Tuesday Tunes 28: The Sixties – Part 1

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…

 

#ChristmasSongADay – Part 3

Continuing my series of the songs I have been posting each day for Advent on Twitter and Facebook, here are those I featured from Days 13 to today, Day 18.

One of my favourite singer/songwriters is Mary Chapin Carpenter. I have every album she has released in her 30 year career and have been lucky enough to see her play live: a magical experience. In 2008 she released an album of Christmas songs, called Come Darkness, Come Light. Six of the twelve songs were written by her, including this one, the title track, which was my choice for the 13th. I think it’s lovely, and hope you like it too:

That turned out to be the start of a three day run of songs from female singer/songwriters. I’ve always had a soft spot for this style of music, going back to when I first became interested in music in the 60s. One of the first to get my attention was the peerless Joni Mitchell. Even after all these years, my favourite of all of her albums is Blue, which was released in 1971. My vinyl copy of that album wore very thin during my university days, and it is still my ‘go to’ Joni album. It is a very introspective album – classic bedsit music! One of the best of a set of fine tracks is this one, which I chose on the 14th. I believe it is complemented perfectly by the Snoopy video:

The third song in this run of three, which I posted on the 15th, is by another artist whose albums all feature in my collection. Shawn Colvin released her debut album a couple of years after Mary Chapin Carpenter’s first record. The two are friends and have played live together many times, although I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Shawn live – there are plenty of videos on YouTube though! She beat Mary to a Christmas album by ten years, releasing Holiday Songs And Lullabies in 1998. This is another fine album, and the track I chose is this one:

Isn’t that lovely, so beautiful in its simplicity? How could I follow that up? I didn’t try! Instead, I took a completely different approach, and went loud:

That dark little song about a department store Father Christmas being duffed up by a bunch of kids was released as a single in 1977. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t trouble the charts. As far as I know it has only appeared since then on a couple of Kinks compilation albums: they went through a period of making their studio releases ‘concept albums’ and it’s hard to see where this song would have fitted in! Still, it raises a smile of nostalgia for me, and I’d be surprised if you’d heard it before – which is, after all, one of the reasons why I make this selection each year! As a complete aside, you might like to take a look at a much more heart-warming view of a child’s Christmas, written by Enda, a fellow blogger. I think this is a wonderful piece of writing, and I hope you can read it too.

As yesterday, Day 17, was a Sunday I thought it fitting to share a Christmas carol as my song for the day. But, rather than go for a version from a religious setting, I chose this:

You may well recognise Maddy Prior as being a longstanding member of Steeleye Span, who – along with Fairport Convention – were one of the forerunners of the electric folk scene which developed in England in the late 1960s. You may also recall them having a novelty Christmas hit in 1972 with Gaudete, to the best of my knowledge still one of only two chart hits sung entirely in Latin (the other is Pie Jesu). I could have chosen that, but went for this one instead as it is a little further off the beaten track. Whilst remaining a Steeleye Span member, Maddy has regularly undertaken Christmas tours with the Carnival Band, and that is taken from a DVD made of their 2004 tour.

For today’s choice I stayed in the folk music area. I featured Bellowhead earlier in the series, and here they are again, leading a massed folk band ensemble that featured in a one-off special programme shown on BBC4 in 2009. It really doesn’t seem that long ago since I first saw this! This song, although not this version, was the b-side of Bellowhead’s Christmas Bells single (which is in Part 1 of this series – link is on the right). I bet you haven’t seen it done like this before, though:

So, that’s it for Part 3 of my #ChristmasSongADay series. I’ll be back on Christmas Day with the final seven songs, and hope to see you again then. After all, you’re going to need something to take your mind off the eggnog, yet still more gifts of socks, and arguments with the family, aren’t you! Have a great week, and I hope all of your Christmas preparations go well. See you on the 25th 😊