[… “Number One Singles of 1973” continued from Part I]
April to June
Here’s a piece of trivia that people may not be aware of. Gilbert is wholly responsible for the ongoing necessity of current day artists – mostly hip hop & rap artists – to obtain proper and legal clearances of any samples that they use in their songs.
The is came about because in 1991 O’Sullivan successfully sued rapper Biz Markie over his decision to use a sample of “Alone Again (Naturally)” without asking for the right to do so. The lawsuit and subsequent ruling – all copies of his album “I Need a Haircut” pulled from stores – managed to undermine Markie’s short and long-term music career
Tying a yellow ribbon on clothes – as an act of remembrance to spouses away in the military – is a practise that dates back to the 19th century. Why yellow? Well, it was the then official insignia colour of the cavalry.
In 1917 a military marching song “Round her Neck she Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (later truncated to “(She Wore a) Yellow Ribbon” became a popular hit, which then morphed into the title (and theme tune) of a 1949 John Ford-directed movie starring John Wayne. (The lyrics changed to match the movie’s story)
In 1971 a newspaper columnist wrote an article about some college students who befriended an recently-released convict who was looking for a yellow handkerchief tied around a roadside oak tree to signify where his family were living.
Two songwriters later filed copyright for a song entitled “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree“.
A year later the song was recorded and released by Tony Orlando‘s Dawn, selling a whopping 3 million copies worldwide in less than a month!
In the early 80’s – when American diplomats were being held hostage in Iran – the song’s popularity returned and both it and the yellow ribbon concept remain part of the American culture throughout the current overseas ‘conflict’
I’ve always found the song to be mawkish. Mawkish and sentimentally horrible. This version (Note: NSFW) – by The Asylum Street Spankers – is much better, taking the piss out of those Americans generally too damned lazy to even use a real ribbon!
Whilst Lynne‘s music would take a decidedly “prog-rock-esque’ route (culminating, conversely in the star-studded Traveling Wilburys project), Wood’s took a detour into Glam Pop notoriety.
Wearing a painted face, wild wigs and outrageously colourful outfits (and backed by band members dressed as gorillas or angels) Wood’s first success with Wizzard was “Ball Park Incident” early in 1973.
“See My Baby Jive” was the big one though. Based on producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound recording style, its grandiose concept took it to the Number One slot for four weeks, assuring Wood a place in pop history.
Trivia freaks may like to know that Abba acknowledged “See My Baby Jive” as an influence when they recorded their debut single, a little ditty entitled “Waterloo” – a song which will no doubt feature in next year’s diary entries!
On a personal note, my mate Malc and I had a strange “celebrity” moment back in the early 90’s. We had flown to Orlando for a couple of weeks in the Floridian sun and were in line at the airport waiting to collect our hire car. In front of us in the queue, sporting ‘large hair’ and a thick Birmingham accent was… Roy Wood! I had to hold myself back from muttering “See my Baby Drive” out loud
• Suzi Quatro – Can the Can
“Can the Can” was the second Number One single of the year written by songwriters Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman (The Sweet’s “Blockbuster” was the first, written about yesterday)
Detroit’s Suzi Quatro moved to the UK in 1971 after being discovered by RAK Records owner Mickie Most. Her first release for his label – “Rolling Stone” – was a major flop (except, strangely, in Portugal where it got to Number 1!), which was when Most hooked her up with the “Chinnichap” partnership.
“Can the Can” was the result and thanks to Suzi leather-clad glam-friendly look it reached the Number 1 slot and kick-started a career that continues to thrive. She branched out into acting (most notably as Leather Tuscadero to Henry Winkler’s Fonz on TV’s “Happy Days“), voice over work and, more recently, radio presenting on the BBC.
All from a lyric suggesting “Put Your Man in the can, honey, get him while you can“. Ohhhhh-Kayyyyy?!
Lol Creme and Kevin Godley were once primed to be marketed as the UK’s answers to Simon & Garfunkel, each having achieved minor success in bands like the Mockingbirds and The Sabres.
Eric Stewart was a member of Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders (when Fontana left, simply The Mindbenders) who had a Number 1 hit in 1965 with “The Game of Love“, later “A Groovy Kind of Love” as well as appearing as themselves in the 1967 movie “To Sir with Love“.
Until 1972, their careers had always crisscrossed one another (Gouldman briefly joining Stewart in The Mindbenders for example) until noted American bubblegum-pop writer/producers Kasenkatz/Katz brought them together under a UK studio project called Super K Productions.
Amongst the minor successes at this time were Ohio Express’ “Sausalito”, Crazy Elephant’s “There Ain’t No Umbopo” and (French Number 1) Freddie & the Dreamers’ “Susan’s Tuba“.
When the Studio K project lost steam the four morphed into Hotlegs, supported The Moody Blues in tour and enjoyed a hit single with “Neanderthal Man”
In what was then a major career boost they produced and played on two Neil Sedaka albums before deciding to, again, become a ‘pop group’. They played some demos to pop entrepreneur Jonathan King who loved the sound (especially a parody called “Donna“) and immediately signed them to his own UK Records label.
“Donna” became a Number 2 hit in 1972, “Johnny Don’t Do It” followed before they attained the Number One slot with “Rubber Bullets”.
“Rubber Bullets” was a simple parody of “Jailhouse Rock” but it attracted a certain level of controversy because rubber bullets were being employed in Northern Ireland to quell rioting… so a dunce’s corner of the press wrote up 10cc as somehow “glorifying violence”. (I think its fair to say that the media has always needed to “sell newspapers” so any controversy – no matter if its manufactured nonsense – is “good controversy” as far as they are concerned)
10cc’s career was off and running. Things – as they say – would only get bigger and better for them
It almost sounds as if Noddy & Co were merely “going through the motions” with this song, doubtless buoyed by – and maybe taking for granted? – the success they had already enjoyed in the previous two years; 7 hit singles, including 4 number ones.
This was their fifth Number 1. However, their ultimate moment was still to come!
[“Number One Singles of 1973” continues in Part III…]