Forget your Abbacadabras, your He-Bee Gee-Bees, your Bootleg Beatles even, the real tribute to any act is surely the tribute single – a pastiche-like dedication of another’s love for their favourite artist.
One of the first must certainly be Janis Martin‘s 1956 hit single ‘My Boy Elvis‘. Janis was only 15 when she recorded this slice of schlockabilly rockabilly – “He’s off like a rocket and there he goes, he rocks from his head down to his toes, My Boy Elvis, Real Rock!” Sounding like it came from a Sam Phillips session straight outta Sun Studios, Elvis was so impressed he sent her a big bunch of flowers. Not casting aspertions or anything, but Elvis was quite keen on the younger ladies, so there could well have been an ulterior motive in his Southern man’s kindly gesture. As young Janis herself sings, “All the teeners stop and shout when they open the curtain and he walks out.” Indeed they did.
Y’know, in 9 weeks time Old Santa Claus himself will be popping down yer chimney. Given that the odd advert or two has sneaked under the radar and onto the TV, it seems only fitting that Plain Or Pan brings you the first Christmas download of the year. In 1963, cashing in on that new-fangled beat music thing all the youngsters were getting in a froth over, actress Dora Bryan recorded a somewhat novelty record, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle‘. Sung in mock-cockney and covered in BBC light entertainment syrupy strings, it‘s not the sort of record you’re likely to play ad nauseum. “Christmas comes but once a year, they’re really all the same. I never know just what I want, it really is a shame. Yesterday I saw something that is my pride and joy. I want it for Christmas….it’s a real live Liverpool boy!” You can probably guess the rest, although she never quite gets anything to rhyme with ‘Ringo’. It’s a curio all right, best kept in that ‘Christmas Songs’ box you open but once a year if you’re lucky.
Much more up my alley (and yours too, you people of good good taste) is the post-punk pre-pop debut single by Altered Images, 1981’s ‘Dead Pop Stars‘. Atmospheric, spiky and proto-goth (aye!) it’s a mish-mash of all the great post punk bands of the day. 30 years later it sounds to me like the boys are trying hard at being Siouxsie’s Banshees while Clare Grogan spits most of the words like a stroppy Minnie Mouse version of PIL-era John Lydon. Which, it goes without saying, is fantastic. Ironically, the band got their break in 1980 after sending those very Banshees a tape and managed to blag a support slot on their Kaleidoscope UK tour. This video is from that very tour;
- That blurry Polaroid of Altered Images live came from a brilliant fanziney website here. Worth 5 minutes of anyone’s time.
- Altered Images bass player Johnny McElhone holds some sort of record, having played in 3 different bands that have had Top 20 hits – Altered Images, Hipsway and Texas.
- The drummer in one of the later Altered Images line ups came into the Our Price shop I worked in one day. I didn’t know this until he asked to order an obscure Afrika Bambaataa 12″. “Why d’you want that?” I asked out of genuine interest. “Because he’s nicked my drums for it and hasn’t asked my permission!” “Oh, you’re a drummer…who for? etc etc” Nowadays he’s the guy who announces the passenger safety notice on the Ardrossan-Arran ferry. And that’s a fact!