Saturday, February 15, 2020

Chevron cassettes - new research project underway

Chevron cassettes - those of Parade of Pops fame - have interested me for years, but I've never yet found anything like a full discography.

Many years ago I was contacted by a collector named Tony who was part-way through assembling a full label listing. However there remained many gaps and uncertainties, whch would need some more work to sort out. It only took me the best part of a decade, but I've finally gotten around to addressing the issue and starting a full, online discography with images. (And if you're reading this, Tony, thanks for getting the ball rolling.)

You can see the work as it currently exists here

Those familiar with the site, 45Spaces, will know it's an open-access collaborative platform. Anyone can sign up and start adding info, listings of missing cassettes, images, comments - anything you like. It would be great for collectors and fans to pool their info, and help build up the site to its max potential - so, if you're reading this, please join up and help!

The first 100 releases are included already, but research is ongoing - we still have some gaps. It's a learnng process, and so far we have found the following:
  • Yellow inserts - Chevron released its first cassettes in mid-1977, a set of 50. These all re-issued LPs from the Windmill label, and all had basic-style yellow inserts in the cassettes. Most, if not all, would be re-issued later on, with better artwork.

above: CHV 001, first release and one of 50 'yellow cover' cassettes

  • Chevron launched its LP range in March 1979, with 60 LPs, many of which were vinyl editions of already existing cassette albums. All the LPs show 1979 as their release date - and for some reason, Chevron started putting 1979 on the cassettes too, even when they had been issued before this. Just to confuse us collectors, I presume...

above: 1978 release, which started having 1979 printed on it when the LP version arrived
  • Red cases - based on what we have found so far, it appears Chevron may well have used red cases throughout its lifespan. We used to think they were only in use for a fixed period, but we're starting to change our minds.

 above: red cassette case 

  • Chevron Classics - from the mid-1980s, Chevron issued double-cassette packs in their Chevron Classics range. Not all were classical, and some were soudalike covers of hit singles. We've so far identified at least 80 and perhaps as many as 100 such double packs.

above: Chevron Classics double-pack of soundalike cover versions
  • Cassette shells - so far we can see no real pattern to the sytle of cassette shells - white with blue ink, black with paper labels, cream with black ink - you name it - and sometimes two or three different types are known from the same release. In addition, many of the Chevron Classics double packs had different styles on each of the two tapes! Maybe some day we will get to the bottom of all this...

above: cassette shell variants

These are a few of the areas of interest we've stumbled upon.

By collectors joining forces and pooling info, we can surely learn more and get the world's first illustrated discography complete. So, do help out if you can, and if not, feel free to stop by the site and have a good look around. I'm sure it will be of interest, and a useful resource for Chevron fans out there.

* At the point of writing this, we have ten albums from the first hundred which we cannot identify. Please let us know if you have the artists or titles for any of these:

  • CHV 002
  • CHV 011
  • CHV 014
  • CHV 019
  • CHV 023
  • CHV 030
  • CHV 041
  • CHV 065
  • CHV 080
  • CHV 097

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Over the last couple of years, this blog has become an occasional thing rather than something which is updated every week. Nonetheless, it's still going, and we're always pleased to hear from loyal followers with comments and newly discovered records.

I'd like to wish all cover version collectors out there a Merry Chritsmas. And if you like, you can play spot the LP cover with the following...

It's from a UK cover version album - answers in comments please - sorry, no prizes available but you will gain everlasting glory!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Budget albums in the national press

Last week, we heard that the old UK budget albums, including Top of the Pops, were afforded a glimpse of the limelight, courtesy of the Daily Mail newspaper.

Like several dailies, the Mail has a column for reader questions and answers, and someobdy posed the query, "Did any artists who recorded cover versions for Music For Pleasure's Hot Hits or Pickwick's Top Of The Pops go on to achieve fame?" And, someone named James Thompson, of Hartlepool, pitched in with an informed answer.

It's hard to read from the scan, so here's a grab from the online version (click to enlarge):

James Thompson is clearly quite a fan - and if you're reading this, please leave a message.

Great to see - and our thanks to Clive Hetherington for the heads up, and the newspaper scan.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Burn, baby, burn ... Disco Inferno!

One of the great things about collecting budget cover versions is the way collectors are willing to generously share their new finds, and last week, I was pleased to hear from John MackMersh, who'd come across a cassette on the little-known VFM label.

The tape in question is Disco Inferno, a nine-track assemblage of disco-style hits, which was issued in 1978. John sent over some scans, and very kindly also donated the cassette itself, so it is now safely in my all-too-little VFM collection.

Here are some images:

What a great item! I particularly love the '70s-style image on the front, complete with the roundel stating, "Special Price 99 Pence". VFM = Value For Money, so they lived up to their name.

Now, I did wonder about the tape: was this a newly-recorded disco-type album, or was it a collection assembled from earlier VFM releases? I was intrigued that there were only nine tracks, making me think of some sort of long musical sequence - those familiar with 'Stars on 45' will know what I mean.

John though stated these were standard cover versions, and when I got to listen to the cassette, I was able to confirm their origins. Luckily, one of my other VFM cassettes contained the track, 'Black Is Black', also included here - and a comparison revealed they are the same versions. So, this is a VFM compilation album.

This is the track listing:
  1. Black Is Black   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 6]
  2. The Shuffle   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 2]
  3. Sunny   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 1]
  4. Ma Baker   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 4]
  5. Disco Inferno   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 4]
  6. Red Light Spells Danger   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 1]
  7. Too Hot To Handle   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 3]
  8. Good Morning Judge   [from Hit Parade '77 Vol. 3]
  9. Ain't Gonna Bump No More 
Given our previous efforts to compile a VFM discography, we have been able to identify the source album for eight of the nine selections, the odd one out being the final track. They are all from the previous year's Hit Parade '77 set, bar this one oddity.

It's curious that only nine tracks were included from a pool of perhaps 60 or 70 titles at VFM's disposal. There's no sign on the cassette itself that this was conceived as a 'volume 1' (which might explain other tracks being held off for a 'volume 2'), so Value For Money, yes, but a hint of short-changing, perhaps? The total running time (based on the speed of my cassette deck) is less than 17 minutes per side.

I bet you'd like to hear it? I don't usually upload sound files, since most of these cover versions were put out by small independent labels, some of whom are still exploiting them commercially. I would not want to undermine them by giving away copies, but in the case of VFM I know of no evidence they have been trading in any guise for the last 30-odd years.

So, for those au-fait with downloading files, here is a digital copy of the album. It's in MP3 for convenience, and bears all the hallmarks you'd expect from an old tape - so don't expect clean, crisp hi-fi.

Download link

To be fair, it's all the better for its imperfections. Step into your Tardis, rematerialise in 1978, and enjoy the experience, while picturing two little cog wheels going round inside a Hitachi radio-cassette. It's better than you may remember!

Thanks again to John for the cassette.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

New discovery completes Deacon EP discography

Deacon was one of the smaller players in the budget covers LP market, issuing just half a dozen instalments of Pick of the Pops through 1970 and 1971.

But apart from those full-length collections, they also issued a small number of EPs directly pulled from the LPs - like the Avenue label did - containing the same cuts.

Until now, we knew of two such EPs, DEA 5022 and DEA 5023. Then last week, we were contacted by Jason Stevens, who has discovered DEA 5021.

Here are some images of the labels:

The tracks are: The Wonder Of You / Rainbow / Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours / (It's Like A) Sad Old Kinda Movie. 

Here are the other two EPs: 

Tracks: In The Summertime / Lola / Yellow River / Up Around The Bend

Tracks: All Right Now / Natural Sinner / Neanderthal Man / It's All In The Game

Together, these three EPs include every track from the album, Pick of the Pops volume 4, and in the correct sequence:

There can be very few collectors out there who own all three of the EPs. It has taken us literally years to even get confirmation they all exist. Our thanks to Jason for the latest find.

Now, eagle-eyed readers will spot two anomalies with all this. The first is that the EPs are not called Pick of the Pops; they are called Top of the Pops. It is known that in 1971, Pickwick sued Deacon for brand infringement, something we initially thought was the result of Pick of the Pops sounding too similar to Top of the Pops for comfort. Now we have a second theory: Deacon has brazenly used Top of the Pops right here on these EPs; so Pickwick were bound to do something.

The second anomaly remains a mystery - the LP above, volume 4, was issued immediately after volume 1. In other words, Deacon missed out volume 2 and volume 3. Possibly this was some kind of mistake - but look at the corresponding EP labels: they all say Top of the Pops vol. 2. So they did get the release number right, even if they changed the name!

We are going to stick our necks out and say these were the only Deacon EPs released. Well, apart from this promo item, which came in a picture sleeve but has nothing to do with the above:

So, that's Deacon's EP series concluded. We think. Now go try and find copies - as is well documented elsewhere, some of these cuts include vocals by Elton John, and must be among the rarest commercially released recordings from him. If only collectors knew...

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Top of the Spots

We love to find examples of Top of the Pops albums cropping up in unexpected places. This one was noticed by Ian Byrne, and featues on the cover of the new album, Office Politics, by Divine Comedy.

Below is the full gatefold record sleeve, inside and outside:

And notice the guy at the bottom, studying his Human League reord?

Next to his right arm is Top of the Pops voume 4, from spring, 1969.

What's it doing there? Not sure - it seems once again that people in high places are secret Top of the Pops fans, just like us!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

South Africa: Still digging Top of the Pops in 1981

We know of many, many overseas pressings of Top of the Pops records dating throughout the lifespan of the series - starting as early as volume 2 (France and Norway) and running as late as volumes 68 (Italy) and 69 (Israel), towards the end of 1978.

There are a couple more items known from after this point, including one compilation LP from Brazil, 1979 - but this week we stumbled on an even later edition of Top of the Pops - this one from South Africa.

At first glance, it appears to be an equivalent to the UK volume 84 - at least, that's where the cover originated. But the contents do not match; this is not a straight re-press, but a new and unique compilation LP issued only in South Africa.

The tracks range through volumes 84, 85 and 86, so it was released no earlier than summer, 1981, while the UK series was in serious decline. This is the track listing:

Side 1
  • Kids In America - from vol 85
  • What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted - from vol 85
  • Making Your Mind Up - from vol 85
  • Stand And Deliver - from vol 86
  • Bette Davis Eyes - from vol 86
  • Stars On 45 - from vol 86
  • All Those Years Ago - from vol 86
  • You Drive Me Crazy - from vol 86
Side 2
  • A Little In Love - from vol 84
  • Romeo And Juliet - from vol 84
  • In The Air Tonight - from vol 84
  • Woman - from vol 84
  • Mind Of A Toy - from vol 85
  • Night Games - from vol 85
  • Attention To Me - from vol 85
  • Lately - from vol 85

Apart from some Soviet repressings of earlier albums, this is the only overseas Top of the Pops yet confirmed from the 1980s. It's particularly suprising to see such a record issued so late on; the UK series was approaching its conclusion, and would come to an end within the year. And yet here is a South African release, billing itself as volume 1 of what would have been a new series, and starting a new catalogue number series at TOP 001.

They even issued it on cassette as well. Clearly, they thought Top of the Pops still had legs!

This isn't the first Top of the Pops from South Africa - we know of two others, issued way back in 1972, but it may well be the last. Unless a "volume 2" appears, we think this could be the final release outside the UK, not including re-issues, of course.

Let us know, if you think otherwise!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Nonstop Top 20 comes to a stop!

It's been a while since I went crate digging, but old habits die hard, and this weekend while attending a village fete, I had a rummage through an LP box at a brick-a-brack stall. Up popped this very rare record:

It's none other than volume 11 of the Plexium label's 'Nonstop top 20'. The fact that a copy had evaded me for so long is testament to its scarcity. If only there were more cover version fans out there, it would be worth something! (I grabbed it for 50p.)

This was the last LP in the series, appearing in the spring of 1973, as the cover version industry started to go into decline. There are no fake audience effects on this LP (as there were on earlier instalments in the series) but the tracks are closed up, so there is no pause between them.

Something which I wondered about was where these tracks came from. On the face of it, they are Plexium original recordings, but it was often the case that the smaller labels would share tracks or lease them in, especially when sales were dwindling and budgets were tight. What struck me reading through the listing, was the coincidence of so many titles to the mfp album, Hot Hits 17, which was one I had when I was a kid.

The two LPs have the following songs in common:
  • Cum On Feel The Noize
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon
  • The Twelfth Of Never
  • By The Devil (I Was Tempted)
  • Killing Me Softly With His Song
  • 20th Century Boy
  • Feel The Need In Me
  • Pinball Wizard
  • Power To All Our Friends
  • Never Never Never

Yep, 10 of the 12 tracks on the mfp album also appear on the Plexium set. So they have to be the same recordings, right? Wrong. They are different - much to my surprise.

Not to be beaten, I next turned to Mike Morton's current RCA album, Non Stop Hits volume 5, to see if that's where they originated.

There's plenty of cross-over here too. Plexium and RCA both selected the following:
  • Cum On Feel The Noize
  • Killing Me Softly With His Song
  • 20th Century Boy
  • Feel The Need In Me
  • Looking Through The Eyes Of Love
  • Pinball Wizard

That's six songs in total - half the RCA LP, in other words. And once again, they are different.

Incidentally, I noted above how 10 of the 12 mfp titles were on the Plexium LP. The two that weren't - Gonna Make You An Offer You Can't Refuse and Doctor My Eyes - are also on the RCA album!

I must confess, it's a real mystery to me why the cover version albums so often duplicated so much material. Of all the singles in the charts, they repeatedly selected the same narrow set of hits, as illustrated again here.

I did also check the current Top of the Pops album - more cross-overs abound, but yet different recordings once again.

The shared titles between Plexium and Top of the Pops are:
  • Cum On Feel The Noize
  • Tweedle Dee
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon
  • The Twelfth Of Never
  • 20th Century Boy
  • Get Down 
  • Love Train 
  • Power To All Our Friends

So, you can see all four albums contain their own versions of several identical tracks. Not exactly giving listeners a USP, but I suppose popular hits like Cum On Feel The Noize and 20th Century Boy were just impossible to skip.

As for the following, you can check them yourself to see if any of the recordings match up! I haven't done so - there aren't enough hours in the day...

So, there it is. The end of the line for Nonstop Top 20, with its sad-looking cover, which doesn't even carry a picture. And so far as I know, that was the end of the Plexium label too.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Top of the Poppers ... featuring Alan Caddy ?!?

Surely some mistake? Well, read on...

Over in New Zealand, Top of the Pops recordings were originally issued on a local version of the Hallmark label. Then, in the mid-1970s, Music World took over - the label having been created by budget record entrepreneur, Hoghton Hughes.

Before and after the switch, New Zealand tended not to simply re-issue the UK albums, but instead create their own collections, many of which plugged specific artists in the titles - so, for example, we find albums with novel names such as, 15 Hits of Slade, T Rex, Sweet, 20 Hits of Abba and Other Great Groups, and 20 Hits of the Wombles and Other Pops for Children.

All good fun, of course, and fitting in with these was the 1973 LP, The Top of the Poppers Present Elvis Gold: 16 of The King's Greatest Hits. Here's the cover:

This album was issued by Hallmark New Zealand, before Music World became involved. What's odd, is that even by the close of 1973, The Top of the Poppers only had 13 cover versions of Elvis hits to compile. Yet the album promises 16 titles - so how did they do that?

The answer may surprise you - the album contains only three Top of the Pops recordings ("Polk Salad Annie"; "I'm Leavin'" and "Burning Love"). The rest of the tracks? One was borrowed from Hallmark's Revived 45s album (and was previously issued as a 45 on the Embassy label) - namely, "Surrender" - but the other 12 consist of the whole of this LP:

Yes, indeed. The bulk of the New Zealand album purporting to be by the Top of the Poppers actually had nothing to do with them! For those who don't know, Ross McManus was a modestly successful singer better known today for the fact that he was Elvis Costello's father. (This album was once re-issued on CD as Elvis's Dad Sings Elvis!)

(Bear with us, we're getting to the Alan Caddy bit...)

Come 1975, the Music World label had superseded Hallmark New Zealand, so far as Top of the Pops was concerned, and among the many interesting records which were issued, was this one - The Top of the Poppers Present Elvis' 20 Golden Hits.

Now, the proprietors of this blog, and the Top of the Pops fan website, have known about the LP for several years. But without full scans of the cover and labels, we did not know the track listing - until now. Buying Top of the Pops albums from such far-flung places is an expensive hobby, so when a copy turned up on Ebay from a UK seller, at a bargain price, we felt we should snap it up. What we discovered came as a surprise...

This LP contains all the material on the earlier New Zealand record, but contains four additional tracks: "Promised Land"; "Fool"; "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" and "Rags To Riches". All of these songs were to be found on earlier Top of the Pops albums, so one might suppose they were the source.

Well in fact, that was true for three of them - "Promised Land"; "Fool" and "Rags To Riches". But when it comes to "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me", the Music World label eschewed the Poppers' recording from volume 15, and substituted a completely different soundalike cover version. Some intrepid detective work (ie, we listened to it) revealed this is none other than the recording by Alan Caddy, which was originally released in 1971 on the following Avenue label LP:

So what's the deal? We have to confess, we have no idea. Firstly, there's no obvious reason why the bona-fide Top of the Pops version would be ignored; and secondly, how did Music World manage to get the master tape of Alan Caddy's recording? And could the switch somehow have been a mistake? It's hard to see how!

Whatever the story, this is a possibly unique example of an Alan Caddy track being issued under the name The Top of the Poppers!

We might also mention that research into overseas releases is not always easy, and it's often the case that one discovery leads to more. In this instance, we were able to identify three other Top of the Poppers releases from the listing on the back:

 Hopefully, one day, copies of these will also surface.  Maybe they too hold surprises for us...

Friday, February 22, 2019

Very rare box set on Ebay

Back in 1968 (we think!) mfp took the extraordinary step of re-issuing their first four budget cover version albums in a special box set - containing the albums, Hits '67, Smash Hits, Heart Hits and Hits '68.

Some years ago I spotted one online and bought it - I have never seen or heard of another copy anywhere until now. Remarkably, one of these mega-rare box sets is up for sale on Ebay:

More info on this box set can be found here. And here's an old blog post I did about my own copy back in 2012.

For a reasonable £29 plus shipping, this holy grail for cover version fans can be yours if you're quick. Here's a link to the Ebay listing.

It looks to be in reasonable condition, with some light wear and tear, and also has the original printed insert. Judging by the photos, the inner sleeves are later, but could easily be swapped for plain white ones, as originally issued. And some sticker removal would be in order for at least one of the record labels! Nonetheless, a great item for someone out there.


**UPDATE: Item is sold.