341. Slade – Merry Xmaƨ Everybody (1973)

‘IT’S CHRISTMAAAASSSSSSS!’. It’s not. It’s currently mid-August 2020 and we’re coming to the end of a blistering heatwave, which, if you know the story behind Slade’s final number 1, you’ll know is how the song was recorded. Little did they know it would become not only the most famous of their six number 1s, it would become perhaps pop’s greatest festive staple.

And yet, in summer 1973, the future of the band looked in doubt. While Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me was at number 1, drummer Don Powell was in a car crash that killed his girlfriend Angela Morris and left him in a coma for nearly a week. Luckily he successfully recovered, although he still suffers acute short-term memory loss and sensory problems.

Back in 1967 when Slade were The ‘N Betweens, Noddy Holder had written a song called Buy Me a Rocking Chair, with the very psychedelic chorus ‘Buy me a rocking chair to watch the world go by/Buy me a looking glass, I’ll look you in the eye’. Despite liking the chorus, the verse needed work, so they scrapped it. Speaking to the Record Mirror in 1984, bassist Jim Lea recalled he was taking a shower in New York in 1973 when he came up with ‘Are you hanging up your stocking on the wall?’. Lea remembered Holder’s chorus and thought the two could fit together well, and producer and manager Chas Chandler had been nagging them to write a Christmas song. Holder thought the idea had legs, and penned the lyrics at his mother’s house in Walsall in one draft. They played the finished song to Chandler on acoustic guitars.

As hinted at earlier, Slade recorded Merry Xmaƨ Everybody in the middle of a September heatwave in New York while on tour there. Powell had returned to the fray at the Power Plant, where John Lennon had just finished recording his album Mind Games. Lea didn’t look back on the recording fondly, claiming the others weren’t as interested in him at rehearsing, though he did acknowledge Powell was still recovering and his memory was shot. Lea put in the most work, laying down the bass, piano and harmonium (the latter on loan from Lennon). They weren’t happy with the first completed mix as they wanted a bigger sound for the chorus, so they re-recorded it down a corridor, getting baffled looks from passers-by (Slade were virtually unknown in the US). After five days, the song was complete.

With several months to go until they could release their hopeful festive number 1, Slade released a compilation, Sladest, and new single MY FRIEИD STAИ (which looks slightly satanic). For the first time since Christmas 1972, they didn’t get to number 1. It was a departure from the usual Slade formula, but they had to change tack at some point, and it’s a nice little song. So, were they going to miss out on the Christmas top spot for the second year in a row?

Of course not. Merry Xmaƨ Everybody became the first Christmas-themed Christmas number 1 since Harry Belafonte’s Mary’s Boy Child in 1957, and couldn’t have come at a better time. As everyone knows, the UK was going through a particularly grim time in late-1973. You’ve only got to look down at the ‘Meanwhile…’ section to see the Three-Day Week was about to begin, and the first post-war recession had started. Plus there was the OPEC oil crisis, and the IRA could strike at any moment. Glam acts like Slade and Wizzard were sorely needed to keep spirits up, and they did the job then and still do close to 50 years later. ‘Look to the future now, it’s only just begun’. How we could do with some of that optimism in winter 2020.

One of the most important factors that explains the magic of Merry Xmaƨ Everybody is its inclusivity. It’s less rocking and more poppy than previous material. It’s aimed at all the family, with mentions of Granny ‘up and rock and rolling with the rest’. ‘ In 1971 Lennon asked ‘So this is Christmas, and what have you done’, in 1973 Slade said ‘everybody’s having fun’. There’s a nod (pardon the pun) to Christmas songs of old with the reference to ‘momma kissing Santa Claus’.

In 2017 I listened to every Christmas number 1 in one sitting and wrote about it here, and came to the conclusion Merry Xmaƨ Everybody is the best festive chart-topper of all time. I pointed out the production is lacking all the trimmings such as sleigh bells etc, and I think that’s another reason it’s stood the test of time so well. It doesn’t need them, as Holder’s ‘IIIIIITTTTT’S CHRIIIISSSTTTMMMMMASSSS!’ at the song’s conclusion gets the childhood joy of Christmas Day across like nobody has before or since.

Slade won the chart battle with Wizzard, who actually only reached number four in Christmas week, but nevertheless the sense of competition between the two glam rock outfits helped to create the battle for christmas number 1 that the media have latched on to ever since. The singles chart for Christmas week was now an event, and that’s thanks to Slade. Which is entirely appropriate, when you consider how glam’s low-budget sense of fun, bordering on the tacky, is Christmassy like no other genre.

Slade’s biggest seller was also a great way for the band to finish their run of number 1s. Six within just over two years is pretty impressive and puts them up there with some of the biggest acts of all time. Their fall was slow and steady, but there were also unexpected twists and turns.

1974 began with the release of the LP Old New Borrowed and Blue, which showcased a more piano-led sound and even a ballad as a single, Everyday, which went to number three. Much of the year was spent filming their film Slade In Flame, a surprisingly gritty drama about the rise and fall of a fictional group called Flame, played by the members of Slade. It was released in November, and although it was critically acclaimed (it has gained somewhat of a cult following in recent years), and the first single from the soundtrack Far Far Away reached number two, the theme song How Does It Feel only made it to number 15. Thanks for the Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam), in 1975, was their last top 10 hit of the 70s.

Understandably feeling they had peaked in the UK, in 1975 Slade decided to move to the US and try and hit the big time there. They toured with rock acts like Aerosmith and ZZ Top, and released an eclectic album. Nobody’s Fool, but not only did they fail to make much of an impact, their UK fans accused them of selling out.

By the time they returned to the UK in 1977, punk and the subsequent new wave rendered Slade very unfashionable. Their contract with major label Polydor had ran out and instead they signed with Chandler’s Barn Records. They performed single Gypsy Roadhog on Blue Peter and found themselves banned by the BBC due to its drug references, but the notoriety couldn’t help them up the charts. The next album, Whatever Happened to Slade, was an all too appropriate name.

As the band slid into irrelevance they would release singles based on football chants (1978’s Give Us a Goal) and covers of cheesy party classics (Okey Cokey in 1979) and some material failed to even reach the top 200. Disagreements between Lea and Chandler resulted in the former and Holder producing their back to basics album Return to Base in 1979. It was another failure, and the band briefly went their separate ways. Lea formed a new group, The Dummies, with his brother Frank, poor Hill resorted to driving couples to their weddings in his own Rolls-Royce to make money (it didn’t work), and Holder was briefly considered as AC/DC’s new singer following the death of Bon Scott, but he still thought Slade may have a future and reportedly turned the Australian rockers down.

In 1980, Slade had some luck at last when Ozzy Osbourne cancelled his headlining appearance at Reading Festival late in the day. Organisers rushed around looking for a last-minute replacement, and asked Slade. All but Hill were keen, but the only way he could be persuaded was when Chandler visited him at home and pointed out it could be their big farewell gig. To Hill’s surprise, they went down a storm. The split was forgotten about, and they acted fast to keep the momentum going. Showcasing a sound more in keeping with heavy metal, therefore pleasing the Reading Festival crowd, 1981’s We’ll Bring the House Down (title track to their next album) became their first top 10 hit in six years, and they returned to larger venues after years of touring small clubs and universities.

Slade and Chandler finally parted ways and they signed with RCA Records, who released their heaviest material yet, Till Deaf Us Do Part. That Christmas saw the first of many re-releases of Merry Xmaƨ Everybody, which reached 32. RCA began to demand hits from the band, and set them to work with producer John Punter. The resulting album, The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome, was released in December 1983, and featured two decent tracks. Power ballad My Oh My very nearly gave them their second festive chart-topper, but was held at bay by The Flying Pickets’ version of Only You. It was followed by Run Runaway, a fair stab at a Celtic-flavoured, Big Country-style sound.

Unfortunately, Holder wasn’t keen on Punter, and troubles in his private life resulted in a cancelled tour. They tried again for another Christmas single, All Join Hands (an inferior retread of My Oh My), but it couldn’t crack the top 10. And the final decline began, with a mainly synth-led album in 1985, Rogues Gallery, followed by a cheap Christmas cash-in LP, Crackers – The Christmas Party Album, along with the umpteenth release of their final number 1. It would take more than returning to deliberately mis-spelling their material to return Slade to form, and You Boyz Make Big Noize, released in 1987, was their final album. They did (sort-of) return to number 1 with Wizzard and lots of other festive hits, courtesy of Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers’ sampling them on Let’s Party in 1989.

In 1991 the Slade fan club organised a 25th anniversary show, and it was the last time they played live. Radio Wall of Sound, recorded for a compilation, was their final chart hit. In March 1992, Holder finally called it a day, and Lea, his much underrated songwriting partner, couldn’t see a future for Slade without their singer. He retired too, leaving Hill and Powell to form Slade II.

Slade II have continued since with various other members, and made the news in 2003 when convicted serial killer Rosemary West announced her engagement to bassist Dave Glover. Glover claimed this was a misunderstanding and he had only written to her about her case, but Hill of course sacked him. In February 2020 Powell claimed he had been sacked by Hill via a rather cold email, which Hill denied. He was all set to start Don Powell’s Slade but suffered a stroke, and with live music practically comatose post-lockdown, it remains to be seen if we end up with two separate Slades on the road.

Lea has largely remained out of the public eye, other than making solo album Therapy in 2007, and revealing he had been treated for prostate cancer.

Holder became a national treasure following Slade’s demise, taking up acting and making a decent job of it in ITV comedy drama The Grimleys. He has presented radio shows, documentaries, and made numerous cameos on TV. He reportedly loved Vic Reeves’ portrayal of him in the Slade at Home sketches on The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer in the early-90s, but Hill wasn’t so fond of Bob Mortimer’s portrayal of him as a disapproving mother figure.

All four members of Slade attended Chandler’s funeral in 1996, and in 2010 had a group meeting to consider a farewell tour, but nothing came of it. It’s unlikely they will ever play together.

Slade deserve more credit. Yes, this final number 1 is the best Christmas chart-topper of all time, but before then they released some excellent singles too. Holder had one of the best rock voices of all time, and together with Lea, they wrote several classics. The flamboyant Hill was mainly responsible for their showmanship, and Powell fought back from a near-death experience and continued to belt out the beat. They may have lacked in innovation, but like all the best glam acts, they sparkled and rocked the nation during stormy years.

1973 was by and large very similar to 1972 for number 1s, but better. There was still some old-fashioned pop doing very well, and Donny Osmond and David Cassidy catering for the teens, but there were also glam classics that have stood the test of time.

Written by: Noddy Holder & Jim Lea

Producer: Chas Chandler

Weeks at number 1: 5 (15 December 1973-18 January 1974)

Births:

Historian Lucy Worsley – 18 December
Comedian Paul Foot – 24 December
Matt Tebbutt – 24 December 1973
Spice Girl Melanie C – 12 January 1974
Radio DJ Edith Bowman – 15 January
Model Kate Moss – 16 January

Deaths:

Princess Patricia of Connaught – 12 January 1974

Meanwhile…

19 December: The 17.18 Paddington to Oxford express train was derailed between Ealing Broadway and West Ealing. 10 died and 94 were injured.

31 December 1973: As a result of coal shortages caused by industrial action by the miners, Prime Minister Edward Heath’s energy-saving measures, the Three-Day Work Order, came into effect at midnight, making for the darkest New Year celebrations for decades. Commercial consumption of electricity would be limited to three consecutive days, TV broadcasts would end at 10.30pm on alternate nights for BBC and ITV, and most pubs were closed.

1 January 1974: But it wasn’t all bad news, as New Year’s Day was celebrated as a public holiday for the first time.
Also that day, the Northern Ireland Power-sharing Executive is set up in Belfast.

340. Gary Glitter – I Love You Love Me Love (1973)

70s glam rock star and secret monstrous paedophile Gary Glitter slowed things down on this second of three number 1s. Like his first, I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!), I Love You Love Me Love was one of his most famous anthems.

Weirdly, this track was produced in mono. As Mike Leander died in 1996, we’ll never know if he knew of Glitter’s misdemeanours. Let’s hope not, and if he didn’t, be glad he died before having to have a large part of his production legacy tarnished. Of course Leander worked with other artists than Glitter, and most famously was called up by The Beatles to work on She’s Leaving Home when George Martin was unavailable, and a great job he did, too.

I’m procrastinating to avoid the awkwardness of reviewing another song by this bastard. Sad fact is, it didn’t upset me to hear it as much as his first number 1. Perhaps because it wasn’t so self-referential and you could imagine someone else covering it (yeah, right). It’s a swaying, drunken, stupid lurch of a love song, with a really catchy chorus.

Glitter and his girl (possibly literally in his case unfortunately) have stood by each other through thick and thin, and this is his boastful review of what they’ve had to contend with. As usual though, it’s actually all about Glitter, because despite everyone disliking his hair (wigs) and clothes (well, they were stupid), he was ‘strong enough for two’.

It works as a ‘lighters aloft’ style of song, with Glitter’s ‘gang’ projecting their love on their idol, who gives it right back at them. Especially anyone who looks under 16, no doubt. Ah well, only one more by this wretched human to cover.

Written by: Gary Glitter & Mike Leander

Producer: Mike Leander

Weeks at number 1: 4 (17 November-14 December)

Births:

Footballer Ryan Giggs – 29 November

Deaths:

Aircraft engine designer Sir Roy Fedden – 21 November
Scottish inventor Sir Robert Watson-Watt – 5 December
Crime fiction writer Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Beatrice Malleson) – 9 December
Novelist Henry Green – 13 December

Meanwhile…

26 November: The OPEC oil crisis in the Middle East caused Peter Walker, the Secretary for Trade and Industry, to warn that petrol rationing may have to be introduced in the near future. Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia commented at the time that the oil price rise represented ‘perhaps the most rapid shift in economic power that the world has ever seen’. It’s a shift the UK has never recovered from.

5 December – The speed limit on motorways was reduced from 70mph to 50 mph until further notice.

9 December: The Sunningdale Agreement was signed in Sunningdale, Berkshire by Prime Minister Edward Heath, Irish premier Liam Cosgrave and representatives of the Ulster Unionist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. It was an attempt to establish power sharing in Northern Ireland and a cross-border Council of Ireland, but it collapsed in May 1974.

339. David Cassidy – Daydreamer/The Puppy Song (1973)

David Cassidy continued his existential battle to be loved for his music rather than his looks throughout 1972 and 1973. After his first number 1 How Can I Be Sure, the star of The Partridge Family had further hits with the title track to Rock Me Baby and I Am a Clown, which was lifted from his debut LP Cherish.

There were also more albums by The Partridge Family, Cassidy’s fictional TV brethren, on which he had made his name and would have rather been rid of by this point. In October 1973 their final album, Bulletin Board was released, alongside Cassidy’s third solo effort, Dreams are Nuthin’ More than Wishes. To get the point across that he was in charge of his own music, he wrote notes for his reasons for choosing each song. This second number 1 release was a double A-side of tracks from the album.

Daydreamer was written by South African professional songwriter Terry Dempsey, who had written for many big names including Cliff Richard and The New Seekers. In 2910, Dempsey was killed in a bizarre accident when he was struck by the blades of a gyrocscope making an emergency landing during a ceremony in which the family were scattering ashes.

Cassidy stars as a heartbroken loner, walking round in the rain, chasing rainbows in which he may find someone new. Nice, clever wordplay there. It’s reminiscent of 1956 Christmas number 1 Just Walkin’ in the Rain by Johnnie Ray, not just due to the obvious mention of rain, but in the sense there’s a melancholy that’s quite comforting at play, that he’s actually kind of happy being on his own and wallowing in misery.

Unfortunately, as with How Can I Be Sure, I can’t enjoy Cassidy’s voice. For someone so determined to be admired for his ability, his singing is so affected, it doesn’t do a lot for me. Once again though, I’d take this over any of Donny Osmond’s number 1s.

The Puppy Song was penned by Harry Nilsson of Without You fame, and had featured on his album Harry, released in 1969. He had written it on request from Paul McCartney for Mary Hopkin’s debut album Post Card, which also included her number 1 from 1968, Those Were the Days.

More light-hearted than the flip side, the two songs complement each other well, with Cassidy’s daydreams moving on to thoughts of owning a dog, to replace the hole left by his love. The second verse comes from the viewpoint of a puppy daydreaming about having a friend to hang around with it. It’s a very ‘Nilsson’ kind of song, with a music-hall feel like a lot of his late-60s work, and an interesting departure for a teen idol, but again, I couldn’t warm to it too much. However, I do like the opening lines, which were paraphrased and became the title of Cassidy’s album.

Cassidy remained a familiar presence in the UK charts over the next few years, with hits like If I Didn’t Care and a cover of The Beatles’ Please Please Me in 1974. However, that same year, he was performing at London’s White City Stadium when nearly 800 people were injured in a crush at the front of the stage. 30 fans were taken to hospital, and 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan died four days after her injuries. Cassidy was devastated.

In 1975, Cassidy was free of The Partridge Family, and was the first person to have a hit with I Write the Songs, later to be Barry Manilow’s signature tune. But the follow-up, Darlin’ was his final top 20 entry for 10 years. In 1978 he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a role in Police Story, and he starred in David Cassidy: Man Undercover in 1979 but it was cancelled after one season.

The early-80s saw Cassidy performing in musical theatre, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and Blood Brothers. He returned to the charts in 1985 with The Last Kiss. It featured backing vocals from George Michael. Another teen idol with ambitions to be recognised for his ability over his looks, Michael cited Cassidy as an influence, and the duo no doubt had much in common. It was his last UK single of note though, despite occasional chart action in the US.

Cassidy struggled over the years with his public image, and claimed the death of Whelan would haunt him all his life. He was arrested several times in later years for drink-driving incidents. Former Page 3 model Samantha Fox claimed on a 2017 Channel 4 documentary that he sexually assaulted her in 1985.

In 2008 he went public with his alcohol problem. Then in February 2017 he struggled to remember lyrics while performing, and fell off the stage. Despite assumptions he had been drinking, Cassidy announced he had Alzheimer’s and retired soon after. That November Cassidy was hospitalised with liver and kidney failure. He was induced into a coma, and although he came out of it, doctors failed to find him a liver transplant in time, and he died of liver failure on 21 November, aged 67. It was revealed after he died that he hadn’t had Alzheimer’s.

Written by:
Daydreamer: Terry Dempsey/The Puppy Song: Harry Nilsson

Producer: Rick Jarrard

Weeks at number 1: 3 (27 October-16 November)

Deaths:

BBC Controller Gerald Cock – 10 November

Meanwhile…

31 Octobe: The sixth series of much-loved BBC One sitcom Dad’s Army opened with the episode ‘The Deadly Attachment’. It’s the one featuring the line ‘Don’t tell them, Pike!’

8 November: The second Cod War between Britain and Iceland came to an end.

12 November: Miners began an overtime ban, while ambulance drivers started selective strikes.
Also this day, long-running BBC One sitcom Last of the Summer Wine began its first series run, following a premiere in the Comedy Playhouse on 4 January. Roy Clarke’s whimsical comedy set in rural Yorkshire would run for 31 series spanning 37 years.

14 November: Eight members of the Provisional IRA were convicted of the March bombings in London.
Also, The Princess Royal married Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey.

338. The Simon Park Orchestra – Eye Level (Theme from the Thames T.V. Series ‘Van der Valk’) (1973)

1973 wasn’t quite as weird as 1972 when it came to its number 1s. Few years are. But this piece of instrumental library music picked for crime drama series Van der Valk did enjoy a month at the top of the charts in the autumn and is remembered as one of the most popular TV themes of the 70s. It also led to the bizarre sight of an orchestra on Top of the Pops.

If you delve deep, library music, especially of the 60s and 70 and early 80s, can be a treasure trove of fascinating music, where composers would record stock music to be used on film, TV and radio. They were often given free rein to use (then) cutting-edge instruments, which give such pieces a charm of an imagined future that never happened. Think hauntology, but more upbeat, usually.

This number 1 was originally written by Dutch composer Jan Stoeckart for the De Wolfe Music Library, based in the UK and the oldest of its kind. Stoeckart had worked for De Wolfe since the 60s and over the years composed somewhere around 1,300 pieces for the library under a variety of pseudonyms. He came up with Eye Level, then known as Amsterdam, in the early-70s and used the name Jack Trombey. It was loosely based on an 18th-century poem known as Catootje in Dutch, which used the opening bars of Non più andrai from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.

Thames Television picked the piece for their new series Van der Valk, which first aired in 1972. It was based on the novels by Nicolas Freeling about Commissaris Simon ‘Piet’ Van der Valk, a cynical detective in Amsterdam, played by Barry Foster. With Britain set to enter the EEC in 1973, it was the perfect time for such a series, and was filmed in the Netherlands. It was renamed Eye Level to refer to the ever-present horizon in the Low Countries, which is always at eye level.

Simon Park, leader of the orchestra that performed the theme, was born in March 1946. Raised in Market Harborough, he began playing the piano aged only five. He gained a Bachelor of Arts in music at Worcester College, Oxford.

So, an unusual number 1 indeed. I think it’s the first time library music had been in pole position, and the first example of a TV theme gaining that spot. Russ Conway’s Side Saddle in 1959 was from a TV show, but that was incidental music. But while it’s certainly a strange sight to see a group of middle-aged men on Top of the Pops at the height of glam rock, I’m all for it. It’s a prime example of the eccentric tastes of the Great British Public and it’s a nice piece of music, that really lodges in your brain. I first became aware of it in 1991, aged 12, when ITV brought the series back, and have never forgotten it. It has of course been used elsewhere since.

I’m not sure it’s a great theme for Van der Valk though. I’ve never watched it, but from clips and research, it’s pretty dark and gritty, and Eye Level isn’t. It sounds more like the theme to a gardening series or comedy drama. it’s bright, breezy, jaunty and uplifting, and so I think it became a number 1 because of the disparity rather than in spite of it. Fans of the show would have bought it, but you’d also have had older music fans purchasing it too, just for its pleasantness and anything to get that awful noisy rock music off Top of the Pops.

Despite what I said about the novelty of seeing this on the BBC’s flagship music show earlier though, I soon became bored while watching repeats of seeing these men parping away, and not for the first time, found myself wondering how something so out of place stayed at number 1 for quite as long as it did. But that’s novelties for you.

Columbia Records cashed in on the success of The Simon Park Orchestra, releasing two albums of their work, Something in the Air (1974) and Venus Fly Trap (1975). Park also made the music for ITV war drama Danger UXB in 1979. He went on to compose for films, notably Nutcracker (1982) and Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998).

Van der Valk was revived in April this year, with Marc Warren as the detective. Fans of the original were apparently in uproar over the fact Eye Level wasn’t used as its theme, with just a slight nod to it instead. Considering there was a worldwide pandemic lockdown also going on, any uproar seems a little unjustified. It didn’t really work as the theme in 1973, it’s not going to work in a world as depressing as the post-Brexit, COVID-19-ridden Earth in 2020, is it?

Written by: Jack Trombey

Producer: Simon Park

Weeks at number 1: 4 (29 September-26 October)

Births:

Presenter Beverley Turner – 21 October

Deaths:

Poet WH Auden – 29 September
Conservative MP Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, 8th Duke of Buccleuch – 4 October
Actress Hilda Plowright – 9 October

Meanwhile…

8 October: London Broadcasting Company, Britain’s first legal commercial independent local radio station, starts broadcasting.

16 October: The thriller Don’t Look Now is released in a double bill with horror The Wicker Man.

20 October: The Dalai Lama makes his first visit to the UK.

26 October: Firefighters in Glasgow stage a one-day strike as part of a pay dispute, leading to troops being drafted in to run the fire stations.

337. Wizzard – Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) (1973)

Glam rock’s debt to rock’n’roll continued apace in the autumn of 1973, as Wizzard enjoyed their second number 1 within months with Roy Wood’s lesser-known paen to his 50s youth with Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad).

I mentioned in my blog for See My Baby Jive that Wizzard’s debut album, Wizzard Brew, wasn’t anything like their singles. Released just before that single, it wasn’t very much like anything before or since. A lo-fi kaleidoscopic trawl through psychedelia, blues, rock, brass, metal, it’s a much underrated piece of work and I urge you to find it.

Inbetween Wizzard’s two number 1s, Wood also released solo album Boulders. Recorded between 1969-71, he wrote every song, played every instrument and drew the artwork. This is also considered a lost classic.

Although all Wizzard’s singles harked back to the 50s, Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) is Wood’s most overt tribute. The clue, not that you need one here, is in the bracketed part of the title. The lyrics are full of romantic 50s teen imagery, including Wood driving a motorbike to a cafe, a Dion poster on his girlfriends’s wall, a record playing… It’s as if Bruce Springsteen grew up in Birmingham in the 50s.

Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) may not be as instant as See My Baby Jive or I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, but it’s a lovely track with a real yearning quality, as Wood strives to capture the feeling of young love, rock’n’roll and those magical teenage years. It’s also slightly less cluttered, which gives the poignancy more of a chance to shine through. Spector would be impressed. Or would have threatened to shoot him, depending on how much cocaine he had in his system.

And then came I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. One of the best festive songs of all time, Wood took See My Baby Jive and added extra tinsel, in yet another tribute to Spector’s Wall of Sound. Unfortunately for Wood, it was up against one of the other greatest yuletide anthems, and Wizzard lost out to Slade. Incredibly, it wasn’t even number two in the top 10 that Christmas, lagging behind Gary Glitter and The New Seekers. This is very, very wrong.

It’s worth noting that nobody hears the 1973 version of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday anymore. It doesn’t exist. In 1981, EMI contacted Wood to say they wanted to give the single another crack at the Christmas charts, but they couldn’t find the master tapes. They were never found, and Wood had to re-record the song in a week with Muff Murfin producing. Murfin recalled Wood painstakingly recreated the original, and played every single instrument. The original choristers, from Stockland Green Bilateral School in Birmingham, were replaced by pupils at Kempsey Primary School. So the only way to hear the original is if you have a copy of the original 1973 vinyl. And if the versions on YouTube that are 1973 versions are real, there is no discernible difference. Which makes Wood’s remake an amazing feat, really.

1973 was intense for Wood, and it took its toll the following year. Several live dates were cancelled and the single Rock’n’Roll Winter (Looney’s Tune) was delayed until the spring. Second album Introducing Eddy and the Falcons was another tribute to the 50s, a concept album about a fictional band, inspired, no doubt by The Beatles. It was supposed to be a double LP, with the second half an experimental jazz-rock collection, but this material didn’t see the light of day until 2000’s Main Street.

The early momentum of Wizzard soon dissipated. Wood struggled to afford such a large line-up and ran up huge studio costs. Bassist Rick Price once recalled a rumour that the group spent more time recording their last number 1 than Paul McCartney & Wings spent on the whole of the Band On the Run album. Cellist Hugh McDowell departed in 1973 to return to the Electric Light Orchestra, and keyboardist Bill Hunt left a year later. In 1975, Wood split Wizzard up. Farewell single Rattlesnake Roll failed to chart.

Saxophonist Mike Burney went on to work with The Syd Lawrence Orchestra and The Old Horns Band, which was a joint venture with other former Wizzard members. He was also a session player for a wide variety of stars including Chaka Khan, The Beach Boys and Cliff Richard. Burney died in 2014. After ELO, McDowell joined new wave group Radio Stars and featured on albums by Saint Etienne and Asia. He died in 2018.

Price joined Wood in his short-lived project Wizzo Band after Wizzard, a jazz-rock project that was ill-received critically and commercially, with only one album, Super Active Wizzo in 1977. They split the following year. He married Diane Lee of Peters and Lee in the 90s, and they tour performing hits and new material. He’s also a member of The Rockin’ Berries.

Wood released a second solo LP, Mustard, in 1975, which featured Phil Everly. It wasn’t as successful as his first however, and his third, On the Road Again, didn’t even get a UK release in 1979. After The Wizzo Band’s demise he largely disappeared from the public eye. He led Roy Wood’s Helicopters between 1980 and 1982, and the following year recorded with Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and Chas Hodges as The Rockers. 1986 saw him record the ABBA song Waterloo with Doctor and the Medics. In 1987 came another solo album, Starting Up, and then another group, Roy Wood’s Army. Two years later he recorded with his former ELO bandmate Jeff Lynne, but the songs never saw the light of day.

Like Slade, Wood will always be associated with Christmas, and it helps that he looks rather like Santa Claus. There was a remake of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday in 1995, credited to Roy Wood’s Big Band. Weirdly, he and Mike Batt’s The Wombles teamed up in 2000 for an ill-advised mash-up called I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Everyday. It was awful. Seven years later, thanks to his appearance in an Argos Christmas advert, it reached number 16. In 2010, Wood featured in a cameo on the Christmas special of ITV comedy drama Benidorm.

Wood’s most recent troupe of musicians call themselves The Roy Wood Rock & Roll Band. In 2018 they made the news when their touring equipment was stolen in a ram-raid on a warehouse in Leeds, but it was later recovered. Sadly, it transpired that he was a hardcore Brexiter. So much so, he joined The Brexit Party in 2019. Ah well, everyone has their flaws, even a musical genius.

It’s a shame Wood is only remembered for one song, even if it is a bona fide classic. From his days in The Move, to forming ELO, to Wizzard, Wood was an eccentric musical magpie in the 60s and 70s, able to turn his hand to most forms of music, but always with an eye for a winning pop tune. Perhaps his unassuming nature and inherent shyness are further reasons he is underappreciated. He’s not bothered about reminding the world about his number 1s Blackberry Way, See My Baby Jive and Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad) and his other classics like 10538 Overture, he’s content to show up from time to time at Christmas and then he’s gone again. I imagine it will sadly take his death before his resume is reappraised, but until then, the UK remains grateful at least that Wizzard kept the UK smiling during The Troubles and the Three-Day Week.

Written & produced by: Roy Wood

Vocal backing: The Suedettes & The Bleach Boys

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

Deaths:

Peeress Barbara Freyberg, Baroness Freyberg – 24 September
Labour Party MP George Porter – 25 September

336. Donny Osmond – Young Love (1973)

Only a few months since Donny Osmond’s last number 1, which was a cover of a 50s ballad, the teen heartthrob hit the top once again with… a cover of a 50s ballad.

Young Love, like The Twelfth of Never, was taken from his most recent solo album Alone Together. Since its release, The Osmonds had released an ambitious LP, The Plan, best described as a Mormon concept album with aspirations to be progressive rock. Young Love was nothing like this.

This was the first time a previous number 1 had returned to the top spot – well, sort of – there was Answer Me in 1953, and Singing the Blues in 1957, but both were hits released by two different artists at the same time, competing against one another. Young Love was originally recorded by Ric Cartey in 1956. Cartey had co-written it with Carole Joyner, but it was country star Sonny James who first made it a hit, and then US actor Tab Hunter went all the way to number 1 and made it one of the best-selling singles of 1957.

When I reviewed Hunter’s version (available in my book Every UK Number 1: The 50s), I remarked how Warner Bros. Records were really on to something, picking a good-looking film star to sing a dreamy love song for the teenage girls to go wide-eyed over. 16 years on and the girls are still going ga-ga for handsome young singers. I also said Hunter’s version was better than ‘dross’ like the Osmonds would release in the 70s. I was perhaps harsh there, as boy bands and teen pop is never going to be my bag, but the Osmonds did also record some good material. Donny’s Young Love is serviceable enough – it’s the best of his three solo number 1s. But the slushy backing from Don Costa is a bit overbaked and I preferred the subtlety of Hunter’s take and the uncertainty of his vocal.

Donny continued to release material under his own name, but only two more releases charted in the UK – When I Fall In Love, also 1973, and, fittingly enough, Where Did All the Good Times Go the following year. He was growing up and his voice wasn’t the pre-pubescent squeak with which he had first found fame.

He had more luck in his duets with sister Marie in 1974 , with I’m Leaving It (All) Up to You reaching number two. Marie’s presence renewed interest up to a point, but the sight of siblings singing love songs while looking deep into each other’s eyes proved too much for many. In 1976 they began hosting their own variety show, The Donny & Marie Show, which ran until 1979.

The 80s weren’t a great time for Donny’s music. He and his brothers were considered desperately unhip, and his audience dwindled, although he did return to the charts briefly here in 1988 with Soldier of Love.

In the 90s Donny guested on an album by Dweezil Zappa and performed music for animated films including Disney’s Mulan in 1998. From there he began to record more solo work, inbetween appearances on reality shows like Dancing with the Stars, voiceover work and Vegas appearances with Marie. He even returned to the UK top 10 for the first time in 31 years in 2004 with Breeze On By, co-written by Gary Barlow. His most recent album The Soundtrack of My Life, went into the top 20 in 2014. Donny has kept a loyal following since the 70s, of women who look back fondly on their young love for the boy wonder.

Written by: Ric Cartey & Carole Joyner

Producers: Mike Curb & Don Costa

Weeks at number 1: 4 (25 August-21 September)

Births:

Athlete Darren Campbell – 12 September
Racing cyclist Jason MacIntyre – 20 September

Deaths:

Actor Stringer Davis – 29 August
Writer JRR Tolkien – 2 September
Composer William Henry Harris – 6 September
Anthropologist EE EVans-Pritchard – 11 September
Welsh scholar CH Dodd – 21 September

Meanwhile…

8 September: The Provisional IRA detonated bombs in Manchester and Victoria Station in London, with injuries obtained.

10 September: Further IRA bombs at King’s Cross and Euston railway stations in London injured 13. 

12 September: The terror campaign continued, with more bombs exploded in Oxford Street and Sloane Square.

335. Gary Glitter – I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) (1973)

I’ve been dreading this ever since I started this blog. How to review the music of one of the, if not the first pop star to be effectively erased from modern times. Gary Glitter was one of the most popular glam rockers of the 70s, and through several comebacks in the 80s or 90s, was a national treasure (and yes, I thought he was great), until his ill-fated trip to PC World and the discovery of child pornography on his computer in 1997. He’s now rightly a figure of hate. At best, he’s ammunition for cheap jokes. His music is rarely heard anywhere, and made the headlines recently for its use in the Todd Haynes’ acclaimed Joker (2019). In the world of cancelled culture, musicians have mostly escaped unscathed. I’ve already reviewed number 1s by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry. But Glitter is another matter.

Paul Francis Gadd was born 8 May 1944 in Banbury, Oxfordshire. His mother, a cleaner, raised him with the help of her mother. He never knew his father. Gadd was a troublesome child, and he was 10 when he and his brother were taken into local authority care. He would frequently run away and head for London, and he became determined he would one day be a star there.

In 1960, aged 15, Gadd released his first record with Decca Records under the name Paul Raven, Alone in the Night. It got him nowhere, but he did well performing in nightclubs in and around Soho. A year later, Raven signed with Parlophone and worked with future Beatles producer George Martin. A further two singles, Walk On Boy and Tower of Strength (a number 1 for Frankie Vaughan that year) also tanked.

Fast-forward to 1964 and Raven was struggling, serving as the warm-up man on ITV’s Ready Steady Go!. He was also wearing a wig, as he had gone bald at 18. Raven starred in TV adverts and auditioned for films, and around this time he first met producer Mike Leander. In early 1965 he joined The Mike Leander Show Band, and soon was helping as a deputy on some of Leander’s production sessions. When the band split, Raven helped form Boston International and toured the UK and Germany. Several singles were also released, sometimes under the name Paul Monday, including a cover of Here Comes the Sun.

Raven must have felt fame would never be his, until he watched on from the sidelines as glam rock began to rise thanks to T. Rex. He searched for a new name. Working backward through the alphabet, he tried to find an alliterative name… Vicky Vomit, Terry Tinsel and Stanley Sparkle were among those considered, before he settled on Gary Glitter.

Glitter and Leander went into the studio and worked on a 15-minute jam session that was to finally catapult him into stardom. Splitting the jam into Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2 became Glitter’s first single release in 1972, reaching number two in the UK. With a stomping, deep beat, filthy guitar sound and echoey, double-tracked vocals to hide a poor singing voice, the trademark Glitter sound was there from the start. Rock and Roll, Part 1 paid tribute to the music of Glitter’s past, but Rock and Roll, Part 2 was most popular worldwide. It was instrumental, save for Glitter’s ‘Hey’. This was his only US hit and became used extensively in sport there, where it became known as ‘The Hey Song’. It was also the version in Joker, and in 1988, was reworked by Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond, aka, The KLF, aka in this instance The Timelords, as Doctorin’ the Tardis, where it shot to number 1 and gave Glitter his umpteenth comeback.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. With his flamboyant outfits, bouffant wigs and demented stare, Glitter became an instant glam icon, who loved to mythologise himself in a string of hit singles. After years of missing out, his simple, direct glam rock was a case of right place, right time. Debut album Glitter went top 10, and another track from it, I Didn’t Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock and Roll) reached number four.

After the success of Rock and Roll, Parts 1 and 2, Glitter and Leander knew they would need a regular backing band for live shows. The Boston Showband became known as The Glittermen and soon after settled on The Glitter Band. The group consisted of John Rossall (trombone and musical director), Gerry Shephard (lead guitar and vocals), Pete Phipps (drums and keyboards), Tony Leonard (drums), John Springate (bass and vocals), and Harvey Ellison (saxophone).

In 1973, Glitter came ever closer to the top spot, with two singles from Touch Me, Do You Wanna Touch Me and Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again reaching number two. Rossall and Ellison took part in the sessions for Touch Me, but the rest of the instruments were once again Glitter and Leander. However, it seems more likely to have been purely Leander, as it was Glitter who claimed he helped, and who can believe a thing he says?).

I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!) became the first of three number 1s for Glitter, and, until he was uncovered as a paedophile, one of his most enduring anthems and giving him the nickname ‘the Leader’.

So here I am listening to Gary Glitter songs in full for the first time in over 20 years. It’s a weird experience to say the least. When the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland was shown last year, I wondered if I could ever listen to his music again, but I have done, from time to time. When it came to listening to Glitter, I did it in an empty house, with earphones, with a sense of shame and a feeling of being complicit in something terrible.

And yet I had a strange feeling of nostalgia listening to I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!). I loved it as a boy, the slow ‘Come on! Come on!’ stomp building in speed and power, and I also liked Glitter, despite being scared by his manic staring. I like Leander’s production on Glitter’s hits and it’s a shame his work has also been wiped from public consciousness – I don’t know if it’s the associations Glitter’s discography now has, but there’s an uneasy, eerie feeling to these songs… I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s a unique, exciting sound.

However, any sentiment I might have felt about this number 1 vanished after I heard Glitter laugh after singing ‘I’m the man who put the bang in gang!’. It disgusted me, brought me to my senses and also made me think I’ve found the reasons Glitter is reviled so much and his work will never be reappraised. Most of the lyrics at best sound seedy, at worst, boastful of his behaviour, like barely hidden clues, as if daring us to find him out. He’s never shown the remotest bit of remorse for his crimes. There’s footage of him on YouTube, leering and winking and mock-shushing people for hinting at his love of schoolchildren on This Is Your Life. He was a fake in his public and private life. A fat, bald pervert, pretending to be a children’s hero. His music would have to be incredible to make you forget all this and enjoy it at all. It isn’t.

Written by: Garry Glitter & Mike Leander

Producer: Mike Leander

Weeks at number 1: 4 (28 July-24 August)

Births:

Terrorist Richard Reid – 12 August
Northern Irish radio presenter Stephen Nolan – 20 August

Deaths:

Race car driver Roger Williamson – 29 July
Actor James Beck – 6 August
Motorcycle designer Edward Turner – 15 August
Labour Party MP George Benson – 17 August
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough – 18 August

Meanwhile…

30 July: 18 coalminers were killed in the Markham Colliery disaster near stately, Derbyshire when the brake mechanism on their cage failed.
Also that day, £20,000,000 was paid to victims of the Thalidomide scandal following a court case that had run for 11 years.

31 July: Militant protesters of Ian Paisley disrupted the first sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

8 August: Stoke City and England goalkeeper Gordon Banks announced his retirement from football. He had lost sight in one eye in a car crash in October 1972.

20 August: Len Shipman, president of the Football League, called for the government to bring back the birch to deal with the rise of football hooligans.

21 August: The coroner in the inquest into Bloody Sunday accused the British army of ‘sheer unadulterated murder’ following the jury’s open verdict.

334. Peters and Lee – Welcome Home (1973)

Take Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts’ blind uncle and a Yorkshire actress and what have you got? You’ve got folk, pop and TV stars Peters and Lee, light entertainment mainstays of the 70s, who reached number 1 with this easy listening tune, most famous these days for its use in a long-running crisp advert campaign with ex-footballer Gary Lineker.

Lennie Peters, AKA Leonard George Sargent, was born 22 November 1931 in London. At the age of five he was knocked down by a car and as a result was blinded in his left eye. In a bizarre, surreal, even blackly comic turn of events, when he was 16, he was blinded in his right eye too. While sunbathing, louts began throwing stones. After admonishing them, Peters returned to relaxing, until one threw a brick that hit his face. Two operations later, the sight in his right eye was restored. However, the night before he was due to be discharged, Peters noticed the man in the bed next to him was about to fall and hit the floor. He rushed over to save him, and in doing so, the sudden strain detached the retina from his recovering right eye. He remained blind for the rest of his life. There’s bad luck, and then there’s Lennie Peters.

Peters had considered becoming a prizefighter, but following his incident, he became more immersed in music. He began singing and playing the piano in the pubs of Islington, and signed with Oriole, releasing several singles. Peters began to get noticed, appearing on BBC radio and television, and in 1966 he signed with Pye and released his version of Stranger in Paradise, a number 1 for Dean Martin in 1955. During the time he was often on the gruelling northern club circuit in 1970, he met Diane Lee.

Lee, born Dianne Littlehales in February 1949, was brought up in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. She had wanted to be a ballet dancer and moved to London to achieve fame, but was instead performing as part of a duo with her cousin Liz. Peters and Lee decided to team up, with Lee performing backing vocals. They made their debut during a Rolf Harris live show in April, originally calling themselves Lennie Peters and Melody.

1973 was to be their year. After seven winning performances on ITV’s talent series Opportunity Knocks, they released their debut single, Welcome Home on Philips Records.

Originally written by Jean Alphonse Dupre and Stanislas Beldone in French, with English lyrics courtesy of Bryan Blackburn, Welcome Home is a simple, old-fashioned but pretty likeable slab of MOR pop. A man is missing his love and imagining what it’ll be like when she returns. From the word ‘someday’ in there, I’ll wager she’s not actually ever going to return, and Peters is hoping against hope.

The verses are boring, but the chorus is a classic punch-the-air moment. ‘Come on in and close the door’ seems slightly silly though. You’ve waited who knows how long for your lover to return, and all you can do is complain it’s a bit drafty? No wonder she left…. Joking aside, I’ve been running a mile from these type of songs of late, but I can’t help but enjoy this. It’s interesting to see how Lee barely gets a look-in though, you don’t even hear her at first. It’s all about Peters.

Not only did Peters and Lee get to number 1 with their debut single, but their LP We Can Make It went to the top of the album charts in the same week, making them the first act since The Beatles to do so. They topped the bill that year at the Royal Variety Performance. Further hits followed, most notably Don’t Stay Away Too Long in 1974 (number three).

The mid-70s were a busy time for the duo on TV, with appearances on The Des O’Connor Show and The Golden Shot to name but two and in 1976 came their own show, Meet Peters & Lee. But the writing was on the wall and they released their farewell album, called, er, The Farewell Album, in 1980.

While Lee went into acting, Peters returned to a solo career, but only one LP followed – Unforgettable, in 1981. He also briefly appeared as a criminal in 1984 crime film The Hit. Two years later they reunited and released Familiar Feelings as a single. Two more albums followed, Peters and Lee in 1989 and Through All the Years in 1992, but Peters succumbed to bone cancer on 10 October that year, aged 60.

Lee went on to marry Rick Price from Wizzard and she released solo album Chemistry in 1994. She and her husband are still touring, performing old and new material.

In 1995 Walkers Crisps used Welcome Home in an ad campaign with football hero Lineker, fresh from playing in Japan. It was so successful, he starred in many more, and the company even changed their salt and vinegar flavour to ‘Salt and Lineker’.

It’s also worth noting that this was producer Johnny Franz’s 10th and last number 1. Franz, known as the ‘last of the great pros’, was one of the biggest producers of the 50s and 60s. His first number 1 was Winifred Atwell’s Let’s Have Another Party in 1954. It had been seven years since his ninth, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield in 1966. He also helped his close friend Scott Walker when he first went solo in the late 60s. Franz died of a heart attack in 1977, aged 54.

Written by: Jean Alphonse Dupre and Stanislas Beldone/Bryan Blackburn (English lyrics)

Producer: Johnny Franz

Orchestra directed by: Peter Knight

Weeks at number 1: 1 (21-27 July)

Births:

Travis singer Fran Healy – 23 July
Actress Kate Beckinsale – 26 July

Meanwhile…

26 July: Parliamentary by-elections at the Isle of Ely and Ripon resulted in both seats being gained from the Conservatives by the Liberal Party candidates – media personality Clement Freud and David Austick respectively.

333. Slade – Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me (1973)

Those number 1s just kept on coming for Slade in 1973. Fresh off the success of Cum On Feel the Noize, this was their second chart-topper in a row to go straight in at pole position – a rare feat, unsurpassed for over 20 years.

Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me was recorded by the band at A&M Studios in Los Angeles. Bassist Jim Lea had been inspired to write the call-and-response chorus after visiting the Trumpet pub in Bilston, Wolverhampton, where local pianist Reg Kierle was performing.

Earlier in 1973, the flamboyant Dave Hill debuted his ‘Superyob’ custom-built spaceship-styled guitar, and it’s this you can hear, triple-tracked, in the intro.

Unfortunately, Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me is a bit mediocre, especially compared to Slade’s other number 1s. It’s better than Take Me Bak ‘Ome, but that’s lukewarm praise. The chorus gets very repetitive, and for once, Noddy Holder’s vocal is veering into irritating territory. The lyrics are a bit iffy, too: ‘And I thought you might like to know/When a girl’s meaning yes she says no”. That wouldn’t get through in 2020, that’s for sure. But the reference to their female fans not knowing how to spell is a nice sly dig at those critics who hated Slade misspelling their song titles.

To be fair to the Black Country boys, they must have known this particular well was running dry, as this was the last single with a critic-baiting title, and next single My Friend Stan saw Slade take a new tack.

But on 4 July, during Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me‘s first of three weeks at number 1, Slade nearly lost drummer Don Powell. A car crash left him in a coma and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Angela Morris, dead. Instead of celebrating, the future of Slade hung in the balance.

Written by: Noddy Holder & Jim Lea

Producer: Chas Chandler

Weeks at number 1: 3 (30 June-20 July)

Births:

Comedian Peter Kay – 2 July
Actress Emma Cunniffe – 3 July
Golfer Bradley Dredge – 6 July

Deaths:

Soldier Charles Ernest Garforth – 1 July
Cricketer Wilfred Rhodes – 8 July
Scottish soldier John Brown Hamilton – 18 July
Actor Jack Hawkins – 18 July

Meanwhile…

1 July: The British Library was established by the merger of the British Museum Library in London with the National Lending Library for Science and Technology at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.

6 July: The James Bond movie Live and Let Die was released in British cinemas, with the spy being played by 45-year-old Roger Moore for the first time. I’m no big Bond fan, but Moore would always be my favourite.

10 July: The Bahamas gained full independence within the Commonwealth.

332. 10c.c. – Rubber Bullets (1973)

Whether it was a satire on The Troubles or just an affectionate throwback to Jailhouse Rock, Rubber Bullets introduced us to Mancunian band 10cc, four songwriters who specialised in witty, ironic pop and rock. But the story of ‘The Worst Band In the World’ starts years earlier.

Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Graham Gouldman knew each other as children, and their first collaboration dates back to 1964, when Gouldman’s band The Whirlwinds recorded Creme’s Baby Not Like You as a B-side. This band evolved into The Mockingbirds, whose drummer was Kevin Godley.

In the summer of love of 1967, Godley and Creme recorded a one-off single as The Yellow Bellow Boom Room. Thanks to Gouldman, the duo were then signed to Marmalade Records, who hoped Godley and Creme may be the UK’s answer to Simon & Garfunkel. They recorded material as Frabjoy and Runcible Spoon, with Gouldman on bass and a guitarist called Eric Stewart.

Stewart had been lead guitarist and singer with The Mindbenders, whose biggest hit was A Groovy Kind of Love, which stalled at number two in 1966. Gouldman was briefly in the group before they disbanded in 1968. That year, Stewart became involved with Inner City Studios in Stockport. It was subsequently moved to bigger premises, and renamed Strawberry Studios, after Strawberry Fields Forever. Stewart became the co-owner.

In 1969 Gouldman, who had previously written hits including For Your Love for The Yardbirds, was in demand as a songwriter. He took up residence at Strawberry Studios and by the end of the year he was also a partner. He was writing bubblegum pop songs for Super K Productions, and would often use Stewart, Godley and Creme to perform them. All four were singers and multi-instrumentalists, and they made so many records under so many aliases, they lost count. They would even sometimes perform what were meant to be female backing vocals.

While Gouldman was working in New York, the other three had their first real success together. As Hotlegs, their single Neanderthal Man reached number two in the UK in 1970 and was a worldwide hit. It was soon followed by the 1971 album Think: School Stinks. Meanwhile, all four continued to write and perform for other bands, and after helping Neil Sedaka on two albums, they were finally spurred on to try and make a name for themselves. They became Festival, but their first single failed and Apple Records rejected their second.

Undeterred, they recorded a spoof doo-wop song, Donna. They contacted eccentric and later disgraced mogul Jonathan King, who loved it and signed them to his label UK Records. He takes claim for dubbing them 10cc after a dream in which he saw ’10cc The Best Band in the World’ on the front of the Hammersmith Odeon, but the most common explanation, confirmed by Creme and Gouldman, is that it was an above average volume of semen produced in a male ejaculation. Seedy, whichever is true.

Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn loved Donna, and made it his Record of the Week. It soared to number two in October 1972. However, follow-up Johnny Don’t Do It didn’t even make the Top 40. Fortunately, Rubber Bullets, went all the way. Recorded as part of their eponymous debut LP, this track is another wry throwback to 50s rock’n’roll, a sound all four musicians were very fond of returning to.

10cc have always claimed Rubber Bullets was a sequel-of-sorts to Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, told from the point of view of the authorities, intent on putting a halt to the celebrations at the local county jail. This may well be the case (and there’s also a touch of the Beach Boys, particularly in Creme’s lead vocal), but it’s impossible to not consider its connection to The Troubles, which had rarely been out of the news in 1972-73. The use of rubber bullets saw a massive increase in this period. Despite being designed to bounce off the ground and strike at about knee level, children were killed by this ammunition. 10cc were obviously clever songwriters. Godley and Creme were responsible for the majority of this track and may well have had the chorus first and perhaps decided to make it less controversial by introducing all the Americanisms. Gouldman should also get a mention for his line ‘we’ve all got balls and brains, but some’s got balls and chains’, although that was edited out of the single version.

Not only were 10cc very smart, they were also very good at coming up with great pop songs, with years of experience between all four of them, there was no lack of expertise on hand, and Rubber Bullets was as catchy as it was clever, with a blistering guitar solo from Stewart, achieved with studio trickery. And yet, for all that’s commendable about this song (it’s apparent sympathies lie with the victims of the bullets), I can admire it rather than enjoy it, and I know I’m not the first person to say this about 10cc’s work. But their second number 1 in 1975 is another matter entirely. It’s one of the best of the 70s.

Written by: Lol Creme, Kevin Godley & Graham Gouldman

Producers: 10cc

Weeks at number 1: 1 (23-29 June)

Births:

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat – 27 June

Meanwhile…

23 June: A Hull house fire kills a six-year-old boy. It was initially thought to be an accident but it later emerged as the first of 26 fire deaths caused over the next seven years by arsonist Peter Dinsdale. One of Britain’s most prolific serial killers, Dinsdale was imprisoned for life in 1981.