Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 5

Lost 70s Volume 5 consists of 24 tracks, making it the longest of the series so far. It’s an unusually conventional, even mainstream album, especially for me, with more hits than any other compilation, and few of the kind of esoteric track that’s been my regular material to date. It was clearly themed that way, but even with the array of success on parade, these are still tracks that have largely vanished from memory, except in the minds of the fans of these artists. And me, of course.

This is not the original version of the compilation. After getting very sloppy in curation and including a number of tracks several times on different volumes, not to mention including too many tracks by the same artist that would be better grouped, I re-burnt the entire series, filling in spaces with tracks that had not been available when the original compilation was created.

Gold Medallions: Tucky Buzzard

I still have my original 1973 single of this, on Deep Purple’s Purple label. The band were blues-rockers, but this track stood out as a complete anomaly against everything else of theirs that I heard. There’s a strong acoustic component, working in tandem with a flowing electric lead guitar, and backed by understated electric piano. The song never exceeds medium pace, but it has a strong chorus, that it’s not afraid to let repeat, brazenly, into the fade. The overall effect is hypnotic and this was one of my favourite songs of 1973. And before anyone starts flashing upon the disco era, flashing chest hairs and medallions, this was well before Saturday Night Fever and it’s not that kind of song.

Sky-high: Jigsaw

Jigsaw are a bit of an anomaly as far as I’m concerned. They started out as a lightweight pop band, but the ads for their debut 1970 album seemed to suggest they were some kind of super-heavy, quasi-progressive band, with serious credibility. The only one of their albums I heard, bought dirt cheap from a shop specialising in deleted stock, was primarily the work of a cabaret-oriented band, singing sweet melodies over muted horns and strings in 1973. That’s a hell of a journey in only three years. Nevertheless, it gave me a soft spot for them, and I was chuffed when they had a top 10 hit with this song, from a movie soundtrack. It’s all big, sweeping strings, a commercial melody and the band making a token effort, with sub-Shaft guitar mixed low. A similar-sounding, more ballad like follow-up got to about no 35 and that was it as far as the UK was concerned. I’ve still never heard anything from that first, heavy album. I’d love to have a clearer idea of the puzzle.

I want more: Can

It started with Kraftwerk, and commercially it pretty much ended there, but the mid-Seventies was a period when there was an increased consciousness of German bands and their pulsating concentration on electronic rhythms, long before disco got into that mode. Can got airplay for this grunting, grinding, rhythmic song, with its steady beat, minimal electronics and acoustic bass. It got them into the top 30, and onto Top of the Pops and into my memories.

The Devil’s Answer: Atomic Rooster

This was the second, and by far the biggest, of two hits in 1971 by this trio, led by ex-Crazy World of Arthur Brown keyboard player Vince Crane. It’s a mix of tempos, smooth and aggressive and supported by snarling horns and was deservedly very popular. Then it vanished from everybody’s consciousness. There are songs that you go back to where it’s impossible to see how they caught on with the public. This isn’t quite so obscure, but to modern ears, it increasingly becomes a surprise.

Who do you think you are?: Candlewick Green

I actually loathed this at the time. It was a top 30 hit for a cabaret-pop single from a cabaret-pop band, but it’s melody and simplicity has grown on me with the years. Oddly enough, it’s only relatively recently, well after compiling this disc, that I learnt that this is a Jigsaw song and the Candlewick Green version is a carbon copy of the arrangement. I also heard, though it seems improbable, that this was also popular in the Northern Soul clubs.

Billy Porter: Mick Ronson

This is more Lost 70s traditional territory. Mick Ronson was Bowie’s guitarman in the Ziggy Stardust era, and for the rest of the decade was the subject of the NME T-Zers annual Dr Barnado’s award, given to any band that provided a good home for the talented Ronson. ‘Billy Porter’ was another of those turntable hits that got re-issued a time or two without success. It’s nervous and edgy, but that’s what the song is about, and Ronson’s not the world’s best singer, but it’s a great record. We were right and you were wrong, you ignorant and tasteless bastards!

I’ve got you on my mind: White Plains

White Plains started off as a studio band, one of four fronted by session singer Tony Burroughs, put together by a group of professional songwriters who’d had an unusually productive afternoon and felt like keeping their booty to themselves. All four songs/bands went top 10. With hits to their names, all four ‘bands’ were then set up to record with permanent personnel. This was the White Plains’ second single, a piece of mid-tempo, sweeping, orchestra-strong pop with a very Sixties sound – not surprising because it had already been a minor (no 38) hit in 1968 from Dorian Gray (not, I assume, his real name) with a little-changed arrangement. White Plains went on to have another half dozen hits in changing styles, some of which more distinctive than this, but it’s a slice of simple pop that I liked then and like now. Sometimes, formative listening is more than formative.

Faithful: Marvin Welch and Farrar

Given that it’s 45 years later, I can admit that when I first heard this single, by a talented acoustic trio comprising two ex-Shadows and the future musical director for Olivia Newton-John, I thought this was a band led by someone called Marvin Welch and backed up by something called Farrar: and what on Earth was a Farrar? Thanks to my progressive oriented mate Alan, I was to hear a lot of this trio (even before the Livvy connection), and whilst most of their output was pretty bland, this single, about a sailboat, was unforgivably beautiful, delicately produced featuring nothing but acoustic guitars, distant minimal strings and an achingly gorgeous falsetto chorus, practically pregnant with yearning and loss. The boat is symbolic.

I must be in love: The Rutles

I had a deprived childhood. My parents prevented me from watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Many were the Fridays I got to school to be assailed by cries of ‘Spam!’, or inexplicable bursts of people singing that they were lumberjacks. It was hell. The only series I ever did get to see was the Cleese-less final series, which was crap. Anyway, I was always far more into the Goons. But it meant that I found little interesting in Erc Idle’s side project, Rutland Weekend Television, and didn’t even watch his and Neil Innes’ grand parody, All you need is Cash featuring the Rutles. This was the single. It’s mildly hammed up, but the point, which I didn’t fully realise at the time, is that underneath the affectionate parody, this is a beautiful aping of the Beatles’ sound and those early singles. Very McCartney-when-he-was-good.

Eve: Jim Capaldi

Capaldi was the drummer in Traffic whom, by the early Seventies, specialised in jazz-influenced, spontaneous music, recorded after getting their heads together in the country. His solo career was much more conventional and he did get a couple of hits, one with a cover of the old Roy Orbison song ‘Love Hurts’. This wasn’t the other one: a quiet, slow-beginning pop ballad, an unrequited love song to the lady of the title, who may well have been suspiciously close to being of a forbidden age if you listened closely to the words. But it built itself up into a fine, controlled, horn-blasting frenzy and featured one of those brief but brilliant silver-bell guitar solos worth three minutes of anyone’s time.

Miracles: Jefferson Starship

In the abbreviated form of Starship, this Seventies sequel to the rowdy Jefferson Airplane went on to mega-stardom. ‘Miracles’ was the first stirring of the second phase band, a lovely, smoky, lazy love song with multi-layered vocals that was big in America and nothing over here, but it’s an effortless gem, cool, smooth and inviting. It’s a long way from ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘Somebody to love’, which are still superior efforts,but as the first steps of a new, unrelated band, it’s pretty and pleasing.

Joy: Apollo 100

An American band with one of those regular efforts to turn Beethoven’s ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ into a pop tune. Most of it’s pretty undemanding, built on an organ cycling through the main riff/melody, but it breaks for a stunning, ten second, chiming guitar solo that was the only bit of the record I liked in 1972, and which is still worth all the rest of the track put together now.

The Selecter: The Selecter

I supposed you could call this a hit. This subdued, ska-driven, slow instrumental was the b-side to The Specials’ ‘Gangsters’, loose and contemplative and moody. This bears no resemblance to The Selecter’s own singles in their own right, but it deserved attention of its own.

Don’t Let Him Touch You: The Angelettes

I’ve already gone on about this odd single under my Infinite Jukebox series, here . There’s nothing more I can add now. This is seriously weird, and there’s a lot of wrong stuff behind it. If any of the girls implicitly believed in what they were singing, then you have to wonder just how much their parents were indoctrinating them.

Ebony Eyes: Bob Welch

Welch was an American guy who played with Fleetwood Mac during those intermediate years between Peter Green and Buckingham/Nicks. Johnnie Walker gave a lot of airplay to this single in 1976, before he buggered off to America, leaving us with Paul Burnett at lunchtime on Radio 1 (how could you do this to us, Johnnie?). From the sound of this song and production – which has nothing to do with the Everly Brothers – he could have transformed the Mac even sooner. Bet he didn’t look as good as Stevie Nicks, though.

Keep on Truckin’ (Part 1): Eddie Kendrick

This slab of funk was an unconventional track by the former Temptations lead singer, breaking the top 20 with a number taking Robert Crumb’s catch-phrase (which wasn’t all that old at the time) as it’s title whilst having nothing in common with the master of underground comics. It’s a compelling dance track of exactly the kind I normally loathe, but it goes to prove the point that in any genre of music, not matter how offensive it may appear to the ear, there is something that stands out as different in a way that is impossible to define. Keep on truckin’ baby.

Windfall: Rick Nelson and The Stone Canyon Band

Rick, or Ricky, had already had one career by the early Seventies, as child actor and teen idol, with special reference to the much-played oldie ‘Hello Mary Lou’. But here he was, only in his early thirties, a more or less has-been who retained a keen interest in music, of a more countrified style. This time round, Nelson was determined to be in charge of his music and not subject to controls and whims. Johnny Walker championed the laid-back country blues of ‘Garden Party’, which was based on a real-life encounter with a Rock’n’Roll Oldies Festival. That became Nelson’s manifesto: ‘if memories were all I sang/ I’d rather drive a truck’. This was a later single from the same year, recorded with his Stone Canyon Band, a brash, uptempo country song about the little things, the natural things in nature and life that are at the heart of love. But ‘Garden Party’ was his last success, and not even songs like this could extend his career. Nelson, who feared flying, died in a plane crash in 1985. He should have had more time, the music industry should have treated him better.

Summer Breeze: Seals and Croft

In 1976, the Isley Brothers recorded an oozingly soulful version of this song that became one of my favourite singles of the year and which, quite rightly, has overshadowed the original ever since. This is the original. It’s a folky, acoustic approach from a duo notorious for taking a song about smoking drugs irresponsibly into the US Top 10. The song is still pretty nice in its original form and I like to remember it from time to time.

Love like a Man: Ten Years After

We’re really into the commercial sector of this compilation now. There was a time, through 1970/71, when it seemed like every underground band had a single hit record in them. This one was Ten Years After’s, a top 10 track from 1970, with a slow, slinky, blues number featuring Alvin Lee’s beautifully constructed guitar riffs. Astonishing stuff, really. Every one had one commercial track in them, whether they wanted it or not.

This Flight Tonight: Nazareth

Move forward three years. Nazareth, a Scots hard-rock band, a kind of heavier Slade, had started tucking into the charts fairly regularly. This latest single was a rock arrangement of the dreamy Joni Mitchell number, and as such was pretty controversial for the complete contrast to the original. It was still a new song to me and I liked it’s controlled impulse and its scudding beat, and its distorted solo, screeching like a jetplane.

You can make me Dance, Sing or Anything: The Faces and Rod Stewart

I don’t usually like to admit this out loud but in the Seventies, I very much preferred Rod’s solo stuff to The Faces. ‘You can make me dance, sing or anything’ (with a bracketed sub-title of incredible length detailing other things, all impeccably domestic, that the remarkable lady at the heart of this song could get Rod the Mod to perform), was the last and least successful of the Faces’ chart hits, as well as being the only one to pick Rod’s name out. That’s because this is very much a Rod solo song, given to the Faces who are, in consequence, much more restrained and controlled, and brighter in sound in this bouncy, uplifting song during which nobody gets pissed and pukes on the floor. It’s a complete joy, and you kind of want to meet the woman who can inspire such selflessness. Probably a blonde with long legs, mind you. The apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

I Believe (when I fall in love it will be forever): Art Garfunkel

Post the split, Art Garfunkel had two, widely spaced hits in the UK, both of which reached number 1. This lovely, smooth cover of a Stevie Wonder song didn’t reach the charts at all, though Art did get a Top of the Pops slot by way of promotion. This is one of those tracks I offer as evidence that I had no affinity with the Great British Record Buying Public because by any estimate I recognise, this should have been massive beyond belief. With the obvious exception of rabbits, what did ‘Bright Eyes’ have that this 1976 single didn’t? It still sounds like it was a hit.

I think we’re alone now: The Rubinoos

Remember the famous Berserkley Label? Jonathan Richman, the Modern Lovers and ‘Roadrunner’? The Rubinoos, Tommy Rubin’s teenage pop band, were one more of that unbroken flood of brilliant singles that came out of California, absolutely none of which but Richman sold. Later on, Tiffany had a hit with a cover of this that was so inadequate, it should have been having weekly sessions with Sigmund Freud. Originally a hit for Tommy James and The Shondells, but their version was never so alive as this one.–GjPg

Gimme dat ding: The Pipkins

And to end, another top 10 hit. Remember those four bands fronted by Tony Burroughs? This notable one-off was one of those, a bouncy, flouncy, old-fashioned little silly number, batted backwards and forwards by a squeaky falsetto lead and a gravelly bass making grumbly remarks. It’s actually about a metronome, which places it as part of the ‘Oliver in the Overworld’ story in Freddie Garrity’s ‘Little Big Time’. It was a pure novelty song. Nowadays, it does make an old man happy.


2 thoughts on “Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 5

  1. Gimme dat ding brings back memories of school assemblies, two-tone trousers and Players No6. If you’d asked me who it was by, I would never have said the Pipkins in a million years.
    Cheers, Alen

  2. That’s why the series got called ‘Lost’. I even remember the pair of them performing it on TV once (can’t have been Top of the Pops, I wasn’t allowed to watch it then), with clown make-up, silly wigs, red-and-black hooped jerseys and those wide-waist trousers held up by braces, and that memory’s just come back out of nowhere.


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