January 1975 saw the tide turn against the 1960s wave of liberalism. Enid Wistrich, chairman of the Greater London Council’s Film Viewing Board, put a motion to the GLC that ‘the Council cease to exercise its powers to censor films for adults over the age of 18’. If enacted, the proposal would have struck a decisive blow to censorship. But it wasn’t. The motion was rejected by 50 votes to 44. A decade on, and Ken Livingstone – who had been Wistrich’s deputy-chairman – apologized for being wrong: censorship, he’d been persuaded, was necessary after all.
This is the top ten for the week ending 18 January 1975.
- Status Quo, ‘Down Down’ (Vertigo)
This was the Quo’s only #1 single, and the public weren’t wrong. I’ve got nothing against their normal boogie stuff, but this is in a different class, a shiny wall of guitars that’s just relentless – even the pauses are menacing with the certainty that it’s just about to start again. Filling the gap between the Troggs and the Ramones (though without the idiot genius of either).
Looking through the press cuttings, though, I don’t appreciate Rick Parfitt being rude about the best American act of the time: ‘Sparks? They put over a gimmick but for how long can they last?’ Buffoon.
- Ralph McTell, ‘Streets of London’ (Reprise)
- Kenny, ‘The Bump’ (RAK)
Bill Martin and Phil Coulter had written and produced the Bay City Rollers records, making the group the biggest pop story of 1974. But the Rollers got restless, smarting from the charge that they didn’t play the music on their records, and after ‘All of Me Loves All of You’, they struck out on their own.
Abandoned by their most lucrative act, Martin and Coulter simply carried on. They had the name Kenny hanging around (previously attached to the Irish singer Tony Kenny, who’d released their song ‘Heart of Stone’ in 1973), and they had a potential hit with ‘The Bump’, a song thrown away on the B-side of their last Rollers single. So they put the two together and went in search of a band to mime on telly.
Here’s Kenny’s bassist Chris Redburn to pick up the story:
We had a little band called Legend, that would have been 1971 – I was at technical college. Then we had a band called Chuff after that, which was up to when Kenny started, more or less. Legend was Eric Clapton sort of stuff, ‘Badge’ and all that, but Chuff was all our own stuff, which was very strange: we were trying to do long numbers like Yes-type songs.
As Chuff we were doing all these strange sort of gigs: we did the Windsor Festival and all those legendary things. Cos we were a bit far out then. We were really into that, then the chance came along to do something commercial and make some money.
What happened was we got a gig at Enfield Polytechnic supporting the Troggs. A guy called Mac Nicholson from Starlight Artists was there and he saw us and said, ‘Give us a call and I’ll see what I can do.’ So I called him up the next week and he said, ‘It just so happens I know these guys Martin and Coulter who’re looking for a young band.’
They played us some tracks of what they wanted Kenny to do, and we went: ‘Don’t really fancy it, that’s not what we’re into, we want to do like Pink Floyd numbers and Yes songs.’ And they said, ‘Well yeah, but if you do this, you can make some money and get on TV.’ And we thought: ‘Yeah, great!’ Y’know, we had big open eyes. TV? Yeah, we’ll have some of that. So we did it and away we went.
Kenny would go on to have their own problems with Martin and Coulter, but for now they were happy to follow orders. Chris Redburn again:
The session guys were excellent musicians. I think Chris Spedding was probably on the original of ‘The Bump’, and Clem Cattini was the drummer. Those guys were red-hot players. It may sound like a very simple thing to do – ‘The Bump’ – but you try playing it as well as they did: it’s not easy. They were really good musos.
- Gloria Gaynor, ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ (MGM)
Side One of Gloria Gaynor’s debut album is a masterpiece. Just three songs – ‘Honey Bee’, this one, and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ – each of them topping six minutes and segueing into each other. This was not how we’d heard albums before. This was the dawning of the age of disco, and it was sounding good. Even separated out and trimmed, it’s a damn fine record.
- The Tymes, ‘Ms Grace’ (RCA)
I saw the Tymes once, but it was about twenty years after this, so how many of them were still the same singers, I have no idea. They were supporting Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and the Chi-Lites at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town, and a very splendid evening it was. This was a #1 hit in Britain, though it only made #91 in America. More fools them, because it’s a fantastic, soft swing of a record.
- Billy Swan, ‘I Can Help’ (Monument)
I love Billy Swan very greatly. His mix of quiet rockabilly, country and western is the sort of thing that brings me much pleasure. Wistful, gentlemanly, comfortable – as if Peter Skellern had been born on the banks of the Mississippi rather than the Irwell.
This was his biggest hit by some considerable margin and (I hope) will keep him in royalties for the rest of his life. It’s not, though, his best by any means, and nor was the album that was hastily rushed out in its wake. If you’re not familiar with his subsequent work, I’d strongly recommend starting with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Moon’, ‘Just Want to Taste Your Wine’ and ‘Swept Away’.
- David Essex, ‘Stardust’ (CBS)
‘Rock On’ is generally cited as David Essex’s finest work, but for me this is the absolute pinnacle. Barely a song, but what an arrangement and what a production! The fullness of the orchestral stabs at 1:18. The way the last note of the guitar solo dies into the strings from 1:45…
So let’s talk about the guitar solo. Chris Spedding had worked for Jeff Wayne for a few years now, mostly playing on advertising jingles, and he was suitably respectful of the producer’s work with Essex: ‘He didn’t take the easy route and do bubblegum for the little kids, he did really serious, crafted records.’
But the most celebrated of those records relied on bass, not guitar. ‘That thing that Herbie Flowers did for “Rock On” was amazing,’ reflected Spedding ruefully. ‘There was no guitar on that – to my chagrin, because that was his biggest hit and I wasn’t on it.’ He made up for that absence with this masterpiece. In my estimation, nothing’s going to better Mick Ronson on Mott the Hoople’s even more elegiac ‘Saturday Gigs’, but this is my all-time second-favourite guitar solo.
Essex himself was a fully fledged teen idol by now, the kind who got besieged in Broadcasting House by hundreds of screaming girls. ‘We haven’t seen anything like it since the good old days of the Beatles,’ said a BBC spokesman.
- Mud, ‘Lonely this Christmas’ (RAK)
- Disco Tex & the Sex-o-lettes, ‘Get Dancing’ (Chelsea)
And we’ve been here before as well.
- Wizzard, ‘Are You Ready to Rock’ (Warner Bros)
This was the first Roy Wood record I ever bought, so I have a deep attachment to it. Well, you tended to get attached to records in those days because you had so damn few of the things to listen to. I still enjoy it – it’s like an intelligent, knowing take on Freddy Bell and the Bell Boys, and who can resist a rock ‘n’ roll bagpipe solo? – but I’m prepared to accept that it looms larger in my memory than in those of others.
The TV appearances were perhaps the last of the truly unhinged glam performances, going back to the days (only a year or two ago) when Wizzard, Slade and Sweet would turn up in original outfits each time, trying to outdo each other for excess and stupidity. That era was over now. Disco had finished it off, and 1975 was more about matching costumes than motley chaos.
previously in Revive 45: