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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Voice Behind The Bump.


Barry Palmer is a session singer with decades of experience in the business behind him.  Most people won't know his name though since he rarely receives much credit for his work.
I just recently came across this blog of his where he describes the events which led up to him lending his voice to that very well known '70s Teen Pop classic "The Bump", written & recorded by the team of Martin & Coulter and issued under the group name Kenny.
It is an interesting and enjoyable read which you can access HERE.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Child - The VERY First Album.

 
While researching the Child discography a couple of years ago I made the personally unnerving  discovery that their (apparently misleadingly entitled) "The First Album" was in fact their second. 
Disturbing as that was, it wasn't the first time I had come across such blatant....pardon my French...bullshit.  And even more astoundingly, in both cases the reputable German Hansa Records label was at fault.  You see, ex-Bay City Roller Les McKeown released his "It's a Game - The First Album" through that very company in 1989 - a good decade after the Child debacle - in spite of the fact that it was his SEVENTH solo album (counting a compilation and a live album, albeit issued only in Japan).  And to add insult to injury it was the second album of his to bear the title "It's a Game", the first one being the BCR's 1977 magnum opus.  Hmmm...
But let's get back to that "lost" very first, eponymous Child album.  Issued only in Germany in 1977 by a little something called Honeybee Records, but manufactured and distributed by the small European giant Bellaphon.  And having previously only heard the other two Child albums, the aforementioned "The First Album" (1978), as well as "Total Recall" (1979), it's nothing short of a revelation!
At the time Child consisted of Graham Bilbrough (Vocals); Dave Cooper (Guitar) and twins Keith (Bass) and Tim (Drums) Atack. 
Having had their first couple of singles in the U.K. issued on the indie label BUK Records in 1976, and a third one on Pentagon Records in '77, chart success at home eluded Child.  Which seems to have brought them in search of something bigger and better abroad.  And seemingly very rightly so, since "Child" surpasses its successors on all artistic fronts, thank-you-very-much!  It's grittier, better produced, better played and has better songs on it.  From all that I can only assume guitar player Dave Cooper's departure was something of a loss to the band.  Afterwards, bass player Keith Atack took over on guitar while ex-Scottie Mike McKenzie was brought in on bass.  With that, in my opinion, the band lost their heart and soul while gaining what little commercial success eventually came their way with, primarily, covers "It's Only Make Believe" (UK #10, 1978) and "Only You (And You Alone)" (U.K. #33, 1979).
Opening with Child's most exciting and probably best track ever, the inexplicably German-only single "Public Enemy Number One", the very first album is up for a good start.  The pulsating, heavy drums are decorated with a clean and powerful guitar riff worthy of Martin & Coulter circa "The Bump".  A clean and dynamic production, not to mention what is probably Graham Bilbrough's best vocal performance on record.  Phew!  A lost '70s teenpop classic indeed.  Mabel's "Hey! I Love You" also springs to mind.
A nice enough cover of The Association's "Never My Love" is another highlight of Side 1, while the Beatles B-side "I'm Down" is done no favours here.
Side 2 opens with third single "What's a Nice Girl Like You".  Another nice and crisp production with subtle keyboard flourishes.  Now, why was this never a hit?
And yet another decent cover follows, this time Betty ("It's in His Kiss") Everett's "You're No Good" (also recorded by Linda Ronstadt, a year or two earlier than Child's version). 
The self-penned "Love and Let Go" sports a nice guitar riff although it lacks something resembling a strong chorus, while the infectious "Hurdy Gurdy" is reminiscent of a late '60s fare from the Kasenetz-Katz school of bubblegum music (A couple of years later the old KK stalwart "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" became one of Child's last single releases).  And that's a compliment.
The album closes with a credible cover of Alex Harvey's "River of Love", which was also Child's debut single on BUK in June 1976.  
Well, in conclusion, and after becoming belatedly acquainted with the truly first Child album, the other two subsequent LP's are rendered somewhat unessential soft, sell-out samples of what should-never-have-been.  And although not entirely bad, the first, real Child album is just so much better....  IMHO, as always. 
 
 
See also: CHILD.
 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The King of U.K.


Like it or not but disgraced former pop impresario Jonathan King does warrant his chapter in the history of '70s Teen Pop.  Not only did he produce - and appear on - the first couple of the Rollers 45s, as well as providing similar services for Rosetta Stone's 1978 single "Sheila", but through his remarkable early to mid '70s indie label U.K. Records he did launch the careers of a handful of minor Teen Pop acts, to boot - not to mention a couple of pop-rock groups called Genesis and 10 cc.


Ricky Wilde is Marty's son and Kim's older brother.
In the era of Cassidy and Osmond, Jonathan King wasn't alone in the assumption that the time was ripe for a homegrown British teen idol or two.  Having previously produced the Rollers' first hit "Keep on Dancing"  for Bell Records in 1971, he clearly knew a thing or two about such things.  Nonetheless, Ricky Wilde had to wait until the early '80s for his time to truly come.  And then as a backing musician and a co-writer, with his dad Marty, of his sister Kim's most enduring hits such as "Kids in America" and "Chequered Love".  However, Ricky recorded several non-charting singles for Jonathan King's U.K. label from the early to mid '70s; the best of which is probably the Glam-sounding "Teen Wave" from 1974...

     
Actor/singer Simon Turner was another early '70s Jonathan King discovery.  And another flop as far as chart (non) action went.  "17" though is quite good, while an opportunistic and lacklustre cover of David Bowie's "The Prettiest Star" probably got the most attention at the time... 

 
During the late '80s Simon released a pair of records as The King of Luxembourg.  The Japanese were somewhat impressed.  And perhaps rightfully so.  "The Picture of Dorian Grey" is a lost '80s indie gem for sure...
 

 
Brendon, yet another JK protegee, fared a bit better than both Wilde and Turner, since at least he managed to score a sole, belated Top 20 U.K. hit in 1977 (Via Magnet Records) with 1976's "Gimme Some" - a Glam-ified cover of U.S. soul singer's Jimmy "Bo" Horne 1975 Disco hit, originally done by K.C. & the Sunshine Band, no less.  
 

 
Further single releases, such as a cover of a strong ABBA album track "Rock Me", failed to ignite interest and Brendon inevitably faded back into obscurity...
 
 
Of Brendon, Jonathan King himself has this to say:
,,We made the mistake of getting him to do many covers, and he hit the Top 20 with Gimme Some, but we should have encouraged his writing skills." 
 
Recommended JK listening:
 
"Bubblepop - 20 U.K. Pop Oddities"/Various Artists (RPM CD 288, 2005)
 
 
Or, if you're feeling especially adventurous...
 
  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shorty



By the mid '70s Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington were reputable veterans of the music business.  Having cut their teeth a decade or so earlier with ex-Beatle Pete Best's band, variously named the Pete Best Combo or the Pete Best Four, their later claim to godlike fame is to have written and produced "Nothing But a Heartache" (as well as the subsequent album) by American girl group the Flirtations - a mind blowing classic of the genre and my ring tone.  Yes, it really is that good...

 
However, by 1975 Messrs Bickerton & Waddington had established their own label State Records, which was distributed by Polydor, and were enjoying hits with the Rubettes - most notably the incomparable "Sugar Baby Love"(1974) - as well as whimsical sister/brother act Mac & Katie Kissoon. 
 

 
It was not altogether unreasonable though that a songwriting/producing team of Bickerton/Waddington's stature and strength would want a piece of the '70s Teen pop cake.  After all, 1975 was the year Rollermania swept Great Britain.  And, consequently, since all things Scottish were all of a sudden "in", it didn't seem like a bad idea at the time to go looking for talent north of the border.
Enter Shorty, which were formed in 1974 by a pair of Glaswegian brothers Alan (Rhythm guitar) and Tam (Drums) Stewart, and Ian (Lead guitar) and Gordon Harris (Lead vocals).  Soon another lad, Owen Mullen joined on bass, but he was later replaced by Rob Ainsley.  Then, after being signed by State Records in 1975, Alan Campbell joined on keyboards.  
Debut single "It's Getting Sweeter All the Time"/"Disco Dancin'" (STAT005) was issued in July 1975.
 

 
An obvious late '50s/very early '60s pop homage not dissimilar to the material the Rollers made under the tutelage of Martin & Coulter, the single failed to chart in the U.K., although it reportedly enjoyed some success in France.
 
 
Second single "Hey Baby, What's Your Name"/"Judy Run Run" (STAT019) appeared in March 1976.
 
 
Again, chart success eluded Shorty on the home front, although continental Europe was still a vital market and Japan was beginning to show some interest as well.
Third and - seemingly - final single "Fools and Lovers"/"Don't You Ever Go" (Late'76/early '77) seems to have been issued in Japan only, but do correct me if I'm wrong.

  
The sole, self-titled Shorty album seems to have been released in Europe around the same time, although its Japanese counterpart appeared sporting a very different sleeve after a successful Japanese tour in late summer 1977.
 
 
Containing all of the aforementioned single tracks, predictably the album was mostly written and produced by Bickerton/Waddington, safe for a couple of songs which were written by keyboard player Alan Campbell.
A few of the songs had previously been recorded by other State Records acts, such as "Judy Run Run" and "Foe-De-O-Dee" which were both Rubettes covers; "Fools and Lovers" was originally a solo single by former Rubettes keyboard player Bill Hurd, and "Like a Butterfly" was first recorded by Mac & Katie Kissoon.  
By 1978 Shorty had fallen off the radar.  Then, you had be either punk or disco, and Shorty, clearly, were neither.  So I am guessing they broke up around this time.  Whatever happened to individual members, I do not know.  But, as always, readers of this blog are welcome and encouraged to enlighten the rest of us.

 
A footnote: The "Shorty" album is now obtainable as a download on amazon and iTunes, with two previously unissued extra tracks, covers of the '60s pop classics "Sha La La La Lee" and "Baby Come Back".  It's also available streaming on Spotify.
 
 
Thanks to Yukie Moriyama :-)
 
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Glam Rock Cinema

"The Glitter Band Will Save Us!"
 
 
 
Finally out on DVD (by Odeon Entertainment) are a couple of mid-'70s curios, namely British musical comedies "Side By Side", and "Never Too Young To Rock".
Both were made in 1975 by G.T.O. Films and featured a number of Glam/Teen Pop acts of the day, such as The Glitter Band (NTYTR), MUD (in both films), The Rubettes (in both), Slik (NTYTR), Kenny (SBS) and Hello (SBS).  Needless to say, the musical performances, although all of them are mimed, are the most interesting scenes in both films.  A case in point, the earliest known Slik appearance on film...

 
"The Boogiest Band in Town" (1975) was Slik's debut single and as the clip clearly demonstrates, the familiar, later image of short hair and baseball shirts was still someways off.  The single flopped, and a year or so later the Arrows also had a crack at it, albeit with similarly underwhelming results.
The late Dave Mount, drummer of MUD, had a starring role in "Side By Side" and really holds his own compared to some of the "real" actors appearing alongside him.
 
 
Likewise, singer Stephanie de Sykes ("Born With A Smile On My Face") had an acting role in "Side By Side", where she also performs her signature song, while former Herman Hermit Peter Noone made a bizarre cameo in "Never Too Young To Rock", which served little or any evident purpose to the overall plot (or lack thereof) of said film.
Plot wise - as if that matters any - "Side By Side" has little more going for it.  Centering around feuding night club owners, there's aplenty opportunity for both music and mayhem.  Kenny makes an appearance, and so does Hello...
 

 
"Never Too Young To Rock", on the other hand, is set in the none too distant future where Rock 'N' Roll has been banned.  So, secretly a savior is sent (by exactly whom isn't made entirely clear) in something resembling an old ice cream van, roaming the English country side in search of MUD, The Glitter Band, The Rubettes, and others in order to stage a big Rock concert.  
Aside from the Slik clip, the concert-cum-finale part of the film is also the most riveting bit in it.  There, MUD, The Glitter Band, and The Rubettes stage a Battle-of-the-bands style show where each band performs a couple of its biggest hits before they are all joined together on stage for a fun romp through the title track of the film. 
 
 

Although the overall artistic and/or cinematic value of these films is, at best, questionable it's nice to see them finally easily available as officially issued DVD's (They've both been around as bootlegs for years) to enjoy in the privacy and tranquility of one's home.  Next up then - hopefully - the 1980 car racing film "Burning Rubber" featuring the music of - and starring - the Bay City Rollers...
 

 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Buster - "Best & New"

 
It has been nearly five years since the fantastic Japanese re-issue label Airmail Recordings honoured us with the outstanding treatment the three proper Buster albums deserved - including rare, unreleased and fascinating bonus tracks, et al.  At the time, they only excluded Buster's fourth LP, "Diary - The Best of", from said treatment.  However, this past January they more than made up for that exclusion by releasing the double "Best & New" CD, which, as its title suggests, not only contains an ample helping of Buster's best, but also 10 recently recorded tracks by one of Liverpool's finest exports. 
Sadly, guitarist Pete Leay didn't live to see this release come to full fruition, since he died under somewhat mysterious circumstances on Boxing Day last year.  Apparently, two men are being held, suspected of contributing to his untimely death.
 
Disc 1 ("Best") features 20 tracks in (almost) chronological order, culled from all four Buster LP's, bookended by a short "interview" - more like an introduction-cum-Christmas greetings - from 1978.
OK, one is nearly never 100% OK with compilations such as these, and since I don't care too much for the Live album, I think the three tracks included from that record don't really gel and seem out of place here...although, of course, that album should somehow be represented here.  Similarly, some of the single B-sides/weaker album tracks ("Judy", "If It's Love", "But If It Happens") don't add a whole lot to the mix.  But it is nice to finally get early B-side "Salt Lake City - Silver Gun" on CD.  For some odd reason it was omitted from the CD release of the first album back in 2008.  Nonetheless, some of Buster's best material is missing.  For instance, the majestic "We Love Girls" from the first album, and "Goodbye Paradise" and "Lovebreaker" from "Buster 2".  That being said, these sort of things are always a matter of opinion and this just happens to be mine.
 
Disc 2 ("New") features 10 spanking new recordings by the original line-up of Rob Fennah, Kevin Roberts, Les Brians and Pete Leay - their first new recordings since 1978.  All are original compositions (Mostly by Rob), aside from a cover of a Genesis (!!) song, "For Absent Friends".
Certainly, the one song here that sounds most like the Buster of old, is actually an old Buster song.  "Wish I was Young Again", in spite of its title, was written and demoed way back in 1977/78, and as such first appeared as a bonus track on the CD issue of "Buster 2" in 2008.  Here, properly recorded and a bit reminscent of a sparsely produced E.L.O. song - If such a thing exists, it is a definitive highlight and it would have had an obvious hit potential only had it been issued all those years ago.
Opener "Here Comes the Bride" is a catchy Power Pop gem from the pen of Rob Fennah, while the late Pete Leay's "Juliette" is pleasant mid tempo Pop. 
For some reason there's a hidden non-Buster track stitched onto album's closer "Rock & Roll Girl".  Which wouldn't nessecarily be a bad thing wouldn't it be so completely different in sound and style to the rest of the album.  It's a Rap song, ladies and gentlemen.  Most likely by Paul Leay, Pete's son, although that certainly doesn't explain/excuse this severe lack in judgement on someone's behalf.  After all, there's a time and a place for everything and, as the kids say, IMHO this Rap thing has no place on this otherwise fine album.  Again, it's a matter of opinion and this just happens to be mine.
But if you're a Buster fan, as I am, don't let that defer you from purchasing this product.  It completes the collection.   
3 *** Out of 5
 
 
 
See also: BUSTER

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Joe Le Taxi.

A short e-chat with Giuseppe "Joe" de Biase from TAXI.
(Via several e-mails Jan./Feb. 2014)
 
TAXI 1977.
 
The name?
I came up with the name TAXI, ‘cause we had one hour to decide between Dingo or Platipuss.  I  think TAXI is a lot better, don’t you?  Didn't get a penny for that either...
How did you guys ever become involved with the Mueller/Hunt/Frechter trinity?
Mueller was part of the MCA company, he ploughed money into the band.  And the other guys were part of the package, we had no choice.  We were just interested in recording records and playing live shows, for us it was heaven (and) we didn’t take any notice about the financial side.  It was a big mistake, but what to expect from seventeen and eighteen year old lads who have just got a recording contract?  It was great fun for us, but the music buissnes has a real bad side to it. You never get a good slice of the cake.  I remember my first pay cheque from the records we sold; it cost more to change the bloody thing.  (I) think that explains quite a lot..
Were you allowed to play on the records?
Yes, we were allowed to play on the records, apart from some dubbing of violins and other added instruments which we didn’t like.  But like I said, we had no choice.  We did get ripped off good and proper, but we were kids.  It’s a shame because you get used in a real bad way.
I think the first few bars of “Gonna be a Star” sound a lot like the beginning of “Holidays in the Sun” by the Sex Pistols.  Was that intentional?
No, I don’t think so, ‘cause I don’t even know the Sex Pistols song.
I saw an early photo of the band playing a Polish pub with an accordion (!) player.  Is that how you guys startet out?
Yes, that’s how we started many years ago.  I was nine or ten when my brother wanted to learn to play guitar and my dad wanted me to play the squeeze box (acordion).  It took off from there.  We did (play) a lot of the clubs later up and down England, British legions, labour clubs.  I was thinking of writing a book.  You never know, I may do (that).
I was wondering why your records weren't released in England...or elsewhere (except for Germany, that is)? I think for instance Japan would've loved TAXI.
Yes, it would have been great to go to Japan, I think things would have taken off.  Also if we would have gone to Italy, being all Italian decents it would have created interest.  I really think that the management were very mediocre.  All I can say it was a real shame.  We had our hearts set on making it.  When we were gigging up and down England that's all we ever talked about, tours, making records, fans.  No talk about money, just playing.  Like all bands, it’s just the same old story.  At the end you get it where it hurts most.  (I’ve) seen many weird goings on while in Germany after the concerts.  Sometimes I’d just get a taxi and go back to the hotel.  Some nice experiences as well.  When you would see a dedicated fan turn up to quite a lot of the concerts and have no money to get back home I would help with money so she could get the train, bus or whatever to get back home.
Like so many teen bands at the time (Kenny, Buster, Slik, Rosetta Stone, etc.) TAXI was clearly touted as the "Next Bay City Rollers". Did that ever bug you?
Yes, there was talk about us being the next Bay City Rollers, (but) like I said before we didn’t think much of what the press or whoever had to say.  All we wanted to do was play on stage.
Am I maybe confusing you with another band from circa '77, but didn't Linda McCartney photograph TAXI for the German teen magazine Pop?
Yes, Linda McCartney did photograph us at De Lane Lea Studios, Wembley.  We were recording and Paul McCartney was recording (there) too.  I actually got to see Paul and got his autograph.  (It was a) great experience.
By the last album, “I’m the One” (1979), the Polcaro brothers and Ross Burgess had left the band and Steve Clarke (Bass) and an unknown (His name?) drummer had joined. This left only you and your brother Paul/Paolo as the only remaining original members of the band. Was that the beginning of the end for TAXI?
When Phil and Pasquale left, yes, I can honestly say it was the end.  There was a lot of friction with the band, no money, not getting anywhere.  I don’t want to talk about the other guys who replaced Phil, Pasquale and Ross.
I would love to see other pictures of the band.  Any ideas how to go about finding them?
  
TAXI 1979.
 
So if anyone out there happens to have any photographs/magazine clippings of TAXI, please do write in and share them with us.  Many thanks!
 
 
See also: TAXI