Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 17


When I recorded the first Lost 70s CD, over a decade and a half ago, I had no idea that it could, let alone would stretch into a seventeenth volume, and when I look at some of the tracks included in this latest set, I find it even harder to imagine that I could have gone so long in time and digital recording without having placed such songs. There’s more than the usual number of songs that did chart and a record of of numbers that made the top 10, but as ever the definition is down to me and I doubt too many people would argue that these songs aren’t lost in one way or another. On with the motley!

Carey      Joni Mitchell

I didn’t really like “Big Yellow Taxi”, and it’s not really grown on me that much down the years. I didn’t like Joni Mitchell’s breathiness, nor the seemingly uncontrolled way her voice would shoot up and down the scale, and the frantic guitar strumming didn’t suit me at all. It was all over Radio 1, all the time, and I was musically naïve and still tied to simple, pop melodies. But I was surprised to find how much I liked its follow-up, “Carey”, much more straightforward, sung in a narrower range, but contained and constrained, but the mixture of the guitar, the sweeter melody and the misty romanticism of the lyrics about a relationship coming to an end, with regret mingled into the need to go home. There was a last-nightedness to it that even then I responded to. For years, I had to rely upon a taped version in which I’d managed to cut off almost the last minute of the song and despite decades of the full version I still marvel that the sound does not abruptly cut-out. Some habits are buried deep.

Liar      Three Dog Night

The most recent piece in this jigsaw puzzle, I caught up with this song via a YouTube sidebar that instantly released a chunk of memory. The song was exactly as I remembered it, or hadn’t remembered it for almost fifty years. That said, I don’t actually remember anything about this song except that I remembered it. Like so many Three Dog Night songs, it’s a cover, the original being by Argent and the arrangements being pretty much identical, leading me to wonder whether I’m remembering this or Argent. It was their first single, released in 1970, but then I’m convinced I never heard of Argent before “Hold Your Head Up” (which is never likely to be appearing in any future compilation, so don’t worry: if that one’s lost, it can stay there!) score one for the song, not the singer then.

Which way You Goin’, Billy      The Poppy Family

Strictly speaking, this is a 1969 song, and given that the band was led by Terry Jacks, he of the incredibly nauseating “Seasons in the Sun” number 1 hit in 1974, “Which way you going, Billy” starts with two strikes against it. As to the first objection, this wasn’t a hit in Britain, where it reached no. 9, until late 1970, placing it firmly in my wheelhouse, and as to the second, it’s not Terry singing but Susan Jacks, his then-wife, who has a superb, smooth voice, and who I’ve recently discovered was a total blonde babe (The Poppy Family never visited Britain to promote their success and certainly didn’t do Top of the Pops). This is yet another one that I didn’t like at the time, finding it a bit dull and slow, but which has forced me to rethink it after years of experience. I’ll no doubt be burnt at the stake for even suggesting this but, whilst the two voices aren’t actually similar, I find Susan Jacks has many of the same qualities as Karen Carpenter, except that in this story of a husband confused, rootless and leaving to find himself, Susan conveys much more emotion than Karen ever could.

More than a Lover      Bonnie Tyler

This is an odd inclusion. I loved the song at the time, but the course Bonnie Tyler’s music has taken since this minor 1976 hit has left me with an incurable prejudice against her husky tones. Yet I still love the sound of this song, with it’s carefully layered acoustic guitars, it’s precise, understated drumming and the overall restraint of Ms Tyler’s histrionics, which you’ll never hear again after “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. It’s here despite Bonnie Tyler, because of her. And because I recall a mild argument with my Grannie over this song, in the last year of her life, because she thought it was disgusting, and I tried to defend it as being about being more than a lover, meaning a partner and, by implication, a wife, but she wouldn’t go beyond being a lover when not a wife. And Bonnie Tyler’s real name is Gaynor Hopkins, a curious coincidence because at Primary School I had a crush on a girl in the year above of the same name. But it’s not Bonnie: the years of birth don’t match up and besides, ‘my’ Gaynor was definitely Mancunian. Still, and all…

It’s Raining      Darts

I’d forgotten Darts until not long ago. And it took me until 2018 to realise that that pulsing, dum, dum-dum bass rhythm that introduces the song is a direct rip-off from “My Girl”, as is the spindly guitar that cues up the medley. Darts, for those who don’t remember the Seventies, were a doo-wop revival/rock’n’roll group, four vocalists, led by bass-voice-and-loud-suits arranger Den Hegarty, a tight rhythm section led by drummer John Dummer. “It’s Raining”, which reached no 4, for the last of four hits in 1978 with Hegarty. They had further success after he left the group to look after his father. The new bass voice was much more laid-back and the group suffered for the lack of Hegarty’s intensity. This was a down-tempo ballad, lyrically in the rain-hides-my-tears mode, lit up by some gorgeous solo and ensemble singing. This is the extended version, because you can’t have enough of this good thing. It takes me back, and I’m happy to be there.

Vahevela       Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina

Another one glimpsed on a YouTube sidebar, flicking a switch onto a half-heard memory. A jaunty, clean-written song, an open sea chant. When you check the date, it’s 1971. There are other years of my life I’d choose to relive first, but something powerful is obviously calling me back here.

China Grove      The Doobie Brothers

This is just another memorable, rockier, Doobie Brothers track, belying my lazy assumptions that they never amounted to anything but ‘Long Train Running’ and ‘Listen to the Music’. This kind of mid-Seventies American rock is forever bound to sitting up till 2,00am, listening to James Stannage’s late night show on Piccadilly Records, when that was still showing Radio 1 how to present different types of pop and rock. Nothing lasts.

I wanna stay with you      Gallagher & Lyle

I remembered that Gallagher & Lyle had had two mid-Seventies top 10 singles but I wasn’t sure if this was one of them. I had the vague feeling that it had been a flop, a turntable hit, either just before or just after their brief spell in the spotlight, but I was wrong: it was their second and last biggie, a no. 6 in 1976, just before punk delivered a kick to the head to quite a lot of things, soft, folk-oriented rock by well-mannered duos being one of them. Whether you think that a good thing or not depends on your age and temperament, but I was definitely one of those yearning for more energy and crudeness in music. This came back to me of its own accord, the way old songs seem to float across the corner of your mind when you’re thinking of other things, when nothing has reminded you, and I went looking for it. It’s sweet, and I like its gentleness now more than I ever did. Though, mind you, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still slip on a bit of ‘Janie Jones’…

Spiral Staircase      Ralph McTell

Like when I included the original version of ‘Streets of London’ in an earlier compilation, this Ralph McTell song and performance from the same debut album is technically a 1969 song, but it qualifies for inclusion here because I make the rules and I didn’t hear it until I started to listen to the radio, and that makes it 1970. This is Ralph in a more upbeat mood, the title track, though it’s really a song about frustration. Ralph’s running up and down a spiral staircase but as fast as he runs upwards, the staircase screws itself into the ground, like the screw-fronted Mole in Thunderbirds. The staircase is a metaphor for something you can’t ever beat. Probably it’s Society. No-one’s yet found a reliable method of beating City Hall yet, though we keep hoping, in growing desperation. Ralph’s jaunty little tune is perhaps not quite appropriate for his theme, but I see it as an unconscious appropriation of the future: the optimism of the Sixties, the decade of possibilities remains in the music, but the words are starting to filter through what’s coming. It wasn’t going to be pretty.

Cruel to be Kind      Nick Lowe

Once upon a time, Nick Lowe was hot. From ‘Heart of the City’ onwards, the guy couldn’t write a bad song. Great pop just tumbled out of him, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the country woke up to the man the NME called the ‘Jesus of Cool’. The man was so cool, he took that as the title of his debut solo album. So he went top 10 for the only time in 1978 with the least typical and cool-sounding song he’d got, ‘I love the sound of Breaking Glass’, and then this track the following year, a re-recording of a track off ‘Jesus of Cool’, reached only no. 12 and that was it. This is a fine, straight, pop rock track, given a bigger, boomier, roomier production, with a kicking beat, plenty of acoustic guitar upfront, and a chorus you’d kill your Grannie to have written. In an alternate universe (yes, alright, Earth-2 again), we live in a Nick Lowe world and dammit, yes, it is a far finer place to be.

Delilah      The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

Really, you need to see this as well as just hear it. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (that’s Alex singing, by the way) used to give this a good kicking on stage, so the record company took a live performance, put it out as a single and it smashed into the charts. Top of the Pops didn’t know what had hit it, the last time I saw that much consternation was when Robert Wyatt insisted on singing ‘I’m a Believer’ from his wheelchair. Of course, Tom Jones has got nothing to worry about but, hell’s bells, this really put a rocket into 1975. How on earth could I have forgotten this for so long?

I’d Really Love To See You Tonight      England Dan and John Ford Coley

This one is really a mystery. I know that I underwent a complete musical conversion practically as soon as this smooth piece of California harmony-pop ballad left its brief chart run, but I loved this to bits in 1976 and I still believe it deserved far better than a lowly no. 26. It’s true that Dan (Seals – brother to the other Seals, who teamed up with Croft and produced the original ‘Summer Breeze’) and John were as West Coast American as they come, lush production, smooth sound, sweet harmonies, all the things that I shudder to look back on, but this had control of my ears, with its tale of being reminded of an old girl friend and calling her up to see if she can spend some time with you. Yeah, maybe it’s a bit too casual, even cynical, hoping to arrange a quick booty call, but I was innocent then, and I’m still hearing the call of memory, and better days, and the wish to have even an echo of them that makes this a slice of perfection for me. How could I have gone so long without remember this?

At Seventeen       Janis Ian

And if that one got through the net for so long, how the hell do I account for the fact that it’s taken me seventeen compilations before I caught up with myself and this song? There is too much to say about this song, and you will have to read about it over at the Infinite Jukebox. I let this elude me for a decade and a half? How? Why?

Our Last Song Together      Neil Sedaka

Of all the songs on all the Lost 70s compilations I have curated, this is probably the nearest to home for me. Literally, that is. It was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport under the aegis of Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, then still of 10cc, during the years of the early Seventies Neil Sedaka revival. I remember an interview with Godley, I think, when he was talking about their intention to get Sedaka away from his insistent double-tracking of his voice, and to rely upon it as a solo voice. That’s certainly shown here in this warm, regretful, loving song about things coming to an end, in which the title is completely literal; it’s not about the end of an affair, but a partnership, Sedaka’s long-standing writing partnership with Howie Greenfield. Of course, that’s only the literal meaning. Endings happen all the time, but few are so well celebrated.

Close to You      Phil Cordell

An unsung genius at his most elaborate. Someone should have played this to me during the Seventies instead of leaving me to discover it by accident four decades later. The very definition of Lost.

You are the Woman      Firefall

Firefall, who have featured here before with their soft, immaculately harmonised “It Doesn’t Matter”, were one of the later appearances of California-style soft rock that got such exposure on late-night Piccadilly Radio. It’s gone, they’re gone, the style is mostly something I avoid. This isn’t another “It Doesn’t Matter”, just a pleasant, mid-tempo love song that takes me back to those distant times before I was a working man. If there was a comparable show now, going on until 2.00am, I couldn’t listen to it. I’d be asleep, long before then.

Free Man in Paris      Joni Mitchell

I usually try to avoid having two tracks by the same singer or band on one of these compilations, but the difference in sound between this and “Carey”, travelled in a bit less than four years, is like two different singers. Mitchell’s vocal swoop and glide seems much more suited to this free-form, jazzy, hazy song that borders on being a love song about leaving and regret – much the same territory as “Carey” then – but differs in being about a place, a life, a time. Mitchell’s narrator finds living in Paris intoxicating, but his job – stoking the star-maker machinery behind the popular song, as unlikely as that sounds – drags him back to New York. Mitchell was rapidly outgrowing, had already outgrown, the popular song. This song makes it easy to imagine eating rolls, sipping coffee, casually drawing on a cigarette in some pavement cafe on the Champs Elysee, even before I went to Paris to see for myself. On the other hand, I never have smoked…

Rainbow      The Marmalade

I don’t think I’ve ever previously tried to define as Lost a single that got to no. 3 in the Chart, but this is nevertheless a persuasive example. Like some of the other late Sixties pop bands, The Marmalade have a bit more behind them than their commercial songs. The Marmalade had a string of unsuccessful, yet fascinating and appealing singles before they were threatened with being dropped by their label if they didn’t come up with something that would be a hit. They turned down “Everlasting Love”, giving The Love Affair their big chance, in favour of the similarly-arranged “Lovin’ Things”, which started a burst of four hit songs, including the traditional small-time identical follow-up and a no. 1 – first Scottish band to top the Charts – with an identikit Beatles cover. This, and a change of label, bought them the chance to direct their own career and write their own songs again, leading to a phase of mainly acoustic, reflective, music until a change of personnel shifted their direction yet again. The first fruits of that period was the band’s other no. 1, the justly well-remembered “Reflections of my Life”. It was almost a year later when this song followed it: musically gentle, mid-tempo, low-key, decorated by harmonica, a fluttering acoustic guitar and keen harmonies. “Rainbow” has a minimal tune and minimal lyrics, yet buoyant and confident ones, about love and joining. Whether the rainbow of the song is the rainbow in the sky, or a symbol of harmony, or just another of those girls of weird names, like Windy, who decorate rock’s storied history is for you to decide. The song’s softness, almost unassertiveness, has slid it into the absence of memory, and maybe it is, after all, only a minor track, for all its success, but it is worth taking time to listen to, and to escape into its laid-back milieu.

I’ve Still Got My Heart, Jo      Tony Burrows

Once upon a late 1970 morning, making breakfast before going to school, I had Radio 1 on my transistor radio, Tony Blackburn’s Breakfast Show, as was my wont. In the first half hour of the show, he played the new solo single by Tony Burrows, he of the lead voice of Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, Brotherhood of Man and The Pipkins. It was an up-tempo jaunty, professional song, with a commercial chorus, typical of the times, and well-suited to my slowly-developing tastes. Almost immediately, Blackburn played the b-side, a slow, sentimental ballad that didn’t appeal to me anything like as much, and gave his opinion that this was a much better song, and should have been the a-side. About forty minutes later, to my consternation, he announced that he’d received a call from the record company, who’d said that they were going to take his advice and flip the record, so that the ballad would now be the a-side. I liked the other song andresented that I now wouldn’t get to hear it again, and would never have the chance to tape it off the radio. This sudden emergence on a YouTube sidebar, bringing it all back to me, is the ballad. It didn’t sell. I still prefer “Every Little Move She Makes”.

Carolina’s Coming Home      Vanity Fare

Another from that first year of learning about music, another simple, melodic pop song that was already outdated before I had the chance to get to grips with it. I have versions of this song from Vanity Fare and White Plains and no way of knowing which it is I know, but I’ve gone with Vanity Fare because this was never a single from White Plains. I’m still square in that year that changed everything too much, either way.

Wade in the Water      The Ramsey Lewis Trio

When it comes to my tastes in music, jazz trios playing instrumental music with nothing more than a piano, drums and an upright bass don’t usually count. And tracks from 1966 don’t usually count for compilations like this. But “Wade in the Water” was reissued in 1973 as a single, and despite it mainly being used as an excuse for Radio 1 DJs to talk over (and these boys didn’t need an excuse, I never even heard an intro unless I bought the single), it nearly reached the Top 30. Those introductory horns, blowing their cool descending phrases, then retreating to add nothing but little flashes of musical colour gave way to Lewis’s expert fingers, rippling up and down and across and around the melody. It was never a sound of the Seventies, but then it wasn’t really a sound of any time. It’s a palette all of its own.

It’s True      The Meanies

This is the last time for the token punk endings. I can’t see there being any more, because there’s nothing left now of that time that I can justifiably call Lost, and even this is only Lost in the sense that I don’t remember hearing it way back then. I still regard those last few years, turning the Seventies into the Eighties as the most fun time I had out of music whilst it was still being made up for me. Not just Punk, nor New Wave, but all the forms of music that seemed to be inspired by that wave of energy, that demand to seize music back from those who seemed to want to be worshipped for knowing more chords than you did, or playing in odd time-signatures. It was the only time I really felt in tune, and even then I was nothing but a rebel, kicking back at those who owned us. Didn’t look or sound or live like one: it was only ever in the music. This is a bit too smooth, too polished, a bit too Powerpop perhaps, but I’ll allow that as an exit-line.

What will volume 18 contain? Is there still more?

2 thoughts on “Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 17

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