Tuesday Tunes 35: Seventies Albums

Today I reach my first selection of Seventies albums. As I have said several times, the Seventies was the decade when I really began buying albums in earnest, and the singles buying of my earlier youth days came to a grinding halt. Most albums now included the accompanying singles anyway, so I was actually saving money by not buying the singles any more. I have jotted down a list of potential artists for inclusion in this series, and without needing to dredge too far into my memory that list now stands at thirty: and that is artists, not albums. I could probably run this series for a long time! However, for now I’m going to be giving you two weeks, each of six tracks, and then something different will be happening for December. I’ll tell you more when the time comes (I learned all I know from Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery – which probably explains a lot). As these selections are album tracks I’m hoping that some, at least, will be unfamiliar to you – come with me on a voyage of discovery!

I’ve been listening to a lot of the artists on my list, in a vain attempt to come up with a definitive selection. I decided that it was a hopeless task, so I’m just going to leap in! Getting my Seventies albums collection off to a rousing start, how about this:

A good way to check that your ears are still working, I think, and the energy in that is incredible. Since his first album in 1973, Bruce has released twenty studio albums, nine of which have been #1 in the US and eleven here in the UK. Perhaps surprisingly, in retrospect, this wasn’t one of those, peaking at #3 in the US and #17 in the UK on its release in 1975. But it was undeniably the album which saw his career take off for the stratosphere. The song didn’t fare as well as you might think as a single, either. It reached #23 in the US but didn’t chart here until the days of downloads really began: making #93 in 2009! The live version, from the fantastic triple album Live 1975-1985, was released here as a single in 1987, and got as high as #16 – a little bit of justice, at last!

I’ve mentioned in the past two weeks that former members of Free and Mott The Hoople came together to form the band Bad Company. This was in 1974, which saw the release of their eponymous debut album. Only one song from the album was a hit single – Can’t Get Enough – but, as befits a selection of albums, I’m giving you the title track:

Despite looking hard, I couldn’t find a video of the band from that time – only later versions, which aren’t quite the same. Anyone who, like me, had been a fan of Free took to this album with open arms: the demise of one of our favourite bands had been more than recompensed! That still sounds fresh to me today, and Paul Rodgers has always, for me, had the best voice in rock music. As I said, that wasn’t a hit single, but as the album reached #3 here and #1 in the US I doubt the band were too distressed.

My next video is also a static one: I guess that’s what comes of selecting album tracks from around fifty years ago, before every song had to have a video. This is one of my favourites – of which there are many – from the best album by a former Beatle after the band broke up. All Things Must Pass was a triple album, released in November 1970, filled with songs that showed how remiss Lennon and McCartney had been in not allowing George more inclusion on the band’s albums:

The album was led by the single My Sweet Lord, which was a world-wide #1, as was the album. They showed George coming out of his shell, both as a songwriter and a performer. I could have chosen several other tracks from this amazing album, such as Apple Scruffs, Beware Of Darkness, All Things Must Pass (a real beauty): the whole album is packed with great songs.

My next track this week also suffers from old age, and therefore from being part of the pre-video age. But I have managed to find one that someone has kindly illustrated with some band images:

That was a track from Steely Dan’s 1972 debut album, Can’t Buy A Thrill, which formed a huge part of my university days, along with its follow ups, Countdown To Ecstasy and Pretzel Logic. The best known tracks on the first album are Do It Again and Reeling In The Years, both of which can be found on YouTube in live performances. But I decided to be perverse and choose my favourite track from a great album, though there are so many superb songs on it that choosing just one wasn’t easy. The album charted at #17 in the US and #38 here in the UK: I always felt it deserved better.

All the way back in Tuesday Tunes 3 I shared a song by this next artist, and mentioned both the album from which this came and this track. This is so beautiful that I felt it should also be a part of this series:

As the video shows, that is a track from Gerry Rafferty’s solo debut album Can I Have My Money Back?, which was released in 1971, not long after he had left the duo of which he had previously been a member – The Humblebums, a partnership with a certain Billy Connolly, of whom you may have heard. The album received good critical reviews, but I think I must have bought one of the few copies that were sold! He later went on to be hugely successful with Baker Street and the album it was on, City To City: all of his songs are skilfully written, with some beautiful lyrics. This one is a case in point: Mary Skeffington was his mother’s maiden name, and the song is addressed to her, as comfort for the difficulties she suffered during her marriage to his father. Once you know that background, the song really takes on the beauty and poignancy that has made it one of my all time favourites.

The late, great, Warren Zevon released two of his albums during the Seventies: Warren Zevon, in 1976, and Excitable Boy, in 1978. This gives me the perfect excuse to highlight him here, and to share one of the tracks from the second of those albums. Even if you aren’t a fan of his, you have probably heard of one of its tracks – Werewolves Of London, which I shared in my post Halloween Tunes 2020. This one is just as well known to his fans, of whom I am one:

As you can see from that, Warren was a guest on the Letterman show, as he had been many times over the preceding twenty years. The two became good friends, and this turned out to be Warren’s final appearance on the show, on 30th October 2002. He was the only guest for the show’s whole hour, and played several of his best known songs: this was the final one. After the show, Warren presented David Letterman with the guitar he used on the show, with the words “Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it.” The Excitable Boy album reached #8 in the US, but didn’t chart here. Five tracks from it were released as singles, but this wasn’t one of them, sadly. Warren died of inoperable cancer on 7th September 2003, shortly after the release of his final album. He still hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a shameful omission, in my view, especially when you look at some of those who have found their way in.

This first selection of Seventies albums has flown by for me, and it feels as though I have barely scratched the surface of one of the best decades for music in my lifetime. More of the contents of what used to be my vinyl collection will be coming up next week. As I said, this could take a while though, as I also said, I’m planning something different: keep an eye open for that.

Until next time, stay safe and well. The news here this week is that Boris Johnson is self isolating after hosting breakfast for some of his MPs several days ago, one of whom has tested positive for Covid. Always good to leave you on a positive note, I think 😉

Tuesday Tunes 3

As week 3 of the UK lockdown begins, here I am again with my handy little counter to keep you abreast of the situation: you may have forgotten what day it is but at least you know that it is now the third week of our BC days (Boris Coronavirus, in case you’re wondering). And you also know that today is Tuesday, unless you’re catching up with this on a later day, in which case I apologise for confusing you completely.

Having given last week’s tunes a (very) loose theme, I thought I’d do that again. If you cast your mind back three months you may recall my annual round up post – That Was The Year That Was – in which I, in (I intended) rather tongue in cheek fashion, followed the growing trend for nominating a WOTY for my blog (Word Of The Year, for the uninitiated). Having given this a modicum of thought (maybe even two modicums) I had settled upon my WOTY: Whatever. Given that we’re now into the fourth month of the year I felt it was perhaps about time that I began to take this seriously (as if….whatever….) and post something for it. So today’s theme is ‘Whatever’ songs. You’ll probably be pleased to know that I’m sparing you the whiny Oasis song which has that one word title. The point of this series is, after all, to entertain and amuse you in these difficult times, or perhaps to get you thinking a little about what matters in life. Making you puke over Liam Gallagher’s nasal crooning isn’t on the agenda.

This week’s first song is from a band whose first incarnation began around 1967. They are still going today – give or take a few deaths in the ranks – and have somehow managed to make a very long career, having sold truck loads of singles and albums, by the simple trick of reworking the same tune ad infinitum (well, until the final extant member shuffles off to meet the immortal choir, anyway). I’d be happy to take a bet that very few with even just a passing interest in rock music won’t have heard of Status Quo: even their name is a clue to the fact that their tunes stay the same, after all. I jest, of course: I can tell their songs apart. Well, most of them (And for the avoidance of doubt I’ll just add that I love the Quo). As a ‘Whatever’ tune that rouses generations of dads to dance, this one really takes some beating:

My second tune for this week is very different. As a counterpart to the Quo’s rabble rousing, I’ve gone for a quiet, reflective piece which carries a message that I think is perfect for these troubled times. Many will know Gerry Rafferty from his massive hit Baker Street, but may not know much more of his catalogue of beautifully written songs. I was one of the few to buy his first solo album Can I Have My Money Back? in 1971. This album is notable for a delicate song called Mary Skeffington, which is about the abuse his mum used to suffer from his dad. Nearly 50 years on, I still can’t listen to it without a tear in my eye. If you don’t know it, do seek it out – you won’t regret it. The song I’m sharing today – Whatever’s Written In Your Heart – is also delicate and beautiful, and is so apposite for our quieter, more reflective moments. We are probably having more of those than normal, of late. This is a live performance which I feel really brings out the simple beauty and power of the song:

Whatever’s written in your heart, that’s all that matters.

So true.

Take care, be safe and keep well. More tunes next Tuesday…