The Infinite Jukebox: Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’


Some records you have to grow into.
I was just turned 14 when I first seriously began to listen to music, the beginning of the Seventies, 1970. A year of naivete, lack of knowledge, lack of background, and trying to work out what my tastes might possibly be.
One of the Top 10 records I heard that year was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Abraham, Martin and John’. I had no idea how uncharacteristic of Gaye’s recordings for Motown this song was, nor that it was a cover of a successful Dion single of two years earlier. Probably I’d never heard or heard of ‘I Heard it through the Grapevine’, though I did know Gaye’s name from his duet with Tammi Terrell at the end of 1969, on ‘The Onion Song’, whose simple, catchy melody I’d liked even as I struggled to reconcile it with the similarly themed ‘Melting Pot’ by Blue Mink. Did I like ‘Abraham, Martin and John’? Between then and now, I can’t remember.
One of the other things I didn’t know was Tammi Terrell had died at the age of 24 years within only a few months of ‘The Onion Song’, dropping out of our charts, of a brain tumour that had resisted nine operations, or that this was first diagnosed after she had collapsed on stage whilst singing live with Gaye in 1967. Gaye had held his partner’s voice in high esteem, and was devastated by her death. Because he was her friend, he was the only person from Motown to be allowed to attend her funeral, at which he sang.
Terrell’s death affected Gaye immensely, driving him into depression and drug use and into a deep rethinking of what he wanted from his music. The result of this was ‘What’s Going On’, as a song and an album. Berry Gordy hated it, thought that a song about Vietnam would kill Gaye’s career. Don’t forget that Motown was a commercial label, a hit factory, a production line, just one with incredibly talented musicians and singers. In Gordy’s eyes, ‘What’s Going On’ was anathema. Motown didn’t do politics, didn’t offend. I believe that Marvin Gaye responded to this by refusing to sing for six months, until Gordy gave way and agreed.
I heard it in the early part of 1971, a year on from beginning but not yet even beginning to form my own tastes. It was the follow-up to ‘Abraham, Martin and John’, but it didn’t chart, it didn’t get much airplay, and in my naïve way I blamed it on the contrast between the smooth surfaces, the easy, flowing vocals, the sweet music, and the busy, fussy percussion, bubbling beneath the surface of the song.
Every now and again, through the Seventies and beyond, there’d be Best Album polls. The New Musical Express came out with the first I saw, in 1973: their writers nominated 99, and a competition was set the readers to write 100 words nominating the 100th, with the winner getting the whole 100. Except that it was a Moody Blues album (my then favourites) and I had to pare my initial draft down from 200 words to exactly 100, I don’t remember my entry, but I didn’t win.
And the winner was What’s Going On, an album I’d never heard, that I’d never heard of, that seemed totally alien to the rock coverage of the NME. And every succeeding iteration of that Best 100, in that paper at least, was always won by Marvin Gaye and this album.
I was a white boy whose tastes started in pop, diverged into rock, with unwilling exposure to prog, and no interest in soul or disco, except for very odd things here and there (I was the least likely Jimmy Ruffin fan you could imagine). I’ve no idea now when I finally did listen to What’s Going On, but I was a long time past the Seventies, I had broadened my tastes in many unexpected directions (and I hadn’t had to listen to prog for a very long time).
And I was ready. Ready to listen with ears wide open to something that I at last understood was a masterpiece. To an album, to a song, that a man with things on his mind, looking at the world around him and seeing so many wrong things in it, seeing both his people and their people driven and riven, and speaking out, asking people to see and hear and and not keep on this path because of where it went.
First and foremost was this song. Musically, now I’ve discarded my stupid ideas about the clash between the voice and the percussion, I am in awe of it, as a relaxed, whole experience, that brings together Gaye’s assurance as a singer and his uncertainty as a man. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, couched as addresses to those around him as members of a great family: mothers, too many of them crying, brothers, far too many of them dying.
It speaks to the times, of a stupid, needless, cruel and draining war that too many rich white men avoided too easily and too many poor black men fought. Gaye sang from within the destruction of the Vietnam War, seeing the loss around him, asking for the tide to be stemmed, for the people to see each other as people. War is not the answer could be said in 1971, and increasingly many were saying it, though they were loathed and screamed at by the ones who weren’t at risk of dying.
Only love can conquer hate, in another’s voice, might have been a pale reflection of the hippy dippy trippy Flower Power of 1967, but in Gaye’s vision it was a reminder that we all of us must live together and that love was the only thing that worked for us all.
By the time I was old enough to hear these things, and to understand them outside of their being words, I was cynical and mistrusting, but I was old enough to hear this music and understand all it tried to do, and that its spirit was real, was whole, whole enough to overtake me.
America is no longer at war in Vietnam. Marvin Gaye was murdered by his father in 1984. But just as Sam Cooke saw what was around him, and put what he knew into ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, Marvin Gaye looked about him and sang ‘What’s Going On’. It too has not aged a nanosecond. It wrapped its time around itself, it was bold enough to make a statement, not a question, and it will forever speak to us of what we are and what we need to do and be if we are to extend our time on this planet.
Mama mama, there’s too many of you crying, brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying. Still.

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The Infinite Jukebox: Robert Wyatt’s ‘Yesterday Man’


Has it ever occurred to you, when listening to any Golden Oldie show that broadcasts Chris Andrews’ colossal 1966 hit, ‘Yesterday Man’, that there is a massive gulf between the sound of the song – peppy, poppy, bouncy, delirious, uptempo, upbeat, danceable – and what Andrews is actually singing about?
After a brassy, bright intro, trumpeting to a halt to give a platform for Andrews to deliver his first line, he announces that he’s a Yesterday Man, and affirms to his friends that this is what he is. And, in case there should be some doubt about a linguistic shift that has utterly transformed the meaning of the words, he repeats it and repeats. That’s what I am, that’s what I am, a Yesterday Man, with a quick confirmatory echo behind him of ‘Gone is the look of love she had last night.’
Ok, it’s plain, and the verses make it plainer. He had a girl. She was great. He thought she was in love with him, but she’s dumped him overnight. He was sure taken in. And now he’s her Yesterday Man and he couldn’t sound more pleased about it if you’d offered him a 14″ Deep Pan Pizza with all his favourite toppings on it.
Hey, wait a minute. This is a break-up song, no doubt, break-up-I-was-conned, and Andrews is singing about it as if it was the best experience of his life, and no-one seemed to have noticed? Truly we are strange people.
Jump now to 1974. Robert Wyatt, once of Soft Machine and Matching Mole, now confined to a wheelchair after a fall from a window resulted in a broken back, records a cover version of The Monkees’ ‘I’m a Believer’ for a John Peel Show session. It goes down well enough that Wyatt records it as a single and has an unexpected minor hit and a controversial Top of the Pops appearance.
In the New Musical Express, it’s reported that Wyatt has recorded a version of ‘Yesterday Man’ that’s even more brilliant as a follow-up, but for unknown reasons, the single is cancelled. Until one day in 1977 when, listening to Piccadilly Radio, an unknown track started to play. ‘Gone is the look of love she had last night’, it began, and I dived for the tape recorder and hit Record, for I’d never forgotten about the Robert Wyatt version and this was indeed it, but what it was doing on Commercial Radio at that point I have no idea, and I never heard it played again.
Wyatt’s interpretation differs massively from Andrews. He takes the song at a slower pace, noticeably but not dramatically so. His vocal range, which is in a higher register than Andrews, lends itself to the plaintive, whilst the instrumentation is thicker, weightier. The song is immediately recognisable: the syncopation is there and the song structure hasn’t been tampered with.
But what distinguishes it most clearly is the simple difference that Wyatt is singing to the words and not the arrangement.
And make no mistake, this is a melancholy song, and incredibly so in its last line, when the singer confesses that in spite of all that I say, I’d take her back any day. And Wyatt sings it like it is and in the process turns a cheery romp into a sorrowful lament and a confession of obsession and weakness. It’s what his voice is made for, and the arrangement reflects it perfectly.
As for the original, we all know that the juxtaposition of elements in any form of art can be a fruitful form of tension, but really, singing about heartbreak in a happy-clappy jolly voice and arrangement as if you’ve won the EuroMillions jackpot on a multi Rollover week is not going to produce anything for anyone. Wyatt got it right, taking his cue from the words, and on a long ago day in 1977, I reacted instinctively and grabbed the chance to hear this, and to take it into my memory where it resonated for the rest of my life.

The Infinite Jukebox: Black’s ‘Wonderful Life’


Once upon a time, I fell in love. Of itself, this wasn’t necessarily an unusual thing but what made this unique was that, for the first time, she had fallen for me. And before I’d done been smitten.
She was a very private person so, even now, over twenty years since the last time I saw her, I’m not going to give her name, nor any personal details. Loving and being loved was a new experience, and a formative one. For the first time, I had somebody to whom I was responsible, for whom I had to be strong. That experience changed me out of all recognition.
I was very into music, and it was inevitable that I would play loads and loads of it at her. The first day, I gave her a lift home after work and automatically shoved the cassette into the player when I started the car. The tape was of REM, Document, and I can still remember the eagerness in her voice when she turned to me and said. “You do know you’ve got some great music here!”
With some exceptions, it was me playing music to her and she revelling in all the new things she heard off me. Not everything, of course, and there was some feedback in the other direction: given her heritage, I started appreciating The Chieftains a bit more, though I had seen them in concert less than a decade previously: my second Chieftains gig was one of our first formal ‘dates’.
As we drifted further apart, in later years, our tastes diverged. She got heavily into Maria Carey, which was not something we were ever going to share. Sadly, given that our first musical bonding was over REM, I never got to take her to see them, but we did share a 10,000 Maniacs concert, which she loved to bits, and loved the band even more than she did REM. There was a second gig a year later, but the date coincided with something family, and family always came first with her, and no matter how close we were, one thing I was not and never would be was family.
Sometimes, music is pure, unadulterated nostalgia. ‘Wonderful Life’ reminds me of her, first and last and always, because she loved it. It’s rich, romantic sound, it’s easy, smooth chorus, Colin Vearncombe’s singing. I loved the song, but not as much as she did. Now, though, it is indelibly associated with her, whenever I hear it she is in my head, and all that we did to change each other’s lives.
The odd thing is that it was more her song than mine, but my love for it persisted, and hers waned, until putting it on on a pub jukebox for her produced only indifference, as indeed did I. So it’s a memory of her for that reason too. She changed her opinions about a lot of things in those last few, sporadic years, and we never got to discuss what led to that, about any of them. One day, she put the phone down on me, and that was it. We spoke together, on the phone again, only once, years later.
But ‘Wonderful Life’ has us both in it. It is a talisman into which we vested what was best and finest about our time together, so it is both light and shade to me. Like the stone axe in Alan Garner’s Red Shift, Jan’s ‘Bunty’, it is something real. Except that it cannot be taken away and hidden in a museum.
Does she remember me when she hears it? Does she still remain to hear it? She was older than me, and I no longer have any idea if she is alive. But as long as I have ears for this song, she will always be alive, and everything that was sad and bad and destroyed no longer exists, only our love and our passion. When things were good, when they were right, it was indeed a Wonderful Life, and I owe poor Colin Vearncombe, who is no longer with us, a debt for encapsulating what was in his song.
And sometimes I cry like a baby for what never will be again.

The Infinite Jukebox: William Bell & Judy Clay’s ‘Private Number’


A long time ago, in a land more wonderful and fair than the one in which we live, even if it was the Seventies, there was a Radio 1 DJ called Johnnie Walker.
Like practically all the DJs up till then, Walker (real name Peter Dingley) was a veteran of the Pirates. He had been excluded from the initial and early intakes because he had been considerably more militant about the Pirate cause/principles, especially when they were shut down, and had to serve a period of effective quarantine.
In 1972, he was given the Radio 1 lunchtime slot, originally 1.00 – 3.00pm, later 12.00 – 2.00pm Monday to Friday. Walker brought a relaxed, laidback style to things but, more individually, he brought something that the other daytime DJs didn’t: he was into the music!
You can just imagine.
Walker’s ‘gimmicks’ were all, therefore, based around the music. There was the ‘Number One at One’, a different Number 1 record every day at 1.00pm, including the new no.1 on Tuesdays, a track from the no. 1 album, an historic no. 1 and the no. 1 in America, on various days. He also offered ‘Pop the Question’.
This was a daily music quiz, following directly on from the Number One at One. You wrote in to be considered then, at about 11.00am on the day, you would get a phone call from the BBC, checking your availability from about 12.35pm onwards. It was a Tuesday.
They’d phone you back then, do all the necessary checks for sound-levels etc, with you as Challenger to the existing Champion. Then, at about five past one, you were on air, talking to Radio 1s multi-million listenership, as Johnnie tried to coax a bright, cheerful, bubbly, un-nervous-as-hell response out of you: yeah, some hope from seventeen year old me.
The quiz took the form of alternate questions, based on the top 30, Champion first. There was an easy round, one question each. You picked a number between 21 and 30, both answered it, and went to the medium questions, numbers 11 to 20. One question, one answer each, and it was into the Top 10, the hard questions.
This time it was like the sudden death phase of a penalty shoot-out, backwards and forwards, until all ten questions were asked and, if the score was still level, it went to a tie-breaker. The winner won an LP token (£5) and stayed on until the next day, the loser won a single token (50p). Originally, winners could stay on as long as they kept winning, but after a number of winners who stayed on for over a fortnight, the rules were changed to limit Champions to a five day stay.
I was on on a Tuesday. I wanted to tape the performance, but my mother had arranged to take my sister and her friend swimming, and they would be out when I was on air. I tried lugging my reel-to-reel tape recorder downstairs into the hall, as far as possible whilst still within reach of the record button, connected to my transistor radio, but the feedback would have blown everything, so my appearance was lost to posterity.
I won though. I was the Pop the Question Champion!
The next day, it was all different. Not the set-up process, but at least I had family on hand to record my second broadcast.
We got through the easy round with no difficulties. As Champion, I selected first in the Medium Round. “With which female singer,” Johnnie asked, “did William Bell have a top 10 hit in 1969 with the song ‘Private Number’?”
My heart sunk. 1969 might only have been four years earlier, but anything before that crucial cut-off line of 1 January 1970 was entirely dependent upon Radio 1’s golden oldie policy. Which was diverse and enthusiastic and prolific but which, if it had even included ‘Private Number’, had only been once or twice in my hearing. I did not know the answer.
And this wasn’t one of those in-there-if-only-I-could-force-it-to-surface don’t knows but a straight up-and-down haven’t got a ******* clue don’t knows (I didn’t use the kind of language represented by all those asterisks back then, and certainly not anywhere within a blast radius of thirty miles, which was about how far my mother could hear me swear).
I sat on our telephone table seat throbbing with ignorance. I did have one name in my head: from somewhere I had come up with the surname ‘Hutch’. But could I conjure up a first name? Could I b*****y.
It must have been obvious to the entire nation that I was drowning vertically, but I had to sit there, frantically trying to induce something – anything – to come out of the black hole between my ears. Eventually, though, Johnnie had no option but to put the clock on me, a ten second countdown. At the end of it, I had nothing. I had Hutch and, at the uttermost end of my tether I guessed wildly: “Judy Hutch?”
“Oh!” Johnnie said, in obvious sympathy. “You’re so close but I can’t give you that. It’s actually Judy Clay.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had the name Hutch, I was half-convinced it was right and it was wrong. I’d guessed a girl’s name completely at random and of all the names I could have guessed, I only went and guessed the right bleedin’ one! Is this fair? Is this fair, my little ones, is this fair?
All I had left was the faint hope that my challenger would get the same kind of not-really-a-medium question as I had but she got a straight bat into the long grass job about the name of the Sunday morning programme Brian Matthew then presented (‘My Top Twelve’), which she duly delivered, toppling me. I was done, I was fiddled, it wasn’t fair. I’m not still bitter and twisted about it, forty five years on, honestly.
I have never since forgotten just who it was who sang ‘Private Number’ with William Bell in 1969.
And I’d love to hate the record bitterly, but it’s a genuinely enjoyable piece of light pop-soul with a wistful theme, a fluid chorus and some glorious slow horns.
Bastards.

The Infinite Jukebox: Mr Acker Bilk’s ‘Stranger on the Shore’


After nearly eighty entries, this is only the second instrumental to appear on the Infinite Jukebox, and it is something of an odd choice. It’s a spur of the moment choice, brought about by one of those moments of YouTube serendipity: I put on an album of surfer instrumentals as background music for a post I’m writing, get bored with how samey the guitars all sound, decide to play an instrumental not on this collection, put up Jack Nitzsche’s ‘The Lonely Surfer’, notice he’s done a version of ‘Stranger on the Shore’, play it out of curiosity, check a couple of other versions using trumpet, piano, guitar as the lead instrument, then play the original with the urge to explain why it works and they don’t.
First, I have to distinguish for myself why this isn’t just a case of infinite familiarity trumping the shock of the new. For I am familiar with the Acker Bilk original, right back from when it was a commercial phenomenon, a number 1 hit single and a single that hung around the British charts for a full year.
And I am familiar with something that not many people recall, and even fewer know, which is that ‘Stranger on the Shore’ was the theme music for a BBC children’s Sunday teatime drama series of the same name, that it was retained as the music for the show’s sequel, ‘Stranger in the City’ (silly kid me, I expected the music’s name to be changed when the sequel appeared), and that the single was credited as being the theme to the TV series.
To my amazement, though I remember nothing about either series, it has its own Wikipedia entry, describing it as a five part drama about a shy French teenager in Brighton, acting as an au pair and facing culture shock. ‘Stranger on the Shore’ was broadcast in 1961, and would seem to have been shown over the five weeks immediately before my sixth birthday! And it seems that I was not that wide of the mark in thinking the instrumental’s title would change thanks to the sequel, because it had originally been entitled ‘Jenny’, after Bilk’s daughter, and it had been renamed to the show’s title.
By rights, I should have no time for this track. It’s from the pre-Beatles era, lacking in that energy and aural freshness that Merseybeat introduced, and Bilk – Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band – were mainstays of the “trad” boom (traditional jazz) that was supposed to have replaced rock’n’roll, and I do not dig jazz and I especially do not dig trad (spare me, please, from ever hearing ‘When the Saints go Marching In’ again).
But ‘Stranger on the Shore’ rises above everything else recorded by Bilk and his band of pretend Somerset yokels in this period. Bilk is the only ‘band’ participant on this track, which features sweet strings from the Leon Young String Chorale. This is yet another factor that ought to prejudice me against it, that and its associations with my parents’ ideas about music.
Yet it works. It’s more than just a time capsule that, without fail, takes me back to those black-and-white days, to the Light Programme whilst Mum did her housekeeping, to making a mini-den out of the clothes maiden, hiding between its wings, surrounded by the smell of drying cotton, to dull and empty Sundays waiting endlessly for the TV to come back on again, to those times before my sister was born. It contains all these things and even nearly sixty years later, tied indelibly to its times, it is still a moving, soothing, atmospheric piece of music, whose TV-born title lends to it an air of fitness. It is, despite its smoothness, the sound of loneliness.
Those alternate versions I’ve listened to today fail, not just because they replace the clarinet with other lead instruments, but because they fail to understand the meaning of the music. They treat it as easy-listening, as nothing but a good tune. They apply a rhythm, a beat, background instruments, against which the trumpet, the piano, the guitar plays the music, and they pick out the individual notes, and they lose it completely.
Mr Acker Bilk’s version doesn’t bother with such things. There’s just his clarinet, supplemented by the sweet strings, in little background moments that complement the melody, that work with and for it, or provide an ‘instrumental’ break from the voice of the clarinet. For the breathy, low-register smoothness of the clarinet flows forward, the notes integrated, almost elided into one another. Nothing else intrudes, there is no beat to dictate the tempo, just Bilk out on his own, the stranger through whose mind these sounds progress, heedless of others, on a shore that in the tv series (the early episodes of which I missed) was that of Brighton but which in the music is merely a shore in the mind, ethereal and endless.
Sometimes, when I focus upon it rather than listen to it with familiarity, tears start up, for the wish to live then again, a little boy without cares or fears and two parents he loved in that instinctive way that is the right and necessity of all small children, and for the contemplative mood of the music, the sound of being alone.
Acker Bilk understood that. The others don’t. A good tune is a good tune, but in only one man’s hands does it have soul.

The Infinite Jukebox: The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver’s ‘Arms of Mary’


One little-commented upon aspect of my belated discovery of pop and rock music ten days before the end of the Sixties is that, excepting those who continued strong between decades, such as the Who, I only knew the bands and artists of the Seventies in their guises of that year. It was as if they all sprang into existence on January 1st 1970, without any kind of past.
Whereas a great many of them had had a prior existence on the Sixties, some with success, others with no commercial track record. Only slowly, and more often than not by accident and with a fascinated surprise, would I discover where and how these people had been in the Sixties. For instance, though I never heard their music, I often saw the name Gentle Giant in the NME, without connecting them for a second to Simon Dupree and The Big Sound, hitmakers with ‘Kites’. But these were the same band.
It still happens today, fifty years on. Links emerge, connections between known and unknowns, the more so as I continue to indulge my fascination with the obscure, the rare, the bright and overlooked pop of the late Sixties.
Just this week, I’ve had one of those songs doing earworm duty in my head, just the chorus, but that includes the title, ‘Sadie and her Magic Mr Galahad’. With the majority of these things, I know the song title far better than the artist, and I couldn’t remember who was responsible for this.
Eventually, I cracked and googled the title, identifying the artist as A New Generation (of whom I have at least one further track), who later underwent a minor name change to The New Generation. But what caught my eye on one of the links was the song’s writer: Iain Sutherland. Not the Sutherland Brothers Iain Sutherland? Oh yes, and the other member of the band was naturally younger brother Gavin. Well, well, well.
I’d forgotten that I’d been well into the Sutherland Brothers in that part of the Seventies that got obliterated by the advent of punk, which turned my musical world over. There was ‘The Pie’, recorded as The Sutherland Brothers Band, displaying the brothers’ folk-oriented roots, with its gentle, almost plodding melody: I ended up with the album later, and its other, much-less played single, Gavin’s ‘Sailing’, that I knew and preferred when Rod Stewart, still in the penumbra of musical credibility, took it to no. 1
But it was the team-up with Quiver (songwriters without a band meet band without songs) that was the start of things. There was the 1973, debut, the kicker single, “(I don’t want to love you but) You Got Me Anyway”, with its beautifully paced acoustic intro and its solid yet delicate sound supporting a chorus of tremendous yearning power, 1974’s ebullient and indecently effervescent “Dream Kid”, title track of its own album, 1975’s laidback, cool, midtempo “Saviour in the Rain” that didn’t get the same love as its predecessors except from me.
All great songs. All great singles, perfect, full-bodied pop/rock, bright and illegally good, and ignored completely. In the Seventies, the Great British Record Buying Public needed a severe dose of taste, the number of great singles they ignored.
In 1975, the band switched from Island Records to CBS, apparently because Island wouldn’t release their singles in the US (though “You Got Me Anyway” had done far better there than in Britain). The outcome was their one and only big hit, Iain’s “Arms of Mary”.
I loved it then and I love it still, though it rarely leaks out of my memory. I remember Johnnie Walker, then doing the Radio 1 lunchtime slot, 12.00 till 2.00, falling in love with this song and plugging it. I remember the week it stalled at 31 in the chart, four weeks in the Top 50 already, and Walker – the anomalous daytime DJ, the one who was in it for the music, God forbid, who got saddled with the new Top 30 rundown every Tuesday – suggesting that if we all went around being nice to each other for a week, the song might make the Thirty, and the following week it was the highest new entry, at 19, and his cheerful words on announcing it, “You must have been good to be around.”
“Arms of Mary” peaked at no 5. It’s follow up, “When the Train Comes”, an uptempo, blasting rocker, did nothing. And 1977 came along and songwriters like the Sutherlands were just blasted away, and much as I’d liked them, much as I’d bought most of the albums (I would never own Reach for the Sky, the one that contained “Arms of Mary”), the truth was that for me at any rate, the Sutherlands were on the wrong side of a gigantic and necessary musical shift. Still, I’d been to see them, in late1976, at (I think) the Palace Theatre, and had a good time.
But though the move to CBS brought the band a measure of deserved success, and though “Arms of Mary”’s gentleness and wistfulness, fondly looking back to a boy’s first sexual experience (not that Top of the Pops seemed to notice), made it a restful and sweet sound on the radio in a year where so much music had descended into sterility, the band’s true strength, it’s solidity, was fatally undermined. The producers wished on the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver created a sound that even now astonishes me. It’s airless and suffocating for one thing, but what drove me crazy then and still is how weak, tinny and feeble the sound is. I had the evidence of Dream Kid and Beat of the Streets for how SB&Q could sound, full, rounded, purposeful, bright, glowing, rich, and here they were made to sound paper-thin, empty, hollow. It’s there in “Arms of Mary”, but it’s far worse on “When The Train Comes”, a classic rocker with the impact of a 97-pound weakling.
It was the same for their final SB&Q album, Slipstream, a Xmas present from a mate from whom I couldn’t quite conceal my disappointment, and which I played more out of duty than love.
This is a lovely song, but even as I loved it, and eagerly turned to the radio every time it was played, loving every moment of one of ‘my’ songs convincing everybody else, I could never hear it without knowing how much better it could have been at the hands of a Producer who could have let the band be what I already knew they could be.
Time, I think, for a bit of a re-appraisal of the Sutherlands and Quiver. Not of A or The New Generation, delightful as those failed singles are, but of that early Seventies period that may need to come out of the shadow of 1977. Beginning with another play of this. Lying in the arms of Mary. Oh yes.

 

Lost 70s Volume 18


It’s been almost a year since my last Lost 70s compilation, an elapse created in equal shares by the slowing down of discovery of appropriate tracks and a fault developing in my laptop’s CD burner, forcing me to improvise with an older laptop. There’s 22 tracks again, arranged once more in chronological order, nine of which were top 30 hits or better. And after my stating that there would no longer being any token punk/new wave tracks, I’ve managed to find a very long tail from that particular era after all. Read and enjoy: Volume 19 will be here almost before you know it.

Bordeaux Rose                           Fairfield Parlour

As I have mentioned before, more than once, I only started to listen to ‘pop music’ on 22 December 1969. This is not, however, another reference to learning about Sixties music from Radio 1’s Golden Oldies policy in the Seventies but rather that my learning curve covered the changeover to that later decade, which was the most self-conscious of decade changes I remember in my life.
I was a pop music novice, lacking not only knowledge but taste and appreciation. I had to learn ‘on the job’, so to speak, what was good and bad, and a lot of my early favourites, including one top 10 single I never speak of, were musically moronic.
Not all of them were, however. Fairfield Parlour’s ‘Bordeaux Rose’ was an early favourite, with its distinctively English vocals, it’s crisp production and the contrast between its whimsical verses and its compelling chorus. I’d never heard of them before, and certainly wasn’t aware until the 2000s that they had already had a decent career for a few years under the name of Kaleidoscope.
The name had been changed, ‘Bordeaux Rose’ was popular among the Radio 1 DJs, and I believe that, despite the single never breaching the Top 50, they appeared on Top of the Pops, though of course the tape was wiped (oh for a Beat Club producer). But in the first of many, many such records, I’d put my nascent musical love into something the Great British Record Buying Public would reject. And they rejected it again on reissue in 1976, when Radio 1 didn’t back it, but at least I finally got the chance to buy the single.
And by the time of the reissue, I’d finally learned what the hell Bordeaux Rose was: at the age of 14 I was not knowledgeable as to the ways of the grape and the grain.
So that’s ‘Bordeaux Rose’s significance. It was the first musical loser I backed, the first time I set my developing tastes against those of everybody else and found out I was on my own. It was to be a place I grew to know well, but then listening to what the public wanted to hear in the Seventies, I would rather be with me than them.

No no, you don’t know                         Bennett and Evans

Speaking of the musically moronic, this antiquated piece of middle of the road pop also dates from that learning year of 1970, not that you can set it against Fairfield Parlour and have anyone believe they came out at the same time. It’s here as an example of the kind of very simple pop that appealed to me, and because it stuck oddly in my memory from the one and only time I heard it. Radio 1 had a late afternoon/early evening record review programme, and this was reviewed one night, with a rather amusing piece of record company promotion preceding it. I never heard it, or of Bennet and Evans again, but they lodged in my memory, and only a short time ago, I discovered the song was available on YouTube. That’s enough of a synchronicity for me, frankly.

Goin’ to the Zoo                       Julie Felix

And if we’re going to go through some of my most formative (and embarrassing) musical experiences, we might as well have this. Julie Felix was an American lady, a folk singer who was pursuing her career in Britain. She was dark-haired, slim and suited short skirts, which you pretty much had to do in the late Sixties, unless you were Judith Durham (who did suit short skirts but didn’t believe it) and she had her own BBC2 show, clips from which you can still find.
Felix did have two minor UK hits, a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘El Condor Paso’, which gave her her highest placing at no 19, and a Top Thirty placing for it’s follow up, ‘Heaven is Here’. But everyone of my generation will probably remember her for this silly kiddie song, a Junior Choice favourite, that I’d forgotten for decades but which remains fixed inside my head.
It probably doesn’t do her justice, but it’s her legacy for me.

All the Way from Memphis                      Mott the Hoople

Ah, some real rock!
In all the years since 1972, I still don’t think I’ve ever heard anything by Mott the Hoople from before David Bowie gifted them ‘All the Young Dudes’. The single’s success thrilled the heart of a schoolmate who was already heavily into the band, but it was this In Hunter-penned, storming little rocker that got me on board the following year.
‘All the way from Memphis’ started in true rock’n’roll style, with a pounded piano riff into the beat, before Hunter and the rest of the band joined in for a first, lip-curling verse that bears the shade of Elvis.
And then it puts on the burners and screams into that zinger chorus that tries to bind within it the history of rock and if it fails, it’s only by a whisker, but there’s honking saxes, and the most vibrant energy of any Mott the Hoople track I ever heard, and in the end the band sinks into a series of repeats of that chorus because it’s so compelling you don’t want to hear its energy diffused.
‘All the way from Memphis’ was the third of four follow up hit singles, only two of which reached the top 10. Staggeringly, this one peaked at no 10 when it should have been threatening the top slot, so much of a rush it is, which just goes to show that when it came to me and the rest of you, I was very clearly right. In forty-six years, this track hasn’t lost an ounce of energy. And it’s a mighty long way down rock’n’roll…

Robert’s Box                  Procol Harum

After the big success of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, and its tedious follow-up, ‘Homburg’, Procol Harum didn’t do all that much in terms of singles. No doubt they weren’t phased: after all, in the early Seventies, a lot of bands were album bands, arguing that how could you say anything worth saying in less than a side of an album?
No doubt Procol Harum felt that way, but it didn’t stop them releasing singles every now and then. There was the orchestrated ‘Conquistador’, with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, that got them into the top 30, and which was tons better than the original, and the almost poppy ‘Pandora’s Box’ that got them into the top 20, and on Top of the Pops for the last time in 1975.
In between, if Procol did release singles, they didn’t get played on Radio 1, or Piccadilly Radio, when they arrived in 1974. ‘Robert’s Box’, a title that seems to have no relation to the lyrics in the way that Keith Reid’s lyrics have no relation to comprehensibility, was the only exception I remember, a 1973 single with more of a blues underpinning than most Procol tracks then or since, that scraped a handful of plays and sold nothing.
Listening to it again, after all this time, it fits perfectly into that spectrum of early to mid-Seventies singles by progressive or underground bands in which a potentially commercial or melodic single is given a jerky, unsettled arrangement in order to disguise that it has pop elements to it. It wouldn’t have taken much for Procol to have turned this into something that would have demanded more airtime and with that maybe another hit, but that would have embarrassed them among their contemporaries and suggested they were shallow, so we got this disjointed affair that isn’t quite clunky enough to conceal its potential.
You had to be there, and when you were, you mostly approved of it.

This Flight Tonight                   Nazareth

Slade are usually referred to as being part of Glam Rock although their music always sounded too hard and too raucous for that category, and despite Dave Hill clowning around, they lacked that effeminate edge. They were screaming pop on the edge of hard rock and they were bloody effective.
Nobody in glam was quite like Slade: by the time The Sweet went heavy they were too tainted to ever be truly believed. But the Wolverhampton wonders did have a couple of junior league aspirers whose music worked the same side of the same street. Geordie were the Newcastle-based version, and Nazareth the Scottish ones.
Nazareth had more of an edge to them, granted by singer Dan McCafferty’s voice. After a couple of raucous, heavy-edged hits, kick-started by the juicily stomping ‘Broken-Down Angel’, the band’s third effort was a controversial cover of a Joni Mitchell song. I say cover, it was a wholesale translation of the drifty acoustic track into a sheet of sliding and oozing rock.
But though ‘This Flight Tonight’ could be nothing like any version of the song Ms Mitchell could have imagined, it’s not as heavy as you think. The song is taken at a controlled and measured tempo, a chugging rhythm to which the guitar is decoration rather than structure, it’s solo is played backwards, and this is maintained throughout the song except for a few brief seconds when the rhythm breaks and the band sound as if they’re about to break, and then back again, sliding into their almost hypnotic groove. For a band with a hard rock image, this version is almpsr a foreshadowing of the bass rhythms of dance music.
McCafferty makes the chorus into a near eldritch croon, summoning ‘Star light, star bright’ as in the old wishing rhyme, celebrating that (she’s) got the loving that he likes, wishing to turn the bird around, and ruing that he got on this flight tonight.
The song ends without resolution, the band in flight, away from where they want to be. Nazareth never hit that kind of peak again, and they were never again so subtle.

Midnight at the Oasis                          Maria Muldaur

Increasingly, tracks on these compilations are appearing as exercises in nostalgia and nothing else. ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ was one of those tracks, floaty and jazzy, that Radio 1 fell upon like Dracula on a particularly creamy neck, and played to death. I hated it, but it sounded to me as a record that would be as massive here as it had already been in America. It wasn’t, and Maria Muldaur never troubled our airwaves again, much to my relief.
Nowadays, I find it bearable, and a reminder of times that were otherwise and, despite my despair in living through them – I was depressed the whole year in which this appeared – seem like better times when compared to now. I’ve changed, my palate is broader than it was, and these days, I can even make friends with a cactus if I need to.

Almost Killed a Man                        Philip Goodhand-Tait

I’ve been waiting a very long time and a lot of these compilations to be able to include this track. Philip Goodhand-Tait first made his mark as a professional songwriter who wrote both of the Love Affair’s last two top 10 hits, two fine orchestral pop songs that I love, but who went on to record his own music.
I remember Noel Edmonds taking up one particular album of his, from which three singles were taken. I’ve managed to include two of these in previous compilations, but the middle one, ‘Almost Killed a Man’, the slow, contemplative, middle track of the three, has long been accessible only in my memory.
Now I can hear it again, I’m less enamoured of it than before, but I still like it enough to want to have it in this series for more than just the memory. The song’s arrangement is just a little too cluttered for my liking in 2019, but its message of heartbreak is still one that resonates. There are very few happy love songs that have infiltrated my life: I incline to the melancholic, as does this song. It still fills that corner of my soul the way it did a lifetime ago.

Ire Feelings (Skanga)                     Rupie Edwards

The early Seventies was a great period for reggae singles. Jamaican artist after Jamaican artist would chart with bright, bouncy singles that used to be thoroughly despised by my contemporaries at Grammar School, with one exception who was a prototype Rude Boy. Very few of them scored a second hit, mind you, and only Desmond Dekker scored a third or more.
But by 1974, the run seemed to be over. Maybe reggae was just too sunny and poppy for the times, or maybe this was reggae mutating into another of its manifold forms.
By the time Rupie Edwards got into the top 10 with ‘Ire Feelings (Skanga)’, an echo laden, deep sound that bordered so much on dub that dispensed with passport controls, we were a world away from the reggae I’d come to know. It used voice and abstract sound, with echo and depth, and a slower pace than the reggae of Bruce Ruffin or Nicky Thomas, and Radio 1 hated it and didn’t play it even when it reached the top 10. I remember Edwards complaining about that, pointing out that the audience wanted to hear it because they were buying it.
I listen to it now and it still sounds like it’s completely outside time and place. It would be a long time and it would be John Peel before I heard anything like this again. I can tell why his fellow DJs didn’t want it cluttering up their nice, shiny, supermarket promoting programmes, but it wouldn’t half have done them good if they’d bitten the bullet.

The Spirit is Willing                           The Hands of Doctor Teleny ftg Peter Straker

Assemble some wah-wah funk guitar, then being described as ‘Shaft’ type guitar, an orchestral rip-off of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, Freddie Mercury’s future partner and professional songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blakely, without whom the chart career of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich would have been non-existent (for which, one day, they may be forgiven, if not by me), and what have you got?
Most people, on reading the above, would anticipate an horrendous mess. A lot of people, who were around in 1972, when this quasi-instrumental provided Radio DJs with another cue to talk over it, would say that that’s exactly what it was. It still got to no 40, albeit in an era of Top 30s.
This truly is a Lost record. It had gone so deep into the black hole of my memories that only the chance spotting of the Doctor Teleny name on a YouTube sidebar a month or so back. Even then, I didn’t have the slightest recollection of what the record sounded like, and playing it awoke only the very faintest recognition.
Yes, it is an horrendous mess, and it’s a pretentious one too. But after nearly fifty years in which I had forgotten its entire existence – unlike Bennett & Evans – it takes its place as a reminder of the times in which I lived. The Lost 70s series started off being a collection of the obscure and overlooked. Now it’s a memory sink, a private nostalgia trip.

Simone                        England Dan and John Ford Coley

Back in the mid-Seventies, a mate and I constructed what would now be called a Shared Universe, based on the concept of a fictitious record company with fictional bands and singers, albums and singles, successes and failures. It was good fun for a few years, and served the purpose of keeping us from meeting girls (not that I needed any artificial aids for that!)
When I think back to the mid-Seventies, and in particular that last couple of years before Punk broke and changed my musical landscape, I remember a ‘press release’ I wrote in 1976, that began by quoting Eric Clapton’s ‘Let it Grow’ (of which I was happily impressed). Standing at the crossroads, trying to read the signs. I was not known for having my finger on the pulse of anything, but by 1976, I was conscious of the feeling that something needed to happen. Things felt and sounded stale. Music had shifted towards the laidback, adult MOR of West Coast ‘rock’, perfectly produced, by musically talented people, and completely sterile.
England Dan and John Ford Coley broke into the UK chart once only, with a song I featured on an earlier Volume. ‘Simone’ was a track they’d recorded and release prior to their ‘hit’. It’s smooth and straightforward, completely lacking in anything that could be described as an edge. I like the slightly awkward melody, but it’s heavily overproduced and there’s no room to breathe. If this had been the musical future, I genuinely believe I would have suffocated. Thank heaven for Malcolm McLaren!

Ebony Eyes                          Bob Welch

And this is more of the same, except with a bit more edge to it. Welsh was one of those members of the interim Fleetwood Mac, the Mac of that underconsidered period between the Peter Green band and the Buckingham/Nicks monsters. Welch was either the first, or one of the first American members the band had, and I remember an interview with him some years alter where he was half philosophical, half bitter about how he could have been Lynsey Buckingham if he’d only had the chance.
How likely that may have been would require me to listen extensively to this version of the Mac, which I’m not about to do. Welch’s ‘Ebony Eyes’ single, in 1976, has to stand for all the evidence, and on that basis it’s an arguable case. ‘Ebony Eyes’ is another of those mid-decade records made in that stasis period when things that were going to happen were waiting for their cue. It’s a bit more steely than ‘Simone’, it uses its drums more forcefully, and it has the advantage of a stronger chorus, which suggests that whatever else Welch brought to Fleetwood Mac, he took some of their virtues away with him.
Ultimately, though, enjoyable as this song is, Welch doesn’t quite have the voice to be a real lead singer. But he leaves an excellent one-off legacy.

Bide Awhile                              Thomas Yates

We’re going seriously off-piste with this choice. Hitherto, the Lost 70s series has dealt with the greater part of my musical enthusiasms, the pop and rock stuff heard most often on the radio or in the albums and singles I bought. But that isn’t all of the story.
Early in 1975, my mate with whom I’d shared the fictional record company brought round the first live album recording Mike Harding’s act. We fell about laughing. Not long after, we discovered he was playing a local folk club, and a bunch of us turned up blithely confident of a great evening, only to find it sold out.
Nothing lost, we got to see him not too long after at the Deanwater, an isolated hotel cum pub in Woodford, outside Wilmslow, which ran a Sunday evening folk club. Harding was great, but we liked the atmosphere, the club organiser had an interesting choice of mainly contemporary folk artists, and we became Sunday night regulars until the organiser moved away and the club closed, over eighteen months later.
The Folk Clubs, for we didn’t just restrict ourselves to the Deanwater, were a world away from the music I listened to six and a half days a week. It was live music, acoustic, natural, varied in style and scope. Some nights were better than others: what possessed me to turn up in a three-piece suit the night they has The Watersons – excellent musically but too many wassails – is lost to posterity.
One of the things Mike Harding used to sing, that wasn’t his own composition, was this friendly, contemplative Tom Yates song. It’s about an evening out, in amiable company, down the pub, in a relaxed, cheerful mode, wrapping yourself in friendly company, and it became a favourite of mine, almost as much as the Hunter Muskett song ‘Silver coin’, which I adored.
Times changed. Punk happened. I completed my courses but couldn’t get Articles. The crew started to drift apart. In the summer of 1977, I discovered Yates was playing a pub between Withington and West Didsbury. I didn’t have much money but could afford to go on my own, with the bus. He was scornful and sneering towards punk, claiming that music never came from the streets, but only from the bars. I found that disappointing, but he was preaching to an audience of the converted so I kept schtum. At least he played ‘Bide a while’.
It was all a very long time ago, a pocket universe that had no real or lasting bearing on my musical history, except that it happened, among friendly company. None of whom I have spoken to in nearly forty years.

Complainte pour Ste Catherine                       Kate & Anna McGarrigle

This is not a Lost track in the sense of others on this compilation, that disappeared in memory and which have only just been recalled. The McGarrigle sisters impressed themselves upon my consciousness in the drought summer of 1976 with this jaunty French-language ditty, the words to which I have never understood in over forty years, and I have been familiar with this song ever since.
It’s lost in the sense that this is another of that seemingly endless list of Seventies singles over which I and the Great British Record Buying Public differed, over which I and the Radio 1 daytime DJs differed, because I would have had this played on the hour, every hour, and because it was this little wierdity with the foreign language, because it was homespun and charmingly amateurish, and because it was good but good beyond their limited parameters of what made a sound for the radio, they sidelined it. My God, I can hear an accordion on it! Quick, play the Starland Vocal Band again, so I can make an off-colour remark about shagging in the afternoon.
Nor were the ladies glamorous or sexily dressed, not like the blonde in the Starland Vocal Band. Kate was married to Loudon Wainwright III, she and Anna were both mothers, they looked and sounded like it. They were real people.
In the summer of 1976, music was in need of a direction. The Sex Pistols provided that for some of us, something to follow and something to violently reject. If not for Malcolm McLaren, some of us may have followed this oddball record in another direction. But Kate and Anna weren’t about trends or influences. They were that rare and wonderful thing: themselves entirely.
And St Catherine’s Lament was and still is a gem that takes me back to that long hot summer whenever I play it.

The Devil Went Down To Georgia                    The Charlie Daniels Band

Despite being absolutely mammoth with British audiences, Garth Brooks has never had a UK hit single, for which I am profoundly grateful. Pure American country music, with or without the western, rarely raises its head over here. Shania Twain’s probably the most successful country artist, but you wouldn’t call her music all that country, would you?
I did develop a sort of partial, and sideways enjoyment of country music, though it took me until the Nineties to do so, and I was heavily influenced by Shawn Colvin in doing so. But what I enjoyed was almost inevitably sung by female country singers – Nanci Griffiths, Susie Bogguss, Mary-Chapin Carpenter – not the boys. There is something about the male country singing voice that grates in my ears.
So what’s the Charlie Daniels Band doing here? And what were they doing in the Top Twenty in 1978? Especially with so down home a country track, without any rock elements, as this tale of a fiddle duel between the Devil and a country boy called Johnny? I don’t know, any more than I did forty years ago, but the song, its complete self-confidence and its undeniable brio makes it that good ol’ boy that defies borders and boundaries. I was into it then, and I’m into it now, for its energy and it’s refusal to compromise what it sees as the best kind of music around.
And when I hear it, I flash back to the road between Manchester and Nottingham, and a section of it between Matlock Bath and Ambergate, which I travelled regularly in those years I lived in the East Midlands, and many times after, and an occasion when ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ came on the car radio along that stretch and impressed itself into my memories so that whenever I hear it I’m on that road, like any good ol’ country boy travelling between the only two cities I’ve ever had cause to call home. Fire on the Mountain, run boys run, indeed.

Do Anything you Wanna Do                         The Rods

Nowadays, people tend to credit this vigorous single to Eddie and The Hot Roads, a Manchester punk quartet. After all, it was the band’s regular name, before and after. But ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’, with its ringing guitars, its vigorous surge and its pure and wonderful chorus was so unlike the band’s usual style that, for this release, they renamed themselves The Rods.
And the song got the airplay it deserved, the single hit the charts and the band played Top of the Pops, which was not an outcome anyone would have predicted in 1976.
People tend to credit the sound as powerpop, an existing musical term that got bandied about a lot in 1978, as plasticene bands tried to marry the energy of punk to the utter triviality of pop (Tonight, I’m looking at you, or I would be if anyone remembered you). But if The Rods were powerpop, they were the real thing, the mixing of energy with the classic elements of pop, and they were a breakthrough with quality, of the only kind that matters, from the inside not the outside. ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ graced the airwaves, made the playlist fun for once, and opened up the door for the harder core of punk to be taken a bit more seriously.
It’s also a bloody great record that hasn’t dated more than a minute since then.

Spanish Stroll                           Mink de Ville

Like Maria Muldaur, Mink de Ville, a band built around the talents of Willy de Ville, was going to be big. They appeared out of nowhere with ‘Spanish Stroll’, a song that was neither punk nor the as yet unformed new Wave, but which was clearly a close cousin, on more than kissing terms.
The single was a rolling, crackling account of an evening walk, down the boardwalk, observing the characters out there, girl singers adding gorgeous ooh-wah-oohs to Willy’s half-talking tales of who he saw, the whole thing taken at strolling space. It was going to be massive, and for once I agreed with everybody. And, unlike Maria Muldaur, I would have welcomed that.
But the song peaked at no 20, the follow-up flopped, and Mink de Ville never even breathed success again. Willy fell prey to drugs issues and died young, his talent unfulfilled. I’d forgotten ‘Spanish Stroll’ for many years. It still should have been bigger.

Ready Steady Go                          Generation X

Now, let’s be honest about Generation X. Any band that spawns the solo career of Billy Idol and Sigue Sigue Sputnik should be condemned to some cold and lifeless corner of the Universe which the light from this planet will not reach until long after this galaxy has succumbed to the inevitable encroachment of entropy.
The vigour and near-sincerity of this paean to the Sixties’ most exciting pop programme convinces me to allow them one oxygen canister on which to survive. Between them.

Outdoor Miner                            Wire

When it came to categories, there was Punk, New Wave, Post Punk, and Wire. Wire were weird. They were odd. They were unconventional. They were even unconventional in their unconventionality. They rejected verses and choruses and conventional rock time-signatures.
But every now and then, in a short series of commercially overlooked but strangely fascinating singles, they would play with regular structure and actual choruses, as in ‘Dot Dash’, a single sung on Morse Code (my Dad, an ex-Navy man, would have been able to tell me if it spelt out something, if he’d lived that long).
‘Outdoor Miner’, a song inspired by the name of a butterfly, known as a Serpentine Miner, and name-checked in the middle of the song, went even further towards orthodoxy. Unsurprisingly, it was the only Wire single to get real airplay anywhere except on John Peel’s Show, and the only one to show in the charts, getting as high as no 54.
It’s a song of chugging rhythm, obscure lyrics and an impenetrable sound, but there are some background vocals that would do justice to classic singles, and a minor key chorus that inserts itself into your senses the way the titular miner is digging underground, not to mention a tinkling piano break that could have come from Russ Conway but which drops into place like a round peg into a round hole. And you could produce it as a brand new track now, and no-one would know the difference.

Airport                           The Motors

A hit single! A genuine, full-scale, piano and synthesizer pop song with a 24 carat chorus and a fresh and wide sound. And recorded by a band who, at any time before or after this song, you would have described as borderline punk with a degree of slightly lumpen pub-rock to their DNA.
‘Airport’ was even more out of the way of The Motors’ usual fare than ‘Do anything you wanna do’ was of Eddie and the Hot Rods. It was pure commercial pop, gifted with a vigorous beat that pure commercial pop had spent a long time forgetting since the Sixties, but which The Motors reinserted like a rectal thermometer and with pretty much the same response. The nation’s eyes (and ears) sprang open, the band dressed in flight uniforms for Top of the Pops but the song was so immediately cool and good that the cheesiness was overlooked.
And like all the best pop, the upbeat breeziness of the music was a cover for the melancholic lyrics: airport, you took the one I love so far away. To which the only retort can be that if you’d played her the song before she bought her flight ticket, she’d have danced straight back to you.

Warm Leatherette                         The Normal

That this band called themselves The Normal is one of the greatest arguments against Nominative Determination ever. This is not a normal songs. Musically, it’s ahead of its time, built upon machine-like synthesizer sounds that wouldn’t start to become a regular part of pop until the Eighties, and mechanical vocals that have learned their craft from Kraftwerk.
But the fact that The Normal are singing about warm leatherette conveys a sense of perversion that some people don’t want to get too close to. I lost all memory of this song for over forty years, until it thrust itself before my attention on YouTube not long ago, just in time to make this compilation. Its downhome, DIY seediness still has a compelling effect.

Oh Bondage, Up Yours!                     X-Ray Spex

And then there was X-Ray Spex. X-Ray Spex, fronted by the shrill-voiced Poly Styrene, show just how broad a church punk could be. I mean, you listen to this energetic, almost rabid little honker, with Poly’s shriek of defiance and the honking sax, and it doesn’t sound like anyone else on Earth, or anything else of Earth for that matter, but it’s the defiance and anger and rejection of punk wrapped up into three minutes of whatever the hell it is. Some people, Poly says, over the silent introduction, that little girls should be seen and not heard (which they still did). But I say, she goes on, sounding reasonable until the last moment, Oh Bondage! Up Yours!
Only Tory MPs would dare to disagree with her at that point.