23 May 2017

Another Earl Haig Jumble Sale

Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 28th May, and I'll be there with Jody "John The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning on the decks while you shop around.

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's roast dinners next door, lots of booze (but none of it for free, who do you think we are?) and the chance to lounge around on sofas and socialise. It's the perfect way to lounge around on a Sunday bank holiday weekend.

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 28th May, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

A follow up event is planned for the same venue on 25th June. 

21 May 2017

Fabulous Wealthy Tarts - The Last Time/ The Chase Is On
























Label: Bright
Year of Release: 1983

I was watching "Top of the Pops" on BBC4 a few weeks back, and Paul Young appeared to perform "Come Back and Stay" with his backing group The Royal Family. There were two surprises to be enjoyed in that nostalgic televisual package. The first was that "Come Back And Stay" was a far better single than I remembered it - maudlin, eerie, slightly angular and as unusual as a mainstream, bluesy pop track can get away with being. The second surprise was the camera panning round on to the backing singers, one of whom I remembered having a weird childhood crush on. "Didn't they actually have a single out of their own?" I asked Twitter.

And here we are. Kim Lesley and Maz Roberts were singers not just for Paul Young, but also as participating members of Jools Holland and His Millionaires. Finding that their career as session voices for hire wasn't delivering everything they wanted out of life, they broke away to record this single. It's unsurprising that they were given the opportunity - they stood out visually, having an in-your-face, fun-loving, camera-friendly image which ensured that they hogged almost as much screen time as Mr Young when they appeared with him.

The small Bright label picked up the tab and let them in the studio to record this, a cover of The Rolling Stones "Last Time". In common with a vast array of other sixties covers in the eighties, this takes the minimal riffs of the original and gives them a rigid, staccato synth pop backing. This may have worked once for Soft Cell's take on the Northern Soul smash "Tainted Love", but for other contenders (including Tik and Tok's "Summer In The City" and Glass Museum's "Daytripper", and Naked Eyes "Always Something There To Remind Me" - though that was, to be fair, a hit in some countries) it proved fruitless, and this was no exception. Not helped by the fact that the prissy BBC took exception to the group name Fabulous Wealthy Tarts and apparently refused to play it, "Last Time" sank faster than the gumboots of a man foolishly trying to cross the Thames Estuary by foot at low tide.

As to whether it deserved that fate, judge for yourself. In common with many of Paul Young's covers, it's a complete reboot, taking the raw stomp of the original and replacing it with laser-eyed modernity.  When people take risks and attempt complete rewrites of songs rather than performing mere bog-standard covers, it's usually to be applauded. In my considered opinion, though, tracks like "The Last Time" mainly work because they're so gritty and grimy sounding in the first place - as soon as you scrub them clean and remove that aggressive swing, what you're left with is very polished, precise repetition with little atmosphere. The pair try to take the song in interesting new directions, but ultimately it's too bluesy and slight to be up to the challenge.

They never did release another single, but returned to their other duties instead. As for the woman I had a strange "Top of the Pops" crush on, she (Maz Roberts) entered a relationship with Paul Young's bass master Pino Palladino, and eventually married him. Who could blame her? He managed to create noises I never could summon from the depths of my bass guitar, and he also had the distinct advantage of not being an incredibly underage boy, thereby enabling her to have a normal relationship which wouldn't involve being placed on the sex offender's register. But he's still a git anyway.



17 May 2017

Ryder - Ain't That Nice/ Sugar Mama



Label: Cube Records
Year of Release: 1974

Once again, I'm sorry to tell you that I haven't a clue who Ryder were (or Ryder is, assuming that it's the name of a person rather than a group). I'm absolutely positive they weren't the same Ryder who represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986, though... and nor is it Steve Ryder who rather confusingly also had a different record out called "Ain't That Nice".  Beyond that, I have no information to give you. 

A shame, because "Ain't That Nice" is a smooth and cocksure bit of rock 'n' funk which slithers around your turntable like a conga eel. Seemingly dealing with one particular gentleman's unfortunate experiences with the ladies, it's a very simple but highly funky piece of work which has never really picked up much recognition from collectors. While nothing about it screams "hit single", it's a strong and sultry release which deserves better than the low price tags it's been going for.

If you know who was responsible for this record - and I suspect it may have been a studio aggregation rather than a proper group as such - please do let me know. 



14 May 2017

Reupload - Wes Minster Five - Sticks and Stones/ Mickey's Monkey



Label: Carnival
Year of Release: 1964

The London blues and R&B scene is the stuff of beat legend these days, and people of my generation have only hearsay to go by.  Still, irrespective of how many obscure fringe acts were allegedly the best live bands in the world, we all know for a fact that there were endless pubs and clubs in the capital having bands playing approximations of authentic American sounds in their sweaty, smoky basement rooms. Some of these (The Rolling Stones) would go on to success of the kind that doesn't need to be emphasised, while others had to content themselves with cultish levels of appreciation.  

The Wes Minster Five were a regularly gigging unit around the London bar and club scene, and are really seldom discussed on any level these days.  Part of the problem may be that they were signed to an uber-obscure independent label without much clout, and another issue may be the fact that their recordings, while good, lack the abrasion and bite of The Pretty Things or The Birds.  Still, what we have here are two enjoyable cuts, either of which could have happily taken the A-side spot.  "Sticks and Stones" is a nice, stomping cover of the R&B classic, and "Mickey's Monkey" incorporates call and response vocals with hand clapping and a nagging enthusiasm, and nearly rips up the joint.  Both tracks have come under some criticism from aficionados for giving two respected songs a British beat production, but that, I'm afraid, was the name of the game at the time.  Very few British bands were able to ape the American styles 100% successfully (and what, indeed, would be the point of creating replicas in the studio anyway?) so putting their own blueprint on the tracks was fairly standard practice.

Consisting of Clive Burrows on sax, Dave Greenslade on keyboards, John Hiseman on drums, Brian Smith (aka Wes Minster) on guitar, Tony Reeves on bass and Paul Williams on vocals, the line-up was completed by chance purely due to Williams' connection with Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames - a fan and regular attendee of their Flamingo Club gigs, he managed to convince the outfit to allow him to occasionally get on stage and sing songs with them, and eventually Fame put him in touch with the other musicians who were in the process of putting an act together.  The band are particularly notable for giving the Zoot Money's Big Roll Band two of its future members in Williams and Burrows.

Williams remains a practicing musician to this day, having worked with the likes of John Mayall and Juicy Lucy over the years, as well as gigging as a part of ensemble touring acts and as a solo artist.  You can call me soft if you want, but it always brings a bit of cheer to my heart to be able to finish a blog entry talking about a musician's continued activity.

[Update - Terry Webster - the actual lead vocalist for this group - got in touch with me to correct some details! 

"Aw! TERRY WEBSTER IS THE SINGER AND BASS PLAYER OF THESE TRACKS! Jim Ellis Drums Clive Burrows sax Paul Raymond - organ (later of Plastic Penny) Wes Minster guitar.
Wrong line up I'm afraid. Putting the world to rights before I die..

We were involved with Wes(Brian)Minster performing on the R&B circuit.We did sessions for Blue Beat label Carnival Records backing various West Indian Artistes that would be sold on Portobello Road and other London Market stalls.
It was all one take stuff, and Sticks and Stones had a dodgy wobble on the intro due to some studio or manufacturing slip up. I imagine a guy resting against the mastering equipment lighting a fag...Whoops! The producer apologised but I suppose as it was only a B side and a bit quirky they decided to leave it there.

I'm not aware that Carnival Records did anything outside the London West Indian/Carribean community. The producers seemed happy enough with their small exclusive Blue Beat market. I remember we did a session for a great character named Little Satch. A singer so named as he was little and played a trumpet but quite badly tuned. The producer only helped to tune it to a point as the track would lose that raw flavour."


Thanks to Terry for giving an accurate line-up and putting this matter to rest. 


10 May 2017

John Bryant - Tell Me What You See/ Poor Unfortunate Me



Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1965

We've touched on the work of John Bryant on this blog before, examining the ultra-obscure (£162 to you, squire) single "A Million Miles Away/ It's Dark", which was handed down to me from my parent's record collection. 

That particular single is a likeable and folky piece of work, with (as one reader pointed out to me) a flip that's very reminiscent of Cat Stevens. This single, however, was Bryant's Fontana debut and is an entirely different affair, being a distorted, snarling piece of folk-rock with distinctly Dylan leanings. Taking a very basic garage riff and piling surrealist lyrics on top ("clouds that move beneath the sea/ preachers dressed in leather") it's so beatnik it hurts - and is actually quite forward thinking for a British solo artist in 1965. Donovan might already have been around doing his best Bobby impressions, but he was seldom as rough and ready as this.

This may have been his (flop) debut single, but John Bryant actually enjoyed a long career in music after this, issuing further 45s for MCA, Polydor and Private Stock (the MCA single "I Bring The Sun" is a favourite of many collectors) only really ceasing recorded activities in 1978. He also wrote "Dear Old Mrs Bell" for The Shadows in 1968, and Cliff Richard recorded his track "She's a Gypsy".
These days he owns Abbeywood Films and the graphic design, animation and soundtrack firm Bryant Whittle, from where he's still penning music for commercial use.