Psycho Chicken (Halloween VI)
The Fools Psycho Chicken (Clucked Version) (EMI Germany, 1980)
Happy Halloween! Today I am gonna treat you to a novelty classic. There is a good chance that you've heard The Fools take on Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads. Perhaps not. For some reason, I didn't hear this one until a couple weeks ago. My girlfriends and I had to take a trip north to visit an ailing relative of hers and we hauled back a stack of 7"s she bought when she lived in Brussels. Among a mess of Plastic Bertrand 45s (who a teenage she and a friend stalked for a couple days) was this Fools record. She asked if I had heard it and I admitted ignorance. "You have to hear it. You will love it." So when we got home I put it on the turntable and laughed my ass off.
Psycho Chicken is so dumb, but so, well, dumb. Why Psycho Chicken? And Frank Perdue? This is the kind of genius that starts at band practice as a dumb joke and evolves into something that gets out of control. And that is pretty much what happened. A Boston bar band, The Fools cut Psycho Chicken and gave a tape to a local dejay. He played it and the station was swamped with requests. A record was released and it sold out quickly. The band toured with the Knack and opened for the Cars, Blondie and others. After the buzz died down, The Fools continued to play music and still do to this day.
So for the final Halloween song of the holiday, I can think of nothing better than the tale of a blood-thirsty chicken bent on seeking revenge.
Flying Saucer the 2nd (Halloween V)
Buchanan & Goodman / Martian Symphony Orch.
Flying Saucer the 2nd b/w Martian Melody (Luniverse, 1956)
Who the hell needs a Halloween without an UFO record and who better to document a visit by a Martian than Bill Buchanan & Dickie Goodman?
My first introduction to the "break in" record was as a kid. While I had probably heard Dickie Goodman's Watergate gag, the one that sticks is Mr. Jaws. Like all "break ins" Goodman took a popular topic of the day and played reporter asking questions of the President, a detective, a shark, a Martian, Santa Claus, or any number of characters. The answers to the question would come in the form of a clip from a popular song.Bill & Dickie were sampling before sampling had its name.
Buchanan & Goodman did their first "break in" back in 1956. The theme was UFOs and the cut was called The Flying Saucer, Parts 1 & 2. The tune was a hit and they followed it up with Flying Saucer the 2nd and then Flying Saucer the 3rd. What came next was a lawsuit from 17 record companies for copyright infringement. The music industry claimed that Buchanan & Goodman were stealing their songs. Bill and Dickie said what they were doing was parody and as such use of the material was okay. Lucky for Bill & Dickie, the country wasn't controlled by corporations and the courts ruled in their favor. In response, they released the "break in" Buchanan & Goodman on Trial.
By 1959, the pair has flooded the market with "break ins" and the novelty wasn't selling. They split with Bill doing "break ins" for several more years before becoming a jeweler. Dickie went back to songwriting, only to return to the "break in" in the mid 60s. He continued with them until he took a gun to his head in 1989.
One of the great things about "break ins" are the flipsides. Meant as throwaways, never to be played, they often are more entertaining than the "break in."
The Bug (Halloween III)
Leonard Johnson The Bug 45 (Arvee, 1959)
If there is anything as good as a song about a bunch of monsters suckering people into playing Russian roulette with a full revolver, it is a tune about a giant bug from outer space crashing a party. That is what we get with Leonard Johnson's The Bug.
As with The Monsters Four record, I can't really tell you much about this one or Leonard Johnson. The best I can do is guess that Johnson was either from Pittsburgh or Little Rock. From a little research I know that there is a family of musicians from Pittsburgh that have passed on the Leonard Johnson name and that some of them have played R&B or the Blues. I also know that pop-jazz saxophonist Art Porter's band teacher in Little Rock was named Leonard Johnson.
The flipside? A pretty good blues number called You Can't Run Away From Love.
Russian Roulette (Halloween II)
The Monsters Four Russian Roulette 45 (Vee Jay, 1964)
Monsters singing about a fixed game of Russian roulette: What more do you want for Halloween? Sorry, but that is about all you are gonna get from me this time. Oh, except that this is the B side. The plug side is a good but unexciting version of Farmer John by guys that don't sound like monsters. Where are they from? Don't know. Russian Roulette is credited to one Roy Whitney, but who knows if he is part of the band, the producer, the agent, or someone Vee Jay owed a favor. As usual, feel free to pass on what you know.
Dinner with Drac (Halloween I)
John Zacherle Dinner with Drac, Parts 1 & 2 45 (Cameo, 1958)
Now is the time of year for Halloween songs! Next to April Fools Day, All Hallow's Eve is my favorite holiday. So in celebration, expect a whole bunch of scary monster songs.
"The Cool Ghoul" John Zacherle is a Philadelphia television and horror movie legend. After a few TV acting gigs, Zacherle moved back to his home town of Philly and took up an offer to host a weekly horror movie show called Shock Theater. He was so popular that producer Bernie Lowe suggested he do a novelty 45. That idea became the Igor b/w Dinner with Drac 45 on Cameo Records. Backed by Dave Appell & the Applejacks, Igor got some airplay, but what dejays really wanted to air was Dinner with Drac. Unfortunately, program directors, frightened by the Feds crackdown on horror comic books like those produced by EC, wouldn't air Drac because they thought it was too graphic. So The Cool Ghoul went back into the studio and cut a new version. A new 45 was pressed with the "less graphic" song as Part 1 and the "offensive" take as Part 2. Igor disappeared by over the next five years Zacherle cut 82 Tombstones, Scarey Tales from Mother Goose, Hurry Bury Baby, Monsters have Problems, and I was a Teenage Caveman. He hosted Shock Theater and other TV shows for years. Retired today, he makes regular appearances at horror conventions.
David Werner Whizz Kid LP (RCA, 1974)
How eager we are to believe the British! They've successful pulled two cons on us Americans. First they tell us that the Beatles saved rock & roll. A assertion demolished by the existence of the Sonics, the Trashmen, the Coasters, the Olympics, Bo Diddley, the Surfaris, thee Midnighters, the Wailers, Dion, and thousands of other Black, White, & Chicano rock & rollers.
And then they tell us that UK punk saved us from the wasteland that was Seventies rock & roll. Let's look at that wasteland: There were the Stooges and the New York Dolls, but after that...oh yeah, Roxy Music and Bowie, but then...ah yes, T Rex, Hawkwind, Big Star, Slade, Sweet, Sparks, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath, Blue Ash, the Raspberries, ummm you get the picture. Fact is, the Seventies rock & roll wasn't all Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Debby Boone. There were plenty of great records made.
Unfortunately, a lot of very cool music has fallen between the cracks and one reason is because we accept the word of lying Limey scum bent on self-aggrandizement because they have nothing to live for but a life of eel pie, runny pizza, and bog tromping. Fortunately, there are people out there fighting the dishonesty of the Brits and it seems like the fog is finally lifting and more and more great stuff is being rediscovered.
About five years ago I had no idea who David Werner was or that he made music. Then someone turned me on to Whizz Kid. Released in 1974, when the glam/glitter rock scene was starting to run dry, Whizz Kid proves that there still was a little life in the genre. While Whizz Kid isn't groundbreaking, Werner turns out some great songs by drawing from the best. He mixes Bowie with Big Star and Marc Bolan with Mott. His guitarist, Mark Doyle, has a style that sound somewhere between Mick Ronson and Johnny Thunders - a nice clear, drugged out, dream wail. And Werner's voice is both sly and snide. The lyrics are your typical rock star take on groupies, being a star, romance, and loneliness.
Whizz Kid has a few duds, but it is still an above average rock & roll album. It is a shame that the record is so obscure (though easily obtained) it is a great listen. It also helps put lie to the Brit's claim that they saved rock & roll. What is there to save when the body is healthy?
And, what about Werner. Well, he did a record shortly after Whizz Kid, which I've yet to find. He put out a self-titled "New Wave" album in 1979, which is surprisingly listenable. Then he disappeared. A correspondent once told me he was doing British Music Hall stuff. I later found out he'd produced a few things as recent as 2002.
Los Angeles Police Pipe Band s/t
Los Angeles Police Pipe Band s/t LP (Glenfinnan, 1984)
I am a very big fan of cop bands, however everything has it limits. I think I have reached mine with the Los Angeles Police Pipe Band. I am not sure when or where the bag pipe/cop thing got started but I do know that it is not uncommon at police funerals for at least one bag piper to show up and toot. I imagine the bag pipe thing has something to do with the police being our protectors in a war against the criminal element and so on and so forth. It is pretty common knowledge that the Scots used bag pipes in war, in order to confuse and terrify their enemies. It is also well known that there is a tradition of militarism within United States law enforcement, particularly the LAPD. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Los Angeles Police Pipe Band was "formerly established in ceremonies by Chief of Police Daryl F. Gates...in 1979." Los Angeles's finest pipe band plays at funerals and parades. Given that the Police Pipe Band started soon after the birth of LA punk, I am very surprised that Gates didn't send the pipers into to the Elk's Lodge in an attempt to terrorize the punkers. I won't hip you to the medley that you are about to hear, however I think you should put down your drink before you listen.
She Don't Know
Jamie Power She Don't Know 45 (Jamie, 1965)
I've wrote this before: There are genres out there that I think offer me no surprises. I know I've heard everything that genre has to offer, and if I haven't heard everything, than I have heard everything good or I have heard every variation of everything good. Of course, this is complete bullshit and most likely just some kind of defense mechanism to keep me from suffocating under mounds of vinyl. Garage punk is one of those "Ahh I've heard it before" genres that I write of. How many clunky Louie Louie/Gloria/Bo Diddley inspired songs does one need to hear? Apparently, a few more.
In 2004, I dug up this pup at a favorite record store and bought it not knowing what to expect. I took it home and dropped needle and I might as well been one of those comic strip charactors that gets thrown backwards out of the panel in shock. Uh...wow! After a great little opening, this thing lurches forward with the power of a Sonics' song and then it keeps that energy going through the whole ride, with a nice explosion at the fade. It is two minutes of rock and roll perfection.
So who is Jamie Power? Jamie Power is actually Duffy Power. Duffy Power was the kind of a performer who is able to crawl into the rock and roll styles favored in his native England during the 1960s and excel. That he never became a huge name in the UK or a name at all in the US doesn't mean his songs are worth a listen. I've heard a handful of his songs since I unearthed She Don't Know and they are all good, ranging from bluesy jams to Beat thumps. Power had only one record released in the US and this is it. The record label chose to use the name Jamie instead of Duffy, because Duffy sounded too wimpy. As far as I know, this record was not released in the UK.
The Emperor I'm Normal 45 (Current, 1966)
Los Crazy Bird's Soy Normal (Orfeon, 196??)
About six months ago I was digging through 45s in the back rook of a Latin record store in Northern California, picking out anything that had "twist," "bugalu," "hanky panky," or a couple dozen other rock/R&B dance names on the label. (A quick lesson here: Nearly all Latin records have the dance rhythm next to the song or at the side of the label. These range from "son" to "ranchero" to "twist" to "cha cha cha" to "shrug." If you want to know whether a record is rock or funky sounding without listening to it, you can get a hint by knowing the dance rhythms and reading the label or song credits. Do your homework and you will save a lot of money when you skip over one of Los Freddys rancheros for one of their garage punk 45s.) I came out of the back room with a small stack of 45s by Los Rockin Devil's, Enrique Guzman, and other Latin American rock and rollers. One of the 45s was Soy Normal by Los Crazy Bird's.
I go home and start playing the records. I get to Soy Normal and think "Great song. I've heard this before." For an hour I flip through 45s, playing Soy Normal over and over, looking for that record that it reminds me of. Then in the novelty section of my 45s I get to I'm Normal by The Emperor. Okay, I'm Normal / Soy Normal : same meaning. I look at the song credit. Soy Normal is credited to Bod Hudson. I'm Normal is credited to Bob Hudson. Same song. I play them side by side. Well, kinda the same song: Los Crazy Bird's pulled I'm Normal out of the novelty world and made it more of a garage song. Great find and I didn't even know it at the time!
And what about The Emperor and I'm Normal? The Emperor is the late Bob Hudson, a radio dejay and half of the comedy duo Hudson & Landry, whose records are quite common in thrift stores. I'm Normal is Hudson's answer song to Napoleon XIV's They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha Haa. I recommend you listen to The Emperor's version of I'm Normal first.
Some Jamaican 45s
I am not a reggae guy. Don't get me wrong, I like some of it, but I got to it late and have never really taken the dive. This is most likely because my little brother is into it big time and for years tried to turn me onto the music much the same way a street preacher pushes Christianity. So I resisted as much as I could until club dejaying with my friend Larry Rodriguez made it necessary for me to taste some of the stuff. Well, that and I stumbled on a stack of cheap reggae 45s. Since I am not a pothead, I never got wrapped up in the whacked out dub aspect of the genre. For me, the vocals are the hook. I am a sucker for the R&B influenced harmonies and sweat leads. And when I find a reggae or rocksteady or early ska single with the right groove and great vocals, I am nothing less than thrilled.
A few days ago a stack of reggae 45s made its way into the store. Before I put them out, I brought them to the back and gave a few of them a listen. This is what I discovered:
Lloyd Chalmers & the Hippy Boys African Zulu b/w Safari 45 (Trybute)
African Zulu is a nice slow groover with some cool piano playing and background noises of someone slurping at a bong and burping. Safari has some nice piano playing but it also cops a Gerry Rafferty horn riff. Not bad.
Bunny & the Klemares Devil's Angel 45 (GG)
This early reggae tune starts off with a very sweet vocal part. The lead comes in and it is very nice, too. It has a great raw feeling and still sounds warm, especially with the great vocal harmonies.
The Mascots Miss Tourist b/w The Mow Song (Randy's, 1968)
What a great single! Miss Tourist is calypso-influenced folk that has some very pretty melodies and great vocals. Someone could easily turn this into a very cool rock song. The Mow Song is even better. Low fi calypso with some strange vocals.
Fabulous Flames Growing Up 45 (Clan Disc, 1970)
Can't fault this one. A very nice organ intro over a lazy rhythm. The vocals and piano interplay gives this an early 70s Saturday afternoon soul sound. This goes straight to tape to play over and over in the truck.
Peter Tosh Here Comes the Judge 45 (Gibbs)
I love answer songs and how much better is it when the aswer is an anti-colonialist twist on the "Judge" songs that were all over in the 60s (Shorty Long, Bull & the Matadors, etc.)? Peter Tosh, as God, puts Stanley & Livingston, Sir Francis Drake, Chris Columbus, and others pirate/explorer/colonialists on trial and then give them a death sentence. All of this happens to a slow skank and the backing vocals of "Silence in the court/The court's in session." Fantastic! The flip is a very cool dub take-off called Judgement by Joe Gibbs & the Professionals, which is just as good.
King Vup Sailor Man 45 (Well Charge)
A good, up-tempo calypso song with great lyrics. Raw.
Maytals Just Got To Be / Skatalites El Pussy Ska (Studio One, 1964)
Two classics. Early reggae with raw production and a hypnotic rhythm. The Maytals put together another great early R&B influenced vocal performance. The Skatalites lay down a kill inducing sax solo.
Johnnie Osbourne Warrior 45 (Techniques)
A nice early 70s reggae song that would be good background music but doesn't really jump out of the grooves.
Raphael Tomlinson Ram Scram (Munchie)
You start reclining on this one and you might fall down. The singing sounds as if the band is pretty drunk. Raw and infectious.
Roy Shirley Get Yourself Moving b/w Children on the Road (Afro, 1970)
Get Yourself... is a deceptively addicting groove with some sweet vocals. Children... is also a keeper. Shirley wails and then slips into a nice falsetto. When he goes low it is almost a moan.
JT All Stars Lock Me in Jail (Ethnic Fight)
Another good vocal that has that Saturday afternoon soul vibe. The dub on the flip is just okay.
Two Soul Sisters
Mary "B" Something for Baby 45 (Fling, 1962)
Maxine Brown You Upset My Soul 45 (Wand, 1964)
Along with the 45 version of I Idolize You by Ike & Tina, these two songs are my favorite early Sixties, female-fronted R&B singles. Both have everything I like from that style: rawness, sass, strong upfront vocals, and a great groove. And when I hear them, I think, "What other music is this good?" (which is a question I asked myself when I listened to the Ray Barretto single I posted last and the Nobody's Children side a month or so ago and the....).
I found Mary "B"'s Something for Baby in Diamond Springs about 10 years ago. Came home, dropped needle and nearly pee'ed with glee. It is a fantastic song and just one of a million examples of how American music was cruising along just fine before the Beatles "saved it" (a load of crap that just reinforces the racist notion that early R&B has nothing to do with rock and roll, the R&B tag just a then-PC way of saying Race Music. Grrrr). It sounds like it boiled up from the earth and the Heddy Lamar name drop makes me smile every time I hear it. I don't know anything about Mary B., other than her last name is Banks, she is probably from the San Francisco Bay Area, she wrote many of her own songs, and she has one other 45, Cut it Out, on Enjoy Records, which is also good.
Maxine Brown is well known in soul record fiend circles. She cut a lot of great records for Wand, including some killer duets with Chuck Jackson. Born in South Carolina, she made her way up in the music biz by singing in gospel groups and then walking down the secular path after Ray Charles made the safe break from gospel. Like Charles, she still kept her raw edge for a time, becoming a bit slicker after the massive success of Dionne Warwick. If you haven't checked her out yet, I'd suggest gobbling up her Wand singles, they are pretty easy to find for a couple bucks a pop. The Brits have collected her good stuff on CD if digital is your kick.
Avandaro Sentimeinto Latino
Peace & Love Avandaro Sentimeinto Latino LP (Denver, 1971)
Two of my greatest pleasures are record hunting and traveling. I have been lucky enough to have a job where I am able to combine the two. There is almost nothing better than jumping into my truck for a cross country trip in search of records and books. Almost nothing better. In the last few years, my record hunting has lead me across borders. I have to say that digging for records on foreign soil might be better than cruising around the states. And, man, do I love record hunting in Mexico.
It is not that Mexico holds a lot of record treasures. I mean, I am sure it does but I have not hauled out boxes of great stuff like I have in the US. Maybe that is because I know shit worth of Spanish or that all mariachi and norteno records look the same to me. But that doesn't matter because just digging for anything in Mexico is like climbing into Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. The dirt, the dust, the poverty, the crazy fucked up characters, the shop keep who tries to rip you off, the cops who look at you so hard you do not look back and this just to get to a box of records in some market stall next to some toothless old woman selling squash. And then when you are done for the day, you take your handful of mystery finds and the few known treasure, like a Los Dug Dugs album, and you make your way to a little restaurant, buy a bottle of Pacifico for 75 cents, sit down and thumb through your scores.
I stumbled across this Peace & Love album in a small record store in Tijuana. At the time, I had no idea who Peace & Love were. However I could not pass up a record cover showing three band members nailed to a cross surrounded by other members in panchos and one with a gun. I found out later that Peace & Love were one of the main bands featured Avandaro music fest (which took place on September 11, 1971, Mexico's 9/11), a landmark event in Mexican rock and roll. The band also contained members of Mexican rock legends and probably that country's best band, Los Dug Dugs, and were to provide members for the equally influential band, Nahuatl. Guitarist Ricardo Ochoa is considered a pioneer in Mexican rock and roll and musical activism.
Peace & Love play a mixture of salsa, rock, and funk. Some times their music drifts into psych, other times it resembles Afrobeat. The rhythm section is as tight as they come. The guitar is both fluid and wild. And they have a mean fucking horn section.
Ma Fete Foraine / Le Serpent
Antoine Ma Fete Foraine (Discques Vogue, 1966)
Hughes Aufrey Le Serpent (Barclay, 1966)
When I was in Paris last March, I would meet up with my French friends and they would ask what records I found in my day's hunt and then give me that cockeyed look that Frenchmen give you when they think you are tell them how your night with a lady went, the sultry secrets that went on behind closed doors. And when I would answer, "I got an album by Robert Charlebois and another by Sylvie Vartan and some seven inches by Antoine and Hughes Aufrey," they would emit a loud snarf, roll their eyes, and then tell me what I missed out on. To me all these French records are exotic. They are things I've never heard before, new special sounds. To my French friends I am some rube. But should I blame them? I mean I would be snarfing at them if they came to my house with tales of snagging Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy and a seven inch picture sleeve of I am Woman. Now, the Frenchies I mentioned above are certainly better than Elton John and Helen Reddy, but their records are commonplace. They might go for $25 or $30 bucks here but in France you can pick them up for a euro or three. Hey, but it is new to me so....
My first encounter with Antoine was on a seven inch I found in Tijuana. He made it with the great Beat band Les Problemes (who later morphed into Les Charlots). Antoine by himself was kind of strummy but the songs with Les Problemes were nice fuzz thumpers. I later found an album by him and that too was a strumming affair. Not exactly mind blowing but nice in a Donovan kind of way, which is probably why my French pals refer to him as "our Donovan." The songs on this record (Vetez Pour Moi) are a bit different. As far as I can tell this is his "political" record or at least a goofy jab at politics and perhaps that angle was what gives this records the musical twist it has. Ma Fete Foraine is the only pop song I know that incorporates both a circus organ and a cat's meow.
If Antoine is the French Donovan, than Hughes Aufrey is the French Bob Dylan. My first Aufrey find was Aufrey Chante Dylan, his great record of Dylan covers and one that introduced France to Bob Dylan. I found that one in Canada. About a year later I found another record by him in a thrift store in San Francisco. God knows how it got there, but god knows how many records find their way into thrift stores. The Frisco find has one song that stands out from the rest and that is Le Serpent. Later when I was in France, I found a seven inch ep with the song on it. That is where the version posted here comes from. I think Le Serpent is the only pop song ever made that is influenced by Bob Dylan and has a bagpipe as lead instrument. It is a keeper.