Friday, 28 November 2008
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Burmese Land is Like Monkey Land, to the lunatic asylum I'm going
Sunday, 5 October 2008
There's a chance that, if you consider yourself to be a bad record aficionado, you're probably a fan of bad movies too. I love the work of Edward D Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda et al), the exploitation films of Kroger Babb (Mom and Dad), and others far to numerous to mention; check out the listings for the Paranormal Channel (who have recently come up with such delights as the Corpse Grinders, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla and The Bat) if you want to get an idea of what I mean.
The late 60's, early 70's produced a slew of terrible movies, many of which fed on middle America's fear of pot smoking hippies and biker gangs, including She Devils on Wheels and the execrable Black Angels. Which is where we come in.
The Black Angels is a dreadful, dreadful, little piece of schlock (so bad it's actually quite good) about the turf war between two gangs, with a little race rivalry thrown in for good measure. For years the white Serpents and the black Choppers have battled each other, united only by their mutual hatred for a local police officer, Lieutenant Harper. A Chopper member is killed in a fight with Chainer, the leader of the Serpents, and after the Serpents accept new biker Johnny Reb into their ranks, they ride into town to mete out punishment. Returning to their hideout, the gang launches a wild party, which Johnny Reb further enlivens by dipping into his stash. As the gang becomes drowsy and vulnerable from the pills' aftereffects, one of the cyclists, Frenchy, discovers that Johnny Reb is actually a black Chopper member passing for white. Before Frenchy can warn the others, however, Johnny Reb stabs him to death and then signals the Choppers to attack. The two gangs massacre each other while Harper observes the bloodbath from a distant hilltop. Lovely.
But we're not here to glorify gang violence, drug taking or indeed manufacturers of Z-grade movies. What draws our attention is the brilliantly awful soundtrack. Uncredited, but performed by actor/musician Aesop Aquarian, a man whose remarkable 40-year career (occasionally under the names Aesop T. Aquarian and/or the more worldly Stephen Morrell) has included guest spots on TV shows Starsky and Hutch and the Rockford Files and appearances in movies including Don't Mess With the Zohan (often as an ageing hippy or rabbi), the soundtrack to Black Angels offers a couple of bland, nondescript rock songs, but nestled amongst them is this little gem.
The Cigarette Song is a lovely little ballad extolling the virtues of the noxious weed, including lung cancer. Have a listen, but pay close attention to the third verse...
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
There's an art to scat singing - that odd noise that some jazz men and women (Cleo Lane, the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and others) make, not unlike a cat being strangled but definitely nothing to do with the other definition of the word 'scat'. You either like it or hate it and personally, unless it's Ella or Louis I can live without it.
But one man made such an impression that he will forever be linked with the world of scat. Shooby 'the Human Horn' Taylor never quite managed to get it together to release an album, although his son - William Taylor Junior - has dozens of reels of his father's idiosyncratic singing (often bumbling around and making up words over the top of other, better, recordings - read on if you dare) and a cassette of 14 of these songs was released as The Human Horn and made available before Shooby's death (in 2003, aged 74).
William 'Shooby' Taylor was born in Indiana Township, PA, on September 19, 1929, but soon moved with his family to Harlem, where he spent the majority of his life. Besides Shooby's several decades of pursuing a career as a scat singer, he also worked 21 years for the New York City post office. His idol was jive scat-master Babs Gonzales, who he tried (unsuccessfully) to emulate. He claimed that the epithet Shooby was bestowed upon him by jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie. As the new York Times once wrote of him: "As he tries to approximate the sound of a saxophone solo with his voice, he hits sour notes. He spits out nonsense syllables like a machine gun, communicating in a private language nearly impossible to imitate. And he rarely meshes with his background music, whether it is the skating-rink organ in ''Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing,'' songs by the country singer Christy Lane or Mozart."
The recordings that make up The Human Horn cassette were self-financed made in a small New York Studio in the early 80s. Around the same time Shooby was booed off stage just a few seconds into his act at the famous Harlem Apollo : www.shooby.com/video/index.html
Here, for your delectation, is Shooby 'duetting' with the great Johnny Cash on Folsom Prison Blues: http://rapidshare.com/files/149760643/Johnny___Shooby_1.mp3.html
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
There have been some truly appalling versions of the 60s Lee Hazlewood classic These Boots Are Made For Walkin' over the decades - those by the late Paula Yates, David Hasslehoff (yes, really) and the wonderful, oft seen star of this very blog Mrs Miller come immediately to mind - and today I'd like to add to that eclectic selection by presenting you the version recorded in 1968 by Gypsy Boots.
Robert 'Gypsy Boots' Bootzin was a US fitness pioneer, credited introducing mainstream America to alternative lifestyles such as yoga and poularising organic food.
San Francisco resident Bootzin, along with a dozen or so other 'tribesmen', lived off the land, slept in caves and trees, and bathed in waterfalls. Known locally as Nature Boy, he was the inspiration for the 1948 Nat King Cole hit of the same name (later covered by George Benson among others), which was written by fellow 'tribesman', Eden Ahbez (more about him in a later instalment!).
Gaining national exposure in the 1950s through TV shows such as the Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life and the Steve Allen Show, he began to capitalise on his celebrity, issuing the books Barefeet and Good Things to Eat and the autobiographical The Gypsy in Me. He opened one of the first health food stores in the country, which became much used by Hollywood celebrities, and can lay claim to inventing the smoothie.
The man remained active until well into his 80s, and passed away in 2004 less than a fortnight before his 90th birthday.
But it is for his vocal ability that we celebrate him here. In 1968 he released the album Unpredictable on Sidewalk Records, a collection of pop covers, standards and a couple of original tunes massacred in his own unique way. Like many of the b-listers given an hour in the studio in the wake of Tiny Tim and Mrs Miller, he belts out these numbers with unhinged gusto, clearly enjoying every minute of it, but the results are predictably dire.
And, as if to prove the point, here we present his dreadful reading of These Boots...
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Thursday, 10 April 2008
One of the absolute classics of the genre, and one which no self-respecting lover of bad records should be without.
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was born Norman Odam in Lubbock, Texas in 1947. This unassuming chap was bitten by the music bug at an early age, performing locally at high school hops and talent shows.
Before one such show he paid for a few hours of studio time and recorded the song for which he will be forever famous: Paralyzed. Only 500 copies of the disc, with T-Bone Burnett on drums, were pressed initially, but it brought the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to the attention of the producers of the 60s TV show Laugh In. His odd collection of whoops, howls and yelps, alongside the insane drumming and franky bizarre trumpet solo was an instant hit, and his recording was soon picked up and reissued by Mercury.
Subsequent releases (including I Took A Trip - see below - and My Underwear Froze to the Clothesline) failed to recapture the distinct oddness of Paralyzed, and Ledge's star soon faded. Little more would be heard of him for over a decade, until he was brought back to prominence by Rhino Records and the Dr Demento radio show. The appearance of Paralyzed on Kenny Everett's Worlds worst records compilation lead to a contract with Big Beat records in the UK and a fairly awful album, Rock-It to Stardom.
He still gigs sporadically to this day. David Bowie is a huge fan: Ziggy Stardust was (apparently) named after the Ledge; Bowie recorded a version of Ledge's I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship for his excellent Heathen album and they've even appeared in concert together.
For more info on the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, check out www.stardustcowboy.com
Monday, 24 March 2008
Wherever collectors of bad record gather, the late, lamented Leona Anderson will always be celebrated for her aptly-titled 1957 album, Music to Suffer By. From the same school as Mrs Miller, Florence Foster Jenkins and Mme St Onge, Anderson reveled in the limitations of her voice: according to the excellent Space Age Pop web site (http://www.blogger.com/www.spaceagepop.com) her publicity proudly proclaimed her as "the World's Most Horrible Singer."
The sister of early cowboy movie star Bronco Billy Anderson, she appeared in a number of films - thankfully all silent - in the early 1920s. One - Mud and Sand - satirised Rudolph Valentino and starred the great Stan Laurel (as Rhubarb Vaselino; Leona played Filet de Sole), another (In the Park) starred Charlie Chaplin, and a third (Bronco Billy's Mexican Wife) was directed by and starred her brother. Many years later, and shortly after the release of her only album, she also appeared in the Vincent Price horror film The House on Haunted Hill.
By the mid-1950s Leona had developed her unique singing style and made many cabaret appearances sending up opera singers. She released a single, Fish, a 78 rpm released by a small New York City label, recorded with Bill Baird (a puppeteer best known for the Lonely Goatherd marionette scene in The Sound of Music) on tuba and Tony Burrello, famous for the Dr Demento favourite There's a New Sound (The Sound of Worms Eating Your Brain), on calliope. TV comic Ernie Kovacs heard it and invited her on his show, which no doubt led Unique Records to record and release Music to Suffer By.
She died at the age of 88 in a retirement home, but left us with a small, but perfectly formed legacy for which we will be forever grateful. Here, for your listening pleasure is Rats in my Room, from Music to Suffer By.
Thursday, 21 February 2008
Thursday, 3 January 2008
An exhaustive (well, five minute) search of the web has provided little information about this utterly awesome recording, but what I have found I shall share.
Gleniel, aka Gleniel Roseman, released his peculiar album Cruise It in 1985 on GRM Records, and from that album we bring you the truly wierd Cheapy Chappy and Ito. Other standout tracks include the utterly bizarre instrumental Rockin' Chips (which you can find in real audio at www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/13647) but it was not his only release. Oh no. There's apparently a second album, Soothing. Something Gleneil's music is anything but!
Odd is not the word. 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. 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.
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