Tag Archives: Pickwick

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort

Paul Fitzpatrick: January 2023

Every now and then we get invited to write articles for other blogs.

Recently we were asked to submit a piece on our ‘favourite number one single’, at which point I realised that very few good songs actually made it to the top of the UK charts in the 70s.

There were a few exceptions of course – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, “Maggie May” and a few others, but in truth there wasn’t a lot to work with.

I think it’s true that most beloved songs are beloved because they evoke memories and there’s one particular number one from 1970 which takes me back, as a 12 year old, to the first social event of my own choosing, the youth club disco – a rites of passage if ever there was one.

At 12 you have to handle that unsettling transition from primary to high-school – in status terms you go from being a big fish to a teeny tadpole.
At the same time hormones are kicking-in and some of your friends have baritone’s and fuzzy facial hair whilst others squeak like Barry Gibb.

It is a trigger for change though and one of the big changes for me was getting interested in music, which was recognised by my lovely mum who came home one day with the *Top of the Pops volume 12 album, featuring hits from – Free, The Kinks, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Cat Stevens.

Captivated by the cover, (remember the hormones were kicking in) I proceeded to take control of the family gramophone, but after a few tracks my enthusiasm for this treasure-trove of hits began to wain.

Free’s Paul Rodgers’, or should I say the imposter who was trying to emulate him, sounded like a pub singer with laryngitis, John Fogarty’s Rickenbacker definitely needed re-tuning, and “Lady D’Arbanville” was more cats chorus than Cat Stevens.

The Pickwick Paul Rodgers murdering “All Right Now”

Of course, I had no idea at the time that the reason Pickwick could compile all the hits of the day for such good value, AND position a diversionary-tactic glamour puss on the cover, was because the original artists were nowhere to be seen.

It was a genius concept, aimed at two types of consumer – those who were quite happy to hear covers and those who wanted to peer at the COVERS.

Anyway, back to the youth club disco, it may have been 52 years ago but there are a couple of things that have always stuck with me….

First of all, despite the relatively small age-gap, the gulf between us young uns and the youth club veterans who were all of 14 or 15, was seismic. They were so much more mature and sophisticated – particularly the girls with their make-up, mini-skirts and tank-tops who looked like they’d jumped off the cover of the aforementioned Top of the Pops albums.

Secondly, the music….. apart from the Kelvin Hall carnival I’d never been anywhere where the music was so good… or played so ear-splittingly loud.
Every song the DJ played was a classic and to be fair we handled the volume pretty well until Sabbath’s “Paranoid” scattered us from our perch beside the speakers.

It was an all-out attack to the senses but we were quite happy sitting in the peripheries, drinking our fizzy-pop, taking everything in, and letting the epic soundtrack wash over us.

This was way more fun than watching Val Doonican with the family on a Saturday night.

Coming back to the music, it was a bit of a golden-age for singles and if you look down the list of 70s number one’s, you’ll struggle to see a hot streak of number one’s to match the following in 1970.

The sequence kicked off with two soul classics, compulsory picks on any decent jukebox – Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold”.

“Woodstock” by Matthews Southern Comfort was next off the rank, followed by Jimi Hendrix’s posthumous “Voodoo Chile”.

The year was closed out by Dave Edmund’s “I hear You Knocking” which stayed at number one for 6 weeks before being replaced with Clive Dunn’s “Grandad”
The quirkiness of the UK record buying public, was never too far away.

I remember hearing all of those songs that night, along with Purple’s “Black Night”, McGuinness Flint’s “When I’m Dead and Gone” and T-Rex’s “Ride a White Swan”, but the track that takes me back to that church-hall every time I hear it is “Woodstock”, penned by Joni Mitchell and performed by Matthews Southern Comfort.

Joni’s an icon, but in 1970 I had no idea who she was, or who Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were. The fact that Matthews Southern Comfort’s rendition of “Woodstock” was the third version of the song to be released that year, was news to me.

All I knew was that it had a great melody and a very trippy vibe…..
“we are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves, back to the garden”.

I had zero awareness at the time that it was a hippy anthem about the Woodstock Festival, or that it had been composed by a pissed-off Joni Mitchell, confined to watching live coverage of the festival in her hotel room – coerced by her then manager to appear on the Dick Cavett show instead of performing at Woodstock.

Mitchell’s version had been released as the B side to “Big Yellow Taxi” and whilst CSN&Y’s version was mega in America and Canada, the version by Matthews Southern Comfort, fronted by former Fairport Convention vocalist Ian Matthews was the most successful internationally, giving them their one and only big hit.
A life-changing moment, which as it turns out, was a happy accident.

It all started when Matthews’ newly put together band were invited to record four live songs for a BBC session but with only three prepared they hurriedly put together an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” on the spot.

As it turned out their ad hoc rendition of “Woodstock” was so well received that they were encouraged to put it out as a single, something their record company weren’t keen on and only agreed to if CSN&Y’s version didn’t chart in the UK, which fortunately proved to be the case for Matthews.

With the song recorded, released and struggling to sell due to zero record company promotion or support, the third piece of luck kicked in when Tony Blackburn made “Woodstock” his record of the week, duly catapulting the single up the charts to the number one spot, where it stayed for 3 weeks.

Alas, this was Matthews Southern Comfort’s only chart success and the song has predictably fallen into the category aptly titled – ‘One Hit Wonder’.

I grew to love the Joni Mitchell original, and I’ve listened to most versions of the song including an interesting up-tempo interpretation by Stephen Stills, featuring Jimi Hendrix on bass & Buddy Miles on drums, however, the Matthews Southern Comfort version is still the best – well to this 12-year-old anyway!

(*If you want to read more on the Top of The Pops catalogue of albums, Colin posted a great article. Click here for more)

now that’s what i call compilation music!

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson, of Glasgow – March 2021)

Volume #1 – June 1968

If proof were needed to illustrate just how much music influenced our younger years, you need look no further than this very blog: in less than five weeks, posts broadly centred around Mott the Hoople; Rory Gallagher; The Who; Ian Gillan (Deep Purple) and also The Apollo, Glasgow, have garnered over two thousand hits.

And that’s from only a small, sample representation of the music genres that blossomed throughout The Seventies.

Those of us at school during the decade will remember kids wandering round the playground with LPs under their oxters, proudly displaying their allegiance to Yes. Or Wishbone Ash. Tangerine Dream, maybe?

Those with less pretentious taste of course, would carry their favourite albums in plastic bags. They probably contained works by Mott the Hoople; Rory Gallagher; The Who or Deep Purple. But you could never really be sure. Equally, the secreted album could have been ‘Electric Warrior,’ or ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.’ Maybe it was ‘Rollin’’ or ‘Cherish,’ ‘Crazy Horses’ or ‘Rock On.’ Who knows?

In all likelihood, though, it wouldn’t have been one of these – a Hallmark label, Top of the Pops compilation. To draw one of these babies from a Listen Records bag in front of your pals would have been the death of cool. Ominous sounding, single peals of a heavy bell would ring out; tumbleweed would roll. Children would run and hide beneath their mothers’ long flowing skirts.


Volume #25 – July 1972
Volume # 23 -April 1972
Volume #29 – Feb 1973

I often wondered who bought these albums. They were immensely popular, so a great many people obviously did. Then I realised it was actually people like me who bought them. And you.

Or at least our parents did. Whether they did that in some futile attempt at resurrecting their youth (you know – kind of like what we’re doing with this blog!) or genuinely trying to do the best by their kids, goodness only knows.

The rationale for buying these albums was obviously sound. Being classed as ‘budget’ releases, they were considerably cheaper than those of established ‘chart acts;’ they boasted between twelve and sixteen tracks, so, more bang for your buck; to buy all the tracks in 7” ‘single’ format would have been prohibitive for many people, and the compilation comprised current, very recent and predicted chart hits.


I still have the several of the Volumes that my parents bought – I remain steadfast in my assertion that I did not actually pay for any myself!

Volume # 15 – Jan 1971

Volume # 18 – July 1971

The observant reader will notice that the central image is not from the Top of the Pops series. Rather, it was released by Hallmark’s rivals, Music For Pleasure, who were first to exploit the compilation market. This particular one was the first such album into our household, closely followed by TotP Volumes #15 and #18, from January and July 1971 respectively.

The green covered Volume #18 is memorable for two reasons. It was the first of two in the series to reach Number 1 in the album charts, deposing The Moody Blues album, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,’ believe it or not! And, having watched the Top of the Pops TV episode on Thursday, my mother sought a refund from the shop she’d bought it from two days prior, because, she spat, “…that Marc Bolan ‘person’ looks dirty.”

The fact I still have that volume in my collection indicates the course that particular conversation took.

(For all you Pop Pickers out there, the other to reach Number 1 in the charts, was Volume #20 in November 1971. This one had covers of Maggie May, Sultana and Tweedle Dee, Twedle Dum, and ten others. The Chart company though, soon acceded to protests from other labels and artists, and disallowed budget priced albums from chart computations, reasoning they held an unfair selling advantage.)

The producers of these albums never pretended they were anything other than covers. But having grown up on a diet of yellow label food and imitation leather ankle boots, they had me fooled for a year or two. I didn’t know any better. And looking back, in those days before tape recorders, never mind CDs and this new-fangled streaming thing, the albums were a good lead into hearing new music.

In fact, were it not for my favourite, Volume #19 from September 1971, I may not have discovered bands like Curved Air, or appreciated George Harrison’s solo output.

When I did learn the terrible truth, though, I felt let down. Betrayed.

This could also have been in part to my now having earned money of my own. Paper rounds opened up a whole new world to me. The power of spending; the power of choice.

I learned what John Kongos and The Sweet actually sounded like. I wanted the real deal, and with cash to burn, I craved originality.

My interest in the Top of the Pops and other such compilations quickly waned. My last volume was #21 in December 1971, the Christmas chart edition, given to me by a now out-of-touch Santa Claus.

I immediately considered the performers on these albums to be amateurs; poor imitators of the originals – which I now know to be completely wrong. These folk were respected and hard-working, professional session musicians. Their number included a chap, Elton John, who went on to do rather well for himself. There was also a young woman named Tina Charles and a bloke called Trevor Horn who graduated via this process.

Actually, in the interest of research for this piece, I played through my copy of Volume #18 – and it really wasn’t so bad. Stop laughing, it wasn’t! (Oh, all right – cut me some literary slack here, please.)

In total the Top of the Pops albums series, which ran to ninety-one regular volumes between 1968 and 1982, was like most things ‘Seventies’ – revered at the time; dismissed through ensuing decades, but now regarded with some kitsch fondness. Costing between 75p and £1.25 back in the day, many volumes can now be found online at around eight pounds.

Love them, loathe them or simply leave them, these early to mid Seventies compilations were certainly iconic of the decade.

Hello. My name’s Jackie. I’m a Sweet fan ….. and I love early Seventies Top of the Pops albums.

Volume #16 – March 1971