14 September 2014

Dr. Marigold's Prescription - Muddy Water/ Come With Me

Label: Bell
Year of Release: 1971

Good lord, Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an absolutely unashamed, bouncing-off-the-walls, gravelly voiced Creedance Clearwater Revival styled track. Plinking and plucking away in a manner that can only be described as battling and urgent, "Muddy Water" is an anthem urging extreme caution over a forthcoming catastrophe, although it's not altogether clear what it is apart from the fact that it involves unclean h20. 

"Don't nobody see the muddy water?/ It's moving fast and deeper than you think" warns the vocalist with a trembling voice like a prophet or soothsayer. "You won't know it til it's time to drink," he clarifies. Even Fields of the Nephilim have seldom been so doom-mongering. I can only assume this is some sort of metaphor for mankind's general apathy in the face of environmental and societal collapse, although it could just be about a standard river flood, I suppose. They're worrying enough. 

While I've a strong suspicion that this will split the readership's opinion like marmite, I actually think this single is so raucous and over-the-top it's actually wonderful. Short, sharp and simple as well as horribly catchy, it was probably one of the bigger injustices of 1971 that it wasn't a substantial hit. Once heard, it's never forgotten. 

"Muddy Water" was initially released by the American group The Balloon Corps who also failed to have a hit with it, so the song had no shortage of chances - their version is rather more rootsy, slower and considered, which might work better for some people, although I find it less pleasing.

Meanwhile, we've met Dr. Marigold's Prescription before on this blog, with the track "Breaking The Heart of A Good Man" with its rather popsike B-side "Night Hurries On By". They had previously worked as the backing group for Billy Fury and John Walker before breaking off on their own. While there are no lost classics sitting around in their back-catalogue, I do happen to think that they're a wee bit under-rated.

11 September 2014

Reupload - My Jealous God - Easy

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1992

In the early nineties, the British music press probably used the word "opportunistic" to describe up and coming acts more than any other word. Many of the journalists writing at that point had been working on the papers when punk broke, and an obsession with authenticity remained. Therefore, "fake baggy bands" were as frowned upon as "fake punks" were in the seventies. And if you were a "fake baggy band" it normally meant you hailed from dahn sarf rather than oop north, emerged after the Stone Roses' first album, and stuck looping funky rhythms over everything you did in a desperate bid to get on to the Sunday Top 40 countdown on Radio One.

When My Jealous God emerged in 1989, suspicion about their motivations lingered heavily amongst most hacks, and their reputation has been dogged even today. Whilst anecdotal personal experiences count for little, I was trying to explain to a friend how great this single was a few months back, and he waved me away laughing "Oh go away, My Jealous God were just shit!" He had no interest in listening to the thing.

That's his loss, in my opinion, though - as it will be yours too if you can't be bothered to click play below. "Easy" is probably one of the finer singles to be released during the baggy era, plonked out by a major label long after the party had ended, and thus utterly punctured on the two-pronged assault of changing fashions and critical hostility. It sounds uncannily like a lost Blur single from the same era, but padded out with squawking organ noises, sixties psychedelic throwback melodies and an insistent, nagging hook. Had it been released either two years earlier or a few years later, it may have met with a more sympathetic audience, but otherwise, it was lost amidst the sea of shoegazing and grunge singles in 1992.

The disinterest "Easy" created seemed to kill the band off. There were to be no further releases - no singles, and no debut album. They disappeared very rapidly, and the lead singer Jim Melly has apparently since become a Professor of Popular Culture who has written several articles and books on various rock bands. The whereabouts of other band members Danny Burke, Chris O'Donnell and Andrew Berkeley remain less clear - but perhaps they'll treat us to a reformation on one fine day, and release the album that should have been.

(This blog entry was originally uploaded in May 2010. "Why have you given us two reuploads in a row?" you're possibly tempted to ask me, and I can only apologise. Sometimes life gets a bit busy, and I'd rather stick something up here for people to look at - especially if I think it didn't get enough readers first time around - than nothing at all. I'll try to come up with some fresh material over the weekend). 

6 September 2014

Reupload - Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth - We Wanna Be Famous

Label: BBC
Year of Release: 1988

Ah, BBC Records and Tapes... so much to answer for...

Readers of a non-British origin may require me to brief them with some background about this single, and I'll do my best. "That's Life" was a British consumer programme which thrived in the seventies and eighties with its absurd and jarring approach of highlighting members of the public who had been wronged by bogus companies, spivs and ne'er-do-wells, then juxtaposing them with "light hearted" segments where they'd show clips of talking dogs or old ladies yodelling in the street. I'm not making any of this up or exaggerating for effect, incidentally - they really did. The shades of light and dark within the show were so extreme that it was a wonder the format succeeded for one series, much less the countless numbers which were eventually commissioned. Clearly somewhere out there a demographic existed for people who wanted to hear stories about people who had been left brain damaged after being run over by an articulated supermarket lorry and watch meerkats do some skateboarding. In essence, the show occupied the same kind of territory that the numerous oddball 50p grief-magazines which occupy newsagents shelves do now, and it's actually quite surprising that it hasn't been revamped and relaunched on that basis.

In 1988, towards the show's twilight years, one of their investigative items focussed on a dubious character who was apparently ripping off bands in Manchester by directing appalling videos for them for unreasonable amounts of cash (and in case you're wondering, the videos for The Inspiral Carpets "Joe" and The Stone Roses "She Bangs The Drums" were self-produced band efforts, so whoever he was, we can't blame him for those). To show the gentleman up for the rogue he was, presenters Grant Baynham and Adrian Mills promptly went forth and formed a dreadful punk band to highlight his activities. "Eats Filth" were born (being an anagram of "That's Life", in case this needs to be highlighted), a terrible video was created, and the man was humiliated and shamed on national television, with John Peel joining in by making his annoyance known. Job done. Or so we thought...

The story didn't quite end there, although it really should have done. It would seem that somebody at BBC Records and Tapes decided that the deliberately dreadful record - all one and a half minutes of it - should be issued as a charity single for MENCAP. As executive decisions go, the weakness of this one should not be understated. "Buster Gobsmack Eats Filth" were essentially a satirical parody of a struggling punk band, which in terms of humour was ten years out of date by 1988. A modern equivalent would be a joke band set up to parody the Teen C movement now. It's true to say that the "That's Life" audience still seemed to find punks disproportionately hilarious in the late eighties - the shrieks of laughter from the studio audience whenever a London punk was vox popped by Mills or one of his cohorts proved a baffling noise to hear - but they really weren't going to bother their stereograms with this nonsense. It sold next to no copies, and as in my opinion this is probably one of the worst songs ever committed to vinyl, it deserved to, charity or no charity. After all, there are very few people who would even give a homeless man making this sort of noise any cash.

Because let's not forget that the song in question is so utterly, mindlessly bad that it may be a work of genius. It's a squawking piece of drivel with scattergun lyrics a petulant six year old could have penned which starts and stops very quickly and without having made any particular kind of melodic point. To all intents and purposes, this is the celebrity equivalent of The Legend's singles for Creation Records - it's that atrocious.

The B-side "The Toreador From Japan" takes a different tack, but seems quaintly racist instead - you sense that all concerned probably thought they were having a light-hearted laugh, and that no harm was done, but ultimately the fake "Japano Spanish vocals" will cause people who dwell in the year 2010 to cringe (indeed, they probably caused quite a few people living in 1988 to blush as well). And please don't ask me what the B-side was connected to in the world of "That's Life", if indeed anything. I don't know, and I don't know if I want to know.

Still though - at least you can all now see what I meant when I said a few entries back that Kenny Everett's World's Worst Record Show should probably be updated and relaunched by someone.

[This blog entry was originally uploaded on 17th March 2010, and Tim Worthington put me straight on the origins of the absurd B-side: "To put you out of, or more likely into, your misery, this originated from an investigation into Spanish timeshare swindling, for which Adrian Mills was called on to affect an 'in character' accent. The problem was, he sounded more Japanese than Spanish, leading to deafening audience hysteria and, if I remember rightly, one of the other 'Nancies' having to finish his bit of the script as he was incapacitated with embarrassment…"]

30 August 2014

Eastside Kids - Subway Train/ Sunday Stranger

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1965

It's always faintly frustrating when I locate a single I really like, but the artist(s) behind it seem so elusive that I'm unable to offer you good people any kind of background whatsoever. In this case, this bunch of Eastside [one word] Kids seem to have no relation to the other Los Angeles based East Side [two words] Kids who arrived later in the sixties and issued several singles, although there seems to be some dispute online about that fact.

Billy Carl co-authored the A-side "Subway Train" and there's evidence to suggest that this is Billy Carlucci who eventually served in the 1910 Fruitgum Company. It seems probable that he was a member of this very short-lived outfit too. As for the rest? No idea. No data. If you know, please pass your knowledge on. 

Whatever, what we have here is two thrilling instrumental sides, with the W.E. Strange penned flip "Sunday Stranger" having by far the best sound to my ears. The combination of ripping guitar riffs, organ grooves and pounding drum patterns makes it an absolute shoe-in for any mod or garage night, and it's a delight. My feet haven't stopped twitching yet. One of those records I picked up at a very reasonable price indeed, and I'm delighted for having done so.

28 August 2014

Sam Apple Pie - Call Me Boss/ Old Tom

Label: DJM
Year of Release: 1972

Walthamstow… so much to answer for. Actually, scrub that, Walthamstow in East London doesn't really have its name up in big rock and roll lights, instead tending to humbly get along with its business without too much fuss. It may be where Ian Dury went to art college, the place where the semi-legendary punk label (and shop) Small Wonder records was based, the home of Grime, and where (of course!) East 17 hailed from, but despite these facts to most people it will always be a dormant outpost of London. Though not, of course, if the Estate Agents who are irritatingly remarketing the area as Awesomestow have anything to do with it.

Blues rockers Sam Apple Pie are another band we can add to the area's hall of fame. Despite achieving only very modest success in their time, they were present at the first Glastonbury Festival line-up in 1970 and were mainstays of the pub and student union circuit for most of the decade. Their eponymously titled debut album was issued in 1969 on Decca Records and is available to buy all over the place, but it's their 1973 follow-up "East 17" (no, I'm not making this up) on DJM which is harder to come by. With the line-up consisting of Sam Sampson, Bob Rennie, Andy Johnson, Denny Barnes and Lee Baxter Hayes at this point, "Call Me Boss" was the sole 45 from this period, and emphasises a flair for deeply catchy hooks which wasn't always apparent across their albums. Part rough hillbilly magic, another part sprightly pop, it perhaps could have registered with more people in those peculiar days when Mungo Jerry were top flight hit makers and merry rawness of this ilk stood half a chance of success. It was, however, not to be. 

Sam Apple Pie are an outfit who seem to attract the statement "You really had to see them live to understand how great they were!" across the Internet, which is very unfortunate for somebody like me who was born too late to appreciate them in that context. The vinyl is really all we have, and it's still pretty smart - just not worthy of excessive superlatives. Those with memories of their live shows may well be able to invest much more enthusiasm into their work than me, though. 

The band finally ceased their activities for good in 1980, and member Andy Johnson regrettably passed away in 2010.