Karel Failka Armband 7" (Red Shift, 1979)
When I found this one in a record store in Belgium for a measly euro, I had no idea what it was. The label, the sleeve and the price said, "achat d'impulsion." So I plopped down my one euro coin and carted this Karel Failka 7" away. When I got back to the States and dropped needle on it, I still didn't know what it was. The first riff I heard was a cheesy synth part. When the vocals kicked in I knew I had a winner. "Waiting for you on the corner / Girls and guns in my head / My hands in my pocket / wonder if we'll ever meet," what a great opening verse!
As Armband (The Mystery Song) went on it became apparent that Karel Failka was one of those street poet types who, like John Cooper Clarke, found an opportunity in punk rock to put his words to music. Turn the record over and it sounds like maybe Karel was a busker and not a poet (in fact the track is credited to "Sven the Busker," though the voice is Karel's). The same song is done acoustic but with some studio fuckery, making it sound a bit like DIY legend Steve Treatment. The producer of the record is Wally Brill, the same guy behind some great Metal Urbain records.
What I know about Karel Failka is that he was born in Bombay, India to a Scottish father and a Czech mother. He moved to the UK as a teen and started playing music in the streets of London. His first record, Armband, was released in 1979. A year later he had a minor hit with The Eyes Have It, which sounds similar to Armband, but very synthed out. After a few years off, he had another hit in the late 80s, Hey Matthew, released on IRS. Since then he has been relatively silent.