It’s been a significant wee week here at Once Upon a Time in The ’70s HQ!
Firstly, as you’ll see from the blog Home page, we have now exceeded 25,000 hits in the ten months since inception – and that’s with taking three months off during the summer.
More – whether it be just once, and by accident, Once Upon a Time in The ’70s has been viewed in over half of the world’s countries. Readers in Nepal, Togo and Macau have checked in at some point. Altogether, there have been hits from one hundred of the world’s one hundred and ninety-two countries.
Huge credit for this must go to all those who have submitted articles throughout this year. I don’t see any other website out there carrying such quality and fun material, so from Paul and myself, many, many thanks to you all for your support.
That goes for our loyal readers too. whose interest and enthusiasm has led to this milestone.
This week has also seen us welcome our 300th member to the Facebook Group. Unfortunately, there was a strict deadline for that number being achieved, and the prize has now been withdrawn. But let’s have a look at what you could have won …
(Never mind – there’s plenty on the blog that’ll keep you entertained.)
Thanks for the ever-increasing number of members go to all who have recommended the blog and ‘invited’ their personal Facebook friends to join the Group. Special mention though, to Catriona Cook and Mark Arbuckle, who have brought along a huge amount of members between them.
OUR CHRISTMAS WISH? We’d love this to be just the start. We want world domination – though we’d settle for more readers and contributors from around the world in the meantime. (***Cheese alert!This isn’t just Paul’s and my blog – it’s everyone’s. It exists for anyone to share their memories of a very special time in our lives. Together, we can conquer the world! )
** if you could, please Share any posts on the blog you enjoy. You can easily do this by clicking on the buttons under the small ‘Share this’ heading directly below the post.
** please continue to invite Facebook friends to the Group page. Simply click on the ‘Invite’ button to the right of the Facebook Group page, directly below the ‘Once Upon a Time in The ’70s’ banner. From there, you can select what friends you think may be interested in reading the blog. (The Facebook Group is key to Paul and I notifying people that a new blog post is available to read.)
**possibly the most effective means of supporting the blog: if you use TWITTER, please follow us @Once70s We Tweet more or less daily, certainly each time a new blog post is made, and it would be such a help spreading the word if these could be Re-Tweeted. Just one wee click, that’s all it takes, and the word of @Once70s is in front of hundreds more potential readers.
And that’s it.
I know at time of writing, there’s still three weeks to go, but my tree is up (unless the cats have brought it down again) and I’m skint … so it’s definitely beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
I’m fairly confident there will be other Festive themed posts to come, so we’ll save the Greetings and stuff till later.
Meantime, stay safe, enjoy the build up … and get Tweeting. Please?
In the summer of 1975, I was a football-loving, music-loving, teenager, staying at home with my parents in Westerton spending my weekends either playing football, following Partick Thistle or browsing through the album sleeves in Glasgow city centre record shops.
Armed with the wages I had garnered from my post-school job in banking I’d habitually visit Listen, Bruces or 23rd Precinct, searching for the missing link in my burgeoning record collection…. the Holy Grail like recording of Eric Clapton on Tour with Delaney, Bonnie and friends.
Fast forward 12 months and I am a 20 year old married man living in Edinburgh with a wife, a house, a mortgage, a washing machine, a tumble dryer and a baby on the way.
My weekends were no longer spent kicking a ball, watching an under-achieving football team doing the same nor spending hours in darkened record stores looking for an album that no-one seemed to have heard of. This was the quantum leap to beat them all as my weekend routine now revolved around trips to the supermarket, the untold joys of assembling MFI flat-pack furniture and exciting new experiences such as paying electricity bills, wiring plugs to electrical appliances and arguing with neighbours as to whose turn it was to clean the common stair that week.
‘How did this happen?’ I hear you ask. A question I’ve asked myself many times over the past 46 years.
As Bob Dylan once described in song, major life changes can often occur due to a simple twist of fate. My twist of fate happened during a lunchtime respite from the humdrum life of a bank clerk. One of my colleagues had noticed in the daily circulars that the company was offering an ‘exciting opportunity’ to work at a newly formed department in Edinburgh. It was a temporary post…… twelve months in the unknown waters of the capital then back to civilisation which began at the Baillieston lights. “It’ll be great” he said, “we’ll get a flat” he said, “get pissed every night and pull loads of birds“, he said. This rather fanciful notion of Utopia tipped the scales for me and we both duly applied for the advertised role, got accepted and began to prepare for life in the far east…. well, the east, any rate.
A few days before we were due to head along the M8 however, he phoned to tell me he was pulling out (oo-er matron). He’d met a girl. He was crazy about her and didn’t want to risk the relationship by moving 50 miles away. Fair enough, I thought, but by this time I was hell bent on this new adventure even if it did mean flying solo.
Initially my time in Edinburgh was a life of grubby bedsits, takeaway meals and the odd snog-and-grope short term relationship, a million miles from the Utopian dream which I had bought into…then came the ‘Thunderbolt’.
Im sure most readers of this blog will have seen The Godfather and be aware of the effect the Thunderbolt had on Michael Corleone when he first met his wife -to-be, Apollonia whilst hiding from American justice in Sicily. In Sicilian folklore, the Thunderbolt is described as ‘a powerful, almost dangerous longing in a man for a particular woman’. I was hit by the Thunderbolt on my first day in Edinburgh when I saw Pamela walk across the office floor. For the next nine months I was tormented by a desire to ask her out but a lack of confidence held me back.
When I did eventually mumble an invitation to suggest meeting for a drink outside work, she responded… ‘I thought you’d never ask!‘ Three short months later we were married and fortunately Pamela didn’t suffer the same fate as Apollonia who died shortly after her wedding to Michael in an exploding car following a revenge attack by enemies of the Corleone family.
We had been together for over 30 years when she sadly passed away, with a son, daughter and two lovely grand-daughters left behind.
Me? As a result of that simple twist of fate, Im still in Edinburgh. I did eventually kick-start my footballing career (see what I did there?) and played until I was 61. I still occasionally find my way to Firhill like a homing pigeon. I still listen to the same music I listened to in the mid-70s but…I still haven’t managed to get a copy of Eric Clapton on Tour with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends.
No matter what you achieve in life, there’s always something else to aim for. Can anyone sell me a copy?
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – July 2022.)
I know jazz is not to everyone’s taste but bare with me. Two words.
Bitches Brew. No it’s not a lethal concoction of special lager and fortified wine. It’s the Miles Davis seminal album of 1970 that paved the way for the music form known as jazz fusion or jazz rock. (Or jizz ruck as bassist Brian fae Gala would say when I made a brief attempt to play this style of music in a Glasgow based quartet in the early 80s.)
Trumpeter/band leader/composer Davis having been in the forefront of such jazz styles as bebop, cool jazz and post bop decided to change direction at the dawn of the 70s. Having admired the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and Sly and the Family Stone and the power of amplification and electronic effects, he thought I’ll have some of that !
In 1969 he augmented his regular quintet with keyboardists Chick Corea and Josef Zawinul and guitarist John McLaughlin for the album In A Silent Way. Critics saw it as selling out to a Rock ‘n Roll audience. Undeterred he persevered with the double album Bitches Brew in 1970, opened for rock acts such as Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the Steve Miller Band and attended the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 in front of 600,000 people. Unheard of for a jazz artist at the time. And still the (black) critics claimed he was genuflecting to white culture.
Now, I had another listen to Bitches Brew on Spotify the other day and even for me it was hard going. It’s basically a jam session recorded over a few days and spliced together to form tracks some 20 minutes long. It’s what it spawned that I think is important. All 3 keyboardists became pioneers in the use of synthesizers and electric keyboards in jazz fusion/modern music.
Herbie Hancock combined jazz with funk and disco to gave us the hit Rockit. Later he would produce an album of jazz standards with the music of Don Henley, Peter Gabriel, Prince, Steely Dan and Nirvana.
Chick Corea along side drummer Lenny White went on to form Return To Forever and produced such albums as Light as a Feather and Hymn of the 7th Galaxy. (Corea was into Scientology hence the wanky names !)
Josef Zawinul along side Davis‘ sidekick saxophonist Wayne Shorter plus a young wunderkind fretless bassist called Jaco Pastorius formed Weather Report whose best selling album Heavy Weather produced the jazz standard Birdland.
Guitarist John McLaughlin with drummer Billy Cobham formed The Mahavishnu Orchestra and had releases Inner Mounting Flame and Between Nothingness and Eternity. (McLaughlin was into guru Sri Chinmoy hence the wanky names !) Also greatly influenced by Miles, a young Missouri guitarist named Pat Metheny was putting his debut album Bright Size Life (1976) together with the aforementioned Jaco Pastorius. Sixty albums later (which I have 20+) he is still my favourite recording artist. You may remember his collaboration with David Bowie, This Is Not America
As an aside, Messrs. Hancock, Shorter, Pastorius and Metheny had a great influence on the music of Joni Mitchell. (Hejira, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter, Shadows and Light)
So if you ever find yourself with a spare hour or two, I encourage you do give this often maligned art form a listen.
As a seasoned Jazzer once replied to the statement But I don’t like jazz !
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – July 2022)
Paul and I were, last week, again invited to join the TURNTABLE TALK chat on Dave Ruch’s blog, ‘A Sound Day.‘ This is an excellent site to visit and satisfy your musical curiosity on all genres of music, mainly focused on the 60s, 70s and 80s. Dave is a prolific writer and the articles are filled with fascinating facts and trivia.
This time around, we were looking at “out of the blue”… debuts that came out of nowhere and really took listeners by surprise. Albums, or singles, that made us turn our head and say “that’s great! Who is that!?”
What impact did this band or artist have on us, and how did their debut stack up against future work?
OUT OF THE BLUE
I’ll happily confess to being a bit of a grumpy old cynic. Not just when it comes to music, but to Life in general. Hey! I’m from the West of Scotland, that’s just how we’re built round these parts.
It means though, that as I grow older, very little actually surprises me now. If not exactly ‘wise’ I am at least an old man. I’ve seen it all. I’ve heard it all before. Give or take.
So my nomination for a song (and it is just a song – well, two if you count the B-side) comes from my youth.
I would have just turned thirteen when this song was released in the UK. My parents weren’t into the Beatles or Rolling Stones or anything like that – they listened to the soundtracks of ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘South Pacific, or the military marching band sounds of The Royal Marines. I suppose it could be argued then that any ‘modern’ music came ‘out of the blue,’ to me.
At that age, I was becoming musically aware, though deprived the sounds of psychedelia and emerging heavy rock, my taste was, let’s say, a little on the innocent side. If I tell you the first three singles I bought were:
The Sweet: ‘Coco.’ (June 1971)
The New Seekers: ‘Never Ending Song of Love.’ (July 1971)
Ken Dodd: ‘When Love Comes Around Again.’ (July 1971)
then perhaps you’ll understand how this particular track hit me like a bolt from the blue.
The fourth single I bought was ‘Sultana’ by Titanic.
Titanic were formed in 1969, and as I recall were billed as being from Norway. In fact, vocalist and main lyricist, Roy Robinson was from England. Not that there was much in the way of lyrics on this particular track.
They presented themselves, it appeared, as very ramshackle and espoused a laid back, hippie attitude. And I loved it! This was a bit of a musical awakening for a fresh, new teenager. Here was an exotic sounding ‘foreign’ band, who didn’t conform to that clean-cut, wholesome image of the bands I was more familiar with. In fact, they looked downright skanky!
I was mesmerised by the tribal and rhythmic percussion. And that organ! It was all new to me back then, but I’d soon be searching out more music along these lines. Atomic Rooster would later become a firm favourite.
My copy of ‘Sultana’ shows it released as the ‘B-side’ to ‘Sing Fool Sing’ on the flip, though I think from reading other articles and books, the two tracks were effectively ‘Double A.’
National radio chose ‘Sultana’ as being more favourable for daytime airplay, and it resultantly spent twelve weeks in UK charts, peaking at #5 on 24th October 1971.
There was nothing around as far I could hear, that was anything like this. It still passes the ‘originality’ test to this day. It was Titanic’s debut 7” release in UK, though curiously, both tracks were lifted from their second album ‘Sea Wolf,’ while the follow-up, ‘Santa Fé’ came from their eponymous debut LP of 1970.
Sadly, Titanic … oh crap, I’m just gonna say it – sank without much trace after this early highlight in their career. In addition to those mentioned above, the band released a further four albums in the ‘70s and one in 1993 during a short-lived reunion.
These LPs don’t attract much attention by way of the second-hand market. They are not particularly sought after, which is great, because they are available to buy at vary reasonable rates. Personally, I love them – good, solid, early heavy rock with strong vocals, powerful drumming and of course that distinctive organ.
Several singles were lifted from those albums, none of which made any real impact either. So yes, Titanic were your archetypal ‘one hit wonders.’
The next 7” I bought as a thirteen year old was, ‘Tokoloshe Man’ by John Kongos, followed by releases from Slade / Alice Cooper / Free. My life-long journey into the love of Rock music had begun.
So yes, like the ocean liner Titanic had only one hit. But boy! What an impact!
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – June 2022.)
On many a suburban sixties afternoon mother and I would retire to the dining room. Let’s face it, the library was too stuffy, the conservatory too draughty and the billiards room reeked of cigar smoke and brandy. Well maybe not quite. The dining room was where mother could set up her sewing machine or the ironing board.
While Papa toiled away tirelessly on the golf course, Mama would spend her time on such frivolous activities as clothes alterations and laundry. The dining room was also where the wireless lived. Not one of those newfangled transistor thingummies it was a proper hard plastic lime green radio with a circular dial and glowing valves at the back. Sometimes we would listen to plays which were a bit boring and would put me off my colouring in, other times it would be just music.
One such afternoon mother stopped her ironing/sewing and turned up the radio.
“You’ll enjoy this”. On came the tale of Sparky’s Magic Piano, the story of a reluctant piano student and his magical piano. After a couple of minutes of annoyingly whining child’s dialogue the piano spoke.
WHAT WAS THAT ?
It was the freakiest thing I’d ever heard in my entire 6 years ! I thought Mum had slipped some hallucinogenics into my cordial or I’d accidentally supped on her early afternoon gin and orange (Mummy’s little secret !) I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was quite a wonderful sonic surprise but a bit disconcerting. Mickey Mouse on acid !
Sparky’s Magic Piano was first released back in October, 1947. The effect used for the talking piano was a Sonovox invented by Gilbert Wright in 1939. It was a microphone attached to the throat probably similar to the devices used by people who have undergone laryngectomies.
It was a precursor to the talk box highlighted in Peter Frampton’s Show Me The Way back in 1975. I remember we had one in the music shop where I worked and had hours of fun with it. It’s basically a gizmo that channels the sound of your guitar/keyboard back into your mouth via plastic tubing. I think we ran out of tubing as everyone and their dog was chewing on that thing and we had to continuously chop bits off it.
Some people said your teeth would fall out but Frampton still seems to have all his pearly whites.
A better example of the magic piano sound is ELO’s 1978 hit Mr Blue Sky. In among the Bee Gees like vocals and the Beatlesque arrangement you’ll hear the title through a vocoder – a category of speech coding that analyses and synthesises the human voice signal for audio data compression, multiplexing, voice encryption or voice transformation – but you knew all that !
My personal favourite though is Herbie Hancock’s I Thought It Was You released in late 1978 reaching number 15 and spending 9 weeks in the charts. He ‘sings’ using a Sennheiser VSM-201 (what else) vocoder.
Great tune from a highly innovative performer from his very underrated album Sunlight. The only problem is, I have these Pavlovian sensations of the whirring of the Singer and the fragrance of freshly ironed laundry.
You’re stranded on a desert island and you’ve found a washed up solar-chargeable iPod that contains 3 albums in the audio section.
As luck would have it, they’re your three favourite albums… What are they?
(NB – no ‘Best Of’s, ‘Compilations’ or Box Sets allowed).
My criteria was to choose albums that I rarely get tired of listening to, that include a selection of songs with thought provoking lyrics, mood enhancing melodies and good grooves.
On top of that they need to be ‘all killer and no filler’. I ain’t got no time to be skipping songs, I’ve got fish to catch, stars to gaze at and a raft to construct….. which is gonna take a bit of time because I was crap at woodwork at school!
Album #1 – Songs in The Key Of Life: Stevie Wonder
For a start, it’s a double album (with a bonus EP) so I’m getting more bang for my buck, but if quantity rather than quality’s your thing, you can always choose ELP’s six-sided ‘Welcome Back My Friends’…. particularly if you’re partial to the excruciating sound of a wounded Moog synthesiser and you’re a fan of a drum solo or six.
Two years in the making, Stevie’s 1976 opus is the perfect union of quality & quantity and represents his finest moment, which is saying something when you consider his run of albums leading up to ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ – ‘Talking Book’, ‘Innervisions’ & ‘Fulfillingness First Finale’.
In the mid 70’s Wonder was awash with ideas and was producing material not only for himself but for artists like Rufus, Minnie Ripperton, Syreeta, The Supremes and Roberta Flack. Due to his copious output ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ soon developed into a double album.
Including the bonus EP there are 21 tracks on ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ and apart from the saccharine sweet ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ I could happily play the album on a loop. It helps that there are a host of musical styles on the record… from the big-band funk of ‘Sir Duke’ to the hypnotic orchestration on ‘Pastime Paradise’.
I’ve always been blown-away by the fact that Stevie played most of the instruments on his 70’s albums himself, (particularly the drums, check out Superstition), but he breaks with tradition here and it unquestionably works.
You’ll find Herbie Hancock displaying his ubiquitous keyboard talents on ‘As’, whilst George Benson exhibits his distinctive guitar and scat vocal style on ‘Another Star’….. memorable cameos that elevate the album to another level.
Stevie never recaptured the magic of ‘Songs In The Key of Life’ which I’m not sure was humanly possible anyway. The album won four grammy’s, sold ten million copies in the US alone and was a number one album across the globe.
Album #2 – Aja: Steely Dan
When I listen to Steely Dan I often think of a quote credited to the late, great music journalist Ian McDonald who made the following introduction on reviewing the ‘Gaucho‘ album….
“Crassness is contagious. Fortunately, so is intelligence – which is why listening to Steely Dan is good for you”.
In truth I could easily have picked three Steely Dan albums, therefore narrowing it down to one is something of a ‘Sophies choice’.
Sonically it doesn’t get much better than Aja and it’s no coincidence that the album is consistently favoured by audiophiles, who still use it to check out the latest audio equipment on the scene.
Despite their excellent canon of work it can be argued that this was the bands pinnacle…. an example of the final product being greater than the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts in this case were pretty awesome.
Also, if you’re looking for thought provoking lyrics then Steely Dan’s cryptic, ironic themes are a big part of their schtick, having a bit of down-time on this island will enable me to work some of them out at last.
Aja consists of seven great tracks, including the immaculate ‘Deacon Blue’ and the pertinent ‘Home at Last’, a song about exile inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.
Well the danger on the rocks is surely past Still I remain tied to the mast Could it be that I have found my home at last Home at last
Album #3 – AWB by The Average White Band
By autumn 1974 my record collection was starting to look a bit different- The album section was still dominated by white blokes with long hair like Zep, The Who, Bad Company, etc but the singles section was reflecting what I was hearing in nightclubs and bars – Barry White, Gil Scot-Heron, the Philly Sound, etc.
It’s somewhat ironic then that one of my favourite bands turned out to be a bunch of white blokes with long hair who just happened to be soul and funk masters from down the road.
Like most people, when I first heard ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ I assumed it was The JB’s or another American funk band, so it came as a shock to discover that there was a Hamish, a Molly and an Onnie in the group.
I bought the AWB ‘white album’ as much for the provocatively brilliant cover art as anything else…. then I got home put it on my trusty Sanyo music centre and played it so much that it had to be industrially removed from the turntable.
In truth it was like nothing I’d heard before, the music defied definition, white blokes from Scotland just weren’t supposed to sound as good as The Ohio Players or The Isley Brothers.
The sessions for the album were marshalled by Arif Mardin, the legendary Aretha Franklin producer whose deft touch was all over the record.
On reflection, it was a perfect storm…. a hungry band with great songs, immense talent and a master at the helm.
AWB would go on to make many more fine albums but the ‘white album’ is undoubtedly their masterpiece.
So that’s my three albums…. well today anyway!
Of course I could wake up tomorrow and add Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell or Dark Side of the Moon or Bowie’s Station to Station, depending on what mood I’m in, but I’m pretty happy with the three I chose… well today anyway!
Next time we’ll check out the video section of the iPod….
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – June 2022)
We, OK – I – probably stand accused of harbouring dinosaur tendencies when it comes to my music of choice. I regard the period of my youth, the ‘70s, as being a pivotal point in music, with so many new and exciting genres coming to the fore: from the tail end of Sixties psychedelia I enjoyed heavy rock; prog rock; glam rock; southern rock; funk, soul & disco; punk and the advent of electronic.
Yet through all that vibrant change there was one constant. It may not have been glaringly obvious, but would build momentum, reaching the crescendo of full-blown ‘Revival’ status at the end of the decade.
ROCK AND ROLL, baby! Hell yeah!
In truth, it had never been away. Throughout the Sixties, though Buddy, Gene and Eddie had either faded or indeed passed away, Elvis and Cliff Richard in particular kept the Rock ‘n’ Roll torch burning. Then, as The Sixties prepared to morph into The Seventies, in Woodstock, upstate New York, this happened:
Rather bizarrely, Sha Na Na were scheduled the penultimate band of the long weekend, warming up for the headlining Jimi Hendrix. Due to numerous delays, they hit the stage at 7:30 on the Monday morning. Much of the crowd had left for home. Many were asleep, having partied through the night to likes of Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young); Blood Sweat & Tears; Sly & The Family Stone; Ten Years After …. and more.
Classic, ‘juke box’ rock ‘n’ roll couldn’t be further from the mood of those preceding bands. It was an odd mix, but one that proved there be latent rockers in everyone. Closing their set with this anarchic, almost proto-punk version of Danny & The Juniors’ ‘At The Hop’ they sure woke everyone up, and were subsequently called back for an encore. They would go on to tour extensively in their own right, make a cameo appearance in ‘Grease’ and host their own syndicated television variety show in the USA.
Around the same time (1969) in USA, Paramount Television began a long-running series of one-off romantic comedies under the umbrella, ‘Love, American Style.’ On 25th February 1972, the episode was entitled, ‘Love and the Television Set’ which centred around a character, Richie Cunningham, his family and friends. Its popularity led to the 1974 spin-off sitcom, ‘Happy Days’ and Ron Howard, who played Richie, being offered a lead part in the 1973 film, ‘American Graffiti.’
Although set in 1962 and given its UK release in March 1974, the film, and later that year, ‘Happy Days,’ itself, both gave prominence to Rock ‘n’ Roll music and the culture that surrounded it.
In UK, Dave Edmunds and Alvin Stardust were slightly ahead of the curve, but would be joined in ’74 by likes of The Rubettes, Showaddywaddy and Mud with a series of Rock ‘n’ Roll based hits and chart-toppers over the next few years. Confusing the issue a tad, those latter bands were labelled more under the ‘Glam Rock’ banner, but never-the-less, Rock ‘n’ Roll was being absorbed into the subconscious of the listening youth. On the innocent side of 1976, before ‘punk’ in all its glorious fury was unleashed on the UK, there were two re-releases that introduced Rock ‘n ’Roll in its more organic form to a wider audience; Hank Mizell’s ‘Jungle Rock’ reached #3 in March, while another Hank – Hank C. Burnette – peaked at #21 in October with the more Rockabilly based ‘Spinnin’ Rock Boogie.’
Coming into 1977, punk did show itself a force to be reckoned with; disco, funk and soul were also competing for radio airplay and record sales. Darts managed to maintain a R’n’R representation in the UK charts with four hits spanning November ’77 through May ’78. Three of these (‘Come Back My Love,’ ‘Boy From New York City,’ and ‘It’s Raining’) reached #2 while their debut, ‘Daddy Cool’ made it to a very credible #6.
Though in general, it may have been shrouded from the general public’s consciousness, Rock ‘n’ Roll still bubbled away in the smaller venues across the country. The bands and artists were practice, practice, practicing … biding their time.
That time arrived in September 1978, with the movie release of the stage show, ‘Grease.’ Overnight, Rock ‘n’ Roll was back in vogue.
Teen fashion would now reflect the musical’s popularity as youngsters re-imagined themselves as a Danny; a Sandy; a Kenickie or a Betty Rizzo. White sleeved, Baseball / College jackets would brighten up the cold, damp and dreich streets of cities up and down the UK. Brothel creepers and pedal pushers were commonplace. Drainpipe jeans would put up a fight, but eventually, from a horizontal position, be forced over calves, thighs and hips. Then of course there was the small matter of pulling up the zip fly!
A pal from my athletics club, Davie Geddes, was even more into the music and Teddy Boy culture than me. No half measures with Davie – he went the full hog and had two made-to-measure drape suits plus all the accessories.
Davie also had a top notch Pioneer turntable and amp stacked into a cupboard in his bedroom. Often on a Sunday, I‘d run the three miles to his house where we’d get changed into the drapes etc, open a few bottles of his brain-wasting home-brew, and bop away the afternoon. I have to say, his parents, sitting in the room below trying to watch the Sunday Western on television, were most understanding!
(The ‘run’ back home in the evening was often quite interesting and incident laden.)
Although Rock ‘n’ Roll was now well represented with radio airplay, it was not to the commercial sounds of Darts or Rocky Sharpe & The Replays or songs from Grease that we honed (?) our jiving skills (??) Rockabilly bands were now making their presence heard, and were signed up by enterprising labels such as Charly and Rockhouse. And so it was more the sound of Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee , The Flying Saucers or The Riot Rockers that shook the windows of Knightswood, Glasgow those Sunday afternoons.
Our favourite though, way back then as it still is today, was Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers. This was a band who had their own way of rocking. Too gritty and ‘real’ for mainstream success, they fused various aspects of Rock ‘n’ Roll from Rockabilly to Skiffle; Juke Box Rock & Roll to Country, and came up with a unique, brash, ‘in your face’ sound that would match any punk band of the day for energy and vitality.
Formed as far back as 1964 by frontman Cavan Grogan, lead guitarist Lyndon Needs and rhythm guitarist Terry Walley, they performed under the name ‘Screamin’ Count Dracula & the Vampires’ until drummer Mike Coffey joined in 1970 and Terry price took over on bass from Don Kinsella. Their loyal, almost cult-like, South Wales following expanded over the years and the band, unchanged in personnel, were still playing shows and recording right up to Grogan’s death in February 2020, aged seventy.
Incidentally, only 11 miles down the road from where the band were formed in Newport, another Rock ‘n’ Roll legend was emerging. Shakin’ Stevens was playing with his band The Sunsets from the late Sixties around the Cardiff area, gradually building a following of their own. I know poor Shaky is now often maligned for some of his well-dodgy, later solo recordings, but as Shakin’ Stevens & The Sunsets they truly were an amazing band. And credit where it’s due, he had, according to Wikipedia at least, the highest singles sales of any male solo artist in the 80s.
Through the tail-end of the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rockabilly would continue to flourish. The Stray Cats and Matchbox would take the music further than any band since (possibly) Elvis & Co, and though not exactly household name, bands like The Polecats; The Flat Tops, The Jets, and Glasgow’s own Shakin’ Pyramids would sell out venues across the UK.
I may not be the first musical genre you think of when discussing the ‘70s, but Rock ‘n’ Roll sure did play a major part.
Turns out, Danny & The Juniors were 100% correct after all:
(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – June 2022.)
When I was young my mother would knit various items of clothing for me. Mainly jumpers, beanies (woollen hats) gloves and scarfs. Unfortunately many of the items on completion would be a bit on the small side as Mummy hadn’t anticipated my growth spurts nor the time taken to create the garments. The lack of a comprehensive time, motion and cost analysis greatly impeded productivity – but mothers didn’t talk like that in the 60s as they weren’t pretentious middle manager wankers in competitive industry.
In my middle primary school years she got it just right. She produced a perfectly fitted royal blue sweater with a tiny silvery white speck through it. Most kids moped about in grey jumpers or navy blue cardigans. This was a thing of beauty. Leave that technicolour coat back on the peg Joseph. There I was in my shimmering azure outfit looking absolutely gorgeous. It was the bees knees. The dogs bollocks (as they say in these parts). I was pleased as punch. Happy as Larry (where do we get these phrases from ?) Mum had really come up with the goods this time. How was I to know it would lead to my downfall.
One day I was taken aside by Mrs. Cullen who was not my classroom teacher at the time. She (wrongfully) claimed that I had been observed (by a cleaner I think) rifling through the desks of another classroom after school hours. The culprit had a distinctive blue jumper. She accused and berated me for some time and dismissed my pleas of innocence through trembling bottom lip. “It wasn’t me, Miss !”
When I got home I burst into inconsolable sobbing at the injustice of it all. I knew there was a lad a few years my senior that had a similar styled and coloured jumper (not as fabulous as mine of course) who was a bit shifty. My mother comforted me as mothers do but she didn’t storm down to the school and demand an apology for the wrongful accusation. Was there a seed of doubt that her youngest and dearest could be a petty thief ? This was too much for an 8 year old to bare. I stripped off the bespoke jumper and threw it into the bottom drawer with all the other discarded woollens never to see the light of day again.
I will wear grey from this day forth. I will not stand out from the crowd.
(Fast forward five years and I’m wearing a mauve floppy collared shirt and a multi-coloured tank top !)
Did you know that they call a jersey a ‘Guernsey’ in Australia ? No, I don’t know why either !
I don’t know if this incident shaped my views of fighting for the underdog. Righting the wrongs. Standing up for the dispossessed.
When I was a student nurse in the 80s doing my placement at Drumchapel Hospital I was stopped by a solitary picket at the gates. Most people walked straight by him but I heard him out. He was an Orderly striking for a reasonable wage. He was from the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) as was I so I didn’t cross his line. I was summoned by my lecturers and told I was the first ever student to go on strike. ‘AND ?’ I replied. Stony silence. Chalk that one up for the little guy.
I became a job representative for the Australian Nurses Federation and took industrial action for over a week along with thousands of others for better pay and conditions in the early nineties.
I have led a relatively blameless existence in the eyes of the law bar a few traffic infringements including a fine for not having lights on my bicycle in which an aggressive young officer screamed in my face. “Where’s your f**king drivers licence ?” His colleague had to restrain him when I pointed out you don’t need a licence for a bike. The bastard still gave me a $200 fine.
A few late library books and that’s it. My wrongful primary school accusation has not led me into a life of spiraling crime – YET !
My good mate Jim Martin (of this parish), sent me the above graphic, listing a selection of albums released 50 years ago in 1972.
Looking at the list we joked that our musical tastes haven’t progressed much as we continue to binge on a daily diet of much the same content.
I expect it will be a similar story next year when we reflect on the top albums from 1973 and no doubt for a few more years to come, probably until 1978, or should I say, 2028.
As far as music critics are concerned it’s well chronicled that 1971 is seen as being the most prolific/creative year for popular music.
Seminal albums like Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ and ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ are all lauded as being among the best and most inspirational albums of their type.
Whilst there’s an argument to be made that 1971 was music’s high point, surely it’s also a moot point, for when it comes to music, or for that matter any art-form, there’s no right or wrong…
One man’s Elvis can be another man’s Shakin’ Stevens, because beauty, as we know, is in the eye, or in this case, the ear, of the beholder.
Despite what highbrow critics will lead you to believe, music isn’t measurable… just because a critic in The Guardian awards 5 stars to the latest ‘Let’s Eat Grandma’ album, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to love it too, or there’s something wrong with your tastes if you don’t.
Music is about opinions, personal taste and the emotions certain songs invoke, particularly tunes from your formative years.
Take 1971 – there’s no doubt it was a classic year, but in truth as an early teen who was just getting into music, it passed me by.
I caught up of course, and looking at my vinyl collection today, Joni, Marvin & Zep are all well represented but in 71 I’d no idea who Joni Mitchell was and the first Zep album I listened to in full was Zeppelin III in 1973.
Cut forward 12 months and things were different, I feel I was present for a lot of the marquee releases in 72 and remember them well, particularly those by Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople, Rod Stewart, Neil Young, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple and of course the baptism of fire that was Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, which still sounds great today.
Maybe I wasn’t as switched on as I thought I was though, two of my all-time favourite bands, Steely Dan and Little Feat, also released albums in 1972 that I’d no idea about at the time.
So why should 12 months make such a difference? I think I figured it out…
In the summer of 1971, I was adjusting to the evolution of becoming a teen as well as navigating & negotiating the ensuing boundaries. I was into music but my inputs were basically restricted to two sources – Radio One and Top Of The Pops.
Fast forward to the summer 72, I was heading into my 3rd Year at school, edging ever closer to the coveted back row of seats on the school bus (and the cinema!), I’d experienced my first kiss, had my first beer and there was a new found confidence that on reflection came from nowhere.
Looking back, I relate this embolden sense of self to the scene in Young Frankenstein where Gene Wilder introduces the Creature on stage –
“From what was once a mass of inarticulate lifeless tissues, may I now present a cultured, sophisticated man about town”
Of course the Creature fell on his arse as we all do when we get a bit cocky.
In terms of musical awareness though, the difference between 71 to 72 was enormous and it was primarily down to access.
The incremental freedom I enjoyed in 72 vs 71, enabled me to access a lot more music via….
The Youth Club – where the older girls had great tastes and dominated the record player. Record shops – I was now allowed to go into town unchaperoned. Late night listening – Old Grey Whistle Test & Radio Luxembourg. Gigs – my first gig was at the Greens Playhouse in 72 to see Humble Pie, supported by Peter Frampton.
So, thank’s Jim for triggering some great memories although we both know there’s a glaring omission from the list of albums. That album being The Temptations ‘All Directions’ which features a 12 minute version of ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’.
A track that Jim & I used to listen to open mouthed, in 23rd Precinct’s listening booth on a Saturday afternoon, when there was no football.
I look forward to receiving the 1973 list of albums next year.
*Inspired by this trip down memory lane I’ve cobbled together a playlist of tracks released in 1972. A mishmash of singles and less obvious album tracks for your listening pleasure….
(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – June 2022)
(Header image from ‘Stuff Dutch People Like’ website.)
Growing up throughout the 1960s and ’70s my brothers and I were free-range children, unencumbered by the pressures of an adult world. There were only two grown-up rules: don’t talk to strangers and be home in time for tea.
Running barefoot through seemingly endless hot Virginia summers, climbing trees with skinned knees, riding our bikes and make-believe, we played-out our childhoods in the limitless landscape of our imaginations. We were free to negotiate and establish our own play rules with our friends. Through the liberty of play we took risks, established our own boundaries, solved problems and developed social, emotional and physical skills: life skills. We didn’t know it at the time but we were the lucky ones.
On rainy days, Mom would tell me to ‘go play’ which opened up countless possibilities: making paper dolls from old magazines; dressing-up; playing make-believe as I flew into space inside an upturned kitchen stool (this was, after-all, the Space Age of Apollo 11). After school clubs and activities didn’t exist and the notion of ‘quality time’ hadn’t been invented yet: my brothers and I were rich in our parents love and our family life. We ate dinner together and talked to each other.
My parents read, told stories and sang to us but pretty much left us alone to play. If I said, “I’m bored!” Mom would say, “Good! Children should be bored at least once a day. Use your imagination.” Without a PC, tablet, mobile phone or social media, I had to look inside myself for adventures.
I made mud pies for my dolls; sat on the driveway and burst tar bubbles in the searing heat with a stick and watched the tar ooze; made a jewellery box for my mother with matchsticks; sailed the high seas from a sail boat in the dining-room with two chairs and an old sheet. I did cart-wheels, handstands and backflips; played ‘tag’ with my friends; looked for fairies in the pine glades and inhabited the Magic Faraway Tree. I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, clicking my heels together three times before rolling down a grass bank to go ‘home’ to Kansas.
My bed served as a covered wagon where I’d sit with my feet hitched on the footboard and “gee-up” my team of horses as I headed west across the great prairies in search of gold. Wearing an imaginary calico dress and bonnet, I fought off wild critters including howling coyotes and Grizzly ‘bahrs’ with my bare hands and sang songs beneath the stars around a campfire in the middle of my bedroom floor. Why – there wasn’t a more feared hunter in all the west!
In 1970 when I was ten, my family left behind my small-town American childhood idyll and moved to Birmingham, West Midlands where I encountered not only a strange new dialogue called Brummie but a wholly new culture to draw from in my playground games: ‘tag’ became ‘tig’; ‘British Bulldog’ replaced ‘King of the Hill’; ‘Red-Light, Green-Light’ became ‘What’s the Time Mr Wolf’ and ‘Conkers’ became a playground favourite. Suddenly I was thrust into a Betjeman-esque land of 1930s suburban streets, cul-de-sacs, alleyways and gulleys to explore with my new best friends Denise and Becky.
Mom used to say that ‘if a child isn’t filthy by teatime, they haven’t had a good day’ and we didn’t disappoint; revelling in street games, making dens, clapping rhymes, ‘Dolly Bobbin’, ‘Cat’s Cradle’, ‘French Skipping’ and rhymes:
‘George, Paul, Ringo, John
Next-door neighbour follow on…’
as we skipped in and out of a large rope.
‘Mother’s in the kitchen, doing a bit of stitching
In comes a burglar and out she runs
We quickly established ‘The Gang’ with neighbourhood kids whose overriding mission was to own our own ponies. I asked my beleaguered dad every day if I could have a pony and scoured the livestock ads of Pony Magazine. I entered the annual WH Smith ‘Win a Pony Competition’ regardless of the fact that we lived in a semi with a small back garden. (I did once win a runner-up mention when I designed a sew-on badge in a competition. It said, “An apple a day keeps the vet away” with a picture of a horse’s head. ) Becky and I both kept grooming kits under our beds “just in case.”
When one of the girls in The Gang, Sam, really did get a pony, we became obsessed with trying to get a free ride. An hour’s riding lesson was £1.50 in 1972 and my pocket money was 25 new pence per week. Sam finally allowed us to sit on her pony Jet – “Just sit, mind!” – and we were thrilled.
Becky and I made horse jumps in my back garden out of old orange crates and bits of wood and held gymkhanas on our space hoppers, which took on the names and personalities of our favourite ponies.
Mine was ‘Fred’ (in real life a bony old grey pony who took a shine to nibbling my jumper) and Becky rode ‘Firefly’ – a strawberry roan mare with a shaggy mane. Becky’s mum made us ribbon rosettes and as we flew over our jumps against the clock, we imagined we heard the roar of the crowd at the Horse of the Year Show. We cantered around the ring for a victory lap before our glory faded as mum hauled me indoors to do my homework and Becky had to go home. I watched through the net curtains as she bounced away down the grass verge, before tackling my History project on Neanderthal Man.
At weekends The Gang would take to the Clent Hills on our bikes; our saddlebags stuffed with cheese spread sandwiches and beakers of orange squash which leaked. We were gone all day without phones (imagine), safety helmets or a care in the world. Our parents had no idea where we were but trusted us to be home in time for tea.
I played with dolls until I was at least twelve or thirteen (imagine kids today taking time out from their devices to play with dolls). I had a doll house my dad made me which absorbed my imagination for hours-on-end; baby dolls, ‘Barbie’ dolls and a ‘Tressy’ doll whose hair grew out of the top of her head and could be pulled back in a chord on her back. Our dog chewed her hair off on Christmas Eve.
I even had a go at making a ‘Sindy’ doll settee from a cereal box and sticky-back plastic as seen on Blue Peter; along with an Advent candle holder from two wire coat hangers and a bit of tinsel; neither of which were successful but kept me occupied on those long boring wet weekends.
Young people today wouldn’t believe it; attached to their virtual worlds and virtual friends, where gratification is instant and the pressure is on to grow up too quickly. I told you we were the lucky ones.
(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)
13th June 1977
Perhaps because I was never really ‘big’ on popular chart acts (other than during the Glam period) writing this series of articles on artists / songs that were ‘Almost Top of the Pops’ has provided me with some enlightening and surprising background facts.
None more so though, than Carole Bayer Sager, whose one and only UK chart hit as a solo artist spent nine weeks in the Top 40 at a time when Punk and New Wave music were making their mark.
It was easy to dismiss ‘You’re Moving Out Today,’ as the archetypal, upbeat, fun, ‘novelty’ song. And so I did. I loved the song, for the clever lyrics; the story it told; the hooky chorus; the bounce and sort of twee delivery. But I thought no more of Ms Bayer Sager.
Forty five years later, mention the song title to most people of a certain age, and we’ll instantly recall the performer’s name. No need for Google on this one, I reckon.
However, ask what else she is known for and I’d have been stumped… which is where Google does enter the picture.
In her own right, between 1977 and 1981, Carole released just three albums. There were also nine singles (with ‘You’re Moving Out Today’ being the third) issued from 1977 and 1985.
So I could perhaps be forgiven for thinking she was not exactly a prolific performer. And she wasn’t. It is for her song writing that she made her name. Remember this?
This would be credited as Carole’s first hit, having written the lyrics in 1965, whilst collaborating with Toni Wine who based the music on a classical piece by Muzio Clemente. The song would eventually be offered to the Manchester based band The Mindbenders. (Singer Wayne Fontana had recently left to go solo, his position as lead vocalist being inherited by Eric Stewart – yeah, he of 10CC fame.)
This time around, the song reached #2 in both the UK and USA charts, only to be bettered by Phil Collins taking it to #1 in both countries (and several others) in 1988.
So while we all (well, I speak for myself, perhaps) welcomed Carole Bayer Sager as both a ‘newcomer’ and ‘one hit wonder’ in 1977, we were already incorrect on both scores.
**Toni Wine also wrote hits for Tony Orlando & Dawn, and provided the female vocals for cartoon group, The Archies; think of the line, ‘I’m gonna make your life so sweet.’)**
Over the years, Carole would collaborate with, and write lyrics for Melissa Manchester; she wrote Leo Sayer’s hit, ’When I Need You’; she wrote Broadway musicals with her composer (first) husband Marvin Hamlisch; she received an Oscar nomination with her husband, ‘Nobody Does It Better,’ the theme to the James Bond film, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me,’ sung of course by Carly Simon.
After their marriage ended, Carole would team up with, and later marry, none other than Burt Bacharach, with whom she’d then receive an Academy Award for ‘Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)’ the #1 hit for Christopher Cross.
Probably their most successful collaboration though, was the composition of ‘That’s What Friends Are For,’ which was revived in 1986 to raise money for Aids Research. The track, sung this time by Dionne Warwick & Friends – including Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight – quickly reached #1 in USA and raised over a million dollars for the charity.
Amongst others, Carole has also worked with Carole King and had songs recorded as hits for likes of Neil Diamond, Patti Labelle and Michael MacDonald, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.
Carole Bayer Sager also worked with Bette Midler, back in the ‘70s. It was this collaboration, which also included Bruce Roberts, that actually spawned the song prompting this post: ‘You’re Moving Out Today.’ Interestingly, there were two recordings of the song released. Ms Midler released the song in USA during February 1977, reaching only #42, with Ms Bayer Sager faring bettter in the UK some three months later, peaking at #6 … almost Top of the Pops.
This may well have been her only UK chart hit in her own name, but Carole Bayer Sager, a ‘one hit wonder?’ – I don’t think so!
(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – June 2022)
In 1971, when Bill Withers, already in his thirties, recorded his signature tune, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, he was still gainfully employed in a factory making toilets for Boeing 747’s.
Withers who grew up with a debilitating stutter had only picked up the guitar a few years earlier. Inspired to play after attending a Lou Rawls gig, he was impressed that the soul star could collect a $2,000 fee for 90 min’s work, as well as having his pick of the attractive female fans in attendance.
Driven to change his life for the better, Withers bought a second hand guitar from a pawn shop, taught himself to play and started writing his own songs. He saved up to make a rough demo which he hawked around LA until an independent label recognised his talent and hooked him up with producer Booker T. Jones (from Booker T & the MG’s fame) to record his first album.
Withers, who at this point had never set foot in a recording studio was intimidated by the environment and the established session players assembled, and on the first day of recording ambled up to Booker T to ask him who was going to be singing the songs he’d written.
“You are” replied Booker T.
Unnerved, and out of his comfort zone, Withers found it tough to relax until Graham Nash who was at the sessions, encouraged Withers to chill-out and bolstered his confidence by telling him that ‘he had no idea just how good he was‘.
Armed with a notebook of all the songs he’d written to this point, 10 tracks were selected and the album was recorded in a few short sessions. The picture on the album sleeve was taken during a lunch break at the toilet factory, Withers posing lunch box in hand.
One of the songs on the album, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, had been inspired by a movie Withers had watched on TV called ‘Days of Wine & Roses’, starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick about a doomed relationship.
The song was actually unfinished and a verse short when he came to record it so as a vocal placeholder Withers spent the entire 3rd verse repeating the words ”I know”, however, when they heard the end result they liked it so much that they kept it as is.
As the album’s stand out track it was released as the debut single, winning the 1972 Grammy for the best R&B song and propelling Withers into the mainstream.
The song crossed over, storming the pop charts, and when it went gold on its way to selling a million copies, Withers was presented with a gold toilet seat by his record label, as a symbol of how far he’d come in such a short space of time.
Withers next album released a year later, was primarily made up of songs from his notebook that hadn’t made it onto the first album, and included two top 10 hits, ‘Lean On Me’ and ‘Use Me’ . Withers would go on to record six more albums and win another two Grammy’s.
In 1988 I was fortunate enough to see Bill Withers in concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. I was immediately taken by how relaxed and engaging he was, sharing stories between songs and charming the audience.
He ran through all his classics, was note perfect, and it all seemed so effortless to him. As we watched him perform with the audience in the palm of his hand, we had no idea that this would be his last tour and one of his last ever live performances.
He would drop out of the music scene soon after; weary of record label constraint’s, and frustrated that they spent more budget and energy promoting a novelty album by Mr T from The A Team than his latest work.
Withers was nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 and although he attended he didn’t perform, instead, asking his friend Stevie Wonder to perform ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ while he sat by his side.
The song has become a standard and there are of course multiple cover versions from Herb Alpert to UFO but two of the best are live performances that have been captured on camera.
The aforementioned Stevie Wonder’s performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an Unplugged version by Paul McCartney with Hamish Stuart of the Average White Band on vocals and McCartney on drums.
Bill Withers passed away in 2020, aged 81, but his legacy and his signature song live on.