Category Archives: Asides on the 1970’s

News Stories of 1974

Once again – my diary made zero reference to any news stories of the year.

• The big one was of course the whole “Watergate” thing in the USA, where government officials were arrested for breaking in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The subsequent investigation of the break-in led a long and merry trail to the desk of President Richard M. Nixon who ended up resigning his post before he was impeached and/or possibly convicted of criminal charges.

If illegal Presidential activity was not a bitter enough pill for the American public to swallow, Tricky Dicky’s successor – the buffoonish Gerald Ford – was quick to give a full and unconditional pardon to Nixon, thus completely undermining American – especially Republican – politics from that day to this.

• Someone attempted to kidnap Princess Anne from her car right outside Buckingham Palace. I don’t know how much the ransom was going to be, but I am sure the British public would’ve banded together to pay it so that the perpetrator would keep her.

• The IRA threatened and exploded a number of bombs across mainland Britain – Manchester, the Houses of Parliament, London, Guilford, Woolwich & Birmingham were all hit with explosions leading to deaths and injuries

• Author Stephen King published his first ever novel, the creepy “Carrie

• Britain held TWO General Elections. The first in February resulted in a dead heat between Labour and Conservative with Labour’s Harold Wilson somehow replacing Ted Heath as Prime Minister. Wilson’s decision to call the second election in October paid off, with Labour then gaining a majority.

• The big sports event of the year was “The Rumble in the Jungle”. Muhammad Ali, unfairly stripped of his Heavyweight title seven years earlier (a result of his refusal to induct into the US Army and fight in the Vietnam War), took on incumbent George Foreman in Zaire in a widely publicised boxing match. Here’s a fabulous little documentary about the fight. If you don’t want to know the outcome of the fight look away now… Ali won in it eight rounds.

The music industry, never one to shy away from piggy-backing on such a massive cultural event, released a song based on the fight… Johnny Wakelin’s somewhat psychedelic and hypnotic “In Zaire

On a personal note can I just say that my wife and I visited the Muhammad Ali Center during a recent extended weekend in Louisville and I really can’t recommend it enough. I pessimistically wasn’t expecting much from it, but the sheer volume of stuff on show – covering every concievable aspect of Ali’s life & glittering career – was very impressive indeed. An attraction we thought would take us no longer than maybe half an hour to circumvent actually kept our attention for almost three hours and proved to be (a mere) $8 (each) very well spent!

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus

“Tarkus” can’t really be described as my favourite ELP album, but its certainly the one I know the most intimately.

Side One features the 7-part concept Tarkus suite, mostly composed by Keith Emerson, that is supposed to tell the tale of the peculiar half-armadillo/half-tank represented on the cover.

Emerson has apparently stated in his autobiography “Pictures of an Exhibitionist” (something I might read one day, for old times sake) that he pretty much presented the ambitious Tarkus suite in its entirety to the other two band members, L & P, as a ‘done deal’. Greg Lake is reported to have initially said he was unhappy with it… before happily adding lyrics to the composition which were, apparently, about “the military-industrial complex” and “the futility of war”

All lost on a 15-year-old it has to be said. It just sounded bloomin’ good to me!

The album sleeve opened up to show the weird artwork above, something I would not fully appreciate until I (presumably) upgraded my little cassette copy for the vinyl album with all its gatefold glory. It too, allegedly, tells the story. *cough*

Whilst Side 1 is perhaps testament to everything that was appealing to me about ELP, Side Two is much more of a curates egg containing more than its fair share of fillers.

I can’t help thinking that with “Jeremy Bender“, the band were taking the proverbial wee-wee.  Jeremy Bender was (according to the lyrics) “a man of leisure” who “took his pleasure in the evening sun“. Furthermore he “laid him down in a bed of roses, finally decided to become a nun“. The story continues with the titular Mr Bender apparently having an affair with a trans-gender convent sister before leaving with his suitcase.

As I have often stated, maybe these things would sound better if the listener could ingest the same kinds of drugs the musicians were on when they recorded them?

Bitches Crystal” brings us back to the bombastic offerings of Side 1, and has always remained been one of my favourite ELP cuts. I love how the drums and bass come in after the weird tinkly keyboard intro. Here’s a YouTube offering of it from some ‘reunion’ show the trio did in 1997…

It’s almost free form jazz. (Maybe why it has remained one of my faves?)

The Only Way” is another dreary Emerson tribute to Bach (yawn), whilst “Infinite Space” courts crappy-synth territory a little too closely for its own good. “A Time and a Place” is leaden and ploddy, suggesting Keith had been on the wine the night before.

The final cut is fun, but serves less as a classic ELP cut and more as a tribute to or in-joke about their (doubtless beleaguered) studio engineer Eddie Offord. “Are You Ready Eddie?” is rampant with pub-style piano and throwaway lyrics ending with “we only got ‘am or cheese” in reference to the limited sandwich choices at the studio canteen!

Rumour has it that “Tarkus” was originally going to be released as an E.P. featuring just the cuts from side one. It will always be easy in retrospect to say that it might have served the band better. However, ELP’s pretentious excesses both on and off the road were already becoming well known so why not stretch an idea too far?

Talking of pretentious excesses, people bemoan and criticise the current ‘diva syndrome’ of artists like Mariah Carey or Celine Dion and their outrageous changing room requests, etc. Let it be known that this kind of thing has been going on for decades. Back in the seventies, Greg Lake – ELP’s coiffeured bassist and vocalist – refused to do any live shows unless he could perform standing on an antique Persian rug worth thousands of dollars.

Prat!

This recent photo would seem to suggest that – even though his star has very much faded – he is still in the habit of using the rug. I wonder if he now does it as “an ironic statement”?

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1972 – What did I ignore?

Whilst my diary entries in 1972 touched on some “world news” – like the minors strike, Prime Minister Edward Heath’s ineptitude and TV ‘events’ – there was a LOT more that I failed to mention about 1972.

I make no excuses for not writing at least a line or two about some of these – I guess for this particular 14-year-old boy they simply failed to register on my personal radar…

• “Bloody Sunday” – a terrible day in Northern Irish history where British troops opened fire on demonstrators, killing 14 of them. Later to be eulogised by U2.

• The State-owned travel company, Thomas Cooks, was privatised.

• A British Airways flight crashed near Staines in Essex killing 118 people. It remains the worst air crash in English aviation history.

• The dockers went on strike, creating yet another state of emergency!

• The infamous Munich Olympics, and the whole Black September/terrorist massacre thingie.

• The government imposed price and pay freezes to try and counter inflation.

• Richard Adams’ soon-to-be-classic novel “Watership Down” is published

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Number Ones of 1972 (Part 5)

…[continued from Part 4]

You know when you write about a year in these terms – all the number ones – you wonder whether it gives a realistic representation of the music everyone listened to.

In terms of sheer public popularity I guess it does, but in my own personal world I feel there were many different songs – which didn’t reach Number 1 – that I would play over and over again from my weekly tape recordings of the Top 30 show.

So along with the likes of “School’s Out”, “Claire”, T.Rex, Slade, “Son of my Father”,  Lieutenant Pigeon, plus all the Prog rock and pop already mentioned in my 1972 diary entries, would the following songs also stand up and take bow for providing a suitable distraction to the arguments going on at our house…

• America – “A Horse with No Name
• Argent – “Hold Your Head Up
• Blackfoot Sue – “Standing in the Road
• David Bowie –  “John I’m Only Dancing
• David Bowie –  “Jean Genie” 
• David Bowie –  “Starman
• Alice Cooper – “Elected
• Dr Hook – “Sylvia’s Mother
• Electric Light Orchestra – “10538 Overture
• Family – “Burlesque
• Roberta Flack – “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
• Gary Glitter – “Rock & Roll Part II
• Hawkwind – “Silver Machine
• The Hollies “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
• Hot Butter – “Popcorn
• Elton John – “Rocket Man
• John Lennon & Yoko – “Happy Xmas (War is Over)
• Lindisfarne – “Lady Eleanor
• Melanie – “Brand New Key
• Mott the Hoople – “All the Young Dudes
• Johnny Nash – “I Can See Clearly Now
• Redbone – “Witch Queen of New Orleans
• Lou Reed – “Walk on the Wild Side
• Rolling Stones – “Tumbing Dice
• Roxy Music – “Virginia Plain
• Paul Simon – “Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard
• Ringo Starr – “Back Off Boogaloo
• Status Quo – “Paper Plane
• Stealers Wheel – “Stuck in the Middle
• Cat Stevens – “Can’t Keep it In
• Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone
• 10cc – “Donna
• The Who – “Join Together
• Stevie Wonder – “Superstition

1972 was therefore a year that had me listening to all kinds of music, creating a varied love for it that would not only supply me with an eventual career (of sorts) but a lifetime of many happy memories.

Meanwhile, (I love a good “meanwhile”) 4000 miles away, my future wife who had started her own musical education early was finding that Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” was proving to be an awkward choice for her classroom’s show and tell session.

Both of us can now only hope that the 8 and 14-year-old kids of today carry forward the same kind of interest, love and enthusiasm for music into their middle and old age as we have.

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Number Ones of 1972 (Part 4)

… [continued from Part 3]

With 1972 already seeing the likes of Donny Osmond and Marc Bolan at Number 1, it was shaping up to be “the year of the teen idol”

As if to cement the notion, along comes David Cassidy and the (IMHO) awfully turgid “How Can I be Sure

The son of actress Shirley Jones, Cassidy had already appeared on TV shows like “Bonanza” and “Ironside” before landing the part of Keith Partridge in “The Partridge Family“.

The Partridge Family was a kind of pseudo-reality sitcom that MTV would kill for these days. It was about a musical family who played together to stay together, touring America whilst trying to maintain a semblance of normal life.

Cassidy, initially happy about the success of The Partridge Family soon grew weary of its constrictions, not least being his requirement to maintain a squeaky-clean lifestyle in keeping with his character in the show.

In May 1972 he gave a revealing interview to Rolling Stone magazine where he expressed his unhappiness at playing Keith Partridge. As if to underline his point he also posed nude for the cover, shocking the show’s producers whilst simultaneously titillating his young fans.

EFA70’sTRO would like to briefly leap out of the Partridge Family closet and openly admit that one of his favourite romantic ditties of all-time is “I Think I Love You“. As fine a pop song as it is, he just wishes it wasn’t by The Partridge Family.

Quiz time….. Name all the bands you can think of whose band members feature a mother and her son playing together. (The Partridge Family don’t count because they were fictional).

I can think of one – Lieutenant Pigeon – and their hit “Mouldy Old Dough“, a ramshackle pub-singalong slice of nonsense that was Number 1 for a staggering 4 weeks.

The song is held together by the ragtime piano of Hilda Woodward, mother of band leader Rob whose vocals consist of throating just three words…. “Mouldy”, “Old” and “Dough”

Somewhat staggeringly, this song was the SECOND biggest selling single of 1972 (after that crappy bagpipe bollocks). I LOVE it and often find myself ‘singing’ it in the shower! (If it was at the local bar’s Karaoke night I would definitely grab the mic!)

Oh, btw, the correct pronunciation of the band’s name is LEF-tenant Pigeon and not LOO-tenant Pigeon. Thought I’d just clear that up for my American readers otherwise ignorant of English *giggle*

Claire was Gilbert O’Sullivan‘s 6th UK hit single in two years, but his first Number 1.

The whistle-infused song was written about his young niece, the lyric “Will you marry me Uncle Ray?” referring to O’Sullivan, whose real first name is Raymond.

It’s sad that Gilbert never gained the worldwide popularity I personally feel he deserved. His lyrics, melodies and vocal style are all as assured as, say Billy Joel’s or Elton John’s, and his notions of ‘whimsy’ and ‘romance’ are always evident.

His relative lack of success compared to his peers can actually be blamed on a massive mid-70’s court case he got embroiled in. He discovered that his contract with MAM Records was skewed heavily in favor of the label’s owner, with Gilbert earning next to no royalties for the hits he had created, including his massive USA Number 1 “Alone Again (Naturally)“. The case rumbled on for over 5 years, during which time he was unable to record a note, so the hits – and his visibility – just fizzled out.

In 1980, he was awarded £7m in damages. A large sum of money, but doubtless FAR less than his earnings otherwise could have been had he remained in the public eye.

I picked up the (terribly-titled) “Berry Vest of Gilbert O’Sullivan” a year or so ago, which obviously contains “Claire” and 19 other songs, most of which are surprisingly recognisable and memorable. A great singer-songwriter.

Chuck Berry is one of the pioneers – if not THE pioneer – of Rock & Roll. It’s even been said that he invented it.

Think of all the classic songs he’s been responsible for… “Johnny B Goode“, “Rock and Roll Music“, “Sweet Little Sixteen“, “Roll Over Beethoven“, “School Days” and so many, many more.

The antithesis of all his classic songs is the horrendous “My Ding-a-Ling“, sadly his ONLY UK Number 1.

Recorded live at a concert in Coventry, “My Ding-a-Ling” is little more than an exercise in Benny Hill-style double entendre, so it’s astonishing in retrospect that many radio stations refused to play it!

I guess because it always forms a backdrop to office parties and family get togethers, the UK Christmas Number 1 has always carried an air of ‘reverence’ about it.

Well, christmas parties in 1972 must have been REALLY scary affairs, with everyone living in fear of having to hear Little Jimmy Osmond with “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool

Younger – and spottier – brother of Donny, this scored a big 10 on the “crap-o-meter” for many people, myself included. Even my aural fondness for a “novelty hit” refuses to acknowledge this as worthy.

[continued in Part 5]….

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Number Ones of 1972 (Part 3)

… [continued from Part 2]

“…… and they called it Puppy Luuuuuuuuuuuurve” was a Number One call to arms for fresh-faced Mormon superstar teenager Donny Osmond.

1972 really was the year of Osmond-mania in the UK, when the family troupe, The Osmonds (put together as a “white” answer to the Jackson 5)  – especially photogenic teen idol Donny – created abject hysteria amongst young impressionable girls wherever they went. Think “The Jonas Brothers on steroids” and you might get an idea of the screamy-girly public craziness?

Puppy Love” was written in 1960 by Paul Anka for Annette Funicello, an actress/singer he was having an affair with. His own version went to Number 2 in the USA, but it has since been totally eclipsed by Donny’s more populist version.

His plea of “someone help mehelp meplease” was always a moment of cringe-worthiness whenever I heard it. Little did I know then that my future wife was squealing with joy at precisely the same line!

The follow-up Number 1 to Donny was the anarchic School’s Out by Alice Cooper, a song already discussed at some depth (here and here) within this blog.

My good friend Simes, a.k.a “Rockin”, remains a huge fan of Alice Cooper to this day, going to see him live in concert whenever he’s appearing within driving distance of the South of England.

Sometimes Rockin’ takes his eldest daughter with him. Her name is… Alice.

I wonder if the pair of them have ever seen this version of School’s Out with The Muppets? (I wonder also if that clip makes more sense on drugs?)

Taken from his second solo album “Never a Dull MomentRod Stewart‘s “You Wear it Well” was, perhaps, one of the year’s more über-credible Number 1’s.

Most people forget that in the early 70’s Rod Stewart had two musical careers running simultaneously. Not only was he  solo artist in his own right, he was also lead singer for The Faces.

Whilst The Faces material was, by and large, “sloppy rock and roll” (magnificently done I might add), Rod’s own material was carefully crafted, produced and recorded. However, “You Wear it Well” appears to straddle both sensibilities, the keyboards and Rod’s careful lyrics noisily overwhelmed by Ronnie Wood’s fabulous guitar licks.

Rod, by himself, and with the Faces would continue to record and tour until 1975 when the band, citing the time-honoured tradition of “musical differences”, split up and everyone went separate ways. I think it was common knowledge that most members of the Faces held deep resentment for how Rod concentrated on his solo work.

Of all my minor musical “heroes” of the 70’s, Rod is the one who has really let me down the most. Whilst his whole ‘celebrity fixation” era – when he was with Britt Ekland and recorded things like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?“- merely amused me, I feel he eventually started to waste that great gritty voice he possesses, none moreso than with the recent ” Great American Songbook” series of albums.

Slade had a second 1972 Number 1 single with “Mama Weer All Crazee Now“, taken from their album “Slayed?“, often considered their greatest studio album.

Since 1972 this screamy rocker has been covered by such diverse acts as Quiet Riot, The Runaways and….. The James Last Orchestra!

Last covered it along with “Silver Machine“, “School’s Out“, “(The Theme from) Shaft” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll, Part 2” on his 1973 album “Non Stop Dancing ’73” which must’ve been the soundtrack to THE worst swinging party EVER?!

… [continued in Part 4]

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Number Ones of 1972 (Part 2)

… [continued from Part 1]

When the UK had ‘suffered’ enough Chicory Tip at Number One, it then propelled a peculiar love song to the top of the charts. 

Without You” was written and originally recorded by Badfinger, a band from Wales who were (somewhat inexplicably IMHO) signed to The BeatlesApple Records

The song was heard by John Lennon’s pal Harry Nilsson – who had already enjoyed chart success with “Everybody’s Talkin” in 1969 – who gave it a new lonely starkness to produce what some people might describe as a “timeless wedding day classic”.

I liked the song a lot more then than I do now. In between it seemed to feature in all my relationship woes of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, so perhaps it has just soured on me? I do know that I was horrified by this version by Mariah Carey, but I’ll admit she’s a lot better to look at than poor old Harry.

OK, now when I said I liked most of the Number 1’s of 1972 – or at least suggested I had an inkling of affection for them – there is one that is most definitely NOT included in that comment.

Now, I’m not a fan of the turgid religious yawn known as “Amazing Grace” at the best of times, but when it played by bagpipes I usually look for the nearest gun to shoot myself with.

I HATE bagpipes.

So for 5 weeks in 1972 I doubtless cut my recording of the Top 30 chart short whilst The Drums & Pipes & Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards‘ hideous interpretation of the song was Number 1. (I even feel as if I should apologise for including the link?!)

What do you have if you have the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards up to their neck in sand? Yep, not enough sand.

The wailing octopi were followed by yet another Number One hit for T.Rex, this time the magnificent “Metal Guru“, Bolan’s tribute to (in his words) “a god of no specific nature”.

Presumably one who sits in an armour plated chair and doesn’t have a telephone?

(The whole glam rock thing with Bolan, Bowie, The Sweet, Slade and… yes, even The Rubettes, deserves several posts all to itself… so anticipate my thoughts about it all sometime in the next few months)

With Chicory Tip having beaten his classic “American Pie” to Number 1, (despite my personal attempts to ensure everyone knew the lyrics) Don McLean followed it up with his strange ode to painter Van Gogh.

Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” is a lightweight fluffy pop song which contains the dubious refrain “This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you“… to which the painter could only have replied “PARDON?”

Trivia fact: Roberta Flack‘s 1974 hit “Killing me Softly with His Song” was written about Don McLean, specifically about a concert he played in LA in 1971. (If any readers win pub quizzes with this kind of material I expect my cut!)

We go from dreary old Don to screamy young Noddy.

Slade‘s “Take me Bak ‘Ome” – quite aside from sharing my own penchant for deliberate speling errors – was the second of Slade’s six number one singles in the UK. I’ve written about Slade before (an example here) and I guess I always had something of a soft spot for them.

Not as much as other people I went to school with though. It’s weird the things I can remember from my youth…..

In 1973, Slade’s drummer Don Powell was involved in a serious car crash in which his 20-year-old girlfriend was killed. Powell ended up with broken ribs, smashed ankles and other injuries including skull damage. He did eventually recover from the accident – for a few months he had to be lifted onto his drumkit for performances  – but it left him with no sense of taste or smell and severe short-term memory issues.

For whatever reason I was somehow amused by the fact that one of my schoolchums – I think his name was Robin? – told me he had sent Powell a “get well” card whilst the drummer was in hospital. Why I would remember that I have absolutely noidea, but whenever I see Slade on TV, video or the internet I am always reminded of it. Weird huh?

[continued in Part 3]….

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