Tag Archives: Seventies

Desert Island Distractions (The Music)

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London.

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).

Three albums

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

Home at Last, featuring the famous Purdie Shuffle


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….

1972 – All The Young Dudes

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London

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.

1971 RELEASES

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.

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill
Little Feat – Sailin Shoes

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….

18 With A Bullet – Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, 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.

Paul McCartney with Hamish Stuart
Stevie Wonder

Bill Withers passed away in 2020, aged 81, but his legacy and his signature song live on.

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like

Paul Fitzpatrick: June 2022, London

After a bit of prompting from one of my kids I visited an Everyman Cinema recently, and it was quite the experience.

On entering the cinema I was greeted warmly by staff who explained the set up and asked if I wanted anything from the bar (beer, cocktails, wine, soft drinks), or from the kitchen (tapas, burgers, pizza, snacks) which they could serve to my seat in the cinema, (there are trays attached to the armrests).

The cinema itself is a lesson in tasteful opulence where luxurious armchairs, and sofas that are dangerously comfortable, replace the standard cinema layout, the screen is the perfect size and the sound system is impressive.

Everyman Cinema

Before the film starts, a member of staff introduces the movie and reminds the audience that the team are available to serve any further refreshments to your seat during the film.

As it turned out, the movie I went to see (Everything, Everywhere All At Once) was a bit weird, as most movies about the multiverse tend to be, however the overall experience was such that I can’t wait to go back.

The level of service, the comfort factor and the food and drink were all ten out of ten, and it was probably the best cinema experience since my first trip to the ABC minors as a 10 year old.

I did ponder afterwards though…. ‘was this a glimpse of the future, or a nod to the past?

Have we been so conditioned to accept mediocre service now, that it’s a shock to the system when we actually receive some decent service?

Do we realise just how much we’ve been trained into doing things ourselves these days, even basic tasks that used to be part of the service?

I guess a classic example of this is self-service Petrol Stations.
It used to be the norm to get your petrol served, your oil checked, your windscreen wiped and your tyres looked over without leaving your car.
Nowadays you’re expected to do it all yourself then stand in line to pay whilst being subjected to the temptation of a ‘Ginster Pasty‘ or ‘three Mars bars for the price of two‘.

I often wonder if there’s still a place today for those old style petrol stations.
I completely get that it would be a niche operation, in the same way that Everyman Cinemas aren’t going to take over from multiplexes, but I’m sure some people would happily pay for that extra level of service (my missus for one!).

This self-service mentality also extends to shopping now, especially supermarkets where we’re herded to unmanned, self-checkouts, even though in most cases we know we’re probably going to require the support of shop staff who are now thin on the ground as they’ve been replaced by machines…..
It happens all the time – something won’t scan, or the till doesn’t recognise something in your basket, or you’ve bought something which requires proof of age, or you’ve used your own plastic bag, or you’ve purchased something with an electronic tag that requires removing.

Any number of reasons can trigger that wee red light that pings above your self-checkout station to alert staff that you need assistance, except when you look around there’s no staff to be found, or if you’re lucky, there’s one poor person dashing from checkout to checkout like a blue-arsed fly.

It’s a perfect example of a purported time-saving initiative actually adding time (and stress) to what should be a pretty mundane task.

Perhaps Don Henley had Sainsbury’s in mind when he sang…
“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”

Similarly, in department stores, you can now find yourself wandering about like a zombie looking for assistance, unlike the old days when you were swatting them away like flies.

The irony of this, is that compared to the 70s a lot of electrical items and household goods are now so complex that you require a degree in quantum mechanics to switch them on.
So, in an era where we really, really need access to knowledgeable staff who know their stuff, they’re scarce.

The whole self-service philosophy is based on spartan virtue: You make do with less, pay less and settle for adequacy rather than true satisfaction, but the frustration for most of us is, that the reduction in retail overheads and the stated improvement in efficiencies haven’t reduced retail prices.

Air travel is another example… we’re now conditioned to make our own bookings, action our own check-ins and print or download our own tickets, all for the privilege of getting to the airport 2 hours before take-off, so we can pay £5 to get dropped off, £6 for a pint and join numerous queues before boarding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology and for anything that saves time, but in lots of cases there’s no benefit, instead, it just feels like manipulation, and a sneaky transfer in responsibilities has resulted in the customer taking on all the heavy lifting.

I’m also reminded of the services that used to come to our doorsteps in the 60s and 70s, the Ascot or Bilsland Bakery vans that would navigate their way around the various West of Scotland housing schemes, offering cakes, bread, biscuits, milk and soft drinks.
Similarly, local farms would load up weekly and take their vans round the estates offering fresh produce, and of course there were the popular Garvies or Alpine vans that offered multiple flavours of fizzy pop direct to your door.

Retailing used to be based on convenience and service, but I guess it all got a bit Americanised, which meant we traded in ‘small and local‘ for ‘big and out of the way’, ‘two-for-one‘ offers, ‘meal deals’ and a free packet of Percy Pigs every once in a while.

So perhaps this Everyman Cinema model isn’t new or revolutionary after all, it’s simply a return to the halcyon days of being customer focused.

It certainly seems to be working for those guys.
Despite the multiplexes, despite the fact that it’s not the cheap option, Everyman now have 35 cinemas and are growing rapidly.




Karate In Scotland In The Seventies

Russ Stewart: London, June 2002

New hip or new car?  Unfortunately the former. 
Root cause analysis: a phenomenon in Scotland in the 70s. 

Bruce Lee films and the Scottish climate conspired to spawn an explosion in participation of the indoor pastime (not sport) of Karate.  

Further: my general uselessness at any sport involving a ball drew me to the Bearsden Primary located Shotokan Karate club in 1973, thence to the Allander club, Strathclyde University club and a number of dojos in Hong Kong and London. 

Scotland was recognised as the most successful small nation in international  competition karate during the 70s.
The Glasgow Shukokai based Kobe Osaka club produced good competition fighters.
At its peak Glaswegian Tommy Morris’ Kobe Osaka had hundreds of students across the world. 

Tommy Morris, Kobe Osaka Club

Another Scot, Gene Dunnett, a member of the GB team that defeated the Japanese National team in the 70s, took a guest training session at the Allander club fairly soon after his achievement.
A hard session I recall; training was harder in the 70s.  Alumni arthritis a consequence.
Press ups on knuckles, punching wooden boards, over extended stretches to enable high kicks……..

Gene Dunnett was amongst 3 Scots in the 10 man fighting team

However, competition karate is not really karate.

I parlayed modest skill and a limited number of combinations into a couple of silver medals at the Scottish University Championships in 1978.  Later, in 1980, as a member of the Royal Hong Kong Police Tai Kwan Do squad I was beaten by a 16 year old Chinese member of the Police Youth Club team. 

High participation numbers in Scotland drew top Japanese masters, such as Enoeda and Tomita, to give training sessions and grade students in local sport centres. 
Enoeda graded me green belt at an East Kilbride sports centre in 1975.
His eagle eye missed my shoddy round house kick. Perhaps the other 120 students distracted him. 

Glaswegian Dan Docherty died last December aged 67. 
I met him in 1980 in Hong Kong, when he was a Shotokan practitioner.
He switched to Tai Chi and won the 1980 SE Asia full contact knockdown championship, beating the much larger ( 21 stone) Roy Pink by a knockout. 


The Chinese master of the Wudang Tai Chi style made Dan, a fluent Chinese speaker, his successor. Dan had hundreds of  students worldwide and was an influential, controversial figure.
RIP Dan! 

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.

All Aboard the Yacht

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, May 2022

A common ice-breaker in the 70s was… “what kind of music are you into?”

Typical responses would be – Rock, Punk, Reggae, Soul, Prog, Glam, etc, but you’d rarely hear anyone reply…. ‘Smooth, light and catchy’.

However, if you were into the Doobie’s (Michael McDonald era), The Eagles, Hall & Oates or Christopher Cross in the late 70s then ‘smooth, light and catchy’ was fundamentally what you were buying into.  

It was a sound that was initially classified as ‘Soft Rock’ or ‘Adult Orientated Rock’…. not a description you’d want to crow about.

Fast forward 30 years and the very same sound was revived, repackaged and re-christened as ‘Yacht Rock’ (YR) by a bunch of guys who set up a comedy web-series that both lampooned and paid homage to the genre.

‘Yacht Rock’ the web-series, is set in LA’s Marina del Rey and fictionalises the life’s of 70s musicians like Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates, The Eagles and Steely Dan as they hang out, bicker and make music.

The show quickly attained cult status, with John Oates crediting it for rekindling interest in Hall & Oates as well as introducing a younger fanbase to the band.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s fun and well worth a catch-up on YouTube. It’s an easy watch with each episode lasting about 5 minutes.


The golden-era of Yacht Rock fell between 1976 to 1984 and whilst it’s a tricky genre to define, the music can be characterised as smooth and melodic, typically combining elements of jazz, soul, and rock….. the perfect music to listen to whilst you chill out on a yacht basking in the Californian sunshine… quaffing a few margaritas.

In terms of identifying the archetypal Yacht Rock sound, the following factors commonly apply…

High production values.
The inclusion of elite studio musicians and producers.
Lyrics about heartbroken foolish men, with bonus points if the word ‘fool’ is featured.
An upbeat rhythm driven by the electric piano, nicknamed the ‘Doobie Bounce’.

A perfect example of a Yacht Rock classic that ticks all the boxes is the Doobie Brothers… ‘What A Fool Believes’.


Following the web-series, the interest in Yacht Rock escalated and what started life as a parody developed into a bona fide genre, initiating documentaries, books, compilation albums, radio channels, playlists, live events, tribute bands and podcasts.

Initially an American phenomenon, Yacht Rock tribute bands and events are pretty widespread now and the inherent humour inspired by the web-series lives on, with bands like….. ‘Hot Dads in Tight Jeans’ and ‘Yachty by Nature’

Whilst the tribute-band scene flourishes in bars and smaller venues the appetite from the masses for the original acts is still very much alive.
Guys like Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers and Hall & Oates, are still selling out stadiums and larger venues whilst rolling out their 70s Yacht Rock hits.


It’s a tribute to its longevity and quality that the Yacht Rock sound is still actively being produced today, with new bands like ‘Young Gun Silver Fox’, and established artists, like Thundercat, who recently cut a track with Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins on vocals.

Ironically, for a genre that started out as a bit of fun, Yacht Rock can be taken a bit too seriously by some YR aficionados who like to go into great detail about why certain bands or songs attain Yacht Rock status whilst others don’t.
In answer to this, and with typical humour, a bunch of yacht rockers set up a website called Yacht or Nyacht? To help the uninitiated identify what’s yacht and what’s not!
https://www.yachtornyacht.com/

Truth be told, Yacht Rock escapes exact definition, and it’s hardly an exact science. For many listeners, it comes down to a feeling or a mood that can’t be found in other types of music
Simply put…. you’ll know a YR track when you hear it, but at least when anyone asks you what type of music you’re into you, you can now find a better way of saying ‘Smooth, light and catchy’.

I had fun collating a short Spotify playlist of some of my favourite Yacht Rock classics, (although a couple may be on the Nyacht list!) link below….

Bonus points for anyone who can identify how many tracks Michael McDonald features on?

18 With A Bullet: Horse With No Name by America

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

If like me you thought ‘Horse With No Name’ must have been written under a star-kissed New Mexico sky by a young troubadour then you’d only be half right.

It was actually written in a London bedsit and recorded at the home of Arthur Brown (yes, him of “Fire, I’ll take you to burn“) by Dewey Bunnell who was one third of a trio who imaginatively called themselves America because they were the sons of American servicemen stationed in Britain.

By 1971, the band still in their teens, had already released their debut album without much success and were packed off to Arthur Browns home-studio in Dorset by Warner Brothers with the brief to come up with a hit single.

Inspired by Salvador Dali paintings of surrealist deserts and fuelled with memories of growing up as airforce brats on military bases in Arizona and New Mexico. Early versions of the track were titled ‘Desert Song’ with Bunnell realising that the desert symbolised the tranquility he was searching for whilst the horse represented the means to reach this tranquility.

Released in December 1971, the song dovetailed perfectly with the singer-songwriter vibe of the time, which no doubt helped it to race up the UK charts, early January 72.

On the back of the songs European success, the bands debut album was re-issued to include the single and by March of that year, both the single and the album had reached the respective number one spots in the US charts, catapulting them to instant fame.


So far so good, but this rookie band and their mellow ‘soft-rock’ anthem would hit a few speed bumps along the way to the top of the charts.

On initial hearing, a large majority of people thought they were actually listening to Neil Young and when they realised it was a bunch of rookies mimicking their idol it resulted in a backlash from Neil’s loyal army of fans.
As fate would have it when the song eventually did get to number one, the record it knocked off the top perch was, you’ve guessed it, Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’.
(get it up ye Neil!)

Neil and his followers were far from happy that he’d been trumped by these young imposters, but to be fair, Bunnell never hid his admiration for Young and admitted that he’d always been a big influence on the band.

Apart from the accusation of plagiarism, the band also had to fend off allegations that the song contained sinister undertones, namely that the ‘Horse’ in the song, was a (not so subtle) reference to heroin.
Accused of promoting narcotics, radio stations in Kansas banned the song due to this misplaced reasoning.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, at a time when Bob Dylan’s verbal dexterity was the benchmark for troubadours, the band came under fire from critics and fellow artists alike… (step forward Randy Newman), for the simplistic nature of the songs lyrics…..

There were plants and birds and rocks and things

In his defence Bunnell explained that he was a teenager when he wrote the song in a mates bedsit and it was completed in under two hours as the lyrics and melody just came to him, as if he’d awakened from a dream.

Before starting this piece I wasn’t aware of any cover versions of note until I discovered that Michael Jackson had sampled the main acoustic riff from the song for a track released posthumously, called ‘A Place With No Name’.

It’s actually worth a listen, the trademark MJ grunts and yelps combined with the original two-chord backing track shouldn’t really work, and maybe they don’t, but it’s an interesting coming together.

Michael Jackson
Janet Jackson

This of course wasn’t the first time a Jackson family member had sampled a track by the band.
Janet Jackson also sampled America and their song ‘Ventura Highway‘ several years earlier on her platinum hit – ‘Someone To Call My Lover

No wonder Dewey Bunnell is worth a few quid!

Like a lot of classic 70s songs the popularity of ‘Horse With No Name’ has endured and finds new audiences with every generation.

As a recent example, who can forget the viral video of the young Amsterdam couple interpreting the song in their own way during the recent lockdown….

18 With A Bullet – She’s Gone by Hall & Oates

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

She’s Gone by Daryl Hall & John Oates

I can remember the first time I heard this song….

It was on an overnight coach journey from Glasgow to Blackpool for the September weekend in 1974. The lights on the coach were dimmed and the sax solo and wah-wah guitar seeped into my consciousness as I was entering that transitional stage from wakefulness to sleep

I went to buy the single as soon as I could but on the advice of the record store I ended up buying the album, ‘Abandoned Luncheonette,’ as it featured an unedited version of the song.

That turned out to be one of my smarter decision as it’s still a favourite to this day.

Despite high hopes the single and album sank without trace and Hall & Oates disappeared from the scene.
You can’t keep a good duo down however, and they came storming back in 76 with a stunning blue-eyed soul classic called ‘Sara Smile’ which would become a mega hit for them in the US.

On the back of this new found success, ‘She’s Gone’ was dusted down and re-released, and started to get the airplay and credit it deserved, becoming their next big hit.

The song, co-written by the duo was inspired by a New Years Eve date that never happened when John Oates got stood up and returned to his New York apartment alone and despondent, but with an idea for a song.


The resultant track and album was produced by the legendary Atlantic producer, Arif Mardin who’s credits include Aretha Franklyn, The Average White Band, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Carly Simon, Donny Hathaway and The Bee Gees.

If the song deserves high praise then it’s fair to say that the home-made promotional clip they made to support it in 1973 is not in the same league.

To put it in context the video was the duo’s two-finger response to their home town Philadelphia’s version of Top Of The Pops, and a request by them to lip-synch to the song during a live studio performance.

Aggrieved at the thought, Hall & Oates made their excuses, cut the home made video in an afternoon and sent the clip to the show.


On viewing the video the show refused to play it and were so offended by its content that they banned Philly natives, Hall & Oates from ever appearing on the show again, whilst also trying their damnedest to get the song banned from every radio station in Philly.

The video features Hall & Oates, their road manager and Sara Allen, Hall’s girlfriend at the time and the very same Sara from ‘Sara Smile’.

There are a few decent covers of ‘She’s Gone’, including a Lou Rawls version, but the best known is by the American soul/disco band, Tavares who’s version provided them with their big breakthrough hit in 1974.

In fact, when Hall & Oates re-released their original version of ‘She’s Gone’ two years later in 1976, most people complimented them on a great cover of a Tavares song!

Hall and Oates never looked back and would go on to become the most successful duo of all time with six number ones, eclipsing Simon and Garfunkel and the Carpenters.

18 With A Bullet – Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2022

Selected 70s hits from across the pond

I can’t claim to be religious but the odd times I do attend the Lord’s house for weddings, funerals or christenings, I generally struggle with the words to hymns, except for one.

Probably, like most people from my era, I’m not sure I even realised that ‘Morning Has Broken’ was a hymn before it became a pop song by Cat Stevens 40 years later.

The hymns lyrics written by English author and poet Eleanor Farjeon in 1931 were set to a traditional Scottish folk song called Bunessan, after a village of the same name on the isle of Mull.
The songs positive message was ‘to give thanks for each day’ and it was added to the updated hymnbook or ‘Songs of Praise’ of 1931.

Cat Stevens idea to include a version of the hymn on his 1971 ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ album was initially met with much resistance by his record label ‘Island’, who were busy trying to promote Stevens as the English James Taylor.
The albums producer Paul Samwell-Smith was also against the songs inclusion for more practical reasons as the hymn has no chorus and consists of only 4 verses which made it’s initial recording time a paltry 44 seconds long.

Undaunted, Stevens reached out to session musician Rick Wakeman to ask if he could help with a piano arrangement for the song.

On the day of recording, Wakeman, as part of his preparation, started playing some melodies he’d written for his ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ project.
Cat Stevens, impressed with what he’d just heard, said… “perfect Rick, let’s use that for ‘Morning Has Broken”!
Wakeman reluctantly agreed and basically came up with arrangements for the start, middle and end of the song, which extended the track to 3 minutes 20 seconds.


Delighted with his contribution, Wakeman was devastated to receive no credits on the album and for the meagre £10 he was offered for all his hard work.
Rick would have the last laugh though when Cat Stevens realised they had no idea how to play the song live on stage without Wakeman’s input.

Wakeman would perform his keyboard skills on some other classic tracks that year, including Life on Mars for Bowie and Get It On for T-Rex before joining the band Yes.
He did eventually forge a solo career and released ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ to critical acclaim in 73.

The ‘Teaser and the Firecat’ album would produce 3 hit singles – ‘Moonshadow’ and ‘Peace Train’ were both released with moderate success before ‘Morning Has Broken’, which became a massive global hit reaching number one in the US.

Stevens surfed a wave of success in the 70s with hit singles, hit albums, sell-out tours & great reviews…. and best of all, he even got to date Carly Simon & Joni Mitchell.
Maybe you can get too much of a good thing, and Stevens famously turned his back on his successful career after a near-death experience off the coast of Malibu when he feared he was drowning.
He allegedly cried out “God if you save me I will work for you” at which point a wave appeared and swept him to shore.

Auctioning off all his guitars and devoting his time to the Islamic faith, Stevens changed his name to Yusuf Islam but after two decades gradually returned to the public eye with new music and tours.

‘Morning Has Broken’, like ‘Amazing Grace’, is one of the few hymns that has crossed over from the church to the charts and Stevens deserves enormous credit but I can’t help but feel that the contribution of Wakeman with his beautiful piano arrangement, also deserves some songs of praise.

Below is a short but funny audio clip of Wakeman telling his side of the ‘Morning Has Broken’ story….

Rick Wakeman gives his side of the story