Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 9


Lost 70s Volume 9 consists of 22 tracks. There’s no overall theme or structure to this latest compilation. It was put together by adding appropriate tracks to a folder until I had enough for a full CD. Some songs are here because I couldn’t get hold of them earlier, some because I discovered them by chance whilst tripping from YouTube video to sidebar, others because I simply remembered them at long last. There’s only one hit single in this volume, which only got added on a third edition, but it was a big, albeit mysterious from our modern viewpoint, success.

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.

It’s For You – Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night were massive in America but never really cut it in Britain, with one big and one minor hit. This pre-dated both of them, a cover of a song Paul McCartney wrote for Cilla Black, rocked up. It’s primarily an a capella track, utilising Three Dog Night’s three frontmen, singers all, over a low-mixed rhythm track, the song switching from harmony to a complex but effective arrangement where the singers are so much in tune that they’re rotating individual words. By the time the band comes in, about ninety seconds along, the work’s been done and the track fades fast, but by then the instruments are redundant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr7NOTYbPeU

Here Comes the Sun    – Richie Havens

I’d completely forgotten this flat, rhythmic version of George Harrison’s late song, which was given plenty of airplay in the summer of 1971, but which passed unnoticed. Where Harrison’s original emphasised the sun aspect, embracing fully the summer that comes after cold and darkness, Havens’ hard-strummed guitar and his low, growling tones belong to what has passed. Havens knows that what is coming is better, but he has yet to emerge fully from his cocoon. The sun awaits, like the future.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV_IRGzIBS0

Lucinda – Howard Werth and The Moonbeams

Howard Werth had been well-known as the lead singer and songwriter in Audience, a mainly progressive, blues-oriented band in the early Seventies who nevertheless managed a string of forceful, melodic singles that always appealed but never sold. The band’s sound was distinguished by Werth’s throaty, half-strangled vocals, equally effective on uptempo rockers and delicate ballads. When the band broke up, Werth went solo with a backing band and released this excellent love song as a first single. It was the same old story: airplay, especially from Johnnie Walker, and no success. In the words of the album this ended up on, King Brilliant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XBQ6rqOFNY

Cruel to Fool – String Driven Thing

Put this funky little 1976 single alongside 1973’s ‘It’s a Game’ and you’d hardly believe it was the same band. No fiddle, no female voice, a drummer with a drumkit and a slinky, clavinet based sound. It’s a brilliant song, a pained, you’re-cheating-on-me wail, and it’s long forgotten. YouTube doesn’t even have it, which is a damned shame since you could do with hearing it.

Do you wanna dance? – Deep Feeling

This is an old and usually raucous song given the Deep Feeling languid, soft-rock treatment, all relaxed vocals and sweet harmonies, easy tempo and gentle, unthreatening arrangement. It’s completely different from any other version of this song which is what makes it such a quiet pleasure, but the formula is essentially limited, and a little of this is enough. This is a very peaceful little.

This track is not currently available on YouTube

Hooked on a Feeling – Blue Swede

Nowadays, thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy, this is no longer a forgotten treatment of an old B J Thomas country pop late Sixties song. Now, it’s back with a bang, and a full-throated howl of pop energy. Fans of the original still loathe the ‘hooga-chukka’ chant that leads in the song and is repeated partway through. Jonathan King isn’t too happy with it either: he introduced the chant for his 1971 single, which Blue Swede – a Swedish band, you’ll be surprised to hear – copied to great effect in 1974. King’s version may have been original but it suffers from the same defect as all Jonathan King fare in the early Seventies, production that’s as thin and weedy as his voice. It took Blue Swede to put some much-needed oomph into it and transform the song into the pop classic it has been ever since, but since you can’t copyright arrangements, King gets nothing for it. It has to be said that sometimes there is a modicum of justice in the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrI-UBIB8Jk

Stone’s Throw from Nowhere – Cado Belle

In the early Seventies, the full throated, bluesy Maggie Bell was a perennially celebrated vocalist. She wasn’t the only impressively voiced Scottish singer called Maggie, however, as this long-forgotten single by the long-forgotten Cado Belle demonstrated. The band were part of the Seventies tradition of Scottish soul bands, led by the Average White Band, though the Average Whites never had a singer remotely as distinctive and powerful as Maggie Reilly. This is slow, slinky, underpinned by a degree of blues-rock that never interrupts the song’s roots in passion and despair, and it should have been played every hour on the hour until people actually realised how good it is and started buying it in massive amounts. Instead, Maggie Reilly’s only commercial success ended up being vocals on a Mike Oldfield single. Mike Oldfield, I mean, come on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMPBRL817EM

White Lies, Blue Eyes – Silver Bullet

A tight, taut, blue-eyed soul pop rock song by a band who had to be renamed for the UK market, there already being a different Bullet operating over here. It was an American success, and got into the lower areas of our Top 50, with the right credentials to go higher if it had had more airplay. Tight, urgent harmonies, accusing the seemingly innocent object of the singer’s affections of being a serial cheat, a clipped, spiralling guitar solo, and some infectious rhythms. I even bought this at the time, having to specially order it to my local shop, but to no avail.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua4sWxKKE-I

Couldn’t Believe a Word – The 45s

I usually leave the late Seventies songs to the end of these compilations, but though this single came out on Stiff, and couldn’t have existed without the punk era having upset the normal rules of the industry, the sound is too much Sixties pop clarity to be representative of the era. It’s a rush of guitar and organ, overlaid with vocals celebrating the best aspects of a relationship that, before even we hit the first chorus, we know is a thing of the past, ended by her, without warning, to the singer’s total disbelief. Whatever spurred her to it, it caught him completely blind-sided and he doesn’t even have an explanation to take into his desperate mourning. Meanwhile, the band play on as if nothing has ever happened, as if it’s alright, as if it’s still a sunny day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofcHJw1spG8

Understand – Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel

Most of the tracks on the Lost 70s series are either singles, or else album tracks that became famous and much-played in their own right. This is neither. It’s a long, slow, reflective number played one day by Johnnie Walker, and taped by me on some impulse that proved to be very right indeed. Over an initial piano melody, Harley muses about spilling his secrets, telling ‘everything’. He’s thinking of, singing to a lover, trying to convince himself to spill what is on his mind. Something’s there, something has caused a rift between him and his lover. It has an explanation, but Harley doesn’t know whether to reveal it, or how to. The piano plays arpeggios as Harley works his way through the confusion in his mind over what is better. If I could put the words together, he decides, if I could only put the words together, you’d understand. Then a synthesizer slides in, bubbling and low, noodling sound as Harley’s thoughts spin and whirl. When he returns, Hamlet-like he is still no further forward, convinced that he can resolve this problem if only he chooses the right words, aware that the wrong words will have a disastrous effect, unable to go ahead or back. He’s there yet, where the beauty of the music is his only relief from the torment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Kl4sa0Ky8o

Thomas the Rhymer – Steeleye Span

This is the one that went in between ‘Gaudete’ and ‘All Around My Hat’. You can tell why it got neither airplay nor sales, being a heavily rocked up version of a traditional tune, without either the novelty appeal of the one before it or the clear cut chorus of the one that followed, but it has a stop-go charm of its own. It’s uncharacteristic of the normal run of Steeleye Span music, and borrows more of Fairport Convention than Steeleye’s fans might have been comfortable with but it suited me admirably. I always was perverse in my music choices of the Seventies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo3VxbJ0RJ4

Water in my Wine – Fogg

Fogg came and went in my consciousness via this one-off single in 1973. A bit of daytime airplay on Radio 1, especially from Johnnie Walker, then nothing. The song is heavily influenced by Lindisfarne – Fogg were also Geordies, as is evidenced by the reference in the chorus to the ever-popular River Tyne – with acoustic guitar to the fore, and prominent, folk-oriented harmonies bursting out in the chorus, though the electric guitar solo bespeaks a more rock-oriented stance that was apparently the band’s usual style. The lyrics are incomprehensible, but its all very geordie in atmosphere and feel, and Lindisfarne weren’t being Lindisfarne at this point, so my ears latched onto it and refused to let go, and the soar into the chorus still lifts me up all these many years later.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1C3y9xDZ8I

Time – Taggett

There was no connection I was aware of between Taggett and Fogg, but my mind has always linked these two tracks together. Both have a strong, recurring chorus, with powerful harmonies emphasising a commercial tune, though Taggett (no relation to any Glasgow based detective series) display rockier roots than Fogg, and their single is sprightly where Fogg were stately. But that’s why they sit together on this compilation, because somewhere my musical soul hears these as twins.

This track is not currently available on YouTube

Chinese Restaurant – The Sarstedt Brothers

The Sarstedt Brothers – Clive, Peter and Robin – got together in 1973 for this vigorous, brash and intelligent single. Clive was a decade past his success as Eden Kane, Peter four years on from his momentary triumph with the much played and much mocked ‘Where do you go to my lovely?’ whilst junior brother Robin would have his brief moment in the sun with a deliberately retro song and performance on ‘My Resistance is Low’, in 1975. Peter being the one with the most contemporary track record, this song was clearly centred on him: its language and his distinctive voice at the front of the mix demonstrate that. The single was heavily backed by Noel Edmonds, who had only recently replaced Tony Blackburn on the Radio 1 Breakfast show, and you can tell how far back this was because Edmonds’ schtick was still an enthusiasm for music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb3SPUxK-k0

Clear White Light – Wishful Thinking

I apologise in advance for the quality of the link, which is basically a video of the single playing on a record deck whilst the camera mike picks up the sound from the speakers. Wishful Thinking was a band that were around in the background in the early Seventies, occasionally recording a single that got a small amount of airplay. This was one of those. It interested me by being one of only two Lindisfarne covers released in the Seventies (the other, of ‘Lady Eleanor’, is still not available in any digital form). It’s not a bad version, though not a patch on the heavily choral original, and the band have flattened out the song in the process of commercialising it. Think of it as an interesting, if ultimately sterile curiosity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzraV-XN1wU

Danger Signs    – Penetration

Penetration always occupied an anomalous position alongside punk. Their music echoed the punk ethos, and their sound was analogous to Siouxsie and the Banshees, but Pauline Murray always had more of a singing voice than anyone else in punk, including Siouxsie, and the band had a darker, more musicianly style. Indeed, for their second album, they added a second guitarist whose roots and preferences were in heavy metal! ‘Danger Signs’ was a non-album single that fell between the first and second albums. The NME praised the 12″ version of this for the sonic depth and power it gave the track and I took the chance and bought it. And it rocks!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKnX9-86BYU

Warning Lights – Richard Barnes & Tony Hazzard

Richard Barnes came closest to chart success in 1970/71 with a run of singles that peaked around no 34/36. Two of these, the more famous and memorable of his career, were written by professional writer and occasional singer Tony Hazzard. Barnes and Hazzard were friends as well as professional colleagues, and in 1976 teamed up to record an album together. Their version of Hazzard’s ‘Fox on the Run’, a slightly slower, less poppier version of the Manfred Mann hit, came out as a single, but ‘Warning Lights’ would have a far superior choice. It’s a beautiful song with a glowing melody and some of the duo’s most powerful harmonies, about a lonely lightkeeper seeking love. It sounds stupid but it’s far from it. It’s also the only track off the album available in digital form, which is why it’s on a Lost 70s compilation and not a CD of its own.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyViJJdYZx4

One More Dance – Jack the Lad

When Lindisfarne split in 1974, it was my first experience of having a favourite band break up on me. A version of Lindisfarne carried on, with new members, but never sounded quite right to me ears, whilst Messrs Cowe, Clements and Laidlaw added one member and turned up as Jack the Lad. They immediately came out with this jaunty but melancholy number, looking back on a relationship that grew out of an impromptu decision to have one more dance, that blew up out of all proportion in a way that caused harm to all. But all it takes is to hear that song again: they’re not free, they never will be entirely free, but the singer would do it all again in a heartbeat. The music isn’t entirely in harmony with the sentiments, lacking entirely of the wistful, but the sentiments are as powerful as they could possibly be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL1vXtiEfAc

Don’t Touch Me There – The Tubes

The Tubes were a great big rock’n’roll spoof of a band, overthrowing shibboleths at every turn, disrespecters of conventions and gloriously OTT in the process. ‘Don’t Touch me There’, a rock’n’roll melodrama, with Phil Spector production and great pleading lines about not touching her there, no, never ever there (where there was was never specified but we all took it to be what E. L. James prudishly described as ‘down there’). There was also never any explanation as to what might happen if anyone did touch her there, but the way the Tubes sang it, there wasn’t much doubt. This was only ever a b-side to the Tubes’ only UK hit, the maxi-single ‘White Punks on Dope’ (I said they were a cartoon) but I loved it ten times better than the a-side.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTd3PrTzSPY

Whispering Grass (BBC Session) – Sandy Denny

Sandy Denny covered this old, romantic song, originally a classic by the Inkspots, in 1974, putting it out as a single. I loved it for her cool, precise voice, and the respectfully old-fashioned arrangement. That was almost twelve months before the travesty version by two stars from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum (and I never thought that much of Don Estelle’s voice anyway, which was sweet but wooden, much like his acting). This version is the one Sandy produced for a BBC Session, a slightly less polished version of the original, but a gem all the same. Beautiful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrxB_9COPUE

Lady Eleanor (single) – Lindisfarne

It was hearing ‘Clear White Light’, rather fuzzily, on Radio Luxembourg, Fabulous 208, that alerted me to Lindisfarne, and this was the cool, collected, slow and hazy sequel, all Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Jackson’s mandolin. It flopped in 1971, but a year later, after ‘Meet me on the Corner’ had jangled its way into the top 5, Lindisfarne re-recorded it, in a louder, rougher sound, and reached no 3. It’s amazing that something like this could get to no 3, even all that time ago. But this is the quieter, more composed, more restrained and more spooky version. It’s all right Lady Eleanor. I’m alright, here in your arms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zny53R1cJE

To One in Paradise – The Alan Parsons Project

The Alan Parsons Project was a studio ensemble, brought together by Recording Engineer Alan Parsons, to record an album of songs inspired by various Edgar Allan Poe stories. The vigorous and pounding ‘(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather’ followed the same old route as so many in these compilations: airplay but no sales, but I liked it. I also liked its slower, dreamier, floatier follow-up, though I only heard it perhaps half a dozen times. It’s here because when I got access to hear it properly, I didn’t recognise a thing, but I still like to get lost in its drifting sounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrMKh2M-qHM

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s