Tag Archives: Billboard HOT 100

18 With A Bullet – ‘How Long’ by Ace

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

How Long by Ace

When I checked my iTunes music library recently, I found to my astonishment that the most played track is a one-hit-wonder from a 70’s pub-rock or blue-eyed soul band, (take your pick) called Ace.
The track is ‘How Long’.

On reflection I shouldn’t have been taken aback.

Firstly – I love the song, it’s timeless
Secondly – It’s got a habit of finding its way onto a lot of my playlists
Thirdly – Unlike many other tracks, I only have one version downloaded, there are no re-mixes, re-edits or remasters, the original version still stands up.

Ace, a British band based in England’s steel town, Sheffield, were formed in 1972 and How Long was their debut single. It would be the bands one and only hit before they fizzled out in 1977.

Taken from the bands eponymous Five a Side album, ‘How Long’ went on to become a massive hit in the US, reaching number 1 on Cashbox in March 1975 whilst scraping into the top 20 in the UK.

Written by Paul Carrack the bands vocalist and keyboard player, most people assume the songs lament is aimed at a cheating spouse but the muse for this particular song was actually the bands bass player, who had been caught moonlighting with a rival band…. The Sutherland Brothers & Quiver – “the friends with their fancy persuasions” in the songs barbed lyrics.

With it’s pulsating bass intro, soulful vocals and tight, rhythmic groove the song was the epitome of ‘Blue-Eyed Soul’, a genre championed at the time by artists like Hall & Oates, the Bee-Gees, Robert Palmer and Boz Scaggs.

Unlike the rest of the band post Ace, Paul Carrack went on to enjoy a successful career both as a solo artist and as a sideman in groups as diverse as Roxy Music, Squeeze, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and most famously with Mike + The Mechanics where he was the lead vocalist on their uber hit – ‘The Living Years’.

A three and a half minute jukebox classic that got plenty of airplay in its day, ‘How Long’ has been covered amongst others by Rod Stewart and Bobby Womack, although perhaps the best cover and the closest to the Motown vibe that Ace were aiming for is a Northern Soul version by JJ Barnes in 1977.

The song is another great example of how the best ‘one hit wonders’ can prevail, maintaining kudos for artists that didn’t achieve all that much in their hey day. It even popped up on one of my sons playlists the other day which brought a big smile to my face.

Carrack is very much alive and kicking, and 48 years after its release, ‘How Long’ is still the pinnacle of his live shows.
He is currently touring Europe as a solo artist and below is a recent short interview with him, where he talks about Ace and their glorious one hit wonder….

18 With A Bullet: selected 70s chart hits from across the pond.

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, March 2022

And where better to start than the song that inspired the series title?

Eighteen With A Bullet by Pete Wingfield

A soulful homage to singers of the doo-wop era, ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ lived up to its name when it entered the American Billboard HOT 100 charts at number 18 (with a bullet) in 1975.

A hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the protagonist endeavours to woo his love interest with a series of double entendres, using hip music industry lingo to seal the deal.

“Be my A-side, baby, be beside me”

“So let me check your playlist Mama

A lover of soul music, Hampshire born Wingfield was an in-demand session keyboard player who also played live with BB King, The Hollies and Van Morrison.

Spotting his potential, Island Records gave him the opportunity to cut an album in 1975, sadly, it would be the only solo album album Wingfield would release but it spawned this classic track.

After his dalliance as a solo artist Wingfield went on to become a renowned producer and developer of talent, manning the boards for Dexys Midnight Runners debut album, ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ as well as the ‘Sunshine on Leith’ album for The Proclaimers.

Wingfield worked on numerous projects throughout the 80’s and 90’s including the Paul McCartney ‘Run Devil Run’ album, playing alongside McCartney, Dave Gilmour and Ian Paice.

Wingfield, McCartney, Gilmour & Pace

I confess to having nostalgic memories and a soft spot for this song.

I passed my driving test and got my first car in the summer of 75 and ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ was part of a treasured mix-tape alongside other 1975 goodies like… Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’, 10cc’s ‘I’m Not in Love’, Bee Gees ‘Jive Talking’ and ‘One of These Nights’ by The Eagles.

Hearing it now still takes me back to that summer and the freedom of being mobile for the first time.

Largely forgotten and rarely mentioned, ‘Eighteen With a Bullet’ made a comeback of sorts when it featured in the 1998 movie soundtrack for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and has more than earned its moniker as a bona fide ‘one hit wonder’