359. Ken Boothe – Everything I Own (1974)

A tune that started out as a soft rock tribute to Bread singer David Gates’s dead father was repurposed as a reggae love song by Jamaican rocksteady singer Ken Boothe and became his sole number 1 in the autumn of 1974.

Gates’s father had died in 1963, long before his son’s group became successful, but he considered him his greatest influence. The title was also inspired by him, as when Gates was a struggling musician he had bought his mother an orchid, and his father wrote to him saying he could have ‘anything she owned’ in return. It’s a lovely song, and will mean a lot to anyone who has lost a parent, but despite reaching number three in the US in 1972, it stalled at 32 in the UK.

Boothe was born in Denham Town, Kingston on 22 March 1948. He developed an interest in music while at Denham Primary Elementary School, with the help of his eldest sister Hyacinth Clover, who was part of a comedy double act. One of his biggest influences was Owen Gray, considered Jamaica’s first homegrown singing star.

As a teenager, Boothe formed a singing duo with his friend Winston ‘Stranger’ Cole. They released singles together as Stranger & Ken between 1963 and 1965. He also recorded as Roy & Ken with Roy Shirley in 1966, the same year he went solo and began recording at the famed Studio One, scoring his first hit with The Train Is Coming, on which he was backed by The Wailers. Boothe toured the UK the following year, promoted as ‘Mr Rocksteady’. To the unitiated, ‘rocksteady’ came after ska and before reggae, and is basically a slowed-down version of the two. It has nothing to do with rock.

Boothe enjoyed a number of hit singles over the next few years, including Moving Away and covers of American and British soul tunes. He switched to producer Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records in 1970, but following his untimely death he moved around and eventually settled with UK-based Trojan Records and Lloyd Charmers in 1971.

Two albums, 1973’s Black Gold and Green and 1974’s What’s Going On followed, and then when they began another album, Charmers suggested they work on a cover of Everything I Own, which eventually became the name of the LP too. It featured the Federal Soul Givers, Lloyd Parks on bass, Paul Williams from Toots and the Maytals on drums, Willie Lindo on guitar and Charmers on organ, piano and percussion. Unlike most covers, not only was the arrangement updated, but the lyrics were changed enough to alter the meaning of the song, altering it from a son mourning his father, to a spurned lover hoping to change her mind by whatever means necessary.

Although a minor number 1 (strong enough to top the charts once more when Boy George released it in 1987, though), Boothe’s cover is a pleasant slice of light reggae-pop – the type of reggae I’d normally avoid (don’t get me started on UB40, plenty of time for that when I reach the 80s). Most of that is simply down to Boothe’s voice. Some find his delivery too exact and too tight to the music but his trademark deep timbre is unusual and makes the performance feel real to me, suggesting Boothe is wounded and broken but hopeful. However, it sounds like it was his fault, as Boothe mentions taking someone for granted.

Musically, Boothe’s version is better, but I prefer the lyrics to the original. They stand out more and after all, there are a million songs in which the singer is broken-hearted and trying to persuade their lover back. Not bad at all though.

Boothe had one more UK hit from the same album when Crying Over You reached 11. Unfortunately Trojan’s financial difficulties resulted in the label suspending operations, and Boothe’s career struggled to regain momentum when it returned in 1978. That year, he was name-checked in The Clash’s (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.

Boothe and Trojan parted ways again, and his recording output dropped considerably from then on, with only two albums released in the 80s – Imagine (1986) and Don’t You Know (1987), but often he was reworking old Studio One material. UB40 (there they are again) covered Boothe on their Labour of Love album in 1983, and its sequel in 1992. In 1995 Boothe collaborated with Shaggy on a remake of The Train Is Coming on the soundtrack to the action film Money Train.

In 2003, Boothe was awarded the Order of Distinction from his homeland for his contribution to Jamaican music.

Written by: David Gates

Producer: Lloyd Charmers

Weeks at number 1: 3 (26 October-15 November)


Cricketer Michael Vaughan – 29 October
Hammer thrower David Smith – 2 November
Singer Louise Redknapp – 4 November


Poet David Jones – 28 October


28 October: The wife and son of Sports Minister Denis Howell survived a Provisional IRA bomb attack on their car.

4 November: Judith Ward was sentenced to life imprisonment for the M62 coach bombing on 4 February. It took 18 years for her to be released due to a wrongful judgement.

7 November: Richard John Bingham, 7th Earl of Lucan, better known as Lord Lucan, went missing after his children’s nanny, Sandra Rivett, was bludgeoned to death in the Lucan family home. He was never found and his death certificate was granted in 2016.
Also that day, an IRA bomb explodes at the Kings Arms, Woolwich, killing two. 

11 November: The New Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms opened.

13 November: The Americanisation of the UK took a giant leap forward when the first McDonald’s restaurant opened in Woolwich, South London. 

358. Sweet Sensation – Sad Sweet Dreamer (1974)

We’ve had several acts on the blog now that started out on ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks, including Middle of the Road and Paper Lace, but here was the first and only number 1 by a band who rose to fame via New Faces. This series, produced by ATV for ITV, began in 1973 with presenter Derek Hobson introducing acts who would perform for four judges. Among those, and most notorious, was the sardonic Tony Hatch, the 70s version of Simon Cowell. But one act he did take a shine to were Mancunian group Sweet Sensation.

This eight-piece were formed in 1971, consisting of lead vocalist Marcel King, Junior Daye, Vincent James and St Clair Palmer on backing vocals, plus Barry Johnson on bass, Roy Flowers on drums, Gary Shaugnessy on guitar and Leroy Smith on keyboards. Sweet Sensation were Manchester’s answer to the ‘Philly sound’, and by the time of their appearance on New Faces in 1974, this lush soul was growing ever more popular in the UK.

It’s worth noting that glam rock had been a totally white phenomenon, and now it was on the wane, soul and eventually disco were filling the gap. There were many more black acts at number 1 in 1974 then there had been for some time. And there hadn’t been a black British group at number 1 since The Equals in 1968. King was only 14 when they formed, making Sweet Sensation comparable to The Jackson Five due to his youthful falsetto. However, only King and Shaugnessy hailed from Manchester, the rest were from Kingston, Jamiaca, apart from Palmer, who was from St Kitts.

Hatch had prior number 1 success numerous times, with his wife Jackie Trent, among others, so Sweet Sensation landed on their feet when the well-connected producer took them under his wing and getting them a record deal with Pye in 1974. However, despite his patronage, debut single Snowfire tanked. They went back to the drawing board and enlisted David Parton to write Sad Sweet Dreamer, which featured Hatch and Trent on vocals too.

It’s a fair approximation of Gamble & Huff’s masterful work, and tracks by The Stylistics, but it feels a bit stiff, low budget and ‘British’ by comparison. King’s falsetto is appealing and it’s ironic to hear a teen singing about putting things down to experience, but it feels more like a song to fill a gap for a week than a deserved number 1, which was exactly what it was really. One of the least memorable chart-toppers of the year, but by no means a bad song.

Sweet Sensation had found a winning formula but it proved short-lived. However, the follow-up Purely By Coincidence reached number 11 in 1975. Sad Sweet Dreamer was a good enough impersonation of Philly soul for the US too – it reached number 14 there. But that was pretty much it for the band. King left in 1975 and was replaced by Recardo “Rikki” Patrick. Their debut album, named after their number 1, did badly, and no more singles charted. In 1977 they took part in A Song for Europe but came eighth with You’re My Sweet Sensation. Pye dropped them and they split soon after.

In 1984, King tried to begin a solo career, and released Reach for Love on Factory Records. It was produced by New Order’s Bernard Sumner, and is considered a lost electro-soul classic now. It’s a great production from Sumner, and King’s voice is beautiful. Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays apparently reckons it’s Factory’s best single, and ripped it off on Black Grape’s Get Higher in 1997.

Sadly, King didn’t become a solo star and died of a brain haemorrhage in 1995, aged only 38. His former bandmate Johnson was also on Factory via the early underground dance outfit Quando Quango. Smith died in 2009 and James in 2019.

Written by: David Parton

Producers: Tony Hatch & David Parton

Weeks at number 1: 1 (19-25 October)


Islamic terrorist Mohammad Sidique Khan – 20 October


19 October: Conservative MP Keith Joseph makes a controversial speech in Edgbaston on the cycle of deprivation that effectively rules him out of high office. He left the leadership contest to replace Edward Heath and instead became one of Margaret Thatcher’s biggest supporters.

22 October: The IRA threw a bomb into an empty dining room in London’s Brook’s club.

357. John Denver – Annie’s Song (1974)

The unassuming US singer-songwriter and activist John Denver wrote some of folk and country’s biggest hits, but was a one-hit wonder in the UK, where he scored the number 1 spot with this tender tribute to his first wife.

Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. on New Year’s Eve 1943 in Roswell, New Mexico, his father was a stern US Army Air Forces pilot who had difficulty showing his children emotion, and it made his eldest son introverted, as did the constant moving around due to his father’s job. Deutschendorf Jr. was shy to mix with others, but loved music and became a member of Tuscon Arizona Boys Chorus. However, that was cut short when forced to move once more and he disliked ending up in a segregated school in Montgomery, Alabama.

At college he began playing the guitar at local clubs, having been bought one by his grandmother when he was 11. When it was pointed out to him that his surname was rather unwieldy for showbiz purposes, he became John Denver, paying tribute the capital of Colorado, his favourite state. Denver joined a folk group called The Alpine Trio but dropped out of the Texas Tech School of Engineering in 1963 and moved to Los Angeles. In 1965 he joined The Mitchell Trio when founder Chad Mitchell left. A year later he recorded a demo tape of his own material for friends as a Christmas present called John Denver Sings. Among the songs was Babe, I Hate to Go. Producer Milt Okun was impressed and took it to Peter, Paul and Mary, who recorded it for an album but changed the name to Leaving on a Jet Plane.

In 1969 Denver signed with RCA Records and recorded his debut solo LP, Rhymes & Reasons. Peter, Paul and Mary’s cover of Leaving on a Jet Plane was released as a single and it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number two in the UK in 1970. That year he released two albums, Take Me to Tomorrow and Whose Garden Was This.

1971 brought Denver’s breakthrough when his album Poems, Prayers & Promises contained the track Take Me Home, Country Roads. This country classic narrowly missed out on the US top spot, but Denver was on the road to fame, and the hits increased in America. Rocky Mountain High reached the top 10 in 1973, and between 1974-75 Denver had four number 1s there – Sunshine on My Shoulders, Annie’s Song, Thank God I’m a Country Boy and I’m Sorry. Despite his shyness, the image of his embroidered shirts, long hair and granny glasses stood out, making him resemble a more polite, American version of John Lennon.

Annie’s Song was written, according to Denver himself, in 10-and-a-half minutes one day on a ski lift to the top of Ajax Mountain in Aspen, Colorado in July 1973. Exhilarated after skiing a difficult run, Denver’s senses came alive with the immersion of the colours and sounds around him, and they inspired him to think of his then-wife, Annie. He got home and wrote it all down, then later presented it to Okun, who pointed out the tune was similar to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. An hour later all that remained the same were the first five notes.

Sure, Annie’s Song is a very pretty melody, and Denver’s voice has a charm, but it’s never done much for me. Rather like Don McLean’s Vincent, the intro is very strong, but it’s downhill from there. ‘You fill up my senses’ is a great lyric, but the subsequent outpouring of comparisons doesn’t hold the attention. Denver would have been better off spending more time on the words – they’re cliched and ultimately lack a personal touch, but such Hallmark-style writing was popular among the more conservative, old-fashioned singles buyers of the mid-70s, so it was perhaps inevitable this would reach number 1 in the same year as She.

Denver’s manager Jerry Weintraub insisted the singer appear on as many TV shows as possible, despite his reticence, particularly in the UK, where he was much less well-known. Back home though, he won an Emmy for a live concert special in 1975. That December, Rocky Mountain Christmas became ABC’s highest-rated programme up to that point, with an astounding 60 million viewers. He is also remembered fondly for his appearance on The Muppet Show, even here in the UK. He also acted, starring in the film Oh, Boy! (1977) alongside comedian George Burns, hosted the Grammy Awards five times and appeared on The Tonight Show numerous times.

Denver’s music may not have been to everyone’s tastes, but his political leanings were sound. In the mid-70s he supported Jimmy Carter and they became close friends when he became president, even appointing Denver to serve on the President’s Commission on World Hunger. He founded the Windstar Foundation in 1976 to promote sustainable living, and did work for the poor, the homeless and African AIDS charities over the years.

As the hits dried up towards the end of the 70s, Denver spent much of the next decade becoming more heavily involved in politics. Despite being a critic of Ronald Reagan’s administration, Reagan awarded him the Presidential World Without Hunger Award in 1987. Five years earlier, he had finally had enough of Weintrauub’s interference and sacked him. His ex-manager accused him of being a Nazi. Little bit over-the-top and very wrong by all accounts. Despite all his charity work, he was turned down when he asked to appear on 1985 chart-topper on both sides of the Atlantic, We Are the World. According to its producer Ken Kragen, this was because many involved, but not he, believed Denver’s image would harm the song’s credibility.

In the mid-70s Dever reconciled with his father, and he helped him learn to fly, beginning his obsession that would ultimately be the death of him. Spookily, he would have potentially died even sooner had he got his wish of being the first citizen to go into space courtesy of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Despite the tragic explosion, Denver continued to support NASA and obsessed about space, even reportedly entering discussions with the Soviet Union (where he had been the first US musician to perform in more than 10 years) with the hope of buying a place on one of their flights. Once the talks reached a possible $20 million price tag, Denver backed down.

Denver released his autobiography, Take Me Home, in 1994, in which he revealed some facts that went totally against his nice guy image, including drug use, drunk driving and domestic violence. After divorcing Annie in 1982, the woman who had filled up his senses, he found out she’d cut down some trees he liked. As revenge, he showed up at her place, shredded her furniture with a power saw, then proceeded to choke her. Pretty terrible stuff. His second marriage only lasted five years, ending in 1993.

On 12 October 1997 Denver died from multiple blunt force trauma when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, California. He wasn’t legally allowed to fly due to his drunk driving arrests, but his autopsy found no drugs or drink in his body. Denver was 53.

In 1978, four years after Denver had his only UK number 1, the Belfast-born flute player James Galway scored his only chart hit with his cover of Annie’s Song.

Written by: John Denver

Producer: Milt Okun

Weeks at number 1: 1 (12-18 October)


Actor Matthew Macfadyen – 17 October


16 October: Rioting prisoners set fire to Belfast’s Maze Prison.

356. Carl Douglas – Kung Fu Fighting (1974)

‘Woah-ho-ho-ho!’ Knocked off in 10 minutes as a B-side, this huge-selling number 1 is one of the most famous novelty hits of all time. It took advantage of the 70s kung fu craze and briefly made Carl Douglas a star.

Yes, the mid-70s wasn’t just about streaking. The films of martial artist Bruce Lee had become popular in the US and subsequently the UK, but he died after the making of his 1973 blockbuster Enter the Dragon, which only added to his legend. He had allegedly also been in the running to star in US action drama Kung Fu, before David Carradine took the role in 1972. The mid-70s was the high watermark of the nation’s fascination with kung fu. There were adverts for Hai Karate aftershave, cartoon canine Hong Kong Phooey and an episode of The Goodies, ‘Kung Fu Kapers’ that concentrated on the ancient art of ‘Ecky Thump’. Famously, this was the episode in which a man literally died laughing at home while watching. What a way to go.

But anyway, Carl Douglas. Carlton George Douglas was born 10 May 1942 in Kingston, Jamaica but also spent his childhood in California before relocating to London as a teenager to study sound engineering, and enjoyed playing football. He also underwent vocal training and developed a strong tenor voice that he would use to sing in church. Douglas loved soul and jazz music, and his heroes were Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.

In 1964 Douglas formed Carl Douglas & the Big Stampede, and they released three singles in the UK but failed to get anywhere. His debut solo single was Serving a Sentence of Life in 1968, but again, no joy. With another group, Carl Douglas & the Explosion, he released the single Eeny Meeny in Spain. No reaction. Douglas returned to the UK and started working with Indian producer Biddu for the first time in 1971.

Biddu Appaiah, better known as just Biddu, would become one of the pioneers of disco. Born in Bangalore, India in 1944, he moved to England in the 60s and became a producer, working on Japanese band The Tigers’ Smile for Me in 1969, before moving on to a number of tracks that became popular on the Northern Soul scene.

Douglas recorded the single Marble and Iron with Biddu, who used the singer again in 1972 on the soundtrack to the spy thriller Embassy, starring Richard Roundtree (Shaft). Biddu hired Douglas again in 1974 to record I Want to Give You My Everything. He asked the singer if he had any ideas on what they could use as a B-side, and Douglas had several, one of which was a bunch of lyrics about watching a kung fu film. Not taking it too seriously, Biddu came up with a tune, and when it came to recording, allegedly I Want to Give You My Everything took two hours, wheras Kung Fu Fighting took 10 minutes as they were running out of studio time.

When the single was taken to Pye Records, an executive couldn’t understand why Kung Fu Fighting wasn’t the A-side, and insisted they swap the two around, for which Douglas and Biddu must be eternally grateful.

You may have heard it a million times, and not consider it something you’d ever need to listen to again by choice, but I’d defy anyone to not have a soft spot for Kung Fu Fighting. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s also bloody funky, and I’m a sucker for some wah-wah guitar and a nice bassline. Funk is one of my favourite genres and there’s sadly very few that reached number 1. And for all this is considered a disco classic, and Biddu went on to be one of the genre’s foremost producers, this to me is more funk than disco. Although credit is due to Biddu for the oriental strings. Over-the-top, sure, as are the ‘ha!’ noises at the end of each line, but they only add to the fun. I’d imagine this song must have been incredible for your average child into kung fu at the time, and is still able to make anyone feel young again, no matter their age.

Kung Fu Fighting looked like another failure upon its release, but picked up momentum from airplay in clubs. After reaching number 1 here, it topped charts around the world, including Billboard‘s, making Douglas the first Jamaican to top the US chart. An album was quickly cobbled together, the wonderfully named Kung Fu Fighting and Other Great Love Songs. Douglas is remembered as a one-hit wonder, but he had two more UK hits – the inferior follow-up cash-in Dance the Kung Fu later that year (number 35) and Run Back in 1977 (number 25).

Two more albums were released, Love, Peace and Happiness in 1979 and Keep Pleasing Me in 1983, and then Douglas disappeared into obscurity, moving to Hamburg, Germany, occasionally surfacing to remember his time as the man behind Kung Fu Fighting. And then in 1998 his song was back in the top 10 again thanks to the dance act Bus Stop, reaching number eight. It was pretty pointless, just the original with some rapping added into the mix, but it captured the 90s obsession with the 70s and Douglas was wheeled out once more for TV shows. He seems a genial character, and who wouldn’t be, really, when you can have an income for life thanks to one song made in a hurry?

Written by: Carl Douglas

Producer: Biddu

Weeks at number 1: 3 (21 September-11 October)


23 September: The first Teletext information service Ceefax began on the BBC. This precursor to the internet was fascinating to people of a certain age, ie, me.

30 September: With the year’s second general election 10 days away, opinion polls showed Labour were in the lead, with Harold Wilson well-placed to gain the overall majority that no party achieved in the election held in February.

5 October: The Provisional IRA killed five people in the Guildford pub bombings.

10 October: The second general election of 1974 resulted in Labour gaining a majority, but only by three seats. Speculation began immediately that Edward Heath’s leadership of the Conservatives would soon be over. The Scottish National Party secured its highest Westminster party representation to date with 11 seats, and former Conservative MP Enoch Powell was returned to parliament standing for the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. 

355. The Osmonds – Love Me for a Reason (1974)

With three number 1s from Donny Osmond and a Christmas chart-topper from Little Jimmy Osmond, this blog has been no stranger to the 70s musical Mormon family phenomenon. But The Osmonds, the group that started it all, only scored one number 1. It is the best of (a poor) bunch, though.

The story of their beginnings in showbiz was covered in my blog on Puppy Love. Alan, Wayne, Merril and Jay started out as a barbershop quartet before finding fame on The Andy Williams Show. Donny soon joined them, and occasionally sister Marie and their little brother Jimmy would make appearances too. Producer Mike Curb got the quintet a contract with MGM Records and they had a US number 1, One Bad Apple, in 1971.

A formula was soon established where Merril would sing lead and Donny would perform the hook or chorus of their singles, which included Double Lovin’ and Yo-Yo. Oldest brother Virl taught the group how to dance, as he could only hear 15% of what most people can hear – just enough to follow a rhythm.

Donny’s solo career took off, but the other four would perform on his material too. 1972 was a big year for The Osmonds, with an animated TV series and group and solo hits. They began to tire of the clean pop sound, and the album Phase III moved them closer to rock. But not as much as the follow-up, Crazy Horses, featuring as its title track a surprisingly heavy rocker about the environment that remains brilliant. The Osmonds wrote all the songs here and even played all the instruments, with Alan on rhythm guitar, Wayne on lead guitar, Merril on bass, Jay on drums and Donny on keyboards. It took Crazy Horses for The Osmonds to score a hit in the UK (number two), despite Donny’s popularity.

In 1973 The Osmonds took the bold move of releasing a concept album about their Mormon faith. Despite the unusual subject matter, the hits continued, with Goin’ Home and Let Me In reaching two and four respectively. By this time, Little Jimmy had scored a Christmas number 1 and their sister Marie was also releasing material along with duets with Donny. The Osmonds were getting older, spreading themselves thin and beginning to get on people’s nerves, but their biggest hit was right around the corner.

The ballad Love Me for a Reason was originally released by its co-writer, former Motown songwriter Johnny Bristol, without much fanfare. However, he was on the same label as The Osmonds, and their management thought it would be a good fit. It became the title track of their sixth LP.

This is normally the kind of sentimental ballad I’d run a mile from, and yet, I quite like Love Me for a Reason, and have done since my first exposure to it when Boyzone took their version to number two in 1994. Sure it’s soppy and slushy, and a bit righteous. No doubt the message of ‘only have sex if its true love’ worked nicely with The Osmonds, and with a boyband as wet as Boyzone (I’ve never been able to stand any song they released from then on), but the tune is pretty nice, and Mike Curbs’ production makes it superior to the 90s version, with some guitar touches here and there making it almost a country song. The highlight of both versions is when a bit of passion breaks through on ‘My initial reaction is honey give me love/Not a facsimile of’. Ok, it’s not Robert Plant screaming ‘I’m gonna give you every inch of my love’ but there’s a time and place for everything and if you ever need a squeaky-clean love song, this does the job.

Only one more big hit followed for The Osmonds over here – the title track to their next album, The Proud One in 1975 (the album was called I’m Still Gonna Need You on these shores), reaching number five. By then, the Bay City Rollers were the UK’s biggest teen idols, and The Osmonds seemed stale. There never seemed to be any tensions or inner jealousy in the family, and the older brothers became happy to go behind the scenes and produce The Donny & Marie Show from 1976 to 1979. When the show ended, the brothers were in debt and needed a new direction. They switched record labels to Mercury and made an album with Maurice Gibb. Although The Bee Gees were still huge, the LP bombed.

Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay returned to performing as The Osmond Brothers, as they had when starting out, and had a few country chart hits in the US in the early-80s, but their refusal to tour didn’t help their careers. The eldest singing Osmond, Alan, was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis in 1987, and his performances understandably became even more sporadic. 10 years later, Wayne found out he had a brain tumour, and it caused him to retire in the early-10s.

In 2007 the whole family embarked on a tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary in showbusiness. A televised concert from Las Vegas saw them all perform, and even Tom and Virl joined in with signed lyrics on a couple of songs, plus Andy Williams made a guest appearance.

Merrill, Jay and Jimmy began working together performing and in business ventures. They released an album, I Can’t Get There Without You, in 2012, but these days, it’s just Merrill and Jay mainly, sometimes with Marie and Alan’s son, solo star David. Alan and Wayne rejoined for one final performance in 2019, but were back again on TV for Marie’s birthday in 2019.

Often derided for their teen pop and squeaky-clean image, The Osmonds at least tried to explore new avenues in the 70s, following The Monkees in learning to write and play themselves. And come on, Crazy Horses is a real banger.

Written by: Johnny Bristol, Wayne Brown, Jr & David Jones, Jr

Producer: Mike Curb

Arranged by: HB Barnum

Weeks at number 1: 3 (31 August-21 September)


Presenter Lisa Snowdon – 2 September
Transgender fell runner Lauren Jeska – 5 September
Tennis player Tim Henman – 6 September
Backstroke swimmer Adam Ruckwood – 13 September
Footballer Sol Campbell – 18 September


12 September: After only 44 days in the job, Brian Clough is dismissed as manager of defending league champions Leeds United following a disappointing start to the Football League season.

18 September: Harold Wilson confirms a second general election within a year for 10 October. Following the hung parliament result in February, Labour ruled with a minority government. Wilson aimed to secure more seats and hold a bigger balance of power.

354. The Three Degrees – When Will I See You Again (1974)

Thanks to the crack hitmaking team of Gamble and Huff, the lush, string-laden ‘Philly sound’ was one of the foremost soul styles of the late-60s and 70s. When Will I See You Again made stars of The Three Degrees, an all-girl trio that had existed for over 10 years. They became the first black female group since The Supremes in 1964 to hit the top spot.

The Three Degrees began circa-1963 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The original line-up featured high-school students Fayette Pinkney, Shirley Porter and Linda Turner, but Porter and Turner didn’t stick around and were replaced that year by Helen Scott and Janet Harmon. In 1965 they were discovered by producer and songwriter Richard Barrett and they were signed to Swan Records. Their first single, Gee Baby (I’m Sorry), was released in 1965, the same year Sheila Ferguson joined their label.

Scott left The Three Degrees in 1966 to start a family, and was replaced by Ferguson, and by the end of 1967 Harmon had gone too and Valerie Holiday was in place, with Ferguson mostly on lead vocals, backed by Pinkney and Holiday, the ‘classic’ line-up had arrived. Barrett signed them with Warner Bros., Metromedia and Neptune over the next few years, but fame eluded them.

Their first LP, Maybe, was released on Roulette Records in 1970, and from there they landed a cameo in action thriller The French Connection (1971), performing Jimmy Webb’s Everybody Gets to Go to the Moon.

Things fell into place in 1973 when they signed with Philadelphia International Records, co-owned by Gamble and Huff. The duo had been making hits together since The Soul Survivors’ Expressway to Your Heart in 1967, and had worked with Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett and Archie Bell & the Drells. Then in 1971 they formed their own label to go up against Motown Records. Some of their greatest and most famous work includes If You Don’t Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Love Train by The O’Jays and Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul – all slick, mature and memorable soul records.

The Three Degrees’ first job at the label was to record the vocals for TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) by MFSB, which was the theme tune to the fondly remembered US soul/disco series Soul Train. Next they recorded the album The Three Degrees, and they began to make headway in the UK charts when The Year of Decision reached number 13.

When Will I See You Again was the third release from their eponymous LP, and it wasn’t popular with the trio. Ferguson later recalled that when Gamble played it to her on a piano, she threw a strop and said she was insulted he expected her to sing such a simple song. She admitted she was wrong after it had sold millions.

And she was wrong, as it’s a lovely song and rightly considered a soul classic. It’s worth it just for those angelic sighs, really – The Three Degrees’ harmonies really are something special. They make the yearning at the heart of the song seem real and identifiable. Ferguson is in love, but she’s being kept hanging by a thread, but her feelings are so strong, she can’t give him up. But his lack of commitment is leaving her desperately unsure – it’s worth noting every single line in the song is a question. The music is gorgeous too, another string-laden, clean, deep production from Gamble and Huff.

The Three Degrees were finally mainstream stars, and are still remembered as being Prince Charles’ favourite group, as he revealed in the 70s. When Will I See You Again was the fourth best-selling single of 1974, and reached number two in the US. Further singles success was sporadic, but Take Good Care Of Yourself was a top 10 hit in 1975. The following year, they left Gamble and Huff and moved to CBS Sony/Epic Records, but Pinkney, the only remaining original member, departed after an argument with their manager over her relationship with singer Lou Rawls. Scott returned to the fold.

Their 1978 album with disco genius Giorgio Moroder, New Dimensions, was an inspired move, scoring three big hits with Giving Up, Giving In (number 12), Woman in Love (number three) and The Runner (number 10). They performed at Prince Charles’s 30th birthday party that year and rounded up the decade with their final hit, My Simple Heart (number nine) in 1979, and a TV special, The Three Degrees at the Royal Albert Hall, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Three Degrees had further albums and TV specials, but time had moved on. They were one of the first acts to jump on the Stock, Aitken and Waterman bandwagon in 1985, but to no avail. A year later, Ferguson, the most famous of the trio, left, and it was never the same after that. After several attempts to find a replacement, Scott and Holiday went with Cynthia Garrison, creating the longest lasting formation, from 1989-2010. In 1993 they recorded a new version of their chart-topper with Thomas Anders of German duo Modern Talking.

Founder member Pinkney died in 2009 of acute respiratory failure, aged 61. In 2011 Garrison fell ill and was replaced by Freddie Pool. Their most recent album was Strategy: Our Tribute To Philadelphia, released in 2016. Pool, Holiday and Scott continue to perform. Ferguson has remained in the public eye since her 1986 departure, recording solo work and starring in TV and theatre. She was a contestant on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2004 and has also appeared in Celebrity MasterChef, The Weakest Link and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

Written & produced by: Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff

Weeks at number 1: 2 (17-30 August)


Scottish actor Ray Park – 23 August


Actress Judith Furse – 29 August


29 August: The final Windsor Free Festival was broken up by Thames Valley Police. The tactics used were so violent there was a public outcry.

353. George McCrae – Rock Your Baby (1974)

I love George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby. One of my favourite number 1s of the 70s, this is a landmark in early disco music, thanks to the slinkiest of grooves and McCrae’s heavenly falsetto – and to think, his performance was the happiest of accidents. Finally, after seemingly endless 50s rehashes and tributes, here was a new sound.

KC and the Sunshine Band were Florida-based disco pioneers, formed in 1973 by record store employee Harry Wayne Casey (aka KC) and TK Records engineer Richard Finch. The same year, Vince Aletti became one of the first to use ‘disco’ as a term to describe a genre, in Rolling Stone that September. Casey and Finch had begun releasing material with their new band and among the demos they worked on was Rock Your Baby.

The backbone of the track was courtesy of an early drum machine on a Lowry organ left in the TK Records studio, a rare sound back then. Casey took to the keyboards and Finch took care of the bass and real drums, and as they built up the track, they felt something magical. Finch told Songfacts ‘it was like God was in the building or something’. They paid KC and the Sunshine Band guitarist Jerome Smith $15 to lay down some licks and wrote lyrics inspired by Hues Corporation’s hit Rock the Boat. KC and the Sunshine Band were not an established act at this point, and Casey couldn’t reach those high notes, so who should they get to sing it? TK Records owner Henry Stone suggested soul singer Gwen MCrae, but fortune smiled on her husband, George, instead.

George Warren McCrae, Jnr was born 19 October 1944 in West Palm Beach, Florida, the second of nine children. He formed his own singing group, The Jivin’ Jets, before joining the US Navy in 1963. That same year, he married Gwen Mosley. Four years later, the McCraes reformed the group, but they split soon after, and they began working as a duo. Gwen signed a solo contract and began to have modest hits, so George became her manager. He was about to return to college to study law enforcement when he sang over Rock Your Baby.

KC and the Sunshine Band are mainly remembered these days for catchy disco anthems, great blasts of fun, but perhaps short on substance. With Rock Your Baby, they created something magnificent, entering unchartered territory by adding the sweet soul voice of McCrae to a drum machine with a holy melding of man and machine. I Feel Love is the most magnificent disco song, but without Rock Your Baby, would we have got there?

The keyboard melody at the start is almost nursery rhyme-like, setting the scene for a tender serenade in which a blissed-out McCrae surrenders to his love – which is pretty unusual for this time. He’s no alpha male, and is letting her take the lead. Smith’s choppy guitar line is vital, even if it sounds very similar to Rock the Boat. This would in time become one of the key ingredients to the disco sound.

Rock Your Baby is sexual, of course, but it’s sensual and seductive more than anything. Listen to the way McCrae’s falsetto glides over the rhythm in an aural orgasm, and it can move like few disco songs can. The six-minute-plus album version is superior as it lets the song stretch and breathe. To be honest, I could listen to an hour-long mix of this and not tire of it.

Rock Your Baby sold millions and was number 1 in the UK, US and across Europe. It inspired John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Thru the Night and ABBA’s Dancing Queen. Not bad for a debut solo single. McCrae, the first black artist to top the UK charts in nearly two years, is considered a one-hit wonder, but he actually had other popular material. Follow-ups I Can’t Leave You Alone and You Can Have It All went number nine and 23 respectively later in the year, and in 1975, It’s Been So Long climbed to number four, and I Ain’t Lyin’ reached number 12.

Also in 1975, Gwen recorded a reply to Rock Your Baby, Rockin’ Chair, on which George provided backing vocals. The following year, he and Gwen divorced, and Honey I became his last UK charting single. We Did It! was his last album for some time in 1979, as he left TK Records and went into semi-retirement.

In the meantime, KC and the Sunshine Band became one of the biggest disco acts on the planet, with a string of floorfillers that encapsulated the genre’s positivity. They recorded Rock Your Baby too, but only as an instrumental. It wasn’t until 1983 that they scored a UK number 1, with the effervescent Give It Up.

McCrae surfaced again in 1984 with the album One Step Closer to Love, but it failed to chart. A remix of his number 1, known as the Frankfurst Mix, remixed by Paul Hardcastle, was released in 1986. He continued to make albums up until Do Something in 1996, then disappeared again, and has returned sporadically. He was part of Jools’ Annual Hootenanny in 2017. A cover of Rock Your Baby was a number eight hit for dance act KWS in 1992.

Written & produced by: Harry Wayne Casey & Richard Finch

Weeks at number 1: 3 (27 July-16 August)


Actress Emilia Fox – 31 July


15 August: The collapse of Court Line and its subsidiaries Clarksons and Horizon Holidays results in 100,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad.

352. Charles Aznavour – She (Theme from the TV Series ‘Seven Faces of Woman’) (1974)

French singer-songwriter, actor and activist Charles Aznavour was one of the country’s most beloved entertainers for decades. He was considered their very own Frank Sinatra, with a unique tenor that was quintessentially Gallic. It took the theme of a ITV series for him to score a UK number 1.

He was born Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian in Paris on 22 May 1924. His parents were poor Armenian immigrants that had fled their country to escape the Turkish massacres, and both had ambitions to be in showbusiness, so they encouraged their son from an early age. He learned to act, dance and play the violin, and left school at nine, taking the stage name ‘Charles Aznavour’. During the Second World War he and his family hid Armenians and Jews, risking their own lives in the process.

In 1944 he joined singer and actor Pierre Roche in a nightclub act and gained experience in writing lyrics. When the war was over and his country liberated, they toured with Edith Piaf, playing at the Moulin Rouge. It was she that helped him develop his distinctive voice. When Roche married, Aznavour decided to go it alone.

He began writing songs for Piaf and others, and in the 50s became a name in his own right in France, and then internationally. Film roles came too, including  appeared in films such as Les Dragueurs (Young Have No Morals) in 1959. He was famous enough to appear as himself in Testament d’Orphée (Testament of Orpheus) a year later.

In the 60s Aznavour sold out Carnegie Hall and thanks to being multilingual would sing at venues around the world in native languages. He wrote thousands of songs, and musicals, and starred in US and British films including Candy (1968) and And Then There Were None (1974). Never forgetting how it felt to be persecuted, in 1972 he recorded Comme ils disent (As They Say), which dealt with homosexuality (‘Nobody has the right to be/The judge of what is right for me’).

He co-wrote She with long-time collaborator and English lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, later to write the English words to Les Misérables. The LWT series Seven Faces of a Woman has long since been forgotten while it’s theme has endured, but it was a seven-part anthology drama series depicting contemporary women at various stages of life. A love song by Aznavour, in which he celebrates the fairer sex, was bound to help the profile of the series and fit beautifully.

She is cheesy, in a ‘Hallmark card for Valentine’s Day’ way, but I found myself warming to it over the years. Am I getting soft in my old age?The Brits (used) to love a bit of European ‘sophistication’ and obviously, Aznavour fits our stereotype of the French and their love of romance. He’s like a less sleazy Serge Gainsbourg. But one thing’s for sure, after reading those lyrics, and all the possibilities Aznavour runs through in his head when wondering about ‘She’, you get the impression he wouldn’t be much good on Tinder. He’d spend an age wondering about every profile before deciding which way to swipe. I’ll admit to not being familiar with Aznavour’s music, but I’d put money on there being better work out there then She. Is this his Strangers in the Night?

She performed best in the UK, thanks to Seven Faces of Woman, probably, as the series wasn’t aired elsewhere. He recorded versions of the song in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

The diminutive chanson continued to perform worldwide, and earned the respect and admiration of fellow singers, many of whom recorded covers of his work. These artists include Sinatra (one of the few European singers invited to duet with him), Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli (they had a brief affair), Bob Dylan (who was awestruck when he saw Aznavour perform), Elton John, Tom Jones and Marc Almond, who Aznavour noted as his personal favourite interpreter of his work. He also delved into the classical world, performing with tenors Luciano Pavarotti and close friend Plácido Domingo.

Although his film career came second, he had some notable roles, including Shoot the Piano Player (1960), And Then There Were None (1974) and The Tin Drum (1979), which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980.

Aznavour turned 82 into 2005, and announced his next tour would be his last. It lasted until 2018, with his final performance taking place at the NHK Hall of Osaka in Japan on 19 September 2018. He had continued to record throughout this time, releasing Duos, an album of celebrity duets in 2008.

Aznavour also continued to be an activist all his life. In 2010 he recorded Un Geste pour Haiti Chérie, a song with young French rap stars, to help raise money after the earthquake in Haiti. He became more involved in politics as he grew older, opposing France’s National Front

After he was found dead in his bathtub from cardiorespiratory arrest on 1 October 2018, aged 94, France went into mourning and gave one of their most famous exports a state funeral. Although small in stature, Aznavour was a giant of music, and he deserved no less.

Elvis Costello covered She for the soundtrack to the romantic comedy Notting Hill in 1999, where it was used over the closing credits.

Written by: Charles Aznavour & Herbert Kretzmer

Producer: Barclay Records

Arranged by: Del Newman

Weeks at number 1: 4 (29 June-26 July)


Comedian David Mitchell – 14 July
Actress Maxine Peake – 14 July


Novelist Georgette Heyer – 4 July
Nobel Prize laureate physicist Patrick Blackett – 13 July
Nobel Prize laureate physicist James Chadwick – 24 July


3 July: Don Revie, manager of Football League champions Leeds United since 1961, accepts the Football Association’s £200,000-a-year deal to become the new manager of England.

12 July: Bill Shankly, stuns his team, FA Cup holders Liverpool, by announcing his retirement after 15 years. He had transformed them into one of the world’s top club sides with three top division titles, two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup win.

17 July: The IRA wage more terror, with a bomb exploding in the White Tower at the Tower of London, killing one person and injuring 41. Another explodes outside a government building in South London.

20 July: Leeds United appoint Brian Clough as their new manager.

21 July: 10,000 Greek-Cypriots protest in London against the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. 

26 July: Liverpool appoint Bob Paisley as their new manager.

351. Gary Glitter – Always Yours (1974)

Thankfully, this is the last time I’ll have to write about Gary Glitter as I’ve reached the last of his three number 1s. After his previous, I Love You Love Me Love, Glitter began 1974 with the sentimental ballad Remember Me This Way. It was his first move away from the template he and Leander had set with Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2, towards a more ‘classic’ rock’n’roll sound, and it stalled at number three.

Always Yours is more upbeat, but also features an overtly retro sound, akin to a low-budget Wizzard (I assume by this point The Glitter Band were playing on Glitter’s recordings). The only reason any respectable person could have for listening to Glitter’s songs these days is that those early Leander productions were pretty unique. This isn’t, and it’s sorely lacking that distinctive Leander guitar drone. It’s another sign that glam was leaning too heavily on the past. Sure, it was always an important element, but Bowie, Wizzard and T. Rex had more going for them. Out of all Glitter’s bestselling songs, this is one I had never heard, or perhaps I had but it made as much of an impression on me then as now – very little. At least the lyrics aren’t too seedy.

If you were in any doubt as to where the talent was in the Glitter and Leander partnership, consider that after Always Yours, ‘The Leader’ had only three more top 10 hits in the 70s – Oh Yes! You’re Beautiful (number two) in 1974 and Love Like You and Me (number 10) and Doing Alright with the Boys (number six) in 1975. All three were co-written and produced by Leander. Glitter worked with Mark Munro instead on his third album G. G. (1975), and sales dwindled.

Glitter announced his retirement in 1976 to spend more time with his new partner, though his financial problems probably played a large part in the decision too. Less than two years later he made the first of approximately 217 comebacks, back with Leander. But A Little Boogie Woogie in the Back of My Mind (later covered by Shakin’ Stevens) only reached number 31 upon his return. He declared himself bankrupt in 1977, and would do so again in the 90s.

From the early-80s, Glitter settled into his role as a niche performer reminding everyone of the glam years, and would reappear every so often, usually around Christmas. It was in 1984 that he enjoyed his first top 10 hit in nine years when Another Rock and Roll Christmas reached number seven. He recorded a new version of his first number 1, I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) with female metal band Girlschool in 1986. He probably liked their name and would have been disappointed to find out they were grown women.

Then in 1988 Glitter found himself back on Top of the Pops courtesy of arch pranksters Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. The duo were taking a break from their Justified Ancients of Mu Mu project to create a house version of the Doctor Who theme. Realising the ‘Glitter beat’ worked better, they instead made a mash-up of the theme with Rock and Roll, Part 2 and The Sweet’s Block Buster !. As The Timelords, they had their first number 1 with Doctorin’ the Tardis, and later released Gary in the Tardis, in which Glitter sang lines from his hits here and there. It’s quite a performance. He also (sort of) went to number 1 the following December thanks to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers using Another Rock and Roll Christmas on Let’s Party.

By the 90s Glitter was firmly established as a national treasure. He opened a restaurant called Gary’s Glitter Bar “Leader of the Snack”. He also launched his own record label, and continued to release new and old material that would always be bought by his die-hard fans. In 1995 he started making money out of Oasis’s use of Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again on the opening track of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Hello. A year later he nearly cost Roger Daltrey an eye while swinging a mic around during rehearsals for the revival tour of Quadrophenia.

And then he was found out. On 18 November 1999, Glitter took his computer to a PC World in Bristol for repair. He asked the technician not to look at his files. The technician did, and found indecent images and videos of children. When Glitter went to collect the computer the following day he was arrested and his houses raided, where further sordid material was found. ‘The Leader’ found himself cancelled pretty swiftly, with his scene in the forthcoming Spice Girls film Spice World severely cut. In March 1998 he was charged with over 50 offences including downloading indecent images, child sex and indecency. In November 1999 Glitter was cleared of sexual assault but he pleaded guilty to 54 charges of making indecent photographs of children under 16 and was sentenced to four months in jail and placed on the sex offender register. Nobody wanted to be in that gang apart from, incredibly, his hardcore followers, seemingly in a state of denial.

Afterwards, Glitter fled to Spain, then Cuba, then Cambodia after the press uncovered his wherabouts. In late 2002 he was detained over allegations against young boys and was deported. In 2005 he was living in Vietnam and further allegations followed, resulting in his arrest in November. He managed to avoid execution by firing squad when the child rape charge was dropped a month later, but in March 2006 he was sentenced to three years in prison. Glitter claimed UK tabloids had set him up. He suffered a heart attack while behind bars and was released in 2008. 19 countries refused to allow him in, and he agreed to return to the UK, where he was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

ITV’s Exposure documentary on Jimmy Savile in October 2012, threw Glitter in the spotlight once more, when it was alleged he raped an underage girl in Savile’s dressing room. So it wasn’t a huge shock when he became the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree. Glitter went to prison once again, in February 2015, convicted for 16 years for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one of having sex with a girl under 13. Glitter will be 87 when he’s released if he serves the full term. That’s if he makes it that far, as he’s suffered heart problems for years.

Glitter was one of the first modern examples of cancel culture. As I’ve said several times in this blog, he’s a rare example of a musician whose misdemeanours have been considered impossible to separate from the artist. His appearances on Top of the Pops repeats on BBC Four have been removed, along with those of his partner in crime, Savile, who inadvertently sent him to prison for probably the last time. The controversy of the use of Rock and Roll Part 2 in Joker (2019) brought him back in the public eye, and despite the fact it’s been proven he won’t make any money from royalties, I get the feeling he’ll have got off on making the news again.

His erasure is deserved, as research for this blog has proved he did nothing to make his music worth listening to again. The talent all lay with Leander, and his production skills in those early years remains different and interesting. Glitter was an opportunist, from lucking his way into working with a great producer at the right time, to his terrible crimes.

Written by: Gary Glitter & Mike Leander

Producer: Mike Leander

Weeks at number 1: 1 (22-28 June)


Labour MP Jo Cox – 22 June

350. Ray Stevens – The Streak (1974)

Think of the fads of the 70s and you’ll likely think of spacehoppers, rollerskates and lava lamps. But what about all the naked men and women that made the headlines for streaking at sporting events? This was still popular during my childhood in the 80s, and I just assumed it was something that happened every now and then because, well, people are silly and it’s funny to take all your clothes off and run around until you’re caught (I imagine). I didn’t realise until now it became a ‘thing’ in the 70s.

There were examples going back way further though. In the 15th century, the Adamites protested the Holy Roman Empire’s morality by running naked through their Bohemian village. Apparently, the Quakers revived the pastime in the 17th century. Modern streaking started up in the free and easy 60s at US universities, and peaked in 1974, with a streaker at the Oscars and ever more elaborate and organised stunts taking place.

That February, one of the most famous sporting streaks happened at the England v France rugby match at Twickenham Stadium, when an Australian named Michael O’Brien decided to take to the field with his genitals flapping in the breeze. The subsequent photo of the police covering his bits with a helmet became iconic, and kickstarted all the UK sport streaks that followed. So novelty song and country singer-songwriter Ray Stevens’ opportunism paid off when he decided to immortalise streaking in song.

Ray Stevens was born Harold Ray Ragsdale on 24 January 1939 in Clarkdale, Georgia. His love of music began with his first piano lessons, aged six. At 15 he formed an R’n’B band called The Barons, and three years later he enrolled in Georgia State University as a music major. That same year he released his first material as Ray Stevens on Capitol Records’ Prep Records, but his cover of Rang Tang Ding Dong sank without trace. Further material was released sporadically over the next few years.

In 1961, Stevens signed with Mercury Records and began to get noticed for his novelty songs. With titles like Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills, that was always likely. The politically incorrect Ahab the Arab was a number five hit in the US in 1962, and Harry the Hairy Ape reached number 17 the following year.

But Stevens also wanted to release serious country material too, and so he signed with Monument Records in 1968 and Mr Businessman followed, giving him his first US hit in five years. He also released the first version of Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down by Kris Kristofferson (later a hit for Johnny Cash). Novelty songs still could do well for him though, and Gitarzan reached number eight in 1969.

It was in 1970 that Stevens’ career went up a notch. He was working in Nashville when his gospel-tinged ballad Everything Is Beautiful, preaching against racism and extolling tolerance of others, became huge, topping the US charts and reaching number six in the UK – his chart debut over here. He kept on dabbling in novelty songs though, notably Bridget the Midget (The Queen of the Blues), a UK number two in 1971. Interesting to see how Stevens could preach about a better world in his country material, and then make cheap jokes in his comedy material… a sign of the times, perhaps.

Stevens was on a plane flicking through a magazine when he came across an article on streaking. He thought it would make a good idea for a comedy song and made some notes. Some time later, he woke up one morning and streaking was all over the news – 1973 and 74 were peak years in the US for the phenomenon. He quickly finished The Streak and recorded it ASAP for maximum topicality.

The naked truth is, The Streak is dross. Over a hoedown-style backing, Stevens plays a news reporter interviewing a redneck (also Stevens) at various disturbances caused by ‘The Streak’. Despite the redneck shouting ‘Don’t look Ethel!’ every time the naked guy appears, Ethel has a gander, and by the end, she’s joined in the streaking. Do you think that sounds like a bad record? Try listening to it.

So many things annoy me about The Streak. The tacky production, the ‘boogity boogity’ backing vocal on the chorus, the kazoo, Stevens’ cliched characters, the childishness, the canned laughter. If you have to add canned laughter to point out where the jokes are on a comedy record, there’s something wrong. This makes Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West) and even My Ding-a-Ling look like high art by comparison. I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about it.

To be fair to Stevens, at least he wasn’t a one-trick pony. In 1975 he just missed out on another UK number 1 with a country cover of jazz standard Misty. Two years later, his final UK chart entry saw him cover Glenn Miller’s In the Mood in the style of a clucking chicken under the pseudonym Henhouse Five Plus Two. I listened to five seconds here and had to stop.

But I can just about forgive Stevens all this because in 1981 he sang Cannonball, the opening song to the celebrity-packed car chase film The Cannonball Run. It’s not just for nostalgia reasons either, this is a great song!

Stevens’ last serious album Me, was released in 1983. He’s concentrated on novelty material ever since. He opened his own theatre in Branson, Missouri in 1991 , which lasted two years, and he began selling videos to his old songs, The Streak among them (guess what, it’s awful). In 1996 he received thousands of sympathy cards after online news of the wrestler Ray ‘The Crippler’ Stevens confused fans. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, but he beat it and received a clean bill of health.

Stevens’ love of comedy and videos found its natural home online on YouTube, where he posts cheap novelty songs with equally cheap videos declaring his outspoken political views. One I found, Obama Nation from 2012, slates the then-President. Abomination/Obama nation, get it? Hmm.

Written & produced by: Ray Stevens

Weeks at number 1: 1 (15-21 June)


Radio presenter Natasha Desborough – 21 June


15 June: The National Front clash with counter-protestors in London’s West End. The Red Lion Square disorders resulted in the death of 21-year-old Kevin Gateley, a university student.

17 June: A bomb explodes at London’s houses of Parliament, damaging Westminster Hall. The IRA claimed responsibility.