Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 17


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

Carey      Joni Mitchell

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

Liar      Three Dog Night

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

Which way You Goin’, Billy      The Poppy Family

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

More than a Lover      Bonnie Tyler

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

It’s Raining      Darts

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

Vahevela       Kenny Loggins & Jim Messina

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

China Grove      The Doobie Brothers

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

I wanna stay with you      Gallagher & Lyle

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

Spiral Staircase      Ralph McTell

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

Cruel to be Kind      Nick Lowe

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

Delilah      The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

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

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

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

At Seventeen       Janis Ian

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

Our Last Song Together      Neil Sedaka

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

Close to You      Phil Cordell

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

You are the Woman      Firefall

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

Free Man in Paris      Joni Mitchell

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

Rainbow      The Marmalade

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

I’ve Still Got My Heart, Jo      Tony Burrows

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

Carolina’s Coming Home      Vanity Fare

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

Wade in the Water      The Ramsey Lewis Trio

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

It’s True      The Meanies

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

What will volume 18 contain? Is there still more?

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 10


Lost 70s Volume 10 consists of 22 tracks again. As I said last time, these later volumes were compiled from whatever I’d collected since the last one, then sorted into whatever order felt best. There’s a couple of mini-themes but the unusual aspect of Volume 10 is that it has no less than three bands represented by two tracks. The point of this kind of compilation is that each track should be by a different artist, a convention to be broken occasionally if a band has two tracks that slot together. But here I had a couple of duplicated artists and it had been a very long time since I’d added to the series, so here we are. This and the relatively rapidly following Volume are both inspired by the rediscovery of tons of music on my MiniDisc collection.

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.

Serenade – The Steve Miller Band

The Steve Miller Band were always bigger at home than in the UK. Johnnie Walker massively championed ‘The Joker’ when it first appeared, but had to wait nearly twenty years to see the fruits of his patronage, when the song unexpectedly went to number 1. ‘The Joker’ excepted, the Band were still fairly bland, meat and potatoes rockers, with the occasional flash of something better. One of those was ‘Rock’n’Me’, which saw them into the top 20 in 1976. ‘Serenade’ was among its follow-ups, a slower, quieter, less distinctive song, but one with a quiet, undervalued quality of its own. It has a mournfulness that I still respond to all these years later, and a suggestion of depth that the band’s ordinary material can’t come near.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkrLmeeCrhY

Gerdundula – Status Quo

Ger-what? This spindly, twiddly, thin-sounding song represents a crossing-point for the band formerly known as The Spectres. It’s a bridge between the Quo’s early, feedback-drenched, poppy material and the boogie they were wedded to in their hearts. There’s a hint of the Irish jig in there, but this is the start of the band’s true career. All that was needed was for the production to be beefed up about, oh, a thousand percent, and this would be the Quo we knew for the rest of time immemorial.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjlJwSoomDo

Love’s Made A Fool Of You –     Cochise

I know nothing whatsoever about Cochise, but I remember this rocked-up version of Buddy Holly’s song from a few plays on the radio in early 1971. It took over thirty years to get hold of it and refresh those memories because it didn’t appear on YouTube until relatively recently. As I’ve had occasion to observe, 1971 was a very prolific year for obscurities that caught my ear in the most fleeting of passes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbN21f3EuU

I Guess the Lord must be in New York City – Nilsson

Until I checked for the purpose of these ‘sleeve-notes’, I was convinced this (and another song on this compilation) was from the 1970s. I mean, I kept hearing it on the radio, and I wasn’t listening to that before December 21 1969. But this and the other Nilsson track on this compilation are both from the same Summer album, and this track was also from the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, and until ‘Everybody’s Talkin”, it was going to be the title song for the film, and it would have been as good a choice as Fred Neil’s song, with the same superficial lightness and sweetness conveyed by Nilsson’s voice, and the same melancholy, hinting at deeper, darker issues, caught within the song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQRHUp5_tyE

Soldier Blue – Buffy Sainte-Marie

I hated this song in 1971, absolutely loathed it. It was a straining, quavering, drawn-out wail, with minimal tune, and I was too young by far to understand what it was about, and far from understanding how personal and meaningful the song was to Buffy Sainte-Marie, a pureblood Native American (not that we called them by such terms then, no, she was still a Red Indian). And there was no way, at 15, that I was going to be let out to see the major Hollywood film of which this was the title song. So it took me another forty years, during which I became far more familiar with the history of America than I had been in the summer of 1971, to see that what Sainte-Marie sings is of the bond between the Native Americans and their land, the rapine of the white soldiers, the commitment to the country and the ways in which it sustains its children, and the plea for the White-Eyes to see as the Amerinds saw and still see. Yes, this is my country, and it is wide, rolling and beautiful. Soldier Blue, can’t you see that there’s another way to love her? But no, they couldn’t, and I have taken over half my life to understand some part of that myself, and to be moved almost to tears by the passion of this song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlrOaJFf6tg

Sugar Me – Lynsey de Paul

And in complete contrast… Lynsey de Paul appeared on the scene in 1972 as a tiny long-haired, big-eyed blonde with a sexy twinkle in her eye. ‘Sugar Me’ was a simple, piano-pounded pop song, with a bouncy, commercial melody, and it was a top 10 hit. Based on her gift for commercial pop, and her looks, de Paul was obviously going to be a major hit artist for years to come. But she wasn’t. In later years, she was heavily into female self-defence. And heavily Conservative views. Still a fun pop song, and she looked hot all the rest of her life. One for the memories.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htBfNPyKKoI

It’s Natural – Medicine Head

When I look back, the early Seventies sometimes seems unbelievable. You look at the bands who scored actual hits, listen to the songs and, more than in any other era, there’s an underlying sense of WTF? I mean, how the hell did something like this sell so much that it reached number x in the chart? You could call this a testament to a time when the country’s ears were wider open to possibilities than they’ve ever been, before or since, or you could decide that we collectively went mad. I lived through it and even I’m not sure. Medicine Head were one of the more improbable hit-makers. You could understand a fluke visit into the top 30, as they did in 1971, when they were a two-piece mustering between them a guitar, a bass drum and a jew’s harp, but it still beggars belief that their simple, almost droney music could go seriously top 5. ‘It’s Natural’ was their last release, was a complete flop and the duo split shortly afterwards. There is no realistic way to differentiate between this and the ones that sold.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEcoGQ96f2I

I’ve Been Hurt – Guy Darrell

First of a couple of Northern Soul charters, re-released and hitting the airwaves at a time when even I had become aware of Northern Soul. Guy Darrell had originally released this single in 1966, which had been an American success for the Tams, and reached the top 10 in South Africa. Its crashing beat and its twanging guitar supported a straining, pleading vocal, but it was the tempo that made it popular at Wigan Casino, and which made it sell, and I remember it now more vividly than when it was around, when it used to annoy me intensely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SR0m2RUZAU

Goodbye, Nothing to Say – The Javells, ftg. Nosmo King

Some of us were old enough, even at the age of eighteen, to know that the name Nosmo King (run it together) had been ripped off a successful Music Hall act from long ago (thank you Peter Tinniswood). The guy’s real name was Stephen Jameson, and he recorded under his own name and the Nosmo one. The song was originally a b-side to a 1966 single, which was then sped up, given a Northern Soul friendly beat and reissued with Nosmo singing over it. Hellooooo Wigan!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=delIK9hz8_Q

How Long – Ace

And the first in a little triptych of songs whose air and sound have always been linked in my mind, though they were (minor) hits across three successive years. Ace were an early example of pub rock and were very highly rated. ‘How Long’ got brilliant reviews and tons of airplay, but then spoilt the expected outcome by freezing at no 20, and the band disappeared without trace. It’s still a brilliant, slow-moving rocker, built upon a slow, almost plodding bassline and some cool guitar, it’s still recognised and played nowadays, which is more than you can say for a lot of much bigger hits, then and since.

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

Why Did You Do It? – Stretch

If you didn’t know the background to this single, you would probably hear it as an embittered love song, a guy hurt by what his lady has done to shaft him, sung in a gravelly voice to a walking blues-rock background. But that’s not what this is about. The context is that, in 1974, Fleetwood Mac were in a fallow period, neither recording nor touring. Former manager Clifford Davies decided to cash in by claiming he owned the rights to the name and putting together a touring band – no Fleetwoods, no Macs, in fact no-one ever previously connected with the band – to play under the name. The real band promptly went to law to stop him, thus demonstrating that, in addition to the complete lack of moral rights, Davies had no legal rights either. So he renamed his band Stretch, and wrote this epic whiney complaint about it being he – the would-be thief – who was the one who had been shafted and why had they treated him this way, and who put them up to it. Given that background, it’s a minor miracle that the song is even worth listening to at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7SloVbbzZc

Couldn’t Get It Right – The Climax Blues Band

Throughout the early Seventies, the Climax Chicago Blues Band, a pretty intense British blues-rock band who had named themselves after a particularly avant-garde form of Chicago jazz, proudly went about their business in experimental form. According to Wikipedia, they shortened their name in 1972 under pressure from Chicago, who didn’t want any confusion going on, through my own memory from 1976 was of hearing that they’d shortened the name because they’d come up with a gloriously commercial piece of straightforward music, which took them to no 11. It completes the triptych begun with Ace on this CD because of the musical similarity between these three tracks, with their low-key, blues-oriented stylings and three in a row classic choruses. Everybody’s got a great song in them, whether they like it or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwnC_8_ZeYE

Howzat – Sherbet

I first became aware of this single when it penetrated the top 50. As a cricket-lover, the name caught my eye, but it suggested a horrible, twee and twinky novelty single. Instead, when I heard it, it was a piece of smooth-rolling white soul-funk, delivered by an Australian group with superb harmonies, and whilst the lyrics were a touch on the dodgy side, you could have said the same for Pete Wingfield’s classic ‘Eighteen with a Bullet’. The song itself was straight, it’s appeal immediate. But the band went back to Australia after their moment in the English sun, never to return, unlike the Test team.  That’s why such a big hit counts as a lost song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvtyc8CIqKQ

Who? – Allan Clarke

Allan Clarke left the Hollies in 1972 to start a solo career that reached an early peak, musically-speaking, with this 1973 single. ‘Who?’ is an ethereal ballad, lifted by Clarke’s distinctive strained singing, as he appeals to his girl to stay with him, because he needs her and because who is it who has treated her so well? It’s a definite Sixties throwback, lyrically, the girl isn’t allowed to have a mind and feelings of her own, not if the guy treats her right. The main reason it didn’t succeed is that the sound is too ethereal to make an impression on the radio, and at the end of the day there’s too little tune for it to ever have been a successful single, but I remember it lightly and drift with it in a pleasant haze.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdaD-H-xIDM

For Your Love – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac meet the Yardbirds via a pleasant but relatively indistinctive version of the Graham Gouldman classic song. This was one of the songs that got rotational airplay the first two weeks when Piccadilly Radio, Manchester’s first commercial station, went on the air in April 1974. It doesn’t really represent the (somewhat feeble) best of the Mac in that shadow period between Peter Green and Lyndsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks, but the guitar solo is a decided pleasure.

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

The Puppy Song – Nilsson

Another Nilsson, another misremembered 1969 track. I thought this too twee and silly for consideration when I was younger, though Nilsson’s original took on gravity and depth when David Cassidy covered this as the back half of a double A-side no. 1. I still prefer cats by a long chalk.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBbT40H74sc

Dawn – Flintlock

These days, Flintlock would have been a boy band. Five pretty faces, one of whom was already a teen heartthrob from his starring role in a popular, and reputable kids adventure series, and it would have been forget that shit about playing your own instruments and writing your own songs, get waxing. But Flintlock could sing, and thanks to drummer/singer Mike Holoway being one of the stars of the incredibly popular ‘The Tomorrow People’ (which I used to watch), not to mention the number of times he appeared in teenage girl’s magazines (and wet dreams), they got loads of TV appearances in kids programmes and their own series. They were the kind of band that, in those Bay City Rollers days, I instinctively knew to loathe, but their third single, ‘Dawn’, which reached no 30, showcased stylish harmonies, a strong, rocking chorus and a sax break from lead vocalist Derek Pascoe that you had to love.

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

Jesus is just alright – The Doobie Brothers

In an age when religion was still held in more esteem, enforced though it might have been, this Doobie Brothers track didn’t get heard over here, though it was top 40 in America. Given the band’s early popularity among bikers and Hell’s Angels, not to mention that their name was a pretty overt reference to recreational drug taking, Radio 1 was not going to start promoting a song with our Lord and Saviour’s name in the title. Even though it was an authentic gospel song, written in earnest and the band’s version was heavily based on an earlier cover by the Byrds. None of the Doobies were particularly religious so their interest in the song lay in its fast, rock style and their characteristic rough harmonies, forcing the song along. It’s not here for the sake of my immortal soul either.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEvy8mROAj0

O Caroline – Matching Mole

Matching Mole were Robert Wyatt’s band after Soft Machine,and at the time he fell from a bedroom window and broke his back. A shorter version of this song was a single, and is the only other thing by Matching Mole that I’ve ever heard. It’s a slow-moving, piano-led, pragmatic love ballad, written for journalist Caroline Coon, with whom Wyatt had just broken up. The lyrics are ordinary and practical beginning with a reference to the band playing, trying to make the music work, except that Wyatt can’t get his focus right because Caroline’s no longer there with him. The song stays down to earth, realistic about love and making Caroline happy for the best part of her life. Wyatt deliberately avoids romanticism (at one point he half-expects his words to be called ‘sentimental crap’) yet it’s the very lack of lyricism that confirms this as one of the simplest and most heartfelt love songs ever, allowing Wyatt to reclaim true meaning for the hackneyed chorus he sings: I love you still, Caroline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUFolB3LUpA

Mystery Song – Status Quo

Frankly, I’m one of those for whom a very little Status Quo boogie goes a very long way: as far as Jupiter if I were lucky. Nor have I ever been impressed by Rossi and Parfitt’s schtick about, “well, we were there but we don’t remember anything about it cos we was out of it.” I do have an amused memory of going to a ‘heavy disco’ at Salford University when the word was whispered that ‘Caroline’ was about to be played and, the moment that buzz-saw riff began, a ring of denim-clad, long-haired blokes burst in as if choreographed, placed their hands on their hips and proceeded to wag their hair from side to side like some forerunner of an ‘Iron John’ ritual. Why, in all this horror of dully repetitive boogie I should so like ”The Mystery Song’ is, naturally enough, a mystery, but it is sung by Rick Parfitt, rather than Francis Rossi for once, and it’s more of a song, a fast-paced rock song, than the perennial boogie. Let me repeat: everybody’s capable of something good, even if only by accident.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8cdGQiEtws

Sea of Flames – Flintlock

I said above that Flintlock had their own, 5.15pm, ITV series. It was called ‘Fanfare’ and the band performed on it, as well as presenting other musical guests and talking to them about their music. I only remember watching it once, when their guests included a young but well-established male opera singer whose name I can’t recall, and the superb-voiced June Tabor, a folk singer of a capella music (her version of ‘And the band played Waltzing Matilda’ is an absolute classic). Opera and a capella traditional folk were not obvious choices for teenagers in 1976, but the format of the show seemed to be about Flintlock learning about different styles of music, and I vividly remember the lead singer reading a piece of opera music then throwing himself into a spirited and fairly decent attempt at singing it, to the evident surprise, and respect, of the opera singer. ‘Sea of Flames’, the follow-up to ‘Dawn’, was Flintlock’s current single, a lost-love ballad with some rich harmonies. The single was marred by thin and weak production, rendering the sound paper-thin, but in the studio they sang a version much richer in sound and harmony that made the song memorable enough to remain for life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl2tJFkqkSo

Carrie – Cliff Richard

It’s by Cliff Richard. It was written by B. A. Robertson. And it’s sung by Cliff Richard. And I’ve still included it here. It’s not here just because of indelible memories of a long ago party that are none of your business. It’s here because it was a song about fear, and death, and horror never to be explained. Carrie doesn’t live here any more. She left no forwarding address. You will never know what happened to her, but you won’t stop imagining it until the day you die. Cliff Richard. B. A. Robertson. The Devil works in mysterious ways.

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

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