February 1975 saw Margaret Thatcher elected as leader of the Conservative Party, an achievement celebrated by the handful of Labour women then in the Commons. ‘I am very pleased,’ said Gwyneth Dunwoody, while Joyce Butler went further: ‘Absolutely splendid. I am delighted. It is time we had women in the top jobs.’ And Shirley Williams added, ‘I cannot help admitting privately, as a woman, being pleased to see that in the Tory Party, of all parties, a woman has broken through.’
This is the top ten for the week ending 15 February 1975.
- Pilot, ‘January’ (EMI)
I mean, I could enthuse at some length about Pilot (the band that Wings could’ve been), but who wants to hear that, when we have David Paton to talk about them instead?
Both he and Billy Lyall, the two frontmen, had briefly been members of the Bay City Rollers, something that Paton felt counted against them in their new incarnation:
I think we may have been categorized as being something that wasn’t too serious, I don’t really know. Perhaps the promotion of Pilot was in a kind of teenybop way, because it was a very fashionable thing at that time. And coming from the same town as the Rollers, and always having that, it put us in a bag along with teenybop, which was the big thing then.
I suppose we had a certain element of that. You can’t help that if you’re 23-years old and fairly acceptable looking, you get the girly fan thing. But we brought Ian Bairnson into the band, who – I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying this – is no God’s gift to women. But a superb musician, and to me that was the important thing. I thought it would bring some credibility to the band to have somebody who’d be recognized as being a very talented musician.
Above all we were reluctant pop stars – we really didn’t want it.
Billy Lyall and I were creating music, and we’d written about a hundred songs together before we even thought about forming a band. When I was playing at Tiffany’s in Edinburgh, I was performing ‘Magic’, which I’d written two years before Pilot came about, and I had so many people say to me: ‘Who wrote that song? And how can I get hold of it?’ And I thought, well it’s about time we did something.
But I was a very reluctant frontman – I’m very happy playing bass somewhere. I enjoy music so much, and playing so much, that it’s very fulfilling. Fronting the band and having all the responsibility was just a bit too much for me really.
We were maybe overwhelmed by it a bit. We were a bit reluctant to become successful, which is a strange thing to say when you think you start in the music business because you love the music so much. I think Billy Lyall and I had had our fill of touring and, having been in the Bay City Rollers, we’d had a taste of what it’s like to have girls screaming at you. Although the Rollers hadn’t broken nationwide at that time, in Edinburgh they were extremely popular – we couldn’t go anywhere without girls approaching us.
We were fed up with that, because we found that as being very trivial, and we really didn’t want that. We wanted success, but we didn’t want that; we didn’t see credibility in that at all. It made us very reluctant, but we realized that if we wanted the exposure for our songs and recognition as songwriters, we’d have to go through all that.
- The Carpenters, ‘Please Mr Postman’ (A&M)
I like the Carpenters a great deal – as does everyone – but this one never did much for me. I think it’s because the rhythm’s too cluttered. Anyway, it’s American, so it falls outside the remit of this site.
- Mac and Katie Kissoon, ‘Sugar Candy Kisses’ (Polydor)
Brother and sister act Mac & Katie Kissoon had been releasing singles since 1970, with some success in Europe, but this was their biggest hit here. It was written and produced by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington, who also gave us the Rubettes, and here’s Bickerton remembering the record:
There was a session where we had ‘Sugar Candy Kisses’ and a song that a friend of mine, Neil Sedaka, had written called ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’. It didn’t work out with this particular artist and it seemed a shame because we thought we had something quite exciting. Especially as we’d been lucky enough to have H.B. Barnum, who was in town with Aretha Franklin, to do the arrangements.
We laid down some great tracks – I think we did ‘Like a Butterfly’, ‘Sugar Candy Kisses’, ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ – all strong stuff, but it wasn’t working. So Peter Walsh, who I knew, was managing Mac and Katie Kissoon and they came down to try it. They’d had a few hits and gone quiet, and I think it was good for them – ‘Sugar Candy Kisses’ was a big record for them.
- The Glitter Band, ‘Goodbye My Love’ (Bell)
Glam rock died at the end of 1974, but the Glitter Band navigated the changing times rather well, and turned themselves into a very decent powerpop group – still stomping, but much more song-based than they had been. Consequently, they had a good year, as bassist John Springate explains:
’75 was manic ‘cos we were doing Gary’s tours and we were doing our own tours so we were virtually on the road all the time. I think that’s when it really started getting a bit taxing on us. It was hard work.
It also brought the pressures of stardom:
The trouble with being successful in that cocooned world is that you can’t go out between the hours of half past three and half past five, because the schools come out. You just can’t go out – it’s a nightmare. I lived at home with my mum, used to live in a block of flats in Blackheath, and there’d be kids hanging around all through the night, waiting for you to come home.
It’s not so much you that changes initially, it’s the people around you that change: the way they look at you, the way they treat you, they become very different to you, they put you on a pedestal, so you rise to that occasionally, you go on that pedestal. To be honest, we were fucking horrible really, obnoxious to fuck. But you get like that.
- Helen Reddy, ‘Angie Baby’ (Capital)
Although this was Helen Reddy’s third #1 in America – following ‘I Am Woman’ and ‘Delta Dawn’ – it was her only hit here. But what a hit! It’s like a Saki short story set to a funky country backing.
- Kenny, ‘The Bump’ (RAK)
As discussed last month.
- Johnny Wakelin & the Kinshasa Band, ‘Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)’ (Pye)
Here’s Brighton-born singer-songwriter Johnny Wakelin to introduce his first and biggest hit:
I was a big boxing fan and, to be honest, I needed something to write about that would catch people’s eye, which would almost guarantee it being a hit. And I came up with the right sort of song, which had a sort of West Indian flavour to it, which was quite popular stuff at the time. And consequently it was a hit – possibly it got off the ground because of people’s admiration for Muhammad Ali – but I needed something to get in the door. It was the first record I ever made, and it was a monster hit. And you think: ‘Oh, if it’s as easy as that…’
It helped that Wakelin could call on the help of the greatest PR man in the world:
Just after Muhammad Ali’s fight with George Foreman, he came over to do a speaking tour, and I saw him at the Victoria Palace, the first one he did. It was at the time when we were trying to break ‘Black Superman’, trying to get airplay, and my manager of the time stood up in the aisle and said, ‘Mr Ali, did you know there’s been a song written about you?’ So Ali got some gear from somewhere put on the stage and played the record, and he was dancing and he loved it. And the next day in the press there were pictures of him meeting people and telling them that he was the black Superman. And radio stations noticed the record, and that’s really what got it off the ground.
- Donnie & Marie Osmond, ‘Morning Side of the Mountain’ (MGM)
I like Donny & Marie’s records. Their voices work together rather nicely. The original recording of this song was by Tommy Edwards in 1951, though the Donny & Marie version was more influenced by his teenbeat 1958 re-recording.
- Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’ (EMI)
Cockney Rebel were one of the greatest bands Britain ever saw, but they only released two albums, and then split at the end of an acrimonious tour in the summer of 1974. Steve Harley put a new band together, with his name firmly separated out at the front this time. And he wrote this song about the bitterness of the split, a sarcastic, defiant rebuke to his erstwhile colleagues.
I don’t think he ever recaptured the brilliance of that original line-up, but I also think that this is quite possibly the most perfect English pop single ever released. And in this footage, you can marvel at the boys in the band pretending to sing backing vocals that are actually the work of Linda Lewis, Tina Charles and others.
- Wigan’s Chosen Few, ‘Footsee’ (Pye)
In his book Cider with Roadies,* the pop journalist Stuart Maconie dismisses this as a worthless novelty, but I quite like it. An old and very obscure Canadian record by a band called the Chosen Few, it was remixed and rebranded to cash-in on the Northern Soul scene that record companies in the South were just starting to notice. Nothing wrong with novelties.
* This is a very funny and clever title for a book, because it’s a play on Laurie Lee’s autobiographical volume Cider with Rosie (1959).
previously in Revive 45