Lost 70s Volume 18


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

Bordeaux Rose                           Fairfield Parlour

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

No no, you don’t know                         Bennett and Evans

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

Goin’ to the Zoo                       Julie Felix

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

All the Way from Memphis                      Mott the Hoople

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

Robert’s Box                  Procol Harum

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

This Flight Tonight                   Nazareth

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

Midnight at the Oasis                          Maria Muldaur

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

Almost Killed a Man                        Philip Goodhand-Tait

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

Ire Feelings (Skanga)                     Rupie Edwards

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

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

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

Simone                        England Dan and John Ford Coley

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

Ebony Eyes                          Bob Welch

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

Bide Awhile                              Thomas Yates

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

Complainte pour Ste Catherine                       Kate & Anna McGarrigle

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

The Devil Went Down To Georgia                    The Charlie Daniels Band

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

Do Anything you Wanna Do                         The Rods

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

Spanish Stroll                           Mink de Ville

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

Ready Steady Go                          Generation X

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

Outdoor Miner                            Wire

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

Airport                           The Motors

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

Warm Leatherette                         The Normal

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

Oh Bondage, Up Yours!                     X-Ray Spex

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

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