The Infinite Jukebox: Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’


Every time I play ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ on YouTube, it automatically leads on to ‘America’. And I let it play and I usually sing along with it, a thing that should only be done in private since I can carry a tune like a string bag can carry water.
I remember that I first heard the song at school, when two of my year-mates performed it on the stage of the school hall, a duet on acoustic guitars for some sort of entertainment the pupils were putting on, and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it because they seemed to flatten the tune out of it, nor hear what they were singing. I only remember it was ‘America’ because they’d talked about rehearsing it.
I don’t think I knew it was by Simon and Garfunkel, or even who they were. I have a vivid memory of hearing ‘Sound of Silence’ on the old radio at Brigham Street, and getting spooked by the lyrics. All this stuff passed by me.
But I love ‘America’, perhaps above everything else Paul and Artie did, except of course ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. I love its slow haziness, it’s rise and fall, the sense of space between the instruments. Most of all I love the place I am taken to in the song.
It’s a road song, heir to Kerouac and forerunner to Springsteen. Where ‘Bridge’ is Art Garfunkel’s song, ‘America’ is Paul Simon’s. He and his girlfriend Kathy, of ‘Kathy’s Song’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, are on a Greyhound bus, travelling at night. They’ve picked up the bus in Pittsburgh and we never get to learn where they’re headed, two lovers with a pack of cigarettes and a joke about marrying their ‘fortunes’ together.
But where they’re going has no place on any map you could buy over the counter, because they’re all gone to look for America, and in that place and time, America was something you found in your mind, the great dream of what the country meant to you, and what you saw it could be, not what it was.
Paul and Kathy are travelling a road that will take them forever. They joke about other passengers, they smoke their cigarettes, he wakes from a dream, lost and confused as she continues to sleep, and we see her behind the words, long, dishevelled dark hair, head on his shoulder as he looks drawn, and cramped, the moon risen over an open field holding them in its cold light..
Everyone around them is on the same journey, that quest to find who you are and what you’ll be and where you are. They count the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, counting them in to their quest. Though travelling in space, they are really travelling in their souls, which is what the song means when it runs out of words and it fades into that endless road to the sound of an organ wrapping itself around the melody, cocooning it against the inevitable.
Nobody found America, not that year, not since. Seventeen years later, Talking Heads took the same road, but by then we all knew that the destination was unattainable, and they called it for what it was, a ‘Road to Nowhere’.
Out there, the Pauls and Kathys still ride, still take the piss out of the weirdos who accompany them, still sleep fitfully and awkwardly, along night highways that maybe, one day, if we remember how to be better than this and to care for one another and write words that can penetrate to the heart of this need to reach a fabled land, we may finally arrive at that land of pride and hope and honesty and equality that each of us calls by a private name but that many call America, the America that has never been but still lies beyond our horizon.
Each time I let one song transition into another, I become a rider on the same lost Greyhound.

The Infinite Jukebox: Amaral’s ‘Te Necessito’


Once upon a time…
The first year we holidayed on Mallorca, my wife did all the driving. She was familiar with left-hand drive cars and I had never driven on the right hand side of the road. We had a great holiday.
There was no reason to expect anything different the following year, but when we touched down at Palma airport, she was very headachey and not in a fit state to drive. With her mother and stepfather keeping comfortably ahead to guide me all the way from Palma to Llucmajor, I found myself behind the wheel. The next morning, she was better, but I got given the key for the journey on to Cala Llombards, and the rest of our holidays over there.
The other big difference was that, after a safe daylight journey, I was confident enough with driving to have the radio on. The local station blasted out a nearly fifty/fifty mix of English and Spanish pop, with, despite their heavy presence in certain areas, no German pop (is there any such thing?). The English music was familiar, the Spanish merged into Latin rhythms and horns and incomprehensible lyrics. Some songs, for no discernible reason, were on heavy rotation, The Eagles’ “One of these Nights” (1975), Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” (1973) were on every day, and I can’t now divorce America’s dry, dusty winter 1971 hit “A Horse with No Name” from hearing whilst whilst driving into Palma, the sparkling blue of the Med and the white sails to our left, the sun-soaked hotels to our right.
Not all the Spanish songs were indistinguishable. One began with clear, bell-like guitar, picking out a slow, yearning phrase, with a female voice singing “oh, oh-oh, oh,” and words in Spanish that rode lightly over the guitar in a long intro that suddenly hit a beat, as bass, drums and organ came in and the song went for it. No horns, nothing latin but the words, a piece of pure pop-rock and a hook that tugged instantly at the soul. It was absolutely brilliant, and it was on as much rotation as Chicago or the Eagles, and every time it hit the air, I was listening intently.
What the hell was it? My wife understood Spanish, but she could never hear an announcement of title or act. We listened for what repeated in the chorus, came up with the guess that it was called “Beneficito”. Once home, she looked up the radio station on line, e-mailed them – in Spanish – with a request for information, but we never got a reply.
Leap forward a couple of years, maybe three. I hadn’t forgotten my song. I’d searched YouTube for “Beneficito” but nothing came up. We’d not been back to Mallorca the last couple of years. I was off work for a fortnight with stress, in the midst of a bout of deep, slumping depression. Whilst she was out at university, I was alone at home, spending hours in front of the computer. Remembering “Beneficito”, I tried to track it down again. Maybe we’d misheard it, and my wife had wracked her brains over possible alternate Spanish titles. One of these was “Te Necessito” (I Need You). There were “Te Necessito”s on YouTube, and one of them might have been what I was looking for. I’d not heard the song in over two years, and only a handful of times then.
There were other songs I tried. Female singer, female Spanish singers. A couple of tracks that, unusually, I liked listening to.
And then I saw “Te Necessito” by Amaral. It was an actual video, just like we had in Angle pop (fancy that!) I’d like to say that something clicked, that I went for the track with a heightened sense of anticipation, and maybe I did, or maybe that’s just after-the-fact romanticising, but the first note, the first second cut through all my mental fog and I knew in an instant that I’d got it. This was the “Te Necessito” of that Mallorcan summer, all clear, bell-like notes, that crisp, neat beat, that achingly gorgeous chorus, and the Spanish lady singing it wasn’t bad either.#
The video alternated between Eva Amaral, she of the vocals, wandering a mysterious Spanish hillside, turning her back on a mysterious stranger, Juan Aguirre, he of the ringing guitar and woolly hats as a string quartet with strange eyeless white masks augment the rhythm, and a five piece band in an all-white indoor environment cracking out the song. All as incomprehensible as any video gets, especially for a love song (I have run the lyrics through Babelfish.com and that’s what it is, as the plain English title indicates.
The studio part of the video is misleading, as Amaral is only Eva (who doubles on percussion) and Juan, and for the last two decades they’ve been one of Spain’s biggest acts, with “Te Necessito” having been the second in a run of ten consecutive singles of which NINE went to number 1.
It did nothing to shift my gloom at the time, but since then, I’ve gone on to collect their complete run of albums, including special editions in the two most recent cases. Between them, and Shakira, and someone else who I shall be writing about shortly, The Infinite Jukebox now has a Spanish section, and I have a self-burned DVD collecting all the videos associated with that run of hit singles. That I really ought to play more often than I do.
And if my wife hadn’t developed that headache flying, and she’d have been doing the driving, odds are we’d never have had the radio on that week. Funny, isn’t it?

We’re Going Back!


Last year, I gushed about the Otherworlds Exhibition of Space Photography that I went to see in London. I was deeply moved by what I saw, not least because I found it incredible that I, who had grown up on Dan Dare, had lived long enough to see the real thing, form the surface of Mars, from the extremities of our Solar system. I had lived long enough.

In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first Man from Earth to stand on the surface of the Moon. I was nearly fourteen. I was not yet twenty when we last sent a man to the Moon. It’s galling that it should come about even in a small part by the idiot who masquerades as President of the United States, but (insert link) at long last, we’re going back.

And we’re not just going to land a man on the Moon again, we’re stepping even further into classic SF, and we’re going to build a manned outpost. I have lived long enough, and I am once again moved to near tears that such a thing has come back whilst I am still here to hear about it.

Of course, I doubt I shall live long enough to see the blast-off. This is not something that can be done overnight, even with American/Russian cooperation. But the intention is there, and it’s a joint operation. We’re going back into space. An I have lived long enough to see that much.

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 12


Lost 70s Volume 12 consists of 20 tracks. There’s nothing especial to say about this volume, except that I never expected the series to go on so long or there to be so many tracks from the Seventies that would fall within my subjective but still definable categorisation as ‘Lost’.

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.

Just a Smile – Pilot

I lived through the entire Seventies, musically (which is kind of the point of this series of albums). This meant that I lived through every teenage musical trend the decade threw up, which only seemed to get worse as we moved from fad to fad. By the time we got to the Bay City Rollers, it was pretty hard to imagine just how bad the next one was going to be (it was Boney M. Arrggghhhh!). Which makes the presence of Pilot here rather hard to defend. ‘Just a Smile’ was their deeply unsuccessful second single and also their ultimately unsuccessful fifth single. In between, their third, ‘It’s Magic’, took them into the top 20 (memorialised in modern times at Old Trafford by the much slowed-down chant of “It’s Carrick you know/Hard to Believe it’s not Scholes”. But ‘January’ (in January 1975, naturally) surprised everybody by going to no 1 for three weeks. Having thus established themselves, so smoothly and quickly, Pilot never troubled the top 30 again, though the re-issue of this track got as near as dammit, peaking at 31. That I liked all three songs, bright, poppy, immensely clear sounds with great harmonies is a great surprise given that Pilot’s two core members were ex-Rollers, had indeed charted with the band on their isolated 1971 hit (produced by Jonathan King). I can’t help but think that if Davey Paton and Billy Lyall had stuck with their first band, the whole of pop history might have been radically changed, or at least the 1974/5 part of it have been a bit more tolerable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzb0Mb3RgOc

Stand on your own two feet – Harmony Grass

It’s rarely referenced as such, but the late Sixties saw a wave of harmony-driven, highly orchestrated cabaret-pop, built around big, booming choruses, many of which put together by professional songwriters such as McCauley and McLeod. The Love Affair, the early Marmalade, the Casuals’ ‘Jesamine’ were prime examples, and there was also Harmony Grass (formerly Tony Rivers and the Castaways), who charted in 1969 with ‘Move in a little closer baby’. It was a regular golden oldie in the early Seventies, to the extent that I assumed it had been a massive hit, and was truly shocked to learn it had only reached no. 25! ‘Stand on your own two feet’ was released in 1970, and a Top of the Pops appearance was insufficient to make up the fact that the band were getting more plays for their oldie. It’s another example of the trend for bands to become ‘heavy’: the song pitches itself on a pulsing rock beat, with lyrics about self-reliance, not sunshine pop love, but it betrays its own uncertainty with a traditional, horn-backed middle eight in which the singer offers a shoulder to the girl he’s been encouraging to stick up for herself. Some people really hadn’t got it. I was among them at the time, and had a lot to learn.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sH5a0bnPlRY

Ships in the Night –  Be Bop deLuxe
I really only know the two Be Bop deLuxe songs, ‘Maid in Heaven’ and this 1976 single that gave the band their only taste of a hit, peaking at no 23. They’re recognisably by the same band, but whereas the earlier single was built on slashing electric guitar and considerable energy, ‘Ships’ relies on its organ sound and was considerably more laid-back. It bubbles along pleasingly, straining a little at the leash to escape from being a pleasant, melodic pop-song, but never quite succeeding in leaving that territory. It’s another example of the tension that, as late as 1976, manifested itself in bands that wanted to be taken seriously as musicians, whenever they accidentally wrote something commercial.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQF6KuqeCu4

Sandman –  America
In the wake of ‘A Horse with no Name’, I bought the first America album, which later became the first album I moved on, giving it to a friend who liked it more than I did by that point. ‘Sandman’ is eminently reflective of the proto-Neil Young sound of ‘Horse’ that dominated that album, before the band took a softer, more West Coast line. It’s stark, austere, single voice and acoustic guitar building into close harmony chorus, with lyrics that echo with unresolved tension. Years later, I can come back and appreciate it far more than when I was in my mid-teens, and wanted more warmth in my music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZN2-n_BIKI

The Man from Nazareth –  John Paul Joans
Oh, but this is an oddity. Though it’s often been plugged as an obscure side-project by Led Zeppellin basist John Paul Jones, it has nothing to do with him or the band. John Paul Joans was the stage name of a north country stand-up comedian, and the song was co-written by Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, then of Hotlegs and later to be of 10cc, and recorded at the infant Strawberry studios in Stockport. As you may be able to guess, it’s a Christian song, about Jesus, and it intrigued and fascinated me at the end of 1970 for its gravelly, almost amateurish sound. Joans intones rather than sings most of the song, for reasons that are immediately comprehensible when you hear the bits where he does try to sing. The song crept into the chart in January 1971, reaching no 25. Joans recorded an extremely obscure follow-up, ‘Ten Lost Tribes’, which I distinctly hearing twice but which appears to have vanished beyond even the Internet’s reach, which, due to action by his more famous nickname, had to be attributed to J P Joans, but that was the end of it.

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

Love is Life –  Hot Chocolate
When I first started listening to pop music, at the very end of 1969, the oldest rock’n’roll records were fifteen years old. The big stars were the old rock’n’rollers, icons like Berry, Holly and, of course, Presley. Then there were the Sixties superstars, like the Stones, the Who, the Kinks and, above all, the Beatles, who’d penetrated even my shielded consciousness long long ago. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this phenomenon, but I found myself absorbing these people as a kind of indelible pantheon. Everyone else who came around, no matter how big they became, no matter how famous, no matter that their career may have gone on twice as long as the distance between me and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in 1970, I can’t escape the knowledge of being there when they were nobodies, newbies with no track record, discarded and disregarded. ‘Love is Life’, the second Hot Chocolate single, came out in 1970 and reached the top 10. It’s cold and austere, almost glacial, it has none of the funk that people associate with Errol Brown and co, and when their follow-up failed to chart, they remained nobodies. Look at what they became. This is where it started from.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYQF8i7cIL0

My Lady d’Arbanville –  Cat Stevens
Another from 1970, another that was the first hit in a career that went much further. Cat Stevens might have had a track record from the Sixties, the insanely commercial ‘Matthew and Son’, but fame drove him bonkers and he’d retreated, and this was the new Cat Stevens, the maker of heartfelt, personal music, of sensitive, emotional songs, downplayed and quiet. ‘My Lady d’Arbanville’, which relied on Stevens’ acoustic guitar and very very sparse additional instrumentation, was a perfect example of this, being about his break-up with actress and model Patty d’Arbanville. Cat Stevens mark 2 started here, the archetype of the singer-songwriter era.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZP54bClDRw

Don’t Throw it All Away – Gary Benson
Back in 1976, I was pretty embarrassed to admit that I liked this song. Benson was a gentle writer of soft, acoustic pop ballads, and this song was originally entered for the competition to find Britain’s ‘Song for Europe’, which just goes to show how fast the impact of Abba’s game-changing win with ‘Waterloo’, two years earlier had sunk in. It was still a very good, sweet love song, and Benson has exactly the right voice to sell it, at least as far as no 20 in the charts. I even went out and bought the album. Nowadays, I couldn’t care less what people think, but it’s different when you’re twenty and already as far removed from your mates’ tastes as I was without this!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7pa6kE5FHs

I’m Your Puppet – James and Bobby Purify
James and Bobby Purify – who weren’t brothers, despite their billing – had recorded this gentle, soul love song in the Sixties, and I was already familiar with the song from the occasional golden-oldie play. Then they re-issued it, Johnnie Walker championed it, in those last few months before he took himself off to break into American radio, and it went top 20. It’s sweet and gorgeous, old-style soul without the by then ubiquitous disco beat and it settled into my heart with its confessions of love so complete that the singer was wholly at the mercy of the woman he loved. I was to get there myself, though it took longer than I would have liked. But this was no re-issue, but rather a re-recording and, against the usual expectations, a better version, deeper, richer, fuller in sound. Had there been more like this around in the mid-Seventies, I might not have taken such a time to develop an appreciation of soul, and life would have been better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9uvmca5WF4

You put something better inside me –  Stealer’s Wheel
Now there’s a song with a title that would mean something completely different if sung by a woman. Stealer’s Wheel, Gerry Rafferty’s band after the Humblebums, at the outset, would hit the top 10 with their next release, ‘Stuck in the Middle with you’, but I’d forgotten this gentle, yearning ballad which preceded it. It’s about the less-recognised aspect of love, that it transforms you inside, changes who you are. Love grows you, both up and outward. Love puts something better inside all of us, not just women in crude jokes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c-zn_Y7EPY

Rose of Cimarron –  Poco
In the Sixties, Buffalo Springfield made a big splash over three albums, before going their own ways. Steve Stills ended up in Crosby, Still and Nash, Neil Young became Neil Young with every sort of vengeance, and Richie Furay sorta got overlooked with competition like that. But Furay did alright for himself, in a much less famous manner, forming the country rock band Poco. They never achieved the heights of his former band-mates, but they were solid achievers. ‘Rose of Cimmaron’ was released at least twice as a single, though it was far too country for British tastes. That ought to make it far too country for me, but its smoothness and warmth outweighed my natural prejudices, and Furay doesn’t sound anything remotely like Garth Brooks and that ilk of male country singers, so we got along just fine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiDNlCyHp0I

Desiree –  Curved Air
By 1976, Curved Air were past their peak, and only Sonja Kristina remained of the classic line-up. There was this guy on drums called Stewart Copeland, and whatever happened to him, eh? But they were playing at the UMIST Student Union one Saturday night in that dry, airless Drought Summer, and my mate Alan and I went to see them, or rather to see Sonja Kristina. Apart from the queuing down the twin set of steps into the courtyard outside, I remember nothing of this gig, but ‘Desiree’ is a better song than I’d expected from those long ago years. I’d still rather have a video of it than just the audio.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBoNof3DUWo

Geneve – John Otway
Oh ho! What I knew of Otway was a couple of maniac singles with Wild Willy Barrett, all guitar slashing and primitive energy. I don’t think anyone expected this high string-laden, orchestral ballad, with just Otway’s voice alone in the midst of the music, singing in a clumsy, yet patently sincere tone about a woman who was leaving him, leaving his life. She’s moving to Geneva (no, the song title is not a mis-spelling, or at least not mine), she’s going to live there, it’ll be without him, and he will miss her terribly, but he sings to the city, entreating it to be kind to her, to be safe for her, to shelter and protect her in the way he’s no longer going to be able to do. He’s made his choice and he pretends that he was right. Love and sacrifice. Sometimes you have to let them go. I know what he meant. I wish I didn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dth0qiEisRo

I’m doing fine now – New York City
Another mini-hit, a piece of old-fashioned soul, with fine harmonies, a song of abnegation. Why this and not countless others? Sometimes there’s an explanation. This time there isn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIVDaw5QQsk

The Dreadful Ballad of Willie Hurricane –  Southern Comfort
By the time they got to an unexpected number 1 with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s paean to Woodstock, Matthews Southern Comfort no longer existed (they appeared on TOTP for three weeks in a piece of pre-shot film). Despite losing their leading man and focal point, Southern Comfort stayed together and made some respectable country-rock music for a couple of years. ‘Willie Hurricane’ was their follow-up to ‘Woodstock’. It got minimal airplay, and didn’t really deserve more, but I hear the echo of the times, of adjusting to life without a father, in this as in so many other songs that maybe don’t merit inclusion in this series, if music was the only criterion.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AFwqLi58WM

As Times Go By – Dooley Wilson
I’ve joked about learning all about Sixties music from having it played as Oldies on Radio 1 in the Seventies, but that’s one of those jokes that contains a whole granary of truth. The Seventies as a whole were a decade of reissues and re-chartings. Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’, five years after reaching number 1, had another complete chart life, reaching number 2 on this occasion. The entire Beatles’ singles collection was re-issued (actually, re-promoted: they’d never been deleted) in picture sleeves, and four of them got into the Top 30 again. Free’s ‘All Right Now’ scored again (and again. And again.). Hell’s Bells, Laurel and Hardy got to number 2 with ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’, from their film ‘Way out West’. The Glenn Miller Orchestra charted with ‘Moonlight Serenade’. This was probably the strangest of the lot. This isn’t even the version that got released, which was shot through with ‘Casablanca’ dialogue, all the classic lines (but not ‘Play it again, Sam’, ‘cos Bogey never said that). Just think for a while what that said about music in the winter of 1976.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIEjIQOD2lc

Moonlight Shadow – Mike Oldfield, featuring Maggie Reilley
In the Seventies, the NME‘s T-zers column used to host bogus end-of-the-year awards, commenting on various things in music. One regular was the Maggie Bell Award, which was awarded to Maggie Bell for being Maggie Bell . The other great Scottish female Maggie singer of the Seventies was Maggie Reilly, formerly of Cado Belle. This collaboration with Mike Oldfield, where she provided sweet, pure vocals to a lilting acoustic song, was her only commercial success. What a world we live in when voices like this can be rejected.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e80qhyovOnA

You Ain’t got the right –  Olivia Newton-John
I’ve mentioned before my mate Alan, who exposed me to more ELP, Yes, Pink Floyd and Rick Wakeman than a sensitive mind should ever experience. His other obsession was Olivia Newton-John, and by that I don’t mean in the obvious sense. He loved the music, deeply and truly. So that’s another one in the column of stuff I had to endure in our Saturday night outings. To be honest, I’ve no great objection to Livvy’s Seventies music, but it’s still pretty pallid, quasi-country pop. This louder, brassier song off one of the mid-Seventies albums always stood out for both of us, though listening to it right now, with enlightened ears, I find myself very dubious about the chorus about ‘he had every right to do the wrong that he done to me’. Not exactly feminism-friendly, even if Livvy admits to have cheated on him just as often as he cheated on her. A morally dubious song in all respects. ‘Physical’ shouldn’t have come as so much of a surprise then.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pbsqT7aVtk

It’s time for love – The Chi-Lites
A real, cool, smooth soul-hit with some beautifully minimal synthesizer. I picked ‘Have you seen her?’ out as a hit the first time I heard it, but this was a personal favourite that should be far more warmly remembered than it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le0w_7lP094

(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether – The  Alan Parsons Project

We finish on the Alan Parsons Project. This proudly processional track was the first single off the first album, a concept album about Edgar Allan Poe (!), and it got a lot more airplay than ‘To One in Paradise’. It did no better. Parsons was primarily a converted Recording Engineer, using session musicians to fill out his ideas. It has the feel of a pre-Trevor Horn production: not quite the same polish and high power sheen, but something that was a few years ahead of its time. It’s a lost Seventies track, but in another world, it was an Eighties smash.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHNxBheFAt4

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 2


Lost 70s Volume 2 consisted of 21 tracks, mostly out of the mid-70s, with only the final track from as late as 1977. Volume 2 has as many as three hits on it, two of them reaching top 10. The run of tracks from 2 – 9 represent a suite of tracks that I associate with Piccadilly Radio, bound together by the common characteristic that they were records by American bands that were being played regularly between 1974 and 1976 which were being ignored by Radio 1. It was a time when there seemed to be an unending stream of new American bands producing great one-off singles that never sold, but which were highlights of evening and late night listening.

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.

Processions: Family

This track from Family’s Family Entertainment album did not come to my attention via the radio, and I didn’t hear it until 1976. The boyfriend of a friend from Law College had had his flat burgled and was petrified of a return visit that would snaffle up his extensive album collection. I volunteered to shelter these in return for rights to play them (the guy had a Brunswick label copy of The Who’s My Generation which was deleted and unavailable in those days). I can’t remember the extent of his choices, but I’d had an occasional soft spot for Family since ‘The Weaver’s Answer’ was an entirely improbable top 20 hit in late 1970. ‘Processions’ is a lovely, rolling, rippling fantasia seen through the eyes of a small boy building a sandcastle on the beach which leads him to dream of glory and processions in honour of his achievements. The dream is ended by the tide washing the castle away, but whilst it lasts, Roger Chapman sings with great compassion and wonder. Lyrically, it’s a similar theme to ‘Weaver’s Answer’ but more uplifting and delightful. There’s a line in here that it took me half a dozen years to hear properly, the words sliding into sense one drive home from work, where the boy dreams of being captain of a great sailing ship, ‘something majestic, sailing on wide seas’. A lovely opening track. Of course, the album was recorded and released in 1969, but the song is forever a Seventies experience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaS9ZyxcPIE

Dance with me: Orleans

This gem of a song is one of those late night, Piccadilly Radio highlights, a mixture of soft acoustic guitars and lovely harmonies and a wonderful innocence in seeing the beginning of a romance as the beginning of an evening’s dancing. It’s smooth and sweet and in forty years hasn’t tired yet. Orleans were the one band from this bunch to have a second single played on Piccadilly in those days, 1976’s ‘Still the One’, but ‘Dance with me’ is still the one my ears go back to.

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

Moonlight feels right: Starbuck

In contrast, there’s an undertone of jazz to this smooth, shuffling number. Starbuck are more open about it being about sex, without ever toppling into distastefulness or being over-explicit. If you need to know what’s in mind, you need only listen to the chuckle before the chorus and you’re instantly clear what moonlight feels right for. But the track is saved from sleaziness by the air of complicity that hoots through it, the recognition that both parties are playing the same game, and the beautifully buoyant vibraphone solo is the perfect touch of atmosphere to remind us that it’s all about fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwOirZ-rg6Q

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You: Sugarloaf, ft Jerry Corbetta

I sometimes wonder if any of these bands did anything like as distinctive, but that surely can’t be the case with Sugarloaf, Jerry Corbetta or not. This is a funky little tune, with solid riffs and chops, shot through with a cheerful cynicism about making it in the rock business. Jerry and the boys are hustling to get an audition with an agent who doesn’t want to know, until the band make it big anyway, by when it’s their turn to tell him ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’. The song’s jerky rhythm knots together the cute moments and keeps them fresh as paint all this time later. There’s an exquisite moment when the agent says we’ve heard it all before and, hesitantly adds that ‘it sounds like, uh, John, Paul and George…’ to which the band responds by cutting into the riff from ‘I feel fine’ but the best line comes after the first chorus of the title line: ‘You got my number?’ ‘Yeah, I got it when you walked through the door’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4njPe2_rho

It Doesn’t Matter: Firefall

A late entry to this list, late 1976, a very Eaglish song of acoustic guitars, fine harmonies and sweet electric lines composed into a mid-tempo love song that’s as insubstantial as a breath of air, yet still drawing you in. It was the times, and it was typical of the times, but for all its familiarity, it was still a lovely moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vttX9gKSZ4M

More than a Feeling: Boston

Later yet. It was early 1977. I was in to Fleetwood Mac for that brief year, even saw them live at the Appollo, recently renamed. Music was about to change, and my attitude to it for the rest of the decade. Boston were one band too many along this theme, a kind of identikit American rock/country band, immaculately produced, immaculately becoiffeured, their music comprised of all the familiar elements. ‘More than a Feeling’, with its mixture of acoustic and electric, it’s stop-go riffs, its overproduction, was designed to blare out at stadium gigs. It was the end of the line, a pointer to the fact that music and me needed something with a bit more energy, roughness, crudity to it, not fretboard virtuosity. But it was still a bloody good song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSR6ZzjDZ94

Hello, This is Your Heart: Dennis Linde

Had this been available for the first version of this CD, I would have placed it earlier in this sequence. But by the time I found the track, the running order was a given in my head. Linde was another one-off, represented in my life by a single track, this jaunty, bouncy, bass-propelled slice of country rock, sung in a strained voice by a guy voicing his heart’s need for a break from all the stuff he’s been putting it through. It’s a viewpoint I haven’t heard elsewhere, set to a rousing rhythm and a tub-thumping beat and it really ought to be better known. As it is, Linde’s best known song is ‘Burning Love’, the one that took Elvis Presley back to his rockabilly roots. But it’s not as good as this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgAVV8Ekp8w

Stranger in the Blue Suede Shoes:    Kevin Ayers

It took me a long time to like this weird song, more spoken than sung, with its absence of a defined melody. For a long time, the only bit of it I truly like was the immense, rolling, rise-up-the-scale piano riff that separates the song into its two halves. But quality, or oddity, will out. The song has nothing to do with Elvis Presley: it’s about Kevin walking into a bar one day in blue suede shoes, being refused service by a rude barman, hiding behind the rules, though he does sell some cheap food. Kevin offers the man a cigarette, the piano does its thing and suddenly we’re in the barman’s head as it begins to expand and he cuts himself free from the restrictions of his crappy life: the cigarette clearly wasn’t nicotine. Ayers, an eccentric to say the least, speaks/intones the words in a deliberately gravelly voice, which is fed through an effects machine when it’s the barman’s turn. It’s all rather peculiar, really.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rft0zCbZPS8

Fly like an Eagle: The Steve Miller Band

Before this was ‘The Joker’, which Johnnie Walker loved to bits, but which he couldn’t persuade the British record buying public to adopt until twenty years later. And after this, the Miller Band broke the British top 20 with the enjoyably commercial, but workmanlike ‘Rock’n’Me’. In between was this album title track, a slow, bluesy, smoky song, relaxed and lazy. It’s an untypical sound, with an ethereal aspect to it. But ultimately, the word workmanlike is the one most appropriate to the band, and it can’t be denied that whilst the lyrics to ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ have their heart in the right place, Miller’s means of expression is pretty much pedestrian. ‘Feed the babies’, he asks, ‘who don’t have enough to eat, shoe the children with shoes on their feet’. The working man’s guide to social concern. The music is nice though, proper relaxing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1f7eZ8cHpM

It’s a Game: String Driven Thing

A perfect, commercial song, with a compelling tune, that got nowhere. Why was this? Radio 1 playlists in the Seventies, which would so often ignore singles with great tunes in favour of crap by someone established. As it ever was. String Driven Thing were a Scottish four-piece with male-female lead singers, the latter of whom played a quite aggressive electric violin. Their thing was that the band didn’t have a drummer, at least not until later in their career, but the absence of percussion doesn’t do anything to hinder the verve and pace of this soaring song. It’s commercial appeal was justified in 1969, when the Bay City Rollers covered it as their last top 30 hit. The Rollers’ version was weak and lifeless in comparison, surprise surprise, but the song was strong enough to still sound pretty good by them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XemiS0jvkgw

I’m a Gambler: Red Herring

Red Herring was Pete Dello, he of Honeybus and ‘I can’t Let Maggie Go’ fame. The song was recorded and released initially under the name of Lace in 1969, but subsequently it came out as by Red Herring. I lost count of how many times this was reissued, with the record company swearing to keep putting it out until it was a hit, but in the end they gave up first. It’s a bouncy, yet yearning song, with a clip-clop rhythm and a poignant, sweet violin sound to sustain it and it really should have been a success. Listen to it, just listen.

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

I will return: Springwater

A hit, a palpable hit. There are a few, here and there, in the Lost 70s series, usually songs that have faded from mind and memory, such as this 1971 Top 5 instrumental. Nowadays, it’s no surprise to hear of people making it big with tracks recorded in their bedroom, but he’s the daddy of them all, Phil Cordell, Sheffield-born and based multi-instrumentalist who cracked it big with a track that reputedly cost £35 to make, recorded in his bedsit with a harmonium, a two-piece drumkit and a guitar with a bent neck, straightened out using a half a crown (ask your Grandad). I preferred the follow-up, to be honest, but as Volume 1 proved, I have a soft spot for the learning music of 1971, and few others remember ‘I will return’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBGtZ-HMJmI

Conquistador: Procol Harum with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

Two hits in succession, though this was by far the less successful in chart terms. By this point, I would have known of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ but probably nothing else by Procol Harum: I certainly didn’t get to hear the tedious and shallow rock original of this until years later when I went on a brief Procol thing. The late Sixties/early Seventies, with the progressive pretensions, had a thing about marrying rock and orchestra, and this is one of the few examples of something that genuinely worked. It’s recorded live and the recording captures a vast spaciousness, bringing the band and the Orchestra into a proper proportion. A smart, fairly straight orchestration substitutes for most of the non-solo musicianship and the song, which is pompous to a fault, breaths freely. It just clipped the top 30, but it’s stood the test of time: a hybrid that worked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW2KN7Tz89s

Sebastian: Cockney Rebel

No wonder Radio 1 barely played this: they just couldn’t understand it. Steve Harley announced himself with this over-produced, over-recorded, unbelievably pretentious song ,sung in a haze of something sweet-smelling and definitely not sold over the counter. It’s effete, languid, heavily aesthetic and it carries about it the atmosphere of something ever so faintly rotten: think Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray. Cockney Rebel are barely present as a band, the orchestration is so lush. Harley sings in his most affected voice, and would sack everyone else in the line-up within a year of this overblown, incomprehensible and utterly magnetic effort to cram together things that could not possibly fir into a four minute song, no matter how epic. It never stood a chance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOqhyZ3QUYs

Shoeshine Boy: The Humblebums

From the ridiculously sublime to the down home streets of Glasgow. The Humblebums were a Scottish folk due comprising Gerry (Baker Street) Rafferty and Billy Connolly, though I have never been able to hear anything of the Big Yin in this chunky, broad little folk-rocker. I remember it from several plays on Kenny Everett’s Saturday morning Radio 1 show, before he got canned. It’s a sweet little toe-tapper about an unambitious lad who wants nothing more than to make a menial living and live it up on Saturday nights, dancing with his lady till the break of day. With a song this good, he deserves every Saturday night he can move it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ym1H3WKcUc

Wintertime: Kayak

Elsewhere in this series, there’s the odd, very early Seventies single from one or other European bands, heard through the fuzz that was Radio Luxembourg, Fabulous 208. Kayak, a Dutch progressive band who weren’t Focus, got this onto Piccadilly Radio’s playlist late in 1974 and it caught my ear and entertained me. It’s just a bubbly, simple song, with slightly dodgy accents, and the kind of frills that a more pop-oriented band would have ironed out but which were still compulsory in 1974, just to show you were serious about not being totally commercial.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVekseenb7w

Dream Weaver: Gary Wright

I included this as a counterpart to ‘Water Sign’ on Volume 1, though I hated this song at the time for reasons I can no longer understand. The two tracks are cut from the same soulful, yearning cloth, and the only difference is that this one was a big hit in America, and the one on Volume 1 wasn’t.

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

Sunny Side of Heaven: Fleetwood Mac

Between the end of the Peter Green era and the start of the Buckingham/Nicks years, Fleetwood Mac kept touring and recording with largely forgotten line-ups. ‘Sunny Side of Heaven’ is a lovely, rippling, quasi-bluesy instrumental, a Danny Kirwan-penned track that uses electric guitars throughout, hewing to a brighter, more trebly sound on the ‘chorus’ riffs and a richer, rounder guitar sound in the ‘verses’. No, it’s not a stand-out like ‘Albatross’, but it’s beautiful and its melody haunts the ear and it should be far better known than it is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EbyRKMzirg

A Horse with No Name: America

Another hit single, in fact a big hit single, a no 3 at Xmas1971 for a three piece band of Army brats, strumming acoustic guitars and doing a fair job of ripping off Neil Young’s style. It’s a winter song, dry and slightly drab in sound, and lacking in colours, for all that it takes place in a desert of blazing sun. Even the harmonies are downbeat. And it’s here in this series because of the time it played on the car stereo radio, as we drove along the marina in Palma, Mallorca, between the bright yellow of the sun above and the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean away to our left, seen between the white masts of the yachts, and the incongruity was overwhelming and I can never hear ‘A Horse with No Name’, without being transported to Mallorca and those summers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQzW6wz2JQk

A Fool No More: Peter Green

We’ve had Fleetwood Mac, and now it’s time for Peter Green. This is Green at his bluesiest, a track recorded in 1978, with Buckingham/Nicks already establishing themselves as the musical drivers of his former band. And this is Green at his most timeless, Green singing a low blues, lit by the flickering fire of his guitar, whilst bass and drum keep a stately, measured time, unrushed, unruffled. Green aches and bleeds in word and music and it lasts something like seven minutes and you would neither notice nor care if it were doubled, because the music toys with you. I’ve been your fool for so long, I won’t play that fool no more. And no-one believes a word you say.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oWmfG0uFBc

Beware of the Flowers, ’cause I’m sure they’re gonna get you, yeah: John Otway

Thinking it over, this song doesn’t really belong here. The explosion of punk and all its associated creeds changed the musical landscape for me between 1977-78, and what followed in the rest of the decade was, with very few exceptions, radically different to what had come before. Suddenly, instead of craning to hear those few, rarely played decent songs that cut across the pretty dull, pretty average grain, there was energy and excitement and new stuff all the time. ‘Beware of the Flowers’ was slightly on the early side for that. It was the b-side to Otway and Barrett’s very minor hit, ‘Really Free’ and I don’t suppose I took any real notice of it until Otway’s fans fixed the big public vote by the BBC for the greatest lyrics of the Twentieth Century, lifting this piece of gleeful nonsense to the giddy heights of number 7. Honestly, can you believe it? It’s not the sort of song this compilation was meant for, but it’s there and I won’t take it off. It’s still a 70s song, after all. It’s what I ‘grew up’ to like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIymBH7VvGg

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 1


Lost 70s Volume 1 ran to 23 tracks, mostly from the early to mid-70s. There’s only two post-1975 tracks on it, both from 1978, though neither of them sound in the least like songs from that year. And the second of them is the only top 30 hit single in the compilation! All but one of these tracks can be found on YouTube and there are links to each of these.

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 later selections.

Loving You Ain’t Easy    : Pagliaro

Michel Pagliaro was a French-Canadian singer-songwriter who recorded primarily in French. This, and its less-appealing follow-up, ‘Some Sing, Some Dance’ were the only tracks of his I heard. ‘Loving You Ain’t Easy’ was a bright, breezy, guitar-driven song that got lots of airplay in the hot summer of 1971. After several weeks, it actually climbed to no 35 and Pagliaro scored a TOTP appearance. But the track was thinly produced and lacked the single’s verve, which killed it’s chances of breaking through. Still a great piece of guitar pop.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHi3nwKTEzM
Gotta Find You: Rescue Company Number 1

A weird, doomy string draped 1970 pop song with a mid-tempo sound that got enough airplay to intrigue but which I never got hold of until well into the 2000s. The band had more airtime for their very commercial second single, ‘Life’s too short’, in 1971. The song’s credited to professional songwriting team Arnold, Martin and Morrow, and the similarities in tempo and vocals to their top 20 hit ‘Don’t You Know’ as Butterscotch lead me to think that this was a studio creation, with the writers doing the singing, and the band only put together to pick up the name for the folow-up. This one’s got a bit of a stalker-vibe to it that would be much-multiplied when we got to ‘Every Breath You Take’.

Love and Rainy Weather: Tony Christie

Christie’s commercial peak had already passed by the time this song appeared in 1973. It was the theme song to the film of the Jack Rosenthal TV sitcom, The Lovers and it’s semi-relaxed atmosphere brings memories of a film I loved, and its co-star, Paula Wilcox, who I always seriously fancied.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7I17I70cyAk

Gypsy Woman: Brian Hyland

This 1970 song was another turntable hit, Tony Blackburn in particular plugging it for months until it briefly troubled the charts at no 40. I had no idea who Hyland was at the time, nor his big early Sixties’ hits, I just loved the rolling warmth of the electric piano intro, and the leap towards the falsetto that Hyland’s voice took – rather artificially to my more-practiced ears – when he went into the chorus of this old Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions song. This is part of the soundtrack to the months of adjusting to life in the aftermath of my Dad’s death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StC5lwA2snM

Albert Flasher: The Guess Who

The only thing I knew about this Canadian band was their minor UK success with ‘American Woman’ in 1970, which I’d hated. This 1971 single was  rarely played and I never got to hear it properly, but it’s another tie to that hot summer, the summer of hot-pants, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep and incessant games of Subbuteo with my mate, Steve Callaghan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQ-hdVe0p94

Living without you: Manfred Mann

The original Manfred Mann had turned into the jazzrock oriented Chapter Three in 1969, and this was the first step back towards a more commercial sound in 1971, before the band acquired the Earth Band soubriquet. It’s a smooth, synthesizer laden version of a Randy Newman song. I was listening a lot to Radio Luxemburg this year, and they tended to play it far more than Radio 1, which denied me a proper chance to get this on tape. Next year, they’d record and have a hit with ‘Joybringer’, but this was the first step on that road.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN3eBsTgDoc

I need you: America

Intro-free, piano-led, unsuccessful follow-up to ‘A Horse with no Name’. I got to know this well from America’s first album, which I had for a time. It’s just a lovely, yearning, beautifully harmonised song that was sweet but too bland to build on the freak success of their first release.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThTplavLL7w

It’s up to you Petula: Edison Lighthouse

Speaking of things not building on first successes… This version of Edison Lighthouse was definitely a put-up band to cash in on the success of ‘Love Grows Where my Rosemary Goes’, five weeks at Number 1 at the start of 1970. That was one of four simultaneous Top 10 hits written by the same group of professional songwriters and recorded by themselves under different names, with session musicians/singers – principally Tony Burroughs, who did lead vocals on all of them. It took nearly a year to put together an Edison Lighthouse to pick up on the hit and this follow-up was far too lightweight, jangly and out of step with the change in music in that twelvemonth to go anywhere. A near Top 30 miss: but I liked it at the time, and the nostalgia’s enough to do it for me still.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpeIsj3vhFw

Curried Soul: Mr Bloe

Speaking of things not building on first successes (part 2)… I loved the original ‘Groovin’ with Mr Bloe’ single. It was my favourite single of 1970, and only my second ever single bought, a purchase I held off making until the week it hovered at no 2, hoping to help push it to the very top, past Mungo Jerry: alas, no. It was an oddball track, originally a loop, irreverent b-side to an American single, mistakenly flipped over here and recorded by a studio band. The original piano track was played by Elton John, but the producer didn’t like it, so arranger Zack Laurence was brought in to re-record it and that ended up being the hit version. Part of is success was the novelty effect of a harmonica instrumental (played by veteran Harry Pitch, also famous for the theme music to Last of the Summer Wine) but I also believe it was popular in the Northern Soul venues. ‘Curried Soul’ did feature Elton John, and the other four musicians went on to perform as Hookfoot, but the novelty had worn off and Radio 1 only played it to talk over. As soon as I could download, I was determined to get this properly at last.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq5F6VahsT0

Classical Gas: Beggar’s Opera

Another unsuccessful instrumental. I knew very little about Beggar’s Opera, but in 1973 they covered the old Mason Williams hit, ‘Classical Gas’, taking out the acoustic guitar and the orchestra, adding a more progressive touch with electric piano and a pure seventies style synthesizer, with an underlay of electric guitar that borrowed a little of the funkiness of the ‘Shaft’ theme. That synthesizer sound, the sound of pure electronics, music made digital with the rasping, almost frayed edge of the traditional Moog, that’s vanished now, but it was the sound of the Manfred Mann track, it picks up the secondary theme here, and there’s another example of that raw sound, near the end of this compilation. A worthy companion to the original.

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

Promised Land: Johnnie Allan

My first introduction to Cajun music. This high-speed take on the Chuck Berry original about heading to California to make your fortune gets ripped up and put back together as a cajun shouter, with Allan’s hoarse, accented vocals whipping through the verses almost as fast as the red-hot accordian solos, whilst the band lay down a flat, solid groove. I did some Cajun dancing lessons once, many years after this, and I can’t now hear if without seeing the couples, bent-knee shuffling, hurtling around a sweaty dance floor as Johnnie Allan drives them on to faster and faster spins. Primitive, high energy stuff, perfect for blaring out of your radio, and only two minutes long. Released in 1978 but could have been recorded any time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyytlU-uS7k

Westbound No. 9: Flaming Ember

Evidence that time and tastes change. Flaming Ember were an American blue-eyed soul band who had a couple of hits over there and did nothing in the UK. I hated this in 1971, couldn’t stand hearing it, which  thankfully wasn’t too often, but I like it now. There’s a lot of 1971 music on this compilation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vO0v8p6rSTU

Water Sign: Gary Wright

Everybody used to go on about Gary Wright being an ex-member of Spooky Tooth, which meant nothing to me. He’d gone off to America where he’d become very successful as a solo artist, with a big hit in ‘Dream Weaver’, which I didn’t like, but this later single, 1976 I think, caught my ears. Whilst everything so far on this compilation is Radio 1 music, Gary Wright was the sort of thing I got through Piccadilly Radio, Manchester’s Commercial Station (April 1974) and particularly the evening/late programmes. There’s a lot more of that on the next compilation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylnWEHLD3ow

Overnight Sensation (Hit Record): The Raspberries

The Raspberries were led by Eric Carmen, he of the utterly loathsome and whiny ‘All By Myself’ (there was some serious self-pitying about in the back half of the Seventies). But the Raspberries were all about pop, big, bright, commercial pop, innocent and fresh. ‘Overnight Sensation’ had it all, great harmonies, a cool tune, slow and up tempo bit, a sax solo, even a neat moment where the sound abruptly fades, turning the song into something heard through a tinny old transistor radio. There’s even a false ending followed by a great, thundering burst of drums. It was fun from start to finish one of those  records where it was impossible to fathom out why Radio 1 didn’t want to play it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFykKccM0wM

Don’t Pull Your Love: Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds

Another 1971 alumnus. One of the band was going out with the gorgeous actress/model Caroline Munro and expressed his displeasure at Colin Blunstone releasing the achingly wonderful ‘Caroline Goodbye’, about the ending of his relationship with the lady. Stupidity like that didn’t prejudice me against this jaunty, brass-propelled, stop-start number, with its richly American sound. Blue-eyed soul is the closest genre for this song. The band went on to be quite successful in the States, but I never heard another thing from them.

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

No Regrets: Tom Rush

Although it was the later Walker Brothers’ cover that sold, taking them into the Top 10 for one final, belated time, I had already fallen in love with Rush’s original, which had been around for months without any prospect of it selling. It’s a beautifully sad, low-key, self-contained acoustic song, with minimal instrumentation. It’s about the end of a relationship, when everything’s been said and done, when the couple have stayed together far too long and it’s time to go. Rush sings in a deliberately dispassionate tone, allowing only hints to creep through about how hard it all is to let go, even with what he knows. This is a great song, obviously built from personal experience, made all the better by its steely determination not to over-emote. Stunning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKU0S5K5aYE

An American Trilogy: Mickey Newbury

And a second successive original of a song taken up and made successful by a bigger artist. Elvis Presley had the top 10 hit with this medley of American songs, but it was country singer Newbury who conceived of, and arranged, this loving, sincere and thoughtful tune. Newbury sings slow, and simply a medley of ‘Dixie’, the negro spiritual ‘All my trials’ and ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, all three songs reduced to a slow, lamenting, intense vocal, with minimal instrumentation keep well to the rear. An amazingly simple and deeply effective idea, even to those of us with no nationalistic attachment to the originals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIagEIdm3lo

Our National Pastime: Rupert Holmes

Rupert Holmes (originally David Goldstein, born in Northwich, Cheshire to USAF parents) is best known over here for 1979’s ‘Pina Colada Song’. He’s one of those witty, slightly over-clever songwriters, that you can’t help feeling are too fond of demonstrating their superior cleverness. It’s shot all the way through this 1974 single, which I heard off Piccadilly Radio, but which I nevertheless like, because its goofiness overrides its underlying smugness. It’s basically a story-song, with spoken word interludes, about a guy who meets a girl at a rained-off baseball game and takes her home, hoping to score. The awkwardness is still entertaining all these years later and the ending is still horribly embarrassing. But in a good way.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wma7BH0nkLQ

You keep tightening up on me: The Box-Tops

Everyone knows that the Box Tops were that ultimately enigmatic genius, Alex Chilton. But this 1970 single was recorded without him or any of the old line-up, though you wouldn’t know that from the sound of it, which is just as firm, direct and tuneful as classics like ‘The Letter’ or ‘Soul Deep’. Ok, if you listen closely enough, you can tell that’s not Chilton on lead, but the half dozen times I heard this played, I had no ear for such subtleties nor experience of other songs to tell. All I knew was that this was a great pop song and it should have been played thousands of times. But it wasn’t.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex6bCJTu9N8

Toast and Marmalade for Tea: Tin Tin

This has nothing to do with Herge and a lot more to do with Maurice Gibb, who supported this Australian band and got them a British album deal. The band released four singles, of which none charted and only two got any airplay, but this got a lot of airplay. It’s distinguished by a vibrato piano effect, created by pissing around with the tape, as the band harmonise a dreamy, eight line rhyme that’s repeated with the addition of extra instrumentation. It was a particular favourite of Ed Stewart, so it got a lot of ‘Junior Choice’ airtime in 1970. The sound stood out, but the public resisted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt2u9WNd4Qg

The Ride to Agadir: Mike Batt

Mike Batt’s had a very mixed career. By 1975, when he recorded this crunchy, propulsive, Moorish-influenced pounder, I knew him for The Wombles, which had been his commercial breakthrough. This song, and the album it was taken from, were an attempt to be recognised as a serious musical artist, but you only had to start chanting Remember You’re a Womble to know that that was a complete non-starter. But I always liked the drive of this track, with its lyrics recalling the Riffs and fighters of Morocco of the Desert Song era, it’s strident harmonies and the sheer determination of Batt to be heavy. Despite the presence of very Seventies drums, I think it still stands up very well. If more people had agreed with me, maybe we might have been spared ‘Summertime City’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7_y-F8VtSo

Mr President: D, B, M and T

To be honest, most of this 1970 single, which did get the band on TOTP the week it was nearest to cracking the Top 30 (that’s the performance which is linked below), was not very interesting, just a shuffling acoustic beat, some harmonies on a not-very-distinctive tune, and a rather artificial lyric about suspicion of the President: all very Sixties-pop-group-get-serious-now-its-1970. For D, B, M and T are of course Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, now that Dave Dee had left to go unsuccessfully solo. What made the song, then and now, is its sudden eruption into an out of place synthesizer solo, that ol’ Moog making itself felt. The rest of it was worthy-but-dull. It was 1970, what else is there to say?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B3Y2MdQOGQ

Loving you has made me Bananas: Guy Marks

Last, but not least, is the only actual hit single on the entire CD, a bona fide, twice upon TOTP, number 26 hit in the summer of 1978, when I was living in Nottingham, instead of Manchester. And the joke is that not a single second of this record sounds as if it could have been recorded any time after about 1938. ‘Loving you has made me bananas’ was a spoof, a gloriously, lovingly created spoof, of a sound and a time and a conception of music that no longer existed, done with immaculate conviction by a guy old enough to be your grandfather. It’s not just a song, it’s a radio broadcast, a live ballroom performance in miniature, that only rises into even the mildest of satires when the medley of standard favourites is performed just the song’s titles as lyrics. It’s one of those real WTF songs that you’re not entirely sure about, but the smile is both taunting and delighted, so lose yourself in its conviction for two and a half minutes, bask in a world so entire, and give yourself up to what it must have been like. There was no way you could follow this, which is why I placed it last on this disc.

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