This was when it became clear that something had gone very wrong: the inflation rate in the twelve months to July 1975 hit 26 per cent. On the other hand, it was a good Wimbledon, with Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King winning the men’s and women’s singles respectively. And up in space, the Soyuz-Apollo link-up suggested that international cooperation was possible at a scientific level (the music played to accompany this historic moment was War’s ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’). It was also the month of the terrorist attack on the Miami Showband in Northern Ireland, with three band-members murdered by the UVF.
This is the top 10 for the week ending 5 July 1975.
- 10cc, ‘I’m Not in Love’ (Mercury)
‘It was a toss-up between “Life is a Minestrone” and “I’m Not In Love”,’ said Graham Gouldman, explaining why the outstanding track on 10cc’s new album wasn’t released as the lead single. ‘There’d been quite a long gap between Sheet Music and The Original Soundtrack and we wanted to do something more upbeat and quite accessible as the first single.’
There was also some doubt about whether ‘I’m Not in Love’ was single material. A lovely song, of course, but six minutes of nothing much happening?
We thought ‘I’m Not In Love’ was a brilliant track, but none of us realised its commercial potential at all. We used to play it back to ourselves over and over – we loved it – but it was only when we played it to the record company and other people and family that everyone said: ‘You should put that out as a single.’
So they did and it went to #1 and famously gave the band their first American hit. (Less famously, it was also their first hit in Canada and New Zealand, which seems more surprising, somehow.)
It doesn’t need me to say that it’s a masterpiece but it is. A few piano, guitar and bass notes aside, it’s all vocal, and all about the textures, a distant, shimmering descendant of doo-wop.
The complexity of the production process, the sheer amount of studio time required to put those voices on tape, was to be rivalled later in the year by Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, and both records illustrated the foolishness of the Musicians’ Union agreement with the BBC. This said that bands appearing on television should be obliged to re-record their work, to ensure that all performers got the standard MU rate of pay. Weeks, even months, of recording were to be recreated in a three-hour session. Did anyone really believe that this was possible? Gouldman:
Honestly, no. They’re not daft. Something that took so long to record and even though you’re just repeating what you’d recorded, it was too much to ask. It was a stupid idea really. Particularly it was irksome for us because we had played everything ourselves – we weren’t doing anybody out of money, which was the idea.
- Johnny Nash, ‘Tears on My Pillow’ (CBS)
For solo singers, the MU regulations were even more restrictive: you had to sing live on Top of the Pops, accompanied by the resident orchestra and with backing vocals by the Ladybirds. There was a time when this worked okay, back in the 1960s when the likes of Cliff Richard or Engelbert Humperdinck were having hits with orchestrated pop, but it fell apart as soul and reggae got bigger.
‘Funk and soul music – they couldn’t deal with it, they couldn’t play it,’ reflected Jimmy James (of Vagabonds fame). And everyone else had much the same opinion. ‘They should have been pensioned off years ago,’ said Tina Charles. ‘You had the kind of musicians who had no feel, all they were doing was reading the notes. And they couldn’t give a shit. They were in the pub from one to three, and they’d come back in and read the notes.’ Mike Moran – session-player, producer and songwriter – added that it wasn’t just the musicians:
BBC live sound has never been the greatest thing in the world: the guy who did the sound at the BBC would do Match of the Day one day and Top of the Pops the next. They weren’t specifically music engineers, so you were on a hiding to nothing.
So, anyway, here’s Johnny Nash with his only British #1 single, in a slightly crap version on Top of the Pops. And this is how is how it’s meant to sound.
- Van McCoy, ‘The Hustle’ (Avco)
And while we’re on the subject of the failings of Top of the Pops, I always disliked Pan’s People as well. Their routines were terrible and, while the women seemed perfectly nice, they were as bland as the orchestra. This, on the other hand, is how to dance to Van McCoy’s biggest hit.
- Windsor Davies and Don Estelle, ‘Whispering Grass’ (EMI)
- Ray Stevens, ‘Misty’ (Janus)
As a kid, I didn’t understand Ray Stevens. This was his first hit since ‘The Streak’ was at #1 a year ago, and it didn’t really make sense as the same artist. He takes the smooth-jazz classic (best known in Johnny Mathis’s version) and turns in an up-tempo hoe-down, though with a straight face. I still don’t understand, though I quite like it.
- Hamilton Bohannon, ‘Disco Stomp’ (Brunswick)
Now this is the real deal: a Bo Diddley riff, bludgeoned into a relentless, monolithic, disco groove. Bohannon doesn’t go in for vocals too much, but when he does, he has a lovely high tenor, accompanied by some breathy female backing. He’d had a couple of minor British hits previously with ‘South African Man’ and ‘Foot Stompin’ Music’, but this was his only top 10 single in Britain. (In America, the highest he got in the Billboard Hot 100 was #98.)
- Showaddywaddy, ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ (Bell)
Again, as you were.
- Gary Glitter, ‘Doing Alright with the Boys’ (Bell)
Glam was clearly dying on its booted feet by this stage, and most of the pop acts associated with it were struggling to adapt. One of the more successful at negotiating the change were the Glitter Band, who developed a nice stomping version of power-pop that the kids liked.
Which presumably was why Gary Glitter’s last single – ‘Love Like You and Me’ – had copied that style so completely. Indeed, the song was co-credited to the Glitter Band’s Gerry Shephard, alongside the usual Glitter/Leander tag (my guess is that it was entirely Shephard’s work). But it disn’t really cut the mustard, because Gary wasn’t a good enough singer to carry it, and the single managed just one week at #10; coming off seven consecutive top 3 hits, this was cause for concern.
And so ‘Doing Alright with the Boys’ came out very rapidly as a follow-up. Back to the old rock ‘n’ rolling, but this time with a very conscious leaning on the Glitter Band, who were clearly the better act by now. It’s a terrific song, the last of Gary’s great hits, and if this isn’t immediately apparent, remind yourself of Joan Jett’s definitive version. Alternatively, you might remember that when – at the height of punk in July 1977 – Johnny Rotten was invited to play his favourite records on Capital Radio, this was among his choices.
It was his eleventh consecutive top ten hit, but very definitely a last hurrah. He tried a reinvention, returning to the soul he’d played in the 1960s on the next single – a version of ‘Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow’ aimed at discos – but it only reached #38, and it was going to be nearly a decade before ‘Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas’ returned him to the top 10 in December 1984.
So let’s say farewell to his glory years with a poem from 11-year-old Jennifer from Prescott, published in the Liverpool Echo in 1975:
There’s different types of music,
Jazz, folk and rock.
But my favourite music
Is Gary Glitter’s pop.
I like his clothes, his face, his songs.
He really is a dream.
And when his fans see him,
They all begin to scream.
- The Chi-Lites, ‘Have You Seen Her?’ (Brunswick)
I didn’t know about doo-wop at this stage, but I was shortly to discover it and I fell in love with it, largely because I adored this record so much. And still do. The yearning ‘Oh yeah’ at 4’20” still gets me.
It was an old recording, taken from their best album (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People, and it’d been a top 3 hit here in 1972, so I don’t know why it was re-released. But it was a hit again and, in a chart dominated by ‘I’m Not in Love’, it worked just dandy.
- Mud, ‘Moonshine Sally’ (RAK)
As previously established, Mud had already signed to Private Stock Records by this point, but RAK weren’t prepared to let them go without squeezing a few more sales out of them. And so this.
‘Moonshine Sally’ was an old track, recorded back in 1973 and intended as their debut single for RAK. But then it had been deemed not quite up to snuff, so Chinn and Chapman came up with ‘Crazy’ instead. And now here it was, new to us and not quite convincing. It sounded a little dated – good fun, but not Mud as we knew them. And partly that’s because it dated from the era when the band weren’t allowed to play on the records. Drummer Dave Mount explained the situation to the press:
When you want a break you’re prepared to do just about anything to get going. Record producers use studio session musicians instead of new groups to save money. A session musician will quickly do exactly what you want with no argument. With studios costing about £40 an hour to hire, that’s important.
We weren’t happy about it when it happened on our records, but now we are in charge.
So how did a top pop band promote a new single in July 1975? Well, Mud paid a visit to Wilko Superstore in Derby Road, Stapleford, Nottinghamshire. The drapery and fashion manageress, Miss Bella Savory, proudly told the Long Eaton Advertiser:
We will be playing their new LP and single which is called ‘Moonshine Sally’ while they are signing autographs.
The decline of glam and the rise of disco meant that some very decent British records underperformed at this time. I thought Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘I Don’t Like You But I Think I Love You’ (MAM) was one of his best, but it stalled at #14, while T. Rex and the Rubettes got no higher than #15 with ‘New York City’ (EMI) and ‘Foe-Dee-O-Dee’ (State) respectively. Even Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s magnificent ‘Mr Raffles (Man It Was Mean)’ (EMI) failed to make the top 10.
previously in Revive 45: