Saturday, 26 February 2011

Top of the Pops LP

If you were to take a close look at my record collection back in the 70's (such as it was) you would have seen a few strange yet alluring compilation albums called "Top of the Pops".

In among the Bowie, T Rex and Slade were record covers that demanded your attention, and (to a ten year old boy) even appeared daring and risqué if a little embarrassing.

The record sleeves were great, but the music was rubbish; modern day hits played and sung by session musicians. I'm sure when I got these albums as gifts from various aunts and uncles I appeared grateful, but deep down I really wanted an "Airfix" model or a "Warlord" annual.

These days a full collection of these albums would bring a great price on "Ebay", but sadly the few that I owned are long gone.

Vol 36, 1974
They were first released in the late 60’s, (as an unauthorised spin off from the Top of the Pops TV show)  by Pickwick Records on their Hallmark label. 

The records contained anonymous cover versions of recent and current hit singles. The recordings were intended to replicate the sound of the original hits as closely as possible. The albums were recorded by a studio group comprising session musicians and singers who remained unaccredited, although they included Elton John and Tina Charles before their fame.

Record producer Alan Crawford conceived the idea for the Top of the Pops albums, having noted several UK labels such as Music for Pleasure pioneer the anonymous covers format during 1967 and 1968. 

Crawford's key idea was to create a continuous series of albums with the same title. The Pickwick label agreed to undertake Crawford's idea and the first volume was issued in mid-1968.

Vol 27, 1972

In 1969 new volumes began appearing at generally regular intervals, with a new LP released every six to eight weeks. Volume numbers were not stated on the record sleeves, each edition simply called "Top of the Pops", the name derived from the un-trademarked BBC television show with which there was no direct connection.

During the early 1970s, the Top of the Pops series enjoyed considerable success and buoyant sales. Budget albums were accepted into the main UK album charts for a few months in 1971, during which four Top of the Pops LPs charted, and two made No. 1. 

Vol 50, 1975

However they were disqualified in early 1972 since their budget selling price was perceived as giving them an unfair advantage in the market.

The albums continued to be released at regular intervals throughout the 1970s, with the general theme and cover art largely unchanged throughout. The cover designs are iconic, featuring female models in period attire, some with the models in skimpy clothing such as miniskirts and bikinis.

Monday, 21 February 2011

10cc: The Dean and I (a-side)

"Humdrum days and a humdrum ways" so sang 10cc in 1973. 

Britain in the early seventies may have been endless days of blackouts, strikes and three day weeks, but glam rock was an attempt to add colour to the grey landscape.

Not that I noticed any of the depression of the seventies, the harsh realities of everyday life were for my parents to worry about. As a young boy I was more concerned with comics, football, bikes, and what colour ‘Slade’ socks to choose.

All of this during long endless summers and deep, snow filled winters. The world is great when you’re ten and even better when viewed through rose tinted shades riding a Raleigh ‘Chopper’.

Anyway 10cc consisted of four musicians/songwriters - Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Kevin Godley and Lol Crème. They had written and recorded together for about three years, before assuming the "10cc" name in 1972.

"The Dean and I" is a song from their 1973 eponymous debut album, written by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme. The song was released as the third single from the album in August 1973 and peaked at #10 on the UK Singles Chart.

“The song is written from the perspective of an American father telling his children about how he met and fell in love with their mother, with the first real line of the song being "Hey, kids, let me tell you how I met your mom. We were dancing and romancing at the senior prom". The epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton is mentioned in the lyrics. The later part of the lyric tackles the grim realities of middle-aged married life "...when the paint is peeling, and all the chips are down..."

 10cc: The Dean and I

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco

In late 1971 music industry publicist Rodney Bingenheimer moved to London after becoming fed up with the American music industry. 

While in England he saw the birth of the Glam Rock movement and it was David Bowie who suggested Bingenheimer open a Glam club in Los Angeles.

Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco opened on the Sunset Strip from late 1972 until 1975. Kids came from all over to listen to the latest glam pop sounds from England such as Bowie, Queen, Suzi Quatro and Roxy Music. 

It was also the place to come mingle with those rock stars. A young Joan Jett would hang out here, along with Marc Bolan of T-Rex, Led Zeppelin. Glam rock was huge with the underground scene.

The following quotes are taken from various sources.

Kim Fowley recalled, "The English Disco was more a public-toilet version of the E Club. The new location gave it the teenage stench it needed. Everybody had great hair and great make-up, and there were Lolita girls everywhere”.

It soon became the centre of the new ‘Glitter Rock’ movement in Los Angeles. Bowie's biography noted, "The crowd at the club ranged in age from twelve to fifteen... nymphet groupies were stars in their tight little world. As they danced they mimed fellatio and cunnilingus in tribute to David's onstage act of fellatio on Ronno's guitar."

In November 1973 writer Richard Cromelin reported, "Once inside, everybody's a star”.

Newsweek magazine reported in January 1974 that "The dance floor is a dizzy kaleidoscope of lamè hot pants, sequined halters, rhinestone-studded cheeks, thrift-store any things and see-through every things. During the breaks, 14-year-old girls on 6-inch platforms teeter into the back bathrooms to grope with their partners of the moment. Most of the sex is as mixed as the drinks and the drugs the kids bring with them”.

Iggy Pop, who had become a forlorn figure in the glam world, was often seen at the club. Kid Congo, later guitarist with The Cramps and Gun Club, remembered "Iggy on the street outside the Disco, pulling his dress up and exposing himself, and Rodney crying because he thought he was going to be arrested."

Writer Nick Kent also recalled, "I saw Iggy there many a time, stoned out of his gourd, lost to the world and to himself as well, staring at his face and form in those mirrored walls - staring at his reflection like Narcissus drugged out in teenage-disco-hell”.

The club had its dark side, however. In 1999 writer Lisa Fancher wrote how Joan Jett "was walking up to Rodney’s one Friday night when she saw a dead body out front, an obvious OD, and nobody was paying any attention at all. The kids just kept walking into the club. The Sweet was flooding out the door and everybody just kept on dancing”.

By the fall of 1974 Glitter Rock in the US was waning in popularity. In October the Palladium held a "Death of Glitter" night, with performances by the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and Silverhead. Rodney's deejay Chuckie Star recalled, "All over Hollywood that night it was glitter! Glitter! The line to get into the Palladium was incredible-everyone in LA knew it was their last chance to wear platform shoes and eyeshadow. 

This was it! Surfers from Malibu were there in midriff shirts, silver space boots, and blue eye makeup, hugging their girlfriends as they waited to get in."

The New York Dolls ended the show as Chuckie Star was carried onto the stage in a glitter coffin, into which the crowd threw roses, glitter and lipstick. Nick Kent wrote, "If it wasn’t quite The Beautiful and the Damned it was certainly the pretty and the damned- everyone was, you know, 'going to hell' and nobody cared. 

Remembering the end of the LA Glitter groupie scene Pamela Des Barres wrote, "You couldn’t trust the new LA groupies, who were desperate, discouraged, groveling ego seekers. The love of music had become secondary to preening in Star magazine, standing next to anybody in a Band. It was scary out there. It was fictitious and haunted."

Partnership and licensing problems led Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco to close in early 1975. Pleasant Gehman later wrote, "We were a crowd of groupies, teenage hustlers, bisexual schoolgirls, and fringy, juvenile sluts looking for a good time. We’d hang out at weird coffeeshops (like Arthur J’s, the Gold Cup, and Danielle’s, where drag-queen hookers would meet their tricks in the bathroom), or we’d go to Westwood to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show for the millionth time.

These places didn’t serve alcohol, so of course they didn’t card you. And you could feel totally at home in your fishnets, heavy makeup, and divinely decadent attitude. I mean, who was going to hassle you over your hair color? A drag queen? Rodney’s English Disco had closed down, and the Masque wasn’t yet open so these were our haunts."

David Bowie told ‘Q’ magazine in 1993, “Alone in L.A. Rodney seemed like myself, an island of anglo 'nowness'. He even knew British singles and bands that I wasn't aware of. There was nothing about him that wasn't 'on'. Rodney single-handedly cut a path through the treacle of the 60's, allowing all we 'avants' to parade our sounds of tomorrow, dressing in our clothes of derision"

Q&A With Rodney Bingenheimer from Feb 10 2005.

Chris Tilly catches up with Rodney Bingenheimer - Radio DJ, nightclub owner, pop impresario and star of the new documentary 'Mayor of the Sunset Strip'.

Q: Looking back is there any period you remember with the most fondness?

A: Definitely glam rock – Bowie, T-Rex, Slade – those were all bands I loved and played in my club, Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco. I started the club after I went to London and stayed in Ealing Broadway. 

There was this little place called The Cellar near the tube where they played this amazing music. Bowie suggested that next time I went to LA I start a club like that and I ended up doing it!

Q: Was that how you got so heavily into the English bands then?

A: I'd always been into English music growing up – watching the Beatles and great TV shows like Ed Sullivan and Shindig – hearing all that music that was so happy and positive.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Suzi Quatro: The Wild One (album track), Sweet: Fox on the Run (album track)

Sometimes a song can take on a whole new sound and personality just by a little bit of re-styling and re-mixing. A once lacklustre album track can be turned into a big and bold 45 RPM release.

Here are two good examples of that. These are the original versions of the respective songs; note how different they are from the ones that were eventually released.

The original post for ‘The Wild One’ can be found here. 

The production on the single version is a lot brighter, and the original version has a more prominent male backing vocal.

This version of ‘Fox on the Run’ can be found on the Desolation Boulevard album from 1974 produced by Chinnichap. In 1975, Sweet went back into the studio to re-arrange and record a more pop-oriented version of the track.
It was Sweet's first self-written and self produced single. The single reached #2 in the UK.

Suzi Quatro: The Wild One (album version)
Sweet: Fox on the Run (album version)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A while back TV station Channel 4 in the UK ran a ‘Glam Top Ten’ show that went through the top ten glam acts based on chart position/performance. They used a points system to score each acts chart performance during the glam rock years.

I couldn’t find a link either to the program or the results, so I thought I would compile my own chart to show (in this case) the top thirteen glam acts based on points awarded for chart positions in the UK.

I can’t remember what system the makers of the program used so I made up my own. So for what it’s worth the straight forward and (some might say) simplistic points system is:

10 points are awarded for a #1 record, 9pts for #2, 8 pts for #3 and so on to 1 pt for a #10 song. To make it more accurate and representative I then divided the score by the number of singles each act released in the period as this gives a more accurate score.

To keep it simple I am only using top 10 chart hits from the period Jan 71 to Dec 75. A lot of the acts had other hits outside the top ten, but I thought it would be easier to stick with this rule.

Anyway in case you’re interested the results are as follows:

So the award for best chart action goes to the "Beatles of Glam"Slade.

No great surprise there then they did have six #1’s, and it pretty much follows the list on the TV show, although they did include such non-glam acts as the Bay City Rollers and Elton John. Yes I know not every glam act has been included here, but there you go.

Pointless Fact #209: Bowie would have polled slightly higher, but he is the only act in the top nine not to have scored a #1 during the period used. I didn’t include the re-released Space Oddity which was #1 in the UK in Nov 1975.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


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“Glam singles became great events, full of sirens, explosions, shocked expressions, themed with mysterious plots, chock-full of chants that sounded meaningless but who really knew”?

“The songs were ultra-ludicrous platform-booted forced marches through exclusively teen domain, designed specifically to annoy dad as he relaxed in front of Thursday nights Top of the Pops. Hell, Sweet’s Steve Priest even delivered his camp one-liner dressed in a Nazi uniform.

Ultimately, Glam Rock may have had no more message than a simple ‘Wake Up!’ But it was unashamedly attempting to be top entertainment at a time when most so-called serious rock was so far up its own ass that even putting on stage clothes was considered gauche by the delicate flowers of the singer/songwriters scene.

And considering David Bowie’s enlightened demand that rock’n’roll be reborn by becoming a parody of itself, the reality as it descended upon the 1970’s pop charts was, at times, quite spectacular and inventive. That we still have trouble defining this apparently simplistic phenomenon is a true testament to its clod-hopping Will ‘o’ the Wispiness”.

From ‘Re-Make/Re-Model’ by Julian Cope – a ‘GlamRockSampler’

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy*

The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was born Norman Carl Odam in 1947 in Lubbock, Texas. He is a rock and roll performer who invented an early example of the genre that came to be known as psychobilly in the 1960s. (Thanks Wikipedia)

He recorded his only hit, the song "Paralyzed", in 1968. It often appears prominently in lists of the worst recordings ever made.

So why does he get a mention on this blog? Well mainly because he has the word ‘stardust’ in his name, but also (and more importantly) his connection to David Bowie.

Odam has recorded a number of songs including, “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship". This was covered by David Bowie on his 'Heathen' album. Odam returned the compliment by recording his version of "Space Oddity".

Bowie himself has said that the term "stardust" in "Ziggy Stardust" is taken from The Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

Odam currently lives in the bay area in California, and performs regularly. In May 2007 he played the David Bowie High-Line festival in New York City, at Bowie's invitation.

* I once thought of writing a musical for a glam rock western but then I came to my senses, although I still quite like the idea. ‘The Legendary Stardust Cowboy’ would have been a great title