Friday, 31 July 2015

Bama Lama Ding Dong


Born in August 1939 in Fairfield, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, Cleveland Josephus Eaton II is an American jazz double bassist. A genuine prodigy, he was playing piano at the age of five, saxophone by the time he was eight and trumpet two years later. When he reached 15 he was introduced him to the tuba and string bass.

Best known for his work with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and the 17 years he spent with the Count Basie Orchestra, Cleveland Eaton has played with both jazz and pop artists during his long career: Ike Cole, Minnie Riperton, George Benson, Henry Mancini, Frank Sinatra, Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and many more big names have benefited from having the man dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” play on their sessions. Eaton has also performed live with Nancy Wilson, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis, Jr., Julie London, Brook Benton, Lou Rawls, Herbie Hancock, The Platters, The Temptations and The Miracles among others.

In 1974, he began performing and touring with his own group, Cleve Eaton and Co., the following year releasing Plenty Good Eaton, now considered a funk classic. In 2004 his group became known as Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All Stars.

The two tracks on this 45 – Bama Boogie Woogie and The Funky Cello – originally appeared on Eaton’s 1976 album Instant Hip. Pete Waterman (yes, that Pete Waterman) heard the album, sniffed a disco hit and placed the tracks with the short-lived Gull Records here in the UK (home to Judas Priest and Typically Tropical). Issued as a single in 1978, the release was followed by an album, also called Bama Boogie Woogie, which compiled tracks from Instant Hip and Plenty Good Eaton. Waterman cheekily bagged himself a credit (for A&R Co-ordination) for doing little more than posessing a pair of ears.

The ‘lyrics’ to Bama Boogie Woogie (composed by Eaton himself) are

Get yourself together – yeah!
Do it any way you wanna do it
Do it any way you wanna
Do it any way you wanna
Bama Boogie
Bama Boogie Woogie
Do the Bama
The Bama Boogie Woogie

And that’s it (or variations of that) for the song’s entire length. The words to The Funky Cello are even better:
  
Hey hey hey!
This dance is called the Funky Chell-oh-ho…

Again, that’s the entire lyric. Utter tripe. 

His official website states that ‘Eaton’s version of Bama Boogie Woogie became a phenomenal best seller in the United Kingdom’. It didn’t: it entered the UK singles charts at 64, rose the following week to 35 and then started to spiral downwards. Even the addition of a blue vinyl 12” version couldn’t arrest its descent. It’s an awful record. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with the instrumentation, but the vocals are a classic example of everything that is wrong with disco music: insipid, pointless lyrics that should have been erased from the master tape before the tracks ever saw the light of day. and they're noxious, burrowing away at your brain like an earworm. Try as hard as you will to do otherwise, you'll find yourself suddenly singing 'This dance is called the funky chell-ohh-hoh' at the most inopportune moments.

According to The Birmingham Weekly (May 2009), Eaton was diagnosed with oral cancer. In January 2011 his official website reported that was is cancer free. I hope he continues to enjoy good health, but sincerely wish that the great man never attempts disco again.

Enjoy!




Friday, 24 July 2015

Frivolous Tonight


Today’s brace of badness comes from one of those records that is always turning up in lists of terrible LP sleeves but very few people have actually bothered to listen to, Sour Cream and Other Delights by The Frivolous Five. I briefly visited their career way back in 2007, but I knew next to nothing about them then. It’s about time to flesh out their story somewhat.

The cover, a spoof of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights hides a terrible secret: hidden inside are 12 tracks or dreadful, discordant mariachi band music – many of them covers of Alpert’s own hits. Alpert's sleeve was also spoofed by comedian Pat Cooper for his album Spaghetti Sauce and Other Delights in 1967.

Issued in 1966 – the same year that Mrs Miller came to the world’s attention – there can be no doubt that Sour Cream and Other Delights was put out to capitalise on America’s sudden interest in all things off-key. Was it meant to be a comedy record? Of course it was. However, were the members of the Frivolous Five in on the joke or were they – just like Mrs Miller – taken for a ride by the A&R people at RCA? It seems that, unlike the hapless Elva Miller, these ladies knew exactly what they were doing.

Mary Sawyer and Jane Sager – the two women who formed the Frivolous Five – were serious musicians and had been friends since the 1940s, the pair playing together in all-girl orchestras for a number of years and even entertaining the troops at USO shows. Jane Sager had been a soloist with the St Louis Symphony Orchestra and, amazingly, had taught trumpet to both Chet Baker and Herb Alpert. Other members of the Five included Naomi "Pee Wee" Preble (trombone), drummer Jean Lutey and keyboard player Rose Parenti. Sager and Preble had previously played together in Ina Ray Hutton’s band: Rose Parenti went on to become an actress, and is probably best remembered for playing Sister Alma in both Sister Act movies. Preble also moved into acting, and appeared in several US TV series in the 70s and 80s.

The Frivolous Five must have been having a high old time, and they were soon playing to enthusiastic audiences across the States and made several TV appearances before disbanding sometime around 1968. Sour Cream and Other Delights, their only album, was engineered by Bob Simpson - who also worked with jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Sonny Stitt as well as pop acts including Perry Como and Harry Belafonte - and was arranged by Bob Halley, who would soon go to work with Bobby Darin. Producer Paul Robinson would later work with composer Hugo Montenegro and produce a series of zodiac-related easy listening albums under the 'Astromusical House' banner.

Anyway, have a listen to a couple of tracks from this wonderfully bonkers record. First up is Tijuana Taxi, and what starts as a pretty faithful re-reading of the Herb Alpert hit all starts to go wrong about 35 seconds in, when the first blatantly flat notes assault your ears. From then on in it’s an audio abortion, with bum notes flying in all directions from the horn players and their piano and vibraphone accompaniment. The ‘band’ follow Alpert’s arrangement of the classic A Taste of Honey to the letter: unfortunately it still sounds diabolical.


Enjoy!


Friday, 17 July 2015

I Don't Understand

Warning: today’s pile of sentimental goo may leave you reaching for the nearest insulin pen. For here is Freddie Garrity, the former leader of the 60s hit makers Freddie and the Dreamers, and the sugary, syrupy mess that is I Understand (Just How You Feel).

Written by William ‘Pat’ Best (not the former Beatles drummer Pete Best, as I had hoped when I first picked up the disc), I Understand (confusingly credited throughout its 60-plus year history with or without its subtitle) was originally recorded by Best’s group The Four Tunes in 1954 and had been a sizeable hit in the US.

Garrity's band Freddie and the Dreamers had already released a version of I Understand – a reasonably faithful reinterpretation of the Four Tunes original, with more than a nod to current chart topper You’ll Never Walk Alone - as a single (it was also the title of their second LP) in 1964. However when Freddie revisited the song almost a decade later while trying to launch a solo career on Jonathan King’s UK record label, he (or possibly King, who produced the track) decided to emulate the G Clefs’ 1961 cover of the song instead, which tacked on Auld Lang Syne (and forget to credit Robert Burns as co-author in the process) creating this awful Millennium Prayer-esque abortion.

Freddie even copies the spoken word verse which first surfaced in the G Clefs' version, adding another layer of sickliness to this already over-egged pudding of a production. Happily, this affectation did not appear on the Four Tunes vastly superior original. Back in 1965 Herman’s Hermits also chose to cover the G Clefs’ version, pulling it off with a tad more style and finesse than Freddie manages here.

Freddie and the Dreamers had a number of hit records between 1963 and 1965 in both the UK and the US, the biggest being I’m Telling You Now and You Were Made For Me. Often lumped in with the Mersey Sound (Freddie was actually a former milkman from Manchester), their stage act was enlivened by the comic antics of the diminutive, bespectacled Garrity, who would bounce around the stage with arms and legs flaying – the band even tried to foist Garrity’s ‘dance’ on to the world with the annoying Do The Freddy (covered brilliantly by Mme St Onge). Favourites of kids TV shows, and stars of several mediocre UK pop films of the 60s, Garrity fronted various line-ups of The Dreamers until 2000. That year he was told that, due to suffering from pulmonary hypertension, it was not advisable for him to continue working, and he officially retired in February 2001. He died in Bangor, North Wales (while enjoying a holiday with his family), in May 2006.

Here are both sides of Freddie’s 1973 45, I Understand and its B-side, the inoffensive but dated Garrity-written pop song I Know, You Know, We Know.


Enjoy!

Due to continued problems - and no sign of any resolution - with Divshare I'm trying a new, free, filesharing site, Pleer.com. To download the tracks simply click on the Pleer logo, which will take you to the download page. Click on the download logo on the track you want and (hopefully) away you go. Please let me know if this doesn't work - seems fine in Chrome but I guess other browsers could have problems. 






Friday, 10 July 2015

Blondes Have More Fun

The world will probably never see another group quite like the Del Rubio Triplets, three swinging ladies who debuted their musical act in the 1950s but who rose to infamy in the 1980s due to their camp style, fun interpretations of standards and current chart songs – and an unforgettable appearance on the hit TV show The Golden Girls.

Edith, Elena and Mildred Boyd were born in August 1921 (their great-aunt was Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the wife of President Woodrow Wilson) and grew up in the Panama Canal Zone and in Washington, D.C. Daddy was a lawyer and mother a socialite: "Even though we didn't have any talent," Millie told People magazine in 1988, "we knew we wanted to be in show business." Their father bought them all guitars and financed a move to Hollywood in the mid 1950s. There they changed their name to Del Rubio because, as Millie told People: "Rubio is Spanish for blond," and they were soon were working clubs in Asia, Australia and Europe and appearing on television with Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis amongst others.

The touring left little time for love. "If you really want to get married, take a cruise," Elena once explained. "We never did. We didn't want to break up our act." Eadie agreed: "We're not interested in security. We're artists. We're living on the edge."

When their mother suffered a stroke in 1965, the sisters came home and put their careers on hold. Yet in the mid 80s they were rediscovered by songwriter Allee Willis (who wrote the theme from Friends, as well as hits for Earth Wind and Fire, the Pet Shop Boys and many others). She got them noticed and helped gain them their first recording contract. An album - Three Gals, Three Guitars - soon followed. And it’s a blast!

The Del Rubio’s new-found fame led to a slew of nightclub and theatre bookings and a handful of new TV appearances: Married... with Children, The Golden Girls, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, the short-lived New Monkees, Ellen and Pee-Wee's Playhouse among them. They also appeared in the film Americathon and even featured in an ad for McDonald's. They usually appeared in short skirts, hot pants or dresses cut to the waist, showing off their shapely legs. Don’t forget: these women were all past retirement age when fame came a-knocking a second time.

The three continued to perform – often in old folks homes ("men at the retirement homes think we're in our 30s," Elena once said) - until Eadie was diagnosed with cancer in 1996; she died that year in Torrance, California. Elena and Milly would never perform again, living together until Elena died – also from cancer - in 2001. Milly joined her sisters in 2011. The triplets are interred in a family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California next to their father.

These tracks - Walk Like an Egyptian and These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ - come from the album Three Gals, Three Guitars.


Enjoy!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The World's Worst CD


Out now - and available from Amazon in the US - is the World's Worst Records CD, an exclusive compilation which features many of the songs discussed in the two World's Worst Records books.

The CD includes rare - and otherwise unavailable - tracks from such bad music legends as Mrs Miller, Leona Anderson, Rodd Keith and 'Little Marcy' Tigner, plus song poem favourites Ralph Lowe, Dick Kent, Bob Storm and many, many more. 23 tracks - more that one whole hour of utterly appalling music.







Tracks:

Florence Foster Jenkins - Adele's Laughing Song/Mrs Miller - Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me/Ralph Lowe – I’m The Cat/Dick Kent - Jenny Beloved/Mme St. Onge - Prends Moi/Larry London - Marniella/The Planets - Moon Crazy/Ken “Nevada” Maines - Phase “1-2-3”/Elmer S Galloway - Your Voice is Like A Song/W L Horning - Rockin and Rollin/Reco - Jolly Jolly Buddy Buddy/Sam Sacks - Yodel Blues/The Romany Sisters - The Space Ship Blues/Mister “G” - Sweet Angelina/Leona Anderson - The Mama Doll Song/Marcy Tigner - Shake Me, I Rattle/Baby Lu-Lu - Jesus Loves Me/Rodd Keith - Pretty Boquet/Michelle Cody - Merry Christmas, Elvis/Ellen Marty - Bobby Died Today/Bob Storm - Bobby/Jack and Mary Kimmel - An Ode To Our Lady/Bert Lowry (with Rod Rogers) - Portland Rose Song



All tracks have been carefully remastered from the original vinyl pressings, with pops, clicks and other surface noise removed to present these tracks in the best possible quality. They have never sounded so good.

Unfortunately the disc is not currently available outside of the US (although you can. of course, order from Amazon.com from anywhere in the world), but I hope to make it available in Europe soon. If you can't wait, why not go grab a copy now?

Also available is a new (rather short) book on the life and career of Florence Foster Jenkins. More a booklet than a book - weighing in at a huge 50 pages! - you can get this in the US and the UK. Florence Foster Jenkins: the Diva Of Din may be brief, but it's very cheap: only £3.99/$6.99!

If you've already read the first book you'll know most of this stuff already, but with a movie based on her life (starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg) on the way, what better time could there be to learn more about this extraordinary woman?

Friday, 3 July 2015

After Eight Mince

Although hardly known here in the UK, in the US Fabio Lanzoni – known mononymously (a la Cher, Madonna, et al) as Fabio - is, or rather was, a sensation. The Italian model became a huge media star, thanks to his appearance on the covers of countless (some estimate over 400) cheap romance novels and guest roles in TV and film comedies - including Roseanne, Death Becomes Her, Dude Where’s My Car and Zoolander.

Everything about Fabio is larger than life: he owns 222 motorcycles, according to a 2012 interview and, in 1999, when he rode Apollo's Chariot, a roller coaster at Busch Gardens, a goose collided with his face, leaving him covered in blood. The goose was killed and Fabio received a one-inch cut on his nose. No one else on the roller coaster was hurt. He soon had his own fragrance, women’s clothing range and, naturally, for someone so oleaginous, he became the advertising spokesperson for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Fabio and his flowing locks are famous.

A recording contract soon followed. And the world has been asking itself ‘why?’ ever since.

Released in 1993 Fabio After Dark – thankfully – only features the open-shirted one ‘singing’ on one song, a cover of the Colonel Abrams song When Somebody Loves Somebody, which had been a minor US hit in 1992. On the other eight tracks credited to him he simply reads a short, scripted soliloquy over the top of some suitably seductive instrumental music - or sections of the backing track to When Somebody Loves Somebody. Unfortunately his heavily-accented insights into romance, surprises, films and humour only add up to fifteen minutes or so, so the rest of the album is padded out with ‘romantic’ music from Billy Ocean, Barry White, the Stylistics and Dionne Warwick. Luckily the planned follow-up, Fabio Makes Breakfast, Then Promises to Call You But Never Does remains unreleased to this day.

The CD booklet is something else – a softcore wet dream if there ever was one. Here’s Fabio without his shirt on, draped over the bonnet of a Rolls Royce. Now here’s Fabio lounging on satin sheets after his woman has left (presumably to return to her idiot husband). Now here’s Fabio in his skimpy Speedo, fresh from the pool in his luxury Hollywood home, and here we have Fabio looking sultry in a sauna, swathed in terry towelling.


Ugh. Give me Peter Wyngarde any day of the week. Now there’s a man who knows how to seduce a woman!

Her's a brace of cuts from Fabio After Dark - the opening track About Romance and When Somebody Loves Somebody.

Enjoy!

Friday, 26 June 2015

John Steed, In Memorium

Sadly, at the ripe old age of 93, the TV legend Patrick Macnee - best known as John Steed in the long-running drama the Avengers - passed away yesterday.

Daniel Patrick Macnee (6 February 1922 – 25 June 2015) was born in London. Descended from the Earls of Huntingdon, his father trained race horses and his mother was a lesbian, whose partner was referred to by Macnee as "Uncle Evelyn". Educated at Eton, where he met the future Goon Show star Michael Bentine, he was one of the honour guard for King George V during the late monarch’s lying in state at St George's Chapel in 1936. Legend has it that he was expelled from Eton for selling pornography and being a bookmaker for his fellow students.

He began acting while at school, appearing in Henry V at the age of 11, with the later Sir Christopher Lee as the Dauphin. Macnee joined the Royal Navy during WWII, becoming a navigator on torpedo boats in the English Channel and North Sea and, after the war ended, he returned to acting, gaining valuable experience onstage in London’s West End before accepting some minor film roles, including that of Young Marley in Alastair Sim’s classic version of A Christmas Carol. But when the call came from David Greene, a director friend at CBC in Toronto, he left England within 48 hours and spent much of his adult life in Canada and the United States. Whilst in America Macnee appeared in supporting roles in a number of films, notably Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), in Gene Kelly’s Les Girls (1957), with Anthony Quayle in the war film The Battle of the River Plate (1956) as well as playing dozens of small parts in American and Canadian television and theatre.

When working in London on the documentary series The Valiant Years (based on the World War II memoirs of Winston Churchill), Macnee was offered a part originally known as Jonathan Steed in a new TV series called The Avengers. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Ian Hendry, who played the lead role of Dr. David Keel, Macnee was to play his assistant, but moved into the lead role after Hendry's departure at the end of the first season.

Macnee's other significant roles include Sir Godfrey Tibbett in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, This Is Spinal Tap and on TV he appeared in Alias Smith and Jones, Hart to Hart, Columbo, Magnum PI, Murder She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica, The Love Boat and The Twilight Zone. He made his Broadway debut in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth in 1972, and has the distinction of playing both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson – the latter with his old friend Christopher Lee.

Back in 1964 he did something quite extraordinary. At the height of his fame he recorded a brace of duets with co-star Honor Blackman – and it’s these recordings we celebrate today.

Originally issued on Decca in the UK (and on London in the US the following year) and reissued twice – in 1983 (on Cherry Red) and in 1990 on Deram (when it reached the UK Top Five), Kinky Boots is a mad, bad, camp classic – a truly great record and one of my all-time favourites. I hadn’t heard it until the Cherry Red reissue, but fell in love with it then and there and, more than 30 years on, still absolutely adore it. Same goes for the B-side, the excruciating Let’s Keep It Friendly, a stilly song and a silly performance – but utterly beguiling.

At the same time as this 45 was issued Blackman also released her only album, Everything I've Got, although neither side of the single was originally included (the A-side was included on some later reissues). Everything I've Got is a not-terribly-good album on which Pussy Galore attempts a handful of torch songs, a few lounge standards and a cover of the Lennon-McCartney song World Without Love. The album was reissued by Cherry Red in 1983.

Belgian record executive, producer and songwriter Marcel Stellman has worked with hundreds of acts over the years, including repeat WWR offender Jess Conrad, and famously owns the rights to the TV show Countdown. Musical Director Mike Leander (Michael George Farr, 1941 –1996), began his career at Decca in 1963, working with people including David McWilliams, Gary Glitter (he co-wrote many of Glitter’s major hits), the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithfull, Joe Cocker, Billy Fury, Marc Bolan, the Small Faces, Van Morrison, Alan Price, Peter Frampton, Shirley Bassey, Lulu, Roy Orbison, Ben E. King and the Drifters, Gene Pitney and the Beatles, scoring the arrangement for She’s Leaving Home.

Here are both sides of this fabulous 45, plus a track from Honor's album, Men Will Deceive You.

Enjoy!

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