364. ‘Ms. Grace’, by The Tymes

1975 is off to an excellent start. After Status Quo comes another great, but very different #1 single. We’re back riding the soul train…

Ms. Grace, by The Tymes (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 19th – 26th January 1975

Why is it a soul ‘train’, by the way? You don’t get rock trains, rap trains, trance trains… Anyway. I like the way that soul records of the mid-seventies place great importance on their intros. ‘When Will I See You Again’, ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’, ‘You’re My First…’, and now this, all have good, long, scene-setting intros. Opulent intros. (Slightly self-indulgent intros, maybe, but who cares…)

Ooh-ooh-ooh Ms. Grace, Satin and perfume and lace… The fact that it’s Ms. Grace, rather than Miss, makes this song what it is. The ‘Ms.’ suggesting a glamorous, sophisticated older lady, one who’s lived and loved, maybe misplaced a husband or two along the way… A woman who knows what she wants… The minute I saw your face, I knew that I loved you…

Ms. Grace is the sort of woman who turns rivers in their beds, while flowers bloom where she treads… You know the type. You’re the twinkle in my eye… These are lyrics that would sound ridiculous if accompanied solely by an acoustic guitar, but that perfectly suit a sweeping, swooping, strings and horns arrangement such as this.

It’s a perfect mix of the classic soul sounds of the sixties, and the glossier sounds of seventies Philly-soul. The strings are very now, and it’s another song where you can’t help picturing the disco ball spinning as it plays; while the doo-wop backing vocals and horns are already retro. It’s a mix that makes sense, as The Tymes had been around since the fifties, and had scored a US #1 way back in 1963 with ‘So Much In Love’.

I did wonder if this was perhaps a re-release, an older disc that had proven popular in dance halls, as with The Tams a few years back. But no, The Tymes just had some longevity, which had taken them well into the 1970s as soul veterans. ‘Ms. Grace’ was their last big hit, and soon after this they swapped in some female members. They still perform, with two founding members, Albert Berry and Norman Burnett.

Chart-toppers like this, and ‘Down Down’ from the week before, are the reason why January is often the best month for #1s. The quiet, post-Christmas spell allows slow-burners and leftovers to sneak a week which they might not have managed later in the year. Anyway, the next #1 will be the first one to actually have been released in 1975, and the year will be officially up and running… By that point, we’ll be in a new year ourselves. A very happy new year, then, to all who read this, and I hope you can join me in 2021, to continue our journey along the top of the charts!