Monday, 28 July 2008

Clarence “Bad Boy” Palmer and the Jive Bombers—Bad Boy

My record shelves are peppered with them: if you’re a charity-shopping, jumble-sale-haunting vinyl fan like me, yours will probably also have a few. I’m talking about those records with fabulous covers you’re willing to gamble a few pennies on. You don’t know the artist: you don’t know the label: you can’t tell the genre. But the cover demands to be yours.

Of course they usually turn out to be musical mince when you get around to playing them, but every once in a while, every now and then, you’ve found a gem.

Here is such a gem, courtesy of my pal Cat (Hey Catherine!) who found this album Surprise Party Rive Gauche in a Barnardo’s Charity Shop, so many years ago she’s forgotten exactly when. There are a few pleasant numbers on this seemingly arbitrary French compilation, but the big standout track has to be “Bad Boy”: a fairly standard jazzy doo-wop arrangement, it’s the lead vocalists extraordinary ability to sound like a muted trumpet which makes it fab.

That LP itself is difficult to place; not least because of the bizarre arrangement of information: tracks titles are listed in one place (with a dance category: cha-cha-cha, charleston fox, etc.), while artists are listed elsewhere. I initially assumed that this was a cheap knock-off for tourists: local cabaret artists covering big international hits. But when I consulted the TCP/IP soothsayer, I found that The Jive Bombers were a New York band, and “Bad Boy” was a big US hit for them in 1957.

And the Song? Written by Lil Armstrong (neé Hardin), Louis’ second wife, it was originally titled “Brown Gal” in her version. The Jive Bombers recorded it first as “Brown Boy” in 1952, then the hit version here, now racially defused as “Bad Boy”, in 1957.

Download Clarence “Bad Boy” Palmer and the Jive Bombers—Bad Boy from Rapidshare

Here’s Lil’s original “Brown Gal” on YouTube, complete with lyric captions:

Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Pop Music from my area is superior to the Pop Music from your area in every way.

Perhaps I’m a little biased, but I’ve always been aware that Scottish Pop Music is the best in the world. Not to mention our choreography, costume design, and television production. Too prove it, here’s Lulu making a guest appearance on Shang-a-Lang, the Bay City Rollers’ astonishingly good TV show from the mid-seventies.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Bonnie and the Treasures—Home of the Brave

“Home of the Brave, Land of the Free
Oh why won’t they let him be what he wants to be?”

I heard this song only once, thirty years ago, but those lines from the chorus have been stuck in my head ever since. John Peel was playing selections from an album of Phil Spector rarities on his weekday-evening show, and this one stuck out. Of course human memory is fallible: I distinctly remember the artist as “Ronnie and the Relatives” which of course was the name Veronica (Ronnie Spector) Bennet, Estelle Bennet and Nedra Talley used before they became the Ronettes. But then, they had become the Ronettes before they’d even met Crazy Phil. Who knows; maybe Peelie also played a Ronnie & the Relatives track that night, and my faulty memory conflated the two.

I’m not alone in this confusion: any online discussion of this little gem of a record sooner or later has somebody stating that Bonnie is Ronnie Spector as an absolute fact. Hey, even Ronnie herself is on record as agreeing. But now I can actually here the record again, I’d have to disagree: there is a similarity, but that’s mostly in the Spector wall-o’-sound treatment (actually produced by Spector protogé Jerry Riopelle). This vocalist sounds like Ronnie would if you took the Washington Heights out of her voice. And who on earth would want to do that?

No, the packet switching muse tells me that Bonnie is in fact Charlotte O’Hara, a talented singer and songwriter who never really made it, and died tragically young.

So why did it stick in my mind all these years? It’s a good bad-boy song in the manner of He’s a Rebel or even Leader of the Pack (but no death, though). Seems like a reasonable Spectory production, although this copy is particularly poor quality, and wall-of-sound quickly turns to wall-of-mush once we move too far from the hi-fi. But the main reason has to be the sentiment. Us pinko limey bastards, like all foreign bleeding-heart liberal cowards, have a love-hate relationship with Yankee Culture. We Hate the Rednecks, but in our hearts of hearts we know that nobody ever heard a good commie rock and roll record (Well, apart from Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ maybe). But here we have a pop record comparing and contrasting the USA’s Liberty-loving rhetoric with the reality of deeply conservative conformist suburban culture.

If you’re having trouble hearing the lyrics, you can always try Jody Miller's hit version from the same year (1965).

I’m trying out a new way of embedding the sound here: I’d appreciate comments if you can’t play this, or even just to confirm that you can. Thanks!

Download Bonnie and the Treasures—Home of the Brave from Rapidshare

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Janie Jones — Witches Brew

Mention Janie Jones, and people about my age think “He’s in love with Rock & Roll whoah...” the song Janie Jones from the first Clash album. If you’re a bit younger, you may be be thinking of the lazy carbon-copy Babyshambles cover version (Look! there’s Janie!). Or if you’re older, you'll perhaps remember the scandal and the vice: court cases accusing her of attempted blackmail (got off) running a brothel (got off), and sex payola (banged up).

But you real old codgers out there might remember this: the nearest thing she got to a hit (Number 46) in her short mid-sixties pop career.

Janie never seems to settle into a consistant vocal style, floating in a grey area somewhere between Terry-lovin’ Twinkle and Commie-lovin’ Eartha Kitt. Backing vocals sound like average sixties beat boys. The music has a relentless, piano-driven simplicity, like a lounge band who’ve been asked to cover a Velvet Underground song. And mixed heavily over the whole thing, a gloopy, burbly, bubbling sound wash, supposedly representing the witch’s, erm, brew, but it sounds more like a malfunctioning cistern to me. Glorious.


Download it from rapidshare: Witches Brew.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers — Not Yet Three

A pop star once asked what my favourite Jonathan Richman album was. I reckon it was a test to find out if I was a true believin’ JoJo Junkie, or just a Hipster Dilettante. I fluffed the test a little: while my choice was suitably obscure (Jonathan Sings from 1983), I spoiled the effect by forgetting the title of the album: “Erm, the one with Not Yet Three on it.” was my reply.

So here’s Not Yet Three, a minor Jonathan Masterpiece, about his little daughter’s ravenous hunger for life. Like all Jonathan’s best songs, it dances skillfully on the sublime knife-edge between maudlin sentimentality and subtle joy. Even bitter childless cynics like myself cannot resist.

But I don’t enjoy Jonathan’s live gigs anymore: on the rare occasion he gets to my town, the audience is jammed with loud, sycophantic JoJo Boosters. I feel a rant coming on…

Listen punks: I love Jonathan at least as much as you: I’ve got at least as many of his records as you: I know the words to most of his songs like you do: but I didn’t come here to show off about it: I came to hear Jonathan sing; and I won’t sing along because his songs are living, changing things, and every time he comes, the songs have changed, polished, evolved, twisted: but I CAN’T HEAR THE CHANGES because you’re BELLOWING OVER IT. it’s like spray-painting “I’M MARK ROTHKO’S BIGGEST FAN” all over a Mark Rothko canvas.

Rant Over. Enjoy.


Download it from rapidshare: Not Yet Three.

Jerry Levitan - I Met The Walrus

More lazy shoving-in of stuff other people have found. Here's I Met The Walrus, a short animation based on a conversation with John Lennon taped in 1969 in Toronto by 14-year-old a Jerry Levitan. It's a good example of Lennon's mercurial, infuriating, never boring, constant, rapid shifting between hippie mysticism and political astuteness; wrapped up in animation that refers to both sixties psychedelic surrealism and today's post-everything dada-cynicism.

Directed by Josh Raskin, Pen work by James Braithwaite, digital illustration by Alex Kurina.

Credit where it’s due: I found this on Jack Shedd’s Big Contrarian blog.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Lucy in London

I try to avoid just shoving in stuff I've found elsewhere, but I can't avoid showing you this. After all it's got two iconic "hate-to-love-to-hate" figures of mine: Lucille Ball (of course), and driving her around Swingin' London in his motorbike & sidecar, the great Tony Newley.

All credit to Will Kane's splendid World of Kane blog, and the unhealthily obsessive Lucy in London fan site.