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Step back to 1975 – Part 1

January 15th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The year 1974 morphed into 1975 without it making much of a difference. I became increasingly football mad, and I was still reading Micky Maus comics. I had the same kindly teacher, spent a large part of the week at my grandmother”s, and music didn”t mean all that much. It was there, I enjoyed it, but the passion that once was there had gone. At the age of nine, I was jaded, fallen off Planet Pop. And still I must cover the year in two parts. The songs in this series here are chosen for their ability to transport me back to the year under review. The songs here evoke the first half of 1975, the smell of spring and Easter eggs.

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ABBA ““ So Long.mp3
After winning the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo on 6 April 1974 and topping the UK charts with the song, ABBA thought they had made their big breakthrough. They hadn”t. Their next notable hit in Britain would be S.O.S., a year and a half later. In West Germany, however, ABBA were a permanent fixture. Songs that made little or no impact in Britain provided the soundtrack to my life as an eight and nine-year-old: Honey Honey, Ring Ring, Hasta Manana (featured in the second part for 1974), I Do I Do I Do I Do and So Long. These songs showed ABBA”s versatility, ranging from bubble gum pop to Schlager to glam rock. So Long is a fine glam stomper.

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Udo Jürgens ““ Griechischer Wein.mp3
Udo merits praise for investing some social commentary in his lyrics. Here he dealt German xenophobia a mortal blow, ensuring that Germans and Gastarbeiter would live in perfect harmony, like the keys on an oompah tuba. The song has Udo stumbling into a suburban Greek taverna whose noble patrons relate to him their longing for the old country because that”s where they are accepted. And the Greek wine “” Retsina is horrible stuff, tastes like the sap of a tree “” encourages them in their confessions of homesickness. I don”t think Udo thought that one through much, well-intentioned though his song was. In his representation, the swarthy immigrants (oh yes, he tells us of their swarth) are heavy-drinking emotive cliché-mongers who have no interest in assimilation, just trying to turn a buck so that they can go home again to live la vida loca. Exactly the image which the German xenophobes exploited in their bid not to accept immigrants.

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Rubettes ““ Juke Box Jive
You can set fashions by it: a decade will be revived about 20 years later. We see it now, with the “80s revival (the “90s revival has already started, in as far as that derivative era has anything worth copying). In the 1970s, the “50s made their comeback. Sha Na Na, Grease, The Last Picture Show, Elvis” death”¦and this song, which implores us to do the juke box jive just like we did in “55. In 1975, that seemed such a long time ago. But if we playfully update the lyrics to do the juke box jive just like we did in 1990″¦gulp!

I had the single of this. I lost ownership of it in unjust circumstances, in early 1978. My younger brother and I were eating soup when I made what must have been a very amusing comment, whereupon my brother spew his mouthful of soup all over my bowl. Naturally I refused to eat any more of the spitsoup. My mother, alas, was an enthusiastic enforcer of the empty plate rule. Seeing my problem, she suggested that we swap soups. That was a non-starter, because fraternal saliva would have polluted my brother”s soup as well “” a problem when other people”s bodily fluids could induce utter disgust. So I struck a bargain with my brother: if he eats both bowls of soup, I”ll give him, erm, the single of Juke Box Jive by the mighty Rubettes. Seeing as he had a pathetic collection of records, consisting mainly of fairy tale LPs, he took the bait. I didn”t really like the Rubettes much anymore, but the loss of any record rankled nonetheless.

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Leonard Cohen ““ Lover Lover Lover.mp3
Laughing Len is not really Top 10 fodder; he never had a UK chart entry, as far as I know. But this was a massive hit in West Germany, his only hit there. I have no idea why, of all Cohen songs, Lover Lover Lover became a hit. Well, it is pretty good and quite catchy. I remember singing it in the street, rendering the chorus as luvvel-luvvel-luvvel. The lyrics are classic Cohen: “I asked my father, I said: “˜Father change my name.” The one I”m using now, it”s covered up with fear and filth and cowardice and shame”¦He said: “˜I locked you in this body, I meant it as a kind of trial. You can use it for a weapon, or to make some woman smile”.”

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Barry White ““ You”re The First, My Last, My Everything.mp3
The sunny sound of the “70s. Because of this song and “Love”s Theme”, and the Philly sound (the TSOP theme especially received much airplay in Germany), I associate strings in soul music with my childhood summers. Poor Barry White has become a bit of a joke in some ignorant quarters. The whole Walrus of Lurve nonsense deflects from White as a serious and gifted musician, the creator luscious arrangements and intricate melodies. And he was, of course, a great singer.
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Bimbo Jet – El Bimbo.mp3
I”ve mentioned before that every year there would be at least one (at least mostly) instrumental hit riding high in the German charts. In 1975, it was the unpromisingly titled El Bimbo by the French disco outfit Bimbo Jet. Apparently El Bimbo, a chart-topper in France in 1974, was based on a track by the Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir, titled Tanha Shudham Tanha. I have a recollection of a female singer, possibly Gitte, singing a German vocal version of this song.

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Sweet ““ Fox On The Run.mp3
A different version of Fox On The Run appeared on the group”s 1974 album Desolation Boulevard; the 1975 single was re-recorded, produced by the band. I wouldn”t have known it at the time, but it”s a song about groupies: “I don”t wanna know your name, “˜cause you don”t look the same, the way you did before. OK, you think you got a pretty face, but the rest of you is out of place; you looked all right before.” Charming.

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Shirley & Company ““ Shame Shame Shame.mp3
I think in 1975 the disco sound really crossed over. Where songs like Rock The Boat could be called soul, there was no such interchange between genres with songs like Shame Shame Shame. Shirley Goodman had been around for a long time as an R&B singer. By the late”70s she had retired. Shame Shame Shame was written by Sylvia Robinson, who in the 1960s was half of the soul duo Mickey & Sylvia. She had a soul hit with the very sexy Pillow Talk before founding the All Platinum Records label on which Shame Shame Shame was published. But Robinson”s place in music history is guaranteed as the co-founder of the Sugar Hill label, on which the Sugarhill Gang released Rapper”s Delight, the first rap hit.

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Teach-In – Ding-A-Dong.mp3
In about 1986/87, Heineken ran a very funny commercial on British TV featuring Spitting Image puppets performing really bad Eurovision Contest songs with nonsense titles, not unlike Ding-A-Dong. None of those were bad enough until the British entry, The Chicken Song, scored maximum points everywhere. Of course, Britain had previously enjoyed success with Lulu”s Boom Bang-A-Bang. Ding-A-Dong was Holland”s 1975 winner of the Eurovision Contest, held in Stockholm a year after ABBA”s triumph. There will be no sorrow if you sing a song that goes Ding-Ding-A-Dong, apparently.

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Kenny ““ The Bump.mp3
Listen to this and tell me that Robbie Williams took no inspiration from The Bump for that song he did with Kylie Minogue! The song headlined a short-lived dance, a strange throw-back to the early “60s, when every dance fad produced a hit single. In 1975 there, of course, was also The Hustle, the disco masterpiece by Van McCoy.

The Bump was Kenny”s first hit, and apparently our five pals, still teenagers, had nothing to do with its production. The story goes that the song had already been released under the name Kenny, from a remixed backing track for an abandoned Bay City Rollers song and featuring co-writer Phil Coultier on vocals and backing vocals. The group Chuff was roped in, with a new lead singer, and renamed to present the song, lip synch style, on Top of the Pops. Kenny did not have much success: four hits in 1975 and, whoosh, they were gone “” except in West Germany, where the group lingered on for a couple of years. Confusingly, an Irish singer by the name of Kenny had been releasing records just a year or two before “” on the same label, RAK, as the group Kenny.

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  1. January 15th, 2010 at 17:38 | #1

    Yet another astounding mix of tunes.
    You never fail my ears…

  2. January 18th, 2010 at 08:59 | #2

    Two things about that Sweet song (both from the picture sleeve): The flip side is called “Miss Demeanor” so it’s a double-sided dose of misogyny! And it says “Fantastic New Single Version” so it must be better than the album version, right? :)

  3. Richard
    January 20th, 2010 at 00:28 | #3

    Welcome to your new home!

    Here’s wishing you the best of luck and loads of fun – not forgetting plenty of the best music ever made. :-)

    R

  4. January 20th, 2010 at 16:52 | #4

    “Back Hooome…la, la la la, la la….”

  5. dickvandyke
    January 26th, 2010 at 22:02 | #5

    Yes – Good luck – I was worried about you!

  6. February 1st, 2010 at 11:02 | #6

    Abba does this all the time. Nicks “So long” from Vinegar Joe http://bit.ly/a5ciVT.
    Then “Waterloo” from Stonewall Jackson http://bit.ly/cv7Ohd

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