Number One Singles of 1974 (Part 2)

[… “Number One Singles of 1974” continued from Part 1]

• The song “Seasons in the Sun” has had quite the glamourous life, both before and after Terry Jacks took it to Number 1 (for 4 consecutive weeks) in 1974.

It started life in 1961 as a dreary little French song called “Le Moribund“, written and recorded by Jacques Brel.

In 1964 the lyrics were translated into English by Rod McKuen and the end result was recorded by The Kingston Trio. In 1968 it was also released as a single by then-happening Merseybeat pop combo The Fortunes (of “You’ve Got Your Troubles” fame).

4500 miles from Liverpool, in Vancouver, Canadian singer/songwriter Terry Jacks  discovered the English version of the song and went as far as recording it with his wife Susan under their band moniker of The Poppy Family.

The Poppy Family had a huge hit in 1970 with “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” before splitting up, both professionally and personally. Jacks continued to write and produce songs for his (now) ex-wife and became so highly regarded for supervising studio work that The Beach Boys invited him to California to oversee some recordings they were doing. During these sessions, Jacks persuaded the group to record “Seasons in the Sun” but they refused to release the finished product… which then prompted him to re-record and release it himself.

This morbid, despondent song about a man’s final moments – where he pays deathbed tribute to the people he has loved – went on to be a HUGE international hit for Jacks, eventually selling a staggering 6 million+ copies worldwide.

The song has since been covered by acts as varied as Nirvana, Bad Religion, Black Box Recorder and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes. It also enjoyed another spell at the top of the UK chart in 1999, courtesy of Irish boyband Westlife, and has also been sampled by reggae star Shabba Ranks for his Jamaican Dancehall smash “Twice My Age“.

• Eurovision – or the Eurovision Song Contest – is an annual competition held amongst the countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Each country selects and submits a song to represent them, these songs are then performed on the show which is broadcast live – and simultaneously – on TV across all the participating countries. Votes are then cast to determine the most popular song in the competition. The contest has been broadcast every year since 1956, and is one of the longest-running television programmes anywhere in the world.

It is also one of the most-watched annual broadcasts in the world with recent audience figures quoted as high as 600 million viewers internationally.

Back in 1974, at the Brighton Dome in England, the Swedish entry – a pop act called ABBA – took to the stage and gave this stunning performance of their song “Waterloo”

I often wonder what happened to ABBA

The Rubettes were formed by the songwriting team of Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington. Bickerton was head of A&R at Polydor Records, so there’s no prizes for guessing who was responsible for signing this foppish pop act to…erm… Polydor Records!

With a sartorial nod to glam rock, the band wore shiny white suits and (no, I am not making this up) shiny white berets on stage. Their first release was “Sugar Baby Love” which went on to top the charts for 4 weeks and prove to be, by a large margin, their biggest ever hit single.

They were pants.

• Talking of pants, or rather “no pants”, 1974’s next Number 1 hit single came from Ray Stevens with “The Streak

Stevens’ penchant for novelty songs (OK, I’ll admit that “Bridget the Midget” is a guilty pleasure) came about as a result of his hit USA TV show in the early seventies and his desire to break away from his country and gospel music roots (He had enjoyed a massive gospel-tinged hit single with “Everything is Beautiful“)

The Streak was based on the Seventies fad of “streaking”, basically people running about – usually at major sporting events – with no clothes on. It was a bloomin’ AWFUL song, but paled in comparison to Stevens’ later chart success in 1977…. that of pretending to be a chicken and clucking out Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood

Gary Glitter ‘s “Always Yours” was never one of his best songs. His star was already fading, and this would indeed prove to be his last chart-topper.

As a result of Glitter’s early seventies chart ubiquity I have written about his … erm.. ‘ legal troubles ‘ before. More recently however, I discovered that his ‘persona non gratis‘ status had been extended to modern-day TV repeats of old Top of the Pops shows. It would appear that his performances have been deliberately edited out of any ‘vintage’ shows that are now shown on the BBC or its European counterparts, effectively deleting his contribution to pop history.

This seems a shame to me. I’m sure it can be put down to producers somehow wanting to stop him from profiting from his past fame, but there have been many other pop and rock acts who have committed crimes and whose music still gets attention everywhere.

Yes child pornography is atrocious, but so is beating up one’s partner (James Brown, Rick James, Lou Rawls, Jackson Browne, Hank Williams Jr., Yanni) , hit & run (Glen Campbell), drug dealing (50 Cent), attempted murder (Jay-Z), sexual abuse of a female (Tupac Shakur) and murder (Phil Spector). I don’t see many of their records being banned from radio play as a direct result of these atrocious activities. (Indeed, there remains an argument that Yanni’s music should be banned for ALL kinds of reasons… mainly that it’s awful meandering rubbish)

Witness too the recent media deification of Michael Jackson following his death. The allegations of sexual abuse of underage children remained with him, despite his various attempts to pay off the supposed victims. I didn’t see radio or TV scaling back their support of Jackson. Instead they praised him to the hilt as a bona fide 20th century pop icon and “Thriller” felt like it was being played on repeat across all channels.

Now before people accuse me of somehow defending Gary Glitter here, I am not. I’m merely pointing out the relative hypocrisy that appears to exist in the media and its apparent inability to separate Gary Glitter, pop star, from Gary Glitter, kiddie fiddler.

[“Number One Singles of 1974” continues in Part 3…]


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