Tag Archives: Lieutenant Pigeon

Telly in 1973 (Part IV)

[…continued from Part III]

Nowadays it seems as if every successful TV detective has to have a quirk or a habit to separate them from the ‘ordinary’… Veronica Mars is a teenager, House is (essentially) a medical detective, in Lie to Me Tim Roth plays a ‘mannerism specialist’, Dexter is a serial killer, Monk suffers from O.C.D. and Rosemary & Thyme are…. erm… gardeners.

In 1973 the most extreme thing about the cops shows we watched was that… the crimes were solved in Holland!

Van Der Valk was a huge hit TV series that ran for five years in the UK. I was hooked on it.

It starred Barry Foster as gritty Dutch detective Commissaris Piet Van Der Valk. The stories were all based in Amsterdam and revolved around sex, drugs, smuggling and murder.

The oft-gruesome storyline was always contrasted by the visuals of the show, which were stunningly beautiful. The location shots of Amsterdam – with its lovely rivers, barges and quaint little balanced bridges – stayed with me long after the show finished.

What has stayed with me longer however is the show’s theme tune, a magnificent earworm of a song entitled “Eye Level” by the Simon Park Orchestra. It sold over a million copies, reached Number 1 in the UK charts, and stayed there for four weeks in 1973.

It’s such an earworm of a tune, and so synonymous with the show, that when my wife & I were lucky enough to visit Amsterdam a couple of years ago I (sadly for her) spent much of the stay wandering the streets whistling it out loud. I’m sure I won’t have been the first Brit to do that… and I know I won’t be the last!

 Anyone who thinks that “X-Factor” or “America’s Got Talent” is an original TV concept obviously isn’t old enough to remember ITV’s talent show “New Faces” which ran for five years from 1973.

New Faces featured a presenter – Derek Hobson – and an industry/celebrity panel of judges who graded each wannabe performer in three categories; Presentation, Content and (importantly) Star Quality. The winners each week went through to the next round, pitting themselves against other successes until there was a series winner via a grand finale. (Sound familiar Susan Boyle?)

The snarky “Simon Cowell” of New Faces was songwriter Tony Hatch (who wrote many of Petula Clark‘s hits, the theme to soap opera “Crossroads” and was responsible for kick starting David Bowie‘s career). Just like Cowell he was considered ‘mean’ by the audience, especially when, during one memorable episode, he gave a particularly poor blues guitarist zero out of 10 in every category. One person’s ‘mean’ is another person’s ‘honesty’ I guess?

The show did give an important break to a variously-talented selection of performers. Comedians Lenny Henry, Joe Pasquale, Roy Walker and Victoria Wood all impressed the judges, likewise musical artists Showaddywaddy, Fivepenny Piece and Patti Boulaye.

Acts which the public subsequently probably wished hadn’t become stars include sad alcoholic ‘entertainer’ Michael Barrymore, the slapstick moronity of The Chuckle Brothers, average all-rounder screecher Marti Caine and hideously-racist comedian Jim Davidson.

One act which fell through the cracks – and astonishingly failed in his quest for stardom – is Stevie Riks, someone whom I have only recently become familiar with thanks to his relative ubiquity on YouTube. Riks is a – to me anyway – hysterical musical impressionist, specialising in sending up acts such as Bowie, Freddie Mercury, the Bee Gees and all of the Beatles. His low definition impressions are often grotesque but his mannerisms are always right on the money.

More recently Riks’ YouTube videos have become the subject of ludicrous”copyright restrictions” by (humourless) record labels and publishers, so they’re a little harder to find than they were, but searching his name will usually give everyone some funny clips to laugh (some really out loud) at.

A particular favourite of mine is this one, Riks doing Freddie Mercury singing Lieutenant Pigeon’s ‘classic’ “Mouldy Old Dough

I seem to remember New Faces being on around Saturday teatime? Was it 6 o’clock? Hardly prime time is it? Not like now, where (so-called) ‘talent shows’ invade our eyeballs with increasing regularity, the law of diminishing returns providing us with progressively average ‘stars’

Well, here endeth my personal dissertation about English telly in 1973. 

Due to the the risk of possibly boring you all, I deliberately avoided talking about another (particularly guilty) pleasure of mine from the time; “Man About the House“. I will say this… it’s difficult, now, to imagine this show creating a public scandal. But that’s what it did back then…. because of its storyline of a bloke living with (but not married to either) two women.

It’s not as if it was ever pornographic. Paula Wilcox in a négligée (and at – quite possibly – the very height of her youthful beauty) excepted

The next few posts should return to my diary entries.. that is at least before I go off on any other ’73-centric tangents!

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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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