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.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Little Box of Horrors - Part 1

A few weeks ago me and my other half finally got round to the long overdue task of clearing out the cupboard under the stairs. (When I say "we", what I really mean is that he did most of the work while I pointed at each item as it came out, shouting "KEEP!", "RECYCLE!", "CHAZZA!" or "DUMP!" in an authoritative yet endearing manner.)

Lurking at the back was a box full of old records which once belonged to his parents. You must know by now that such a thing is like catnip to a crate digger like me, so in I went, completely unprepared and with no warning of the horrors it contained. Actually, there were some good records mixed in with the crap; half a dozen Dean Martin LPs and a handful of budget disco and soul compilations, but these were in the minority. Over the past few days I've been cleaning the least-scratched ones and giving them a spin. It's been quite an education. Let's have a look (don't worry, listening is not compulsory) at the worst offenders.

We begin with a name I'd never seen before: Gerry Monroe and his 1970 album Sally - Pride Of Our Alley:

Gerry Monroe - Sally - Pride Of Our Alley (1970)

Gerry (real name Henry Morris) was from South Shields, and after some time as a singer in working men's clubs he entered the ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks where he found favour and was signed to Chapter One Records. This was his first and most successful album and features three Top 40 hits, the best known being a cover of Gracie Fields' Sally.

The rather disturbing cover image (What's he looking at? Why doesn't she run away?) gives little clue as to the contents. Yes, he's head-to-toe in man-made fibres; yes, the rear sleeve lists mainly popular standards such as Danny Boy and Johnny Ray's Cry, and even as the first track began, it all seemed like very predictable, rather dull MOR. And then it happened. The man began to yodel. Not every word, but just now and then, carefully timed to cause maximum startlement and alarm in the poor, unsuspecting listener.

Doris Day's Secret Love is an early casualty and I'll never again be able to enjoy Gene Pitney's Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart without it inducing flashbacks of the performance here, but the most heinous crime is that inflicted on Bridge Over Troubled Water. Luckily for you, dear reader, it isn't on youtube, so here's the title track instead:

The final track on the album is called She Taught Me How To Yodel. Oh did she Gerry, DID SHE?

The next slab of vicious vinyl to land on the turntable was by a face familiar to us all; Des O'Connor:

Des O'Connor - By Special Request (date unknown)

Chestnut-hued family entertainer Desmond Bernard O'Connor was a mainstay of British television from 1963, beginning with The Des O'Connor Show on ITV (that channel has a lot to answer for) and ending with Today With Des & Mel in 2006. This compilation on Music For Pleasure represents just a (mercifully) small proportion of his 36-album singing career, and is quite, quite dreadful.

Side 1 of By Special Request opens with a tune named Dick-a-dum-dum (I shit you not), which has to be heard to be believed, and managed to reach number 14 in the UK singles chart in June 1969, where it nestled between Jethro Tull's Living In The Past at 15 and Cliff Richard's Big Ship at 13. Number 1 that week was Tommy Roe with Dizzy

What follows is some very accomplished and cheesy crooning which includes another 1969 Top 20 single Loneliness, blooming Danny Boy again and a God-awful cover of George Harrison's Something.

Here's Dick-a-dum-dum, brought to you on the very same album by some mad person on youtube. Don't say I didn't warn you:

That's all for today - the second part of Little Box Of Horrors will be with you soon. Come back if you dare!

Thursday, 1 January 2015