Tag Archives: Nicky Chinn

Number One Singles of 1974 (Part 4)

[…”Number One Singles of 1974″ continued from Part 3]

Country singer John Denver ‘s first marriage was to Annie Martell from Minnesota.

In 1974 he purloined the main theme from the 2nd Movement of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5“, and wrote a set of words to go with it, the sum expressing his love for his wife. 

The subsequent “Annie’s Song” became a Number One hit single on both sides of the Atlantic. It is now regarded as a classic love song, and doubtless the scourge of many a wedding DJ.

John Denver’s popularity in the 70’s should never be underestimated, certainly in America where he is a considered more than just a pop culture icon. His song “Rocky Mountain High” is now one of the two official state songs of Colorado, whilst there are moves afoot to try to bestow “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with a similar honour for the state of West Virginia.

I’m not sure I was really ever aware of this song back in 1974. I think my first proper exposure to John Denver would have been his appearances on “The Muppet Show” which used to air on British TV at Sunday tea-time. Much later I was one of few who critically praised his performance as the ‘chosen one’ in Director Carl Reiner’s religious comedy “Oh God!“, even if he was acted off the screen by the superb George Burns!

Denver died in 1997, crashing his self-piloted (home-built, and experimentally-designed) plane on the Californian coast. In a rare tribute to a singer, the then Colorado governor ordered all state flags be half-staffed in Denver’s honour.

Trivia fans may wish to hang onto the notion that Denver was a fully trained astronaut. In 1986 he was lined up to become “the first civilian in space” on the Space Shuttle Challenger, a twist of fate keeping him out of the eventual crew of that tragic flight.

Sweet Sensation were an 8-piece British soul group from Manchester who first caught the public’s eye on the ITV talent show “New Faces“.

Their first single flopped but the follow-up, “Sad Sweet Dreamer“, reached Number 1 in the UK and Number 14 in the USA.

The band enjoyed one more minor hit single – “Purely by Coincidence” – in 1975 before disappearing into obscurity.

Somewhat bizarrely, lead singer Marcel King attempted a belated solo career – in 1985 – with the help of New Order‘s Bernie Sumner and A Certain Ratio‘s Donald Johnson. The resultant “Reach for Love” was a failure.

Ken Boothe ‘s “Everything I Own” was British reggae label Trojan‘s second Number One hit single. (The first was the superb “Double Barrel” by Dave & Ansel Collins)

Boothe had already enjoyed success in his home country of Jamaica, working with such reggae luminaries as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the Wailers, Keith Hudson and Alton Ellis, as well as releasing songs on the legendary Studio One label.

Everything I Own” was a shift away from his regular sound, and far more poppier and mainstream than he was known for. The song itself had already been a minor hit in the UK – in 1972 – for its writer David Gates who released it with his band, Bread.

Trivia fans may care to note that
a) Boothe sings the lyrics incorrectly throughout, crooning “Anything I Own” instead of “Everything I Own“, and
b) he is namechecked in the Clash song “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais

Given his popularity in the 70’s its a little surprising to realise that this is only the first mention of David Essex in this diary blog.

Gonna Make You a Star” was his first Number One, but he had already enjoyed chart success with “America“, “Lamplight” and the (yes, it’s another secret guilty pleasure) surreal but stunning “Rock On

With his boyish good looks, Essex was also enjoying stardom as a film actor, “That’ll be the Day” proving to have been a cinema hit in 1973, with “Stardust” – reprising his role as troubled rock star Jim Maclain – also becoming box office gold in 1974.

His apparent laid back and affable nature has continued to serve him well and, unlike many of his seventies peers, he has remained successful to the present day, still acting and recording albums for an appreciative and demographically diverse fan base.

Barry White (aka “The Sultan of Soul”, or rather less generously “The Walrus of Love”) was born in Texas but grew up in crime-ridden South L.A.

After a brief flirtation with crime, he got into songwriting, penning tunes for acts as diverse as Bobby Fuller and TV’s comedy act The Banana Splits

In 1963, he helped arranged Bob & Earl’s classic R&B hit “Harlem Shuffle” then worked as an A&R manager for Mustang/Bronco Records, to whom he signed (eventual) disco act Viola Wills.

1972 saw his first big commercial success, writing and producing the sexy soul classic “Walking in the Rain (With the One I Love)” for a girl group he had discovered called Love Unlimited. It would prove to be the first of many hits for the band and really kickstarted White’s career.

Whilst working on some demos White was persuaded to sing some vocals himself. The rest, as they say, is history. “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” was a debut smash hit, quickly followed by many others, establishing him as a crossover soul artist and ‘housewives favourite’ for years after. He would go on to sell over 100 million records worldwide. He died from complications following a stroke in 2003.

You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” was his pre-Christmas 1974 Number 1 hit. Somewhat astonishingly it was written some 21 years earlier as a country tune before Barry White souled it up with his distinctive deep voice and orchestral arrangement.

Back in Part 1 of this 4-piece diatribe I mentioned that although Mud had the biggest-selling UK single of 1974, they would have a much “bigger” single.  

Lonely this Christmas” would end up being their primary long-term contribution to British culture… mainly because it is trotted out every December for a whole new set of unwilling fans to enjoy. It has become, like a handful of other songs, an “annual fixture” of the pop firmament.

It’s OK, but I’ve never really cared for it that much if truth be told. It’s a terrible Elvis pastiche and WAY too maudlin for my liking.

All in all I think 1974 was a good year for songwriters Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman.  Three Number 1 hit singles (bringing their total to five) plus seven other high charting songs probably made them FAR from lonely at Christmas. If I sound jealous, it’s because I am.

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Number One Singles of 1974 (Part 1)

As I have mentioned before, the first two weeks of 1974 found Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” riding the crest of the UK singles chart. Quite the worthy achievement for a seasonal ditty.

By contrast, the most recent (2009) “Christmas Number One” (previously a massive badge of honour) – an offering from grunge-metallists Rage Against the Machine – couldn’t even stay there beyond a  single week, despite heaps of hype being lavished upon it. A sign at how far the music industry has changed since the last century and why, to be honest, I have a hard time getting ‘into it’ these days. 

Slade’s 1974 tenure at the top of the heap was finally usurped by the New Seekers with  You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me, a warbling lightweight pop song which gave the group their second UK number one. (Their first, EFA70’sTRO-documented here). 

The New Seekers were formed out of the ashes of the popular Australian folk combo The Seekers who, with sweet-voiced Judith Durham at the helm, enjoyed a string of nine HUGE hit singles in the 60’s including “A World of Our Own“, “The Carnival is Over“, “Morningtown Ride” and the title track to the movie “Georgy Girl” 

Given the ubiquity of the Beatles and the Stones people often overlook the harmonies and folk-pop stylings of the Seekers, but I personally feel their songs stand up with some of the very best the sixties had to offer. 

Melanie (Safka), whose songs would be hits for the New Seekers and... erm... The Wurzels

I think it’s fair to say that the New Seekers were nowhere in the same league, but they still enjoyed a string of successes in their own right, starting in 1970 with their cover of Melanie’s “What Have They Done to my Song, Ma” and including their 1972 Eurovision hit “Beg, Steal or Borrow“. 

“You Won’t Find….” would prove to be the New Seekers’ final Number One and they seemed to struggle with chart success after it. The band fractured internally – arguments over money forcing members to leave – and whilst it still exists (for touring purposes), the 2009 New Seekers bears little relation to the one that had the hits back in the seventies. 

Pop Songwriting duo Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (mentioned before in these hallowed pages) racked up their third Number One hit single with Tiger Feet by Mud, which – peculiarly – appears to have stood the test of time as a good-time ‘party record’ 

Mud formed back in 1968 and once toured as a support act to American crooner Jack Jones. They suffered years in the ‘pop wilderness’, releasing a succession of failed records. Then they met producer Mickie Most and signed to his RAK Records label, where they were introduced to Chinn & Chapman and had an almost immediate Top 20 success with “Crazy” 

The band adopted a mock “glam Teddy Boy” image and often created a silly dance to accompany many of their songs, the one for “Tiger Feet” (which can be seen in that 1974 Top of the Pops performance) no less irritating than any of the others. 

“Tiger Feet” would turn out to be the biggest-selling single of 1974, but it would not turn out to be Mud’s biggest song of the year… as a future EFA70’sTRO page will testify. 

Mud’s personable lead singer Les Gray succumbed to throat cancer in 2004. Drummer David Mount sadly committed suicide at the end of 2006, whilst bassist Ray Stiles joined (of all the bands you could possibly imagine) The Hollies – yes that Hollies – as a touring member. 

Kylie. Yes, I know, ANY excuse, right?

Trivia fans will doubtless already be aware that Mud’s somewhat effeminate and toussle-haired guitarist, Rob Davis, is now a succesful songsmith in his own right, having penned a handful of classic modern pop hits including Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” 

If they indeed possessed laurels Chinn & Chapman certainly didn’t sit on them. 

Their number one hit from Mud was followed by… a Chinn/Chapman-written number one hit from leather clad pop rocker Suzi Quatro. “Devil Gate Drive” was the second Quatro number one for the duo, the first, “Can the Can”, written about here 

The number one spot was then passed from one leather-clad rocker to another, although this new one snazzed it up with a diamond-crusted glove which he seemed to be permanently pointing at the camera! 

Alvin Stardust had already enjoyed a minor pop career back in the sixties – when he was known as Shane Fenton – but a leather ‘overhaul’ and new name (given to him, allegedly by Lord Levy, who owned Magnet Records) kickstarted everything again. 

Jealous Mind turned out to be Alvin’s only chart-topper, but his singing style – and unique way of holding the microphone – was parodied for years after. 

More recently Alvin (Do his friends know him as Alvin, Mr Stardust, Shane Fenton or Bernard… his real name?) he has moved – like many 70’s performers of his ilk – into musical theatre, starring in London West End shows such as “Godspell”, “David Copperfield” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” 

Paper Lace were a band from Nottingham who – like a few others in the 70’s – first found fame following an appearance on ITV’s talent show Opportunity Knocks (which I have talked about before

Billy Don’t Be a Hero was the band’s debut single, immediately topping the chart for three weeks. The band sadly missed out on capitalising on the song’s success in the USA, especially given its anti-Vietnam sentiment. Another group – Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods – released their version first, and enjoyed the BIG American hit (A Billboard #1 no less) with sales of Paper Lace’s completely cannibalised. 

Paper Lace enjoyed a couple more hit singles – “The Night Chicago Died” (which somewhat made up for their earlier failure, itself reaching Number 1 in the USA) and “The Black-Eyed Boys” – before falling off the public’s radar and disappearing into obscurity. 

[“Number One Singles of 1974” continues in Part 2…]

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Number One Singles of 1973 (Part 1)

Let’s do a little bit of pop remininscing about the UK’s Number One singles in 1973 shall we?…

Starting off with January to March…

Little Jimmy OsmondLong Haired Lover from Liverpool
I dismissed talked briefly about Little Jimmy’s novelty hit a year or so ago, it being a spill-over from enjoying “Number One at Xmas” status in 1972.

The Osmonds really were incredibly ubiquitous back then, their faces adorning the covers of every teen mag and daily newspapers. Hell, it seemed like they had a hit single every other week, either as a group, a brother/sister duo or solo.

I guess I can understand the girly teen appeal for Donny or one of his older brothers, and Marie had a certain mormon something-something about her… but Jimmy? C’mon people … (and I’m looking at all of you Grandma record buyers)… surely Jimmy was just a little fat kid with a squeaky ‘nothing’ voice wasn’t he? These days he wouldn’t get through round one of “X-Factor” or “America’s Got Talent“.

The SweetBlockbuster
I’m almost two years into this seventies blog and I’m amazed that there’s yet to be significant mention of the pop royalty known as The Sweet.

Thanks to the songwriting talents of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the band racked up no fewer than 13 hits singles in the seventies, with 5 of them reaching Number 2. “Blockbuster” was their sole Number One.

It wasn’t always like this. The songwriting team and the band fell out time and time again in the early 70’s, when the Sweet were being marketed (wrongly) as a UK version of the USA’s cartoon pop band The Archies. Songs like “Funny Funny” (a thinly-veiled knock-off of “Sugar Sugar“) and “Co-Co” highlighted the band’s harmonic strengths but failed miserably to convey what they were like live in concert; a much harder-hitting rock band.

Steve Priest - Then and... um... now

After Chinn & Chapman saw the band in concert they wrote them a whole new set of songs. Pop chuggers “Little Willy” and “Wig Wam Bam” paved the way a little, just a few months before the impact of “Blockbuster” and its air raid siren opening blast of energy. Suddenly The Sweet were a Glam band to be reckoned with, up there with the likes of Bolan, Bowie and Slade. Bassist Steve Priest used every Top of the Pops appearance to dress more and more outrageously, moving from simple long hair, to glitter filled locks, ludicrously tall platform boots, make-up and sparkly outfits, all topped with feather boas. He personified the phrase “showman”.

I’m sure there will be more mention of The Sweet as these diary blogs progress – even if it’s mere reference to the other fantastic hit singles they enjoyed in forthcoming months.

SladeCum On Feel the Noize
You had to go back to 1969 to find the last single that went straight in at Number One on the charts. That was The Beatles “Get Back

“Cum On Feel the Noize” entered at the top slot and went on to spend four weeks there. No mean feat and tribute to Noddy Holder & Co’s popularity at the time.

It wouldn’t be Slade’s last Number 1 of the year, as you will find out in the next few days blog posts.

Donny OsmondTwelfth of Never
See what I mean? We barely blinked and there’s another bloody Osmond at Number One!

On a recent BBC programme, Donald Clark Osmond (for that is his real name) traced his family ancestry back to Wales. That explains a lot.

Let’s face it ladles and jellyspoons, the Osmonds were about one single and one single ONLY… the magnificent, timeless Crazy Horses!

[“Number One Singles of 1973” continues in Part II…]

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