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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 3)

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

July to September

Peters & LeeWelcome Home
Lennie Peters and Dianne Lee first found fame on the ITV talent show “Opportunity Knocks“, winning seven weeks in a row.

Lennie may well have been been sarcastically nicknamed “Lucky” as a teenager. When he was five he was blinded in one eye in a car accident. Then, at the age of sixteen, he was hit by a brick in the other eye.. and ended up completely sightless.

He became a pianist on the London pub scene, where he met Lee, one half of a popular dance act with her sister. They decided to perfom together as a duet.

After the Opportunity Knocks success the pair were signed up by the Philips label and the repeatedly-inspid “Welcome Home” was released. The song – originally a French song translated into English – quickly rose up the charts reaching the Number One slot and staying there for one week. (Is that all? To me, it seemed to be bloomin’-well everywhere during 1973?!)

Gary GlitterI’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am)
It’s a shame that Paul Gadd – aka Gary Glitter – allowed his personal obsessions to completely undermine his undoubted and unmatched success as a 70’s pop star.

Sadly, the very name “Gary Glitter” has now become synonymous with his various convictions for child pornography and illegal sex with a succession of underage girls in Britain, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Back in the 1970’s Glitter – always in trademark silver spandex, platform boots and sparkles – had one of the longest chart runs of any solo singer. He charted 26 singles, twelve of which were consecutive Top 10 hits, and spent a total of 180 weeks in the charts, .

GG - Then and Now (Why the disguise Gary?)

Along with Bowie, the Sweet, Marc Bolan and Slade he was the personification of all things “Glam”

Now, in Britain, you hardly ever hear his music. His reputation precedes him and although not officially ‘banned’ from the airwaves, I think it’s fair to say that he is very much persona non grata.

However, in the USA, I still hear his music regularly! His trademark “Rock and Roll (Part Two)” continues to be adopted as a chant – it’s that “Hey!”  hook – at Reds games to gee up the crowds.

I sit there like I am the only one ‘appalled’ at hearing it, but equally amused by the fact that Major League Baseball has no clue as to its latter-day connotations and, presumably, are still paying public broadcast royalties to a convicted sex offender.

Rock stomper “I’m the Leader of the Gang (I am)” has, since its original release, been covered by Green Jellÿ & Hulk Hogan, Brownsville Station, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, The Methadones and Girlschool… proving that perhaps the legacy of the song will last far longer than the legacy of Glitter himself.

Donny OsmondYoung Love
Of course, in retrospect, there’s extraordinary irony in the fact that Gary Glitter’s tenure at the pinnacle of the charts would be replaced by a song entitled “Young Love”.

Sometimes, you can’t make it up.

It’s Donny. Top of the chart heap. Again. Sales of toothpaste continue to rise.

WizzardAngel Fingers
A second spell at the top for Roy Wood’s Wizzard, talked about a day or so ago.

Rumour has it that the recording of “Angel Fingers” used up more time in the EMI studios than the whole of Paul McCartney & Wings’ 1973 “Band on the Run” album.

Hearing it now you have to wonder how. And why.

Simon Park OrchestraEye Level (Theme to Van Der Valk)

Aaaagh… it’s that bloody earworm again

C’mon everybody… whistle along now!

 

[“Number One Singles of 1973” concludes in Part IV]

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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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