Pinball Wizard – The Who – 1969

April 26, 2012

Arguably the best known of all The Who’s songs, 1969’s Pinball Wizard has become a rock ‘n’ roll anthem.

keith’s dead!?!?!

I know this song is a few months outside of the 70s but, having heard the news (I heard the news today, oh boy…), I couldn’t resist.

It seems the committee who are organising the Olympic Games in the UK sent a letter to Keith Moon’s agent asking if he was available to appear in the opening ceremony in an event called the Symphony of Rock.  Unfortunately, as most of us know, Keith passed away 34 years ago.

It a fashion Keith would have approved of those involved have taken every opportunity to rub it into the faces of the Olympic Committee. Keith’s agent responded with a simple email saying he no longer represented Keith but organisers could get a hold of him easily as he now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to the Who’s anthemic line ‘I hope I die before I get old. The agent also suggested they might have a greater chance of talking to him if they take a round table, some glasses and candles.

One reporter noted that the Olympic Committee had not yet had replies back from Elvis or John Lennon. Another reporter wrote:

Earlier this week, it was reported that Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols turned down an invitation to play the Closing Ceremony. No excuse was reported. Whatever it was, I doubt it was as good as Moon’s.

the era of rock operas

Throughout the late 60s and 70s there were a number of rock operas produced. They included:

  • 1968: The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow.
  • 1969: The Who – Tommy.
  • 1969: The Kinks – Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).
  • 1970: Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • 1972: David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: The Who – Quadrophenia.
  • 1973: Lou Reed – Berlin.
  • 1974: Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
  • 1978: The War of the Worlds.
  • 1979: Pink Floyd – The Wall.
  • 1979: Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage.

I’ve probably left a couple out!

For my mind the best has to be The Who’s Tommy.

tommy can you hear me?

The Who’s fourth album, Tommy, has sold over 20 million copies and in 1998 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant value.”

Tommy tells the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy who becomes the leader of a messianic movement, Despite the Pretty Things’ work a year before, Tommy was the first musical work to earn the terminology, ‘rock opera.’

pinball wizard fax

  • Pinball Wizard appears mid-way through The Who’s fourth album Tommy.
  • Pinball Wizard was written by Pete Townshend and was released as a single on March 7th 1969.
  • Pinball Wizard peaked at #4 on the UK singles charts and at #19 in the US.
  • One of The Who’s most famous live songs, Pinball Wizard has been played at almost every Who concert since its debut live performance on 2 May 1969. The Who played Pinball Wizard at Woodstock.
  • Pinball Wizard was the last song written for Tommy. The story goes that Pete wrote it when he found out Nik Cohn a top UK music critic was coming to review the project. Knowing Cohn was a pinball fanatic, he wrote Pinball Wizard.
  • Dutch group The Shocking Blue used Pinball Wizard’s guitar riff as the intro to their hit song, Venus.
  • Cover versions of Pinball Wizard have been released by: The New Seekers (in a medley with See Me Feel Me, another song from Tommy), Elton John, Rod Stewart, Tenacious D, Genesis, and Guns N’ Roses.
  • Elton John’s version of Pinball Wizard made it to #7 on the UK charts – the only cover version of a Who song to make the #10.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode Sweet and Sour Squidward, Pinball Wizard is parodied by Plankton and Squidward.
  • Pinball Wizard lyrics

pinball wizard – the who – 1969 – video

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Train in Vain – The Clash – 1979

April 19, 2012

Okay, so it was released as a single in 1980, but The Clash’s Train in Vain (Stand by Me) was recorded in 1979 and that’s good enough for me.


I confess it wasn’t actually The Clash I heard singing this on the radio this week. It was Annie Lennox singing that wonderful version she recorded for her 1995 album Medusa – Annie sings it so well, but it will always be a Clash song.

the clash

The Clash were typical of so many English bands of the late 70’s-early 80’s – punk orientated, politically motivated , rebellious in nature… but, unlike many such bands, The Clash were great musicians who made great music and achieved great success.

As recently as 2004 the band was listed at a creditable #28 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Artists of all Time. The previous year they were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. At that time The Clash were described as;

…one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history.

Formed in 1976, The Clash lasted through until 1986 with virtually the same line-up. At the helm for most that time was Joe Strummer.

hey joe

Joe Strummer was an interesting fellow. He and his band-mates were well-known for getting in trouble with the law. It culminated with Joe being arrested after a 1980 concert in Germany. Upset at a violent audience member, Joe dished out some violence of his own and hit the fellow over the head with his guitar. Joe later expressed great remorse saying;

I nearly murdered somebody, and it made me realise that you can’t face violence with violence. It doesn’t work.

Another time Joe disappeared. It was supposed to be a publicity stunt. Concert tickets for an upcoming tour weren’t selling as well as hoped and so it was suggested that Joe go “missing” for a while.  Joe took it all too seriously and actually went missing. No one knew where he was.

He’d decided to pop over to France and hang out there. He even ran the 1982 Paris Marathon in April 1982 claiming he’d stuck to a strict training regime of ten pints of beer a day including the night before the race.

In 1987 Joe joined The Pogues for a short time. His sudden death on 22 December 2002 was due to an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.

train in vain just made it…

Train in Vain nearly didn’t make it to vinyl – read on…

train in vain fax

  • Train in Vain was the third single (after London’s Calling and Clampdown) from The Clash’s third album, London’s Calling.
  • Train in Vain was not mentioned on the album’s original track listing, appearing as a secret track at the end of the album. The track was originally recorded as a giveaway for New Musical Express magazine after the album was completed and the cover printed. When the free giveaway didn’t eventuate it was shoved on the end of the album.  Of course, it was way more difficult to hide a track on vinyl than on CD.
  • Train in Vain was not only the first of The Clash’s songs to make the US Top 30, it came to be ranked #298 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • In the US, Train in Vain is known as Train in Vain (Stand by Me). The words “stand by me” dominate the chorus but the song was not called that for fear that it would be confused with the Ben E. King his, Stand By Me. The words Train in Vain don’t actually appear in the song lyric.
  • Train in Vain was written in one night and recorded the next day.
  • Some people interpret Train in Vain to be a response to the song by The Slits, Typical Girls, which talks about girls standing by their men. Mick Jones had separated from Viv Albertine, The Slits guitarist, shortly before he wrote the song.
  • Train in Vain has been covered by The Black Crowes, Manic Street Preachers, Annie Lennox, Dwight Yoakam.
  • In 2007, Train in Vain was remastered for the band’s greatest hits album.
  • Train in Vain lyrics.

train in vain – the clash – 1978 – video

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Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel – 1978

April 12, 2012

In Australia this song is iconic with a capital “I.” If you’re ever sitting in a bar in Aussie and Cold Chisel’s 1978 release, Khe Sanh comes on the jukebox or some band includes it in their set, you’ll see the place come to life and most those there will sing along knowing every word by heart.

driving the bruce highway

Well, seeing as how I’m writing from Australia this week it seemed logical that I should help us all to reminisce over an Aussie song (and maybe introduce our US and UK and SA readers to one).

So, I’m driving up the Bruce Highway north of Brisbane listening to an Aussie radio station playing an hour of Aussie music knowing that I have to select one of these to be this week’s featured seventiesmusic song of the week. I endured Olivia Newton John (twice), The Bee Gees, and Air Supply. I listened to at least three songs which the announcer claimed were by Aussie bands when it was plain to me they were New Zealanders (The Swingers, Split Enz and MiSex).

Then, the last song of the hour – pure bliss – one of the great Aussie bands, one of the great Aussie songs, one of my favourite Aussie songs of all time.

cold chisel

For those readers from nations who don’t know about Cold Chisel – in Aussie they’re icons, legends, rock ‘n’ roll gods!  Beginning life in Adelaide back in the 70s, they were originally known as Orange. They came to their senses in 1974. After writing a song titled Cold Chisel, they adopted it as their band name. The band is still active today.

Synonymous with Cold Chisel is singer Jimmy Barnes (real name = James Dixon Swan). Scottish born, Jimmy is the band’s lead singer and has had a very successful solo career.

khe sanh – the song

Khe Sanh was Cold Chisel’s first ever single, released from their self-titled debut album.

khe sanh – the place

Khe Sanh is a town in the north-western Quang Tri Province of Vietnam.

Between 21 January and 9 July 1968, during the Vietnam War, the town was the venue for a rather nasty battle – The Battle of Khe Sanh.

At the battle’s end there was an on-going argument as to who was the winner but one thing’s for sure – it wasn’t any of the 1,500+ who lost their lives or the 5,675 who were seriously wounded.

khe sanh – the music

Khe Sanh has been immortalised in at least two songs;

In Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. he sings, “I had a brother at Khe Sanh fightin’ off the Viet Cong. They’re still there; he’s all gone.” (NOTE: it is generally accepted, however, that the Viet Cong were not involved in the Battle of Khe Sanh).

Cold Chisel’s song is about Vietnam veterans who were friends of the songwriter and their struggle to reintegrate into Australian society following the war’s end. Once again, however, there is a level of folklore involved in this interpretation. The reality is that the only Australian personnel directly involved in the battle of Khe Sanh were Canberra bombers operated by 2 Squadron of The Royal Australian Air Force.

Of course, that doesn’t detract from the brilliance of the song or its poignant anti-war sentiment.

I left my heart to the sappers round Khe Sanh And I sold my soul with my cigarettes to the black market man I’ve had the Vietnam cold turkey From the ocean to the Silver City And it’s only other vets could understand

khe sanh fax

  • Khe Sanh is from Cold Chisel’s self-titled album. It was released as a single in May 1978.
  • Khe Sanh was written by Cold Chisel pianist Don Walker and is named after the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War.
  • Khe Sanh is about an Australian Vietnam veteran struggling to adjust to civilian life on his return from service in Vietnam.
  • On a list of the all-time best Australian songs, Khe Sanh came in at #8. Amazing when you consider that it only ever managed to crawl to #41 on the Aussie singles charts.
  • The song, when released was given an A Classification by Australian censors. That means it was considered, “not suitable for airplay.” This was because of the song’s sex and drug references. Fortunately a radio station in the band’s home city of Adelaide ignored the censorship and played the song repeatedly which led to the song’s popularity.
  • Khe Sanh was re-released in August 2011. It peaked at #40 in the Australian charts.
  • Khe Sanh video – if you’ve never heard the song –  prepare for a treat.

khe sanh – cold chisel – 1978 – video

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Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe – Barry White – 1974

April 5, 2012

The wonderful Barry White was a superstar in so many ways.  And his 1974 hit, Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe, is just exquisite!

barry eugene carter

Born Barry Eugene Carter, Barry White grew up in Los Angeles and, like so many of the kids growing up around him, spent time in a gang and in prison. He was just 17 when he was sentenced to four months behind bars for stealing, of all things, Cadillac tyres – $30,000 worth of them. His time in jail changed his life in more ways than one.

Barry’s mum had a large classical music collection and that is what he listened to as he was growing up. He started playing the piano simply by copying the music he heard on those albums.

Then came his time in prison. While there Barry listened to the radio and heard Elvis Presley singing It’s Now or Never. That, he said, changed the course of his life.

And that’s what we all need to hear – this kid, raised on classical music was on the path to a lifetime in and out of the local pen. But rock ‘n’ rock redeemed him and put him back on the straight and narrow!

produced by barry – then sung by barry

A lot of people wouldn’t realise that Barry got his start in music as a producer. He found and developed an all-girl band known as Love Unlimited. But by the early 70s he began writing tracks for a solo album.

He changed his name. Initially he was going to call himself White Heat but (fortunately) went for Barry White instead.

That first Barry White album was released in 1973. It included the title track, I’ve Got So Much to Give, and his first solo hit, I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Babe. The album made it to #3 on the US album charts.

Throughout his career Barry also had hits with:

  • Never, Never Gonna Give You Up – #7.
  • Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe – #1
  • You’re the First, the Last, My Everything – #2
  • What Am I Gonna Do with You – #8
  • It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me – #4

In the UK Barry had a #1 with You’re the Frist, the Last, my Everything and five top 10 hits.

barry trivia

Barry was a pretty big man – in the US he gained the nickname, The Walrus of Love. Apparently he liked it – go figure!


As a kid Barry had quite a high voice which changed almost overnight.  He once said;

I woke up one morning, went downstairs, said ‘Good morning’ to my mother and nearly scared both of us to death.

barry rip

As was obvious, Barry was quite overweight. In 2002 he suffered kidney failure, the result of chronic high blood pressure. Then, in May 2003, he suffered a stroke. A few weeks later, on June 4 after suffering total renal failure, he died.

can’t get enough of your love, babe fax

  • Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe was written and produced by Barry.
  • Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe is from Barry’s 1974 album, Can’t Get Enough.
  • It peaked at #1 on both the US singles chart and the US R&B chart.
  • The single version is quite different from the album version. The single has Barry talking/singing during the intro. On the album version he sings background vocals on the intro.
  • Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe has appeared on several episodes of The Simpsons.
  • Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe lyrics

can’t get enough of your love, babe – barry white – 1974 – video

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seventiesmusic one year on – passing 36,000

April 3, 2012

Sorry to bombard you with an extra entry this week but TODAY the seventiesmusic blog has been publishing for one year. In that time 56 blogs have been published. Here are a few statistics.


On Christmas Eve last year seventiesmusic received its 20,000th visitor. In the three and a half months since then another 16,000 people have visited.

At present around 230 people a day read the seventiesmusic blog. The day with the largest number of visitors was March 11 this year when 310 people visited. This was shortly after the death of The Monkees’ Davy Jones when we featured Daydream Believer.

what they come for

For a long time the top blog entry was Jimi Hendrix’s, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) published on July 7th 2011. I assumed that would remain the most searched entry for a long time, however, another, most unlikely, entry has taken its place.

Surprisingly, the most searched and read entry on seventiesmusic is currently, Venus by The Shocking Blue.

The other most searched and read blog entries are, in order:

where they come from

Readers of seventiesmusic come from all over the world. The most people come from, in order:

  • United States 35%
  • United Kingdom 10%
  • Brazil 9%
  • New Zealand 6%
  • Australia 6%
  • Canada 5%
  • Japan 4%
  • Greece 3%
  • Sweden 3%
  • Germany 3%
  • Italy 1%
  • Other countries 14%


Thank you for reading seventiesmusic – I hope you’ll enjoy the next years’ worth of entries.

Oh, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook – you get two posts per week. One on Thursday, to tell you who we’re focussing on this week. And one on Monday, to tell you the week’s 70’s music trivia.

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Find seventiesmusic on Facbook.You’ll find out when the latest blog is posted and every Monday you’ll get “This Week in 70s Music.” Click the Facebook logo to go to the seventiesmusic Facebook page and click “Like.”