14 April 2019

Music for Pleasure: Holding My Own (Peter Skellern)

A memory which lingers, rather pointlessly, from schooldays is of the moment an elderly invigilator was presented with a cup of tea while we were toiling over an exam. "For me - not for you," he announced - which was a) distracting and b) not very funny, even though it had probably been c) conceived as a friendly sort of thing to say to a group of nervous scribblers rather than d) an attempt to gloat about the pettty privilege thus afforded him.

2 April 2019

Radio play about Tony Hancock on BBC Radio 4 Extra on 3rd April

The radio play Hancock's Ashes, a neatly executed and witty piece about bringing the great comedian's remains back home from Australia, is about to be repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra. If you are unaware of it, it's well worth catching. Here's what I wrote after its original broadcast in 2014:

25 March 2019

A distant signal

The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore, as recorded by the Walker Brothers, is one of those rare non-Beatles songs remembered from childhood before I became any kind of conscious music fan (the Beatles, part of a fraternal bond, were obligatory). But even when I started buying records, for a long time I didn't have - didn't want - a copy of it in any form, fearful of holding the experience up to the light. This went beyond stereo/mono snobbery or any notion of good taste or coolness: for me the magic was in the memory of the warmth and fuzziness of first hearing it on a medium wave radio in another room in another house.

23 March 2019

Andy steals doo wop Lou digs?

Not sure whether the above is an actual release or merely a figment of someone's imagination but this is such a good, and obvious, idea it ought to be summoned into existence forthwith: a compilation of doo wop records favoured by Lou Reed and Frank Zappa.

20 March 2019

Return to the sauce

I first read Joe Brown's autobiography Brown Sauce, ghostwritten by Graeme Wright, in the late eighties, and enjoyed it very much. A few days ago I found myself devouring the contents with even greater pleasure, which is not always a given with such books.

17 March 2019

Top Five Doo Wop Songs

I recently joined a music forum which asked its readers to name their five favourite doo wop records - an impossible task, but fun to try. I reminded myself of the five titles I had nominated many years ago on the messageboard of the long-gone Yahoo group Steve's Kewl Doo Wop Shop and substituted a few others - although frankly I'd be equally happy with the original list, and my selection could change again tomorrow.

16 March 2019

New David Bowie musical

I was surprised - no, make that gobsmacked - to learn that there are plans to fashion a stage musical out of David Bowie's Deram era songs. While I'm very fond of many of these whimsical or bizarre numbers and would be delighted to be proven wrong, I can't help thinking that the idea is destined to fail: Sister Josephine Kicks the Habit all over again.

6 March 2019

Jeff Lynne and Les Humphries: a cut-and-shut case

I'm over it now - I think - but for a while I was repeatedly drawn to a youtube video of the Les Humphries Singers.

3 March 2019

14 Karat Soul Part 1

From time to time, and more in hope than expectation, I spend a few minutes searching youtube for anything new relating to the New Jersey acapella group 14 Karat Soul (pictured above on Saturday Night Live) - not an activity which yields much in the normal way of things, but recently I found some clips of them singing in New York in 1993, including a doo wop medley which had long been a staple of their live repertoire but had not otherwise been recorded, as far as I know.

2 March 2019

Ashes to Cinder Koala Bears on Ice (it's complicated)

Leafing through a copy of Chris O'Leary's book Rebel Rebel in Foyles in Charing Cross Road a few years ago, I felt a surge of what can only be described as Pooterish dismay.

23 February 2019

"A lot of artistry ... and a bunch of arguing" - Classic Albums: American Pie on BBC iplayer

This is to let UK readers know that a programme in the Classic Albums series about Don McLean's American Pie will be available to watch on BBC iplayer until the 2nd of March.

Not being a rabid fan of McLean's work in general - as it might be, a McLeanatic - when the show was repeated a few weeks ago on BBC 4 I recorded it for later, expecting to dip in, grab what I could about the title song, an undoubted masterpiece, then dip out and delete.

16 February 2019

He just went grey all of a sudden ...

There may be additional streaks of mellow nicotined yellow tangled up therein - I don't know - but the big news in my little world is that Donovan seems to have officially Gone Grey, choosing an interview with fellow Glasgwegian Lorraine Kelly on her self-titled show last December for the great unveiling:

10 February 2019

Posts about Sam Cooke

For those whose interest in the great gospel and soul star has been piqued by the new Netflix documentary The Killings of Sam Cooke (above), here is a guide to the main posts on this blog about his life and career. I haven't seen the new programme because I don't have Netflix - not out of meanness but simply because I dare not put further televisual temptations my way. Click on the title below each image to read the full post.

3 February 2019

Done, Done and Thrice Done

Have just heard something I had been hoping to hear for many years: the original demo for That Day Is Done by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney, now available on the 2017 edition of McCartney's album Flowers in the Dirt.

2 February 2019

Will new Bowie documentary mention Alan Klein?

Advance publicity for Finding Fame, a documentary about David Bowie's early years, promises newly unearthed material; the enterprise has even been injected with an element of jeopardy by a question mark over whether a particularly fragile piece of videotape, not included in preview copies of the programme, will be restored in time for the scheduled UK broadcast on BBC 2 on the 9th of February.

It will undoubtedly be worth watching either way but I note that at least one reviewer has already mentioned that "the significant role played by ’60s manager-mentor Ken Pitt in Bowie’s development is largely overlooked", so I'm guessing that the answer to the question posed in the title of this piece is likely to be no.

Pitt is the obvious link between Bowie and Alan Klein, whose album Well At Least Its [sic] British was released on Decca in 1964, and there is a strong case to be made for Klein as an influence on David Bowie's approach to songwriting, particularly on his first album.

For those unaware of Alan Klein I will try to sum up his importance both to Bowie and to the development of British pop generally - but if you're already confused at this early stage perhaps I need to point out that the Beatles' sometime manager was Allen Klein.

31 January 2019

The stone classic rejected by the Drifters (or their management) has become the cornerstone ...

Following on from the previous post about Ben E King touring the UK with Johnny Moore in the eighties, here is a more recent example of Drifters Reunited - come to think of it, there are so many ex-members it's surprising there isn't a dedicated website of that name.

27 January 2019

The Drifters on British TV 1985

This  is to let readers know that youtube currently has what appears to be the complete version of a Drifters appearance on TV in the UK in 1985 in which Ben E King is guesting with Johnny Moore's group.

13 January 2019

They Turned Me On - Part Seven: Dilly Barlow

In an earlier instalment of this series I promised to devote a post to Dilly Barlow's long-vanished Radio 4 programme Friday Treat but - as is so often the way - I passed on to other matters and forgot all about it.

So here is my attempt to make amends and offer a belated but heartfelt thank you to Ms Barlow: her radio tenure, at least in the role of DJ, may have been short-lived in comparison to the likes of Hubert Gregg and Benny Green, then seemingly permanent fixtures on the sister BBC station Radio 2, but her musical choices had a profound influence on me.

6 January 2019

Stan and Ollie (new Laurel and Hardy film biopic by Jeff Pope)

I have just returned from a screening of Stan and Ollie, the new biopic about Laurel and Hardy written by Jeff Pope, centering around their declining years. What follows, however, is not so much a full scale review as a simple reassurance to those who may, like me, have been apprehensive about the prospect of their heroes being subject to such a treatment.

26 December 2018

Now We Are Nine

To commemorate the fact that this blog is now nine years old here are some posts discussing the Five Satins' In the Still of the Nite, part of a series salvaged from a long-disappeared yahoo group messageboard, originally posted to that board around September 2000. They vanished when the person running the group shut it down and I eventually set up this blog, Pismotality, in order to archive the ones I'd had the foresight to print out.

14 November 2018

Clarke Davis shows on Top Shelf Oldies

I am delighted to share the news that the DJ Clarke Davis is back online, at Top Shelf Oldies. Clarke is currently presenting two shows, At the Hop and The Clarke Davis Experience, the latter dedicated to American pop of 1965.

10 November 2018

Harlem 29 or Twelve Men A-Swinging

The writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove is currently on a tour to promote his latest book, Harlem 69, the final part of a trilogy about the development of soul music in the sixties.

3 September 2018

Fiddler's Green and other adventures in sitcom

The discussion in the previous post of a sitcom which didn't make it to pilot stage has reminded me of one which did pass that hurdle at least, even though it was never broadcast.

24 August 2018

Sid and Rich: the sitcom that never was

According to a new biography, when Sid James died in April 1976 he had been just about to finalise plans to record a sitcom pilot for Thames Television in which he had been slated to appear with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. It's a sad tale of what might have been - and, author David Hamm suggests, so very nearly was.

23 August 2018

Kickstarter page for Peter Skellern's Complete Decca Recordings needs pledges before September 19th

[update: this Kickstarter project did not meet its target but a second attempt, which ends Dec 21st 1018, has already met its target - click on my main piece about Skellern for the link.]

If you have read my forever unfinished piece about the recordings of Peter Skellern, findable here, you may remember this lament:

6 August 2018

Jeffrey Holland as Stan Laurel now at the Edinburgh Fringe

For readers who might be visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Jeffrey Holland is currently appearing in Gail Louw's play ... And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel at the Pleasance Courtyard at 11.30am. Here are my notes about the show from its 2016 London run:

31 July 2018

Hello Goodbye to Berlin: How the Beatles Peppered the Melting Pot (new book by David Hamm)

Scan the famous faces who populate the Sgt. Pepper album cover and one may seem conspicuous by his absence: Irving Berlin, regarded by many as the father of twentieth century American popular song, fusing together elements of a range of musical genres to pen the opening pages of what we know today as The Great American Songbook.

28 July 2018

It was fifty years - oh, alright, fifty years and one day - ago today ...

50 years ago yesterday, the talent show Opportunity Knocks was the last programme to be broadcast from ABC's studios in Didsbury, a Manchester suburb, before the company merged with Rediffusion to become Teddington-based Thames Television, home to Hughie Green's show for a further ten years.

18 July 2018

Gnome Thoughts ... 39 (Liltin' Hilton or Wherefore to Bradfooord?)

I thought this blog's series of posts about the early David Bowie, entitled Gnome Thoughts, had come to a natural end but today I heard Ronnie Hilton's version of The Laughing Gnome, recorded in 1967, for the first time, and could not stay silent.

15 July 2018

My Old Man's a Fireman/Soldier/Dustman (strike out whichever is not applicable)

Some time ago I looked into the origins of My Old Man's a Dustman, the 1960 song by Lonnie Donegan which helped broaden his appeal.

I didn't look hard enough.