Tag Archives: Billboard Magazine

August 9th 1975

“Dixons. Gave in notice. Bloke gave me SME headshell. Played new LPs in evening. Fairport Convention – great. Pete Wingfield – Good. Alex Harvey – not good on first listen”

So, Dixons lost the best hi-fi salesman they ever employed. In entirely unconnected news, I resigned from Dixons.

My final day of standing doe-eyed under the blisteringly hot spotlights in the department (not really knowing what the hell I was doing) did offer me an unexpected bonus with a grateful customer gifting me an SME headshell for my record deck. As I recall, installing it really DID make a difference to the sound, those collection of holes evidently an intelligent design tweak. I can remember hanging onto this headshell for the longest time, transferring it from deck to deck as my hi-fi habit grew in the ensuing years. So, thank you nameless stranger!

It looks like I spent my last day’s Dixon’s earnings on some new tuneage… most probably from Francis Records using my newly restored staff discount…

Let it be known that I REALLY don’t care for Fairport Convention. Folk/Rock – as their genre is often described – invariably leaves me stone cold, and all that plinking and plonking (plus the peculiar habit of artists sticking their finger in their ear to sing) often grates.

However, “Rising for the Moon” wasn’t a straightforward folk album (which is why I was drawn to it) the band eschewing their roots and instead performing a collection of songs that veered closer to acoustic rock than anything else. Think “Cat Stevens” rather than “The Dubliners”.

Despite Sandy Denny’s wibbly-wobbly vocal style I liked the title track in particular and held onto this LP for years afterwards before eventually falling out of favour with its content. When I was intrigued enough to listen to it again it proved quite the elusive item and – to be honest – haven’t bothered since. Maybe I should see if I like it better as a 52-year-old farty than as a spotty teenager?

Pete Wingfield is perhaps the ultimate One-Hit Wonder, his “18 with a Bullet” as fantastic a perfect pop song now as it was when it was released back in 1975.

I would certainly have bought “Breakfast Special” on the strength of that hit – not the first time I would have succumbed to the brilliance of one single and splashed out on the accompanying album. However, unlike many other occasions this would be one where I would not be let down by the other cuts.

“Breakfast Special” is – at least in my opinion – an overlooked pop masterpiece, chocked full of superb and sublimely catchy tunes and easily as good as anything (the likes of ) 10cc were putting out at that time. Check out “Whole Pot of Jelly” and “Shadow of a Doubt” for proof!

Thankfully, Wingfield’s career has not been limited to the proceeds from his one solitary hit single – which ironically landed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at… erm, Number 18. He’s played with the likes of BB King, The Everly Brothers, Van Morrison, The Hollies and Paul McCartney, and has produced seminal albums such as Dexy Midnight Runners’ “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”, The Kane Gang’s “Bad & Lowdown World” and The Proclaimers’ “Sunshine on Leith”. He has also written smash hit singles for others, including Olivia Newton-John’s “Making a Good Thing Better” and The Pasadenas’ “Tribute (Right On)”

It’s a shame that his public persona is limited that one song but better to be known for one thing than no thing I suppose? As a treat here’s a BLISTERINGLY fine reggae version of “18 with a Bullet” by Derrick Harriot on the ever-reliable Trojan Records label in 1975. I didn’t discover it until several years later but adore it almost as much as the original…

My diary has retrospectively embarrassed me many times before, and will doubtless do it many times again.

This is one of those times. To deem the SAHB’s “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” as “not good” is nothing short of a travesty and I herewith apologise.

As a forthcoming diary entry will report though, all is not lost!

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July 24th 1973

“Went to get £3.50 from the Halifax – difficult job. Went up Trev’s for the day and borrowed Fragile, Dark Side of the Moon + Greasy Truckers Party”

I wonder why it would have been difficult for me to have withdrawn £3.50 from the Halifax? Perhaps it threatened to bring down the entire UK banking system?

Both Yes’ “Fragile” and the live compilation album “Greasy Truckers Party” have been commented on in these pages before. The only thing I find odd is why I would have borrowed them both again – as those previous entries would seem to suggest I had already committed them to tape. Maybe I was forced to ration my own C-90’s, taping over recordings on more of a regular basis than I would have (probably) liked?

I’m not sure what I can add by way of online comments to the third album I refer to in today’s diary entry… but why don’t I give it a shot?…

Who, in 1973, could have predicted what Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” would achieve over the next 35+ years in terms of sales and/or influence?

Music industry figures suggest that this 1973 album has sold in excess of 45 million copies worldwide since its release. That’s Forty-Five MILLION copies!

At it’s time of release I guess it was relatively unique, most certainly in terms of its packaging.

Once again – just as they did with Floyd’s prior “Atom Heart Mother” and “Meddle” – Hipgnosis design founders Storm Thorgeson & Aubrey Powell conjured up something special. George Hardie was actually the artist who came up with the (now iconic beyond belief) prism cover, a design that, apparently, was ‘merely’ one of at least ten presented to the band for their eventual approval. (I wonder if we will ever see the nine rejected ideas?)

The album sleeve opened up to reveal how the prism’s light source had morphed into “heartbeat” soundwaves, accompanied by song lyrics. The prism design was repeated (but reversed) on the rear of the sleeve, specifically, it has been suggested – and this was a masterful decision if true – to enable record stores to display visually-impressive continuous lines of the album in their storage racks.

To complete the packaging, Thorgeson and Co included not just a pair of fold out posters inside the sleeve (both destined for dorm roon walls across the world ad infinitum), but also a pair of small peel-back (crackback) stickers depicting the prism/pyramid theme.

Pink Floyd’s name is mentioned nowhere except on the “concert” poster. Just as with their prior albums EMI hated this notion, but were forced to accept it as part of their contractual agreement with the band.

To say this album pushed Floyd into the musical stratosphere is something of an understatement. Sure, the band had enjoyed commercial success – of a kind – with “Meddle“, but DSOTM took them to an entirely different level altogether.

The cut “Money” was released as a single in the USA reaching #13 in the Billboard charts, propelling sales of the album beyond the band’s wildest dreams. (No singles were released in the UK).

It was the #1 album in America for – and this seems astonishing now – just ONE solitary week in April 1973, BUT then remained in the Billboard “Hot 200″ for 741 consecutive weeks thereafter (that’s 14 years and 3 months) before sales rules were changed and it was ‘demoted’ (stupidly in my opinion) to no more than a ‘back catalogue” album. Even now, some 26 years after its release, its estimated that it sells almost 10,000 copies a week in the USA alone. There are artists out there who would probably donate a body part for sales like that per ANNUM, let alone per week.

Not bad for a concept album about mental illness and what makes us mad.

I’ve listened to the album WAY too many times to even begin to remember what I might have initially thought about it in July 1973. (Not – as most of you will have come to realise – there’s much of a chance I would have remembered anyway, but you know what I mean)

There’s no doubting how much of a musical classic it is, even if parts of it have begun to grate on me over the years. “Money” is, sadly for me, another of those played-too-often-in-rotation cuts on “Classic Rock” stations across the entire USA… to such a degree that I am now heartily sick of hearing it. Also, and perhaps sacrilegiously for some, “Great Gig in the Sky” has always appeared somewhat ‘dirge’-like to me. When I used to play the vinyl, I would always listen to it, but when I got the album on CD it was a track I would invariably skip. (Now, I don’t think I even have the cut on my i-Pod?)

Like a lot of other people though it’s an album I wouldn’t want to be without. I’ve almost lost count of how many copies I’ve owned since that (doubtless recorded) tape version in 1973. Several vinyl copies, a legal cassette version for the car and almost every CD issue and reissue. It’s almost impossible to calculate how many babies might have been conceived – or virginities might have been taken – or plans may have been hatched – to the aural sounds of this album, but I bet the figures are staggering. It’s just one of “those” albums that everybody has and thinks they should have.

I wish I had one tenth of one tenth of half the royalties/residuals Roger Waters receives every quarter for sales of – and to give it’s full and PROPER title… which not everyone realises – The Dark Side of the Moon

Finally, for this lengthy post… some Dark Side of the Moon irrelevant trivia…
• The album was originally going to be entitled “The Dark Side of the Moon” until Floyd and EMI realised that the band Medicine Head had just released an album of the same name. Waters retitled the album “Eclipse” but it was swapped back to TDSOTM when the Medicine Head album disappeared without trace in terms of sales or recognition.
• Wings’ guitarist Henry McCullough supplied the spoken line “I dunno, I was really drunk at the time”, whilst actress Naomi Watts’ dad was one of the insane chucklers during “Brain Damage” and “Speak to Me
• Some of the early profits from the album were used to help make the movie masterpiece “Monty Python & the Holy Grail
• Yes – and perhaps predictably – my wife and I have attempted the “Dark Side of the Rainbow” phenomenon which suggests that the album’s core concepts and lyrics line up perfectly as a mildly head-tripping soundtrack to the movie “The Wizard from Oz“. You need to try the experiment yourself and decide whether it works or not.

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July 2nd, 1973

“Went up Nigs and done some more recording. Mart P came up. Borrowed Led Zep II”

OK, lets have ‘confession time” shall we?

Despite all my early love for music and my subsequent career within its hallowed portals, I never really “got into” Led Zeppelin until fairly recently – maybe just a couple of years or so ago.

Certainly as a teenager I never fully appreciated what they represented, either in terms of the folk/rock hybrid sound they pushed into the mainstream OR how just, well, massive they were as a band.

I don’t know if my diaries will mention or admit this, but a couple of years after this first exposure to the band, I got a ticket for one of the shows Zepp did at London’s Earls Court to support their album “Physical Graffiti“. I think I was happy to sell the ticket to a fellow student for the same price I bought it for. That seems just so very CRAZY now given the price tickets were allegedly being scalped for at the band’s 2007 ¾’s of a reunion concert at the O2. (Reports of £20,000 being offered for a £70-ish ticket??)

Anyway, back to “Zeppelin II”…

It was the band’s first UK & US chart-topper (and America it knocked The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” off the #1 spot) and sold over half a million copies in its first year of release, 1969. (30 years later it was recognised for having then sold over 12 million!). It was also a Number One album in France, Australia, Spain and Germany.

Trivia freaks may like to be surprised by the fact that it reached #32 on Billboard‘s Black Album chart, its use of a blues-derived sound evidently crossing over.

The album has what is often referred to a ‘live studio’ feel, everything mixed just enough to make it sound raw but nevertheless produced (by Jimmy Page)

It contains some of the band’s most popular and enduring cuts… as well the pre-requisite ‘filler’

Whole Lotta Love” kicks things off nicely, the familiar distorted guitar riff disolving into Robert Plant’s orgasmic grunts and moans. The band (initially) *ahem* “borrowed” some of Willie Dixon‘s “You Need Love”  to pad out the lyrical content. (A 1985 settled-out-of-court lawsuit eventually gave Dixon credit – and, I suspect, suitable retrospective monetary recompense). The song was the theme music for seminal UK music show “Top of the Pops” during the 1970’s and 80’s.

What Is and What Should Never Be” features Page’s phased guitar (listen to it travel from speaker to speaker!) under Robert Plant’s own lyrics (his first piece of songwriting for the band, no less)

The Lemon Song* was a teenage fave of many, its sexual innuendo evident with lyrics such as “squeeze my lemon ’til the juice runs down my leg”. Whilst I liked that, obviously – hey, I was a teenager okay? – I was as much of a fan of John Paul Jones’ extremely funky bass playing that underscores the performance.

Thank You*closes Side 1. I know it features mainly keyboard work (John Paul Jones, again), but its not a cut that conjures up anything for me personally, other than that one point where the (Hammond?) organ fades away to almost nothing than comes crashing back a few seconds later.

Side 2’s opener “Heartbreaker*features a Jimmy Page guitar solo which has been voted the world’s “16th Greatest” by Guitar World magazine. Personally, I find the actual song’s riff to be more magnificent than the solo.. but that’s just me, obviously.

Heartbreaker segues straight into “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)*which is allegedly about a groupie the band encountered earlier in their career. A so-so track as far as I am concerned.

Things get better with “Ramble On*which despite its dodgy & nonsensical “Lord of the Rings”-influenced lyrics just manages to stay the right side of credible. I try and ignore them and instead concentrate on the wonderfully jangly guitar work.

Moby Dick” is an instrumental and more famous as a live favourite moreso than a studio cut. Mainly because it often allowed for John Bonham’s ‘drum excesses’ with some reports suggesting he could solo for up to 20 minutes at some shows. I’m sorry, but drum solos – even ones by Keith Moon – are the ‘music of the debbil’ and should be banned.

There’s similar “Whole Lotta Love” controversy surrounding Led Zepp 2’s closing cut, “Bring It On Home“. Although originally billed as a unique Plant/Page composition it borrows heavily from Willie Dixon’s song of the same name, and originally made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson. Once again, it took a lawsuit for Dixon to get proper credit. The song is perhaps closer to the material on Led Zeppelin’s debut album than anything else on “II” – that crossover blues/rock hybrid to the fore.

Pub quizzers may like to know that in addition to the band members airbrushed into that tinted cover shot (originally Manfred Von Richtofen’s – the Red Baron‘s – WW1 “Flying Circus” division of the German Air Force), the other faces seen include Led Zepp’s (infamous) manager, Peter Grant, bluesman Blind Willie Johnson and, for whatever reason, Glynis Johns (the actress who played the mother in Mary Poppins!)

But, like I said – and a few chosen cuts aside – I didnt really get ‘into’ this album until MUCH later in life. Perhaps in 1973, it just wasn’t ‘prog’ enough for me, or I was just too young to properly appreciate all the influences?

*NB:- At the time of witing this there seems to be some kind of ‘issue’ between Warner Bros/Led Zeppelin & YouTube, with the latter apparently pulling any videos featuring the band themself. There’s PLENTY of awful cover versions of these songs – search them very much at your own risk!

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