Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Friday, 25 March 2016

Little Box Of Horrors - The Singles

This time last year my other half undertook the unhappy and somewhat daunting task of clearing his late parents' house, and one day he came home with a 1970s Philips portable record player and a small box of assorted singles.

There was no mains lead for the player, so I bought some batteries for it, but although there were signs of life, it produced no sound.  Mr B took it to a local chap to be fixed, and when we had heard nothing for a few weeks I promptly forgot about it.  About six months later I remembered and called the guy, to be told, "Oh yes, it's all ready, you can come and collect it today if you like".  He'd got it working again, cleaned it up and even found a suitable mains lead, all for 25 quid.

Philips portable player, now in full working condition.  The stylus flips
over to a needle for playing 78s.

A couple of weeks ago I began delving into the box of 45s.  I listened to them all - indeed I listened the heck out of them, even the b-sides - and can report that it's largely an horrific collection of Benny Hill, Perry Como and the Singing Nun, but there are a few gems too.

The box contained 22 singles/EPs in all, several unsleeved or in paper bags.

Lets have a look at some of the best, as well as some of the, shall we say, more interesting ones.

The Tornados - Telstar b/w Jungle Fever (1962)

The Tornados' rhythm guitarist was George
Bellamy, father of Muse's Matt.
Written and produced by trailblazing pop experimentalist Joe Meek, Telstar was his most successful production, selling 5 million copies worldwide.  Named after the telecommunications satellite, this space-age instrumental opens with a fluttering noise meant to sound like radio interference.  An ascending electronic fanfare leads into an eerie melody line played on a Clavioline keyboard by session musician Geoff Goddard.  This part was overdubbed after the main recording session, as the Tordados had to hot-foot it from London back to Great Yarmouth where they were appearing in a series of shows. Geoff also provided the vocal "ahh-ahh"s, which along with the twangy guitar break and galloping beat make the whole thing sound like the soundtrack for an off-kilter Western.

The excellent B-side Jungle Fever was recorded during the same hurried session as Telstar, and is full of animal sound effects, plus some more muffled vocalisations from good sport Goddard.

Renée & Renato - Save Your Love b/w Love Is Not The Reason (1982)

Renato Pagliari trained in his home country of Italy as a professional waiter, and used his vocal talents to attract customers by bursting into song, ensuring that he was always in demand in the restaurant trade (it would have made me run in the opposite direction).  After moving to the UK he entered the TV talent show New Faces in 1975, where he was spotted by songwriter Johnny Edward, who felt sure that Renato's operatic tenor would be perfect for a ballad he'd written called Save Your Love.  After several business-related setbacks, in 1982 female singer Hilary Lester joined Renato as "Renée" to record it, and this shmaltzy, overblown monstrosity reached the top of the charts in December, remaining there for four weeks over Christmas.  "Renée" didn't appear in the music video as by this time she'd already joined another group, so a model acted as a stand-in.

The duo were contracted for two more singles, both of which flopped.  Luckily they weren't in the box of singles or I'd have been obliged to listen to them both; frankly, having to hear Save Your Love was trial enough, and the less said about its b-side the better.

The Shadows - Wonderful Land of The Shadows EP (1962)

This sadly rather trashed EP dates from the 18-month period when the group's line-up consisted of Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Warren Bennett and Brian Locking, and is a great little collection of the Shad's trademark instrumental surf-rock.  It was obviously well loved and much played as it now couldn't be graded higher than FAB (Frisbee At Best).  It's certainly one of the better records in the box, which makes its poor condition rather ironic next to the almost mint Renée & Renato disc.
Track list:
A1. Wonderful Land
A2. Midnight
B1. Stars Fell On Stockton
B2. 36-24-36

Stars Fell On Stockton was written by Bennett, who'd just replaced Tony Meehan on drums, and the single release of Wonderful Land with 'Stars...' on the flip was a UK no.1, where it remained for eight weeks; longer than any other single of the entire 1960s.  36-24-36 was originally the b-side of Kon-Tiki, which had topped the charts in 1961. The EP peaked at no. 6.

The Barron Knights - Call Up The Groups (Medley) (1964)

The Barron Knights began life as a straight pop group, even playing in Hamburg during the early sixties, as was the trend.  Skilled mimics, they eventually turned their hand to novelty records when hordes of screaming girls failed to materialise.  Call Up The Groups (split into two parts over the disc) was their breakthrough record and is a comic medley where bands of the day sing about various aspects of military conscription (which had been abolished 4 years previously). So among others, we get the Rolling Stones complaining that they don't want to get their hair cut and join the Navy, and the Searchers singing about "hutments and tinware" to the tune of Needles & Pins.

It's not that bad, but unfortunately its no.3 placing in the UK charts only encouraged them, and the Knights went on in this vein for the rest of their career, inflicting "hilarious" parody songs such as Live In Trouble and The Topical Song on the great British public, until they finally gave it a bloody rest in the early '80s.

ABBA - Fernando b/w Hey, Hey Helen (1976)

Fernando is famously ABBA's best-selling single of all.  In the year of its release alone it sold 6 million copies worldwide, and total physical sales are estimated at an astonishing 10 million.  It was originally recorded in Swedish and with very different lyrics, by Ann Frid for her solo album "Frid ensam" (Frida Alone) the year before.

It was the foursome's first single not to appear on an album, and came in the the middle of a run of three consecutive no.1s for the group, between Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia.  The b-side Hey, Hey Helen is a cheery-sounding glam rocker on the rather less cheery subject of divorce and single motherhood.  So, a perfect ABBA song then.

The New Seekers - I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony) b/w Boom Town (1971)

Someone had put it in a red
Columbia sleeve, which made
my brain itch a bit.
This song is so unbearably sappy that the first time I played it I couldn't get to the end.  Steeling myself a week later I managed a whole play, and immediately decided that no further listening was necessary.

I was stunned to learn that it was a re-worked version of the "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" TV ad song - I'd always assumed that it was the other way around!  The New Seekers hurtled to no.1 in the UK with this drippy cringe-along MOR dross, and refused to budge for a month.  The song holds the no.17 position in the list of the 30 bestselling singles of the 1970s, and another song of theirs, You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me, is in this top 30 too, at no. 27. It too was in the box, but thankfully I've blanked that one out now.

The New Seekers were ridiculously (and inexplicably) successful, being chosen to represent the UK in the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest and scoring a dozen top 40 singles here. There's nowt so queer as folk.

Stevie Wonder - Uptight (Everything's Alright) b/w Purple Rain Drops (1965)

1965's Uptight was a breakthrough for Stevie as a songwriter, being his first co-write to breach the US top 20, peaking at no.3 on the Billboard chart.  It's a classic Motown 45; busy and dense with that relentless pounding beat, red-hot horn section, thunking bass, chiming guitar and cooing female bvs.

Berry Gordy was keen for his company's records to sound good on a car radio, and the Motown Sound was designed to cut through traffic noise and poor reception.  No wonder it sounds so flippin' great on the portable's single speaker, even though this particular copy, like nearly all the best records in the box, is a conservative PWC (Played With Chisel).

Leo Sayer - When I Need You b/w I Think We Fell In Love Too Fast (1976)

The unspeakably awful yet totally earwormy When I Need You is from little Leo's Endless Flight album, a charity shop and car boot perennial.  The single went Gold in both the US and UK, topping the charts in both territories and staying at no.1 over here for three no doubt interminable weeks for young Top Of The Pops viewers.  It's since been covered by such alternative icons as Julio Iglesias, Celine Dion and Cliff Richard, which doesn't really bear thinking about.

The b-side, I Think We Fell In Love Too Fast, is about a high school romance, and is a decent enough little pop song with the sort of '70s studio sheen and mildly funky edge that would appeal to fans of Steely Dan.

Connie Francis - Who's Sorry Now b/w You Were Only Fooling (While I Was Falling In Love) (1957)

This absolutely belting country song by Italian-American pop singer Connie Francis is the oldest single in the box by a full five years.  Connie's first ten releases flopped, with only one piercing the US top 100 (and only just - it stalled at no.99!).  Who's Sorry Now was recorded at the end of what was to be her final session at MGM before she left, as they'd decided not to renew her contract.

She didn't want to cover this 1920s popular ballad, but lost the battle of wills with her father, and a good job too.  The single was released in November '57 and an appearance on American Bandstand gave it an enormous boost, helping it to sell over a million copies by the summer.  It had reached no.1 in the UK by April, and although it remains her biggest hit Connie went on to have a further eight top 40 records before the decade's end.  Her life and career were a bit of a rollercoaster from then; I highly recommend you read her fascinating, often heartbreaking Wiki bio:

Clinton Ford - Why Don't Women Like Me b/w Dandy (1966)

Former Butlins Redcoat Clinton Ford (real name Ian Harrison) had his biggest success in 1962 with a song called Fanlight Fanny (yikes).  This cover of George Formby's Why Don't Women Like Me four years later didn't chart at all here, although it reached no.2 in Australia, making me wonder how on earth Mr. B's mum and dad ended up with a copy.  Still, it's a pleasant enough novelty song, with poor old Clinton looking around him and seeing no end of cauliflower-eared ugly mugs with fit birds on their arm, and wondering what exactly it is he's doing wrong.

The flip is a cover of the Kinks' Dandy (more famously covered by Herman's Hermits), with Clinton's club-singer style suiting this music hall-influenced song rather well.

I've made a playlist of all of these songs for your listening pleasure*, except for Renée and Renato, who sadly aren't on Spotify (I think they're holding out for the physical/download market - won't be long now!).  Oh, and the New Seeker's b-side Boom Town isn't there either, but if you're desperate to hear it I'm sure it's on Youtube.  I hope you've enjoyed this look through the Little Box of Horrors - The Singles.  There was one other interesting music-related object in the box, but you've probably had enough for now, so it'll do for another time.

*or y'know, something

1 comment:

  1. Love the story about the record player and glad the chap got it working for you!Some great hits and finds there - have to say I love The Barron Knights (recently found two signed albums LOL!) but Wonderful Land and Telstar are def the greatest in that box!