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…]