I’ve often mentioned here and on my Facebook page that songs take me back to my youth, my teens or my university days, so I thought it might be a good idea to devote a few posts in this series to those years. I became a teenager in 1966, and we got our first record player in the family around that time, so the Sixties seemed a good place to begin. Thinking back to those days and my early record buying, so many great songs come to mind: at present, I’m intending to do a couple of posts each for the Sixties and the Seventies, and see how it goes. But don’t hold me to that!
Like most people in those days my early record buying revolved mostly around singles, with the occasional album as birthday or Christmas gifts. My Sixties selections are very much a reflection of that: I bought all five of today’s tunes as singles. As ever, I like to start with something rousing, so here we go:
The song was originally recorded by, and was a US hit for, Robert Knight. The Love Affair’s version was released in December 1967 and became their first hit, spending two weeks at #1 in the UK charts in February 1968. The major selling point for the group was Steve Ellis, who was just 16 at the time of recording, and has a remarkably mature voice for one so young. I was subsequently given their debut album, The Everlasting Love Affair which, as well as their first three hit singles, also contained very good versions of The First Cut Is The Deepest and Handbags And Gladrags. They were known largely as a ‘pop’ band, and therefore a little ‘uncool,’ but I think Steve’s vocals deserve a better appraisal than that.
My second tune this week is another UK chart hit. The Herd only had a few hit singles, of which this was the first, before the band broke up. You may notice that a young Peter Frampton was their vocalist, in the days before he co-formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott, and then went on to sell a few million records in his solo career. I’ve always thought this was an atmospheric track, and the video is a good fit:
Ah, those were the days! All the girls wanted to go out with Peter, and all the boys wanted to be him! He was dubbed “The Face Of ’68” by a pop magazine, but that didn’t seem to do him any harm. That was the band’s fifth single, becoming the first of their three hits. It reached #6 in the UK charts and made an impact in several European countries too, but not in the US, as far as I am aware. The follow up single, Paradise Lost, is worth checking out too, if only for using the tune The Stripper as its intro!
Up next is a song by one of the major bands of the Sixties, though they carried on making good records well after their heyday, largely due to the songwriting skills of Ray Davies. This is a piece of musical magic:
I couldn’t find a movie-style video to go with that original recording but, with a song that good, who needs pictures anyway? For those of us who have spent much time in London, that is so evocative. I’ve previously mentioned that one of my favourite concert venues is the Royal Festival Hall, which is part of the Southbank complex, just along the river from Waterloo Station. I have often spent time before a show taking in the view of the river from there, and this song always comes to mind. The song reached #2 in the UK, and was a top ten single in Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. It was released in the US and Canada too, but didn’t chart there: maybe it was too ‘English’ for you? If you want to try more of the band, their early singles are raucous fun and, with Celluloid Heroes, Ray produced another masterpiece later in his career.
It wouldn’t feel right to do a piece on Sixties music without including the band that defined pop and rock music for that era and, I would argue, for a good many years later. I really can’t imagine how music would have developed without them. This is one of their best:
What is there to say about The Beatles that hasn’t already been said? If you’re looking for new insights you’ve come to the wrong place, but you probably already knew that. The song was released with Penny Lane as a double A-side non-album single in 1967, though it did subsequently feature on the US album release of Magical Mystery Tour, and on several compilations since then. It reached #2 in the UK, giving it the dubious distinction of being the first Beatles single since Please Please Me not to reach #1 here, though it did achieve that in the US. Who cares? It’s still a great song and I love that video.
This week’s final selection is another long time favourite of mine. It was also released as a non-album single and has only ever featured on compilations since then, apart from in the US, where it was included on the release of the band’s first album, Mr Fantasy. Traffic were the band formed by Steve Winwood after his early days in the Spencer Davis Group, though this song is unusual in that Dave Mason – who wrote it – takes lead vocal instead of Winwood:
Proving that nepotism has been around for much longer than Trump, the spoken vocal in the middle of the song is by a six year old – Francine Heimann – who just happened to be the stepdaughter of the record company owner. It’s who you know, isn’t it! The song was released in August 1967, peaking at #2 in the UK but failing to chart in the US. It is said that the other three band members didn’t like it, feeling that it didn’t reflect the rest of their music: that probably explains why Dave Mason had to sing lead vocal!
That’s all for this week. In case you hadn’t noticed, all of these songs were from this side of the pond, but I did actually listen to – and buy – a lot of American music too, so I’ll try to redress that balance next time. Or maybe the time after…
Have a good week. Stay safe and well. Wear your mask. Go out. Don’t go out. Leave the pub by 10pm. Go to work. Don’t go to work. Follow the guidance and rules. Whatever…