Tag Archives: RAK Records

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 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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