31 August 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 16 - Taboo - Number 6

Taboo - Number 6

Who: Taboo
What: Number 6
Label: Anagram/ Cherry Red
Found: Reckless Records, Soho (RIP)
Year: 1988
Cost: 50p


Novelty spin-off records from famous television series are of course only to be expected, but two decades after the programme was first made? This seems rather unusual to me.

It's a testament to the uniqueness and popularity of "The Prisoner" television programme that so many songs have been written and released about it over the years, with artists like Iron Maiden referencing the show, The Manic Street Preachers endorsing it, and retro kids The Times releasing the cult single "I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape". Alongside such worthy thumbs up, however, are the inevitable novelty discs, and it's safe to say that it's in this category "Number 6" most definitely sits. A barrage of samples from the programme compete with a brassy synthesiser rendition of the theme tune, and, er... it could be better, if I'm being bluntly honest. There's nothing seriously objectionable about it, and it's always a pleasure to hear Number 6's defiant voice in any context, but it is most definitely a curio rather than a lost classic.

Another noteworthy fact about the single is that none other than Keith West (of legendary psychedelic band "Tomorrow" and "Teenage Opera" aka "Grocer Jack" fame) seems to have been on production duties for it. Perhaps that's why the track doesn't seem particularly buzzing and up-to-the-minute for 1988.

The flip side "Hypnotique" is also nothing to change your retro-Acid DJ set around in honour of. Besides which, my copy has a scratch which you can clearly hear as the needle skips a few grooves. Sorry about this - in the unlikely event anybody has a better version to upload, please do feel free to help out!

28 August 2008

The Tickle - Subway (Smokey Pokey World)/ Good Evening

The TIckle - Good Evening

Label: Regal Zonophone
Year of Release: 1967


Uploading Frank Sidebottom's EP a couple of days ago reminded me that Regal Zonophone really was a spiffing name for a record label - and I think that's an appropriate word for a company which sounds so majestic. It doesn't mean anything at all, in case you were wondering, and its peculiar title came about as a result of a merger between two different companies with those given names. I was hoping to find out that a Regal Zonophone was some sort of futuristic recording device favoured by royalty, but sometimes the truth is considerably less interesting than you'd prefer.

Also, despite having spent a large part of its existence releasing Salvation Army music and various budget junk for the benefit of people shopping in Woolworths, for a brief time in the late sixties it was also home to all sorts of interesting pop. T Rex resided there in their infancy, as did The Move, and Procol Harum. And besides them, of course, all sorts of folk passed through the RZ portal without finding fame and fortune, amongst whom we can also count The Tickle.

Formed from the members of a Hull outfit called The Bunch of Fives (who apparently all had similar hair to Boris Johnson, which was forward-thinking of them in a very strange way), The Tickle only made this one single with producer Tony Visconti. Both sides were apparently voted for by their fanbase, and it really is a case of "too close to call" for which should be the A-side. I personally might have preferred the more urgent, catchy "Good Evening" to have been promoted from its flip status, but "Subway" is also a loveable piece of fluffy quirk about falling in love with women on trains. Unlike James Blunt's "You're Beautiful", however, it manages to be light-hearted and bouncy, rather than stalker-ish, and finishes with a sharp and pleasing piece of feedback.

Both sides also both have the bonus of sounding quite unique, even for the time. The keyboard work in particular is complex and almost jazzy, but manages to give the pop tune surrounding it an added dimension rather than sounding messy or overly prog-rock in its nature. Scronking guitar noises, unusual basslines and weird effects permeate throughout as well. It's a deep pity no album or follow-up tracks were ever forthcoming from this lot - I've a feeling they would have produced something memorable at the very least.

Also, confession time - neither of these tracks are from the original single and are digital rips from other sources. I did attempt to bid for this on e-bay (whilst I was drunk, I might add) but gave up by the time the auction got to fifty pounds. I can't tell you how relieved I was when I woke up the next day and remembered that I'd pulled out of it... and yes, "Good Evening" did feature on the "Wallpaper" compilation already, but "Subway" most definitely didn't.

http://sharebee.com/2afc3c51

The Tickle

26 August 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 15 - Frank Sidebottom - Frank's Firm Favourites

Frank's Firm Favourites front

Frank's Firm Favourites Back

Who: Frank Sidebottom
What: Frank's Firm Favourites
Label: Regal Zonophone ("Borrowed off EMI on Hire Purchase through their Christmas Club")
Year: 1985
Found: Reflex Records, Portsmouth (RIP)
Cost: One pound


Somehow I get the sneaking suspicion that I'm going to be wasting both my time and yours if I put any effort into analysing this one. Sticking entirely to the conceit the performer Chris Sievey developed for Frank, he is a man living with his mother in Timperley who has frustrated pop star ambitions which he attempts to realise via cheap recordings and instrumentation.

If you've never enjoyed his work or found it remotely amusing, chances are this showcase EP released via EMI (of all people) in 1985 is not going to change your mind one jot. The routine is well established, with clumsily delivered lyrics, inappropriately cheery vocals, and a general air of utter incompetence dominating the proceedings.

If you've never heard Frank Sidebottom before - and I'm willing to bet there might be a number of non-British readers that applies to - this isn't a bad place to start to get a general idea of the level of humour. It is, without question, very whacky, childish and frequently utterly ridiculous, and will irritate as many people as it will cheer. Speaking purely from a personal point of view, I found this EP was good for a couple of spins, then I promptly forgot all about it - if I hadn't chanced upon it in a bargain box in Portsmouth, I doubt very much I'd have ever bothered picking it up. Still though, it's an interesting diversion, and clips of his shows on YouTube show whole audiences crying with laughter at his versions of songs by The Fall and The Smiths.

For the record, the songs on the Popular Medley are:

You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) (Dead or Alive)
The War Song (Culture Club)
What is Love? (Howard Jones)
Last Christmas (Wham!)
The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
Won't You Hold My Hand (King)
Wouldn't it Be Good (Nik Kershaw)

Thank you.

http://rapidshare.com/files/140236819/Frank.zip.html

25 August 2008

It's Immaterial - Ed's Funky Diner

It's Immaterial - Ed's Funky Diner

Label: Siren
Year of Release: 1986


Liverpool's It's Immaterial are a peculiar phenomenon - a One Hit Wonder whose hit ("Driving Away From Home") wasn't necessarily their best tune, nor their most obvious single. As wonderful and haunting as their tale of M62 journeying was, it almost seemed too subtle and understated to be a Top 20 hit, a wee bit too "indie" for the eighties, in fact.

For me, the most memorable It's Immaterial song was the bold and brassy follow-up "Ed's Funky Diner", which just about peeked its brow above the brim of the Top 75 before diving under again. Its failure is utterly mysterous. Radio One loved it, and throughout the summer of 1986 it could be heard all through the daytime on programmes as varied as the Breakfast Show, Steve Wright's afternoon sessions and even the Radio One roadshow (I used to have an off-air recording of this being played to almighty cheers in Brighton). It had an insistent chorus, imaginative but simple lyrics about a run-down, neon-festooned diner which instantly brought the place to life as you listened, and is one of the more memorable tracks of summer 1986. One can only imagine a lot of heads must have been scratched at Virgin HQ at the time.

The twelve inch version (included here) was an interesting concoction too, including Marxist standard "We'll Turn Things Upside Down (When the Revolution Comes)", and an extended and actually entirely different version of the title track which mixes in spoken word descriptions, rather like the single which preceded it. Folk instrumentation weaves its way in and out of the mixes, and unlike most extended singles of this period there's no sense of filler. The material on offer consists of re-workings rather than idle old remixes, which are immensely atmospheric and (as I've found) enjoyable late night listening.

It's Immaterial themselves never really had any more success, which was undeserved. Unlike their city cousins, they never quite sat out fully in the cool grey macintosh or army camouflage camp, and for all their oddness still had a keen sense of pop. It's hard to imagine Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Cutter" being greeted with whoops and cheers on a Radio One Roadshow broadcast, even if it was the more successful single. Still though, it's also hard to imagine the Bunnymen embracing world music, country, synthpop and samples (as It's Immaterial did on their albums) so I sometimes wonder who approached the recording studio with the biggest sense of adventure, irrespective of sales or acclaim.

Tracklisting:
1. Ed's Funky Diner (Keinholz Caper)
2. We'll Turn Things Upside Down (When the Revolution Comes)
3. Washing the Air (Rub-a-Dub Mix)
4. Ed's Funky Diner 7" Version


http://rapidshare.com/files/140036125/it_s_immaterial.zip.html

20 August 2008

Boutique - Strawberries and Cream

Boutique - Strawberries and Cream

Label: Trade2/ Island
Year of Release: 1996


I've already posted Inaura's album in full, and gone into some depth about their problems getting it released - the final product seemingly magically appeared on the racks a whole two years after it had been completed and the last single had been out. As part of the Romo movement, however, I can't help but think they were lucky the product saw the light of day at all. The subject of this entry, Boutique, certainly never managed to leak out a long player.

To be brutally honest, the record company's mercenary attitude seems less mysterious in this instance. Their debut single "Strawberries and Cream" is a short, snappy and delightful little single, somehow miraculously ripping off riffs and feels from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"
and The Jam's "Start!" without sounding as preposterous as you'd expect that to be. The simultaneously camp and strangulated vocals are decidedly peculiar and oddly enticing too. For all that, though, you have to wonder if any aspect of the record really screamed "We have arrived!" to the public at large - despite getting Island Records' marketing behind it (99p in the first week of sale, as you can see for yourselves), it does sound for all the world like one of those indie singles that slips out in a pressing of 500 copies, is put in a transparent bag with a cheaply printed sleeve, and only gets adopted and loved by a few weirdos and friends of the band. It's one of the strangest sounding debut "pop" singles I think I've ever heard, which is either tremendously admirable or willfully perverse depending upon your point of view.

It obviously didn't help that the Romo scene which spawned Boutique turned out to be a damp squib, and nor can its chart prospects have been improved by the slow freezing of the British public's interest towards all things of a slightly quirky or alternative bent by the tail end of 1996.
All in all, I doubt William Hill would have given you very long odds on this flopping, but that doesn't stop me from finding it a curious little track which I still occasionally pull down from my CD shelves and listen to.

It was also a placed track on the Chris Morris site Cookd and Bombd's Top 1000 singles of all time, curiously enough, and no, it wasn't me who nominated it - so this clearly found a small, appreciative audience somewhere.

CD EP Track Listing:
1. Strawberries and Cream.
2. Paraffin
3. Strawberries and Cream 12" extended mix
4. Armchair (Scissorkicks Remix)


http://sharebee.com/b9be39f9

17 August 2008

Tiny Tim - Do You Think I'm Sexy?



Label: Vo-Do-De-O-Do
Year of Release: 1982


I could wax lyrical for a long time about Tiny Tim - his is one of the great Icarus tales of showbusiness, going from rags to riches to ruins in a very short space of time. Born in New York as an only child to a Jewish mother and Lebanese father, he spent a great deal of his adult life locked away in his bedroom playing endless shellac 78s of crooners and big bands, imitating their vocal styles and dreaming of a time when he'd be equally as legendary. With his long hair, make-up, cheap ill-fitting suits and rather irregular features, he was deemed by many simply to be the local nutjob - or, as he commented half-jokingly, "I was always guaranteed a seat on the subway".

He spent most of the sixties doing his crooning and entertaining around bars in Greenwich Village, on the way befriending Bob Dylan. By the time the hippy movement came into full force, luck was finally on his side. An executive from Frank Sinatra's label Reprise caught an ill-attended live show of his, laughed his head off, and promptly signed Tiny to the label.

For the rest of the decade, it seemed he was the clown of the psychedelic movement, playing gigs with the Bonzo Dog Band and also performing at the Isle of Wight festival in England, having a number one hit in America with "Tip Toe Thru The Tulips", and countless appearances on chat shows where incredulous mainstream hosts watched the show being stolen from under their feet. Bing Crosby was one victim of Tim who was apparently left near-speechless, and numerous YouTube videos show the Tim effect in full. He was an absurd, ungainly and unquestionably odd man, but had become so aware of his eccentricities that he now used them for devastating comic potential. The "freak" had become the mainstream superstar.

For a whole variety of reasons, however - varying from questionable business decisions and changes of agent, and not least (I suspect) a certain lack of adaptability to the times - he quickly sank. By 1973 he was issuing a single called "I Ain't Got No Money" on his own label, Toilet Records ("Because that's where my career went"). Still he continued, however, touring his act around America and the world, taking his old big band tunes and crooning style and peculiar banter to any venue prepared to have him. He developed diabetes later in life and heart complications, and his doctor advised him to ease off his schedule. He refused, still determined he could have another chance if he put enough effort in, and died backstage of heart failure in 1996, just as the easy listening revival was in full effect and he might - might - have actually had another shot at the charts with a reinterpretation.

For all his retro leanings, Tiny Tim was strangely ahead of his time in many respects. His debut album "God Bless Tiny Tim" is an astonshingly lushly produced piece of work which was only recently reissued on CD, and contains a humorous ditty about global warming ("The Other Side"). It's a must for any fans of sixties music or indeed comedy, as a great many of his vocal tics and affectations appear to pre-date the likes of Emo Phillips, Weird Al Yankovic (who is shite, like a tenth rate Tiny, but an influence seems apparent nonetheless), and most curiously, David Walliams. Compare some of Tiny Tim's TV appearances to Emily on Little Britain, or even David in camp mode, and you will realise what I'm talking about almost immediately.

Musically, he also predated Mike Flowers with his ideas by a not inconsiderable margin, as you can witness from the 1982 single above.

I'm frequently surprised by how little known the man is in the UK. Britain has a global reputation for treasuring its own eccentric stars, and with Tiny I happen to think America completely out-bowled us - and perhaps we looked away as we felt beaten at our own music hall game. You should go away and buy "God Bless Tiny Tim" now, which retails for measly prices on various websites. Most of the content is far superior to the Rod Stewart cover above - but that's not to say that "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" doesn't have its own appeal too.

Whilst you're at it, visit the very detailed Tiny Tim tribute site here: http://www.tinytim.org/

14 August 2008

Second Hand Record Dip Part 14 - Screemer - Interplanetary Twist

Screemer - Interplanetary Twist

Who: Screemer
What: Interplanetary Twist
Label: Bell
Year: 1976
Found: Reckless Records, Soho (RIP)
Cost: One pound

...it's another Second Hand Record Dip entry for Bell Records. Aren't you the lucky ones? Of course, Bell were the glam rock label in the seventies, churning out endless pieces of tinsel from their dayglo production line, and it just so happens that it's these records which clog up charity store bins, remainder boxes and even rubbish skips the most. And no, that isn't a lazy, off-the-cuff remark, either - hundreds of rare glam singles recorded by Freddie Mercury under the name Larry Lurex were once found in a skip, discarded by some fool who believed them worthless.

By 1976, glam rock was starting to look a bit worn out, and bands falling back on the genre were frequently disappointed by the time the chart rundown was released. Even the established acts often struggled, so new ones - like Screemer here - found that Britain was hostile to their stomping sound.

In Screemer's particular case, however, one has to wonder if they were a mite too OTT even for the glam genre, if that's possible. I have come across many records in my time, but few have sounded as ridiculously theatrical and camp as this, a tune about introducing rock and roll to the people of the twenty first century (presumably they thought we'd all be blasting around on jet packs and listening to Jean Michel Jarre by now). Starting off with an airy synthesiser noise and a peculiar, Mystic Meg-styled vocal (which you just know the lead singer delivered with a suitably vacant stare), then building into a Rocky Horror Picture Show styled epic number, "Interplanetary Twist" is baffling. It's like The Sweet after they've eaten far too many sweets and are on a sugar rush, or Spinal Tap with some new space-age props. I've never seen a photo of Screemer, but I hope and pray they all wore futuristic space suits and had ridiculously ambitious fringes, otherwise the image I've got of them in my brain will be shattered.

I don't want to trick anybody into thinking that this is some kind of golden nugget of spacerock - although it is actually huge fun for five minutes, which is precisely what all good novelty pop should be. Just thank your lucky stars (no pun intended) it wasn't a hit and we didn't all have to hear it a hundred times, otherwise this could be a very different blog entry indeed...

Once again, the B-side ("Billy") isn't much cop, I'm afraid - but what more did you want from these intergalactic rockers, eh?

http://sharebee.com/63ed8856

11 August 2008

Bob Morgan - Marguerite

Bob Morgan - Marguerite

Label: Gem
Year of Release: 1979


I've mentioned this one on here before, of course, except until a few days ago I had no idea anybody had tried to release it as a single. "Marguerite" is probably best known to most people as being the music which accompanied the gallery section of the children's TV programme "Vision On" in the seventies. Tony Hart's hushed and delicate tones would introduce a selection of children's drawings from around the UK, and then the slow reggae beat of this track would kick in, as we were given the treat of observing a young Billy Childish's drawing of his Dad reprimanding the family dog with a stern gesture (or something - I'd like to think that some future major artists sent their work into the programme. The images this conjures up in my mind are pleasing).

"Marguerite" has worked its way on to numerous chill out compilations and DJ mixes in the last five years, where it sounds completely at home - in fact, elements of it sound not dis-similar to the KLF's more reggae tinged output on "The White Room", which is shocking considering the date this was released (I could mention at this point that both Morgan and Bill Drummond have worked with Ken Campbell on his theatre productions, but I can't find any evidence that the pair worked on them simultaenously, unfortunately).

Some may attach romantic nostalgia to this track - I just happen to think it's a beautiful piece of work. Apparently recorded as the sun rose in the sky, it's a gentle, blissful track which loops its way around a central theme, slowly bringing in new elements as the song progresses. It is equal parts reggae and muzak, but because that's such a rare concept in the first place it causes the song to exist in a rather unique world of its own. I doubt Lee "Scratch" Perry incorporated many clarinets into his work, for example, but hearing this makes you wish he had.

The B-side "Steppin' Out" is rather less interesting, and sounds as if it might have been meant for use on something like an ITV drama - once again, I've included it for the sake of interest, but don't expect to be bowled over.

Around about this time, Bob Morgan also seemingly completed a large commission of "reggae library music", which eventually found its way into the offices of KPM and ended up on the Channel Four Testcard. I've already done a blog post about this, and you can find it on the "Best of LOTB" links to the left of this entry - to be honest, I consider it to be amongst the finest library material of the period, irrespective of where it ended up being used, or whether it was commercially released. You certainly should expect wonders from the cheeky bonus MP3 I've included from those sessions, a dub version of a piece of library music entitled "Fool in Love", which I still find gobsmacking, and possibly even superior to "Marguerite". Early synthesisers burble, bubble and screech to reggae rhythms, a voice crying "Oh!" comes out of nowhere, and a threatening, sinister riff underpins the entire thing. It's unsettling and utterly brilliant - somewhere in Scotland, the ears of Boards of Canada must have pricked up to this one (especially as it was, unbelievably, a testcard feature for some of the eighties). Mine certainly did.

None of these recordings are taken from the original vinyl, I am afraid - which will upset the purists who like to hear the pops and crackles, and probably please others who would prefer digital quality. Whatever, I hope this meets with your approval, and I'd be genuinely curious to see if I'm the only person who thinks "Fool in Love" has been wrongly ignored over the years.

http://sharebee.com/501f0f2e

Bob Morgan also has a website here: http://www.zoot.co.uk/

10 August 2008

Huggy Bear - Taking the Rough With The Smooch

Huggy Bear - Taking the Rough

Label: Wiiija Records
Year of Release: 1993


Whilst the British music scene has generally been in rude health since the sixties (provided you know where to look), it has been bed-ridden with minor ailments at some brief points in history. 1993, for example, was not a good year - all eyes were looking across the pond towards the Grunge scene in Seattle, and the scene in this country appeared to consist of little more than bog-standard greasy haired indie bands chopping out three minute punk-inspired songs in pubs around Camden Town, and the odd above average dance track. I was only twenty years of age in 1993, but I can still remember feeling completely bored shitless and feeling absolutely desperate for something interesting to come along. The Stone Roses were AWOL, Suede's first album was patchier than people seemed to be claiming, and I'd watched (The) Verve live in a pub in North London before they got signed and found them tediously excessive.

An awful lot of hardcore indie kids hung all their hopes on to Huggy Bear, a Brighton based Riot Grrrl band who managed to get on The Word and hurl abuse at the moronic presenter Terry Christian, promoted female-only gigs, and refused to speak to the mainstream media (even when the NME begged them to). At any other time, it's likely they would have been left to their own devices, shouting out their manifestos in the appropriate fanzines - but at this point in the early nineties, a lot of journalists and gig goers were absolutely desperate for something to rise up out of the underground and threaten the stagnant state of British music.

Huggy Bear weren't it, obviously, and by the time the words "Britpop" were first coined, it was almost as if they'd never existed - but that shouldn't be so surprising. The British media and music industry have always traditionally loved bands who launch themselves by spouting off against its conservative nature, provided they don't actually mean it, or are content as soon as they are swallowed into its belly. Rebellion is expected of rock bands, but Huggy Bear's kicking against the sexual inequalities within the business probably felt far too close to home. The music industry remains one of the most sexist employers in the world, but it tends to get a little defensive and jumpy when it's reminded of the fact (and if you think I'm joking, try being in a band with any female members and dealing with A&R men and music journalists).

Far apart from the above, Huggy Bear were also obviously ramshackle, punk-influenced and messy, as this compilation of singles, EP tracks and B-sides proves. As I have always maintained, the rougher side of indie will never last in the mainstream for long, but in The Bear's case, that doesn't mean to say there aren't countless gems to enjoy. "Herjazz", to my mind, is still one of the best proper "indie" singles that's ever been released, combining something primitively funky to buzzing guitars and obsessive sloganeering. Unlike a great deal of the "smash the system" vinyl which swamped the market in 1993, it actually sounds spontaneous, edgy, and 100% genuine. "Pansy Twist" is also brilliant for much the same set of reasons.

Alongside those, however, is some questionable poetry, and some tracks which sound like a bog standard punk-garage band spouting (and indeed shouting) pretentious lyrics. To this day, I've never quite been able to work out what the hell "Sizzlemeet" is actually about - "in a gravy of envy they're descending", indeed. Still, in their brief career they managed to highlight the inequalities of both society and the music business, liven up the dull post-pub dumbfest "The Word", and leave a mark which probably still remains to an extent. I've met numerous female musicians since who argue they might not have picked up an instrument and got involved with rock music had it not been for Huggy Bear, and the slurry of women in rock bands which emerged through the nineties may well have been the result of life being easier for them in HB's wake. It's impossible to prove or quantify that statement, of course, but I'm happy to stand by it, even if much of the below compilation is admittedly patchy. As an historical document, however, I think it's worthy. Perhaps somebody might even attempt something similar soon - although it's harder to see how the mainstream media would give a band like this airtime or a voice in these cautious, conservative times.

1. Dissthentic Penetration
2. Sizzlemeet
3. Shaved Pussy Poetry
4. Pansy Twist
5. Concrete Life
6. Pro No From Now
7. Prayer
8. Herjazz
9. Teen Tighterns
10. Derwin
11. No Sleep
12. Carn't Kiss


http://sharebee.com/53cb2d62

8 August 2008

Barnaby Rudge - Joe, Organ & Co

Barnaby Rudge

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1968


On the last Beatles cover versions update, I briefly mentioned the Morgan Studios in North London and the tight circles of talent that operated in that environment. Barnaby Rudge is yet another Morgan "project", in this case a cockney hippy character created by studio hands Wil Malone and Danny Beckerman.

Sounding for all the world like a Deram-era David Bowie single, "Joe, Organ & Co" is really just a curious novelty track with a slightly melancholy edge. Focussing on the adventures of an organ grinder and his monkey, it is a simple piece punctuated by sound effects and undercut by a slightly downbeat lyric, the entire package reflecting the child-like nature of a lot of vaguely psychedelic pop of the period.

Despite plugs on several record stations (where Wil Malone was on occasion interviewed in character) the single wasn't a hit. Wil would later have more success in the nineties, working on the string arrangements for Massive Attack and The Verve - this is such a far cry from the style of those artists that it's hard to even make a connection, although I for one would love to hear Richard Ashcroft's cover version of this ditty.

I've included the B-side "Railway Jim" here for reference as well, a sprightly piece of nonsense which borders on irritating. Sadly, I don't have any access to the numerous Barnaby Rudge tracks which were apparently left in "the can" (as they say) although I find it hard to imagine how a whole album of this material could work.

http://sharebee.com/2d5de172

6 August 2008

Upholstered Eldorados - I Wanna Talk Like Iggy Pop

Photobucket

Label: Box 52 Records
Year of Release: 1990


Now here's a complete oddity with an all-star cast behind it (albeit an all-star cast from the Fourth Division of pop, with the exception of its main attraction). Andy Stennett - the keyboard player out of eighties disco wonderboys Freeeze - worked on this track, along with female vocalist Helen Shaw who had a few hits as the frontwoman of various club singles in the nineties.

Yer main man in all this, however, is obviously Iggy Pop. Absolutely all the lead vocals for this track were culled from an edition of Radio One's Roundtable where he was a guest reviewer, and the lyrics are simply found snippets of conversation where Pop frequently bemoans the state of pop. Possibly my favourite moment in the whole song is when Helen Shaw tries to "sing along" to his studio chatter, to fantastic comedic effect.

This was something of a cult club hit at the time, and obviously a one-off for all concerned - Iggy loved the track and gave it his blessing, but obviously didn't work with the individuals behind it in any other capacity, and they in turn presumably moved on to whatever their next DJ/ studio project was. Musically, it's a bit of a treat too - its shuffling early nineties, baggy-ish groove meant that it worked its way on to "Indie Top 20 Volume Eleven" without sounding too out of place, from where I must confess I got this recording. I don't own the original twelve inch, which can change hands for quite a bit of cash now.

One has to wonder if an equivalent project could be attempted by somebody today - this is certainly the only example of the "studio interview/ club record" crossover I can think of, although I'm happy to be proven wrong.

3 August 2008

Foreheads in a Fishtank - I Want to Masturbate at Castle Donnington

Foreheads in a Fishtank

Label: Stuf Records
Year of Release: 1991


I was, and remain, completely unaware of what it was that actually drove Southend band Foreheads in a Fishtank through the early nineties. Despite managing to get themselves signed to Some Bizarre shortly after this single was issued, there can be fewer bands in the UK who were greeted with more confusion or bewilderment at the time.

Formed in the late eighties as a slightly rockist band (who one local man insists sounded rather like early Genesis) they gradually turned their attention to skewed, wobbly bass riffs, industrial rhythms, and perverse sloganeering. "I Want To Masturbate at Castle Donnington" is probably one of the better examples of their work, combining looped eastern wailing with threatening vocals, which are then frequently punctuated by "Psycho" referencing instrumental effects. It's actually not at all funny, despite the title, and sounds more like the work of obsessive stalkers who would give Barry George a run for his money. If somebody followed you down the street playing this on a ghetto blaster whilst singing "Give me pleasure" along with it, you'd run as hard as you could.

The B-side "Happy Shopper" was the A-side of their previous single, which was withdrawn after the cut-price food chain objected to its content. A prolonged, jerky rant against domestic bliss, the singer Jeff regularly screams "Who bought these tea bags?" in fury, whilst the verses are punctuated with the line "She grabs a plastic fish fork and she buggers me". There's a certain Stump-iness to the rhythm section on this track, but both sides remind me much, much more of Australian pranksters TISM. FIAFT could easily have been their Home Counties brothers.

Their debut album "Buttocks" was a very samey affair, but not unworthy - John Peel loved it, and offered them two sessions, and it certainly had its fans elsewhere too (if enough people respond positively to this post, I may even upload it). For the most part, though, nobody knew quite how to deal with the band. They were mentioned in the same breath as The Swell Maps and Stump in reviews, but their crudeness combined with art-school song structures alienated the frat-boy audience just as much as it did the intelligent fringe crowd. Fans of both bands were not known for their love of vulgarity.

It's probably also worth mentioning as a footnote that the band had some peculiar and unorthodox ways of getting press attention without hiring a Press Officer or even being signed to a label. They once got into Kings Reach Towers and plastered their posters all over the walls of the NME's toilets - one review the magazine subsequently published largely consisted of a request asking them to come back and clean up. They also sent out packets of lard to music critics (which melted all over their records, causing a lot of anger and resentment), and on one occasion publicised a bunch of gigs in the NME's gig guide in places that didn't even exist (which were published completely unchecked). It may have got them press, but one has to wonder how much long-term ill feeling it all generated. One thing's for sure, though, they livened up Southend at a point in time where there really wasn't a hell of a lot going on there... I certainly enjoyed having my own set of renegades-about-town for a while.

(FIAFT's material is shortly to be remastered and reissued, and the band have requested that any downloads should be removed from this site.)