392. ‘The Roussos Phenomenon EP’, by Demis Roussos

*Cue David Attenborough voice* And so we spy one of the rarest of chart-topping species. The EP. The Extended Play. More than a single; not quite an album… One of only four to ever top the UK charts…

The Roussos Phenomenon (EP), by Demis Roussos (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 11th – 18th July 1976

I’m not sure how to approach this record. With a normal single I always ignore the ‘B’-side. With double ‘A’-sides I do both songs. Should I do all four tracks from ‘The Roussos Phenomenon’?? Best get cracking! The lead single from this EP, the one that went to radio, was ‘Forever and Ever’. A cover, I wonder, of the Slik hit from the start of the year…? No, but Lord how I wish it was…

Demis Roussos has a distinctive voice. High-pitched yet husky, and very strained. It is a spectacular voice; but it doesn’t make for a relaxing listen. Ever and ever, Forever and ever, You’ll be the one… he wails as a Muzak backing-track waltzes along. That shines in me, Like the morning sun… It’s lush, it fills the speakers… It’s a bit much; but at the same time it’s bland mulch. It’s a very strange juxtaposition: a song that’s so in your face and yet so forgettable.

You can really tell that English isn’t Roussos’s first language as he reaches for the line: Take me from beyond imagination… and his voice trembles under its own mighty power. ABBA’s slight mispronunciations are endearing; here they jar. Then in comes a bouzouki (?) and suddenly it sounds like the soundtrack to a first date in a Greek restaurant. Knowing that I have four songs to get through, I’m tempted to press skip before the first listen is over…

Next up, ‘Sing an Ode to Love’, which as a title doesn’t promise anything different to what went before. But it is different. ‘Forever and Ever’ was bland… This is God-awful. Organs, and a marching beat. His voice grates even more, trembling and straining as if he has a terrible case of indigestion. See the children playing, Hear the sounds of virgin minds… He’s going for an epic statement here, when the choir comes in, but it’s so bad I think most countries would reject this even for Eurovision. Sing a song so clearly, Make the words rise up above…

The song it reminds me of – and I really am embarrassed to drag Roy Orbison into this, forgive me – is ‘Running Scared’. But whereas that classic builds to a perfect, dramatic conclusion; this builds to a horrible of crescendo of Demis’s grasping and some tacky synths. And so ends Side A.

For the sake of completion, here are my thoughts on Side B of our debut chart-topping EP. I have to search for ‘So Dreamy’ on YouTube, and am glad that I did, because it meant I could discover the video attached below, in which our Greek God belts it out by a harbour front. The cheap synths are still there, as are the over-bearing backing singers, but I’m enjoying this a lot more, with its bossanova rhythm… How was I to know, That from our very first ‘hello’, I’d feel so dreamy… I can begin to see why he’s been described as an ‘unlikely kaftan-wearing sex symbol’…

And then we end this, um, experience with ‘My Friend the Wind’, and any goodwill I was beginning to feel for Demis Roussos is dashed. It feels like a hymn. My friend the wind, Will come from the hills… All the by now classic Roussos elements are present: strained vocals, ropey synths, an over-reliance on backing singers… But at least the middle-eight is interesting, as the bouzouki returns and we are back in the Greek taverna. You can almost hear the plates smashing with each beat. It ends in a Greek knees-up. La-la-la-leyleyleyley…

Goodness, that was a slog. And the scary thing is, these four songs were handpicked as excerpts from ‘The Roussos Phenomenon’ LP. I shudder to think what they decided wasn’t good enough. Still, for whatever reason, this disc delivered him his only UK chart-topper. He had been a big solo star in Europe since the early seventies, with #1s in France, Holland, Switzerland and Germany, among others. The final push he had needed to breakthrough in the UK came from a documentary, also called ‘The Roussos Phenomenon’, that inspired this E.P., and the fact that more and more Brits were holidaying in places like Greece, and getting a taste for the music there.

But it didn’t last. His last charting single in Britain came just one year later. Roussos had been, however, part of influential prog-rock band Aphrodite’s Child, who had had a Top 30 hit back in 1968 and whose fellow member Vangelis would go on to win an Oscar for the ‘Chariots of Fire’ soundtrack. So, actually, there’s a lot more going on in this one-week wonder than the turgid music. Our first (our only?) Greek chart-topper, our first EP, the first time two songs with the same name have made #1 in the same year… But to be honest I’m well over this entry, and ready to move on to the next two, humongously famous, number one singles…

16 thoughts on “392. ‘The Roussos Phenomenon EP’, by Demis Roussos

  1. It was Forever and Ever that sold it, t’others were irrelevant. Gotta admit i bought the lead track in 1974 in the bargain bin of a Gloucester record shop and loved it. His voice has always been marmite, love it or hate it. Me i rather loved Aphrodites Child, Rain & Tears is progrock of sorts, and the 1972 single Break didnt feature Roussos on vocals and is in a musical world of its own. A wondrous world. I adore it. Other than that, for great slushy Greek pop i nominate Nana Mouskouri and her White Rose Of Athens from 1962ish. Avoid solo Demis, but kudos for his late career revival as hostage on a hijacked plane. The hijackers gave him special dispensation to be released so all those hits were a literal lifesaver to him.

    • I did see that on his Wiki page. If I were being unkind, I might suggest that by belting out his greatest hits to the hijackers they were forced into releasing him…

      I wanted to ask you if you knew the story behind EPs. At first they weren’t, then they were, included in the charts. And then they weren’t again?

      • 🙂 EP’s had their own charts in the 60’s (which meant The Beatles “missing” hits like Twist & Shout were number ones in that chart), they were mid-way between expensive singles and very expensive albums price-wise, but moving into the more affluent 70’s people just bought albums, and EP’s were added to the singles charts from around 1969, usually with one lead track, but sometimes (like The Monkees EP re-issue in 1980) all of them getting rotating play on chart shows. In a sense they were still around into the 90’s, but usually the extra tracks were on the B side (see California Dreamin’ in 1997, which used the common CD single sales practice of having oldies as the bonus tracks, and that also applies to new material getting oldies released on CD as a virtual EP, or like Pet Shop Boys, new material or remixes comprising an EP in all-but-name. I’d argue that the old format A-side/B side lost all meaning with CD’s as I certainly bought loads of singles for the extra tracks, even with a dodgy new A side it was good value for money getting some classic oldies, or a reason to buy extra new tracks not on the latest album, especially with multiple formats & multiple versions of CD’s. The single A side didn’t become “pure” again until downloads took over and marketing strategies died out by and large.

      • Thanks for that! Yes, I suppose by the late 90s all CD singles were a kind of EP, with at least three or maybe four remixes or ‘B’-sides, and since then downloads and streaming have meant that all songs can simply chart on their own. I seem to remember an Arctic Monkeys EP from around 2006 being Top 10 in a midweek singles chart, but vanishing by the time the Sunday chart came along, presumably because it was too long. Maybe that was the last hurrah of the EP! Also interesting how long ‘double A-sides’ remained a thing, for chart listing purposes, well into the CD, and even download, era…

      • Pet Shop Boys still do EP’s now and again, they are generally very generous with new B sides and remixes anyway, but they did a Xmas song EP, in 2009, and a political EP in 2019, because the tracks were themed and didn’t fit into an album comfortably. Some acts still release downloading singles packages with 50p off, but it only counts towards the lead track as a sale, while streaming tracks counts both towards the “sale” of a single track and the proportioned “sale” of the parent album, which is insane to me. It’s one or the other. When big acts release a new album they now get 3 “hits” or more, but it’s generally just album plays topped off with a bit of cherry-picking of tracks, so it should be album “sales” only based on removing the total of sales of the lowest-“selling” streamed track off the album from all the other tracks. That’d sort out 1-week-chart-wonders in a flash! Imagine if The Beatles had had streaming, the number of chart entries would have quadrupled… grumble, moan 🙂

      • Yeah, I’m not as against streaming as some, but the way that a listen counts to both charts is mad. That, and playlists! My take on it all is… The charts need to include streaming because it’s how 90% of the world consumes music. Giant streaming companies don’t give a hoot about individual countries’ charts – why would they? – and so aren’t very co-operative when it comes to delivering the info each week. So the OCC struggles along with what it’s got…

      • I agree, it’s Playlists that cause the distortions. You can see every xmas when everyone has Alexa on as background to doing the dinner to their xmas playlist and what Amazon (and others) put on Xmas playlists creates the charts… 😦

  2. His voice is something else…I never heard of him before…The picture you have of him says… Hello I’m Demis and I’m a grump.

  3. You’re reminding me just how MOR the No. 1 spot was becoming in 1976 – and we haven’t even reached the Christmas one yet. On the subject of EPs that topped the singles chart, I’ve instantly remembered one from 1992 (I think). Now I’m racking my brains for the others, and think they must be the maxi-singles playing at 33 r.p.m. from one of my favourite bands who were riding high in 1970/71. Could be wrong…

    • I’m just going by how the OCC lists them, and they only list 4 EPs as having topped the charts. This, the one you mention in 1992, and two others (one from 1980, and one from 1993) What the difference is between a maxi-single in the 70s, an EP, and a CD single from the late 90s – all of which had four tracks – I do not know!

  4. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when once we practise to .. put things in categories. I’ve tracked down the one from 1980, and the one from 1993, but blow me down if my copy of the latter doesn’t play at 33. That really makes it a maxi-single, but it clearly proclaims itself Five Live EP so it is actually …. Should I give up collecting records and stick to playing dominoes instead? Sigh.

    • Yes, I think that it might be the record companies just calling it an EP, rather than any official classification. Maybe because it had multiple artists on different songs…? Hard to say. Think of all the Oasis singles in the 90s that had four songs on them, though… It is confusing.

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