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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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Iiiiittttt’s Chriiiiissssttttmaaas!

Not in 1974.

Now.

Merry Christmas Everybody…. hope you’re having fun

Excerpts from a Teenage Rock Opera – currently phaffing its way through 1974 – will return after the holidays.

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(1974 Albums) Mott the Hoople – The Hoople

1974 was quite the year for Mott the Hoople.

Flush from the band’s single success in 1972 with the Bowie-penned “All the Young Dudes“, Mott had already enjoyed follow-up hits with songs like “Honaloochie Boogie” and “All the Way from Memphis“.

(Not before Mott had turned down another offered song from Bowie though… a certain little ditty entitled “Drive-In Saturday“)

Late 1973 saw the band having to live up to a “glam” moniker that they were never really happy to embrace. They were always lumped in with the likes of Slade, T.Rex and the plethora of bubblegum glam bands who filled the charts in the early 70’s and this only served undermine the stronger songs the band put out. (If Mott were considered “glam” I’ve always questioned why Deep Purple were never tarred with the same brush?… big hair, satin trousers, slightly androgynous appearance etc)

Tensions in the group began to surface, various members leaving and joining well into 1974,  the most notable of which was when Bowie’s guitarist Mick Ronson replaced Ariel Bender.

Despite all this, and at the start of 1974, Mott issued what was (and is) for me their finest album… even if other fans disagree with me, often citing it as uneven and “too much Hunter, no Mick Ralphs”. (Ralphs had left the band following the release of the previous album, “Mott”, leaving Hunter as the prime songwriter)

The Hoople kicks off with a spoken word intro into “The Golden Age of Rock & Roll” a celebration to the band’s craft which goes out of its way to suggest Hunter was giving more than just a cursory nod to the style their famous benefactor had offered them with “All the Young Dudes”. Other than the gregarious boogie-woogie piano, the song structure with its brass elements and guitar riffs could most certainly have come from Bowie’s pen.

Mick Ralphs, later of Bad Company

Marionette” remains one of my very favourite non-single Mott songs. It’s an ambitious dig at rock & roll management and how they always try and manipulate artists to do what they want rather than what the artist wants to do themselves. Lyrically it’s admittedly a bit suspect, but the song itself thunders across your eardrums from the get-go, going off on several rhythmic (almost operatic) twists and turns on the way. The manic laughter halfway through never fails to slightly un-nerve me.

Those pair of adrenaline-infused numbers then morph into “Alice” a pretty standard ‘rock song’ about a New York hooker which is saved from obscurity ( at least for me) by the lyrically-wonderful chorus of
Alice you remind me of Manhattan,
the seedy and the snaz,
the shoe boys and the satin

The listener is quickly revived by “Crash Street Kidds” a fierce guitar-riff led rocker, albeit one with a silly and somewhat unnecessary ‘false ending’ after just a few minutes and the questionable ‘dalek-voice’ ending

Born Late ’58” is the only song on The Hoople not written by Ian Hunter. Pete ‘Overend’ Watts’ tale of escaping a one-night stand with an underage teen “jailbaiter” is infused with a guitar riff to die for, some fabulous boogie-woogie piano (a Mott trademark) and just rocks and rocks

Trudi’s Song” is Hunter’s soppy little tribute to his wife, replete with a Bowie-esque “woah-oh” opening and a song structure that somehow reminds you of many other ballads, not least of which is Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe“. It seems heartfelt enough though.

Pearl’n’Roy (England)” has apparently become something of  Mott “classic” over the years. Personally I’m a little at odds with this. It’s a good little rocker packed with good moments and I think it fits into The Hoople’s line-up of songs wonderfully, but if I were to hear it out of context I would consider it average.

For me, the worst song on the album is “Through the Looking Glass“. It feels like Hunter channeling Bowie again.. and failing miserably. It’s certainly not helped by its weak symphonic structure, electronic string section and Ian’s peculiar vocal phrasing.

Clutching victory from potential defeat however is the album’s closer, the utterly magnificent “Roll Away the Stone“. The album version is different from the single release which had already been a hit in 1973, Mick Ralphs guitar contribution having been replaced by Ariel Bender’s. Admittedly there’s not much to pick between the two, however trivia freaks may care to know that the vocal bridge on the album version (the “well I got my invite” lyric) is spoken by none other than waif-like 70’s folk-pop singer/songwriter Lynsey De Paul

So, The Hoople starts well, ends well and only has couple of dodgy tracks along the way. As I said I know many people prefer the previous year’s “Mott” album, but for me “The Hoople” triumphs.

The album went to #11 on the UK chart and #28 on the American chart.

A live Mott the Hoople album was also released in 1974. Ironically, its release coincided with the announcement that the band had broken up. Mick Ronson collaborated with Hunter on his follow-up solo projects and the pair continued to work together on and off right up until Ronson’s untimely death in 1993.

Here in 2009, and Ian Hunter already having celebrated his 70th birthday (yes, really), the band reformed – for the first time in all these years – to play three sold out “40th Anniversary” concerts at London’s Hammersmith  pre=”Hammersmith “>Odeon (I refuse to call it the “HMV Hammersmith Apollo” unless I can do so derogatively).

I will settle for having seen the band play at the Southampton Guildhall in 1974. As if to horrify myself however – and my readers – I recall that I was actually more impressed with the support band Sailor than I was with Mott and… left the gig early. (Yes, I may need shooting)

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January 7th 1974

“Berfday. Got lamp, pygamas, £2 from Mormor – bought Stranded – Roxy – Smart!”

So the wild and crazy out-of-control teenager turns 16 and celebrates with … erm… some pyjamas (mis-spelled), a lamp (a lamp??) and a couple of quid from his Danish grandmother.

However, it seems like I made up for it a little later in the day, treating myself to the merest glimpse of Marilyn Cole’s nipples….erm, I mean Roxy Music’s third album, Stranded

Stranded was the group’s first album without Brian Eno, he and Bryan Ferry having fallen out over who was really ‘leading’ the band. With all due respect to Eno, I do feel as though the ‘better man won’ in that regard. Ferry is a stylish crooner in comparison to Brian’s somewhat grotesque “Addams Family” appearance and thin vocals.

(In time, Eno would turn out to be a MUCH bigger hero of mine than Ferry, but we’ll save my feelings on that until reference to him appears in my diary pages)

To enter the grooves of  Stranded one must first get by the striking cover art. Another Anthony Price photo shoot, another superb piece of glamorous titillation. Despite coming from Portsmouth in England, model Marilyn Cole grew up to be a very attractive woman indeed. She was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in January 1972 (indeed, hers was the first full frontal centrespread to appear in the magazine) as well as Playmate of the Year in 1973.

Although dating Bryan Ferry at the time of the photo shoot (but not by the time of the album’s release), it is alleged she was *ahem* actively pursued by Playboy boss Hugh Hefner but ended up marrying the then head of the organisation’s London operations (and renowned playboy in his own right) Victor Lownes.

 

Lucky blighter that Victor!

No Eno. Jobson!

Back to the album itself, which kicks off with “Street Life“, the only cut released as a single (reaching #9 on the UK Singles chart in November 1973). Moody atmospheric electronics start the track off, before it kicks into overdrive, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the “ghost of Eno” was still amongst the group. His place in the group had been taken by Eddie Jobson, a multi-instrumentalist previously with the band Curved Air. Whilst Jobson’s keyboard noodlings were never as innovative as Eno’s, his contribution to Roxy Music really came to the fore with his ability to play the violin, musically adding a ….erm… whole new string to Ferry’s bow.

“Street Life” is a real swaying cruncher of a song, despite only really having one chorus in the middle, and features Ferry almost growling out his thinly veiled allegorical lyrics. His attack on the media (in light of his new found fame and predilection for stunning female companionship) is palpable:
Hey good-looking boys – gather around
The sidewalk papers gutter-press you down
All those lies can be so unkind,
They can make you feel like you’re losing your mind

It’s a pop song which I feel has fully stood the test of time. Conversely, it’s really the only cut on Stranded which harked back to their previous two albums. I’ll admit that personally I think Roxy Music were a much more interesting act with Eno in the line up. It may be because Brian often managed to quell some of Ferry’s predeliction to overt romanticism, or at least disguise it somehow. On “Stranded” however, Ferry was holding on to the reins all by himself… and did a bloody good job!

Personally I’ve always been of the opinion that the rest of this album and the next two albums (“Country Life” & “Siren”) almost represented a kind of “Roxy Music Mk II”.

As if to prove my point – and to prove that Roxy Mk II could be every bit as good as Mk I – “Just Like You” is the next track. This song never fails to move me. It luxuriates in its own languid gorgeousness, Ferry’s crooning beyond reproach. The lyrics are a little bit “moon in june”-ish but he believes every single line and sings them with such conviction its impossible to criticise.

Just when Ferry has lulled you into a soporific state of mind, along comes the somewhat bizarre “Amazona“. It goes off on so many tangents, lilting and tilting here there and everywhere before almost settling on a driving rhythm at the 3-minute mark, then scaring you again with the world highest-pitched guitar solo from co-writer Phil Manzanera. An odd song, but a brilliant one.

Psalm“, closing Side 1 is alleged to be the first song Ferry ever wrote for Roxy Music back in the band’s formative stage. It starts with what sounds like a church organ overlaid with Ferry’s vocals. Slowly, drums, guitar, oboe, violin and a (real? electronic?) choir all contribute to what appears to be some kind of tribute to a multitude of different religions. The song is written – and Ferry sings it – in such a manner that it sounds like a traditional composition from the 40’s or 50’s (surely his intent?), his voice now starting to more regularly display that strange vibrato he does so well.

Side 2 opener is “Serenade“, probably my least favourite cut of the eight. The rhythm feels all wrong to me – always has – and I think the guitar solo halfway through is the only thing that vaguely redeems it.

Where “Serenade” fails, the next two cuts more than make up. “A Song for Europe” is, quite simply, a majestic work of art. Ferry’s immaculate phrasing underscored perfectly by the accompanying musicianship. The simple bass riff at the 3:24 minute mark sets up Mackay’s sax which then does battle with Ferry singing in a variety of tongues – I think it’s Latin, French and Italian? Somewhat weirdly, I often find myself muttering Ferry’s (somewhat awful) pun halfway through the number, where he alludes to Venice with “and the bridge… it sighs”

If that wasn’t enough, it’s followed by “Mother of Pearl” one of my favourite ever ‘corkers’ by Roxy Music, indeed it would almost certainly be one of my ‘Desert Island Discs‘ if I were ever invited on to the programme. Ferry’s lyrics are 100% top notch from start to finish, even if I’ve never really been certain what he’s banging on about. For me it’s just one of those songs that sounds right, if that makes sense?

Sunset” closes an almost perfect album, perfectly. It’s an ode to death, but it could just as easily be referring to the end of a lovely summer’s day. One word: GORGEOUS!

Is “Stranded” Roxy’s best album? Depends who you talk to. For me, it’s certainly the best of their output from this era, although there are cuts from both “For Your Pleasure” and “Country Life” I wish were on it too, just to selfishly make it 100% perfect.

I do think that, in 1974, I was in a weird minority of music fans. I knew lots of people at school who liked Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Roxy Music, but rarely both. It was almost as if everybody had to fit into one camp or the other. Likewise there seemed to be ‘rivalry’ between ELP and Yes fans, T.Rex & Slade fans, even Roxy Music and Bowie fans.

Me? I was just into it all.

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Number One Singles of 1973 (Part 4)

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

October to December

David CassidyDaydreamer/The Puppy Song
Released as a Double A-side to (somewhat cynically I feel) extend its shelf life and radio play, this was teen idol Cassidy’s 6th UK hit.

It would prove to be his last Number 1 in Britain and spent three weeks atop the chart.

“Puppy Song” was written by Harry Nilsson. It was composed at Paul McCartney’s request in 1969. The Beatles’ new Apple Records’  label had just signed teenfolk sensation Mary Hopkin and Paul needed a song for her debut album “Postcard”. Presumably talk of dreams being nothing more than wishes and a dog that would never bite him fitted the bill?

Gary GlitterI Love You Love Me Love
This was Glitter’s second Number One of 1973 and another that appears ironic in light of the revelations surrounding his later lifestyle choices.

It was written by respected seventies songwriter – and Glitter’s producer – Mike Leander, who had already worked with such pop luminaries as Billy Fury, Van Morrison, The Small Faces and Marianne Faithfull,  The Drifters and Ben E King.

Trivia nuts may care to know that in addition to four Top 10 hits by Gary Glitter, Mike Leander also wrote “Privilege (Set Me Free)”, the Patti Smith Group’s follow-up single to “Because the Night”

Slade – Merry Xmas Everybody
They say that cream always rises to the top. The end of 1973 saw Slade nab the Christmas Number One with a song that sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

OK, so I have to declare early – and extreme – bias in these words of mine. For me “Merry Christmas Everybody” is THE ultimate Christmas song. I love it so very VERY dearly. Yes, I have a fondness for Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime“, Wham’s “Last Christmas“, Bing’s “White Christmas” and I’ll even hum along to Wizzard’s “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day“, but Slade’s “Merry Christmas Everybody” is the one which, without, Christmas is dead to me.

Case in point…. several winters ago my wife and I spent a relentlessly-marvellous time in my (other) “old home town” of Copenhagen in Denmark. Although we had coped quite nicely for food most of the time we had been there, we found ourselves a little short on choice come Christmas Day itself. We discovered that the Hard Rock Café – situated on the outskirts of the Tivoli Gardens – was open most of the day. So, that’s where we went. We ate like kings, celebrated with several imbibements, wore paper hats and listened to the groovy seasonal music coming over the speakers.

After an hour or so, I became depressed. We’d heard all the ‘likelys’ in terms of Christmas songs – the Elvis numbers, the endless “Sleigh Rides” and “Frosty the Snowmen”s and the fact that, yes, Santa Claus IS bloody well coming to town. I’d even endured the damned Pogues and that turgid John Lennon song. Can you guess what we hadn’t heard?

I remarked to my totally understanding and sympathetic wife that we hadn’t heard Slade’s classic. She patted my hand in a way that only wives sarcastically can and told me she was sorry.

I continued to complain. Outwardly I was being jokey about it all, inside I felt empty as could be. (Only emotionally you understand, I think a man can only eat so many multi-topped Hard Rock burgers washed down with Danish lager?)

It came time to leave. Still no Slade. I went to the till and paid. Still no Slade. Then, in what still seems like one of the most magical moments of my life, just as we were putting our coats back on to protect us from the Copenhagen snow outside “Merry Christmas Everybody” came over the PA system.

I stood, in my coat, hat and scarf, in the middle of the Hard Rock Café and just listened. I’ll even admit to shedding a tear. My Christmas with the wife in my favourite country in the whole wide world had just turned “perfect”.

Now of course, and to my wife’s utter chagrin, whenever Christmas morning unveils itself I tend to play “Merry Christmas Everybody” over and over again on what must feel to her like an endless loop.

I never, ever, tire of hearing it. Even if it shuffles up on my iPod on the hottest day of summer I will never skip it, Noddy Holder’s screeched “It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!!!” as satisfying now as it was 36 years ago.

Holder admits he wrote the song to deliberately be joyful and as complete contrast to what the UK was going through in 1973. There were power cuts, the 3-day working week was about to be introduced and much of the population was depressed as it could be. He took a melody he had originally written 6 years earlier, kicked the rhythm up a bit, changed a few lyrics about with the aid of band member Jim Lea and tried to intentionally make it a ‘working class Christmas anthem’ – which is what it undoubtedly became.

It was released on December 7th. By December 15th it had already sold a million copies, and was the surefire Number One, a position it held far into 1974. It stayed in the Top 30 until the end of February, an almost unheard of result for a seasonal single.

As if to further highlight its never-ending appeal in the UK it has been reissued almost every year since 1973 and has reached the Top 40 no less than FIVE further times; 1981, 1983, 2006, 2007 and 2008. I have no doubt it will be there or thereabouts again in just a few months time.

I often say that I would LOVE to be Noddy Holder at “quarterly residuals” time in March every year.

However, I’d settle for shaking his hand and saying “Thank You”

Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?
It’s the time that every Santa has a ball
Does he ride a red-nosed reindeer?
Does a ‘ton up’ on his sleigh
Do the fairies keep him sober for a day?

So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody’s having fun
Look to the future now
It’s only just begun

Are you waiting for the family to arrive?
Are you sure you got the room to spare inside?
Does your granny always tell ya that the old songs are the best?
Then she’s up and rock ‘n’ rollin’ with the rest

So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody’s having fun
Look to the future now
It’s only just begun

What will your daddy do
When he sees your Mama kissin’ Santa Claus?
Ah ah
Are you hanging up a stocking on your wall?
Are you hoping that the snow will start to fall?
Do you ride on down the hillside in a buggy you have made?
When you land upon your head then you’ve been slayed

So here it is merry Christmas
Everybody’s having fun
Look to the future now
It’s only just begun…..

(© 1973 N.Holder/J.Lea)

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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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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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