Recap: #331 – #360

To recap then…

It’s a recap of a pop music scene in flux. The last recap was ‘The Glam Recap’ – with huge hits from Slade, T Rex, the Sweet, Wizzard et al – while these past thirty discs have seen glam lose its grip on the top of the charts, to be replaced by disco and soul. The change, when it did come in the summer of ’74, was swift and merciless.

But let me take you back, to the spring of ’73. We started this run off with some heavy hitters: Suzie Quatro telling us to ‘Can the Can’, Slade going straight in at the top with the Slade-by-numbers (but still catchy as hell) ‘Skweeze Me Pleeze Me’. Then enter Gary Glitter. Not the disgraced pervert we think of these days, but a sparkly jump-suited behemoth declaring ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang! (I Am!)’ By the time we reached the final #1s of ’73, two glam rock records entered at the top and sold a million, one by Glitter and one which you have probably heard a lot this month, and it all proved too much to maintain.

Glam rock died in the spring of 1974. It descended into the rock ‘n’ roll pastiches of, yes, Gary Glitter – as catchy as he was – Alvin Stardust and The Rubettes. Decent enough pop songs, but nowhere near the level of ‘Get It On’ or ‘Block Buster!’ The corpse still had a few decent farts left in it, though. Nobody can deny the stupid brilliance of ‘Tiger Feet’, or of ABBA’s glorious arrival on the scene with ‘Waterloo’. (Meanwhile, the man I always hold up as the gold-standard of glam, Ziggy Stardust himself, has been noticeably absent from the top of the charts, for now. Maybe by our next recap…)

Then arrived the other-worldly ‘Rock Your Baby’, bringing disco and soul in equal measure, and suddenly American pop was the standard-bearer once again. The Three Degrees followed, Carl Douglas went ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, and John Denver wrote a song for his love Annie.

Of course, this is only telling half the story. Not every number one fits the narrative. Dotted in between these genre-defining hits we’ve had solid, timeless pop from the likes of Peters and Lee, The New Seekers (making up for their horrid Coca-Cola jingle), the classy Charles Aznavour and the glossy Sweet Sensation (who showed that the Brits can get just as soulful as the Yanks.)

We also bid farewell to the decade’s biggest teen-idols: Donny and David. Donny’s final #1 was a limp cover of Tab Hunter’s ‘Young Love’, which confirmed the 1950s as ancient history ripe for rediscovering. His brothers also nabbed their one and only chart-topper, too, while David Cassidy skipped off into the sunset singing ‘Daydreamer’. But with the most recent #1 we met another David, Essex this time, and he might just be the man to take over as idol du jour.

To the awards, then. First up, the ‘Meh’ Award. The song that moved me least this time around. I could say ‘Love Me For a Reason’, but that’s at least solid pop song. I could also say ‘Billy – Don’t Be a Hero’, by talent-show winners Paper Lace, or Ken Boothe’s ‘Everything I Own’. But again… no. I’m going to give it to John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’, for being a perfectly pleasant three minutes of folk-tinged country pop, but also for failing to get my pulse up in any way.

To be honest, the charts have been slightly more eclectic this time around. For the last recap we had some solid-gold classics to whittle down; and some complete stinkers to wade through. There just aren’t the same extremes this time. The records I name best and worst will not be the ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ of all time. They will just have been in the right or wrong place at the wrong or right time.

But before all that, we must award a WTAF Award for being interesting if nothing else. There was ‘The Streak’, but I think I’ll save that for later. There was the Simon Park Orchestra’s ‘Eye Level’, from ‘Van Der Valk’, but it feels like a cop-out just giving it to the random TV theme #1. There was even 10cc’s ‘Rubber Bullets’, a zany, ping-pong record that packed a lot into its runtime. But… I think I’ll award it to a record that maybe suffers in its ubiquity. It’s a classic, one everyone knows, but if you sit down and actually listen to it… It is a strange, strange song. Carl Douglas’s ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ takes it.

To The Very Worst Chart-Topper, then, of the past thirty. Whoever takes this can count themselves unfortunate to sit alongside utter turds like ‘Wooden Heart’ and ‘All Kinds of Everything’. But thems the breaks. Someone has to get it. Many would argue the case for ‘Seasons in the Sun’, but I can’t help kind of liking that one. Others would make a strong case for Donny O’s insipid cover of ‘Young Love’, but he won the last Worst award, and two in a row would just be plain bullying. So… Step forward Ray Stevens, Ethel and the News Reporter, for their work on the ‘The Streak’. A song, as I wrote in my original post, to make your teeth clench.

What, then, will be the 12th disc to join the ranks of The Very Best Chart-Toppers? I immediately have it down to three. ‘Waterloo’: the song I am this very moment naming The Last Great Glam #1. Except, I have a feeling that ABBA might be capable of even better than this, so I’ll place them 3rd and save them for later. Which means it comes down to a straight shoot-out: Wizzard’s often overlooked, Phil Spector inspired masterpiece, ‘Angel Fingers’, or Mud’s irrepressible ‘Tiger Feet’?

For the longest time, I assumed I’d give it to Wizzard. They just missed out last time, ‘See My Baby Jive’ finishing runner-up. And ‘Angel Fingers’ is wonderful – a million instruments and references crammed into five minutes of perfect pop. It did also, arguably, herald the descent of glam into rock ‘n’ roll tribute act, but I won’t hold that against it. And then there’s ‘Tiger Feet’, a song I’ve loved since I was a kid, and it would feel like a betrayal of the 10-year-old me to overlook it. And so, despite being aware that ‘Angel Fingers’ is the superior song, that must have taken weeks of Roy Wood’s loving effort, while Mud probably knocked ‘Tiger Feet’ out in an afternoon… ‘Tiger Feet’ takes it! Dumb, disposable pop wins. It always wins in the end.

Recapping the recaps:

The ‘Meh’ Award for Forgettability:

  1. ‘Hold My Hand’, by Don Cornell.
  2. ‘It’s Almost Tomorrow’, by The Dream Weavers.
  3. ‘On the Street Where You Live’, by Vic Damone.
  4. ‘Why’, by Anthony Newley.
  5. ‘The Next Time’ / ‘Bachelor Boy’, by Cliff Richard & The Shadows.
  6. ‘Juliet’, by The Four Pennies.
  7. ‘The Carnival Is Over’, by The Seekers.
  8. ‘Silence Is Golden’, by The Tremeloes.
  9. ‘I Pretend’, by Des O’Connor.
  10. ‘Woodstock’, by Matthews’ Southern Comfort.
  11. ‘How Can I Be Sure’, by David Cassidy.
  12. ‘Annie’s Song’, by John Denver

The ‘WTAF’ Award for Being Interesting if Nothing Else:

  1. ‘I See the Moon’, by The Stargazers.
  2. ‘Lay Down Your Arms’, by Anne Shelton.
  3. ‘Hoots Mon’, by Lord Rockingham’s XI.
  4. ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’, by The Temperance Seven.
  5. ‘Nut Rocker’, by B. Bumble & The Stingers.
  6. ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, by Gerry & The Pacemakers.
  7. ‘Little Red Rooster’, by The Rolling Stones.
  8. ‘Puppet on a String’, by Sandie Shaw.
  9. ‘Fire’, by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
  10. ‘In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)’, by Zager & Evans.
  11. ‘Amazing Grace’, The Pipes & Drums & Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard.
  12. ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, by Carl Douglas.

The Very Worst Chart-Toppers:

  1. ‘Cara Mia’, by David Whitfield with Mantovani & His Orchestra.
  2. ‘The Man From Laramie’, by Jimmy Young.
  3. ‘Roulette’, by Russ Conway.
  4. ‘Wooden Heart’, by Elvis Presley.
  5. ‘Lovesick Blues’, by Frank Ifield.
  6. ‘Diane’, by The Bachelors.
  7. ‘The Minute You’re Gone’, by Cliff Richard.
  8. ‘Release Me’, by Engelbert Humperdinck.
  9. ‘Lily the Pink’, by The Scaffold.
  10. ‘All Kinds of Everything’, by Dana.
  11. ‘The Twelfth of Never’, by Donny Osmond.
  12. ‘The Streak’, by Ray Stevens.

The Very Best Chart-Toppers:

  1. ‘Such a Night’, by Johnnie Ray.
  2. ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’, by Perez ‘Prez’ Prado & His Orchestra.
  3. ‘Great Balls of Fire’, by Jerry Lee Lewis.
  4. ‘Cathy’s Clown’, by The Everly Brothers.
  5. ‘Telstar’, by The Tornadoes.
  6. ‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles.
  7. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, by The Rolling Stones.
  8. ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, by Procol Harum.
  9. ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’, by Marvin Gaye.
  10. ‘Baby Jump’, by Mungo Jerry.
  11. ‘Metal Guru’, by T. Rex.
  12. ‘Tiger Feet’, by Mud.

Next up, we’re back into those disco vibes…


341. ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, by Slade

OK everyone. On three. A-one, two… It’s CHRRRIIISSTTTMMAAAAASSSSSS!

Merry Xmas Everybody, by Slade (their 6th and final #1)

5 weeks, from 9th December 1973 – 13th January 1974

Yep, despite me sitting down to write this in real world October; our journey through the charts has us at Christmas 1973. Slade, the biggest band in the land have written an instant festive classic… Was there any way this wasn’t going to smash straight in at the top of the charts?

For the first time ever, two consecutive #1s have entered at the very top. (This won’t happen again until 1989!) All three of Slade’s chart-topping discs this year have debuted there. And they’ve saved their biggest one for last. The one that sold half a million copies in its first week on sale. Are you hanging up the stocking on your wall, It’s the time that every Santa has a ball…

To be honest, this song long since became muzak; I know all the words but never actually pay attention to them. Sitting down now and concentrating, you notice some clever touches. The ‘fairies’ sobering Santa up (pretty sure they’d be elves, but who am I to disagree with Slade?), the hints to the nativity and having room to spare inside. And of course, granny telling you that the old songs are the best but, presumably after a sherry or three, she’s up and rock ‘n’ rolling with the rest…

Musically, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ (the ‘s’ in Xmas should technically be back to front; but Microsoft Word cannot cope with Slade’s anarchic handwriting) sounds a bit subdued next to Slade’s more raucous earlier hits, ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’, ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’ and the like. Maybe they dialled it back a bit, to ensure that it appealed to the widest possible audience; but it means it lacks a little something. It does mean, though, that we get some nice Beatlesy backing vocals and the brilliant What will your daddy do when he sees your momma kissing Santa Claus, a-ha…. bridge. Apparently Holder had written it in the sixties, long before Slade existed, which may explain the retro sound.

It must have sounded great when it first came out. Most Christmas standards up to then were either novelties, hymns or classics sung by Bing Crosby. But can anyone born in the UK, inside the last fifty years, actually remember the first time they heard this song? It’s just there. Each and every Christmas, on a loop. This, and the other big Christmas hit that was released in 1973, kicked off the idea of the Christmas #1 single, meaning that we perhaps have this to blame for Cliff’s Christmas efforts, Mr. Blobby, Bob the Builder, and all the horrible X-Factor winners’ singles… Dammit Slade, what did you do??

I could happily never hear this song again. It is Slade’s least enjoyable #1, and that’s not just because it’s a Christmas song. After this they turned away from commercial glam-pop and went heavier. The hits that immediately followed – ‘Everyday’, ‘The Bangin’ Man’ and ‘Far, Far Away’ – are for my money ten times better than this one. But hey ho.

Plus, the record I alluded to earlier, the other Christmas hit by a glam rock band from 1973, Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ is a better song, and one that I can still stomach when it starts coming on in the supermarket right about, hmmm, now. It only made #4. But. I love Slade, and don’t want to end my final post on them with a whimper. It’s lucky, then, that the band didn’t let this one end without one final moment of brilliance. It’s now pretty much enshrined in British law that Christmas hasn’t officially started until Noddy Holder has announced it at the top of his voice.

How much do Slade make from this record? About half a million pounds a year, it’s estimated. It was re-released in the early eighties, then again in the late nineties, and has made the charts every year since 2006 thanks to downloads and streaming. Last year, it reached #19. In a month or so it will start its latest ascent up the charts. It is a song that will probably outlive each and every one of you reading this. Slade’s legacy, for better or worse…

Enjoy (almost) all the #1s from 1973, and beyond, before we launch headfirst into ’74…

340. ‘I Love You Love Me Love’, by Gary Glitter

Anyone fancy a slow dance under the mistletoe, with Gary Glitter…?

I Love You Love Me Love, by Gary Glitter (his 2nd of three #1s)

4 weeks, from 11th November – 9th December 1973

While that mental image takes its time to fade… We settle into a woozy, oozy, slightly boozy, electronic sax riff. (Do electronic saxes exist? If they do, then that’s what leading us on this romantic mystery.) The trademark Glitter drums are there, but slowed right down. They lumber, they plod, they drag you down into the treacle.

Gary’s girl’s parents don’t like him much… We’re still together after all that we’ve been through, They tried to tell you I was not the boy for you, They didn’t like my hair, The clothes I love to wear… Or maybe they were just good judges of character, Gary? Once again, it’s proving difficult for me to judge the man’s music without remembering what he was deep down…

It’s glam rock, but stuck in quicksand, or on strong, strong Quaaludes. I’m not sure I like it all that much, but it’s kind of mesmerising. By the end, it’s basically smothered you into submission. The distorted saxophones and the over-dubbed guitars give me hints of Wizzard but, if they were going for what Wizzard achieved with ‘Angel Fingers’, they’ve fallen well short. In fact, I think we can pinpoint here the exact moment that glam rock started edging from Bowie and Bolan to Mud and Showaddywaddy’s fifties pastiches.

I love you love, You me love me too love, I love you love me love… Adding to the hypnotic effects is that chorus, that title. ‘I Love You Love Me Love’… I mean… It’s like a magic eye picture. You stare at it, trying to work out what it means, where the comma should be, but you go around in circles… ‘I Love You, You Love Me… Love?’

Whatever. You can bet that boys and girls around the country were sidling up to one another in school gyms around the nation at the Christmas dances of 1973, for a shuffle and a snog to this disc. This record entered the charts at number one and, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know how rare an occurrence that was back then. It means Glitter joins Elvis, Cliff, The Beatles and Slade. We might want to forget he ever existed; but we have to note how big he was in this moment.

He has one more chart-topper to come in the new year, before we can move past this slightly awkward elephant in the room. ‘I Love You Love Me Love’ was the 6th best-selling single for the entirety of 1973, despite only being released in early November… But you won’t be hearing it on a radio anytime soon. (Though, if you did enjoy this song, as I think I did – I still can’t quite make my mind up about it – and want a guilt-free means of enjoying it, Joan Jett does a pretty faithful cover, with a video that is peak-1985.)

339. ‘Daydreamer’ / ‘The Puppy Song’, by David Cassidy

I was a bit underwhelmed by David Cassidy’s first #1 – his cover of ‘How Can I Be Sure’ – to the extent that I gave it a ‘Meh’ Award. But no hard feelings, Dave – I approach this double-‘A’ with open ears.

Daydreamer / The Puppy Song, by David Cassidy (his 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 21st October – 11th November 1973

I do like his committed yet breathy delivery, the way he commits to every, single, sy-lla-ble. I remember April, When the sun was in the sky… I was worried when I pressed play and was presented with the lightest, tinkliest seventies soft-rock intro. But by the time we get to the chorus it’s turned into a nice, swaying pop song, with more than a hint of Bacharach and David to it: I’m… Just… A… Daydreamer, Walking in the rain…

Back in the spring he was in love; now he wanders after rainbows. You get the feeling he’ll be alright, though… Life is much too beautiful, To live it all alone… as he saunters off after that pot of gold. I would like another extra little hook to sell it to me properly. As it is, I quite like it – he won’t be winning another ‘Meh’ award for this one.

Another reason why this disc won’t be getting described as ‘Meh’ is thanks to the song on the flip-side. I have to admit, before listening to it, I feared the worst. The aural scars from the last chart-topper to feature the word ‘Puppy’ still linger. But I needn’t have worried, ‘The Puppy Song’ is a fun, music-hall tune.

If only I could have a puppy, I’d call myself so very lucky… He wants a pup, one to take everywhere and share a cup of tea with (dog’s don’t drink tea, David!) I know that he, No he’d never bite me… Part of me does wonder if the ‘puppy’ is going to be a metaphor – Cassidy’s ‘ding-a-ling’ as it were – but nope. It’s simply a song about wanting a friend.

It’s just as lightweight as ‘Daydreamer’; but more fun. David sounds like he’s enjoying himself, scatting and ad-libbing away. Come the end his friends have joined him for a good old fashioned knees-up… We, We’d be so happy together, Yodelly-odelly-odelly-oh! It’s a song so catchy and good-natured that I can even forgive the slight forays into yodelling.

Though it sounds like a relic from the 1920s, ‘The Puppy Song’ dates from as recently as 1969, when Harry Nilsson featured it on his first album. He had written it for another earlier chart-topper, Miss Mary Hopkin, who also included it on an album. Neither of these three versions stray very far from one another, but think I like the goofiness of Cassidy’s version best.

So, David Cassidy’s brief UK chart-topping career ends on a bit of a high with two very different sounding songs (though I do like the fact that they are both almost exactly the same length). He’d have one further Top 10 hit, though the truth was he struggled with his teen-idol status, and longed to be taken more seriously. The hysteria that followed him around was never to his liking, and it culminated in the death of a fourteen-year-old fan in a stampede at one of his shows in London. He quit touring and acting in 1975, focusing more on recording the music he wanted to. I remember him as a fixture on chat shows and light-entertainment growing up, but it seems he never really managed to feel at ease with himself and his public image. He died from liver-failure in 2017.

Which suddenly turns the silliness of ‘The Puppy Song’ into a tears-of-a-clown moment… Maybe he wasn’t enjoying himself very much at all when he recorded it. Maybe he really did just want a friend? A bit of a downer to end on, maybe. But then, the pop music business often isn’t as happy as the executives would have us believe. RIP David.

338. ‘Eye Level’, by The Simon Park Orchestra

And now, in a change to the scheduled programming, something slightly different. Don’t adjust your sets.

Eye Level, by The Simon Park Orchestra (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, from 23rd September – 21st October 1973

Well, it wouldn’t be the early 1970s if there wasn’t a random instrumental just around the corner, waiting to spend a month on top of the charts… From the Royal Scots Dragoon Guard, to Lieutenant Pigeon, to this. I mean, it’s pleasant enough. It’s very grand, almost Baroque… When it gets into its full sway I feel like I’ve just been announced at the court of Louis XIV.

There must be a story behind this getting to #1 – it’s not your everyday kind of chart-topper. In fact, the game is given away by the song’s sub-title: ‘Original Theme From ‘Van Der Valk’’. ‘Van Der Valk’ being a popular detective drama set in the Netherlands, which ran for five series over twenty years. In fact, it just got remade for ITV this spring! How have I never heard of this show until today? (Apparently there was *outrage* among fans of the original when the 2020 remake changed the theme tune…)

I quite like this, to be honest. It’s very lush, dense, and proper. It makes you stand up straight while you listen to it. It doesn’t sound much like the theme to a detective show should, but hey ho. My biggest disappointment is that it ends with a whimper, when it feels like it should have built to something much bigger, and more elegant.

Simon Park and his orchestra seem to have appeared from nowhere after being chosen to perform ‘Eye Level’. It had been released the year before to little fanfare, before a re-release following the TV programme’s success sent it flying to the top. It is an official million-selling single, and there aren’t too many of those around. Credit where it’s due. The orchestra went on to release a few more singles, and soundtracked a few more movies and shows.

One of those little diversions, then, that come along every so often on our journey through the charts. Nice enough; if a little out of place. Moving on…

Follow along, TV theme tunes and all, with my playlist…

337. ‘Angel Fingers’, by Wizzard

Back to business. Last time out, thanks to teen idol supreme Donny Osmond, we endured a throwback to the soppy ballads of the 1950s. This time out, we have another trip back to the future. Imagine yourself in an American diner, waitresses in pink polka-dots and beehives, frothy milkshakes and burgers on the menu, a Wurlitzer flashing in the corner just waiting for you to drop a dime in and spin the latest smash-hit platter. And then Roy Wood rolls up, all wild hair and glitter, astride his hog. Yes, this is the fifties, Wizzard-ified.

Angel Fingers, by Wizzard (their 2nd and final #1)

1 week, from 16th – 23rd September 1973

First of all, let’s just appreciate motorcycle effect. It means two of the past three chart-toppers have featured heavy revving. It’s clear that artists were having a lot of fun in the studio, throwing whatever the hell they fancied into the mix. Secondly, isn’t this just the most gorgeous, layered, swaying and swooping, pastiche of late fifties, early sixties pop? With a big, big nod to one man in particular – Phil Spector.

As I was lying in my bedroom fast asleep, Filled with those famous teenage pictures that you keep… The singer, Roy Wood, or the character that Wood happens to be assuming for the next four and a half minutes, is a rock ‘n’ roll singer who loves a girl. But she is distracted by teen idol after teen idol (to give this hit its full title: ‘Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)’. Will Dion still be so important to you on your wedding day…?

He plans to ride over the café, on his bike, to prove his love. Maybe pick up a guitar and join a rockin’ band. Finally make it big, or maybe just get her to notice him. As with Wizzard’s first #1 – ‘See My Baby Jive’ – the lyrics aren’t really what you’re here for. You want the whole package, the melodies, the fevered imaginings of Roy Wood’s brain condensed into pop perfection. How it lingers, Angel fingers, That’s why I fell in love, With you…

Actually, to call this a mere ‘pastiche’ is unfair. This hangs together as a brilliant song in its own right. Just because it tips its hat to what went before doesn’t detract. It also sounds completely original. ‘Angel Fingers’ gets a bit lost and forgotten, I think, coming between ‘See My Baby Jive’ and Wizzard’s huge Christmas smash. And that’s not fair. I think it might hold together even better than SMBJ – the sensory overload is still there, all the saxophones and drum tracks and French horns cascading over one another, fighting for air time – but it always pulls back before it gets too much.

My two favourite bits are the piano flourishes that start and finish the solo, that I call the ‘Red Dwarf’ bit, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who has ever watched the show. And then there’s the layered, doo-wop, Beach Boys ending that fades into those French horns, again. Oh baby, it’s perfect. It’s glam, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s doo-wop, it’s Spector, it’s teeny-bopper pop… It’s the entire history of the UK singles chart thus far, in four and a half minutes.

Wizzard only released eight singles before calling it a day in 1975. Two of them reached number one, another was one of the best Christmas songs ever recorded. By that point, Roy Wood had been a member of three hugely influential bands: The Move, Electric Light Orchestra, and the Wizz. Following the split, he went solo, working on projects with bands ranging from Doctor and the Medics, to the Wombles, along with whatever guise he was recording under himself. He produced for many other artists, and tried, unsuccessfully, to have Elvis record one of his songs. He was, is, a genius, and one of those who makes sure this trawl through every #1 single, past every terrible Donny, Dawn or Dana record, remains so much fun.

336. ‘Young Love’, by Donny Osmond

We’ve heard this one before, haven’t we…?

Young Love, by Donny Osmond (his 3rd and final #1)

4 weeks, from 19th August – 16th September 1973

Cast your mind all the way back to early 1957, when blue-eyed, all-American heartthrob Tab Hunter was crooning his way into the hearts of many with his own version of ‘Young Love’. I wasn’t keen on it then – and I quote: “I’ve listened to ‘Young Love’ several times now, trying to find something to like about it, but I can’t do it. It’s insipid. And that’s it” – and I ain’t much keener on it now.

It’s a pretty faithful cover – the same lullaby guitar and lyrics, with a few strings thrown in for that trademark Osmond schmaltz. Donny sounds like… Donny. It’s not as teeth-grindingly terrible as ‘The Twelfth of Never’, but it’s no ‘Puppy Love’. Who’d have thought, when I gave ‘Puppy Love’ it’s glowing review, that it would wind up being the best of Donny Osmond’s three chart-toppers!

No, I’m going to play nice. Yes, this is complete tripe, but as I say every time: I am not the target audience for it. Same way that I will not be the target audience for New Kids on the Block, Boyzone, Westlife or 1 Direction, when their times come. Plus, it’s a song by a fifteen year old kid. No way would I want any of the stupid things I did, said, wore, or released on 7” vinyl around the world, aged fifteen, held against me. I’ll let him be…

But then, oh Jesus, he starts talking. Even Tab Hunter didn’t go this far… Just one kiss, From your sweet lips, Will tell me that our love is real… Donny, son, you’re making it really hard for me to not write terrible things about you… You just know that this was the exact moment in the song where girls across the country leant in to give their Donny posters a good hard snogging.

It’s short, at least, two and a half minutes and we’re through. That’s it as far as this young man’s solo chart-toppers are concerned, though he does have one more #1 coming up soon with his brothers in tow. I feel we need write no more.

Except, I guess it’s interesting that back in the fifties, at the same time as Tab Hunter took this to the top first time around, right on the verge of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution, that it was common for artists to cover songs from the twenties and thirties. Connie Francis took ‘Carolina Moon’ to the top, Bobby Darin did the same with ‘Mack the Knife’, while Tommy Edwards used an old melody in ‘It’s All in the Game’. This disc marks the first time, of many, that a former #1 will return to the top as a cover version. And, scarily, the 1950s are to the 1970s what the 1930s were to the ‘50s…

335. ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’, by Gary Glitter

I ended my last post by claiming that there was no way that this next #1 would be on Spotify, and that I would have to search the deepest recesses of the dark web to find it. Except. It’s there. On Spotify. So…

Ok. You have to type it in in full – the algorithm won’t suggest it to you – but it’s all there. Turns out that ‘hateful’ artists such as this one are ‘buried’ rather than ‘banned’. Which, I think, is the sensible approach to take. Gary Glitter won’t pop up unexpectedly in your party playlist – can you imagine! – but people with blogs in which they write posts on every UK number single can crack on happily.

I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!), by Gary Glitter (his 1st of three #1s)

4 weeks, from 22nd July – 19th August 1973

I haven’t heard this song in years… I was in my early teens when the truth about Glitter came out. (For anyone who doesn’t know, he was found to have a lot of child pornography on his laptop, has since gone on to be convicted three times for rape and abuse, and has proven himself to be a pretty unrepentant paedophile.) But I can just about remember him being a celebrity… I have a particular memory of seeing him on Saturday morning kids TV, of all places, and of a schoolfriend’s parents being huge fans. (True story: his name was Gary, and he did not like it when you suggested which disgraced pop star he may or may not have been named after…)

Come on come on, Come on come on, Come on come on come on… Clap clap clap, stomp stomp stomp! It’s all coming back to me… This song was huge. And dammit… I am enjoying this song. I feel grubby saying it, but hey. When it comes to Gary Glitter and his three UK chart-toppers, I’m going to (try to) practise a clean separation of man and music. He is a terrible human being; this is a stupidly catchy pop hit. It starts with a motorbike revving, for goodness sake, meaning that in half a year we’ve had songs intro with air-raid sirens, anti-aircraft guns, and Harleys… What a time to be alive!

It is cheesy, though – towards the Mud and Showaddywaddy end of glam rather than the David Bowie and T. Rex. It’s dumb, it’s repetitive, trashy and disposable. It’s a series of chants rather than a thoughtfully put together song. He’s the leader, and he’ll make you sell your soul to rock ‘n’ roll… It’s glam reduced to its basics; but God if it isn’t an ear-worm. Is there any other genre with such different levels of taste and respectability?

D’you wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang… Oh yeah? I said I wanted to listen to this objectively, judging the music alone, but it is kinda hard when Glitter gives us lyrics like: I’m the man who put the bang in gang…! Jeez. You do start to wonder if he was hiding in plain sight all along. If glam rock, that most glorious of genres, was besmirched by a pervert who used the image – the mascara and, well, the glitter – to have his wicked way. Just ignore those thoughts and focus on the stomping beat – the so called ‘glitter-stomp’ – and the churning synthey riff that keeps the whole thing chugging along.

Like many glam stars, Glitter predated the movement by quite a distance, releasing several singles in the sixties – his earliest way back in 1960. He went through various name changes: Paul Raven, Paul Monday – his real name’s Paul Gadd – before settling on Gary Glitter. He even worked with George Martin! All of which meant he was almost thirty by the time he hit it big with ‘Rock n Roll Part II’ (the song that caused controversy last year when it was used in a scene in ‘Joker’.)

‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’ was the culmination of this long-awaited ascent to pop stardom for Glitter, though he had already had #2 hits with ‘Hello, Hello, I’m Back Again!’ and ‘Do You Wanna Touch Me’ (a song it is impossible to listen to and not squirm, knowing what we know now…) He’ll go on to have two more chart-toppers in the next year. As uncomfortable as it is to discuss him nowadays; he was a big, big star, and a huge figure in seventies pop music.

334. ‘Welcome Home’, by Peters and Lee

I know from the second I press play on our next number one that it is a song I’m going to enjoy. The intro alone is an example of such lavish, seventies, horns ‘n’ strings cheese that, despite knowing much, much better, I like it before the voices have even come in.

Welcome Home, by Peters & Lee (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 15th – 22nd July 1973

I’m so alone, My love, Without you… You’re part of everything I do… There’s a gentle, country and western twang in there too, adding to the sentimentality of it all. And then comes the chorus, and I’ve heard this song before. I know it, of course I do, because it’s the sort of chorus you’d know even if you’d never listened to music before. Welcome home, Wel-come… Come on in, And close the door…

‘Welcome Home’ makes the work of Tony Orlando – ‘Knock Three Times’, ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon…’ and all that – seem subtle and understated. It is that cheesy. Listening to it, I immediately picture Elvis giving it the glitzy, jump-suited Vegas treatment. (Though to be honest, I can’t find any evidence of him ever singing it. Shame…)

Peters and Lee were a duo, obviously, but hearing this single it sounds more like a singer and his backing vocalist. The woman’s voice is much softer, and much further back in the mix. Lennie Peters had been a pianist and singer, travelling round pubs for gigs throughout the sixties. He was blind, having lost sight in one eye in a car crash aged five, and in the other aged sixteen, when a brick was thrown at him! He met Dianne Lee on the same pubs and clubs circuit. She was nearly twenty years younger, and dreamt of being a ballet dancer…

And if you were expecting a seedy story of exploitation and creepy age-gaps… You’ll have to wait (at least until our next #1…) For it seems that Peters and Lee were two people who simply enjoyed singing with one another. They entered a TV talent show called ‘Opportunity Knocks’, and the rest, as they say, is history. Two people for whom life might not have turned out quite as they’d hoped, but who suddenly found themselves at number one on the pop charts. Yes it’s sentimental, yes its ridiculously uncool, but it’s kind of lovely. As your nan would have said: “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore!”

I’m not quite sure what’s just happened. I should have approached this song much more cynically, but the more I listen to it the more I sway along. I better stop before I start claiming this is some kind of all-time classic. Peters & Lee had a few more hits, and kept intermittently recording and touring through to Peter’s death in 1992.

They also spent a good chunk of their time, in the later years, recording crappy karaoke-backing-track versions of their biggest hit. These are the only versions of ‘Welcome Home’ on Spotify; you have to go to YouTube, or your nearest record store, if you want it in all its original, schmaltzy glory. 1973 has truly been the year to ruin my #1s Blog Spotify playlist, and the situation probably won’t be helped by our next chart-topper…

333. ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’, by Slade

Slade are back, for their fifth number one single in a year and a half, with an intro that goes: Slade, slade, slade, slade, sladesladesladesladeslade…

Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me, by Slade (their 5th of six #1s)

3 weeks, from 24th June – 15th July 1973

If you were being kind you’d say it was Slade at their Sladest; if you weren’t you’d say it was Slade by numbers. The intro sounds like a blend of ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now’ and ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’’s, while the lyrics reference ‘Take Me Back ‘Ome’. In fact, the girl in this one might just be the same as featured in that earlier hit…

You got rude talk, You got one walk, All your jokes are blue… She’s a wild one. And Noddy’s quite confident that he can show her the way: You know how to please me, Woah-oah, You’re learnin’ it easy, Woah-oah… If you tune in and listen to the lyrics,  they range from the raunchy – a lot of squeezing and pleasing – to the fairly dubious: When a girl’s meaning yes, She says no…

I mean, I like Slade and I like this. If you like Slade then it’s impossible to truly dislike ‘Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me’ because it is the band at the height of their chart-humping, biggest-in-the-land phase. This, like ‘Cum on Feel the Noize’ entered the charts at #1, on name alone, really, in a manner not seen before and not seen again for a decade. And it is Slade treading water, but I have an image in my mind of Noddy Holder and Jim Lea bashing out the lyrics in five minutes, saying ‘Fuck it, that’ll do’, and ordering another pint. And I like it…

There is no way on earth that this single needs to be four and a half minutes long, though. Ten years ago, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ ran that long and it was revolutionary. Now it’s run of the mill. Maybe Slade were so popular that the record label were too scared to edit them down? They knew this would be a massive hit in any form. Maybe Slade themselves were so popular that they had become afraid to experiment…?

And maybe that’s true, because they were about to go slightly experimental, with ‘Slade in Flame’, and the music would be better, but the #1s would dry up. Suddenly glam rock as a whole would be up… But not yet. They have one final #1 single to come. Their best known one. Their retirement plan…