April 24th, 2012 / 11:52 am
Music

The Mystery of the Mysterious Elephant Bird Xmas Post-Punk Song (Now Solved)

Many years ago (like, way back in the mid-to-late-90s), a friend of mine gave me a tape of a radio program, which included a song I fell head-over-heels in love with. But no one I played it for had heard it before, or knew who the band was, or where it had come from.

For years I’d play it for self-professed music connoisseurs; no one was able to identify it. (I tried contacting the DJ without any luck.) Here’s a digitized copy of my ultra-degraded cassette copy, including a few seconds I accidentally taped over one day:

unknown artist – elephant bird song

Meanwhile, I transcribed the lyrics as best I could, Google-searching occasionally for them, to no avail.

I started writing this post to see if you could help me ID the piece—but now there’s no need. Let 2012 be remembered as the year that Jeremy M. Davies solved the Mystery of the Mysterious Elephant Bird Xmas Post-Punk Song!

A little while back, my friend Tim Feeney rekindled my interest in this mystery, suggesting that I try playing the song into one of those iPhone identifier aps. I said sure, and since I was thinking about it, I re-transcribed the lyrics, and sent them with the mp3 to some friends. I then started drafting this post. But within minutes Jeremy replied, saying that he’d found it:

I’ve searched before, back in Chicago. I must have just hit the jackpot in terms of which lyrics I sampled, or else the crawling chaos (i.e., the Internet) finally obliged us by consuming the right article.

It turns out (unsurprisingly) that the song hails from an Xmas-themed record: el Christmas: The World in Winter, released by the now-defunct el records in 1997:

The eggnog is surely laced by the time Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper arrives. Their song, “Schoolgirl Psychedelia,” has a surly South London youth describing Christmas trees bending toward her to reveal “Elves of many sizes/Dressed in forest green/Dancing on the branches/Looking very mean.”

That’s it! And here it is! (a much better version)

So who is Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper? For one thing, she appears to have recorded only three songs, one of which is a cover (Russ and Meghan, I expect you to take note!) of Momus’s “I Am a Kitten”:

Do I need to explain who Momus is? Because I won’t say more than I already have, and that it doesn’t surprise me he’d somehow be all tied up in this.

The third Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper song, “Back Home,”  is also a cover (of this). You can listen to it here.

A little more research reveals that Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper was (is) one Angela Faye Tillett, a young British artist who grew up to become the musician now known as Death By Chocolate:

Known simply as Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper, this precocious talent blew onto the scene in 1997, with the seminal Christmas anthem-that-never-was, “Schoolgirl Psychedelia”, which she recorded at the tender age of twelve, along with “I Am A Kitten” (she was evidently much too young to record “I Am A Tiger”) for the Trattoria Menu compilation, “Songs For The Jet Set,” which became a college radio hit in America.  In 1998, she appeared on the labels “Bend It! Japan ’98” compilation, covering “Back Home” before vanishing from trace and re-emerging a couple of years later as Angela Faye Tillett, teenage chambermaid from Clacton-On-Sea, and singer in psychedelic pop ensemble, Death By Chocolate.

Using that name, she released two albums: Death By Chocolate (2001) and Zap the World (2002):

http://youtu.be/8HfKhEnbJa0

As it turns out, I’ve had a few of her songs on my computer for nearly a decade—I just didn’t know how they connected back to the Xmas song … or to Momus …

Well, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have this mystery solved!

I know that you’re glad, too.

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