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.

Tuesday Tunes 34: Seventies Singles Encore

Today sees my final selection of Seventies singles – for now. I may return to this theme at some point, as there are so many I’ve had to leave out. But rest assured: if I do come back to this, there definitely won’t be any Bay City Rollers or Middle Of The Road. And if that just put Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep into your brain, my apologies. (Not really 😂)

Looking back at the past couple of weeks I can see a leaning towards the early Seventies, which probably reflects the end of my singles buying days. That is also true of this week’s choices, too, though a couple are from later. I’ll admit to a little bit of cheating here, though: all of these were singles, but I had them on their albums!

I’m starting this week with one of those later ones. Dating from 1978, this is the most ‘recent’ of my Seventies songs:

That was on The Cars’ eponymous debut album. I instantly fell in love with their sound and have all of their albums.The album reached #18 in the US and #29 here. This was the lead single from it, and I can remember watching them on Top Of The Pops way back then – for those unaware of the show, that was the UK’s long-running chart music programme. This song did well for a band hitherto unknown in this country, reaching #17 and actually outperforming the US, where it only got as high as #27. The follow up, My Best Friend’s Girl, did even better, reaching #3 here – it is still their highest rated UK single. Sadly, both Benjamin Orr and Ric Ocasek, the two driving forces behind the band, are no longer with us.

My second choice is from a band who also featured in my Sixties selections:

If pressed, I’d probably say that the Moody Blues were my favourite band back then. I had all of their albums, and played them a lot – as my parents and sister could testify! This was the opening track and lead (in fact, only) single on their first album of the Seventies, A Question Of Balance, which was released in August 1970 – the single having been released in April. I received it that Christmas – good old Mum! – and thoroughly enjoyed blasting it out on the immensely powerful system that my Aunt and Uncle had, as we were staying with them that festive season. It wasn’t quite the same on the record player back home but I still loved it! The album was #1 here and #3 in the US. The single was a UK #2 and US #21.

Slowing things down a little now. Obligingly – for this series, at any rate – The Beatles released their final album in 1970, so I can include them in this decade too. This was the title track from it:

This single was a March 1970 lead in for the album, which was released in May that year. It wasn’t the first track from the album to be a single, though: Get Back had been a single release in April 1969, but was held back from that year’s album, Abbey Road, and didn’t appear as an album track until featuring on Let It Be. To my mind, that album has always had a feeling of being comprised of the ‘leftovers,’ coming out a couple of months after the band had broken up. That doesn’t stop me thinking this to be one of their most beautiful songs, and it still brings a lump to my throat when I hear it now. It should come as no surprise to you that the album was #1 in both the UK and the US, though the single only reached #2 here – #1 in the US, though.

Coming up next is a band who have sold zillions of records – I was really spoilt for choice here! I went for this one, as it was on their eponymous 1975 album, which was their first after Bob Welch left the band and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks:

That was the album that began it all for the reincarnated version of the band. The album was a US #1, but only reached #23 here in the UK. I guess the name still meant ‘blues band’ to us and we weren’t yet ready for the soft-rock version. We made up for it, though. This was the fifth track from it to be released as a single, and came out in June 1976 – it reached #11 in the US but only #40 here. I wanted to find a live version to share with you, and where better than when the band were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame? (By the way, the HoF still needs to get its act together and posthumously vote in Warren Zevon – can we take it to court?). Lindsey Buckingham played banjo on the recorded version of the song, and it’s interesting to see him playing it here as the lead instrument – it adds another dimension to the song, I think.

My next tune this week is one that was a big hit here in the UK:

That was the title track from Mott The Hoople’s 1972 album, and as a single reached #3 here and #37 in the US. The album fared less well, peaking at #21 here and #89 in the US. The song was written for the band by David Bowie, after they had rejected his offer of his song Suffragette City. This was their high point: the band subsequently went through several personnel changes, which began when lead guitarist Mick Ralphs left in 1973 to be a co-founder of Bad Company. One of his songs – Ready For Love – features on both the All The Young Dudes album and on Bad Company’s first record (I prefer the Bad Company version!).

I wanted to leave this series of Seventies singles with something that was important then and has remained so. I couldn’t have chosen a better song, I think:

Is there anything I can say about that song that hasn’t already been said? Somehow, I doubt it. The basic facts are that it was the title track from his 1971 album, which was a US #1 and a UK #3. As a single, the song was also a US #1, and reached #2 here. This epic trawl through American popular culture is, I think, fitting now that the country has voted to reclaim its soul. I recommend you should all sit down and listen to this, whilst reading the transcript of President-elect Biden’s speech – they are a good fit for what I have always believed your amazing country to represent. I wanted to find a live performance of the song from that time, and this one from the BBC archives was perfect. And for all you Americans who think that we Brits are too quiet as audiences, as we don’t whoop and holler over even the most sensitive pieces of music, please note that the audience here joined in. Quietly and with reserve, of course.

Next week I’ll be starting to share my favourite Seventies albums. Well, some of them – there are so many that we could be here for quite a while. That will occupy the next two weeks, and then we reach December, when everything here changes – watch this space!

It is Day 6 of Lockdown 2 here, and I’m thankful for music, books, magazines, newspapers and tv to get me through it all again. I hope this finds you safe and well, and that things will stay that way for you. Two members of my ex-wife’s family tested positive for Covid last week, one of them being her aunt, who is well into her 80s: it brings it home to you, doesn’t it?

Take care, and let’s meet again here next week.