Thursday, 30 September 2010

A short interlude...

Please enjoy this short video until Blogger stop messing about with 'improvements' to the system that leave you unable to upload what you want to...

Tomorrow, 1980 AD

'As 'Tomorrow's World' goes off the air for a summer break, the series concludes with a timely look back at some items from the past year. Judith Hann scales new heights with a DIY lift, and Kieron Prendiville returns to bash out a tune on a new synthesiser that can sample real sounds'.

Fantastic stuff.

Monday, 27 September 2010

British Statue Number Fifteen

George Stephenson (1781-1848),
Chesterfield Railway Station,
Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

That's Smashing

It’s nice to have friends, especially interesting friends with interesting minds in interesting places who send me interesting presents.

‘The Smashing Bird I Used To Know’ soundtrack comes courtesy of the very kind Ben from ‘Toys & Techniques’, and has come all the way from Vermont via California and who knows what points between.

Here are a couple of tracks for your delectation, the dramatic opening theme ‘Riding For A Fall’ --

-- and the girl borstal a go-go Hammond organ pop of ‘Rec Room Romp’.

Marvellous stuff, much appreciated.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Yellow Teddybears

We haven’t done anything on Robert Hartford-Davis for a while so, in the spirit of dissecting every wrong move he made in his long and baffling career, let’s rewind to one of his earlier works, a sober meditation on teenage attitudes towards sex called ‘The Yellow Teddybears’.

Made in 1963, the film (known as ‘Gutter Girls’ in the US) tells the heart-warming story of a clique of schoolgirls who are experimenting with sex, pinning a small soft toy to their school blazer lapel to show that they are 'real women'.

The girls, all seemingly in their mid-twenties, are of the plummy, Alice banded "hello, Mummy - hello, Daddy" variety, and inhabit a comfortable middle class world of new housing estates, open plan modernist schools and parents who have ambitions in local politics.

In their secret lives, however, they're all at it - attending rock and roll hops where geeky groups play instrumental versions of the 'Blue Peter' theme; going to sex parties where dirty old men watch them strip to their complicated foundation garments; getting knocked up and not knowing what to do about it.

Naturally, all the fun ends in attempted abortion, social exclusion and prostitution and, bizarrely, a climactic PTA meeting in which the whole topic of teenage sex and modern morality is discussed at exhaustive length. At this point, eighty minutes having elapsed, the film abruptly ends, leaving the fates of the protagonists up in the air, and leaving the audience with more questions than answers.

Knowing Hartford-Davis as I do, I'm pretty sure he had something far sleazier in mind for this early work, but was thwarted by the censor and the prevailing moral climate of early sixties Britain. 'The Yellow Teddybears' is pretty feeble fare for a man of his evil genius and, in the end, it's a film that has absolutely no point and no target audience: it's not racy enough to satisfy the prurient, and it's not thought provoking enough to have a message so, ultimately, it feels like a waste of time, and I say that as someone who has seen all of the 'On The Buses' films.

Here's a short clip that will give you a flavour. To be fair, it's quite a frank exchange for 1963, almost certainly contributing to that coveted x-certificate.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

I'll never forget what's his name

Colin Jeavons.

Mann oh Mann

We can't leave the subject of Herbie Mann without detailing his greatest ever punning album title: it cashes in on a current trend, and uses his surname and his instrument - this is truly the Mann with everything...

Mystery Mann

With the possible exception of Ron Burgundy, Herbie Mann did more for the jazz flute than anyone in the history of music.

Tootling from the early fifties until his death in 2003, Mann released a staggering number of LP’s, collaborated with more or less everybody and sucked up forty years of musical change through one end of his flute and blew it out of the other in his own uniquely cool, groovy style.

‘Stone Flute’ was released in 1974. It’s a pretty strange album, especially as Mann was better known at the time for his hip but undemanding interpretations of pop hits and his relentlessly punning album titles (‘A Mann Alone’; ‘A Mann & A Woman’, 'Family Of Mann'...well, you get the idea).

Initially, ‘Stone Flute’ sounds like laidback jazz funk lite music for a lazy, sunny afternoon at the yacht club but, on closer listening, reveals itself as a shimmering, shifting tangle of meandering melodies, subsonic wanderings and surreal non sequiters that drifts in and out of hearing like snatches of sound from a hypnogogic half-dream. Yes, I have been reading some big books lately.

‘Flying’ is a languorous cover of the only Beatles track written by all four moptops, and the only instrumental they ever released. Herbie turns flying into floating then into drowning, slowing the tempo and making it all mysterious, like.

‘Miss Free Spirit’ is a long, languid, absent-minded piece, and Herbie really stretches out, presiding over a stripped down arrangement, occasionally leaning in to blow some flute. The last couple of minutes of the track are absolutely the essence of what I was running on about above – odd, disjointed, dreamlike, a long fade into the ether.

‘Stone Flute’ is readily available, usually for less than ten pounds, from all the usual places that sell odd, dreamlike jazz flute records. You should get one, man(n).

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Things I learned at work today

We don't have a magic wand; we don't have a crystal ball.

Oh dear

My apologies, but Youtube has terminated my user account, so most of my embedded videos will no longer work. I haven't done anything illegal, but many of my videos do feature tits and witchcraft so that's obviously a massive problem on the internet which, as you know, has an exemplary record and is only used for educational purposes.

I'll try and sort something out. My tits and witchcraft shall not be suppressed!

Things you just don't see anymore

Monday, 20 September 2010

British Statues Number Fourteen

Tommy Cooper (1921-1984).
Opposite Caerphilly Castle,
Glamorgan, Wales.
Statue by Jim Done.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Things that keep me awake

What is it about sad looking chimps and dead people?

The seventy eight year old Cheeta holds up a picture of his former master, Johnny 'Tarzan' Weissmuller, who died in 1984.

This single photograph should be inserted into all dictionaries as the definition of the word 'poignant'.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Sound Images

‘Sound Images’ is, apparently, quite a rare album. Jonny Trunk has one, Martin from 'A Sound Awareness' has one, a very ambitious man on the internet who wants £130 for it has one and, thanks to my good mate Keith’s car boot heroism, I have one.

The double LP, which was released in 1976, is the work of Alan Coggins and Wendy Cook, and is a series of electronic musique concrete pieces designed to be used in children’s free expression sessions, much the same as ‘The Seasons’ or the various ‘Look, Listen and Move’ records of the sixties. Where ‘Sound Images’ deviates from the template, though, is that the LP is uncompromisingly abstract, mostly relying on piercing noise and formless hums to provide a framework to stimulate young minds and bodies.

I love the record, but rarely listen to it for long: it’s best sampled in short bursts, so I've decided to share it in bits and bobs and bats as yet another endless ongoing series.

Here the first couple of random selections from this interesting obscurity, complete with extracts from the original instructions.

'Carnival': 'The musical style of the piece also seems to suggest movements of the hips, ribs and shoulders'.

'Aftermath': 'The mood is tentative and the piece progresses indeterminately'.

'Tune With Bell': 'Regular phrases and predictability give this short piece an element of comedy'.

'Sinister': 'Cymbal, synthesiser and piano combine in this piece which smacks of being "up to no good"'.

More soon, I think, assuming you feel up to it. If you can't wait, there's more here on the original post that gave me the idea and, yes, I am now reduced to stealing from myself...

Thursday, 16 September 2010


We've all had scraps, haven't we? Fights at school, maybe on a night out. Sometimes they go well, sometimes you really feel it in the morning. Whatever your experience, take it, screw it up into a little ball and ping it into the distance. THIS is a scrap:

From 'Dark Of The Sun' (1968).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Satanical ladies

This post by Simon Reynolds over on ye olde Found Objects reminded me what interesting and clever songs Jake Thackray wrote. Here's a particular favourite, 'The Castleford Ladies Magic Circle'.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

When The Sweet turns to sour

I've discussed my obsession with 'Love Is Like Oxygen' before. Here The Sweet are miming to it on some German TV show. They all seem a little distracted and bored, and Brian looks pasty and bloated, perhaps because of the drink problem that would lead to him leaving the group and, ultimately, would contribute to his early death. High points of a rather limp performance include Brian's haircut, and guitarist Andy Scott's snow leopard skin suit.

After Connolly left in 1978, the three piece Sweet (I know) carried on, promoting bass player Steve Priest to lead vocals and attempting a fusion of country rock, Status Quo and ELO. It doesn't quite come off with this track, with suffers from a complicated structure, a confused lyrical concept and some awful hair.

It's 1985, and The Sweet have reformed. Down to two original members, The Sweet are now in the hair metal game, all leggings and innuendo. Their hair is unspeakable and the song is not only clumsy and laboured, but has some of the worst lyrics I have ever heard, and I've heard Oasis. Not their finest hour, and the stilted interview with Aussie host Molly Meldrum tells us nothing.

At the time of writing, The Sweet are still a going concern. In fact, they're two going concerns: Andy Scott's Sweet tour the UK and Europe; Steve Priest's Sweet cover the US, a satisfactory arrangement that seems to suit everybody, including the fans.

The Sweet: Jump The Fence

I met a girl,she was double-breasted
After this story, I was arrested
I said 'give me more room, no more talkin'
Come let your stilettos do the walkin'
and I said...

Jump the fence
Jump the fence

She came for a visit, and I said 'What is it?'
The girl had a problem she liked to discuss
Her burnin' feelin' that rose to her ceiling
I'm not a man to betray her trust
I said...

Jump the fence
Jump the fence

It didn't take too long to get to the crux
She put out the fire, but not very much
I hit the button, to get her squirmin'
Then I put the worm in
And I said.....

Jump the fence
Jump the fence
Jump the fence
Jump the fence

I think these are some of the worst lyrics of all time. Is there anyone in the world that dares disagree with that statement who isn't 12 and didn't write them?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Tougher than the rest

93 year old Herbert Lom.

Very much so

Here's another little clip from 'Kill!'. Ah, they really don't make romantic comedies like this anymore...

Friday, 10 September 2010

Drugs kill

Romain Gary's film 1971 'Kill!' has been on my must see list for years and, thanks to a friend, I finally tracked down a rather dodgy copy only a few weeks ago. It's an action packed, occasionally psychedelic film about the international drugs trade with an all star cast and a few surprises, not least this quite bonkers sequence where the somewhat ambiguous goodies catch up with the much less ambiguous baddies.

It's a shame that James Mason wasn't given a machine gun and a load of drugs in more films. A leather clad Stephen Boyd and the fanciable but troubled Jean Seberg lay down covering fire. Badly.

Things you just don't see anymore

See things better from upside down

A little film I made by pushing two disparate elements at each other and twisting and forcing them to sort of fit together. 'Animal Kwackers' always used to freak me out somewhat, and the music was pedestrian and awful, so I felt free to fuck with.

I've already posted this over at 'Found Objects', along with pretty everything in my life I thought fit the bill, but I thought it might be of some interest to the 99.9% of you that don't follow my every move.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Lisztomanic Depression

I first watched Ken Russell's 'Lisztomania!' (1975) about twenty years ago. I thought then that it was one of the worst films I'd ever seen.

A few weeks ago, I got the chance to watch it again and, yes, it was just as rotten as I remembered. The film fails on every single level: as a biopic it is risible; as avant garde it operates at the level of pantomime. The performances are incredibly awful, the direction embarrassing, the music simply terrible.

If anything, it's actually crappier than Russell's other 70's atrocity 'Savage Messiah', and that had Lindsay Kemp in it.

Anyway, I've now watched it twice, thereby throwing away three hours of my life on this tripe; the least you can do is watch this clip and wonder how the cinematic dream team of Ken 'Rubbish' Russell, Roger 'Wooden' Daltrey & Paul 'Reggae Like It Used To Be' Nicholas could have got it all so very, very wrong wrong...

Oh, by the way, this clip makes the film appear 1,000% better than it actually is.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Progged up, sold out

I’ve always been down on Genesis for a number of reasons, mainly because punk taught me to hate them and their ilk and, of course, because Phil Collins was in them.

Such was the ascendancy of Collins’ Genesis that I barely associated Peter Gabriel with the group, apart from occasionally seeing a picture of him dressed up as a giant flower or an old man and wondering what it was all about. Of late, however, I have come to reassess the group and, more importantly, to really enjoy some of their early, Gabriel fronted LP’s.

‘Selling England By The Pound’ was Genesis’ fifth studio album, and their first non-live recording to sell in significant numbers. It’s a curious, reflective work of intermittent brilliance. Made in a time of inflation, energy crisis and unrest home and abroad, the loose theme of the album is the loss of olde England to the consumer age, the slow, deadly encroachment of fast food joints and supermarkets and Green Shield Stamps on our green and pleasant land. It’s terribly English and, in places, terribly good.

The opening track 'Dancing With the Moonlit Knight' sounds like it may be some awful Dungeons & Dragons type whimsy but is, in fact, a master class in intelligent, rock that keeps you interested for nearly eight minutes by running the gamut from an acapella introduction to the full on and faintly ridiculous prog blitzkrieg of the synth driven middle eight.

Like all good records released in 1973, the last song on the album is a reprise of the first: ‘Aisle Of Plenty’ is short, sweet and full of tortuous puns, but I like it, so I’ve included it here as a natural coda to '...Knight'.

Gabriel would only make one more album with the group (the sprawling ‘Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’) before embarking on a series of interesting, oblique solo LP’s and a period of mega-stardom. Genesis went on to do that song about it being no fun to be an illegal alien and Phil Collins divorced his wife by fax, the twat.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Monday, 6 September 2010

The secret of the saddle bags

'Bicycle Thefts' (1974), the little known UK sequel to the Vittoria de Sica neorealist classic.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Things you just don't see anymore

Sunday Service

From 'Privilege' (1967).

Things that keep me awake

It's 1:55 am, and I'm wondering why, in the early days of video, it was thought necessary to disguise one's VHS tapes as leather bound books?

The faux novel storage cases were available in normal outlets like Woolworths and Timothy Whites, so they couldn't have just been for hiding porno, surely?

I couldn't find a picture of one of the boxes, but I did find this rather nice Philips top loader VHS Recorder with an analogue clock, just the thing for watching that uncut version of 'The Burning' your Dad rented you from the petrol station.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The satanic rites of D.D Denham

Advisory Circle maestro Jon Brooks has a new label, Cafe Kaput, and a new recording for us all.

Operating under the nom de plume of D.D Denham, Jon's newest work is the fantastically titled 'Electronic Music In The Classroom', and is available to download now from Bandcamp and from all the usual outlets on Monday.

Not surprisingly for a man of Jon's proven talent, this latest offering is superb, and comes with the added bonus of explanatory notes for teachers and students alike.

Tomorrow at One Twenty

Saturday morning, 1.20 am. Never the same once you know that this was originally going to star a young David Bowie!

Country and Wrestling

As requested, wrestler Brian 'Goldbelt' Maxine performs 'You Can't Housebreak A Tomcat', backed by members of Fairport Convention and uber easy geezer Reg Guest.

It's an interesting recording, not least for Brian's Cheshire / Nashville vocal stylings, and the insistent, sawing, rhythm created by Les Thatcher's dirty, cheap sounding guitar. Perfect for a barn dance, or any activity carried out in the county of Norfolk.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Paradise found

Just in case you didn't realise, we also post here a lot.

Constantly updated, consistently fascinating, we think it's the best thing in cyberspace for ages and are very pleased to be part of it.

So go on, treat yourselves, but please allow several hours for your visit. Be warned: you will learn stuff.

Brian again

Autograph now, music later, as promised.

Accepted by your ear as correct

'Learn To Play The Guitar' is an instructional record put together for the Castle label, featuring the picking talents of Johnny Bennett, the dry, familiar, instructional tones of J.L Ratcliff and the big brain and knob twiddling expertise of F.C Judd.

There's no date on the disc (a rather battered 10"), but the Hank Marvin signature Burns guitar on the cover would indicate that this was made after 1964, even though it seems rather old-fashioned, particularly in the basic rhythms presented, which are more Ventures than Beatles, although this may be down to Bennett and his 'ten years experience with many famous orchestras and as accompanist to many star vocalists', i.e his roots were in the 1950's.

Here's an extract from 'Introduction & Tuning', rather sensibly the first track on this fun little record.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Dull has gone out of style

Levis ad from the early 70's. Ken Nordine supplies the poetry; drugs provide the visuals

If I've got me, I've got rainbows

Anthony Newley was an extraordinarily talented man, even if he did say so himself.

By the end of the sixties, Newley had already lived several lives and had several careers, pinging like a performance enhanced pinball from child star to pop idol, songwriter to Broadway sensation, nobody to big head, accumulating money and women and plaudits and brickbats and influencing the young David Bowie on the way.

All of his trials and triumphs found their way into his cinematic magnum opus 'Can Hieronymus Merkin Forget Mercy Humppe & Find True Happiness?’, released in 1969, just in time to be possibly the most self-indulgent film of an extremely self-indulgent decade.

Newley leaves no stone unturned in his search for the brutal truth, no aspect of this business we call show undissected: the Fellini-esque farce exposes all - his affairs, his lies, his ambition, his arse - it even uses the death of his disabled son as a plot point.

Along for the ride are his then wife Joan Collins (as the flatteringly named Polyester Poontang), Playboy centrefold Connie Kreski and Bruce Forsyth. Yes, Bruce Forsyth. The action is observed by Newley & Collins real life children, Sacha & Tara, and a chorus of critics who provide an ironic commentary to the proceedings.

On it’s release Newley found himself at war with the real critics, his wife (Collins has said that the production was the final straw for their marriage) and, oddly, Malta, who provided the location and, as a conservative and Catholic country, were not at all pleased with all the bums and blasphemy in the film. In the end, all Newley’s hard work went towards a box office disaster that has become shorthand for cinematic excess and egotism and, ultimately, disturbed the upward momentum of his career for several years.

In this scene, a white robed Newley climbs a mountain and conducts a one-sided dialogue with God before coming to the conclusion that there is no God, only the individual. If it were anyone else, you might take this as a moment of resignation, of existential angst. In Newley’s hands, however, you get the impression that he’s only too pleased there’s a vacancy and is more than happy to fill it. The clip isn’t of the greatest of quality, as the film has been barely available since its release, but it seems somehow fitting given the overlooked and unloved status of the source material.

A quick note on Newley as a singer: an amazingly expressive performer, his fruity voice is a thing of odd wonder. Rather like the Larry the Lamb on helium larynxes of The Gibb Brothers, you always wonder how Newley got so far with, frankly, such a silly voice. As with The Bee Gees, of course, it’s part of the enigma, the inexplicable element that contributes to their unique genius. In ‘I’m All I Need’, Tony goes for broke, singing his tiny heart out to, well, no-one, no-one at all.