Tag Archives: Van Morrison

August 9th 1975

“Dixons. Gave in notice. Bloke gave me SME headshell. Played new LPs in evening. Fairport Convention – great. Pete Wingfield – Good. Alex Harvey – not good on first listen”

So, Dixons lost the best hi-fi salesman they ever employed. In entirely unconnected news, I resigned from Dixons.

My final day of standing doe-eyed under the blisteringly hot spotlights in the department (not really knowing what the hell I was doing) did offer me an unexpected bonus with a grateful customer gifting me an SME headshell for my record deck. As I recall, installing it really DID make a difference to the sound, those collection of holes evidently an intelligent design tweak. I can remember hanging onto this headshell for the longest time, transferring it from deck to deck as my hi-fi habit grew in the ensuing years. So, thank you nameless stranger!

It looks like I spent my last day’s Dixon’s earnings on some new tuneage… most probably from Francis Records using my newly restored staff discount…

Let it be known that I REALLY don’t care for Fairport Convention. Folk/Rock – as their genre is often described – invariably leaves me stone cold, and all that plinking and plonking (plus the peculiar habit of artists sticking their finger in their ear to sing) often grates.

However, “Rising for the Moon” wasn’t a straightforward folk album (which is why I was drawn to it) the band eschewing their roots and instead performing a collection of songs that veered closer to acoustic rock than anything else. Think “Cat Stevens” rather than “The Dubliners”.

Despite Sandy Denny’s wibbly-wobbly vocal style I liked the title track in particular and held onto this LP for years afterwards before eventually falling out of favour with its content. When I was intrigued enough to listen to it again it proved quite the elusive item and – to be honest – haven’t bothered since. Maybe I should see if I like it better as a 52-year-old farty than as a spotty teenager?

Pete Wingfield is perhaps the ultimate One-Hit Wonder, his “18 with a Bullet” as fantastic a perfect pop song now as it was when it was released back in 1975.

I would certainly have bought “Breakfast Special” on the strength of that hit – not the first time I would have succumbed to the brilliance of one single and splashed out on the accompanying album. However, unlike many other occasions this would be one where I would not be let down by the other cuts.

“Breakfast Special” is – at least in my opinion – an overlooked pop masterpiece, chocked full of superb and sublimely catchy tunes and easily as good as anything (the likes of ) 10cc were putting out at that time. Check out “Whole Pot of Jelly” and “Shadow of a Doubt” for proof!

Thankfully, Wingfield’s career has not been limited to the proceeds from his one solitary hit single – which ironically landed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at… erm, Number 18. He’s played with the likes of BB King, The Everly Brothers, Van Morrison, The Hollies and Paul McCartney, and has produced seminal albums such as Dexy Midnight Runners’ “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”, The Kane Gang’s “Bad & Lowdown World” and The Proclaimers’ “Sunshine on Leith”. He has also written smash hit singles for others, including Olivia Newton-John’s “Making a Good Thing Better” and The Pasadenas’ “Tribute (Right On)”

It’s a shame that his public persona is limited that one song but better to be known for one thing than no thing I suppose? As a treat here’s a BLISTERINGLY fine reggae version of “18 with a Bullet” by Derrick Harriot on the ever-reliable Trojan Records label in 1975. I didn’t discover it until several years later but adore it almost as much as the original…

My diary has retrospectively embarrassed me many times before, and will doubtless do it many times again.

This is one of those times. To deem the SAHB’s “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” as “not good” is nothing short of a travesty and I herewith apologise.

As a forthcoming diary entry will report though, all is not lost!

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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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