PREVIOUSLY ARCHIVED RECORD REVIEWS FROM MY OLD BLOG 'FLOWER BOMB SONGS'
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 a 1965 Parade magazine.
THE BARRACUDAS – ’His Last Summer’/’Barracuda Waver’/’Surfers Are Back!’ (Z8) Sept 1980
It’s BARRACUDAS TIME!!!
They should have been huge but were sadly overlooked (it seems) by everyone but me and a couple of readers of Sounds back in the early 80s. The Barracudas did have a small hit with ’Summer Fun.’
The follow up single ’His Last Summer’ written by Jeremy Gluck and Robin Wills stuck with the formula of ’Summer Fun’ with it’s pleasant mix of punk and surf. The back of the sleeve dedicates the song to Jan Berry of Jan And Dean fame.
The flip has two more surf punkers, ’Barracuda Waver’ is a frantic instro with some neat scattergun drumming.
’Surfers Are Back!’ has the boys metaphorically surfin’ in London City…
Guitarist Robin Wills has his own blog called ’PUREPOP’ specialising in obscure 70s glam rock records. You’ll find a link to his site in my blog list.
THE RAIN PARADE – ’Look Both Ways’ (Zippo Zing 001) 1984
A group called The Sidewalks emerged from Los Angeles in early 1981. By the end of the year they had undergone a name change to The Rain Parade. There’s plenty of information out there on this super cool group so I won’t go into much detail.
Here’s a way cool song by The Rain Parade from their classic album ’Emergency Third Rail Power Trip’…I must have played this LP hundreds of times over the years but I usually play the last track on Side Two, ’Look Both Ways’ twice before putting the record back on the shelf.
’Look Both Ways’ is something of a departure from the rest of the material on ’Emergency’….this time around The Rain Parade offer up a garage psych swinger that keyboard player Will Glenn described as being ”in the mood of 2120 South Michigan Boulevard, that Rolling Stones instrumental”
The album was recorded at Contour Studios, Los Angeles during February-March 1983 and I was lucky enough to see them in concert at The Riverside Club, Newcastle on 2nd December, 1985.
THE JAM – ’The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)’/’Pity Poor Alfie’/’Fever’ (Polydor POSP 505) Sept 1982
I watched the final episode of ’This Is England 86’ last night and this Jam tune played out as the end credits rolled. A nostalgic burst of memories came flooding back as soon as I heard the opening guitar riff and I dug out the 45 for the first time in decades.
Back in ’82 I never cared much for the song because it sounded way too souly for me. But I bought it anyway as it was the new Jam single and I’d bought every new record on the day of release since ’Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’.…wow, those were the days.
Listening to the song today now that I’m older and wiser, I can appreciate the ’sound’ Weller was after. His vocals sound excellent and that guitar riff is maybe short but it sounds rather good don’t you think. It’s more or less the first Style Council single in truth.
Around this time, bass player Bruce Foxton complained that The Jam had become The Paul Weller Show. ’The Bitterest Pill’ was recorded at Maison Rouge Studios in Fulham, London during the early part of 1982 and released this month 28 years ago. It’s notable for the ornate string accompaniment arranged by Paul Weller and producer Peter Wilson.
Vaughn Toulouse from Department S posed on the single’s front cover. He was standing in what looks like a medieval prison cell possibly awaiting execution.
THE NERVES – ’Hanging On The Telephone’ (Penniman Records) re-issue
While I was looking around in a box of records marked ’70s searching for The Knack 45 I grabbed this must have killer by The Nerves and gave it spin. The Penniman Records release is a 10 inch EP and came out on vinyl in 2001.
It has six studio cuts from 1976 including the all time classic power pop record ’Hanging On The Telephone’….
I’m sure you all know that Blondie covered this song and had a massive worldwide hit with it. Too bad The Nerves release didn’t sell millions and is still virtually unknown.
THE KNACK – ’My Sharona’/’Let Me Out’ (Capitol CL 16087) June 1979
Doug Fieger the lead singer of The Knack died of cancer today and as a tribute I’ll post the all time classic power pop 45 ’My Sharona’ which more or less defined the ’skinny tie’ new wave sound.
I used to hear this song every morning in June/July 1979 while getting ready for school and having some breakfast. Radio 1 DJ, Dave Lee Travis a.k.a. ’The Hairy Cornflake’ had it on heavy rotation. So much so that it was a big hit in England, reaching number 6 in the charts.
Fieger co-wrote ’My Sharona’ with guitarist Berton Averre. The song was about his then teenage girlfriend called Sharona (obviously) and that’s her pictured on the sleeve in a tight white vest showing off her raspberry ripples.
The producer for The Knack was Mike Chapman who served his time in the early 70s producing the Glam Rock hits for The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Mud and others. He also provided instant commercial appeal for Blondie.
BRAD LONG – ’Tell Me’ (Voxx VXS 200.006) 1981
I recently made contact with Brad Long, who in 1977 cut one of the very first jangle pop 45s since the mid 60s. This was released on his own vanity label to good reviews despite being way ahead of the so called ’garage revival’ that would follow in the early to mid 80s….
The sound of the record was sadly marred by a mistake at the pressing plant (which Brad will explain) but despite being wholly unfashionable (at the time) and offering a somewhat lo-fi sound the 45 was a sell out and is now a sought after item.
The 45 came housed in a way cool picture sleeve showing a youthful Brad holding his beloved 12 string guitar and sporting a 60s mop top.
Brad also had the distinction of having one of his recordings on Greg Shaw’s seminal compilation LP ’Battle Of The Garages.’
The song he chose to record and offer Greg Shaw for the project was a cover version of ’Tell Me’ originally released as a USA single by The Rolling Stones in June 1964.
It was one of the very first Jagger/Richards sides chosen as an A-Side and is mostly unknown in England where it was never released as a single but hidden away on side 2 of their debut album.
Brad Long’s version is terrific and fully does the song justice. It’s a slightly faster take with a jangle pop approach and sound that reminds me very much of ’It’s Cold Outside’ by The Choir. It’s easily one of the best tracks on ’Battle Of The Garages’.
I asked Brad to fill me in on some of the important facts and details:
”First of all, about all my released recordings, I hate to make excuses but I’ve said for over 30 years that they weren’t mastered that well, especially the 45. All three songs were done at DeFord Sound Workshop here in Logansport, Indiana and when they sent in the master tape for the 45 the pressing plant was supposed to have EQed and compressed the tape, and mastered it loud…and they failed to do so, claiming the paperwork was improperly done and did not include these directions.
So…we were supposed to get a test pressing too, which also would have helped – instead we got 500 45’s with this lo-fi, tinny sound…grrrr…so after much haggling with the pressing plant, we just put out the records as they were and hoped for the best”.
”Most reviews were good, the only real complaint being the muddy, low sound. And strangely enough, a lot of people liked it, ha! Thought it had more of authentic garage sound to it that way – so there you go!
I’ve always preferred the mix the way it should sound, and if it comes out on Sing Sing Records on vinyl, or hopefully on CD later on, it will be the remastered version the way it’s supposed to sound. It’s not a different mix or anything like that, just a louder, punchier version of what’s already there.
’Tell Me’ had similar problems – it should have been mastered louder too, but being one song out of eight on one side of an LP, you’re going to lose some EQ, especially bass. So I understand that, but it still could have been better.
”My sound is more of a melodic garage sound, like The Flamin’ Groovies, etc., but that’s just regarding what’s been released – I’ve got other songs that lean more towards The Shadows Of Knight and Little Boy Blues sound, another genre that’s just as good.
I use an old Vox Tone Bender pedal and a great little Melody tube amp for that! I’ve also got several other Vox amps, and I still have most of the equipment used on my 45 – a Fender Stratocaster, Rickenbacker 360 guitar, the Vox Marx XII teardrop 12 string, the Vox Jaguar organ, Vox Panther bass, the Vox Royal Guarsdman amp I used in the studio, etc.”
”DeFord Sound Workshop started in 1977 as a small two-track studio in a basement on Market Street here in Logansport.
A couple of years later, they went to four-track, then eight-track, and then he closed the studio in 1986 and I bought the eight-track deck, the console, reverb unit, and some of the master tapes from Randy DeFord. The house the studio was in has since burned down”.
”But back to ’Tell Me’ – it was recorded on four tracks at DeFord Sound Workshop in 1980 with Jeff Hand on drums and tambourine, Mike Walker on backing vocals, and I played bass and guitars. I used a Rickenbacker 360 six string, a Les Paul copy (can’t remember the brand), and a Vox Mark XII teardrop. Then I used a Vox Panther bass. I gave Voxx/Bomp all this information when I submitted the tape, but for some reason it was omitted from the credits on the LP. I never found out why”.
The inspiration for ’Tell Me’ was in a fanzine I’d read with an interview with Greg Shaw where he said The Grass Roots’ version of ’Tell Me’ was one of his favorite songs. I always liked that one too, so I decided to record a version that was 1/3 The Grass Roots, 1/3 The Turtles, and 1/3 The Flamin’ Groovies, and I was pleased with the results!
I sent the tape in fairly quickly and received confirmation that my song had been chosen for Battle Of The Garages, and I was quite pleased with that good news! Later on I got my contract with the label and other paperwork, and about a year later the album came out, and stayed in print for years”.
”It’s done pretty well I think, and I admit I was a little disappointed when the CD finally came out, and I didn’t make the cut. A few months ago I sent Bomp a CD-R of a remastered version with more bass and presence, for them to use on a future reissue; in fact I suggested that they do a 30th Anniversary of Battle Of The Garages next year with all original 16 tracks – that’d be great. I’m not sure they will though, they seem to be somewhat dormant these days.
I sent them a couple of new tracks too that they liked, but they passed on them saying they aren’t going to issue anything new since Greg Shaw’s death”.
At a glance:
01 MOVIEES – COME ON
02 OPTIC NERVE – AIN’T THAT A MAN
03 BOYS FROM NOWHERE – GOIN’ TOO FAR
04 CELLAR DWELLERS – DWELLIN’
05 BARRACUDAS – I WANT MY WOODY BACK
06 PETER BERRY AND THE SHAKE SET – LET ME
07 PLASTICLAND – POP! OP DROPS
08 GRUESOMES – HEY!
09 PANDORAS – IT’S ABOUT TIME
10 LEE JOSEPH – STAY BY MY SIDE
11 STOMACH MOUTHS – R&B No 65
12 PROJECTILES – SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
13 STOMACH MOUTHS – DON’T PUT ME DOWN
14 VIPERS – AIN’T THAT A MAN
15 PAUL MESSIS – THE WORLD IS SQUARE
16 MERRY MELODIES – APPLE JAKE
17 TELL TALE HEARTS – TOO MANY LOVERS
18 TELL TALE HEARTS – TAKE A LOOK INSIDE
19 FLESHTONES – I’VE GOTTA CHANGE MY LIFE
20 FRANTIC V – ROOM 409
21 TINA PEEL – FIFI GOES POP
22 KLIEK – ME RIGHT NOW
23 UNCLAIMED – UGH
24 RIDE – BIRDMAN
25 BOMBORAS – MOON PROBE
26 PLAYN JAYN – JULIETTE
27 TINA PEEL – PUNK ROCK JANITOR
28 BOYS FROM NOWHERE – JUNGLE BOY
29 CLIQUE – REGGIE
30 STONE ROSES – MERSEY PARADISE
31 DUKES OF HAMBURG – LITTLE LOVER
32 ROAMIN’ NUMERALS – FRUIT OF THE DAY
33 SIOXSIE AND THE BANSHEES – DEAR PRUDENCE
34 REACTIONS – I WANT YOU
35 TRIP – STICK LIKE GLUE
36 TRIP – NEVER TOO LATE FOR LINDA
37 HOODOO GURUS – I WANT YOU BACK
38 MYSTREATED – THE EMPORER WEARS NO CLOTHES
39 SUNNYBOYS – TOMORROW WILL BE FINE
40 LEARS – HER MAGIC SMILE
41 FREDDY & THE FOUR-GONE CONCLUSIONS – STAND UP
42 TEENAGE FANCLUB – I NEED DIRECTION
43 HYPNOMEN – SUNSTROKE DREAMER
44 FRED BISON FIVE – GIRL GUITAR
45 BOGEYMEN – YOU’VE GOT NO SCRUPLES
46 JAMES TAYLOR QUARTET – THE MONEYSPYDER
47 THANES – WORLD OF STONE
48 RUTLES – I MUST BE IN LOVE
49 HURRAH! – THE SUN SHINES HERE
50 PLASTICLAND – COLOR APPRECIATION
01. THE MOVIEES – ’Come On’/’You Got What I Want’ (Living Eye Records LSD-4) 1998
Insanely cool 45 release on Living Eye Productions by a Rochester band called The Moviees. In the late 90s the band had it all….the mod threads, the tunes, the contacts and an album on Sundazed. Then it all went sour when Paul Morabito quit to join The Chesterfield Kings.
’Come On’, a band original is a killer mod garage crossover.
The flip ’You Got What I Want’ is a cover of the raunchy freakbeat raver by The Sorrows/Boys Blue that matches the original.
Both songs produced by Greg Prevost and Andy Babiuk.
Hank Borchers (vocals/lead guitar)
Paul Morabito (12 string guitar/organ)
James Hanson (bass)
Ryan Kemp (drums)
02. THE OPTIC NERVE – ’Ain’t That A Man’ (Cryptovision CR 800) 1986
If you dig fragile vocals/harmonies with jangly folk rock melodies look no further than this New York band of mop-tops. They formed in late 1985 and during the following year released their first single on Cryptovision.
They were also a good ’haircut band’ (as I used to call some bands) with a cool mid 60s Sunset Strip image (very important when you’re young and starting out)…and fortunately for them they had the songs to match their poses.
The band on this debut release contained Bobby Belfiore (lead vocals/guiar), Tony Matura (lead guitar), ex Outta Place member Orin Portnoy (bass) and Frank Manlin (drums).
The Optic Nerve managed to get three songs on this cheap and nasty release – this is by far the shittiest vinyl I’ve probably seen and must weigh no more than a handful of mouse droppings.
songs on 45:
’Ain’t That A Man’ (Belfiore), ’Happy Ever After’ (Belfiore) and ’Mayfair’ (Matura)
03. BOYS FROM NOWHERE – ’Goin’ Too Far’/’I Don’t Bother’ (Young Lion LR030) 1987
I’ve already reviewed the ’Jungle Boy’ single by Columbus band Boys From Nowhere last month so here’s another winner from them.
For their third 45 they decided to cover ’Goin’ Too Far’ by 60s Columbus heroes The Fifth Order. Not content to make a faithful version, Boys From Nowhere more or less inject some 70s punk crunch action in the mix, the guitars are sharp and snappy & Mick Divvens has that unique snarled warble, like he’s been swallowing razorblades…..check it out on ’Hung On You – Part 1’.
The flip ’I Don’t Bother’ again sounds more 70s punk than 60s garage with a neat guitar sound.
The line up on this disc is completely different apart from mainstay Divvens.
Mark Poole (guitar)
Mick Divvens (vocals/guitar)
Todd Burge (bass)
Wes Poole (drums)
04. THEE CELLAR DWELLERS – ’Wonderin’ Why?’/’Dwellin’ (Get Hip GH-105) 1987
One of the early releases on Get Hip Records was by this neo garage band from Carlisle, PA.
The sleeve is a beautiful thing but the music is a bit of a let down. ’Wonderin’ Why?’ written by Jim Baetz doesn’t quite lift off like it could have done with some 60s punk style snarls but worse to come is how the record just kinda fades out to a whimper. Blame the production on this?
The flip ’Dwellin’ is a fuzztoned & organ swingin’ instro with the odd ’Hey!’ thrown in for good measure. It’s obviously a much better side but again I don’t think the production is that great.
The fuzz guitar pans from one channel to another in an annoying stereo way. This would have been more powerful and purist in a mono mix.
I found some information online from a mod fanzine called Top Gear. This is from issue 4 circulated in 1988:
THEE CELLAR DWELLERS- WONDERIN’ WHY? / DWELLIN’
GET HIP RECORDS
I was a little disappointed with this single. I like the band a
lot, and their live shows are always a blast, but they didn’t
seem to capture their live excitement on this release. I don’t even feel that the choice of material is a good representation of their style. However, for some good news, read the next review.
THEE CELLAR DWELLERS
6 SONG DEMO CASSETTE #2
If you remember last issue, I reviewed Thee Cellar Dwellers’
demo cassette. Well, this is their second demo cassette, which contains rough mixes of their forthcoming EP. This blows away both the single and the previous demo cassette. Much closer to Thee Dwellers live sound.
My favorites are the Beatlesque cuts ’Girl In My Dreams’ and ’I Know It’s True’. There are also some excellent instrumentals.
My copy of the tape includes an additional track, which is a cover of The Eyes’ ’Please Don’t Cry’. This will not be included on the EP, but released on a compilation tape put out by Sound Affects fanzine in San Diego. These tracks are more like Thee Cellar Dwellers I know.
Get this tape by sending either $2.00 and a blank cassette, or
THEE CELLAR DWELLERS
c/o JIM BAETZ
Carlisle, PA 17013
I’ve not heard these demo tapes and didn’t know they existed. I don’t think any EP was released after this 45 for Get Hip as the reviewer suggested. If you know any better let me know.
05. THE BARRACUDAS – ’I Want My Woody Back’/’Subway Surfin’ (Cell-Out 1) 1979
Surf punk heroes of mine The Barracudas, recorded and mixed this two sider in one day during mid June 1979 at Freerange Studios. It was their first ever visit to a professional studio.
According to the liners of CD ’Through The Mysts Of Time: Barracudas Rarities 1978-81’, lead guitarist and songwriter of both songs on this 45 Robin Wills, claimed he was just making things up and perhaps got the concept of a Woody and a G.T.O. a little confused.
’Subway Surfin’ is a mix of punk rock and Jan & Dean with throw away lyrics.
Their surfin’ period was all too brief and after the small hit ’Summer Fun’ The Barracudas developed a Byrdsian folk rock jangle sound which I’m sure you’re all aware of anyway.
”London is a lonely town when you’re the only surfer boys around”
Robin Wills: ”I am wearing the leather jacket that Steve Jones nicked, passed onto Sid who then sold it to me for £25, before it got nicked backstage at a gig in Huddersfield a few weeks later…”
06. PETER BERRY & The SHAKE SET – ’Berry Express’ EP (Larsen Records LZ 090) 2008
There must be something in the water Norwegians drink that makes their musicians wanna pick up Rickenbacker and Fender guitars because it seems there’s a never ending supply of real cool talent that releases a couple of 45s then are gone.
Hopefully, the latest set of beat kings will stay with us a little longer. If authentic 60s sounding merseybeat shakers is your bag then check out these lads. The band only use vintage equipment and utilize the famous Toe Rag Studios in London to get their analogue beatitude on tape.
This whole EP is GREAT beat, all are originals apart from ’Donna’ (Ritchie Valens) but I’ll choose ’Let Me’ to sell the EP to you all. And look at the cover with the band larking about on a mini steam train.
Absolutely priceless and pure 1964 (before groups decided they were too cool to lark about at photo shoots and wanted to be mean and moody like Them or The Pretty Things)
Band members go under an alias (they’ve given themselves English names such as Barry Brumble, Perry Dear, Peter Berry and Magnus Merrington (well apart from Magnus)….Peder Bernhardt used to be in one of my favourite bands The Indikation (they’ve split up sadly)
07. PLASTICLAND – ’Pop! Op Drops’ (Scadillac SC-3003) 1982
One of the very few bands that successfully re-made ’67 era English psych during the 80s were Plasticland, especially on their early 45s. This 4 track EP released on Scadillac in 1982 was the second foray onto vinyl for this Milwaukee, Wisconsin group of acid heads.
’Pop! Op Drops’ is inspired by LSD influenced music such as Tomorrow and Electric Banana (Pretty Things) and describes a magic sweet with a million different flavours all at once. Can you possibly imagine that?
All four songs on this EP are band originals:
Pop! Op Drops
The Garden In Pain
Driving Accident Prone
Plasticland releases on Scadillac are virtually impossible to come by now and when they do turn up they command high prices. The first Plasticland 45 ’Mink Dress’ went for $103 on eBay last week!!!
14. THE VIPERS – ’Ain’t Nothin’ Like Her’ (PVC 8928) 1984
’Ain’t Nothin’ Like Her’ is an ’Outta The Nest!’ album cut buried on side two of the disc. This song in particular shows just how New York band The Vipers managed to combine their Beatle-esque pop with a tormented fuzz edge.
I remember putting ’Ain’t Nothin’ Like Her’ on a mix tape and playing it to some hair metal/gothy types back in ’85 in a tent in the Lake District and they all fuckin’ hated it. They didn’t know how quickly to rip the tape outta the machine for more Hanoi Rocks…..ha ha ha ..the folly of youth.
Below is a cutting I kept from a Sounds magazine from 1984 when The Vipers album was reviewed by Lindsay Hutton.
15. PAUL MESSIS – ’Stuck In Society’/’The World Is Square’ (State Records 002) 2009
There’s a thread over on G45 at the moment started by some muppet who more or less stated nothing worth hearing was recorded after 1966.
If I could be arsed to add a comment to this fool’s thread I’d mention this crackin’ 45 recorded in April 2009 at Shay Exotica Sandgate Sound Studios. That’s in Kent by the way.
Paul Messis, from Billingshurst in West Sussex, is obviously multi talented with a need to reproduce the sounds of American teenbeat bands.
These two songs are his originals and he’s been helped along the way by members of The Higher State.
State Records is their label if you hadn’t already figured it out.
There’s promise of further recordings in the near future and hopefully they will also get a vinyl release. Highly recommended 45 to track down. Only 500 pressed so act now!
16. THE MERRY MELODIES – ’Eye On’ EP (Animal Records 030) 1996
Animal Records operating out of Madrid in Spain released several good to great neo mod/psych 45s during the 90s and The Merry Melodies four track EP is one of those releases.
I’ve tried to find out some information about the band but have come up with nothing. According to the cover of this EP the band were a five piece unit from Vigo…. someone also gets a credit for being the ’tambourine man’….
The pick of the disc is the mod psycher ’Apple Jake’ with it’s swirling organ, fuzz leads and hand claps. It’s sung in English but I think it would have been better in their native Spanish.
Can’t See Her
In Between The Armadillos
Rapid Eye Movement
17. THE TELL TALE HEARTS – ’Too Many Lovers’/’Promise’ (Kavern 7 Records K7-003) 1987
This 45 was the last official release by the original line-up of The Tell Tale Hearts.
Only Eric Bacher was missing, he was replaced on lead guitar by ex Crawdaddy Peter Meisner. The latter only ever recorded these two songs with the band which were taped at Swinging Studios, Dulzura in December 1986.
’Too Many Lovers’ is a wild rendition of a ’66 R’n’B stomper by English band The Scorpions although they were based in Holland. The flip is a Ray Brandes original titled ’Promise’ that harks back to the sonic prowess of ’The Now Sound of The Tell Tale Hearts’ EP released in 1985.
18. THE TELL TALE HEARTS – ”Take A Look Inside” / ”I’m Ready” (Nevermore Records) 1990
This was the last Tell Tale Hearts single to be released and it’s a fitting way to go out with two sides of purist endeavour. By now the line-up hardly resembled the original band with only Mike Stax and Bill Calhoun remaining. No one appears to have been able to fill lead guitar duties and the licks were provided by associate Carl Rusk.
My copy of the record is a ’test pressing’ and has the date 3rd March 1990 written on the label. It took me a fair few years to track down a copy so I don’t think that many were pressed.
Paul Carsola (drums)
Mike Stax (bass)
Bill Calhoun (lead vocals/harp)
Jon McKinney (guitar)
Ron Swart (organ)