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Thirteen Minus Two


 Inspired by a recent comment on this here very blog, I have just purchased a copy of the rather splendid Eleven Plus Two by brother and sister act the Twintones. And I’m so glad that I did.

Issued by Cornish independent Summit Records in 1974, Eleven Plus Two houses the entire (as far as I am aware, anyway) recorded output of The Twintones. It’s a name oft employed by bands, but this particular act consisted of twins Kay and Gary Tucker, who hailed from the village of Nanpean, approximately 4 miles north-west of St Austell.

It’s a fun little record, and for pre-teens – the album was recorded when they were just eleven-years-old - these kids are really quite accomplished. Kay played keyboards and Gary drummed, although the duo also dabbled in other instruments, as can be heard on their recording of Remember You're A Womble, whereKay also plays trombone and Gary plays euphonium.

The album features an odd mix of family-friendly standards, from recent chart hits including Popcorn and Y Viva España (rendered “Eviva Espana” on the sleeve) to a rousing rendition of the Dambusters March and Ode To Joy. Still, you have to admit, the noise of heels clipping across the floor on These Boots Were Made for Walking (the addition of a 'g' at the end of walkin'is all-important) is inspired, and the duo almost manage to keep time to it. “This engineer, Alan, brought in a plank of wood and wore cowboy boots, and walked in the same rhythm as the piece, to embellish what we were doing,”* Kay explains.

Banana Rock, although mentioned in the sleeve notes and sandwiched on side two of the album between Ode To Joy and Melody Waltz (a tune composed by Kay herself), isn’t credited nor included in the track listing. A shame, as it’s the duos only vocal. It’s the second tip of the hat on the LP to the then-hugely popular kids’ TV show (and earlier book series) The Wombles, and to Mike Batt’s musical group of the same name. Coincidentally, the two tracks recorded by the Twintones bookended the album Remember You're A Womble, issued in the same year as Eleven Plus Two.Banana Rock provided the Wombles withtheir third consecutive Top ten single in June 1974.

Sadly, everything about the packaging and marketing of this is half-arsed. The cover photo appears to be a blow up of a dimly-lit Polaroid, and Gary was none too impressed with the result: “The sleeve looked very dull to me, for two youngsters. They just used a flash camera, and it was all brown around the outside. They didn't do any location shooting – it was in the studio, they took the camera. We could have gone out on the cliffs and done a lot more to make it a bit brighter – not two children stuck in this dark hole,”* he said, many years later. The endorsement on the reverse of the sleeve from “international star” Dick Emery amounts to little more than an admission that he once met the siblings, although apparently he was impressed enough to invite them on stage with him for the last night of his residency at the “Talk Of the West”, the rather grand-sounding club within the Perran View Holiday Park.

And why the nonsensical title for the album? Surely Eleven Times Two would have made more sense: the twins were both eleven at the time of recording, after all. Unless, of course, it’s a pun on the Eleven Plus exam that kids moving from juniors into secondary school sat in those days. Apparently, the title came about because, according to Kay, “We started recording the album when we were 11, but thanks to a strike somewhere in the chain it took two years for the record to come out. When we asked what we should call the record, Job Morris [co-owner of Sentinel Records] said: ‘Well, 11 plus 2’. It was a reference to the exam, and the fact we were now 13.”* It's a shame because these kids were clearly talented.

There would be no further records from the Twintones, although Kay did release a solo cassette, Kay Plays Technics which Gary recorded at home and which was issued, again by Sentinel, to sell at gigs.

The Twintones career petered out as the twins grew up, and the demand for live acts of their type diminished, although in 2013 the pair reformed for a charity show in support of Cornish cancer support charity Tanya’s Courage Trust.

Anyway, here are a couple of stand out tracks from Eleven Plus Two: These Boots Were Made for Walking and Banana Rock. Enjoy!

Download Walking HERE

Download Banana HERE

*The quotes in this from Kay and Gary come from an interview conducted by journalist and stand-up comedian Dave Waller, and first appeared on the Sentinel Records blog in 2014 

Beyond the Pale


In twelve years, and in over 540 posts (this is, in fact, blog post 543) how on earth (pun intended) have I managed to ignore writing about the Christian Astronauts, otherwise known as the Shoup family from Fremont, Ohio, and their one classic album Beyond the Blue

I did include them in a write-up on Christian music in The World’s Worst Records Volume One, but for those who have not read the book yet, let me introduce you to one of the weirdest and most wonderful records this side of Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela.

This delightfully amateur outer space epic first appeared in 1971. Dean Shoup (referred to on the album’s liner notes and throughout their 10-year career as Captain Shoup), like Marcy Tigner, was a self-taught ventriloquist who realised that America's fascination with space travel could provide him with a platform for spreading the gospel.

Advertising himself as “one of the world’s leading ventriloquists” and as a “gospel magician” (whatever that may be), Dean and his family toured America and filmed more than 300 episodes of a cable-TV children's ministry programme, also called Beyond the Blue, which was broadcast in the Washington state area. The cast included his wife Connie (a.k.a. Sister Shoup), kids Rick and Michelle (also known as Shelly), Jerry (a shrill-voiced ventriloquist’s dummy) and his grandmother, and starred a seven-foot tall robot, Loosenut, apparently fashioned from cardboard boxes and tin foil but which came equipped with flashing eyes and moving arms and who sounded, unsurprisingly, exactly like the good captain. In 1972, after the album was released, the family would be joined by their third and last child, son Brent. sadly I have been unable to find any footage of the TV show... but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

The brilliance of Beyond The Blue lies, in part, to the obvious lack of money spent on the project: Captain Shoup provides all of the sound effects as well as the voices for the non-human members of the ship’s crew and the album’s narrative content, while Sister Shoup’s whole raison d’etre seems to be to chirrup through a handful of hymns.

According to the sleeve notes: “Capt. Shoup is in the pilot seat and Loosenut is the co-pilot. Lt. Green is sitting at the computer giving us assistance in helping us to stay on course, using the Bible for the flight manual”. It’s childish, cheap and utterly charming: Captain Shoup’s stumbling delivery only adding to the album’s appeal.

Despite the Christian Astronauts delivering their last earthly sermon in 1981, it’s my hope that the Shoups, Jimmy, Granny and Loosenut are still out there preaching the good word in a galaxy far, far away. Originally issued by Gospel Empire Records, the album received a limited reissue, on CDR, from outsider music specialists Companion Records a few years ago, fully endorsed by Captain Shoup himself. Sadly, this has now sold out, but you can hear a couple of tracks here, My Heart Is Reserved (sung by Rick) and I’ll Never Be The Same (sung by Michelle).


Download Heart HERE

Download Never HERE

Mad Charles


What can I tell you about Mad Charles, the world’s first karate robot, or the man behind it/him, Eugene G. Viscione?

In 1975 Eugene Viscione, under the name “UGE” (eUGEne, geddit?) released a single dedicated to the amazing Mad Charles. The incredible psychedelic fuzz guitar work can’t hide the fact that Mad Charles is a ridiculously silly record.

Viscione was a barber from New Jersey who began writing songs in 1957. He also fancied himself as an inventor, and Mad Charles was one of his many creations.

Charles himself even appeared on the disc’s label. The record was issued twice, first with Mad Charles Love Theme on the flip, which was later replaced with the oddly-titled Sophie the Polish Chicken Hen, a song Eugene had written back in 1970. Mad Charles Love Theme features the lovelorn Charles singing to his girlfriend, Charlene, and can be seen in Part Two of the video (below).

Viscione was an odd duck. Working since the early 1960s, he had made a series of recordings for the Cleopatra label, including the ridiculously overwrought Parting Kiss, before setting up his own WGW Records (which issued Mad Charles) and, in the 1980s, Viscione Records, releasing a series of singles as Eugene (often with added parentheses for dramatic effect), but also producing and/or providing songs for a roster that included The Werps, D. Spade and Co., and Keep Off the Grass as Geno Viscione. My personal favourite is a single Eugene issued in 1989 called Hubert, the Fat Elf. Eugene shot his own ‘holiday special’ to accompany that particular release, using his kids as actors and including 10 self-composed songs. The show aired on local cable channel C-Tec in 1990.

Eugene Viscione, who at one point had his own recording studio situated in the Rustic Mall in Manville, New Jersey, which shared space with his barber shop, died in September 2009, aged 75 having enjoyed a 56-year long marriage to his devoted wife, Mary. Luckily for us he left behind an amazing body of work, much of which has been collected by the Numero Group, and issued as Fresh Cuts With Eugene Viscione. Sadly, the collection does not include Viscione’s tribute to his favourite president, his 1982 composition The Reagan March.

Sadly, I do not possess a copy of either pressing of the single, although one is winging its way towards me as I type. I shall update the sound files when it arrives, but for now here’s the a-side of this wonderfully mad record, along with the earlier-mentioned Parting Kiss.

If you want to see Mad Charles - and Eugene - in action, here is the instructional video: Mr Viscione is the man in the colourful shirt and football helmet. Those of a nervous or overly Politically Correct disposition should probably avoid Part Two, which features ad-hoc promotional videos for both sides of the single, but includes some horribly racist and outdated depictions of Asians (and female robots).


Download Charles HERE

Download Kiss HERE

Hallmark Halmark


Just a short blog today, partly because I am away from home currently but also because I wanted to get another couple in before we begin our annual Christmas Cavalcade. But mostly because I am staying in a Hallmark Hotel.

Today’s disc is something a bit special, all four tracks from a mid-to-late-period EP from the Halmark song-poem studio. Well, I had assumed that, it’s impossible to tell for sure, but a little research shows that the disc was minted around 1973, so that would be right. Plus a couple of the music beds utilised on this particular release from Ted Rosen’s song-poem company are among the more rare of their regular accompaniments. I certainly cannot immediately recall having heard the tune used behind the astounding The Suffering of a Serviceman’s Wife or opening track Honeymoon On The Moon before.

Those two cuts are the standout tracks on this EP, both sung by Halmark staffer Mary Kimmell. My friend Bob Purse had previously blogged this, and as he rightly noted all four tracks are credited to Bob Storm on the disc’s label, despite two of them clearly being sung by a woman. The other two, much more pedestrian cuts – the wonderfully-titled Trench Coat, Umbrella and Boots and the eminently forgettable Unapproachable – do indeed come from Halmark’s regular male solo vocalist Bob Storm. Those last two songs were both copywrited by “arranger” Jerry Dee in 1973... the cheeky beggar: the arrangements for these and pretty much every disc ever issued by Halmark (and subsidiary labels Chapel and Grand) cam straight of an open reel of ½ inch tape. Anyway, at least it helps us date the disc.

The tune used on the final cut on the EP, The Suffering of a Serviceman’s Wife sounds like it could have been written for a third-rate James Bond rip-off, but the 60s spy flick ambience is a little at odds with the lyrics, which tell the harrowing tale of a (rather selfish, if you ask me) young woman bemoaning her lot now that hubby is back from Vietnam, somewhat the worse for wear. My mind boggles at why she would chose to call him ‘half a man’, the thoughtless trollop, but maybe he lost something fundamental to her happiness overseas.

These particular cuts come from my own copy of the EP. I’ve given it a bit of a clean up and I hope it isn’t too crackly for you!


Download side one HERE

Download side two HERE


Dismal Diana


Today’s terrible tune comes from the pen of one Eric Paul Smith, an architect from Audenshaw, Manchester who woke up one day in 1981 and – inspired by the recent news of their engagement - decided to write a waltz to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Charles, Prince of Wales and his fiancée, Lady Diana Spencer.

Up until this point Eric had, as far as I am aware, no previous experience in the recording industry, but that didn’t stop him. Not only did he write the song, a miserable little ditty entitled My Lady Diana, he also funded the entire operation, setting up his own EPS label to market and distribute the disc.

Eric even went as far as to send a copy to the Prince and soon-to-be Princess at Buckingham Palace, receiving a nice letter back from Charles’s office telling him that ‘his Royal Highness much appreciates your kind thought in composing and sending this gift’ and thanking him ‘most warmly’.

With vocals by club singer Lynn Bryan, due in part to Eric’s lack of experience the record sank without a trace. Sad, because according to his local newspaper, Eric had hoped that ‘it would be a hit,’ and that ‘it would be a real honour if it were played for the waltz to start off the Royal Wedding ball.’ Still, he was in good company: there is a plethora of Diana-inspired discs out there. All are terrible and (almost) all were quickly consigned to the bargain bins.

Sadly, Eric’s muse only lasted for the one song: the b-side to the single is an instrumental version of the same tune, with Ms. Bryan’s tepid vocals replaced by a nasty synth wash. Still, I had to listen to both sides, so you can too!


Download Diana HERE

Download Instrumental HERE

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part One


Every year this gets a little bit harder. Every December since 2009 I’ve tried to bring you a cornucopia of Christmas-themed crapness, in an annual Christmas Cavalcade of terrible records. After a decade of dodgy discs, you would think I would have run out of new material to bring you.

But oh no… or oh ho!Ho!ho! no, if you prefer.

It just means that each year I have to trawl though my previous posts to ensure I’m not repeating myself: that’s what takes the time. For example, I had intended to post Red Sovine’s Here It Is, Christmas, but I blogged that back in 2017. Never mind: over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring a handful of Christmas clunkers I know I have not blogged before.

First up we have four tracks from Mae West, Hollywood royalty and naughty ne’er-do-well of yore, and her only Christmas album, Wild Christmas. Issued in 1966 on the tiny Dagonet label, just a few short months after Mae had released her major-label rock ‘n’ roll album Way Out West. Way Out West had been a minor hit, peaking at 116 on the Billboard album chart, so you might assume that Tower (an imprint of Capitol) only had her under contract for the one record: it makes no sense to let her go, especially in light of the success their parent company was having with Mrs Miller. Until you do a little digging that is.

Dagonet was a TV production company: their spin-off record label issued very few discs, but an act signed to the company, variously known as The Chyldren and Somebody’s Chyldren, provide the uncredited backing for Ms West on Wild Christmas. Most Dagonet releases were produced by David Mallet. Mallet also produced Way Out West, and Mae’s backing band on that album was Somebody’s Chyldren. You see, it all adds up now. My assumption is that the tracks for both albums were recorded during the same sessions, but Tower declined to issue a Christmas album because it was too soon after Way Out West (which had been issued in July) or, more likely, that there was not enough material to produce a viable album.

Wild Christmas is a weird little album, just eight tracks and clocking in at 20 minutes, although it did spawn a single, Quint Benedetti's Put The Loot In the Boot Santa, which was backed by a cover of the Beatles’ From Me To You, listed on both the album and 45 as With Love From Me To You. The album was reissued, with a rejigged track listing, as Mae In December for the anthology The Fabulous Mae West.

From Wild Christmas here’s Put The Loot In the Boot Santa, Santa Baby, Merry Christmas Baby and, as a bonus, Santa, Come Up And See Me, which I did feature on the blog back in 2012 but that link is now dead. As Ms West once said, ‘My left leg is Christmas and my right leg is New Year’s. Why don't you visit me between the holidays?’


Download Loot HERE

Download Santa HERE

Download Merry HERE

Download Come UP HERE

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part Two


 Happy Friday my friends, and welcome to the second of three Christmas collections for 2019: another four tracks of festive foolishness just for you.

First up is a brace of tracks from the brilliant William Shatner, his eccentric re-reading of the classics The Little Drummer Boy and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from his Christmas collection Shatner Claus. 

Issued just before Christmas 2018, Shatner Claus features Bill alongside a bunch of heavy friends, including Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Rick Wakeman. The Little Drummer Boy features blues guitarist Joe Louis walker, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer includes a guest appearance from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, It’s insane and quite, quite marvellous.

What can you follow Shatner with? How about Elvis’s backing singers the Jordanaires, here with Linn and Linda (and Millie, don’t forget Millie) and the truly miserable The Christmas Orphan. My goodness, a record that makes Red Sovine sound cheerful. 

Incidentally, the Millie in question is Millie Kirkham, who also appeared with the Jordanaires on Elvis’s Blue Christmas. Composed by polka king Del Sinchak, who recorded the tune himself in 1953, this recording hails from – I believe – 1958: Sinchack only registered copyright in the lyric in December 1957.

We’ll finish today with US TV host Regis Philbin and his version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, from his 2005 collection The Regis Philbin Christmas Album. On this track Regis is joined by a friend, host of the US version of the Apprentice and soon-to be leader of the free world, Donald Trump. Needless to say, it ain’t pretty.


Download Drummer HERE

Download Shatner’s Rudolph HERE

Download Orphan HERE

Download Regis’s Rudolph HERE

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part Three


T’was the night before Christmas… well, the Friday before, anyway. And here, for the final time this year, is another assortment of festive foolishness for you. I’ve raided my own song-poem collection for you today, and as far as I am aware none of these tracks are currently available elsewhere on the net, so enjoy!

First up, both sides of a Chapel Recording Company 45, two songs written by Katherine Dills of East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chapel, if you didn’t already know, was an imprint of Ted Rosen’s Halmark song-poem outfit – something that becomes abundantly clear the second one hears the A-side of this ridiculous record. The music bed is exactly the same one as used for countless other Halmark releases, and the voice is clearly Mary Kimmel, Halmark’s go-to female singer.

Mary’s stentorian delivery and the ridiculously overblown backing beautifully enhance the stupidity of Ms. Dills’ daft lyrics. I’m still trying to work out who the ‘friend’ is that she’s buying My Christmas Poinsettia for. Judging by the coda, that poor plant has a rather long journey ahead. Flip side My Christmas Day Prayer is even better. A rare song bed is used this time, in fact I cannot immediately call it to mind (although I’m positive I have heard it before), but any song-poem that not only starts with a spoken intro but breaks off for a spoken-word bridge too, is a winner in my books.

Next, from the Hollywood Artists Record Co., is Stephanie Allen and Poor Little Christmas Tree. Composed by Edward E. Regina and S. Mravik, like the vast majority of song-poem discs this carries no publication or copyright date, but judging by the quality of the pressing I’d pitch it at mid-80s.

Finally for today, both sides of a 45 issued by Vanity Records in Jo Ann Lear’s (A Child’s Lament) Leave My Toys Alone and Let’s Have A Happy New Year. Vanity is an interesting label, and over the years I’ve managed to procure several of their releases for my collection. It was not a straight song-poem company, although several of their discs definitely fall into that category, and this particular one appears to be a bit of a hybrid.

Vanity Records was more a custom producer that a straight song-poem outfit, used by established songwriters to produce top-quality demos in an effort to find new takers for their material, or by people who wanted a professional-sounding product that they could then distribute in whatever way they wanted. They also had their own distribution arm, and many of their discs were advertised in the pages of Billboard. The A-side of this particular disc was co-written by pianist Jack Betzner, who wrote the tunes for a number of minor hits in the 1940s but whose career was in the doldrums by the time this particular cut was issued, which I believe was around 1958. 

He worked with lyricist Tommy Schifanella on a number of songs, including You’ll Never Hurt Me That Wayin 1951, (A Child’s Lament) Leave My Toys Alone, and the pair were still collaborating as late as 1970 with I’m Wealthy (This Is Like Money In The Bank). The flip side, Let’s Have A Happy New Year, was penned by the otherwise unknown Sal Maldonato. Singer Jo Ann Lear performed for a number of small record companies, including Nicholas Gilio’s Gira (What Would I Do/Tell the World I Love You, 1953), and the rather wonderfully-monikered Startime Sound Of Beauty in 1965.

And that’s your lot. Have a fantastic Christmas, and I’ll see you soon!

Download Poinsettia HERE

Download Prayer HERE

Download Tree HERE

Download Toys HERE

Download New Year HERE

Rodd and Friends


Happy almost New Year, my friends.

A couple of tracks from song-poem sensation Rodd Keith for you today, in fact, both sides of a Preview 45 from late 1967, Nobody Knows What Love Will Do (written by Lon Streator), and Friends Are Few, from Eleanora Smalls. Our friend Bob Purse did blog this disc six years ago, but those links are currently inactive so, for now, this is (I believe) the only place you can find them.

Nobody Knows What Love Will Do is easily the better of the two tracks, Rodd and his band have spent some time working on this, and the result is a pretty decent swing number. Sadly the same cannot be said of the flip side, Friends Are Few, a dull little song with ridiculous lyrics that is only just raised from the level of the mundane by Rodd’s delivery. 

The female backing singer on Friends Are Few is unnamed, but I’d guess that it’s Nita Thomas (also known as Neda Carr and Nita Craig), who Rodd worked with a fair bit around the same time as this was recorded: it doesn’t sound like Bonnie Graham, his other regular collaborator, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately Preview chose not to credit her, and it’s always hard distinguishing who is who, as so many of the musicians at Preview worked under a variety of different names while they were at the company. Rodd, for example, worked as Rodd Keith, Rood Keith, Dan Monday, Ken Roberts, Milford Perkins (although the Milford Perkins that sang Duck Egg Walk is clearly a different singer) and so on. 

I can tell you nothing about Lon Streator, as far as I am aware he did not submit any other compositions to song-poem outfits, and I can find no other copyright entry for him. However, Eleanora Smalls was a habitual miscreant, writing the words to the songs Like God We Should Try To Be andNobody Walks Alone, which she submitted to Lew Tobin’s Sterling company in 1965. I cannot tell you if they were recorded, but both songs were copyrighted (with music by Tobin), in March of that year, and there’s a very good chance they at least made it as far as the demo/acetate stage. Eleanora had another song recorded by Rodd for Preview, Mother’s Room, issued shortly before this particular disc and probably submitted at the same time.

Anyway,  enjoy these and I’ll see you all in the New Year!

Download Nobody HERE

Download Friends HERE

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year everyone… and as it’s a New Year what better for this week’s blog post than a couple of New Year-themed songs?

First up is Mae West and My New Year’s Resolution, from her 1966 album Wild Christmas – an album we featured back at the beginning of December.

Once again Mae is accompanied by Somebody’s Chyldren, and the album was produced by David Mallet, the same team that had served her so well on her Tower album Way Out West.Six years after the release of Wild Christmas Mae would make one last sojourn into pop and rock, issuing the album Great Balls of Fire on MGM in 1972.

Next up is an oddity from Sandy Stanton’s Film City song-poem label, I Like The Old Year by Beth-Anne Hayes with the Film City Orchestra. Although Film City is best known for its chamberlain-driven song-poems, it often issued vanity recordings, and this falls solidly into that category.

I Like The Old Year was written by Barbara L. Hayes (presumably Beth-Anne’s mother or grandmother), and issued around 1970, the same time that the flip side, Oh Please, Dear Santa Claus, was copyrighted. Sadly I have no further info on this one; both names are reasonably common, and a quick scour of the internet yielded nothing, so if you know anything about Beth-Anne or Barbara, please do get in touch.


Download Resolution HERE

Download Like HERE

The Sheik of Ab-Cheri


It’s been a while – almost exactly 10 years to be precise – since we last featured Frank Perry on this here blog, so let’s make up for that now with a pip of a song-poem 45 from Sandy Stanton’s Film City label.

Having said that, our Frank only appears on one side of this particular release, Jerry Herzon takes the topside, The Legend of the Old Dutch Mill, relegating poor old Frank to the flip, Cheri. Herzon is credited on the A-side as having composed the clip-cloppy tune to The Legend of the Old Dutch Mill, and label head Stanton takes composer credit for the tune to Cheri, which is a bit of a liberty if you ask me as it’s clearly stolen wholesale from the Sheik of Araby.

The lyrics to both songs on this 45 were composed by Peter van Mourick, and it was only when researching that name did I realise that I had actually featured him before: he was the lyricist responsible for another Film City 45, Chattanooga, Nashville, Battlecreek Trek/Antique Hunter's Craze, which I wrote about back in March 2017. You can find that post HERE

As is invariably the case, neither 45 is dated, making it impossible to be 100 percent accurate about when they were recorded and released, but I’d pitch it somewhere around 1967, after – but not too long after - Rod Rogers/Rod Keith left Film City for Preview (around the beginning of 1966) and Frank Perry became Stanton’s go-to guy. Perry sounds very young here, his voice definitely matures and becomes fuller over the years, so I figure that date will not be too far wrong.

Jerome ‘Jerry’ Herzon had been active since the 1940s, even writing songs while serving in the navy on the USS Belmont during the Second World War, and at one point he ran his own publishing company, Chair Music, in California. 

The only Peter van Mourick I can find who was working around this period was pool attendant on the Dutch island of Aruba, but I think it’s safe to assume he’s not our man. If you know anything more about this release - or any of the folk involved - do please get in touch.


Download Mill HERE

Download Cheri HERE

Hooray for Harry-Wood

It’s a rare event when this blog features a novelty record, but this is such a great one – and the tracks have been going down a storm on The World’s Worst Records Radio Show– that I feel it is more than appropriate to share here. If you like the Frivolous Five, or perhaps the magnificent Mrs Miller or Madame St Onge, you’ll love this. Welcome to Hooray For Hollywood Starring the George Garabedian Players Featuring the Awful Trumpet of Harry Arms.

Issued in 1968 by Mark 56 Records, there’s little doubt that this album was inspired by the success of such oddball characters as the aforementioned Mrs Miller or Tiny Tim. The Frivolous Five is an obvious link, especially as Garabedian, Arms and company cover Whipped Cream, the Herb Alpert track that inspired the Frivolous Five’s 1966 album Sour Cream and Other Delights, among the album’s 10 tracks.

The sleeve notes give away little: "Wonder if the best musicians in Hollywood were called for a record date...and, HARRY ARMS happened to drop by with his AWFUL TRUMPET...?" that’s it, in toto.
Garabedian, a musician, producer and arranger who also owned Mark 56 Records, specialised in cover albums, supermarket specials, advertising music (not too dissimilar to library music I guess) and reissues of out-of-copyright Hollywood films in audio form. The success of Alpert in the pop music industry gave him an idea, and he cut deals with advertisers for a series of Tijuana Brass sound-alikes, some direct covers of Alpert hits, others faithful facsimiles of hits in an Alpert style. Garabedian’s music was used to sell everything from Philips electronics to Kentucky Fried Chicken (there’s even a spin-off KFC/Garabedian album, Colonel Saunders’ Tijuana Picnic that was repackaged at least half a dozen times as Pepsi Cola Presents Tijuana Taxi, Pet Ice Cream Presents Tijuana Taxi and so on) and Taco Bell (the album Taco Bell Presents Tijuana Taxi is a different collection to the KFC one).

By the mid-1970s, he had all but given up on releasing his own music or attempting to out-Herb Herb, and was concentrating instead on reissues of old radio serials via his Golden Days of Radio imprint, and other oddities including a reconstituted telephone interview with legendary recluse Howard Hughes. His work in reissuing historical recordings – including those by Mae West and Laurel and Hardy - paid off: in the late 70s and early 80s he received three Grammy nominations for his reissues.

Harry Arms remains a mystery. The name is almost definitely a pseudonym, but for whom?

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from this magnificently mad album: the opener Hooray For Hollywood and the brilliant Georgy Girl. If you’d like to hear more, the whole album is kicking around on the net and it's well worth tracking down.


Download Hooray HERE

Download Georgy HERE

New England's Finest


A recent discovery, and someone I shall be featuring over the coming weeks on the World's Worst Records Radio Show.

Currently living in Raleigh, North Carolina, Tom Arico is a New England musician who, tired of taking a back seat in cover bands, decided to set out in search of stardom, recording a series of EPs and his own full-length album – the Preacher– during the late 80s and into the 90s.

Originally from Bethel, Connecticut, his song Baby On the Way – issued in 1989 -became a turntable hit with some college radio stations (and especially DePaul University in Chicago), thanks to what can only be described as his ‘unique’ performance style. Tom is a proficient rhythm guitar player, but his odd, high-pitched nasal vocal will not be to everyone’s taste. A quick search of the ‘net will turn up thousands of references to Tom’s work, very few (if any) of them complimentary. Irwin Chusid is a fan: that should be recommendation enough.

In fact, the only person who consistently praises Tom’s work is Tom himself: his CDBaby page lauds him as ‘One of New England's finest rock artists’. The cheeky monkey even appears to have faked a wildly ecstaticaudience going nuts during a live performance of his signature tune, The Preacher, at a concertin Jerusalem. As one on-the-ball Amazon reviewer was quick to point out, that same audience was equally ecstatic when they saw the Kinks perform Lola, for Tom seems to have lifted his stadium full of fans from One For The Road, the Kinks’ 1980 double live album.

Like many outside musicians, people question whether Tom knows just how good – or how bad – he is. He appears to be very serious about his work, but then you know that he has to be in on the joke when his latest YouTube video features a cover of the very same Ray Davies song.

He’s still out there strutting his stuff today, appearing regularly at open mic nights in and around New York State, and if you want to hear more a 20th anniversary reissue of The Precaher is available from CDBaby, Amazon and all good outlets. 

Follow Tom’s YouTube channel HERE

A Song-Poem Valentine (or Two)


Happy Saint Valentine’s Day, everyone!

A couple of Valentine-themed song-poems for you today: if you’d like to hear more can I suggest you check out this week’s World’sWorst Records Radio Show– a two-hour special featuring 60 minutes of vomit-inducing Valentine’s songs.

First up is a corker from the Halmark stable, credited to Bob Storm but actually featuring him duetting with Halmark’s ‘other’ (i.e. not Mary Kimmell) female singer, Dodie Frost. You can kind of forgive the ridiculous lyrics to Valentine’s Song as their composer, Kiro Obetkovski, clearly did not have English as his first language. With a co-composer credit nabbed by Halmark head honcho Ted Rosen – a bit of a liberty if you ask me, as he’s simply used one of the company’s clapped out song beds again – it’s an absolute hoot.

Born in 1943 in Macedonia, and currently (I believe) a resident of Indiana, Kiro Obetkovski, fancied himself a bit of a poet and, as O Kiro, self-published a slim volume – Alexandar’s [sic] Best Poems- in 1977. If the dreadful lyrics to Valentine’s Song are anything to go by, then that book must be essential reading.

Next is Norm Burns and the Five Stars and My Lovely Lovely Valentine, another effort from Lew Tobin’s Sterling label. Like Rosen, Tobin had a penchant for taking credit for the music on many of his song-poem releases; unlike Rosen, Lew at least attempted to compose something original most of the time. The lyrics to My Lovely Lovely Valentineare by Ruth Ekey, who also wrote the words to a couple of other songs copyrighted in 1973, Walkin’ Down a Country Road and I Sing to Keep From Crying. This particular disc appears to have been issued in 1972.


Download Bob HERE

Download Norm HERE

Thanks to Bob Pursefor the image!

That's Really Super, SuperClaire


Blog readers of a certain age will have memories – fond or otherwise – of It’s ‘Orrible Being In Love (When You’re Eight and a Half), the solitary hit single fromClaire and Friends, issued by BBC records in 1986 and reaching the dizzying heights of number 13 in the UK singles chart in July of that year.

But did you know that Claire Usher (the apparently friendless Claire) also issued a full-length album? No, nor did I. Until a fortnight ago, that is.

Now I am the proud owner of a copy of SuperClaire, titled after her second single Superman (apparently a continuation of the ‘Orrible Being In Love story) and also containing Big Sister, the flip side to her hit. And it should come as no surprise that the man behind this ghastly project was one Michael Coleman, the Michael of Brian and Michael, of Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs fame, and also at least partly responsible for the dreadful St. Winifred's School Choir hit There’s No One Quite Like Grandma.

Stockport schoolgirl Claire Usher was ‘discovered’ by Coleman and producer Kevin Parrott (the Brian of Brian and Michael) when she was a pupil at St Winifred’s. The hit-making duo had her record a demo of Coleman’s song about a childhood crush, which Usher’s mum submitted to a talent-spotting feature on the BBC-TV children's programme Saturday Superstore, where – apparently - it beat a thousand other entries. After recording SuperClaire she appeared on one further 45, Welephant with the Singing Fireman, Graham Walker, before turning her back on fame for good.

Winning the show was exciting, she says, but her parents helped keep her feet on the ground. When she was invited to come back on the show a year later to hand over her trophy to the next winner, she turned them down because she had a netball match she could not miss as she was captain.

In adulthood, Claire Usher obtained a degree in drama and became a dancer, appearing in the stage show Riverdance on Broadway in 2000, and in the show's UK tour. She later wrote songs for indie pop band Shrag before becoming a teacher. Now married and living in Manchester with a daughter of her own, Claire Usher-McMorrow is that rarest of things, a former child star who is happy to be famous no longer. According to an article in The Guardian, every so often she gets a call from Where Are They Now-type shows, which she declines to go on because ‘you end up looking like a right idiot’. She also confided that she had no ambitions to enter her own child into a talent contest. ‘I can't imagine – to put your child up there to be criticised. Ugh… I'd like her to be the world champion of tiddlywinks. Become good at something totally random.’

Here are a couple of tracks from the wonderfully naff SuperClaire: Big Sister and her cover of the Mary Wells hit My Guy. Enjoy!

Download Sister HERE

Download Guy HERE

No Business


 The King Brothers were a British pop vocal trio who achieved the peak of their fame in the early years of British rock ‘n’ roll.

Best remembered for recording Six-Five Jive, written specifically for Jack Good’s TV show Six-Five Special, and their cover versions of Standing on the Corner (a number four hit in 1960), and A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation) (number six in 1957), the group was composed of three brothers – Michael, Anthony and Denis King - who first performed together professionally on the TV show Shop Window in 1952.

The trio had eight chart hits and were named "top vocal group" in the NME reader's poll in 1957 and 1960, the same years that they enjoyed their two biggest hits. But by 1961 things were changing, and although they would continue to record together until 1967 they would not have another chart entry after their cover of 76 Trombones made number 19 in the spring of 1961.

But that’s not the reason we love the King Brothers here at The World’s Worst Records. Oh no.

In 1967, at the very tail end of their career, the brothers recorded a four track EP – There’s no Business Like Our Business – ­to be given away to people attending that year’s Tupperware Distributors Conference, held in London. Three of the songs were hastily re-recorded versions of Broadway or Hollywood standards (There’s No Business Like Show Business, High Society and Good News), with the Kings accompanied by piano and drums, but the fourth track was a song specially written and recorded for the conference itself.

The Tupperware Brigade was co-written by the youngest King brother Denis (his name misspelled Dennis on the EP sleeve) and comic actor and scriptwriter John Junkin, Shake the roadie in the Beatles' A Hard Day’s Night and a well-known face on British TV and in films since the start of the Sixties. Junkin, who was once described as ‘looking like a lugubrious potato’, was also the first voice broadcast by pirate station Radio Caroline, appearing in their very first test transmission.

The King Brothers would not record again in the UK, although they did release a one-off 45 in Italy in 1969 with both sides co-written by Denis King and John Junkin - and by the end of the Sixties had broken up. Denis King became an award-winning composer for television, film, and musicals, writing the theme music for The Adventures of Black Beauty (which won the Ivor Novello Award), and composing themes and incidental music for over two hundred television series including Within These Walls, Dick Turpin, Two's Company, and Lovejoy as well as written over one hundred jingles for radio and television adverts. He has also worked on films, writing the scores to films including Holiday on the Buses (1973), Sweeney! (1977), and Privates on Parade(1982).

Anyway, here is the thoroughly wonderful The Tupperware Brigade along with the title track to the EP, There’s No Business Like Show Business.


Download Tupperware HERE

Download Business HERE

Katinka, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor


The House of Music (or The Music House Volume One as the title appears on the disc’s labels), is one of the oddest things I have purchased recently. Just seven tracks, totalling a tad under 19 minutes, this blue vinyl, 12-inch, 45 rpm release is more of a mini-album or EP than a full blown LP.

The songs on The House of Music were composed by Bridget Harrison, arranged by Kenny Clayton and sung by a six-year-old child luxuriating in the name Katinka. Issued in 1980, The House of Music appears to have been the only disc issued by independent label Tatti Records of Penrith, Cumbria, however, two of the tracks were picked up and released on 7” by Carrere later that year on a one-off Tatti/Carrere custom label.

I can tell you a little about Kenny Clayton’s career, which can be traced back to at least a decade before The House of Music saw the light of day. As both a producer and musical arranger he worked with Matt Monro, Petula Clark, Anita Harris, Spike Milligan and countless others. However I’ve not been able to find a single word in print or on the ‘net about the two ladies involved in the project – Bridget and little Katinka. Although Katinka would now be 46, so perhaps not quite so little anymore.

Never mind, because this is a truly wondrous release. ‘Nonsense Nursery Rhymes are a part of childhood yet there have been no new ones for over 100 years,’ the brief note on the reverse of the sleeve announces. ‘This record makes the context more topical and uses the music of today to which children can dance and play’.

Harrison wrote songs in a variety of styles for this bizarre little project, clearly in the hope of appealing to kids too savvy for your average nursery rhyme recording. The album includes two disco tracks, I Am A Twinkling Star which rather worryingly recommends that six-year-olds drink champagne, wear fur coats and use make-up if they want to make a splash, and the less celebrity-conscious A Double Decker Bus. The aforementioned seven inch featured a version of I Am A Twinkling Star remixed for single by Carrere staffer Freddy Cannon (not THE Freddy Cannon), and the album version of Watching Tele. If that sounds like an odd choice for a potential chart hit, remember this was the same year that the St Winifred’s School Choir hit big.

Other cuts on the album included kid-friendly fare about ponies, hens and lollipops, plus a religious song, My Very Own Prayer to Jesus, sung beautifully out of tune by Katinka. It’s mad, and hugely entertaining.

I wish I could tell you more about it. Ah well, what I can do is share some of this with you. So here, for your delectation, is Katinka singing My Very Own Prayer to Jesus and the album version of I Am A Twinkling Star.


Download Jesus HERE

Download Star HERE

Sing, Anna-Lisa, Sing!


A new discovery, well new to me anyway, the bonkers-as-all-get-up Swedish singer Anna-Lisa Ingemanson.

Born in Stockholm in 1909, she released at least two albums, Musik Med Trio and Med Orkester, and a half-dozen Eps and 45s, the first (Songs for Solo Piano) on Sela sometime in the late 1960s, and all the rest on her own ALI label, with titles such as Den Lycklige Nudisten (the Happy Nudist) and Var Jag Går I Skogar, Berg Och Dalar, or Where I Walk In Forests, Mountains And Valleys. All of these self-released discs seem to date from around 1971-1975.

She became something of a star on Swedish TV, turning up on variety shows such as Bättre sänt än aldrig (Better Seen Than Never) with one of her pooches to sing a song. There’s footage from one of these shows on YouTube, Anna-Lisa caked in white makeup, in a white dress with white fur trim, cracking a whip accompanied by a nonplussed white poodle. She looks like a cross between Leona Anderson and the Del Rubio Triplets, and sings like the orphaned niece of Mrs Miller and Natália de Andrade. What’s not to love? 

In 1976 she appeared, as Emma Messerschmidt-On-The-Rocks, on three tracks (including a re-recording of The Happy Nudist) on the musical comedy album Lasse Mansson Presents Bad Old Days, a direct spin off of Bättre sänt än aldrig. from what I can gather this would be her last recording, although she continued to perform for at least another decade. It appears that Anna-Lisa was still making the occasional live appearance in the mid-1980s. Swedish music blog Sunkit reports that she once turned up to a gig, complete with the obligatory poodle and with a cassette player over her shoulder. She explained that, ‘my piano teacher must not be up this late’, before launching into her set with her usual whip-cracking gusto.

More recentlyone of her recordings, Oxdragarsång (the opening track of her debut album Musik Med Trio), turned up on a cassette-only release Club Sunk in Sundsvall Hit Explosion Volume One, a tribute to some of Sweden’s more outré performers put together by Peter Webb and Daniel Westin, who ran an outsider music club night. Others have collated Anna-Lisa’s recordings onto CDr, but no official compilation has been issued… yet. She died in February 2003, at the grand old age of 93.

Here are a couple of tracks to whet your whistle: Oxdragarsång, from her 1972 debut album Musik Med Trio, and from her second album, the 1973 release Med Orkester, Oh, En Sån Underbar Morgon or Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.


Download Oxdragarsång HERE

Download Underbar Morgon HERE

Just Quackers


A recent discovery for me, but apparently somewhat well-known in the North of England at the end of the 70s and into the early 80s is comedy ventriloquist Penny Page and her little multicoloured friend, Googi the Liverpool duck.

The first anyone outside of Liverpool would have heard of Penny and Googi would have been when they were selected to appear on the first show of a new BBC-TV talent series, Rising Stars… only then they were known as Pepe and Poppets. It was only in September 1979, just as recording was about to begin, that the duo changed their name. the ‘clever and funny’ act (according to The Stage) did well on the show, their reception no doubt aided by the fact that it was filmed in Blackpool, virtually their own back yard.

The pair made it through to the finals of the show, presented by the terminally unfunny Lennie Bennet, and issued their first single, Googi the Liverpool Duck the day before the final was due to air. Young Penny was hoping for great things, and convinced that their big television break could boost their earnings form around £150 a week to over £1,000, when a blackout by BBC technicians meant that the show did not make it to the screen.

Wallasey-born Penny (real name Joan Critchley) had been in the business since 1974, winning a Sunday People sponsored talent show, although she had her first break at the age of 12, winning first prize for her vent act at Butlin’s. Her TV exposure brought offers of work flooding in, and that Christmas penny and the Wacker Quacker appeared in panto with comedian Tom O’Connor at the Liverpool Empire and, apparently, stole the show. Soon Liverpool’s Lewis’s department store was selling Googie hand puppets, but when the final of Rising Stars finally aired (more than three weeks after it was originally scheduled) they lost out to 16-year-old singer Jacqui Scott.

Still, they soon landed a summer season at Pontin’s holiday camp, and similar bookings would follow, including a residency over Easter 1981 at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, where she had first appeared as a teenage ‘lido lovely’ in a local revue. It seems that another well-known Scouse singer, Cilla Black, was even asked to perform Googi the Liverpool Duck by an audience member when she performed in Australia.

Penny married Welsh-born singer David Alexander, who also recorded for Ace Recordings. She adapted her show, with Googie getting into trouble for using colourful language (to go with her colourful hair and wellies), but by 1986 Penny was tiring of the local scene and the expectation that her act would become more blue, deciding instead to concentrate on entertaining children. She introduced a new puppet to her act, Skittles the dog, but before long was back playing to adult audience with Googie accused (by The Stage) of possessing ‘the foulest of foul mouths’. The pair appeared on Guys and Dolls an international talent show which aired on BSB’s Galaxy channel (no, nor me…) in late 1990, and continued to perform locally, usually on a bill with David Alexander, until 1995 when, sadly, David passed away. It appears that penny put Googi back in her box for good at that point, but she continues to promote David’s work, repackaging his many albums and making them available for his fans.

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from Penny and Googi: the a-side of their first 45, Googi the Liverpool Duck and their 1981 release That Bird Song.


Download Duck HERE

Download Bird HERE

Boy Blunder


 This week I have a disc for you that, I’m sorry to say, I did not know existed until a few days ago. Not, in fact, until regular WWRRS listener Dennis Bookwalter brought it to my attention. And I will never forgive him!

Issued at the height of Batmania, Burt Ward’s 1966 45 Boy Wonder I Love You had somehow passed me by. Odd as I’ve ever-so-slightly obsessed with the recording carers of the actors and actresses who appeared in TV’s first (and, let’s be honest here, best) Batman. I’ve already featured Adam West, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin on this blog and have for some time been planning a special Batman-themed episode of the WWRRS, which will also include some cuts from the ridiculous Jan and Dean Meet Batman.

What makes this insane spin-off even more delicious is that the A-side, based around Burt – as Robin – reading a parody of a fan letter – was written, arranged and conducted by Frank Zappa! The flip side, a godawful off-key rendition of the standard Orange Colored Sky (credited on promo copies as Oranged Colored Sky), was again arranged and conducted by Zappa, and features several members of the Mothers of Invention including Jimmy Carl Black and Elliot Ingber, who would later join Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band under the name Winged Eel Fingerling. Both sides were produced by Tom Wilson, who also produced the Mothers and the Velvet Underground. It’s just nuts. Batman himself, Adam West, performed Orange Colored Sky on TV show Hollywood Palace, in full Bat-drag, but does not appear on these recordings.

As Burt himself recalled in his autobiography, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights: ‘I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records - I wouldn’t have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott [sic] was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!

‘Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can’t believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell’s Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals. Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.

‘Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior. For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked “Orange Colored Sky.”

‘I can’t bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording. But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I’m not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.

‘In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, “Boy Wonder, I Love You!” Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, “I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!” The lyrics ended with “I hope you know that this is a girl writing”.’ Just brilliant! 

Zappa himself expunged any mention of these sessions from his own story; thank goodness Ward had the good sense to record his memories for posterity. 

Although the disc was recorded and issued in 1966, Zappa did not register his copyright in the A-side until July 1968.

Ward, who also made a guest appearance on Adam West’s 45 Miranda, issued another 45, I’ve Got Love For My Baby, on Soultown records in 1970 (he did not feature on the instrumental flip, Robin’s Theme, credited to Burt Ward’s band) – a pretty awful record which is now something of a collectable in Northern Soul circles. A bonus for lovers of the bad: Orange Colored Sky was co-written, back in 1950, by Milton DeLugg. DeLugg also composed Hooray for Santy Claus, the theme song for the dreadful – but essential - low-budget 1964 motion picture Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and was a long-time collaborator of TV producer and host Chuck Barris, working on The Gong Show, The $1.98 Beauty Show and many other projects.


Download Wonder HERE

Download Orange HERE

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