26 April 2017

Us Folk - Funny Old World/ Dives



Label: Eyemark
Year of Release: 1965

Eyemark was a peculiar and very small sixties label which appeared to have no coherent identity to speak of  - while initially they focused on the folk and Christian markets, they eventually took on beat pop, the psychedelic pop of the Purple Barrier (aka the Barrier) and, still more peculiarly, recorded highlights of steam train journeys. Perhaps their oddest and most celebrated release is the infamous Queens Park Rangers Supporters song "Supporters Support Us" which is just a psychedelic freakout with football chanting attached, as heard on Danny Baker's radio show.

There were no mindblowing surprises in store for this, their debut release, though. "Funny Old World" is essentially naive, socially conscious folk music - and certainly not a variation on "football's a funny old game" - with a heavy bathroom echo on the vocals. Acoustic, skeletal and with only the odd drum thump included as a slight concession to the folk-rock trends of the day, it's a sweet little single with a simple message, and it's delivered in a professional way. 

The flipside "Dives" apparently won the Christian Aid folk and beat competition in 1965, which would have made it top choice for the A-side, one would have thought... but Eyemark buried it. It's a more ambitious, jazzy arrangement, but it does sound exactly like you'd imagine a charity folk and beat contest winner to sound; it tries to swing, but it's as stiff as a church spire. 

I have no idea who Us Folk were, but they seem to have connections to (or possibly actually are) the West Eleven Seven, a Notting Hill based bunch of Christian folkies who also worked with the singer Sydney Carter. They apparently appeared on BBC Television during the religious programme "Seeing and Believing" in 1965. An EP of their tracks, "Notting Hill Born" seems to command some interestingly high prices online these days, whereas "Funny Old World" doesn't.



23 April 2017

Muff - Sexy Sexy Lady/ Burnin'



Label: Bell
Year of Release: 1974

One of the unfortunate things about Operation Yewtree and its associated glam rock/ seventies pop investigations and arrests is that everything has been poisoned. Everything. For instance, we all know that a lot of glam rock artists were drawing on fifties rock and roll traditions for their lyrical inspiration, so it's not unsurprising that you will occasionally find songs about hanging out at the "hop" with the teenage boys and girls. None of these were indicative of any Savile-styled "hiding in plain sight" indidents, or anything else sinister. They were just teen bop hits, that's all. 

"Sexy Sexy Lady" by Muff, though, is highly unlikely to get any airplay today. For a start, the performer's name is subject to huge misinterpretation, and in combination with the song title might even get this blog internet visitors for all the wrong reasons (hello newbies! Soz, no lady pics here). Then there's the lyrical content, about a girl who is "hardly" sixteen, and is still at school, and drinks gin on the rocks, and is a "sexy sexy lady". Mmmmm. Possibly unlike the girl in question, this hasn't necessarily aged well, but these recordings do have to be put into some kind of context. They were targeted at a teen audience and tried to strike a chord with teenage lifestyles. At the time, nobody would have batted an eyelid. Imagine it in the soundtrack to "Grease" and you're in a more appropriate ballpark. 

Still, that thumping, thwacking glam beat and those keen guitar lines are indicative of a great noise, and something which possibly could have been a hit at the time. Bell Records were churning out smash after smash at this point in the seventies, and more sympathetic airplay could have pushed this one on to Top of the Pops.

As for who Muff is, it's almost certainly Muff Murfin who owned a recording studio in Kempsey, Worcestershire around this time, and also worked occasionally with songwriter Rod McQueen. Muff is a highly successful radio station mogul these days, who also writes radio and advertising jingles, and also co-ran a record label (Birds Nest) with Elektra/ Dandelion man Clive Selwood in the seventies. A fascinating and varied career, then, and while he may have had no actual hits despite having several other singles out in the seventies, he's a lot more successful than most other people who have featured on this blog. 


22 April 2017

DJ'ing at Earl Haig Jumble Sale, Muswell Hill, Sunday 30th April

Calling all readers who are fans of both shopping for vintage clothes, second hand records, books and listening to soul, freakbeat, rock and roll and mod pop being played on vinyl in the, er... "old traditional way"...

It's been a long time, but the Earl Haig Hall in Crouch End is having another vintage jumble sale on Sunday 30th April, and I'll be there again along with my good friends Jody "Jon The Revelator" Porter and Sean "Hey Kids Rock and Roll/ Time Tunnel" Bright spinning various sounds on the decks while you shop and mooch around. (Incidentally, do check out Sean's etsy shop here, which includes Roxy Music and Delia Derbyshire toys, a B52s felt play set, and an Alan Bennett felt doll).

Besides having the opportunity to rummage vintage stock, there's an old fifties pinball machine, roast dinners next door, booze aplenty, goodie bags (if you get there early enough) and the chance to lounge around and socialise. What else are you going to do on a Sunday afternoon?

The event runs from Noon - 5pm on Sunday 30th April, and you can find us at 18 Elder Avenue, London N8 9TH. The Facebook details are here. Come up and say hello.

Follow up events are planned for the same venue on 28th May and 25th June. 

19 April 2017

Drew Ross - Close Your Eyes And Go To Sleep/ Let It Be



Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

In common with almost all the solo artists I seem to be finding singles by at the moment, I really can't find a scrap of information on Drew Ross. I know that he had two 45s out on CBS, this one and the 1971 follow-up "I'm Going Home". I know that both records sold poorly and are difficult to find copies of these days. Beyond that... nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zip. My best guess would be that he was a keen cabaret/ working man's club performer who got the chance to release a couple of singles on a major label, but that's based on the laws of probability rather than the conclusive results of my research.

I can't speak with any confidence about any of his other recordings, but "Close Your Eyes..." is really rather good. It starts off with a similar pounding gusto to Love Affair's "Everlasting Love" and continues in a similar plastic Northern Soul vein. Packed with optimistic brassy blasts and bouyant drumming, it's actually something of a tonic - a skippy, bouncy record, and the kind of bright, immediate sixties pop that absolutely nobody seems to be either attempting to emulate or take seriously anymore. It could have been a hit at the time, but quite clearly wasn't.

The flip is a rather pedestrian cover of The Beatles "Let It Be", which really doesn't add anything new to the song, and isn't as worthy of your time. 

If you're Drew Ross, or you know who he is, please do let me know. 



18 April 2017

A Little Bird Told Me...

Finally, after nearly a decade of this blog being active, we've joined the 21st Century and got our very own Twitter account. Please do join us over here and get the latest news and information on obscure and lost music, new blog entries, recommended reading, buried YouTube videos and other such bountiful things.

"Hang on," you're probably thinking to yourselves, "didn't you already have a Twitter account?"

That's correct - the 23Daves account was originally set up to tweet mostly about this blog and other subjects relevant to it, but sadly I found myself getting sucked into Twitter's rabbit hole, and began getting involved in discussions about politics, "Top of the Pops" repeats on BBC4, comedy, poetry and writing, and these started to dwarf the actual tweets I was writing about obscure vinyl finds. This cheesed off some of the original followers who followed me mainly to read about singles on the Pye label which had only sold 34 copies, and a lot of them huffed off like ignored guests at a house party. So the new account is properly tied to this blog and will be purely be about obscure music with all the distractions and obstacles stripped away. Like a social media version of "Just Juice", this will have all the lumps and bumps removed so you won't gag on my opinions about the dancers on "Top of the Pops" or Jeremy Corbyn ever again.

Of course, if you want to read my views on "Top of the Pops" and everything else besides, feel free to follow me on both accounts, and the world will be your oyster.