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

Friday, 4 August 2017

I 'Ave My Rights!

This is probably the most jaw-droppingly disturbing record I have ever presented at the World’s Worst Records, so those of a nervous disposition may wish to leave now. I originally discovered this horror on one of my ‘go to’ blogs for obscure music, the magnificent Left And To the Back. Sadly the copy available there was pretty beaten up. This one is in far better shape, apart from the occasional static crackle... not that that is necessarily a good thing, as you will soon discover.

Pierre Cour was a French songwriter with an impeccable pedigree: it’s almost beyond belief that he should also be the originator of this tasteless trash, possibly the most disquieting record I have ever heard, and that includes the vile racism of acts like Skrewdriver and Johnny Rebel. Letter to a Teenage Bride is the kind of song that gives Peter Wyngarde's Rape a run for its money. Naturally I had to find a copy for my own collection.

Born in 1916, Cour served in the French Air Force and became a PE instructor; after France was liberated, Cour became a journalist before moving into acting under the name Pierre Lemaire. Landing a job on radio first as a keep fit instructor and later on in the role of Régisseur Albert on the popular comedy show Silence... Antenne, he quickly moved in to full-time lyric writing. His first hit came in 1952, when Les Compagnons de la Chanson recorded Mon Ami, Mon Ami. Cour wrote songs for a number of successful acts from the 1950s through to the 70s, including Roger Whittaker (the massive hits Durham Town and The Last Farewell among others), Petula Clark, France Gall (Si J’étais Garçon), Sacha Distel, Brigitte Bardot (Tu Veux Ou Tu Veux Pas) and Nana Mouskouri among many others. With composers André Popp and Hubert Giraud he co-wrote a number of Eurovision Song Contest entries, including Tom Pillibi, which won the competition for France in 1960 and L'Amour Est Bleu (Love is Blue) which, when performed by Vicky Leandros, came forth for Luxembourg in 1967. Paul Mauriat would later have a huge international hit with an instrumental version of the same song. His song Frère Jacques – a disco rewrite of the nursery rhyme - came 16th in 1977 for singer Anne Marie B.

Master though he was of lush pop balladry and the fine art of yé-yé, none of these hits can hold a candle to the distinctly dodgy Letter to a Teenage Bride. It is simply ghastly.

Describing, in all-too graphic detail, the rape within marriage of a barely legal young woman, Letter to a Teenage Bride is genuinely repulsive. ‘Oh my Daddy! Oh my Mama!’ the poor young protagonist whispers breathily all the way through this revolting record as her oily other half insists on his conjugal rights. Happily, after Pierre demands ‘Right! We’ll see! Come here darling! I ham you ‘usband! I ‘ave my rights!’, her entire ordeal lasts for less than 20 seconds, and with one short ‘ughh’ (it’s there, two minutes and 27 seconds in if you can bear to listen for that long), Pierre spills his seed - almost a full decade before Frankie Goes to Hollywood would be banned from the airwaves for doing the same. Clearly the French had yet to discover the joys of Viagra. Incidentally, the song was originally called Love Letter to a Child Wife, but someone at Charisma had the good taste to change the title to something marginally less offensive.

The B-side, Love Letter is little better, describing the morning after and how our Lothario is already bored with her. Surprisingly, in spite of the fact that Cour sounds for all the world like Kenny Everett’s Marcel Wave, the disc was not broadcast by Everett during his World’s Worst Wireless Shows or two Bottom 30 compilations, although I have no way of knowing if he ever dared air it on his regular Capital Radio show.

Issued on St. Valentine’s Day 1975, legend has it that altering the title was not enough to placate the sales staff and pluggers working at the Charisma office: despite at least two pressings of the sexist song most of the stock ended up being thrown in to a cupboard and forgotten about – which is why it’s easier to find A-label promos than finished, shop stock copies. Pianist and orchestral arranger Zack Laurence is better known these days for his work in television: he wrote the themes to Treasure Hunt and The Crystal Maze as well as acting as musical arranger on series including The Flame Trees of Thika. In an earlier life he was known as of Mr Bloe, and hit the UK charts with Grooving With Mr. Bloe in 1970: a later, France-only Mr Bloe 45 had both sides written and performed by Elton John. 'Record Supervision Ltd', the company credited with the production, was once one of the UK's leading independent producers. RSL operated out of the Lansdowne Recording Studios in London's Holland Park, where everyone from the Sex Pistols to Shirley Bassey, the Plastic Ono Band and Queen had recorded, and where Joe Meek had cut his teeth before setting up on his own.

Cour died, aged 79, in 1995. Hopefully he’ll be remembered for his many pop hits, and not this dreadful blip in an otherwise thoroughly respectable career.

Enjoy!



Download Teenage Bride HERE



Download Love Letter HERE

Friday, 28 July 2017

Never Mind This Bollocks

A stopgap of sorts, as the disc I had intended to bring you today has yet to arrive on the mail. Here’s 60’s pop icon Paul Jones, the former vocalist with Manfred Mann, performing a pair of punk hits, courtesy of producer Tim Rice in what he called a ‘sophisticated, beautifully orchestrated’ style. The pair had collaborated before: in 1976 Jones performed the role of Juan Peron on the original concept album of Rice and Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita.

Based, Rice candidly admits, on ‘a weird idea of mine to rearrange a Sex Pistols song to sound like an easy listening ballad,’ this horrific disc was issued by RSO in April 1978, and you’d have to assume that all involved must have thought it a jolly good wheeze. Well it isn’t. It’s dreadful, and it should never have been allowed. Thankfully it did not chart.

So, a short post this week but a worthy one nevertheless. Here’s Paul Jones singing Pretty Vacant and its b-side, a cover of the Ramones classic Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.

Enjoy!


 Download Vacant HERE


 Download Sheena HERE

Friday, 21 July 2017

Steamed or Creamed?

With their roots in the early 60s folk scene, and best known for their sunshine pop hits Windy, Cherish, Never My Love and Along Comes Mary, The Association are beloved by fans for their close harmonies. The six piece (later seven piece) band will forever be famed for appearing as the opening act at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 – the first ever large scale pop music festival, but by the time they issued their fifth (and eponymous) studio album in 1969 things had soured somewhat for them, the hits had stopped and they were trying desperately to do something different.

And what they did was this: Broccoli. Ridiculous. ‘I like to eat it with my mouth’? Seriously, which other organ are you able to eat with? Written by guitarist Russ Giguere, presumably as some sort of joke, the album’s failure precipitated his leaving The Association and releasing the psych-influenced solo album Hexagram 16.

The band recorded their last album of new material, Waterbeds in Trinidad!,  in 1972. The following year founding member and bassist Brian Cole died, aged 29, of a heroin overdose, and over the next few years although the band issued several singles they struggled to find direction and gradually fell apart. Drummer Ted Bluechel kept the group going but soon retired. He began leasing the group name out, allowing oldies tour packagers to send out a version of The Association without any of the original members. After dealing with the legal issues caused by that catastrophic error of judgement (Dollar/Bucks Fizz, anyone?) several of the original members reformed the band and they have continued to tour ever since.

Larry Ramos, a former member of the New Christy Minstrels who joined in 1967, sadly passed away in April 2014, three years after suffering a heart attack and just over two months after his last appearance with the group. The Association are still gigging today, featuring original members Jim Yester and Jules Alexander plus friends and relatives: Brian Cole’s son Jordan plays keyboards for the group, and Larry’s brother Del plays bass.

Anyway, here’s a brace of songs you’ll seldom hear the Association perform, the thoroughly ridiculous Broccoli and, from the same album (known amongst fans as the ‘Stonehenge’ album), I Am Up For Europe, co-written by Brian Cole. If only they had been around for the Brexit vote…

My thanks to The Squire for alerting me to this particular vegetable.

Enjoy!




Right click HERE to download


Right click HERE to download

Sunday, 16 July 2017

No Business

A couple of days late... but here we go!

I can’t believe that it has taken me almost a decade of writing about rubbish to finally get around to blogging about The Ethel Merman Disco Album.

The veteran American Broadway performer Ethel Merman released The Ethel Merman Disco Album on A&M Records in 1979. Over the years this dreadful record – which features Merman performing several of the songs she was most closely identified with, including her signature belter There’s No Business Like Show Business - has attained the status of a camp classic, with original vinyl copies highly sought out by collectors.

Known primarily for her distinctive, powerful voice and leading roles in musical theatre, Merman recorded 14 songs for the record, although only seven were released on the original version (one of the others, They Say It's Wonderful, finally saw the light on the 2002 CD reissue; the six remaining songs have yet to see official release). Each of the songs was recorded in only one take and arranged vocally the way she always recorded them, with the ‘disco’ backing track added later. It’s probably worth noting here that the woman was 71 when this turgid monstrosity was unleashed on the world.

Stories about Merman (born January 1908, died February 1984) are legion. My personal favourite concerns her five week marriage to Ernest Borgnine (the fourth, last and briefest of her marriages). It was a disaster: Borgnine himself described it as the ‘biggest mistake of my life. I thought I was marrying Rosemary Clooney!’ Merman’s 1972 memoir, Merman, includes a chapter entitled My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine that consists of nothing more than a single blank page. Borgnine later told the Australian actor Frank Wilson that he spent most of his short marriage ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ with his wife, who was eight years his senior, and told him that ‘One day she came off the set of a film and said, ‘the director said today I looked sensational. He said I had the face of a 20 year old, and the body and legs of a 30 year old!’ I said: ‘did he say anything about your old cunt?’ ‘No’ replied Ethel, ‘he didn't mention you at all!’

Then there is her scene-stealing cameo in Airplane! (released a year after The Ethel Merman Disco Album and her last film performance), where she plays a traumatised soldier who is convinced that he is Ethel Merman.

Although she is beloved by gay men of a certain age she professed a distaste for the number of homosexuals involved in musical theatre . At a rehearsal she once shouted to newspaper columnist Jerry Berger ‘have you ever seen so many faggots in your life?’; she is also said to have accused Borgnine of being ‘a fag’ when he could not perform in bed. perhaps unsurprisingly it is rumoured that she had a lesbian affair with trash novelist Jacqueline Susann, and that Susann based her Valley of the Dolls character Anne, an ageing stage actress, on Merman.

There are those who will insist that The Ethel Merman Disco Album is great. It isn’t. And to prove my point here are a couple of primo examples of Ethel’s flirtation with the demon disco: Everything’s Coming Up Roses and I Get a Kick Out of You. Just horrible. And why the disembodied arm holding the hat? What's all that about?

The whole album is readily available on the YouTubes if you fancy more, but until next time...

Enjoy!


Friday, 7 July 2017

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?

There are a multitude of reasons for this week’s post. Partly it has been inspired by Pride taking place in both London and Bristol this weekend, and partly it has come out of a number of interviews I have conducted and articles I have written recently about Pride and politics ahead of the publication of my forthcoming book, David Bowie Made Me Gay (SPOILER ALERT; lots of shameless plugs and paragraphs full of self-promotion ahead: you may wish to skip ahead to the music now!)

Yes, my new book, David Bowie Made Me Gay, is coming out soon, and people seem to like it. It’s ‘an excellent book’, according to Gay Star News, and ‘a comprehensive and compelling work, in terms of its extensive discussion of music, history and, of course, a human struggle for tolerance, acceptance and respect’ according to Nudge Books. Tom Robinson, who I had the good fortune to interview for the book, calls it ‘Lovingly detailed and exhaustively researched - easily the most readable and comprehensive guide I've seen to this fascinating hidden history.’ As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m pretty stoked!

Here’s an excerpt from the official blurb: ‘From Elton John to Little Richard, Bessie Smith to Dusty Springfield and Boy George to Sia – via lesser-known and cult musicians such as trans composer Wendy Carlos, Jobriath, and Divine – David Bowie Made Me Gay is a collection of hidden histories, pulling back the curtain on the colourful legacy that formed our musical and cultural landscape. Through new interviews and contemporary reports, David Bowie Made Me Gay uncovers the real story of LGBT music-makers, revealing the lives of the people who made the records, and witnessed first-hand the cultural revolution that they helped to create.’

Anyway, back to the music. I have spent the last year or so researching and writing about LGBT musicians, and on my travels I found much to admire. Sadly I also uncovered some terrible nonsense that should never have seen the light of day. And, naturally, it’s a couple of examples of the latter that I present for you today.

Anita Bryant was a beauty pageant queen, singer, actress and the spokesperson for Florida orange juice. She was also a terrible homophobe, the kind who equates homosexuality with child abuse. A perfectly passable singer, she had a few chart hits (her version of Paper Roses went Top 5 in 1960) but as she became more politically active her singing career all but dried up: her last charting 45 was in 1964.

I first came across Bryant when I read Armistead Maupin’s More Tales of the City in the late 1980s; Maupin’s character Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver talks about her in his coming out letter home to his parents. At the time the novel was set, Bryant was heading the political coalition Save Our Children, a right-wing Christian-led campaign to overturn local legislation that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Florida had long been opposed to LGBT rights: the city’s officials had been closing down bars and enacting laws to make homosexuality and cross-dressing illegal, and until 1975 the government was legally empowered to refuse employment to anyone thought to be homosexual. Established in 1956, the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (known as the Johns Committee) hunted down LGBT people in state employment and universities and in 1964 published Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida (a.k.a. the Purple Pamphlet), a highly inflammatory document that portrayed homosexuals as predators and a threat to children.

Bryant became the bete noir of the gay community, and protests against her and against Save Our Children saw her lose a lucrative TV series. In June 1977 more than 130,000 people marched to demand equal rights for LGBT people in the United States, with marchers bearing signs attacking the former singer. Peaceful demonstrations were also held in London, where around 1,000 turned out to march, and in Amsterdam 2,000 people marched through the city carrying banners that read ‘Against the American witch-hunt on homosexuals’. In San Francisco, according to police estimates, more than 100,000 took to the streets and the gay community received heavy support from predominantly heterosexual organisations.

Naturally a number of artists recorded songs both in support of and attacking Bryant and Save Our Children: you can discover many of those at JD Doyle’s excellent Queer Music Heritage website here, but for today I’ll leave you with one of the oddest, most confused and certainly NSFW of them, renegade country singer-songwriter David Allen Coe’s Fuck Aneta Briant, which appeared on his 1978 album Nothing Sacred and was also issued as the B-side to his single Cum Stains On The Pillow. You can also have a listen to Anita’s 1962 Top 20 hit Wonderland By Night, her vocal version of the Bert Kaempfert hit. I wonder if she knew that the song was originally the theme tune to a German ‘art’ film whose story included lurid (for the time) depictions of prostitution and lesbianism?   

Published in the UK on September 7, you can per-order David Bowie Made Me Gay here (UK) and here (US). We’re holding a launch event at the British Library on September 8, with music from k anderson and Drake Jensen, and a limited number of tickets for that event are available here. I’ll be touring the country in September and October to promote the book – if you would like to keep up to date with details I have a dedicated Facebook page set up here - and if you’re in the area it would be great to see you there.

Enjoy!


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.

Enjoy!

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!

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