- Billy Field – You weren’t in love with me
- Camera Obscura – Destitution
- Department S – Is Vic there?
- Fantastic Something – The night we flew out of the window
- Gregory Gray – Books to read twice
- Herbie Armstrong – Do You
- Le Change – Back seat of my car
- Nevada – In the Bleak Midwinter
- Phillip Goodhand-Tait – Everyday
- Robert Wyatt – I’m a Believer
- Rouen – Ordinary Life
- Rouen – Young for Today
- Scarlet Party – 101 Dam-Nations
- Southern Comfort – Return to Frog City
- Still Life – Away from this Town
- Stockholm Monsters – National Pastime
- The Farmers Boys – In the Country
- The Records – Starry Eyes
- Tonight – Drummer Man
- Villa de Ville – Everything Counts
Obscure Seventies songsmith on Elton's label gets welcome revival
Goodhand-Tait is his real surname, although at school and into the mid 1960s, he was known as Phil Tait. His mother taught piano and his father was an active trades unionist. In 1957 the family moved south to Guildford where Goodhand-Tait attended Pewley school. Before long, he was singing in beat groups several nights every week under names such as Phill Tone and the Vibrants. In 1961, they renamed themselves Phill and the Stormsville Shakers, a group formed with Paul Demers on drums, Ivor Shackleton playing guitar, and Kirk Riddle on bass. “Stormsville” was the title of a 1960 Johnny and the Hurricanes album and ‘Shakers’ was meant to indicate the frantic nature of their performances.
In 1964 the Shakers played the Ricky-Tick club circuit, and backed Memphis Slim. He toured in the early 1960s as Phillip Goodhand-Tait and the Stormsville Shakers (his backing band from Guildford) supporting the likes of Larry Williams.
He wrote songs for Larry Williams; Roger Daltrey (“Oceans Away” – on the album ‘Ride a Rock Horse’ – and “Parade” and “Leon” – both on the ‘One of the Boys’ album); Gene Pitney (“You Are” and “Oceans Away”); Zoot Money (“No One But You”) and Love Affair (“Bringing on Back the Good Times”, “A Day Without Love” and “Baby I Know”).
By 1971, he had branched out, and wrote the score for the film, Universal Soldier. In 1976 he played the harmonium on Chris de Burgh’s LP Spanish Train and other stories.
This track is of course a cover of the famous Buddy Holly song slowed down to make an emotive piano-based ballad and featured on the 1971 DJM (Elton John’s label who was a big supporter) album ‘I think I’ll write a song’. He went on to become a big noise in the music promo video industry, lost a fortune and nowadays lives in Surrey just outside Guildford and is in touch with an old flame of his and a friend of mine, Lynette Leitch who worked for DJM back then.
His careworn treatment of the Holly classic soundtracked many a teenage romance.
Fantastic Something were a UK based duo made up of two Greek born brothers, who had a hit in the early 80s called “If she doesn’t smile”. They disappeared after just two releases. The other one ‘If she doesn’t smile’ I also own – special requests will be treated sympathetically. They were on the great Cherry Red label. A glorious sound.
In the early Eighties there were a number of bands like Eyeless in Gaza, White Door and Thomas Leer around who produced atmospheric synth music. Camera Obscura released this single and then fled – nowadays there is an excellent Glaswegian Indie band with the same name. The layer of soil thickens above the grave of the original and lamented Camera Obscura.
The late, great Vaughan Toulouse lent his vocals to this and many other great songs. The three remaining members of the band regrouped a year or so back to record a cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo cachoo’
However, this song and their other great song ‘Going Left Right’ will never be bettered.
Rouen hailed from the town of Bewdley in Worcestshire in the 1980s and signed to Virgin.
They realeased one album and a few singles, getting a listed on Radio 1 for one single – ‘Young for a Day’.
The band comprised of Nick Cox Keyboards with Nick Allsop, J Johnson, Mark Roslanowski and Nick Sellars.
Two tracks are recalled for duty here – ‘Young for a Day was the minor hit – ‘Ordinary Life’ is completely impossible to find anywhere else – so fill your boots.
Scarlet Party was formed in Essex in the early 1980s. The founder members were, singer/songwriters Graham Dye and brother Steven Dye, with drummer Sean Heaphy
They began to perform at many top venues, to a well established following, and had already recorded an album of original material, and were signed to a major record company, when joined by fourth member, Mark Gilmour, brother of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, on lead guitar.
The debut single, ‘101 Dam-Nations’ was released on EMI’s famous Parlaphone label, on 16 October 1982, along-side a special re-release of Love Me Do, celebrating The Beatles’ 20th anniversary at EMI. This helped to get Scarlet Party noticed, and with the voice of Graham Dye, uncannily resembling that of John Lennon, a television, radio, and magazine, publicity campaign, helped to reinforce the connection. The single was enthusiastically received (Kate Bush described it as her favourite), and reached number 44 in theUK Singles Chart. The follow-up single “Eyes of Ice”, was released in February 1983, on ice-clear vinyl, which was a request from the band, and all art-work for the sleeve was created by Graham Dye, using coloured pencils. EMI then decided not to release the completed album, which was to be called ‘Scarlet Skies’.
‘Scarlet Skies’, was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in 1981-82, but has never been officially released. The linked songs explore themes of war, love, and alienation, in styles reminiscent of both the mini pop operas of The Who, and the progressive concept albums of Pink Floyd.
The band recorded more original songs written by the Dye brothers, as a four piece, until the departure of Mark Gilmour at the end of 1983, and then, once again, as a three piece, also working on other projects, including a musical cartoon adventure based on the band, none of which were taken on by EMI.
Scarlet Party continued performing live shows, joined briefly by new member Micky Portman on bass, and recorded several more tracks at Abbey Road Studios. However, the band now feeling disheartened, and disappointed in EMI, decided to call it a day at the end of 1985.
Graham Dye went on to work as lead vocalist, on several albums by The Alan Parsons Project, and more recently, a new version of ‘101 Dam-Nations’ was made, featuring Graham and Steven Dye, together with Phil Collins playing the drums. The brothers requested the help of Alan Parsons to produce the recording, which is not yet available. A shame.
Singer/songwriter Gregory Gray released three fine albums of quirky, danceable pop from 1986 to 1995. However, his story goes back further than that and involves both a brief involvement with a second-string group of Northern Irish bubblegum popsters and a name change to disassociate himself from that chapter in his past. Gregory Gray was born Paul Lerwill in the village of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, on May 20, 1959. Lerwill picked up the guitar as a teenager and at the age of 19, he joined Rosetta Stone, a bubblegummy pop group led by Ian Mitchell, formerly of the Bay City Rollers. Known as “Flash” during his stint in Rosetta Stone, Lerwill stayed with the group until 1982, long past their brief notoriety amongst the pre-pubescent crowd. Following that, Lerwill changed his name to Gregory Gray to disassociate himself from his sugary past and formed an obscure group, called Perfect Crime, who were in more of a Waterboys-meets-U2 vein. He was a friend of Bono from the much more popular U2.
Finally signing a solo deal with CBS in 1986, Gray released his first album, Think of Swans, later that year. An artsy, often obscure record that maintains the Waterboys influence from his Perfect Crime days, Think of Swans was a complete commercial stiff and Gray was dropped after its release. After woodshedding for several years, Gray signed with Atco Records and released his much poppier second album, Strong at Broken Places, in 1991. That album was produced by Gray’s friend Davitt Sigerson, who later became the president of EMI Records. Sigerson signed Gray to EMI in 1995 and released the Stephen Hague-produced Euroflake in Silverlake, a Pet Shop Boys-like album of quirky electro-pop. Unfortunately, it followed his previous two albums into commercial oblivion and Gray gave up on his solo career, moving from Northern Ireland to New York in the late ’90s and forming an Underworld-like dance rock group, Mary Cigarettes.
Annie Haslam from Renaissance graces this on vocals
Their version of ‘Gustav Holtz/Christina Rosetti’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ is possibly my favourite Christmas song of all.
Nevada was a short-lived group led by Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam from Renaissance. Following their Azure d’Or tour in Israel and the departure of Terence Sullivan and John Tout from the band, Annie Haslam and Mick Dunford formed Nevada as an alternative he believed could grow alongside Renaissance. The group did some demos and had one appearance on a TV show in the UK.
Nevada released just two singles during the period between Renaissance’s Azure d’Or and Camera Camera albums. Peter Gosling, who played with Renaissance for their final two albums performed with Nevada and co-wrote three of the four songs released. The first single, “In The Bleak Midwinter” / “Pictures In The Fire” (Polydor UK POSP 203) was released in 1980 and charted in the UK in early 1983. The second single “You Know I Like It” / “Once In A Lifetime” (Polydor UK POSP 229) was released in 1981 and never hit the charts.
These four songs, quite different from the those of the Renaissance albums released before and after, reflect an exploration of the artists in alternative music ranging from the English ballad “In The Bleak Midwinter” to the popular sound of “Pictures In The Fire” and “You Know I Like It” to the contemporary sound of “Once In A Lifetime” which one can hear seeds of sounds incorporated into Renaissance’s last two albums. Annie Haslam’s stunning wide range vocals are featured in the first three songs and she sings backup in the fourth. Michael Dunford has confirmed that the lead vocal track on the very different “Once In A Lifetime” was performed by Peter Gosling. These rare singles were pressed only in small quantities and should be part of any serious Renaissance fan’s collection. Used copies can occasionally be found.
I remember as a teacher in the Winter of 1981 scouring the second hand record shops of Brighton to acquire all the old favourite Christmas songs to compile into an all time best Christmas album on C90. I then duplicated 100 at the University language centre and proceeded to pay for my indigent Christmas with the proceeds of a hundred two quids gathered in from the students in my care. This was pre ’That’s what I call Christmas’ days – so this probably represented a bargain.
These were the band that made up the others behind Iain Matthews in Matthews Southern Comfort, famous for their version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ in 1970. After Iain left to go solo the band carried on and had a very minor hit with ‘I sure like your smile’. On the B side of this was this track – ‘Return to Frog City’ from the Harvest album ‘Frog City’ with a great slide guitar performance from the legendary Gordon Huntley who sadly died in 1985. I played this into the ground in 1971 which may explain its white blitz sound.
Living as I did in Southend in the Seventies, it was an exciting time to be a music fan. Will Birch (nowadays better known as a chronicler of the Canvey Island music scene and as Ian Dury’s Biographer) was at the centre of the welter of sound as drummer with The Kursaal Flyers which he had quit to form The Records with fellow Essex man John Wicks. The Records were far more impressive in potential than the Kursaal Flyers and even Dr Feelgood – they had pure pop class. By fans of the genre, they are considered one of the most seminal British power pop acts of all time. They are often referred to as The British Big Star. They are best remembered for the hit single and cult favourite included here: ’Starry Eyes’. In the 70s and 80s, the only constant members of The Records were John Wicks, Will Birch and Phil Brown. Today, former members of The Records record and perform as solo artists. Lead singer John Wicks tours in his group John Wicks And The Records, while guitarist Jude Cole continues to record and perform as a solo artist.
Although the original version of UK rock group The Records disbanded in the 1980s, their music continues to be a major attraction in the world of rock and roll. Their hit single ‘Starry Eyes’ is still played on classic rock and college rock radio stations throughout the continents.
John Wicks currently works as a producer/songwriter and has formed a new all-star lineup known as John Wicks And The Records. Wicks performs classic songs from his days with The Records whilst nowadays Birch writes as much as he drums. John Wicks And The Records continue to play sold out shows around the world, having performed with the likes of Guided By Voices, Dramarama and the Electric Prunes among others. Although they played CBGBs in the past, it seemed only fitting when John Wicks And The Records chose to perform as part of the CBGBs farewell concert series when the legendary rock and punk venue prepared to permanently close it’s doors in 2006.
Guitarist/singer, Jude Cole, was the only American to play in The Records. Today, Jude Cole produces numerous artists and co-owns Ironworks Studios with actor Kiefer Sutherland. Hailing from London, England, The Records performed with such acts as Elvis Costello, The Cars, The Jam with Paul Weller, Robert Palmer and Joe Jackson. The Records formed at the height of rock and roll in the 1970s and recorded three major label albums for Virgin Records. They released several singles including Starry Eyes, Teenarama and Hearts In Her Eyes. Albums included “Shades In Bed,” “Crashes,” “Music On Both Sides,” “Paying For The Summer Of Love” and “A Sunny Afternoon In Waterloo.”
The songs of John Wicks/Will Birch have been covered by artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Michael Monroe from Hanoi Rocks, Blackpool Lights, Too Much Joy, The Methadones and British beat group The Searchers.
The Farmers Boys
The Farmer’s Boys were from Norwich. They formed in the early 1980s and were briefly called “Bang Goes My Stereo” before changing their name to The Farmer’s Boys. The band’s first single, “I Think I Need Help”, was release in April 1982 with a few more releases in the same year. In January 1983 “More than a Dream” was reissued as their first single for EMI. Several more singles including this Shadows cover and two albums were released before the band split in 1985.
Baz and Mark went on to form The Avons in 1985. Mark later joined The Nivens, Stan formed Dr Fondle and Frog joined The Higsons and played keyboards on a Julian Cope tour in the late eighties. Original guitarist Andy left early on to join Serious Drinking. In 2000, Baz, Mark & Stan got back together as The Great Outdoors.
These songs have been rescued from the very depths of Stannard’s Library, converted digitally from their original vinyl state and lovingly brought to your attention. Some of these artists will never record again and have not been washed up on the beach of any long forgotten compilation. I humbly offer them here for your edification and delight. You may never see their like again.