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Saturday, January 23, 2016


"Everybody's Talkin'" (Fred Neil), "Without You" (Badfinger), and "I Love Rock & Roll" (Arrows).  These are just few examples of  great songs that should've been hits for the people (in brackets) who wrote and recorded them originally - but weren't.  The history of popular music is littered with them.
And that's were our subjects this time around come in.  Arrows, a three piece mid '70s glam rock act, will forever be linked with a song they themselves never had a hit with (although they certainly did have other hits); namely the classic rock stable "I Love Rock & Roll" - a song that made at least one career (Joan Jett's, in case anyone's in doubt who exactly I'm referring to.  We won't even mention arguably atrocious latter day cover versions such as Britney Spears' and Miley Cyrus').

In 1973, glam rock reigned supreme on the British music scene.  Amongst its many hopefuls was Streak - a trio which managed at least one great single, "Bang, Bang Bullet", which later became a "Junkshop glam" classic, before they imploded.
U.S. born guitarist Jake Hooker and English drummer Paul Varley then contacted an old pal of Hooker's from New York, bassist/singer Alan Merrill, son of Jazz singer Helen Merrill, who had followed his mother and Japanese stepfather when they relocated to Japan in the early '70s.  While over there Alan became a successful model as well playing and releasing music solo and with the band Vodka Collins.
Alan immediately joined Varley and Hooker in England and collectively they became Arrows.
In 1974 Arrows signed with RAK Records, the home of glam rock giants Suzi Quatro, and MUD, among others.  And the songwriting duo of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn just happened to be at the top of their game in 1974, penning hits for Quatro, MUD, The Sweet and others.  They supplied Arrows with their first and biggest hit.

"Touch Too Much", Arrows' debut single, was classic Chinnichap.  Produced, as was the majority of their output, by RAK boss Mickie Most, it entered the U.K. singles chart in May 1974 peaking at no. 8.  So far, so good.
However, the follow-up, "Toughen Up", another excellent Chinnichap composition, inexplicably failed to make the chart altogether.

Arrows' next crack at the charts fared somewhat better, in spite of it being probably their weakest single release.  "My Last Night With You", a '50s sounding Rock & Roll ballad-type-of-thing, became the band's second and last hit in early 1975, peaking at number 25.

Their next single, "Broken Down Heart", although fine on its own merits it was yet another non-original composition which contained the self-penned "I Love Rock & Roll" as its flip-side.  By this point in time the band was understandably becoming increasingly frustrated with the outside material Mickie Most fed them, and demanded the single be reissued with "ILR&R" as the A-side.  Which it was, with little if any immediate fanfare though.  They were only to reap the rewards some years later as it is believed that Joan Jett picked this single up on her first U.K. sojourn with The Runaways in the autumn of 1976.  So, as history would later establish, it really wasn't all in vain.

Followed up by another fabulous flop, "Hard Hearted", which went absolutely nowhere, Arrows somehow landed themselves one of the hottest gigs in town...their very own T.V. show. 
You see, The Bay City Rollers were apparently "deserting" their homegrown audience for greener pastures in Japan, the U.S. and Australia, so they really didn't have the time nor need to extend their Granada T.V. hit show "Shang-A-Lang" for another season/series.  So, enter Arrows...
But thus also begins the band's final and most frustrating era.  While being ever so visible daily to the teenagers of Great Britain, Mickie Most and the Arrows management weren't seeing exactly eye to eye.  As a result, RAK didn't release any more Arrows material to (finally) their adoring and awaiting public.  Albeit not before Arrows one and only LP had seen the the light of day. 
"First Hit", produced by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter of BCR/Kenny/Slik-fame, was an overall stylistically diverse and multi-dimensional debut.  A lost gem if you will.  From it, "Once Upon a Time", a big ballad worthy of (well, almost) The Righteous Brothers was culled as a single...

The Arrows' T.V. show ran for two series in 1976/77, after which the band had pretty much ran out of steam and all went their separate ways.  A second guitarist, Terry Taylor, briefly joined the band.
Sadly, both Paul Varley and Jake Hooker have now left this dimension while Alan Merrill is still musically active and well as far as I know, and carrying the Arrows' torch...

ARROWS Discography

(U.K. – unless otherwise noted) 

Touch Too Much”/”We Can Make it Together” (RAK 171) 1974.

Toughen Up”/”Diesel Locomotive Dancer” (RAK 182) 1974.

My Last Night With You”/”Movin’ Next Door to You” (RAK 189) 1975.

Broken Down Heart”/”I Love Rock & Roll” (RAK 205) 1975.

Hard Hearted”/”My World is Turning on Love” (RAK 218) 1975.

Once Upon a Time”/”The Boogiest Band in Town” (RAK 231) 1976.


First Hit” (SRAK 521) 1976.  11 track Martin/Coulter produced L.P.

Selected CD Releases:

First Hit” W/10 Bonus Tracks (REP 4865) Repertoire Records, 2000.  Germany.

Singles Collection Plus…” (GLAMCD11) 7T’s/Cherry Red, 2002.  A compilation.

Tawny Tracks” (Gel-003) Geltoob Records, 2002.  A prev. unreleased rarities comp.

A’s, B’s & Rarities” (7243 8 75998 2 6) EMI Gold, 2004.  A compilation, but including recently recorded old material as well.

First Hit” W/11 Bonus Tracks (WPCR-16200) Parlophone/Warner Japan, 2015.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rock and Roll is Dead...And we don't care!

Ever since I first plugged this release at the '70s Teenpop Facebook page a few weeks back, I've been pretty psyched about it: The first three Rubinoos albums remastered on colored vinyl with new artwork and bonus tracks!  Talk about the perfect Christmas gift for yourself.  Well, if you're that sad...and I very obviously am.
And now it's finally here!  And it is everything it was hyped up to be, and then some.  It's a lovingly and carefully assembled package from the good folks at Wild Honey Records in Italy - clearly a labour of love.  It sounds and looks absolutely beautiful.  When the original albums are getting increasingly harder to come by on vinyl, what better way is there to get re-acquainted with all the early Rubinoo classics ("I Think We're Alone Now"; "Leave My Heart Alone"; "I Wanna be Your Boyfriend"; "Rendezvous"; "Hurts Too Much", et al.) than head on over to and order yourself a set.  I do believe it's one of them "Limited Edition" thingys.  And I swear I am not in any shape, way or form paid to do and say this - it is just that sweet of a deal.
San Fransisco and the Bay Area in the late '60s/early '70s, with its obvious and all-too-recent hippie history, seems like an unlikely place and time for a band like The Rubinoos to flourish in.  The Saturday morning cartoon bubblegum of The Archies and the DeFranco Family were more their kind of thing, although Rock & Roll, Doo Wop, R & B, and the classic Girl Group sound also played part in cementing the Rubes' sound.  "The LP Collection Volume 1" exhibits The Rubinoos at their best.
Already anxiously awaiting Volume 2 in the series...


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classic '70s Teenpop Album: The Osmonds/"Crazy Horses" (1972)

From the opening chords of "Hold Her Tight", a none-too-distant relative of - yup! - Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", it is obvious that this is a very different sort of Osmonds album.

Twelve original Osmond compositions, produced by Alan the oldest Osmond and the brothers' regular producer Michael Lloyd, that are overall not only somewhat harder-rocking than the previous Osmonds albums fodder, but come with a message as well.  It is not a spiritual message, like their next album "The Plan" (1973) would bring, but an environmental one - decades before that would become the accepted norm in popular music.  Eat your heart out, Sting!
The title track is not only the single greatest thing the Utah born and bread brothers ever recorded, but also one of the greatest singles the 1970's ever produced.  Period.  Just ravel in its glorious unbound madness.  Why didn't they do more of this?

The would-you-believe-it semi-bluesy "Life is Hard Enough Without Goodbyes" (Is that a theremin I hear in there?!) is yet another style-breaking surprise.  And so is the mid-tempo "We All Fall Down", all horns and harmonies.
Thankfully though, the record is not without its dose of sweet Osmond balladry.  Admittedly, there's nothing here that equals 1974's "Love Me For a Reason" - that was still a couple of years ahead - but "What Could it Be" definitely ranks as one of their best ballads nonetheless.

Although some of their most memorable stuff was still yet to come (The aforementioned "Love Me For a Reason", as well as "One Way Ticket to Anywhere" from "The Plan") as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to the Osmonds, "Crazy Horses" is where it's at.  A solid, all-original album, and a classic kick-ass single.  You can't ask for much more than that.  The white Vegas-era Elvis jumpsuits we can - and should - just forgive and forget.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kenny's "Ricochet" Revalued.

At long last having finally acquired their second - and final - long player "Ricochet", my Kenny collection is now complete.  Previously I only had access to this LP via "The Best of Kenny" CD (REP 4510-WG, Repertoire Records 1994), which, among other things, contains the entire album.  The vinyl however - only issued in Germany and Japan in 1976 - is rather scarce and, more often than not, pricey.  In a blog I posted on February 16. 2011, I had this to say about "Ricochet":
For the most part the new material was self-penned and, unfortunately, rather unremarkable forgettable MOR pop.  Aside from the singles, both of which were written by people outside the band, and a passable version of the old Jackie Wilson hit “Higher and Higher”, “Ricochet” is a rather weak record.
Well, I was wrong.  Although it's most certainly no "Pet Sounds", "Ricochet" is a fairly ambitious album made by a band clearly desperate to prove itself and to be taken more seriously than it previously had been.  Too bad then no-one was really listening.
But why the change of heart, some might ask.  Well, the short answer is that the album just sounds so much better on vinyl than it ever did on CD.  I know, I know - that sounds like a typical and currently fashionable vinyl snob's answer.  But it is true.  Instead of the flat and "clean" CD sound, the songs sound crispy and dynamic and literally jump at you from the speakers.  Unfortunately not all old vinyl records sound this good - all too many actually sound like s**t - but this is clearly a quality German pressing which does the music full justice.
And although I still stand by my initial verdict that the non-group originals are the best things on display, there still is plenty more to enjoy here.  The pure pop of "You Wrote the Words" and "Go Into Hiding", the funk-lite of "I'm Coming Home", as well as the rockin' "Be My Girl" all being relatively strong.

No longer the second division Bay City Rollers of yore, with "Ricochet" Kenny were clearly taking a credible stab at establishing their own artistic identity apart from writers/producers Martin/Coulter, with which they had parted company before recording the album.  Unfortunately though, as I said before, no-one was really that interested and Kenny quickly faded into obscurity.  Like many other mid '70s teen pop acts - Rollers, Slik, et al - changing musical fashions (Punk, Disco) also had a hand in their ultimate demise and disappearance from public view. 
That said, with "Ricochet", Kenny certainly went out in style.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Arguably one of the best British Teen pop acts of the mid-'70s, Slik was originally called Salvation - a Glaswegian group that had been around since the very early '70s.  But it wasn't until a youngster named James Ure, immediately nicknamed Midge, joined that the proverbial wheels started turning.

The band at the time comprised of Billy McIsaac (Keyboards); Kenny Hyslop (Drums); brothers Jim (Bass) and Kevin (Vocals) McGinlay, as well as young Midge on guitar.
After Kevin left because he felt too old for the band (He was 28!) Midge took over lead vocal duties as well.  Consequently Salvation became Slik.  And after producers/writers Bill Martin & Phil Coulter, the men who put the Bay City Rollers on the map, entered the picture, Slik's future became clear.
Nonetheless, "The Boogiest Band in Town", their 1975 debut single, flopped.  Having it turn up in probably one of the decade's dodgiest music movies, "Never Too Young To Rock", didn't help matters much either.
A couple of years later The Arrows also recorded the song and released it as a single, albeit with similarly underwhelming results.
"The Getaway", an unremarkable slice of funky disco-pop, became the second Slik single, and was for some reason issued only in Germany.
Truth be told, an image makeover was due.  The long hair had to go ("I looked like Suzi Quatro", remarked Midge Ure much later), as did the flares as well as a moustache or two.  Instead our lads got James Dean haircuts, via Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, and matching baseball shirts. 
The third single, "Forever and Ever", originally recorded by another Martin/Coulter act - Kenny, fared, shall we say, slightly better.  However, its conception wasn't entirely painless.  Says Midge: "As we walked into Mayfair studios in South Molton Street we heard what sounded like a Bay City Rollers B-side coming out of the speakers, all these bells and jingling and stuff.  We thought it was something left over from the session before, and our recording was about to start.  Then Phil Coulter came out of the booth and said, Do you like the track, boys?  It's done."
Funnily enough, ex-Roller Eric Faulkner once told me, "We were being offered some of these same songs that Kenny and Slik did later."
But in spite of the fact that Slik had precious little to do with "Forever and Ever", aside from singing on it, it became a massive success, hitting number one in the U.K. in early 1976.

Follow-up single "Requiem" and sole album "Slik" both arrived in the summer of '76 - the summer that punk rock really started to make its presence felt.  Thus the lowly chart peaks of both releases can be easily explained; the single peaked at no. 24 in the U.K. charts while the album stalled at no. 58 for one measly week.

It was the beginning of the end.  The Teen pop thing had run its course - in Britain at least - and it was time to either bow-out or blend-in.  Slik bravely opted for the latter.  Their next single was "The Kid's a Punk", although it had very little to do with punk musically speaking...

This was Slik's last official single release in the U.K.  Several more singles where issued elsewhere in Europe over the next few months.  Silly dance tunes like "Dancerama" and "Bom-Bom" seemed rather misguided musical attempts at fitting in someplace.
"It's Only a Matter of Time" was the final release anywhere to bear Slik's name.  Typically, by this stage in their career, it was only issued in Germany.  Hidden on the B-side was an interesting piece of punky power pop called "No Star", which gave some indication as to what became the next chapter in the short history of Slik.

Bassist and family man Jim McGinlay having left the band for the somewhat more steady and reliable income of backing cabaret acts (the British version of Las Vegas, I guess), he was replaced by one Russell Webb. 
Consequently - and all too briefly - Slik became punk band PVC2.  Their sole release was single "Put You in the Picture", a gradual continuation of what the band had started with "No Star", which was released on Scottish indie label Zoom Records in 1977.
That, however, was it for PVC2.  Midge Ure, disillusioned and distraught, left the band.  Like he says: "So there I was at 23, all washed up.  I should have disappeared".  Which he most surely did not since soon thereafter he joined ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock in Rich Kids.  Their sole LP "Ghosts of Princes in Towers" is a minor pop-punk masterpiece, and includes a version of "Put You in the Picture".  But bigger things awaited Mr. Ure: Visage, Ultravox, Band Aid, a lucrative solo career and all that which is way better documented elsewhere. 
Meanwhile PVC2 had morphed into New Wave act Zones.  Willy Gardner was roped in to fulfill lead singer/guitar duties.  Only McIsaac (Keyboards) and Hyslop (Drums) remained from the original Slik line-up, while Webb played bass.
Debut single "Stuck With You" appeared on Zoom in 1978.

It ignited some major label interest and the band was quickly signed by Arista Records - ironically enough the very company which had devoured Bell Records, Slik's old label, a couple of years earlier.
On Arista Zones issued three singles and an album, "Under Influence" in 1979.  Unfortunately this material failed to live up to the band's initial indie promise.
By the early '80s Zones had broken up.  Briefly, McIsaac and Hyslop soldiered on as Science, while Russell Webb joined The Skids.  Gardner, meanwhile, went solo before becoming a teacher.  But not before he produced Billy McIsaac's 1985 soft-pop solo single "Love Me Like You Did Before".  McIsaac later formed the Billy McIsaac Band, reportedly the best wedding band in Scotland, before retiring from music in 2012.
Kenny Hyslop briefly joined Simple Minds and played the distinctive drum pattern on one of their earliest hits, "Promised You a Miracle".  
Although Slik may be primarily remembered today as merely Midge Ure's first successful band, for some of us sad old '70s teenyboppers they were - and remain - so much more than just that...

SLIK Discography:

“The Boogiest Band in Town”/”Hatchet” (Polydor 2058 523.  U.K. 1974) (Re-released:  Bell 1414.  U.K. 1975)

“The Getaway”/”Again My Love” (Early version) (Bellaphon BF 18367.  Germany 1975)

“Forever and Ever”/”Again My Love” (Bell 1464.  U.K. 1975)

“Requiem”/”Everyday Anyway” (Bell 1478.  U.K. 1976)

“The Kid’s a Punk”/”Slik Shuffle” (Bell 1490.  U.K. 1976)

“Don’t Take Your Love Away”/”This Side Up” (EMI Electrola 1C 006-98 503.  Germany 1976)

“Bom-Bom”/”Dancerama” (EMI Odeon, S.A. 10C 006-98.196.  Spain 1976)

“Dancerama”/”I Wanna Be Loved” (EMI Electrola 1C 006-98 824.  Germany 1977)

“It’s Only a Matter of Time”/”No Star” (EMI Electrola 1C 006-99 344.  Germany 1977)

As PVC2.:

“Put You in the Picture”/Deranged, Demented & Free/Pain (Zoom Records, Zum 2.  U.K. 1977)


“Slik” (Bell, SYBEL 8004.  U.K. 1976)

“Slik” (Arista, AL 4115.  U.S. 1976.  Different sleeve + different song selection)


“The Best of Slik” (Repertoire, REP 4721-WG.  EU 1999)

“Forever and Ever” (Rotation, RBX 460-2.  Netherlands 2000)

“Slik” (W/12 bonus tracks) (7T’s, Glam CD 28.  U.K. 2007)



“Stuck With You”/”No Angels” (Zoom Records, Zum 4.  U.K. 1978)

“Sign of the Times”/”Away from it All” (Arista, ARIST 205.  U.K. 1978)

“Looking to the Future”/”Do it All Again” (Arista, ARIST 265.  U.K. 1979)

“Mourning Star”/”Under Influence” (Arista, ARIST 286.  U.K. 1979)


“Under Influence” (Arista, SPART 1095.  U.K. 01 June 1979)

Billy McIsaac solo:


“Love Me Like You Did Before”/”Love is Forever” (PRT, EDIT 3302.  U.K. 1985) 
Midge Ure quotes taken from his excellent bio "If I Was..." (Virgin Books Ltd. 2005)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Leslie McKeown's Ego Trip, 1979 - 1982.

By spring 1978 all was not entirely well within the Bay City Rollers camp...
For starters, people just weren't getting along.  On top of that, the Rollers were far from being the hottest ticket in town.  Punk and her much nicer sister new wave were making some serious waves back in the U.K., while disco was all the rage pretty much every-elsewhere.
Meanwhile in Rollerland, Alan Longmuir had rejoined the band he'd left two years prior for being too old!  And instead of seizing the day and making a bold artistic statement by doing something musically challenging and creative, the band went ahead and recorded their least successful - and least interesting - album to date, the aptly entitled "Strangers in the Wind".  Although, to be fair, they probably had their U.S. parent company Arista Records breathing down their necks as well.
An ill-advised, pre-teen-aimed, T.V. series, The Bay City Rollers Show - A.K.A. The Krofft Superstar Hour Starring The Bay City Rollers - on the NBC television network in the U.S., was an unmitigated disaster.

So, amidst internal bickering and, as a result, not altogether unsurprising overall turmoil, lead singer Les Mckeown took off and left the band.  Or, depending on whose version of events you believe, was sacked.  And that finally left all involved parties to their own artistically creative devices.
And while the Bay City Rollers morphed into The Rollers with a new lead singer, Duncan Faure, Les got together with one Scobie Ryder (Real name: John Wright), a former Glasgowegian folkie turned pop performer who was all too eager to make a proper name for himself as a song writer extraordinaire.

Les & Scobie, 1978.

Some years back, Scobie told me the story via several e-mails:
At that time he (ED. Les) had never really written any songs to speak of (not that I know of anyway).  He was very unhappy with his career.  The Rollers had almost disintegrated on a personal level; in-fighting and a few bruised egos.
 I told him I could teach him about writing and in fact wrote my (ED. later, solo) single "Radio WROK" as a demonstration of how I could write on any subject.
I was also an accomplished writer with some 200 songs under my belt (not all great songs by any stretch of the imagination ;-)   .... but the word prolific comes to mind.
Les and I made a secret deal together,  for me to work with him on his solo career from then on, applying my skills to his career.  
I became director...stylist and his main writing force...
 ...and pulled the LRM's EGOTRIP band together to record (ED. Mighty Micro single) "Replaced by a Microchip" at Konk sudios: Tony Bear; Alan Darby; Gary Barnacle; Alan Park -  they were all long-time friends of mine and I knew Les needed a dynamite band.  So, a few phone calls later.... 
EGOTRIP!  Once again, it was my concept to name the band that, due to all the negativity surrounding Les leaving the Rollers.  One article read: "Lead singer goes on Egotrip!".  So I thought, Bollocks, let's use it to our advantage.  My old chum Ricky De Tomaso (a top graphics designer) designed the logo and the glass head.  
Scobie Ryder, circa 2000.

And so Egotrip was up and running, although their first appearance on record was under the pseudonym Mighty Micro for the WEA U.K. single "Replaced by a Microchip" (1979). 
A far cry from "Shang-A-Lang", it's nonetheless an imminently catchy little pop number not altogether dissimilar in style to other songs of the day, such as M's "Pop Muzik" and the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star".  However, unlike those, "Microchip" never got its fair shake and unduly sank without a trace....
Debut album proper "All Washed Up" was issued later that same year on Ego Trip Records.  The single "Shall I Do It (One More Number One)" preceded it, although it didn't exactly live up to its title.

The Japanese immediately took to Les and his Ego trip.  The response elsewhere though seems to have been somewhat lacking in exuberance.  For instance, "Long Distance Love" became the second and last Ego Trip single to be issued in the U.K.

A shame, really, since the second Ego Trip L.P., issued exclusively in Japan in 1980, was actually excellent.  From it, the single "Sayonara" was culled for an equally exclusive Japanese release.

Further album releases "100% Live" (1980), "The Greatest" compilation (1980) and "Sweet Pain" (1981), Les' last album with Scobie Ryder by his side, were all received rather rapturously in the land of the rising sun.
However, Scobie having left the fold, Les seemed to have run out of steam.  Ego Trip was disbanded and the record deal with East World/Toshiba-EMI also ran its course. But Les recorded one last solo album for the Japanese market with "Heart Control" (1982).  Mostly made up of covers of '60s and '70s hits as well as - what else - a "Rollerdays" medley of Bay City Rollers hits, which was the lead off single.
And, aptly enough, a Rollers reunion was just around the corner.  In the spring of 1982 the fab five reformed and played concerts in Asia during the summer and the fall.  Ego Trip, however, was gone for good, leaving a legacy of rather decent pop music. 
The reformed Rollers in 1982.

As Mighty Micro:
“Replaced By a Microchip”/”Everything with Chips” (1979, U.K.  WEA K 18134)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do it All Again” (1979, U.K.  Ego Trip EGOS 7)
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do it All Again” (1979, W. Germany.  Metronome 0030.179)
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do It All Again” (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20571)
“Long Distance Love”/”Kings Road Chelsea” (1979, U.K. Ego Trip EGOS 9)
“Long Distance Love”/”Long Distance Love” (Live version) (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20627)
“Sylvie My Love”/”You’re the Woman for Me” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20693)
As Leslie McKeown’s Egotrip:
“Sayonara”/”Dedicate This Record” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-17044)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Tender Love”/”Love Shine on Me” (1981, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-17101)
“Roller Days”(Medley/Single Version)/”Heart Control” (1981/2, Japan.  Kenwood Trio Records/Trash AW 713) 
As Leslie McKeown:
“All Washed Up” (1979, U.K.  Ego Trip EGO 001)
“All Washed Up” (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81220)
As Leslie McKeown’s Egotrip:
“The Face of Love” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81334)
“100% Live” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81365)
“The Greatest” (Compilation) (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-91007)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Sweet Pain” (1981, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81411)
“Heart Control” (1982, Japan.  Kenwood Trio Records/Trash AW-28003)
 The mega-rare second - and last - U.K. Ego Trip single, "Long Distance Love".
With special thanks to Peter Stern :-)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mabel and The Baron - Revisited.

When I started this blog, a good four years ago, my very first entry was on a little-known mid-'70s Danish teenpop band called Mabel, and their first lead singer Gert von Magnus.  Mabel's main claim to fame in the grand scheme of all things teenpop, arguably, was and always will be their seminal 1976 single "Hey, I Love You".

However, nearly fifty blog entries later, and having recently come across some Mabel and Magnus records, I see perfectly fit to revisit the topic. 
Mabel's debut single, "The Look in Her Eyes"/"For You and Me", was released on Polydor Denmark in 1975.  The band comprised Gert von Magnus (Vocals); Peter Nilsson/Nielsen (Lead Guitar, vocals); Andy Larsson (Or Otto Kulmbak as his mother knows him)(Bass), and Chris Have/Christian Have (Drums).  However, by the sound of it, bassist Nilsson/Nielsen is on lead vocals on both tracks here, with Gert von Magnus providing what can only be described as a supporting role (Well, the guy was all of 15 years old...)

The A-side is a catchy Glam-flavoured stomper, while the self-penned B-side is a tad heavier attempt at something similar to The Sweet's hardest rocking material; something Mabel would explore further on their first long player - more of which later.

Mabel's second single, "Twist Little Sister"/"Mr. Moo", materialized in 1976, and it was to be their swansong with von Magnus who left for seemingly greener pastures when Rollers manager Tam Paton took an interest in him and brought him over to Edinburgh in order to, er, make him a star.  No such luck though.  I spoke to Paton, who died a few years ago, about it way back in January 2000.
“Baron Gert Von Magnus?  Oh, he was wonderful.  The only problem was that I couldn’t get him signed to a  contract ‘cause he couldn’t sing (Laughs).  And so he went back to Denmark and that was it, yeah.  They told me he had been a big pop star in Denmark, although I can’t see how because I couldn’t get a record deal for him anywhere.  He was only over for about six months - he did some test recordings.  I spent about two or three thousand pounds on test recordings for him and I couldn’t get a deal.  Then he decided he wanted to go back because he was going into banking or something instead.  And he was missing home and he went back to Denmark.  He’s a good guy, I actually think he’s still going.  But he’s no Baron; we only pretended he was to give it a publicity angle, you see? (Laughs) It was only a publicity stunt.”
(More of whom later)
In Magnus's place Mabel got one Michael Trempenau, who was immediately re-christened Mike Tramp, a moniker he has used ever since.  So now we're back to that seminal moment, the career-defining single "Hey, I Love You", released in late 1976.

Mabel's debut album, "Another Fine Mess!" came out in 1977.
An uneven affair, to say the least, and, to add insult to injury, madly over-produced.  Trying to be all things to everyone, we get aforementioned heavy rock leanings with the likes of "Lady Love" and "New York City Boy", while opener "Little English Rose" and cutesy ballad "Close Your Eyes" toe the Teen Pop line, and a slightly inferior (to the single) album version of "Hey, I Love You", needless to say, towers above it all.
Sadly, "Another Fine Mess!" was to be Mabel's strongest album.  Later on, they became even more musically frustrating by dipping their toes into Euro disco and, indeed, Eurovision, albeit in the end succumbing to the Metal gods.  Tramp, in particular, has had some success in that field, most notably with White Lion during the '80s.
As for Gert (von) Magnus, in the end, he probably made the best move - artistically speaking at least. 
In 1979 he teamed up with original Mabel producer Per Stan and recorded the "Gert Magnus Band" album, issued by Mercury in Scandinavia.  By no means neither a critical nor commercial success, it is a well put together album and time has been rather kind to it.  Unfortunately, the same can not be said about any of the Mabel long players. 
OK, so Tam Paton was partly right, our Gert isn't the greatest singer in the world.  But so what?  He really doesn't have to be.  It's only Teenpop, y' know. 
The Beach Boys-esque"School's Out" (No, not the Alice Cooper song) was the (flop) single, although "Juke Box Hero" (No, not the Foreigner song), a lost power pop gem, is probably the strongest cut on the record.
Other highlights include blasting opener "Rock 'n' Roll Star", the mid-tempo pop of "I'm Over You" and obligatory ballad "Lover's Lane"....

To the best of my knowledge, Gert von Magnus has kept well out of the public eye for the past 35 years or so.  But he is still making music - apparently there is a new Gert Magnus Band recording at the moment.  He was a Facebook friend for a while - ignored my request for an interview though.  Let sleeping dogs lie and all that.  I don't wanna bug people who don't wanna be bugged.  But I bet he has an interesting tale to tell...

Mabel – Singles:

“The Look in Her Eyes”/”For You and Me” (1975)

“Twist Little Sister”/”Mr. Moo” (1976)

“Hey! I Love You”/”Movin’ Generation” (1976)

“Close Your Eyes”/”Spaceman” (1977)

“I’m Only Here to Rock ‘n’ Roll”/”Give Us a Chance” (1977)

“Boom Boom”/”I’m Only Here to Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1978)

“Wonderful Copenhagen”/”Sailing Away” (1978)

“Skateboard Rider”/”F.B.I. on the Nail” (1978)

“I’m a Hot Dog”/”I’m Tired” (1979)

“Born to Make You Happy”/”Do it With Me” (1979)

+ several singles up until 1981 issued only in Spain.


Mabel – Albums:

“Another Fine Mess” (1977)

“Boom – Boom” AKA “Message from My Heart” (1978)

“Mabel 4 Ever” (1978)

“We Are the 80’s” AKA “Born to Make You Happy” (1979)

“Extranos” (1981) – Spain only.


Mabel – Compilations:

“Mabel’s Storste Successer” (1979).  Denmark only.

“Det Sidste Boom” (2009).  CD issued in Denmark.


Gert Magnus Band:

LP: “Gert Magnus Band” (1979)

45: “School’s Out”/”All That I Need” (1979)