Various Artists – “Fast Jivin’ Class Cutters High on Booze – Spellbound Cavemen and Mad Scientists From the Vault of Lux and Ivy”
Righteous Records/Cherry Red
…and with that one title, my word-count is almost complete. These surely endless compilations based on the record collections of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of The Cramps are the ideal party albums or for road-trips to exciting destinations but with these two activities now feeling like they are distant foggy memories, we are left to examine them as purely historical relics. The most arresting fact of all these albums and the bootlegs upon which the concept is based is how extraordinarily easy it used to be to make a record. Not just to press it on vinyl and not be financially ruined but to assemble a band, write a song and not give a hoot if anyone bought it or not. Many of the singles assembled across these two discs are kidding themselves if they claimed to be even nearly one-hit wonders, though likewise, these are not plucked solely from self-released platters – Ace Records and Mercury to name but two labels felt strongly enough that there could be commercial traction.
Culled from the four-year period from 1958 to 1962, there is a strong emphasis on instrumental rumble, a reflection of the burgeoning surf guitar scene. Once you’d convinced your guitar to twang and tremble appropriately, all you had to do was to keep playing long enough to convince an engineer to record you, as evidenced with “Upturn” by Eddie Smith with the Hornets, a track which barely makes it to two minutes and even then sounds like the money had run out in the electric metre. Despite the brevity and Chuck Berry cribs it managed to get a release on both sides of the Atlantic. People were really hungry for music. I mean, really fucking starving. Rod Willis takes another route entirely with “The Cat”, a silly concoction of meows and slinky guitar which feels like an entry to the horror pop canon but which omitted a monster. This from a man who had begun his career with a popular track released on Chic Records before seeing his career vanish by release number three. That’s pop music, kids!
So, you had a guitar, a drummer and a singer. If you had a saxophone too, you were laughing. I mean, you probably weren’t selling records but you might be laughing. You didn’t have to be any good at playing the saxophone – Eddie Atwood‘s “Hot Saki” has neither a good sax player, guitarist, drummer and also throws in a spoken chorus for good measure. B-side to this single, back in the day (and included here) is a rendition of the same song, now entitled “Hot Sake” by no lesser personage than Ken Nordine, here with short-lived backing band, The Kinsmen. It definitely is Ken – there isn’t the sub-Whale boom of his voice but it’s clearly him saying ‘hot sake’ in a very questionable oriental accent. I wonder if anyone has every thought of collecting together Ken Nordine’s work. There was a huge amount recorded covering a massive range of topics of mind-flows. Financially maniacal but someone should make it happen.
Whatever the quality of musicianship, there’s no denying that the music here was made for pleasure alone – tracks with nonsense lyrics proliferate – “Ka-Gu-Wa” (by The Scholars, featuring a youthful Kenny Rogers on rhythm guitar); “Ooh Ya Ya Ya”; “Yabba Dabba Doo” all perfect for music lovers who can’t be arsed learning lyrics. Kenny isn’t the only person on this collection to have made their mark one was or another – Cindy Malone managed two appearances on Batman and one on Bewitched – her track, “Weird Beard” (sample lyric – “trouble with him, his chin’s too smooth”) is possibly the stand-out track on the compilation; Dore Alpert‘s “Fallout Shelter” (one of countless tracks warning of nuclear peril) is none other than Herb Alpert; John and Judy‘s fun romp, “Hideout” shields another famous name – the John is John Walker of The Walker Brothers. Even Eddie Cochrane is on here – he doesn’t sound out of place.
It’s well-worth picking up a copy of this album if not not the reasons previously outlined then for South African Cherry Wainer‘s deafening Hammond cover of “Money”. Extraordinary! Seek out also Janie Grant‘s “Greasy Kid Stuff”, a life-enriching tale of low-quality shampoo and the Cold War; hang on too for Billy Davis and The Legends‘ “Spunky Onions”, just the thing for sex and veg-themed mix-tapes. You’ll struggle to even find the originals of these and why would you?