Friday, 21 April 2017

Anti Maim

This week's blog was inspired by a suggestion from a reader. Thanks! (I think!)

Lucille Ball was an American institution: actress, model, television executive and slapstick star without whom - its arguable – we would never have had Star Trek. Although her iconic TV shows I Love Lucy, the Lucy Show and Here's Lucy were never huge hits here in the UK, back home she dominated the sitcom scene.

Ball was the first woman in television to be head of a production company, Desilu, the company she formed with her husband, the Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. After the pair divorced, Ball bought out Arnaz's share of the studio, and she proceeded to function as a very active studio head. She appeared in several hit movies, toured extensively, and was a favourite of Roosevelt, Eisenhower and J. Edgar Hoover – not a bad achievement for the former registered member of the Communist Party. She also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for contributions to motion pictures, and one for television.

But one thing Lucy wasn’t was a singer. Although she had appeared in musicals including Dance Girl, Dance, Easy to Wed and DuBarry Was a Lady, and had a passable voice her range was limited and, when a big song was demanded then her vocals were overdubbed (on DuBarry Was a Lady by Martha Mears, for example). Lucille Ball was a heavy smoker her entire life and there’s a good chance that the heart problems that killed her were directly related to her cigarette intake: smoking also affected her already weak singing voice, so by the time that the 1974 musical Mame came about, what little instrument that had been there was completely ravaged. 

Mame was a disaster: the film bombed at the box office and Ball’s reviews were brutal. Time Magazine wrote that ‘the movie spans about 20 years, and seems that long in running time . . . Miss Ball has been moulded over the years into some sort of national monument, and she performs like one too. Her grace, her timing, her vigor have all vanished’. Pauline Kael in The New Yorker asked if ‘after forty years in movies and TV, did she discover in herself an unfulfilled ambition to be a flaming drag queen?’ and other reviewers mocked her for being too old, with Ball filmed out of focus in a vain effort to make her look younger. Watch it: every close up looks as if a thin layer of Vaseline has been spread over the lens. In her defence Ball told one interviewer that ‘Mame stayed up all night and drank champagne! What did you expect her to sound like? Julie Andrews?’ Apparently it took two years to film… God only knows why. Maybe that had something to do with the 40 costume changes Lucille makes during the film, which came at a cost of $300,000. Certainly at one point Lucy had to take time off from filming as she had broken her leg.

Luckily Mame had Bea Arthur, who played Vera in the stage show and she steals the show by recreating that role here.

Mame really is the kind of film that helps explain why so many people hate musicals. In an interview to promote the movie Lucy admits that ‘you can’t really call it singing and you can’t really call it dancing, but I’m out there doing what they asked me to do. I love it [singing] but I can’t, I’m not good at it.’

Lucy is miscast, the musical numbers are overblown and old fashioned and the whole production suffers in comparison to the 1958 (thankfully non-musical) film Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell, or the stage show that debuted in 1966 with Angela Lansbury in the title role. The film is entertaining, but only for the unintentionally funny moments in it. Still it was a musical, and musicals need a soundtrack album. Original Soundtrack From the Motion Picture Mame was issued by Warner Bros at the same time as the film hit cinemas; The original Broadway cast recording with Angela Lansbury had sold over a million copies, but both film and soundtrack failed to attract an audience. The album claims to be the original soundtrack, but it’s clear that the songs have been re-recorded. However there’s little improvement evident. If He Walked Into My Life is just terrible, as is the bog-awful cutesy Open a New Window. 

But why take my word for it? Have a listen here and decide for yourself.

Enjoy! 

Monday, 17 April 2017

Let's Lock!

It’s not unusual, as Tom Jones sang, for non-English speaking countries to jump aboard the current western pop bandwagon and launch their own indigenous version of the latest craze. Many countries had their own version of the Beatles, for example, and (naturally) a few years before the Fabs ruled the world, faux-Elvii could be found all over the place.

But none of the local Presley-alikes holds a candle to Masaaki Hirao, the Japanese Elvis. Masaaki Hirao Masaaki was one of the famed Rokabirii Sannin Otoko (three rockabillies), alongside singers Mickey Curtis and Keijiro Yamashita. Yamashita was better known for his ballads (with covers of Diana, Today’s Teardrops and others) and sounds more like the Nipponese Pat Boone or Paul Anka; Mickey Curtis was (well, still is) an actor who did a nice line in Neil Sedaka covers, but Masaaki Hirao was the Number One star of Nippon Rock ‘n Roll. The three men would record an album together, Rock n’ Roll Forever, in 1972.

The rokabirii buumu (rockabilly boom) was born in 1958. Rokabirii may resemble US rockabilly, but the Nipponese version is, as music historian Howard Williams notes (in the sleeve notes to the collection Nippon Rock'n'Roll The Birth Of Japanese Rokabirii), ‘a more varied dish’. Hirao and his oddly-named backing band the All Stars Wagon’s ‘covers of Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and Little Richard are not kitsch renditions, but raw, desperate rockers. Hear a Paul Anka makeover, but put through a rocking mangle; a smattering of jazz; a twist of New Orleans; and some Japanese folk songs with a greased-down quiff. American occupation a distant memory, these boys wanted to party’.

Other Japanese acts had covered western pop hits before: actress and singer Chiemi Eri released an English-language version of Rock Around the Clock as early as 1955. Yet although it’s easy to extract the Michael from these funny foreigners and their difficulty in pronouncing certain consonants, rokabirii posed a real problem in Japan, with the authorities fearing of a wave of delinquency not dissimilar to the cinema and theatre riots seen in the US and UK. The rokabirii buumu only lasted a couple of years, but for a nation of teenagers denied access to Western music (don’t forget, this all happened just over a decade after the end of the Second World War) it must have been incredibly exciting.

Still, when Hirao sings ‘let’s lock!’ on his version of Jailhouse Rock it does sound completely ridiculous.


Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

It's Shaun's Show

Although I have not featured this artist (or this record) on the blog before, this somehow feels familiar… like revisiting old friends.

Born on September 27, 1958 in Los Angeles, Shaun Cassidy was still in High School when he was offered a recording contract by Mike Curb, the musician, arranger, producer and – sadly – politician who I first featured on this blog back way in 2009.

Riding on the coattails of half-brother David, Shaun was just 18 when he scored his first hit, a cover of the Tupper Saussy song Morning Girl. Saussy has also featured on this blog before; he was also responsible for the reprehensible The Prophet: Predictions by David Hoy 45 by psych-rock group The Wayward Bus. Instantly young Shaun’s face was all over the place, on magazine covers, on lunch boxes and on posters pinned to teenyboppers walls. For a brief time he was all-but ubiquitous.

Anyway, Shaun scored a few hits, in both the US (where his first two albums sold more than five million copies) and in Europe, but his career as a teen pin-up didn’t last; luckily TV stardom beckoned with a couple of series of The Hardy Boys Mysteries, but the pop hits had completely dried up by 1978. His last notable chart placing at home was yet another cover, this time of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe in Magic

Then he met Todd Rundgren.

Unsurprisingly I’ve also featured Todd before, of course. It was Todd who performed the diabolically awful version of the XTC classic Dear God on his album (re)Production and it was Todd who tried to turn the one-time teen idol Shaun Cassidy into a New Wave star. The results, predictably, are awful.

Wasp, the album Todd put together for Shaun, is just dreadful. Backed by the then-current Utopia line-up, the album is stacked with piss-poor cover versions of songs originally recorded by the Four Tops, Talking Heads, The Who, Ian Hunter, the Animals and David Bowie, alongside a few new songs written or co-written by Rundgren himself.

Wasp would be the last album that Shaun the pop star released. He has continued to act though (he also sang, in the US stage version of Blood Brothers with his older sibling David) but has proved much more successful off-screen, writing, producing and creating such shows as American Gothic, Invasion and Emerald City.

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from Wasp, with Shaun (and Todd) attempting to destroy the careers of Talking Heads and David Bowie. Thankfully they didn’t succeed.

Enjoy!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Baby Deranged

Over the last few weeks – between a myriad of other assignments - I’ve been watching the deliciously camp confection that is Feud, the eight-part soap opera by the team behind American Horror Story. Depicting in delicious detail the animosity – nay, outright hatred – between legendary screen actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, Feud is a delight, and I highly recommend it to you.

I’ve always loved Bette Davis: Now Voyager is an all-time favourite and, of course, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, the only film that Crawford and Davis made together (sadly Joan walked of the set of Hush Hush… Sweet Charlotte, which would have seen the two old broads battling each other again, to be replaced by the marvellous Olivia de Havilland) is an over-the-top gothic great. Yet as much as I love her acting, and have a fair old bit of respect for her as a person, I hadn’t really thought too much about her singing abilities… until now.

Bette, born Ruth Elizabeth Davis in April 1908, is probably better known for being name checked in other peoples’ records than for making her own (Bette Davis Eyes, by Kim Carnes for example, although she also gets mentioned in Dylan’s Desolation Row and Madonna’s Vogue), yet record she did.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Spawned the tie in single of the same title, which pitted Bette against singer Debbie Boone (who supplied the voice for the young Jane and sang I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy in the film). Bette only appears on the a-side, and her spoken word section is thoroughly monstrous. She would later perform the song solo on the Andy Williams TV show, a clip readily available on YouTube and re-enacted quite brilliantly by Susan Sarandon in Feud. Bette also appeared on a couple of Broadway cast albums and, in 1965 issued a further brace of singles, the aptly-titled Single (which she also performed on TV and that you can also find on YouTube) and Mother of the Bride. Neither sold.

Then, in 1976, whilst working in England, she recorded an album. Released by EMI, Miss Bette Davis is a horror of a record. Backed by the Mike Sammes Singers (who would also back Barbara Cartland on the atrocious Album of Love Songs) the album includes re-recordings of many of ‘songs’ associated with the great lady, including I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy and Hush Hush… Sweet Charlotte. It is ghastly, and you’re going to love it!


Enjoy!


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Clothing Optional

Easily one of the most peculiar albums issued is the 1962 release Strip Along With Us – ten tracks recorded by a nightclub quartet of music to take your clothes off to. Well, probably not your clothes, but the clothes worn by ‘the lovely Darlene’, ‘the lovely Devin Saint John’ or any other third rate burlesque artist you care to name.

Subtitled Authentic Strip Music for the Discriminating Stripper, the hoots, whoops and whistles from the studio audience were clearly added to give the album a 'sleazy joint' sound, yet the entire album was recorded not on location (the Club Sina, as the anonymous announcer claims) but at the Jaysina Sound Studios in Brooklyn, run by Morty Jay and Sandy Sina. Jay was an organist, arranger and conductor who had also worked with vocal quartet the Crew-Cuts; Sina (real name Santo Nessina) was an engineer who specialised in the Latin American market. Strip Along With Us was issued by Strand Records, who also issued Jay’s solo album Organ Favorites. Morty is probably best known for the tittyshaker/surf instrumental Saltwater Taffy, although both men were invloved in breaking JFK impersonator Larry Foster, co-writing and producing Foster's 1962 hit My Christmas Message to the World.

The sleeve notes are a hoot: ‘the concept of this album is authenticity’, they proclaim. ‘This “on location” treatment puts the emphasis where it belongs – on the bumps and grinds.’ The author attests that the mistakes made by the band are intentional, included to accentuate that ‘authenticity’, although I would argue with his claim that ‘it’s been every woman’s hidden desire to try a strip routine, and every man’s hidden desire to watch one.’ As the sleeve announces, ‘the cover photo was used with permission of one of the country's foremost performers, Miss Libby Jones, The Park Avenue Playgirl’. Libby (real name Adlyn Morris) does not actually appear on the record itself, although one track, My Heart Belongs to Daddy does feature a vocal from a fake stripping chanteuse going under the guise of ‘the lovely Arlene Bartell’.

The Strand label, which specialised in bargain bin dross, cheaper-than-cheap reissues and cash ins was only in existence for around six ears (1959-65); in 1960 they issued Sick Along With Us, an album of mental health-themed ‘humour’, and the rest of their output included recordings of hymns, easy listening jazz and exotica, a tribute to the late Clark Gable (Dear Mr. Gable, by Karen Chandler: the title song had originally been sung by Judy Garland) and, of course, the aforementioned Organ Favorites.

Anyway, here’s the whole album for you, split over two files (side one and side two). Make of it what you will! The track at the end of side one, which purports to be Night Train, is hysterical.

Enjoy!

Friday, 10 March 2017

A Road Trip with the Swinging Strings

A song poem record today, originally posted by our good friend Bob Purse over at the no longer updated WFMU blog. I’m reposting this for a couple of reasons, firstly because you need to get a copy before the WFMU links stop working and secondly because I’m off on a road trip myself this weekend and the subject matter seemed apt.

This particular disc, Scotty Scott’s Chattanooga, Nashville, Battlecreek Trek backed with the amazingly awful Antique Hunter’s Craze was issued by the Film City label at some point in the (I would guess) mid to late 60s. Film City was formed by Sandy Stanton, the guitarist, bandleader and erstwhile record company mogul who had already founded one other company - Fable – and who would go on to launch several others, including J-Rad, Opossum and Wesley. Rodd Keith was Stanton’s first star performer, and when he moved on to Preview he replaced Rodd at the Chamberlin with Ron Solovay (a.k.a. Leigh Crizoe, read here) and then Frank Perry. The keyboard work on this particular disc is rather stilted, which makes me think it’s unlikely to be either Rodd or Frank, who were both more stylish and ‘bouncy’; it could be Ron Solovay, but it’s more likely to be Sandy Stanton himself.

Like all the best (or worst) song-poem records little attention has been paid to detail. The rhyming couplets are awful, the lyrics have been awkwardly shoehorned in to fit the music and no one, not even our Scotty, can be arsed. Heaven.

Antique Hunter’s Craze reminds me of Singin’ Jack Curran’s The Barber Shop, from song-poem/vanity record maven Dolly O Curran (featured almost exactly six years ago on this very blog and reposted below). Dolly O Stech-Curran began her song-poem career sending in lyrics to Preview: Suzie and Rodd, a.k.a. Rodd Keith and Suzie Smith recorded one of her songs, I’m the Wife.

Scotty Scott issued at least one other 45, A Friendly Smile backed with I’m Crying Again, which seems to have been the debut release from the tiny Chime Records of Hempstead, New York. Both sides of that single were written by Will Wheeler and one J. Gardener: the same pair of songsmiths composed several of the tracks issued by Chime, and Wheeler also produced many of the singles issued by the company, including Groovin’ is Easy by Paper Cup (CH 111) and Homer Briarhopper’s My Happy Clown (CH 107). Chime also issued the rather groovy garage classic Mr. Zeppelin Man by Nick D’Angelo’s Farmers. Guitarist, songwriter and singer Nick now goes by the name of Nirantara Däsa and devotes his life to spreading the teachings of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Enjoy!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Do You Want to Lick Me?

Paris-based Phil O’Kings, or Phill O’Kings or perhaps even Phil O’Kins (he was credited with a different spelling on each of his 45s) released a handful of Eurodisco singles in France in the mid 80s. He also appeared, as part of a conglomeration of 75 French stars, on the charity single Liban (Lebanon), issued in 1988.

From what I’ve been able to glean there were three singles, each issued on a different label: Good Time Break (released around 1984 and clearly influenced by the breakdancing craze), the 1989 release Chasseur du Charme, and the truly terrible Homo Gay issued in 1985, the 12” mix of which features almost six minutes of Monsieur O’Kings’ out of tune caterwauling.

The lyrics of Homo Gay make no sense in either language, but the first verse seems to be about our Phil’s obsession with a cute English boy with wavy blond hair and a penchant for wearing tweed. In verse two Phil sings about an androgynous-looking person with skin like black plastic. My assumption is that it’s this section that inspired the sleeve designer/photographer to take an image of Phil doing his best Grace Jones impersonation.  Luckily the chorus is pretty self-explanatory.

And how did I discover this nonsense, you ask? Well, for the last 10 months or so I have been writing about the history of LGBT music and musicians for a book, due to be issued this November, entitled David Bowie Made me Gay. Those of you who follow this blog via Facebook will probably know that I recently held a workshop on homophobia in music and it was through a discussion on what tracks to use that we found this gem. During my research I’ve uncovered some of the most peculiar records I’ve ever heard – some of which I’m going to share with you, you lucky people!

As each of Phil’s singles features just one song (all other tracks are either remix or instrumental versions of the title track) I’ve included both Good Time Break and Chasseur du Charme as well as the execrable Homo Gay.

Jouir!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Wrestling with the Past

Robert Pawlikowski, better known by his professional name  Zoogz Rift, was an American musician, painter and professional wrestler.

Born on July 10, 1953, Zoogz issued more than 20 albums, many of them on Black Flag’s label SST, beginning with the cassette only With No Apparent Reason (1976) and ending with 2001’s Born in the Wrong Universe. They include the brilliantly-titled Can You Smell My Genitals From Where You're Standing? (cassette only; 1983), 1988’s Murdering Hell's Happy Cretins and Five Billion Pinheads Can't Be Wrong (1996).

Feted and hated in equal measure, Trouser Press described Zoogz as ‘an iconoclastic original… as imaginative and stimulating as he is irritating and vitriolic.’ Keyboard Magazine described Rift’s album Island of Living Puke as ‘moments of outstanding free-form rock, sandwiched between scrupulously obscene interruptions.’ Often chaotic and cacophonous, his collaborators included Henry Kaiser, Marc Mylar and John Trubee, known to everyone here for writing the lyrics to Blind Man's Penis. I hear traces of Zappa, Beefheart and Barnes and Barnes in his work: I will leave it up to you to decide if the guy was a genius or simply a chancer.

In the mid 1980s Zoogz  began to discuss his plans to enter professional wrestling. ‘If somebody would cut me the break I’d love to get into that business,” he said. ‘Either as a performer or even front office. I have over 600 hours of wrestling on video tape, and I’m still taping, watching, studying. I’ve been heavily into the WWF since the late Sixties. Nothing is more fun than watching wrestling. It’s better than eating. It’s better than getting laid. It’s better than taking a shit.’ He joined the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), becoming Vice-President in 1995 alongside founder Herb Abrams. After Abrams died the following year, the UWF promotion closed and Zoogz was left without a job. Undeterred, he went on to host an online wrestling show, Puke-A-Mania, with Zoogz giving insight on wrestling issues. Zoogz died on March 22, 2011, at the age of 57, due to complications from diabetes.

Here, for your edification, are a couple of tracks from the extensive Zoogz Rift canon: ‘I Did So’ from the 1979 album Idiots on a Miniature Golf Course, and ‘Rediscover Downtown Patterson’ from his 1986 album Island of Living Puke.

Enjoy!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Hot Sauce


I feel I have sorely neglected all of you song-poem fans of late, so to make up for that here’s a brace of badness from the 2008 Hilltop Records compilation America. Hilltop is that rarest of song poem outfits, a company that still exists today and is still taking money from unsuspecting rubes.

Operating out of Los Angeles, in all fairness Hilltop’s productions are pretty easy on the ear, and many of the songwriters who have submitted their material seem to be pretty happy with the results - if the testimony page on the Hilltop website is anything to go by. But like all song-poem outfits income is more important than the quality of the source material, and no matter how professional your singers or musicians are, there’s not a lot you can do when the lyrics supplied are somewhere between mediocre and downright awful.

Summer’s End is a perfect example. Nice to listen to but the lyrics are utterly brainless: the opening lines ‘My eyes looking ‘cross fields of dying flowers with tears of sadness I see dying as they see each one giving its offspring the same sense of pleasure, same wonder of colours they gave to me’ are tongue-twistingly terrible. Composer Charles A. Hopkins should stick to writing poetry for his church magazine: these words read far better as prose than lyrics.

Crystal Gable’s Jalapena Senorita‘doing the salsa, shaking the maracas like hot sauce’ - is downright peculiar: a thinly veiled lesbian love song to a Mexican woman whose ‘body should be in the Hall of Fame’. The song’s original intention is obscured by being sung by a male vocalist, one Cody Lyons (who also handles the vocal on Summer’s End), but seriously, what on earth could Ms. Gable have been thinking?

Enjoy!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Maturing Disgracefully

Here’s a real oddity, a sex education album with a religious bent, issued in 1968 by Monsann Enterprises of New York.

Featuring well-known session musicians including jazz guitarist Eric Gale, bassist Chuck Rainey, trumpeter Joe Newman and harp player Corky Hale, For Mature Adults Only is an attempt to ‘bridge the generation gap by letting the teenager have his own say about life, faith and love’, well according to the sleeve notes it is, anyway. For Mature Adults Only began life as a stage show, first presented in March 1968 in St. Louis. The album, which was intended to be used in schools, churches and youth groups, features re-recordings of songs and monologues from the show and was originally accompanied by a book and lesson plan.

For Mature Adults Only was the brainchild of Doctor Norman C. Habel. Born in 1932 and still with us today, Dr Habel is a noted Australian Old Testament scholar and author. At the time For Mature Adults Only came out he was a professor at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, which train pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, chaplains, and church leaders for the Lutheran Church. A prolific author, among Dr Habel’s other works are A Bloke Called Jesus and two volumes of ‘Habel Hymns’.

Subtitled ‘honest teenage cries, poems and prayers collected and narrated by Norman Habel with music by Richard Koehneke’ and featuring The Martin Luther High School Choir, the album was reissued by Fortress Records of Philadelphia in 1974. It’s a fun, albeit listen and very much of its time: the naïve plea for equal rights contained in the monologue Willie - about ‘a quiet Negro kid’ who was blamed for ‘the rats and the riots and the rubbish of the city’ – and the song Adam Was a Man (‘why blame the Negro for so many things?’)  must have seemed out of date in ’68 but you can’t knock the intention.

Enjoy!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Here Kitty Kitty


Turkish adult film actress Figen Han, born Nevval Karpuz in February 1950, appeared in 73 movies – many of them insane sex comedies - between 1966 and 1983. Known as (literally ‘sex fury’) these films have such wonderful titles as The Cruel Also Love, First Love Then Kill, Crazy But Sweet, Warm Lips and my personal favourite, Perversion Death Terminator. These Italian-inspired softcore comedies were big business in Turkey, and the Seks Furyasi genre would remain a favourite with audiences until the 1980 coup, after which the government strictly prohibited graphic sex in the cinema.

The real-life sex kitten likes cats – as you can probably tell from the noises she makes on the a-side of this thoroughly bizarre record, Pisi Pisi (Kitty Kitty), issued in 1977 when she was at the height of her fame. The B-side, Haydi Bastir is virtually instrumental, apart from our Figen whispering ‘Haydi Bastir’ every 30 seconds or so. Figen also appeared in a film of the same name in 1977, so it’s a fairly safe assumption that this was used as the theme tune. For some peculiar reason the ‘song’ appears on the disc’s label as Haydi Bastirrr. The movie itself is unwatchable soft porn nonsense: it’s available to stream on Daily Motion – sadly with the opening and end credits lopped off - if you’re so inclined, but I'd be very wary about Googling Figen Han and 'Turkish sex movies' if I were you. Some of the results are definitely NSFW!

Up to date info on Figen is scarce, but apparently she has retired from acting and currently lives in a basement flat in Sisli, Istanbul with her many, many cats.

Here are both sides of Figen's rare, one-off 7". Apologies for the quality, but mint copies sell for around $80-$100 these days.

Enjoy! 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Brady Brats

Did we ever 'get' the Brady Bunch in Britain? I have vague memories of the spin-off cartoon series, The Brady Kids, airing on a Saturday morning in the mid 70s – but maybe as we already had our own version of the kids from broken homes coming together (in the fondly remembered Wendy Craig sitcom And Mother Makes Five) it’s probably not surprising that the show, made between 1969 and 1974, didn’t air in the UK until 1975 (according to www.televisionheaven.co.uk) and even then was mostly ignored.

But it was a reasonable success in the US, especially with kids, and sure enough it wasn’t long before someone had the genius idea of pushing the young cast (and their TV parents) in to a recording studio. After all, the same thing had worked wonders for the Partridge Family

First up was the reasonably safe A Very Brady Christmas, issued in 1970. The kids combo Christmas caterwauling is reasonably listenable – although once they head off to do a solo, as Bobby Brady did with his version of The First Noel or little Cindy did with Frosty the Snowman (included below) the result is particularly disturbing. The poor girl sounds positively petrified. 1972’s Meet the Brady Bunch is an offensive little collection, with pop classics American Pie and Badfinger’s brilliant Day After Day crucified by the kids. This was followed the same year by The Kids from the Brady Bunch, a horrifying record that includes a ghastly big band version of the Beatles’ Love Me Do. The album is mostly made up of original songs written specifically for the kids, including the terrifying You Need That Rock 'N Roll (included here) and Merry-go-Round, but also includes a rather unpleasant cover of Michael Jackson’s ode to his pet rat Ben.

The parents were back for their final outing, the 1973 collection The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album which, for the most part, is actually quite a listenable bubblegum pop album, but there would be no more, although actors Chris Knight (Peter Brady) and Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) did issue an album, funnily enough titled Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick (also in 1973). The following year the show was cancelled and that was that.

A few TV specials (one produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, another concentrating on the Brady girls’ marriages) would follow and, in the 90s a brace of po-mo films brought the Bradys (this time portrayed by different actors) back in to the public consciousness. But nothing can compare with the originals - and here, for your delectation, are four cuts that prove the fact.

Enjoy!

Apologies - it looks like there's a copyright infringement on posting the other two songs here. Never mind - here are links to them on YouTube (where, apparently, copyright issues do not apply)

Friday, 20 January 2017

Don't Dilly Dally

Today is one of the darkest says in world politics; it’s also the 50th anniversary of the Beatles recording their masterpiece A Day in the Life – and should the tangerine hate machine push the button, I would be quite happy if that apocalyptic piano chord at the end of the song were the last thing I ever heard. Incidentally it was a discussion with a friend about A Day in the Life that reminded me of the track I present for you today. I figure a few of us will need some cheering up, so here is a fun favourite to help you pass the day with a smile on your face and an earworm in your head.

Those of us of a certain age will have fond memories (well, memories at least) of the Dilly Sisters, the Mariachi moppets who regularly turned up on the Banana Splits Show to sing Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay or somesuch. Well, in 1968 the pair of little darlings released a one-off 45, coupling the classic Cu Cu Rru Cu Cu Paloma with a nutso cover of the Standells song Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White - a top 50 US hit for them on September 1966. Written by Ed 'Tainted Love' Cobb, the song was also later covered by US hardcore band Minor Threat.

Legend has it that only 500 copies of this brilliant 45 were pressed by Mexican music specialist Gordo Enterprises (tagline: ‘Chicanos are Happening!'), part of Eddie Davis’s Rampart Records company. Certainly it’s a rare thing, and copies usually fetch in the $60-$100 region. After their brief brush with televisual fame the Dilly Sisters vanished: sadly there’s nothing else I can add (don’t get confused by the existence of another 60s girl group called the Dilly Sisters from Washington). If any one has an mp3 rip of the a-side do let me know!


Enjoy!

Friday, 13 January 2017

From Cyprus With Love

Emin Hassini (or possibly Hussini) was born in Cyprus in 1948. In 1965 he moved to New York as a 17-year-old to join his brother, Anthony Hassini who, in 1968, would become the founding member of the International Magicians Society. Looking alarmingly like Kevin Godley of 10CC, Emin enrolled in the New York University, fell in love and married a woman named Hulya Aziz.

In late 1970, as Marc Mundy, Emin recorded his only, eponymous, album. Produced by his brother, the disc is distinguished by Marc’s rather amateurish Middle Eastern-accented vocals and the equally amateurish playing. The record features his wife on backing vocals, but Paul and Linda McCartney they ain’t. A vague Middle Eastern melodic flavour permeates the collection, though the musical arrangements are fairly typical of those found on early-‘70s singer/songwriter albums. Guitarists Robert (Peppermint) Arlin (variously known as Bob or Bobby Arlin) and John Beck, drummer Tom Ambrose Ray and bass player Jim Pons had all previously been members of psych-folk band The Leaves. Pons also played with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Beck appeared on recordings by Judee Sill. The playing on the record is mediocre at best, so I'd guess that the boys - clearly seasoned musicians - had very little rehearsal time.

Just 500 copies of the album were pressed. Called ‘a truly unique, private-press curiosity rescued from obscurity’, Marc Mundy was reissued on CD (with historical liner notes) by Companion in 2006. Anthony Hassini remained in New York and, as Tony Hassini, worked as a cameraman and director, filming ads for, among others, Burger King. Tony has also overseen the growth of the International Magicians Society, which has since become the world's largest magic society (as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records) with over 37,000 members worldwide. Emin/Marc returned to his native Cyprus to become a maths teacher in high school and vanished.

Still, he did leave us with this one album. Have a listen for yourself and see what you think.

Enjoy!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Yellow Peril

The Ballad of the Green Berets is one of the most famous pro-Vietnam songs of all time, Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s patriotic march was a hit around the world, making Number One on the Billboard charts, going Top Five in Germany and Australia and reaching Number 24 in the UK. The song was written by Sadler while he was recuperating from a leg wound suffered as a medic in the Vietnam War, and co-authored by Robin Moore, who published a book, The Green Berets, in 1965. The lyrics were written in honour of Green Beret US Army Specialist James Gabriel, Jr., the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam, killed by Viet Cong gunfire while on a training mission on April 8, 1962.

Covers of the song have proved particularly popular, and have been made by everyone from Dolly Parton, Teresa Brewer and Kate Smith to Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Horton Jr. and the Lonesome Valley Singers. There’s even an instrumental, twangy guitar and rocking sax version by Duane Eddy.

But we’re not concerned with that today – oh no! Here instead is The Ballad of the Yellow Beret, a mish-mash of parody, answer record and protest, although this time the disc is clearly protesting against those protesting against the war – if you see what I mean.

Performed by The Beach Bums and written by D. Dodger (Draft Dodger, geddit?), what makes this disc particularly interesting is that it is one of the earliest outings for famed rocker Bob Seger, recorded when he was a member of Doug Brown and The Omens: the Beach Bums and the Omens are, in fact, the same group. Draft Dodger is reputed to be Bob Seger himself. Within two years Bob would have an about turn in his attitude towards the war and would write another song, the resolutely anti-Viet Nam psych-rocker 2+2 = ?,  issued as a single on Capitol by the Bob Seger System in 1968, and an inspiration on The White Stripes’ 2003 hit Seven Nation Army.

Soon after the release of The Ballad of the Yellow Beret Sadler and his record label (RCA) threatened a lawsuit and the recording was withdrawn. Copies now sell for upwards of $100.

Unfortunately I’ve not been able to track down a copy of the B-side, Florida Time. If anyone out there can help, do let me know. Instead here’s folk singer Nancy Ames, with her The Ballad of the Green Berets answer record, He Wore The Green BeretUPDATE! Thanks  to the rather excellent DAYS OF BROKEN ARROWS blog I am now able to bring you the flip to The Ballad of the Yellow Beret, so here are The Beach Bums with Florida Time!

Enjoy!

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