goin' Out of My Head and The Shadow of Your Smile.

Enjoy!

Download Goin' HERE




Download Shadow HERE

Friday, 27 April 2018

Oh Carolina

Today’s offering is another track recently brought to my attention by Bob at Dead Wax, and one which I simply had to own. Luckily there was an affordable copy for sale on eBay; I say ‘was’ because this little treasure is now mine!

Issued around 1976, God is So Good and its flip Because He Lives (written by William J. Gaither) were recorded by nine year-old Joel Stafford, a severely disabled boy from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Joel suffered from a rare and incurable bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta, a form of brittle bone disease. This congenital condition left his body unable to develop the collagen needed to build up his bones, and meant that he had to have steel rods implanted in his legs.

Young Joel wanted to buy an electric wheelchair: he also loved to sing in church with his family. “I’m going to buy myself a wheelchair,” he told reporters from local newspaper the Statesville Record And Landmark in September 1976. “I’m going to take it to school so I can roll myself around.” To pay for the chair Joel persuaded his parent, Wayne and Linda, to take him to a local recording studio and cut his only 45.

Instrumental support was provided by local band the Starlighters. Several bands have used the same name over the years, but these fellows appear to have been led by one Bert Starr and they released their own 45 on Unique records around the same time. Issued on his own Joel Records label, he soon sold enough copies of his disc to pay the $1,500 or so for his chair.

A strong-minded young man who enjoyed attending the Children’s Center In Winston-Salem, Joel was proud of his achievement and of his new chair, but unfortunately before long some low-down cur stole it, and he was forced to sell more copies of his 45 to pay for a second one. Luckily this time around he had support from the local community, as the press cutting here notes.

Sadly Joel appears to have passed away; his father’s obituary (Joe Wayne Stafford died in 2003) mentions that his son predeceased him, but no other details. Luckily he left us his single, a lasting legacy to a brave little boy determined not to be beaten by the hand he was dealt.

Enjoy!

Download God HERE


Download Because HERE

Friday, 13 April 2018

Angels and Devils

My latest obsession, thanks entirely to Bob at Dead Wax, is Mrs. Lila F. Daniels, also known as Lila Winton Daniels, but recognised professionally as Lillay Deay.

I can tell you next to nothing about her, apart from that she seems to have been riding on the coattails of Elva Miller and, like her, only attempted to establish a career as a singer in her dotage. The big difference though is that Mrs. Daniels wrote her own songs.

Born in 1896, she began her writing career in 1959 with The Christmas Star. In 1966 she penned the patriotic Lady of Liberty, and in 1967 she registered copyright in four songs, Appreciation, Our 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 Daniel Singers or the Daniels Singers, depending on which pressing you ended up with. The ‘group’ was in no way related to the gospel vocal act of the same name. Christmas was a recurring theme for Lila. In 1969 she penned Is Santa the Man in the Moon, and 1973 brought Santa Clause Sweetheart.

Other songs I’ve found credited to Lila/Lilay include the 1968 composition I’ve Hurt All I Can Hurt; in 1970 she wrote the songs He’s No Angel and Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish. I can’t help wondering if He’s No Angel is the same song (or at least is related to) the song that first introduced me to Lillay, He’s A Devil. In 1974, she composed the music for the songs Have a Happy Birthday and the Happy Birthday Clown; the words for both of these were 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, 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).

And that’s all I’ve got. If you know anything more about her, or have any more music by her, please do let me know. Here are a couple of tracks to send you on your way: the amazing He’s A Devil (stolen, with heartfelt thanks, from Bob at Dead Wax), and Our Beautiful Flag is Crying, cribbed from YouTube and cleaned up a little by my own fair hands.

Enjoy!

 Download Devil HERE



Download Flag HERE

Friday, 6 April 2018

LMW 281F

A couple of tracks today from Bill Shepherd: songwriter, producer, arranger, orchestra leader and quite possibly Paul McCartney Mark II.

Yes, even today there are still many ridiculous conspiracy theorists who claim that Paul is Dead, and that Faul (the fake Paul, geddit?) was replaced by one William Shepherd, a nascent singer and songwriter who previously led Billy Pepper and the Pepper Pots. It’s not a huge jump from Billy Shepherd to Billy Shears, and from Billy Pepper to Sgt. Pepper, after all.

The clues are out there: Paul’s mysterious wonky eyebrows and his ‘are they/aren’t they’ attached earlobes; the photo of Faul from the back on the cover of Sgt Pepper, and the barefooted march across the cover of Abbey Road; cranberry sauce… Sadly, the Billy Pepper/Shears/Shepherd these idiots promote as Macca’s replacement died himself in 1988, which kind of blows their theory out of the water, ne-c’est pas? Never mind that Billy Pepper’s own singing voice and compositional skills leave rather a lot to be desired. There is no way that this man could have ever written anything as sublimely beautiful as For No One.

No, it seems that our Billy Shepherd was the same composer and arranger who later went to work for the Bee Gees. Bill Shepherd was born in Surrey in 1927, and early in his career he worked with JoeMeek, when Joe was an in-house engineer at Pye. Shepherd first achieved notice in 1959 with his work as producer/composer on the Anthony Newley comedy Idle on Parade. He worked with Peter Sellers at Parlophone (with George Martin, Beatles obsessives!) and with the Shadows, penned the B-side to Jackie Lynton’s Over the Rainbow, and worked with Gene Vincent on his single The Beginning Of The End.

Shepherd had often been called on to produce quick knock off versions of TV themes and current instrumental hits, and in early 1964 he assembled a studio group, dubbed Billy Pepper and the Pepperpots, to record a clutch of tracks in the style of the Beatles for a couple of budget price cash in albums, Merseymania and Beat!!! More Merseymania. With each album featuring nasty cover versions of a couple of Beatles tracks, plus up to eight originals written in a similar style, the cheap discs were often picked up by gullible parents wanting something Beatle-y for their kids. Both albums sold well, and have been endlessly repackaged over the years, with the band often being renamed. Billy Pepper recordings have been released under the names the Beats, the Mersey Beats of Liverpool (not The Merseybeats) and the Liverpool Beats.

Shortly after the Merseymania recording sessions, Shepherd moved to Australia and joined Festival Records, where he began his relationship with the Gibb Brothers, a relationship they would renew after the group and the arranger both moved back to the UK – independently of each other - in 1966. He was responsible for many of their arrangements, and remained closely involved with all of the group’s work until 1973, when the Gibbs relocated to Los Angeles. During the same period he also worked with the Beatles protégés Grapefruit, Ritchie Havens, Gene Pitney, the New Seekers and Arthur Mullard. He died in L.A. in 1988.

Just to add fuel to the fire, a Billy Shepherd was also wrote one of the very first books on the Fab Four, The True Story of the Beatles, published in 1964 by Beat Publications, publishers of the Beatles Book Magazine. It seems that most of the conspiracy theorists have either forgotten or conveniently ignored that. But then again it has been conclusively proven that that Billy was not our Bill, (or Paul, or Faul either for that matter); that particular Billy Shepherd was, in fact, one of the many pen names utilized by Peter Jones, a music journalist who wrote for the Record Mirror and, later, Billboard. Jones, under the pseudonym Pete Goodman, would also write the first book on the Rolling Stones.

Anyway, enough of this nonsense; here is Billy, along with his Pepperpots, with their dreadful, atonal cover of I Want To Hold Your Hand and Bill Shepherd’s own composition, the frighteningly awful Seems to Me. Oo-wee-ee-oohh indeed! If you honestly think that a Beatle would have come up with a song as bad as this you need your bumps felt.

Turn me on, dead man!

Download Hand HERE


Download Seems HERE

Friday, 30 March 2018

Alice in Blunderland

Now, I loved the Stranglers, although I’ll admit I’ve no time for their post-Hugh output. For me it was all over once he left. The first post-Hugh album, In The Night, is just horrific (‘It’s in your brainbox/It’s in your dreadlocks/It’s in my red socks’) and I gave up at that point, but I’ll happily hold my hands up and say that they were a fine singles band – one of the best of the post-punk era – and they produced some classic albums. 

Most fans will probably go for Stranglers IV (Rattus) or Black and White, but for me The Gospel According to the Men In Black and Feline are where it’s at. I just love those two records. Fans will always argue about which album is the best (or their personal favourite) from the classic line up, but the one that will always remain on the bottom of the pile is the atrocious Aural Sculpture. 

Bless them, you can appreciate that they are trying to do something different, and follow up the low key and laid-back (but rather successful) Feline with an album that takes them even further away from their punk roots, but the horrible mishmash that is Aural Sculpture should never have seen the light of day. Feline was their first Top Five LP since the Raven: Aural Sculpture saw them struggle to get in to the Top 20, and of the three singles issued, only one was a reasonable hit. 

It would have made a great mini-album, or even EP. The collection has a couple of decent numbers, notably Ice Queen, No Mercy and lead single Skin Deep, but for the most parts it’s flabby and the addition of a horn section was a shocking mistake. It’s clear that the group are going for a more soulful groove here, but many of the lyrics are of 14 year-old schoolboy level, and nowhere is that more in evidence that the absolutely dreadful Mad Hatter. Even if you can live with the obtrusive horns, and even if the more tranquil tracks on La Folie or Feline had warned you that things were indeed changing nothing – but nothing – can prepare you for the horrendous backing vocals.

Listening back to the album today, it’s actually aged pretty well, but Mad Hatter still makes me want to reach for a bucket. The group paved the way for the album with the pompous, pretentious and frankly ridiculous Aural Sculpture Manifesto, issued as a one-sided freebie with some copies of Feline and played as opening ‘music’ at live dates to promote the album. I saw them on that tour… and believe me when I tell you that it didn’t go down well with the ‘traditional’ Stranglers audience. Trivia fans might like to know that the cassette version of Aural Sculpture included a ZX Spectrum computer game, Aural Quest, which could be loaded using the Spectrum’s usual tape loading method.

Anyway, see what you think. Here’s Mad Hatter and Aural Sculpture Manifesto... the nadir of the 'real' Stranglers' career.

Enjoy!

Download Hatter HERE


Download Sculpture HERE


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