Tag Archives: Northern Ireland

Number One Singles of 1973 (Part 2)

[… “Number One Singles of 1973” continued from Part I]

April to June

 Gilbert O’SullivanGet Down
I wrote a little bit about Gilbert during my pieces on Number One Singles of 1972 a year ago

Here’s a piece of trivia that people may not be aware of. Gilbert is wholly responsible for the ongoing necessity of current day artists – mostly hip hop & rap artists – to obtain proper and legal clearances of any samples that they use in their songs.

The is came about because in 1991 O’Sullivan successfully sued rapper Biz Markie over his decision to use a sample of “Alone Again (Naturally)” without asking for the right to do so. The lawsuit and subsequent ruling – all copies of his album “I Need a Haircut” pulled from stores – managed to undermine Markie’s short and long-term music career

DawnTie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree
This song represents a profitable example of “cashing in” on a trend.

Tying a yellow ribbon on clothes – as an act of remembrance to spouses away in the military – is a practise that dates back to the 19th century. Why yellow? Well, it was the then official insignia colour of the cavalry.

In 1917 a military marching song “Round her Neck she Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (later truncated to “(She Wore a) Yellow Ribbon” became a popular hit, which then morphed into the title (and theme tune) of a 1949 John Ford-directed movie starring John Wayne. (The lyrics changed to match the movie’s story)

In 1971 a newspaper columnist wrote an article about some college students who befriended an recently-released convict who was looking for a yellow handkerchief tied around a roadside oak tree to signify where his family were living.

In 1972 the (apparently) heart-warming story was reprinted in Readers Digest and had been turned into a TV drama starring James Earl Jones.

Two songwriters later filed copyright for a song entitled “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree“.

A year later the song was recorded and released by Tony Orlando‘s Dawn, selling a whopping 3 million copies worldwide in less than a month!

In the early 80’s – when American diplomats were being held hostage in Iran – the song’s popularity returned and both it and the yellow ribbon concept remain part of the American culture throughout the current overseas ‘conflict’

I’ve always found the song to be mawkish. Mawkish and sentimentally horrible. This version (Note: NSFW) – by The Asylum Street Spankers – is much better, taking the piss out of those Americans generally too damned lazy to even use a real ribbon!

WizzardSee My Baby Jive
Wizzard were formed by Roy Wood after he fell out with the Electric Light Orchestra‘s Jeff Lynne.

Whilst Lynne‘s music would take a decidedly “prog-rock-esque’ route (culminating, conversely in the star-studded Traveling Wilburys project), Wood’s took a detour into Glam Pop notoriety.

Wearing a painted face, wild wigs and outrageously colourful outfits (and backed by band members dressed as gorillas or angels) Wood’s first success with Wizzard was “Ball Park Incident” early in 1973.

“See My Baby Jive” was the big one though. Based on producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound recording style, its grandiose concept took it to the Number One slot for four weeks, assuring Wood a place in pop history.

Trivia freaks may like to know that Abba acknowledged “See My Baby Jive” as an influence when they recorded their debut single, a little ditty entitled “Waterloo” – a song which will no doubt feature in next year’s diary entries!

On a personal note, my mate Malc and I had a strange “celebrity” moment back in the early 90’s. We had flown to Orlando for a couple of weeks in the Floridian sun and were in line at the airport waiting to collect our hire car. In front of us in the queue, sporting ‘large hair’ and a thick Birmingham accent was… Roy Wood! I had to hold myself back from muttering “See my Baby Drive” out loud

Suzi QuatroCan the Can
“Can the Can” was the second Number One single of the year written by songwriters Nicky Chinn & Mike Chapman (The Sweet’s “Blockbuster” was the first, written about yesterday)

Detroit’s Suzi Quatro moved to the UK in 1971 after being discovered by RAK Records owner Mickie Most. Her first release for his label – “Rolling Stone” – was a major flop (except, strangely, in Portugal where it got to Number 1!), which was when Most hooked her up with the “Chinnichap” partnership.

“Can the Can” was the result and thanks to Suzi leather-clad glam-friendly look it reached the Number 1 slot and kick-started a career that continues to thrive. She branched out into acting (most notably as Leather Tuscadero to Henry Winkler’s Fonz on TV’s “Happy Days“), voice over work and, more recently, radio presenting on the BBC.

All from a lyric suggesting “Put Your Man in the can, honey, get him while you can“. Ohhhhh-Kayyyyy?!

10ccRubber Bullets
The 4 musicians who made up 10cc had built quite a substantial musical pedigree before they got together in the early 1970’s…

Lol Creme and Kevin Godley were once primed to be marketed as the UK’s answers to Simon & Garfunkel, each having achieved minor success in bands like the Mockingbirds and The Sabres.

Eric Stewart was a member of Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders (when Fontana left, simply The Mindbenders) who had a Number 1 hit in 1965 with “The Game of Love“, later “A Groovy Kind of Love” as well as appearing as themselves in the 1967 movie “To Sir with Love“.

Graham Gouldman was a respected songwriter having penned hits for The Yardbirds (“For Your Love“), Herman’s Hermits (“Listen People“) and The Hollies (“Bus Stop“)

Until 1972, their careers had always crisscrossed one another (Gouldman briefly joining Stewart in The Mindbenders for example) until noted American bubblegum-pop writer/producers Kasenkatz/Katz brought them together under a UK studio project called Super K Productions.

Amongst the minor successes at this time were Ohio Express’ “Sausalito”, Crazy Elephant’s “There Ain’t No Umbopo” and (French Number 1) Freddie & the Dreamers’ “Susan’s Tuba“.

When the Studio K project lost steam the four morphed into Hotlegs, supported The Moody Blues in tour and enjoyed a hit single with “Neanderthal Man

In what was then a major career boost they produced and played on two Neil Sedaka albums before deciding to, again, become a ‘pop group’. They played some demos to pop entrepreneur Jonathan King who loved the sound (especially a parody called “Donna“) and immediately signed them to his own UK Records label.

“Donna” became a Number 2 hit in 1972, “Johnny Don’t Do It” followed before they attained the Number One slot with “Rubber Bullets”.

“Rubber Bullets” was a simple parody of “Jailhouse Rock” but it attracted a certain level of controversy because rubber bullets were being employed in Northern Ireland to quell rioting… so a dunce’s corner of the press wrote up 10cc as somehow “glorifying violence”. (I think its fair to say that the media has always needed to “sell newspapers” so any controversy – no matter if its manufactured nonsense – is “good controversy” as far as they are concerned)

10cc’s career was off and running. Things – as they say – would only get bigger and better for them

 SladeSkweeze Me Pleezee Me
I have to state that “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me” ranks amongst my least favourite Slade singles.

It almost sounds as if Noddy & Co were merely “going through the motions” with this song, doubtless buoyed by – and maybe taking for granted? – the success they had already enjoyed in the previous two years; 7 hit singles, including 4 number ones.

This was their fifth Number 1. However, their ultimate moment was still to come!

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

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News in 1973 (III)

[… “News in 1973” continued from part II]

The IRA Bombing Campaign

Flashback to January 1972: In Derry, Northern Ireland, a civil rights march turned into bloodshed after members of the British Army opened fire and killed 14 protesters, severely injuring 29 others.

Seven of the 14 were teenagers. Many witnesses later testified that all of those shot were unarmed and some were even shot in the back.

This incident, first called “the Bogside Massacre” but now culturally referred to as “Bloody Sunday“, only served to fuel the nasty conflict between the UK authorities and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

A conflict with roots in “the troubles” that started back in the late 60’s, the principal issue of which was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the subsequent … erm… ‘strained’ relationship between the mainly-Protestant Unionist and mainly-Catholic Nationalist communities.

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday investigations and tribunals were held which seemed to clear the British Army of all wrongdoing. This was considered a “whitewash” verdict which, along with the killings themselves, significantly boosted recruitment into the IRA, their numbers swelled by the addition of new terrorist cells intent to exact revenge.

On 8th March 1973, the IRA conducted its first major bombing campaign on the UK mainland, planting 4 car bombs in London. Two of the four successfully exploded, one outside the Old Bailey and the other at the Army Recruiting Office near Trafalgar Square. One person was killed and almost 200 more were injured.

It didn’t end there.

On 8th September a bomb went off at Victoria Station in London.

On 10th September, more bombs explode at a pair of Underground stations and two days later further blasts rip apart both Sloan Square and Oxford Street in the capital.

The IRA claimed responsibility for all of the bombs. Their plan was to create a climate of fear over a sustained period and I think its fair to say they succeeded, even if their actions gave them no sympathy votes from the general public living on the mainland.

I think its equally fair to say that most people did not really have a clue what the ‘troubles’ were really all about and, even if they did, found it hard to accept that religious differences were the apparent basis for most of what was going on. Personally, I never understood the issues on either side either – which is probably why I never felt it necessary to comment on the bombings in my 1973 diary (and London was ‘far enough away not to cause that much worry I suppose?) – until quite recently. Without trying to stir up more controversy I can only conclude that – like most wars – this was simply (someone’s) God playing with his damned joystick again.

A certain intolerance – on both sides of the religious/political fence – resulted in 36 bombs in London in 1973 and the death or maiming of hundreds of innocent people.

1974 (and beyond) had – sadly – far more horrors waiting.

[“News in 1973” continues in Part IV…]

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