30 January 2010

Foreheads in a Fishtank - Stripper

Foreheads in a Fishtank - Stripper

Label: Newt

Year of Release: 1994

Somehow the release of this album managed to totally pass me by at the time, and it wasn't until I saw it a few weeks ago selling for one English pound in a second hand store that I realised it even existed. It's not a bad surprise, nor a bad way to plug gaps in one's record collection, but it certainly speaks volumes about the status of Foreheads in a Fishtank at the time of its release.

Having been dropped by Some Bizarre, they found themselves on the Peterborough-based Newt Records, who dropped this into the world. To be frank, it's possibly their noisiest and most cluttered sounding album - each and every track is a cacophony of distorted samples, harsh vocals, dischordant electronics and twittering sounds. Where cassette tape manufacturers may have attempted to avoid "wow" and "flutter", FIAFT appear to have embraced it as if it were another instrument. Parts of "Stripper" sound like a series of the grimiest early nineties techno records being fed through a broken tape machine which is in the process of being stomped on by an enraged engineer.

Amidst the melee, the single (and final track here) "Mr Whippy (Take More Drugs)" seems like the calm after the storm, a breath of fresh air, some oxygen finally being let into a musty room. And this despite the fact they're shouting "TAKE MORE... TAKE MORE... TAKE MORE DRUGS!" at regular intervals.

Apparently the band signed off the sleeve art for this record believing it to be a 'rough sketch', then felt enormously dismayed when it became the final product. And on such a ludicrous Spinal Tap note, their career appears to have ended, although not before they released one white label under the name of "FIAFT" in a (failed) attempt to break the club market. If anyone has a copy of this particular slab of vinyl, please do get in touch.

Tracklisting:

1. Bond
2. Cajun (Pure Sex)
3. Rum
4. Cool
5. Stripper
6. Burroughs (Death Sucker)
7. Glory
8. Bloater
9. Onions
10. King
11. Dave

12. Mr. Whippy (Take More Drugs)

(This album is shortly to be remastered and reissued, and the band have requested that any downloads should be removed from this site.)

27 January 2010

Second Hand Record Dip Part 46 - John Inman - Are You Being Served Sir?

John Inman - Are You Being Served Sir?

Who: John Inman


What: Are You Being Served Sir? (B/w "We All Love Captain Ginger")
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Notting Hill Gate, London
When: 1975
Label: DJM

Cost: One pound

Please don't blame me for uploading this one. A "Left and to the Back" reader asked me whether I owned it a few months back, clearly having me down as being the sort of person who would have a John Inman record somewhere in my collection. Whilst I hate being so woefully transparent, I clearly can't help it either - and I'd almost forgotten I had this one until their message reminded me.

How I managed to forget is quite another matter. Hopefully most readers are aware of the seventies sitcom "Are You Being Served?". "Are You Being Served Sir?", the spin-off hit single, is so ridiculous, so self-consciously over the top that it's impossible not to love it. If you were to sit with a click-counter trying to ascertain the number of innuendos-per-minute there were across these seven inches (madam), chances are this would be to light rudeness what beats would be to a hi-NRG disco record played at 78rpm rather than 45rpm. No stone is left unturned, and to add to the ludicrousness of it all even the most innocent words are censored out with the noise of an elevator bell. The female backing singers even loudly declare "Whoops!" at several points.

Just when you suspected that everyone concerned might have exhausted all sources of humour on the A-side, "We All Love Captain Ginger" on the b-side carries on in the same stupendous manner with Inman playing the ill-suited role of a masculine, lady-bothering, military sort. His vocals on the flip veer interestingly close to Tiny Tim territory, which is probably a coincidence - Tiny Tim's visibility in the UK was actually quite poor - but it's a pleasing quirk.

Whilst it pains me to say it, this is actually a really good comedy record. The series itself was frequently tiresome across a full half-hour, but Inman's delivery here, and the material he's given to play with, is actually both endearing and amusing. It sounds like a tremendously carefully scripted piece of work rather than the usual novelty tat which gets tossed off (whoops!) for everyone's attention, and that's probably why it just about managed to chart (at number 39, if you're feeling curious).

I believe there is also a John Inman album out there somewhere filled to the brim with this sort of material. One to look out for, clearly... Now, could I have my hand back, please? It's trapped between your thighs.




23 January 2010

The Purple Gang - Granny Takes A Trip (b/w "Bootleg Whisky")

Purple Gang - Granny Takes A Trip

Label: Big T
Year of Release: 1967

The psychedelic scene was a rather picky mistress in the late sixties, and seemed quite heavily concerned with whose face fitted, and not necessarily who was providing gut-twirling oscillations on their latest waxing. Fake hippies were slapped across the cheeks with delight and booted out to the provincial gig circuit to go about their business, seldom being let into the UFO Club or Middle Earth.

That The Purple Gang were adopted by the UFO Club in the late sixties is actually quite out of character, and appeared to have more to do with an anarchic stageshow and various "connections" than anything else. Perhaps the fact that this, their debut single, was banned by the BBC also lead to a degree of sympathy. The censorship of the disc doesn't really make much sense overall, given that the lyrics are about an elderly lady taking a "trip" to Hollywood to audition for films, but the cheeky connotations were obviously seen to be there, and any dreams this track had of getting airplay were promptly ruined.

Sonically it's also about as psychedelic as Lonnie Donegan, and is really some rather pleasing, toe-tapping jugband riffery. If isolated from the scene it emerged from, one would be tempted to argue that it was actually - for it's time - a seven years out of date novelty track. Still, the notoriety lead to a steady, constant trickle in sales, and whilst it didn't make the charts, copies are hardly difficult to come by these days as a result.

Despite the public interest, The Purple Gang were not very sympathetically funded by Transatlantic Records, and apparently spent most of their career living out of a van. Syd Barrett tried to loan them a helping hand by offering them a track called "Boon Tune" for their next A side - for undisclosed reasons this was never used, and it finally ended up emerging as "Here I Go" on his "Madcap Laughs" album. If you compare the lyrical and musical stylings of that track to the two sides on offer here, the original intentions actually become glaringly apparent.

The band have since split up and reformed on a variety of occasions, and despite not issuing a great deal of recorded material still seem to be capable of generating interest. Very recently "Granny Takes A Trip" was included on a free music magazine covermount, proof that a hit single need not be entirely necessary to keep a tune afloat.


20 January 2010

Deram Dayze

Deram Dayze

Label: Decal
Year of Release: 1987

Deram Records, for the uninitiated, were essentially the progressive arm of Decca Records. So whilst EMI had Harvest, and Phonogram had Vertigo, our good friends at Decca saw the sixties out channelling their more esoteric releases on to an artier label.

At the risk of crass generalisation, Deram (named after Decca's Deramic Sound System) was actually a bit more scattershot in its approach than its rather more "heavy" rivals, and seemed quite content to stick out all manner of easy listening projects, folk rock ensembles, psychedelic pop and even little bits of bubblegum. Whether this was due to marketing related cluelessness or just the fact that the label was being handled by some very adventurous people is hard to say, but it does make it - for my money at least - the label to look out for in second hand store bins if you're hoping to pick up something interesting.

"Deram Dayze" was issued on vinyl by Decal records in the eighties to bring together some examples of the label's catalogue, and whilst it is primarily psychedelic pop in its focus, you can still gain an impression of the scope of the imprint. The very first ever Deram single "Happy New Year" by folk singer (and sometime girlfriend of Paul Simon) Beverley features here, for example, and is a sprightly little pop song which might have been a minor hit if the wind had been blowing in a particular direction on the week it was issued. The cod-Northern Soul of Neath's finest Eyes of Blue also features in "Supermarket Full of Cans", a track which occasionally gets played down retro discos to this day (and I do have a soft spot for it, despite the rather seventies Eurovision-styled "Hey!" it bows out on). Singer-songwriter and cult legend Bill Fay also features, as well as the rather more far-out popsike of Essex's Bulldog Breed. In short, it's a cornucopia of Deram-a-rarities, although as with all these compilations it does cover some familiar territory and some material you won't be bothered to listen to twice.

Now, if only I could overlook that grotesque sleeve. That is a rather messy scan of it you can see above, but trust me, even across twelve inches on the original sleeve the artist's names are barely legible...


Tracklisting:

1. Cat Stevens - Portobello Road (DERAM 102) - 1966
2. Warm Sounds - Nite Is A Coming (DERAM 174) - 1967
3. 23rd Turnoff - Michaelangelo (DERAM 150) - 1967
4. Bill Fay - Some Good Advice (DERAM 143) - 1967
5. Denny Laine - Catherine's Wheel (DERAM 171) - 1968
6. Friends - Mythological Sunday (DERAM 198) - 1968
7. Eyes of Blue - Supermarket Full of Cans (DERAM 114) - 1967
8. Denny Laine - Say You Don't Mind (DERAM 122) - 1968
9. The Pyramid - Summer of Last Year (DERAM 111) - 1967
10. The Societe - Bird Has Flown (DERAM 162) - 1967
11. Focal Point - Sycamore Sid (DERAM 186) - 1968
12. The Pyramid - Summer Evening (DERAM 111) - 1967
13. Warm Sounds - Doo Dah (DERAM 120) - 1967
14. Beverley - Happy New Year (DERAM 101) - 1966
15. The Societe - Breaking Down (DERAM 162) - 1967
16. The Human Instinct - Renaissance Fair (DERAM 177) - 1968
17. Neil McArthur (aka Colin Blunstone) - She's Not There (DERAM 225) - 1969
18. Bulldog Breed - Halo in my Hair (DERAM 270) - 1970


16 January 2010

Lavender Faction - Four Riffs for Joe EP

Lavender Faction - Four Riffs for Joe EP

Label: Lust
Year of Release: 1991

I found this particular EP retailing for 25 pence in a junk shop near my house. At the time of the discovery, I had no idea that the Lavender Faction were actually salivated over by various indie kids and shoegazer types on the world wide web, and nor, in fact, did I have any notion of who they were, although the blurry black and white sleeve with matt finish seemed to hint at something decidedly lo-fi.

The early nineties were a peculiar period of time for guitar-based music in Britain. In these scrubbed, polished and Adobe Photoshopped times, it feels quite absurd to talk about a slither of history which involved the heavy promotion of lots of long-haired, slightly greasy looking youths creating droning, effects laden atmospheric rock. As in every music scene imaginable, the "Shoegazing" or "Dream Pop" (as the Americans seemed to prefer to call it) movement attracted chancers and hucksters who should never have left their parent's garages. Chapterhouse and Revolver spring immediately to mind, although at least Chapterhouse had the decency to write one really good single ("Pearl"). Then, below the giants like Ride and My Bloody Valentine, and beneath the cult heroes, lay the bands signed to tiny local labels releasing very rough and ready material - and these have largely slid down the back of the messy, hot-rock charred sofa of early nineties indie history. I mean, who amongst you remembers The Apple Creation? Hands up?

The Lavender Faction were one similar such act from Durham whose "Four Riffs for Joe" EP is so under-produced as to sound close in studio style to that other muddy mess "Kaleidoscope" by the Boo Radleys. The vocals are buried deep in the mix, the guitars sound messy and distorted, and the whole package would make Joe Meek weep. Three decades after he realised the possibilities of home recording, bands were still going into actual studios and managing to walk out with something that almost sounded like it was made on a Fostex Four-track multiplayer with all the led lights screaming into the red. Beneath the mud, however, lie some tunes which with a more sympathetic treatment might have made more of an impression. Originality clearly wasn't the band's strong point and they definitely sound "of the time" - but then so do the vast majority of the bands on this site. I'm also far from being the first person to blog about them, which would suggest that they're having a mini-renaissance at the moment thanks to the Internet.

You can read an interview with Geoff Suggest of the band here, who reveals more about their history and eventual demise.


Tracklisting:

1. Crawl Down
2. Total Change
3. Haze
4. Was it You

13 January 2010

Cyan - Misaluba (b/w "My Little Ship Louise")

Cyan - misaluba

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1971

Eager "Left and to the Back" readers will recognise Cyan from our "Pictures of Marshmallow Men" homebrew compilation, which featured their twee, wintry b-side (with possible drug connotations) "Toby's Shop".

Cyan hail from Italy, and by far the biggest smash in their native land was this, "Misaluba". The footnotes to the psychedelic compilation "Nightmares From Toby's Shop" state that this is "awful", and therefore not really worth any collector's time (or indeed listener's time). As a result, I'd avoided buying it for some years until catching it recently at a price that I thought made the venture worthy of a gamble. And... contrary to the opinions of other psych-heads, I have to say it's really blooming marvellous! It's not strictly speaking psychedelia or even popsike of course, actually being a looping, bongo-bashing thing of wonder, like a John Kongos hit single stripped down bare and minimal. The rhythms are bass-heavy in a way that sounds rib-cage rattling on the original vinyl (but probably less impressive in mp3 format), and the whole thing captures the raw, basic, effects-heavy end of seventies pop impressively (see also: "Rock On" by David Essex). It's short, sharp, addictive and effective, with the chants of "Misaluba! HEY!" earworming their way into your brain with frightening potency.

To cap it all off, the B-side "My Little Ship Louise" is very clearly a heavily McCartney-influenced ballad which will irritate those who find that sort of thing unbearable, but delight those who are happy to share company with such delicate items. Just when you think the band have said their piece, the outro creeps in, filled with subdued puffing flutes and a gently strummed guitar. Fans of "Toby's Shop" will be pleased enough with "Louise" as well.

I really didn't think this would end up in the "upload" pile, but it's good enough to warrant inclusion here, and is perhaps one of the better items I've shared with you all in recent weeks. It was something of a hit in some countries on the continent which would ordinarily make me cautious about sticking it out into the public domain for fear of legal issues (or blog deletions at least). However, it doesn't appear to be available to buy on mp3 anywhere yet, and there are already various Rapidshare files of this circulating around online... so I'm running the risk. Fare ye well on your good ships, folks, whether they're named Louise or otherwise.


9 January 2010

The Jeeps - He Saw Eesaw (b/w "The Music Goes Round")

Jeeps - He Saw Eesaw

Label: Strike

Year of Release: 1966

Apocryphal statements in pop music are par for the course, but some tend to get challenged when they're trotted out rather less than others. The sheer volume of Tin Pan Alley bigwigs who claim to have set up "the first ever indie label, before there were such a thing as a DIY punk ethic" is impressive, and perhaps it's time somebody got them all in a room somewhere, asked them to wear some boxing gloves, and left them to sort it out amongst themselves.

I suspect that plucky (or foolish) individuals setting up their own small labels have been around in some shape or form since the music industry began, mostly with appalling rates of success. Joe Meek set up Triumph Records in 1960 to large financial losses, and even when he had hits on his hands found the distribution network of the time unsympathetic. Clive Selwood ran Salvo Records in the early sixties to even greater levels of failure - that particular venture was bankrolled by an anonymous industry donor, and Selwood has since claimed it was probably a tax-loss exercise. Then there's Immediate Records, Island Records, and the list drags on and on, although many of these were distributed by major labels.

Strike Records (run by Lionel Segal and Adrian Jacobs) is cited as being the "first UK independent label" online in several places, and I'd argue this statement is off-beam by at least six years, if not more. What cannot be disputed is the fact that they were a rather brave business venture for the time, being run out of a flat off the Edgware Road in London, and occasionally recording some of its material in converted garage spaces. Major labels still had a stranglehold over the charts, and such self-determination was pretty rare and quite impressive (or ridiculous, depending upon your point of view). The contents of their records may not quite have been punk before its time, but the cottage industry approach definitely was.

This particular single was penned by Pierre Tubbs, a jobbing songwriter employed by their publishing arm Millwick Music, who would later go on to pen tracks such as "Come See Me" by The Pretty Things (one of my favourite singles by the band) and also write material for Huey Lewis and The News, Francoise Hardy, and - erm - Joan Collins. The Jeeps were his attempt at forming his own surfing band, and they manage to approximate The Beach Boys style to a neat enough effect. "He Saw Eesaw" is a rather berserk single which, with a much better and more psychedelic production, actually wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Smiley Smile", being a meaningless, high tempo ramble through children's nursery rhymes and daft harmonies.

It wasn't a hit, naturally - nothing on Strike Records ever was - and apparently Pierre ended his time with the company receiving endless bounced cheques, and eventually issuing writs in order to retain copyright over his own songs. The Jeeps were abandoned after only a couple of singles, and that, it would seem, was that for both parties.

Records on the label aren't easy to come by these days, so I was quite staggered to find this (the first example I'd ever seen) available in a second hand store relatively cheaply.

\


6 January 2010

Mr. Floppy - 100,000 Morrisseys


Mr. Floppy - 100,000 Morrisseys

Label: Waterfront

Year of Release: 1990

Badly recorded, shambling, jokey and frequently rather coarse indie singles have been a staple of the scene since its birth, and as you'll probably have gathered from the sleeve, this single isn't particularly complimentary towards Mozzer. Taking in (almost certainly unauthorised) samples of The Smiths work, it poses the rather confusing question: "What shall we do when 100,000 Morrisseys come marching over the hill?" It's an eventuality I've never really planned for.

With its thudding drum machine and barking vocals this is very close to TISM in spirit, and indeed I've heard rumours that it may actually be a TISM member moonlighting - certainly, both artists are from Melbourne and have a similar DIY ethic. Whatever, despite picking up some press at the time, this single failed to really set many people's souls alight in the UK irrespective of some mischievous airplay from Peel, and remains a noisy and indecent curio.

Mr. Floppy eventually released a whole album on Zombie Penis Death records entitled "The Unbearable Lightness of Being A Dickhead" which has largely been forgotten about despite including a cover version of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". With that, the band disappeared for good.

Incidentally, if Mrs Daves reaction has been anything to go by, Smiths and Morrissey fans alike seem to find this disc rather irritating.

2 January 2010

Monaco - God Only Knows

Monaco - God Only Knows

Label: Pinnacle
Year of Release: 1978

Nope, this isn't Peter Hook's "other" band covering the Beach Boys - although it has to be said that this would be an interesting proposition in itself. Rather, this appears to be one of Pinnacle's numerous flop seventies singles, all of which seemed to be designed as shoe-ins for the Nation's Favourite Chart (rather than the then non-existent indie chart) but were largely met with disinterest. These early scrapings of independent pop show a label that - unlike Rough Trade later on - was actually more interested in creating hits than stretching musical boundaries. It's little wonder that Stock Aitken and Waterman operated their PWL label through them in the eighties.

This version of "God Only Knows" is a major rewrite which may well irk the Wilson purists a great deal. Monaco - who I'd be willing to bet were actually a hastily assembled session band - have taken the delicate original and turned it into a piece of loverman pseudo-soul, something to twitch your crotch to suggestively during those moonlight love sessions. Whether you approve or disapprove of this rearrangement, which appears to be stylistically pitched in a similar way to "Me and Mrs Jones" with its smooth sound and slow, seductive guitar, it has to be said that it does what all interesting cover versions should do, which is to reinterpret liberally rather than create idle carbon copies.

Whoever Monaco were, they never seemed to be heard from again - although "Earthy", the instrumental B-side on offer here, has an insistent groove which I would say is probably ripe for sampling.

Oh - and Happy new Year to all our readers as well!