Last week’s steal from Carol seemed to go down well so I thought I’d do it again. A couple of weeks ago her Saturday Snippets post was based around the theme of magic, and I thought “I know a few songs about that,” so it seemed a good idea to try it out. It didn’t take me long to come up with a selection to play for you, none of which overlaps with Carol’s choices. Unusually for me, this week’s set comprises tunes which are all what I regard as mainstream – none of my dipping into the obscure this time round, though I do have a second list of magic songs which will probably all be unfamiliar to most, if I’m ever brave enough to try it. But I’m anticipating that you will know most, if not all of these. I’ve played a couple of them before, but they are both worthy of another hearing.
I’m starting with one of those two, as it seems an ideal opener. So, roll up, roll up:
It is actually more than two years since I played that one, though that little band may be familiar to you, as they are regular visitors here. The original version of that was released here in the UK in December 1967, as two 7 inch EP discs, presented in a lovely book format with loads of colour photos of the making of the film, which was first shown on the newly colourised BBC2 channel on Boxing Day 1967. I remember it well, though we were only watching in black and white: neither of my parents was willing to sell a limb to be able to afford a colour tv at that point. It received an audience of 15m, but was savaged by the critics: a good reason, if you needed one, to ignore those idiots! The EP, which sold at roughly the price of two singles, reached #1 on our EP chart, #2 in our singles listings and #3 in Australia. In the US, as usual, they just had to do things differently: not only did they bugger about with the running order of the songs, but these became side one of an album, the second side of which comprised recent singles, both A and B sides, from the band. This album was released in November 1967 and topped the US chart, and later made it to #31 here during 1968 in a ‘US import’ version. It was eventually released here in the album format in 1976.
A band I really like but for some reason haven’t played much in this series is up next:
Ric Ocasek walks on water! Whatever you might think of The Cars it is hard to deny that they made some clever, inventive videos for their songs. My favourite is probably the one for You Might Think which, like Magic, was a track on their March 1984 album Heartbeat City, but this one runs it a close second. The album got to #3 in the US and #25 in the UK, which actually makes it their highest UK chart placing for an album. It seems that the British public was more prepared to buy their singles, as they have had a couple of high top ten hits here. This track was released as a single in May 1984, peaking at #12 in the US, but not making the UK charts. The biggest hit from the album was Drive, which had two bouts of top ten success, both on initial release and again a year later when it was associated with the Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia.
For my next choice, I’m back in the UK of the Sixties:
Magic Bus was released as a single by The Who in July 1968. It performed modestly, making #26 in the UK and #25 in the US. The image on the video shows an album called Magic Bus: The Who On Tour, which is a bit of a misnomer. This was a compilation album of previously released studio tracks – not live on tour! – and was only issued in North America. It reached #39 in the US, but was disowned by the band, who were strongly opposed to its release. The song has been included on several compilations, including Direct Hits and Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy, but has never been on a studio album. I’ve always liked it, and also enjoyed the longer version which was included on the Live At Leeds album.
Staying in the Sixties, but moving back across the pond, brings me to this one:
Do You Believe In Magic was the first single released by the Lovin’ Spoonful, in July 1965, when it reached #9 in the US and #3 in Canada. It was also the title track of their debut album, which came out in November of that year and got to #32 in the US. Neither the album or single made the UK charts, which I’ve always thought was an oversight on our part. The video is from 1967, and it is interesting to see the Ed Sullivan Show playing with special effects to match the song’s lyrics – crazy, man!
I have a neat split of four tunes each from the UK and US today, and I’m staying in the US for this one. Yes, I know he is here a lot, but you can’t keep a good man down, can you? And in a deliberate attempt to pique Jim’s interest, I give you:
There doesn’t appear to be an official video for that, and the live performances that are on YouTube are of mixed quality, so I went with an audio-only version. No matter, as it is a wonderful song and doesn’t need pictures. Bruce Springsteen’s album Magic was released in September 2007, and topped the charts in both the US and the UK, and in several other countries too. In case you hadn’t noticed, this was its title track. The album featured several songs, like this one, which carried a political message of Bruce’s disillusionment with the way his country was going – that was fifteen years ago and I’m guessing he doesn’t feel any happier with things today! The album was well received by critics, but was subject to a degree of apparent censure by some radio stations not playing it – too much for them to cope with?
For anyone who thinks this next one is a Santana original – it isn’t! This is where it came from and is, in my view, far superior. The video is a little out of sync but don’t let that put you off, as this is still a fantastic extended live performance of a great song, with some wonderful guitar work from Danny Kirwan:
Despite how much I consider myself a fan of the band through the decades, this is still the incarnation of Fleetwood Mac that I think of as the best. Black Magic Woman was released as a single in March 1968, back in the early days when the band was officially known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. It was their third record, and was the first to make the UK charts, peaking at #37. It wasn’t a US hit though: that version of the band only made the US singles chart once, a couple of years later, with Oh Well (#55 in 1969). They had a string of hit singles here, the best performing being the dreamy instrumental Albatross, which was a UK #1. My favourite – and still one of my all time top three songs by anyone – was Man Of The World, which reached #2 here in 1969. If you only know the mega-selling version of the band you could do worse than check out those early singles, as they show a great blues-rock band with a gifted songwriter/lead guitarist. The easiest way to do that would be to look up the post I wrote to commemorate Peter Green after he died in 2020, which you can find here.
Today’s penultimate tune is my final trip for today back to the other side of the Atlantic. With a name like theirs there is really only one place this band could come from, isn’t there:
This was a track from America’s album View From The Ground, which was released in July 1982 and got to #41 in the US. It didn’t make the UK chart, though. The song was one of two on the album specifically written for them by Russ Ballard, a British songwriter and producer, formerly the lead singer of the band Argent, and it was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. It was taken from the album as a single at the same time, and got to #8 in the US and #59 in the UK. They had originally started as a three-piece band but were down to a duo by the time this record came out. It gave them their first US top ten single since Sister Golden Hair made #1 there in 1975, and was only their third ever UK singles chart entry, after A Horse With No Name and Ventura Highway back in 1972. You may well be aware of their background: the three original members were sons of serving US airmen, who met while their fathers were posted to the UK, which gave rise to a slightly earlier take off to their career here than they enjoyed in the States (see what I did there?). Their early albums were all great, very much a part of the soundtrack to my university days, and it was good to see them getting a bit more success a few years later.
I leave you today as I began, with a song that I have played before: in this case it was just over a year ago. We’re back in the UK for the final band of the day:
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was released in October 1981, as a track on The Police’s fourth album, Ghost In The Machine. The album reached #1 in the UK and #2 in the US. This track was the second taken from it as a single, in November 1981, and gave the band their fourth UK #1 hit whilst peaking at #3 in the US. I’ve always loved the joyous feel of the song and this video is a perfect fit for that: the scenes of the kids are simply wonderful. Apparently, Sting, who wrote the song, was stuck for a rhyming word for magic in the chorus, and could only think of two. He went with ‘tragic’ which was probably a better choice than the other one: ‘pelagic,’ which in case you are like me and didn’t know, means ‘relating to the ocean.’ Great music and education in the same post: what more could you ask for?
That’s all for today, folks. I hope you found something among these to enjoy, and were familiar with at least a few of them – it isn’t often I go fully mainstream with the artists I play, so you have no excuses! I’m off to follow the example being set by our about to be ex-Prime Minister, and spend my time doing absolutely nothing. And to think he’s being paid for it, too! I’ll see you again in a couple of days with a little piece which is currently in the planning stages (i.e. I’m trying to work out how to do it) and will be back again after that for my now regular Song Lyric Sunday post. I’ve already chosen what I’ll be playing, and I’m taking bets on whether any of you will know it – come back on Sunday to find out! Until next time, have fun and take care 😊