It may come as a surprise to you, but I do actually keep notes on what I’ve included in these posts. Whilst I was going through these the other day I came across the list I made last autumn when I was sharing music from the Sixties and Seventies in this series, and was surprised to see how many more I had considered, but not yet shared. You seemed to enjoy these when I did them before, so I thought I might do a couple more, rather than rack my brains for a theme for the week: it’s called ‘taking the easy way out!’ There was so much good music around in the days when my musical tastes were forming, and I’ve enjoyed revisiting some of these – I hope you will, too.
First tune for this week is from a band I featured a couple of weeks ago:
That was released as a single in 1969 – I think the fashion styles rather give the date away – and was very successful here. It didn’t chart in the US but, given its title, it was perhaps ironic that it peaked here at…yes, you guessed it…#2. They are viewed as very much a pop band, but a number of their B-sides displayed an underlying rock influence and this track – which was composed by the band – saw them dipping their toes into more ambitious territory. It has always been my favourite of theirs and yes, I did buy it at the time.
Whilst The Tremeloes have had a long career this next band were only around for a couple of years, but they had some big hit records in that time – four top ten singles in that brief spell. This is the most successful of them:
The song was actually offered to The Tremeloes, but they turned it down – that might be deemed a mistake! Amen Corner, a Welsh band, had just changed record companies and this was their first release on the new label. It spent two weeks at #1 here in February 1969, but after one more hit (Hello Susie, which reached #4 here) the band disbanded at the end of that year. Andy Fairweather-Low, their vocalist, has had a long solo career, and has appeared on records by a number of big names, including Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd). Blue Weaver, their keyboards player, has since been in The Strawbs and the backing band for The Bee Gees.
Next up is the quintessential one-hit wonder:
Thunderclap Newman were brought together by Pete Townshend of The Who. They made one album, Hollywood Dream, and released four singles from it. One of those, the rather morbid Accidents, did actually reach our chart, but it only got to #46. This is the one they are remembered for here, though they didn’t have any chart success elsewhere. It is unique, I think: do you know of any other hit record which has had a honky tonk piano solo in the middle? I sure don’t! This spent three weeks at #1 here in June 1969 – clearly a good year for music. It knocked The Beatles off the top and held Elvis Presley off it, thus making its mark. The band didn’t last long, though there have been a couple of reformed versions featuring the pianist Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman. Sadly, he died in 2016. The most well known of the original members was probably Jimmy McCullough, who went on to be a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings – he died in 1979 at the age of 26, from a heroin-induced cardiac arrest. A sad waste of a young talent, when you consider that he was only 16 when he played guitar on this track (he’s the one in the vest). Pete Townshend didn’t appear on stage with them, but he played bass on their recordings, under the pseudonym of Bijou Drains (no, I’ve no idea, either).
Moving back a little earlier in the Sixties brings me to the first record I ever bought:
I actually included this in my now largely defunct series of #SaturdaySongs. This is that post. The song means a lot to me, as it brings back memories of when I was first getting interested in music, and that earlier post gives you much more background both on that and on Barry McGuire. In brief, the song was a protest song about the Vietnam War, written by P.F.Sloan, recorded in summer 1965, and released instantly. It was a huge hit, reaching #1 in the US and #3 here. Sadly, there is still much of relevance in its lyrics today – you only have to look at what is happening in Myanmar at present to see what I mean.
Staying in the same vein, this is another long-time favourite of mine:
This was on the second pressing of the eponymous debut album by Buffalo Springfield, although it hadn’t been included on the first pressing. I guess that was due to its success as a single: released in 1967, it reached #7 in the US. The song was written by Stephen Stills, who sings the lead vocal, and the band also included Neil Young, later to join Stills in CSN&Y as well as their both enjoying stellar solo careers. Two other band members, Richie Furay and Jim Messina, went on to start the band Poco, who are another favourite of mine and have featured in this series – in episode 36 if you’d like to revisit it. This is also a song with lyrics that are still just as relevant today as ever – possibly even more so, given the epidemic of shootings that continues in the States. It seems that we don’t learn…
I’m rounding off today where I began, in a way. This is yet another song from 1969 – but only just, as it was released in November of that year. It is another from a ‘pop’ band who showed themselves capable of much more:
I’m sharing this live recording as it is such a great performance of a really lovely, meaningful song. There are many songs which were written at a young age which belie their author’s youthfulness with wisdom beyond their years: Janis Ian’s At Seventeen and Richard Thompson’s Meet On The Ledge are two such, but there are loads more. The striking thing for me in this one is that Marmalade had, until then, been regarded (by me, at least) as a happy go lucky pop band releasing records like their cover of the Beatles’ Ob-La-Di. This one kind of stopped me in my tracks, and I still find it hard to listen to it without getting something in my eye. The song was a worldwide hit single, peaking at #3 here in the UK and at #10 in the US, where it sold over a million copies. It’s just a pity that one of the band members didn’t get the memo about wearing yellow, though…
That’s all for this week, but I hope I’ve shown you that there was a lot of good music around in the Sixties, without needing to delve into the catalogues of the big name artists of the time. I still have a list of more Sixties songs to share with you, so I’ll do this again next week. Given all the pictures in the news this morning of loads of morons out getting drunk last night, and throwing social distancing to the winds, we could be back in lockdown by then. Hey ho. Take care, stay safe and look out for each other.