Sunday, 23 March 2014

On the Beat doo wop special featuring interview with Little Anthony available on BBC iplayer until 29th March

I have now listened to the On the Beat doo wop special and it can be thoroughly recommended. I think it's possible for US readers to access it too, so click here, wherever you are, if you want to hear an engrossing interview punctuated by lots of doo wop. The programme, which is on BBC Radio Merseyside and presented by Spencer Leigh, lasts two hours. I don't have the time to give a blow by blow account but will add a few thoughts here.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

On the Beat Doo Wop Special on BBC iplayer soon

This is to alert readers that there will  be an On the Beat doo wop special with Little Anthony and the Imperials available on BBC iplayer shortly for one week - I only caught the very end of the progamme live so can't review it yet. Anthony Gourdine was part of the David Gest soul package in Liverpool recently but only got to sing two songs - though he is still in good voice, according to Spencer Leigh, who relayed the happy information that there might be a bit of a Little Anthony renaissance on the cards: he has a track on an album with Paul McCartney, there will be an album of him singing with other big names, and he has an autobiography coming out soon.

I will be interested, in particular, to read about his relationship with Richard Barrett, a name who ought to be more widely known to the general public.I have read in an excellent series of articles about Barrett that Anthony Gourdine resented, at the time, Barrett's disciplinarian and seemingly overprotective ways but now he understands what it was all about. You can find a series of articles about Barrett on the Classic Urban Harmony website here; scroll down and you will links on the left. Part 4 focuses on Little Anthony and the Imperials.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Now you can listen to some of those Decca sides ...

Seven of the nine Decca sides on Jasmine's Time Was Flamingos compilation can be found on yout*be. Sound is reasonably good except in the case of Jerri-Lee (a girl rather than the pumpin' piano man), which is a pity as the vaguely Spanish or South American backing is rather nice. Anyway, here, to save you effort, are those available recordings and handy notes. Think I'll stop now.

Helpless (everything but the kitchen sink: bells, white-sounding chorus and ending OTT in a bad way)
Where Mary Go (not unpleasant: sounds vaguely Jamaican-y in a Harry Belafonte way)
The Rock and Roll March (this is very corny, like something even  the Ravens would have turned up their noses at - possibly it was meant for them as there is a bass lead)
Ever Since I Met Lucy (a pop confection I can take or leave which doesn't seem to fit the group)

Kiss-A-Me (almost very good but production lets down)
Jerri-Lee (pleasant, Spanish-tinged pop)
Hey Now! (bit like Chance recordings but sounds a bit more regimented, formulaic - wonder if hearing higher quality recording would make a difference?)

Now click below if you can't see the clips.

The Flamingos 1953-1962

Below are my reviews of the two Flamingos compilations as posted on a well-known shopping website. They don't really contain anything which hasn't already been said on this blog, but they may be more concisely expressed.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Flamingos compilation includes Decca sides

Wow! At last there is a Flamingos compilation which includes the sides they recorded for Decca.

It's issued by public domain label Jasmine, responsible for the earlier Dream of a Lifetime 2CD set, and the perfect complement to it in terms of track selection as it collects the End label recordings they missed out before - there was just a selection - so if you have both sets I presume that that will cover everything commercially issued by this superlative group up until the end of 1962.

Rather cannily, that earlier collection ended with I Only Have Eyes For You on the End label, thus ensnaring the casual purchaser, but at the expense of chronology as their Decca sides came in between Chess and End.They only included Ladder of Love from Decca.

There is an earlier post about the Dream of a Lifetime collection here. But to cut a long story short, it was the first compilation to assemble their Chance, Parrot, Chess and a selection of their End recordings in one place and was fairly cheap, as befits a public domain issue.

To my ears, however, sound quality was okay rather than great. If you listen to the Flamingos CD issued as part of the Chess 50th anniversary celebrations, or the Chance recordings issued alongside those of the Flamingos in 1993 (by what seems to be Vee Jay itself) then you can hear just how clear and full those original recordings really are. Jasmine, by contrast, don't seem to want to get too trebly and exposing of their (presumably vinyl) sources.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Perfect by name ...

A new clip show entitled The Perfect Morecambe and Wise is currently being broadcast on Saturday nights. Yes, there have been quite a few programmes about the pair recently but - based on the first two episodes - this particular assembly has the advantage that some of the sketches aren't overfamiliar through exposure on documentaries and other clip shows and their earlier ATV work is also represented.

I'm drawn to the little dance they do halfway through a Syd Lawrence number. Watching it you think: "Ah, maybe we're seeing some of the musical interludes to give a flavour of the original context," but then on they trot. If you are in the UK and reading this within five days of its being posted then go to BBC iplayer here, and start watching about 3.20 in.

Is it a classic clip? I dunno. But you can see the contrast between the two men: Ernie's transparent delight in the moves and Eric maintaining a kind of solemnity. The overall shape is pleasing: they are decorous, city-suited, and there is slow build to their climactic jitterbugging, the whole rounded off by a simple but smile-inducing bit of business.

But in the end there's not much point in comparing it to other, more celebrated routines. It's them. It's like that feeling I remember when once watching Oliver Hardy (sans Stan) in a less than great film called Zenobia listening to his daughter sing. Whatever these men do I want to watch it. And maybe it's also about seeing Ernie giving the lie to the idea that Eric Morecambe was really a single act. Anyway, if you can watch it, do so. Think I'll try it one more once ...

More Morecambe and Wise stuff here, here and halfway down here.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Freddie Davies autobiography (Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy) to be published July 31st

As I have a vested interest in promoting this I can't comment on its inherent quality but this is to let readers know that Freddie Davies' long-awaited autobiography Funny Bones: My Life in Comedy will be published on July 31st.

An apt date, as it's the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of Freddie's debut on Opportunity Knocks on August 1st 1964 when he told the budgie joke, already honed in the clubs, which brought him and his antic alter ego Samuel Tweet overnight fame. Read more about the book on the Scratching Shed Publishing website here. It will be available as a paperback and a limited edition hardback which you can pre-order via the website.

If you have read my earlier post on Mr Davies, here, you will know that the book has been in the planning stages for quite some time. Has it been worth the wait? Well, Stafford Hildred, writer of a great many biographies and autobiographies, calls it "The fascinating autobiography of the ultimate showbiz survivor." And Alwyn Turner, who has a very interesting page about comedians' biographies and memoirs here, describes it as "a good 'un." You can read about Alwyn's own books, including a biography of Terry Nation, on his website here.

And in case you were wondering - yes, Freddie is still performing. He can be seen at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, on Wednesday May 28th at 2.30pm and 7pm as part of a Music Hall bill - details here. Samuel Tweet lives - and it looks like 2014 could be the Year of the Parrot.