It was the month when the IRA exploded a bomb at the Houses of Parliament, when a National Front march was met by counter-demonstrators in Red Lion Square in London, leading to the first death of a protester in half a century, and when Jon Pertwee was regenerated as Tom Baker in Doctor Who. In West Germany, the football World Cup kicked off with Scotland as the only representative of the Home Nations – they lasted just over a week, before coming home at the end of the group stage.
And meanwhile this was the top 10 for the week ending 29 June 1974…
- Charles Aznavour, ‘She’ (Barclay)
The entertainment industry in Britain had admired Charles Aznavour for years, long before the public took notice. His acting was getting good reviews as far back as 1959, but since it was in films with subtitles, it never made much impact on the box-office. And from the mid-1960s on, British acts covered his songs without achieving great sales: Matt Munro’s minor hit ‘For Mama’, Sheila Carter-Dimmock from Episode Six making her solo debut with ‘I Will Warm Your Heart’, and Simon Napier-Bell’s groovy production of ‘You’ve Got to Learn’ by Diane Ferraz and Nicky Scott.
There was a growing awareness, though. In 1966 the man himself made his British debut, with a sold-out gig at the Royal Albert Hall, followed by an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1967 and a 40-minute special on BBC television. None of it made him a household name but he professed himself unconcerned. ‘I don’t regard Britain as a market, but as a public,’ he told the press in 1966. ‘If I am not in your Top 10, I don’t care. But I sing the records that your radio stations ban. I sing about love – deep love.’ Well, maybe, but by 1969 he was appearing in Michael Winner’s film The Games, and guesting on Tom Jones’s TV show, while Barclay Records were promoting his English-language recordings, starting with the album Aznavour Sings Aznavour.
There was a definite push to make him a star and he began to be seen on TV shows hosted by the light entertainment likes of Russell Harty, Lulu and Vera Lynn. He was one of our token Europeans, joining Nana Mouskouri and Sacha Distel. And then came this song, used as the theme music for ITV’s little remembered series Seven Faces of Woman, and the country fell in love with him. It remains his best-known, if not best, song.
‘She’ was written in English and released first in Britain. Apparently it sold well on import in France, before being released there as ‘Tous les visages de l’amour’.
- Gary Glitter, ‘Always Yours’ (Bell)
The good news was that Gary was back onto rock ’n’ roll after a couple of ballads, and back on top of the charts – this had been #1 the previous week. It wasn’t much of a song, but it sounded good, all shiny and frantic, thanks to the production of Mike Leander. He was the real talent on the records and, according to Eddie Seago, who worked with Leander (they’d had their first co-written hit with Vanity Fare’s ‘Early in the Morning’ in 1969), the recording process was all about him: ‘Gary was in the studio for moral support, but he was out of it for most of the time anyway.’
Seago did, though, recognize the extraordinary salesmanship of the man who used to be Paul Gadd. ‘Gary’s bit, which he’s very good at, is being on stage and being Gary Glitter. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day you’re not talking about a great singer here.’ Or, in the words of Glitter Band member John Springate: ‘Nobody else could have been Gary – it requires an enormous amount of ego to be that character. No one else can come near him as far as ego goes.’
- Ray Stevens, ‘The Streak’ (Janus)
The earliest British newspaper reference I can find to streaking is in January 1974: ‘American housewives,’ we were told, were ‘joining in a current craze for streaking which involves racing through the streets late at night absolutely starkers’. By March there were incidents being reported all across Britain, from Newcastle to Bournemouth, including the first at a football match: a man streaking at half-time in an FA Trophy 4th-round match between Bedford Town and Morecambe (the Shrimps beat the Eagles by a goal to nil).
It was the ‘fastest growing fad since the heady days of those other great crazes, the yoyo and the hula-hoop,’ and explanations were sought: ‘Police believe that drink is playing a major part in the streaking craze,’ according to one paper. Not much got past the rozzers back then.
MPs were soon lining up to harrumph for the media. First out of the blocks was Marcus Lipton, the elderly Labour member for Brixton, who suggested that streakers should be arrested and ‘brought before magistrates covered only by a blanket’. There were indeed prosecutions in March 1974 in Belfast, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Llandudno, London, and fines ranged from £10 to £40 (the latter represented a week’s wages for a manual worker).
Why am I telling you all this? Well, to avoid having to discuss Ray Stevens’s terrible record, of course. The mid-1970s saw a great many novelty hits, and while this wasn’t the worst, it wasn’t any good either.
- Showaddywaddy, ‘Hey Rock and Roll’ (Bell)
In 1973 two East Midlands groups – the Choise and the Golden Hammers – amalgamated to form the eight-piece Showaddywaddy. (It was the ’70s: overmanning was fashionable.) They were an instant success on the northern club circuit, going on to win the snout-sponsored Players No. 6 Top Town Talent Competition in September that year, a national contest with a final staged at Bailey’s nightclub in their home-town Leicester. ‘The scene was incredible,’ it was reported of the final. ‘Members of the audience jumped on to the tables, banners were waved and hordes of young girls stormed on to the stage.’
The prize was £1,000 and a recording test with Polydor Records, who were represented on the judging panel by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington. ‘The one thing they didn’t have was original material,’ remembered Bickerton, ‘so we had a chat with them and we played this stuff to them.’ The ‘stuff’ included ‘Sugar Baby Love’, a song originally intended for the Eurovision Song Contest. ‘Initially they said, “Yeah this sounds good, let’s do it”. Then there was a bit of a change of heart.’ The song ended up with the Rubettes instead.
Polydor were still interested, but by then a much bigger talent show, ITV’s New Faces, was waiting in the wings. This is singer Dave Bartram on that first appearance:
We did a medley of classics, a bit of Buddy Holly, a bit of Eddie Cochran – it was a very visual, fast-moving, hard-hitting four minutes of trying to show what Showaddywaddy was all about.
I remember the judging panel for us on the first show was Mickie Most, Noele Gordon and Clement Freud. All Clement Freud wanted to talk about was my set of teeth, so there wasn’t really any constructive criticism from that end. Noele Gordon was a very nice lady, but she might as well have been on a different planet, but Mickie Most was very constructive and gave us a very high mark. He certainly tried to sign us and Tony Hatch wanted a piece of the pie.
The group won their heat and went on to the grand final in January 1974, when they were beaten into second place by Tom Waite. (‘It was fixed,’ according to Bartram.) Several record companies were paying attention, but it was Bell who won out, largely because they wanted the band to write their own material and develop their own style. Which was important to Bartram: ‘The problem at that time with the writing teams was it was very much their sound, rather than the band’s sound, and we were very disturbed by that.’
This was the first single, a song credited to all eight members. And a terrific piece of work it was as well: lots of rock ’n’ roll clichés about blue jeans and limousines, given a glam sheen by producer Mike Hurst (formerly of the Springfields).
- Peters and Lee, ‘Don’t Stay Away Too Long’ (Philips)
I refer the honourable member to the answer I gave some weeks ago.
- Leo Sayer, ‘One Man Band’ (Chrysalis)
Leo Sayer’s second hit was a song he’d written with David Courtney for Roger Daltrey’s debut solo album the previous year. Daltrey’s version was okay, but he wasn’t half the singer that Sayer was, so you shouldn’t worry too much about it. This, on the other hand, is a great performance.
- Lobo, ‘I’d Love You to Want Me’ (UK)
This got to #1 on the American Adult Contemporary charts, which means it was big with housewives in Wisconsin. And indeed their counterparts in Wolverhampton, since it spent six weeks in the top 10 here. If you found Bread a bit too rowdy, then the vibrato vocals and lightweight pop of Roland Kent LaVoie, better known as Lobo, might well have been the answer.
- The Drifters, ‘Kissin’ in the Back Row’ (Bell)
Founded by Clyde McPhatter in 1953, the Drifters were the most successful vocal band in the first decade of rock ’n’ roll. But eventually the run of hits dried up, and in 1971 their long-standing label, Atlantic Records, pulled the plugs. ‘They more or less dropped us,’ remembered singer Johnny Moore. ‘I feel kinda bad about that, because I got a special feeling for Atlantic: I did my first recording for them in 1955. But Bell came along just in the nick of time to save our careers.’
Bell Records was an American company, but the group signed to the British arm, which had become an independent venture under Dick Leahy in 1972. That was the year that a reissue of the Drifters’ classic ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’ hit the top three in Britain, and Leahy, convinced there was life left in the old dog, placed the band with songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. ‘Roger Greenaway was the man who was close to us,’ said Moore. ‘I think he was a Drifters fan. He wrote things for us, and he was spot on. It was a hands-on thing. They were like sequels to the songs we did back in the 60s.’
There had long been a production-line attitude towards Drifters records, and there was no difference now. ‘Roger would make a tape, send it to the hotel where we were staying,’ was Moore’s memory. ‘I would learn the lead, he would drive me down to the studio, record it and go back to the venue. All in one day. No more than three, four takes.’
Now forty years old, Moore was the only one of the 1950s line-up left, and the only Drifter to appear on the Bell releases. Apart from him, it was the usual roster of session men who made so many of the era’s hits. There was guitarist Chris Spedding (‘I know there weren’t any Drifters there, because there were no black people in the studio’), pianist Mike Moran (‘I did all those Drifters records and never saw them’) and ubiquitous vocalist Tony Burrows: ‘I was a Drifter. Roger Greenaway only used to let Johnny Moore sing on the records – the others took too long in the studio, so I used to sing on them.’
This was the biggest of the Bell singles, peaking at #2, and the only one to do anything at all in America, where it made the top 100 in the r&b charts.
- Arrows, ‘A Touch too Much’ (RAK)
They were supposed to be massive, a good-looking trio with songs written by Chinn and Chapman and produced by Mickie Most. Not only that, but the two frontmen – ex-pat Americans Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker – could write decent songs themselves.
But somehow it never worked out, and this was their only top 20 hit, a nice enough piece of glam bubblegum, if not a classic of the genre. Maybe if they’d got their TV series earlier (their show ran in 1976–77), they might have done better. But then they wouldn’t have been on air when the Runaways toured Britain, which means Joan Jett wouldn’t have seen them performing their own song ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’ and wouldn’t have gone on to release her fabulous cover.
- Alan Price, ‘The Jarrow Song’ (Warner Brothers)
I’ve enthused elsewhere about Alan Price’s 1974 album Between Today and Yesterday, one of the great records of the decade. Drawing on the working-class history of the North East, he came up with his best set of songs, arranged beautifully by Derek Wadsworth. At a time when the economy was in freefall and class conflict was back on the agenda, Price was one of the few musicians to have a hit with a protest song.
This was the year that Sir Keith Joseph was fighting to redirect the Conservative Party away from what were seen as the compromises of Edward Heath, laying the foundations for what would become Thatcherism. In a 1974 speech, he dismissed those who feared the return of the Depression years: ‘We talked ourselves into believing that these gaunt, tight-lipped men in caps and mufflers were round the corner, and we tailored our policy to match these imaginary conditions. For imaginary they were.’ Alan Price put the alternative position.
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