Monday, 30 May 2011

Rio Takes It To The Max

I've owned this LP for centuries but still can't quite get a handle on what I'm hearing.

Critical evaluation is not aided by the drab-as-putty production that sucks all the energy and dynamism from songs that may otherwise offer up moments of inspiration. We have to wait until the second side, track 2, for the one undeniable diamond in the dirt that is Paradise, a ditty that starts unpromisingly with a Smokie-alike voice and dry-as-toast acoustic guitar combination but quickly morphs into a heavenly chorus with delicious phased guitars and epic, dreamy harmony vocals which create the illusion of listening to a long-lost ELO track.

How I've failed to mention my love of ELO thus far I don't know, but with the paucity of unreleased material and Jeff Lynne's stubborn refusal to give the fans what they want and put the orchestration back into a full-on Electric Light Orchestra reformation, we ELO fans get our jollies where we can, feeding on scraps here and there which remind us of our heroes, whether that means playing Grandaddy's He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot to satisfy our hunger, or gorging on the full-on pastiche of LEO's Alpacas Orgling

There are many albums that I prize despite containing just one indispensable track, and Take It To The Max is one of them. To be fair to this LP, the next track, The Lizard Song comes close to maintaining the high standard with the overblown pomp of its squelchy analogue keyboards, but things fizzle out with album closer Hear My Song. However, even if The Max Demian Band hadn't furnished me with the one-and-a-half gems on this LP, there would still be a couple of compelling reasons for me to provide them with permanent residence in my collection. Firstly, as you can see, they possess some impressive and, on the whole, neatly maintained facial topiary. The slide-rule precision of the pudding bowl fringe on the gentleman at top right suggests that he holds down a proper job during the week, but there's no shame in being a weekend warrior. It's only sensible to have a fallback plan.

And secondly, how could I ever part with an LP which, unless I'm much mistaken, features Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand (above, bottom left)? Prior to turning up to give Barcelona some target practice in Saturday's Champions League Final, Rio Ferdinand appears to have had a hitherto hush-hush career in music. If the football doesn't work out, perhaps a Max Demian reunion could be on the cards. It's only sensible to have a fallback plan! The wispy beard and Justin Hayward hair-do are clearly the results of a tentative youthful experiment, a stepping stone to his subsequent chin-muff and cornrow look.

 It strikes me that an appearance of the Face Fungus-Ometer is way overdue, so let's wheel it out, feed in the data and see how The Max Demian Band stands up to scrutiny.

A solid and workmanlike seven

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Leotards, Bikini Lines and Stixx Galore

The final item on the lunchtime news today revealed that the Forbes Celebrity 100 List (whatever that might be) is topped this year by Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey having been dumped off pole position. This basically means that Lady G. is the most powerful celebrity on the planet. I'm not sure if that means she could beat Hulk Hogan in an arm wrestling competition, but it certainly suggests that if she wants dwarf Cornish-speaking eunuchs to wax her bikini line backstage, then she'll get them in a choice of colours. What is difficult to fathom though is quite how she got herself into this position. Yes, 35 million sheep follow her on Facebook, whilst 10 million more lap up her tweets, but to be honest, with a public persona like hers, if she spends her time doing anything less interesting than white water rafting in the hollowed-out carcass of Susan Boyle, then there is the potential for disappointment on an epic scale. Do you really want to know what the Lady has for breakfast?

If making mediocre music and dressing in ridiculous clothes is all it takes to achieve world domination, then how come Kingpin have to wax their own sacks and cracks?

Hairy Twats (possibly)

I think it's fair to say that Sweden's Kingpin picked up the prevailing Hollywood Glam Metal look and ran with it...and didn't stop running until they got to their sisters' wardrobes. I always thought that Superman looked decidedly NOT super, largely due to the whole pants over the trousers look. I'm not sure it works any better for Kingpin. The rear sleeve doesn't do anything to alter my opinion.


I remember a copy of this album being spun regularly back in the death throes of the 1980s by one of my then flatmates. I distinctly recall conversations about how the band had a Ratt-if-they-had-Steve-Vai-on-guitar sort of a sound, but not once did any of us comment on the fact that 'Stixx Galore' (possibly not his real name) is wearing a pink dayglo leotard over a chain mail-effect pair of tights. God forbid we thought he looked cool! "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." (L.P.Hartley). 

I suspect that the likelihood of world domination for Kingpin is pretty slim in 2011. Perhaps their best chance of entering Lady Gaga's universe would be to embrace their apparent economy of stature, brush up on their waxing skills and trade the contents of those leotards for a Cornish phrase book.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Gerald's Wardrobe Meltdown

With echoes of my earlier post on the unfortunate sartorial differences that guaranteed the untimely demise of Jensen Interceptor, may I present Elton John soundalikes, Flashman.


With that suit, cane and spectacles, group leader Gerald Watkiss shows what would have happened if Jeff Goldblum and the Bluebottle had been unavailable and The Fly had instead starred Sue Pollard and a Disco-suited John Merrick. With an ill-concealed smirk Nick Walpole (drums) points out to a clearly despairing Chris Hudman (bass) that perhaps it's time to put an ad in Melody Maker. Thank God for their fallback careers as stunt doubles for Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Pre-Loved Bush and 'Head

I recently picked up a copy of Transition by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. It largely consists of saccharine Sunshine Pop with an occasional mild psychedelic touch. This may come as a surprise to anyone who thinks Kenny Rogers is only responsible for middle-of-the-road country tunes such as Lucille and Coward Of The County. No, he can also lay claim to an earlier career churning out middle-of-the-road psych-pop exploitation LPs. In fact, if Kenny was any more middle-of-the-road he'd have cat's eyes and a white stripe painted down the middle of his face. To be fair, some of the tunes on offer are quite listenable period pieces, especially the slide-guitar infused interpretation of Tulsa Turnaround, but I could do without the execrable cover of Two Little Boys. It's even more maudlin than the Rolf Harris version.

White Stripes

However, critical evaluation aside, what intrigued me when I picked up this LP was its history. Not the stuff which an interview with the band members could illuminate, but the history of this actual copy of the LP. Why was I able to find a well-played US-pressing (a white label promotional copy at that), in a charity shop in Teddington, West London? What was its journey prior to finding its way to me? Apart from the grating cover of Two Little Boys, what prompted the previous owner to part with the LP? Presumably it had meant something to them at some point. What had changed in their life to make this LP suddenly out of favour? Whoever had brought it over from the States obviously valued it enough to stick it in their hand luggage. Of course, where charity shops are concerned, an abrupt curtailment of being alive explains many of the items to be found lining their shelves and hanging on their rails. I often look at the amassed James Last and Perry Como LPs and think "dead man's record collection" and wonder which of the forlorn suits cluttering the store belonged to the deceased Easy Listening enthusiast. How many of my LPs have been accrued through an unwitting spot of grave robbery?

All of this got me to thinking about LPs in my collection that offer up tantalising glimpses of their former owners' lives and psychological make-up. However annoying it is to find writing on the sleeve of a record I want to buy, once I have it in my collection, I learn to love the graffiti as part of what makes that record uniquely mine. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have bought my copy of Kate Bush's Lionheart if I had noticed the way in which the sleeve was defaced prior to handing over the cash, but now that it's mine, well, it's as much a part of my record collection's history as the previous owner's.

Clearly not a Brazilian pressing

It may be as unimaginative as drawing a cock and balls in the dirt on a white van, but it raises a smile every time I stick Lionheart on the turntable. Other inked additions include a baffling one on the rear sleeve of Breeze's If The Wind... LP.


In case you're struggling to make out the inscription, it reads:

"If you paint my doorstep you could at least paint the bleeder black. Geoff."

What happened here? Was the recipient of the LP, despite doing a poor decorating job, rewarded with a favourite album, or perhaps Geoff withheld payment and opted instead for the tried and trusted give-the-bungling-decorator-a-shit-LP-with-an-unsettling-cryptic-message-in-lieu-of-payment ploy? If Geoff or his doorstep decorator are reading this, please get in touch and put me out of my misery. Similarly, what's the story behind the inscription on the lyric sheet  accompanying this Partner album and why was the LP subsequently offloaded?

What happened that first night in Maastricht? Did they ratify the Maastricht treaty? Have mind-blowing sex (unlikely as that first night is described as merely "lovely")? Or perhaps what we have here is one of those unrequited love scenarios. Has Jos read too much into their night in the Netherlands and started to stalk Charlotte? Is it just me, or is there a hint of menace in song titles such as I'll Be Waiting For You and Look Over Your Shoulder? How about the lyrics to Your Smile:

"Now you sleep beside me and I pray please let it be everlasting"

And what about that rear sleeve?

Happy memories of Maastricht

If you are Charlotte, or you share a high security prison with Jos, drop me a line and let me know the real story. And, if you could please resist the urge to sue me for defamation you can have your LP back.

And finally...

Picture the scene: a Motorhead-obsessed teenager stands in the rain at the backstage door of some crumbling Odeon waiting for his heroes to leave the building after a gig that has probably caused band and crowd-alike permanent hearing damage. Tucked under his arm is a brand new copy of No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith which he has had to shield from flailing bullet belts and drunken bikers for the duration of the gig. After almost an hour of waiting, his patience is rewarded when Lemmy lurches through the exit doors into the streetlight-illuminated drizzle, a busty filly glued to his arm. The be-warted one grunts an incomprehensible greeting and signs the euphoric teen's LP not once, but twice, taking the time to locate his likeness among the plethora of photographs on the inner sleeve to leave his biro mark. The teenager, oblivious to the cold and damp soaking through his denim jacket, heads for home, walking on air.

So why was I able to pick up that exact same copy of Motorhead's 1981 classic at a junk shop in Archway just five years later? I would like to say a big "thank you" to the original owner for standing in the rain for me. Much appreciated. Give me 'head 'til I'm dead!