Tag Archives: top of the pops

October 23rd 1975

“Wired up stereo at college. Talked to Caitlin. In the evening Nig came round. Roxy on TOTP”

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be…

Don’t you find it amazing that Roxy Music appearing on Top of the Pops commanded a diary entry?

But that’s what it was like back in ‘the old days’. An ‘event’. A new song was rarely accompanied by any kind of video media, but even when it was you had to wait weeks – sometimes months – to see it. Any performance on TV was seen once – when it was broadcast – and then all you could do was somehow wish you might see it again.

3 television channels – BBC’s 1 + 2 and ITV – and that was it. Top of the Pops was on once a week – Thursday nights – and even then viewers were given no advance warning about what acts or what songs might be featured. You had to guess who might be on, based on how your favourites fared on the charts the previous Sunday. If a single went down there was NO chance of seeing it again. At least not for a couple of decades and the advent of both the VCR and the ‘television repeats’ culture.

Kids today have it MADE! Not that I am jealous of what they have over what we had back in 1975. Not at all.

In other news it looks like practised my chatting-up techniques on Caitlin and displayed my wiring skillz to be fellow students.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975 Diary Entries

Cockney Rebel

One of the huge drawbacks of EFA70sTRO 1974’s diary being ‘light’ on entries – particularly in the latter half of that year – is that we’ve missed out on several of my musical discoveries during that time.

I therefore feel it necessary to offer an ‘aside’ post about Cockney Rebel, one of the very few acts in my lifetime with whom I have shared a relationship bordering on ‘fandom’.

There have been many other acts I have abjectly raved about over the years – Bill Nelson, Captain Beefheart, Bowie, Ian Dury, ELP and more – but only a tiny handful where I have been drawn in a little bit further. Prince is one such act, Eno is another. But if I LOVED an act as an impressionable teenager it would have been Cockney Rebel. Or more correctly, Steve Harley.. because when all’s said and done he really was Cockney Rebel.

My first exposure to Cockney Rebel was back in February 1974 when I saw them on BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test“. I think they performed the track “Hideaway“? If memory serves me correctly, Harley sported heavily applied dark eyeshadow, slightly rouged cheeks and an ugly velvet suit. (VERY glam in other words!) Then, in May 1974,  their hit single “Judy Teen” was all over the radio. The band appeared many times on Top of the Pops and I always found Harley to be something of of engaging character.

I bought “Judy Teen” and the accompanying album, “The Psychomodo”. Not longer afterwards I tracked down the band’s 1973 debut album, “The Human Menagerie” (which – over the years – has proved itself to be my out-and-out fave) as well as shelling out for the band’s next hit single”Mr Soft” (a marvellous carnival piece of earworm-worthy pop fluffiness) and the follow-up flop, “Big Big Deal” (So much of a flop it was actually withdrawn from sale after just a few weeks!)

(It would feel criminal if I didn’t do EFA70sTRO reviews of the bands first two albums… so expect them soon!)

 The weekly music press I was reading back then seemed to have a love/hate relationship with Harley, his own journalistic background evidently giving him a keen eye for what would represent a good ‘quote’. The statements he made seemed to purposefully wind people up, and whilst the press seemed to find favour with his music they treated him personally with a certain disdain. I can’t explain why, but this dichotomy appealed to me somehow, so I then wanted to find out more about the band.

Steve Harley started life as Steven Nice, born in Deptford, London in 1951. He attended Hatcham’s College in the 1960’s, lucky to be attending an establishment where music was a speciality. He started writing songs and began performing them as a busker on the London Underground, often accompanied by his friend, violinist John Crocker.

He got the aforementioned job as a music journalist, simultaneously forming a touring band with Crocker (now known as “Jean-Paul Crocker”), drummer Stuart Elliott, bassist Paul Jeffreys (who would later be one of the victims of the Lockerbie Air Disaster) and keyboard player Milton Reame-James. Harley named the band Cockney Rebel, doubtless a cheeky nod to his own disruptive nature. They played just FIVE gigs before they were spotted by EMI Records and signed to a multi-album deal.

They toured on the back of “Human Menagerie” and (even after 35 years) I remain disappointed that I never caught them at Southampton University in early 1974 whilst Harley was just starting his career. (If that OGWT performance had been a month or two earlier I think I would definitely have trekked to the gig)

My 1974 diary didn’t mention it – hell, it didn’t mention much at all – but I seem to remember Cockney Rebel played either the University or Southampton’s Top Rank later on in the year too. Maybe I have that wrong? I can’t find reference to it anywhere online, so there’s every possibility I am just imagining it.

At the end of 1974 Harley broke up the original band, egotistically renamed it “Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel” and started recording a new album with, again, Alan Parsons (of Pink Floyd, Beatles and…erm… Alan Parsons Project fame) on production duties. This album – and one of its cuts in particular – would prove to both make and break Harley’s career. EFA70sTRO will be covering it at a later date.

My utter fandom for Steve Harley has not remained in place into my middle-aged life. I still adore all those early albums but it turns out his ego eventually got the better of him and his output started to drift downhill fast thereafter.

However, the phrase “Cockney Rebel” stuck with me and has become something of a personal legacy. After moving to the USA in the late 90’s I joined an online message board affiliated with a radio station my wife worked for. I was invited to chose a user name and “Cockney Rebel” popped into my head. From then until now I am known by many people more as “Cockney Rebel” or “CR” than I am my real name!

1975 and beyond will doubtless refer to Steve Harley and/or Cockney Rebel many times. I can only apologise in advance.

1 Comment

Filed under 1975 Diary Entries

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…]

5 Comments

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

July 2nd, 1973

“Went up Nigs and done some more recording. Mart P came up. Borrowed Led Zep II”

OK, lets have ‘confession time” shall we?

Despite all my early love for music and my subsequent career within its hallowed portals, I never really “got into” Led Zeppelin until fairly recently – maybe just a couple of years or so ago.

Certainly as a teenager I never fully appreciated what they represented, either in terms of the folk/rock hybrid sound they pushed into the mainstream OR how just, well, massive they were as a band.

I don’t know if my diaries will mention or admit this, but a couple of years after this first exposure to the band, I got a ticket for one of the shows Zepp did at London’s Earls Court to support their album “Physical Graffiti“. I think I was happy to sell the ticket to a fellow student for the same price I bought it for. That seems just so very CRAZY now given the price tickets were allegedly being scalped for at the band’s 2007 ¾’s of a reunion concert at the O2. (Reports of £20,000 being offered for a £70-ish ticket??)

Anyway, back to “Zeppelin II”…

It was the band’s first UK & US chart-topper (and America it knocked The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” off the #1 spot) and sold over half a million copies in its first year of release, 1969. (30 years later it was recognised for having then sold over 12 million!). It was also a Number One album in France, Australia, Spain and Germany.

Trivia freaks may like to be surprised by the fact that it reached #32 on Billboard‘s Black Album chart, its use of a blues-derived sound evidently crossing over.

The album has what is often referred to a ‘live studio’ feel, everything mixed just enough to make it sound raw but nevertheless produced (by Jimmy Page)

It contains some of the band’s most popular and enduring cuts… as well the pre-requisite ‘filler’

Whole Lotta Love” kicks things off nicely, the familiar distorted guitar riff disolving into Robert Plant’s orgasmic grunts and moans. The band (initially) *ahem* “borrowed” some of Willie Dixon‘s “You Need Love”  to pad out the lyrical content. (A 1985 settled-out-of-court lawsuit eventually gave Dixon credit – and, I suspect, suitable retrospective monetary recompense). The song was the theme music for seminal UK music show “Top of the Pops” during the 1970’s and 80’s.

What Is and What Should Never Be” features Page’s phased guitar (listen to it travel from speaker to speaker!) under Robert Plant’s own lyrics (his first piece of songwriting for the band, no less)

The Lemon Song* was a teenage fave of many, its sexual innuendo evident with lyrics such as “squeeze my lemon ’til the juice runs down my leg”. Whilst I liked that, obviously – hey, I was a teenager okay? – I was as much of a fan of John Paul Jones’ extremely funky bass playing that underscores the performance.

Thank You*closes Side 1. I know it features mainly keyboard work (John Paul Jones, again), but its not a cut that conjures up anything for me personally, other than that one point where the (Hammond?) organ fades away to almost nothing than comes crashing back a few seconds later.

Side 2’s opener “Heartbreaker*features a Jimmy Page guitar solo which has been voted the world’s “16th Greatest” by Guitar World magazine. Personally, I find the actual song’s riff to be more magnificent than the solo.. but that’s just me, obviously.

Heartbreaker segues straight into “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)*which is allegedly about a groupie the band encountered earlier in their career. A so-so track as far as I am concerned.

Things get better with “Ramble On*which despite its dodgy & nonsensical “Lord of the Rings”-influenced lyrics just manages to stay the right side of credible. I try and ignore them and instead concentrate on the wonderfully jangly guitar work.

Moby Dick” is an instrumental and more famous as a live favourite moreso than a studio cut. Mainly because it often allowed for John Bonham’s ‘drum excesses’ with some reports suggesting he could solo for up to 20 minutes at some shows. I’m sorry, but drum solos – even ones by Keith Moon – are the ‘music of the debbil’ and should be banned.

There’s similar “Whole Lotta Love” controversy surrounding Led Zepp 2’s closing cut, “Bring It On Home“. Although originally billed as a unique Plant/Page composition it borrows heavily from Willie Dixon’s song of the same name, and originally made famous by Sonny Boy Williamson. Once again, it took a lawsuit for Dixon to get proper credit. The song is perhaps closer to the material on Led Zeppelin’s debut album than anything else on “II” – that crossover blues/rock hybrid to the fore.

Pub quizzers may like to know that in addition to the band members airbrushed into that tinted cover shot (originally Manfred Von Richtofen’s – the Red Baron‘s – WW1 “Flying Circus” division of the German Air Force), the other faces seen include Led Zepp’s (infamous) manager, Peter Grant, bluesman Blind Willie Johnson and, for whatever reason, Glynis Johns (the actress who played the mother in Mary Poppins!)

But, like I said – and a few chosen cuts aside – I didnt really get ‘into’ this album until MUCH later in life. Perhaps in 1973, it just wasn’t ‘prog’ enough for me, or I was just too young to properly appreciate all the influences?

*NB:- At the time of witing this there seems to be some kind of ‘issue’ between Warner Bros/Led Zeppelin & YouTube, with the latter apparently pulling any videos featuring the band themself. There’s PLENTY of awful cover versions of these songs – search them very much at your own risk!

1 Comment

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

April 4th 1973

“ARGUMENT! (smashing of the plate)” / “Got card from Gra” / “Roxy on TOTPs” / “Paid Trev for ISOS”

Oh dear – it would appear that one of the arguments took a worrying turn, with crockery being thrown? *sigh* I can’t remember this altercation – probably for the best I guess? – but it has got to me some 36 years later and made me feel – once again – incredibly sad that my folks seemed to spend so much of their lives arguing and shouting.

I think I remarked before that Graham traveled the world with his father, so I’ll guess I got a postcard from some exotic foreign clime.

The Roxy Music performance on Top of the Pops (TOTPs) would have been their second hit single Pyjamarama, which – sonically – was so very much ahead of its time.

Opening with a single guitar riff, followed by what is almost a drum solo, the song suddenly falls into a sax’n’electronics groove overlaid by Bryan Ferry’s voice crooning for all its worth. At the time, I remember thinking it was nowhere near as good as their debut hit “Virginia Plain”, but as the years have gone by I think I now actually prefer it, because its just so odd and groovily funky.

There appears to be no footage of Roxy’s performance on Top of the Pops, so I give you this OK montage instead….

I do think that Pyjamarama had some of the cutest lyrics…

Couldn’t sleep a wink last night
Oh how I’d love to hold you tight
They say you have a secret life
Made sacrifice your key to paradise
Never mind, take the world by storm
Just boogaloo a rhapsody divine
Take a sweet girl just like you
How nice if only we could bill and coo
I may seem a fool to you for ev’rything I say or think or do
How could I apologise for all those lies
The world may keeps us far apart but up in heaven, angel
You can have my heart
Diamonds may be your best friend
But like laughter after tears
I’ll follow you to the end
(© B.Ferry 1973)

Leave a comment

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

February 1st 1973

“Arguverge” / “Started to get stuff ready for the TIB w-end at the Vicarage” / “Bort new training shoes” / “Thought about buying In Search of Space or swap it for S&G Cass + H.T.T.B.” / “Focus on TOTP”

Another cornucopic diary entry. (Is there such a word as cornucopic? Computer says “no”)

Mum & Dad threatening to row again

My anticipation builds for another weekend of potential teenage debauchery at the vicarage

A new pair of ‘trainers’ – more likely plimsolls

Music trading. I know that S&G Cass refers to Simon & Garfunkel, but I am racking my beleaguered brain to remember what the acronym H.T.T.B. stands for.

Focus on television again. It feels bizarre now that a single appearance on a Thursday night’s “Top of the Pops” was considered enough of an ‘event’ to mention.

It was like that then though. It’s not like these days when pretty much any video or live performance can be called up on YouTube, ‘music’ television repeats the same set of songs over and over again and/or you can buy video compilations of your favourite artist’s material.

Leave a comment

Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

December 10th 1972

“(Arguverge)” / “Sold 2 of T.O.T.Pops Records – 60p”

Sleeve images snagged with thanks to http://www.EasyOnTheEye.net

Imagine, if you will, a time when songs could not be downloaded for next to nothing.

A time even beforeNow That’s What I call Music” compilations.

A time when, despite your best efforts at bargain hunting, you could not buy all the singles from the pop chart that you wanted.

A time when there was just ONE alternative to sitting in front of the radio with your cassette recorder at the ready for the Top 30 countdown on Sunday evenings.

That alternative was……. Top of the Pops albums!

How can I spin my admission at originally owning several of these without sounding completely lame?

OK, let me state that I was FAR from the only person who ever bought these albums. They were constantly stacked high and wide along with all the other “budget” LPs in Woolworth’s music department.

They were comparatively inexpensive, each release featuring not just a dozen or so hits, but also a scantily-clad dolly bird of debatable sexual morals on the cover! (Yes, the cover girls were *ahem* mass debated by us teenage ‘men’)

Why were they cheap? Welllllllll……. because they contained … erm… mere cover versions of the hit singles.

Admittedly, some of the cover versions were quite faithfully rendered. Others were….well, lets just say the current craze for karaoke would make many of them seem ‘underperformed’.

Hallmark was the label that unleashed these parodies of pop, and for everything you could say against them, they actually took the process very seriously. Stars such as Elton John (or Reginald Dwight as he was then) were amongst some of the early session musicians deployed to re-record the hits of the day and the production standards were kept as high as finances would allow. A recent BBC radio documentary (sadly, no longer available to hear – bugger!) about the “Top of the Pops” album phenomenon was both extremely enlightening and funny at the same time, explaining how a hardcore team of beleagured producers and musicians would crank these suckers out once every month or so.

Of course now the albums are considered “kitsch” and have become quite collectible amongst connoisseurs of such corny ephemera. (Admission: Yes, I have thought of trying to get hold of some of them again so as to display the sleeves as a kind of discreet tribute to the “garish 70’s” in a corner of our home!)

These things – and I say “things” with as much genuinely admirable respect as I can muster – continued to exist long into the 1980’s.

Sadly, my research failed to uncover listenable clips of any tracks. However, I was shocked – maybe ‘stunned’ – to discover that there is a collection of Best Of Top of the Pops” CDs available, highlighting the worthiest (worst?) of each year’s recordings.

……and I found this …. it isn’t from one of the 70’s releases, but someone has made a YouTube video to highlight the “Top of the Pops” album version of O.M.D.’s 1982 hit “Joan of Arc”. If you listen to it I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of what these albums were all about…. and why to sell two for 60 pence in 1972 may have been one of my better early business decisions!

Leave a comment

Filed under 1972 Diary Entries