Friday, 30 June 2017

The Singing Psychic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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?


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