PREVIOUSLY ARCHIVED RECORD REVIEWS FROM MY OLD BLOG
Here are some of my random thoughts and words about obscure and in-demand ’60s garage and psychedelic singles over the years. All of the original blog posts on my old website have since been deleted so no label scans or picture sleeves are available. Instead, I’ve used images scanned from music magazines.
999 – ”Obsessed” / ”Change” (Albion ION 1011) April 1981
With a bit more of a push and promotion drive I reckon this early 80s single by 999 stood a chance at hitting the Charts. It peaked at #71 which meant it was only around for a few weeks before disappearing for good.
”Obsessed” is a radio friendly number and for the time very much in vogue musically. It has quite a big sound, production by Vic Maile is (as usual) great and the spaghetti western style noise is neat idea and with a sound reminiscent of some groups who at the time were having success. Adam & the Ants and Tenpole Tudor come to mind.
The B-Side showcases two live tracks. A solid release that deserved better. Initial copies came housed in a laminated embossed sleeve and the buyer was treated to a free 999 patch. Later pressings were in a matt sleeve.
999 – ”I’m Alive” / ”Quite Disappointing” (United Artists UP 36519) June 1979
Yesterday I wrote about The Rezillos first single receiving the re-release treatment a couple of years after the original came out and here’s another group who enjoyed a similar blessing. 999 proved to be a popular outfit, especially around the London area and their debut disc ”I’m Alive” from August 1977 was well received.
Having signed to United Artists 999 released several singles from 1977 to mid 1979, nothing really took off for them in the charts despite some clever numbers with commercial appeal.
Their last release for United Artists was a re-release of their debut on the small indie label LaBritain, this time the cover art was changed, but not for the better. The new cover featured an action shot of 999 at a gig.
”I’m Alive” is a rock ’n roll number to my ears, not much of a ’77 punk sound but a controlled burst of energy. Their promo material at this time stated that they didn’t believe they were a punk band but simply a modern band. I totally get where they were coming from.
ALTERED IMAGES – ”Dead Pop Stars” / ”Sentimental” (Epic EPC A1023) February 1981
Glasgow group Altered Images had some success in Britain during the early 80s with their quirky pop singles, none of which register on my site. Their debut disc however, is a worthy effort of post punk indie darkness. ”Dead Pop Stars” has great appeal although didn’t sell, probably way too none commercial for the Charts to start with.
Factor in the fact that Beatle John Lennon was murdered two months before the record was released and you’ve got something which is a little bit too much for the open mourning wounds and masses to deal with.
There’s a definite Siouxsie & the Banshees feel to this number, mostly in the rhythms of the drum patterns. Closer inspection of the label reveals that Siouxsie guitarist Steve Severin was the producer. After this record the group chose much more commercial material and with radio friendly appeal the mainstream beckoned.
THE JAM – ”Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” / ”So Sad About Us” / ”The Night” (Polydor POSP8) October 1978
This record by The Jam was released during the month that I turned 14 years old and I can well remember it being played on the radio, then seeing The Jam performing the number on Top Of The Pops. Indeed it was considered a successful record and achieved a Top 20 chart position.
The song relates a story of a commuter attacked and beaten up on a London tube train. The lyrics are graphic and caused DJ Tony Blackburn to complain that punk groups only write about violence. I very much doubt that any teenagers would listen to anything that square banged on about.
The other side has a remarkable cover of ”So Sad About Us” by The Who. This was a tribute to Keith Moon who had died a few weeks before the single was released. On the back of the cover there’s a picture of Moon from the 1965/66 era.
BLONDIE – ”I Know But I Don’t Know” (Chrysalis CDL 1192 ) 1978
I played ”Parallel Lines” for the first time in years the other day. I bought a copy back in the day, I was still a schoolboy and remember getting my mother to order it out of her Great Universal catalogue. A few years later a girlfriend asked to borrow it and well, we broke up and I never saw my record again!
Fast forward to 2020 and I’m seriously investing my time and effort on late 70s punk rock and new wave groups. Saw a copy going cheap and decided to buy another ”Parallel Lines” As an album it still holds up and sounds very commercial, especially the worldwide hits.
I was hoping an obscure gem would jump out between the grooves though and sure enough I wasn’t disappointed in Frank Infante’s ”I Know But I Don’t Know”
There is enough space for the group to really rock out during the number, the lyrics don’t mean a great deal but who cares. This track is solid and demonstrates that Blondie could really play with an edge and swagger.
THE INMATES – ”So Much In Love” / ”Tell Me What’s Wrong” (Radar ADA 29) September 1980
Here’s another magical number by The Inmates, this time it’s a Jagger – Richard composition from 1964. The latter didn’t use it for The Rolling Stones at the time but it was recorded by The Mighty Avengers who promptly got recognised and had a hit record.
Immediate label solo artist Charles Dickens also released the song as a single in early 1966 but his version flopped.
The Inmates offer a faithful rendition with their customary instrumental skill and solid vocals. Quite why this commercial sounding and radio friendly record wasn’t a hit is anyone’s guess. The best material sometimes falls through the cracks as everyone knows. The back of the picture sleeve has details of their month long British tour during October 1980.
THE INMATES – ”Love Got Me” / ”Jealousy” (Radar ADA 50) February 1980
’Love Got Me’ is a big production effort with brass but sadly didn’t do anything chart wise. Around about this period Bill Hurley suffered a breakdown and temporarily left the band. This probably hindered any chance they had left of being successful.
The flip ’Jealousy’ is a wild live performance from a gig at The Electric Ballroom, London on 27/10/79. All songs during the early period of their career were produced by the late Vic Maile. He had a good pedigree having worked with Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Motorhead and Dr Feelgood.
Searching for records in the North East 2019/20:
I’m up early and the weather is fine so I’ve decided to hang out with the ‘Good Lady’ and soon another record trip, this time to Sunderland. Hope to find something interesting. To get me in the mood I’m giving The Inmates ”The Walk” a spin.
AgeUK is a Charity Shop situated in Blandford Street and is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Sunderland. Almost everything is vintage from decades gone by. There is a ground floor selling mostly clothes, books, cameras and records.
Upstairs in split into three rooms and it’s ALL vintage gear up there. Everything that you can imagine, it’s a treasure trove of ornaments, picture frames, bags, toys, books, jewellery, hats, suitcases…..
Prices are a bit on the high side as a consequence. Could have walked away with a 60s Lava lamp which was working and had been pat tested but the £35 asking price put me off. I already own one anyway and in any case my mission was records, so I left it.
I was delighted to find a vintage 70s singles rack for £8 which will come in very handy when I start using my Spin-Clean Record Washer. Rack them high and dry them off! I also came away with ”Listen Here!” a Transatlantic label sampler released in 1968. The record looks in ’as new’ condition and for £10 I wasn’t gonna leave without it.
Next, I decided to walk up the road to the Park Lane area and to ”Hot Rats” situated on Stockton Road. For some strange reason I’ve never been inside before even though I’ve known about it for many years. It’s much smaller inside than I thought it would be and it’s like stepping back in time to some of those old school record shops I remember from the 70s and 80s. There are boxes full of records everywhere. The racks are well stocked mostly with Record Store Day albums and re-issues.
All fantastic mint condition and with decent prices too. I was on the look out for original pressings though. Hanging on the wall there were two Troggs original albums on Fontana. The back covers looked a bit grubby and brownish, probably came from a smokers home.
They had been signed by the West Country legends, no price on the cover which put me off, so I left them and continued my search. I was mainly looking for 70s punk records but there wasn’t much in the way of punk, plenty of heavy metal and Rock though. One guy was sitting on the floor rummaging his way through numerous boxes.
I came away with a couple of albums. A stereo pressing of a John Mayall collection on Decca called ”The World Of John Mayall” priced at £8 and I couldn’t resist obtaining a £3 copy of The Pretty Things version of”Eve Of Destruction.” I used to see this quite regularly back in the late eighties and nineties but never got around to buying it. I don’t know why they’re dressed like Motörhead though.
I reckon this put me off all those years ago. I got talking to the owner about the Pretty Things, so that was a bonus. Yeah, I’ll be back at Hot Rats again next time I’m in Sunderland.
Why is it always freezing and windy in Sunderland ??? The footy team must be playing at home too, plenty of red and white scarves draped around necks. Anyway, moving on to HMV in the Bridges Shopping Centre. I was requiring some poly-sleeves for album protection and they duly delivered. It’s the first time I’ve bought anything in that shop since I came away with a Nick Drake LP about five years ago.
Just as I was leaving HMV I got a text message from Argos in Washington to let me know my ’click and collect’ order from eBay had arrived. I had mostly finished looking around the shops for the day and decided to get the bus back to Washington to collect The Damned ”Machine Gun Etiquette” on the Chiswick label.
A lovely looking original pressing with the inner sleeve. At £20 it was another great addition to my punk archives.
On the 30th December, 2019 I decided to have a rummage around the record shops I knew existed in Newcastle. I’m sure there are more than the four places I visited but they’re the only one’s I know about. Record shops have come and gone over the recent years which is a shame considering we are now supposed to be living in an enlightened time of a vinyl resurgence.
So it’s off to Newcastle to look for records and a Soviet Union high velocity assault rifle e.g. AK-47. I’ll probably call into a Cafe for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. (the reason for the photo of The Damned album, my 1977 original pressing)
I received a ”Spin-Clean” record washer for Christmas and watched a couple of videos on YouTube just to give me an idea of how they worked. One of the top tips I came away with was that washed records should be placed back into brand new inner covers.
This makes sense. If you’re gonna take the time and effort to clean your records surely after care is a necessity. With this in mind my first port of call was HMV in Eldon Square. I was sure that I’d seen inner sleeves for LPs in here before but sadly my visit proved a disappointment and I left empty handed. I checked out some re-issues but there was nothing that took my fancy.
Next stop was the Grainger CD stall in the Grainger Market. I know from the last time I was in Newcastle, a few months ago, that they had a small selection of records too. I looked through the racks and there were plenty of albums that I could have took a chance on but decided to purchase only two. A mint Los Bravos in beautiful condition for £19, this is a 1966 mono pressing with glossy cover, the vinyl looks perfect.
On this you’ll hear commercial mod beat sounds, nothing outrageous, no freakbeat guitar, but well produced pop music. Nothing tops their hit version of “Black Is Black” though.
The other album was a copy of ”Gorilla” by The Bonzo Dog Band. It was cheap at £6 and is in excellent condition, the sound is great too. A first rate stereo re-issue pressing on the budget Sunset label in 1975. It’s a weighty disc too, not as I expected, I suppose I was expecting something flimsy and light. I have a couple of Bonzo singles and have never heard this album by them so I’m mostly new to their eccentric comedy sounds but I now know where The Beatles got their wackiness from on Magical Mystery Tour.
Got talking to Dave on the stall who said they had a few contacts and a really good one in Austria who they hope to work with and obtain some obscure European pressings in the future. Next time I’m in Newcastle I will visit Grainger CD for sure!
After my dig at Grainger CD I met up with the ‘Good Lady’ who had been looking around Debenhams for an hour. We went over to the Tyne Cinema for a cup of coffee and a fruit scone at their restaurant on one of the upper floors. The place was full of older people, mainly women so my kinda place. Can’t be doing with the younger trendy set, showing my age I suppose.
After being suitably refreshed I made my way to RPM Music. I’ve bought a couple of items here before and was sure they’d have something today for me. As it turned out I came away with a couple of cheap original pressings.
”Malpractice” by Dr. Feelgood is a record that I’ve somehow never bought and at £14 I wasn’t gonna leave without it.
Strange because I have numerous singles by them and know what to expect. The album is good, back to basics rhythm and blues with harmonica, several 60s cover versions from the Beat era and plenty of gritty Wilko Johnson originals. Love his guitar sound. In 1975 this must have sounded totally refreshing.
In their ”New Stock” section I found a copy of ”Don’t Be Concerned” by Bob Lind. This was the heaviest (as in weight) record I bought yesterday in the wild. Heavy Fontana ‘66 vinyl and the thick glossy card sleeve make this a winner. And for just £8, can’t get much for that money nowadays. Keeper copy for sure. Notable for his introspective folk number “Mr Zero” not the most commercial of tunes but that didn’t stop Yardbirds frontman Keith Relf recording a version.
I’ve been buying records from Windows since the 1980s so was confident that there would be something worthwhile today. They mostly specialize in re-issues and Record Store Day releases so their prices are usually high as a result. The first record to catch my eye was a compilation on Ace called ”Girls With Guitars Take Over!” which is a set featuring mostly 60s teen girl groups ravin’ cos they can. Love this kinda scene, rough, raw and full of energy. A points win overall for Kathy Lynn & the Playboys with their 1964 beat mover “I Got A Guy” but at £26 quite pricey.
Their singles bins are always worth a look and I came away with an obscurity on Fly Records. Vivian Stanshall continued my Bonzo link, this time he’s helped out by members of The Who on an obscure and rare 1970 release. Checking the back sleeve credits it appears that it was a “Record Store Day” release from earlier this year. Poor Vivian must have been lying in the box since April. Price £10
Another record in the bin was Derek & Clive with ”Punk Song” which is hilarious. They are just a couple of cunts (their words) with a joke punk song, taking the piss out of The Sex Pistols and others but mostly Johnny Rotten with the pronunciation of words and phrases. In Cockney it sounds like ‘cants’ they are just a couple of cants. Price £7
The time was just after 1.00pm now and Newcastle was starting to buzz and that’s a drag for a reclusive type. So it was time to split and back to “The Cave” ? only so much interaction in one day.
So there you have my vinyl haul today. £90 spent on items I’ve somehow never got around to adding to my archive. Dr Feelgood LP for instance has taken me about 40 years. Anyway, when you already have 1,678,890 records it’s not easy to find missing pieces.
Sunderland Record Fair – 18th May 2019
I survived my first Record Fair in ten years. Forgot how much I hated looking through boxes with big hairy blokes breathing in my face and coughing on the back of my neck. I came away with a mixed bag of British Beat and West Coast Psych. So it wasn’t all a drag.
Sunderland Record Fairs used to be held at the Crowtree Leisure Centre but that building was pulled down years ago. They’re now utilising a room at Sunderland’s Museum & Winter Gardens. Quite a small room is used but there are sufficient stalls and dealers to make my attendance worthwhile.
I had a few wants in mind but came away without any of those but still managed to spend £90 on seven albums.
THE REVILLOS – ”Hungry For Love” / ”Voodoo 2” (Dindisc DIN-Z 20) August 1980
I’ve just finished reading a book about Johnny Kidd and the author mentioned that New Wave group The Revillos recorded a version of ”Hungry For Love.” For those of you who don’t know, the latter was released by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates during November 1963 and became a Top Twenty hit..
With this in mind I decided to track down a copy of The Revillos single and here it is!
The Revillos is a slightly more uptempo arrangement and includes a rather cheeky little 60s style guitar break. I love this version. Footage exists of the band performing ”Hungry For Love” on a kid’s TV Show. Seek it out on YouTube.
THE CLASH – ’Capitol Radio’ (CBS 7324) May 1979
Singles by The Clash were never far away from the turntable back in the late 70s and early 80s. I collected all of their 45s up to and including ’Bank Robber’ from 1980 then they started sounding ’Americanized’ to me so I ceased to be interested in them. I was so fickle back then and fortunately I’ve never changed.
This four song EP was released during May 1979 and did well, just missing out on the Top 20. Maybe Radio 1 started to play Clash records or something, although I never heard anything played from this at the time.
The best cut is ’I Fought The Law’ which I later discovered to be a cover version written by Sonny Curtis, who was a member of The Crickets. The Clash may have heard it from them but more likely by The Bobby Fuller Four.
’Capitol Radio’ is an extended version with mellow acoustic guitar intro with a reprise of ’I Fought The Law’ in which Joe Strummer goes all Jamaican. And I must admit that I started to cringe. For the art loving sleeve sect praise must be given for this cool pop art design based on the Daz washing power box.
THE JAM – ‘(Love Is Like A) Heatwave’/’Saturday’s Kids’ (Polydor DPQ 6185) 1979
Forget about the top side ’Heatwave’, a cover of the Motown song, soul ain’t my bag so I’ll quickly move on.
’Saturday’s Kids’ brings back a lot of memories for me, Weller’s lyrics are littered with working class references and things teenagers got up to in late 70s Britain. Being brought up as a kid on a North East Council Estate wasn’t easy so I can completely relate to this song.
Instead of going on holiday to Selsey Bill and Bracklesham Bay it was day trips to Whitley Bay and Redcar for me…
It took me a few years to finally understand the line:
”Dip in silver paper when their pint’s go flat.”
This is of course is a reference to getting out a wrap of speed, something I used to do most Friday and Saturday nights back when I was young and daft.
’Saturday’s Kids’ was not released as a single in Britain but can be found on the album ’Setting Sons’ – The 45 shown is my copy of a Japanese import.
THE JAM – ’Art School’ (Polydor 2383 447) May 1977
I don’t often post YouTube promo videos on my site but I’ll make the exception with this one from The Jam. It’s strange that they bothered making a promo when ’Art School’ wasn’t released as a single. It was however, the lead track on side one of their debut Polydor album. What a start!
’Art School’ would have made a great single and was ready made for the radio in dullsville England 1977. It’s a punchy three chord punk blast but quite obviously rooted in 60s beat. I hear freedom and rebellion in this song, youth was about to take over from those long haired bearded twats in progressive rock groups.
Hearing this now still makes me want to kick down some doors or break some windows just for the sake of it. But I’m now in my mid forties and I don’t think ’Er Indoors would be too pleased.
The line ”Don’t need permission for everything that you want” sums up Weller’s rebellion neatly. I was only 12 years old in 1977 when I first saw The Jam performing ’All Around The World’ on The Marc Bolan Show.
The image stayed with me ever since. I knew then that this was not the typical Top Of The Pops tripe I’d put up with for years. Plus my parents hated the ’noise’- that was it, enough said! It was noisy fast music for me.
THE ROMANTICS – ’Little White Lies’/’I Can’t Tell You Anything’ (Spider Records 101) April 1977
I can’t claim to be an expert on The Romantics, this is the only record I own by them. A quick browse on the internet confirms that this Detroit, Michigan four piece group started out during February 1977, there’s even a claim that they formed on Valentines Day (hence the name – The Romantics).
’Little White Lies’ was their debut 45 and is a band original (not the ultra great song by The Choir) and clearly demonstrates that The Romantics were going for that up-tempo commercial powerpop sound.
I dig the flip so much more with it’s Bo Diddley backbeat and harmonica bursts. ’I Can’t Tell You Anything’ has a neo garage sound and a sparse production that works well.
Sadly the skinny ties, black shirts and three button jackets were soon ditched. I’ve checked out some other Romantics songs on YouTube and after their initial coolness it seems that they grew their barnets into those awful big 80s hair monstrosities and started wearing even scarier naff 80s jackets with big shoulders and cheap lookin’ leather pants.
Their music during this period has also been infected with hideous eighties style production. Should have stayed in the garage boys.
RADIO STARS – ’Nervous Wreck’/’Horrible Breath’ (Chiswick NS 23) Oct 1977
I’ve already written about the first Radio Stars single and during my research on their follow up ’Nervous Wreck’ found that some muppet had copied my scans and posted them on YouTube, without a credit I may add. This fucking infuriates me somewhat.
Back to this record then. ’Nervous Wreck’ was a small hit and broke into the Top 40 in early 1978. It’s a Chas ’n’ Dave type tune with a tinkling joanna and some naff female backing vocals. Not my cuppa T.
Far more interesting is the flip ’Horrible Breath’ credited to ’Feld’. This was the glitterest of all pixies, Marc Bolan. (real name Mark Feld) He recorded this song with the title as ’You Scare Me To Death’.
Andy Ellison, the frontman of Radio Stars was lead singer with 60s mod group John’s Children who briefly had Bolan as a member so I guess they kept in touch.
When Marc Bolan’s hits dried up he fronted his own TV Show during 1977 and invited the Radio Stars on it to perform a couple of songs.