2007   DECEMBER 3   #337

The London Nobody Knows

I was going to upload a strange cabaret song I found by Maltese singer Amadeo Carmel called My London when it suddenly occurred to me just how many odd/quirky London-themed singles and album tracks I had in my collection. So I decided to make up a themed compilation to highlight some artists you don't see every day and their unusual interpretations on different/unusual areas of London. Some of them are comedy songs, some of them are deadly serious. A couple of them are just deadly! You could call it Capitol punishment...

We kick off with Swinging London by The George Mitchell Singers. They were perhaps better known as The Black and White Minstrels (see Johnny Rix above) and had two careers depending on whether or not they were blacked up. Controversial today back in the 1950s and 60s they enjoyed huge success on stage, television. This is their kitsch, camp tribute to so-called Swinging London, already out of date in 1968.

1. George Mitchell Singers - Swinging London (3:23)

Edward Woodward needs no introduction. With a long career in film and tv he's perhaps best known for the long running series The Equalizer. But a lot of people might not know that he also released no less than 11 albums in the 1970s. This track is from his album Woodward Again. It's not bad but was there any need for Ed to adopt a cod Cockney accent when we learn of 'Cockney sparras' who 'won't let ya dan'? The good people of Summerisle had the right idea and sacrificed Ed for the good of man and music!

2. Edward Woodward - Carry On London (2:37)

Monica Rose will not be familiar to anyone outside the UK who watched tv in the 1960s. Back then she was a hostess on game shows Double Your Money and The Sky's The Limit, both presented by smarmy Canadian singer-actor Hughie Green. A diminutive East Ender Monica somehow got to make a couple of records of which this is one. She can't sing, she's no 'cockney sparra'.

3. Monica Rose - Lambeth Walk (1:56)

Arthur Mullard was a British comedy actor very popiular in the 1970s who despite sounding like he gargles with gravel got to make a few records in the 1970s. Thee were mainly for comic appeal exploiting his dead pan gruffness and lack of singing ability. This is a biographical piece about his London childhood and his rise to fame. It's neither funny or serious. It just is.

4. Arthur Mullard - Arthur (4:08)

Dick Emery was another popular comedian-actor on telvision for many years until his death in 1983. Here in his well known bootboy (skinhead) character he sings comic tribute to Bermondsey in 'sarf' London. This was from his second album which was much beter than his first where he sang straight love ballads. However both albums had the same title so the second one was erroneously dismissed as a reissue of the first.

5. Dick Emery - Bermondsey (2:17)

Bobby Bragg is a British stand up comedian and warm up man who recorded this version of the Leslie Saroney classic in the late 1970s. I like the way he makes the song his own by turning the second half into a list of music hall theatres that had closed down and had turned into car parks or bingo halls.

6. Bobby Bragg - You Gotta Get Aht (3:05)

Rupert Davies played a police inspecor in the long running '60s crime drama Maigret. Despite the French seting of the series its star was born in London and proved it by recording an album of traditional London songs. This is one the less offensive ones.

7. Rupert Davies - Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner (1:52)

Comedian Spike Milligan recorded this comic tango in 1963. It's all about an elderley car thief who gets nabbed and ends up in Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London.

8. Spike Milligan - Wormwood Scrubs Tango (2:32)

A short instrumental break is courtesy of Leo Muller from the Damont/Stereo Gold Award album Swinging London. Muller issued a whole series of pop-soul cash-in albums in the late 60s and early 70s. Much sought after today they combined covers of hits of the day with cod soundalike material (often the same backing track with added vocals/instrumentation) - all creited to Muller or Miller. A lot of the songs on this compilation use Big Ben's chimes as a motif to start or end the song but Muller uses the same motif over and over again for the entire piece.

9. Leo Muller - Big Ben Blues (1:28)

Kipper were a ficticious group from cheap and nasty British sexpolotation flick Confessions Of A Pop Star. The film starred Robin Asqwith and ex-British Prime minister Tony Blair's real life father-in-law Tony Booth. Classy.

10. Kipper - The Clapham (2:44)

Wounded John Scott Cree is a folk singer similar to Loudon Wainright or Richard Digance. He toured a lot in the 1970s and recorded a sting of singles for the Pye label (of which this is one) but disappeared for many years before making a comeback in recent years.

11. Wounded John Scott Cree - Palais (3:03)

Lonely Joe is a tribute to 1960s record producer Joe Meek who operated from his home studio in a flat above a leather store in Holloway Road, London N1. This single by obscure singer Robb Shenton is curious because Shenton was the name of Joe's landlady who he shot in 1967 after a row before taking his own life. Were they related?

12. Robb Shenton - Loney Joe (2:55)

Stuart Damon, American star of the lon running soap General Hospital and previously the ITC fantasy series The Champions, has appeared in a few musicals but this was his first entry into the world of pop. Eros is a tediuos and meaningless tribute to the Shaftsbury Memorial (Eros, actually Anteros) in Piccadilly Circus. The ads for the single pictured Damon loitering around London in a macintosh looking very seedy.

13. Stuart Damon - Eros (4:15)

The First Impression were part of a Swinging London cash-in album (titled, you guessed it, Swinging London) issued on budget British label Saga. Described on the sleeve as 'throbbing and exciting beat music'.

14. First Impression - Piccadilly Sunshine (3:08)

Everyone Involved were a group free thinking young people led by Alan Wakeman and Michael Klein who got together in 1970 to offer an alternative way for citizens to live their lives. They recorded the album Either/Or which they gave away to anyone who wanted a copy. In 1972 they released this single in aid of the Save Piccadilly Campaign, which fought to save Piccadily Circus and the surrounding area from demolition and redevelopment.

15. Everyone Involved - The Circus Keeps On Turning (3:02)

Lionel Morton was the lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist of the 1960s chart topping band The Four Pennies. By 1970 he became one of the presenters of BBC kids shows Playschool and Playaway but released a few solo records of which this is one a tribute to Floral Street WC 2 (Covent Garden). I like the reference to 'Mum Rolette' deodourant.

16. Lionel Morton - Floral Street (3:20)

Apple Pie and Custard were formed by session musician Herbie Flowers in 1976. The group were made up of literally anyone who wanted to join in after an advertising campaign in the national press. It wasn't very successful and they didn't have any hits.

17. Apple Pie and Custard - Primrose Stores (2:59)

Des O'Connor is best known in Britain today as a chat show host and presenter of game show Countdown but back in the 1960s he was a much satirized singer. Dick A Dum-Dum proves why. It's a very kitsch, Swinging London song making references to Piccadilly and Chelsea's Kings Road.

18. Des O'Connor - Dick A Dum-Dum (2:14)

Rolf Harris produced this look at London from the viewpoint of an outsider (he's an Australian singer-entertainer based in England). Rolf issued a lot of singles and albums in the 1960s and 70s, many with a quirky, comic edge.

19. Rolf Harris - London Town (3:24)

The mysterious Jill Adamson and Mary Elaine recorded a whole album about model cars and buses (Sing A Song Of Motor Cars), including this homage to the red London Routemater bus and its journey from Battersea to Bow. Also along for the ride is Little Laughing Fred who appears at the end and sounds suspiciously like one of the girls speeded up.

20. Jill Adamson and Mary Elaine - The Big Red Bus (3:05)

Despite his cut glass English accent Paddy Roberts was a popular South African singer-songwriter in the 1950s and 60s and best known for his risque lyrics. Here he takes a comic look at Bermondsey.

21. Paddy Roberts - Ballad Of Bethnal Green (2:39)

Our old friend Bob Anthony makes a welcome re-appearence with his ode to England's capitol Christmas. Unashamedly old-fashioned and sentimental it's hard to believe that this guy ran a correspondence course in how to be a singer 'in the rock idiom'.

22. Bob Anthony - Christmas In London (2:45)

Amadeo Carmel is a cabaret singer based in Malta. He specialises in covers of classics such as Try A Little Tenderness but here is his self-penned tribute to London. His phonetic pronunciations are wonderful to hear, especially 'the Guards at sentry point' who stand 'smart as any wreck'.

23. Amadeo Carmel - My London (2:21)

The Superpops are brothers Terry and Tom Costello (no relation to Elvis). This is their homage to their home town which includes some pretty bad rhymes and some 1980s cultutal references. Terry also enjoyed solo success (of sorts) when his song The Perfect Human Face made Kenny Everett's Worlds Worst Record chart in 1980.

24. The Superpops - London Dear London (3:39)

Rick Hardy is a cockney (East End) singer who's still going today. Released on his own unfortunately-named Pony Trap label (Pony and Trap is Cockney rhyming slang for crap) this is a song all about being a Cockney and being proud of it. Rick appears on the front of the sleeve in full Pearly king costume. Well 'e's proud inne.

25. Rick Hardy - I'm So Prod That I'm a Cockney (2:18)

We end off with a Moog tastic version of London Bridge Is Falling Down from the album Magic Moog Nursery Ryhmes courtesy of Professor Bumble's Magic Machine.

26. Professor Bumble's Magic Machine - London Bridge Is Falling Down (0:56)

- Contributed by: David Noades

Images: Front Cover, Back Cover