I was never much into punk but I confess to a soft spot for Plastic Bertrand – mainly because he’s one of those famous Belgians there are supposed to be none of.
(Well he’s famous if you were around in the 70s.)
I was shocked on loading this video to discover the song was nothing to do with him; being both sung and composed by its producer Lou Deprijck.
Another one from 1970 but this one of the great cover versions. A Jagger-Richard composition, Melanie (Safka) invests Ruby Tuesday with much more emotion than Jagger ever could.
Speaking of ELO, this was their first single from that eponymous first album, Electric Light Orchestra.
Heavy cellos; as well as brass.
The guitar riff has been much copied. (Yes, Paul Weller, I’m looking at you.)
I first heard this parody on the radio. Along with my elder brother I used to listen regularly (every week without fail) to the comedy programme I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again (1964-1973) which along with Bill Oddie, the purveyor of this ditty, featured John Cleese, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Jo Kendall and David Hatch. I can still utter quotes from it even today. (Once heard, who could ever forget the strains of the Angus Prune Tune?)
Episodes from the series can be found on the BBC’s Radio 4 Extra pages. Relistening, it is now obvious from where I got my love of outrageous puns.
The track is a reimagining of a traditional Yorkshire song about the dangers of wandering on Ilkley Moor without a hat utilising the style Joe Cocker employed in With a Little Help From My Friends. It was eventually released as a single in 1970 but I’m sure must have been in a late 60s episode of the radio show. As I remember it the radio version carried more bite, though.
The B-side was another parody.
Another one from 1970, following on from last week’s 60s Boxtops song.
Joe Cocker is perhaps most famous for his reworking of the somewhat bland, almost throwaway, With a Little Help From My Friends from the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper, making that song into something unforgettable (though eminently parodyable) and in his “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” incarnation also had a 1960s hit with the Leon Russell song Delta Lady, but they later also transformed the Boxtops hit The Letter.
Way back in the day there was a book published – I forget its name and author – that had photographs of rock/pop stars of the 1960s (or early 70s) appearing above a line from a song lyric that was vaguely appropriate. This was an attempt of sorts to sum up the late 1960s zeitgeist.
The image/line combination that most struck me – it has remained in my mind all those years – was the last one in the book.
The line was, “Hope I die before I get old,” from, of course, The Who’s My Generation.
And the star whose image it illustrated?
That sentiment is doubly ironic now that The Rolling Stones have celebrated 50 years in “the business” and The Who themselves continue to tour. Not their fault, of course, that the line was used in such a way. It did reflect though the disregard – even contempt – in which “old men’s music” was held by the generation that grew up in the long shadow of World War 2; a generation whose 1960s efforts were partly an attempt to shuffle off the stifling shackles of that conflict and define a future for themselves. In Britain too there was the nagging sense of loss that the disappearance of the Empire caused – something no-one, quite rightly, gives a stuff about now.
I could never understand Sinatra’s appeal myself. I still can’t. The man could not hold a note. He always, always, sang flat and could ruin a song’s rhythm and meaning by eccentric phrasing.
One of the purveyors of old men’s music, indeed he was said to be Sinatra’s favourite other singer, was Matt Monro. Matt Monro was an English singer who made his name in the 1950s and 60s before moving to the US, from where, because hiw wife was homesick he later came back
Monro was one of the first singers to perform a Bond movie theme in From Russia With Love and also had a biggish hit with another song from a film, Born Free. A couple of years ago I happened to catch a TV documentary about his life and came to a deeper appreciation of his gifts as a singer. His voice has a crystal clarity with great diction and he can carry a note, or a phrase, seemingly effortlessly. The good lady heard him on the radio recently and wondered when he actually took a breath!
His image in the 60s though was deeply uncool; early LPs merely had his photo and a list of some songs as a cover design, a practice pop and rock abandoned even before the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. I would not normally have listened to him at the time. There was one song he performed, however, which really stuck with me.
It was released in 1970 and more or less topped and tailed that attitude of the 1960s I described earlier, that intuition of something different (which, naturally enough, never came to pass; it never does.)
The song was called We’re Gonna Change The World and considering who sang it was quite a counter-intuitive choice to be put out as a single.
Judge for yourselves.
This only just creeps in as it was a January 1970 release, on the Bridge Over Troubled Water LP.
Never a single, to my mind this is the best song on the album; better even than the title track. The choral effect given by the multi-tracking of the duo’s voices is sublime.
Ignore the poor grammar in the title and lyric; it’s a shorthand typical of US influenced popular song and I suppose we must live with it.
This, though, is an example of something that’s quite difficult to get right, the love song. Its composer, David Gates, somehow had the knack of pitching the love song correctly. He also wrote Everything I Own, Make It With You, If (we’ll gloss over the Telly Savalas abomination of that,) Baby I’m A Want You, Guitar Man (not the Elvis Presley hit with the same title) and Lost Without Your Love among others.
Yesterday at school one of the pupils mentioned a road safety programme called, “Safe Drive, Stay Alive.” My mind immediately flashed to, “Don’t want to stay alive, when you’re twenty five,” and the unforgettably named Mott The Hoople with this David Bowie song.
And here’s Bowie’s version.