[About this piece: I've known for some time now that Jed Smith is a supernaturally gifted songwriter — a genius hiding in plain sight. The loose original idea behind this project was that Jed would create, and record songs for, a fictional series of "lost classics" aping both the language and the aesthetics commonly used around those kinds of records, and we would run the piece around April Fool's Day. Obviously, the original plan has been somewhat thwarted. However, Jed put so much work into this, recording 10 full songs, designing all the artwork and writing all the copy, it seemed criminal to never let it see the light of day. So we're running it now. Dive into the lost history of the greatest records that never were. — Ed.]
Daemoncede got their start in the chilly fall of 1971, when Scottish teenage brothers William and Jim Gillespie (17 and 18, respectively), found themselves locked up in the county jail overnight for tarring and feathering a police callbox outside of Monroe’s Public House late one Saturday evening. Inside the paddy, they met another incarcerated teen, local troublemaker Jock McQueen, and the three conversed all night about music and boredom. West DunCallum, where they lived, was a small fishing town in remote northwestern Scotland facing the Outer Hebrides, known primarily for its yearly bare knuckle boxing tournament for toddlers and for being the primary exporter of basking shark livers in Europe. Facing down what seemed like a bleak adulthood of fishing and betting money on 4-year-old pugilists, the three decided to start a band and seek lives as professional musicians. With William on vocals, Jock on guitar and Jim on bass, they recruited 12-year-old ex-middleweight bareknuckle champion Thor Guthrie for drum duties and began to experiment in the Gillespie garage. Calling themselves The Fingers Forty, their early efforts were solidly in the then-popular country rock idiom typified by the Byrds, Poco et al, and penned what turned out to be a minor regional hit from Skye to Ullapool, “A Ken a Fella Name o’ Stella,” an ode to their favorite Johnny Cash number “A Boy Named Sue.”
Later that year, Jock accepted a job at the docks hauling basking sharks onto the pier for processing and incurred an injury, which had fortuitous results. A fractured xiphoid process landed him bedridden in hospital for two weeks and left him with a permanent and extreme 10-inch slouch, causing him to have to lower the strap on his guitar so that it fell nearly at his knees and drastically affecting his ability to play slide guitar leads and fingerpicked chords that tender country ballads required. Despairing of his condition, he was walking by a record shop when his slouch brought his eyes to a record placed in the lower corner of the front window display. Fascinated by its ominous cover, he brought it home and found the musical answer to his problem in Black Sabbath’s debut. Playing it for his bandmates, all agreed that this was their new direction, and renamed themselves Daemoncede. Absorbing themselves in the music of Sabbath, Deep Purple and early Hawkwind, they decided to, as William put it “make the hardest fookin’ psychedelic rock record ever.” The result was “Age Of Industry.” Recorded for $50 and three shark livers at ClannadNaseum studios in nearby East Killbraithe, “Age Of Industry” is filled with songs of the atomic paranoia, depression, the occult, and comic book lore, and cemented their reputation as the finest hard rock group in middle northwestern Scotland. They recorded four more albums as Daemoncede before, tragically, in 1976, all four members went on to become music journalists.
— Alan Hound-Spey, Caledonia Music Journal
Singer/songwriter Aubrey Renoir rose from the modest suburban ignominy of Nassau County, New York, to become an overnight sensation with her debut album, Mosaic — but an overnight sensation she was not.
Renoir started her career in music at the tender age of 14 when she hopped the LIRR to Manhattan with the encouragement of her parents, Rose and Gerry (Kolchak), to present Lou Fenugreek, president of the booming indie label Red Boyd Records, with the 50-plus songs she had penned over the course of the year. Hoping return to Long Island with a recording contract, she was crestfallen when Fenugreek didn’t think her songs — which were almost all about stickers, her cat Lissette and, curiously, Spiro Agnew — were commercially viable (never mind the fact that, still in ninth grade, her voice wasn’t quite up to snuff anyway). What Fenugreek did see in the young songstress was a nascent talent as a pianist and a knack for melody and arrangement that he felt he could nurture into a real hit-making prospect. Fenugreek offered Renoir (she had her name legally changed in honor of the director of her favorite film, 1936′s The Grand Illusion) a contract to be an in-house composer for the label. So began a fruitful career for the preternaturally gifted musician.
At the time, Red Boyd was known for novelty mega-hits such as Flip Meineke’s “Yer Bowtie’s On Too Tight, Mister!,” Sandy Daffodil’s “(I Ain’t In Love With) The Big Green Dragon” and niche and regional hits such as The Bedford Geltschmeerers’ “Every Night I Plotz At Gottlieb’s” and “I’m Not Asking With This (I’m Telling!).” Renoir, picking up early on the “girl group” craze sweeping the nation, penned and produced multiple mainstream pop hits for the label’s huge roster, including such classics as the Four Little Ladies’ “My Boy Doesn’t Have To Say He’s Sorry (Cause I Know He Didn’t Mean It)” and Darlene Amity’s “Chapel Of Positive Mutual Ideation” (the latter becoming the official theme song for the North American Society For Licensed Analysts).
After several years and a string of No. 1s and Top 20 hits, Renoir began to grow tired of the songwriter-for-hire racket, and her malaise showed in a series of increasingly dour, self-serious tunes for artists with whom she had previously had hits. When Darlene Amity’s “So Alone That I Think I Might Be Dead” failed to chart, Renoir decided it was time to leave Red Boyd and forge out on her own as a singer and, at the still-tender age of 20, she wrote and recorded Mosaic in less than a month. The lead-off single (not included on the album), the smoldering “Mess of My Love” was an instant chart-topper and became an anthem for every young heterosexual woman in 1973 from Long Island and the greater Tri-State and Metro area who knew what it was like to pine away for the mysterious bad boy you can never have, and who plays pool. The album itself went number one within a week of its January 1974 release, bolstered by Renoir’s infectious, slightly funky arrangements, silky melodies and singular voice, which combined a disarming, jejune naivete with a world-weariness that could only have been a very competent affectation.
Subsequent Renoir albums sold terrifically and saw Renoir expanding her musical vocabulary, especially on 1975′s Fresco, on which she collaborated with avant-jazz lion Rahsaan Roland Kirk and found an unlikely songwriting partner in the recently retired Buddy Hackett. She continued a successful recording and performing career throughout the ’70s and ’80s, though she never again achieved the outstanding critical and commercial success of Mosaic, which showed the world that even a naturally gifted, conventionally attractive young woman from a comfortably middle-class Polish American family in the suburbs of Long Island who had experienced nearly a decade of massive financial and professional success and amassed a huge network of contacts and resources could go on to make her dreams come true in Gerald Ford’s America.
— Tom Wolfe, The Literary Dandy’s Guide to Mid-’70s Adult-Oriented Radio
HI was a legendary mid-’80s record producer/songwriter Hillary Schreckluft’s (aka Hillary Fido aka Die Mascara Snake aka Robo & The Romantix) electro-pop project, formed in 1983. The HI album is a collection of songs featuring a variety of guest vocalists, with Schreckluft behind the songwriting and the mixing desk.
Schreckluft began her career as the saxophonist and oscillator-spieler in EineNeueArtDesDenkens, an anarchic late-’70s Krautrock/Motorik outfit which featured a then-unknown James Carville (AWOL from Marine Corps Basic Training for an entire year in Munich) on treated piano and Celtic Bodhran. ENADD was simultaneously a little too futuristic and a little too retrogressive for German audiences in 1977, and Schreckluft moved on to other projects. The HI album featured a number of guest vocalists and performers (Schreckluft, reportedly a cousin of Werner Herzog, was embarrassed by her thick rural Bavarian accent and refused to attempt singing herself) including an alarmingly sexually suggestive monologue by Zero Mostel, which unfortunately turned out to be the last recorded performance by the famed actor and hat-making hobbyist.
The album’s lead single, “Missing Piece of My Heart” is concise slab of dance-pop candy heavily indebted to New Edition’s “Candy,” itself heavily indebted to multiple Jackson 5 singles. Featuring a charmingly naive falsetto vocal performance by a man credited only as “Hauser,” it’s typical of Schreckluft’s productions in that its cheery pop giddiness is undercut by a very slight artiness. It charted well in continental Europe, and, curiously, Butte, Montana — to where Schreckluft relocated in 1991 as her career began slowing down. She now runs a dog kennel for show breeds suffering from anxiety disorders with her partner of 20 years, actor/comedian Chris Elliott.
— Arms O’Riley, All the Musics Compendium
The U.K.’s Canterbury scene produced a host of heavy hitters in avant-rock and prog, and among them were Pittsburg ex-pat James Lingonberry-Deschain. The guitarist started out in the States as a protege of John Fahey, monkishly aping Fahey’s signature future-past folk instrumental style on early albums such as 1965′s Moods For Murder and 1966′s Gentle, as in a Faun at Rest. But a legendary evening spent on blotter mescaline and tequila with Robert Wyatt and his collection of modern jazz records (Coltrane, Modern Jazz Quartet and, one suspects, hard bop stalwarts such as Lee Morgan and Art Blakey) transformed Deschain into a Jazzy-Come-Lately, and in the spring of ’67 he released a not-bad-at-all LP of standards with Paul Desmond’s side band entitled Cruising II (The Trilogy), including a rather daring rendition of “All The Things You Are” transposed to the parallel major (look it up). Later that year, Deschain was apparently transformed yet again by the discovery of two key items: Terry Southern’s collection of Bach records, and a Superfuzz-Bigmuff distortion pedal. He immediately ditched his hollow-body Gretsch, procured a Gibson SG and returned to Canterbury, scene of his drug-fueled escapade with Wyatt.
There he began jamming with all the locals and not-so-locals, absorbing styles from Fripp to Ayers nearly instantly, swaddling all the aforementioned ingredients into a meaty stew entitled Epistemology, which could be seen as some sort of then-current-thinking Soft Machine melang’d-up with a 1980-thinking King Crimson, with maybe a little bit of the less-reputable Yesses and Tulls thrown in for good measure. The “single” as it were, the god-knows-how-many minutes “Three Part Intervention,” begins with an “impromptu” and quickly aborted uptempo rendition of Coltrane’s “Syeeda’s Song Flute” and morphs suddenly into Wicked Horn Rock, before shifting into an eerie, quiet, tense bit of infinite cadence ‘n’ Weirdo Monologue tomfoolery and ending again with that Horn Rock Stuff, with a Latinized cadence worthy of Mr. Zappa. Certainly notable as the likely inspiration for some Fripp “masterpieces” years later, and for some interesting guitar noodlery, it’s worth a listen. Yes, all in all it’s sort of ridiculous, but not at all unlikeable for its utter lack of guile and a palpable enthusiasm. Not a bad piece of cylindrical plastic, that.
— Dick Mel’Zer, The Greenwich Yadda
MOIRA (nee Moira Castellough Kirkpatrick Wolanowizchek FitzKelly) was the de facto queen of Britain’s somewhat under-publicized “New Northern Soul” movement, which found its origins in the splintering of a teenaged Mod gang in Muswell Hill into a two-tone skins group and a group known as The TAAABoys — TAAA Records being the legendary U.K. distributor for Motown Records throughout the ’60s and ’70s. The TAAABoys splintered yet again when Lead TAAABOY Nimrod “Dukes” St. Cubbing befriended FitzKelly after the two met at a local Boots in the astringents aisle and, admiring her style, Nimrod asked her to join the TAAABoys. The rest of the TAAAboys were none too appreciative, being terrified of girls, and soon the TAAABoys became The TAAATwins.
Noticing the prominence of bands at the time, Nimrod decided that he and Moira should start a band, so the TAAATwins became TAAASoundz. Quickly realizing he had no musical talent, Nimrod decided to carry on as a manager and Moira became MOIRA. New Northern Soul, like its ’60s counterpart, traded heavily on authenticity in production and performance, thusly often employing older journeyman session musicians for tracks, but Moira revealed herself to be a skilled guitarist after only a few months on the instrument, adding dimension to her London Chanteuse image. An early single on Stiff Records entitled “Thather Breacoh Nigh Kanne Woldish” flopped mightily, likely thanks to the bizarre insistence by Nimrod that the lyrics be sung in Middle Pictish. Moira’s second single “Waking With A Wounded Heart,” fared considerably better, charting all over Dear Old Blimey and appearing nonstop in dancehalls appealing to the mod/ska/whatever retro-scene for a half-dozen moons or so.
A full album was recorded and released in the summer of 1981, but its success was somewhat hobbled by misleading album art, which suggested more a noirish, slickly produced dance-pop LP than a solid chunk of authentic fake Four Tops and Supremes, as exemplified by “Waking With A Wounded Heart.” Listeners expecting the former apparently threw records out the window in droves, a mini-phenom in Britain referred to at the time as “Moira’s Rain.” Subsequent LPs carried on in the mode of the self-titled debut, but with far more blatantly retro album art, thus through graphic design was Moira’s cult fan base secured. As the ’80s came to a close, FitzKelly could be found DJing bat mitzvahs across London and confirmation parties in the North, continuing to cut records on the side with to praise among tragically obsessed fashion throwbacks across the Isles. Good enough, then.
— Jerry Cawsloi, Involuntary Publicity Magazine
If the Fake Feelings origin story is to be believed, singer/multi-instrumentalist James McCoughlin and keyboardist Jan Bjornsen-Olatunji met at a Socialist Youth Rally in a Danish barn. The pair — Texan expat McCoughlin and Danish-Nigerian Bjornsen-Olatunji — had both escaped their respective undergraduate studies (McCoughlin in Business Management at Cornell University and Bjornsen-Olatunji in Philosophy at Copenhagen’s prestigious Frie Akademiske Socialforskningsinstituttet Kontrol og Gartneri) to join the rural Danish branch of the controversial French organization Rive Gauche Social Democracy League for the Peaceful Distribution of Goodwill Propaganda and Informational Brochures to the Unwashed Prole Art Threat, or RGSPDLDGPIBUPAT for short.
According to McCoughlin, the two met, and clashed, when they arrived simultaneously at a port-a-john and a heated argument broke out between the two over who should allow the other to go first out of politeness, based on the socio-economic and cultural privilege afforded each by the intersectionality of the class and racial background of the other. Bjornsen-Olatunji argued that while in the States, he would be considered a person of color due to his half-Nigerian ancestry and treated accordingly, in his native Denmark, the fact that his parents were both cabinet members of Danish parliament and of upper-class background meant that he was actually, in relative terms, a member of the Danish overclass and thus should allow the comparatively underprivileged McCaughlin, both of middle class and foreign extract, to use the port-a-john first. McCaughlin, conversely, argued that both his whiteness and his status as an American would, throughout a greater part of the world, afford him superior social and economic privilege and that he should allow Bjornsen-Olatunji the first go. Meanwhile, an English economics student who had taken ayahuasca earlier had gone around the two and locked himself in the port-a-john, where he remained violently ill and mentally disturbed for the following 16 hours. Christopher Hitchens would go on to later fame, but this is not his story.
The matter having resolved itself by outside social and environmental forces, the two became fast friends and bonded over their love of music, particularly the post-punk of Wire, the proto-art punk of Pere Ubu, the Ur-funk of the Meters and not-quite-as-Ur-funk of the Ohio Players. Relocating together in Munich (where they met and socialized frequently with members of synth-pop auteur Hillary Schreckluft’s coterie), they formed a band, adding and changing members frequently, with the core remaining McCaughlin on drums, guitar, bass, or percussion at various points and Bjornsen-Olatunji on various keyboards. There they recorded two albums of spaced-out atonal funk and drone music until came 1981′s Anicompi Di Cote, where U.K. record producer (and one-time member of art-glam pioneers Sextrax) Neo Brain introduced into their sound heavy elements of then-fashionable Afro Pop and Ethiopian jazz, assuming the band would greet the idea with enthusiasm. They did not.
Despite tensions between producer and artists, Anicumpi Di Cote was a great critical success and contained several novel ideas — including the invention of a new language called PortuCote, a sort of creole of terrible Portuguese, Dutch and several West African languages, none of which any of the three spoke. As such, most of the lyrics and many song titles were written using the language, which was, in effect, entirely phonetic in nature and thus complete nonsense — a technique later put to good use by Elisabeth Frasier of the Cocteau Twins. The sole exception lyrically on the album is a track which became something of a college radio hit, despite its menacing tone and minor-key dirge tempo. The lyrics for “Loud & Dead” were composed by Neo Brain and the duo using a cut-up method Neo Brain had devised and named “Abstruse Methodologies,” in which the lyrics of George Strait and Waylon Jennings songs were cut into pieces and put back together at random. “Loud & Dead” is also notable for having dual guitar solos by an uncredited Adrian Belew, then on the lam from his native England dodging charges that he shoplifted several issues of Redbook from a London supermarket.
— Bobby Christgow, Cremé
Primo Dix started in 1979 when vocalist Carl Meyer, then 19, and guitarist Rico Reyes, then 18, met while both were shoplifting at a local Orange, California, liquor store. Admiring each other’s technique, they realized they lived just blocks from each other in Orange’s dismal suburban hellscape and began to get together and write songs, not impeded by the fact that Meyer didn’t play anything or sing anything well (save a surprisingly affecting version of “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?”). Rico had only been playing guitar for two months, and had never bothered to replace the three strings he broke on the first day.
Several months later they roped bass player and high school sophomore Patrick “Cream Cheese” Schmeer and 30-year-old drummer and record store employee Polly “Ethelene” D’Nofrio into forming a proper band and called themselves Primo Dix. By 1980 they had amassed a decent following and were playing shows with such esteemed acts as TSOL and the Circle Jerks, though they stuck out somewhat from the nascent SoCal punk scene for having a decidedly darker and more nuanced guitar sound, one which tended to counteract the aggressive attack of the rhythm section, and sometimes lead to heated cries of “Goth Punk Poseurs!!!” from the audience. Teaming up with “producer” and local benzedrine distributor Jack Jerker (it is unknown as to whether this was his actual surname), they recorded the eponymous Primo Dix in three days for $50 and a promise to mow Jerker’s lawn for six months. The results speak for themselves, as best exampled in the nihilistic, sardonic slash n’ burn of “Deathless Boredom,” which tells a tale typical of the time of young punk malaise run amok in Californian suburbia, spilling out generational angst and speed-addled paranoia by the bucketful.
Primo Dix went on to record three more albums and one “concept cassette,” the latter a little-heard opus about a teenager who, killed in a car crash, comes back from the dead to score asthma inhalers and copies of Mad magazine from the local pharmacy. Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon is said to have used this as inspiration for penning the 1985 horror-comedy classic Return Of The Living Dead.
— Dick Heck, Plonk! Magazine
If Daniel Treacy is ’80s Blighty’s Bob Dylan (he ain’t, cause he never made any money) then Mick Trouble is his Phil Ochs. Except that Mick Trouble did make a little scratch after all, didn’t he? Just a little, mind.
Trouble started out his modest career as Tiny Mickey Head (born Michael Tooney-Head up t’ Muswell in August 1960 — a Leo, if you’ll want to get yer star charts out). Tiny Mickey was a sort of wannabe punk troubadour styled loosely after a stinking melange of Billy Bragg and Tiny Tim — Mickey himself no minuscule lad at two yard and a palm, or 6’3″ as we say in the Now Parlance. Anywho Mickey sought to make himself stick out from the crowd by singing covers of popular punk tunes (this being 1977, there weren’t that many to go around) in Middle English, accompanying himself on “Electric Lute.” Times being what they were (tasteful), Mickey’s act failed to warm the bosom of the English populous and his debut album, The Canterbury Wails, went all but unnoticed. By 1980 he had dropped the diminutive and swapped in the clever-as-all surname “Trouble,” transforming himself into sort of a Cockney street poet a la Treacy, but far broader humor-wise and obsessed with every cliche of the lingo. Improbably, it worked, and Mick Trouble’s debut, Not ‘Alf Bad, That — released by Stiff Records on a dare by one Declan MacManus to Nick Lowe — charted well, and even provided Trouble with a bit of a pub and uni hit in “Shut Your Bleeding Gob You Git,” a “scathing” takedown of nobody in particular.
Withering cracks aside, Not ‘Alf Bad, That was actually a critical success, largely owing to buoyant performances by Trouble’s all-star band and catchy melodies and whatnot — very well exampled in “Shut Your Bleeding….” which reportedly (and mysteriously), cost £25,000. Aforementioned scratch made by Trouble was the result of a licensing deal with P.G. Tips which featured an advert campaign starring Eric Idle as a man who goes ’round London whipping scalding hot cups of tea into the faces of people who simply won’t shut up. Despite the graphic violence, the campaign was a huge success and Trouble was able to retire at age 26, only to return once more with a follow-up album, 1986′s Whitney Houston. Unfortunately Whitney Houston’s debut album, Whitney Houston, was released during the same week, and Trouble’s effort was completely overshadowed and fell of the charts rapidly. Trouble relocated to Los Angeles the following year and these days runs a non-profit cheque cashing franchise.
— Alan Magoo, The Sadist’s Guide To Marginal U.K. Pub Rock, 2010 Edition
Syster Darkwyne was an English Goth band (they preferred the term “Theatre Du Moribund”) formed around the fall of 1978 in Leeds. During their initial run, they were often accused of blatantly aping both Bauhaus and the far less-respected Sisters of Mercy, however in reality both of those acts caught early S.D. shows and cribbed mightily from what they saw. It was only the fact that Syster’s debut recording was delayed by singer Julian DeLarge’s bout with cholera that caused them to seem like poseurs du jour by the time Before The Other Flood was actually released.
The album’s title does not immediately appear anywhere on the album artwork, however it is visible by microscope as a tiny tattoo on DeLarge’s (pictured on the cover) left hand. Legend has it that he had it inked after a feverish night of sleep in the midst of his sickness. He reportedly had a dream in which the angel Gabriel forewarned him of the coming of another Great Flood — not one of rising seas, but of “A Music of Transcendent Darkness.” Thus, if this story is to be believed, was Goth-Rock born, its very creator never to receive credit.
The lead single off the album, “Bat Problems,” is a driving slice of chilly proto-industrial dance rock, a hypnotic, EQ-scooped bass line pushing the gloom forward while Daniel Oak’s guitars slash like groping skeleton hands in the dark and DeLarge’s fluttering vocal — part Bowie, part Legosi, perhaps a little Harry Caray — lounges back in the mix a bit, incanting prophecies of moribundity and weird scenes inside the gold mine. The version presented here is the B-side to a rare 12-inch. The A side contains the extended, but more danceable, club version, while this version includes a false start in which the band comes in with a Gothified rendition of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” (the 1964 version by Them) in an effort to annoy the over-precious DeLarge, who at the time made his distaste for “rock ‘n’ roll granny hits” abundantly clear in press interviews. After half a minute, the band cools it and Delarge intros the actual song with a positively baffling bit of poesy. The rest is history. Although it isn’t.
Oak-Childe began as a lark on the part Syster Darkwyne’s Daniel Oak and Kevyn Childe of the pioneering shoegaze outfit Black Christmas. The two met in August of 1988 at SnogWart Studios in West London at the lav. Childe was recording Black Christmas’s landmark Lifeless LP and Oak was attempting to steal a couple of rolls of t.p. to shave a bit off his monthly expenses. Oak liked Kevyn’s mild Irish brogue and Childe liked Oak’s taste in wastepapers and they decided to “do a one-off,” as Oak described it later to the Collegiate Express New Musical Journal. The results were the extremely clever moniker Oak-Childe and an LP of swirling, lightly psychedelic pop, The Exclusion Layer.
The Exclusion Layer was recorded in the wee hours of night over a 2-week period, during which Childe reportedly employed nearly 300 different stomp boxes on his guitar tracks at any given time, causing massive power surges which were rumored to be the cause of the infamous Soho Blackout of ’89. (Because of the blackout Andrew Lloyd Webber, intending to write a letter to The Guardian announcing his retirement, instead wrote the libretto for the never-produced The Sound Of Music 2: Electric Boogaloo.)
The lead single “Running Out The Days” was a minor club hit in 12-inch dance mix form, which boosted the gated reverb on the snare, added more delay to the vocal, and looped the last chorus 28 times, often inducing nausea in the listener unless they were on heavy doses of MDMA and Guinness draught. The royalties allowed Oak to purchase a lifetime supply of bathroom products and financed Childe’s unfortunate foray into hip-hop, P.M. Dawn. It’d be easy to dismiss this engaging (if morose) collection of effects and looped-percussion sample-laden songs as simply a bit of light reverie by two washroom pals, which is exactly why that’s what this reviewer is going to do. Do like those bass lines, though. Gotta wonder how much they paid Tony Wilson for them.
— Will Self, Moribund Pale Bretons A-Z