Friday, 13 October 2017

It Took Two

Seriously. Footballers cannot sing. We’ve proved the point on numerous occasions in the past but here is yet more irrefutable evidence that no footballer should ever be let loose in a recording studio.

Yes, it’s infamous ladies man and famous alcoholic George Best as ‘a creepy computer voice’ (as Howard Wolowitz would put it), the man who – in my household – is important only because his moniker provided the name for the debut album by the awesome Wedding Present.

Back in the 80s there was this mad fashion for celebrity keep fit albums. Kick started by Jane Fonda (although less well-known names had been making exercise records since at least the 1930s), by the time Georgie Best Superstar (wears frilly knickers and a Playtex bra) had teamed up with Mary Stavin (Swedish actress, former Miss World and Best’s current squeeze) to release this abortion the Shape Up And Dance series had reached nine – yes, nine – volumes. A whole nine albums worth of wretched nonsense from the likes of Isla St Clair, co-presenter of the TV show the Generation Game, Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz, actress Felicity Kendal, newsreader Angela Rippon and (of course) Lulu. The series would end, after just three years, with volume 10 presented by singer Patti Boulaye.

The music featured on the albums usually consisted of anonymous cover versions of hit records, so what a coup the producers of the series must have felt when they managed to persuade George and Mary to record a cover of the Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston hit It Takes Two. Sadly, although the track was also issued as a single (coupled with an instrumental version), it was not a hit (neither was the album it was culled from) and is to the best of my knowledge the only time George attempted to launch a career in pop music… although he may well have appeared on other, football related recordings by any of the various teams he played for. The b-side, Sasquatch, is thoroughly ridiculous and will give you a taste of the rest of the album.

Stavin, who had previously released the Eurodisco single Feeling Good, Being Bad in 1979, appeared in two of Roger Moore's James Bond films. In Octopussy (1983), she played an Octopussy girl, and in A View to a Kill (1985), she played agent Kimberley Jones. She also played the Icelandic businesswoman Heba in Twin Peaks (Season 1, Episode 6), and appeared in the videos for two Adam (and the) Ant (s) singles, Ant Rap and Strip. Once described by The Irish Football Association as the ‘greatest player to ever pull on the green shirt of Northern Ireland’, Best sadly died in 2005 of multiple organ failure, the legacy of a lifetime of heavy drinking.

Download TWO here


Download SASQUATCH here

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Trials of Hercules

I’ve just spent a couple of days in the wonderful city of Edinburgh, ostensibly promoting the new book, but also taking advantage of the city’s numerous charity shops for a spot of obscure record hunting. I found a few doozies, one of which I lovingly present for you today, Running Bear backed with Come Back Hercules by Hercules and the Three Bears.

Hercules the Wrestling Bear (1975-2001) was a trained grizzly bear. Professional wrestler Andy Robin and his wife Maggie, a former show jumping champion, brought him up, having bought him as a cub (for £40 according to the Daily Record; Wikipedia will tell you they spent a whole £50 on him) from the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie in 1976. Andy, having once wrestled a bear named Terrible Ted in Maple Leaf Gardens in 1968, hit upon the idea of adopting his own bear to create a star.

Hercules first appeared with Andy in his act on the UK wrestling circuit in the late 1970s. Playing the role of a gentle giant, the bear regularly drew audiences of 15 million viewers on ITV’s World of Sport programme. But it was for an event in 1980 for which he is best remembered – an event that spawned at least two ‘tribute’ 45s.

While filming a television commercial in the Outer Hebrides in August 1980, Hercules escaped; the bear was missing for 24 days. Hundreds of volunteers formed search parties to look for Hercules with no luck until a crofter spotted the animal swimming. Hercules was shot with a tranquilliser dart, netted, and flown by helicopter back to Andy and Maggie, who had built a special compound complete with log cabin and swimming pool for the animal. Being used to eating cooked food Hercules had lost almost half of his body weight during his three weeks on the run, and it was this reputation as a gentle giant that led to the ‘Big Softy’ Kleenex campaign, which kicked off his film career. In 1983 he appeared in the James Bond movie Octopussy starring alongside Roger Moore, and other film and documentary roles followed.

Hercules’ three weeks on the run spawned this dreadful disco version of the Big Bopper-penned Running Bear (originally a hit for Johnny Preston) performed by an unknown female vocal act and issued by Sonet imprint Royale Chimes Records. Brian Spence, former guitarist and vocalist for the Scottish group Bilbo Baggins, wrote the b-side. The other disc, by Donnie MacLeod and a vile children’s choir, can be heard on Youtube

Hercules died in 2001 and was buried on the Robins' estate, Big Bear Ranch, in Glendevon, Perthshire. When the couple sold the ranch in 2013 they dug up his remains and re-interred them next to a statue of the bear in a wood on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Enjoy! 

Download Running Bear HERE



Download Come Back Hercules HERE

Friday, 15 September 2017

Leave It!

There have been plenty of naff TV spin-off singles, and although Don’t Cha Cry by Jerry ‘Beaver’ Mathers is hardy among the absolute worst, methinks it is still worthy of inclusion here.

Released in August 1962, the record itself is pretty innocuous, but Jerry’s flat vocal delivery is simply dreadful. The vaguely Spanish Harlem-sounding instrumental backing – Ben E. King’s version of the Jerry Leiber & Phil Spector composition had been a hit the previous year – cannot save it , and although Billboard called it a ‘sweet Latinish ballad that has a sentimental touch’, it’s hardly surprising that this would be Mathers’ only pop outing.

The single’s B-side, Wind Up Toy, is much more fun, and the peppy tune much better suited to young Jerry’s limited range. Billboard called it a ‘cute novelty item’, adding that ‘the lad sings it aggressively against medium tempo beat from a combo and chorus of chicks’. Ahh: such innocent times. I’ve included both sides here for your entertainment.

Gerald Patrick ‘Jerry’ Mathers (born June 2, 1948) is an American television, film, and stage actor best known for his role in the US TV sitcom Leave It to Beaver, which was first broadcast from 1957 to 1963. Jerry played Theodore ‘Beaver’ Cleaver, the younger son of the suburban couple June and Ward Cleaver and the brother of Wally, and he appeared in all 234 episodes of the series. Jerry, who began his career at the age of two with an appearance as a child model in a department store advert, was the first child actor ever to get a percentage of the merchandising revenue from a television show.

After the series ended he retired from the screen and returned to school (while in High School he fronted his own band Beaver and the Trappers) and later served in the United States Air Force Reserve, reaching the rank of Sergeant. He returned to University, earning a BA in philosophy, and after a break of more that a decade and a half, returned to the entertainment industry in 1978. He has since appeared in many US TV shows, on stage (in Hairspray) and in movies.

Enjoy!

Download Cry HERE



Download Toy HERE

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Shameless Plug (and some awful music)

A bit of a two-pronged post this week: obviously it will end with some truly rotten music, but I have an ulterior motive for the theme.

My new book, David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music, comes out here in the UK on Thursday, September 7, and in late November in the US.

The book covers a century of LGBT people making records, from the early pre-jazz years right up to the present day. It also documents the struggle that LGBT people have had to endure over the last century to achieve equality, and looks at how musicians manage in countries where it is still illegal to be gay. I’m pretty proud of it. You can read more about it HERE and – if you want – order now from Amazon and all of the usual outlets.

I’m heading out on tour to promote the book, and will be appearing in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, London, Bristol and other towns and cities around the UK over the coming months. If you’re around please pop by and say ‘hello’.

On Friday September 8 we’re having a special launch event at the British Library, and I have to admit that I am excited beyond words. With live music from Canadian country singer Drake Jensen – making his UK debut - and London-based k anderson, I’ll also be joined by style icon, artist and the ‘French voice’ of Visage, Princess Julia and by journalist, former That’s Life presenter and co-founder of LGBT charity Stonewall, Simon Fanshawe. Copies of the book will be available on the night, and there will be plenty of chance to have a chat afterwards. Tickets, if you’re interested, are available now but are selling fast. Click HERE for more information.

So anyway, to the ‘music’.

During my research for the book I came across a fair amount of mediocre songs, but it was while preparing the chapter on homophobia in music that I came across the band Anal C***. I had, of course, heard of them before but I’d never actually heard them. Oh dear.

Anal C*** was an American grindcore band formed in Massachusetts in 1988. Known for their ‘controversial’ lyrics, the band underwent several lineup changes, disbanded on at least two occasions and yet somehow managed to release eight full-length studio albums as well as a number of compilations and EPs. Early songs were usually no more than a few seconds long, and their musical ‘themes’ included misogyny, homophobia, nazism, antisemitism, racism and the like, with song titles such as You're Gay, The Internet Is Gay, You Were Pregnant So I Kicked You in the Stomach, Hitler was a Sensitive Man and Eazy E Got AIDS From Freddie Mercury. Lovely.

I’m sure that there are people who will insist that this was all meant in jest, and that the band were merely taking the rise out of the politically correct; that their entire career was simply one lone bad-taste joke. I don’t particularly care either way: their songs are too pathetic to offended. I simply offer you an opportunity to listen and make up your own mind.

Singer Seth Putnam, hospitalised after a suicide attempt in 2004, died of a hear attack, aged just 43, in 2011. Here are Hitler was a Sensitive Man and Eazy E Got AIDS From Freddie Mercury. If you'd like to hear more (really?) then the whole album is available at Mr Weird and Wacky


Enjoy!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Sound of Muzak

Although I have a had a copy (well, an MP3 rip) for a number of years now I had always assumed that Beatle Songs by Joah Valley was a send up. Apparently not.

Issued in 1980, this album – which features 11 whacked-out covers of Beatles’ classics plus a reasonably straight reading of Puccini’s Nessun Dorma - first came to my attention via Wfmu around a decade ago. I thought that I had featured a track from this record back in 2011, on a post about bad Beatles covers, but (again) apparently not. Allow me to make amends here.

Also known as The New Wave Sound of Joah Valley, the album was only available through mail order direct from Joah himself. There’s a note on the back cover, offering a gift to the first 25 people to notify Joah of any store or P.O Box trying to flog copies of the record. I would imagine there are at least 24 unclaimed prizes gathering dust on a shelf in Los Angeles.

If you think that the cover looks exactly like a Columbine compilation, that may not be such a surprise. Several correspondents have suggested that his real name is/was Andrew Clyde Diltz, and a ‘songwriter’ of that name began his career in music in the 1940s. An A. C. Diltz copywrited a number of compositions in 1946, including Evening Star, I Walk With You, A Song of Your Love and The Wanderer, and during the 1950s he was still writing songs and submitting them to song-poem companies. In 1955 he and his brother Cecil wrote and copywrited the song I’m Sending You My Love, and he’s credited as writer or co-author on a number of songs recorded and released by the Vellez song-poem outfit, including Kibble Kobble (The Flying Saucer Song) and The Lean Green Vegetable Fiend (From 'Tuther Side Of The Moon), both of which were recorded by Jimmy Drake, a.k.a Nervous Norvus.

Now, although others have suggested that these two are in fact the same person, I’m not entirely convinced. An Andrew Clyde Diltz died in California in 1966, and our Joah was still working in California in 1980. Andrew Clyde Diltz was a commercial artist and cartoonist by trade, and I believe it was he that wrote novelty songs in the 50s. Joah Valley could, of course, be a relative. In his obituary brother Cecil is listed but no children are mentioned, which makes me think that if Joah’s real name is indeed Andrew Clyde Diltz then he has to be, at best, a nephew if he is related at all. I also believe that our Joah would have been far too young (if, in fact he had even been born at this point) to have been writing songs in the 40s and 50s.

In 2008 the album’s producer Garry Goodman, commenting on the Wfmu blog, confirmed that Joah was indeed a stage name and that his real moniker was Clyde Diltz (this info also appears on Discogs). Have Andrew Clyde and Clyde become confused? Perhaps there's no connection at all outside of a similar name. Maybe someone out there knows for sure?

Anyway, on to the music. Here’s the vaguely discofied Things We Said Today and Joah murdering the greatest album opener of all time, I Saw Her Standing There.


Enjoy!

Download Things here


Download Standing here

Friday, 18 August 2017

Sing It Again, Sue!

There can be no doubt that whichever anonymous person (or people) put together the post-mortem compilation Songs By Sue did it out of love. There can also be no doubt that they were less that au fait with some of the song titles: La Bamba is rendered La Bomba, Hava Nagila as Hava Nagaela. Add to that the fact that something has clearly gone wrong in the mastering process, and that one of Sue’s well-meaning friends has added their own basic synthesiser overdubs to several of her tunes and what you have is an album with a uniquely ethereal, otherworldly quality that is at times maddening and at others naively beautiful.

So who exactly was Sue? Well, that I can’t tell you, as the compilers of this collection sadly forgot to include any details at all on the cover or label of the disc: no surname, no songwriter credits, no publisher details, no information on where any of the songs were recorded and no date either. My best guess is that the album was put out in the mid 70s… but that is nothing but a guess. The whole album lasts for less than 20 minutes: I assume, because of the varying quality, that the ten tracks presented here are the only songs Sue ever recorded.

Most of what I can tell you about Sue is contained in the scant sleeve notes: ‘Sue, always full of joy and laughter, in love with life. She started to sing before she could walk, then on to dancing. She was struck with polio in her second year. She could not dance again but she kept singing. Even though Sue was in a wheelchair twenty-seven years she worked weekends to get through college and went on to become an activities director at the St. Therese Nursing Home and an art teacher at Good Shepherd School.  She left us recently’ My assumption is that the author is referring to St. Theresa’s nursing home the Good Shepherd Catholic School, both of which are in St Louis Park, Minnesota.

After Sue passed away this album was pressed by her family and/or friends to celebrate her life. Originally posted on the Swan Fungus blog last year, the copy I pilfered this image from (the same copy; maybe the only one still in existence?) is now up for grabs on eBay.

For the record I do feel a little mean about featuring it here, but if I did not how would the majority of you fine people ever discover it? Here are a couple of tracks from Songs By Sue, the opener If I Had A Hammer, and Hava Nagaela.

Enjoy!

Download Hammer Here


Download Hava Here

Friday, 11 August 2017

Rocbuafro and Roll

Often written about in revered tones, and just as often compared to the atonal outsider music of Jerry Solomon, New York-based Jerry Rayson’s Taking Over (more popularly known as The Weird Thing In Town) has been feted as some sort of psychedelic masterpiece. Don’t let them fool you; the 1969 album is a cacophonous, clattering mess. It’s The Legendary Stardust Cowboy on acid.

Everything about this record is wrong: the acoustic guitar Jerry strums throughout is hideously out of tune, the drummer has clearly never heard of a click track or a metronome, and Jerry’s singing voice is little more than a holler. It’s an unholy mess. ‘My theory of music is to explore in the unknown vibrations of sounds, to create psychadelic [sic] ways of thinking which I make mostly with primitive sounds by adding them together…’ Well, that’s one way of putting it. The Acid Archives called Jerry’s album ‘spaced out fringe folk with unusual inner-city vibe and Puerto Rican tangents.’ That sums it up pretty well. Jerry coined the word Rocbuafro for his ‘sound’ describing it as ‘combined by three primitive sounds which are Rock & Roll, Caribean Latin [sic] and African combined together. It is a lowly, primitive type of space music which in the future will be developed in to all kinds of musical sounds from all parts of the world and will combine in to one sound’. Thankfully Jerry’s zeitgeist has yet to surface.

‘Hey you guys, keep quiet down there or I’ll call the cops!’ Jerry shouts at the beginning of third track El Bacelon de lo Junkie, (which almost translates as The Junkie Balcony) telling ‘you hobos, you bums’, anyone who believes in free love and his junkie neighbours, ‘you addict, you pot heads, you speed heads’ that he’s going to call the cops if they don’t let him sleep. Jerry also throws in a little racism, just in case we needed it confirmed that the man clearly hates everyone. As Jerry appears to have Latin roots, perhaps we should allow for the possibility that he is singing in character here, and that he is one of the aforementioned bums or addicts being berated.

As well as the album, Jerry also self-released two 45s on his own Psychedelic Worlds Records: all of his discs came in hand crafted covers and, as he writes on the extensive album sleeve notes: ‘all of my musicians read and write music and they play without discipline in ordr to get their natural feelings… we have recorded this album for listeners who enjoy something different and natural based on psychadelic [sic] thinking’. Yeah, right! The ‘musicians’ are simply credited as ‘band’ on the sleeve; Jerry credits himself as producer, recording director, cover design, cover photo and audio engineer. Oh, and for writing the words and music, naturally.

Here are a couple of tracks to whet your appetite: album opener My New York Woman and one of the shortest – and most musical – tracks on the album, Rocbuafro With L.S.D (incidentally, the album’s shortest ‘song’ Maybelle comprises of 33 seconds of silence; John Cage, or John Lennon, should have sued). The whole album is out there if you want to find it.

Enjoy!

Download My New York Woman HERE



Download Rocbuafro with L.S.D HERE

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