Motorbike Annie is a one-off single released in 1973 on UK Records under the moniker “Del”, by Derek Parrott, (although he released a few other records under his full name). There must have been something in the water around that time, because the UK in the early 70s seemed to produce a plethora of one-off, obscure, folk-tinged, beautifully-crafted pop singles like this, including by artists such as Hobbit, A & A North, Dog Rose, and Knocker Jungle, (amongst many others). All worth checking out. Motorbike Annie is a lovely acoustic guitar-led melody, nostalgic and winsome in tone, with understated mellotron, and obligatory 1970s motorbike sounds, before building up to a heavy psych-type finish. It’s exactly the sort of record that this blog intends to highlight – obscure and wonderful. It was compiled on the Bubblepop – 20 UK Pop Oddities CD compilation (RPM Records) from 2005, and also came out on a retrospective CD of Derek Parrott’s early releases Flashback – The Seventies Singles. Both these CD releases are almost as hard to get a hold of as the original Motorbike Annie single, which seems to be the only way to access the song on vinyl. (I got my copy from Discogs, for a not inconsiderable sum).
From North London, Parrott began his musical career as a folk musician in mid-60s London, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Donovan. It was Donovan in fact who suggested Parrott travel to Morocco, in order to “find himself” as a poet and musician. He duly did this at the start of the 70s, and honed his musical and song-writing abilities on the busker circuit there. On returning to the UK, it wasn’t too long before he managed, through a producer he was friendly with, to record Motorbike Annie. The song, despite some plays on the BBC, was not a hit. Nevertheless, Parrott had got the recording bug, and in 1977 he got the chance to record an album, as “Derek Parrott”, with quality session musicians, and a few soon-to-be-famous musicians, including Huey Lewis of The News (on harmonica), and Tony Robinson of reggae band, Aswad. It was even mastered at Abbey Road studios.
However, two weeks before the resulting album, Open Up, was due to be released, the record company changed their distributors, and the album was shelved. Worse was to follow, when it was found that the record company had lost the masters. Nevertheless, Derek had always had the A side on acetate, and discovered a friend had an original tape of the B side. The album eventually came out in 1999 (just 22 years late…) on his own “Parrotttracks” label. The cover artwork cleverly mimics the original intended cover for the album, with an older, 1999 Parrott in the same pose as the 1977 Parrott.
He became disillusioned by his Open Up experience, and dropped out of the recording business for some time, (starting a lawn care business amongst other ventures). Eventually, he began recording new material again in the 1990s, and released two albums, which though they were not successful, were undoubtedly of quality. He died in 2011, aged 63. His was a tale of “what might have been”, and like so many quality musicians who never “made it”, they were dogged by sheer bad luck.