Friday, 16 August 2013

Reflected People 1971 to 1972


With the Beatles gone the hippy movement had a serious problem. The Beatles could chuck money at making albums, because they were rich. Most bands were not. The revolution for album sales thus needed rich bands. Trouble also brewed as most music artist want to be a star or very famous. Albums however then didn’t tend to make you famous. So as the costs of making albums increased these were passed on to the buyers. Older young people like the university hippies, bought them, however in Britain the numbers going to higher education was in decline, though only if you compare it with the number of youngsters. Those aged 13 to 16 were on the increase, they bought the cheaper singles. Marc Bolan of the group T. Rex worked this out. His group had benefited from the hippy types and from the fact he played the College Campus circuit. The original name for the band Tyrannosaurus Rex fitted the college image as many fans were probably studying palaeontology. And dinosaurs were popular, because of films like One Million Years BC. Even kids were nuts about them (including myself). However Bolan’s band had trouble having any kind of big hit. One reason was that DJ’s didn’t like saying the band’s name. They couldn’t say it! Fortunately for Marc his marriage to June Childe gave him some stability to his teenage lifestyle. Also Tony Visconti (his manager) got fed up of writing the full name of the band and shortened it. They also reduced the price of admission to gigs and kept it at a level that the teenager could afford. The effect was dramatic. Young girls got in and started to scream at Marc. These three things put the golden touch to Bolan’s next single and Ride A White Swan went to number one January 17 1971. It wasn’t anything to do with the violins, I can tell you! Another clever move was to appear on TOTP singing Hot Love covered in glitter and make up. Boots the chemist had a field day Friday and Saturday from young teenage girls wanting make up products.

If anyone mentioned Elton John in 1970 it was likely to be the company account at Dick James Music moaning about the £70,000 being spent to develop him as an artist.1 He had been of that name since 1968 and despite doing T.O.T.P. and making an album and been given good publicity by New Musical Express the public in his home country ignored him. Dick James was of course the man that Brian Epstein was sent to see about setting up the Beatles music-publishing firm. Therefore Mr James had made lots of friends and contacts in the US. One of these agreed to promote Elton providing that he did concerts there. Elton’s concert style was established when he tried to imitate Jerry Lee Lewis at Pinner County School, his grammar school when he was a teenager.2 The audience loved it. As he is slightly autistic it went into his mind, along with a passion for collecting. Touring America he put into practice the Lewis style of piano playing (kicking away the stool, legs in awkward positions) and of course the Yanks loved it. He rapidly became a big star there. With lots of money he could buy things from Hollywood junk shops that he had seen from TV and old films. Returning to England and playing the Albert Hall, he came on dressed in one of his purchases. A gold tailcoat and outfit from a Busby Berkeley musical film, the same type seen in thirties films with men singing “I’m putting on my top hat, brushing up my tails....” This was still very popular entertainment in Britain and even Morecambe and Wise used the routine. Elton was not even top of the bill, yet stole the show.
By the end of 1970 he had come up with a smooth ballad that he didn’t need to play Lewis style. John Lennon loved it that much; he started sitting in front of a piano to perform and wrote his own unique song Imagine. The reason that Your Song would become a big hit and give Elton his first official UK hit was a lot to do with the BBC. During 1970 a lot of rock bands had become very big. Bands like Deep Purple and T Rex were however not very radio friendly. At least for the BBC and since the BBC had a virtual monopoly on radio stations, with only radio Luxemburg and the few illegal pirate stations to compete with, they held sway. Progressive Music as it was being called was shunted away to John Peel at Radio 1. The peak time for radio was breakfast. Since television wasn’t starting to even transmit, before children were in school. Holding the flagship post at Radio 1 was Tony Blackburn and in January of 71 he made Your Song his single of the week. Within weeks it climbed to number two3 and no further. Another Beatle however was keeping Elton going higher. Elton’s song also inspired another songwriter/musician to sit down in front of a piano and sing the same way.
The biggest problem for anyone who entertained people in Britain during the seventies, at least till Thatcher took over, was the tax. You just saw it as throwing money down the drain. One way round the problem was to invest it in new talent; at least that’s what Tom Jones’ manager found out. Gordon Mills created the label MAM (Management Agency and Music) purely for tax reasons. It generated even more cash as even its first release Dave Edmunds I Hear You Knocking went to number one. A cloth cap songwriter was also to be found on the label. He had tried most of the late sixties to get a hit on his own, but despite writing hit songs for others had no success till he contacted Mills. The change in music style by the end of 1970 fitted this new artist completely. Ok let’s name him, which is what Mills did, Gilbert, after the composer, as his real name was O’Sullivan! His skill with words even brought tears to people eyes, with the song about the death of his parents Alone Again (Naturally).
The endearing image most people have of him is the man playing the (school/pub) piano, probably in an Irish bar. Mills just so happened to have a young daughter and Gilbert would come to work on his arrangements at the Mils’ home. This resulted in the smash hit Clair for the girl’s name was just that. They even tickled her and put the sound on the end of the single. The upshot was that a lot of baby girls were suddenly called Clair!
Sugary records were dominating Radio 1, that much that even insiders like John Peel commentated on the fact that nothing that related to real music culture made it through to the airwaves. However Peel made records into chart hits by supporting acts that the rest of Radio 1 didn’t approve of yet! Bands like Status Quo; whose 1972 hit Paper Plane was slated by the industry. That single became a critical record in the development of Heavy Metal and was inspired by Roxy Music’ Virginia Plane.4
Bryan Ferry was the product of being a paper lad (crucially delivering Melody Maker) and Newcastle Art University. How much, would tell years later in a single called This is Tomorrow, the title of an exhibition there in 1956. Roxy (named after the cinema) was formed when Ferry met a chap with a £350 synthesiser, who knew another chap… How they got a record deal ended up in Virginia Plane, together with things associated with the American dream and the title from the cigarette brand.5
Other Rock bands were still being inspired by the Beatles. Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra, signed to Harvest Records, had their first hit in 1972. They combined the exocentric musical style of records like I Am Walrus with heavy drum and guitar work. However their musical style changes to a more commercial smooth sound, by the end of the decade. Others like Deep Purple and Black Sabbeth keep their heavy sound, till the present day. For most of these bands it was the life on the road (to the gigs) drinking and drugs and sex with girl groupies. Ah...The carefree life of sex, drugs and rock & roll, then or was it carefree...

Freedom Come Freedom Stays

Not everyone wanted sex with girl groupies for a start. Elton’s gay lifestyle would have come as a great shock to many people in the early seventies. The reason it’s not shocking anybody now is also the by product of the learning atmosphere. But then so is the culture of homosexuality. Although being “gay” is a perfectly natural condition for some humans; how they interact with others is not. Education thus becomes the catalyst to make the gay voice heard. At first glance the school culture would appear to very homophobic, with many gay children being beaten up for the first time there. This does not however prevent a culture forming from being at such places, obvious examples being single sex schools, with gay children forming their own cliques. The same sex school is more homophobic on the other hand, than a mixed one. Teachers would be one the look out more for homosexual behaviour in single sex than the other. Unless they were gay themselves, some teachers were powered by God to eliminate such forms of sexual activity. This empowerment by God came from the fact many schools were set up by religious orders, as Tom Robinson found out when he went to a Quaker boarding school. The school’s homophobic attitude, that was so powerful that he tried suicide, sent him off to join the Gay Liberation Front.6 Another part of the foundation of Gay Culture has a lot to do with higher or further education. The universities have always had a ‘male’ gay element in them, largely because in England women were excluded from attendance there. With the debating societies these places have, it opened up the possibilities that homosexual people had rights too. Although human rights have always been an issue since ancient times; the situation as regards of black people had grown more and more during the sixties. Along with women’s liberation, yet itself another product of education, the liberation of homosexuals would set out to do the same thing. The only thing to do was to take to the streets. Much of this had already occurred in America in
1970 when an alliance of activists had shouted “Gay Power” at the Mayor of New York. In Britain, the groups ‘starting slogan’ was met with humour, largely due to a language difference between the UK and the US. The UK population conjured up an idea of gay men having sex in small cupboards (rooms for brooms in the US) due to that slogan – “Out of the closet into the street”. In the end, it was more or less to do with New York, in particular, which didn’t allow men to kiss one another in the street, so they had to kiss in the male toilets (closets in the US). The British especially and around the world, took to ‘in the closet’ it would become a catchphrase for anybody who had not revealed their sexuality to friends, family and the public and that they were passing themselves as straight. It became a symbolised locked door to a room for an exclusive club. The door was only opened when the person felt they could cope with any abuse. Or when they had no choice and later when they were dying from what everyone thought was a gay plague. For when it was opened they felt liberated or
were destroyed. ‘Power’ on the other hand, could be used by any cause and ‘people power’ grew stronger with every shout. In some cases members of this club were genuinely confused themselves. Others probably exploited their sexual switching for profit or maybe just to mess around with the status quo of culture. It is reported that David Bowie a gay icon, was switching from gay to bisexual all the time in the seventies. In the land of clubs it was considered ‘chic’ to be either way. Outside this area to be queer and open about, was asking for trouble and probably a beating by either ‘bashing’ gangs or the police.
One man guaranteed to do some protesting and shouting was Lennon. Protesting and marching songs quickly became hits as the feel-good-factor; an aspect of marching with others comes out in the songs. Power To The People is typical, but the Blue Mink’s The Banner Man is more lively and not forgetting Freedom Comes Freedom Go by The Fortunes. I suppose you can also include Three Dog Night’s Joy To The World in this category. The underlining principles also came out in various hits. Racial mixing in Black & White by Greyhound and Melting Pot again by Blue Mink, nevertheless the whole thing became a bit clich├ęd when the New Seekers brought out the Coca Cola advert, who had cashed in on the spirit of the movement. “Harmonola” replaced the name in I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (in perfect harmony), which sold buckets loads of singles and Coca Cola.
Against this background conflict between the Government and any movement was going to be bitter. The most powerful of these movements was the Trade Unions. Heavily influenced by political theory of the left, coming out of the universities, they were certain to clash with the right in the Conservatives also coming out of higher education. Prime Minister Edward Heath had gone for tax cuts and together with cheap credit made workers feel better off. Buying goods on the ‘never-never’ as it was called pushed the country’s growth rate to 7.4%. Nevertheless it wasn’t called that for nothing. Buying goods means they have to be paid for at some point, getting credit means security for those offering it and that means high wages. The problem with that is that many politicians see high wages as damaging to the economy. To pay the debt man workers wanted higher wages, to do that they turned to the Unions. They had one principal that they needed to stick with- Free Collective Bargaining. So the new Government’s Industrial Relations Act of 1971 broke this principal. Unions had to sign up to the agreement and if they did the TUC expelled them! It wasn’t long before wage risers were being tackled head on by the government. By January of 72, miners had walked out and power stations were shutting down. When Midlands’ coke depots started supplying power stations miners from Yorkshire rushed to stop them. Headed by Arthur Scargill these men took on the name
Flying Pickets.









Biblical hits

While rock grew harder others went softer. Judy Collins wild life had brought her into therapy groups, meeting in churches in the US. The trouble was that they seemed as chaotic as the drugs sessions. Somebody suggested she sang something to change the mood and she sang Amazing Grace. She went on to record the tune, complete with gospel chorus and it went big around the world. Britain took to it well, ironically the words were written in the 1770’s by John Newton an English vicar. The tune was added at much later date and based on another Scottish tune. This probably explains why the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards went to the top with a bagpipes version of it in 1972. The church thought it would help them reconnect with young people. It was having a tough time with the young. Happy carefree youngest have little desire to be saved from sinful ways and probably wanted to do some of the sins! Iconic stars like Cliff Richard were heavily criticised over his religious leanings and struggled to convert young fans. To get round these narrow minded views, he links the causes of the young to fit in with Christian beliefs, for instance he used the ‘power’ word in 1973 in the song Power To All My Friends. You could argue that science, being taught in the schools; also put
questions in the young minds about the Bible. But religion was very much present in school and the local vicar came to schools, the scientists never. If you think about it maybe youngster were fed up with being preached to at school? The religious theme of Amazing Grace was still believed to be good news by the church and they conducted a survey of young people only to find out they thought it was about a girl called Grace! God meantime was making a lot of money out of the number one records, even if the people singing his praises didn’t sometimes. Using a choir was one way of making a pop tune a hit and the Congregation’s Softly Whispering I Love You did very well and was later used by Paul Young minus the choir. George Harrison is often seen by many people as being innovative in the field of pop music. Nevertheless he got into some serious trouble over My Sweet Lord. Basically like what he done over the Kink’s song he copied in many ways The Chiffons’ single He’s So Fine to produce his own tune. There are several reasons why George would have sufficient knowledge of the song in question. First the Beatles did work with Phil Spector and did record songs by him. Secondly the song came out in 63 when the Beatles where hitting the heights and they must have heard it, especially as it was number one in America! Harrison was taken to court and a musicologist, always brought in cases like that,
confirmed that both songs were based on Saint-Saens Second Symphony. Fortunately for Harrison & Spector the Judge did not agree! (Yes I know Maxwell’s Silver Hammer) and said George broke copyright ...only.... not deliberately.7 This is largely explained by Phil Spector actually working with him and he of course did the old tune. Phil did over 180 versions of the slide guitar, half of which were done by Eric Clapton, to get the tune right. The problem really is that once a record takes off (hits number one) somebody generally says it’s a copy of someone’s song, often the person claiming, while it is just sounding like another song or tune. Despite its religious bent as was the Chiffons’ single, being it was gospel based. Harrison never got the attack that was inflicted on Cliff Richard’s single in 1999.
Meanwhile a student approach to Jesus was to make him a rock star or at least a stage rock star. Andrew Llyod Webber decided to make Jesus bigger than the Beatles, well in
name anyway. His stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar quickly produced hits and had Mary Magdeline singing about Jesus as if he was the ultimate celebrity. Yvonne Elliman in the single I Don’t Know How To Love Him, claimed he was just man, but you could say the musical did the image of Jesus a lot of good, at least in some of the young.






College Greens

Cliff also picked up on a growing interest in environmental concerns with the song Joy of Living. This issue had been raised in song back in the sixties when Joni Mitchell hit the charts with Big Yellow Taxi. The spraying of weed killers such as DDT, had been linked to deaths and chemicals were being blamed for causing cancers. For many students, who’s fathers were producing pollution from their factories they owned, it was an opportunity to prove that adults were not as wise as they make out. Needless to say Nuclear power was the ultimate thumbs down. Protesting about these
issues was one way to get the message across, but so was singing. The massive road building programme and the ugliness of the Motorway had its share of youth indignation. These tracks of tarmac smashed through woods, fields and houses, which people cared about. Cliff refers to the car as ‘a multi coloured crocodile’ with further references to the exhaust fumes, as well as people living in high-rise blocks that the poor can’t afford. But he was not the only artist with concerns about the planet. Motown supremo Berry Gordy was forced to give Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye much greater control over the songs they sang or recorded. As a result Wonder produced Living for the City and Gaye made it clear his thoughts with What’s Going On?
The Media had also picked up on these issues and TV dramas such as Doomwatch and science based Horizon where running themes on ‘green’ topics. With the advent of BBC 2 the BBC started running ‘Trade Test Transmissions’.
These were placed on during the day on the channel, mainly for electrical shops that sold televisions, as the station didn’t broadcast till the evening. They showed various promotional films, one of them was for a exhibition centre and

one was about the effects of pollution. This film was also broadcast in schools and I remember seeing it several times, during science lessons. Hollywood also caught on to the ‘planet in peril’ over man made actions. Soylent Green (MGM 1973) had the result of pollution’s effect as wiping out the food supply and the food that people had to eat was the title of the film. This turned out to be made from the Human race. Yet in the film Silent Running (1971), man packs the in danger of extinction forests in giant greenhouses (in space) and then decides it doesn’t need them. An unhinged student-type, long-haired spaceman decides he will save one and does.


Growing your hair long for some was alright for some, but one young lad in a band, had enough of eating his hair. The catalyst was Clint Eastwood in the film Dirty Harry and the young man was Midge Ure, now with a short hair cut based on Clint’s.8 Still he was the exception to the rule.
This chapter is not complete and is a work in progress.

1 Parkinson P42.
2 Parkinson P21
3 This is the actual chart position; it reached only no.7 in Music Week’s chart.  
4 Rossi & Parfitt P47.
5 Buckley PP19,23,34,42,79.
6 Napier-Bell P168.
7 Napier-Bell PP276-7
8 Ure P26.

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