Thursday, 10 December 2009

Hatebeak : Beak Of Putrefaction / God Of Empty Nest

One I discovered via Ed Pinsent's excellent Vinyl Viands magazine (an outgrowth of his wonderful and long-running The Sound Projector); and about as metal as I'm ever likely to get. Described inside the sleeve as, "a conceptual record based on countless death metal albums", this 2004-issue 33 r.p.m. split single (mine comes in slightly marbled blackish vinyl, supposedly "African grey") on Baltimore label Reptilian (REP 077) marked the debut of Willl (sic), Blayk and Mrk (sic) - alongside fourth member Waldo. Very much the star of the show, being a fifteen-year-old Congo African grey parrot, Waldo provided all the squawks and screeches, stuck on top of the mix of pounding drums and guitar/bass racket.
Front sleeve features the Hatebeak logo of gothic lettering and a little cartoony drawing of a bird hatching from a white egg, all enclosed in stylised red flames - this a steal from the insignia of the all-human band Hatebreed. The colour pic on the front was pilfered from Judas Priest's Screaming For Vengeance, though a photograph of a majestic-looking Waldo was stuck on top to disguise the fact, as Hatebeak had no wish to fall foul of artists they held dear. Beak Of Putrefaction is a nod to Carcass's Reek Of Putrefaction; I guess the other title refers to Morbid Angel's God Of Emptiness. On the inside there's a pentagram, entwined in which we see the skeleton of a bird, perhaps an archaeopteryx ?
At least one more split single exists by this purely studio-based band (no live performances were considered possible due to the effect of the decibel levels on a sensitive creature) - Bird Seeds Of Vengeance (REP 090), the other side by Caninus who apparently featured dog vocalists. Sad to report that a copy of this disc continues to elude my clutches.
Blayk : "The only goal of Hatebeak really is to raise the bar as far as extreme music goes. Many bands have come before and played an extreme form of music, and this was my way of taking it up a notch."

Interview : http://www.blacktable.com/dorfman040906.htm.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Lee Patterson : Egg Fry #2

A recent-release three-inch, fifteen-mins-plus CD-R (Cathnor Recordings Vignettes Series CV006) in a colour-printed-inside-and-out folded card cover as broad as but a little shorter than a B format paperback, the whole encased in a protective thin plastic outer. Prestwich, Manchester sound artist Lee Patterson's fascination with listening to breakfast cooking led to his experimenting with attaching tie-clip microphones to a pan's rim, recording an egg frying and then - following the crescendo of sound - the cooling-down process. For this second egg recording, dated 15th March '05, he used a pair of cheap electret-condenser mics, the only ones which would withstand the intense heat. The close-up recording revealed a soundworld Patterson wouldn't have managed to encounter for safety and practicality reasons.
A little traffic noise intrudes, which seems to be enough of a source of irritation to warrant a mention by Patterson (who lives near a main road and a motorway junction) - but to this listener that's fine, all a part of the whole : presumably everything could have been set up in a more clinical, soundproofed studio environment... but much of the charm of this compelling piece resides in the domestic circumstances of its making, the lovely accessibility of that, the suggestion of try-this-at-home (but carefully).
Patterson has described how, although the mundanity of the situation might distract some listeners, he was excited to discover the rewards of paying very close attention to what was happening sonically - "...this recording easily transcends its origins...". He writes that he was "astounded by the level and the density of sonic activity within this 'sound-scape in a pan'". It'd be quite easy to dismiss this disc as a bit of a joke, something perhaps suited to an extract being broadcast on Dr. Demento's show, but its existence forces one to reconsider soundscape recordings, that heirarchy in which certain subjects - melting ice, for instance - are deemed as being more worthy of consideration, documentation; more serious.
I don't think the egg depicted on the cover, with its golden yolk and bubbling-up white, is the egg, unless designer Olaf Oxleay was present in Patterson's kitchen... Initial copies come with a special printed fried egg label, which reminds me of that of the Concord company (http://www.ranwell.co.uk/lt_pigeon/images/lt_pigeon/con008a.jpg) which released material by the great Stavely Makepeace.
David Toop has been in online discussion with Lee Patterson regarding the former's great liking for "what happens when you plunge a very hot frying pan into cold water" - which could make a fantastic sequel piece to this disc.

Link : http://www.cathnor.com/Cathnor_New_CV006.html. The CD is £6 inclusive.
Lee Patterson : http://www.myspace.com/therealleepatterson; and http://www.thewire.co.uk/articles/2378/.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Douglas Roy : Disco To The King

A 1977 Polydor seven-inch (2058 989) with unpleasant cheapo red injection-moulded plastic labels, in a special white die-cut paper sleeve (rather than a proper picture one) with black text on just one side.
Apparently Douglas Roy was an Elvis Presley impersonator from Niagara Falls, the only one of his kind known to have shared the stage with Elvis himself; and from its release date I'd guess that this 45 must have appeared in the wake of the King's untimely demise, reports of which were beginning to filter through whilst John Peel was on the air in his ten-to-midnight slot.
The sleeve of this two-parter lists fifteen different songs (with composer credits) associated with the dyed-blueblack-haired sometime rocker, each side consisting of a medley of several of these - to a string-laden, brass-punctuated disco beat with a surfeit of backing vocals, and some dubbed-on crowd appreciation presumably poached from an in-concert recording of the singer once considered broadcastable from the waist upwards only.
This record is wonderfully and completely of its era - a combination of a response to a major cultural event (if that was the case, unless this was simply released as a novelty) with the dominant musical form of the moment. Incongruous ? Preposterous ? To me, it works really well, and is far less reverent and mawkish a tribute (if that's how it was intended) than much of the slop which appeared after 16th August '77, like Skip Jackson's unintentionally hilarious The Greatest Star Of All, a Kenny Everett World's Worst Record Show L.P. "favourite" - more a celebration, a pleasing reimagining of Elvis Aaron as a living, active, contemporary entity. Did Elvis ever venture into the disco genre during his lifetime ? Might he, had he lived ? This single predates the dancefloor smash A Little Less Conversation by a good quarter-century.
I'm not aware of that many records by Elvis impersonators - I remember the turban-wearing Peter Singh whose disc I've yet to locate; and there's the Swedish Eilart Pilarm who appears on the first volume of the outsider music collection Songs In The Key Of Z. And of course there's El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. An early Rhino Records release is supposedly an International Elvis Impersonators' Convention (RNEP 505) (http://991.com/Buy/ProductInformation.aspx?StockNumber=487077), yet it feels to me like it's played for laughs as each of the Elvises has his own distinct characteristic - Jewish, Indian, Japanese etc.
Two excellent books on the topic grace my shelves : American Graphic Systems, Inc.'s I Am Elvis (Pocket Books, 1991); and photographer Kent Barker's collaboration with writer Karin Pritikin, The King & I (Chronicle, 1992).
The sole Elvis disc I have is a reissue of the pre-Army Mystery Train, incidentally, though I'm told that his gospel recordings are pretty good. I was never much of a fan as a kid when he was making 45s like An American Trilogy...

YouTube link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qeWecgRUCs&feature=related.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dolly Parton : Jolene

Possibly the best known of all Dolly's compositions, Jolene (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jolene_(song)) is the lead track on a seven-inch maxi-single (RCA Victor RCA 2675) which was her breakthrough hit in the British market in 1976, reaching number seven in June of that year. Whilst there's nothing remotely unusual about this disc in itself, either musically or as an object (unless one views the value-for-money three-track maxi as a curious product of the 'seventies, like Dynaflex, say), it merits inclusion in this journal because of how Dolly was manipulated by John Oswald (link : http://ubu.artmob.ca/sound/oswald_john/mystery_tapes/x1_version/ - it's number 13).
"Dolly Parton gets a sex change by slowing down the speed of one of her singles...", wrote Andrew Jones in his book Plunderphonics, 'Pataphysics + Pop Mechanics, which includes this quote from Oswald : "Although the idea of slowing down Dolly Parton was my idea, two separate Dolly Parton fans told me on two separate occasions that I should listen to Dolly Parton 45s at 33 RPM, because she sounded really great at that speed. And it's true."
From http://www.plunderphonics.com/xhtml/xnotes.html: "Pretender (based on 'The Great Pretender' written by Buck Ram) features the opportunity for a dramatic gender change, suggesting a hypothesis concerning the singer, Ms.Parton, perhaps worthy of headlines in the National Enquirer. The first inklings of this story came from fans of Ms.Parton's earlier hit single 'Jolene'. As many consumers have inadvertently discovered, especially since the reemergence of 12' 45rpm records of which this present disc is a peculiar subset, it is not uncommon to find oneself playing 45rpm sides at the LP standard speed of 331/3. In this transposed tempo 'Jolene' reveals the singer to be a handsome tenor. Additional layers of homosexual longing, convoluted ménages à trois and double identities are revealed in a vortex of androgyny as one switches, verse to verse, between the two standard playback speeds."
Whilst to my ears the backing music does work extremely well, the reduced pace darkening the mood of the track wonderfully, I'm not sure I'm totally convinced that Dolly's voice resembles that of a male when heard at twelve revs fewer per minute - but if disbelief can be suspended briefly, one gets a whole new intriguing perspective on her lyric : a man worrying about losing his man to the song's female subject; the vulnerability of a male capable of being moved to tears by the potential situation.
As the strangeness of this release resides solely in how the disc's misused, I'm rather tempted to have a one-off custom pressing produced for my "museum" by Vinyl Carvers (http://www.vinylcarvers.com) which plays at the expected speed yet features the song at its adjusted pace.
I once read of a show on Resonance FM dedicated to records being played at the wrong speed, but I've yet to listen in.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Gerhard Kammerlander

An impersonator of bands, Gerhard Kammerlander produced each sound with his mouth alone, like the various human beatboxes to be heard on rap records, the self-proclaimed first of these being Doug E. Fresh. Kammerlander first came to my attention several years back, via an airing of my friend Alasdair's copy of the essential John Peel's Archive Things (http://peel.wikia.com/wiki/John_Peel's_Archive_Things), a 1970-released BBC label compilation (REC 68M). This absolute treasure trove of a record gathered together "unusual recordings from the BBC archives" - for instance, a traditional children's rhyme from Liverpool; a Zulu gumboot dance; Balinese gamelan; a live beetle jew's harp from New Guinea; and a nose flute quintet from Malaysia. In his back sleeve blurb, Peelie describes his "personal wish" for radio : "a completely flexible and format-less service", going on to mention that he came closest to realising his ideal in 1968 - '69 - firstly in the opening half of his Wednesday Night Ride show; and then in its Wednesday evening successor which "appeared briefly... before being pruned in the name of uniformity".
Herr Kammerlander's 1 min 40 track which closes side one - impossible to follow, I guess - is his interpretation (listed as Trumpet Imitation) of a march called Uzun Havasipo, "meaning a "long" or "tall" melody". Sad to relate that Internet searches have failed to turn up any information on this wonderful Austrian vocalist (from Bludenz, Vorarlberg). I'm unable to say if he's still alive, or if any other recordings exist - but I dearly hope there's more out there : how did those hundred seconds happen to be in the Beeb's archive ? Surely there must have been other performances, an interview, even... ?
John Peel went on to select more archive material for his 'eighties series Peel's Pleasures, including a marvellous recording of one Mrs. King and her Siamese cat Si-Si (sp ?), Mrs. K. singing Mighty Like A Rose with pussycat yowl accompaniment. I remember that Ivor Cutler incorporated BBC archive recordings into a series of programmes he made for (I think) Radio 3. Time, surely, for many more volumes of oddities and wonders from this rich source to be exhumed and compiled.

Link (active?) : http://www.fileden.com/files/2007/3/7/860001/Brassband.mp3.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Sparkie Williams

Here's a good pop quiz poser : Which 'fifties British recording star was stuffed after his death in 1962 ? The answer : Sparkie Williams (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/79/Sarkiethebudgie.jpg), the red labels of whose Parlophone single (Philip Marsden Introduces Sparkie Williams ; 45-R 4475), offering up the info that he was, "The 1958 Champion Talking Budgerigar". On this disc from that year, "The T.V. budgie man" Philip Marsden introduces himself, then has an amiable cut-'n'-paste chat with Sparkie, who reveals his address as, "34 Garden Drive, Forest Hall" (Newcastle); comes out with a few phrases ("Mama's precious pet"; "Mama's little treasure"; "Mama's beautiful little bird"); and states that he loves his "mama" and "daddy". A requested cup of tea is gently denied him by Marsden, who puts the talking wonder through his paces, encouraging him to recite various short pieces of poetry before the beverage is finally forthcoming in sympathetic response to Sparkie coughing. One poem is rendered in Sparkie's local Geordie dialect.
The flip Sparkie The Fiddle spoofs an American thriller, all D.A.s and "dames", and sees the budgerigar "acting" (i.e. with recordings of his voice dropped into the story). Each side has a "Peacock" composer credit, which gives the game away rather as regards the topside, the notion of Mr. Marsden and Sparkie having a cosy natter together in the studio. I wonder if there were any earlier records of talking budgies, back in the 'twenties and 'thirties, the heyday of novelty 78s ?
My first encounter with Sparkie was on the Caperns Pretty Talk ! flexidisc (Printed Sound Limited) (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Ya4mXnw2WsI/Ss89olSvlCI/AAAAAAAAAzY/QCcNXFWK3m4/s1600-h/pretty_talk_record_front.jpg), on which he demonstrates his prowess on the final track, the other seven being devoted to his "mum" Mattie L. Williams (who provides helpful back sleeve blurb) repeating phrases over and over so that your budgie might pick them up. Michael Nyman's 1977 piece Pretty Talk For George Brecht (unheard by me, alas) made use of material from that flexi. More recently, Nyman produced an opera based on the brief life of Sparkie : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/7963007.stm; and http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/stage/opera/article5977349.ece. Recordings of
Sparkie have also appeared on a 1967 Philips label budgie tuition L.P., Talking Budgerigars With Philip Marsden (BL 7824); and on the British Library's essential Bird Mimicry CD (http://publishing.bl.uk/cd/bird-mimicry).
I've no idea as to whether budgerigar-keeping is still a popular pastime, or if there's a ban in force these days... it feels very much something from a bygone era - perhaps a bit Beanoland; from a climate in which some features and attitudes are in aspic, like mortarboard-wearing schoolmasters : one can easily imagine a first frame in which Biffo says, proudly, "Isn't my new budgie a beauty, Buster ?", as said creature greets the bear's bereted sidekick to his amazement and pleasure.

Links : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparkie; http://archive.thisisthenortheast.co.uk/2002/12/3/112483.html.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

John Cage and Lois Long : Mud Book

A book on an unexpected subject. Subtitled, How To Make Pies And Cakes, this five-and-a-quarter-inch-square hardback appeared via Harry N. Abrams in 1988 (ISBN 0-8109-1533-2) and consists of forty pages plus a three-page essay by John Russell in which the mud pie is described as, "the first working model of all human makings". Composer Cage and 1918-born textile designer Long collaborated on Mud Book's original text and artwork one mid 'fifties autumn evening in Pomona, New York. It was intended as a children's book with a view to it bringing in some money. Unfortunately they were unable to raise any interest in it. Having rediscovered the moquette in her files, Long showed it to artist Graham Snow, whose dealer, gallery owner David Grob, was enthusiastic. A numbered, signed edition of five hundred concertina-format books was produced in 1983 in conjunction with Tokyo printer Hiroshi Kawanishi (Simca Print Artists). Simca used over one hundred silkscreens to approximate the original as accurately as possible. Abrams published the first trade edition, but I wonder how many copies of this more financially accessible version were bought for kids, if it ever transcended its artist's book status and reached its intended audience ?
The pages are thick cream-coloured art paper and the easy-to-follow (a mud pie being something anyone can make, whatever their age) instructions and ingredients ("some dirt and enough water") are handwritten in black in upper case. The illustrations are lovely and simple, with just brown, orange and white being used along with the aforementioned black : for "some dirt", we see a basic brown triangle representing a heap of earth; for "dump it onto a newspaper", a real torn-off piece of newspaper is the background for the mud's brown blob - the facing page shows a newspaper rectangle with six different brown shapes painted on. Classified ads on both of these pieces of paper concern the availability of pets : golden retriever, poodles, rottweiler, samoyed, Siberian husky, cats - and a "female, Tig tail MacAcque" for sale for two hundred bucks. The sun is pictured as an orange disc with stylised flames shooting out.
There's a recipe for a mud layer cake, with a depiction of sieving to extract the black pebbles which will form the cake's filling. A fine double-pager illustrating the mud and water mixing process is rather ab ex, all Pollocky scribbles and drips. Cage and Long also show how to decorate the layer cake, with dried dandelions as candles, for a birthday, and a great spread has the white seeds floating away against a black background after the blowing-out ceremony.
Lois Long worked with fungi expert John Cage (with Long, plus a couple of others, Cage formed the New York Mycological Society in 1962, hunting mushrooms) on another book, Mushroom Book (http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/268626/surprising-literary-ventures.thtml), though I've yet to locate a copy and am not certain as to whether it was republished by Abrams alongside the pair's mud pie one.

New York Times article : http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/30/magazine/the-mud-club.html.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

two decimalisation-themed 45s

I always rather enjoy records pertaining to events, fads, and campaigns; in addition, I take a perverse delight in owning just one or two discs by folk whose music I generally find unpalatable : Cliff Richard's Thunderbirds movie song Shooting Star is great, but is pretty much all the Cliff I can cope with. Similarly, Des O'Connor's dance craze cash-in Twist Drive and his swinging London paean Dick-A-Dum-Dum are the only Des necessary. And I find Shirley Bassey's Bond film work sufficient too.
Max Bygraves is one of those cringe-inducing light entertainment characters to whom I've always given a wide berth - but I'm pleased to possess his 1970 single Decimalisation (Pye 7N.17999) in its blue wavy-top paper company sleeve. A Gordon Rees/Ernie Ponticelli composition, Decimalisation is a close relative of Cliff's irrepressible '68 Eurovision smash Congratulations (note the extra syllable in its one-word title) - and thus sounds at least two years out of date for its release year.
Halfway through, Max tries his hand at rapping : "The half-crown too has gone for good/ A coin that foreigners never understood" is my favourite couplet. Earlier, Max rhymes "shilling" with "milling" : "A fifty pence piece hasn't got a milling" is perhaps the sole instance of this word's use in a pop song. I prefer not to ponder the lengthy career of the British institution that is Max, save for to mention that I once learned that a Canterbury charity shop was refusing donations of Max's numerous albums for the reason that the sheer quantity, combined with the regular passing-on of members of his audience who'd agedalongaMax, meant that supply far outstripped demand. And Max's son recorded a few glam-era sevens (like Banana Pie) under the name "Ant".
A companion piece to Max's single is by a labelmate, a little lad name of Sebastian (no surname). My advance copy of D.E.C.I.M.A.L. (Pye 7N.45048) is rubber-stamped with the release date 26 FEB 1971. I guess this was Sebastian's only record. Penned by Roker and Beadle, its jaunty, easy listening pop backing isn't too far off what Dawn were doing in '71. Sebastian opens with, "Once upon a time we divided up our money into units called l. s. d." - those initials raising a smile coming from the mouth of one so weeny. Like Max, Seb does a little rap towards the record's close, and there's a great three-times-over call-and-response part worthy of James Brown : "Have you got it ?" "Yeah !" The flip, The Decimal Theme, has Seb prattling away precociously, displaying his knowledge over a spot of m.o.r. : "Now if a pound of meat costs 42 new pence what do three pounds cost ? The answer is 126 new pence which is the same as 1.26 pounds. Decimals are easy !"
I don't know how many decimal currency records appeared around D-Day-time, though I do have the BBC's 1970 Decimal Points L.P. (REMO 46M) upon which is explained the inevitable inaccuracy of a system which sees ten transposed onto twelve, and the resulting perceived short-changing of irritated customers by shopkeepers. I still seek Albert Steptoe actor Wilfred Brambell's CBS single The Decimal Song... was that the lot ? I've a decimal currency song from down under, on the magnificent Antipodean Atrocities double, but that's another story/continent...

Link to piece with Sebastian reference : http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,904712-1,00.html.

two decimalisation singles

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Postage cassette

Set up by Michael Leigh, The A.1 Waste Cassette Co. was "inspired by Morgan Fisher's Miniatures project" which, although not mail art network-related, "had a similar easygoing attitude and commitment", its accompanying documentation resembling that for a mail art show "if only people had the funds to pay for it !" (Quotes from interview with Michael by Ruud Janssen.)
The deadline was set for 20th July 1995, with Michael requesting brief submissions - music, poetry, whatever - on the single subject of postage, appropriately for the mail art community. The cassettes upon which contributions were sent were returned to each person containing a copy of the finished collection, a good way of reusing them and for Michael not to be left with a boxful of partially used tapes.
I've no idea who pioneered the running of a mail art project which concentrated on sound as opposed to visuals, though I'd wager that it wasn't Michael who was the first to do so. I can't remember how this cassette entered my possession.
A couple of points : How did Michael find participants ? Any direct approaches to folk he knew might be interested, or was every response to his call for submissions in (perhaps) Artists Newsletter ? Also : I wonder how many of those involved were at all known for their work with sound/music, or if this was a big departure for people more familiar with expressing themselves visually... ?
The tape contains thirty-nine tracks, with an international list of participants from the U.K., Italy, the U.S., France, Finland, Canada, Hungary, The Netherlands, Japan, Spain, Switzerland, and Eire. Names I know : Patricia Collins; Robin Crozier; Ruud Janssen; A.1 Waste Noise Co. Ltd.; and Bill Whorrall. The single-sided b&w inlay has tape graphics with "BUSH" altered to read "MUSH". It's a cleverly presented wraparound with a space cut in the centre of one panel to accommodate the case's twin prongs which slot into the spools. After the final track, Michael reads out the contributors' contact details, then fills the cassette with information on other mail art projects.
Bill Whorrall kicks things off with some dialogue, this being followed by the off-the-cuff Postal Rap. There's some chopped-up Beatles - Please Mr. Postman, inevitably; a poem with what sounds like yogurt pot percussion; music by the splendidly monickered Ivor Arbuckle; raspberry-blowing sounds by Robin and Chris Nolan Crozier; some saxophone; the word "postage" as a sample over some jaunty backing music featuring whistling; a song entitled Disgruntled Postal Worker; Ruud Janssen at his desk reading out part of the project's instructions; someone knocking on a door; a Japanese spoken word piece; some chat about the design of British postage stamps as compared to elsewhere in the world; Water Letter For Ray Johnson which seems to combine a manual typewriter and a flushing lavatory; a bunch of phrases on the subject for English learners from a crackly old tuition disc; an item being wrapped with paper and sticky tape; and lots more besides.
Whatever became of all these folk ? Somehow the medium (although never quite obsolete; occasionally experiencing a small revival) makes this cassette feel much further in the distance than its fourteen years, like a relic from the 'sixties or something. A very entertaining listen, though a shame it peters out three-quarters of the way through. I guess all of these recordings were of varying quality, which is pleasing; and nothing's permitted to outstay its welcome, the chopping-off point being one minute.
Michael also assembled collections on the themes of peace, and waste; in addition he ran a thematic tape exchange, building up a catalogue from which contributors of cassettes filled entirely with songs on a single subject could select one in return for theirs.

Michael Leigh : http://bootsalesounds.blogspot.com; http://flobberlob.blogspot.com; and http://curiosthings.blogspot.com.

mail art cassette inlay

MICHAEL : Please notify via comments if any errors/serious omissions and I'll rectify the entry, thanks !

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

two sleeves for milk chocolate records

Sitting proudly face out on a shelf in my flat are two seven-inch card sleeves, for "long "eating"" milk chocolate records made by Rotterdam company Beukers & Rijneke. The first I found was for Contemporary Mood - from the catalogue number on its front (Melodisc MLP 508), I guess this was an album sleeve shrunk down to size; no artist is given, but the feel is very 'fifties. (In the Record Collector Rare Record Price Guide there's a Lord Kitchener ten-inch numbered MLP 510 and dated 1957, which helps to pinpoint the date of the original jazz (?)record*, though I can't say if the chocolate version was produced in that year.)
The second sleeve was eagerly snapped up by me on eBay as it's a version of a cover I have (illustrator : Denis Piper) with the actual record inside - a wonderful 45 r.p.m. extended play entitled Calypso Time (Melodisc EPM 7-67) featuring Lord Kitchener's All Stars; Lord Kitchener with The Fitzroy Coleman Band; Russell Henderson Steel Band; and The Mighty Terror and The Rupert Nurse Calypso Band. Neither disc nor sleeve bear a date, though I'd hazard '57 for this one too, judging from a couple of the Leadbelly catalogue numbers with dates given in the aforementioned price guide.
The backs of the two choc record sleeves are identical - "This MILK chocolate record is wholly edible once the paper disc has been removed", runs a portion of the text. How many different Melodisc sleeves were used for Beukers & Rijneke chocolate records ? Would these discs have been playable in any way ? The reference to the paper disc is puzzling - could that have contained a sound recording ? Or was it just to protect the record's sleeve from staining by the confectionery ? Perhaps the chocolate record had paper labels, and this is what was meant ? I'm sure I've read about chocolate records covered in (briefly) playable tinfoil...
Whatever, these definitely served as unusual advertisements for the Melodisc label's output.
What other chocolate discs existed ? You'd think there might have been ones sold in repro Elvis and Beatles E.P. covers as those would have been real moneyspinners - but then such huge artists didn't exactly require the sort of commercial boost which would have been of benefit to a label such as Melodisc which dealt in more specialist musics.
I'd very much love to unearth an intact choc record in its sleeve, though fifty-two (?) years on it's unlikely that any survive owing to the foodstuff's fragility - as well as its utter scrumminess to the purchaser. Who'd not have felt tempted to eat their record ? (Having said that, I still have an unopened Thornton's Screaming Lord Sutch chocolate lolly made for the 1997 General Election.) I wonder if Robert Opie might have one... ?

* Edit : the artists on the Contemporary Mood L.P. were Ginger Folorunso Johnson, Fernand Calvet, Lionel Kerrien, and George Browne.

sleeve for chocolate record
sleeve for chocolate record

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Victor Olaiya & his "Cool Cats" Band : The Kerosine High-Life

One of my very favourites in my sizeable and rapidly expanding advertising discs collection, this undated, South Africa-made cardboard eight-inch 78-revs single-sider "comes to you with the compliments of Shell". Its manufacturer was Cameo Sound Pictures (Pty.) Ltd. of P.O. Box 5944, Johannesburg. Perhaps strangely, the music isn't South African, but is by the Nigerian Victor Olaiya & his "Cool Cats" Band (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Olaiya).
The play side is black with red and yellow print, plus white, and shows a Shell advertising character pointing to that famous company logo, and a great little "HOW TO PLAY THIS RECORD" panel near the top instructs the proud owner on using their "hand-wind portable gramophone" or "automatic electric gram". The disc's reverse is yellow, printed with a great drawing of a kerosine lamp aglow, wit the same advertising character holding aloft a small can/bottle and pointing at the word "kerosine".
The music is, I'd guess, typical of trumpeter Olaiya and his band at that time. The lyric's first verse runs, "For the brightest lights buy Shell kerosine/ For lighting and cooking use Shell kerosine/ It lasts longer and is three times brighter/ Shell kerosine (burns ?) stronger and is three times better." The following verse is , for me, less easy to decipher but does mention the cooking of food and "the brightest light". Prior to all this, a chap announces the band : "The makers of Shell kerosine have pleasure in bringing you the music of Victor Olaiya and his celebrated "Cool Cats" Band, and here they are - the "Cool Cats"."
The clear plastic disc is raised in a few spots around the edge on my copy where not sufficiently adhered, but the record still plays well after all these decades - a bit of pressure of the thumbs helps to subdue those slight bumps, helps the stylus get through them a little more easily - though the defect isn't at all a major one and is only detactable during the announcement. I'm not sure if there's a reliable method of re-adhering the disc to its backing card.
I wonder how this record was presented when new - mine came without a sleeve, via an eBay auction back in February 2008 (the seller described it as being 1950s). It's one I display on its edge, at the front of a shelf, leaning back, permanently visible - a beautiful artefact to the eyes as well as the ears.

South African cardboard record (front)
South African cardboard record (back)

Link to video of cardboard record collector Michael Cumella : http://www.printmag.com/Article/Michael_Cumellas_Flexi_Disc_Collection_Video.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Laurence Lane : Bip / Bip Bip

A record I own but have never heard. Presented in a transparent PVC sleeve, this double B side picture disc was released in 1999 on This Is Pop Records (5 029385 161187). The red label area mentions W&LI (Work & Leisure International - see write-ups of singles by Matt Wand and Hayley Newman; link : http://www.international3.com/work_lesure/wlitext.htm). Each side of this disc is black (aside from the label area), aping a conventional record, with the notable exception that on side B there's an unnumbered bar code, and two such bar codes decorating side BB.
I tried this record on my turntable, but not only did I just get silence but the stylus didn't progress : whilst it appears at first glance that there's a groove, that's just part of the picture - both sides are smooth to the touch.
This single is actually only audible if read with a bar code scanner. The topside's label area indicates that it's a 45, with the flip mentioning 90 BPM, so my interpretation is that it's necessary to hold or secure the scanner above the spinning record to get the desired effect, the ninety beats per minute.
Perhaps a ridiculous record to have spent £4.50 (plus handling charge) on, as I doubt I'll ever possess the correct set-up to experience it properly - but more than worth that price for its novelty value.
Interestingly, Lane receives the in-brackets composer credit for each side - I'm confused as to how that works copyright-wise : is it that particular numerical bar code Lane "composed"; or do Bip and Bip Bip refer to the broader idea ? That is, if someone made their own version of this single using their own unique bar code, would it constitute a cover, with royalties needing paying to Lane ? Certainly the "bip"s would sound the same...

Record available here : http://www.simplesampling.com/stockAvailablePAYpalV1.htm.
Laurence Lane is a director of International 3 : http://www.international3.com/about.php.
Link to one of Laurence's projects : http://www.croweandrawlinson.net/atp/artists/lane/intro.html.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Granny Takes A Trip 1980

This CD, issued by Allan Henry's imprint Topplers (perhaps best known for releases by former Swell Maps Jowe Head and Phones Sportsman), on their "cheap and nasty offshoot label" Topplers Lite, comes in a card cover upon which is reproduced the lovely colourful artwork from an old Hong Kong-manufactured "C-60 Compact Cassette" - an Eltex Space Tape (there's a fantastic web site, a gallery devoted to such recordable cassettes - it shows the inlays if you click on the pictures of the tapes to enlarge them : http://www.c-90.org/catalogue/tapes).
The disc itself is unusual as it's black rather than the typical silver, its label side cleverly designed to resemble a five-track vinyl record, with raised, feelable grooves.
In 2004, the cassette in question was unearthed in a Kilmarnock charity shop, and an edited version released by Topplers Lite in 2008; my copy is the '09 reissue (no catalogue number visible), the full recording with new music added. Sometimes this music is gentle and unobtrusive beneath the dialogue, other times it's a little more bubbly, makes its presence felt slightly more. Said dialogue is a day-to-day diary documenting an unknown Scottish woman's holiday in Europe : she visits France, Belgium and The Netherlands, a bit of a whistle-stop tour, seemingly. In her delightful accent, we hear details of her travels, learn of the various hotels, one "the full length of the street" with 290 bedrooms; of the weather; of what she had for breakfast and dinner - each meal almost invariably concluding with a cup of tea; of her inability to work the lift as she couldn't read the French-language instructions; of her impressions of the French (a lack of friendliness); about her having been told not to drink the water in foreign countries; of the dirtiness of Belgium; of the coronation of the new Dutch Queen (Beatrix); of a visit to an 81-year-old Mae West, who turned out to just be a woman who dressed up as her; of the Dutch flower market; and of the exploitative prices of certain things - "£23 for a headsquare ! It was ridiculous !". We also get guide book descriptions of the places Granny visits, including their populations, and we hear her chatting and joking with a couple of fellow holidaymakers. Prize quote for me has to be, in a French hotel, "I had twenty-eight potatoes on my plate !"

This release doesn't appear to be available any more.

Topplers : http://www.topplers.net.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The ESP Sampler

In my early teens, the sampler album was an excellent way of having seemingly important artists represented in my tiny record collection. Island's late 'sixties/early 'seventies various artists budget releases were still in the racks, the single L.P.s available for the price of a new 45 - King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man and Dr. Strangely Strange's Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal were particular favourites at thirteen. Other tremendous discoveries via samplers were the Third Ear Band's Stone Circle (off the twenty-track cheapie promoting the Harvest Heritage series - Shirley Collins was featured too, as well as Tomorrow's My White Bicycle); and Peter Hammill's German Overalls from a reduced-in-the-sale Charisma round-up. A few weren't so great, like the free CBS and Polydor ones I acquired through music weekly Sounds - generally, pretty dull; I wish I'd put the postage and packing money towards an Ivor Cutler or Lol Coxhill L.P. instead, but I was impatient to hear, and own music by, as many different artists as I could.
Amongst the most consistent samplers I've found are the three Virgin Front Line collections; and the 1982 double put out by Recommended, two hours long and encased in a glitter-decorated thick plastic outer. By comparison with the latter, On-U Sound's first Pay It All Back offering looks disappointingly cheap and nasty, though houses some gems like Prince Far I's classic ode to Bedward, a preacher whose faith erroneously led him to believe he could fly. Y Records' Birth Of The Y is pretty fine too, as are those assemblages of music from around the world on GlobeStyle. Then, each having its moments, there's Virgin's V double with its famous sleeve image of the six-fingered hand making a victory (or peace) sign... and of course Dandelion's There Is Some Fun Going Forward, the cover star being John Peel in the bath, with female company.
In the 'eighties I haunted Brighton's secondhand record shops, one day stumbling across The ESP Sampler (ESP-Disk' 1051) in Vinyl Demand. I knew of The Fugs, and Pearls Before Swine, and of course Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra, had an awareness of the label... The vinyl looks very distinctive, twenty-one tracks per side, most of equal(ish) length - one-minute excerpts from the ESP-Disk' catalogue. There are so many tracks that the listing had to be continued from the back cover onto an insert tucked inside the blue and red sleeve. I'd always loved records with lots of little tracks, from Young Marble Giants' Testcard (unusually, a six-band E.P.) through to Ivor Cutler's Privilege which had track separation lacking on his Virgin albums. I enjoy studying vinyl, generally trying out the shortest tracks first, wondering, "What on earth... ? !" if they clock in at a minute or less.
There's plenty of free music on this 99 cent sampler - it proved a crash course for me on those artists I'd read about in Valerie Wilmer's overview of the new jazz, As Serious As Your Life : Pharaoh Sanders, Milford Graves, Sunny Murray, Albert Ayler... There's so much more besides, though - underground stuff like The Godz (and the aforementioned Fugs and Pearls Before Swine); a portion from The Coach With The Six Insides (a musical adaptation of Joyce's Finnegans Wake); William Burroughs; Allen Ginsberg; Ishmael Reed; something from the Movement Soul L.P. of sounds of the freedom movement of the deep south; and a version, sung in Esperanto, of Auld Lang Syne, taken from the label's inaugural release. Vocalist Patty Waters first came to my attention via this sampler.
I guess The ESP Sampler might be filed alongside Morgan-Fisher's Miniatures project for which he enlisted numerous artists who submitted short tracks of around one minute. Although there were different reasons behind the two records, they seem to fit together nicely because of the brevity of the pieces.
The ESP Sampler was perhaps a canny commercial idea : give just a mouthwatering minute of things, enough to tantalise, arouse curiosity, encourage purchase. Maybe it was a little mean not to offer up entire tracks in most instances; or was that more to do with the lengths of many of the free jazz excursions which could scarcely be kept intact ? It's a pretty different story with rock-based samplers where whole tracks appear.

Link : http://espdisk.com/official/catalog/1051.html.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

David Ewan Campbell : Stucked - Up PART ONE (Stucks One to Twenty-Six)

This self-released, no-company-name 60-min cassette from sometime during the 'nineties was assembled by I'm Being Good's David Ewan Campbell, who recorded vinyl sticking on an irritatingly malfunctioning record deck, turning things around to make a virtue out of a hindrance.
No source listing, though David included a folded piece of paper showing approximate timings; and, if more than one for a source track, disc speeds. The inlay's spine reads, "Stucked Vinylesque Emmisions (sic)." The shortest stucks are a scant fifteen seconds apiece, the longest clocking in at a respectable-for-a-punk-45 2:36.
David invited folk to mail him blank cassettes which he promised/threatened to fill with their choice(s) from this collection - "guaranteed to be mesmerising, even mind-warping." He continues, "I defy anyone to gues where all these come from....." - quite a challenge. He did reveal his sources to me once, but - aside from his beloved Bonzos - I've entirely forgotten, which is possibly more fun than having immediate access to my jotted-down info, if indeed I still own that document. Knowing David, I'd wager there'd be some Beatles or an unusual Beatles cover here somewhere... Yesterday was my first listen to this cassette in years.
There's some jazz - David gives us a few secs past the stuck bit, but I don't recognise it. A nice one features some tuneful jazz piano with the typical appreciative smattering of applause which just continues and continues. Something that sounds like cartoon music reveals itself to be from a crackly old E.P. called Musical Multiplication Tables. Side B opens with a 45 version of side A's 33 closer, putting me in mind of when Neu filled a side of an album with a single played at different speeds - supposedly due to no recording budget remaining, or is that a myth ?
There's little chance of mistaking Beefheart - another of David's favourites.
On more than one piece it sounds as though David was monkeying about with the turntable, speeding up the disc with his fingers for comic effect... or perhaps he'd placed a finger on one of the tape machine buttons, half-depressing it to slow down the cassette so it'd play back super-fast. Or both.
Some tracks were recorded sticking at different speeds and in a variety of spots - there are as many as five examples from the disc used as the source for side A, number 6. Some have been faded carefully, others chopped abruptly.
Appropriately, David selected a Rev. Awdry illustration of a stuck steam engine for the b&w Xeroxed inlay - the inside has a quote from an Awdry Thomas story. My tape is black and labelled with manual-typewritten slips of paper, cut out wonkily and sticky-taped on.
To end the whole shebang, some spoken word : something perhaps Churchillian (?) and suitable for these stucks' "unquenchable spirit" (until, that is, David decided to fade/chop them) : "unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit/of the great and unquenchable spirit of the British race."

David Ewan Campbell
I think this photo was taken several years after the cassette...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Christof Migone : Crackers

The only joint Christof Migone is able to crack at will is his right ankle. (Experimenting, I discover that I can do my right elbow.) Eight other joint-crackers join him for this CD, dated 2001, which I guess was Chicago label Locust Music's inaugural release (Locust no. 1), which came to my attention via an ReR Megacorp mailout.
The reverse of this package reproduces a small ad run in a weekly paper : "Do you crack your fingers? Your neck? Your back? Your knees? Your elbows? Your ankles? Your hips? And your...? If so, please phone 230-2749 to make an appointment for a recording session."
Said sessions took place during a residency at Ottawa's Gallery 101 back in October '97 : the gallery's membership and the radio were the other two channels used for the recruitment of volunteers. Editing was performed the following January, and mixing in July 2000.
Here are fifty-two minutes-plus of knuckles, knees, wrists, jaws, toes, ankles, backs, necks, elbows and hips, all pressed into service to create Migone's compositions. It's enjoyable to hear enjoy the shards of fascinating dialogue from interviews preceding the cracking sessions.
Track one is quiet, necessitating the raising of hi-fi volume, or listening church mouse-like, but it's insistent with it : sharp pops and sizzles, plus what's possibly the high-pitched whistle of mic feedback. Another piece comes closer to replicating the sound of something ablaze; whilst a further one has plenty of off-kilter rhythm to it, as though a mysterious sport or dance is being participated in out of view : one can only guess, picturing a bizarre combination of, say, ping pong and tap. Close to the CD's end is a piece during which the individual cracks seem less apparent : there's something of a dense cloud effect.
A very engaging collection of works, and interesting to contemplate how the viewpoint of an uninitiated listener might alter upon their learning of the sound sources - would they be quite as receptive or would the ick factor prejudice them ? If they'd no notion that joints were being cracked, the pieces might not sound a million miles away from Jana Winderen's cassette of sea crustaceas, perhaps...

Links : http://www.christofmigone.com/html/projects_gallery/crackers.html
and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christof_Migone.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Sparticus Stargazer : Old Hank Schultz / One Nest Rolls After Another

I'm unaware as to the oldest ever person to have made a record; my copy of the excellent The Guinness Book Of Recorded Sound doesn't appear to supply said information, although it does mention that Eubie Blake was recording on his own label into his nineties. I can remember George Burns having a major U.S. hit late in life with I Wish I Was Eighteen Again. Almost certainly, The Sparticus Stargazer could be added to the list of the top dozen; she was ninety when this seven-inch was released by her grandson Ian (a.k.a. DJ Ordeal, and Beef; no surname, by request), on his Sparticus Stargazer imprint (SPARTY 006 - didn't Arista have "SPARTY" as a prefix too ?). Ian's gran's real name was Mary Susannah DeCramer (nee Laughton), called Sue by her friends. Ian enjoyed listening to her speak, thought her accent was interesting. He felt it would satisfy his family to have a recorded snapshot.
The A side is a poem written by Peggy Lee, discovered in her 1990 autobiography and here read to an insistent percussive effect followed by what might a loop of guitar-based music (Ian says that the sounds were extracted from a flamenco and Hawaiian tape); the second track is a Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) poem found on the sleeve of the reissue of Mirror Man, augmented by wiggy electronics and a cuckoo clock (according to Ian, the sounds are instrumental fragments from work by Tino Rossi and The Four Tops). That's one of many Beefheart poems Ian's gran recorded - "I believe she captured the spirit of them superbly." Poem : http://www.freewebs.com/teejo/odd/daypoem.jpg.
Ian brought out two other 45s simultaneous with this release, all with black labels with white stars around the edges and housed in the same lovely die-cut card sleeve showing colourful Russian sweet wrapper designs.
Amongst Ian's numerous wonderful projects have been an extremely limited (ten) vinyl round-up of recordings by singing actors, an area Ian's very partial to and knowledgeable about; a plunderphonics-esque excursion utilising stitched-together fragments of orchestral parts pilfered from Johnny Mathis tracks; a handful of minuscule-edition Supremes-related pressings for diehard completists only; and an L.P. of his own crooning, backing courtesy of one of those play-along discs where one instrument's absent, requiring the listener to fill in. Ian also uses easy listening album sleeves as the basis for his visual art, temporarily masking out the women who so commonly feature on the front sleeves and painting over the text-printed backgrounds against which they pose seductively, luring the prospective purchaser.

Interviews with Ian here : http://www.robotsandelectronicbrains.co.uk/interviews/interviews/dj_ordeal.html
and here : http://www.erasingclouds.com/wk2106ordeal.html.

This is the only image I can find to link to : http://pan.priceminister.es/photo/497690314_M.jpg.

Many thanks to Ian for extra information.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Stock, Hausen & Walkman : Buy Me / Sue Me

Hot Air label, SPME 2.

Silver-labelled and clear-sleeved, this uncoloured see-through 33-revs seven-inch from 1997 comprises eighty-four locked-to-infinity grooves, each a fragment extracted from a larger work - an isolated sung or spoken "me", in fact.
Some sounds are sufficiently distinctive for straight-off identification : there's Ashes To Ashes; Ian Dury's ...Rhythm Stick; the unmistakable voice of Ivor Cutler; The Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard; Television's Marquee Moon; Magazine's The Light Pours Out Of Me; The Beatles' Help and Come Together. Other locks are irritatingly familiar, real tip-of-tongue-sters : we're teased, tantalised but never presented with enough sonic information for that magical brainbox click we so desire.
Whilst I'm in the dark as to S,H & W's motivation behind the forging of this wonderful plaything of a record, this Pop Quiz gone awry, I'd hazard a guess that it's a sarky comment upon the egomania present in much of popular music - the very me, me, me of it all, if you like. Then there's that age-old question of how literally we take the narrator - should we have belief in them, view their words as autobiographical; or is what's in the grooves all just pretence, stuff which presses all the required emotional and consequently commercial buttons ?
I very much enjoy listening to these locks - in particular, the little shard of Marquee Moon has an incredible relentless energy when on ad infinitum repeat. Quite a contrast with the dynamics of its original near-ten minute parent.
I notice that this is the third record in this journal thus far featuring The Beatles, Favorite Recorded Scream and the Roger Miller release being the others, though the latter only incorporates pre-track crackle from a Fabs disc.

Images : http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=209384.

EMI open day souvenir seven-inch

Another unplayable record (see Denkmal write-up :
http://steviecurates.blogspot.com/2009/10/denkmal-old-dog-no-tricks.html
).
This one was pressed (in what quantity ?) by EMI as a special souvenir to commemorate the owner's visit, on their Silver Jubilee year open day, 28th and 29th May 1977. One to file alongside the Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen, perhaps, the single is housed in a thin card sleeve which is die-cut, and plain white save for a small Union Jack in the top left hand corner on the front.
One label has a detail of said red-white-and-blue, with the info on the other alongside the crest for The Queen's Silver Jubilee - and two flags, one with the Nipper (dog and gramophone) trademark and the other bearing the boxed EMI logo. The flag label side has some very nice scroll lettering which goes halfway round, informing the recipient of EMI's Hayes, Middlesex address. The reverse also has etchings - three of the Nipper trademark with three unidentified pieces of music interspersed, the significance of which I've no idea : perhaps one was from the first ever item pressed at EMI ?
The only sound on each side is a short warning beep at the start, followed by a long continuous one (so that you really know you're in trouble); the pictorial side has a little more groove available to hear before the stylus-mangling etchings intrude.
A really aesthetically pleasing if purely decorative, non-functional giveaway. definitely designed not to be auditioned, whereas the Denkmal single could be tried out to whatever extent with an old, outgoing needle. Interesting to compare these two records each of which has been made to be unplayable though with a different motivation for that.

Nipper

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Hayley Newman : Roundabouts

This numbered, signed picture disc, a 300-edition release by Work & Leisure International (W&LI-BWJ 702) was one of three singles issued in conjunction with the Band Wagon Jumping exhibition of seven-inch vinyl (http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/culture/vinyl_7.shtml).
Recorded by Matt Wand on 20th August 2002, the two pieces (both on the same side of the disc) document Ivan Sampson playing a large brass instrument called a helicon, a member of the tuba family. First, a microphone was taken by Matt onto a revolving fairground ride whilst Ivan was playing from a fixed position; then the musician took the ride with Matt standing still holding the mic. The colour photograph on the record's playable side shows the roundabout in question with large pink, yellow and blue teacups in which the riders, Ivan included, are sitting, with parasols overhead. The music's in the foreground, then it gradually fades, and becomes prominent once again. Kids are heard cackling, and there's the whirr of machinery.
I don't know what the first piece of music is, but the second's definitely the Bill Haley And The Comets hit Rock Around The Clock, which Ivan plays at an increasingly rapid pace.
The disc's reverse shows Hayley's idea on lined paper, including the possibility of a trombonist, and a version of Round Midnight. I guess that one and Rock Around The Clock were selected for the appropriate "round" in their titles. The Doppler Effect gets a mention too, defined by my Oxford Concise as, "an increase (or decrease) in the frequency of sound... waves as the source and observer move towards or away from each other."

Link : http://www.hayleynewman.com/artworks/show/18.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Joan McElfresh : The Dewey Rap

Earlier this year I was scouring eBay for decimal currency-related vinyl, particularly seeking Wilfred Brambell's The Decimal Song, and Sebastian's D.E.C.I.M.A.L., to join Max Bygraves' Decimalisation in my collection of records about events and trends. Up popped this 1987 single-sided cassette, which I won with zero competition. Written and performed by practising school librarian Joan McElfresh of Covington, Kentucky, The Dewey Rap, which comes with a seven-sheet lyric book, puts across the intricacies of the Dewey Decimal System in simple and catchy fashion, with a young audience in mind.
Appropriately, my copy of this eight-and-a-half-minute gem is ex-library (Springdale, AR). Over a synthesized instrumental backing, and with assistance from a couple of singers, Ms. McElfresh introduces us to each section of the system, hundred by hundred, starting with, "Oh, oh, oh to oh ninety-nine", taking us from encyclopedia sets through philosophy, religion, social sciences, language, natural sciences, applied sciences, recreation and the arts, and literature, right up to history, geography and biography in the "nine, oh, oh"s.
I don't have an enormous number of rap releases; this cassette joins oddities like Cypress City's The Cajun Rap Song and Evolution Control Committee's ingenious splicing together of Public Enemy and Herb Alpert, as well as a rap take on The Archies' Sugar, Sugar (complete with samples of the original) and a Top Cat cartoon cash-in.
No label name for this self-release, though Ms. McElfresh's address and other contact details are provided.

Lyric : http://www.ih.k12.oh.us/esmedia/Lessons_with_MrsWelsh/Dewey_Rap__by_joan_mcelfresh.htm.

News story : http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19880421&id=2DcSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ne8DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4976,3546012.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Denkmal : Old Dog./ No Tricks.

Label details : Graphic Death Industries J.D. 0024. Year : 1992.

An unusual release from Denkmal, a.k.a. Andru Clare of I'm Being Good. The b&w Xeroxed paper sleeve is printed inside and out and claims that the disc's a limited run of 500, "pressed on recycled vynil", though I'm not certain how many were actually made, how many other folk were damfool enough to purchase one... I know my friend Hassni has a copy.
For this, Andru used singles discarded from the record library at our local BBC Radio station (not sure what it was called then, due to various name changes - Radio Sussex; Sussex and Surrey; or Southern Counties), discovered in a skip outside Marlborough House, Brighton. He hand-painted the labels black, and scratched a Red Cross-style cross in outline into each side, inscribing the words "ONE" and "TWO". Each side was gouged by hand on top of the existing music using a Swiss Army knife.
It's an interesting mixture of multiple and one-off : each copy has an identical sleeve save for the number within the edition (mine's 003), yet each disc was not only a different record to start with but has been individually carved. A record designed to wreck one's stylus should one decide to give it a spin just to see how it sounds. The inside of the sleeve has what I take to be a fake German address, and mentions a "vynil neutralisation device", giving spoof technical details. Denkmal are described as, "introducing current re-cycling trends into the recording industry and helping to preserve the world's diminishing vynil reserves."
Unfortunately I'm unable to identify the single used to create my copy of Old Dog./ No Tricks. as it's just too well disguised, though I'd guess from the big "4" (of "45") visible beneath the paint that it's an EMI release (matrix on side one reads "45 - something R 4533-1"). Lots of jumping around, as you'd imagine, with several sticks providing obstacles to the stylus's journey on the topside; with the flip causing the needle to traverse the surface nimbly, in a matter of seconds, before it reaches the end and is hurled back again and again. This single is very satisfying to the touch, and might give different effects depending on the equipment used to play it on... if you dare.

Edit, Saturday 24th October 2009 : Research shows that for my Denkmal single Andru used a copy of Gene Pitney's Looking Thru The Eyes Of Love (Stateside SS 420), the matrix number of the top side being 45KR-4533. I tried to work it out from the matrix numbers on another Stateside single I had, and was wondering if it really could have been a rare Mary Wells 45 (SS 415), which I'd quite liked to have had in its own right. Studying a label discography today after trying to find a photo of the label of that one, it seemed more likely to be something far more common with a catalogue number not far off the M.W. record. eBay photographs confirmed that it was the Pitney 45. Hassni says that his copy was originally a Julie Covington record.

Detail of groove on one side of the Denkmal single : Denkmal single

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Roger Miller : "POP" Record/Evolving

A 1998 release on RRRecords (RRR-104), though the label says "Fleetwood" (of Revere, Mass.) and "Fun World Product 003". RRRecords is the label notorious for bringing us the two classic locked groove compilations RRR 100 and RRR 500.
In contrast to the Son Of Pete Silent Night 7", this is a record consisting of lots of surface noise, the sound of assorted run-in and inter-track grooves in all their scratch, crackle and pop glory. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp and John Cage (the latter complained about the fixed nature of recorded performances), Miller had the idea for this back in February 1984, assembling the tape on 25th July '85. The New World Product issue of December of that year was an edition of just one, an acetate.
Miller : "I made a recording of record surface noise... and had this cut to acetate, which is notorious for wearing away quickly. (Although vinyl does not degenerate as rapidly as acetate, the process is essentially the same.) The result is a record which constantly evolves and never gets any "worse." The degeneration - old pops wearing away and new ones appearing as the acetate/vinyl breaks up - becomes regeneration, solving Cage's problem with "static" recordings as well."
Pleasingly, Miller lists his sources : James Brown (who also turns up on Leroy Stevens' Favorite Recorded Screams), Sinatra and The Ink Spots rub shoulders with Xenakis, Black Sabbath, Billie Holiday, The Lone Ranger (not the reggae star), Doris Day, Miller's own band Mission Of Burma, and - inevitably - The Fab Four. Plus surface noise is taken from, "Assorted records found on the street in China-town, Boston" as well as a Japanese sci-fi disc, their titles unreadable by Miller.
I guess the idea is that the more one listens to this record, and mishandles it, then one's own history of use will be superimposed on top of the recorded surface noise - an extra, personal layer. My copy has a v-e-r-y slight hairline scratch, but whether it's something audible or just a surface mark, I can't tell as I can't pick it out from the surrounding noise.
Miller doesn't mention how much he played the single acetate copy made using his taped surface noise, so I've no idea how much of the noise on the RRRecords issue is from the source material and how much from his own use of his one-off copy.
It'd be rather nice to keep a played-once, near-pristine copy and have a second copy to play every day for a year or more, and compare the two.
The B side has a lovely etching of hand-scrawled bars of music - J. S. Bach's Fugue XIV.

Photographs :
http://bp3.blogger.com/_SKxpV2g1luE/SAwJqygW0OI/AAAAAAAAAEE/oHezCC0831c/s1600-h/miller+1.jpg; and
http://bp0.blogger.com/_SKxpV2g1luE/SAwJrCgW0PI/AAAAAAAAAEM/Dl_4ImYJNfM/s1600-h/miller+2.jpg. Source : Locales For Ecstacy's Blogspot.

Footnote : After writing this entry I discovered that there's a third RRRecords locked groove compilation, RRR 1000 (twenty-five different artists with fifty locks apiece).

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Son Of Pete : Silent Knight

Following on from Jonty Semper's field recording single of a commemorative silence, a seven-inch of complete silence, of nothing, dated 1976 - one of the more obscure releases on the label (Beserkley; number : B-5746) which brought us Jonathan Richman, Earth Quake, The Rubinoos and Greg Kihn. A U.S. issue I found in a charity shop years ago and bought for the Jonathan connection ("remix" was by Glen Kolotkin, Jonathan's producer), not suspecting it was silent. This 45, arranged by one R. Bimber and with production by Tom Lubin (http://tomlubin.blogspot.com), came in a b&w picture sleeve with the same image printed on both sides - an illustration of a knight (chess piece, i.e.) in the snow, with an icicle hanging from its snout. The lettering is seasonally snow-capped. I guess this was put out as a joke Christmas gift. Interestingly, the silent flipside, Disco Party, Part 2 clocks in at two seconds longer, at 3:01. (On the Marcel Marceao (sic) L.P., however, both sides are exactly the same - one can tell from the matrix number; the applause at the end of each otherwise silent side should have been different, really, to eliminate the possibility of the record's slightly shoddy feel.) Son Of Pete was Beserkley Records' founder, Matthew "King" Kaufman, who was also Rose Bimler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_King_Kaufman).
My copy of Silent Knight is in pretty nice condition - how often would its previous owner have needed to play it ? With numerous listens and the right degree of carelessness, neglect in sleeving the disc immediately after hearing it, the "silence" would eventually have scratches and scuff sounds superimposed upon it. The "silence" is already compromised a little by the pressing process, the inevitable bit of crackle which is usually drowned out by music but which is all too apparent on this record.
I'm not certain how many other singles of complete silence were made, though I've knowledge of one for use in conjunction with jukeboxes, to provide three (?) minutes' respite from constant sound (on Hush Records). There was a silent record on sale in the Grot shop (a business venture deliberately designed to fail spectacularly), in the BBC Television series The Rise And Fall Of Reginald Perrin, though, alas, said record was never marketed as a cash-in.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jonty Semper : The One Minute Silence From The Funeral Of Diana, Princess Of Wales

The first of two releases in Jonty Semper's Kenotaphion project, this clear vinyl seven-inch (Locus +/ Charrm; matrix numbers : DFI 08/01; 06 09 97 - 1) is a field recording of the commemorative one-minute silence recorded on 6th September 1997 during the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in Hyde Park, where people watched BBC Television's live coverage of the ceremony on a large screen.
For the second part of Kenotaphion, Semper researched, located, and finally assembled a double CD (KENO1) of all the existing newsreel and broadcast archive recordings of the Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday silences from the Cenotaph in Whitehall, dating back to 1929.
Though the notion of broadcasting silence might appear a strange one initially, commemorative public "silences" are not at all devoid of interest : there is plenty of ambient sound to focus upon; plus, on the recordings from the Cenotaph, Big Ben can be heard striking eleven.

Link to essay on silences at public remembrances : http://www.locusplus.org.uk/sempess.html
The Guardian : http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/nov/09/maevkennedy

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Matt Wand : Blowdown : Inside & Out

Having stood for thirty-five years, twenty-two-storey, 66 metre Liverpool building Kenley Close (in the city's Shiel Park area) was demolished at midday on 12th May 2002. Matt Wand, formerly of Stock, Hausen & Walkman, managed to place a stereo microphone inside the condemned structure two days earlier, as well as installing a telephone conversation tape recorder on the building's roof. Blowdown (Work & Leisure International W&LI-BWJ 701), a three-hundred-edition single (one of three commissioned for the Band Wagon Jumping exhibition of seven-inch vinyl (http://www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/culture/vinyl_7.shtml), is a documentation of Kenley Close's last five minutes. On one side we hear the evacuated building's interior, silent save for a warning siren partway through the recording. The second side is a simultaneous recording made by Laurence Lane of the expectant crowd gathered to witness the change in their familiar skyline : we hear conversations, laughter, traffic sound, kids, a motor horn, whistles, coughing - and shrieks as the explosion occurs; an exclamation : "Look at the birds !", and more laughter as the startled and displaced pigeons defecate.
The b&w cover photograph shows the structure with Controlled Demolition Group Ltd.'s banner hanging at the top : "Now you see it, now you don't" : http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=709151.

Link : http://www.implosionworld.com/15structures4.htm.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Jana Winderen : The Noisiest Guys On The Planet

Jana Winderen's The Noisiest Guys On The Planet is a limited-run cassette-only release on the Touch-affiliated label Ash International (catalogue number 8.1). Winderen provides a fascinating audio glimpse into the mysterious undersea world of sea crustaceas :

“An ongoing investigation into the use and production of sound by decapods...
When a recording is made underwater, you will definitely hear the crackling noise of what might be a creature from the order of Decapods.
When recording on the coast of Norway, for example, this sound is what you are very likely to hear as soon as the ferries and motorboats have parked for the night. They seem to be everywhere, whoever it is making this sound. When you go for a swim and listen underwater you can even hear them. But who are they?
The pistol shrimp, or snapping shrimp, make this kind of sound, but they are not found in waters as far north as the Norwegian coast. In Thailand the same sounds can be heard in the freshwater River Ping.
To get more of an understanding of this phenomenon, I called various Professors of Marine Biology in Norway who specialise in shrimp. I asked whether they knew what kind of shrimp it could be making these sounds. One of them sent a question to his world-wide shrimp network because he did not know that shrimp made these sounds. The replies came that the sounds are probably produced when they are feeding. I know that pistol shrimp make sounds when they snap they claws to paralyse their prey, but do others in the same family do the same? No one seemes to know. Underwater there is very little known about the soundscapes created by living creatures, and few understand the details of variations between the various grunts, knocking sounds and rumbling sounds that cod, haddock, pollock, other fish and crustaceas produce, and how they experience and orientate themselves through the use of sound.” (Essay by Jana Winderen to coincide with the release of her Ash International cassette.)

Jana Winderen : http://www.janawinderen.com.

Stephen Cornford : Two Works For Turntables

Released in August 2009 by Brighton's Permanent Gallery, to coincide with an exhibition of artist Stephen Cornford's turntable-based kinetic sound sculptures, is a 250-edition seven-inch single (Permanent 01) featuring compositions constructed from recordings of the eight exhibits, which comes with a commissioned essay by The Wire's Anne Hilde Neset : http://www.scrawn.co.uk/current.html.

Permanent Gallery link : http://www.permanentgallery.com/?p=424.
Stephen Cornford link : http://www.scrawn.co.uk/12.html.

Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville : Au Clair De La Lune

Already one of my all-time favourite seven-inch singles, even though only released on 15th September 2009, by the wonderful Dust-To-Digital's new vinyl subsiduary Parlortone (PT-1001) : a twenty-second piece from 1860, the earliest known intelligible recording of the human voice - that of Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, inventor of the phonautograph, predating Thomas Alva Edison's phonograph by seventeen years. The label design is exquisite, like that of an old 78, and the B side is etched. The sleeve reproduces the Au Clair De La Lune phonautogram.

Link : http://dust-digital.com/newsletters/09-08.htm.
Flickr set : http://www.flickr.com/photos/dusttodigital/sets/72157621903891773.

Leroy Stevens : Favorite Recorded Scream

Artist Leroy Stevens asked Manhattan record store personnel to name their favourite scream on record, then compiled their responses into a three-and-a-half-minute piece, placing the screams in the order in which he received them.
The B side of his 500-edition twelve-inch release Favorite Recorded Scream (Small World LS001) features each of the seventy-four screams individually, separated by ten seconds of silence. The screams' sources are named, along with the staff members who selected them. Some crop up several times - for instance those on The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again (four) and Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song (three). The Stooges' T.V. Eye receives three votes, and Wylde Ratttz' cover version from the Velvet Goldmine movie is included too. Ari Up's classic lengthy effort on The Slits' Shoplifting appears (chosen by Mikey IQ Jones), and is probably my personal favourite along with one by Art Bears' Dagmar Krause and an amazer from Bunker Hill's incredible The Girl Can't Dance. There's quite a bit of rock/metal, from artists otherwise absent from my collection (e.g. Kiss); whilst a few screams come from classical sources - Bartok; Richard Strauss; Puccini. Rahsaan Roland Kirk is present too, as are the great Dennis Alcapone; Gal Costa; De La Soul; the inevitable James Brown and Plastic Ono Band; Buddy Holly; Michael Jackson; The Sonics (Psycho); The Undisputed Truth; and Black Flag and Minor Threat. The theme being screaming, Mr. Jay Hawkins is represented twice, by I Put A Spell On You and his infamous Constipation Blues. No sign of his British counterpart Lord Sutch, alas.
Several names are completely new to me : Asif; At The Gates; Katie Cercone (http://www.zhibit.org/cercone); Kroumata Ensemble (Swedish percussionists whose repertoire includes works by John Cage, Lou Harrison, György Ligeti and Steve Reich); Meshuggah; Nicky Rap And Scratch Go Rambo; Ralph Nielsen And The Chancellors (their most famous track is - appropriately - Scream); Prurient; Sevendust; Tragedy Freturing Craig C; Wylde Ratttz (who turn out to have been a supergroup comprised of members of The Stooges, Sonic Youth, Gumball, Mudhoney and The Minutemen); and Geino Yamashirogumi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geinoh_Yamashirogumi).
A locked groove for each scream would have been fantastic, had Stevens thought to do it, but, I imagine that this would have proved prohibitively expensive.
A map indicating the location of each record store is included with the record.

Link : http://leroystevens.info/index.php?/projects/favorite-recorded-scream.
New York Times article : http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/arts/music/18scream.html.