In 1974 I found myself in a record shop in Liverpool. The friend I was with at the time purchased an LP. I didn’t realise then that I would spend the next 30 plus years searching for another copy for myself. 

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The UK cover.

Originally released in 1968 in the UK, (probably earlier in the USA) “Playback” by “Appletree Theatre” received virtually no advertising or radio play in the UK at the time. (I have a tape recording of John Peel on BBC Radio One enthusing about the LP when it was  first released and then ironically proceeding to play the only track on the record that I don’t consider to be a masterpiece.)

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Yes, I consider this record (although very much of its time) to be on a par with the Beatle’s “Sgt Pepper”. Back in 1974 I made a tape recording of my friend’s LP with my (t)rusty Philips Open Reel to Reel Tape Recorder, using the well-proven method of dangling the microphone in front of the speakers. (There was no line out/aux connections on our ancient equipment then!)

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The USA cover.

This mono tape recording (complete with a background of doors shutting/mumbled voices and the odd cough) was played repeatedly over the next 30 years. It was subsequently transferred to a cassette tape and eventually to a recordable audio CD. Despite visiting umpteen record shops and record fairs over the years I never ever saw another copy of this wonderful record. I never even found any mention of the group in any books on the history of pop music in the 1960s. I watched as every crap LP was given a CD re-issue.. everything except this one!!

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John and Terence Boylan.

Even more puzzling to me was the fact that the band never issued a follow up. I concluded that the band members must now be in some super group like the Eagles or something and had airbrushed their first dips into music out of history.

A couple of years ago I contacted one of those adverts in “Record Collector” magazine that offer to find records for you. I didn’t hold out much hope and after 6 months of silence had given up. Then, out of the blue a letter! A copy of this obscurity had been located!!

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After 32 years of looking I finally had my own copy and in stereo too. Ironically a few months later I Googled the name of the band and at last got a hit!! The main instigator of “Appletree Theatre”, Terence Boylan,  now had his own web site. Not only that, he had re-issued “Playback” on CD himself and he could sell me a copy. You can buy this forgotten gem here. In another 40 years this CD itself will be a sought-after artifact.

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The first of Kitchen Sink’s two comics of this title included this section on the “worst” female Superhero costumes.

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Mad Magazine UK Edition

March 26, 2008

The UK edition of Mad Magazine, published by Thorpe and Porter began in 1959. Over the years there were a number of UK sourced covers and sometimes UK produced interior stories. Here are a few Mad UK covers from the 1970s with such topics as British Rail, Doctor Who, the Royal Family…..even the long-running TV soap opera “Coronation Street”. I see that the price more than doubled between 1971 and 1979 but it was still “cheap”.

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Race for the Moon

March 26, 2008

Race for the Moon was a Harvey comic that only lasted 3 issues in the late 1950s. This Thorpe and Porter 68 page UK reprint managed a respectable 23 issues. I presume the Harvey material appeared in the early issues. These issues contain ACG and National DC material and were originally published around 1960.

Are these covers from ACG and National/DC or UK sourced ?

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Inside Issue 21 there is an advert for “Miracle Man” comic. I wonder who he was ?

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The back cover has one of the ubiquitous Charles Atlas adverts. Don’t get sand kicked in your face. If you want a “Magnetic personality” send off today!

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Riot on Sunset Strip

March 25, 2008

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Many years ago I came across an LP called Riot on Sunset Strip. It was supposedly the soundtrack from the film of the same name. Starring Aldo Ray (who?) and the cute Mimsy Farmer the film was inspired by the teenage riots that happened in LA in 1966. It could only have been made in those days when to be a teenager was fab and anyone over 25 was a middle-aged square!  I’ve patiently waited in vain for this film to appear on TV. However excerpts are now on YouTube here and here. 

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As for the LP,  the first three tracks feature The Standells with the title track “Riot on Sunset Strip”, The Mugwumps with “Suset Sally” and an instrumental called “The Sunset Theme” by The Sidewalk Surfers. 

The fourth track on the LP seems somewhat out of place. Its a gentle folk song by Debra Travis called Old Country

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The Eyeballs in the Sky

March 21, 2008

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For almost 50 years Maurice Dodd’s strip cartoon “The Perishers” appeared in The Daily Mirror.

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 It managed to be true to life yet surreal  all at the same time. Like “Peanuts” no adults ever appeared in the strips, just a group of children and their dog. For many years each August the Perishers would go on holiday. Once there the story would move to the inside of a rock pool !!!

For a whole year the leader of the crabs living in the rock pool had been predicting the return of a cataclasmic event in the life of crabdom. Eventually it came to pass. Giant eyeballs once again appeared in the sky. This sequence was  so popular it became an annual event in the comic strip for a week or so each year.

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For a fascinating account of the life of Maurice Dodd click here.

Power Comics

March 18, 2008

 Join me in my time machine as we spin back to the mid 1960s. I was ____ years old and along with buying all the Marvel/DC/Gold Key/Charlton/etc comics I could find I was also still buying our home grown fare. I had already graduated from the Beezer and the Beano to Valiant and Ranger when a new comic caught my eye.

“Wham!” Comic was first published by Odhams in the UK in 1964 and was followed by “Smash!” in 1966 and “Pow!” in 1967. I see a theme here! Although the original idea for “Wham” was to be an answer to (and a more modern take on) DC Thompson’s Dandy and Beano in many ways it followed the same format as the Boy’s Papers of the time such as Lion, Tiger, Buster etc with a mixture of anarchic humour along with two page adventure stories. Admittedly the humour strips in “Wham!” were by Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid and set new standards of excellence. However a new twist was soon added. Black and white reprints of Marvel material were introduced. First “Wham!” began reprinting the Fantastic Four. “Smash!” soon contained the Incredible Hulk, and later had Batman on the cover (albeit reprints of the newspaper strip version rather than the regular DC version) whilst “Pow!” starred Spiderman and Nick Fury and others.

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To fit the Marvel stories into four page stories on the larger page size the individual panels were often shuffled about to make them fit in. UK sourced art was often inserted in and around the stories.

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 Along with Spiderman and Sgt Fury Pow 13 contained a number of humour strips including Nobby’s Night Mares, The Group, Wee Willie Haggis, The Dolls of St Dominics (evidently a take on St Trinians) and Dare-a-day-Davy. This last strip was in colour on the back page and drawn by the unique Ken Reid. The adventure strips in this issue were Jack Magic and The Python.

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Now called “Power Comics”, Odhams decided to issue two more weekly comics. In a slightly smaller size somewhere in between the size of “Pow”and the american comics they were copying they launched “Fantastic!” and “Terrific!”. These two comics were almost entirely full of black and white reprints from Marvel, with The Avengers, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor etc with perhaps just a token UK story included.  

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When sales declined it was usual for UK publishers to combine comics. Many weekly comics were delivered by newsagents along with daily newspapers. So  when sales 0f “Wham!” began to tail off readers would suddenly find “Pow!” appearing unannounced through their letter box. Hopefully these new readers would stay with the “new” comic.  

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One of my favourite features in this comic was “The Cloak”. Drawn by Mike Higgs in a most cartoony style it was funny and stylish and totally different to anything else in “Pow!”. If “The Cloak” had been published in more recent times it would have endless merchandising and perhaps even cartoons on TV. In the 1960s they either didn’t appreciate the possibilities or were just content to print the weekly comics. As it is “The Cloak” along with so many UK comic characters like Sgt Hurricane, The Spider, Alf Tupper, Wilson (see a future blog for “The further truth about Wilson!”), Keyhole Kate, Grimly Fiendish, Brassneck, General Jumbo, Kelly’s Eye etc ad infinitum are lost in limbo whilst Superman and every other USA comic character you can think of from Uncle Sam to Krazy Kat never seem to have gone away.

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Eventually “Fantastic!” combined with “Terrific!”. By 1969 Odhams had sold out to the publishing conglomerate IPC and within a matter of weeks the “Power Comics” line was no more. “Smash!” was the sole survivor for a while but it no longer contained any Marvel material and had become just another identikit UK comic. The fact that UK comics until the 1970s were all  newsprint including the covers is the  main reason for the low survival rate of these fascinating artifacts.