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!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Who Is Tilted Tim?

Who was (or possibly still is) Tilted Tim?

Recorded and issued in 1992, Fate Has Made a Mess of My Jeans is the only album thus far from Tilted Tim. Sadly there’s very little I can tell you about Tim, apart from that he was based in North Harrow, and that his main business seems to have been software publishing.

Fate Has Made a Mess of My Jeans contains 13 tracks of keyboard-led oddness with the eponymous Tim handling synth, drum machine and vocals, accompanied on occasion by his friends Superstar Bob Green (acoustic and bass guitars), Andy Hewitt (quantised piano), Adam Shea (‘twiddly guitar’) and Dave ‘Spiggy’ Miller (electric guitar and ‘sha-la-las’). Try to imagine something somewhere between early, Irene and Mavis-period Blancmange and the wonderful Mavin James and you'll get the idea. The late Andy Hewitt who was, for many years, closely involved with community radio station Radio Harrow, produced the whole thing. In February 2009 Radio Harrow named their new editing suite the Andy Hewitt Media Suite in his memory.

In 1993 Exposed magazine issued a compilation CD featuring the album’s opening track Hi, I’m Tilted. And that’s all I’ve got! If anyone knows anything else about Tim please do let me know. For those interested or intrigued enough you can find the whole album at the wonderful Mr Weird and Wacky: one of that blog's followers, Harvey Gold, doctored the sleeve image (above) to make it more usable. The's a copy for sale on Discogs as I type this if you really need it!

For now here are a couple of my favourite tracks from the album, Z17 and My New Career.


Enjoy!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Dora's World

What a fascinating, if frustratingly difficult to research, character Dora Hall is. The woman released close on 20 albums and over 100 45s in around 15 years (she seems to have been most active between 1963 and 1978), featured in several TV specials and to all intents and purposes coulda, shoulda, woulda been a big star. But she wasn’t. Despite what middle America may have been spoon-fed to believe the only reason that Dorothy Myrtle Donahoe Hulseman had a career at all is that she married well.

Born in 1900 (or possibly earlier, I’ve seen one review from 1975 that claimed she was in her 80s at that point) she had been hoofing (and singing) from an early age – apparently starting out as part of a song and dance act when she was just 10 years old. Dora then joined the female vocal trio the Harmony Maids (a different act from the 10-piece all woman jazz orchestra of the same name, popular during the 20s & 30s), but retired at the grand old age of 18 when she wed.

Her husband was Leo Hulseman, who worked for the Dixie Cup company. In the 1930s Leo left Dixie and set up his own company, Solo. That paper cone you see people drinking out of at water coolers on TV and in films? That’s a Solo cup. Launching a range of disposable dinnerware, soon Leo and his company – and Dora – were very, very rich. They became richer still when their son Robert came up with the red Solo cup; made from expanded polystyrene this was soon the cup of choice on college campuses, at sports events and even had a hit song written about it. When sales of the red Solo cup were at their height the company was turning over in excess of $1.5 billion a year.

Leo wanted to help Dora realise her dreams of being a star so, after giving him several children and 14 grandchildren, her devoted husband purchased a film production studio and established his own record company – Premore - to help promote her. Hello Faithless, written by established hitmakers Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, was issued in December 1962 and was reviewed in Billboard; they called it a ‘very listenable performance of a catchy novelty effort’. Proving itself a minor hit on local radio, and covered the following year by Rosemary Clooney, the disc was licensed and released in the UK by King Records in 1964.

But real success eluded Dora and Leo. Unperturbed, Leo hit on the idea of giving his wife’s recordings away with Solo products. Soon you could buy paper cups and their plastic holders in gift sets with 45s shrinkwrapped to them. Purchasers of other Solo items were encouraged to collect tokens and send them in for ‘top tune’ discs – the adverts never mentioning Dora by name, but offering instead anonymous recordings in various styles, including pop, kiddie, Christian and country. Dora Hall recordings appeared on labels including Premore, Premere, Calamo, Reinbeau and Cozy, all owned and operated by Solo. It must have been heartbreaking for the kid, having sent off for a hit record to have instead a woman in her 60s warbling I’ve Got You Babe.

In 1966, no doubt inspired by Capitol’s success with Mrs. Miller, Dot Records (home of bad music maven Pat Boone) issued Today’s Great Hits!, featuring Dora covering such standards as Downtown (also covered by Mrs. Miller), These Boots Were Made For Walking (also covered by Mrs. Miller)… you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? The album, arranged and conducted by H.B. Barnum, was recycled/repackaged on a number of occasions by the various Premore/Reinbeau imprints. Leo was not averse to hiring the best musicians in the business to help his wife: as well as working with Barnum (best known for the Judy Street/Soft Cell 45 What and for David McCallum’s Communication), she also recorded with arranger, producer and Academy Award-winning composer Jack Nitzsche, who worked extensively with the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and the Phil Spector stable. Goodness knows how many top musicians are anonymously hiding away on Dora Hall sessions. Could that really be the Four Seasons singing backing vocals on her Give Me Your Heart For Christmas?

With no hit records coming, but plenty of vinyl being given away, Leo decided to launch Dora on to television. She appeared in a number of TV specials, dancing, singing and attempting comedy with a slew of second- and third-rate actors, singers, dancers and comedians including Frank Sinatra Junior, Stubby Kaye and Rosey ‘The Thing with Two Heads’ Grier. One such special, Once Upon a Tour, reputedly set Leo back a cool $400,000. Hour-long TV special Rose on Broadway aired in March 1978 and co-starred Scatman Crothers, Donald O’Connor and the ubiquitous Frankie Junior, and several other ‘sponsored by Solo’ shows appeared over the years.

The difference between Dora and other similar artists is that Dora could actually sing. When she sings kid-friendly songs such as Tony the Pony she’s actually quite charming. Her failings, if you will, become most apparent when she tries to sing pop songs; her vaudeville-trained voice just isn’t right for contemporary music and it’s here she starts to sound ridiculous. And when Dora did Disco… well! Let’s just say Ethel Merman was safe.

Dora died in 1988; Leo left the world the following year. Her career is testament to his love for her.

Here’s the awful You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You from Dora Hall Sings Disco (issued, incidentally, in exactly the same sleeve – and with exactly the same tracks – as Dora Hall Sings Swing Jazz) and the Jack Nitzsche produced Hoochi-Koochi (also recorded by Nitzsche and Hall with different lyrics as Floozy Little Suzy Brown).

Enjoy!


Friday, 12 May 2017

Royaume-Uni Nil Points

Good evening Mesdames and Messieurs.

As I’m sure you are already aware, this weekend sees the final of the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest, the annual celebration of all that is camp, kitsch and ridiculous in music. The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) was once limited to a few countries in Europe but is now open to just about anyone, including those well-known European states Israel and Australia.

Although it has been going on for longer than anyone involved has been alive, that the voting system has been corrupted by the eastern European and formerly-USSR members all voting for each other and irrespective of the fact that the contest has not launched a significant international star since 1988 (Celine Dion, fact fans), this pointless exercise in foolishness continues to trundle on. It’s no coincidence that the theme tune to the contest is called ‘Tedium’…

The show is a joke; staged in Kiev, this year’s theme ‘celebrate diversity’ has already been urinated all over by the refusal of the Ukrainians to allow the Russian entry – sung by a wheelchair-using former paralympian – to participate. And you already know that half of Europe will vote the United Kingdom’s entry down thanks to Brexit. Hey ho! The occasional bright spot (the fabulous Conchita Wurst putting those homophobic Ruskies in their place, for example) really is lost in a miasma of butter-churning, breast-baring peasants, rubber-masked metalheads, and talentless bimbos and himbos la-la-la-ing while they prance around the stage.

We probably don’t deserve any votes anyway: in recent years the majority of UK entries have been utterly appalling. Who can forget the terrible Jemini, led by convicted fraudster Gemma Abbey? Their out-of-tune rendition of Cry Baby was the first Brit entry to score no points at all, with the group ending up 26th out of the 26 acts performing that year. How about Scooch, the ridiculous, camp as Christmas pseudo flight attendants who wanted you to chow down on their salty nuts (22nd out of 24 entries)? Or the world’s worst rapper Daz Sampson and his worryingly paedophilic Teenage Life (19th out of 24 acts). It’s gotten so bad that we’ve even trundled out ancient plastic surgery disaster Englebert Humperdink, whose off-key vocal on Love Will Set You Free in 2012 was, quite frankly, an embarrassment. 

Well, in case you had forgotten here they all are, in all of their glory ESC-headlining stealing glory.

Enjoy!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Falsie Advertising

Sit back, relax and enjoy...

A real curio for you today - both sides of an advertising flexidisc put out - judging by the Lyntone matrix number - at some point around 1983/4.

Promising to titillate its audience with 'soundtracks from Jennifer Wells [sic] latest Deep Throat Queen of the USA', what you actually get from The Blue Disc for Video Users is an interminable diatribe from a slightly sleazy Londoner who is trying to sell you pornographic VHS tapes through the post. From an address in Streatham High Road, you too could receive the 'Savile Row service' that Blue Disc Video promised to dispatch to you - under plain wrapper, of course. The address is now home to a delicatessen.

The disc should have been banned under the Trade Descriptions Act; the Jennifer Welles content is virtually incomprehensible. Clearly our narrator is playing one of her movies in the background but I'm damned if I can pick out anything apart from the occasional squeak or yelp, or perhaps a little deep breathing. Apart from the one line that is: 'Sit back, relax and enjoy'. Hah! As if!

Born in 1937, Welles was well in to her 30s when she entered the adult film business, and had already retired by the time that The Blue Disc was issued after marriage to a wealthy fan. Despite a lengthy Internet search I can find no information at all about Blue Disc Video, nor the company's representative, Ms Randy Whitehouse, although I assume this is a pseudonym and was perhaps based on the name of legendary morals crusader Mary Whitehouse.

Still, it is a definite contender for our cabinet of curiosities here at the World's Worst Records, don't you think?

Enjoy!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Elvis Tribute: One of an Ongoing Series

Dissing Elvis tribute discs is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but this morning I have a taste for pollocks, and there’s something decidedly fishy about today’s terrible tribute. As we mark the 40th anniversary of the King's passing this year be prepared for more of these howlers.

Welcome Home Elvis was co-written, recorded and released in 1977 (the year of the King’s demise) by Billy Joe Burnette. Burnette was co-author of the mid-1970s country music smash hit Teddy Bear, featured on this very blog many moons ago. Named after the TV special hosted by Frank Sinatra in 1960 to re-introduce Elvis to the public after his stint in the army, Welcome Home Elvis was featured on the album of the same name, stuffed with other tribute songs, a re-recording of the Elvis hit Peace in the Valley (which also provides the basis for this song) and featuring Elvis’s drummer, D.J. Fontana, on the title track. According to the album’s sleeve notes, Fontana reckoned that ‘this is it! This is the tribute to Elvis that I want to hear in my heart.’ Sadly the rest of us had to listen with our ears, as Billy narrates the story of ‘El’, his dead brother and his dirt-poor family whilst affecting a poor Elvis impersonation.

Burnette was born (as Billy Barnette) in Richmond, North Carolina and given up for adoption. He learned to sing and play guitar, and co-wrote a song, Stomp, Shake and Twist, which managed to get some radio play. He came to national attention in 1961, when he recorded his song Marlene for Parkway Records. Dick Clark featured the disc on American Bandstand, and he headed for Hollywood, where he met up with rockabilly singers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, who befriended him and gave him his stage name, Billy Joe Burnette. After recording a few soul-influenced sides for Gold Standard records, including the rather good Lust For Life, he established his own label, the B.J.B. Record Company of Hollywood, signing the singers Jody Vac, Jo Ann Martin and Donna Thomas, who released the 45 If You’d been Born a Woman.

By the mid 1970s, Burnette was in Nashville, leaving pop and soul behind in favour of country and in 1976 Red Sovine’s single Teddy Bear came out, a tearjerker about truckers, CB radios and a little paralyzed boy. Burnette received a BMI Award for songwriting and was nominated for a Grammy and a Country Music Association award. The following year, with Elvis barely cold in the ground, he released the dreadful Welcome Home Elvis. He also recorded the ‘comedy’ song Blow Smoke on a Kangaroo and scored a minor hit in 1990 with another spoken word disc, Three Flags.

Happily, the B-side to Welcome Home Elvis is almost as awful. I Haven’t Seen Mama in Years is the tale of a man imprisoned for something he did not do (of course) who cannot understand why his dear Mama has not bothered to come visit. It’s only when he gets out – and we get close to the end of the disc – that we discover the reason, and it’s a wonderfully sick twist to this tale of woe.

Sadly Billy Joe passed away in Florida on December 29 last year. The 76 year-old suffered a massive heart attack as he was putting items in his car for a move back to Nashville. The singer, songwriter and producer had planned to restart his career, had just sold his home near Daytona Beach, and was looking forward to getting back to work.

Enjoy!

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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