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Reelin’ In the Years 150: Hell Raiser

Well, it’s the only one of The Sweet’s big hits I’ve not yet featured here.

This is from a performance on German TV.

The Sweet: Hell Raiser

Reelin’ In the Years 134: Blockbuster

That siren sound announced the change from the Sweet’s previously bubble-gummy sound to something more hard-edged. It gave them their only UK no 1.

Surprisingly it wasn’t as big a hit in the US as the totally bland Little Willy had been.

The Sweet: Blockbuster

Reelin’ In the Years 123: Ballroom Blitz

I remember my father having a fit at the sight of men in make-up and flirting with the camera on Top of the Pops.

The Sweet: Ballroom Blitz

Reelin’ In the Years 106: Teenage Rampage

I’ve not done one of these for a while.

The Sweet: Teenage Rampage

Reelin’ In the Years 90: The Lies In Your Eyes

Not had one from Sweet for a while.

This again is from their later phase.

Sweet: The Lies In Your Eyes

Reelin’ In the Years 83: Fox on the Run

I’ve not had one from The Sweet for a while.

This was the first of their hits that they’d written themselves.

Sweet: Fox on the Run

The Sweet: Love Is Like Oxygen

In lieu of book reviewing here’s a blast from the past.

This is from the post Chinn and Chapman era Sweet when they were putting their own compositions out as A-sides.

I’ve no idea what the German surtitles someone’s put on near the end mean. I’m guessing it’s something rude.

The Sweet: Love Is Like Oxygen

Live It Up 5: Punch and Judy

The place The Troggs had for me in the 60s and Sweet in the early 70s was taken by Marillion in the early 80s.

Marillion have been forever tagged with the Prog Rock label and while their first songs – especially the 17 minute long Grendel and most of the debut album Script For a Jester’s Tear – fit that bill (which was why I got into them in the first place) by the time of Fugazi they had mainly moved on to a more guitar based rock sound.

Their initial success, though, shows that Prog wasn’t as moribund a genre as its detractors would have had it.

Mind you their third and fourth LPs, Misplaced Childhood and Clutching at Straws were those most Prog of things, concept albums (though arguably one concept album spread over two releases.)

I think I first saw them on television on The Oxford Road Show (who remembers that!) when this was one of the songs they played. Despite it being from Fugazi there is still a hint of Prog and echoes of Genesis.

This clip, though, is from Top of the Pops. Check out Fish – with hair!

Marillion: Punch and Judy

Sing, Lofty!

You may have noticed on the clip from 1975 of The Sweet’s Action I posted a week or so back that at no 27 on the charts that week was a duo called Windsor Davies and Don Estelle.

The song concerned was Whispering Grass and since the act featured someone dressed up as a sergeant-major and a diminutive soldier in a solar topee it would seem to be one of the unlikelier hits of that – or any – year. The song, though, reached number one and stemmed of course from a TV show; the sitcom, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum. Unlike Dad’s Army, with whom it shared the writing team of Jimmy Perry and David Croft, It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum does not benefit from constant repeats but mention it to anyone who watched British television in the 1970s and they’ll be able to reel off the characters’ names instantly (or the major ones anyway.)

The show featured:-
Bearer Rangi Ram
Gunner (later Bombardier) Beaumont, aka Gloria.
Sergeant-major Williams, “Shuuuuut Uuuuup!”
Gunner Parkin, aka Parky. (“You’ve a fine pair of shoulders there, boy. Show ’em off. Show ’em off.”)
Mr Lah-di-dah Gunner Graham, aka Paderewski.
Gunner Sugden, aka Lofty.
Colonel Reynolds.
Captain Ashwood.
Char Wallah Mohammed.
Punkah Wallah Rumzan.
Gunner Mackintosh, aka Atlas.
Gunner Clark, aka Nobby.
Gunner Evans, aka Nosher.
And from the first few series, Bombardier Solomons, aka Solly.

It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum was an ensemble comedy on the usual Perry and Croft lines (not only Dad’s Army but also Hi-de-Hi and You Rang M’Lord; Croft also co-wrote ‘Allo ‘Allo) and featured the (mis)adventures of a Royal Artillery Concert Party in the Far East during the Second World War.

The casting of Michael Bates as Rangi was criticised even at the time as people felt an Indian actor would have been more appropriate. Yet Michael Bates was born in India – and spoke Hindi before he learned English – and was well versed in Indian culture. The paucity of Indian actors in Britain at the time is shown by the few who regularly turn up in bit parts: some actors playing several different characters over the show’s eight series.

That the show has not been repeated ad nauseam in the way that Dad’s Army has is perhaps due to the fact that it is now held to be racist, or at least non-pc. Indeed even as late as April of this year BBC bosses have decided that the show will never be re-run for that reason. Yet given its setting (Deolali, India, 1945, and later up the jungle in Burma) racist language or attitudes are hardly to be wondered at.

The 1940s were not pc. The Raj was not pc. Quite how this supposedly excessive racism can be squared with the fact that the British are uniformly ineffectual – the officers are idiots, the concert performers woeful except for the singing of Gunner Sugden, the sergeant-major is a bit thick and continually frustrated in his efforts to make his charges soldierly – while the Indians, especially Rangi and the Punkah Wallah, who has perhaps the best lines in the show (most contributed by Dino Shafeek who played the Char Wallah) are obviously more intelligent and frequently get the better of their colonial masters, is difficult to fathom.

An irony here is that one of the original performers of Whispering Grass was the group The Inkspots whose name is itself arguably racist from today’s perspective.

Another factor in the long, and now seemingly permanent, absence of the series from the small screen may be that sergeant-major Williams frequently refers to the concert party under his charge as “nancy boys” or “poofs,” mouthing this last in the closing sequence and, from series 3 on, even in the opening titles. Again, a sergeant-major in 1945 would undoubtedly have done this. To represent it is only being true to the historical record.

Confession time. The good lady and I ordered the full series set of DVDs of It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum as a Christmas present to ourselves and are steadily working our way through it. We’ve reached series 6. I have to say it’s still funny.

If you want to check them out various excerpts from the show are available on You Tube.

Anyway, here are the said Windsor Davies and Don Estelle from the Christmas Top of the Pops of 1975.

Sing, Lofty!

Windsor Davies and Don Estelle: Whispering Grass

The Sweet: Action

This post originally featured a piece of Top of the Pops nostalgia also featuring an extremely young looking Noel Edmonds, from the time when The Sweet had moved away from targetting the young teenage market and started to write their own A-sides but that clip was made private so below is now an official promo.

Action was later covered by Def Leppard.

The Sweet: Action

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