Tuesday Tunes 39: Au Revoir Seventies Albums

Although they were separated by the Christmas break I’ve now shared three collections of Seventies albums with you, and feel it may be time to move on. The Sixties and Seventies were my formative years for music, and they were great times in which to grow up. But I guess most people think that about the music of their teens and twenties, even if they have the misfortune to have missed out on the times I had! Before moving on, I hope you’ll indulge me for one last session from back then – for now, that is, as there are still so many great albums from those days that I haven’t featured. Yet.

I thought I’d start today with something rousing, and they don’t come much better than this:

That was the second track on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, released in November 1971. Officially the album doesn’t have a title, but is generally known, for obvious reasons, as Led Zeppelin IV, and also as Four Symbols, after the symbols that each band member chose for the inner sleeve illustrations. The album reached #1 here in the UK but only #2 in the US. Despite that apparent ‘failure’ it is their best selling album – over 37m to date – and is one of the all time best sellers by anyone in the States. The album is noted for containing the band’s ‘signature tune,’ Stairway To Heaven, but I wanted to give you this one instead. If you want a great version of Stairway, try here.  This track was released as a single in some countries, but not here – the band never released singles in the UK while they were making new records. It only reached #47 in the US, which may go some way towards explaining why they didn’t like singles!

This is the second time I’ve featured Led Zeppelin in this series, and today’s next tune is also from a band making a return appearance:

That was released in May 1970, as the lead single for Free’s album Fire And Water, which came out the next month. It is the song that made the band a huge success: it was #2 here in the UK for several weeks that summer, and also reached #4 in the US. The album was also a British #2, and #17 in the US. It is still one of my all time favourites, and every track is brilliant. I could have given you any of them, but decided to go for the one you may well know.

Today’s third song is also from 1970. This is something of a rarity, as it is on an Elton John album, but wasn’t written by him and Bernie Taupin:

That, simply, is beautiful, made even more so by the background sounds of the surf and happy children’s voices. The song was written by Lesley Duncan, who plays the guitar and provides the harmony vocals. and remained the only song on one of his albums not written by him until his eleventh album, Blue Moves, in 1976. It comes from Elton’s Tumbleweed Connection album, released in October 1970 – his second album of the year (and third in total), following on from Elton John in April. If the movie Rocketman is to be believed, Elton and Bernie had written a huge number of songs together before his career took off, and wanted to record as many as possible. This one was written as a concept album, based around country and western/Americana themes, and reached #2 here in the UK and #5 in the US. None of the tracks was released as a single, apart from Country Comfort, and that was only in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, for some reason. Rod Stewart recorded that one too, on his album Gasoline Alley. Lesley Duncan was much in demand as a songwriter and session singer around that time, notably for Dusty Springfield and Pink Floyd, as well as Elton. Despite this song being covered more than 150 times – including by David Bowie – her solo career never took off and after marriage she moved to the Isle of Mull and lived a happy life, mostly known locally as a gardener, until her passing in 2010.

Whilst I’m in the mood for beautiful songs, how about this one:

That was the final track on side one of Rumours, back in the days when music came on 12 inch slabs of plastic. You may have heard of the album – it has sold over 40m copies worldwide. Released in February 1997, it has become one of the all time best sellers, having reached #1 in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The Netherlands. The story goes that the song was recorded solo by Christine McVie, who wrote it, in an extended session, in order that they could get it all in one take.  It wasn’t released as a single in its own right, but was the B-side of Dreams, which was #1 in the US and Canada, but only got to #24 here in the UK. As you can see from the video, it has been the closing song for Fleetwood Mac’s shows, performed by Christine in the way it was recorded. Given that the band were going through some relationship issues at the time the song was written, you can still sense the emotion pouring out of her as she sings. It is, in my view, one of the most beautiful songs ever written, even if Eva Cassidy did destroy it!

My next one for today is also from a band I’ve featured before, because I have loved them since their early days in the Sixties. This song was on their eighth album, Seventh Sojourn, released in late 1972. The slight discordance in the title’s numbering is due to their not having counted their first album, from their early pop group days. This version is a recording from a live performance with the World Festival Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2000:

The orchestral setting really brings out the beauty of the song, and rounds out the sound in a way that adds something to the original recording – I think it’s lovely, and it still brings a tear to the eye now. The album reached #5 here but was the band’s first to reach #1 in the US. This track was released as a single in April 1972, ahead of the album, peaking at #13 here and #29 in the US. It was written by John Lodge, who takes the lead vocal.

I really must be in the mood for beautiful songs today, as this final one is another such. In the early Seventies Stevie Wonder dropped the ‘Little’ from his recording name, and produced a string of great albums that demonstrated his growing maturity. My favourite of these is Talking Book, which was released in October 1972. The best known tracks from it are the singles Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, but the stand out track for me has always been the one which closes the album:

I think that is incredibly good. Like Songbird it has also suffered, in my eyes, from widespread publicity given to an inferior copy, in this case by Art Garfunkel. The original may not always be the best – but it often is! The song was written by Stevie and his sister-in-law Yvonne Wright, and he plays all of the instruments on the recording. The singer begins from a dark place, but still retains hope for his future: we could all use such optimism and positivity right now, I believe. I can’t think of a better, more uplifting way to bring this stage of my collection of Seventies albums to a close.

I’ll be back next Tuesday, once I’ve thought of what to do next in this series. As I said earlier, there is still so much I could share from the Sixties and Seventies, but I think it’s the right time for a change of tack. There is plenty of good music being released now, and there are still the four intervening decades to consider, so I’m not lost for choices!

Take care, obey the lockdown rules if, like us, you have them at present. If not, do take sensible precautions – you can’t see the virus but it’s lurking there. Above all, stay safe and well.

2020 Hindsight

As has become my habit I’m using the entrance of a new year to take stock of how my blog performed last year. 2020 was, of course, the weirdest year that most of us can probably remember – certainly in my 67 years on the planet – and there is something comforting in reflecting on a trivial subject like a blog, amidst all that has been happening around us. This may be a little self-indulgent on my part, but I justify it to myself by believing that newer readers won’t have seen some of the posts I’ll be mentioning, and might otherwise be distraught to have missed out (as if!).

Back in the days when I first began blogging WordPress used to provide us with an annual review of our blogs, which gave all the details and stats we could possibly want to know. They have long since stopped doing that and I now have to rely on my own analysis – so beware of potential errors!

The basic stats are fairly easy to judge – I just look at the numbers. In those terms, 2020 was my most successful year since 2015, and December 2020 was my best month since October 2015. In fact, every month in 2020 was better than the corresponding month in 2019. Compared with 2019, there were 72% more page views, 188% more likes, 244% more comments, and an overall increase of 30% in visitor numbers. These visitors were from exactly 100 different countries: 44% from the US, 27% from the UK, then 5% from India, with the remaining 24% being shared between the other 97 countries, 19 of which had just the one view. It must have been something I said. Either that or I’m just not popular in Burundi. In all I posted 112 times in 2020, my highest ever total: it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that more posts equals more views, does it!

Judging the popularity of posts isn’t quite so simple. It would be great if WordPress gave me detailed viewing stats for every post, but they don’t. Maybe it is because I only have their free plan, but they lump together 25% of my page views into a category of “Home Page/Archives,” which is next to useless, really. Any analysis of the posts which were read the most often is therefore doomed to failure so I have, as before, fallen back on rating ‘success’ by the number of likes each post was given. I know that this is unsatisfactory, but for me it is preferable to not counting 25% of the votes.

On the number of likes, last year was a bit of an oddity. For the first time that I can remember, there wasn’t one post which stood out way ahead from the others: in fact, there was only a difference of ten likes between 1st and 10th in the rankings. Having said that, I have been reminded of a favourite old Snoopy cartoon:

I began collecting data for this post last weekend, since when there have been additional likes affecting five positions in my top ten, including the #1. So, before there are any more last minute changes here is my countdown of last year, from #10 to #1:

=9️⃣  Tuesday Tunes 13: Shopping

=9️⃣   Glastonbury For Geriatrics

=7️⃣   Tuesday Tunes 21: Growing Up

=7️⃣   Tuesday Tunes 30: Sixties USA

6️⃣   Tuesday Tunes 29: More Sixties

5️⃣   RIP Peter Green

4️⃣   Tuesday Tunes 22: Disappointment


And the top three:

3️⃣   That Was The Year That Was

2️⃣  Tuesday Tunes 20: Lockdown Music – Part 2

1️⃣   World Mental Health Day 2020

I began the Tuesday Tunes series on 24 March, the day after our Prime Minister had placed us into Lockdown 1, as it has since become known, having since been joined by its stablemates Lockdown 2 (November) and Lockdown 3, which began last Monday. As with everything our government does, there were elements of confusion around it: on Monday the PM told us that it would last for at least six weeks, but on Tuesday a senior cabinet minister told us it would last until March. Then, yesterday, the PM said it could last until April. Talk about hedging your bets! Clarity is not a word I’d associate with this lot. Incompetence, ineptitude and corruption perhaps, but not clarity. I hadn’t intended Tuesday Tunes to become a series, but was prompted to do so by a comment suggesting I should, and it kind of grew from there. It gave me a regular reason for at least one post each week, and there was bugger all else that I could do, wasn’t there? Looking back on them, I began each one with my own take on the situation here, usually comprising jibes at the incompetence, ineptitude etc of our government, and then began to theme them: many of the early posts related to a word that had been in the news that week. I started with just two songs per week, but gradually expanded until six tunes became more the norm: let’s face it, you haven’t got anything better to do either, have you? It is no surprise to me that six of last year’s top ten are from this series, and two of the other four are also music-related.

The two remaining posts are worthy of mention. At #3 was the equivalent of this post, which gives you a look back over my blogging 2019, with links to a number of posts from that year. As many of you have joined me since then – 255 during 2020 – you probably won’t have seen these, so do feel free to meander through the detritus of previous years. But the thing that pleases me most is that, for the third year running, my top post has been the one I wrote to mark World Mental Health Day, on 10 October. Given the amount of music I have shared with you, you would be forgiven for forgetting – or not knowing – why I started this in the first place, and it is good for me to be reminded that I need to continue to write about mental health issues, perhaps more often than I did last year. Last year’s top three are now at numbers 6, 7 and 8 on my all time list – if you look, you’ll see that my top six posts ever are all on mental health topics, which is gratifying for me.

Another new feature for me last year was to convert my Christmas posts into a daily Advent Calendar. Together with my monthly review on 30 November, this meant a 26 day streak of posts from me, which is almost unheard of. Thank you to everyone who lasted the course! None of those posts were close to the top ten, but I had a lot of fun doing them, and it felt like they were well received. So maybe I’ll do it again…

Before I go, I’d like to mention the real oddity of last year’s stats. In my review of 2019 I said this

“I’ll leave you with my own favourite post from last year. It was another of my musical ones but with a difference: its main aim was to show how talented musicians can be found on YouTube amongst all the dross on the site. I deliberately gave the post a slightly ambiguous title and, as you can see from the comments, a couple of people admitted to being drawn in by it. As I said to one of them, it was good to know that my MBA in Marketing (1980!) was still of some value, and who wouldn’t want to find out what Under The Covers was about? That was far from being the most ‘liked’ post, but is probably the one from which I derived most pleasure in writing.”

Since then, that post has for some reason developed a life of its own. It was single-handedly responsible for 9% of my total site views last year, and I marked its birthday by sharing it again in 2020. If you haven’t read Under The Covers do take a look, and if anyone can tell me why it has been viewed so often I’d love to know.

My own personal favourite post from last year, which didn’t appear in the top ten, is Birthday Celebrations, in which I revisited a post written for my 60th birthday, updated and compared with how we did it in 2020. It features a little star who wasn’t born in 2013, who is very dear to my heart.

I should probably close now, but before I do I’d like to offer my thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed, whether that be by reading, liking or commenting on any of my posts. Some of you are regulars, others less so, but I value the support you all give to my blog. It’s good to know that there are people out there beyond my screen and keyboard, and I value our interactions – as indeed I do when I read, like and comment on your blogs too. We’re all in this together, folks 😊