Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Little Box Of Horrors - Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of Little Box Of Horrors, where I delve into a collection of dubious discs found last year in the cupboard under the stairs (Part 1 can be found here).

I'll begin with someone about whom I initially had reservations (as you will understand from the album covers) but have since developed quite a fondness.  For those of you unfamiliar with her work, may I introduce the wonderful world of Mrs Mills:

Pineapple and cheese cubes on cocktail sticks: check. Meat-paste
sandwiches: check. Awesome party music: cher-check!

Mrs Gladys Mills ("call me Glad, everyone else does"), a typing department superintendent from Loughton in Essex, had played the piano since she began lessons aged three. These came to an end when she was twelve after her teacher became annoyed with all the "twiddly bits" Gladys used to add to the tunes she was tasked with playing.

Many years later she was discovered by talent scout Paul Cave while playing piano with her band The Asterons at a golf club event in 1961, and from there became a prolific recording artist and variety TV fixture during the 60s and 70s.  She played a style of piano known as stride on an instrument that gave a honky-tonk or tack sound. The upright Steinway she played in the studio at Abbey Road became famous as "Mrs Mills' Piano" and was used by label-mates The Beatles on several songs including Lady Madonna and Penny Lane.

The lovely gold and black Parlophone label from the early 1960s,
which among other things, Mrs Mills shared with The Beatles.

EMI paired her up with arranger and master of easy listening Geoff Love, and she released many albums of sing-along pub-style party music - as you can see from the album covers the word "party" features heavily! She was a gifted pianist and it was those "twiddly bits" so disliked by her teacher that injected such life into her playing. This is explained very well in the affectionate and highly entertaining BBC4 documentary Let's Have A Party - The Piano Genius Of Mrs Mills which is definitely worth an hour of your time.

I found five of her albums in the box in the stair cupboard; the four pictured plus another called Especially For You tucked into the sleeve with Summer Party. My top pick is from her debut album Mrs Mills Plays the Roaring Twenties; her rendition of the American popular song Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue:

The next bit of wonky wax from this exploration into the ropey side of 60s and 70s popular music is probably the one I was least looking forward to playing. "Even less than Des O'Connor?", I hear you cry? Well, yes. It's worse. Much worse. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr Max Bygraves:

Max Bygraves - Sing Along With Max (1972)

This was Max's fifth album, coming after 1969's The World of Max Bygraves and before he abandoned the space bar entirely and gave us 97 volumes of Singalongamax. No, that number's not a typo. Dear Mr Bygraves felt we needed NINETY-SEVEN albums of subpar crooning, not to mention many others including Singalongaxmas, Discologamax, Lingalongamax (no, me neither) and two volumes of SingAlongAWarYears, the first of which got to no.5 in the UK album chart in 1989.

Max, born Walter William Bygraves, was a comedian, actor and variety performer as well as a singer, and appeared on British TV from the 1950s up until the mid-90s. From a look at his discography it appears that he specialised in the nostalgia medley; song-length cheese-fests of between three and five different popular standards, wartime favourites and show tunes. For instance, here on Sing Along... we get the abominable mashup of Bye Bye Blackbird/Bill Bailey Won't You Please Come Home/Ma He's Making Eyes At Me/Oh You Beautiful Doll/Alexander's Ragtime Band followed by the vomit-inducing quartet of I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time/If I Had My Way/Edelweiss/The Whiffenpoof Song.

The sleevenotes state that,
"This is an album for all those millions of people throughout the world, who have succumbed to the charms of Max Bygraves on television, stage or radio"
and his sales figures seem to bear this out, as over 30 of his albums went either Gold or Platinum, frequently outselling Elvis, Bing Crosby and Sinatra.

It will come as no surprise that this first Sing Along album was recorded at the suggestion of his mother, and was
"calculated to raise a heart warming nostalgia in all the people who listen and remember....which will bring memories flooding back to their minds."
Little wonder then, that his records sold in such numbers to a certain generation.

I won't inflict any of the above on you; instead here's a Max Bygraves song I'm quite fond of, which I last heard on Christmas Day 2014 on Stewpot's Junior Choice special on BBC Radio 2:

That'll do for now, I'm off to cleanse my palette with some Nirvana and strong drink, but do pop back soon for Part 3 of Little Box Of Horrors featuring more terrible tunes and rotten revolvers.

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