Imaginary Albums – Lost 70s Volume 6

Lost 70s Volume 6 consists of 22 tracks. It starts and ends in the late Seventies but in between I’m still lurching around heedlessly. There’s a lot of early Seventies stuff again: I was still learning what I liked and didn’t then, and a lot of music from that time sank into memory and has had to be teased out by one means or another. The closer we get to the middle of that decade, the more familiar stuff became to me, and the easier to mental hand. There’s also a long instrumental section in here that was fun to extend.

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.

Shake Some Action (demo version): The Flamin’ Groovies

The perfect opening track. You listen to this and you want more. But there was so much I had to say about this song that I said it under the auspices of The Infinite Jukebox – which naturally includes every song in this series of compilations – and which you can read here

Teenage Confidential: The Flamin’ Groovies

The b-side to ‘Shake Some Action’, thus making the record close to being the most perfect 7-inch ever released. Where the A-side mainlined on its own speed, ‘Teenage Confidential’ was slow and stately, almost a ballad, a teenage lament whose every note is picked out with an individual clarity that creates a Wall of Sound out of sparse instrumentation echoing in some empty space, a great distance instead of the cramming in of instruments into every corner. ‘Don’t take her word’, the singer pleads, the Groovies behind him on their best and formal behaviour. This is crucial. ‘If you do, we’ll break up girl’. It is really as important as that. Nothing more than the end of the world. ‘The Things she says could be untrue/and those kind of words could make you blue/and there’d be nothing I could do.’ He’s at her mercy, and at the mercy of claims another girl is making. He’s anxious that his girl should shut her mind to what she might hear, even though these things ‘could’ be true, in which case he’s scuttling to cover his ass. But the music is as high and wide and tense as any that has ever been recorded and the urge to join in the band’s chorus is irrepressible, and whether he deserves it or not, this simple song is a complex melodrama and when the music’s as good as this, you are on his side…

Marie Take a Chance: Almond Marzipan

I remember this song from an old taping off the radio, recorded from an old-fashioned radio my Dad had built into the bottom half of a bedside cabinet, possessed of a plastic facade full of old, vanished station names, irrelevant to my determined tuning to Radio 1. It was old, it was decrepit, it was on its last legs and the signal kept slipping, or it might be blurred by static fuzz. The burst that cut across most of this precious recording nearly blotted out the sound at one point, before abruptly dying out for the last chorus but that was my only tape of the song for a very long time and it’s hard not to anticipate the sound when I play it now. I know little of Almond Marzipan, except that they were a six-piece band who appear to have only recorded two singles: four tracks, three of them very good. They were already out of date in 1970, a good, not spectacular, late-Sixties pop band of the kind that had already been displaced by the swerve towards ‘heavier’ music. It’s bright, it’s breezy, it has a decent energy of its own and some good horns supporting a belt it out chorus. Boy asks girl for a chance, he’s hooked on her and he hopes she’ll get hooked on him. Maybe she did: he’s sweet and naïve and no doubt he’ll grow out of it one day. It took me longer than most.

This track is currently not available on YouTube

Belong Belong: Black Swan

My first flush of pop enthusiasm had me bound to Radio 1 for the whole of 1970. During that year, we had an Election, and Ted Heath won. As a consequence, come December, we were facing powercuts that would plunge the house into darkness, leaving us reliant on on candles for light and conversation for entertainment. On the one hand, I did have a Xmas present transistor radio, which ran on batteries. On the other hand, Radio 1 was still in its infancy during which it wasn’t allowed to stay up after 7.00pm. In this manner, I discovered Radio Luxembourg. And certain European bands who were definitely not getting airplay on Radio 1 daytime. One such was a seeming band called Black Swan, with a very intriguing single called ‘Echoes and Rainbows’. In fact, they were a pseudonym for French singer/songwriter Billy Bridge (real name Jean-Marc Brige) and the single sold a million across Europe. I bought my copy one day, browsing Shudehill Record Stalls and found that I enjoyed the brighter, poppier b-side even better.

This track is currently not available on YouTube

Green-eyed God: Steel Mill

This is another from that early 1971 evening investment in Radio Luxembourg. Just like Black Swan, I thought that Steel Mill were a Dutch progressive band, but they turn out to have been from London all the time. The full-length version of this track would turn out decades later to be a raucous, electric, noisy, unstructured epic. But the edited version they put out as a single (which I also picked up at Shudehill in due course), was considerably different. It’s smooth and cool, loping along comfortably to a solo flute which blows us onwards, until, with a shuffle of drums, a voice enters singing a simple, almost nursery rhyme verse. A slashing, squealing electric guitar solo interrupts, before the song cools down again to flute and easy rhythm. I loved it, and it’s great to this day. Apparently, it got to no 51 in the UK – when we only had a top 50.

Life’s too short: Rescue Company No. 1

Rescue Company No. 1 came back in 1971 with a follow up single that, in contrast to ‘Gotta Find You’, got a lot of airplay but which still didn’t generate a chart placing. If you could compare the tracks, which you can’t because this is the only one available on YouTube, you would not associate them with the same band. This Rescue Company No. 1 did exist, and I saw them play this on Magpie one fine Tuesday evening. It’s a classic pop song, with a clear fuzz-guitar riff and a big singalong chorus, completely commercial. The band went on to record a couple more singles, plus an album before vanishing. So did the master-tapes so the compilation CD available has had to be mastered from the records themselves.

Goodbye Forever: Paul Brett Sage

We’re still in 1971, where this sprightly acoustic lament by Paul Brett Sage got an unconscionable amount of airplay, and even a very late in the summer TOTP appearance (complete with horribly recorded backing track which let it down badly). Paul Brett wasn’t really a singles artist, and ‘Goodbye Forever’ was uncharacteristic, but it’s shuffling beat and its tale of having to leave a relationship before the woman goes so far that he ends up crying was a part of that hot summer, as essential to it as hot pants, and it still has me wanting to join in whenever I hear it.

I’ll go too: Kevin Coyne

Kevin Coyne was a favourite of John Peel, extending out of the mid-Seventies into the punk era. I found most of his work tuneless and incomprehensible, and the subjects of his songs seemed to always be about depression and mental illness. He was just so not my type of musician. But this track, a single in 1978, was yet another proof of the theory that you should never discount anyone totally, because here was a song with a discernible tune, a driving acoustic guitar, a bubbling organ line that didn’t interrupt a song that kept returning to the insistent promise that Kevin would go too. Where he would go, I never quite determined, but the song made me want to follow, if only for the time until I could wind back the tape and play this again.

Burundi Black (Part 1): Burundi Steiphenson Black

This is the first in a sequence of instrumentals cutting through the heart of this compilation, no two of which sounding remotely the same. I included the b-side to this, the original track, on Lost 70s 4, but this was the side that got the sporadic airplay at the back end of 1971, beginning of 1972, the record that spent 13 weeks on the top 50, without ever climbing above 31. The genius behind this was French keyboard-player/writer Mike Steiphenson, who discovered the original tapes and laid down a rocketing musical line, based around clavinet and electric guitar, but with an underlying hammered piano. The genius lay in finding a tune that so perfectly fit the original, unaltered drumming and I would have not necessarily killed, but at least seriously maimed to see something so attuned to my already idiosyncratic tastes cross that line and storm into top 30 consciousness.

Sabre Dance:     Spontaneous Combustion

You know this well, Love Sculpture, Dave Edmunds, Khatachaturian taken at breakneck speed with raucous guitar. Spontaneous Combustion covered this in late 1973 and it’s fair to ask what was the point, given that it’s a virtual note-for-note replica, only a little more sedate and collected. It’s b-side, ‘And now for something completely different…’ was the same tune and the same arrangement, only slowed down to half pace. It’s not Love Sculpture, and you wouldn’t choose it in preference to the original, but there were parts of the Seventies where there was precious little good stuff around and it’s not as if there’s anything bad about this version.

Samba Pa Ti: Santana

I’d been hearing this 1978 track a lot when I compiled this disc, resurrected for a TV commercial and given a new lease of life. I’ve heard very little of Santana apart from this slow, sensual, guitar and organ solo, an unexpected hit, and smooth and slinky as this is, it hasn’t tempted me to explore further. It’s a beautiful change of pace in this wordless section.

Jig-a-Jig: East of Eden

The first bona fide big hit of this compilation, ‘Jig-a-Jig’ was a 1971 top 4 hit for a band embarrassed by its belated success as it no longer represented their ‘sound’. It was an Irish jig, played on a highly active fiddle, crossed with a rock section in the middle that dispensed with the formal tune for some energetic guitar and a more rock-oriented fiddling, before looping back into the jig-with-handclaps until the end of the song. A novelty hit, and nothing to make the Chieftains quiver in their boots, but a breath of fresh air that late summer, when you could stop the Radio 1 DJs talking halfway through it.

Dreams: Mike Steiphenson

I admit a cheat. Mike Steiphenson was the genius behind ‘Burundi Black’, which was a complete one-off. Sometime around 1973, I heard, once or twice, an instrumental that I was sure was called ‘Rainbow’, but not often enough to tape. In the YouTube era, I went trawling for Mike Steiphenson tracks and found this lovely, loose, bubbling track, which I had never, to my knowledge, heard in the entire Seventies.

Sarah’s Concern: Curved Air

A return to vocals. Curved Air had had a massive hit in 1971 with ‘Back Street Luv’, which I enjoyed even before seeing Sonja Kristina performing it. Their follow-up wasn’t even announced until the following year, and nobody seemed clear on its correct title (it was ‘Farah’s Concern’ at one point). It didn’t get any airplay and I didn’t get to hear it properly until the 2000s. Not really fair when the band went to the trouble of recording a deliberate, no-album single, and not fair on a perfectly decent, well-sung song, although it lacked the atmosphere and the solid structure of ‘Back Street Luv’. Singles were not the band’s natural metier. How could you say anything worth saying in only three minutes?

If (Would it turn out wrong?):     Esprit D’Corps

Many years after the fact, I found that one of the leading lights of this oddball little pop song was none other than Radio 1 Breakfast DJ and all-round pillock, Mike Read (though I can’t be too hostile, given that I won an album off him playing Reverse Beat the Jock at Manchester Poly, preparatory to a Buzzcocks gig that was part-live on his evening show). And, to be honest, had I known of this at the time, I would have had nothing to hold against him anyway. There’s not much tune to this song, and there’s more phasing than was proper for a record in 1975, but it was a pleasing oddity that year and I could have stood hearing it more often than I did. Besides, if the band had made it, might we have been spared the Frankie Goes to Hollywood debacle, or, more seriously, ‘The UKIP Calypso’?

Galadriel: Marvin, Welch and Farrar

Back to Marvin, Welch and Farrar. My mate Alan, the ELP/Yes/Olivia Newton-John fan bought this album for the John Farrar connection and I heard it round at his house a few times. ‘Galadriel’, taken from the Lord of the Rings character of the same name (I had only recently read the book and was full of all things Tolkien) was clearly intended to be the centrepiece track, the stand-out, and I very much remember it as such, with its slow, sweeping movements and its sonorous chants. The reality, many years later, does not live up to the memory, and if I were to reburn this disc, I would now leave ‘Galadriel’ out, for its feeble horns and its galumphing middle section. Nice harmonies, but not much more to it, and the remove has not treated it kindly.

You can rock’n’roll me: Pan’s People

Ok yes, this is a novelty record, albeit novelty in concept but not necessarily in execution. Pan’s People need no introduction to those of my generation, they were the legendary five-woman dance troupe who were mainstays of TOTP from the last Sixties through to 1975, certain of whose performances, if the files of these were wiped from the net in an unusually specific digital crash, could be reconstructed by direct brain transfer from the memories of gentlemen of a certain age. ‘You can rock’n’roll me’ was a perfectly decent song with a perfectly decent chorus and there are no obvious deficiencies in the young ladies’ singing, although it can’t be said that any of them have particularly strong voices, but the idea is enjoyable and it would have been nice to have seen what they could have magicked up for this has they ever been granted a TOTP performance.

El Doomo: Ellis

The Ellis of the band name was Steve Ellis, he of Love Affair and ‘Everlasting Love’ fame. Like so many late-Sixties pop-stars, Ellis had gone heavy, or at least serious. The original title of this atmospheric, slow mover with its limpid and drifting guitar solos was a somewhat dull extract from the lyrics, but some inspired member of the band jokingly referred to the track as ‘El Doomo’, and for once the unlikely title was adopted and was perfect in every respect. Ellis sings longingly about his confusion in the face of what might seem to be love, but about which he cannot be certain, and the band surround him with a low, loose, yearning sound. It had nothing that would make any Radio 1 DJ outside of Johnnie Walker play it, but if more of them had clubbed together, this might have penetrated public consciousness. As it was, another flop, a great song lost on Philistines.

Whoops a Daisy: Humphrey Ocean and The Hardy Annuals

And abruptly we segue into the end of the Seventies, that part of the decade that is a different world from the traditional Lost 70s context. This is a very silly song and the lyrics are eminently suggestive of an Ian Dury influence, and indeed, Mr Ocean was an artist friend of the Bard of London. Musically, there’s none of the Blockheads’ funk and more of Thirties-frillery as Ocean sings a sweet song about being in love and too shy to do anything about it. A delight.

(I’d go the) Whole Wide World: Wreckless Eric

Wreckless Eric was on the legendary Stiff label, and part of the Bunch of Stiffs Tour. He recorded this subterranean song and thus made a contribution to the happiness of humanity, despite never recording anything else that was remembered by anyone outside his circle of committed fans. ‘Whole Wide World’ is an unusual kind of love song, lugubrious both musically and of vocal style, a paean to commitment based on a rather nasty piece of encouragement by Wreckless’s mother: There’s only one girl in the world for you: she probably lives in Tahiti. So young Eric commits himself to travelling the world over to find her, accompanied by a deep bass sound and throaty chorus which was distinctive all right, but may not have had much appeal in Tahiti, assuming he ever got that far.

Self-conscious over you: The Outcasts

Derry’s Good Vibrations Records discovered the Undertones. They also discovered the Outcasts who were always regarded as a more serious, adult punk band. This glorious single was the antithesis of that notion, a plain, simple song about a girl the singer loved but he’s too shy to approach. He daydreams about her in school. The sentiments are pure Undertones but the voice is darker and more despairing and the music has a punch in its heart that is a world away from Derry’s finest. It’s still a bloody great record, three minutes of pure punk pop, spinning the insoluble question: what’ll I do, do, do? I’m self-conscious over you. Nobody has yet found an answer.

Action Replay: Master Switch

We close with something of an oddity. Master Switch appeared out of nowhere with this driving song, with a loud, buoyant chorus and stirring guitars, and then vanished completely. Apparently, they recorded an album which was never released, and which has still not yet been heard to this day, though the band’s leader still intends to get it out. It’s what I once said about the Undertones, inaccurately as it turns out: that the glory of punk and new wave was that bands didn’t have to gig for three years and pay their dues, that some bands have three minutes of genius in them and this way we could hear those three minutes without a career having to be built upon it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you three minutes of genius.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’.

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?

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.