Recap: #361 – #390

To recap, then, for the thirteenth time (unlucky for some…)!

What a complete and utter hodgepodge the last thirty #1 singles have been. Last time round, glam had given way to disco, which has now given way to… mayhem! 1975, perched right in the middle of this recap, has to be the most eclectic year for chart-topping singles yet. Possibly ever.

We’ve had two sticks of bubble-gum from The Bay City Rollers – one that was quite fruity, one that lost its flavour within a minute – and the band that briefly contended for their teenybopper crown, Slik. Plus some pure Eurovision cheese from Brotherhood of Man.

Not once, not twice, but thrice we’ve had people better known for their TV work hitting the top spot. Telly Savalas growled his way into our hearts on ‘If’, Don Estelle and Windsor Davies came at us in character, as WWII soldiers in Burma, from their hit sitcom. And comedian Billy Connolly turned Tammy Wynette’s ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’ into a shaggy dog tale. You really had to have been there, I guess.

Speaking of Tammy, she had already gotten there under her own steam, out of nowhere, with a re-release of ‘Stand By Your Man’. And that wasn’t the only sixties re-issue to hit the top: we finally met David Bowie, in the guise of Major Tom, as his 1969 debut hit ‘Space Oddity’ re-peaked, and did what none of his seventies classics could do.

And Bowie wasn’t the only chart legend to make their first appearance on this countdown. Queen stormed to the top at the end of ’75 with the unmistakeable ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which took residence in pole position for longer than any other record had in the previous two decades. The fact that these two innovative and most highly-regarded of #1s were prevented from replacing one another by a Glaswegian comedian singing about his dug pretty much sums up this bonkers era.

Then there was the one and only chart-topper from the one and only Status Quo: ‘Down Down’ was the first, and the hardest rocking (except for those 30 seconds of Bo Rap), #1 of the new year. And if that wasn’t enough fun and games, we ended last time out on The Wurzels, singing about their ‘Combine Harvester’, and jigging round an ‘aybale.

Still, through it all ran a sturdy backbone of disco and soul. Barry White kicked us off, then The Tymes, The Stylistics, The Four Seasons and Tina Charles all took us for a shimmy under the disco ball. It is still the sound of the era; it just had to fight to be heard amongst all the wackiness.

And what of glam, the sound that was on its last breath when we paused for the previous recap? Well, there were still flashes. Mud, the band with the best #1 last time, scraped the barrel with their OK-ish Elvis tribute for Christmas, and their pretty dire Buddy Holly cover. Meanwhile Pilot, Steve Harley and the aforementioned Slik took elements of glam, and incorporated them into more middle of the road rock singles.

So, it kind of sounds like it’s been a bit of a free-for-all: command of the charts offered up for grabs to the act that grabs the public’s imagination in any given week. But, slowly and effortlessly, one band has begun to position themselves for world domination. ABBA kicked off 1976 with their signature tune ‘Mamma Mia’, then followed it up with campfire singalong ‘Fernando’. It’ll come as no surprise when I tell you that the next couple of recaps will be very ABBA-heavy. And bring it on, I say!

To the awards, then. Three of which I found very easy to dish out. Starting with the WTAF Award for being memorable if nothing else… Where to start? There have been so many novelties, so many curios, this time out that would have walked away with the trophy at any other point. Typically Tropical took us to Barbados, Don and Windsor to the Far East, The Wurzels to deepest Somerset… But one man still stands out. One shiny-headed, cigar-chewing, gold-shirted Adonis. Telly Savalas takes the prize, without actually singing a note!

The ‘Meh’ Award is similarly easy to dish out, as there have been very few dull moments this time around. Pilot’s ‘January’ was functional pop-rock, The Bay City Rollers cooed and sighed their way through ‘Give a Little Love’… But the record that sparked the least interest in me – good or bad – was Art Garfunkel’s perfectly pleasant, glossy reworking of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.

To The Very Worst Chart-Topper, then, of the past thirty. There were a lot of questionable moments but, to be honest, this is no contest whatsoever. J. J. Barrie’s ‘No Charge’ was not just the worst of the past bunch; it might well be the worst of our 390 #1s so far. I hated it that much. Release a novelty all you want: make it cheesy, make it catchy, make it in your face, make it brazenly offensive… Just don’t make it so earnest and saccharine that I want to rip my ears off and pour molten lava down the holes.

Now for the tough bit. Our thirteenth Very Best Chart-Topper. I have a shortlist of five. Two are chosen by my head; two chosen by my heart. One straddles the divide. The two I feel I should include, because they are spectacular pieces of music well-loved to this day, are 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. But… going with your head is dull. The heart must lead the way. My heart says ‘You’re the First, The Last, My Everything’ and ‘Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)’, for being brilliantly catchy and very of the moment. If I want a disco winner, I’m sorted… Then there’s the other one. Bowie.

I feel he should win; objectively speaking it’s the best song. And, let’s be honest, this is his best chance. Bowie’s four remaining #1s are not as good, and probably won’t be in the running when it comes to their respective recaps. But! I don’t want to think like that – I want my recaps to be based solely on the thirty #1s within… Which adds another layer: ‘Space Oddity’ is a song from 1969. It is great; but it’s out of place. The chronology will be messed up! (I passed over Jimi Hendrix for similar reasons…)

Ugh. OK. I either award it to the best song; or I keep things chronological. And at the end of the day it should come down to the music alone. ‘Space Oddity’ takes it. Ground Control to Major Tom… you’re a winner, baby!

To recap 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.
  13. ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, by Art Garfunkel.

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.
  13. ‘If’, by Telly Savalas.

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.
  13. ‘No Charge’, by J. J. Barrie

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.
  13. ‘Space Oddity’, by David Bowie.

381. ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E.’, by Billy Connolly

OK… We shouldn’t be surprised by any more of the curveballs that 1975 throws us, but still… OK. What have we here…?

D.I.V.O.R.C.E., by Billy Connolly (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 16th – 23rd November 1975

A spelling lesson from Scotland’s national comedian? A piss-take of a Tammy Wynette  classic? A genuinely funny novelty song atop the charts…?! All of the above! In the Wynette version, of course, she’s trying to hide the D.I.V.O.R.C.E from her little son by spelling it out, rather than saying it aloud.

Here, though, Billy Connolly tells the story of taking his dog to the vet. Our little dog, Is six years old, And he’s smart as any damn kid… Words like S.H.O.T., Or W.O.R.M., These are words that make him S.Q.U.I.R.M… His Q.U.A.R.A.N.T.I.N.E. starts today… (an all too prescient line for 2021.) All very amusing, but how do we get to the D-word? Well, the dog bites the vet, Billy argues with the wife, and that’s that… Now I’m going down the town tonight, To get a new B.I.R.D.…

I am smiling, I admit, because I’m enjoying a single so unashamedly Scottish at #1. It’s been quite the year for Scots topping the charts: Pilot, a couple from the Rollers, Rod Stewart (not actually Scottish, but we’ll take him) and now this. And, compared to some recent novelty hits – I’m looking at you Ray Stevens! – it’s genuinely quite funny. Plus, being Scottish, it’s possibly the rudest #1 single so far.

There are a few ‘damns’, and he spells out B.U.M. Oh yeah, and there’s the bit where his wife calls him an ‘effing C’ (though I can’t find a version in which that line’s not bleeped out.) By the end, Billy’s just waiting for his wife and his dug tae get hauled away. Oh I must admit, That dog is acting, Q.U.E.R. Queer… (not a typo, he genuinely misses an E, in order for it to scan.)

There’s a great clip of Connolly performing this on Top Of The Pops, in which he can’t stop giggling, presumably because he can’t believe that he has scored a best-seller with this nonsense. Ask most people today, though – they’d know who Billy Connolly is but I imagine they’d be surprised to learn he had a number one single under his belt. But, you know, he was a hot young comedian, Tammy Wynette was in vogue after her own chart-topper earlier in the year, and there was clearly an insatiable appetite for novelty singles in the mid-seventies.

Again, this is absent from Spotify, as so many recent hits are because, presumably, everyone’s forgotten that it exists. Hey ho. This is the penultimate #1 of 1975, our most eclectic year yet, and for the finale we’ll meet one of the weirdest chart-topping singles ever recorded. Except this is one I am sure you have heard a million, nay a billion, times…

379. ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’, by Art Garfunkel

Amazingly, and despite this being the first solo chart-topper for either Simon and/or Garfunkel, I have never heard this record before…

I Only Have Eyes for You, by Art Garfunkel (his 1st of two #1s)

2 weeks, from 19th October – 2nd November 1975

Quick question: has anyone listened to this song in the past thirty years? The big S & G hits still get airplay, as does a lot of Paul Simon’s stuff, and some of Art’s… But this? The only place this is still getting a spin is on those late-night local radio request shows, where people request sexy music for their loved ones. (Do they still exist? The one I listened to growing up was called ‘Pillow Talk’.)

And yes, ‘sexy’ is the right word for this disc. Sexy, sultry, slinky, slow, sophisticated, and any other adjective you can think of beginning with ‘s’ … Are the stars out tonight…? I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright… Art Garfunkel croons in that smooth, high-pitched way of his. I only have eyes… For you… Dear… It sounds nothing like the folky, acoustic classics he recorded in Simon & Garfunkel.

I’m picturing a fancy apartment in the Hollywood Hills, candlelight reflected in a private pool, Art flicking the fire on and slipping a bottle of champagne from the cooler, before answering the door to his date for the night… It’s an image. This is purest of pure seventies soft rock. So glossy and smooth that you can’t find anything to grab onto, and so you slide down into the sickly syrup. It is… I’ll just come out and say it… pretty dull.

Nothing about this jumps out as #1 hit material. It is last-song-on-the-album filler, to me. And it’s not as if its success can solely be explained by Garfunkel’s star name. This was the 2nd single, from his 2nd solo album, and it took a leisurely six weeks to make it to the top. But whatever the reason, there it is. Top of the pops. I’m going to proclaim this as the most-forgotten #1 since ‘Baby Jump’.

Things pick up a bit when we get to the Beach Boys sounding bridge – Art Garfunkel is one of the few singers who can make his voice sound like five people. I don’t know if we are in a garden… Or on a crowded avenue… The doo-wop feel becomes clearer when you remember that ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ has been around since the 1930s, while the version that most people know was by The Flamingos, in 1959. The ethereal do-bub-she-bubs that make that version a classic are notably missing from Garfunkel’s version, drowned in the gloop, and that’s a shame.

It has also been recorded by names as legendary as Billie Holiday, Rod Stewart, Louis Armstrong and, um, Michael Bublé. Meanwhile at the start of this post, when I named this as the first solo #1 for either Simon or Garfunkel, I was being slightly misleading. Paul Simon has never (to date, we should add, because who knows!) topped the UK charts. Art Garfunkel will again, in a few years, with a song I have heard before! Hurray.

378. ‘Hold Me Close’, by David Essex

Back for another pop at the top, the teen idol of the mid-seventies, and as far as I’m aware the only chart-topping star named after an English county… David Essex!

Hold Me Close, by David Essex (his 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 28th September – 19th October 1975

When I wrote about his first #1, ‘Gonna Make You a Star’, I mentioned that he wasn’t very comfortable with the teeny-bopper tag. In fact, it’s what that whole song was about. A year on, however, I’m tempted to think he’s rolled his eyes, shrugged his shoulders, given in and hopped on the pure pop bandwagon.

Hold me close, Don’t let me go, Oh no… I, Yes I love you and I fink that you know… He’s kept the cockney accent; in fact he might be playing it up here more than ever. Wiv your love loight, shi-nin’… It kind of reminds me of Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’, even though David Essex was genuinely from east London, and I can imagine him gurning in the corny, deliberate pauses between words. It also reminds me, somehow, of Sid Vicious’s poppy covers, ‘My Way’ and the like, though a much more PG rated version.

It’s a fun pop song, and catchy as hell. If it were an animal it would be a huge, slobbering St. Bernard, just looking for a cuddle. The perky riff flirts with becoming irritating, but just about gets away with it, while the song could have a good minute shaved off its runtime and nobody would notice. It was a deliberate choice to make a single as commercial as this to be the follow up to #5 hit ‘Rolling Stone’, which was a bit more out there.

I don’t really have much more to say about this one. It’s catchy, and simple. A solid pop single. In time, David Essex would move more into acting, although he was scoring the odd Top 10 hit well into the eighties. He has starred in various West End productions, including ‘Evita’ and ‘Tommy’, and featured heavily on Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ concept album (Wayne also produced both of Essex’s chart-toppers.) He still performs, and acts, and has confirmed his place in cockney legend by appearing in ‘EastEnders’, and by having a model of himself in the West Ham United museum.

Follow my #1s Blog playlist:

377. ‘Sailing’, by Rod Stewart

It’s been three years since we had Rod Stewart at the top of the singles chart. Back then, he was a folky troubadour, spinning yarns about older women and long-lost lovers. The songs were acoustic, and lyrically driven, lots of mandolins and fiddles…

Sailing, by Rod Stewart (his 3rd of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 31st August – 28th September 1975

‘Sailing’, while still unmistakably a Rod Stewart song (the voice is there, for a start), is a different proposition. The lyrics now are very simple, borderline nursery rhyme: I am sailing, I am sailing, Home again, ‘Cross the sea… He’s sailing, he’s flying, he’s on his way… To be with you, To be free… It builds, it grows, until organs and a full-blown choir have been added. It’s still got those little Celtic touches that litter classic Rod Stewart songs; but it’s overblown, and more than a little ridiculous.

It’s tempting to argue that in the past three years, as Rod has become possibly the biggest pop star on the planet, he may have disappeared, somewhat, up his own behind… I’d bet that drugs were present in the recording studio when they cut this disc. ‘Sailing’ had originally been written and recorded by The Sutherland Brothers, a Scottish folk duo, and their version is much more earthy.

What saves ‘Sailing’ is the moment when, after the guitar solo, it changes to We are sailing… Suddenly it isn’t a song for a self-indulgent rock star; it’s a football crowd singalong, a last song at karaoke night, a song to bellow out as you stumble home from the pub. It definitely moves something in you, deep down, and I am right this moment crowning it the ultimate drunk singalong tune, above even ‘Delilah’ and ‘My Way’. Change my mind!

The ending came as a bit of a surprise, I have to say. I thought it just continued with the We are sailings… ad infinitum. But no, for the last thirty seconds the vocals drop away, and the strings take it home. Which means that there’s a good chance I have never actually heard this record the whole way through. It’s a sign of a song’s ubiquity, of its classic status, when you think you know it simply through cultural osmosis.

‘Sailing’ is Rod Stewart’s best-selling single in the UK, and was a huge hit around the world. Everyone knows it. I have met people from many different countries: when they find out you are Scottish, and after mentioning whisky, of course, they will wrack their brains to think of another Scottish thing. This will invariably be Rod Stewart – even though he was born in London, and never lived in Scotland – and the song they sing will invariably be ‘Sailing’. (Still, at least it’s not The Bay City Rollers.)

Just a couple of weeks ago, ‘Sailing’ featured in a French movie that I stumbled across, ‘Ete 85’, in which the climax of the film involves a boy dancing on his dead lover’s grave while listening to the song on a Walkman, having promised to do so when said lover was alive. Which is a completely melodramatic and ridiculous storyline; but then this is a ridiculous, melodramatic song, and so, in the end, pretty appropriate.

376. ‘Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)’, by The Stylistics

I’ll tell you this, folks: the mid-seventies was the era of The Intro (note the caps). Remember back in the pre-rock days, when almost every #1 started with a ridiculous swirl of strings and a clash of cymbals? Well, these days, disco and soul have taken the same technique and turned it into something much catchier, much cooler.

Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love), by The Stylistics (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 10th – 31st August 1975

I had it in my mind that this would be a glossy, sultry ballad. Not a bit of it. It is sweeping, grandiose, and a complete and utter foot-tapper. A hip-shaker. A shoulder-shimmyer. A few months ago the top of the charts were very disco-soul heavy, as Barry White, Carl Douglas and The Tymes followed one another to the summit. It’s been a more eclectic start to the year, but The Stylistics finally have us back on the dancefloor.

I can’t give you anything, But my love, But my love…. It’s a simple enough premise: the singer can’t afford much at all – no diamonds, no pearls, no chauffeured limousines. But my devotion I will give, All my love just to you girl… For as long as I live… All the while the horns parp, almost taking the role of a second lead-singer, and the strings go wild in the background. It’s completely OTT, but completely wonderful – a song that has complete confidence in where it is going from the very first note.

It’s always a sign of a good song if you find yourself singing along before the first listen has ended. That’s what happened with me here. The lead singer, Russell Thompkins Jr., has an excellent falsetto, especially when he extends the final ‘I’ in the title to an ‘I-I’. It’s tiny details like that which make a good record great.

The Stylistics were a five-piece vocal group from – you guessed it – Philadelphia. They were regulars in the Top 10 both before and after their sole UK #1 single. And I was probably right to expect a ballad here, as most of their other hits were much slower and sultrier. On ‘Can’t Give You Anything’, though, they let loose and scored their biggest British hit. A lesson for us all! They were recording albums up until the nineties, and are still touring and performing to this day, with a couple of line-up changes (including Thompkins Jr., who left in 2000). Anyway, a song like this doesn’t need me to waffle on about it. Press play below and let the music speak for itself. The soul train is up and running once more…

Listen to every #1 thus far, here:

375. ‘Barbados’, by Typically Tropical

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome aboard Coconut Airlines… It’s August ’75, and we’re spending the summer in the Caribbean.

Barbados, by Typically Tropical (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 3rd – 10th August 1975

‘Captain Tobias Wilcock’ delivers a pretty convincing pre-flight welcome, detailing our cruising altitude and speed, sounding just like what you might hear if you stepped on a plane today. Until he reminds us to refrain from smoking until the aircraft is airborne… that is. Ah, the seventies.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Woah, Back to the palm trees… Let’s address the elephant in the room before going any further. We’ve got two white guys, one of whom is giving us a heavy Caribbean accent (ah, the seventies…) I’m going to see my girlfriend, In the sunny Caribbean sea…

London’s rainy, Brixton’s a mess: it’s time to go home. ‘Barbados’ is one of the first ‘summer holiday’ hits – not a song about summer (we’ve had plenty of them); more a song that sums up the summer holiday feeling – the escape from the daily grind to a world of sun and cocktails. A song that wouldn’t hit #1 at any other time of year. (The ‘90s will be the peak of this phenomenon, when record buyers will send one cheesy Europop record after another to the top of the charts.)

However, the singer doesn’t seem to have much intention of coming back from Barbados. Maybe he’s there to stay. Maybe this isn’t a holiday hit at all! The fact his girlfriend is called ‘Mary Jane’ adds another layer to it… Maybe he’s just high as a kite? Layers upon layers… The song itself is catchy – I like the twiddly synth riff – but very disposable. By the end, the cabin crew have taken over again, preparing us for landing: The weather is fine, with a maximum temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit… Sounds lovely!

If time and space permitted, I might make more of social commentary on the growing accessibility of foreign travel in the 1970s, and the growing impact of the Windrush generation on British culture. Plus, there’s this decade’s clear and undying love for a novelty single. All of which culminate in a week at the top for Typically Tropical, who were two Trojan Records engineers, Jeff Calvert and Max West, stepping out from behind their mixing desks to record this single. It is a 100% certified one-hit wonder: none of their later singles charted at all.

I knew this song as a teen, as ‘We’re Going to Eat Pizza’… sorry… ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’, in which it was neither sampled nor covered, more reimagined, by one of those Euro-cheese acts I mentioned earlier: The Vengaboys. I’m not linking to it, though, as we’ll be meeting it atop the charts in twenty-four years.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that yet again this is a record completely absent from Spotify. It’s interesting to observe that it wasn’t until 1972 that I encountered this problem. All those pre-rock ‘n’ roll #1s that nobody has listened to in decades were all present and correct, but several big hits from the mid-seventies aren’t. Not sure what point I want to make, but it’s definitely something to note.

374. ‘Give a Little Love’, by The Bay City Rollers

There are certain rules that all boybands need to follow. Member wise, you need the serious one, the cute one, the bad boy, the joker… And then you need the ballads. Any boyband worth their weight in hair products needs a lighters-up (or a mobile phone with the torch function on-up) moment towards the end of a concert.

Give a Little Love, by The Bay City Rollers (their 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 13th July – 3rd August 1975

It’s a teenage dream, To be seventeen, And to find you’re all wrapped up in love… Here, then, is the Bay City Rollers’ chart-topping ballad. It is every bit as saccharine and as cloying as you might imagine. Give a little love, Take a little love, Be prepared to forsake a little love… (to be fair, not many teen-ballads throw words like ‘forsake’ into their choruses) And when the sun comes shining through, We’ll know what to do… This level of smarmy cheese haven’t been seen at the top of the charts since Donny O’s imperial phase.

The intro to ‘Give a Little Love’ actually promises a very of-the-moment funky soul song, but it doesn’t last. The arrival of the first verse sees things slip into the earnest plod of a proto-power ballad. That’s not to suggest it’s terrible. Bubblegum pop is always, at the very least, catchy. I admit I’m swaying along, while the hard rock guitars sound piped in from a completely different song and the backing vocals are almost, almost, Beatles-esque.

There is, inevitably, a spoken word bit. The mid-seventies are quickly becoming the age of the earnest, spoken word break. And I know, One day, I’ll find a way, To be safe and sound, Within your heart… Cue teenage girls around the country snogging their posters. Past this point, the song does start to drag. It’s just a bit too plodding. Plus, the Rollers’ voices aren’t quite strong enough to carry it.

Of course, as I wrote in my post on their first #1 – ‘Bye Bye Baby’ – it is unfair to reduce The Bay City Rollers to a mere ‘boyband’. They were a ‘proper’ band, ‘proper’ musicians, to start with. But, by the time this was released, they, or their management, were aiming squarely for the screamy teeny market. For the US, ‘Give a Little Love’ was re-recorded with extra strings, because the original just wasn’t drippy enough…

As with most pop groups, the Rollers burned brightly but briefly. In 1976 they took the US by storm, and were causing tartan-waving riots around the world, but by the late seventies several of the members had had enough. They became the Rollers and went New Wave, although this all took place far from the top of the charts. They would reform and tour in various guises in the decades that followed.

To finish, a story that shows just how manic Roller-mania was at its height: a friend’s mum went to school in Edinburgh, in the mid-seventies, and one August was given her maths textbook for the year. Casually glancing at the names of the students who had used the book before her in the cover, she spotted Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood’s name (the cute one). She maintains that she was lucky to come out of the scrum alive; while the textbook wasn’t so fortunate…

373. ‘Tears on My Pillow’, by Johnny Nash

Our next #1 single feels a little bit misleading. It has a title that hints at other things… Is it a cover of the fifties classic ‘Tears on My Pillow’? Does Johnny Nash sound anything like Johnny Cash?

Tears on My Pillow, by Johnny Nash (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 6th – 13th July 1975

Its starts off very lush and soulful, with the swirling strings that have soundtracked many of the past year’s disco hits, but just when you think you know where this record is heading it changes tack and seamlessly slips into a reggae beat.

I remember, All the good times, That we had before… He loves a girl, she doesn’t love him back like she once did. Baby, Every night I wake up cryin’… Tears on my pillow… (and then, in a nice nod to the ‘50s song of the same name) Pain in my heart…

I like this one. I’d never heard it before, but I like it. I can even cope with the spoken word section (not something I often say) because it’s not too overwrought. I’ll always remember that day, You promised to love me… Meanwhile the reggae beat in the background is just too darn perky to make you feel sad.

Is ‘reggae-soul’ a thing? If it is, then that is what is happening right here. I especially like it when the horns come in at the end, playing an almost music hall refrain. They are – and there is simply no other word for it – funky. The more I listen to this song the more I’m enjoying it.

One thing’s for sure, 1975 is turning into one hell of an eclectic year. We can now add reggae to Philly soul, hard rock, a country classic, a novelty from a sitcom, and some spoken word sexiness from a TV detective… Those were the days! Johnny Nash was a Texan – one of the first non-Jamaicans to have reggae hits – and best remembered for the classic ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, which had reached #5, and #1 in the US, in 1972. That is a stone-cold classic, but I’m kind of glad that ‘Tears on My Pillow’ was his only chart-topper here. It really is a fun little tune.

It was the last of six UK Top 10s for Nash, who passed away just a few months ago, aged eighty. And for those of you left disappointed that this wasn’t a cover of Little Anthony & The Imperials’ doo-wop classic, just hang on fifteen years until an Australian legend takes to the top. Those of you disappointed that this is Johnny Nash not Cash… He never charted higher than #4.

371. ‘Whispering Grass’, by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle

Well, what have we here then… On first glance, I thought it sounds quite poetic: ‘Whispering Grass’. Something Wordsworth might have written about on one of his Lakeland walks…

Whispering Grass, by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 1st – 22nd June 1975

I’m going to have to split this review into two parts. Part I is what I make of the song, Part II will be what the hell this record actually is. Here goes. It’s quite nice – a lilting piano and some nice harmonies – and very old-fashioned. This must be a cover of an oldie, from the twenties or thirties.

The two vocalists, I am unsure which one is Davies and which is Estelle, are contrasting. One has a deep, Welsh baritone, and does a spoken intro and outro, and some backing bum-bum-bums. The other does most of the actual singing: Why do you whisper, Green grass…? Whispering grass, The trees don’t have to know….

So it’s a bit of a pun: grass as in the green stuff growing from the ground, and grass as in a tell-tale. It’s cute. Don’t you tell it to the trees, Or she will tell it to the birds and bees… the Welshman intones. It’s a novelty, that much is clear, but it’s not an offensively annoying one. This is quite a listenable record. But… I give up. Time for Part II. Help me, Google…

OK, so I half-knew that this was a spin-off single from a popular sitcom, ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, set among an army theatre troop in British India in the Second World War. Windsor Davies and Don Estelle are performing it in character: Davies as Sgt Major Williams and Estelle as Gunner ‘Lofty’ Sugden. It was quite the popular show, running for eight series until 1981.

But, as pleasant as this record is, I can’t help feeling a bit left out. It’s clearly some kind of in-joke that you would have got had you been alive in 1975, and a fan of the programme. At this far of a remove it’s little more than a shrug and move along moment. I have never seen ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, as it doesn’t get repeated very often. (A ‘70s sitcom, set in the colonies, with white actors playing Indians, featuring lots of men in theatre drag… You can imagine it being deemed ‘problematic’ nowadays. Having never seen it, I will defer judgement.)

‘Whispering Grass’ was indeed a hit from the ‘40s – 1940 to be precise – for The Ink Spots. What’s clear from this and the previous #1 – ‘Stand By Your Man’ – is that the grown-ups had momentarily wrested control of the top spot from the young ‘uns. You can imagine this record being bought by mums and dads, grannies and grandads, in their droves. While the kids, and the bloggers writing about the song forty-five years later, look slightly bemused, and then move on.