The cover art from a selection of Waxidermy Swap Cds 2009
The cover art from a selection of Vinyl Vulture Swap Cds 2006
Internet music forums have changed dramatically.
Ten years ago forum members were limited to sharing enthusiasm for music by describing them through typed messages only. A lot of discussion in these early years flowed from members typing up personal playlists or listing their charity shop, fleamarket and car boot sale finds.
Software developments improved on this. Posted messages became increasingly annotated with photographs, MP3 soundclips and YouTube videos whilst the forums themselves transformed into thriving real world communities organising their own club nights, record fairs and social events.
One very popular social event is the swapping of personal compilation Cds on a large scale. Members burn MP3s or WAVs of their favourite discoveries of the year onto Cd and share them out. Despite the ease and popularity of mix sharing sites like Mixcloud these Cd swaps continue to this day.
Sets of swap Cds from non-genre related forums such as Very Good Plus and Waxidermy make for particularly interesting listening. With peer pressure from fellow forum members acting as quality control the content on these discs is incredibly diverse with a fairly high percentage of material culled from hard-to-find, obscure and rare LPs and 45s.
Peer pressure also plays a part in the sleeve design process. Hand painted, lino printed, laser cut, tied, obi stripped and shrinkwrapped covers have all appeared in recent years giving rise to the question; 'do these original limited edition Cd compilations which are not for sale to the public and privately circulated, represent the earliest flowering of internet-produced Folk Art in the 21st century?'
An overstatement perhaps but these Cds have already been instrumental in shaping alternative canons amongst collectors who constantly seek out less predictable music produced by thousands of artists from the history of recorded sound who, wilfully or otherwise, never managed to navigate their way to the commercial mainstream.
Throughout 2006 US book dealer Mark Johnson, ( Beddoes) was a one-man whirlwind on the VV (Vinyl Vulture) forum. When he wasn’t posting about subjects like English cathedrals, Ingmar Bergman or Henri Texier his energy was otherwise engaged peddling Collie Ryan private press LPs to the uninitiated or steadfastly defending Wallace’s right to be Wallace. He also managed to review records he found on his travels in his home town of Philadelphia.
Taking part in the VV CD Swap the same year he delivered a richly varied CD selection of these finds reflecting his wide-ranging taste across different genres but angled heavily towards rawer sounds in Americana, loner folk, bizarre show tunes and distinctively oddball songs and instrumentals.
Re-listening to his Cd five years on it’s clear Mark brought to VV an inspired foretaste of the outsider delights already being unearthed and shared on the Waxidermy forum which began in early 2006.
It was on this CD we first heard Crimpton Krompton Canary Bridge, perfectly placed and crackling vengefully between the upbeat close harmonies of Dalton, James and Sutton’s One Time Around and the hymn-like folk lullaby of Jon and Jodi’s Come Down My Child.
Check out some other great 45's at Mark Johnson's website called Hiding Place
Numerous books on the art of blogging analyse in great depth the reasons for the runaway success of some and the abject failure of others. The odds are stacked heavily towards failure. Millions of tedious, half-arsed, unfinished and ultimately expired blogs densely litter the Virtual Super Highway. It’s literally and literary road kill on an epic scale.
Often the cause of blog death is suicide via a chronic infection of apathy inflamed by the deafening silence from a non-existent chorus of ‘Thank you.’
I played my own lethargic role in killing a terrific Belgium-based Popcorn music blog called The World of Binky Spoons because I was just one of hundreds of selfish free-loading Binky fans who found the time to download his wonderful selections but never got around to adding a simple ‘Thank you' to his comments box.
In truth my part in accelerating Binky’s lonely cyberspace suicide was a combination of lethargy and technical incompetence. I couldn’t work out how to sign up, tried unsuccessfully several times to post comments, failed miserably and then gave up.
…was Popcorn heaven. Every week Binky posted up zip files of fifteen Popcorn flavoured songs lightly seasoned with a scattering of Northern Soul, Easy Listening and Exotica gems. Two zips slid easily onto a CDr so week-by-week ; like a Marshall Cavendish partwork, they built up into a handsome library of great Popcorn music courtesy of an Englishman from Belgium I never met.
It was on one of these generous Binky download zips that we were first entranced by Craig Douglas singing 'Dont Mind If I Cry'. An instant want if ever we heard one. There were other good songs on Binky zips too.
Steve Lawrence - Only Love Me may not appeal to many but it is just one example of a slew of crooner style Popcorn tracks delivered by artists who sound as though they're singing in a Vegas show whilst simultaneously smiling and winking at ladies in the front row of the audience. Lawrence is a well-known singer and actor in the US being one half of a celebrity duo with his wife Eydie Gorme.
This particular song is a perfect example of how many Popcorn songs sound better at a slower speed. The song retains its finger-clickin' Rat Pack feel but the voice drops a register or two creating a brooding melancholy that's not there when it's played at 45rpm.
Also present on one Binky zip was Bent Forcep - I Know What Happened To Baby Jane, a Cleopatra name-checking novelty earworm of a song and one of a long line of Popcorn songs with Cleopatra in the title. Elizabeth Taylor's 1963 epic film may have nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox but it definitely inspired a generation of Popcorn, Mod and Reggae songwriters. If this song is some kind of response to the 1962 psychological thriller ''Whatever Happened To Baby Jane' then it's a very obtuse one.
Scott Mackenzie - Look In Your Eyes is further proof that, like Craig Douglas, some singers have many more good songs to offer hidden away in their back catalogue beyond the chart hits they are best known for.
Another Binky MP3, Nellie Lutcher - Reaching For The Moon is another example of a 45 that's tough to listen to at normal speed but miraculously turns into a slightly sinister but beguiling Popcorn shuffle when pitched down. The Melic Record label was run by respected drummer Lee Young who was the son of jazz saxophinist Lester Young. Music being a long-standing family tradition, Lee's son Lee Young Jr worked for many years at Tamla Motown.
Binky’s blog was not all music though and in between music posts he’d post email spam style photographs and messages with humour hovering somewhere between the sauce of British seaside postcards and the old man from the corner of the office who still lives with his parents and endlessly quotes dialogue from Monty Python films.
This fatal sounding combination actually worked very well giving the blog a faded Butlin-esque flavour all of its own. Binky’s true intent was all for our delight.
Despite not managing to post in Binky’s comments I did exchange a few emails in 2008 with Binky himself but I erased them accidentally and he still hasn’t responded to me from a recent communication. ‘Karma’s a bitch’ springs immediately to mind.
So...(deep breath)...if anyone knows an English ex-Northern Soul boy called Graham (I think ?) with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Soul and Popcorn who lives in Belgium and still collects and trades records and who was very helpful a few years ago to a man from the UK who was searching for Arthur Godfrey’s version of Dig, Dig, Dig, Dig on the blue Admiral label which he heard first on Binky’s blog...... then please ask him to contact us Spoke Records.
And Binky? If you’re out there and reading this?