Sunday, December 07, 2008

The only chart that counted: 1975

For yet another year, frustrated by the fact we already know what the Christmas number one for next year will be - not who or what yet, just its derivation - we dive headlong into a range of Christmas top forties of years gone by - three this year, all on the December Saturdays before Christmas - to sort wheat from chaff and just generally piss about. We put a lot of effort into these, we'll have you know.

40 Roxy Music - Both Ends Burning
Well, that's the risk you take for shagging around. (Is that strictly libellous?)

39 Billy Connolly - D.I.V.O.R.C.E.
Affectionate parody rather than pisstake of Tammy from just broken through into mass market ex-Humblebum. Working a quarantined dog into the equation is stretching the pale, though.

38 Stretch - Why Did You Do It
A poor man's Climax Blues Band.

37 The Carpenters - Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town
Odder festive things were just outside this list, with Freddie Starr covering White Christmas peaking at 41. Starr always fancied himself as a straight crooner, but we don't doubt there's bits of funny voice business in it too.

36 Frank Sinatra - I Believe I'm Gonna Love You

35 Crispy And Company - Get It Together
A disguised excursion into Eurodisco by French Afro-funksters and by all accounts much better than that sounds Lafayette Afro Rock Band. Obviously, this ended up being the only hit they had.

34 Wombles - Let's Womble To The Party Tonight
The 1974 Eurovision Song Contest interval act - hello, Sweden, you've just changed the course of pop music forever, now see what we do - don't stop to explain what 'womble' as a verb actually means. Chris Spedding on guitar, as part of a fantastically wide-raging CV that encompasses Roxy Music, John Cale, Brian Eno, Elton John, the Sex Pistols and Katie Melua. This followed, but wasn't on, Superwombling, which contains a track called The Myths And Legends Of King Merton Womble And His Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Using a spinoff of a children's stop-motion animation series to take the piss out of Rick Wakeman can only be applauded.

33 Jim Capaldi - Love Hurts
An Everly Brothers cover by the drummer from Steve Winwood's band Traffic. Got to number four. It was 1975.

32 Elvis Presley - Green Green Grass Of Home
Actually Porter Wagoner, Jerry Lee Lewis had already recorded the country standard before Tom Jones convinced a generation that it was about Wales all along, and Johnny Cash did it at Folsom Prison. That bit about four grey walls, see. Murry The Hump's Green Green Grass Of Home, which is about something else, is better.

31 Jigsaw - Sky High
Put into Room 101 by Frank Skinner on the radio version.

30 Billy Howard - King Of The Cops
We've written before about the preponderance of variety comedy spoofs in the charts in this era, and here's a prime example - a man performing a rewritten King Of The Road in the voices of Kojak, Columbo, Ironside etc. File under You'd Never Get That Now.

29 Abba - Mamma Mia

28 John Lennon - Imagine
Stinks up 'all time greats' lists to this day, but first time around it peaked at number 6 and spent ten weeks in the top 40, not entering the pantheon until 1980 when producers needed stock footage and alighted on the video.

27 The Impressions - First Impressions
Slight misnomer, twelve years after their debut and with Curtis Mayfield having long jumped ship.

26 The Fatback Band - Do The Bus Stop
The great Being Spraypainted And Kicked At 2am craze of winter 1975 was on.

25 Slade - In For A Penny
Not, sadly, from Slade In Flame but the start of a concerted attempt to take on an American soul/pop sound. The US radio interviewers must have been fascinated by Noddy.

24 Rod Stewart - This Old Heart Of Mine

23 The Small Faces - Itchycoo Park
It'd got to number 9, in fact, although there's no explicit reason for it to be reissued in the first place, apart from that Steve Marriott's next band Humble Pie had just split up. Well, it was Christmas, he might have needed the money.

22 Mike Oldfield - In Dulce Jubilo/On Horseback
It's always clips of Wakeman and ELP that they show, but we suspect it was more the showy multi-instrumentalist neo-classicism - this was a reworking of the Good Christian Men Rejoice hymn - that drove McLaren and Scabies into action.

21 Ken Dodd - (Think Of Me) Wherever You Are
With his reputation as toothy marathon man of the stage cemented it's easy to forget Ken really fancied himself as a serious balladeer, and not strictly in the Des O'Connor all-round sense either. This was the last of *eighteen* top 40 singles.

20 Goodies - Make A Daft Noise For Christmas
The seventh biggest selling group in Britain that year. Eat that, Boosh.

19 Steeleye Span - All Around My Hat
When nu-folkies do acquiesce to acknowleding that they might have heard some English folk music between all the Bob, Joni and Carole - and no, Nick Drake doesn't count - it's always Fairport Convention and offshoots, John Martyn for the more adventurous. Steeleye Span sold more records but don't get the same treatment, which you can see - accents right from the centre of finger in ear fiddle-de-dee, traditional covers, novelty songs, Peter Sellers on the previous album, this produced by Mike Batt in the midst of Womblemania. And it's called All Around My Hat.

18 Sailor - Glass Of Champagne
Note to all bands for 2009: more nickelodeons.

17 10cc - Art For Art's Sake
Omnistylistic, buffing the happy lamp nominatured songcrafters supreme critique capitalism. Still sounds pertinent today etc.

16 David Essex - If I Could
"In 2004, Essex shouted "Are you waiting for a bus?" at a fan who stood up during a performance in Leeds. Essex was supported by local legends Wilson at the concert." It's no Gonna Make You A Star, that's all you need about the song.

15 Bay City Rollers - Money Honey
Where is she now? Probably editing the Times Literary Supplement.

14 Judge Dread - Christmas In Dreadland/Come Outside
It's the golden age of reggae, and its most successful chart star in Britain, more so than Marley, was an ex-debt heavy and pro wrestler from near Rochester who prided himself on making records that adapted nursery rhymes with single entrende sexual innuendo, routinely banned by the BBC, like an irie Andrew Dice Clay. And Andrew Dice Clay isn't that fondly recalled now either.

13 Andy Fairweather-Low - Wide Eyed And Legless
As with Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, here's the pop oeuvre inventing a phrase soon to go international, through the former Amen Corner singer.

12 The Drifters - Can I Take You Home Little Girl
Insert reference to registers here.

11 Mud - Show Me You're A Woman
Something possibly demanded of Rob Davis at the time.

10 Chris Hill - Renta Santa
In 1956 Dickie Goodman released The Flying Saucer, a mock news report in which he would ask a series of questions and receive replies clipped from popular hits of the day. Nearly twenty years later an Ilford soul DJ borrowed the idea, including a verse entirely about Rod Stewart leaving Britain. As we say, this was a time for odd novelty hits.

9 David Bowie - Golden Years
War Pigs gets it the most, but nobody points out that the self-rhyme here - "I'll stick with you baby for a thousand years/Nothing's gonna touch you in these golden years" - is even worse.

8 The Stylistics - Na Na Is The Saddest Word
Only if you're a grown man pointing at a fire engine.

7 Hot Chocolate - You Sexy Thing
Hen parties! Run! Run far and fast!

6 Demis Roussos - Happy To Be On An Island In The Sun
Hefty lover's Europop before Europop became what it became, actually quoted on Renta Santa.

5 Chubby Checker - Let's Twist Again/The Twist
The Fat Boys, roused, make notes.

4 Dana - It's Gonna Be A Cold Cold Christmas

3 Laurel And Hardy With The Avalon Boys Featuring Chill Wills - The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine
Again, the novelty hits were quite something. We have no idea why this was issued as a single - the film was released in 1937, both were long dead, there was no known campaign around the duo going on at the time. Chill Wills, by the way - and that was his real name - was a future Oscar nominated actor and member of the Avalon Boys vocal quartet, this billing being something of a Supremes Featuring Diana Ross.

2 Greg Lake - I Believe In Father Christmas
It's quite difficult to believe in Greg Lake sometimes, but there's a certain charm, despite its yes-I'm-in-ELP Prokofiev flourish, to this song that keeps it going through the years, co-written by Pete Sinfield, who went on to pen Bucks Fizz's The Land Of Make Believe, which he claimed it was an attack on Thatcher, and Celine Dion's Think Twice, which wasn't. This is actually about the commercialisation of Christmas. Still sounds pertinent today etc.

1 Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
"Rowe, Flo, Crowe, Yeo, Lowe, Pyo, Defoe!"

Previous years covered: 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002


Anonymous said...

I notice that the encroachment of English, in the European Song Contest increases year by year.

I would comment, as a native English speaker,that this both undemocratic and unethical. Perhaps the time has come to break the habit of "English imperialism" in the European Song Contest, and use a song, sung in Esperanto instead!

This is a serious suggestion, as you can see from the Esperanto music which is already available at or at

Chris Brown said...

For most of the 1990s, contestants had to sing in a language of the country they were representing. No wonder Ireland kept winning.

Anyway, it is interesting about the novelty records there, isn't it?
Incidentally, there are widespread reports as to what the Christmas Number One *song* is going to be this year. On that precedent, who knows that they'll go for in 2009?

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