Tag Archives: 70s music

bitches brew

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – July 2022.)

Bitches Brew

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.)

Miles Davis

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.

The New Standard

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.

Chic Corea

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

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.

John McLaughlin

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 !

You do. You just don’t know it yet !

________________________

turntable talk: out of the blue.

(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:

  1. The Sweet: ‘Coco.’ (June 1971)
  2. The New Seekers: ‘Never Ending Song of Love.’ (July 1971)
  3. 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.’

Titanic: ‘Sultana.’

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, Titanicoh 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!

Titanic

________________

almost top of the pops – carole bayer sager

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

13th June 1977

(Carole Bayer Sager)

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)

it must be love – an evening with labi siffre.

(Post by Alan MacDonald from Menstrie, Stirlingshire – May 2022.)

‘It Must Be Love.’

The recent post of the Top Twenty hits from 1972 caught my eye. Especially as at # 5 was a song called “It Must Be Love” by Labi Siffre. But why this song, and why an evening with its composer, and where was the location?

Firstly the location; well in 1974 this Westerton boy found himself living and working in a hotel in St Helier on the beautiful island of Jersey in the Channel Islands. Formerly this boy had a somewhat secure, and sometimes inebriated, career exporting Scotch whisky from the centre of Glasgow, which had been swapped (in truth I had been made redundant) for a summer of sun, sea and other frolics on this 12 x 6 mile rock in the English Channel, off the coast of Brittany. The frolics were so enjoyable that as the hotel job ended with the fading sun, the thought of returning to the frolics (not) of Westerton faded also and my summer extended into autumn, and my labours transferred from the hotel to employment at a local sawmill.

Mary Ann Bitter beermat.

One evening, as I washed down the sawdust from my day job, with a pint or two of Mary Ann, the local bitter, I spied in the evening paper an advert for: ‘An Evening With Labi Siffre.’ Now Jersey wasn’t blessed with real live acts from the mainland coming over (unless you count a 1974 concert from a tax-dodging band called Led Zeppelin), but what did they ever go on to achieve! So who was Labi Siffre and why did he cause excitement on the rock?

An emerging act in the UK, Labi Siffre released six albums between 1970 and 1975, and his best known composition at the time was “It Must Be Love.” He later went on to write and perform the classic (Something Inside) So Strong’ which became one of the anthems for the release of Nelson Mandela from jail.

But here he was, at the time a one-hit wonder from the UK. I loved “It Must Be Love” and wanted to hear him perform it live.

Persuading some of my mates to accompany me to hear this one-hit wonder wasn’t the easiest of tasks. It was 1974 remember, and down at the jolly old discotheques where we had our frolics it was George McCrae who was “Rocking His Baby,” and the Hues Corporation who were “Rocking Their Boat,” that rocked most people’s boats at the time. Labi Siffre – eh, who he?!  But persuade one mate to come along I did. It took a free ticket and more than a few pints of the afore-mentioned Mary Ann to get (bribe) him there, but off we went.

The venue was “The Deep” night club, one of St Helier’s finest at the time. The decor of the club was of being under the sea hence the name “The Deep”.  Funny thing though, one had to climb UP a couple of flights of stairs to get into “The Deep.”

I think we get the picture of the type of bands / artists who would normally visit the sunny isle.

So UP the stairs we went and joined the sizeable crowd who had gathered inside. Seeing all these people made me feel I had made the right decision. My mate, he was less impressed and directed me to the bar where I filled him up with more Mary Ann.

First impression that night was the stage, which had been set up with just one microphone. Where was Labi’s band going to play we all thought? That question was answered shortly when, after a brief introduction by the promoter, Labi burst on to the stage acoustic guitar in hand. That’s right, he had no band!

“Band? What band …?”

Never mind, Labi was very charming (he was an ex public school boy after all) and welcomed all of us to his performance. He explained that he was in the middle of a tour to introduce his fans to a new set of songs he planned for his next album, and hoped we’d like them. And off he went, singing brightly, in tune, accompanying himself on the guitar. However, it wasn’t long before the crowd started to get restless. Many of them were genuine Labi fans, who had bought his albums and were here to get the real Labi. The, at the time, one-hit wonder Labi that is!

And it wasn’t long before a voice was heard from the crowd, in the interval between songs, asking Labi if he was going to play some of the old stuff.

“Er no,” said the bold Labi, explaining as he had said earlier that tonight would be his new songs. And off he went again, belting out a few more songs and trying to shorten the interval between them to avoid questions. But it didn’t work, and it wasn’t long before a plaintiff cry went up: “Haw Labi, gonnae gee us ‘It Must Be Love?’ That’s right, I wasn’t the only Jock in the room.

“Er no,” said a fast becoming exasperated Labi, “not tonight.” And with that he decided the interval had arrived and shot off stage right.

It did seem an age before he returned. Probably the promoter told him he wasn’t getting paid unless he did. But back he came and picked up where he left off, which was a stream of new songs, none of them resonating with me or the die-hard fans in the room. It wasn’t long before, you guessed it, the plaintiff cry from a Scottish maiden was heard again to exclaim: “Haw Labi! Gonnae gee us ‘It Must Be Love’ just a wee bit …aaw go on pal?”

At this Labi’s face turned from ex public school boy to demented rocker. He lowered his guitar, grabbed it by the frets as if to swing into the crowd and bop the fair Scottish maiden with it, thought better of it, took two steps back, composed himself, found his charming voice and proudly announced that we had been a lovely audience and that was it for tonight. Exit stage right.

Okay I made that last bit up. The circumstances are real, but what he really said that night can’t be printed, except to say it ended in ‘…off,’ and it wasn’t in his charming ex public schoolboy voice either. Suffice to say our Labi was not best pleased with his trip to Jersey, his trek UP to “The Deep,” and a young maiden from Scotland was definitely  crossed off his Christmas card list. As for the rest of us; we’d seen the great man in person, he had a lovely voice, but ‘It Must Be Love’ it wasn’t. Ah well!

There was a ferry for the mainland leaving at 10.00pm that evening, Labi was on it.

**************************

N.B: It didn’t work for him that night in Jersey but Labi did go on to have a stellar career with his great anthem “(Something Inside) So Strong” becoming  influential in the fight for civil rights in 1970s Britain. And the song we all wanted to hear that night “It Must Be Love” was covered by the band Madness. His music has been sampled extensively by US hip-hop artists such as Eminem and Jay-Z. He has published essays; the stage and television play Deathwrite and three volumes of poetry: NiggerBlood on the Page, and Monument. At the age of 76 he is making a bit of a comeback and just recently was the subject of a BBC ‘Imagine’ programme with Alan Yentob, filmed largely at his home in Spain.

copy that!

I know … this is kinda ironic, isn’t it? (I did try to find a photo credit though, honest!)

The recent unfound case of plagiarism instigated by Grime artist Sami Chokri (Sami Switch) against Ed Sheeran, had me wondering how many times structures, harmonies, beats and particularly guitar riffs have been tweaked,  repeated and basically ripped off through time.

(It was only a cursory thought – I didn’t lose any sleep, it has to be said.)

Bowie / Mercury – pic: Gold radio
Vanilla Ice

One of the most high profile cases in recent times was that of Vanilla Ice –vs – Queen & David Bowie. Reportedly, the American rapper contested he had added a ‘dum’ to the bassline of ‘Under Pressure’ and that he was not complicit in copyright breach with his ‘Ice Ice Baby’ hit. Of course, he eventually acceded to the contest brought by the British acts and paid out a considerable sum (believed to be @ $4m) for the publishing rights so that he could avoid paying royalties.

There have been several more high profile cases in recent years, but this being a ‘70s blog, there’s one contentious case that stands above all else; one that would inevitably rear its head on this blog, what with co-host, Paul,  being a big David Bowie fan and me listing Sweet as one of my favourite bands:

the case of ‘Jean Genie’ –vs – ‘Blockbuster.

The debate has always been who copied who? Bowie, Sweet; or Sweet, Bowie.

Both were signed with RCA when they recorded their respective hits. They shared the same studios and with ‘Jean Genie’ being recorded on 6th October 1972, Sweet have been accused of nicking the riff for the recording of ‘Blockbuster’ a few weeks later, on 1st November.

A counter argument could be that Bowie overheard Sweet rehearsing and subconsciously picked up on the riff.

Plagiarism is everywhere in the music industry, even extending to blogs. At this point I must confess that after hitting on the idea of writing this piece, I found I had been beaten to it by over five years – by the excellent Darren’s Music Blog.

I discovered this when carrying out my own research into the subject. However, the band / riff that prompted me to look into this is not mentioned in Darren’s blog – so like Vanilla Ice, I contend this article is not plagiarised. But, unlike Vanilla Ice, I will not be buying the rights to Darren’s blog article for @ $4m!

Anyway, as it happens, I reckon neither Bowie nor Sweet have a case to answer. But before I present my case for the defence, a word or two on the band that prompted me to look at this whole issue:

HONEYBUS.

Honeybus.

Honeybus are your archetypal ‘one hit wonders.’ Formed in London in 1967, the four-piece were signed to Decca’s Deram label. Their first two singles bombed, though the second, a ballad, ‘(Do I Figure) In Your Life?’ was covered by Joe Cocker, Dave Berry and Dana.

It is for their third single though, that Honeybus are best known. I bet almost all readers (certainly those from UK) will remember this:

(Though this version of the advert is from the early ‘70s, the single, ‘I Can’t Maggie Go,’ which provides the musical accompaniment, was released in 1968. It entered the charts in March of that year, where it spent a total of twelve weeks, peaking at #8.)

Shortly after this though, founder member and co-songwriter Pete Dello quit the band. Ray Cane now assumed the mantle of principal songwriter. His first-penned single, ‘Girl of Independent Means,’ was the driver behind this article, and appears fourth in the timeline that follows.

Unbelievably, in my opinion, the music buying public were not impressed and it failed to capitalise on the success of ‘Maggie.’ When their next effort ‘She Sold Blackpool Rock,’ also tanked, the band folded. Though they would reform in 1971 with the original line-up, mainstream success still eluded them, and an album that had been prepared for Warner Brothers, was cancelled.

An interesting point of note is that drummer and original member, Peter Kircher, would go on to play with Status Quo from 1983 – 86.

Peter Kircher

Anyway – back to the debate.

I stated earlier I didn’t feel either David Bowie or Sweet were guilty of plagiarism with regards to the riff for ‘Jean Genie,’ and ‘Blockbuster.’ My reasoning is simple: unlike ‘samples’ of other artists’ work where short bursts of music are inserted into another song / track (blatant plagiarism in my book) riffs are able to breathe, mature and develop like a fine cheese. Which is maybe why neither Bowie nor Sweet decided to kick up a stink and join the controversy.

Don’t believe me?

THE MORPH OF A RIFF:

(Muddy Waters: ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ – recorded 1954)
(Bo Diddley:  ‘I’m a Man’ – recorded 1955)
(The Yarbirds: ‘Im a Man’ – recorded 1965)
(Honeybus: ‘Girl of Independent Means’ – recorded 1968)
(Iggy & The Stooges: ‘I’m A Man’ – recorded, but not used for the ‘Raw Power’ album of 1973.)
(David Bowie: ‘Jean Genie’ – recorded 1972)
(Sweet: ‘Blockbuster’ – recorded 1972 … but a few weeks after David Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie.’)

What I’m suggesting is a riff can take a natural progression.

I mean – just because a song may sound like one that’s gone before, it does not necessarily mean it is a plagiarised copy. Does ‘Blockbuster’ really sound like Muddy Waters’ ‘Hoochie Coochie Man?’ Does it?

That would be like saying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a rip-off of Wilbur and Orville’s ‘Wright Flyer.’

I rest my case, M’lud.

________________

(Darren Johnson is a prolific music blogger and writer. He is the author of ‘The Sweet Through the 1970s’ – which I have and can thoroughly recommend – and ‘Suzi Quatro in the 1970s’ – which I have still to get to.)

almost top of the pops – john miles.

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

18th April 1976

John Miles

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.

Tina Turner and John Miles
B-Side from JOHN MILES’ ’79 single, “You Cant Keep A Good Man Down”.

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)

______________

almost top of the pops – kenny

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

12th April 1975

Kenny

‘Fancy Pants’ was the second of four chart hits for Kenny, the band who four months earlier had peaked at #3 in the UK charts with their version of ‘The Bump.’ We’ll come back to that, shall we?

As with their other three singles successes, ‘Fancy Pants’ was written by the successful Bill Martin and Phil Coulter partnership. It was they who had penned Sandie Shaw’s 1967 Eurovision Song Contest winner, ‘Puppet on a String,’ and Cliff Richard’s runner-up the following year,‘Congratulations.’ So, a decent pedigree, then.

The band though were not all they seemed.

Let’s take a step back.

In October 1974, the Bay City Rollers released what would become their fifth hit, ‘All Of Me Loves All Of You.’ The B-side, which was also written and produced by Martin and Coulter, was ‘The Bump.’ However, it did not feature the band playing their instruments. Instead, seasoned session musicians were used.   

Bay City Rollers earlier version of ‘The Bump’ – though attributing it to them may be stretching it a bit.

Around that time, an Irish vocalist from the Martin / Coulter stable decided to retire. His performing name was Kenny. The writers then opted to give some of their songs to a ‘band’ and used their former artist’s moniker as a vehicle for their own compositions. One of the first they released was ‘The Bump.’

With the song already known and having had airplay as the Bay City Rollers’ B-side, it sold well and entered the charts in December of that year. Success though brought the necessity of promotion and public appearances. But of course, there was no such band as Kenny. And the track that had proved so popular was actually just the backing track from the Bay City Rollers’ version, with new vocals added! (You see, The Rollers hadn’t played on their version either!)

So began a frantic search for a band to ‘front’ the song on Top of the Pops and other shows / teen magazines.

What led Martin and Coulter to a banana warehouse in North London, I have no idea – but that’s where they found a bunch of likely looking lads rehearsing under the name Chuff.

Kenny (and bananas.)

Signing them there and then, changing their name to Kenny and bringing in a new lead vocalist in Richard Driscoll, the writers / producers managed to secure them a contract with Mickie Most’s RAK label, and they were off. Their other three singles of the time hit the higher echelons of the chart: ‘The Bump’ reached #3 in December of ’74; ‘Baby I Love You OK’ (which I’d completely forgotten about) peaked at #12, and ‘Julie Anne’ at #10.

You’ll recognise it when the chorus kicks in!

In all, they spent thirty-nine weeks in the Top 40 between December 1974 and August ’75 – there was some overlap between ‘The Bump’ and ‘Fancy Pants,’ just in case anyone was counting!

Their success was short lived, but for most of 1975, they were everywhere. I remember their pictures on my sister’s bedroom wall and their catchy, bouncy, fun songs were hugely popular at the school disco.

They released one album towards the end of 1975 which was basically made up of their singles and some ‘filler’ material. Interestingly, one track is the original version of what would later become a #1 for Slik‘Forever and Ever.’ Indeed, Slik frontman, Midge Ure, would later confess his surprise that all he had to do was sing over the top of the same backing track the Martin / Coulter session musicians had produced for the version on the Kenny album!

What was it Johnny Rotten once said: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

However, as they didn’t write their own hits and didn’t play their instruments on their hits, there was very little money to be made. They tried to break free from the Martin / Coulter arrangement, and a court case ensued when the writers stood firm on their assertion that they ‘owned’ the band name ‘Kenny.

The court ruled in favour of the band though, and freed of their shackles, they signed with Polydor, released another single ‘Hot Lips’ and an album ‘Ricochet’ – before vanishing completely. (Although they did rather ironically, provide the backing to the theme tune of ‘Minder’ over which Denis Waterman sang the lyrics.)

Kenny had surfed the tail end of the Glam Rock wave. I have to say, I’ve always enjoyed a bit of cheesy glam. They were fun while they lasted, although with all the controversy over not playing their instruments on their hits, I can sympathise with the words of Vernon Joynson who states in his excellent ‘Tapestry of Delights’ book … ‘they are eminently forgettable.’

A tad harsh, methinks, for this day in 1975, Kenny and their ‘Fancy Pants’ were ALMOST Top of the Pops.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)



almost top of the pops – hot chocolate

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

3rd April 1974

Hot Chocolate
Hot Chocolate – ‘Emma.’

It started with a miss …

In 1969, friends Errol Brown and Tony Wilson decided to form a band. Based in Brixton, London, the singer and bass player initially brought in Franklin de Allie (guitar) Larry Ferguson (keyboards) Ian King (drums) and Patrice Olive (congas.)

Their first official release was quite fortuitous: the band prepared a demo to hawk around the record companies – a reggae tinged version of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance.

Errol had changed some of the lyrics, only to be subsequently told he could not do so without Lennon’s express permission. And so it was more in hope than expectation that the, as yet unnamed, band submitted the demo to The Beatles‘ label, Apple

As it happened, Lennon loved the version and the track was released, under the band’s label-given name of The Hot Chocolate Band.

It bombed.

Here’s why.

The Hot Chocolate Band: ‘Give Peace A Chance.’

Towards the end of the year, Mickie Most of the RAK label, signed Errol and Tony as songwriters and they went from strength to strength, penning songs for likes of Mary Hopkins, Julie Felix and even Herman’s Hermits.

Come 1970, and it was Mickie who pushed Errol and Tony into writing material for their own band, whose name had by now been shortened to the more familiar, Hot Chocolate.

‘Love Is Life’ was a pretty good opening effort, reaching #6 in the UK charts that summer. Who could possibly have thought then that this song would herald a fifteen year period in which the band would score a hit in each consecutive year – the only group in the UK to have done so.

Their brand of pop /soul / disco with heavier beats and percussion was very unique and became hugely popular over the years.

Hot Chocolate

Including re-issues, Hot Chocolate amassed a staggering 35 hits prior to the turn of the century. In doing so, they became part of the nation’s musical fabric, permeating the subconscious and being admired by many who would normally listen to other styles of music.

They are not a band I myself would have considered a ‘favourite’ but looking through the list of hits, I realise just how much I did / do enjoy them – this one being the stand-out for me. From August 1971, I recollect it (well, a session musicians version) being on a Top of the Pops compilation that I played to death;

‘I Believe (In Love)’ – peaked at #8 in the summer of 1971
This one!

Amazingly, the band only recorded one #1 hit – ‘So You Win Again‘ in 1977, but as with so many others over the years, this week in 1974 saw Hot Chocolate ALMOST Top of the Pops.

Hot Chocolate – Emma.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie” Jackson from Glasgow – April 2022)

p-funk

(Post by John Allan from Bridgetown, Western Australia – March 2022.)

George Clinton & co

If I were to say to you Make my funk the p-funk, I wants to get funked up, would you a) nod with a slight wry smile that says I dig or b) seek a restraining order.

If it’s a) then you have some idea of the George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic story.  If b) you’re confused by the connection between mostly old white men in suits gesticulating in chambers and something you might hear in Austin Powers movies.

Let me take you back to 1956 New Jersey where young George Edward Clinton worked in the barbershop were all the cool kids hung out. Young George and his friends straightened and slicked back their hair, got sharp suits and matching ties and sang doo-wop.

The Parliaments

Rejected by Motown for being too similar to The Four Tops or The Stylistics, The Parliaments finally got a record deal in 1967 with Revilot records in Detroit and recorded (I Wanna) Testify. Clinton added5 more musicians to accompany the singers and after touring for a while, the band realised they couldn’t keep up the image. Their hair was dishevelled, their suits grubby and ties mismatching. They were on the crest of the hippy wave so decided to dress (or undress) accordingly and let the music (with the help of a few stimulants) become more free.

Due to contractual difficulties with Revilot, the band were temporarily unable to use the name Parliament and so became Funkadelic, the latter being more rock guitar influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Vanilla Fudge and Sly and the Family Stone. If you listen to the track Maggot Brain (what becomes of your mind after too much LSD apparently) you’d be convinced you were listening to Hendrix or Led Zeppelin.

George Clinton & Bootsy Collins

Parliament took the slightly more commercial route and with the help of Bootsy Collins (brother of Catfish of course) and the Horny Horns from James Brown’s backing band moving toward a more funk, rhythm and blues sound.

Two names, two record companies but basically the same core of about 10 musicians which combined to create the P-funk.

Live shows with a cast of up to 20 characters (singers, dancers, narrators and musicians) all dressed up somewhere between a Star Trek convention, Mardi Gras and a voodoo sacrifice. Space ships descending from the heavens were lapped up by the stoner fans as more of a tribal ritual than a rock concert.

Mothership Connection was the stand out album for Parliament in 1975 with it’s tight grooves, quirky horn riffs and it’s call and response chanting.

One Nation Under A Groove by Funkadelic in 1978 another highlight of the enterprise.

Album covers became cartoons with characters coming to life in live shows, the more exuberant, bizarre and over the top the better.

Parliament: ‘Mothership Connection.’

Eventually Clinton’s empire came crashing down in the late 70s after a series of bad management decisions and continual feuds with record companies. The circus was over.

George reinvented himself to a lesser degree with the P-funk All Stars in the 1990s and 2000s with a bit less razzmatazz and (illegal stimulants)

The P-funk influence is widespread. Just look at Prince and Earth,Wind and Fire for example.

Parliament/Funkadelic are the most sampled group used in Hip Hop today. Every Dr Poop Doggie Doo Showaddywaddy and his motherf#*cker stanky hoe has looped some P-funk in their time. To his credit, Clinton released several P-funk riffs for the sole purpose of being sampled so he wasn’t such a bad businessman after all.

I remember being introduced to this seductive sound in fellow musician Robin’s Hillhead flat one wintry afternoon in the mid 70s. With no more than a strong coffee, we skinny middle class white boys were bopping around his kitchen with gay abandon as if there was no tomorrow.

But there was .

Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Of The Sucker)

almost top of the pops – detroit emeralds

(A look at bands / artists, who this day in The ‘70s were ALMOST Top of the Pops.)

24th March 1973

DETROIT EMERALDS – photo by General Loney

The Shirelles it was who sang, ‘Mama Said (There’d Be Days Like This’) back in 1963. How very right Mama was!

When I set myself this challenge of working through bands / artists and songs that were ‘ALMOST Top of the Pops’ on this day throughout each year of The ’70s, there were a few conditions to be met:

  • The band / artist did not reach #1 in the UK singles chart with that particular song;
  • The band / artist had to be in the Top 10 of the week in question;
  • The band / artist could not be one of the one of the popular ‘big hitters.’

For one or more of these reasons, the following had to be discounted from this piece:

Slade / Donny Osmond / T Rex / Cliff Richard / Gilbert O’Sullivan / Alice Cooper / The Faces.

That left me with Roberta Flack, Jimmy Helms ….. and Detroit Emeralds!

Being into Glam Rock, Blues / Hard Rock / Punk throughout The ’70s, the music of the three bands and artists I was left with, had more or less escaped me. So this piece is likely more of an education for me than of interest to you, dear reader!

Actually, in recent years I have been listening to Craig Charles’s Funk & Soul Show at teatime on a Saturday, as I cook up my curry. I do now have an appreciation of Funk … and am working on my Soul.

Right – yeah. The Detroit Emeralds:

The Emeralds, were formed as a vocal harmony group by four brothers from Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-Sixties. However, before moving to Detroit (and expanding their name) then releasing their debut single ‘Show Time‘ on the Ric-Tic Records label, Cleophus and Raymond Timon had left the band. leaving just Ivory and Abrim. They were then joined by childhood friend James Mitchell.

A rare clip of the Detroit Emeralds performing their first single, Show Time in 1968

Now a trio, they scraped into the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #89 on 20th April 1968.

A run of charting hits followed in the United States, but it was not until the 1973 UK hit ‘Feel The Need In Me’ that they really came to the fore. Peaking at #4 in the UK, they failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100, but did score at #22 in the US R&B Chart.

Riding the success of ‘Feel The Need In Me,‘ Westbound Records in USA, with whom they’d signed in 1970, decided to re-release the earlier minor (R&B Chart) hit, ‘You Want It, You Got It,‘ in the UK – a shrewd move as it too sold well, reaching #12 in May of ’73.

This is a TV ‘Soul Train,’ recording of the track from its initial US release in 1971 – have you got the moves?

The Detroit Emeralds scored one more minor hit in the UK, also in 1973 – ‘I Think Of You’ which managed a high of #27 in August.

The band started to fall apart in 1974, and in 1976 James Mitchell formed The Floaters, with his brother Paul – and of course, Larry, Charles and Ralph. (Boy, I sure hope their hit falls into a week I can cover within this series – sheer class!)

In 1977, Abe Tilmon hired three others to form a quartet version of the band. ‘Feel The Need In Me’ was re-released in the UK (an expanded version, I believe) and it too charted, rising to #12 and remaining in the Top 40 for eleven weeks.

‘Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)’ from Detroit Emeralds’ second of five albums, ‘You Want It, You Got It.’

I have to say, I’m glad I settled on writing about the Detroit Emeralds. From being in virtual ignorance of their music, I must confess to having added each of the four tracks highlighted here to my streaming playlist.

They may not have reached #1; they may not have achieved super-stardom…. but for a while back in 1973, Detroit Emeralds were ALMOST Top of the Pops.

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson of Glasgow – March 2022)