Tea, anyone?

Trevor Stanford was born on in 1925 in Bristol, the seaport in the west of England. A man born in that time and place was pretty much certain to go to war – Germany invaded Poland the day before he turned thirteen – and he did, serving in the Royal Navy. His military service saw him win the Distinguished Service Medal and, less glamorously, lose part of a finger in a bread slicer. This was of more than usual significance for Stanford, because he was a talented pianist.

After the war he adopted the stage name Russ Conway. To modern ears, that doesn’t much more exotic than his real name, but it worked for him. He played pianos in nightclubs and for dance rehearsals and then for Columbia records, accompanying some of the stars of the day, including Gracie Fields, before becoming a successful solo artist in his own right. He had more than twenty chart hits in the UK, including this one, China Tea, which was his own composition and which cracked the top ten in 1959. 0256 Label

There are hits from past years which are a puzzle, but you can understand the Conway’s popularity: his bouncy pub-piano style is fun, danceable, exciting. You can almost smell the Woodbines and taste the lager.

Note: The sharp-eyed blog follower might notice a hand written sticker, with the number 7, on the label. It is by coincidence – each day’s Planet Vinyl offering is chosen at random – but this disc comes from the collection of the person who put a similar sticker on the Eric Carle doo wop record I looked at a little while ago.

  • Artist: Russ Conway
  • Title: China Tea
  • Track A: “China Tea”
  • Format: 7” 45 rpm
  • Label: Columbia 45-DB 4337
  • Manufactured in: Great Britain
  • Year: 1959

Take a shower, lads

From the sublime to … the Shower Room Squad? Tragically, the individual identities of this vocal group is lost to posterity. They seem to have consisted of a piano player and a bunch of men who were either drunken idiots, or sober and trying to sound like drunken idiots. The few seconds of “atmosphere” before the first track is pretty unconvincing, so I suspect the latter.

Even by the standards of the early 1970s, the cover of this LP is crass almost beyond belief. 2044 SleeveBut like many a pulp paperback of the era, Sinful Rugby Songs doesn’t live up to the wickedness promised on the cover. If you think “Maggie May” is sinful, you probably don’t belong on a rugby team. Not only is there not much sin, there isn’t much about rugby, either. The version here of “If I Was the Marrying Kind” contains a few references to rugby terminology. Apart from that, these are British pub songs with the faintest whiff of laddish naughtiness thrown in.

But as the Planet Vinyl manifesto says, there is no such thing as bad music, because it is always a good thing that people make music.

I once heard a recording of the Brass Band of the SS performing some pompous military march. Not much to love there, but at least while they were puffing into their tubas those obersturmbannführern were not killing any one. In fact, making records was probably the single least harmful thing the SS ever did.

Back to the Shower Room Squad, and this pretty dreadful record.

Was it a good thing that, in the early seventies, yahoos would get pissed on beer while standing round a piano tunelessly singing mildly offensive songs? Clearly not – but what is the equivalent demographic doing now? They go to strip clubs and get pissed on red bull and vodka as deafening techno music is played, while looking grim and exchanging porn on their mobile phones.

The Shower Room Squad, at least, were singing.

  • Artist: The Shower-Room Squad
  • LP Title: Sinful Rugby Songs
  • Side 1, Track 2: “If I Was The Marrying Kind”
  • Format: 12” LP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Summit SRA 026
  • Manufactured in: England
  • Year: 1970