Thursday, 27 March 2008

Diana Dors – Roller Coaster Blues

She was a pal of the Kray Twins, had terrible taste in husbands, was (cliché alert) Britain’s Blonde Bombshell, famously wore a fur bikini in Venice, hid millions in bank accounts around Britain that have yet to be tracked down, could act well if she got the chance, was one of the few successful pupils at J. Arthur Rank’s Charm School, never quite conquered Hollywood, and had a surprisingly pleasant singing voice: light, tuneful, and an actress’s talent for phrasing.

Diana Dors has always had pop-culture kudos: she’s appeared on LP covers from both the Beatles (Pepper) and the Smiths (“Singles”), in Adam Ant’s “Look-at-me-I’m-so-big-I’m-about-to-loose-it-completely-and-isn’t-Marco-beefing-up-a-bit” video for Prince Charming, and in minor marvellous movies like Deep End, Theatre of Blood, and Steptoe & Son Ride Again.

...tender as the inside of a caterpiller’s thigh...

I first heard this song so far back (How far back was it?) it was so far back, it was on a mix tape a friend sent me (Hi Chunny!). Here she is, Diana Mary “Don’t Forget the L” Fluck, swinging along with Wally Stott’s Orchestra, in a lyrically oddball song from her only album, Swingin’ Dors.


Download Diana Dors – Roller Coaster Blues MP3 (rapidshare)

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Lord Melody – Mama Look a Booboo

If you’ve heard this song before, chances are it’s Harry Belafonte’s 1957 hit version: that’s the first version I ever heard, anyway. I knew Robert Mitchum had recorded some calypso, but it wasn’t till I managed to borrow a vinyl copy of “Calypso – is Like So…” that I realised he’d covered it too. But I finally chanced upon Lord Melody’s original while in the grip of mento* fever, a few years back. The huge international boom in calypso in the mid to late fifties (like Harry Belafonte’s hits) meant that just about all indigenous Caribbean music, including Jamaican mento, was being sold as “calypso”: so inevitably, in the hunt for mento gold, I necessarily had to listen to a fair bit of calypso pyrites: but no, I got to love calypso too, of course.

Shut you mouth! Go away!

Anyway, Lord Melody (born Fitzroy Alexander in 1928; died 1988) was one of the big Trinidadian stars of the fifties Calypso Boom, with this song being a hit in America: he had another international hit in 1962 with “Shame and Scandal” (a song with too complicated a story for this place: wikipedia covers it well).

Here’s Lord Melody’s original 1955 version.


Download Lord Melody – Mama Look a Booboo MP3 (rapidshare)

...and here’s a live version from 1958 (I think):


Download Lord Melody – Booboo Man MP3 (rapidshare)

Bob Mitchum’s Trini accent is a bit ropey here, but he has a pleasant voice, and the band are excellent enough to calm the Original Version Purist Demon that snarls within me.


Download Robert Mitchum – Mama Looka Booboo MP3 (rapidshare)

...and if you wany to here Belafonte’s version, here he is dueting with Nat “King” Cole, via YouTube.

* I don’t have the mental energy for the long, complicated answer that a seemingly simple question like “What is mento?” deserves. Follow the link to Michael Garnice’s exhaustively researched page if you’re interested.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Lee Hazlewood – Six Feet of Chain

More Lee Hazlewood, here sounding more Johnny Cash than Cash himself, in a strange song which I've always assumed was about a dog.

I found this on a compilation The Many Sides of Lee Hazlewood: I think it originally appeared on his Trouble is a Lonesome Town album in 1963, but since even the CD reissue is going for fifty bucks, and I'm a skinflint, I'll just have to go by the track listing, and assume it did.


Download Lee Hazlewood – Six Feet of Chain MP3 (rapidshare)

Monday, 17 March 2008

Drimble Wedge & the Vegetations – Bedazzled

I could only bear to watch a few minutes of the dire Brendan-Fraser-Liz-Hurley remake of Bedazzled before switching off in despair, so I don't know if there's an equivalent of the Ready-Steady-Go-esque scene in the original 1967 version, where Peter Cook, Playing George Spiggott (the Devil Incarnate) effertlessly outcools "cuddly" Dudley Moore, with this eponymous song. The song features a fauning backing chorus ("You drive me wild") and a contrary, indifferent lead vocal ("you fill me with inertia").

“Don't you ever leave off?”

Pete's deadpan vocal is priceless, But we must give Dudley the credit for the writing this track (and indeed the rest music for the film), a fine soaring, moody bit of menacing jazzy pop. The only mainstream pop music anything like this at the time was Brian Auger's Trinity, or maybe Arthur Brown, but really, forget about these comparisons: Drimble Wedge & The Vegetations stand alone. The magic words: “Julie Andrews!


Download Drimble Wedge & the Vegetations – Bedazzled MP3 (rapidshare)

Or watch the song being performed in the film on YouTube.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Les Bel-Air – Cupidon

Leapy Lee’s Little Arrows is a folk song in the vocal tradition as far as I’m concerned. That's because I learned it by repeatedly hearing it sung by a friend (Hi Irene!) years before I eventually heard his recorded version. Most people who know the song wince when they hear it mentioned: people who don't know it wait until they hear it before they start wincing. Maybe the sung-by-a-friend filter helped me get to like the song before the wince factor kicked in.

Here’s another filter: a foreign Language version, by Les Bel-Air, from Quebec. Who They? My translation skills are worse than Google's, but they seem to have operated in Canada from 1965 to 1969, doing original material and covers on English language pop hits, moving from mainstream pop towards country. There's also some sort of Johnny Halliday connection, (supporting? backing?) but my French vocabulary fails me.

Apart from the song itself, the most compelling thing about this recording is singer Eddy Roy's performance. Now that's what I call gusto.


Download Les Bel-Air – Cupidon MP3 (rapidshare)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Duane Eddy & Lee Hazlewood – The Girl on Death Row

I've known for a long time that the late Lee Hazlewood produced Duane Eddy's great twangy guitar classics of the late fifties and early sixties. But I didn't know Lee actually sang on one of them. Here it is: The Girl on Death Row, a song with a morbid theme that suits the mood of Duane’s twang and Lee’s echo chamber.

I couldn't find a picture of the two of them together anywhere: if anyone out there has one, I'd love a copy.


Download Duane Eddy & Lee Hazlewood – The Girl on Death Row MP3 (rapidshare)

Or watch Duane talking about Lee on YouTube here.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Springfields - Island of Dreams

The Springfields were the epitome of the clean-cut, button-down, deodourised stuff that stood for folk music in the entertainment world, before the authenticists and the pinkos came in. Christopher Guest's 2003 film A Mighty Wind manages to show how deeply awful most of it was. Like proper showbiz types, siblings Tom & Mary O’Brien had stages names: Tom & Dusty Springfield. Of course, their tidy non-threatening music has been entirely eclipsed by Dusty's outstanding critically and commercially successful solo career.

And yet, I've never been a big fan of Dusty Springfield’s voice. I know, I know, I'm in a tiny minority here, but I do think her voice suits harmony singing much better than solo. I’ll avoid the quagmire of the sibling singers genes-versus-nurture debate here: I just find the voices on this example, Island of Dreams, more moving and sublime than any Dusty Solo stuff I've heard. Yes, I can appreciate her skill, on, say, Son of A Preacher Man or The Look of Love, but my appreciation is intellectual: Island of Dreams, like all great music, transports and transforms me. 


Download The Springfields - Island of Dreams MP3 (rapidshare)

Or watch them perform it on YouTube here.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

The Karl Denver Trio - Wimoweh

My pal Graham had a Vinyl Party last week (no snickering in the back there; vinyl records, not fetish gear). I brought along my Karl Denver LP and, though it wasn't a competition, Wimoweh was the hit of the evening. In my biased opinion anyway.

Words fail me when I try to describe Karl’s vocal technique: yodelling is part of it, but a tiny part. But you can tell he's from Springburn. 

Of course this is only a tiny moment in the songs winding, complicated life story, going from Solomon Linda’s Mbube in 1939 through Pete Seeger, The Tokens’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Tight Fit (spoonerism alert), to Disney’s Lion King movie. See here for the full, extraordinary story.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Conway Twitty – How much more can she stand

I first heard this classic example of the “Cheatin’ Song” in a brief clip on Hank Wangford's A to Z of C & W, Channel 4's eighties documentary series. Before that Conway Twitty didn't mean much more to me than his late-fifties faux-Elvis international hit It's Only Make Believe.

But he went on to a long successful country singer career, from the sixties through to the ninties, including this minor hit from 1971.

“There's a devil in my body, that I just can't satisfy...”

Conway's dead now, and I'll never get the chance to visit his gloriously tacky theme park, Twitty City in Hendersonville, Tennessee: it's been converted into a Christian music venue owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. All things must pass.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Richard P. Feynman - Orange Juice

He was a physicist (quantum electrodynamics, superfluidity, particle theory), lock-picker, prankster, juggler, painter: a ladies man, a friend of Tuva, a developer of the atom bomb, a translator of mayan hieroglyphics.

If you haven't worked it out yet, and haven't even noticed the title of this post*, I'm talking about the mighty Richard P. Feynman. Here’s an example of yet another talent: his bongo playing. And singing too.

The choice of title means his vocal sound strangely like Pamela Doove, A minor Reece Shearsmith character in the League of Gentlemen.

Update 28 May 2008: Here's a fine article from W. Daniel Hillis, on the coolness of Feynman.

*or maybe you think Edwin Collins wrote a song about RPF.


Download: Richard P. Feynman - Orange Juice MP3 (rapidshare)