(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)
18th April 1976
Right – we’re talking ‘classic’ here. None of your twee pop stuff performed by session musicians and presented by pretty boys with toothy smiles. I‘ll bet everyone reading this post has heard this song before. Which is perhaps a little strange, given that it spent marginally over two months in the UK charts, peaking at #3, where it remained this week in 1976.
I’m not saying it was a particular favourite of mine. Yet, though I wasn’t convinced by the overblown production and pomp, I enjoyed it as ‘something completely different’ when I first heard it on the radio.
However, being quite fickle as far as music is concerned, (Ok – I have the attention span of a fruit fly) I soon grew bored of it. One of my pals was already a confirmed John Miles fan and played this track to absolute death! In his house or in the changing room at athletics training or on the pub juke-box….
“Music of the future, Music of the past.” Aaaargh! Those words kept me awake at night!
Credit where it’s due though – John Miles was (he sadly passed away in December 2021, aged 72) a ‘proper’ musician, well respected in all circles of the music industry.
He came from Jarrow, not far from Newcastle Upon Tyne, and was initially in a band called Influence, though at that time still performing under his original name of John Herrrington. Paul Thomson who would later join Roxy Music, and Vic Malcolm who would become an original member of Geordie, were fellow members; as was Chris Warren, who would go on to join Pickettywitch. (See? These articles aren’t just thrown together you know!)
When the band broke up, John Miles formed his own outfit, not so imaginatively called John Miles Band. They built a decent following in their native North East, and cut a few singles on the Orange label.
However, still chasing the dream, John moved to London in 1975 with bass player Bob Marshall, added Barry Black and Gary Moberly to the band, secured a deal with Decca, released ‘High Fly’ – and spent six weeks in the charts, rising to #17. Simple – just like that.
However, John’s big moment came around five months later with the release of ‘Music.’ This track, like ‘High Fly’ before it, was lifted from the band’s debut album ‘Rebel.’
The follow-up single ‘Remember Yesterday’ a pleasant ballad came from the band’s second album to be released in 1976, but only scraped into the Top Forty at #32. This album, ‘Stranger In The City’ also spawned the last chart entry of The Seventies for John Miles – ‘Slow Down.’ Nothing could be much further from what was already being viewed as the classic ‘Music.’
(‘High Fly‘and ‘Music’ did scrape the USA charts, but it was this, ‘Slow Down’ that was his best effort Stateside, reaching #34 in as well as #2 in the Disco charts.)
In fact the whole album is pretty diverse in the style of tracks it offers, incorporating elements of disco, metal and soul at various points.
And this was perhaps the school-boy error. As we’ve seen with other bands before and after, if an early reputation is built on such an iconic song, it’s difficult to further cultivate that almost tribal fanbase with different styles.
A few albums followed in the Eighties, but nothing could match the early success, though he did work on projects with Alan Parsons and Jimmy Page and toured with Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. Indeed, he played on several of Tina’s albums and was music director on some of her tours.
I do have to confess to being one of those who, perhaps unfairly, considered ‘Music’ to be on the pretentious side. It was a tag that John Miles struggled to shake off, but maybe if people like me had bothered to listen to the rest of his output, as I’ve only just done, some forty-six years later, then he may have found even greater success.
Still, there’s not many can say that for a short while in 1976, they were ALMOST Top of the Pops…. and in all honesty, deserved even better.
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)