Lost 70s: Volume 19


I know I promised Volume 19 would follow shortly on Volume 18, which was because the two compilations were recorded practically back to back. It’s just that I forgot. Sorry. But better late than not at all. This collection offers 23 tracks, with a fair bit of leaping around in time, a handful of chart hits but mostly low-lyers. I hope there’s a few memories to be evoked here.

Cracking Up            Nick Lowe

Because the New Musical Express espoused punk enthusiastically, at a time when the rest of the country’s press, music or otherwise, was hounding it in the same way they do Jeremy Corbyn these days, there were a lot of people I heard a lot about without hearing anything by. Brinsley Schwarz had never crossed my musical path in the Seventies, though I’d heard of the great 1970 PR Disaster without having a single idea what had happened. But Lowe, or ‘Basher’ as he was nick-named from his Production habits, was taken up by the NME with great gusto, especially for ‘Heart of the City’ (a truly great song and only a b-side). The paper created its own nick-name for Lowe, which he took for the title of his first solo album, Jesus of Cool. It’s sub-title also came from the NME, if my memory is working properly: ‘Pure Pop for Now People’. And Lowe was on a hot streak in those years, turning out pop songs with strength and steel in them, as well as compelling melodies. By the time ‘Cracking Up’ came out as a single, in 1979, Lowe was working as one-fourth (bass) of Rockpile, in partnership with Dave Edmunds. Since the two were tied to contracts with different labels, most of Rockpile’s stuff was released as solo records by Lowe or Edmunds, according to who wrote and sung songs. ‘Cracking Up’ plays with a deliberate flat melody, Lowe half-talking the words, and that’s Edmunds you hear on the chorus. It’s downbeat, smooth on the surface but jagged in more than the lyrics, and Lowe hits the right note of disturbance. Unfortunately, differences between Lowe and Edmunds broke up the Rockpile experiment prematurely, but before they left, they recorded this minor classic that spelled out the seeds of its own demise within. I don’t think it’s funny no more. And when it stops being funny…

Baby Blue              Badfinger

Another cameo for my original naivete. Sometime in late 1969/early 1970, I first read about Badfinger. They were being billed as the ‘new’ or ‘next’ Beatles, from their place on the roster at Apple, and I took it seriously. Nobody else seemed to. The band weren’t all that prolific: ‘Come and Get It’ in 1970, ‘No Matter What’ in 1971, ‘Day After Day’ in 1972. I liked the first two and seriously loved the third. And I waited for 1973 to come round and Badfinger’s annual single. This was it. I didn’t hear it until this year, on YouTube, which makes it one of the Lost Lost 70s. Radio 1 didn’t play it, probably for no better reason than that the band had gone out of fashion. Nothing worse than last year’s model. But it’s brilliant. Archetypal Badfinger, strong song, fluent and melodic playing, a rock underpinning balancing out the pop tune and the harmonies. Archetypal Todd Rundgren production. It reached no 14 in America. Then Apple collapsed and destroyed the band through legal snarls. Pete Ham, who wrote and sang this, committed suicide in 1975. Not hearing ‘Baby Blue’ when I should have done was a waste and a loss, but it pales beside what was done to the band members. That special love I have for you. The horror.

Lido Shuffle           Boz Scaggs

In contrast, we shuffle into 1976, and the end of that very brief period when Boz Scaggs was hitting the commercial heights in the UK. ‘Lido Shuffle’ reached no 13 in early 1977, but it’s still a 1976 song, coming from Scaggs’ most successful album, Silk Degrees. It couldn’t have come from anything but that anteroom of a year, American and polished, rhythmic but not quite disco, but blessed with an uptempo verve and just enough touch of rawness to that chorus to make it worth remembering. This is fun! Woah-oah-aoh-oh-oh-oh.

Groupie Girl                  Tony Joe White

Back to the beginnings, back to basics: and they used to call Creedence Clearwater Revival ‘swamp music’. Tony Joe White crept into the British Charts only once, and this was it, a no. 22 hit of sorts that was sung and played in a low rumble over a minimal tune, about a phenomenon that I didn’t understand and that people who did understand what Tony Joe was singing about didn’t like him singing about it, even when he wasn’t actually endorsing sweet young girls collecting long-haired rockers’ dicks. And they really didn’t like that line about passing her around like a joint. Must we fling this filth at our pop kids? Well, at least one of them didn’t know what you meant and it’s take him nearly fifty years to learn to understand the music, but I got there.

Elizabethan Reggae         Boris Gardiner

I’m a little bit surprised it took me as long as it did, but I didn’t start writing down the Top Thirty every week until the end of May 1970. Once I did, I start to understand and remember things, but that left those first five months as a bit of an anomalous zone, without my ever getting a handle on what was around when, and for how long, and in relation to what. ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ was big, my first real exposure to reggae, but there was also this little oddball, a tune I was familiar with – it’s Ronald Binge’s ‘Elizabethan Serenade’, which only dates from 1951. I’m trumpeting my ignorance yet again, because I knew the melody and thought it was classical music, and I liked this version, even though I was barely able to tell this was different, and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being played as often as I liked on Radio 1. Of course, it had originally been released as being by Byron Lee and The Dragonaires and I even got a cheap Shudehill Record Stalls copy with them on the label. Now I understand why, but I still like the melody.

The Man Who Sold The World                  Lulu

In 1974, five years after her last hit single, that atrocious piece of Sixties Eurovision, you’d have struggled to find a Bookie who would give you any odds whatsoever on Lulu turning into David Bowie. Hey, the next year, she tried to be George McCrae: can’t fault the wee Scots lassie from trying. Bowie obviously didn’t mind, he produced the Lulu version, arranging the song for a less dark and swirling guitar, decorating the melody with saxaphones and even adding very distinct backing vocals on the chorus. Needless to say, the very idea was considered blasphemy, but if it didn’t bother Mr Jones, who were we to object? Of course, it lacks a tenth of the dimension of the original, but I wasn’t familiar with the original back in 1974 and I was happy with this then. The CD’s only bona fide big hit, but if only she hadn’t covered up that lovely red hair with that panama hat…

Spinnin’ and Spinnin’            Syreeta

Soul just wasn’t my thing in the Seventies, but this beautiful rush of sweetness, written and performed by Stevie Wonder’s ex-wife Syreeta Wright and issued under just her first name was a glorious exception. It’s a heartfelt paean to love and being swept off your feet, matched a musical confection masterminded by Stevie at his most generous and rich. Ain’t never come down yet.

Don’t Touch Me There           The Tubes

For once, I’m including a B-side here, or to use early Seventies parlance that was out of date long before 1977, when The Tubes made their only brief excursion into the British singles chart, a maxi-single. Maxi-singles were hybrid 7”ers. EPs, or Extended Plays for the under twenty-fives here, were 7” vynil with four tracks, two on each side. They had their own, irrelevant charts but some sold well enough to have taken Top Ten places in the singles chart if they’d been included, as indeed they were in the New Musical Express Top Thirty. Maxi-singles came along in 1970, the biggest of them being Mungo Jerry’s ‘In the Summertime’. The difference was that whilst you got an A-side, you got two, count them, two tracks on the B-side, and a hike in price. ‘Don’t Touch Me There’, a massively over-produced, gigantically melodramatic rock’n’roll spoof about masturbating your lady-friend, was one of two tracks backing up the equally spoof-titious ‘White Punks on Dope’, and was to my ears an extravanganza a million times as much fun. The Tubes were a satire on music, a great good, and this is a blast of disdainful energy wrapped in a disdainful wink. And there’s precedent for me elevating this track above it’s A-side, for Family’s classic ‘The Weaver’s Answer’ was just one of the three tracks on their ‘Strange Band’ maxi-single: ‘Strange Band’ was the A-side, but for once Radio 1 played the best track. Pity they didn’t do that for ‘Don’t Touch Me There’ but if you listen to what they’re singing…

Motor-Bikin’          Chris Spedding

Chris Spedding was a musician of high repute in the Seventies, a session guitarist in constant demand. In 1975, he decided to briefly front up with this modest Top Twenty single, a slightly out-dated rocker about exactly what the title says, motor-biking. The lyrics are a bit naff, and Spedding’s voice isn’t much better than average, but it’s a bit of fun, an injection of energy when energy was badly-needed, and a necessary reminder that there were some moments when a signpost to the future placed itself before you.

I Knew The Bride (When She Used to Rock’n’Roll)          Dave Edmunds

Then again, this is the real deal. It might be every bit as backwards-looking, to the days of rock’n’roll, as the Chris Spedding track is, but this Dave Edmunds single, the fourth to be released from his 1977 Get It album, came out in the summer of 1978, when Punk was being heard a lot more openly, instead of being only known through its vicious opposition. But ‘I Knew the Bride’, telling a regretful tale of a once-rebel-rousing young woman marrying a pillar of the community, looked both ways, being a bridge between the simplicity and power of what had once been and the rising tide that took that simplicity as its goal. It’s Rockpile again, just like the Nick Lowe song that heads this compilation. There wasn’t a punk band that could have recorded this song but there wasn’t a punk band that couldn’t take it as their own.

Kinnell Tommy             Ed Banger

You have to allow me my quirks sometimes. Ed Banger and The Nosebleeds sounds like a cheap Benny Hill parody but they were one of the earliest and crudest Manchester punk bands, producing the single ‘Ain’t Been to no Music School’ (by all accounts, no-one needed to be told that). Ed (Ed Garrity) then left the band and resurfaced in 1978 with this single, on Rabid Records, who had first hosted Jilted John. It’s a mainly piano and drums song, (if you stretch the word far enough) with some roughish guitar sweeps and an odd burst of synthesized sound over the extended coda. In front of this performance Ed shouts like an excitable football fan at a Sunday morning pub team game, which is what the silly but weirdly endearing thing is: Tommy is a useless centre forward who’s being encouraged along by the eternally optimistic Ed (we all know what he means by Kinnell) until the useless Tommy leathers a penalty over the bar at which point Ed turns on him with a torrent of inventive and clean abuse into the fade-out. It has to be heard to be believed, and you will most likely not want to ever listen to it again, but until you do, your imagination can’t ever say it’s been stretched! Incidentally, EMI picked this up just as they did ‘Jilted John’ but this one didn’t happen. Pity, I would have given a great deal for a clip of Ed doing this on Top of the Pops

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do             Neil Sedaka

For a while there, Neil Sedaka was back in the Seventies, in Britain at least. Aided and abetted by members of 10cc, producing at Strawberry Studios, he recorded a short string of Top Twenty singles, sophisticated, grown-up MOR Pop. This didn’t chart: despite the false start using the intro to the original, this is a complete deconstruction of the song and its reinvention as a slow, gentle, nightclub smoother. Lots of people hated it, clinging to the original. I had no such attachments, and liked it as it had become, though what it had become was outside the normal parameters of what I liked. On re-discovery, it’s no longer so appealing, but it stands as a marker in time of where I stood as I was coming out of my teens.

Shoes                 Reparata

A story of how sometimes obvious, massive hits-to-be become flops. Britain and I knew Reparata and The Delrons, a three-girl singing group, from their somewhat goofy 1968 hit ‘Captain of your Ship’ and nothing else, though Wikipedia confirms them as providing backing vocals on ‘Honky Tonk Women’. Actually, Reparata, lead singer Mary Aiese, left the group in 1970, when she married and became Mary O’Leary. She encouraged the two Delrons, the stone-cold gorgeous Nanette Licari and Lorraine Mazzola too carry on, with Mazzola becoming ‘Reparata’. Then, in late 1974, Reparata surfaced with this song. It lacks any conventional song structure, there are no choruses, and there’s a strong Greco-Italian-Turkish blend to it, especially in its fade, with balalaikas and handclaps and fades. The lyrics are about a big family wedding and the whole thing is a joyous romp. You imagine yourself doing one of those big step dances that precede line dances, as everyone gets happily drunk and the couple are in the middle. The radio loved it, everybody loved it, it was a sure-fire hit. And it peaked at no 43 and vanished. Long years later, I learned that it didn’t sell in the colossal numbers it deserved, not because I was once again out of step with the Great British Record-Buying Public but because there were no bloody copies to buy. Reparata was Mary O’Leary, but so too now was Lorraine Mazzola, whilst Reparata-Mary had recorded this whilst signed to one record company but released it under her new contract with another company. The twin legal actions forced a halt to pressings: by the time you could go out and buy it, time and the audience had moved on. A bloody shame. It still sounds perky, and more mature, a very long time after.

Quit this Town            Eddie and The Hot Rods

When I added ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ to the last compilation, I pointed out that people credit it to Eddie and The Hot Rods, which was the band’s permanent name, instead of The Rods, the name they took for that single only. For its follow-up, they reverted to their full name, and commercial obscurity. Which is a shame, because ‘Quit this Town’ was a cracking little bit of powerpop itself. Not quite as purely commercial a melody, the guitars not quite so ringing, and a crappily rough Top of the Pops live performance did the band no favours. The song peaked at no 36 in the Top Thirty era. It would have been more fun on the radio with this in heavy rotation.

Yes I Understand           The Flying Machine

The Flying Machine are a more than usual example of the Lost. The band formed in 1969 out of the ashes of Pinkerton’s, formerly Pinkerton’s Magic Colours, of ‘Mirror, Mirror’ fame, and had an American top 5 hit single, ‘Smile a Little Smile For Me’, that I don’t even remember hearing on the radio over here. Indeed, it’s only within the last decade I have heard of the band at all. ‘Yes I Understand’ was the last of their six singles. But I know the song very well indeed, and loved it tremendously in the only form I ever met it, adapted for a well-played TV commercial in 1971 as ‘Esso Understands’. It used to amaze me that a song like that wasn’t properly recorded as a single. Well, now I know.

Magic Man             Heart

This was the first single from the Wilson sister’s band’s debut album, Dreamboat Annie. I didn’t hear it until the follow up, ‘Crazy on You’ came out and I fell for its crazy rush of acoustic and electrics, it’s pace and power. I heard about ‘Magic Man but didn’t hear it until I bought the album, and I cursed not having known about it before, with its near-funk wriggle, its sinuous melody and its lyrics that, for me at that still-immature age, weren’t quite open enough for me to recognise that Ann Wilson was explaining to her critical mother why she’d had to hop into bed with this Magic Man. The chicks looked hot, even through the layers of midi-length dresses and knee-length boots that were the prevailing fashions in 1977, but though the cover of the second album was gorgeous, the music had lost any spark that Dreamboat Annie possessed. Ten years later, when ‘Alone’ was big, I read a profile that gave Nancy Wilson’s age as 23. I then came across a copy of that first album, and couldn’t help but think how well-developed Nancy was… as a guitarist, I mean… for a supposed 13 year old.

White Lies, Blue Eyes         Silver Bullit

There wasn’t really a band called Silver Bullit. In America they were Bullitt, but in England there was Bullet so for this slice of strident blue-eyed soul-pop, the band needed a new name. The song leads with its chorus, no intro, which made it hard to tape off the radio and necessitated me buying the single, on special order from the local shop. Springy bass, a raucous lead, brass and a slicing guitar solo, it hit me where it hit, but there was a narrowness to the production that I think worked against the strong. Nevertheless, on minimal airplay it got to no 41 over here. An inferior follow up called ‘Willpower Weak, Temptation Strong’ suggested a penchant for four word, commaed titles, but I heard nothing more of the band. This is still a decent legacy for a one-off, though.

If you can’t give me love            Suzi Quatro

Truthfully, I never liked Suzi Quatro, except for one unexpected bikini photo in the Sun. She and her band were the arse-end of the Chinnichap era (if you ask your grandparents, they’ll most likely box your ears) and dire stuff it was by then, but this laconic, semi-acoustic 1978 flop caught some of us off-guard by featuring a melody and some husky-voiced singing as opposed to shrieking. Admittedly, it sounds like a foretaste of Smokie at this remove, which piles up even more minus points, but I liked it then and that buys it a place here.

The Six Teens         The Sweet

Speaking of Chinnichap…
Nowadays, we cower at the words Stock, Aitkin and especially Pete Waterman, most often when they, or rather he, compare themselves to Motown. The more accurate comparison was to the early-Seventies team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, writers and producers of the likes of Mud, Suzi Quatro, Smokie and New World (you don’t remember New World? Stay that way). But their first and biggest success was with The Sweet, starting with ultra lightweight stuff like ‘Funny Funny’ and ‘Co-Co’. But, and it’s funny to think of this, The Sweet had their own mind, even if it was only one between them. They wanted to be taken seriously, play heavier music. Chinnichap let them start to orient their sound more towards fuzzbox guitars, then gave their head – within limits – with a genuinely raucous sound on massive hits like ‘Blackbuster’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’ and ‘Teenage Rampage’. I hated them all, of course, though I’ve softened a great deal towards ‘Ballroom Blitz’. That wasn’t enough for the boys and there came a parting of the ways, allowing the band to write their own material. ‘The Six Teens’ was the first demonstration of that. In sound, it’s no different, and it’s typical of the mid-Seventies in that any notion of a simple, straightforward melody is abandoned consciously. It’s herky jerky and awkward and comes complete with an egregious change of speed for the last verse chorus, throws in some quasi-operatic stuff from bassist Steve Priest and teenage angst lyrics of stunning obscurity.
In all, it’s an object lesson in how not to establish yourself, but back then I liked it for its conspicuous effort, and when Chinnichap ruled the world, or the British bit of it anyway, you learned to enjoy anything that consciously rejected it.

I don’t need to tell her               The Lurkers

…or, Dumb Punk with a decent melody. Plonking good stuff.

Language School               The Tours

In that long ago conversation down the pub that I referenced in relation to ‘Get Over You‘, this was the record I was thinking of when I said that some bands have only got three minutes of genius in them. ‘Language School’ was the title track on an EP by The Tours, but if Peely played any of the other tracks, I don’t remember them. Hell, I bought the record, and if I played any of the other tracks, I still don’t remember them. But this track is good enough for me, a straightforward, punchy song, delivered over a booming bassline and no complexity whatsoever. You could ask for more, but in the summer of 1978 I wanted no more than this.

Map Reference 41°N 93°W            Wire

Wire were, and still are, Wire, a law unto themselves, the deliberately strange, too weird to be called offbeat, though in another generation that would have been the first thought in anyone’s head. But though they deliberately ignored the conventions of song-structure most of the time, when they chose to work within them, they could come up with something seriously brilliant, like this. I’ve no more idea what this song is about, and you can be sure that it’s title appears nowhere within the lyrics, but there’s a rhythm pulsing at the right rate and the chorus insinuates itself into your ears with gorgeous harmonies until you can’t help yourself joining in. And even when you read the lyrics you’re no wiser, but that chorus pins you to the map once again.

The Day The World Turned Day-Glo                   X-Ray Spex

Lastly, we have X-Ray Spex again. The same words apply, this time to a fantastic vision of plastic colours and products. The degree of restraint, or rather the channelling of fantasies into a less lubricious direction permitted Radio 1 to play this enough for the band to get into the Top Thirty and onto Top of the Pops. Such days, now gone, but forever missed.

Imaginary Albums – Lost 70s 13


Lost 70s Volume 13 is the most recent addition to this series, the first to be curated in 2016. With this volume, I have come some fifteen years since I first burnt the original CD, intended as a one-off. And there are still more songs, including those still buried in my memory, that will one day form Volume 14. I’m not done yet.

Day after Day –  Badfinger

Practically the only thing I knew about Badfinger was that they had been heralded as ‘the new Beatles’, and I was too new to have any idea how many times that accolade had been handed out before. Still, they fit the bill, superficially, four Liverpool guys, guitars and drummer, and a very-Beatle-esque debut. ‘Come and Get It’ came and went in a blur, an unused Paul McCartney song recorded in the identical arrangement to his demo, a hit and disappeared in that shadowy five months before I started listening to pop and then started writing down the top 30 every week, formalising my relationship with music. There was another, heavier hit in 1971, and this was the third, in 1972, a clean, strong pop song with rock elements: I had the fixed idea that Badfinger came along once a year. But ‘Day after Day’ was the last of it, a song of yearning and need, a sweet, singing guitar line, a production so crisp that you could break bricks on it. It was the same year that Nilsson had so big a smash with a Badfinger song that went into immortality, and took with it the band’s future. I had no idea, just no idea.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XonFZjuyc6E

Yesterday Man –  Robert Wyatt

About the time ‘I’m a Believer’ gave Robert Wyatt his short taste of pop life, the NME reported that he was going to follow it up with another cover, a version of Chris Andrew’s bouncy bouncy ‘Yesterday Man’. This was cancelled, and the record remained in the vaults. Then, in 1977, during my year of unemployment and no foreseeable future, it got played on Piccadilly Records, once, and I was fast enough to get to the tape recorder, losing maybe only ten seconds off the intro. Wyatt re-defined the song according to its lyrics. Andrews had written a song about being dumped by his girl and sang it as if it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to him. Wyatt turned it into the mournful, heartbroken epic it had always been, and the result was magnificent. Do you know that most people still prefer the original? Crazy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhEeM5rBxJI

Miss me in the Morning –  Mike d’Abo

I owe this track, and the next, to the wonderful Marmalade Rainbow web-site, and their ‘Do You Remember? 2’ section, listing singles released month by month from 1971 to 1975. ‘Miss me in the Morning’ was been hidden in my memories for decades, a cheerful, bright, charming hangover-from-1969 pop single by former Manfred Mann vocalist, Mike d’Abo, cut loose when Manfred and Mike Hugg went into their jazz-rock Chapter Three phase. This single came from the early part of 1970, the hazy months I’ve already mentioned once, when I was trying to find out what I actually liked, and I liked this. Or did I like the group version, which is similar in sound, especially on that compulsive chorus, yet a little more elaborate musically? I honestly don’t know, I can’t fine tune my memory to distinguish between the two versions, to recall which got Radio 1 airplay in those indistinct months. Mike d’Abo has it here, out of logic, not knowledge. My memories still jangle whenever it plays.

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

Clowns – Ed Welch

OMG! When I read the listing for this on Marmalade Rainbow, I couldn’t understand why it had remained shielded among my memories, and never surfaced of its own accord. This singer-songwriter ballad, this mournful musing was another that I now recall so bright and clear from the radio-soaked summer days of 1971, but it was a goner, vanished clean from any hope of recovery until I saw the line, and it blew through my mind. 1971 was one heck of a year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nrOC4JDiCU

Love is hard to rearrange –  The Marmalade

There is a tale behind this song, which I never heard in the Seventies. It’s off the b-side of The Marmalade’s 1971 top 10 success, ‘Back on the Road Again’, and it’s gentle, sweet, acoustic and thin: nice in itself but deserving of nothing better than a b-side. I include it here because, in the summer of 1971, I sat my O-levels and went on into the Sixth Form, where the alphabetically-formed forms of the past years were split along arts and sciences lines and I gained new form-mates that I’d not really known that well until then. One of them, a very flamboyant, extroverted guy, claimed to me and my mate Alan that he’d co-written a hit single, a song called ‘Love is hard to rearrange’. We didn’t believe him for a second, but a few weeks later, after a lengthy browse in the racks of the record stalls at Shudehill, I came across this particular Marmalade single, and next Monday at work duly reported to Alan that if nothing else the song did exist. It didn’t impress either of us. Our ex-schoolmate’s name isn’t anywhere near the credits of this song, which gives it to Hughie Nicholson alone. Probably he wouldn’t have been impressed by Biff’s claims either. So I thought I’d better listen to the song after all this time, and it’s made its way here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lOP03BP270

Heavy Heart – Peter Green

Play the link first. Listen to this instrumental, look at the video. That performance is taken from Top of the Pops, one Thursday night in the summer of 1971. The instrumental was barely ever played on Radio 1, and it must be one of the most unlikely, outre and improbable tracks to ever materialise in the middle of the show, without the track being anywhere near the top 50. Look at the faces of the audience, you’d think they’d suddenly been transferred to the surface of the Moon. And you wonder why I keep returning to 1971’s improbable mixes of musics with endless fascination.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPFEi2bIoy0

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? – Chicago

Chicago were not so much an American band as an American Institution. They’d had two bluesy, rocky top 10 hits in the UK in 1970, both hard-pounders with sizzling horns. This was the follow-up and it went nowhere, as did Chicago over here until the overly-polished and ballady ‘If You Leave Me Now’. I liked this at the time, and I’m still fond of it after having my memory joggled by, what else, Marmalade Rainbow again, but I can easily see why this went nowhere. It’s a reversion to the jazzy, almost swing side of Chicago. Stan Frieberg would have approved of this. It’s 70% arrangements and 30% pop at best. Still, I remember it well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgF_ycCmF18

Love Song –  Olivia Newton-John

I’ve spoken of my mate Alan before, great fan of progressive music, collector of ELP, Yes, Rick Wakeman, and also of Olivia Newton-John. Livvy was a bright, attractive woman with a sweet but not powerful voice who, after years of not making it in Swinging London and its aftermath, turned to a kind of genteel country-pop to start making inroads in the British charts. ‘Banks of the Ohio’, no matter how improbable it sounds now, was her breakthrough, helped no doubt by 1971 being the summer of Hot Pants and the lovely Livvy being exceedingly suited to things that showed off her long and shapely pins. For a follow-up, she covered Lesley Duncan’s beautiful ‘Love Song’, in a fairly conventional and sweet arrangement that surprised many people, myself included, by being her only Seventies single not to chart. It lacks the steel of the original, and is perilously close to twee, but when you compare it to some of the songs she did hit with, the fact that this flopped is exceedingly bizarre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVNqdfAs5gQ

Kitsch –  Barry Ryan

Back in the dim days of pre-history, otherwise known as 1972, Noel Edmonds had a three hour weekly Sunday morning show on Radio 1 in which he was noted for – and you may wish to sit down for this – being into the music. I particularly remember him championing this Barry Ryan single, which came close to hitting the top 30, and I remember him complaining about songs such as this not getting their due. Barry Ryan was then, as now, best known for his everything-and-the-kitchen-sink overblown production hit single, ‘Eloise’ and I remember this as being a much tighter, more rock and piano oriented track, which I didn’t particularly like. Where, in the meantime, it became just as much a big, roaring ballad as its predecessor, I’ve no idea (can’t be my memory at fault, oh no). Again, nostalgia softens my attitude to the song, though it’s still no ‘Eloise’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyH7jx8fHWM

Daydream Believer – John Stewart

A case of know the song not the singer. This is another track much-played on Noel Edmonds on Sunday morning, to some controversy from leftover Monkees fans, who were uncomplimentary about it compared to the original hit. But this was the original songwriter, bringing his own, laid-back country style to his own song, and I formed a tremendous affection for it then and am glad to have it so easy to hand again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aG0pG4W-NI

I’ll give you the Earth – Keith Michell

By every thing that is good and holy, I should not be including a song like this on a compilation of oddball and overlooked Seventies music. But it is from the Seventies, it is oddball, and it sure as hell is overlooked, though you may argue not by enough of a margin. At the time this record scraped into the top 30 for a single week at the very bottom, Michell was an actor famous for starring as King Henry VIII in The Six Wives of… He was also, it seemed, a pleasant baritone singer, and this emotive ballad got more airplay than you’d expect and, to my shame, I found myself liking it. At least it wasn’t his other hit, with the appalling ‘Captain Beaky’, which got championed by Noel Edmonds, in a later, more nakedly self-serving phase of his career. Now that was shit!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Doi_uhG4nA0

Fly Now –  Brian Protheroe

I know I said, when writing about ‘Pinball’, that I didn’t remember anything about any other Brian Protheroe songs, but thanks again to Marmalade Rainbow, I have been reminded of this jaunty, piano-dominated follow-up, which was fun but made no waves. It’s a much more orthodox sound from Protheroe, eschewing the atmosphere that hung around his ‘hit’, and more energetic in its performance, but in the end it passes the ear, having entertained without strain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fa2xq_LQzI

Feel like makin’ love – Bad Company

Bad Company, eh? The poor man’s Free, if you can apply that label to a four-piece that included only the singer and drummer from the earlier band. I remember ‘All Right Now’ (I remember it five times round in the charts, that record never knew when to quit), which was pure cock-rock, with an unbelievably catchy chorus. Five years on, Paul Rodgers hadn’t learned a thing about interpersonal relationships, since ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’ is about nothing more complex than having a fuck. Only the music, a lovely, subtle blend of lithely unwinding acoustics and punchy, choppy electrics, has moved forward, so let’s hear it for some kind of sophistication at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEuKkcX1uKA

Shine on Silver Sun – The Strawbs

The Strawbs started out as a folk outfit – the Strawberry Boys – and even had Sandy Denny as singer for a time. Then they followed the likes of Fairport and Steeleye into folk-rock, and ever so quickly out of it again into a weird kind of confined pomp-rock: the big sound, in this case supplemented by expansive choirs and a slightly stiff and stilted vocal, without ever going into the multi-instrumental excesses of the progressive bands like ELP and Yes. ‘Shine on Silver Sun’ was one of a number of unsuccessful attempts at cracking the commercial barrier, before the upbeat and energetic ‘Lay Down’ took them top 20, and Dave Cousins made the atrocious mistake of allowing drummer Richard Hudson and bassist John Ford to foist the execrable novelty song, ‘Part of the Union’, on the band, killing their career on the spot. The Sun loved it, at least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkNi8AJEAR4

Clear Day –  Rab Noakes

I knew of Rab Noakes through the lately-imploded Lindisfarne, who’d covered his ‘Turn a Deaf Ear’ for their first album (and inserted his name into the lyrics, though they sang Steve McQueen for their Peel Session version, per the original). This single was out in April 1974, when Commercial Radio was unleashed upon the nation outside London, and our local station, Piccadilly Radio, kicking off April 2nd, heavily featured this gentle, harmonious folkie in their first week’s rotation. With airplay making up the statistics, it posted at no 10 in the very first Piccadilly Radio top 40, and no 39 in the second. Why it was even chosen to be play-listed on a station whose musical director, veteran DJ Roger ‘Twiggy’ Day, confessed was just out to play ‘something that sounded nice between the commercials’ is a mystery forty years on, but it was a good call, however doomed it was.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNIV1E1WwUQ

Honky Tonk Train Blues – Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson’s recent suicide, born out of depression and the knowledge of a degenerative finger condition making it increasingly impossible to play as he wished, prompted a recollection of this jazzy little piano instrumental that crept into the top 30 the year before ELP went mega-massive with ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. It’s a straight performance of a ringing little tune that would have been familiar to anyone around in its pre-War heyday. It reminds me of a few days spent in North to mid-Wales in the early spring of 1977, my mate Alan and I shooting off on the Monday morning immediately after I signed on. You didn’t really get to hear it on Radio 1, whose DJs recognised instrumentals as an excuse to give the listener what they really wanted: more of the over-loquacious bastard’s voice. I remember sitting in the car on a rain-lashed afternoon, just off the beach, with this on the car radio. Precious days.

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

Reach out for each Other –  Philip Goodhand-Tait

This was the third of the three memorable mid-Seventies singles by Philip Goodhand-Tait that I’d enjoyed so much, or rather it was the second of these, flipped. ‘Almost Killed a Man’, which I haven’t yet been able to discover on YouTube or via Amazon mp3s, shows as the b-side to this bigger, beatier, Spector-esque power ballad, but I remember it got a lot of fruitless airplay in its own right, long before I ever heard this track. Wait until I can get that song. Not that this isn’t worth listening to in itself. Reach out for each other folks, every time you can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6hPJQ5kfLs&spfreload=10

Say it ain’t so, Joe – Murray Head

Murray Head was getting a lot of airplay in early 1970, when ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ was hot and he was playing the title role on stage, so I remembered the name when he came out with this somewhat overwrought 1975 ballad about a nearly sixty year old baseball scandal. It was the Boston White Sox (or Red Sox, or Black Sox, whatever, anyway they didn’t know how to spell Socks) who were accused of throwing something (other than a baseball), leading to an anguished and quite possibly apocryphal young fan pleading plaintively ‘Say it ain’t So, Joe’ to chief culprit ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson (you’d have thought he’d place more importance on his socks if he didn’t have any shoes, wouldn’t you?). Overwrought, pleading, and decently melodious. I bet Shoeless Joe would have been impressed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-enIN21BWWI

Slippery Rock 70s –  Staveley Makepiece

Students of early 70s pop will know of Staveley Makepiece, who were some kind of unserious band putting out oddball singles with vocals in a very high-pitched register, such as ‘Give Me That Pistol’. This track is an instrumental, which was very much an improvement (I heard ‘Give Me That Pistol’ more than once, you see). It’s a decent enough piece of music, with enough of a slithery feel to it that, had it been covered by John Fogarty, would have seen it immediately christened as swamp rock, but it’s main interest is as a kind of semi-follow up to another instrumental, on which two of the band (and one schoolteacher mother) participated, recording it in the living room and seeing it go to no. 1 for four weeks. Yes, half of this band were half of Lieutenant Pigeon, and if you listen closely to this track, you can hear the sound of ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ in its bones. Creepy, almost.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAzd5uqNoD4

Undercover Angel – Alan O’Day

A large part of Lost 70s Volume 2 was set aside for songs I used to listen to in the late evening on Piccadilly Records. Had I remembered this earlier, had it been available earlier, it would have been one of that number. ‘Undercover Angel’ was a smash American hit single that once again went nowhere over here. I only ever remember hearing it on Piccadilly, not Radio 1, though it fit perfectly that airless, frictionless period when we were all, unknowingly, waiting for punk to erupt. But then again, if the Buckingham-Nicks Fleetwood Mac couldn’t get Radio 1 airplay, and if the Police were ignored until their year-old singles were smashes in America, what chance had a bouncy, punchy little pop ballad from an unknown got. I used to despair at times. Now I couldn’t give a toss.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01PSf4Bokic

The Danger of a Stranger – Stella Parton

Stella Parton was the little sister of Dolly, in both senses of the word. This 1979 single was the only track of hers to get airplay over here, but then Dolly had only made a modest impact on our charts. It’s more country-MOR than country, but it’s still a well-put together little number about chastity and one-night stands and about how those handsome ol’ devils are such a trial to the former. Stella sings it up sharply and doesn’t sound as if she has all that many regrets, no matter what Momma thinks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUGEzTGhzu8

Tara Tiger Girl –  The Casuals

The Casuals. Yes, The Casuals. Go away and play ‘Jesamine’ (many of you will only need to call it up on your personal Infinite Jukebox to be reminded). Now clink the link below. No, go back and listen to it all the way through. It is the same band, honest. This was five years later, five years of continental success and not a sausage in the UK. Sometimes, bands get desperate. You’d feel more sorry for them if this bore any kind of resemblance to music that might actually have succeeded in 1973.

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

Theme One –  Van der Graaf Generator

Though the late George Martin had written, and recorded this forceful instrumental as theme music for Radio 1 in 1967, when the station opened, my first exposure to it was via this surprisingly straight Van der Graaf Generator 1972 cover, which crept into the very lower reaches of the top 50. Truth to tell, I had no idea about VDG’s music, save that it was plain they were a bit avant-garde, from the tendency to slip into noodling for the latter part of the track, and I doubt I have ever consciously heard anything else by the band. This lacks the sheer sonic crunch of the original, the sense of power that Martin draws out of his orchestra, but it is an honest, respectful version that knows a bloody good tune when it hears it and respects its evident decency.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okWNg2pZkVI

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 3


Lost 70s Volume 3 consisted of 21 tracks. It differs from all the other albums in the series by being deliberately planned chronologically (slips excluded!). It starts in 1970 and works its way through the decade to 1979, though the middle of the decade is hardly represented. There’s one genuine hit on it, and another that just crept into the top 30. The majority of the tracks on Volume 3 were ones I knew quite well, a lot of airplay but nothing in terms of sales.

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.

She lets her hair down (Early in the Morning): The Tokens

There was this spell, at the very beginning, the first few months of 1970, before I started to get any kind of musical appreciation in my head. There were a lot of songs played on Radio 1 that weren’t making the charts, and from which I remembered certain lines, certain sounds, but not the artists. The Tokens were from the early part of the Sixties, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight/Wimoweh’ was their biggie, but they were still going by 1970, and this gentle song of unrequited love, with its twin titles, stuck with me. The girl walks past the guy’s house every morning, early on, her long hair let down. He watches her, he loves her, one day he might have the nerve to speak to her, but for now all he can do is look and dream, in super four part harmony. I got to know the feeling very well over the coming decade (except for the harmonies).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45akBxUlowI

Belfast Boy: Don Fardon

I remember hearing this as a news feature, a novelty idea, a song about United’s mercurial star, Georgie Best, rather than as a song that got Radio 1 airplay. I mean, how uncool, a song about a footballer, a sportsman, even such a hip one. It did sell well enough to reach no 40, but Fardon had to wait until the end of 1970 for his commercial breakthrough, with the flat and drab ‘Indian Reservation’. As for ‘Belfast Boy’, it’s actually quite a good pop song, with a springy bass-line and a roaring chorus that could have been adapted effectively on the Stretford End. The words are straightforward: the subject may be a novelty, but the song itself isn’t. Though it has to be said that the line about ‘You won’t have long in the limelight’ missed the point by a mile. No, this deserved better, and if treated as just a song, I’m sure it would have done better, but ironically the very idea doomed it to obscurity. Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy. Some of us still do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XemxPtm70wM

Tears in the Morning:     The Beach Boys

This, on the other hand, was a song and an artist whom I remembered very well, though I recall it being a Radio Luxemburg song, rather than Radio 1. The turn of the Seventies was a time in which a great many pop stalwarts lost momentum and success, in a more collective manner than seemed ever to happen on the change between other decades. Pop bands went heavy in some form or other, went progressive, or just stopped having hits. The Beach Boys had coasted into 1970 with the old folk song, ‘Cottonfields’, but ‘Tears in the Morning’ was a slow ballad, a deep and mournful sound, full of harmonies that had nevertheless lost all their lightness. It was a song of regrets and loss, and the Beach Boys were never associated with that. It didn’t sell, and with the unworthy exception of ‘Lady Linda’ in the Eighties, they never would again in England. I lost track of it for a long time, but I never had to search for who I remembered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ekVXou4B7Q

The Singer: Raymond Froggatt

I listen to this song now, having only caught up with it in recent years, over thirty since it came out in the summer of 1971 and I got hooked on it, and it got played only a handful of times. I listen to this now, and I hear nothing but flaws in it. It’s pompous and sententious, it’s slow and sonorous, the words are pretentious. It’s a particularly turgid form of British country rock, complete with women choirs providing back-ups. There’s every reason for me to write this off as the difference between the teenage and the adult me. Yet when I hear it, it still pushes that fifteen year old’s buttons, in the way it did in 1971, straining through the fuzz that was Radio 1 MW reception in the Lakes, to hear every last note. It still trips something that that kid responded to. It reminds me that some things are frozen inside me and some areas of the past are not past, but still alive and occasionally far too close to the surface. I will sing of fools and kings and you will sing along.

This song cannot be heard on YouTube

Here comes that rainy-day feeling again: The Fortunes

I knew of The Fortunes from their two big 1965 hits that got an awful lot of airplay as oldies on Radio 1. There’d been two smaller hits that I didn’t learn about until buying Simon Frith’s Rock Files, the first of the books to compile chart hits. Obviously, they’d continued to release singles, all in the same smooth, orchestra-lit pop harmony vein, without hitting the charts again in the intervening years. Whether they got airplay or not, I don’t know, but this early 1971 single did. It even got the band back on Top of the Pops. It’s a good, strong-melodied, light track, ideal for my slowly-developing tastes. It still got the band nowhere, but it helped create a new buzz that contributed to their scoring a long-awaited top 10 return later in the year with the execrable ‘Freedom Come, Freedom Go’. This was always tons better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3zxJuhpc-Q

It never rains in Southern California: Albert Hammond

Though I didn’t know it, I’d already heard a lot of Albert Hammond’s music by 1972. He’d been one of the main writers behind Oliver in the Overworld, the musical serial in the ITV kids programme Little Big Time, a Freddie Garrity vehicle (tapes wiped to general regret). He’d have a minor hit in 1973 but this song got a massive amount of summer airplay without going anywhere. It’s got a gorgeous melody, superb production and, in contrast to the light, airy, near-seamless music, a tale of despair to counteract. They guy’s headed out to California, where it never rains, to break into the Business. He’s failed, he’s busted, he’s broke. The endless sun mocks him. That such a light, almost weightless sound, such pure pop could be a vehicle for such pain was a revelation that might have had something to do with the song flopping. It still has the sun in its face now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmq4WIjQxp0

Skyline Pigeon: Elton John

This is included here as a bit of an anomaly. I don’t remember hearing this version at the time, but I was familiar with the cover by a semi-progressive band called Deep Feeling, which got a fair amount of airplay without going anywhere, and which will take its palace elsewhere in this series. It was many years later before I even knew this was an Elton John song, the best part of a year before he broke through, in January 1971, with ‘Your Song’. The original doesn’t carry with it the nostalgia effect, and that allows me to look a bit more dispassionately at the words, which are… strange, to say the least. Elton takes on the persona of, well, a pigeon, and a pretty awful life it is, people making you fly all over the place for them and as for this burning metal ring… In the end, it’s the ‘before-he-was-famous’ element that confirms this track’s place, the gulf between this and what time was very shortly going to bring.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g17Q2hCGc-s

Chicago: Graham Nash

Another track that got a lot of airplay in 1971 without selling. I think I remember more vividly the ones that didn’t make it that year than the ones that did! I knew Nash from C,S,N & Y, and ‘Marrakesh Express’, another much-played oldie (when I say that I learned about Sixties music from Radio 1 in the Seventies, I am not joking). This was a bouncy, up-and-down little song summoning the counterculture to Chicago to change the world. It’s sweet and terribly naïve and the relevance of Chicago in 1971 escapes me, fascinated as I am with contemporary American history. 1968 I could understand, vividly. Then again, Nash’s oblivious earnestness wouldn’t rule this song out as being written that year and refused by The Hollies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEFsBF1X1ow

I saw the light: Todd Rundgren

Like Red Herring’s ‘I’m a Gambler’, this was a perfect pop single that the record company threatened to keep on re-releasing until it was a hit, and again the Great British Record Buying Public stolidly refused to play ball. Which only goes to show how bloody stupid and bloody-minded they were in the early Seventies. Much was made of Rundgren playing and singing every part on this track, when rather more should have been made of how ebullient, loving and soaringly delightful it was. Rundgren never made it with the Great British Record Buying Public. Just imagine how better the world could have been if we did make songs this great into massive hits?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXq81-cGJr4

No Matter What: Badfinger

A rare but palpable (Top 5) hit. Badfinger were just one of many bands hailed as the new Beatles, especially with Paul McCartney’s backing, but everyone remembers their first and last hits and overlooks this one, in the middle. It’s decidedly Beatle-esque in voice and guitar, the latter a welcome change from the piano-led ‘Come and Get It’ (which time would prove to be a carbon copy of McCartney’s one man demo). Times were changing. The charts in the Sixties were littered with one-hit wonders covering the more commercial tracks off each new Beatles’ album. With the Fab Four gone, the copyists had to come up with their own songs. Badfinger were good enough to do so.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xoke1wUwEXY

Never Met a Dog (that took to me): Vinegar Joe

A bloody brilliant blues song, one that’s in total control from start to finish, ballsy strut-stuffing. It sounded a natural for big things and the band were sure to make it big. You can tell it just by listening to this track. But Vinegar Joe went nowhere. It broke up when their two lead singers decided to quit and pursue solo careers, at which they proved to be very successful, with music that didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to the raw swagger of the band. I speak of course of Elkie (Pearl’s a Singer) Brooks and Robert (Addicted to Love) Palmer. Who’d a thunk it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t0378oDNig

Black Water: The Doobie Brothers

It’s 1974 now, and the Doobie Brothers are getting late night airplay on the new commercial station, Piccadilly Radio: ‘Long Train Running’ and ‘Listen to the Music’. They’re not Radio 1 music, which was irredeemably square in the face of the new stations, Johnnie Walker the only exception and he wasn’t going to be around too much longer. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea either, to be honest. But ‘Black Water’ was different. It wasn’t a single over here, only in America, so it didn’t get that much airplay, but it was a gentler, looser sound, and slower rhythm and I couldn’t get enough of the bit where the band went a cappella. Thirty years later, I could download it and burn it and listen to it properly.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSAqkGU2nQ4

Seagull: Rainbow Cottage

In 1975, Rainbow Cottage, a long-standing, continually gigging band, like many others working their socks off every night, came as close as they would come to ‘stardom’ with this single. As is the case with so many tracks in this series, it got airplay but no sales. A follow-up got a lot less attention, even from me, and it was back to the road. ‘Seagull’, the second song in this compilation to be about a bird, was way out of step for this year, even this decade. It’s light to the point of insubstantiality, the instrumentation is nondescript and covered up by minimal strings. It doesn’t fit. It’s the inverse of those odd Sixties-recorded songs that feature here because they’re indelibly associated with the Seventies. In some ways, liking it  was an early nostalgia for that period when I was trying to decide just what kind of music I liked.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFUtyIzZS0A

Shoes: Reparata

Most of us only knew Reparata from the old ‘Captain of your Ship’, with her Delrons. ‘Shoes’ was a hit in the making from the off, all over the air, it’s underlying rhythm and little bouzouki bursts making up for its lack of a chorus, its story of a big, glorious wedding, it’s growing tempo and excitement, it had everything. It got into the top 50, reached no 43, stalled and died. I was used to this by now, finding songs that to my ears sounded like guaranteed smashes, but which  the Great British Record Buying Public ignored, but this time round it didn’t seem to be my eccentric taste, everybody loved it. The answer, I found out, decades later, was a complex legal action over the Reparata name. ‘Shoes’ was sung by Mary O’Leary, the original Reparata, but one of her Delrons was now Reparata with the continuing band and sued… The single was pulled from the shops, the Great British Record Buying Public who wanted to buy it couldn’t. There’s a momentum to these things. The time is right and that’s right now and right now it wasn’t there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jDX7ly8Jyo

When an old Cricketer leaves the crease: Roy Harper

The vast majority of Lost 70s tracks are singles, because the series is made up out of my memories, created in days when music radio was an endless, addictive companion. Eight minute long, slow acoustic numbers, full of cricket positions and metaphors, and underpinned by the not-yet-quite-fashionable ‘authenticity’ of a brass band do not get released as singles. Roy Harper was a serious musician, and this a serious, wistful, elegiac lament for the loss of something never defined, expressed in terms that are superficially fanciful, but ultimately utterly English. A lament for (better) times lost? Why in these years of the most right-wing doctrinaire incompetent Government should that strike any chord with me?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJCqECUmx44

Dancing the Night Away: The Motors

Roy Harper represented the old Seventies, the ‘Sounds of the Seventies’ Seventies, the kind of lost music that inspires this series of CDs. For the rest of this disc, we shift to the new Seventies, the punk(-inspired) era. Music of energy, pace, drive. Like much of the rest of this set, The Motors don’t belong to the main punch of punk, which was too vivid, too stormy and, for me at least, too memorable to warrant inclusion. The band emerges out of the ashes of Ducks Deluxe, one of the mid-Seventies pub rock bands who laid the groundings for punk. It’s closer to straight rock than punk, a bit clunky, a bit unwieldy, but marking a definite change in musical attitude that I was steadily growing to like throughout 1977. Of course, the follow-up, their biggest hit, ‘Airport’, with its clean lines, its underlying synthesizer, was pure pop, with only the energy of punk to differentiate it, and that was that as far as The Motors’ serious reputation was concerned, but this was a building block in changing my musical tastes for the rest of my life.

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

California Uber Alles: The Dead Kennedys
Holiday in Cambodia: The Dead Kennedys

Let’s take these two tracks together. The Dead Kennedys were a Californian band who got closer to the heart of British punk in that brief time than anyone else that side of the water. In their extravagant front man, Jello Biafra, they had a great singer and a man fueled by the same rage as the No Future kids of England, but whose rage was attached to a great satirical spirit. ‘California uber Alles’ is full of anger at their home State’s coolness, it’s growing reputation for mellow, it’s seemingly spaced out Governor, Jerry Brown. We are the suede denim Secret Police, we have come for your uncool needs. ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ probably needs no explaining. Biafra was called ‘sick’ at the time for the subjects of his songs, but the vitriol that runs through them, the well-directed sneer that is in no way casual make these two of the most powerful singles ever released in succession. If the band could never match the intensity of this quite again, it’s maybe not surprising.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIqESwzCGg4

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

Eine Symphonie des Grauens: The Monochrome Set

The Monochrome Set were new wave rather than punk. There was a strong experimental element to their music that was art schoolish in many respects, and I was not the only one who, when Franz Ferdinand made it big in the 2000s, saw a direct link. ‘Eine Symphonie des Grauens’ was really the only Monochrome Set track I liked, a bizarre compilation of song fragments strung together with seemingly little care for continuity, but centred upon a chorus that, despite the deliberate constriction of its melody, still riveted my attention. An unforeseen gem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC_cm57hvWk

I wanna destroy you: The Soft Boys

I maybe only heard this a couple of times, enough to be captured by the gleeful title line, and its almost shrieking harmonies, and I didn’t get to know it well until download, many years later. The Soft Boys were an early vehicle for the wilfully eccentric Robin Hitchcock, of whom I have a cassette of live songs with his band The Egyptians, recorded by my old mate John M. Hitchcock is very clever, has an absurdist sense of humour and the deadpan seriousness of the true absurdist, yet capable of creating songs of breathtaking simplicity, beauty and joy, such as ‘Arms of Love’, recorded by R.E.M. ‘I wannna destroy you’ is an embryonic example of Hitchcock’s abilities, an inverted love song that doesn’t quite coalesce but is sustained by the sheer poise of its title line.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAt7hK_zKr0

Summer Fun:     The Barracudas

To end in not quite serious vein. I never heard anything else by The Barracudas than this energetic pop punk outing, which crept into the bottom of the charts in the late summer of 1979, peaking at no. 27. It was described then as surf-punk, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a Beach Boys summer song with a punk edge, as threatening as the waves on Southport beach, but overflowing with that classy pop energy that we do so well. Even the silly intro, a spoof on American radio commercials with an announcer who can’t pronounce Barracuda, hasn’t outlived its welcome, but  when you get a song with such perfect ‘ba, ba-ba-ba-ba, ba, ba-ba’s as this, it’s so hard to screw up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4dBjjGeAWA