The Infinite Jukebox: Todd Rundgren’s ‘I Saw the Light’


Like Love’s ‘Alone Again, Or’, Todd Rundgren’s record company had so much faith in ‘I saw the Light’ that they swore to keep reissuing it each year until it was a hit in Britain. They did it once, without success, and then never again. The record had its biggest success when it first came out in 1972, reaching no 35 in an era of Top Thirties.
Up to this point, Rundgren’s career seems to have been pretty obscure. He’d been a member of the late Sixties band, The Nazz, and recorded two solo albums that didn’t seem to have had any attention at all. But then, in 1972, he released his third album, Something/Anything?, a double album on which he wrote, sang and played everything. Suddenly everybody was talking about him, and everybody was talking about ‘I saw the Light’ as a perfect pop single, with base and body and an irresistible melody.
I had a bit of a habit in the early Seventies of being out of step with Radio 1 over singles that all the disc jockeys espoused and promoted, and more often than not they failed to be hits. Some of that may have been psychological: in a couple of cases, I came to love them just as much as Radio 1 much later on.
But that wasn’t the case with Todd Rundgren. I didn’t go overboard about it, and even now there’s a tiny bit of clunkiness to it that I put down to be that it’s not a band playing but one man patiently building up instrument by instrument. But I liked it, then, and when it was released the following year I welcomed it, and it’s an old, comfortable favourite still.
‘I saw the Light’ is a love song, that tells a brief story. Late at night, Rundgren (whose voice is not strong but which is perfectly deployed here), feeling something wasn’t right, sees the only other person in sight. They walk along, though he’s feeling something wrong about the whole thing, then a feeling hit him strongly, about her. And with a joyous, almost awed ring, Rundgren finds his explanation, because he saw the light in her eyes.
Isn’t that a wonderful line? Who could resist the light in the eyes of a love? To look and see the glow inside. Here is a romantic moment that roots itself in reality. Allied to the inference of another pair of Strangers in the Night, the song’s buoyancy and warmth stirs up the heart with envy.
But this is no McCartney-esque paean to love as something wonderful, without depth or flaw. Todd’s resisting, enjoying a fling and trying to run away when he finds himself getting to be more serious than a man who ‘couldn’t never love no-one’ can allow himself to be. In fact, he’s getting very confused and mixing metaphors all over the place because the little bell that began to ring in his head comes in through his eyes, when she gazed up at him, and he saw the light in her eyes.
Poor, loving girl. Rundgren wrings his emotion through a slide-guitar solo before coming back to her, penitent. He loves her best, he doesn’t say that in jest, she’s different from all the rest. Yes, he ran out before but he won’t do it any more: can’t she see the light in his eyes?
Love strikes, and love overwhelms the cynic who pretends he’s unable to love but has to admit that she means more to him than everyone and he’s no longer afraid of his feelings. A pithy love story, simple and pure, and at every step a musical joy as Rundgren invests all of himself – literally – in making this the most fun experience you can have with your clothes on. Even the slight clunkiness of the over-vigorous drumming doesn’t matter in the end, the slightly static nature of the lone musician running around keeping up with himself all the time makes no difference. The song cuts it both ways.
Once again, the Great British Record Buying Public let us all down. Imagine hearing this all day on the radio instead of ‘Blue is the Colour’, ‘Mother of Mine’ or ‘Back Off Boogaloo’ and think how much better a place 1972 could have been and if you can keep from shuddering, you have a stronger stomach than me, mate.
As the years have gone by and I passed from falling in love hopelessly to falling in love with someone who loved me back, I grew to love Rundgren’s song all the more. I have seen the light in someone’s eye that was intended for me and I know what an unimaginable blessing it is. It was missing in 1972, but it was worth the wait, and the light in my eyes could have outshone the sun.

 

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 16


Hello again. Volume 16 of my first personal compilation series has been in CD format for a few months already without my providing a commentary/ reminiscence upon it, but the time has come at last. This compilation feels a little more tendentious than usual, with no less than five of its 23 tracks being ones that I suspect I never heard at the time. As is now almost traditional, there are five songs that were actual hits, three of then top ten successes, though I would still class them as ‘lost’, their time overlooked, their influence negligible. One of them I couldn’t stand at the time. Join me as once again I dip my tow in that most lost of decades.

Apache Drop-out      The Edgar Broughton Band

1970 was the year I started listening to Radio 1. Back then, the nation’s premier pop channel was still heavily restricted in air-time, and even more so in needle-time. Radio 1 only had independent existence between 7.00 – 9.00am, 12.00 – 2.00pm, 4.15 – 7.00pm. The rest of the time, it merged with Radio Two, broadcasting their programmes simultaneously. Things only marginally improved when the new Sounds of the Seventies strand was detached from the end of the day’s programming and expanded to two hours, 10.00pm – 12.00, to avoid contaminating the rest of the airwaves. Probably I could have heard this single, a near Top 30 success from a band of open Anarchists and Satanists (their other near-miss was with ‘Out Demons Out’), on Sounds of the Seventies, but I was still at the point where I liked Herman’s Hermits’ last top 10 hit (thankfully, I grew out of that within a year) so there was a bit of cultural dissonance in the way. Instead, with the year collapsing in the first of the early Seventies’ Miners’ Strikes, and powercuts, we would gather round a candle in the breakfast room, my battery-powered transistor radio the only source of entertainment, though my mother would have begged to doubt that. Crackling, popping, hissing, fading in and out, I discovered Radio Luxembourg, Fabulous 208. I first heard Lindisfarne, ‘Clear White Light (Part 2)’ gliding in and out of the static through them. I also heard ‘Apache Dropout’, a raucous, raw, croaky thumper of a rock song, punctuated by bright, sparkling, shiny intrusions of the riff from The Shadows’ ‘Apache’, picked out with contrasting clarity that bore no relation to the rest of the song, for whatever purpose it was chosen. It’s too late to question now, and my ears have finally learned to cope with the Broughtons being the Broughtons, but those almost hallucinatory moments of salute (?) to Hank Marvin are still as pellucid as ever and I cannot hear them without imagining that huddle round the table, just the three of us, where so recently there had been four.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCRCwBwXG7Y

Rainy Day       Susan Christie

At the beginning of the Seventies, Susan Christie seemed ready to make it. On the evidence of this single, she had the voice to do so. If I ever did hear it then, it was not enough times for it to register with me, and I probably lacked the sophistication to have appreciated it then. But it didn’t happen for her, then or since. A sweet, sad song, the fact that I didn’t discover it for over forty years should not, I think, disqualify it from exclusion. It was from the Seventies. It, and Ms Christie, were lost. One for what should, in a better musical universe, have been a memory.

Sweet Inspiration           Johnny Johnson and The Bandwagon

This, on the other hand, was not lost, but rather was the first of the top ten hits in this volume. The Bandwagon had had a rollicking hit in early 1969 with a Northern Soul charger, ‘Breaking down the Walls of Heartache’, not that I was then aware of such a thing. By the time of this late 1970 follow-up, singer Johnny Johnson had taken the Motown step of promoting his name before that of the band, though this, I am led to believe, was due to the fact that, by this point, the Bandwagon was whatever collection of session musicians and live players Mr Johnson chose to muster around him. Not having really attuned to soul – though I was well into Jimmy Ruffin that first year, thanks to three consecutive hit reissues, and generally well-disposed towards most of the Motown I heard – I hated this record at the time, but thoroughly enjoyed Mr J’s third and last hit, ‘Blame it on the Pony Express’, in 1971. Now, my opinions are reversed. Johnny’s singing, though still carrying the ragged edge of the soul/blues shouter, is smoother here, more restrained, in this tribute to a woman who, though not offering him the love he seeks, nevertheless inspires him to making music. It’s a combination he wants to change, but for the moment he’ll take what he has. And if gaining means losing, well, you know he’ll live with it. Some prizes mean more than others.

Stone Cross         Springwater

Springwater, as those who care about such things already know, was one of a number of pseudonyms for the late Sheffield-born singer/musician/songwriter, Phil Cordell, one of those quirky talents for whom the music business, or maybe even the Universe, ought to be rewritten to ensure them the prominence they deserve. Springwater gave Cordell his only commercial success, with ‘I Will Return’ (elsewhere in this series), a hazy, dreamy instrumental, self-recorded for £25 (which included the reel-to-reel tape recorder) in a Sheffield flat, which went top 10 in the late summer of 1971. It led to an album of instrumentals, from which a rather more guitar-driven version of ‘Jerusalem’ (also elsewhere in this series) as an unsuccessful single that caught my ear in 1972 and has stayed a favourite ever since. In the 2000’s, I used Auction Sniper for the only time ever to snaffle the CD version of the album off eBay, enabling me to do a digital rip of ‘Jerusalem’ and its awesome b-side, ‘Amazing Grace’. There was nothing else on the album sufficiently distinctive for me then, so I sold it, for a profit. But in the years since, I’ve heard more of Cordell (his single, ‘Red Lady’ is justifiably highly-rated) and become more impressed. ‘Stone Cross’ was ‘I Will Return’s b-side and, as such, stretches the increasingly elastic definitions for Lost 70s near to breaking point, but at times it feels like I’m compiling albums from an alternate universe where things were better than ours (no Osmonds, no David Cassidy, no Gary Glitter: that’s my idea of a Lost 70s). Call it Earth-2, if you like.

Just an Old-Fashioned Lovesong    Paul Williams

Another obscure memory delivered to me by the brilliant Marmalade Rainbow website, which sadly has not been updated for years). Their entry put me in a quandary: as well as the original by composer Williams, they reminded me of the successful (in America) cover by Three Dog Night, which was sufficiently close in arrangement, and vocal texture, as to defeat my attempt to recall which version I most recalled. Certainly I heard both in that amazing summer of 1971 – yes, that year again – when it seems Radio 1 must have played more wonderful but unsuccessful curiosities than in the whole of the rest of the Seventies put together. ‘Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song’ obeys its own rules, a fragile voice over a back slowly gathering in strength, an oddly compulsive hook that ultimately chose to eschew the Carpenters-like sweetness that might have brought sales but which would have condemned the song to being ordinary. Either way, it’s long forgotten now, except in the minds of those of us wondering just what the hell was in the water that year, but it arrives here because it took the artistically more daring choice.

Caroline Goodbye      Colin Blunstone

And speaking of 1971… ‘Caroline Goodbye’ was criminally underplayed. It marked the reappearance of Colin Blunstone after the disintegration of the Zombies, after the Neil McArthur episode. It was the lead single off the One Year album, a cycle of songs about Blunstone’s recent life, and told of the breakdown of his relationship with the shortly to be massively-in-demand model, Caroline Munro. This brought down condemnation of his temerity from Dan Hamilton of Hamilton, Joe Franks & Reynolds (whose ‘Don’t pull your love’ single, previously featured in this series, shortly followed ‘Caroline Goodbye’) who was Munro’s new bloke and who seemed to think that only he was now entitled to write about her. Well, he didn’t come up with anything that had the quiet beauty and dignity of this song. Over a plain, strummed acoustic guitar intro (talked over to its last chord) Blunstone’s high, breathy voice entered, wistfully acknowledging the fact of Munro’s increasing public profile and success, before lamenting his own blindness to the end of things between them. A drum and piano provide sturdy backing as he deals with his loss with austere regret: No use pretending, I’ve known for a long time your love was ending. Caroline Goodbye. The British stiff upper lip in loss of someone you still love, made musical heaven for being so free of (apparent) pain. But listen to Blunstone’s voice, not his words. That torch was far from being extinguished. Even I could hear it. But not the Great British Record Buying Public.

Gonna Miss Her, Mississippi      White Plains

What’s the year again? 1971? I would never have guessed. This was another flop. White Plains, who’d begun as one of the many Tony Burrows vehicles in early 1970, had originally been The Flowerpot Men and later mutated into First Class (see below). Their personnel and their musical style was constantly changing. In 1971, they scored a top 20hit with the curiously sophisticated ‘When you are a King’, climbing to no 13. ‘Gonna Miss Her, Mississippi’ took the same approach but didn’t get any backing from Radio 1, so that was the end of that vein: the band’s fifth and final top 30 single was a remake of a TV Butlins’ commercial soundtrack, in a wildly different vein. Not too much blood in this vein, but I still like the effort.

Sit Yourself Down      Stephen Stills

Guess the year. Go on. Yes, you’re right. ‘Sit yourself down’, a downtempo song, rich in sound, with a yearning chorus, was the follow-up to Stills’ almost-hit, ‘Love the one you’re with’. Less immediate in its appeal, I’m not sure it isn’t the better of the two, though I lost it in my head for a very long time, only to recognise it in an instant when it appear d on a YouTube sidebar. Lyrically, its the complete opposite: Stills is alone and needs love and a fellow-heart, not sex whilst he’s out of town on his old lady. It’s an older, braver song, with a gospel tinge to its compelling chorus, which the choir, not Steve sings, and a contemplative heart that looks outwards to the future. There are no roses in fisted gloves here, though there is a debatable bit of companionship with an otherwise unmentioned raven, but by then you’re grooving quietly and hoping for the song not to end.

The Free Electric Band      Albert Hammond

The next batch of songs come from 1973, starting with this vigorous shout out to music, free love and living from Albert Hammond that gave him his only UK hit, a single top 20 week. He’s still better known for the previous year’s ‘It never rains in Southern California’ which got airplay but no sales. At this distance, and given that commitment and fidelity has always been the underpinning of relationships for me, not to mention the knowledge that Hammond was a commercial songwriter jointly responsible for the majority of the songs in the ‘Oliver in the Underworld’ serial in Freddie Garrity’s Little Big Time on children’s ITV in 1970, I have my doubts about this song. Over strident acoustic guitar and a smattering of synthesizer, Hammond bellows out a raucous song with a jerky melody about rebelling against bourgeois American parents and their attempts to pigeonhole him in safe, conventional careers, when all he wants is bread, water and the free electric band. So far I’m with him, in theory if not in practice, but when he gets onto the girl from Berkeley that he’s shagging without ever getting into her head, and leaving her the moment he realises she wants something so square as a home and a life with him, my appreciation of the free spirit takes a turn down a different road. The song’s still got a joyous bounce to it that I appreciate both in memory as well as today and, yeah, it should have done better. You poor, benighted fools.

Afterglow      Flo & Eddie

‘Afterglow’ the original is one of my favourite Small Faces songs but I heard it first here in this 1973 cover by Flo & Eddie (aka The Phlorescent Leech & Eddia, aka Howard Kaylan and MarkVolman of The Turtles, whose work I love). It didn’t get much airplay, I never had the chance to record it until it swam out of the YouTube depths this year, and it doesn’t do too much radical to the original other than transplant Flo & Eddie’s falsetto register vocals in for Steve Marriott’s white-boy’s blues voice, but it introduced me to a song that I still burst to sing along to, anthemically. Thanks, guys!

Skywriter      The Jackson Five

I never liked The Jackson Five. By now, you ought to know that I believe any such general statement comes with the automatic caveat ‘except for the ones I do like’. I’ll happily admit that their fourth single, ‘I’ll Be There’, is a glorious, early exception to that rule. But the Jackson Five I was first introduced to was that of those first three, virtually identikit singles, starting with ‘I want you Back’. Let other argue their merits, in a year of Motown re-releases almost all of which I liked to one degree or another, these were a noisy, shapeless intrusion beyond my comprehension, and bearable today only through the mesh of nostalgia. ‘Skywriter’, which came out in 1972, was a minor hit that never even got to be a single in America, was a minor miracle of a strong, almost strident song, driven by a melody focussed through the clavinet – an instrument that fascinated me then and now – and phase-tinged harmonies. Michael’s solo lines were far less interesting but there was enough closely-focussed and punchy, pacey ensemble lines to put them in the minority. In the end, it’s the instrumentation and the arrangement, out of character for the band, that sold me on ‘Skywriter’. But where I liked it, the public didn’t. ‘Twas pretty much ever thus in that decade.

Hello, it’s me      Todd Rundgren

In 1972, and again in 1973, Radio 1 deservedly bust a gut trying to play ‘I Saw the Light’ past no 35 in the top 30. They didn’t make anything like the effort for this mid-tempo song about carefully establishing a difference between the singer and his girl, even though this was Rundgren’s biggest American hit by far. It’s a delicate, contemplative melody whose lyrics I have never really listened too closely too, having been seduced by the sound and Rundgren”s plangent voice. Having given myself time to look closely at these, I find myself unable to decide whether this is a song eschewing possessiveness and over-influencing the person you’re with, committing to their freedom, or whether this as cynical a case of ‘have your cake and eat it’ as ‘Love the one you’re with’. Rundgren sings that he ‘never wants to make (her) change for me’ but that’s bullshit: we change the people we become close to by being close to them, just as they change us, whether we want to or not. That’s the heart of any successful relationship. Is this the times speaking, or is it conscious bullshit? That’s for Rungren to know and us to speculate. Don’t let the beauty of the music cloud your mind whilst you decide.

Hello Hurray      Alice Cooper

We all remember ‘School’s Out’, practically the most perfect pop/rock single on 1972. I still remember ‘Alice’ and the schoolgirl at the end of the Top of the Pops performance, he in his make-up and leathers and she, in multi-layered, twee, maxi-length stuff, a world away, giggling at his mock menace, grabbing and pulling up her hair. If there was ever any suggestion that Alice Cooper meant what he stood for, or was the threat to us pop-kids the tabloids wanted to believe he was, it was dispelled then. Alice was a joke, and we were in on it. The problem was that the joke only had so much momentum, and it died from that point on. The band had five UK hits in eighteen months, each one peaking at a lower point, enjoying a shorter run, sliding away. ‘Hello Hurray’ was the middle one,an attempt at a classy sound, Spector-esque at its thinnest, at ballad pace without any balladic aspects, unless you counted the contrast to the first two, pure, raucous showpieces. It was still theatre, Alice the ringmaster coming out as host. I like it still, though it means nothing when placed against ‘School’s Out’. Alice had the depth of a puddle, but we all dived in and splashed until we were soaked.

Skylab      The Ventures

I was still picking my Single of the Week, and this was one of them. It was the modern day equivalent to The Tornados’ ‘Telstar’, though Skylab was no match for Telstar and became more famous for crashing to Earth nine years later, though thankfully not in any populated area. I never heard this more than once, and picked it more because I loved ‘Telstar’ than loved ‘Skylab’. The next time I heard it again was on YouTube this year, and I can’t believe it’s by the Ventures, or that this was the one I heard so long ago, but nobody’s uploaded a different version yet. The ones that were hardest to hear back then still deserve a place when they become easier to access.

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

Tell Me What You Want      Jimmy Ruffin

I mentioned Jimmy Ruffin above, and those three differing re-issues from 1970, reaching successively no 8, no 7 and no 6. For no apparent reason, other than that Radio 1 didn’t seem interested in playing it, his next single did nothing. In 1974, a re-issued ‘What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted’ became his most successful British hit, reaching no 4, and dragging a re-re-issued ‘Farewell is a Lonely Sound’, my first and favourite of his songs, back as far as no 30. Ruffin was no longer with Motown by this time, and tried to get back into the act with this shuffling little smoothie of a love song, that I remember as a big, top 10 hit, but that was just my imagination: in real life, it spent one week at no 39, the week after ‘Farewell is a Lonely Sound’ peaked. It’s a song on the edge of disco, with its feet firmly in a deeper kind of soul than you got from Motown, and I listen to this and think this is a guy who should have been absolutely bloody massive. Is it me? Am I the kiss of death, with my out of the way preferences? I have to wonder.

Help Me       Joni Mitchell

On the other hand, there was simply no chance of this charting. With the exception of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, which owes its hit status to 1970 being a transitional year where nobody had any real idea what was happening in music, Joni Mitchell has never come over on pop radio over here (though I had a loving fondness for ‘Carey’), and by 1974, when she was beginning to slide into an increasing sophistication, and blurring lines with jazz, there was nothing in this song that could pin itself to British ears. Nevertheless, the new Manchester Commercial Radio Station, Piccadilly Radio, was smarter and hipper than Radio 1 by a street mile (in 1974, the year Woolworth’s record sales became part of the pool for chart returns, there were three-toed sloths in the jungle that were smarter and hipper than Radio 1). This isn’t my kind of music, too jazz, Mitchell’s vocal slidings too removed from the kind of straight singing I still favoured. But this loose, leggy song about the perils of loving someone so not good for you worked its way into my head, though I didn’t understand a note of it, and I loved its freedom.

Sundown      Gordon Lightfoot

I’ve included Gordon Lightfoot twice before in this series. He’s been a long-standing success, first as songwriter then as singer himself, in Canada and America, but has made very little impact in the UK. ‘Sundown’ was the second of only four singles to show in the top 40, and was his biggest American hit, reaching no 1. It’s perhaps the simplest of those songs of his to take a place oin my memories. Sundown is one of those women with improbable names that occur all over rock and pop and folk music, in the places where this forms meet, merge and take from one another. She’s in the great tradition of temptresses, one that Lightfoot wants to keep at arm’s length whilst simultaneously drawn to her. He signs the opening couplet to each verse alone, but the rest of the song is swamped in voices., lifting and supporting. ‘If I could read your mind’ was a song about his marriage disintegrating marriage, fuelled by infidelity on the road. ‘Sundown’ comes from the road, when you get feelin’ better when you’re feelin’ no pain. With a song like this, it’s easy to understand why.

The Show Must Go On       Three Dog Night

One of the reasons I went for Paul Williams above is that I knew I had this in my pocket. Yes, it’s that Leo Sayer that exploded on us in January 1974, with the pierrot costume and make-up and those on-the-spot movements. Absolutely loved it from the moment I first heard it, was fascinated by the movements on Top of the Pops, tried to imitate it. Loathe it now, and all his works, a change of heart that began with one nastily written and delivered line in ‘Moonlighting’. Three Dog Night had the hit in America, turning the arrangement into a more conventional form, adding the cliché of carnival music into the mix and, crucially, changing the key line from ‘Won’t let the show go on’ to ‘Must…’. Yes, in every respect, a much lesser version, and one I barely got to hear a handful of times then. I think it’s because it doesn’t strain so desperately to be ‘quirky’ that I can listen to this now.

Dreams are Ten a Penny       First Class

Whilst The Flowerpot Men more or less mutated into the original White Plains, a change of name being considered necessary, there was no similar transformation between White Plains and First Class, who were more a regathering of old singers, Tony Burrows among them. ‘Beach Baby’ was a nice, retro-sounding, bouncing pop tune that, off the sonic back of the Rubettes’ ‘Sugar Baby Love’, made the top 20 in 1974. It was Burrows’ last hit. ‘Dreams are Ten a Penny’ repeated the formula two singles later. It got no airplay. It’s another of those songs I never heard till this year. You could have swapped it with ‘Beach Baby’ and it would probably have charted at that specific time, which goes to show how much certain things have their moment, and it comes but once. The Sixties were long gone.

So Very Hard To Go      Tower of Power

I know very little of Tower of Power and have never knowingly heard anything else by them but this 1973 single, their biggest American hit. It’s a slow, torchy song, muted and smooth, with beautiful horn-lines underlining the singer’s acceptance that he’s failed his girl, and she no longer wants him, and I heard it maybe a half dozen times, enough to like it, and not enough to get bored with it, or even properly digested then. Such was the way with the non-playlisted tracks, that might be heard maybe once a week, and only if you listened all the time, non-stop would you catch it. This deserved better. We deserved better.

(I Want To See The) Bright Lights       Julie Covington

I’ve always loved this song, from first hearing the sad, deliberately downbeat Richard and Linda Thompson original. The Julie Covington cover is something I’d never heard until this year, and it’s got a good, uptempo, forcefulness to it that’s appealing to the ear, but I include it here mostly as an example of how badly Ms C misinterprets the song. She’s taking its words at face value and singing to the surface, whereas the jollity of the song is a forced jollity, shot through with an underlying exhaustion that the singer’s claims that she wants entertainment, and to play hard on her minimal time off never shakes off. The Thompsons were looking for the bright lights, Julie Covington is dancing under them, and it’s the difference between a classic and an inconsequential romp.

Five O’Clock in the Morning       Godley & Creme

I was heavily into 10cc once upon a time, and the only version of the band I still recognise is the original Creme/Godley/Gouldman/Stewart line-up. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme left the band in 1976, leaving behind their poorest album (until the next one) in order to develop their great new musical invention, the Gizmo. The Gizmo was going to revolutionise music. It was a small box that you clamped over your guitar strings at the bottom of the neck which, by pressing the relevant button, you could apply a turning wheel to your string, creating an unending note, like a bagpipes’ drones. To demonstrate the Gizmo’s potential, they wrote and recorded a triple disc concept album, with dialogue/commentary from Peter Cook, called Consequences. The album flopped, the Gizmo was never taken up by anyone else. ‘Five o’clock in the morning’ was released as a single and the duo got a Top of the Pops live appearance based solely on being Godley & Creme rather than any sign the record was selling. It should have sold. I’d forgotten how beautiful it sounded, now fresh the ‘I’m Not In Love’ style multiple harmonies still sound. If there’s any Gizmo on this track, I can’t hear it. Just a piece of gentle delight.

Baby Baby      The Vibrators

And lastly, the obligatory reminder that punk came in and saved us all before the Seventies slid under the slagheaps. At least, that’s how I saw it then, and those few years, coinciding with my first independence, living in Nottingham, learning the first elements of a much-needed self-confidence, is still the most musically energetic, enthusiastic and sheer bloody fun years of my life. The Vibrators were never a part of that: ‘Baby Baby’, slower, a bit more sophisticated, would have been and gone on Peely’s show before I had the sense to listen to it. Still, it’s nice to know there are still new songs in that time to be drawn out of the Lost ether.

Until the next one (in preparation)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWHgcBIqdJ8

Imaginary Albums – Lost 70s Volume 14


And as predicted, enough Seventies songs have teased their way out of the shadow of memory to fill another CD. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Lost 70s Volume 14.

Streets of London –  Ralph McTell

Technically, the opening track on this latest volume is another of those 1969 songs, though I first made my acquaintance with it in the early weeks of 1970, and in its re-recorded form, Ralph McTell came within a place of scoring the Xmas no. 1 in 1974, defeated only by Mud. But this is the original, the voice and the guitar, even and controlled, simple as they come, allowing us to focus on the gentle, almost ambling song and, most of all, upon the lyrics. The importance of this song has only grown over the decades, since the Tories returned under Thatcher, and the homeless became ever more visible, and ever less important. McTell sings of a time when prosperity was in the air but there were still people who had fallen between the cracks, the unseen whose plight far outweighed our petty concerns about temporary unhappiness. It may still be relevant today, but it’s a relic in another sense, from a time when we still tried to close the cracks, and help people out of them, rather than shoveling more and more people towards the gaping fissures they’ve now become. A thing of beauty made on the backs of pain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2r97Fo_HWE

Dancing in the Moonlight – King Harvest

When the Toploader cover was such a success in 1999, I knew it was instantly familiar but I didn’t know from where. It slipped so quickly into my memory that for a long time I thought that I already knew it, knew it in that arrangement. Loose, slippery, sweeping into that chorus with consummate ease. Because of the title, everybody assumed it was a cover of the 1979 Thin Lizzy hit, but as that had been a favourite of mine at the time, I knew that wasn’t right. I had to have my memory prompted about it being King Harvest, and when I found it on YouTube, and realised that Toploader wasn’t such an exact duplicate as I’d misled myself about, I wondered about exactly how this record had so firmly slipped out of my memory, not to be recalled. You’ll notice it comes from 1971, and what do I keep saying about that year? It must have just been squeezed out by the crush.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR47TZdJg64

Miss me in the Morning –  Manfred Mann

This is the Manfred Mann version of the song. Compare it to the Mike d’Abo version on volume 13. Different, but the arrangements are close enough. I still can’t remember which one of these two I remember, but this way I have all the bases covered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUKvS0sm7-w

Lady Love-Bug – Clodagh Rogers

I didn’t particularly like this song at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate the brief but sparkling pop career of the lovely, long-legged Irish singer, with her sweet clear voice, and her light, sunny pop. Disregarding her Eurovision song, which was of course execrable but which demanded through its bounciness that she performed it wearing hot pants (1971 had so many things going for it), this was the low-key end.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7H8GgO486o&spfreload=10

Love the one you’re with –  Stephen Stills

Back in the Seventies, as I may have observed before, we had the phenomenon known as a ‘Turntable Hit’. This indicated a single that won the collective favour of the Radio 1 DJs of the period, leading them to champion it furiously, play it incessantly and, in due course, moan that the Great British Record Buying Public refused to but the record in sufficient amounts at any given time to raise it higher than no 35 in the Top Thirty. This record by Stephen Stills, an energetic but extremely self-centred paean to fucking anybody you can get your cock near when you’re on the road, is a perfect example, though even at the advanced age of 61, I have still not yet worked out what sexual perversion is represented by the Rose in the Fisted Glove.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5IVuN1N6-Y

Stoney End –  Barbra Streisand

There was a time when, despite being a big international star as both a singer and an actress, Barbra Streisand couldn’t buy a hit in Britain. She’d reached the top 20 in the mid-Sixties with ‘Second Hand Rose’, one of the few Sixties singles I remember hearing on the radio since it was all over the Light Programme (ask your Granny). But this vigorous version of a Laura Nyro song was a minor exception in those early weeks of opening my ears to pop music, enjoying a single week at no 27. The quality of the song carried over any reservations about Streisand’s overbearing manner, and the cabaret arrangement is minimised enough to allow the momentum of the song to carry the ear through, and forty-six years later, like all of Nyro’s music, it holds up really well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXsF9zrtDS4

Up the ladder to the roof – The Supremes

The original idea for this series was genuinely ‘lost’ music, music of the Seventies that had made little or no public impression, and had since disappeared without any real trace. It would be music that had impressed itself upon me at the time, and the objective was to compile this wonderful, obscure, extremely personal stuff for my nostalgia and my present enjoyment. Over the series, I’ve veered away from that ideal more than once, though my excuse has always been that all the songs here have been lost to the general run of musical history. This Supremes song was a big hit in 1970, and I remember it jumping in one week from no 30. to no 6. It meant little to me then and it’s been invoked in my memory by Mark Evanier’s blog-site, he having recently had a month of embedding clips of everybody under the sun singing this song. It reminded me that the original was pretty good. It qualifies as lost because it was the girls’ first hit after Diana Ross left, and it was an effortless success in a year where I remember everyone being desperate to get Ross a solo chart hit. She was never even the second best voice in the group so this ticks even more boxes for me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v1S-ypz5a4

When you’re hot, you’re hot – Jerry Reed

In contrast, this is all my own memories, and where this came from, only a few weeks ago, is anybody’s guess, because there was nothing to prompt it. It’s another one of those that I absolutely loathed when it was around, and it’s yet another from that year of years, 1971. The song is funky, aggressive, raucous and rough and my ears were simply not attuned to anything so excessive, but once again, the years have shifted my tastes around to where it is not nostalgia for times long gone, and a long, hot summer between O-levels and A-levels that has me record it now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rdF7o08KXw

Pasadena – John Young

Interestingly enough, the John Young of this polite vaguely country pop song from, oh yes, you’ve guessed it again, 1971, is the John Paul Young of the rather more famous ‘Love is in the Air’. This is a case of the song not the singer, because I’m pretty sure this is not the version that still rings out from time to time in my memories. Other than that, I have nothing interesting to say about this track. Chalk this one up solely to nostalgia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1qhNINHq7k

Morning, Please Don’t Come – Dusty and Tom Springfield

Now this is an entirely different piece of memory. I found this clicking around YouTube, the title instantly sparking the faintest of recollections, justified by clicking the link. I can probably only have heard this song a handful of times in those earliest of days, yet its wistful melody, and its gentle plea for more time with the loved one obviously sunk a long way into my memory. It’s a beautiful song and it hardly seems incongruous that it was being sung by a brother and sister combination. It’s at times like this that I truly appreciate why people loved Dusty Springfield.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8OVKAo-C9Y

Silver Coin – Hunter Muskett

There are circles in which this song, and this version, are far from lost, but the refusal of the world to recognise the beauty of this track marks it for inclusion. For most of the back half of the Seventies, one of my groups of friends were regular visitors to various folk clubs in and around Manchester, but especially one Sunday night club down in Woodford, at an isolated hotel. I heard this song on enough occasions to recognise its quality, the more so for the line near the end that provides the song with it’s title, that ‘it rings like a silver coin, thrown down on stone’ and the hairs on my neck never failed to arise to the concluding line, ‘though I’m lost in a crowd, I just she’s around me, somehow’. Love that pure: I so wanted to find that. The first version I owned was on a rare Bridget St John LP, where she reversed the genders, but this is the original, sung by Terry Hiscock, the writer. It rings like a silver coin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H10ttoZeURY

Linda – The Wake

To be truthful, this piece of lost bubblegum pop is both naff and seriously out-dated when it was released at Xmas 1971. I only heard it the once. It comes in because I grew up in an East Manchester working class backstreet alongside a girl called Linda. After my family moved to South Manchester, I had no contact with any of my old friends for five years, until I received a surprise letter from Linda, who’d been reminded of me by a chance encounter with an old classmate who hadn’t recognised her. We arranged to meet (she had turned into a tall, long blonde-haired, slim, long-legged fifteen year old of a kind I never got to meet ) and thanks to her, I was reacquainted with other old friends, and some new, who have been lifelong mates. In the December, she asked for some ideas about a single to buy herself for Xmas. Naturally, I overreacted and supplied a list of over a dozen, with brief descriptions (which presciently included The Chi-Lites’ ‘Have you seen her?’ when they were completely unknown). At the last minute, I heard this track and scribbled it in sideways. Not long after this, we lost contact for another decade. I’d hate to think this was responsible.

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

Hero and Heroine – The Strawbs

Another from that period when The Strawbs, having ceased to be a modestly respectable folk-rock band, were attempting to be a kind of pomp-pop-rock band, with heavily overproduced singles sung in an overly mannered voice. Why is it here? If I mention that this was 1971, you probably won’t need any more explanation. Don’t worry, there aren’t any more of these.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrvGZy3MGDs

Sin City Girls – East of Eden

I’ve already featured East of Eden’s surprise top 3 single, ‘Jig-a-Jig’, which scored in the summer of 1971. Surprisingly, despite the attention (and presumably money) the hit brought the band, they were more embarrassed than glad. The instrumental no longer represented where they were at, and people expected to hear it when they gigged. Apparently, they used to rush it out first, just to get rid of it, so they could get on with ‘their’ music. Which I assume is better represented by this 1974 single: rocky, quasi-heavy, but still possessing a discernible tune. I liked it then, though it didn’t get much airplay, but it’s taken all this time for it to appear on YouTube and become accessible.

This track has already vanished from YouTube

If you could read my mind – Gordon Lightfoot

The Seventies, and in particular the first half of the decade, was the great era for the singer-songwriter, though with a few notable exceptions such as Cat Stevens, that kind of lad had their successes with albums, to be played in half-lit bedsits: mournful, acoustic music for students. There’s a case for putting Canadian Gordon Lightfoot in that category, and he was always much more successful on his own side of the Atlantic, but in 1974, this wistful, gentle, beautiful love song crept into the UK Top 30 on the lowest rung. What appears to be a sweet, simple song, inviting Lightfoot’s love to read his mind turns into a lush, romantic odyssey involving a metaphorical film about a ghost from a wishing well, full of onscreen burns and heartbreak, none of which you would expect from the song’s lush arrangement. But the music seduces and even if she found his fantasies weird, you just know she succumbed, and she’s there still, constantly fascinated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqMG3VR5PP4

I’m a believer – Robert Wyatt

We’ve had the Peel Session version, this is the original single that reached no 29 and got Robert Wyatt banned from Top of the Pops for having the bad taste to be confined to a wheelchair in front of a family audience. It was a lovely decade.

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

And Now for something completely different… –  Spontaneous Combustion

And we’ve had the Spontaneous Combustion version of ‘Sabre Dance’ by Aram Khatchaturian, via Dave Edmonds and this is the b-side I mentioned at the time. See what I mean?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPruin-K-dw

Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie – Alberto y los Trios Paranoias

First of a pair of ‘comedy’ records, this is Alberto y los Trios Paranoias. For those of you whose memories do not extend back to the Seventies, there used to be a handful of comedy folk troupes, combining songs with Industrial Strength Monty Python silliness, to varying degrees of effect. The Albertos, for short, were a Manchester-based punk version of that kind of thing and this is a parody of a Status Quo twelve-bar boogie with lyrics to match. It wasn’t all fun back then. The gang behind the classic Hee Bee Gee Bees’ ‘Meaningless Songs in Very High Voices’ tried the same thing with ‘Boring Song’, supposedly by Status Quid. This one has the edge, but the knife is bloody blunt.

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

Stretford Enders – Burke and Jerk

And this is the other one. Burke and Jerk were a folk duo, who I actually saw at Woodford in 1977, when they played this song. They were another of those who leaned on comedy, Jerk (as you might expect from the title of this track) dressing as a Manchester United hoolie. The song’s as cliched as you might expect for its time, but far less irritating than most comedy songs (though the synthesizer is annoying and intrusive). But that’s not why it’s here. The duo’s next single, in April 1978, was an altogether serious, indeed sentimental song that didn’t seem suited to the Burke & Jerk name, so the boys went with their first names, Brian & Michael. I’d just gone to live in Nottingham for two years, and this Salford-based song followed me there and was number 1 before I’d even settled in. I’m sure you remember that song. You’ll never have heard of this one before, though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oamQZ2SXvfE

Real Man – Todd Rundgren

After the record company stopped re-issuing ‘I saw the Light’, I rather lost track of Todd Rundgren. There was one reasonable single about 1974 but that was all until Piccadiily Radio started to give pretty heavy rotation to this multi-layered keyboard effort in the summer of 1976. With lyrics that touch upon scripture, the famous bit about putting away childish things, the song swoops and soars. It’s an enthralling tribute to growing up, facing the world and facing it down. I’m ashamed of myself that I forgot it for so long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llz1pIcHbQY

I don’t care – Klark Kent

Ok, so it’s 1978, I’m living in Nottingham where punk/new wave has made little impact, and not in my native Manchester where there’s a well-burgeoned scene already in existence. This brisk and brash little song sneers its way across the airwaves and onto the lower regions of the Top 50, but its snottiness, though real, comes over as a put on. Hardly surprising, since ‘Klark Kent’ is actually an American whose last job was as drummer for Curved Air. Actually, he’s got a sideline in peroxided hair and drums for a white reggae trio led by a peroxided former teacher, because he’s Stewart Copeland. Still, the song gets in and out in far less time than it would take to outlive its charm, and if you don’t like my preserving this, you can suck my socks!

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

Go all the way – The Raspberries

All I ever knew of the Raspberries was the American single ‘Overnight Sensation’, featured on one of the very earliest albums of this series, and that lead singer Eric Carmen went onto to score a UK top 20 hit with one of the wettest and whiniest songs of the entire decade. At the time, investigating other areas of the band’s catalogue was not really possible, and when YouTube opened up the possibility of hearing nearly everything ever recorded, I didn’t even think of them. ‘Overnight Sensation’ was so clearly a masterpiece that I instinctively shied away from anything  else since it couldn’t possibly be anything like as good. Well, when it comes to Beatle-esque powerpop with guts and harmonies and a chorus you could sharpen knives on, this belies my instincts. This track is so lost in the Seventies, I never even heard it until over forty years later, but I’d have liked it then.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULL7apmAJTE

Rio – Michael Nesmith

The Monkees were a good fun pop band, the original manufactured group (not for nothing were they nick-named the Prefab Four). The wonder was that they produced anything worth listening to, but this was the Sixties, where even the plastic pop was still full of art and energy. Most of the Monkees’ best moments came from the best musician among them, Mike Nesmith, and he was the only one to have a serious career after the band fell to pieces. Nesmith carved out a niche for himself as a serious country-rocker, but ‘Rio’ is nothing like that. It’s a gently swaying, airily floating song that suits actions to words over its hazy, swimmy lyrics and it had an impressive video at the time video was only just beginning to be a factor. Nesmith’s having a bit of trouble over whether he’s going to go to Rio, or not. All we know is that he never gets there, but the journey is so relaxing that nobody cares whether they arrive at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F2yhaQhJrk

Imaginary Albums: Lost 70s Volume 4


Lost 70s Volume 4 consists of 19 tracks, making it the second shortest of the series. I dropped all idea of chronological progression after volume 3, going for a mixture of time and sound and feel that incorporated a number of long tracks and a profusion of instrumentals in the first half of the set. There are two Top 10 and two Top 20 hits in this compilation, and whilst it stretches, like its immediate predecessor, all the way to the end of the decade, the choices from that end of the Seventies aren’t necessarily what you would expect from me.

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.

Hearts in her Eyes: The Searchers

If there’s one record in this whole series that I would put forward as having absolutely everything going right with it, it would be this Searchers song from 1979. It should have been absolutely massive, it should have been on the radio every single day, it should have led to a major new lease of life for the band. It’s a belting tune, performed in the traditional Searchers style, only bigger, brighter, stronger, deeper, richer in every respect, a classic modern pop song with a compelling melody, by a working back of twenty years standing with consummate professionalism. And I have never ever heard this track on the radio, to this day: it came and went in 1979 without me knowing it existed, and I only heard it when I bought it second hand, for a few pence, on a friend’s recommendation. Typical Radio 1: the Shadows reform, prostituting their sound with weak, tinny, feeble productions of inadequate material and get played to death, the Searchers build on their traditional sound with contemporary high grade songs, and even someone like me doesn’t know they exist. If you like this, there’s two whole albums worth of the Searchers in this vein. If you don’t like this, what am I doing talking to you in the first place?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhvYbzg4-OA

Starry Eyes: The Records

‘Hearts in her Eyes’ was written by Will Birch and John Wicks of the Kursall Flyers, who went on to form The Records, the definitive power pop band. This is the real thing. ‘Starry Eyes’, which I heard before the Searchers, came out at the end of 1979: clear-eyed jangling pop, a stream-lined, fluid sound, superb harmonies and a wonderful story-line about a guy being pursued by a celeb who won’t let him say no. A re-recorded version of this track was the lead track on the band’s second album, full of great songs that had the guts ripped out of them by thin, weak, feeble production that has you longing for the Searchers to re-record the whole album. At least the single version plays to the Records’ strengths.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAH1ioLiaHw

Jerusalem: Springwater

Phil Cordell’s long-overdue follow-up to ‘I Will Return’ didn’t appear until mid-1972. The ‘Jerusalem’ of the title is William’s Blake’s classic working-class poem turned anthem and the mixture of instrumentation is the same, except that instead of the guitar being sweet and yearning, here it’s rough and rumbling, a tauter, more attacking style that attracted no-one but people like me. I don’t know if there was a connection, but at the end of the year, Emerson, Lake and Palmer were issuing a vocal version of this track as a single. Yes, that’s right, a single. Compared to Springwater’s gloriously simple version, it was rubbish.

This track is not available on YouTube

Maid in Heaven: Bebop de Luxe

I never knew what to make of this bunch. I have a mate who’s a long-term fan of Bill Nelson, but this and the ‘hit’ single ‘Ships in the Night’, also from 1976, were the only tracks I liked. ‘Maid in Heaven’ is, for me, the better track, full of slashing guitar and a sense of attack that propels the song along. It’s a bit of a stop-start effort, with Nelson never liking to settle into a groove for any length of time. That’s a common characteristic among bands that liked to think of themselves as being a bit above pure commerciality. This is a good song, but there’s an even better one inside it, being held back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTeE_whc7Gg

Lady Samantha: Elton John

Another of those songs from the very early Seventies that I heard a few times, enough to recall some of the tune, but not the singer. It turned out to be Elton John, trying to break through. That would come in January 1971, with ‘Your Song’, which is a whole different order of things. This is a whiplash of a song, with a vicious edge and a scream in Reg’s voice. Lady Samantha prowls alone, no-one comes near her, they live in fear of her. The song never quite makes out why, though the way the good lady is described, you’d be checking her teeth for pointy bits. There’s a drive to this and an individuality that makes me wonder, if Elton had broken through with this, where would it have taken him that his ultra sensitive ballad led him away from? Something’s wrong with the timeline as the single was actually released in January 1969, but I wasn’t listening to pop that far back…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03BHe–r59o

He’s gonna step on you again: John Kongos

It’s maybe pushing it to call this top 4 smash from 1971 a ‘Lost’ track, but ever since Happy Monday ripped the song to pieces and put it back together in an entirely different shape, the John Kongos original has drifted completely out of consciousness. The original is more of a driving sound, percussion heavy, built on a thunderous beat that betrays Kongos’s African origins (it amused me at the time to discover that it was exactly the same beat as my mother’s old-fashioned, churning washing machine). Rhythm and slashing guitars, vocals mixed low, fade in and fade out that suggests a continuum in which the music plays on and in which we’ve just joined in for a few minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld1vQVoaQIM

Pilgrim’s Progress: Greenslade

I rarely watched ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ (which, despite its derivation, is still one of the worst names for any programme ever, not just a music show). Mostly, this was down to my mother monopolising her television set, but equal time should be given to my general lack of interest in the bands and artists they featured. So why I was watching the night Greenslade did a couple of numbers from their new album, ‘Bedside Manners were Extra’, I’ve no idea. Greenslade were a four piece progressive outfit, a kind of junior league ELP: two banks of keyboards, bass and drums. They played the title track, preceded by this smooth, swooping, seven minute instrumental, which caught my fancy on the spot. Not long after, I was lucky to tape a ‘Sounds of the Seventies’ session of these two tracks and the other song off side one. I loved it so much, I bought the album – only to discover that the production was awful, the songs sounded screechy and thin and even the melody of this track sounded wrong. Side two was even worse. Thankfully I got the record shop to take it back and allow me to swap it for something better. Sometime during the intervening years, they obviously recorded a better version…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNU0c2v5ZiU

Amazing Grace: Springwater

‘Amazing Grace’ was the b-side of ‘Jerusalem’ and it’s the same formula as the a-side, only with extra drive from the drums. There had already been two very big hit versions of this hymn, one a cappella by Judy Collins, one instrumental (and an unlikely and unwanted five week number 1) from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, but this was better than both of them and made me like the song again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzA9XiKROl0

Burundi Black (Part 2): Tambours Ingoma Tribe of Burundi

You won’t be expecting this. The A-side is the side everybody knows, the single that’s been issued and re-issued half a dozen times (once with additional drums from Rusty Egan, as if it needed that). It’s the sound that Adam and the Ants ripped off so thoroughly and successfully. Its first time round, in late 1970/early 1971, gave the song its biggest chance, a 13 week chart run that spent all its time between 50 and 31. Radio 1’s Chart Show, on Sundays from 5.00 – 7.00, was Alan Freeman’s ‘Pick of the Pops’, in which he’d play the Top Twenty in full from about 5.45 onwards, and before that new entries and songs bubbling under. I used to listen religiously. Over that three months in the charts, he played ‘Burundi Black’ only once: and then he played this side, as if he was trying to torpedo the single’s chances of that final breakthrough. This is the original Burundi drummers, without any of Mike Steiphenson’s array of keyboards on top. It’s incredibly different.

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

Mr Soft: Cockney Rebel

The band’s third single and second hit. It’s a surprisingly simple song, with some plonky plonky piano and wobbly guitar backing Harley’s affected vocals. It was a great favourite of mine at the time, and it’s my pick of all the Cockney Rebel singles. Apart from that, I haven’t really got much to say about it, sorry. Even I slipped up sometimes and liked things that were popular with others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rPpPi7W8Y4

Can we still be friends?: Todd Rundgren

‘Can we still be friends?’ received nothing like the attention that ‘I saw the Light’ got. It’s a slower, more gentle song, wistful and delicate, about a man who sees his relationship with his girl breaking down but wants to preserve something of that, as friends. It’s a game of logic versus emotion, and you know which is going to win, and so does Rundgren in his heart and his voice, but he’s holding on in the prayer that the Universe can be overturned and they can survive, and hope will for once win out over experience.

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

Is that the way?: Tin Tin

A belated follow up to ‘Toast and Marmalade for Tea’, aping the previous record’s sound successfully enough to get a similar amount of airplay, and a ‘Top of the Pops’ appearance that was a bust because the distorted piano effect couldn’t be duplicated in studio time. It got the same indifference from the public too. After that, the band drifted back into obscurity.

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

Anthem (One Day in every Week): The New Seekers

I have always striven to keep an open mind. No matter how bad a band may be, the possibility remains that they might make a good record, or at least one that appeals to me, and I have risked my musical credibility on a number of occasions by admitting to liking such things. But you’ve got to admit that appreciating a New Seekers song is going out on a serious limb! This isn’t the New Seekers that were such a horror in the early Seventies, neither in personnel or sound. ‘Anthem’ was the last time they troubled chart statisticians, a primarily a capella number, built on a ‘bom-bom’ rhythm. The song is very conservative in topic: a girl from what I always imagine as being a good county family works all week in London, independent and modern, but always returns to Mummy and Daddy, and the rest of the family, on Sundays, to refresh herself. It’s still very good vocals, no matter who it’s by.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWbUce-H0BU

Also Sprach Zarathustra: The Portsmouth Sinfonia

As I understood it, the Portsmouth Sinfonia was a project that put musical instruments into the hands of ordinary, untrained people, and invited them to make classical music. In later years, I have seen them explained as actual classically trained orchestra members playing each other’s instruments without training. Listening to this mercifully short piece of music, the only thing by the Sinfonia I have ever (thankfully) heard, I favour the first explanation. This is recognisable for what it is, that much you can say for it, but it is a discordant row that is physically painful to the ears. Why have I preserved it? Why do I play it? Fucked if I know, but if you gave me a go at this, I surely could not sound worse.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpJ6anurfuw

Sheep: Pink Floyd

To me, there are two Pink Floyds. There’s the Syd Barrett one, ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, associated singles, brightness, life, colour and brilliance, and the other one which, despite having three musicians in common, is dull, boring, pompous and pretentious at its best. Courtesy of my former mate Alan, I heard more of the latter than I would have ever subjected myself to had I had a free choice at the time. And yet. ‘Sheep’ was one of the tracks on the 1977 ‘Animals’ album that, wittily and with intellectual rigour, divided us common or garden plebs into Dogs, Pigs and Sheep. The ‘Sheep’ track starts out with very Floydian noodling, but it picks up a modicum of pace as the vocals cut in. Then there’s this extended slow section in the middle, where extensive electronic masking thankfully keeps you from being able to make out the words of a re-written Lord’s Prayer, adapted for sheep in abattoirs and liking it. Then it’s back to a somewhat more up-tempo rerun of the main melodic line, until the band launches into a long, frankly raunchy outro, over this compelling, joyous, energetic guitar riff with a cyclic melody that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Which is why it’s taken this pride-of-out-of-place on this CD.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-oJt_5JvV4

The Poacher: Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance

‘Plonk’ was the original bassist in the Small Faces and then the Faces, until he split to go solo, playing a fresh, folk-oriented kind of rural-pop, too English to be called country, too robust to be folk. He’s remembered mostly for the sprightly ‘How Come?’, but ‘The Poacher’ was his second, and more successful single before he completely disappeared, laid low by MS. This song is less memorable for its relative lack of a strong, pop-oriented melody, but the mix of clarinet and fiddle lends the track a beautifully English air in keeping with the lyrics about an old poacher. It’s four-square in an English tradition that rarely sees expression in American-rooted pop/rock and it’s a breath of fresh air.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqQRphZtv1M

Another Girl, Another Planet: The Only Ones

A token venture into the fringes of punk for this compilation. This is one of those hybrid songs, that didn’t sit comfortably as either punk or new wave. It was played regularly on Peely’s nightly shows, which I was by this time devouring avidly, and it was commercial enough to get played on daytime radio. The Only Ones had the feel of a band that would make it, and there were some very interesting tracks on their Peel session that sounded like they could match the quality of this series, but somehow the recorded versions never matched up to the sinuous strength of the tracks laid down at the Maida Vale studios, and the Only Ones faded away, with ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ as the main legacy of their time among us. There are worse ways to be remembered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKuc3faQAEs

Celebration: Premiata, Forneria, Marconi

PFM sound like the Italian version of ELP, and that’s exactly how they were billed when this came out. Many years and much listening later, I can now tell an equal, and more pertinent Focus influence, but the song is still dominated by an Emersonian synthesizer sound. I say song: this is 90% instrumental with a single, slow verse and multiple chants of the title, but a lot more playing than singing going on. I never heard another thing by the band, but on the strength of this number, I’d have been inclined to listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esHEPt41Sjc

What the world needs now/Abraham Martin and John: Tom Clay

This was never released in the UK. In fact, I doubt if it was played as many as half a dozen times here in 1971, when it chased rapidly up and down the American Hot 100. Clay was a DJ, not a singer or arranger, but what he did was to organise a very slushy, MOR/cabaret style medley of the Dion song ‘Abraham Martin and John’ (a lament for the deaths of Lincoln, King and Kennedy, written in response to Bobby Kennedy’s shooting, and a UK hit for Marvin Gaye the previous year) and the classic oldie ‘What the world needs now is love’. Against this, mostly subdued, background, Clay placed found footage, genuine radio broadcasts. From Dallas in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Of King, broadcasting, saying that like everyone he wants to live, of Bobby Kennedy’s actual shooting and Teddy Kennedy’s funeral oration. It’s very manipulative, but it goes through the heart every time. The single was topped and tailed by Clay’s only direct contribution, asking very young children to explain the meaning of certain loaded words, words the kids can’t even pronounce back. The last line is the obvious, but still true: ‘What is prejudice?’ ‘I think it’s when somebody’s sick.’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uqNLnEzDLA

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