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.

Tuesday Tunes 31: Sixties Albums

I remarked last week that my record purchasing began to take a shift from singles to albums towards the late Sixties, and it therefore seems a good idea to reflect that with a post devoted to some of the albums that attracted me, as my musical tastes matured. Two of today’s choices are from bands who have featured in this little mini-series of Sixties posts – one of them as recently as last week – but the others are new to the series. They do, I think, reflect that change though.

As always, I’m starting with something that moves a bit:

An unlikely place to start, perhaps, for a band which is probably more known either for their 1965 hit single Go Now or the many slower album tracks of their prog rock days. That is actually the first piece of music – after a spoken word intro – on their third album, In Search Of The Lost Chord. This was their second concept album, after Days Of Future Passed, the one which includes Nights In White Satin – which you may have heard! The album was released in July 1968 and reached #5 in the UK, #23 in the US. This track was actually released as a single – the second from the album – but didn’t really do all that much, peaking at #42 in the UK and #61 in the US. I bought the album that year, and still love it and play it now, albeit the vinyl original is long since lost from my possession. An old school friend came to visit me a few years back, and told me that he had been listening to Moody Blues albums on the drive up here – good to know that my influence still exists!

This week’s second choice is also a quick mover, and is also probably not the most obvious track I could have chosen from its album:

The song is a track on Bob Dylan’s seventh album, Blonde On Blonde, which was released in June 1966. This was one of the first double albums in rock music, and is often given as an example of one of the best albums ever. Not bad, for the guy my Mum used to call ‘the man who can’t sing.’ The album reached #3 in the UK and #9 in the US, and spawned five hit singles, of which this was one of two which charted on both sides of the Atlantic – it peaked at #20 in the US but got slightly higher here, where it reached #16. After all this time it is still one of my favourite Dylan tracks, but much though I like Bob I have to admit that I think Leonard Cohen would have been a more deserving Nobel winner for his poetry than Mr Zimmerman. Discuss…

I mentioned the phrase ‘concept album’ in relation to the Moody Blues. They released several of that genre, but were far from alone in doing so. Many rock bands – especially those who were labelled ‘prog rock’ – did so, but one of my favourites was from an out and out rock band. The Who released The Who Sell Out in December 1967 in the UK and in January 1968 in the US: it comprised a number of unrelated songs linked by radio station jingles, of the sort the band had themselves recorded for others. This is my favourite track from the album:

You can hear a couple of the concept jingle links at the beginning and end of that clip, to give you a little context. In a rather twee comment Wikipedia remarks that the song has been ‘subject to a variety of interpretations.’ I have only ever thought there could be one, but maybe that’s just my mind – then again, the band’s discographer (Chris Charlesworth) described it as their ‘second great song about masturbation,’ so maybe I’m on the right track.  In case you’re wondering, the first song in that dubious category was Pictures Of Lily. The album reached #13 here and #48 in the US. As concept albums go it was a bit of an oddity, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was the subject of several lawsuits claiming infringement of copyright, including one from the pirate radio station Radio London, some of whose jingles featured on it. Proof, if it were needed, that big business lacks a sense of humour – whilst always being able to sniff out the making of a quick buck or two!

My next song this week is from an album I’ve loved ever since it was released, and still play to this day:

The album was Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, which was released in August 1968 and was the only Byrds album to feature Gram Parsons. The album is credited with creating the genre known as ‘country-rock,’ though it wasn’t a commercial success, only reaching #77 in the US and failing to chart here. It has subsequently been recognised as one of the most influential albums ever, though. Two singles were released from it, of which this was one: it reached #74 in the US and #45 here. It wasn’t long before Parsons left the band, along with Chris Hillman, and they formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, who I recommend highly. Gram Parsons’ influence has spread far beyond his tragically short lifetime: for example, he was friends with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and is cited as an influence for some of the Stones’ country-based songs, such as Country Honk and Faraway Eyes. To round off this section, perhaps I should point out that this is actually a Bob Dylan song (yes, him again), written by him in 1967, though he didn’t release his own version until 1971.

It would be remiss of me not to include the biggest band on the planet in a selection of Sixties albums. Fortunately, I’m spoilt for choice, as all apart from The Beatles’ final album, Let It Be, were released in this decade. But that does make it hard to narrow the selection! So I decided to cheat a little:

Abbey Road was released on 26 September 1969, and this video was released to mark the 50th anniversary reissue of the album, on 26 September 2019. I think it’s rather lovely, and it just had to be my choice. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the Beatles or this song and album: suffice it to say that it is a George Harrison song, written by him while in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden, and that John Lennon didn’t feature on the original recording as he was recuperating from injury at the time. The album was, of course, #1 in the UK and the US, and in just about every other country you care to think of. The 50th anniversary reissue? Also a UK #1. In the main US chart it was #3, though it made #1 in the Rock chart. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that this video has over 35m views in little more than a year!

I’m giving you six songs again this week, as I couldn’t possibly leave out the band that became the biggest rock band in the world during the Seventies. Their first two albums were Sixties releases, though, which means I can legitimately include them here. In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about Led Zeppelin, who were probably the major influence in my taste moving towards rock music. Given that they were renowned for their hard rock, you might not be expecting this choice, though:

To my mind, that is one of the most beautiful love songs ever recorded, and I think the imagery of the lyrics is wonderful. It is the closing track to side one of Led Zeppelin II, back in the days when everything came on vinyl. The album was released in October 1969 and, unsurprisingly, was #1 both here and in the US. No tracks from the album were released as singles here (as was the case throughout their career) but in the US and the Netherlands, where I guess the band had less of a say in what happened, the opening track – Whole Lotta Love – was a #4 hit as a single. It was eventually released as a single here – in 1997! In the meantime, a cover version by CCS (a UK #13) was for some years the title music for our tv charts show Top Of The Pops. I’ve always found that slightly ironic! The album has sold upwards of 20m copies and it probably doesn’t need to be said that my Mum didn’t like it! She just couldn’t understand my excitement when a friend managed to get us tickets to see the band live: they played a series of warm up gigs at smaller UK venues early in 1971, as preparation for a forthcoming world tour, and I was among 1,300 who saw them at the University of Kent, Canterbury, one cold March evening. Stairway To Heaven was announced by Robert Plant in throwaway fashion as ‘here’s a song off our new LP.’ Happy days!

That’s all for this week, and for the Sixties – for now. One of the things which has struck me over the past four weeks is that, even by stretching these posts to six songs, I have had to leave out so much of the music I grew up with, so I may return to this era at some point. For those who follow my Facebook page (link is to the right) yesterday’s #SongOfTheDay was an absolute beauty that missed out on this series: a little bonus offering. Next week I’ll begin my stumble into the Seventies. There will be singles. There will be album tracks. And there will be a lot of music from North America. Stay tuned…