Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Quarante points

A new topical tack this week for our old top 40 exhumations, as we take three classic Eurovision winners in the week they each went to number one, starting with the biggest of all, announced on 27th April 1974:

40 Barbra Streisand - The Way We Were
Well, this song only means one thing.

Edited, says our man in the know, by Ray Stubbs. Splendidly, following it in that clip is more Mountjoyalia, all but the first few seconds of the great forgotten BBC-promoted sports song of the 1980s, Jed Ford's Boss O' The Black. Yes, TV snooker is a hell of a game alright.

39 Paper Lace - The Night Chicago Died
We'll come back to Paper Lace because we have to note that entering the top 50 at 48 is Sparks' This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us. Because it seems to have been lost we can't work out when it was that the famed first Ron Mael glowering at the kids appearance was, but it may well have been the following week for reasons we'll again come back to and because the week after that it rocketed up into the top ten.

38 Status Quo - Break The Rules
Except in the sound, obviously.

37 Ragtimers - The Sting
A cover of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer renamed after the previous year's film in which it was the main theme. We'll come back to this.

36 Queen - Seven Seas Of Rhye
Second single, first hit (it'd been number ten four weeks earlier) and all sorts of motifs that would carry many a lesser band through a career, from piano intro to May solo. Of course it's a key location in We Will Rock You.

35 The Carpenters - Jambalaya
My lord, Jambalaya?

34 Charlie Rich - The Most Beautiful Girl
Former Sun Records hack finds paydirt in country and western balladry. This had been to number two in one of country's sole representative concerted attempts at commercially breaking the UK, something that happens every few years, most recently with Leann Rimes and before her Shania Twain.

33 The Intruders - I'll Always Love My Mama
Gamble & Huff also-rans refer to their mothers as "my baby girl", disturbingly. Disco soul's own No Charge.

32 Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes - Satisfaction Guaranteed
Jumpsuited Philly soul kingpins for whom Harold Melvin was very much their Kool, ie he may have got his name above the shop front but no way was he the lead member.

31 Paper Lace - Billy Don't Be A Hero
"Opportunity Knocks was pretty much the 70s version of The X-Factor" says their Wiki. Oh, Wiki. Without a Kasabian or White Town to call their own Nottingham, despite all its venues, is somewhat lagging in the East Midlands pages of the pop gazetter - Corinne Drewery from Swing Out Sister, one of Deep Purple, one of Editors, one of the Stereo MCs, and then you're down to the very much cult concerns (Tindersticks, say). So at the top end you're left with this American Civil War death reveille that someone else actually took to number one in America.

30 The Wombles - The Wombling Song
The series started the previous year but the musical career only took off once Bernard Cribbins had dragged Mike Batt dressed as Orinoco onstage on Cilla Black's show. The series and pop career weren't thought of simultaneously, the latter was Batt's own idea, securing character rights in exchange for a flat fee for the theme. Their first album was given two stars by Rolling Stone, something to which the only reaction can be "Rolling Stone reviewed a Wombles record? Really? Why? Did they also review the Goodies and Rock Follies?"

29 MFSB - TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)

28 Jim Stafford - Spiders And Snakes
No idea what the titular creatures have to do with the rest of the song.

27 The Rubettes - Sugar Baby Love
So what happened was This Town Ain't Big Enough... entered the top 50 and was gaining lots of interest so they were called up for TOTP, but it was only when they got there that the producer realised they were American and thus were missing Musician's Union papers. An emergency call went out to the Rubettes, for whom this was the becapped doo-wop chancers' chart debut week, and such was their impact that this climbed 25 places the following week and another one the week after that. And by that time, Sparks were at number two because of their own TOTP watercooler moment before watercoolers existed. Thems the breaks.

26 Genesis - I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Peter Gabriel is a very serious man, of course. Note Phil in his overalls.

25 Marvin Hamlisch - The Entertainer
Oh, that a film soundtrack could have such power today. And what sport did it come to be associated with in BBC montage form?

24 The Osmonds - I Can't Stop
Classic Sugar Sugar-style bubblegum pop slightly analogous to two years previously's Crazy Horses, largely because it was originally released in 1967.

23 David Bowie - Rock And Roll Suicide
The last song he'd ever do, he told Hammersmith Apollo. He's never apologised. And yes, you're right, that gig had been in July 1973, and apart from the money making opportunities nobody really knows why this got the very late single treatment, especially given Diamond Dogs was only six weeks away.

22 Mott The Hoople - Golden Age Of Rock And Roll
A lot of looking backwards in Mott songs, isn't there?

21 Charlie Rich - Behind Closed Doors
Engelbert's The Last Waltz with twanging, essentially.

20 Gary Glitter - Remember Me This Way
He must have recorded something that can't be reappropriated.

19 Bill Haley And His Comets - Rock Around The Clock
Somewhat left behind these days when the roots of rock'n'roll are discussed, the Jive Bunny favourite marshalled his Comets (and that is His Comets, rather than The Comets) into Blackboard Jungle seat-ripping jive frenzy. Did you know Haley re-recorded it for the opening theme of the first two series of Happy Days? Puts that Only Fools And Horses switcheroo into perspective.

18 Hot Chocolate - Emma
Errol Brown is an MBE for services to popular music. And you thought June Sarpong MBE was winging it.

17 Stevie Wonder - He's Misstra Know-It-All
Internet says this was used in a Dunlop advert, possibly the same one that also went with You're So Vain where a man gets dressed to the nines without stopping to put trousers on. This was very much the milieu of 1991-92 advertising, embarrassing sub-Milk Tray men.

16 The Three Degrees - Year Of Decision
It would have been around this time that the girl group who just forgot to stop became Prince Charles' favourites. Tis but a short hop from there to Ellie Goulding, it seems.

15 Little Jimmy Osmond - I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door
His third hit at still not eleven years old, which makes you wonder what the subtext here was supposed to be.

14 Mungo Jerry - Long Legged Woman Dressed In Black
Ray Dorset attempts to take on Thin Lizzy, ends up nearer Showaddywaddy.

13 Slade - Everyday
A plodding piano ballad. Noddy still bellows the chorus, of course. It doesn't become Dave Hill's outfit for once.

12 Bay City Rollers - Shang-A-Lang
Running with the gang, all that.

11 Peters And Lee - Don't Stay Away Too Long
Their biggest hit since Welcome Home, which surely cancels this title out.

10 Glitter Band - Angel Face
Gary Glitter, he's a bad, bad man, ruining the reputation of the Glitter Band. Loads to remark upon here beyond the insistent drumalong - they didn't record with The Leader until BEF's Music Of Quality And Distinction project, there were at one point three Glitter Bands in operation, one member received a one year suspended sentence for breaching a court order banning him from using the band's name in his own operations, two of them wrote the 2000 UK Eurovision entry and the drumming duo went on to play with Denim.

9 Wizzard - Rock And Roll Winter
Another winter rock and roll!

8 Diana Ross And Marvin Gaye - You Are Everything
The two monoliths coo an old Stylistics song at each other to not unpleasant effect. Marvin Gaye was always strong at duetting, which makes all that wanking in Belgium unpleasantness later on in his career that seems to have taken over as his populist modus operandi more galling.

7 Sunny - Doctor's Orders
"Look up Sunny in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles and you'll find one entry for the song 'Doctor's Orders'. Which just goes to show what they know about pop music" says a 70s pop site. It's a reference book! There's no qualitative judgement involved in it! Founder Brotherhood Of Man member - they operated what we must now call a Sugababes approach - and prolific backing singer (that's supposedly her on the chorus of Joe Cocker's version of With A Little Help From My Friends) decides to be Petula Clarke in a song seemingly about having it off with the doctor against General Medical Council rules.

6 Limmie And The Family Cooking - A Walkin' Miracle
The family name being Snell rather than Cooking, a trio who perhaps brought too much of the variety angle to soul harmony.

5 The Chi-Lites - Homely Girl
Flick Colby was particularly pressed for time that week.

4 The Wombles - Remember You're A Womble
Neat link from the intro to that clip. Clem Cattini grits his teeth and sizes up the glam beat again while whoever was inside the sax-toting Orinoco works the crowd.

3 Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun
Actually a Jacques Brel original, though the translation takes out the very Brel-ian pisstakery and accusations of infidelity. The Beach Boys were going to cover it but abandoned their take so their producer recorded and had a hit with it instead. Covered by both Westlife and Black Box Recorder, which is something one side of that equation is probably happier about than the other.

2 Mud - The Cat Crept In
Music to do some sort of four-square Shadows-like dance step to while sporting massive sideburns and pushed up against your colleague who has Christmas baubles hanging off his earrings.

1 ABBA - Waterloo
1974, for all sorts of reasons, was a hell of a Eurovision year. Luxembourg, having won in both 1972 and 1973, pulled out of hosting again due to expense, so it was held in Brighton with a film starring the Wombles as the interval act - note John Peel Radio 1 Fun Day Out anecdote-presaging Womble driving a speedboat, albeit Tony Blackburn out of sight. Malta withdrew after choosing their competitor, ante-post favourites France pulled out after president Pompidou died in the preceding week with his funeral on the same day. Italy refused to broadcast the event due to fears Gigliola Cinquetti's song being called Si might influence the upcoming divorce referendum - they still came second. Famously, Portugal's performance was used as the cue to launch the country's Carnation Revolution military coup restoring democracy to the country. The Swiss song was performed by a female bricklayer, the Irish entrant had suffered amnesia after a recent car accident and had to write the lyrics to her song on the back of her hand, and Katie Boyle hosted for the last time with an oft told anecdote about a see-through dress that we don't quite understand. Australia's Olivia Newton-John was the UK entry, coming fourth with a song she hated. In the midst of all that Sweden and their thematically dressed composer won with the lowest outright winning percentage ever, only two of the voting sixteen countries (Sweden couldn't vote for themselves, remember), Finland and Switzerland, giving them first place. The UK gave them nothing. A proud nation reacted by staging a protest march around the Stockholm venue a year later about the cost of staging the event and the ditching of traditional Scandinavian folk in favour of capitalist pop music, the hubbub so great Sweden took 1976 off Eurovision. The winner's story you know, but this was their winning performance at the national heats, Melodifestivalen. Annifrid's excitement to be on stage at the start is only matched by how far off key she drifts about thirty seconds from the end of the clip.

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