Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Saturday, 30 July 2016

High voltage rock 'n' roll

I picked up a couple of AC/DC albums this year, both costing 50p, and both for good reason.  The first was 1978's If You Want Blood (You've Got It), bought on a freezing cold Sunday in February.

AC/DC - If You Want Blood (You've Got It) (1978)

It was missing both inner and outer sleeves and therefore not in the best of shape, skipping on a couple of tracks, but will do until I find a better copy, and is played with an old stylus reserved for "dodgy discs".

Recorded at Glasgow's Apollo Theatre in the spring of '78, If You Want Blood contains 10 of the 14 songs the group played that night, including cuts from Powerage, Let There Be Rock, T.N.T. and Dirty Deeds Done Cheap.  It was their first live album (and their only with Bon Scott, who died two years later) and reached no.13 on the UK album chart.

An absolutely thrilling document of a band arguably at their peak, it's a real shame that this otherwise great-sounding record skips multiple times on my favourite song Whole Lotta Rosie.  Here's a skip-free version - note the audience having an absolute ball, and their chant of "Angus.... Angus.... Angus!".

A copy of For Those About To Rock We Salute You turned up at a boot sale in May in a box of damp, filthy crap that irritated my throat for the rest of the day.  Still, it was 50p and despite the state of the sleeve (which was quickly binned) the record itself was in remarkably good condition.   Apparently the box of records from which it came had been stored in a shed for some years.  The LP was covered in a film of black mould, so I gave it a good wipe with some antibacterial er, wipes, before putting it through the usual cleaning process.  It came out sparkling, although as you can see from the photos the labels didn't escape the damage. 

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock We Salute You (1981)
Wet, mouldy sleeve - binned.

The album was the follow-up to the gigantic, 50 million-selling Back In Black, which had been the group's first with Bon's replacement Brian Johnson.  This isn't in the same league as BIB; the lyrics and song titles seem more corny than cheeky, more stale than playful. The tempos are slower too, and although there's plenty of noise and riffage going on, there's also a lack of energy compared to its predecessor. Having said that, it's still a very enjoyable record, just one with a lot to live up to, I suppose.  Both singles from it reached the top 20 here in the UK, and the album even topped the US chart, something BIB hadn't managed.

In October last year I bought a copy of Art Garfunkel's solo debut Angel Clare for £2.50. It's quite a common sight at car boot sales and charity shops, but I'd recently read a glowing recommendation of it so decided to finally take the plunge.

Art Garfunkel - Angel Clare (1973)

Angel Clare is made up of cover versions, traditional folk songs and original material, and it boasts an impressive group of contributors such as JJ Cale and Jerry Garcia, plus a string of session musicians that includes members of the Wrecking Crew and the Nashville A Team.  Art on his own tends to be rather sickly without Paul Simon as bitter counterpoint, and this is particularly true of Jimmy Webb's All I Know, which although moving, suffers from a syrupy approach with strings laid on thickly.  Much more enjoyable is the simpler Mary Was An Only Child, which not only suits Garfunkel's pretty, airy voice better, but also features an appearance from Simon on backing vocals and acoustic guitar.

Other high points are Traveling Boy written by Paul Williams, and the haunting murder ballad Down In The Willow Garden.  A curious mash-up of Haitian folk and Bach called Feuilles-Oh/Do Spacemen Pass Dead Souls On Their Way To The Moon? makes for a twee but pleasant listen, but the traditional Barbara Allen requires a more robust voice than Art can muster, and the children's choir on Woyoya is as sick-making as you'd expect.  The good outweighs the bad by a long way, however, and I'd definitely recommend you grab a copy if you see it in a charity shop, for which the odds are quite high.

An unexpected find in a hospice charity shop back in May was Doctor Who and the Pescatons, costing four pounds.

Doctor Who and the Pescatons (1976)

Featuring the voices of Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen and Bill Mitchell, this is more a dramatised audio book than a play, in that it's mostly Baker narrating, with a small amount of dialogue here and there.  The contents of the BBC sound effects library combine with the talents of the Radiophonic Workshop and incidental music by Kenny Clayton to create a mildy scary and very charming production that relates a story of alien invasion (mostly set in central London, naturally) by Zor and his half-man half-fish comrades.

From rear sleeve.

And of course you get a bit of the wonderful Doctor Who theme at the beginning and end of each side of the record, which is worth the price of admission alone.

At a car boot sale last month I bought a copy of the self-titled debut album by vocal duo Two Tons O' Fun.

Two Tons O' Fun (1980)

Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes (later Armistead) met as members of a gospel choir and later became backing vocalists for husband and wife team Paradise Express and disco star Sylvester.  This was the first of two albums released in 1980 under the Two Tons moniker, after which they changed their name to the Weather Girls, best known for the hit Its Raining Men. They had huge voices to match their personalities, and this debut is a fun record of soulful disco pop.

A previous owner decided for whatever reason (perhaps an art project) to customise the sleeve with a fake description and imagined list of credits, as well as some cartoon speech bubbles:

Front cover

Front cover

Rear cover

Rear cover

Wash was later the voice on hits for Black Box (Everybody Everybody) and C+C Music Factory (Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)) via some demo recordings. Like many singers of her calibre who either contributed vocals to dance hits or were sampled for them (e.g. Loleatta Holloway, also for Black Box), she went uncredited at the time.  She later sued and was given credit, if not royalties.  Rhodes died in 2004 aged 62.

This caught my eye at a boot sale last autumn, and cost me a pound.

International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1984)

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were a pioneering swing and jazz band formed in the late 1930s at Piney Woods Country Life School for poor and orphaned African-American and mixed race children.  Originally the all-female group were beginner musicians put together to raise funds for the school, but as their popularity increased, several professionals were added to their ranks in order to capitalise on their success and they began traveling out of their home state of Mississippi, eventually being invited to play for the USO in France and Germany during the war.  Because the Sweethearts also took on white members it can lay claim to being the first all-female integrated jazz band, as well as just an absolutely shit-hot bunch of musicians.

This group of recordings (some from 78rpm discs, but most from radio broadcasts) was compiled by feminist writer and historian Rosetta Reitz on her label Rosetta Records, which put out several other vintage recordings during the 1980s by women from the worlds of jazz and blues:

Illustrated sleeve notes begin on rear cover, then continue on 4-page

The album package includes extensive sleeve notes and photographs, and I think I'll be very lucky to find any more from this series, clearly a labour of love, for as little as a pound again.  Here's a taste, the first video featuring Tiny Davis on vocals and trumpet, and the second fronted by Anna Mae Winburn.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Teenage Wildlife

Rooting through a box of records at a car boot sale in May last year I enquired as to their price, only to be told by the very nice lady seller that they were "Two pound for the big 'uns, a pound for the little ones".  I bought two "big 'uns", the first of which was Reproduction, the debut album by The Human League.

The Human League - Reproduction (1979)

Reproduction came out in 1979, before Martyn Ware and Ian Marsh split to eventually form Heaven 17, and pre-dating the addition of vocalists Susan Ann Sulley and Jo Catherall.  It's an austere album with equally bleak song titles e.g. Circus Of Death, State Human, Blind Youth, the latter containing the dreadful couplet,

"Dehumanisation is such a long word,
It's been around since Richard the third".

Yikes!  The mood is overwhelmingly dystopian, with themes of fear, isolation, frustration and disappointment explored.  Although dark in tone there's sufficient melody, and it ends with the restrained minimalism and sweet bleeps of Morale... You've Lost That Loving Feeling, a deadpan but surprisingly effective cover version.

Reproduction didn't chart on release but climbed to no. 32 when reissued in August 1982 on the back of singles The Sound Of The Crowd and Love Action from the upcoming Dare. 1980's Travelogue also returned to the album chart.

The second big 'un, also two pounds, was released the following year:

David Bowie - Scary Monsters..... And Super Creeps (1980)

Scary Monsters..... And Super Creeps returned David Bowie to the charts in 1980, following the critically lauded but relative commercial failure of the Berlin trilogy.  The phrase "his best since Scary Monsters" has been trotted out in reviews of his albums ever since, probably for good reason, as it's pretty blimming great.

It opens with the sound of a film projector, a "one-two, one-two-two", then the voice of Michi Hirota speaking Japanese, the English translation of which Bowie shrieks back at her; "Silhouettes and shadows, watch the revolution, no more free steps to heaven, it's no game".  What follows is a dense art rock, glam-pop revolution, shot through with astringent percussion and Robert Fripp's squawking guitar.  Bowie's past is referenced time and again; Scream Like A Baby features Laughing Gnome vocals, Major Tom makes his return in Ashes To Ashes, and the intro to Panic In Detroit also returns during Up The Hill Backwards - but backwards!

Side 1 is ridiculously good, so the second half was always going to be a let down, however accomplished.  The weakest link is a cover of Tom Verlaine's Kingdom Come, but by any other standard Side 2 is still excellent overall.  Teenage Wildlife, with its dig at the new wave movement set to a "Heroes"-echoing backdrop, encapsulates the way in which Bowie uses his past to reflect on the present.  His first broadcast of the new decade concludes with an exhausted reprise of It's No Game featuring Pete Townsend on guitar and ending with the sound of the projector's tape cascading noisily onto the floor.

During another May car boot sale last year I picked up a few records from a stall selling them at 3-for-£5, always a good way of shifting stock quickly.  One of those in the stack I bought was True Jit by Zimbabwean group Bhundu Boys.

Bhundu Boys - True Jit (1987)

Now signed to Warner Bros, this was their first major label release following a pair of albums on Discafrique Records.  It was seen as a departure from their original sound, with lyrics in English as well as their native Shona, plus the incorporation of more Western-sounding production.  The follow-up Pamberi was even less well received and then a series of terrible disasters befell the group, including the deaths of three members from AIDS-related illness.

I can't comment on their earlier work, but I really like this album; its ringing guitars, infectious polyrhythms and cheery brass make for great summer listening, whether or not they in fact constitute true jit.

I've been building up my 70s Elton John collection over the past year, and I bought Rock Of The Westies a few months ago for £1.

Elton John - Rock Of The Westies (1975)

This was Elt's 10th album and his last studio release on Dick James Records (and MCA in the US) before joining his own label Rocket Man Records the following year in time for the release of Blue Moves.  It reached no.1 in the US, as did lead single Island Girl.  The inner sleeve sports amusing bios of all eight band members, including Caleb Quaye, half-brother of Finley.

Inner sleeve

Elton's reads,

"A boring little musician who has risen to fame without the aid of payola.  He only has four chords ('People' Magazine) and he is prone to getting fat at Christmas.  Supports Watford (H-E-L-P!)."

Inner sleeve

The album is a rockular affair with just two ballads, and some sterling riffs and solos from guitarists Quaye and Davey Johnstone.  It isn't as tight or as driven as Captain Fantasic, and must have come as a bit of a letdown after its immense predecessor, but considering it arrived just five months later this can be forgiven.  In any case it's a decent addition to his 70s canon, and very much worth having.

At a car boot last month I found a very nice crop of 1970s albums, all in lovely condition and reasonably priced.  One of them was Derek and the Dominos In Concert, and it cost £3.

Derek and the Dominos In Concert (1973)

This double LP was recorded over two nights at New York's Fillmore East in 1970, and consists of long jams and shorter cuts (not that short, though - the briefest is Presence of the Lord at 6:10) ranging from energetic, soulful, and dare I say it even funky R&B, to Clapton's familiar slow blues rock.  The powerful rhythm section of Carl Radle on drums and Jim Gordon on bass drive things along, with Clapton's thankfully widdle-free guitar supported by Bobby Whitlock's invigorating playing on piano and Hammond (I do love an organ).  It may be an Allman-free zone, but I'm thankful it's also free from the over-familiar Layla.  Be warned, though, there's a veeeeeeery extensive drum solo on Let It Rain, but despite this, the 17 minute long version remains astonishingly good.  Six of the nine tracks were later included on 1994's Live At The Fillmore, along with four other recordings.

I'll end with a record I bought last summer for a pound, Tamala Meets Tijuana by the Tequila Brass:

The Tequila Brass - Tamla Meets Tijuana (1971)

When Tamla met Tijuana they seemed to get on quite well, as this Music For Pleasure recording by the usual anonymous session musicians isn't half as bad as I'd hoped feared.   Despite the tacky cover it's one of the more restrained examples of the genre, beginning with a very smooth How Sweet It Is and an equally Easy Tracks of My Tears.  The version of My Guy is more comical with a 70s sitcom theme kind of vibe, and The Happening, which opens Side 2, is a great fit for the Tijuana treatment.  Not so Dancing In The Street, which due to the nightmarish arrangement doesn't sit happily at all, but luckily it's followed by another Supremes winner Stop In The Name Of Love, which works really well within the format.

The album can be found for mere pence on Discogs, and if you've a taste for Tijuana or a penchant for parping, this groovesome disc belongs in your collection, filed under 'C' for cheese.

The sleeve notes boast of Tamla Meets Tijuana, "A more exciting combination would surely be difficult to find".  They've obviously never heard the Torero Band's Tijuana Nursery Rhymes.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Harkive 2016

The fourth annual Harkive day is just around the corner, this year taking place on Tuesday 19th July.  The Harkive project collects stories from music lovers around the world in order to provide a 24-hour snapshot of how, why and where we're all listening to music, be it on our own devices or that heard in the environment.  You can contribute in many ways, including photos, videos, audio clips and the written word, via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media and of course good old-fashioned email.

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries was delighted to be asked to appear in the run-up to the day as a featured story, and my diary of a typical listening day (a car boot day of course!) can be found here:

Lots more information on how to take part in Harkive on July 19th can be found here: and the homepage is here:

I hope you'll be able to join in this year, making 2016 the biggest Harkive day yet!