Friday, May 29, 2009

Weeny Boppers, Flying Saucers, Spivs and a Grudge: The Laurice (Laurie Marshall) Story

Many of you will recall the buzz that the Grudge single (When Christine Comes Around/ I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In) created on this blog 3 years ago. You have no doubt been searching out Oh You Beautiful Child by Spiv; one of the top 5 Crunching Glam tracks of all time. You may have been aware that there was a link between those singles and Paul St. John (The Flying Saucers Have Landed) by the same token you may have also overlooked the Weeny Bopper single (David, Donny And Michael). Well it’s time to set the record straight as I had the real pleasure of interviewing Laurice AKA Laurie Marshall AKA Paul St. John. Laurie Marshall has been known as Laurice for the last 30 years and here is the background story to those great records...
Laurice was doing session work at Abbey Road in the late 60s/early 70s. Laurice had been making demos for a guy called Peter Bowen who was first engineer at Abbey Road who had a little demo studio out in the Home Counties. “That’s where I learned my recording techniques...”Around the same time Laurie also worked with Alan Parsons, who was also engineering at Abbey Road. Through this he got the first gigs as a songwriter for Marble Arch Music and PYE Records.

Paul St.John –Flying Saucers Have Landed/Spaceship Lover –PYE 7N. 45190 (1972 UK)

In 1972 Laurice, under the pseudonym of Paul St. John, recorded and released Flying Saucers Have Landed/ Spaceship Lover. In my opinion those are two wonderfully produced slabs of late Psych mixed in with some Bolan and Donovan. A good description would be Erik Von Daniken in velvet Loons.
“That’s exactly what it was! I thought the books were wonderful and they inspired me to write those songs. Both Flying Saucers Have Landed and Spaceship Lover were based on Erik Von Daniken. I later met Erik Von Daniken. He came to speak at Toronto University when I was in Toronto - and I was in the front row. I, of course, gave him a copy of Flying Saucers, and he was quite thrilled about it.”
Although amply deserved, success was elusive as the single barely got a release...
“I was really upset because I worked really hard on that record and it wasn’t taken seriously by the record company. They didn’t want to promote British singers...When Flying Saucers Have Landed was released, I was so pissed off with the BBC that I went demonstrating one day with a sandwich board outside the BBC. I walked up and down all day with a sign that said “BBC unfair to British recording artists”.

Hear an edit of Flying Saucers Have Landed and Spaceship Lover

Grudge –When Christine Comes Around/ I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In –Black Label BL 002 (1973 UK)

I found 4-5 copies of this single in the basement of the Record & Tape Exchange in ‘79/’80 and just had to have them based on the title alone. And god, talk about NOT being disappointed...
Both sides are simply amazing, but I have a slight preference for the B side; sounding like a 1910 Fruitgum Company or Ohio Express backing track with a camp lead vocal, a very catchy sing-along chorus, assorted screams and an Elvis impersonation coming on more like Mae West in the middle eight - this is one incredible release!

I’m Going To Smash Your Face in (Marshall –Jumbo Music p 1973)

I’m gonna smash your face in
I’m gonna smash your face in baby
I’m gonna smash your face in, oh yeah, my paper doll

When I see you look at me, I know that I can tell
You think that I’m a fool and treat you much too well
Things are going to change round here you’ve met your Waterloo
I’ll throw you in a great big trunk, this is what I will do.

I’m gonna smash your face in
I’m gonna smash your face in baby
I’m gonna smash your face in, oh yeah, my paper doll
I’m gonna kick your teeth in
I’m gonna kick your teeth in baby
I’m gonna kick your teeth in, oh yeah my paper doll

You’ll scream and shout, but I won't heed your call
I’ll keep you locked up all your life behind this dudgeon wall
I’ll tie you to a great big chair, you’ll live your life in fear
It’s time for you to pay the price for saying I’m a queer

I’m gonna smash your face in
I’m gonna smash your face in baby
I’m gonna smash your face in, oh yeah, my paper doll

(Elvis impersonation break)…I’m gonna smash your face in, I’m gonna smash your face in, I’m gonna smash your face in, ‘cos I feel so lonesome tonight.

It’s just no good it’s plain to see, it’s time to end your fun
You’ll end up begging me for more, bread and water too
The scar is deep inside my heart, it’s written on your face
Your evil ways will soon be gone, ‘cos acid leaves no trace

I’m gonna smash your face in
I’m gonna smash your face in baby
I’m gonna smash your face in, oh yeah, my paper doll
I’m gonna kick your teeth in
I’m gonna kick your teeth in baby
I’m gonna kick your teeth in, oh yeah my paper doll

When Christine Comes Around follows the same theme….It’s got a cheesy teeny-bopper Status Quo feel, A mad Wipe Out type intro…and the lyrics? …well you guessed it!

Christine, Christine, Christine
When Christine comes around I’m gonna smash her face in, I’m going to have her high up on the ceiling where no one can hear her urgent screaming
etc…ad nauseum!

Hear an edit of I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In/ When Christine Comes Around

So how did this incredible single come about?

“My college chum Simon Potter (Simon Godd on the label) was the co-writer of When Christine Comes Around. He became the head of the English Department at the famous Wimbledon College, the Jesuit school for boys. When he started, he lived in a ground floor flat in Wimbledon. Well there was this girl just upstairs from him who had an apartment above him and every time he had a visitor there would be a knock at the door and there she would be...She was a very homely girl and it wasn’t like she was a great conversationalist. She could suck the oxygen out of a room in 2 minutes. It was really difficult. And guess what her name was? CHRISTINE! We were driving around London one day after an awful evening visit by this dreaded lady and Simon was talking about what he wanted to do to her. I said why don’t we write a song? It took us about 20 minutes and it was done.”
The story behind the Black Label is also worth hearing:
“I had hooked up with this guy Cyril Black. Cyril was a real about Tin Pan Alley...In the 50s and 60s there was a very famous band leader called Stanley Black. He was very well regarded and very prestigious …and then there was his brother Cyril - who was a walking embarrassment to Stanley, apparently!
Cyril was really hungry for success. He had this tiny little room in Denmark Street. He was such a stereotype, this little Jewish guy in Tin Pan Alley with glasses. You could trust him as far as you could throw him – which wouldn’t be very far. We went to see him and sung When Christine Comes Around to him and he thought that it was wonderful. He knew this rich heiress called Prudence. We went to see her, sang the song to her, she thought it was wonderful and we were in the studio before we knew it with my band and it just took off...She loved I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In as well. We were doing Punk before we knew what Punk was. I didn’t know what we were doing, I just enjoyed it. Oh and Christine finally put 2 and 2 together and she was not amused...and she stopped coming around. Finally – she got the hint!
The Black Label reference is 002; did you have anything to do with 001?
"No, but Cyril wanted the first to be 002, so people wouldn’t think it was the first release. I found out a little bit later that Cyril was in the soup for tax evasion and fled to Canada! "
Did you think it was going to be a hit?
"Of course, I thought that everything I did was going to be a hit. The band I worked with really got into the song"

Weeny Bopper –David, Donny And Michael /Won’t You Smile For Me –PYE 7N. 45203 (UK 1972)

“2 weeks later we were in the studio with Weeny Bopper singing David, Donny and Michael ; it was such a switch. When my dad heard Christine and I’m Gonna Smash Your Face In, he was furious with me and wouldn’t talk to me for 2 weeks, but then he heard the Weeny Bopper single and that kind of redeemed me. It was quite funny really, and I chuckle to this day when I think about it.”
The Weeny Bopper single does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a yearning paean to the teeny Bopper idols of the time, namely, David Cassidy, Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson. It’s definitely one of the better tribute records from the era and puts the C into cute. Quite a change from Grudge!
“You know, Robin, Weeny Bopper was the most professional singer I ever worked with. She was 10 years old, she walked into the studio cool as a cucumber. She was very accommodating and so sweet. It really was a dream session.”
The song is co-written by Cyril Black.

“I had to give Cyril a writing credit; he was just too much...”
Hear an edit of David, Donny And Michael

Spiv –Oh You Beautiful Child/ Little Girl – PYE 7N 45293 (1973 UK)

Oh You Beautiful Child is a great example of the perfect Glam Cruncher with its slap-back compressed handclaps, cutting lead, catchy hook and exuberant vocals, it’s definitely up there with the best hard Glam singles of the 70s.

“I was an A&R man for PYE Records for a while and that’s when I recorded Spiv. The demo was incredible and I asked the guy at PYE –why don’t we just release that? No No No, we must do it all again...They really had no idea...
Spiv was an actual band and a real nice bunch of guys...But how do you tell those guys after the record was made that you are not getting played because the promotion guy from PYE has left your record on the BBC’s doorstep? Promotion guys were just dumping releases in and around the offices there. It was a real scandal"

Hear an edit of Oh You Beautiful Child and Little Girl

"I then left PYE in 1974 and was concentrated on moving to Canada. I realised that I wasn’t get anywhere in the UK. I was told that I should go to America, but it was easier to get to Canada first. I started recording and then all the Disco stuff came up.”

Laurice continued to record and released disco records with some success, but the eventful quirkiness didn’t end there:
“Boy, could I tell you some stories about the nut who ran my record company. This guy who ran Casino Records in Canada was such a loony. He actually went down to see Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker in Nashville and told him that if he didn’t sign me that he would send some of the boys round to “take care of him”. I ended up having my contract suspended!”
Laurice has continued to record until recently in a more Jazzy approach, but will he ever revisit his Grudge days?
“Records like Grudge were a breeze, I could do them now with my eyes closed...but there isn’t a market for them – or is there?”
“I’m coming out with a new CD entitled Rockin Retro. It is a retrospective of some of my rock songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Christine is on it, of course, and some real rock rousers from that era. You’ll see some details about it soon on my website and if that is what people want, then I’ll follow it up with more from any or all of those eras. I’ll let you know, when it is released. It shouldn’t be long now. And by the way, many thanks for the interview and hello to everyone out there who support good music that should never, never die!”

No comments: