Wednesday, 29 July 2009

John Ryan animator and creator of children's favourite cartoon pirate Captain Pugwash, died one week ago today. Here at Scratchy Towers, we wanted to pay our respects to a man, who brought enormous pleasure to many generations of children during their tea time television viewing treat.

I certainly remember when I was a little '45' looking forward to switching on to see the exploits of Captain Horatio Pugwash, Master Mates, Cut Throat Jake and the rest of the rather inept crew of the Black Pig ship. The character of Pugwash first appeared in the very first edition of The Eagle comic in 1950 but then made the leap to the B.B.C as a series of five minute cartoons, first broadcast in 1957. Ryan had devised a very simple but effective way of animating the character, using cardboard cutouts and he went on to make 56 episodes up to 1966. The series was resurrected in 1974/5 for another thirty episodes, this time in glorious colour, numerous books were written along the way as well as other merchandising spin offs.

So with a tip of the pirate hat and time to raise a glass of rum, we salute you John Ryan from this 'lolloping landlubber!' rest in peace.

Readers of The Eagle comic may remember one of his other creations 'Harris Tweed, Extra Special Agent' and Lettice Leefe, 'the Greenest Girl in School' who appeared in Eagle’s companion comic, Girl.

John Ryan's other notable cartoon creations were Sir Prancalot and Mary, Mungo and Midge which was aimed at a younger audience and was broadcast on the B.B.C back in 1969. It was narrated by the BBC newsreader Richard Baker and ran for just a single series of thirteen episodes. Grasping for a vinyl link to Ryan's output, has reminded me of this record which was released via B.B.C records in 1977, which has so far eluded me on my vinyl hunting, but nevertheless should make an appearance on this site because it looks like a little treasure.

The three main characters of the series were the little girl Mary, her dog Mungo and a mouse Midge, who lived with Mary's parents on the top floor of a tower block. This was a radical setting for this type of show and captures the brief period of optimism high rise living experiment in the post war years. However, one or two of the negative aspects of this social model of housing were inadvertently hinted at with Mary being too small to press the button in the lift to get back up to the eighth floor. A little ingenuity followed with Mungo getting on Mary's shoulders and Midge scurrying to the top of the pile in order to press the button.

Mary, Mungo and Midge - Opening and Closing Credits - 1969

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Esben And The Witch "A Scratchy Spotlight"

I hopped onto this brooding broomstick via The Stool Pigeon music paper, when they favourably featured Esben and the Witch on the 'demos and myspace' review page in the Summer 2009 edition. Taking the name from a macabre Danish fairy tale (Is there any other type!) read about the fairy tale, this trio, based in Brighton U.K, claim to be influenced by glaciers, caverns and waning moons. For the benefit of those of you, who prefer more conventional comparisons, I'd pitch them in a coven attended by The Cure, Radiohead, The Cranes, Portishead and This Mortal Coil.

It's 'Gothic' in the traditional sense of the mood being melodramatic, conjuring up a sound of an evening of hedonism with Mary Shelley and Lord Byron, as opposed to being in a mood because one's too hot because yer wearing all black in the height of summer and the mascara is beginning to run type of goth.

This nightmare electro-post-rock is the product of Rachael Davies (vocals, percussion) , Daniel Copeman (electronics, guitars) and Thomas Fisher (guitars, keyboards) The musical brew is concocted with the ingredients of an organ, drum machines, some glockenspiel action and a groove box connected to a kaosillator!? as well as some scratchy guitars, which always goes down well here. A real plus point is Rachael's strong pure voice that's got enough oomph to carry the tunes and maintain the listener's interest.

'About This Peninsula' is shimmery and spectral and the tense 'Marching Song' hovers with a nervous spiky energy that beguiles. 'Eumenides' is a taught tune with ghostly siren like whispers, this one recalled for me, that fine recent episode of Dr Who called "Blink" You know the one with the moving statues which had us all hiding behind the sofa. The pick of the pack for me is 'Corridors' which has a menacing rattlesnake hissing sound, it makes your skin crawl but in a good way, then it slowly builds up into a dramatic climax. They're currently unsigned with a solitary E.P '33' under their cloak. You can download it here generously made available by the band for gratis.

Esben And The Witch have bagged themselves a slot at end of the road festival in September, where they should put in a spellbinding show (shucks! I almost made it through the review, without a reference to the blindingly obviously pun, oh well) Will they be accompanied on the stage by their resident owl? just like Birdpen have their bird mascot on stage, is this a new feathered based genre? perhaps I can lump'em together in a NME 'making up a hot new scene' stylee... how about "hardclaw", "fieldgaze" anyone? "chirp rock" "drum and cheap"...... hmm, I'll get me cloak!

Blips On The Blog Radar

Esben And the Witch - Confide In Me - Cover of the Kylie Minogue classic recorded live at The Freebutt, Brighton, 28/01/09

Upcoming Gigs
25 Jul 2009 Brighton The Freebutt
06 Aug 2009 London Hoxton Square Bar & Grill
22 Aug 2009London Notting Hill Arts Club
11 Sep 2009 Dorset End Of The Road Festival
01 Oct 2009 Sheffield The Harley

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World on Time

'Get Me To The World On Time' I wonder if Neil Armstrong was thinking this and humming that tune as he took those first momentous steps on the moon forty years ago. This one is dedicated to all you conspiracy theorists out there who think the moon landing was a big hoax perpetrated by the American government.

The Electric Prunes, one of the classic psychedelic garage bands of Sixties era, opened their second album Underground, released in September 1967, with a song called 'The Great Banana Hoax' O.K the link is a bit tenuous as the song is about a hoax doing the rounds back in 67 about getting high on banana skins, so here's the third single of their debut album 'Get Me To The World On Time' which snuck into the U.S charts at 27 back in 1966 and just skirted the U.K top forty reaching 42.

This video clip from 'The Cyd Charisse Show' features a bizarre introduction from a couple of marionettes from the 'The Syd and Marty Krofft Puppets' and Cyd Charisse (famous dancer, actress and wife of actor/singer Tony Martin) Take note BBC, come the next round of wage negotiations with your star "talent" I suggest you show Ross and co this clip, just to remind them that they're easily replaced by six inches of wood on strings! c'mon, I'm thinking of the licence fee paying public here, it's my public duty...

The Electric Prunes are still gigging and were due to be playing with Sky Saxon on their forthcoming tour. Sadly Sky passed away last month and so there will be a memorial concert honouring Sky Sunlight Saxon of The Seeds 'Sky Saxon L.A Memorial' on 24th July at The Echoplex in Los Angeles, CA (more information can be found on the official site below)

The Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World On Time - taken from their eponymous debut album released in 1967. First shown on The Cyd Charisse Show 05/01/67

First Men On The Moon - 40th Anniversary (repost from 31/05/08)

Last week, those clever bods down at N.A.S.A managed to land a space probe on the surface of planet Mars. In celebration of this exciting and rather tricky feat, I have dug out some souvenir singles. The 'First Men On The Moon' was released by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C, which is the National Air and Space Museum. It's a tenth anniversary edition of the Apollo missions specifically the 1969 'Apollo 11' journey. It features the voices of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins bouncing about on the Moon or recorded in a top secret warehouse in the Ohio Desert next to 'Area 51' if you happen to believe the conspiracy theories. This particular seven inch cost someone $2 and makes a fine memento of their museum trip. Wouldn't it be nice if other such similar institutions pressed up slabs of vinyl to be sold in their respective shops instead of the usual cuddly toys and novelty diary sets of tat that currently clutter up these cash cow outlets. I would be much more eager to hand over my hard earned dosh for a lovingly crafted record commemorating the seventy millionth anniversary of the passing of the dinosaurs commissioned exclusively by the National History Museum for instance.

The second record has the the theme music from the masterful movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' from Stanley Kubrick of the book by Arthur C. Clarke R.I.P. As all you classical buffs out there will know it's an excerpt from 'The Blue Danube' by Johann Strauss II and 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' by Richard Strauss. I bring to your attention the cover artwork which looks remarkably similar to the Phoenix Lander and considering the picture was drawn half a century ago, based on guesswork, I think it's a very accurate impression.

To see if N.A.S.A have found any little green man lurking under the rocks and dust...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

We Have Love - "A Scratchy Spotlight"

Digging through dusty old records, sorting the wheat from the chaff, is a breeze compared to attempting to do the online equivalent. To say that trawling through the never ending virtual crate of online music, clamouring for attention in the brave new world of myspace accounts, is an overwhelming task is something of an understatement.

Yet here, at 'Scratchy Towers' we have grasped the internettle and are delighted to bring to your notice, some of the the daisys that stood out in the field of weeds.

First up is a band who have covertly crept into my consciousness, We Have Love are a lo-fi electro outfit, with tendencies to stray into dance beats. A debutante from the finishing school of icy cool pop.

This trio are from Stockholm in Sweden and Bethany May is on lead vocals, Per commands the software and Anna also contributes vocals. Out of the collection of tunes up on their myspace site, there are a clutch of songs that show great promise. Currently, these are still in a sketchy demo format, but with a bit of spit and shine, could polish up into magnificent jewels.

is the type of pristine cool yet perky pop, that those masters of the genre St Etienne, penned throughout their career and would sit very comfortably in their back catalogue.

Eponymous track 'We Have Love' is a taut minimal track stripped down to just the essentials. Imagine something along the lines of Laurie Anderson covering Talking Heads 'Psycho Killer' fronted by a voice reminiscent of the legendary glamour of actress Louise Brooks.

'Fay Wray' has been given the benefit of a remix treatment from Sven Fröberg and Fredrik Persson, of Greek Theatre and is perhaps the strongest song of the pack. It's a delicate slice of psych pop with an intoxicating piano hook, which whirls with a wistfulness of a silent movie star, contemplating the the onset of the talkies: "I am big, it's the music that got small"

Blog blips on the radar... who describe them as

"A fantastic mixture between shoegaze and electropop, between soundwall and fluffy beats, between shyness and self-confidence, between decadence and glamour"

We Have Love - Dancing - a teaser video featuring Shunda K from Yo Majesty guesting on vocals and giving We Have Love a hip hop flavour. buy it here