Thursday, September 30, 2004

filet of sole

The Fantastic Johnny C was born Johnny Corley on April 28, 1943, in Greenwood, SC. He joined the armed services at an early age, leaving Brewer High in Greenwood before graduating to enlist. When his military duty ended, he moved to Norristown, PA, a small city 18 miles from Philadelphia, and found work as a heavy-equipment operator while becoming increasingly unable to resist the temptation to sing professionally. R&B producer Jesse James attended the same church as Corley and quickly spotted his talent. James made a career out of transforming gospel singers into secular performers; he discovered Cliff "the Horse" Nobles a short time later at the same church. James became Corley's manager and wrote songs for him -- one of them, "Boogaloo Down Broadway," convinced Corley to give pop music a serious try. "Broadway" became a big hit, hitting number five on the R&B charts and number seven on the pop charts. The follow-up, "Got What You Need," didn't surpass or equal "Broadway," but it did chart, while "Hitch It to the Horse" bounced onto the R&B charts, and even crept into the pop Top 40, in 1968. His stage name came about when some acquaintances of both James and Corley stated almost in unison, "That's fantastic -- what are you going to call him?" after hearing "Boogaloo Down Broadway." Hearing their response, James first came up with the Fantastic Johnny Corley before shortening it to the Fantastic Johnny C. His first gig was at the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, sharing a bill with Sam & Dave, the Vibrations, and Joe Simon. Phil-La of Soul released his only album, Boogaloo Down Broadway, a mini-masterpiece of gritty soul containing the deep soul cuts "Warm and Tender Love," "Shout Bamalama," and many dance tunes: "Cool Broadway," "Barefootin'," "The Bounce," and "Land of a Thousand Dances." Corley continued to sing in church while recording secular music. When he scored his first hit, he stated that his goal was to be the "number one soul brother," and, while he failed to achieve that lofty title, he did land among the stars for brief period courtesy of his explosive recordings.

The Fantastic Johnny C - Hitch It To The Horse
The Fantastic Johnny C - Cool Broadway

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

eclectic buggle-boo

Everyone and their mom should know by now, thanks in large part to Trivial Pursuit and its ilk, that the Buggles did indeed have the first ever video to be played on MTV* back at midnight on August 1st, 1981. After "Video Killed the Radio Star" changed the course of electro-pop forever, it was straight downhill for the Buggles as a group. The two members, however, proved a lot more durable on their own. Geoffrey Downes went on to grand success with Yes and Asia and Trevor Horn formed the Art of Noise and became a hit record producer (for ABC and Malcolm McLaren) before founding ZTT Records and foisting Frankie Goes to Hollywood on an unsuspecting world.

What most people don't know is that early Buggles associate Bruce Woolley co-wrote several of the band's songs, including "Video Killed the Radio Star" and "Clean Clean." Woolley's own versions of both tunes — predating the Buggles' "Radio Star" hit (which scraped the US Top 40 in December '79) — are contained on English Garden (retitled for American release as Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club), an LP of light power pop reminiscent of certain sides of the Move. As a would-be radio star, Woolley was doomed in the '70s by his devotion to the '60s, and the record vanished in the techno-pop flood.

In the '80s, Woolley abandoned the past and discovered the future. Along with his brother Guy, he formed a semi-experimental oddity, Firmament and the Elements. He later went on to work for Grace Jones, the Pet Shop Boys, Marc Almond, and Thomas Dolby (who was part of Woolley's Camera Club!).

Today's selection is the A-side to the 1981 7inch, Bruce Woolley - Blue Blue (Victoria). It is decidedly more new-wave than the LP that was released and had his direction been this, his future might've been different?

* - After the Buggles, the channel aired five spots introducing MTV's veejays (the spots were played in the wrong order). Then the next music video was broadcast -- the tune was "You Better Run" by Pat Benatar. Some fumbling and dead air followed these first two videos, as engineers and veejays scrambled to play videos in the right order.

Bruce Woolley - Blue Blue (Victoria)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

fire engines have candyskin

Today's selection comes from a big pile of dusty 45s and 7"s that I got while thrifting in my home town in southern Indiana. It cost me a quarter and is certainly worth it. Fire Engines sound Scottish, I mean- yeah, they *are* Scottish, but they sound like it! That's a good thing. While I was looking around the web for the words to help me describe the them, I came across the perfect summary, so I am just plain going to copy it from Al Crawford.

Back around 1980 or so, the London based music press had one of its rare remissions from the parochialism that usually afflicts it and noticed that, wonder of wonders, there was a music scene in the desolate wasteland that was everywhere outside London.

The focus of this attention was the central belt of Scotland and on four groups from that area in particular. On the west coast they found Orange Juice and Aztec Camera and through in Edinburgh in the east they found Josef K and The Fire Engines.

In the time since then, the reputation of the first three of those groups has grown, based on the legend of the Postcard label. Orange Juice (and the later solo work of lead singer Edwyn Collins) garnered much critical acclaim and had limited chart success. Aztec Camera went still further, matching their reviews with commercial success. Josef K were the critics' favourite, but like all the best dark horses, split before their reputation exceeded their abilities. Singer Paul Haig went solo and guitarist Malcolm Ross decided to complete the set by playing with both Aztec Camera and Orange Juice.

All this left the one remaining group, The Fire Engines, out in the cold. They were the black sheep of the scene. They turned down the opportunity to sign to Postcard Records, preferring instead to create their own Pop:Aural label under the guidance of Fast Product boss Bob Last. It's probably just as well since, although there were resemblances, The Fire Engines were a rather different beast from the likes of Orange Juice and Josef K.

The word most frequently used to describe the Postcard bands was 'jangly'. Light, guitar based rock with a distinctive label sound, lyrics concerned primarily with the usual topic of young love, and a certain tweeness (well, except for the dour Josef K) that was later to give birth to the excessively twee anorak-clad C86 scene.

The Fire Engines were the evil twins of the Postcard groups. While their sound was also based around guitars, they were 'jaggy' or 'spiky' rather than 'jangly' and, on those rare occasions when you could actually make out what Davey Henderson was singing, they weren't about anything much, rarely made any sense, and certainly were not about young love or similar boy-meets-girl topics. The Fire Engines were Orange Juice trying to be post-punks, or post-punks trying to be Orange Juice, or maybe neither, or possibly both. They were awkward that way.

Rather than blunt lyrical nihilism (i.e. "No future"), their lyrics were made nihilistic by their very lack of meaning, by Henderson's combination of shrieks and yelps and strangled shouts. The twin guitars, while throwing out shards of broken melody with alarming regularity, poked and jabbed rather than jangled, and the overall sound was a paradox, a mixture of shambolic amateurism and driven mania.

It was, perhaps, The Fire Engines detachment from the musical scene with which they were associated that caused them to disappear from sight when, inevitably, the music press got bored and turned inward to London again. While the legend of Postcard has grown as the years passed, the Fire Engines have somehow been forgotten. All that remained to show of The Fire Engines existence were a long deleted album (released with a few track changes under a different title in the US) and a trio of obscure singles.

Here is one of those singles...

Fire Engines - Candyskin

I gotta give a big thanks to 20 Jazz Funk Greats. A little while ago they ran a contest to see which band has/had the most Suicideness. Well, I won. Check it out.

Monday, September 27, 2004

beyond bjork

For a steady number of years, interest and information of Iceland have been steadily increasing. The Sugarcubes started it all. Solo-Björk work put a huge dent in that. Sigur Ros caved in the walls even moreso. The delicate warblings of Múm once again brought attention to the tiny island in the north Atlantic. A number of years ago, I travelled on holiday to Scotland and Northern Ireland, but on the way over, had a two or three day layover in Reykjavik. While it was dreadfully cold and dreary there in late February, I did manage to enjoy my time there and purchased a few items for my listening pleasure. The first Sigur Ros album, Von. The Múm CD they made with the poet Andri Snaer Magnason. A Megas album. Raddir, a great icelandic folk compilation. Some more things were introduced to me over some thick coffee with Paul Lydon, the man behind Blek Ink. One thing was Musikvatur, a one-man band of sorts, a guy and his organ (he also plays in the wonderous Apparat Organ Quartet). Paul gave me a copy of a 7", very homemade in a vinyl bag w/ scrawled crayon on the sticker, and when I spotted a homemade split CD w/ Múm at the rekkid store I had to have it. The CD was accompanied w/ a cartoon book which has never been translated for me (help?) but regardless, its great to look at. All the pages are viewable at Múm's amazing website. This is track 3 from the split CD, the 7inch version of the Musikvatur song. The other tracks are a remix of this song by Múm, a Múm song, and that song remixed by Musikvatur.

Musikvatur - Insert Coin

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I hear a symphony

Jim Jarmusch is much better known for his movies, Ghost Dog, Coffee & Cigarettes, Dead Man, Down by Law, etc. Around the time he was making his first films, Permanent Vacation and the New World, he also played keys and sang in a little post-punk band. The Del-Byzanteens were short lived, but managed to put out an album and an EP and a 7" on the micro-indie Don't Fall Off the Mountain. DFOTM at the time was one of the three affiliates of the U.K.-based Beggars Banquet shop and label (Situation 2 and 4AD were the other offshoots). This track, the B-side to their first release, is a cover of a song the Supremes made famous in the mid-60s, My World Is Empty Without You.

The Del-Byzanteens - My World Is Empty

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

surfs up

Brad Laner has long been installed into the psychedelic and weird, from his early drum pounding of Savage Republic and Steaming Coils to his now electronic experiments with the Electric Company. His 90s output was mostly with the pink-noize pop genius of Medicine. Their superb second album, The Buried Life, featured the single 'Never Click'. One of two great b-sides, 'Til I Die' is a fairly straight forward cover of Brian Wilson's exquisite track from the '71 Beach Boys album, Surfs Up.

An expansive and beautifully bittersweet melody surrounds the piece, which seems to stretch and expand as it grows along. Lyrically, it is a dark meditation on mortality and fear, crossed with one's size compared to the universe and forces of nature. - AMG

With the addition of female harmony from Beth Thompson and the undeniable swirl of early 90s dreampop, this cut can convert any sour shoegazer to the Beach Boys.

Medicine - 'Til I Die

Monday, September 20, 2004


I have decided to dust this thing off since I have recently become an addict to the mp3 bloggosphere. so look for that. it will be all over the place... dusty old 45s, unknown new-wave, weird novelties, etc. and a new design, too.