You may have noticed from today’s title that this week my Tuesday Tunes series reaches its 100th episode. Little did I realise when I began it, shortly over two years ago, that it would still be going this far on. If you look back at the very first one you’ll see that it has come from a humble beginning to the regular feast of musical beauty that I play for you each week now. I’m nothing if not obvious, so there was only one possible theme I could choose for today: century. All of today’s tunes include either the word century or hundred in their title apart from one, where the word is in the band’s name (ignoring one’s own rules is permitted these days, apparently). The offerings are my usual mixed bag of the known and the less well known, though there are rather more of the latter this week, I think. The acts may be known to you, but these songs may not!
I’m starting with my usual rousing little number, which may well be familiar to you if you’re a Brit, less likely if you’re from the US:
T.Rex’s 20th Century Boy was released as a stand-alone single in March 1973, and went straight into the UK chart at #3, where it stayed for three weeks. It wasn’t featured on the album Tanx, released at the same time, though it has been a bonus track on the various reissues of the album. It was also #13 in the UK in 1991, after being used in a TV commercial for Levi’s starring Brad Pitt. In the US it had no chart success – the band only had one top ten single there and a couple of lower placings, and their albums fared little better. Probably far too ‘English’ for that market, I guess.
Next up is one from a band who have had huge worldwide success for nearly sixty years, though I wouldn’t mind betting that this will be a new one for many:
100 Years Ago was the second track on the Rolling Stones’ eleventh album (or thirteenth, if you are from the US), Goats Head Soup, which was released in August 1973 and topped the charts in both the UK and the US, as well as in Canada, Australia and several other countries. This song wasn’t released as a single, either as an A- or B-side, but I rather like the video of photos from that time that someone has taken the trouble to compile. The big hit from that album was Angie, which was #5 in the UK but got to #1 in the US.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were friends of Gram Parsons, who was for a time a member of The Byrds and was the prime mover behind their country-based album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, which was released in August 1968 and is generally regarded as being the forerunner of what became known as country-rock. This was one of the tracks on that, as this audio-only clip shows:
The song was written by Gram Parsons, and there is a version included on later reissues with him taking lead vocal. I prefer this one, though, as it highlights the band’s lovely vocal harmonies so much better. The album was their least commercially successful to that point, only reaching #77 in the US and failing to make the UK chart, but its influence has been long-lasting – think Poco, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, amongst many others. Two singles were released from it, of which only one charted: You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, a Bob Dylan cover, which reached #74 in the US and #45 in the UK.
This next one is another by a well known artist that might have gone under the radar for many:
100 Miles From Memphis was the title track of an album released by Sheryl Crow in July 2010, peaking at #3 in the US, at #2 in Canada and at #34 in the UK. I love the laid back feel of this song, and Sheryl looks to be enjoying it too. Much though I like her music I’ve always thought her singing voice to be a little on the quiet side, needing greater amplification – this one may be a case in point, I think.
Now for some English folk rock music. You may well have seen this lot here before, and this is one of their classic tracks:
Seven Hundred Elves was the opening track on Steeleye Span’s sixth album, which was called Now We Are Six – more due to the fact that they had added a drummer, Nigel Pegrum, to their line up, making the band a six piece, than what I think was a happy coincidence of the album numbering. The album was released in March 1974, and reached #13 in the UK chart. This wasn’t released as a single, but has always been a good live song. This clip is from a rather bizarre BBC show of the band in concert at Penshurst Place, an English stately home, playing to an audience of slightly bewildered looking toffs who were dinner guests of the owner, Viscount De L’Isle.
Today’s next tune is the outlier, in which the hundred is in the band’s name:
This is possibly an unlikely choice for me, but I have to admit I’ve always liked this song. Haircut One Hundred were a short lived English band, who made two albums between 1982 and 1984. They were described as ‘new wave,’ though I preferred to think of it as ‘fop pop.’ Fantastic Day was a track on their first album, Pelican West, released in February 1982, which reached #2 in the UK and #31 in the US. The song was the third single taken from the album and made #9 in the UK – their third of four that reached the top ten here. Lead singer Nick Heyward left the band in early 1983, and as a result their second album bombed completely. After that, Heyward had a reasonably successful solo career for ten years or so, with quite a few hits, though he never really set the charts alight. But this song and video were fun then, and still are for me today.
My penultimate tune of this 100th episode is another century one. I’ve been a fan of Al Stewart since his early days back in the Sixties: I have all of his albums, and he has never made a bad one. I’ve featured him here before, but not with this song:
Last Days Of The Century is the title track of an album released in August 1988. It didn’t make the charts anywhere, which is hardly a surprise: apart from a purple patch in the mid-Seventies which gave him two top ten albums and singles in the US, Al’s chart career has been undistinguished. But in my view he is an example of what someone once described as being ‘too good for the charts,’ in other words he makes great music but it isn’t full of commercial, pop-py hooks. I’m happy just to enjoy everything he has ever given us! He always writes great lyrics, and this song is no exception to that:
In the last days of the century
Leaning from your balcony
You say changes come so rapidly
You can feel them in the air
Whoever you pretend to be
You must face yourself eventually
I’m closing today with the song which was the final track on one of the best albums released by a former Beatle after the band broke up:
The superimposed lyrics on that video leave a bit to be desired, and somehow I doubt that ‘David McCartney’ is really the name of the person who posted it, but I chose that as it has a good selection of clips of Paul McCartney and Wings when the Band On The Run album was being made, in preference to one of the subsequent live performances by Paul which can be found on YouTube. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five is, as I said, the closing track on the album, complete with a brief reprise of the title track, which is where the album begins. It is a fantastic record and, like many others, was a good part of the soundtrack to my uni days. It was released in December 1973 and was the third under the Wings band name, topping the charts in the UK, the US, Canada, Norway and France and reaching #2 in Australia. It was the best selling album of 1974 in Australia and Canada, and was #2 in the UK and #3 in the US for that year. To date it has sold more than 6m copies, which makes it Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles album in commercial terms – also in terms of its music, in my opinion: it really is very good.
So, that’s the first hundred posts in this series done. I wonder if there will be another hundred? Who can tell? I certainly can’t, as I don’t have the skills of Mystic Meg or Gypsy Rose Lee, and trying to predict the future from a teacup isn’t that easy when you use teabags, anyway. Barring anything strange I can be fairly sure that there will be another collection of tunes for you next Tuesday, and I hope to see you again then. Have a great week, and I’ll see you soon 😊