Friday, 6 July 2012

Amii Stewart autographed my vinyl LP - here's why and how

I have found some more fond memories of our flagship record store in Chiswick West London in the 70s and 80s.  It’s all in this autographed vinyl LP I have found by Amii Stewart. Click on it to see it all.

We had the good fortune to be a CHART SHOP (and I’ll write more about this as we proceed in future blogs). In short, this meant that we had the benefit of stellar service from all the record company sales representatives because we kept a log of all our sales so that Top of the Pops BBC TV show and Pick of the Pops BBC radio show would reflect the most popular records of the week. We were a VIP shop

It was the sales rep job to make sure that records got in the Top 100 initially and then the whole record company team swung into action to leverage that record into the Top 10. This applied to 7 inch singles (45s as they are called in the USA) but it all started in the record shop. There had to be a sale!

I took the shop over in 1978 and not long after we given chart reporting status. That is when the sales team put us on their list. I soon learned that this also meant that from time to time the sales rep would turn up with some pop star in tow. We saw several in our time but Amii was the first. Thanks Amii

In case you want to know more about her it is all below.  Interesting to see that Amii Stewart is step-sister of actress-singer Miquel Brown and aunt to Brown's actress-singer daughter Sinitta.

Amy 'Amii' Paulette Stewart (born January 29, 1956) is an American contemporary R&B/disco/dance-pop singer, dancer and actress most famous for her hit disco record "Knock on Wood" but first of all this is the album I have got

Amii Stewart Paradise Bird Signed
UK Vinyl LP 1979 Hansa Records

Hansa Records K 50673

1. The Letter
2. Paradise Bird
3. He's A Burglar
4. Jealousy
5. Right Place, Wrong Time
6. Step Into The Love Line
7. Paradise Found

Signed by Amii Stewart. “To Andy from Amii Stewart”. V Check here to see it in all its glory!

Amy 'Amii' Paulette Stewart (born January 29, 1956) is an American contemporary R&B/disco/dance-pop singer, dancer and actress most famous for her hit disco record "Knock on Wood". Stewart is the stepsister of actress-singer Miquel Brown and aunt to Brown's actress-singer daughter Sinitta.

Amy Stewart was the fifth of six children. Amii Stewart's father Joseph Stewart II, signed her up for singing and dancing lessons in 1960, at the age of four. There already was an Amy Stewart registered with Actor's Equity, so she changed the spelling of her name to Amii. She began attending Howard University in Washington but soon left to work with the D.C. Repertory Dance Company, studying ballet and modern dance. Before being signed to Ariola Records, Stewart was in the touring company of the stage production Bubbling Brown Sugar in 1975, firstly in Miami, then Broadway, and eventually London's West End, where she met Barry Leng, a record producer for Hansa records. The heavy drum sounds heard on "Knock On Wood", and many other of Amii's tracks, were provided by session drummer supremo Peter Boita ( also credited as the "Drum Doctor" on many tracks ). Using a combination of Linn Drum Computers and Simmons SDS7 electronic drums, Peter developed drum sounds and synching techniques that were way ahead of anything else at that time.
At the end of 1977, "You Really Touched My Heart" a Leng/Simon May composition, produced by Leng, was Stewart's first recording. An album followed, which contained five Leng/May songs, one Leng/Morris song and three cover versions.
Her first single, a disco cover version of the 1966 Eddie Floyd hit "Knock on Wood" (Floyd/Cropper), reached number one in the U.S. in April 1979, and earned her a platinum record and a Grammy Award nomination. It also reached number 6 in the UK, and number 2 in Australia. In the same year, Amii Stewart followed up with another cover of The Doors' classic, "Light My Fire", which reached #5 in the UK, although only managed a lowly #69 in the US. She recorded it as a medley, incorporating "Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven".
Among her other successes in music recordings is the song entitled "Friends" from 1985. This song was a collaboration with the Italian composer/musician Mike Francis and was a big hit in the UK and the Philippines.

In 2000, Stewart toured Italy, playing the part of Mary Magdalene, in the revival of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The play also starred Carl Anderson, who revived his role of "Judas Iscariot" from the 1971 movie.  In 2003, Stewart starred in the musical Lady Day, in the role of Billie Holiday; the musical was written and produced by her.

Since 2001 Stewart has been working as a goodwill ambassador for Italian Unicef and has been involved in a large number of projects such as "Uniti per i bambini, Uniti contro l'AIDS" (translated as "United for the children, united against AIDS"). In 2006, she recorded the charity single "Love Song" for UNICEF in four different languages, once again returning to work with Ennio Morricone. The following year saw her return to duet with Mike Francis on the track "Nothing Can Come Between Us". In 2006 Stewart and long-time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone released 5 track single "Love Song", sung in English, Italian, French, Spanish as well as a multilingual version. All proceeds from the single went to Unicef's campaign "Check Out For Children".   In May 2007 Stewart again participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, performing the duet "Schiavo D'Amore" with Piero Mazzocchetti.
Amii is fluent in Italian.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A long factoid about The Cola Boy single “7 ways to Love” a Euro house classic

The Cola Boy single “7 ways to Love” is a Euro house classic from the UK with an interesting background so here is my own elongated “factoid” about the group and this release. This CD  came along after we had closed our London shops so I didn’t witness the mass demand first hand but it continues to be in demand to this day. I am featuring a CD release here rather than the vinyl 12 inch single. The CD has the track-listing:

1   7 Ways To Love (3:33)
2   7 Ways To Love (Straight To The Cola Boy Head) (5:08)
3   7 Ways To Love (I Pour The Cola) (5:32)

You can see pictures here

Released in  1991 on Arista UK with the catalogue number 664526 It soon became a house/club classic.    Electronic: House, Euro House with artwork By - Pointblanc, London. On the reording the engineer was Ian Catt and the producer/mix by Saint Etienne
Vocals [Uncredited] - Janey Lee Grace  Written by  “Jesse Chin” a name made up by the team behind the release   It  was "An Angel Town production"

Cola Boy consisted of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley. Pete Wiggs, Janey Lee Grace and Andrew Midgley
7 Ways To Love was written by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of St Etienne, who hoped the track would be their first step in building a Stock Aitken & Waterman/Brill Building/Hit Factory style songwriting empire.
Cola Boy was a duo, consisting of Janey Lee Grace and the late Andrew Midgley. Andrew had worked with Bob and Pete on studio material in their pre-St Etienne days in the late 1980s. Janey had been a backing singer for numerous pop acts, including Wham and Pasty Kensit’s Eighth Wonder, and was a radio broadcaster on LBC.
Sarah Cracknell sang the vocals on the original white label version of 7 Ways. After that initial batch sold out, it was re-recorded with vocals by Sarah’s friend Janey Lee Grace, as Sarah was under contract to another label and was not permitted to sing on non-St Etienne releases.
Janey’s version of 7 Ways is the one that was subsequently picked up and released by Arista Records, but in the meantime the original Sarah version was heavily bootlegged, costing Arista many thousands of sales. A further Cola Boy connection with Sarah was that the duo were managed by Sarah’s mother, who had previously worked with and managed a number of acts, including Wee Papa Girl Rappers.
There was a second Cola Boy single, He Is Cola, which was spectacularly unsuccessful. That fulfilled the two-single deal with Arista, and the contract was not renewed.
With other labels interested in picking them up, Janey was keen to continue working on new Cola Boy material, but Andrew had by then started work on a new project, Blinder, and was writing darker, non-pop dance material.
Cola Boy fell apart late 1991/early1992, and Andrew moved to north. Blinder enjoyed some limited cult success on the northern England and Scottish rave circuit, before dissolving towards the end of 1993. Andrew subsequently moved into journalism and composing music for television before his premature sudden death in 2010.

Janey continues to perform and record, and released her last album in 2006. She has also continued with her broadcasting career, and has long been a key member of Steve Wright’s Radio 2 team. She can be heard on air most days, taking part in the programme and reading out ‘factoids’.

Cola Boy was a name used by the Peterborough, England artist Andrew Naughtie. Cola Boy’s “7 Ways To Love” was mailed out as a white label with a press release saying the record had been financed by a Hong Kong teenager who had sold his collection of rare Coke bottles to subsidise the project - one Jesse Chin, who was acknowledged on the sleeve of the stock release. Some people continue to give credence to the story to this day. Naughtie had previously worked with Bob Stanley and Peter Wiggs in the early days of , who remixed the track. “7 Ways To Love” reached number 8 in the UK chart in 1991, after being widely bootlegged, with its subtle vocal contribution from Janey Lee Grace. The follow-up was “He Is Cola”, which featured Burundi drumming.   Janey had her own top ten hit with Cola Boy’s Seven Ways To Love

Janey Lee Grace began her career as a backing singer for George Michael and Wham!, Kim Wilde and Boy George, and went on to have her own top ten hit as Cola Boy with Seven Ways To Love. She has presented shows for Virgin Radio, BBC London and Radio 1. 

She wrote the best-selling book ‘Imperfectly Natural Woman – getting life right the natural way and has a thriving forum on her website at She also appears regularly on The Wright Stuff on Five. 

Janey is a graduate in Performing Arts, and still writes songs and plays the occasional acoustic live gig.

Sarah Cracknell (born 12 April 1967, Chelmsford, Essex) is an English pop singer who fronts the band Saint Etienne and is known for her light, smooth singing voice. She is the daughter of Stanley Kubrick’s first assistant director Derek Cracknell.

Saint Etienne was originally to be an indie/dance act featuring various vocalists. After Moira Lambert sang on their initial 1990 single “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and Donna Savage was heard on the follow-up single “Kiss and Make Up,” Cracknell lent her vocals to “Nothing Can Stop Us” and ended up doing the rest of the singing on their debut album Foxbase Alpha. Cracknell has been Saint Etienne’s permanent vocalist since then.
Preceded by the single “Anymore” in 1996, Cracknell released a solo album, Lipslide, in May 1997. Originally released in the UK only by Gut Records, the album featured dance, indie and pop tunes and received good reviews from critics, although it was not a big seller (Cracknell has in interviews placed some of the blame for this on lack of proper promotion by Gut). The UK version of the album is now out of print.
Lipslide finally surfaced in the U.S. three years later, when Instinct Records released it in February 2000. With completely different cover art, the original album’s tracklisting was also modified: five tracks were removed and four new songs plus a remix were added. Months later, Instinct released the Kelly’s Locker EP, which contained the five tracks originally removed from the UK version of Lipslide, along with two previously unreleased songs and a new remix.
Cracknell was Spiller’s first choice for the vocals of his number-one hit “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” in 2000, but never got to record the song. She has recorded tracks with various artists such as David Holmes (”Anymore”, “Gone”), Xploding Plastix (”Sunset Spirals”), Cheapglue (”You’ve Just Won Me Over”) and Paul Van Dyk.
Sarah has recorded a duet “I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” (formerly by Dusty Springfield) with Marc Almond for his album Stardom Road, released June 2007.
In December 2007, BBC radio began playing “The Journey Continues” by Mark Brown featuring Sarah Cracknell. The song consists of extensive samples from a composition by Elena Kats-Chernin entitled Eliza’s Aria, well known to UK TV viewers as the music from the computer-animated ‘For the Journey’ commercials for Lloyds TSB bank. The single was released on February 2008 on Positiva. The song peaked at #11 in the UK after being released.

Cracknell married Martin Kelly (joint MD of Heavenly Recordings) in Kensington and Chelsea, London on 5 December 2004. They have two children, both born in Westminster, London: Spencer Michael (born 2001) and Sam Dion (born 2004). AND as I like to name drop...................... Martin was a Crucial Music customer a few years back to add to his Beatles collection! Thanks Martin

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

FALCO with BRIGITTE NIELSEN Body next to Body

I often look back to the days when we had record shops in London. I was always fond of our main shop "Tune in to 296" based at 296, Chiswick High Road West London. It holds many memories for me

The other day someone remarked that it reminded him of the shop featured in High Fidelity, the  Nick Hornby best-seller. Not sure who I was supposed to represent but it was all good fun. Running a record shop when there was a lot of good music around was exciting to say the least.

One artist I remember particularly was the Austrian electro-pop star called Falco. Here I mention his duet with Brigitte Nielsen then known for being as the wife of Sylvester Stallone. the single was  Body Next to Body  where  Falco meets Brigitte Nielsen from 1987
It went to #6 Austria, #22 Germany and  #1 Japan   Released in the UK the 12 inch single vinyl from 1987 UK contains the following

  1. Dance mix 6 mins 18
  2. Rock Mix 6 mins 30
  3. The other version 6 mins 22

All in an attractive picture sleeve U8100T WEA Records UK licensed from Teldec Germany Produced by Giorgio Moroder (known for Electric Dreams &  The Chase soundtrack and Donna Summer records.

We never did much with any Falco records in the shop. I seem to recall that Vienna Calling, a big hit in Europe, had to released more than once before it was a hit in the UK. All of this now seems strange as now whenever I list a Falco piece of vinyl on eBay then there is a lot of interest. I wonder who gets all the money from his royalties now?

Falco, the best selling Austrian singer of all time, even studied classical music at the  Vienna Music Conservatory but pop beckoned him away from serious music.  He  left after one semester to "become a real musician".
It doesn't seem to have harmed his progress 
He chose to live in West Berlin whilst singing in a jazz-rock band and exploring the club scene. When he returned to Vienna he was calling himself "Falco", reportedly in tribute to the East German ski jumper Falko Weißpflog (he changed one letter to make the name more international), and playing in the Austrian bands Spinning Wheel and Hallucination Company.
But let's go back to the beginning.   Johann (Hans) Hölzel lived from 19 February 1957 – 6 February 1998) he was  better known by his stage name  Falco and was an Austrian pop and rock musician and rapper. He had several international hits: "Der Kommissar", "Rock Me Amadeus", "Vienna Calling", "Jeanny", "The Sound of Musik", "Coming Home (Jeanny Part 2)" and posthumously, "Out of the Dark". "Rock Me Amadeus" reached #1 on the Billboard charts, making him the only artist whose principal language was German to score a number-one hit in the U S A. Seems he sold 20 million albums and 15 million singles, which makes him the best selling Austrian singer of all time.
Sadly Falco died of severe injuries received when his Mitsubishi Pajero collided with a bus on the road linking the towns of Villa Montellano and Puerto Plata  in the Dominican Republic on 6 February 1998, just two weeks before his 41st birthday.

Brigitte Nielsen (born 15 July 1963) is a Danish actress, musician and reality tv personality, who began her career with appearances in the 1985 films Red Sonja and Rocky IV and is also known for her marriage to Sylvester Stallone. She subsequently appeared with him in the 1986 film Cobra, and was noted for her widely publicised breakup with Stallone in 1987, and her relationship with New York Jets Mark Gastineau in 1988.
She was often in the entertainment media in the '80s, and people started referring to her as an "Amazon"  because of her tall stature (verified by the Guinness Book of World Records at six feet, or 1.82 meters). She first commented on her stature and used the term "Amazonian" to describe herself in 1985.
She later built a career appearing in B-movies, and in the 2000s, for appearing on reality shows such as The Surreal Life where she began a relationship with rapper Flavor Flav. In 2008, she appeared on the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which depicted her and several other celebrities dealing with recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. She was also on British TV's - Big Brother