Those lovely Manc scallies at Oi Polloi asked us to put together an ‘ikkle mix of British private pressing Working Man’s Club circuit bands, so of course we said yes! Here’s the mix, hope you enjoy! (Spoiler alert: this mix includes tracks by kids’ TV legends Grotbags The Witch and Russ ‘Atmosphere’ Abbott…)
This weeks selection was put together by the good folks at Licorice Soul – the label responsible for the great Working Man’s Soul compilations, of which there are two volumes. All the track’s taken from the comps – with exception of a couple of special slightly cheesy numbers that didn’t make the final cut – to add to the ’70s-school-teacher-disco’ vibe. Well it is Christmas eh?
Working Man’s Soul celebrates the forgotten world of British cabaret performers from the 1960s and 1970s and selects the cream of the cuts only previously available on privately pressed records. Manufactured by the artists themselves in miniscule quantities, these records were sold at live performances at Social Clubs, Miners’ Welfare Clubs and Working Man’s Clubs across the UK. Some of the artists went on to become household names; some went back to the day job; others made a successful and lucrative, albeit understated, career of playing three sets a night, six nights a week.
This selection covers everything from soul, funk and jazz to rock and easy listening; the common theme is of music recorded and performed to celebrate the good times and the end of the working week. The records from which these tracks are taken have been unearthed by Licorice Soul over many years of persistent (and usually fruitless) searching at flea markets, car boot sales, charity shops, and even the odd proper second hand record shop.
The majority of these tracks are here made commercially available for the very first time, each brings with it its own story of success, failure, or years of simply hoping, and in its own unique way, evokes the golden age of the British club circuit.
Licorice Soul presents Working Man’s Soul for Oi Polloi goes something like this…
01. Stuart Gasston – You are the sunshine of my life
Cruise ship crooner Stuart Gasston kicks off this wintery Monday Mix, resplendent in a fetching sky blue roll neck and complementary white strides on his titular LP cover. Stevie’s standard is given a British jazz twist by arranger, horn man and all-round top banana Duncan Lamont.
02. Brass Foundry – Superstitious
Leicestershire guitarist Steve Fearn’s band once included Deep Purplers Jon Lord and Ian Paice, fact fans.
03. Heads Together – Funky Stuff
Heavy duty Geordie glam rock take on the Kool & The Gang classic. Singer Russ ‘Rusty’ Harness is still performing in the North East.
04. Collection – Vehicle
One of the members of Collection may have moved to Germany.
05. Carol Lee Scott – Little bit of love
We had to get the master tapes for this all the way from Canada for your listening pleasure. That’s dedication, as Roy Castle used to say. Carol Lee ‘Grotbags the Witch’ Scott’s finest recorded outing, featuring the backing band from the club scene in Get Carter. Yes, the one with Michael Caine. Grotbags was originally going to be orange. Just so you know.
06. Black Abbots – Soul Man
Eh up Sandra… that bloke on the drum stool looks just like Russ Abbot! No shit. It was either this or Atmosphere…
07. Bob Bernard Quartet – Comin’ Home Baby
Over to you, liner notes: Just like a succulent menu, well-run and managed kitchens, and an efficient staff are an integral part of any successful restaurant, so too must Bob Bernard and his resounding trio be an integral part of The Ashes Restaurant, tucked away at New Ash Green in the rolling Kent countryside. A complete, and by today’s standards, inexpensive evening’s entertainment can be had at The Ashes, starting with a drink in the compact and well-stocked bar and ending on the intimate dance floor where Bob will play to suit your mood.
08. Dave Anthony – Chain of fools
Dave, from Hindley Green, was Tommy Cooper’s musical director back in the day. Apparently he liked tatting around in his shed with electrical stuff, so made his own synthesizer for this record.
09. John O’Hara – Funky Nassau
John and his band The Playboys played for Bobby Moore at the England World Cup winner’s party in 1966.
10. The Melodians – Fur Elise
Band leader and part-time magistrate Terry Noel has a street named after him in Trinidad.
11. Gary Allcock and the Midland Allstars Big Band – Norwegian Wood
Off-duty BBC Pebble Mill house banders parp and toot their way through a muscular Buddy Rich-esque take on the Beatles classic.
12. Eric Delaney – Watermelon Man
When we phoned him to inquire about this monster version of Mongo Santamaria’s hit, still-gigging drummer Eric said that although he’s over eighty now, his hands are still twenty-five. Legend.
13. Alan Randall – Work Song
Better known at the time as a George Formby impersonator, Alan ditches the uke here for a set of jazz vibes. The guitarist wakka-chakkaing his way through this ended up playing with Jan Hammer in Whitesnake.
14. Both Hands Free – City Slicker
Back to Manchester now; Didsbury to be precise. Every Sunday afternoon Both Hands Free would jam at the Cavalcade Club, having met while recording a forgotten LP with Tony ‘Amarillo’ Christie. Highly regarded in the British jazz community, they recorded only one album, at folk-rockers Steeleye Span’s studio. Expert drummer Dave Hassel still lives in the area, teaching privately and at the Royal Northern College of Music, and (more importantly) played on the Happy Mondays’ Bummed LP.
15. Audrey Squires – I love you just the way you are
Wrapping things up in fine Welsh style, New Faces regular and Voice of the Valleys Audrey provides us with a mellow Moogy take on Billy Joel’s timeless end-of-the-night office party smoocher.