29 December 2009
23 December 2009
18 December 2009
"I Wanna 1-2-1 With You" really, really should have been a big deal. The people behind it were Jimmy Cauty of the KLF, who obviously had a track record for producing hits of some note and had a huge fanbase hanging on to his every note, and Guy Pratt, sometime session man with Pink Floyd. It promised up-to-the-minute jokey novelty satire about that very new (at the time, obviously) phenomenon the pesky mobile phone ring, combined with the finest rhythms, dance diva vocals and a comedy video. Given the pedigree of the track, the major label backing - something the KLF never really had, incidentally - and the public's appetite around Yuletide for daft ideas, surely we were looking at a sizable hit a la "Doctorin' The Tardis" here?
Whilst the Bookies obviously thought so, sales were actually tremendously sluggish and the single scraped an embarrassing number 62 in the charts. Despite being one of the very few people who rushed out and bought this during Christmas week, I have to say that the end result wasn't too surprising. There are several things wrong with the track - firstly, it is far too irritating for the sane consumption of just about anyone, making "Crazy Frog" seem like a soothing baroque masterpiece. The grating, bleeping mobile phone ring the entire track hangs on is horrendously sharp and ear-bothering, and could ruin even the greatest groove or riff. And as it happens, the beats per minute here were very dated by 1999 - whilst the KLF in their prime had put out records of a similar tempo, clubland had moved on to faster, more frantic noises, and this sounded like something from another era to many people. Even if you isolate these drawbacks, the tune itself is, to be frank, minimal, and the joke essentially a Trigger Happy TV out-take and little more. It's a huge shock to find myself writing this sentence - and I feel it may be the only time I bother to do so in my life - but Dom Joly did this whole schtick just so much better.
So then, this is an example of how sometimes people hopelessly fail to "design" Christmas Number Ones, not even with the right personnel in the studio. Westlife won the race with "Seasons in the Sun" in the end, if anyone's interested, and "I Wanna 1-2-1 With You" has become something KLF fans tend to forget ever existed. I apologise for bringing the topic up again, but it is the tenth anniversary of this particular disc... and it's an interesting exercise in novelty wrongness at the very least.
16 December 2009
13 December 2009
9 December 2009
5 December 2009
2 December 2009
29 November 2009
26 November 2009
22 November 2009
18 November 2009
17 November 2009
15 November 2009
Year of Release: 1969
Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley were major players in the British sixties scene, producing hits primarily for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, but also sneaking out top-selling discs by a wide variety of other smiling sixties scoundrels too. Arguably their most famous composition amongst the cool kids in the beat collector cult is The Honeycombs Meek-produced "Have I The Right?" Besides that, they also worked with The Herd, Lulu, and even Elvis Presley.
Suffice to say, a band launched as a Howard-Blaikley project were normally assured big-time success, and Windmill, their first post-DDDBMT act, had high hopes attached to them. With press releases being rushed out assuring the public that Windmill would 'inject some dynamics into a dull scene', "Big Bertha" was the debut single. With it's strangely Higsons-esque (in retrospect) yells of "Hoo ha!", puffing flutes (hey! Dig that concession to the fast approaching prog rock movement!) and a driving chorus, only a fool would have betted on this single's failure at the time.
Nonetheless, it was a flop, and forty years down the line we're only left with the option of dissecting precisely why. Developing trends in music can't have helped - Dave Dee and his ridiculously-named pals were already rather passe by 1969, so introducing a new band producing similar cheery, upbeat pop with the same team behind them probably wasn't the wisest idea. On top of that, there's something very by-numbers about the sound of "Big Bertha". In a similar manner to the way that the lowest-ranking Stock Aitken and Waterman hits always sounded like cast-offs, "Big Bertha" feels similar, almost as if the chaps behind it offered it to a big-name act first, then threw it in the direction of their new boys when no other takers stepped forward. This is very probably wrong, but the track is memorable without being thrilling, catchy without having substance. The band give it plenty of welly and attempt to generate some excitement with their buzzing guitar noises and chirpy vocals, but something, somewhere, sounds rather flat. That's not to say that the single isn't worthy of a spin, and is certainly enjoyable enough for a few listens, but that's as good as it gets.
Windmill released a number of other singles - including the apparently psychedelic "Wilbur's Thing" - but none attracted the public's attention, and the band's career was cut tragically short when lead singer Dick Scott died in a car accident. The other members subsequently went on to form Prog Rock outfit Tonton Macroute, of whom I must confess I know nothing. But hey, there's a video of "Big Bertha" on Youtube here, which I surely can't be alone in finding incredibly surprising.
12 November 2009
9 November 2009
5 November 2009
2 November 2009
31 October 2009
28 October 2009
24 October 2009
Sorry kids - I've had to remove the download links for these, as they're commercially available again (even on iTunes, of all places). But you did have over two years to download these CDs, and if you haven't done it by now...
20 October 2009
18 October 2009
13 October 2009
10 October 2009
As ridiculous as it sounds, clearly it wasn’t just Scott Walker who was inspired to write a song after viewing Bergman’s “Seventh Seal” film. The Magicians – of whom I know nothing, I’m sorry to say – were clearly moved enough to also follow suit. Unlike Walker’s musings on the topic, “Painting on Wood” is much more flamboyant and folk driven, and also features some funky piano lines which seem vaguely inappropriate. But hey, if you’re playing a game of chess with Death, there’s nothing to be lost by having a little foot-tapping session too.
2. Eyes of Blue – Never Care (Deram – 1968)
Neath-dwelling rockers the Eyes of Blue started life as a “blue eyed soul” band, before gradually morphing into a psychedelic (and eventually progressive) act. “Never Care” seems to be part of the bridge from psych to prog, but the trilling, folksy backing vocals on this one still show shades of whimsy.
3. Jason Crest – Black Mass (Philips – 1969)
When information about this track was sparse, myths persisted that it was a work of propaganda by some particularly determined Christians. Absolute rubbish, of course, as the Jason Crest were a band from Tonbridge who had already had a long and varied history by this point, putting out various pieces of organ-driven mysticism. “Black Mass”, on the other hand, is a berserk piece of work filled with demonic screams, disorientating echos, monk chants and thunderous noises. It was to prove their last recording, but if you’re going to leave pop’s big waiting room, it doesn’t hurt to do so in this bold manner.
4. Keith Relf – Shapes in My Mind (Columbia - 1966)
Keith Relf had a rather more overground career as the singer with the Yardbirds, but this particular solo release was greeted with public apathy. “My body shrinks into my head/ I must have help or I’ll be dead” he informs us gravely. “Shapes in My Mind” is catchy enough to bypass such absurdities and perhaps should have charted, but the public were having none of it.
5. Kate – Don’t Make a Sound (CBS – 1968)
This is a bit more tranquil. Kate were a London-based band (and not a person) who signed to CBS and also briefly boasted ex-Pretty Thing Viv Prince among their number. Three singles were all they managed, of which this track is probably the most pleasing.
6. Jigsaw – Tumblin’ (Music Factory - 1968)
Jigsaw managed to make some serious money with “Sky High” in the seventies, but before they broke through they spent long years on the pub circuit honing their craft, and putting out singles through a wide variety of record labels, including the small indie Music Factory. “Tumblin’” is hardly the most progressive track in the world, but utilizes heavy phasing and some neat organ grooves to good effect.
7. Geranium Pond – Marshmallow Man (never released)
Geranium Pond never really made any impact in the sixties, but appearances on compilations since have revealed a rather quirky outfit whose approach to psychedelia almost seems modern at times, treading a similar path to the likes of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci or The Henry Road.
8. Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera – Dream Starts (Direction – 1968)
I’ve mentioned before that the eponymous Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera album is a seriously under-rated piece of work, and somehow isolating certain tracks from the work seems to always leave them feeling a little lost regardless of what compilation or mixtape you shove them on. It takes a lot to undo “Dream Starts”, however, which uses shimmering vocals, harmonies and a brass backing to amazing effect.
9. Serendipity – I’m Flying (CBS - 1968)
A sweet little track from Serendipity, a band from Tunbridge Wells who released two singles for CBS and recorded half an album before calling it a day.
10. Kenny Everett – Nice Time (Deram - 1969)
Kenny Everett’s friendship with John Lennon is well known, but the fact he released a string of non-comedic singles in the sixties seems to be less popularly acknowledged. As “Nice Time” proves, he had a rather Jeff Lynne-ish way of approaching music hall styled tracks, and it’s all surprisingly agreeable. This was also the theme to his TV show of the same name
11. Cyan – Toby’s Shop (RCA - 1972)
If we were being cynical we could argue that the childlike nature of this track has druggish connotations (“Toby always hides the secret of his pies” and “For just six pennies he can make the sun shine” indeed) but I suspect that by 1972 the time had long since passed for such references on mainstream pop singles. Still, we can dream. Cyan hailed from Italy and had a long career in their native country.
12. Grapefruit – Yes (RCA – 1968)
We’ve already covered Grapefruit on this blog, so there’s little to add except to say… no, I don’t know if Lennon and McCartney had anything to do with the work on this track, but probably not. “Yes” is a strident little piece of work, mind you.
13. Jason Eddie & The Centremen – Singing The Blues (Parlophone - 1966)
A particularly absurd Joe Meek track (and that’s saying something) which almost charted, the clattering, rattling approach to this version of “Singing The Blues” is so jarring that it makes cover versions by The Residents seem less questionable when played afterwards.
14. Brian Diamond and The Cutters – Shake Shout & Go (Fontana - 1964)
Whereas Brian Diamond and his Cutters manage to accidentally invent the B52s, even writing “Rock Lobster” for them in the process. There is some speculation as to whether the B52s directly ripped off this track, and if it had actually been a hit I’d say the lawyers would have had a field day kicking them around their bloody Love Shack before now. As it sank without trace, this can only be a particularly absurd coincidence despite the glaring similarities.
15. Los Brincos – Passport (Page One - 1968)
Los Brincos were proper pop stars in their native Spain, and it’s no wonder, since they released Who-ish barnstormers like this one. The British charts in the sixties closed their gates to their charms, however, which seems more than slightly unjust.
16. The Game – The Addicted Man (shelved Parlophone release)
Mod band The Game attempted to release this single about drug addiction, but the uproar it created on Juke Box Jury was such that EMI got cold feet and shelved the entire release, sneaking out another single in its place. It’s a very messy, noisy track indeed, with punkish guitars slamming all over the shop, and had it not been for the uproar it’s doubtful it would have had a chance to make an impression on the teenage public anyway.
17. Callum Bryce – Lovemaker (Conder – 1968)
A superb little single which had everything going for it, it seems – even being used on a Woodpecker cider advert (with the lyrics amended to “Woodpecker, Woodpecker, Woodpecker yes I would”). Despite the promotion, it would seem that being on a tiny independent label (run by Peter Knight Howard, an ex-associate of Joe Meek’s) hampered the band’s progress. Whilst ex-members of the Yardbirds were rumoured to be involved, actual concrete information about Callum Bryce has been difficult to come by, and the only information I can give you is that when I tried to bid on ebay for this single, the closing sum was $424. No, I didn’t win…
18. Zebedee – She Couldn’t Make Gravy (Decca – 1971)
This is essentially The Tickle in all but name, taking a slightly more glam approach as the seventies dawned. It didn’t help them gain success, but “She Couldn’t Make Gravy” features the same quirk and bounce which was apparent on “Subway” and “Good Evening”, albeit less swamped in studio effects. Lyrically, this track also has parallels with “I’m Gonna Get Me A Woman” by Mike Conway.
19. San Francisco Earthquake – Fairy Tales Can Come True (Mercury – 1968)
Songwriter Kenny Young (of “Under the Boardwalk” fame) was almost entirely responsible for this foray into toytown psych. Later in the seventies, he would also attempt New Wave under the name Yellow Dog. For all I know, he’s possibly arranging a retro-eighties synthpop single as we speak.
20. Esprit De Corps – If (Would it Turn Out Wrong) (Jam – 1972)
Radio One DJ Mike Read always seemed to dabble in pop music, and you get the sense that he’s slightly disappointed none of his efforts have ever seemed to get off the ground. Of all of them, “If” is probably the best thing he’s been associated with, a phasing-ridden atmospheric ballad which probably seemed a bit dated for 1972. Still, it fits snugly at home on here.
21. Fresh Air – It Takes Too Long (Philips – 1971)
Another mystery, I’m afraid. This apparently isn’t the same Fresh Air who released “Running Wild” in the sixties, of whom I also know nothing. “It Takes Too Long” veers dangerously close to parodying George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, but comes at it from a rather Chris Bell-ish angle, and is actually a really good little single. This originally came to my attention on the brilliant “Pure Pop” blog.
22. Marvin & Farrar – So Hard To Live With (EMI – 1973)
This is, in case it needs to be spelt out to you, Hank Marvin and John Farrar out of the Shadows. Bored of the restrictions placed on them by being in an instrumental outfit, they recorded a few vocal harmony lead pieces of work to little success. “So Hard To Live With” is so close to the seventies Beach Boys in style and spirit it could almost be an out-take.
23. Unit 4+2 – 3:30am (Fontana – 1969)
By 1969 Unit 4+2 seemed so passé that nobody much was paying any attention, and during that time they slipped out this beautifully atmospheric, doom-laden ballad. People still looked the other way, but it’s remained a favourite of modern-day psychedelic compilations since.
24. Billy Fury – In My Room (label and date information uncertain)
We’ve already covered Jimmy Campbell on this blog via the 23rd Turnoff entry, but in it I conveniently failed to mention that Billy Fury was enough of a fan to cover some of his tracks. “In My Room” is an absurd choice, with its references to posters of “Hitler, John and Paul”, and although Fury does a stirling job of covering it, one has to wonder what his fans thought. Incidentally, this appears on a Fury compilation album from 1984, but I can find no trace of its release date prior to that. Does anyone know? Or did it remain an out-take until the eighties?
25. Ginger Ale – “Sugar Suzy” (Injection – 1971)
And we’ll finish on a nice, tranquil noise. Ginger Ale hailed from Amsterdam and had existed in one form or another since 1961 – however, this particular soft pop effort was relegated to B-side status in the seventies. It’s also a nice note to finish on.