29 October 2014

Reupload - The Dots - Helen In Your Headphones/ Come And Get It






















Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1982

Well, alrighty! Were it not for the wonders of the Internet, it's highly probable that I'd never have bothered placing this record on my "to buy" list. For years, "Helen In Your Headphones" existed in my brain without a title or a band name to go with it - all I could remember was a video which had both confused and vaguely scared me as a small child. One day whilst surfing on YouTube in a distracted fashion, the video popped up in one of the sidebars, banging my memory chimes very roughly. And Cliff almighty, it still disorientates me to this day. How such a brilliant and slightly unreal clip can be consigned to the dustbin of television history is a mystery, although I wouldn't bet against this going viral at some point in the next few years (and with any luck, I'll start the ball rolling with this entry - I'm still bitter that I didn't discover that Trololo sensation first, which is the most Left and to the Back-centric viral hit I've ever come across).

"Helen In Your Headphones" is an acquired taste, but it's definitely a special piece of work, wobbling on the usually awkward boundaries of parody and pop where so many an act with good intentions has fallen before. It begins with a barrage of eighties radio-speak, continues into a bouyant take on eighties synth-pop, then promptly splats headlong into a chorus so preposterously New Wave that it sounds ahead of its time, sporting the kind of punk era-referencing chorus the likes of Bis and indeed Dex Dexter were penning in the late nineties. Lyrically, it deals with the topic of an obsessed female fan of a radio DJ - "Hi Hi It's Helen... I just wanna tell you that your voice makes me go oh-oh-oh-oh" she sings insistently, out-creeping the rather oily DJ in question.

Whilst there's no doubting the record's capacity to irritate some people, I personally think it's brilliant, having a rare combination of a superb pop hook, tightness and conciseness, and a sense of humour which is delightful as well as being astute. It might be controversial to compare this to the Bonzo's "Craig Torso Show", but it does parody a certain vain, slippery element of the eighties "biz" to surprisingly strong effect, in much the same way that the Bonzos picked up on the flippant, self absorbed nature of some pirate radio jocks.

Two things stood in the way of chart success for The Dots, however - one would be the record having its own DJ intro, which may have proved difficult for DJs to work around themselves (especially if they were preposterous enough and Wayne Carr-esque enough to sound very similar). Perhaps mindful of this possible pitfall, EMI's plugging division apparently starting giving Radio One DJs expensive headphones as gifts to promote the single. Somebody got wind of the fact, thought it constituted payola, and the song was subsequently banned from the BBC's airwaves as a result. Given this fact, it actually did fairly well to climb as high as number 96 in the charts, its final resting place.

The Dots were from Leicester, and this appears to have been their only single, meaning EMI's rather rash marketing decision may have deprived us of other follow-ups. The rather scratched B-side "Come And Get It" is presented here for your pleasure as well, but doesn't really give any decent clues about where the band would have gone next. Still, with this one-off effort they really spoiled us.



25 October 2014

Quiller - Quiller/ General Direction



Label: BBC
Year of Release: 1975

"Quiller" was a BBC TV series based upon a series of spy paperbacks featuring a character of the same name, and while reports of the programme online generally tend to be favourable, the sad truth is that the solitary series was shown once then never repeated. No YouTube evidence exists of it, no DVD is available, and I've certainly never seen it - so I can't offer any helpful comments. I'm sure some conspiracy theorists out there feel that the BBC got cold feet about it because the plots were too similar to real-life spying activities. 

The show mainly lives on through its fantastically funky theme tune, which is a thing of beauty and almost too kicking and grooving for Auntie Beeb. To this day it's available on iTunes on a dance mix compilation, and that prevents me from uploading it here - but you can hear it for yourself on YouTube.

The B-side is another piece of deeply likeable, riff-ridden library music swagger. You can almost imagine yourself shooting dots off a BBC school countdown clock while it plays, and it's well worth a listen. Enjoy. 

22 October 2014

The Monitors - Nobody Told Me


Label: Festival
Year of Release: 1981

The Monitors were fleeting sparks in the steelworks of Australian pop, and - so far as I can tell - didn't really manage to have any impact outside their home country. Formed as a studio ensemble in 1980 by session musicians Mark Moffatt and Terry McCarthy, they're most mentioned these days for their connections with the twin sister actresses Gayle and Gillian Blakeney who eventually joined the TV soap "Neighbours".

The concept was quite simple, and quite cynical if we're being critical. Neither Moffatt or McCarthy were particularly photo or telegenic, and the workaround for this in the band's videos and TV appearances was to involve the young sisters in a variety of ways. While they didn't sing on any of the records, the very young Blakeneys donned Kiss makeup and leapt around a lot for the debut single "Singin' In The 80s", which reached Number 16 on the Australian charts. Such was their visual impact at the time that some people began to believe that The Monitors were the Blakeneys group, rather than them simply being employed as a visual element.

They featured in a rather more subtle way in the video for the follow-up single "Nobody Told Me", which was less successful, peaking at a modest number 32. Unfair, since if you ask me "Nobody Told Me" is a far superior single, sounding incredibly of its time with the pulsing and squeaking synths and melodramatic vocals, but having such a killer hook in the fanfare of a chorus that it's irresistible. The nagging female backing vocals (performed by Kim Durant and mimed by the Blakeneys) are also enormously effective, and it's glorious pop music - Moroder tinged, melancholic and horribly addictive.

Hit-wise this was The Monitors last hurrah. Their album "Back From Their Recent Illness" failed to sell well, and Moffatt went on to work with numerous other bands (including The Saints and Mental As Anything) while McCarthy left the music industry to work in advertising. We all know what happened to the Blakeneys, on the other hand, who also turned up unexpectedly in the video for Pop Will Eat Itself's "RSVP" in 1993, again despite having nothing at all to do with the track. Mine is not to reason why, though as PWEI weren't very photo or telegenic either, you can't help but draw the same conclusions from that particular gatecrash.

Meanwhile, with the big beards and synth obsessions, maybe The Monitors would have been more at home in East London in the 2010s rather than Australia in the 80s. Life is cruel.

Afraid I haven't included the B-side "Wishful Thinking" here as its scratched to kingdom come. Suffice to say that it's a reflective Phil Collins styled mournful ballad sung over an electronic piano. You're missing nowt.

20 October 2014

Metamorphic Rock - The Chelsea Hotel





















Hello everyone - I'm sorry to say that it looks as if the DJ element of this event tomorrow night has been cancelled due to unforeseen technical/ administrative circumstances.

The poetry will still be going ahead, and it's still well worth attending as an event in itself - but anyone expecting to turn up and find me on the decks will be disappointed. Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Time to announce something I'm really looking forward to. On Tuesday 21st October, I'll be DJ'ing at the Metamorphic Rock event at the Huntingdon Gallery in Shoreditch. Part of the London/ New York Festival, this will be an exhibition and poetry reading thematically based on the Chelsea Hotel.

As well as poetry from a wide range of excellent talent - and more on that in a moment - there will also be an exhibition of classic rock photographs by the brilliant Bob Gruen, at one time John Lennon's personal photographer. Or, to go with the officially advertised line:

"Manhattan's famous Chelsea Hotel, one-time home to innumerable musical and literary icons, has been closed for refurbishment since 2011. But that won't stop the new generation of London-based poets taking up residence. Set to the backdrop of Bob Gruen's Rock Seen exhibition, they set out to re-imagine the establishment, room by room, according to their own stylistic predilections, and throw the doors open once again to Bowie, Cohen, Bukowski and all the rest."

There are some fantastic poets on the bill, all performing new work - these include Matthew Caley, Amy Key, James Trevelyan, Sophia Blackwell, John Clegg, Harry Man, Mark Waldron, John Canfield, Roddy Lumsden, Holly Hopkins, Jon Stone and Abigail Parry, with others to be announced at a later date.

And me? My DJ sets normally slip around between garage, mod rock, soul and funk, but I've got other ideas in mind this time and will try to keep things as on-topic and appropriate as possible. It's going to be a lot of fun.

£6 on the door. Here's the link to the Facebook event page. See you there.

18 October 2014

Barock and Roll Ensemble - Eine Kleine Beatlemusic



Label: HMV
Year of Release: 1965

While discussing Beatlemania in the mid to late sixties, numerous music critics made the point that their compositional technique was more advanced than that of most popsmiths, so advanced in fact it could perhaps be compared to the classical composers of yore. These theories were initially mocked by many, but so far as I can tell they were the first stirrings of the idea that rock music can and should be studied seriously, that this wasn't just a gimmicky youth fad we were observing. 

I can't find any trace of whether these ideas inspired the "Eine Kleine Beatlemusic" EP or not, but it's pretty safe to assume they must have done. The A-side is the key concern here, consisting of an Allegro, Minuet, Trio and Finale composed of elements of "She Loves You", "I'll Get You", "A Hard Day's Night", "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "Please Please Me" and "All My Loving". It's extremely well put together to the extent that each phrase and extract flows seamlessly into the next, creating a pocket Beatles symphony. While it's possible to sense the smell of extracted urine here, ironically the final product is a lot better than later "serious" attempts to create Beatles Medleys by the likes of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. "Eine Kleine Beatlemusik" (or "Eine Kleine Beatlemusic" depending on whether you believe the front or rear of the sleeve) isn't all pounding kettle drums and marching beats, there's clearly been enormous care put into the concept which isn't just anthemic melodies delivered in a predictably strident way.

The B-sides tracks are a bit of a gas too, at one point showing off what might happen if Wagner were played by a sixties pop group. Peter Sellers was there first with these kinds of jokes, as witnessed on the "Trumpet Volunteer", and the worst progressive rock bands were probably the last funny examples to bother the airwaves. But that was all a long way off at this point…

Tracklisting:
A1: Eine Kleine Beatle Musik
B1: Star of Eve Bossa Nova
B2: My Old Man's a Dutchman - Twist
B3: Tannhauser Lettered Rock