Once upon a time, before the dawn of Spotify recommendations and hi-res streaming, you had to go hunting for new music yourself. If your interests in new music went way beyond Classic Rock and Classic Pop Classics and into the uncharted and uncatalogued (sometimes literally) sonic waters of the weird, wonderful and unexpectedly funky slash folky, there was no other option than to go rooting around in charity shops in the hope of striking gold. Usually followed by the rapid realisation that this would not include anything on the BBC’s ‘Gold Label’ imprint.
You can read about some of my adventures rifling through hazardously mouldy boxes in search of unplayably dusty vinyl here, but that’s just the jazz stuff. Inspired by positive reactions to posting a couple of them on Twitter, this is a collection of more obscure Beat and Lounge-leaning tracks I discovered through hours of scouring those legendarily dilapidated boxes, most of which were in an even worse state than the albums and singles that they contained. Some were now-collectable originals albeit usually having apparently previously been smeared in peanut butter and used to line rabbit hutches. Others were discovered on compilation albums, where everything bar the actual halfway decent track was in pristine barely played condition (which is why Ferrante And Teicher’s version of Peg-Leg Merengue hidden beneath a blizzard of crackle didn’t find its way into this). And pretty much all of them were later replaced by cheaper reissues with unfeasibly thick card sleeves. If you want crystal clear High Fidelity sonics, though, well then that’s what CDs are for. Part of the fun of hunting for old vinyl is the thrill of finding something new through a white noise-esque wave of scuffs and scratches – especially if it actually is something by White Noise – and don’t let any smug berk queueing up on Record Store Day to buy a faked ‘mono’ version of A Love Supreme tell you otherwise.
I first came across all of these records between roughly 1987 and 1993, and in those days there was no Internet to give you pointers on what to look out for – it was simply a case of keeping eye out for promising-looking covers or even just promising looking song titles or artists names, and hoping for the best. Eight times out of ten it would turn out to be utter rubbish, or worse still – naming no Jimmy Gilmer And The Fireballs – artwork and song titles that promised much yet delivered next to nothing. On the other hand, you might even stumble across a copy of, say, Growers Of Mushroom by Leaf Hound and discard it because the cover looked ‘stupid’. Occasionally, though, you would discover a genuine belter in the least likely of places, and some of my favourite finds are included here, mostly Easy Listening and soundtrack material with a smattering of sixties pop discs. Some of these have gone on to become quite well known (although not as well known as Spaced Out by Enoch Light And The Light Brigade, once described by a friend as ‘essentially the contents of your mind made into an album cover’, which I’ve used as the leader image for this but which is really too widely lauded to reasonably feature), while others are still unknown, and in some cases you might even think they ought to stay that way. But I don’t…
Larry The Lamb In Toytown Theme – Barry Cole (Music For Pleasure, 1972)
Once utterly inescapable, the first-thing-in-the-morning filler early seventies stop-motion adaptation of the adventures of Dennis The Dachsund and company had been all but forgotten by the time I stumbled across this reissue of a pair of early sixties EMI story EPs with a distinguished voice cast, but the jubilant funk-brass theme music had lodged itself firmly into my subconscious and so it was an especially welcome surprise to find that it had been opportunistically appended to the start of each tale for this album. Unfortunately it fades out partway through, but it’s better than nothing and it will do just fine until we eventually get an anthology including the full recording plus the version with extra brass flourishes used on random episodes, and the different theme from the one that opened with a sort of Town Crest featuring Larry and Dennis, and… actually, the absence of a full clean recording won’t do. It ought not to be allowed. It’s a disgrace.
Zokko!’s Theme – Zokko!’s Band (Columbia, 1968)
Zokko! was little more than a bewildering nonense word with accompanying cursory reference to the dawn of Saturday Morning Television and blurry photo of some sort of robot pinball table when I stumbled across this, but television themes had to be hoovered up – good, bad or single version of the theme from The Prisoner – and this blaring slab of swaggering Mod brass brashness did not disappoint, and whatever went on in the programme it came from had to be worth seeing. Even so, nothing quite prepared me for the head-hurting gibber-inducing Monty Python-inspiring experience of seeing it play out over a set of bubbling musical test tubes on an empty black-and-white Pop-Art stage; and that wasn’t even the weirdest thing about Zokko!, as you can find out here…
Pegasus – Mike Vickers (Marble Arch, 1970)
Bawdy sci-fi send-up The Adventures Of Don Quick was similarly little more than an occasionally referenced baffling title when I first stumbled across the theme music, although I knew it was the theme music thanks to an exhaustive and invaluable list of Cult TV tie-in records published in Time Screen magazine. The Moog-spluttering instrumental sounded exactly like a seventies sitcom blasted into space, which is precisely what the LWT-does-Barbarella vibes of the lone surviving episode later turned out to be, but back then all that most people really knew about it was this piece of music. Which subsequently turned up on overlooked but briefly hip Loungecore compilation The Sound Spectrum, leading to a bizarre couple of months when women apparently cosplaying in advance as Liz Hurley in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery would sprint long-leggedly up to the DJ booth asking for ‘that space record’.
Strangers In The Night – Petula Clark (Pye, 1966)
Although the likes of I Know A Place, Downtown and Colour My World had already been favourites long before any sort of serious crate-digging began in earnest, Petula’s albums – especially compilations – were always something more of a mixed bag if you were looking for similarly punchy pop stompers or loungey grooves. However, right at the start of the covers-heavy I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love – which also includes her staggering takes on Elusive Butterfly, Monday Monday and Rain – sat this belting high-speed remount of Frank Sinatra’s recent chartbound scooby-dooby-doo-inspiring standard that replaced the creepy crooner stalkerish inflections of the original and made it sound more like a woman spotting a not bad bloke in the middle of a hip and happening nightspot and thinking ‘yeah, I’ll have some of that’. Others clearly felt similarly, as it took ages to find a copy that didn’t have a mysteriously corresponding whopping great scratch in the middle of the swirly-wirly organ instrumental break.
Go Down Gamblin’ – Blood, Sweat And Tears (Columbia, 1971)
This motley rabble of beardy blues-jazz-folk-country-soul wearers of dreadful overcoats never veered very far away from pretentious artistic conceits – see here for one particularly jarring example – and rambling instrumental excursions on popular standards that nobody asked for, and generally came across as pretty much a distillation of everything that went wrong after White Rabbit and Green Tambourine. Occasionally, though, they did manage to hit the mark, as on this gruff growling booze-and-blackjack groover that Clint and Mike from Dazed And Confused probably had their first Middle School punch-up to.
Up, Up And Away – Ray Conniff And The Singers (Columbia, 1967)
Jimmy Webb’s 5th Dimension-harmonised ode to canoodling in a hot air balloon gets its tempo whipped up by the bearded safari-suited maestro of Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, whizzing past startled crowds and indeed racing ahead of Baron Bartram towards the finish line; after all, at this wheee-shouting pace it’s pretty much the polar opposite of Mr. Benn‘s balloon race music (about which much more here). The eyeshadow-overdoing dolly birds on the covers of Ray Conniff’s albums were, as they say, ‘a mood’, and there are even stories of certain amorous teenage wannabe romeos who, rather than drippy ballads or deep and meaningful singer-songwritery angst, used to sneak this onto compilation tapes for girls they fancied. Apparently.
Busy Boy – Ted Dicks (Marble Arch, 1970)
From the same compilation album as Pegasus (and George Martin’s blood-curdling synth experiment Eary Fearey, which was frankly too terrifying to include here), there was no mistaking the theme from Catweazle, and shorn of all the Norman-averting whizzes and bangs, it turned out to be a corking pocket groover written by the same blokes who did A Windmill In Old Amsterdam. As coincidence would have it, it also turned up on The Sound Spectrum, though it proved much harder to persuade the massed Sixties Liz Hurleys to spin around and get Widdershins on their way to Castle Saburac.
She Sleeps Alone – The Parade (A&M, 1968)
Probably best known (if at all) for their transatlantic mini-hit Sunshine Girl, this close harmony garage pop outfit were actually a bunch of actors trying to make a bit of extra money on the side, which made it all the more exciting when you spotted one of them in a guest role in the BBC Daytime repeats of Hawaii Five-0. They very quickly decided to stick to the acting lark, leaving behind an unreleased-at-the-time album and a handful of singles, including this remarkable baroque-busker legend of the world’s first ‘ghosting’, as some rugged bloke rides off on an unspecified quest leaving his good lady behind waiting on his WhatsApp message like some kind of Psychedelic Miss Havisham.
P.S. Call Me Lulu – Primrose Circus (Mira, 1967)
Meanwhile, Tinder gets invented with this Dear Jessie-soundalike tale of a greenlight for a second date stuck to a front door in a gambit that isn’t so much The Summer Of Love as The Summer Of Yes I Have Thought About It For A Bit And With Some Qualification I Think I Do Fancy You A Bit Although Infantile Bollocks About That Elusive Thing Romantic Chemistry That Nobody Can Define Because It Is Very Mysterious And Elusive And Something Else About A ‘Spark’ May Follow, with a surprising amount of instrumental muscle for a bubblegum psych-pop outfit. Quite how this neglected single on a smallish American label found its way unloved into a big box of mostly sleeveless singles in the North of England is anyone’s guess, and Googling to try and find out anything more about the band only turned up a series of more or less identical stories.
Sally And Jake – Crisp (Parlophone, 1974)
Originally an insert in Rainbow, squat-faced mischief-prone stop-motion country-dwelling twins Sally And Jake and their indolent mutant cat Sly – who, crucially, was ‘never far away’ – soon graduated to their own long-running ITV show, caught in that weird lost visual style forged in a vortex somewhere between Psychedelia and Glam Rock, with a folky kaleidoscopic theme song by erstwhile Herman’s Hermit Keith Hopwood to match. As a keen student of television from the haziest fringes of my memory, I reputedly left behind a cloud of dust in my haste to purchase this, and found it was even more of a clap-along sing-along flute-shrieking joy than I had remembered, complete with an astonishing Nick-Drake-Wants-To-Be-On-Lift–Off instrumental break. So why isn’t it revered by Acid Folk collectors then? Probably because it’s that bit more difficult to make up dull stories about it being based on a pagan sacrificial chant or something, and also probably something about lol bungle drugs too.
Joe’s Theme – Laurie Steele (Decca, 1966)
Inspiral Carpets-haired Watch With Mother miscreant Joe was just outside the haziest fringes of my memory, and elder siblings would often express shudder-accompanied flashbacks of boredom when recalling about how it was always about someone coming to fix the washing machine. But that was the toned-down colour second series from the early seventies. The original black and white Joe from 1966 was a noisy, urban, multi-racial (no, really) account of growing up in a bustling Transport Cafe, with a scorching Modern Jazz score to match. I would later end up presenting some episodes of Joe at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with Saint Etienne… but that’s another story.
Gotta Lotta Lovin’ – Millicent Martin (Parlophone, 1963)
From the b-side of the That Was The Week That Was theme single, Millie satirises a rise in reports of office workers having lunchtime affairs with this jazzy tale of a ‘prissy little miss’ who foregoes her sandwiches in favour of ‘going down’ – no I am not making this up – on the hunky bloke from accounts. The BBC’s Mary Whitehouse-enraging early sixties late night satire show is a longstanding obsession of mine – as you can read far more about here – an I genuinely think it’s a shame that this racy little belter has probably hardly ever been heard by anyone bar the most ardent of Ron Grainer completists.
Dear Mother Love Albert – Rodney Bewes (Revolution, 1970)
Self-penned proggy-psych theme song for a long-forgotten sitcom which may or may not feature Jimi Hendrix on guitar (you can read more about that here), seemingly performed through a very murky fug of suspiciously dense smoke although that may or may not be related to the heavy coating of muck I had to all too audibly prise off this none-too-well-looked-after 7″. It sounds uncannily like something from a later Rubble compilation, which in itself is no bad thing but I’ve never been sure why it’s in quite such high demand. Although maybe I’m just bitter because nobody in their right mind would pay more than eighties charity shop prices for this knackered copy.
Let’s Keep It Friendly – Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman (Decca, 1964)
I’ve always been a sucker for a good in-character comedy/tie-in b-side – although the less said about the one by Susan from the sixties Doctor Who movies the better – and a huge fan of The Avengers, so I was always going to fall in love with the reverse of the much more widely celebrated Kinky Boots, in which Steed and Cathy more or less invent the concept of Friends With Benefits as they list the pineapple-on-pizza level aesthetics they disagree on while admitting that they’d still like to have a bit of the old bowler hat over leather trousers when nobody’s looking. There’s one thing they very clearly do agree on though – an inability to hold a tune. Where’s the talking raccoon though?
I’m Aware – The Inmates (Eva, 1966)
Well, there’s a bit of a story behind this one. As a newly-converted mid-sixties Garage Psych enthusiast who was entranced by the threat of blown minds lurking behind the clunky ‘far out’ sleeve art and just slightly askew Beat Boom sounds, but didn’t have so much as a single volume of Fuzz, Acid And Flowers to refer to, I stumbled across this on – in yet another don’t-ask-me-how-it-got-there moment – a French EP by confirmed space station inhabitants The Chocolate Watchband. It quickly became my favourite song by them, except – unlike Sweet Young Thing, Milk Cow Blues and their decidedly beamed in from an alternate reality cover of Come On, it didn’t appear on any of their albums, it wasn’t written by any of the band, and it didn’t sound like Dave Aguilar singing (although I did decide it must be the effortlessly cool-looking drummer based on absolutely nothing whatsover). It consistently failed to turn up anywhere, though, and it was only years later in the deepest depths of Discogs that I finally worked out it was actually the work of producer-sharing outfit The Inmates – who later became The Knack, who re-recorded I’m Aware in a more drippy and less obviously ‘borrowed’ from My Little Red Book by Love version – and included on the EP due to a licensing error.
Rumours – Kippington Lodge (Parlophone, 1968)
Seventies Pub Rock pioneers Brinsley Schwarz have always been a name dropped with reverence and awe in record collecting circles, although personally I’ve always been much more fond of their earlier paisley-trousered almost-ran incarnation as purveyors of weedy post-The Move pop without equal, with a prevailing style that, for the most part, from office chat-up merchant saga Shy Boy to teenage whack-off fest Lady On A Bicycle, calls to mind a song from an ITV children’s programme that might possibly have heard of the letters ‘L’ and D’ though probably not ‘S’. This weedy and unconvincing rant against some silver-tongued devil spreading pant-getting-into facilitating falsehoods sounds for all the world like The Double Deckers are on their way round to twat Rupert The Bear for gossiping, which some might well argue is no bad thing.
L’Orange – Gilbert Becaud (La Voix De Son Maître, 1964)
No matter how modishly Nouvelle Vague-influenced his album sleeves might have looked, the back catalogue of the mahogany-tinged middle-of-Paul-Daniels-Magic-Show-friendly crooner isn’t the first place you’d think to look for a speaker-testing bit of existential psychedelic gothic horror with shrieking women and amp-blowing organ, but that’s exactly what turned up in between the weedy Nathalie and Don Juan, causing my trainee policewoman then-listening companion to utter ‘…the fuck?’. Speaking French and being aware that this was actually a tirade against some citrus-nabbing miscreant who had stolen from a merchant and was evidently guilty on account of being ‘ugly’, like some psychotic take on that weird bit in The Tripods about them pilfering bread, I was even more startled still.
Feelings – The Grass Roots (Dunhill, 1968)
Despite my deep and dusty-guitared fascination for all things Garage Psych, even back then I already had scant regard for what happened in America only around eighteen months later when everyone got all hard and heavy and ‘on the bus or off the bus’, and all the eighteen million hour guitar solo types in their ironic Uncle Sam headbands could rest assured that I had less than no intention of ‘hassling’ them. I wasn’t even desperately keen on era-straddling half-on-the-bus types The Grass Roots due to never quite having got on with their irritatingly twee big hit Where Were You When I Needed You?, but a cheap charity shop score was never to be passed up, and that’s how you end up discovering this propulsive meditation on, well, feelings, sounding for all the world like Under My Thumb had met a sitar and headed off to smash that singing and dancing amendment off The Simpsons‘ face in.
We Can’t Go On This Way – Teddy And The Pandas (Musicor, 1966)
Quite often, you’d hear about a psychedelic band long before you ever got to hear them, and such was the case with this oddly-named outfit whose album artwork, links with The Beach Boys, and reverentially-namechecked Searching For The Good Times promised much that this sissy quasi-raga ballad with a ‘Camberwick Green bit’ in the middle resolutely failed to deliver. Or so it seemed. Over time, I would become incredibly fond of this, although… let’s just say the lyrics are best not dwelt on now.
Come Tomorrow Morning – Orange Bicycle (Parlophone, 1970)
Another seemingly massive disappointment, as by the time the psychedelic band with the least psychedelic name ever came to do their one and only album, they’d dispensed with the baroque pop thrills of the likes of Laura’s Garden in favour of post-Beggar’s Banquet gravel-voiced rocking out. It wasn’t all bad news, though, as there were space-filling funky jams and co-writes with a then unknown Elton John hidden amongst the attempts to befriend Robert Zimmerman, and the overall musical effect was as if someone had told the Series One Goodies to act their age. Best of all, there was this peculiar salute to the joys of coming out of chokey, co-written by library music legend Alan Hawkshaw and featuring a Mellotron solo courtesy of someone who had no idea how to operate it but was not about to let that stop them.
Go Away Come Back Another Day – Julie Felix (Fontana, 1969)
It’s been a recurring theme in this collection that you can sometimes find the best hidden flashes of genius in the least likely places, and that is certainly true of late night BBC2’s favourite girl with a guitar. In amongst the skittery odes to wondering what the folks on the mountain were washin’ today and over-enthusiastic renditions of ‘family favourites’ that nobody ever actually liked – even the title track of this album was Going To The Zoo; yes, THAT Going To The Zoo – you’ll occasionally stumble across the odd belter like this wine-sozzled bluesy lament for not jumping on all the hot young men with low standards when you had your chance. It also rhymes ‘confidence’ with ‘diffidence’ which takes some, well, ‘confidence’. In fairness, Julie Felix also hosted her own television show where she spoke to and performed with some of the most arcane and uncompromising singer-songwriters of the folk-rock era, including a remarkable appearance by a mardy yodelling Tim Buckley which, with a bit of luck, there might be some more news about about soon…
Jenny’s Gone (And I Don’t Care) – Roger Whittaker (Fontana, 1964)
Speaking of which, I will freely admit that I picked up this collection of early singles by ‘Rog’ Whittaker as a bit of a joke, and was stunned to discover that back then, he took himself and his music very seriously indeed; presumably this is what it all sounded like in Old Durham Town. From the clanking industrial hoedown of Steel Men to the ferociously shouty workin’-to-forget-your-baby-gone-and-said-goodbye blues holler of Time Is Tough, it’s all way better than you might not unreasonably have expected, though the real honours go to this genuinely despairing Scott Walker-anticipating soaring ballad about some woman who fed him a line about wanting to stay friends, leaving him alone with the scant consolation of, erm, loads of female attention. Chunky jumpers, chirpy whistling and endless appearances on Pebble Mill At One beckoned, but when you’ve made a record this good you’re quite entitled to take it easy.
Up To Date (Theme From Man About The House) – Jack Parnell And His Orchestra (Music For Pleasure, 1975)
Hidden away at the end of the otherwise frankly dreadful More TV Times Top TV Themes, this extended fantasia on a short and to the point flatshare sitcom theme was a significant improvement on any version that was ever actually used on screen with those jaw-droppingly ‘wrong’ closing titles illustrations, veering off in lavishly orchestrated UK Gold-tastic directions that really did seem better suited to Jo, Chrissy and Robin continually inadvertently thwarting each other’s attempts to ‘get some’ while Georhge and Mildred hit a cereal packet with a hammer to try and get more crumbs out and avoid having to buy another. Meanwhile, we’d better not mention the story about how someone once sneakily attempted to watch this The Young Ones thing they’d heard about on the black and white portable, only to accidentally watch one of the Channel 4 repeats of Man About The House by mistake.
King’s Road Raspberry Parade – George Martin And His Orchestra (United Arists, 1968)
During post-Magical Mystery Tour downtime, The Fourth Beatle recorded his predictably ignored solo album British Maid/By George!/London By George! (depending on which pressing you have), which if you’ve never heard it is essentially Side Two of Yellow Submarine (which you’ve probably never heard either, but hey ho) with its eye on the Hit Parade. In amongst the Traffic covers, David Frost signature tunes and Radio 1 launch anthems, you’ll find this peculiar kazoo-driven march to the heart of Swinging London’s fashion district, which will doubtless startle an entire generation with the trace memory realisation that it was actually the long-running theme – as you can find out here – to the BBC’s school holiday mornings proto-Simon Quinlank hobbies and interests patronisation festival Why Don’t You…?. What’s more, it’s better than anything off The White Album too.
Please address all complaints about the above remark to Why Don’t You…?, BBC TV, Bristol BS8 2LR.
Buy A Book!
You can find many more tales of record hunting and unlikely finds (in all senses of the word) in my book Can’t Help Thinking About Me, a collection of columns and features with a personal twist. Can’t Help Thinking About Me is available in paperback here or from the Kindle Store here.
Alternately, if you’re just feeling generous, you can buy me a coffee here. Fairtrade only please. These are charity shops we’re talking about.
Time Will Crawl is a report from within the time-stopping dimensional void that surrounded every edition of Why Don’t You…?; you can find it here. BWAMmM It’s ZOKKO! is an attempt at telling the strange story of Zokko! without losing any remaining grip on sanity, which you can find here.
I’ve Heard Of Politics, But This Is Ridiculous is a look at my long-term obsession with That Was The Week That Was – featuring more tales of charity shop-scouring – which you can find here. There are further stories of charity shop musical finds in Sweet Georgie Fame here.
You can hear me playing and talking about some of these records – and some others that didn’t make the list – on Andy Lewis’ Soho Radio show here.
Gotta Lotta Lovin’ also features in Funny Ha Ha And Funny Peculiar, a collection of sixties comedy records that are better than they have any right to be, which you can listen to here.
© Tim Worthington.
Please don’t copy this only with more italics and exclamation marks.