Look What The Cramps Dredged Up… Limited Edition 2LP set

“An instant soundtrack to a humdinger of a werewolf frat party.” Shindig!

FVDV215 Looks What The Cramps Dredged UpWhile they would later distance themselves from the “Psychobilly” tag which had once adorned their nascent gig posters, likening it to a carnival huckster’s ploy to drum up trade, there’s no denying The Cramps’ potent blend of sexed-up Rockabilly mixed with one part nasty Punk and a glug of fuzz-laden Garage would prove a killer cocktail – one whose effect was both intoxicating and long-lasting.  Coming to prominence as part of the burgeoning mid-70s New York Punk scene, The Cramps were less a breath of fresh air and more of shot of nitrous oxide in an era when radio-friendly Rock and slickly produced Soul were stultifying the nation’s airwaves.  Not that the band were destined to trouble the mainstream.  In a career which spanned more than thirty years, the combo had to be content if not hell-bent on maintaining their cult status, eschewing the constraints of the music biz by choosing to self-finance and license their recordings after an early deal turned sour and taught them a bitter lesson.

Andre Williams Jail BaitOft-imitated but rarely equalled, musically The Cramps revelled in the sleazy, the greasy and the doggone low-down, delighting in rocket-fuelled revamps of the obscure, the absurd and lesser-heard in the manner of demented scientists whacking a souped-up defibrillator on Frankenstein’s monster.  Their live shows, records and promo videos celebrated the trashier excesses of 20th century Pop culture with Ed Wood’s B-movies, Burlesque, backwoods Southern culture, tail-finned Caddies, and guitarist Poison Ivy’s own stint as a dominatrix (“I was suited to the work”) all providing rich audiovisual fodder.  Often teetering vertiginously on the brink of questionable taste – at least for the times (‘Bend Over, I’ll Drive’ from the album Look Mom, No Head let’s you know what you’re in for) – playful good humour and uncontrived cool rendered the outcome fun rather than offensive.  Often dismissed as merely kitsch or camp, The Cramps’ fervent belief in their art was perhaps the secret to their longevity and their loyal fanbase.

Kip Tyler Jungle HopBy projecting their own personal tastes and imagination onto a febrile New York scene, The Cramps had effectively created their own sub-culture by reintroducing a musical art form which had largely been ignored in the twenty years since Sam C. Phillips first launched a certain Tennessee truck driver onto the road to fame and fortune.  And while it’s rarely acknowledged, the shockwaves the band created across the Atlantic did much to influence the flourishing Rock’n’Roll revival which was gaining momentum in Europe.  The crowd who frequented CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City just as Blondie was beginning to make waves may not have realised The Cramps’ repertoire was mainly derived from Big Beat’s farthest recesses.  No matter, they grew to love the hybrids’ wild, devil-may-care retreads and besides, for those who’d missed Rockabilly’s first fleet-footed go around, the sounds were new and just as electrifying as ever they had been.

The Frantics WerewolfLook What The Cramps Dredged Up features 32 of the tracks that were covered by the band. Although most fall into the loose category of rock’n’roll, they all possess a unifying deviancy; rock’n’roll at its most wildly primal and juvenile, the freakish teen music Lux & Ivy idolised and aspired to refashion.  Despite their cohesive character, these discoveries vary widely in style, from the peerless balladry of Ricky Nelson to the abandoned rockabilly of Johnny Burnette and the frankly unhinged sound of Fat Daddy Holmes. Rhythm & blues numbers range from Andre Williams’ greasy Bacon Fat to Little Willie John’s timeless Fever and The Top Notes’ pre-Isley Brothers original of Twist & Shout. Throw into the mix Link Wray’s sinister instrumental Rumble, the B-movie horror of The Frantics’ The Werewolf, plus classic sides by Carl Perkins, Richard Berry and Wanda Jackson, and you have a fantastic cross section of The Cramps’ jukebox.

For more information about this release please click here 

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Quiffs At The Flicks

“98 tracks over a trio of discs is a serious horde…  Still, this quantity does exude quality…really rather good.” Vintage Rock

FVTD208 Quiffs At The Flicks

FVTD208 Quiffs At The Flicks

Covering the period 1957-1962, Quiffs At The Flicks presents a nostalgic overview of the British rocksploitation movie with tracks both familiar and obscure. Taking a lead from its glitzier US counterpart, the UK film industry clambered aboard the cinematic bandwagon which decreed that whilst Rock’n’Roll was clearly not destined to last it made sense to make the most of these young scallywags (and keep a few disgruntled jazzers gainfully employed). While New York-based dee-jay Alan Freed was wholeheartedly flying the Big Beat flag in all-star Technicolor productions and Paramount was parlaying Presley’s talent into box office megabucks, Blighty’s initial sorties tended to be more low-key, black-and-white affairs. Occasionally a recording artist with thespy aspirations – or, more likely, a manager with an eye to the main chance – might find a B-side shoehorned into an otherwise unremarkable B-movie by way of an entree.

Rockin' with The Rockets!

Rockin’ with The Rockets!

Granted the plots may have been paper-thin – mere vehicles for plugging records in a pre-MTV era with acting that was often as creaky as the sets – but, as a glimpse into the often grimy world of post-War British youth culture (the then-X-rated Beat Girl, filmed on location in London’s Soho, is a prime example), they’re a timely reminder of an age all-but forgotten in today’s welter of Twitter feeds and carefully airbrushed glossies. “Hey kids, let’s do the show right here!” rarely sounded more heartfelt when applied to refurb’ing a coffee bar or a youth club or, indeed, starting a record label – there’s just no mistaking that bulldog spirit. Happily – with or without a seat in the 1s/9ds and a box of Lucky Numbers – the music speaks for itself.

Play It Cool [1962]: Twist crazy kids paint the town.

Play It Cool [1962]: Twist crazy kids paint the town.

Comprising over three of hours of music by some of British Pop’s biggest names – Tommy Steele, Frankie Vaughan, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, Adam Faith, Billy Fury, Helen Shapiro, John Barry and Petula Clark plus a handful of US guest stars (Gene Vincent, Bobby Vee, Del Shannon) – Quiffs At The Flicks cherry-picks from some of the UK’s best-loved and best-selling soundtrack albums and EPs of the time including The Tommy Steele Story (UK No.1), The Duke Wore Jeans (UK No.1), Idle On Parade (UK EP No.13), Expresso Bongo (UK EP No.14), Beat Girl (UK No.11), The Young Ones (UK No.1), Play It Cool (UK EP No.2), Some People (UK EP No.22) and It’s Trad, Dad! (UK No.3). Among these are some twenty Top 30 hits and in addition two non-soundtrack bonus tracks which became No.1s in their own right.

Available now on Fantastic Voyage and by mail order from Bim Bam Records

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Teen Dreams

As featured on Lauren Laverne’s Pick Of The Week on BBC Radio 6!

Great cover, colour label shots, US label (only) release details, chunky bookletful of notes by compiler Lucky Parker and confreres. He [he??] knows his onions, again I learnt more than I needed. Fifty-plus years after the events, the whole thing screams ‘American Teen!’  Tony Martin

Teen pop through and through.  Vintage Rock

With Elvis away doing Uncle Sam’s bidding, by 1959 the prospects for Rock’n’Roll were looking decidedly bleak…

FVDD188 Teen Dreams 60 Peachy-Keen Pop Gems from the Pre-Beat Era

FVDD188 Teen Dreams 60 Peachy-Keen Pop Gems from the Pre-Beat Era

The void left by his departure meant the charts were suddenly awash with pretty boy pretenders to Presley’s crown, purveyors of a new clean-cut, sanitised-for-your-protection sound that wouldn’t frighten the horses and yet still had enough teen appeal to keep the airwaves hummin’ and malt shops hoppin’.  Gone was The King’s edgy threat and in its place string-sweetened melodies and saccharin lyrics.  While some may have OD’d on sugar, Lucky’s snappy 60 have retained their charm.


The late, great Annette Funicello poses for Teen magazine, April 1960.

The late, great Annette Funicello poses for Teen magazine, April 1960.

Featuring some of the biggest names of the pre-British Invasion era, Teen Dreams includes hits from one-time Rockabilly Johnny Burnette swapping primal yelps for swooping strings, Gidget heart-throb James Darren, American Bandstand idols Fabian Forte, Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon, Pop princess Connie Francis, former Mouseketeer and beach party icon Annette Funicello, Joanie Sommers (77 Sunset Strip) and Hawaiian Eye’s Connie Stevens, together with wealth of lesser-heard teeners from Presley soundalike Ral Donner, Jimmy Beaumont, Dick Glasser, Barry Mann, The Casals and Bobby Curtola.

Also included is an early offering from Gene Pitney and Ginny Arnell (as Jamie & Jane) together with the original versions of two songs covered by Blighty’s own Billy Fury, ‘A Fool’s Memory’ aka ‘Running Around’ (Ricky Shaw) and ‘A King For Tonight’ (Barry Darvell), plus Linda Scott’s charming cover of  ‘A Thousand Stars’, also a hit for Fury in 1960.  Recollecting those carefree days of high school rings and letter sweaters, Shelley Fabares, Johnny Tillotson, Paul and Paula and Jerry Keller complement the selection with four chart-topping singles.

Available now at Fantastic Voyage and by mail order from Bim Bam Records

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Dead Good

Released in time for Halloween, Dead Good crooks a withered finger to beckon you into a graveyard-cheatin’, midnight-creepin’ collection of crypt-kickin’ classics.

FVDD177 DEAD GOOD Eternal Classics from the Grim Reaper's Jukebox

FVDD177 DEAD GOOD Eternal Classics from the Grim Reaper’s Jukebox

Walking a fine line between saccharin sincerity and knowing black humour, death discs were one of Rock’n’Roll’s more bizarre sidebars and a regular – if often frowned-upon – fixture on the US Pop charts from the late 50s until their peak in the mid-60s. Taking their lead from real-life events such as the untimely demises of Buddy Holly and Marilyn Monroe, or the all-too prevalent incidence of automobile fatalities, some, denied the oxygen of airplay, fell stillborn from the presses when their content careened too far into bad taste territory. Naturally this did their appeal no harm at all and many became massive hits despite the censor’s opprobrium.

John Leyton Johnny Remember MeWith cynical 21st-century ears it’s all too easy to dismiss these records as purely kitsch and whilst some were undoubtedly blatant cash-ins, most retain a wide-eyed charm and poignancy that is almost unimaginable in today’s High Definition world. Moreover, the death disc was truly democratic, finding a home among Folk, Country, Pop, Easy Listening and R&B catalogues and eliciting heartfelt waxings from some of the era’s biggest stars. Whatever the morbid fascination, teenage tear-jerkers and tales of ghostly goings-on struck a chord with record-buyers on both sides of the Atlantic, with British producer Joe Meek behind several of the UK’s best-remembered including ‘Johnny Remember Me’.

With tongue firmly in cheek and Kleenex in hand, slip a nickel in the grim reaper’s jukebox to discover some of the best and worst of the bunch; from The Cheers’ full-throttle tale of highway terror ‘Black Denim Trousers’ to the frankly absurd ‘Transfusion’ by Nervous Norvus; Mark Dinning’s perennial weepy ‘Teen Angel’ to Cody Brennan’s magnificent ‘Tragic Honeymoon’ (possibly the only Pop song to date to include the word ‘abutment’); Chase Webster’s original version of ‘Moody River’ to Skeeter Davis’ lesser-heard ‘Tell Tommy I Miss Him’.

Available now on Fantastic Voyage!

A Halloween treat for those who love a bit of crypt creepin’ kitsch. A perfect soundtrack for a bit of apple bobbing.”  Vintage Rock

“… story-songs of teen tragedy…there is camp and kitsch appeal aplenty.” Record Collector

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Rockin’ Bones

FVTD173 ROCKIN’ BONES Red Hot Rockabilly

Well, when I die don’t bury me at all
Just a-hang my bones upon the wall
Beneath these bones let these words be seen:
The running gears of a boppin machine.

WHEN Elvis Presley lit the blue touch paper, the exciting fusion of white Country music and black Rhythm & Blues which erupted across the US in the mid-50s made household names of many, producing a wealth of recordings rarely equalled for their unbridled energy and wild rebellion.  The Rockabilly revival of the 1970s found a new audience for this music which endures to this day, creating stars of its more obscure exponents twenty years after the event.  Raw, rough and ready, Rockabilly paved the way for Pop music as we know it.

At a time when music was not only divided along racial lines but also by age and locality, Rockabilly represented pure menace, the anthem of denim-clad juvenile delinquents.  When it did manage to break out of its regional confines, its lascivious lyrics and dangerous rhythms, driven by a chunking, percussive bass and pared down, primitive sound was deemed by some to be a threat to the fabric of society.  Even so, there was no shortage of eager beavers willing to try their hand, often with varying degrees of success.

Drawn from across the rockin’ spectrum, Rockin’ Bones serves up a sizzling 3CD selection of some of the finest Rockabilly from the years 1956-61.  Alongside the well-known sit the more obscure whose recordings are now regarded as classics.  Comprising lesser-heard gems and genre-defining cuts from the Johnny Burnette Trio, Pat Cupp, the Louvin Brothers, Jesse James, Johnny Powers, Hank Mizell, Jack Earls and Ronnie Dawson, this is even more Rockabilly at its red hot rockin’est best.

Available now on Fantastic Voyage!  Also available as a 32-track double vinyl LP.

“Few rockabilly compilations mix classics, obscurities and everything in between as well as this 75-track goldmine… a steal for hardcore fans and toe dippers alike.” Vintage Rock

“75 absolute killer tracks.” Vive Le Rock 7/10

“A mighty attractive package… and for vinyl lovers, a 32-track, 2 x LP version is available too.  Either way, you gotta dig the bop!” Now Dig This

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Dancin’ Party

FVDD171 Dancin' Party

FVDD171 DANCIN’ PARTY Hits and Rarities from the Dance Craze Era

’Cos summer time is party time and everything’s alright…

While it may be the best-remembered of the 60s dance crazes, the Twist really was just the toe-tapping tip of the Terpsichore’s iceberg.  Its popularity defied borders, classes and age groups as it wound around the globe leaving a trail of pinched nerves, slipped discs and happy osteopaths in its wake.  First Lady Jackie Kennedy gave it the establishment seal of approval when she was photographed “doing it” at a White House bash and yet, in the years immediately prior to the Beat Boom, US airwaves oscillated to scores of other dance discs, records whose catch-all appeal meant they often registered in both the Pop and R&B charts.

Fuelled by teen-orientated TV shows such as American Bandstand, regional dance fads came and went with dizzying speed, all of them marketed to youngsters eager to shake a tail feather and prove they were hip to the latest moves.  Lest you be a wallflower it was time to take to the floor, saddle up and Pony or just Mess Around and Shimmy.  The Waddle, the Pop Pie and the Roach may have faded as quickly as last night’s prom corsage, but others like the Cha Cha Cha, the Shag (the state dance of South Carolina, in case you were wondering) and the Bossa Nova have proved more enduring.

LaBrenda Ben [photo courtesy of Eric Charge]

LaBrenda Ben [photo courtesy of Eric Charge]

Covering the period 1957-1962, this 50-track 2CD set recollects those carefree days of record hops, big boss lines and ladies choices with a stunning selection of the genre’s biggest hits and best-loved exponents: Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, Little Eva, The Orlons, Joey Dee and The Olympics plus hard-to-find cuts by The Dutones, LaBrenda Ben, Brice Coefield and The Miller Sisters.  So get with, don’t quit it – it’s party time!

Available now on Fantastic Voyage!

Features a host of party records over 2CDs. Record Collector

Primed to stir up even the most docile get-togethers with hits and rarities that cover all fads from the dance craze era. Vintage Rock

You can shag, freeze, twist, cha-cha-cha, sop, hucklebuck, shimmy, watusi and hully gully to your heart’s content. Now Dig This


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Thick And Thin

In a week when the world’s focus has been variously divided between the horror of the Boston marathon bombings, Lady Thatcher’s funeral and an explosion at a fertiliser plant in West, TX (Syria, Afghanistan and North Korea seemingly shelved for the time being), it’s curious to note how some trivial hardy perennials persist in being “newsworthy”. On Thursday I was alerted via Facebook to an article in the Daily Mail which was prompting outraged responses from both men and women. I’ve no desire to give the oxygen of publicity to its author, suffice to say the writer has lately made a name for herself by peddling provocative articles for the paper’s Femail supplement – a sort of poor girl’s Julie Burchill, only less erudite and infinitely more self-absorbed.

Polo Mints

The hole truth and nothing but?

What seems to have got everyone going is the author’s assertion that in order for a woman to be beautiful (and by the same token, retain the interest of a man, not die an old maid half-chewed by an Alsatian, etc.) she must diet every day of her life, citing the formidable Joan Collins by way of example (I bet nash treszh Joan was thrilled to guest star in this priceless piece of tosh). She goes on to detail her own weight control tips, the most bizarre of which involved subsisting on Polo mints as a student. Her current regime involves a quarterly starvation diet, even though it renders her so weak physically and mentally, she’s unable to work. No-one would deny that cutting out the junk in favour of healthier food is a smart move but nowhere in the article does it mention eating sensibly or taking exercise, the tried and trusted way by which most people control their weight.

And her incentive for doing this? A visibly chubby hubby who’s apparently told her the marriage is over if she ever gets fat. I don’t much care what happens; aside from reeking of desperation, her prose is so obviously designed to needle the reader it’s laughable, but I take exception to any publication giving column inches to someone whose behaviour is at best bonkers and which might encourage those of a less-than level-headed disposition to follow her lead (a quick skirt through the readers’ comments would indicate some are taking her at face value and that’s worrying enough). That this thinly-veiled misogynistic drivel appears in the DM is no great surprise; its penchant for employing women to broadcast its peculiar brand of anti-female rhetoric is nothing new. That women choose to go along with it is what strikes me as a singular betrayal. It seems everyone has her price and mortgages must be paid…

So why has it got my goat? Well, two days ago, Boo’s daughter who’s a month shy of her eleventh birthday suddenly announced she didn’t like her “fat” legs, adding she wants to slim down (a bit) and would be eating more healthily from now. Being a responsible, caring dad he immediately took heed and told her she had great legs, not skinny sticks like some. He rightly sensed the potential for danger ahead and was keen to nip it in the bud. Young girls have a tough enough time in an age when the media projects air-brushed perfection as the norm, without forty-somethings joining in like bullying fourth formers. With surveys revealing low self-esteem and poor body image rife among British teenagers, sensible and sensitive debate is required, not self-satisfied and frankly irresponsible nonsense from those old enough to know better. If middle-aged women have insecurities, they should work on finding a resolution rather than bequeathing them to the next generation.

Full moon, half moon... total eclipse!

Full moon, half moon… total eclipse!

In this regard I’m eternally grateful to my mother who, despite an enviable figure and a knock-out wardrobe, managed not to create hysteria around food or appearance. At home we were encouraged to eat well for nourishment’s sake and whilst we all indulged in Hovis bread’n’butter triangles, Jaffa Cakes and the odd bowl of crisps, we weren’t made to feel bad for enjoying them. If my mother had an issue with her weight then she never showed it, much less discussed it. I later learnt this was a deliberate decision; a conscious desire on her part to instil confidence in her children – especially her daughters – to ensure, at least as far as was possible, that we grew up physically fit and free of hang-ups. But just as it’s easier to believe our worst critics than the praise of our staunchest supporters, few of us are impervious to the drip-feed of glossy images, then confined to magazines and television. Nowadays, such images are everywhere and almost inescapable thanks to the Internet. mobile phones and TV channels broadcasting round the clock.

Thank goodness for Gok Wan, a man who’s striving to combat the low self-esteem epidemic currently plaguing the young via high profile campaigning and charities such as Kidscape. In November 2009 Wan delivered a petition with 45,000 signatures to Downing Street calling upon the then-Education Secretary Ed Balls to include lessons in body confidence on the national curriculum. He stated: “Over 70 per cent of teenagers have admitted they have little or no body confidence at all. We have a social and public responsibility to advise and care for the next generation. We need to teach them that what we see in the media is not a fair representation of the real body.”

Accompanied by Shona Collins who surveyed teens for Wan’s How To Look Good Naked show, Wan added: ‘The average woman in this country is exposed to over 3,000 images of perfection every week, of air-brushing and re-touching and our teenagers are aspiring to look like these people”.  The Channel 4 documentary series Gok’s Teens: The Naked Truth had revealed a disturbing yet far from uncommon picture of adolescent girls and boys angsting over their appearance and contemplating plastic surgery; the knock-on of being bombarded by images of heavily air-brushed models and celebrities.  Wan sought to bust some of the myths behind those images with a hefty dose of reality, revealing the many tricks employed to distort the average into the unattainable.  Where he has led, may others follow.

Betty 63

Future’s so bright? Betty Draper in 7/23, Season 3

At the risk of digressing, as a hopeless Maddict (a devotee of AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men), I’ve enjoyed reading fans’ responses to the new season’s eps and adding my twopenneth but have been nonplussed by some of those directed towards Betty Francis formerly Draper (played by January Jones). Last season revealed Don’s ice blonde ex had piled on the pounds, although the reasons were never made explicit. We’d previously learned she’d been overweight in adolescence, something her mother had evidently made much of. Comments ranging from “get her out of the fat suit” to “she’s so boring now” proliferate but are misguided, implying her life (pre-weight gain) was nothing but unbridled joy and fuel the misconception that if you’re carrying a few extra pounds, you also come with a bundle of other “flaws” – boring being one of them. In truth, by contemporary women’s standards Betty’s life might well seem boring; indeed, for most of the first three seasons her (size 8) days comprised light domestic duties (most of them palmed off on her daily help), perfunctory childcare and simmering dissatisfaction.

Betty Francis: Woman in a dressing gown

Betty Francis: Woman in a dressing gown

By and large, that hasn’t changed and,  for the record, her svelte figure and Grace Kelly looks did not stop her erstwhile husband from philandering, but to suggest that Betty’s boring now for being heavier is inaccurate and insulting. Sadly, it does reflect an all-too common attitude towards those who are overweight or don’t fit the conformist’s world view of what’s acceptable. Men and, more interestingly, women seem prepared to tolerate “dullness” if it’s at least decorative, and in Betty’s case, that requires her to be thin. No matter how complex a character she is, irrespective of her back story or her achievements, “attractiveness” trumps all for this Bryn Mawr scholar. Reassuringly, her new-ish husband Henry doesn’t find her weight gain a turn-off but supports her as she strives to reduce, spurred on by her “traditionally built” mother-in-law.  Henry’s mother suggests diet pills and when Betty asks why she doesn’t take them, Mrs Francis replies she has a heart condition and besides, she “no longer has to please men.” In other words, it’s OK for a woman to risk her health so long as the end result is slimline perfection.

This is all sounding depressingly familiar. But remember, Mad Men is set in the mid-1960s, when females were routinely objectified, chauvinism and inequality in the workplace and the home were still default settings, and the women’s movement had yet to gain traction.  Nearly fifty years on, isn’t it about time women started pleasing themselves, fat, thin or otherwise? Lose weight, gain weight or stay as sweet as you are because you want to and it will make you happier and healthier, not because it will enable you to snare a man. If all your hopes of future happiness hinge on being a size 10, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed when you get there. Isn’t it better to focus on being a well-rounded (no irony intended) independent person with a fulfilling job, friends, passions, opinions and energy? None of these precludes being attractive and fanciable, but cultivating a personality and some goals (beyond not dying a spinster) are more likely to retain the interest of a significant other than your dress size ever will.

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The Many Moods Of Mad Men

FVDD159 The Many Moods Of Mad Men

FVDD159 The Many Moods Of Mad Men

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Lament for the key of L

Sofa loafer. Penny to a pound that's where you'll find L.

A week after the oven decided it was shuffling off this mortal coil or – to be more accurate – its heating element, an unfortunate late night proof-reading cocoa-meets-keyboard incident has left me angsting over the possibility of yet another unplanned pre-Christmas purchase.  Having followed the protocol of unplugging, gently blotting and slowly tipping, the machine’s initial reaction didn’t auger well as it threw a typographical tantrum at the screen.  7 – usually to be relied upon for its sobriety – morphed into Y and H with abandon, while an S spawned an unruly bunch of random characters reminiscent of speech bubble swearing.  The delete key behaved no better and simply added more unexpected and improbable consonants to the mix than the Szczecin phone directory.

Initially I despaired but just 12 hours later – having counselled an expert who knows about such things – normal service appeared to have resumed.  Normal, that is, if your alphabet can exist without the letter L.  Quite why L had been singled out when the spill (little more than a drop or two, I assure you) had spread over several of his lesser-used compadres notably # and +, I cannot say.  As I weighed up whether to bite the bullet and upgrade the laptop now or to limp – no, imp – on with a borrowed a keyboard, I began to contemplate life without the twelfth character… could I get by?  As one waggish chum suggested, “just use the 1 key”.  Hmm… 1o1, indeed.

Woken from my slumber at 4am by an upstairs neighbour whose flat-footed gait was never meant for communal living, much less laminate flooring, I began to think more seriously about a language devoid of Ls. For one thing, there’d be no laminate flooring, no lead-footed latecomers.  No leeches, no litter louts!  No Lambeth council ignoring my lamp-post related emails.  The lame-assed and lackadaisical would cease to be.  No let-downs.  No shoulda-woulda-coulda.  No lectures.  No loneliness, no longing, no lacking, no less than…  No lumps, no leering, no lockjaw… all positive reasons thus far for sending the L to well, you can guess.  Ls bells!  No laptop – yikes, no laptop.

L: putting the faux in fauteuil and fåtölj. Photo courtesy of Ikea.se

Ls routinely promise more than they can deliver and they’re greedy, too, demanding to be in pairs when one would suffice.  Take Lloyds, for example… you’d have thought a bank would’ve learned to cut back on non-essentials by now.  And Ls don’t just confine their ambition to the English tongue; consider the French word for armchair, “fauteuil” (“fåtölj” in Swedish and, trust me, that Nordic L isn’t doing much except reclining on its IKEA fåtölj).  Don’t tell me the ‘L’ on the end of that Louis XV chair is doing anything more than being purely decorative, bumming a ride with a bunch of useful vowels.  The guest at a party no-one remembers inviting who’s now insisting on being included in the group photo… and soon to be trimmed from the edge, if I have my way.

"What if the L goes out?" The prospect of her name in lights prompted Diana Fluck to rebrand.

As sleep deprivation wore on, the grim realisation that I wasn’t going back to the land of nod before sunrise slowly dawned.  In my languor, I reasoned Ls are the lexicographical equivalent of angelica; nice to have in the store cupboard but offering little in the way of nutritional value.  Not like the E, the hardest-working letter in the English language.  E’s anything but easy-going.  Look down the back of any couch and I bet you’ll find an L tile from the Scrabble board, sloped off from the game. Sofa loafer, slacking again – the loser.  Only good as a bridge between K and M.  In fact, probably only the Dutch airline KLM would miss ’em.  Possibly Luton…  And of course, the late Diana Dors née Fluck.

But then my reverie turned more prosaic and I thought of what else we stood to lose: laughter, loyalty, love, light, even our lust for life itself.  No ladybirds.  No lithe and lissom lads and lasses lacing lilies of the valley in each others’ locks.  No lap of luxury, no limoncello, no latte…  No ladies who lunch.  We couldn’t look or listen.  No last minute deals, no last orders, no lilting lullaby.  No larksong, no eyes like limpid pools, just impid poos.  No linking arms in lovers lane.  No L-Shaped Room with Leslie Caron.  No leggy blondes, just eggy bondes.  Without “l” style  becomes a stye.  No London.  No Lima.  No lemurs, ring-tailed or otherwise.  No Lichtenstein – no wonder Crying Girl is crying.  No lambasting, no lampooning.  No Latin, no literature, no linguistic gymnastics.  No lazy Sunday afternoons.  No leap years.  No little bit of what you fancy.  Was I being too harsh on L?  Maybe…  Maybe it had all begun to look very different in the mourning.

A world without lemurs? Unthinkable. Photo courtesy of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust





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Cadillac Cuties & Hot Rod Heroes

FVDD147 CADILLAC CUTIES & HOT ROD HEROES 50 Hi-Octane Cuts from the Golden Age of the Automobile

Time to buckle up and put the pedal to the metal with a fuel-injected fifty from the golden age of the automobile.

Almost from the beginning, the automobile played an integral part in Rock’n’Roll music both figuratively and literally, with a driver’s licence coming to symbolise freedom from parental control or social disgrace for those without wheels.  Celebrated in song by artists from across the rockin’ spectrum, cars became the signature teenage accessory of the 50s and 60s, with cruisin’ the strip, drive-in movies and illicit drag races very much a part of the American teen scene.

Their futuristic designs evoking a growing fascination with space exploration, sorbet colours and sensuous chrome-plated curves redolent of buxom movie stars, 1950s “dream machines” were simply in a league of their own.  With the oil crisis and global warming decades away, America’s youth was free to tool around with no particular place to go so long as they had gas money, while a thriving hot-rod scene saw youngsters customise old jalopy “barn finds”, soup up the engines and race for kicks.

Time to slide on over to the driver’s side… turn the key in the ignition and check your rear view.  Coast awhile to the sounds of Rocky Davis, The Medallions, Chuck Miller, Eddie Cochran-soundalike Jerry Woodard and road runner Bo Diddley.  Shift it up a gear with Pat Davis, Jim Flaherty, and Slick Slavin… feel the wind in your hair.  No-one on your tail?  Put your foot down and really motorvate with Chuck Berry, Merrill Moore and Gene Vincent… but remember, driving’s a serious business.

Compiled in conjunction with the Wild Wax Show’s deejay “Jailhouse” John Alexander, Fantastic Voyage are proud to present this very cherry collection which is sure to please both seasoned collectors and those just heading out on the Rock’n’Roll highway.

Available now on Fantastic Voyage

Another of those great Lucky Parker / Jailhouse John Alexander compilations… all sorts of styles are loaded into the trunk for a rip-roaring trip down the highway.  And I’m sure John Milner would love it. Trevor Cajiao · Now Dig This

This epic two disc collection tears up the road to automotive bliss 7/10 Clash

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