Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hip-Pocket Records - The Box Tops

Hip-Pocket Records - The Box Tops

HP-27 The Box Tops (The Letter/Happy Times)

Following on my recent post about Alex Chilton and The Box Tops here's another version of The Letter. This time it's a Hip-Pocket flexi-disc. Marketed as "the most portable form of music" Hip-Pocket Records were 4'' flexi-discs produced by Philco (a division of Ford Mortors) between 1967 and 1969. Each flexi-disc was double-sided and came housed in a 5'' x 6.25'' picture envelope. In total 41 different titles were produced and The Letter by The Box Tops was No. 27 in the series. A children's series of 12 flexis was also produced.     

HP-27 4'' Flexi-disc

"Buy the hits you missed - 25 to 50 hip pocket records can be carried in pocket or purse - Hip pocket records can be mailed with greeting cards as a gift - They will outlast a regular 45 - Drop them or sit on them...they are almost indestructible - Take them to parties or to the beach or picnic...they are the most portable form of music - Don't let the small size fool you...the sound is amazingly big - Start your collection of hip pocket records today."

The back of HP-27

Philco also manufactured a portable minature record player to play the flexis, the Minature Radio Phonograph or Mini Radio Phono as it was known. The 2-speed units were also capable of playing 7'' and 12'' records. Needless to say the Hip-Pocket records never really took off and the series was abandoned after the HP-41, but the concept of making record collections portable would stay alive. My own copy of The Letter by The Box Tops has actually lasted really well considering its age, is still playable and sounds pretty damn good. Check out one person's great Hip-Pocket collection below.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Episode 341

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 341

This episode kicked off with Yesterday the Dog by Inner Dialogue from their self-titled 1969 album.  It's a great lost record and its mellow, dreamy, pop psych sounds will be loved by any Stereolab fans. A Rate My Music reviewer described the record as, "a superb sunshine pop album, with some baroque touches. Two women singers and their intertwining vocals weave complex vocal parts around top rate arrangements. This record could give the Free Design a run for their money any day."

Inner Dialogue - Inner Dialogue (1969, Ranwood Records)

Inner Dialogue's B. J. Ward (vocals), Lynn Dolin (vocals) and Gene Dinovi (dulcitron/piano)

B. J. Ward - Vocal Ease (1974, Catfish Records)

On this episode we also played Keep it to Yourself from B. J.'s 1974 solo album, Vocal Ease. The LP's a jazzy mix of funky soft-rock tunes and an original goes for silly money, possibly because apart from lending her vocals to Inner Dialogue, B. J. also was the voice of Velma from Scooby Doo. The LP's a mix of upbeat covers of Neil Young, Tom Jones, Gerry Rafferty and The Beach Boys alongside some originals.

This episode also featured Aliens in Our Mist by Sacramento's The Twinkeyz. The psychedelic pop garage band was formed in 1977 by Don Marquez (aka Donnie Jupiter), Walter Smith, Tom Darling and Steve Bateman. They only released a few singles and one LP, 1979's Alpha Jerk splitting up in 1980.

The Twinkeyz - Cartoon Land (2002, Anopheles Records)

Donnie describes the band's sound on his website: "The Twinkeyz music consisted of slightly skewed song structures held together with twisted pop hooks and treated with a more than liberal dose of noise and effects. The Twinks’ never met an effect box they didn't like." I came across Cartoon Land in Spin Dizzy Records in Dublin a good few years ago and was hooked after hearing opening track, Aliens in Our Midst. This clear vinyl LP is limited to 1000 copies and comes with new artwork by Donnie, who is now a very successful cartoonist. 

Episode 341 - 24/03/2001


Inner Dialogue - Yesterday the Dog
B. J. Ward - Keep it to Yourself
John Cameron - Training Kes (from Kes OST)
Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High (Playing Whelan's April 1)
Cornershop - The 911 Curry
Errors - Bridge or Cloud (the Field Remix)
Halves - Only Soft Landings
Cut Copy - Alisa
The Human League - Never Let Me Go
The Loves - King Kong Blues
Spectrals - Peppermint
Gruff Rhys - Sophie Softly
Esben and the Witch - Swans
Low - Witches
Eat Lights : Become Lights - Dark Master
Brad Medhidau - Things Behind the Sun
Seefeel - Faults
Spokes - Canon Grant
Grinderman - Palaces of Monteuma (Cenzo Mix)
Hotels - The Bat Watusi
Lukke Li - I Know Places
Arbouretum - The Empty Shell
Life Without Buildings - Let's Get Out
Josh T. Pearson - Woman When I've Raised Hell (Playing The Workman's Club March 26)
Janice Whaley - Jeane
Joan as Police Woman - The Action Man
Mazes - Most Days
Wolf People - Silbury Sands
The Twinkeyz - Aliens in Our Midst

Monday, March 21, 2011

From the Archives - All's Fair in Love and Vinyl

Songs To Learn And Sing - All's Fair in Love and Vinyl (audio package)

I was at the Music, CD and Record Fair last Saturday and picked up a few gems which can be viewed below.

The record fair is staged in Dublin a few times a year and is a mecca for vinyl enthusiasts.  Back in 2004 I produced a feature on the record fair for Segments, a radio show I co-produced for Dublin City FM. Segments was a weekly series of documentary shorts reflecting different aspects of Dublin life. This particular feature was recorded at the record fair when it was staged at the Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire.

It's a simple audio collage of interviews with record dealers and collecters, chatting about what records they're after and what sells well. It gives a unique glimpse into the mind's of vinyl collecters. Brian O'Kelly the organiser, also chats about what records people always ask for. 1973's Early One Morning by Mushroom (Aonghus McAnally's prog/Celtic rock outfit), that a few of the dealers mention in the feature was reissued on CD by Radioactive Records in 2006. I wonder has the reissue somewhat deflated the £300 asking price that vinyl copies of the record were going for back in 2004?  The feature can be heard below. Check out Irish Record Fairs for the date of the next fair. 

Bongwater - The Power of Pussy (1991, Shimmy Disc)

The Power of Pussy, Bongwater's third and finest album features their version of The Weavers' Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. Bongwater was Ann Magnuson and Kramer and they released four albums between 1989 and 1992.

Marvin Gaye & His Girls (1969, Tamla Motown)

A compilation of Mavin Gaye deuts with Mary Wells, Tammi Terrell and Kim Weston. Despite its cheesy title this is simply wonderful and also festures one of my all time favourite tracks, You're All I Need to Get By by Marvin and Tammi. This album was released on Marvin's 30th birthday.

The Beach Boys - Surf's Up (1971, Caribu Records/CBS Records)

Surf's Up is regarded by many as being Brian's masterpiece but it also features Bruce Johnson's Disney Girls, one of my all time favourite Beach Boys tracks. Years ago at a gig in the Lobby Bar in Cork Peter Bruntnell led the audience in a singalong to Disney Girls. It is still to this day one of my most memorable gigging experiences - how sad it that! I love this record.

Amon Düül II - Live in London (1973, United Artists Records)

Recorded live at The Greyhound in Croyden on 16th December 1972, on the band's first UK tour this is a great set from Amon Düül II, kicking off with a brilliant version of Yeti's Archangels Thunderbird. This is the original pressing  in pristeen condition and the sleeve is just absolutley nuts - a giant alien insect with a German stormtrooper's helmet destroying london, the Post Office Tower in its left claw and flying saucers in the background. Julian Cope described this sleeve as "the greatest Krautrock image of all."   

The Beach Boys - Wild Honey/Friends (1975, Capital Records)

A 1975 Capital Records reissue of 2 Beach Boys LPs in a gatefold sleeve with the orange Capital labels. This was a nice find in mint condition, the inner gatefold is really nice and has pictures of all The Beach Boys back catologue. All in all a nice haul for a Saturday morning.  

The Beach Boys - Wild Honey/Friends - Inner Gatefold

Friday, March 18, 2011

Episode 340

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 340

Julian Cope - The Jehovahcoat Demos (2011, Head Heritage)

This episode of the show features two tracks from Julian Cope's latest album, The Jehovahcoat Demos. The album is a collection of 15 previously unreleased tracks that were recorded thoughout 1993 "in direct response to having been dropped by Island Records the previous October". Head Heritage describes the Jehovahcoat Demos as, "an intense 65-minute journey through the music and mind of the Archdrude during his research period for both Krautrocksampler and The Modern Antiquarian." The booklet also features five previously unpublished poems. 

Julian Cope's aforementioned Krautrocksampler, published in 1995, was a great resource in a pre-internet era. I can happily admit to being turned on to the extraordinary sounds of Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster, Faust, Neu!, Harmonia, Cosmic Jokers and Popol Vuh after reading about their records in Cope's Cosmic Field Guide. This episode also featured three tracks from Florian Fricke's Popol Vuh. The tracks are all from Werner Herzog films and feature on three of the five albums that were recently released in a lavish boxset: The Werner Herzog Soundtracks. 

My copy of the boxset arrived this week and whilst my photo isn't as nice as the promo shots it does have a certain out-of-focus charm to it. This boxset does not disappoint, the package and contents are of the highest quality. The boxset contains soundtracks to Heart of Glass (1976), and the Klaus Kinski-starring Aguirre (1972), Nosferatu (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Cobra Verde (1987) and a 96 page hardback book with essays, commentaries, notes from Herzog and others. A beautiful package put together with care and does the wonderful music justice. A fantastic companion piece to Anchor Bay's 2004, Herzog/Kinski DVD boxset. 

The Outlaws - Dream of the West (1961, HMV)

We finished this week's episode with The Outllaws by The Outlaws from their Joe Meek produced 1961 instrumental album Dream of the West. The Outlaws were meek's house band and played on a lot of the hit singles that came out of Meek's 304 Holloway Road studio.

The Outlaws - "the Outlaws"

Episode 340 - 17/03/2010

Lykke Li - Unrequited Love
Grimes - Devon
Eat Lights : Become Lights - They Transmit
Julian Cope - Sun Honey
Arbouretum - When Delivery Comes
Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma (Cenzo Mix)
Suicide - Dream Baby Dream
The Go! Team - Super Triangle
The Pains of Being Pure of Heart - Heart in Your Heartbreak
Bat for Lashes - Howl
Wye Oak - Civilian
Popol Vuh - Aguirre 1 (Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
Popol Vuh - Morning Sun (Nosferatu)
Popol Vuh - Engel der Gegenwart (Heart of Glass)
Catherine Wheel - I Want to Touch You
Ladytron - Fighting in Built Up Areas
The Smiths - How Soon Is Now? (Italian 12'' Version)
Dum Dum Girls - He Get Me High (playing Whelan's, April 1)
Best Coast - Crazy For You
Centro-matic - Liquidation Heart
Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
Palace Brothers- Horses
Smoke Fairies - Riversong
Smoke Fairies - Living With Ghosts
Julian Cope - Theme From Jehovahcoat
Smog - A Hit
The Outlaws - The Outlaws

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Box Tops - The Letter

The Box Tops - The Letter b/w Choo Choo Train

"Alex Chilton - One of the most distintive voices in pop music. He sounds rough and gravelly most of the time, but when he sings a ballad he reveals an unexpected tenderness and sensitivity. He has the mischievous and subtle charm of a young tiger who still doesn't realize his full strength" - from the sleeve of Stiff's 1978 reissue of The Letter.
The Letter b/w Choo Choo Train (1974, Bell Records - France)

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Alex Chilton's passing. This post is in tribute to the singer of one of my all-time favourite songs - The Letter by The Box Tops. It's 1 minute 53 seconds of greatness and still sounds absolutely amazing. I never tire of this track no matter how often I play it. My own copy of this 7'' is a 1974 French pressing of The Letter backed with the band's fourth single Choo Choo Train in a beautiful picture sleeve with the band standing on some train tracks literally waiting for "a fast train". 

The Letter was written by Wayne Carson Thompson and was a worldwide hit in 1967 selling over four million copies. It was No. 1 for four weeks in the U.S. and reached No. 11 in Ireland. Thompson also wrote the band's second single, Neon Rainbow but he is probably best known for co-writing, alongside Mark James and Johnny Christopher, Always on My Mind. Below you can see some other picture sleeves of The Letter from different countries.

The Letter b/w Cry Like a Baby (1978, Stiff Records - UK)

Reverse of the the Stiff reissue

The Letter b/w Happy Times (Italy)

The Letter b/w Happy Times (France)

The Letter b/w Happy Times (Japan)

The Letter b/w Happy Times (Germany)

The Letter b/w Happy Times (Sweden)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

From the Archives - Mazarin Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - Quentin Stoltzfus of Mazarin Interview

Mazarin - We're Already There (2006, Bella Union Records)

Mazarin played the Sugar Club, Dublin on April 5, 2006 in support of their amazing third album We’re Already There. Before the gig I interviewed Mazarin’s principal member and songwriter, Quentin Stoltzfus. We chatted about Quentin’s background, his work with other bands in Philadelphia, his approach to songwriting and collaboration, the Mazarin open door policy of band membership and his mother’s time in a Gospel trio with her sisters.

“They used to sing a lot of traditional songs Cater Family songs and traditional gospel songs and a lot of that stuff has been popping up in the last five years,” explained Quentin. “When I started getting into that stuff I got one disc in particular called American Primitive which was put out on the Revenant label. When I bought that record I was amazed by how many of the songs I knew, because my Grandmother used to sing to me as a kid also.”

American Primitive Vol. 1 (1997, Revenant Records)

Quentin was a real gent, you couldn't hope to meet a nicer interviewee and Mazarin went on to play a great gig later that night in the Sugar Club. It was a really memorable gig not least for the fact that I even got to meet Kevin Shields at the bar!

Mazarin would eventually play their final show later that year on December 2, 2006. Bizarrely another band called Mazarin had formally issued a cease and desist. Quentin’s Mazarin didn’t have the resources to retaliate so suggested both bands should simply co-exist but the other Mazarin and their attorney decided: either cease and desist, or we go to court. Eventually Quentin’s Mazarin and their management concluded “the whole predicament was so sad and despairing that instead of dragging out a lengthy litigation, which they had neither the time nor money to commit to - fuck it.”

Quentin currently resides in Philadelphia, where he is working as a recording engineer and producer in addition to still creating his own new music.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Episode 339

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 339

Various Artists - Before The Fall (2011, ACE Records)

Another week another Fall compilation! Not quite, this one is actually worth investigating. Before The Fall is a 24 track compilation of tracks that have been covered by The Fall since the mid-80s. I was first introduced to R Dean Taylor, The Saints and The Monks from cover versions that The Fall had recorded and this album gathers tracks by those artists along with some more obscure originals that have graced Fall albums and sessions over the years.

It's an incredibly diverse selection, in fact on their own they really don't belong together - where else would you find Sister Sledge alongside The Kinks or The Sonics. However this nugget is worth it for the really hard-to-find tracks that The Fall have covered: I'm Going To Spain by Steve Bent (as covered on 1993's The Infotainment Scan), Jungle Rock by Hank Mizell (as covered on 1997's Levitate), or the original of one of The Fall's most popular tracks, Mr Pharmacist by The Other Half (as covered on 1986's Bend Sinister). As always with ACE Records you get a fabulous booklet with well-researched liner notes and scanned ephemera. This is definately one compilation that fans of The Fall should consider getting. A 1977 Top of The Pops appearance by Brisbane's The Saints performing their hit This Perfect Day is below. The Fall covered the track on 1999's The Marshall Suite. We will be back to The Marshall Suite in April as it's finally being re-issued.    

Centro-matic/South San Gabriel - Eyas EP (2010)

"Hanging on the hinge of a syrupy and sweat-soaked summer, we are proud to announce the release of the important safety parachute to Dual Hawks' sprawling plume. "Eyas" is a seven song follow-up EP from those sessions, and includes offerings from both of our bands, Centro-matic and South San Gabriel. We were proud of these songs from the start. We wanted them to see the world." This is how Will Johnson, the Centro-Matic/South San Gabriel mainman describes last year's Eyas EP. It features four Centro-matic tracks and three South San Gabriel tracks including All Night Long, the Lionel Richie cover. I can't get enough of this version of All Night Long. 

All Night Long by South San Gabriel

The ever-prolific Johnson has also just released a new Centro-matic album, Candidate Waltz. Apart from playing in two bands, Johnson is also a huge baseball fan and has created a series of baseball-themed paintings to honour some legends of the game. His paintings can be viewed here.

Ernie Banks by Will Johnson

Episode 339 - 10/03/2011


Extra Life - Strong Brother, Weak Brother
Shugo Tokumara - Rum Hee
Vessels - The Trip
Eat Lights : Become Lights - Dark Matter
Crazy Horse - Gone Dead Train
Crazy Horse - Beggar's Day
The Memory Band - A New Skin
Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers
Lykke Li - Get Some (Beck Remix)
Errors - Bridge or Cloud? (The Field Remix)
Cut Copy - Take Me Over
Ladytron - Tomorrow
Halves - Growing & Glow
Dum Dum Girls - He Get Me High
Wye Oak - The Altar
South San Gabriel - All Night Long
Easterhouse - Whistling In the Dark
The Harvest Ministers - Cleaning Out the Store
Revelino - I Know What You Want
Grimes - Heartbeats
Steve Moore - Primitive Neutral Pathways
Hotels - Smith Lands On the Casino Planet
Essie Jain - Midnight Starship
Guy Chadwick - You Really Got A Hold On me
The House of Love - Crush Me
The Saints - This Perfect Day

Monday, March 07, 2011

Stereolab and Tortoise, Nancy Spains, Cork 1996

Stereolab and Tortoise, Nancy Spains, Cork 1996

Flyer: Stereolab, Nancy Spains, Cork 1996 

It's fifteen years since this gig. It really doesn't seem like that long ago. I worked for Frontline Promotions in Cork when we brought Stereolab and Tortoise to Nancy Spains in 1996. I remember the gig for loads of reasons not least because I had to pay Tortoise's John McEntire £50 for their perfomance, as support band they were simply getting a nominal fee for their gig. I then had the cheek to ask the great man for a t-shirt and in fairness to the guy, he gave me one. I remember being totally thrilled to walk around Cork with the logo from the Gamera 12'' on my t-shirt.

For a lot of people it was one of those gigs where the support band outshone the main act. Indeed within a few months Tortoise's Millions Now Living Will Never Die was gaining word-of-mouth plaudits and people who had been introduced to them in mid-1996 couldn't believe the band had played to a small but appreciative crowd on Barrack Street. When Stereolab were booked we didn't know who they were bringing as support, hence Tortoise weren't even mentioned on the gig flyer.  Nancy Spains had a small enough stage and I've never seen so much backline packed onstage. Headliners Stereolab were brilliant, at the top of their game, they totally grooved. The setlist below is from the night. The split tour 7'' was a pressing of 1,500 copies on blue vinyl and goes for stupid money these days. An unforgetable night.   

Postcard: Stereolab

Setlist - Stereolab, Nancy Spains, Cork 1996

Stereolab/Tortoise - Split 7'' (1996, Duophonic Records)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Episode 338

Songs To Learn And Sing - Episode 338

(2005, ACE Records)

This episode of Songs To Learn And Sing kicked off with Ashes, the Rain and I by the James Gang. The song is the last track on the band's second album 1970's, James Gang Ride Again and also features on the above compilation from ACE Records, 2005's Hearing is Believing: The Jack Nitzsche Story (1962-1979).     

James Gang - Ashes, the Rain & I
(Strings Arranged by Jack Nitzsche)

It's a beautiful song not least for Nitzsche's sting arrangement.  Some people might recognise its string melody as sampled by Fatboy Slim on his track Right Here Right Now. This was Jack Nitzsche’s only time working with the James Gang, he spent most of 1970 touring with Crazy Horse, playing electric piano, and he went on to produce their first sans-Young album in 1971. Nitzsche is of course well known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young but his story is an amazing history of popular music in its own right.

He co-wrote Needles and Pins with Sonny Bono in 1963, he was an arranger and conductor for Phil Spector. He orchestrated River Deep, Mountain High’s ambitious Wall of Sound for Spector and Ike and Tina Turner. He worked with the Rolling Stones on a number of their albums and contibuted the choral arrangements to You Can’t Always Get What You Want. He was also a prolific film orchestrator and wrote the soundtracks to both Performance and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He also won an Academy Award for Best Song for co-writing with Buffy Sainte-Marie Up Where We Belong from 1982's An Officer and a Gentleman. He died in 2000 and the ACE compilation along with its companion CD, Hard Workin’ Man: The Jack Nitzsche Story Volume 2 are essential purchases.

This episode also featured two tracks from the debut album by Eat Lights : Become Lights. Autopia is released on Enraptured Records and comes in a beautiful clear green vinyl, limited edition. The album arrived earlier this week and hasn't left the CD player yet. It's a hypnotic blend of fuzzed guitars and driving beats. The label themselves put it perfectly when they explain that ELBL share "a  deep love of classic German electronic acts of the 1970s, evoking classic kosmische bands but making the sound very much their own, creating an ever-changing synesthesic landscape of harmony and melody, feedback & drones, played against a driving motorik beat." Definately one of the best albums of the year so far.

Eat Light : Become Lights - Autopia

Episode 337 - 24/02/2011


James Gang - Ashes, the Rain & I
Darren Hayman & the Secondary Modern - Winter Makes Me Want You More
Seeland - Abraham, Martin And John
Seeland - Underpass
Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep
Eat Lights : Become Lights - Machine Language
Eat Lights : Become Lights - Muzak for Motorways
Dum Dum Girls - There Is A  light That Never Goes Out
Alvarius B. - You Only Live Twice
Abouretum - The Highwayman
Janice Whaley - Bigmouth Strikes Again
Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma (Cenzo Mix)
Hal Blaine - Kaleidoscope (March)
Wye Oak - Dog Eyes
Lykke Li - Rich Kid Blues
Owen Pallett - Lewis Takes Off His Shirt (Dan Deacon Remix)
Yuck - The Wall
James Blackshaw - Part 2
Appaloosa - Intimate (Another Lonely Night)
Cassius - Brotherhood
If By Yes - You Feel Right (Cornelius Mix)
Deepchord presents Echospace - Elysian
Cocteau Twins - Tishbite
Esben and the Witch - Light Streams
Cold Cave - The Great Pan Is Dead
Eels - Spectacular Girls