Imaginary Albums – Lost 70s Volume 6

Lost 70s Volume 6 consists of 22 tracks. It starts and ends in the late Seventies but in between I’m still lurching around heedlessly. There’s a lot of early Seventies stuff again: I was still learning what I liked and didn’t then, and a lot of music from that time sank into memory and has had to be teased out by one means or another. The closer we get to the middle of that decade, the more familiar stuff became to me, and the easier to mental hand. There’s also a long instrumental section in here that was fun to extend.

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.

Shake Some Action (demo version): The Flamin’ Groovies

The perfect opening track. You listen to this and you want more. But there was so much I had to say about this song that I said it under the auspices of The Infinite Jukebox – which naturally includes every song in this series of compilations – and which you can read here

Teenage Confidential: The Flamin’ Groovies

The b-side to ‘Shake Some Action’, thus making the record close to being the most perfect 7-inch ever released. Where the A-side mainlined on its own speed, ‘Teenage Confidential’ was slow and stately, almost a ballad, a teenage lament whose every note is picked out with an individual clarity that creates a Wall of Sound out of sparse instrumentation echoing in some empty space, a great distance instead of the cramming in of instruments into every corner. ‘Don’t take her word’, the singer pleads, the Groovies behind him on their best and formal behaviour. This is crucial. ‘If you do, we’ll break up girl’. It is really as important as that. Nothing more than the end of the world. ‘The Things she says could be untrue/and those kind of words could make you blue/and there’d be nothing I could do.’ He’s at her mercy, and at the mercy of claims another girl is making. He’s anxious that his girl should shut her mind to what she might hear, even though these things ‘could’ be true, in which case he’s scuttling to cover his ass. But the music is as high and wide and tense as any that has ever been recorded and the urge to join in the band’s chorus is irrepressible, and whether he deserves it or not, this simple song is a complex melodrama and when the music’s as good as this, you are on his side…

Marie Take a Chance: Almond Marzipan

I remember this song from an old taping off the radio, recorded from an old-fashioned radio my Dad had built into the bottom half of a bedside cabinet, possessed of a plastic facade full of old, vanished station names, irrelevant to my determined tuning to Radio 1. It was old, it was decrepit, it was on its last legs and the signal kept slipping, or it might be blurred by static fuzz. The burst that cut across most of this precious recording nearly blotted out the sound at one point, before abruptly dying out for the last chorus but that was my only tape of the song for a very long time and it’s hard not to anticipate the sound when I play it now. I know little of Almond Marzipan, except that they were a six-piece band who appear to have only recorded two singles: four tracks, three of them very good. They were already out of date in 1970, a good, not spectacular, late-Sixties pop band of the kind that had already been displaced by the swerve towards ‘heavier’ music. It’s bright, it’s breezy, it has a decent energy of its own and some good horns supporting a belt it out chorus. Boy asks girl for a chance, he’s hooked on her and he hopes she’ll get hooked on him. Maybe she did: he’s sweet and naïve and no doubt he’ll grow out of it one day. It took me longer than most.

This track is currently not available on YouTube

Belong Belong: Black Swan

My first flush of pop enthusiasm had me bound to Radio 1 for the whole of 1970. During that year, we had an Election, and Ted Heath won. As a consequence, come December, we were facing powercuts that would plunge the house into darkness, leaving us reliant on on candles for light and conversation for entertainment. On the one hand, I did have a Xmas present transistor radio, which ran on batteries. On the other hand, Radio 1 was still in its infancy during which it wasn’t allowed to stay up after 7.00pm. In this manner, I discovered Radio Luxembourg. And certain European bands who were definitely not getting airplay on Radio 1 daytime. One such was a seeming band called Black Swan, with a very intriguing single called ‘Echoes and Rainbows’. In fact, they were a pseudonym for French singer/songwriter Billy Bridge (real name Jean-Marc Brige) and the single sold a million across Europe. I bought my copy one day, browsing Shudehill Record Stalls and found that I enjoyed the brighter, poppier b-side even better.

This track is currently not available on YouTube

Green-eyed God: Steel Mill

This is another from that early 1971 evening investment in Radio Luxembourg. Just like Black Swan, I thought that Steel Mill were a Dutch progressive band, but they turn out to have been from London all the time. The full-length version of this track would turn out decades later to be a raucous, electric, noisy, unstructured epic. But the edited version they put out as a single (which I also picked up at Shudehill in due course), was considerably different. It’s smooth and cool, loping along comfortably to a solo flute which blows us onwards, until, with a shuffle of drums, a voice enters singing a simple, almost nursery rhyme verse. A slashing, squealing electric guitar solo interrupts, before the song cools down again to flute and easy rhythm. I loved it, and it’s great to this day. Apparently, it got to no 51 in the UK – when we only had a top 50.

Life’s too short: Rescue Company No. 1

Rescue Company No. 1 came back in 1971 with a follow up single that, in contrast to ‘Gotta Find You’, got a lot of airplay but which still didn’t generate a chart placing. If you could compare the tracks, which you can’t because this is the only one available on YouTube, you would not associate them with the same band. This Rescue Company No. 1 did exist, and I saw them play this on Magpie one fine Tuesday evening. It’s a classic pop song, with a clear fuzz-guitar riff and a big singalong chorus, completely commercial. The band went on to record a couple more singles, plus an album before vanishing. So did the master-tapes so the compilation CD available has had to be mastered from the records themselves.

Goodbye Forever: Paul Brett Sage

We’re still in 1971, where this sprightly acoustic lament by Paul Brett Sage got an unconscionable amount of airplay, and even a very late in the summer TOTP appearance (complete with horribly recorded backing track which let it down badly). Paul Brett wasn’t really a singles artist, and ‘Goodbye Forever’ was uncharacteristic, but it’s shuffling beat and its tale of having to leave a relationship before the woman goes so far that he ends up crying was a part of that hot summer, as essential to it as hot pants, and it still has me wanting to join in whenever I hear it.

I’ll go too: Kevin Coyne

Kevin Coyne was a favourite of John Peel, extending out of the mid-Seventies into the punk era. I found most of his work tuneless and incomprehensible, and the subjects of his songs seemed to always be about depression and mental illness. He was just so not my type of musician. But this track, a single in 1978, was yet another proof of the theory that you should never discount anyone totally, because here was a song with a discernible tune, a driving acoustic guitar, a bubbling organ line that didn’t interrupt a song that kept returning to the insistent promise that Kevin would go too. Where he would go, I never quite determined, but the song made me want to follow, if only for the time until I could wind back the tape and play this again.

Burundi Black (Part 1): Burundi Steiphenson Black

This is the first in a sequence of instrumentals cutting through the heart of this compilation, no two of which sounding remotely the same. I included the b-side to this, the original track, on Lost 70s 4, but this was the side that got the sporadic airplay at the back end of 1971, beginning of 1972, the record that spent 13 weeks on the top 50, without ever climbing above 31. The genius behind this was French keyboard-player/writer Mike Steiphenson, who discovered the original tapes and laid down a rocketing musical line, based around clavinet and electric guitar, but with an underlying hammered piano. The genius lay in finding a tune that so perfectly fit the original, unaltered drumming and I would have not necessarily killed, but at least seriously maimed to see something so attuned to my already idiosyncratic tastes cross that line and storm into top 30 consciousness.

Sabre Dance:     Spontaneous Combustion

You know this well, Love Sculpture, Dave Edmunds, Khatachaturian taken at breakneck speed with raucous guitar. Spontaneous Combustion covered this in late 1973 and it’s fair to ask what was the point, given that it’s a virtual note-for-note replica, only a little more sedate and collected. It’s b-side, ‘And now for something completely different…’ was the same tune and the same arrangement, only slowed down to half pace. It’s not Love Sculpture, and you wouldn’t choose it in preference to the original, but there were parts of the Seventies where there was precious little good stuff around and it’s not as if there’s anything bad about this version.

Samba Pa Ti: Santana

I’d been hearing this 1978 track a lot when I compiled this disc, resurrected for a TV commercial and given a new lease of life. I’ve heard very little of Santana apart from this slow, sensual, guitar and organ solo, an unexpected hit, and smooth and slinky as this is, it hasn’t tempted me to explore further. It’s a beautiful change of pace in this wordless section.

Jig-a-Jig: East of Eden

The first bona fide big hit of this compilation, ‘Jig-a-Jig’ was a 1971 top 4 hit for a band embarrassed by its belated success as it no longer represented their ‘sound’. It was an Irish jig, played on a highly active fiddle, crossed with a rock section in the middle that dispensed with the formal tune for some energetic guitar and a more rock-oriented fiddling, before looping back into the jig-with-handclaps until the end of the song. A novelty hit, and nothing to make the Chieftains quiver in their boots, but a breath of fresh air that late summer, when you could stop the Radio 1 DJs talking halfway through it.

Dreams: Mike Steiphenson

I admit a cheat. Mike Steiphenson was the genius behind ‘Burundi Black’, which was a complete one-off. Sometime around 1973, I heard, once or twice, an instrumental that I was sure was called ‘Rainbow’, but not often enough to tape. In the YouTube era, I went trawling for Mike Steiphenson tracks and found this lovely, loose, bubbling track, which I had never, to my knowledge, heard in the entire Seventies.

Sarah’s Concern: Curved Air

A return to vocals. Curved Air had had a massive hit in 1971 with ‘Back Street Luv’, which I enjoyed even before seeing Sonja Kristina performing it. Their follow-up wasn’t even announced until the following year, and nobody seemed clear on its correct title (it was ‘Farah’s Concern’ at one point). It didn’t get any airplay and I didn’t get to hear it properly until the 2000s. Not really fair when the band went to the trouble of recording a deliberate, no-album single, and not fair on a perfectly decent, well-sung song, although it lacked the atmosphere and the solid structure of ‘Back Street Luv’. Singles were not the band’s natural metier. How could you say anything worth saying in only three minutes?

If (Would it turn out wrong?):     Esprit D’Corps

Many years after the fact, I found that one of the leading lights of this oddball little pop song was none other than Radio 1 Breakfast DJ and all-round pillock, Mike Read (though I can’t be too hostile, given that I won an album off him playing Reverse Beat the Jock at Manchester Poly, preparatory to a Buzzcocks gig that was part-live on his evening show). And, to be honest, had I known of this at the time, I would have had nothing to hold against him anyway. There’s not much tune to this song, and there’s more phasing than was proper for a record in 1975, but it was a pleasing oddity that year and I could have stood hearing it more often than I did. Besides, if the band had made it, might we have been spared the Frankie Goes to Hollywood debacle, or, more seriously, ‘The UKIP Calypso’?

Galadriel: Marvin, Welch and Farrar

Back to Marvin, Welch and Farrar. My mate Alan, the ELP/Yes/Olivia Newton-John fan bought this album for the John Farrar connection and I heard it round at his house a few times. ‘Galadriel’, taken from the Lord of the Rings character of the same name (I had only recently read the book and was full of all things Tolkien) was clearly intended to be the centrepiece track, the stand-out, and I very much remember it as such, with its slow, sweeping movements and its sonorous chants. The reality, many years later, does not live up to the memory, and if I were to reburn this disc, I would now leave ‘Galadriel’ out, for its feeble horns and its galumphing middle section. Nice harmonies, but not much more to it, and the remove has not treated it kindly.

You can rock’n’roll me: Pan’s People

Ok yes, this is a novelty record, albeit novelty in concept but not necessarily in execution. Pan’s People need no introduction to those of my generation, they were the legendary five-woman dance troupe who were mainstays of TOTP from the last Sixties through to 1975, certain of whose performances, if the files of these were wiped from the net in an unusually specific digital crash, could be reconstructed by direct brain transfer from the memories of gentlemen of a certain age. ‘You can rock’n’roll me’ was a perfectly decent song with a perfectly decent chorus and there are no obvious deficiencies in the young ladies’ singing, although it can’t be said that any of them have particularly strong voices, but the idea is enjoyable and it would have been nice to have seen what they could have magicked up for this has they ever been granted a TOTP performance.

El Doomo: Ellis

The Ellis of the band name was Steve Ellis, he of Love Affair and ‘Everlasting Love’ fame. Like so many late-Sixties pop-stars, Ellis had gone heavy, or at least serious. The original title of this atmospheric, slow mover with its limpid and drifting guitar solos was a somewhat dull extract from the lyrics, but some inspired member of the band jokingly referred to the track as ‘El Doomo’, and for once the unlikely title was adopted and was perfect in every respect. Ellis sings longingly about his confusion in the face of what might seem to be love, but about which he cannot be certain, and the band surround him with a low, loose, yearning sound. It had nothing that would make any Radio 1 DJ outside of Johnnie Walker play it, but if more of them had clubbed together, this might have penetrated public consciousness. As it was, another flop, a great song lost on Philistines.

Whoops a Daisy: Humphrey Ocean and The Hardy Annuals

And abruptly we segue into the end of the Seventies, that part of the decade that is a different world from the traditional Lost 70s context. This is a very silly song and the lyrics are eminently suggestive of an Ian Dury influence, and indeed, Mr Ocean was an artist friend of the Bard of London. Musically, there’s none of the Blockheads’ funk and more of Thirties-frillery as Ocean sings a sweet song about being in love and too shy to do anything about it. A delight.

(I’d go the) Whole Wide World: Wreckless Eric

Wreckless Eric was on the legendary Stiff label, and part of the Bunch of Stiffs Tour. He recorded this subterranean song and thus made a contribution to the happiness of humanity, despite never recording anything else that was remembered by anyone outside his circle of committed fans. ‘Whole Wide World’ is an unusual kind of love song, lugubrious both musically and of vocal style, a paean to commitment based on a rather nasty piece of encouragement by Wreckless’s mother: There’s only one girl in the world for you: she probably lives in Tahiti. So young Eric commits himself to travelling the world over to find her, accompanied by a deep bass sound and throaty chorus which was distinctive all right, but may not have had much appeal in Tahiti, assuming he ever got that far.

Self-conscious over you: The Outcasts

Derry’s Good Vibrations Records discovered the Undertones. They also discovered the Outcasts who were always regarded as a more serious, adult punk band. This glorious single was the antithesis of that notion, a plain, simple song about a girl the singer loved but he’s too shy to approach. He daydreams about her in school. The sentiments are pure Undertones but the voice is darker and more despairing and the music has a punch in its heart that is a world away from Derry’s finest. It’s still a bloody great record, three minutes of pure punk pop, spinning the insoluble question: what’ll I do, do, do? I’m self-conscious over you. Nobody has yet found an answer.

Action Replay: Master Switch

We close with something of an oddity. Master Switch appeared out of nowhere with this driving song, with a loud, buoyant chorus and stirring guitars, and then vanished completely. Apparently, they recorded an album which was never released, and which has still not yet been heard to this day, though the band’s leader still intends to get it out. It’s what I once said about the Undertones, inaccurately as it turns out: that the glory of punk and new wave was that bands didn’t have to gig for three years and pay their dues, that some bands have three minutes of genius in them and this way we could hear those three minutes without a career having to be built upon it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you three minutes of genius.

2 thoughts on “Imaginary Albums – Lost 70s Volume 6

  1. I once saw Kevin Coyne at a one-day music festival in Blackpool FC’s ground, along with Steeleye Span and Roy Harper. A quick Google tells me it was July 1975.
    My abiding memory is of him singing a song about someone’s eyes falling out, while he kicked a wooden chair around the stage. I was not impressed.

  2. Sounds par for the course to me. The only other Kevin Coyne song I can listen to is ‘Amsterdam’ (not a cover of Jacques Brel) since it too has a semblance of a tune.

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