I said last week that I’d be revisiting the Sixties, and here we are again. I also promised to spread my reach beyond the UK’s shores: this week I have three and a bit from the UK, plus one from Australia. To redress the balance, next week will see an all-American selection, so keep watching…
First up, the ‘bit.’ Two parts born in Jamaica, one part Guyana, and two parts UK:
That was a UK #1 in early 1968, also reaching #32 in the States – their only chart hit there, though they had two further top ten UK singles and some smaller hits. The band was formed in London from a nucleus of school friends and you may recognise their lead singer: Eddy Grant, who went on to achieve a fair degree of solo success, notably with I Don’t Wanna Dance, which was #1 in the UK and #53 in the US, and Electric Avenue, which reached #2 both sides of the pond.
As with all of this week’s songs, I bought this next one as a single. The video sound is a little wonky at the beginning – well, it is 54 years old! – but soon settles down:
The Hollies were very successful for the better part of ten years, and you probably know them from He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother or The Air That I Breathe, which were both massive hits around the world. This was their 12th UK single, which peaked at #5 in both the UK and US. Like many of their songs it was also a big hit in many European countries. I still think this is my favourite of theirs. If you look closely you’ll see Graham Nash on guitar and harmony vocals, before he left to become a huge star as part of Crosby Stills & Nash and also in his own right. Both of the Hollies biggest global hits were released after Nash left – that may or may not be a coincidence!
My next choice is one of those classic one-hit wonders, though to be fair to the band a follow up single was a minor UK hit:
According to Wikipedia, who must be using a different chart from the guy who made the video, that reached #9 in the UK (the follow up, For Whom The Bell Tolls, was their only other chart entry, at #43 in 1968). I rather like that video, which fits the feel of the song, and its sound quality is much better than the few videos which exist of the band playing live at the time. That was a UK hit in 1967, and featured a band described at the time as ‘psychedelic,’ which was rather annoying for them as they saw themselves as a soul band! There were six members of Simon Dupree And The Big Sound, none of whom was called Simon or Dupree: three of them, the Shulman brothers, also had a UK hit under the name of The Moles (We Are The Moles, Parts 1 and 2) and later went on to form the prog-rock band Gentle Giant. For part of 1967 they had a stand-in keyboard player for live shows: a certain Mr Reginald Dwight, of whom you may have heard.
I’d be surprised if many (any?) of you knew of that song but the next one might be more familiar:
Cream had a relatively short span as a band, which included just four albums in a little over three years, of which Goodbye – from which this was taken – is their swansong. They had several hit singles but were very much an albums band, and sold by the truckload both here and in the US – elsewhere, too. That album was a UK #1, and reached #2 in the US. As a single, Badge made #18 in the UK and #65 in the US. Whilst Eric Clapton played lead guitar on the track, as he always did, the jangly guitar part was by a guest artist: George Harrison, who co-wrote the song with Clapton. Of all the great records Cream made, that is still my favourite.
For this week’s final selection I mentioned that we would be travelling Down Under. No, not THAT one – it was much later, anyway. This one was unusual for us, as we hadn’t at that time seen or heard of many bands from Australia. There were, of course, The Seekers, but our parents liked them: the parental approval kiss of death!
To be totally accurate, none of the band members were born in Australia: two had emigrated as children from England, one from Scotland and two from the Netherlands, and they actually met at a hostel for migrants. This was released in autumn 1966 and was the first record by an Australian rock band to enjoy worldwide success: in addition to being their second #1 in Australia, this also reached #6 in the UK, #16 in the US, #1 in the Netherlands and charted in a number of other countries. The song was written by band members Harry Vanda and George Young (who was the older brother of Angus and Malcolm, of AC/DC). My sister and I were staying at that time for a few days with our older cousin, who had just bought this. It was played so much while we were there that we badgered our parents to buy it for us when we got home! There have been many cover versions, perhaps most notably by David Bowie on his Pinups album – which Vanda later described as “the only cover I liked!” There is also a video of Bruce Springsteen playing it live in Sydney in 2014 – that guy always did know how to play to the crowd!
That’s all for this week, folks! Next week I’ll be taking my trawl through the depths of my early record collection to the USA. So much good music was coming out of there at that time that it would be criminal for me to neglect it, and I did promise!
Take care, stay safe, and don’t go out for a drive to wave to the neighbours if you’ve tested positive for Covid 😉