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 33: More Seventies Singles

Last week I continued my wander down memory lane by moving into the Seventies, and promised that I would be back for more. Despite my comments that this was the time when I began buying many more albums than singles I have somehow managed to compile a list of another dozen or so songs that, whilst I mostly bought them on albums, were also released as singles, so I’m kind of taking a place in both camps for this week and next by sharing these. Still, if the government can keep changing its mind and making up the rules as it goes along, it must be OK for me to do that too, right?

I’m starting this week by rousing you out of any torpor in which you might have found yourself:

No one sleeps while I’m around! It may not come as a surprise to you that after I bought the album from which that was the title track, I only managed to play it in the lounge once, before a maternal decree decided that any future listening was to be undertaken by removing the record player to my bedroom until the horror was over! Still, Mum liked Jim Reeves so I guess this shouldn’t have come as any shock to me. As a single, that was released in August 1970, and reached #4 here and #61 in the US. The album followed the next month, and was a UK #1, peaking at #12 in the US. Black Sabbath – and this album in particular – are often cited as being influential in initiating the heavy metal genre of music. Hardly surprising, really.

Next up is another song which was the breakthrough hit for the band, and still sounds as fresh as ever today:

Roxy Music released their eponymous debut album in June 1972, reaching #10 here in the UK but failing to chart in the US, despite the fact that the US version included this track, which had been omitted from the UK version: they saved it for release as a non-album single in August 1972. It peaked at #4 on the UK singles chart but didn’t score in the US: in fact, it would be several years before they had a hit single over there – Love Is The Drug, in 1975, was their first, although their albums had by then made some small dents on the charts. I guess they were one of those bands whose appeal and style didn’t travel well beyond our shores. Well, not as far as North America, for the most part. They were at the beginning of the time of glam rock (cf. also T. Rex, The Sweet, Mud, Slade, etc) but were, in my view, more interesting in musical terms than the more ‘pop’ bands of the time. Their later albums are very sophisticated rock/pop, and Bryan Ferry, their lead vocalist and leader, has also made some superb solo albums.  This video shows the band’s first appearance on our weekly tv chart show, Top Of The Pops – they were a breath of fresh air at the time, bringing something a little exotic and mysterious. I loved them, and still do.

This week’s next song is a little unusual for me, in that it is a cover version which I bought as a single, despite already having the original on an album:

In case you didn’t know, the song was written by Cat Stevens and was on his Tea For The Tillerman album, which was released in 1970, as was Jimmy Cliff’s cover version. Cat Stevens’ version is, to my mind, slightly more delicate, but I’ve always loved the reggae tinge that Jimmy Cliff gave to it. He clearly liked it too: it was the title track of his 1971 album, which also contained the wonderful song Going Back West – not easy to find, but it’s on YouTube somewhere. Go on, look it up and treat yourself! Cat Stevens didn’t release the song as a single in the UK, leaving the coast clear for Jimmy, who reached #8 with the song here. It didn’t become a US hit, probably because Cat Stevens’ version was released as a single there, peaking at #11. The video I’ve shared is a real period piece, but one thing has always puzzled me about it: were the band hiding behind the wall, or was this an early example of karaoke?

So, that’s two from the UK and one from Jamaica so far, so where next? How about Canada?:

The story goes that the song was written and recorded as a joke for Randy Bachman’s brother Gary, who had a stutter. It wasn’t originally intended to be on the Not Fragile album, but when the record company heard it they were convinced that the band had a hit on their hands. They were right! It was #1 in the US and their native Canada, as well as in Germany, Denmark and South Africa, and got to #2 here in the UK. Both the single and the album were released in September 1974: the album was also #1 in both the US and Canada, but didn’t reach our charts. This song was the soundtrack to my final year at university: it was guaranteed to fill the dance floor at student discos!

Moving south of the North American border now for my next choice. This has one of the best guitar riffs of all time, and I think it’s amazing:

Tom Scholz, take a bow: I applaud your guitar playing and songwriting. Brad Delp deserves praise too, I think, for some great vocals. The album – Boston – was released in August 1976. This was its opening track, and was released as a single the following month. The album peaked at #3 in the US and #11 here, while the single reached #5 and #22 respectively. Even after all these years, the hairs on my neck rise when I hear that guitar solo! One small point: if you watch this on YouTube, please disregard the attributions in the information section. This song was NOT written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, nor was it performed by the Bee Gees. Fake noooz!

Back home to the UK for this week’s final choice. This was a band that straddled the late Sixties/early Seventies, and made six great albums in a little under four years. I could have chosen many of their songs but I was looking for a hit single, and it is a bonus that this one gives me a rousing finale:

This was the opening track on the band’s final album, Heartbreaker. Only two of the original band members were left by then, so it is hardly surprising that their second, and final, break up followed shortly afterwards. But Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke then went on to found Bad Company, so all was not lost! The album was released in January 1973, and reached #7 in the UK and #47 in the US. As a single, this was released in December 1972, and also reached #7 here. It was also a #47 hit – but in Germany, not the US! It was another favourite at the students’ union discos, too.

So, as we stumble into another national lockdown under the ever incompetent guidance of our government – aka the ship of fools – I bid you adieu until next time. I’ll be posting again in a couple of days, so do look out for that: I’ve managed to work out that the week includes days other than Tuesday, so I thought I’d share my discovery with you. To back myself up on that revelation – I posted some tunes for Halloween last Saturday, if you missed them. There’s just no end beginning to my achievements, is there!

Be well, stay safe, and enjoy your music.