Year of the Cat – Al Stewart – 1976

January 1, 2017

year_of_the_cat_-_al_stewartFor over 50 years, Al Stewart has been a part of the English music scene. He’s best remembered for his 1976 hit, Year of the Cat.

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  • Alastair Stewart, born in Glasgow but growing up in Dorset, England, became an integral part of the British folk revival of the 60s and 70s.
  • In 1965, Al bought his first guitar from Andy Summers (a long time before Police was even thought of) but traded it in for an acoustic guitar when he was offered a weekly slot at a Soho coffee shop. He went on to compere at the Les Cousins folk club on Greek Street, where he played alongside Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Roy Harper, and Paul Simon.  He and Paul used to flat together.
  • Al’s best known for his 1976 hit single Year of the Cat, the title song from his platinum album of the same name; and for the 1978 follow-up album Time Passages which also went platinum.
  • Al played at the first-ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970.
  • Since his 1967 debut album Bedsitter Images, Al has released 16 studio and three live albums. [Editor’s note: his latest live album, Uncorked, is tremendous and showcases his wonderful guitar skills.]
  • Al has, in his 51 years in the music industry, worked with some of musical greats such as: Alan Parsons, Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson, Rick Wakeman, and Tori Amos.
  • Since 1976, Al has lived in Los Angeles. He’s well-known for writing lyrics that tell the tales of characters and events from history.

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  • Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Year of the Cat was released in July 1976 and is the title track of Al Stewart’s third album.
  • It was written by Al and Peter Wood – keyboard player for a number of bands and artists including Pink Floyd.
  • Year of the Cat peaked at #8 on the US singles chart and #31 on the UK singles chart.
  • Two versions of the song were recorded; the 4:38 length single version and the 6:40 album version.
  • The song’s title referred to one of the twelve signs of the Vietnamese zodiac. It corresponds to that of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac but, at the time of the song’s release, the most Chinese year was the Year of the Rabbit – Al thought that didn’t have quite the same ring to it and so went with the Vietnamese Year of the Cat.
  • Year of the Cat appears in the film version of Running with Scissors (2006).
  • Year of the Cat lyrics.

year of the cat – al stewart – 1976 – video – short version

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Reflections of My Life – Marmalade – 1969/70

May 27, 2016

Marmalade Reflections of My LifeReleased in the UK in November 1969 and in the US in March 1970, Marmalade’s, Reflections of My Life is one of the greatest songs ever… (my opinion!)

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  • Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, Marmalade began life in in 1961 as the Gaylords.  In 1966, they changed their name to The Marmalade.
  • Marmalade 1Between 1968 and 1972 the band had six UK top ten singles, including one #1; Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, in 1968 (which they recorded before The Beatles and without knowing it was a Lennon-McCartney song).
  • Around 55 years after their formation, the band continues to perform today, although the last of the original members left the band in 2010.
  • In that 55 years, and including The Gaylords era, around 30 individuals can lay claim to have been a part of the band, including Dave Dee of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich fame.
  • The Gaylords’ break came when, while visiting Scotland, The Tremeloes saw the band perform.  On their recommendation, then band was invited to travel to London and join The Tremeloes’ management agency.  On the advice of the new management they changed their name, first to The Marmalade, the simply, Marmalade.
  • A rather unusual aspect of the five-piece band was that they had two bass players – Graham Knight on four-string and Pat Fairley on six-string.
  • Popgroup Marmalade.A turning point for Marmalade came in 1967 when they played the Marquee Club in London as support to Pink Floyd.  They were soon touring as a support band for such acts as, The Who, Joe Cocker, Traffic, and The Tremeloes.
  • The opportunity for greater early 70s stardom was scuttled when their manager turned down (for good reason) the opportunity to open for Three Dog Night on a tour of the US.
  • Over the following years, Marmalade experimented with new sounds and by the mid-70s had reinvented themselves as a harder rock band (think Status Quo).
  • And so the journey of Marmalade continues – a band that produced one of the great pop songs of the 70s, but failed to consistently produce music of that standard as they struggled to discover a distinctive and enduring sound.  One thing cannot be denied, however – they were a great band!

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  • Recorded over three days in October 1969, Reflections of My Life was written by Marmalade’s lead guitarist Junior Campbell, and singer Dean Ford.
  • Released in the UK in November 1969, it was Marmalade’s first release on Decca records – they’d previously been signed to CBS.
  • The song peaked at #3 in the UK and #7 in the US.  Within months, it sold over one million copies worldwide.  It’s not sold over two million copies, over one million in the US alone.
  • Reflections of My Life features a fancy (for those days) reverse guitar solo.  That is, the guitar was recorded, the tape was turned over to play backwards, and Junior Campbell recorded over top of the original.
  • Reflections of My Life have been used in a number of movies and television soundtracks such as, Inside Deep Throat (the documentary movie covering the life of Linda Lovelace) and Life on Mars.  It was also used within the 1998 pre-election campaign by the UK Government.
  • In 2014, Dean Ford re-recorded the song with an acoustic arrangement (to be honest, the recording is not great – but the fact is, he wrote it and the song is fantastic!).
  • Reflections of My Life lyrics.

reflections of my life – marmalade 1969/70 – video

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Don’t Sleep in the Subway – Petula Clark – 1967

January 24, 2016

Petula Clark, Don't Sleep in the Subway - 1967Okay, so this is a little before the 70s; but I heard this song on the radio the other day and checked out Petula Clark on the ol’ internet… you know, we talk about stars with longevity; Petula started performing in 1939, and she’s still going!! This is her 1967 hit, Don’t Sleep in the Subway.

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  • Born in 1932, Petula’s first public performance was in a department store in a town called Kingston upon Thames.  She sang with an orchestra backing and was paid a tin of toffee and a gold wristwatch.
  • At nine years old, Petula made her radio debut in accidental fashion.  A BBC broadcast she was attending with her father was delayed by an air raid. During the bombing, the producer asked if someone could perform something/anything to calm the theatre audience.  Petula volunteered and sang.  People loved it so much that it was included in the broadcasted show.  There followed a series of about 500 appearances in programmes designed to entertain the troops.
  • Petula Clark 1Nicknamed the “Singing Sweetheart,” or Britain’s Shirley Temple,” she performed toured the UK with another child performer, Julie Andrews.
  • Petula became a mascot of the British Army.  Troops would plaster her photos on their tanks for good luck as they advanced into battle.
  • Following the war and into the 1950s, Petula recorded songs in both French and English and gained international success.
  • This success spread to the 1960s, when she became known for a string of hits including, Downtown, My Love, This is My Song (her biggest hit) and Don’t Sleep in the Subway.
  • She was one of the key figures in the ’60s UK music invasion of the US.
  • She has sold more than 68 million records throughout her career.

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  • Petula Clark 3Don’t Sleep in the Subway was written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent.
  • It was recorded by Petula Clark and released as a single in the UK in April 1967.
  • The song peaked at #12 on the UK singles chart and #5 on the US singles chart.  It was at #1 on the Australian charts on 16 and 23 September 1967 – this marking Petula’s final appearance at #1 on an official national chart.
  • Don’t Sleep in the Subway lyrics.

don’t sleep in the subway – petula clark – 1967 – video

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Jeans On – David Dundas – 1976

February 25, 2015

David Dundas Jeans On LyricsIt’s not often a member of the British aristocracy gets to sit on their country seat and the UK top ten at the same time but it happened to Dundas, aka Lord David Paul Nicolas Dundas, back in 1976 when his song, Jeans On, hit the UK and US charts.

Photo of David DUNDASdavid dundas fax

  • David Dundas is a bona fide lord.  Son of the 3rd Marquess of Zetland, he is now rightly titled, Lord David Paul Nicolas Dundas.
  • His 1976 single, Jeans On, earns David (I mean, Lord David) entry to the one hit wonder club.
  • Lord David went on to release further singles including Another Funny Honeymoon (peaked at #29) and Where Were You Today, but he is remembered for his one big hit, Jeans On.
  • Lord David began his music career as a writer of advertising jingles.  In fact, at least two of his singles, Jeans On and Where Were You Today, had their beginnings as jingles.
  • Still in the music business, Lord David is going to be 70 years old this year and is known for writing film and television soundtracks.

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  • Jeans On was originally an advertising jingle for Brutus Jeans.  It was so popular that the jingle’s writer, David Dundas, with the help of iconic songwriter, Roger Greenaway, transformed it into a full length song and released it as a single.
  • In 1977, David (I’m letting go of the “Lord” bit – it gets rather tedious!) included Jeans On on his first album.  Self-titled it was the first of his three albums.
  • Jeans On peaked at #3 on the UK singles chart and #17 on the US chart.
  • David also released a French version of Jeans On – it was called Blue Jeans.
  • Keith Urban appears to be the only musician of note to cover Jeans On.
  • Fatboy Slim sampled the opening piano riff for his 1998 track, Sho Nuff.  Check it out; David is given credit as co-writer.  Coincidentally, Fatboy Slim’s track was also used in a commercial.  This one was for the SEAT Ibiza car.
  • Jeans On lyrics.

jeans on – david dundas – 1976 – video

brutus jeans ad – 1974 – video

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Sugar Baby Love – The Rubettes – 1974

February 9, 2015

The Rubettes Sugar Baby Love 1974Another manufactured band, this time from the UK; back in 1974, The Rubettes hit #1 with Sugar Baby Love.

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  • In the early 1970s, Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington wrote a number of songs only to have them rejected by every recording artist they sent them to.  So, they did what any zealous songwriter would do; they created a band and called it, The Rubettes.
  • The Rubettes had immediate success with a #1 UK hit, Sugar Baby Love.  It peaked at #37 in the US.  They followed that with eight more UK top 40 songs.  They released ten albums, the last being in 1995, although they continue to tour (in one form or another) today.
  • The Rubettes AOn stage, The Rubettes are known for their trademark white suits and cloth caps.
  • By the early-2000s, the band had fractured in a number of ways so that there were two bands touring as The Rubettes.  A court case followed over the rightful ownership of the name (just as it had for The Beach Boys and Spandau Ballet).
  • On 21 September 2014, as part of the Rubettes 40th anniversary, original members, Alan Williams, John Richardson and Mick Clarke returned to the Olympia in Paris, the venue of The Rubettes’ first appearance in France in 1974 when Sugar Baby Love topped the French and European charts

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  • SunplusSugar Baby Love was written by UK songwriters Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington.
  • It was recorded by The Rubettes in late 1973 and released in January 1974.  It went on to spend four weeks at #1 on the UK charts and peaked at #37 on the US charts.
  • Sugar Baby Love was The Rubettes debut and most successful single.
  • The song was originally written for the Eurovision song contest but Showaddywaddy, the band it was offered to, turned it down.  Wayne and Tony then suggested the demo band release it themselves, on the condition they formed a real band.
  • Sugar Baby Love had something of a resurgence when it was featured in the 1994 movie, Muriel’s Wedding.
  • Sugar Baby Love lyrics.

sugar baby love – the rubettes – 1974 – video

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That Same Old Feeling – Pickettywitch – 1970

January 22, 2015

picketty 1Here’s a song you’ve probably forgotten about.  Tuneful and melodic, Pickettywitch’s, That Same Old Feeling, very much reflects the pop music of the early 1970s

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  • Pickettywitch were formed in the UK in the late 1960s by singer Polly Brown.
  • Pickettywitch was signed to Pye Records and, in July 1969,  released their debut single, You Got Me So I Don’t Know.
  • The band’s biggest hit was in 1970.  That Same Old Feeling was a hit in both the UK and US.
  • By the end of 1970, Pickettywitch had pushed two more singles into the UK charts; (It’s Like A) Sad Old Kinda Movie and Baby I Won’t Let You Down.  Although not a hit, the band is also remembered for the catchy, I get that Summertime Feeling.
  • By 1972, the band had folded. Polly briefly sang in a duo called Sweet Dreams before embarking on a solo career which saw her achieve hits in both the UK and the US
  • The only other Pickettywitch member to achieve anything significant in the music world appears to have been Keith Hall who became drummer for Gerry and the Pacemakers.
  • Polly continues to write music and perform.

Picketty 3pickettywitch trivia

The rumours of Polly’s death in 2006 have been greatly exaggerated.  Some years after the break-up of Pickettywitch, a band named New Pickettywitch was formed.  The lead singer’s name was Sheila Rossall.  She suffered from an ailment known as total allergy syndrome.

For much of her later career, Polly was asked, in interviews, about this syndrome and, when Sheila died in 2006, many papers reported that it was Polly who had passed away.

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  • That Same Old Feeling was written by John MacLeod and Tony MacAulay.  Both wrote a number of hit songs.  Tony’s songs included: Baby Now That I’ve Found You and Build Me Up Buttercup (The Foundations), (Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All (The 5th Dimenson), Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (Edison Lighthouse), and Don’t Give Up on Us (David Soul).  John co-wrote Baby Now That I’ve Found You.
  • That Same Old Feeling was released by Pickettywitch in 1970 peaking at #5 of the UK singles chart and #40 on the US singles chart.
  • Two other bands recorded the song in 1970, The Foundations and The Fortunes.  The latter version peaked at #62 on the US singles chart about the same time as Pickettywitch’s version sat a few slots ahead of it.
  • That Same Old Feeling lyrics.

that same old feeling – pickettywitch – 1970 – video

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The Lumberjack Song – Monty Python – 1975

January 2, 2015

Wherever you live in this world, New YeLumberjack Song - Single Coverar’s Eve television can be pretty dire.  But this year, down our end of the planet, we were treated to the Monty Python stage show reunion which featured one of the best known and greatest comedy songs of all time – Monty Python’s, The Lumberjack Song.

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  • Monty Python is a comedy group who worked together between 1969 and 1983.  They are best known for their comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus (which aired between 1969 and 1974).
  • Producing 45 episodes over four series, Monty Python members, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, went beyond mere comedy, often using their art to comment on political and social issues.
  • From the television series came touring stage shows, films, numerous albums, several books, and a stage musical.
  • Monty Python’s influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles’ influence on music.
  • In a 2005 UK poll to find The Comedian’s Comedian, three of the six Pythons members were voted by fellow comedians and comedy insiders to be among the top 50 greatest comedians ever: John Cleese at #2, Eric Idle at #21, and Michael Palin at #30.

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  • The Lumberjack Song was written by two members of the Monty Python comedy troupe: Terry Jones, Michael Palin; and Fred Tomlinson.  Fred was a well-known musician who composed music for shows such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Two Ronnies and And Now For Something Completely Different.
  • The Lumberjack Song first appeared on Monty Python’s Flying Circus in mid-December 1969.
  • Michael Palin has been quoted as saying The Lumberjack Song was created in about 15 minutes.  Monty Python were unable to come up with a suitable conclusion to a barbershop sketch and the song just “evolved.”  It has since been used a number of times to complete a number of comedy sketches.
  • On 14 November 1975, The Lumberjack Son” was released as a single in the UK.  It was produced by a certain Python fanatic by the name of George Harrison and performed at The Concert for George in November 2002, on the first anniversary of his death (with Tom Hanks featuring).
  • In the original sketch, the girl is played by Connie Booth, John Cleese’s then-wife.
  • The Lumberjack Song lyrics.

the lumberjack song – monty python – 1975 – video

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