Thursday, December 18, 2014

40 Year Itch : The 5 Biggest UK Xmas Hits of 1974


  Mud topped off their sensational year by winning the Christmas sweepstakes with "Lonely This Christmas", the #1 song in the UK for four straight weeks. If it sounds like singer Les Gray is parodying Elvis Presley, he is. 

  "I was doing an Elvis on that but it was really a send up of all those smoochy songs. It works because it can also be taken seriously. I remember playing it at the the Liverpool Empire and some of the fans were crying and there were laughing." 
  The Wombles also finished their spectacular year with a top 5 holiday song. In the US, there was no race for the top of the charts. Perry Como had the highest charting holiday song with "Christmas Dream" which peaked at #92.

Here's how the UK Xmas songs fared on Christmas week 1974:

#5 The Wombles "Wombling Merry Christmas"

#13 The Goodies "Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me"

#18 Gilbert O'Sullivan "Christmas Song"

#23 Showaddywaddy "Hey Mr. Christmas"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

40 Year Itch: Light in the Darkness of Insanity,

     By 1974, Brinsley Schwarz could do it all. Not that anybody but the critics noticed. 

When the Dave Edmunds produced New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz failed to sell, the band broke up. This must have come as very sad news to a fan who showed up at so many gigs he was considered a "part time roadie". His name was Declan MacManus . Under his better known name, Elvis Costello, he would record both Brinsley Schwarz songs featured here.

Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm went solo while Schwarz and Bob Andrews formed the Rumour to back up an angry young man named Graham Parker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

40 Year Itch : John Lennon on the Today Show

     On December 16, 1974 John Lennon appeared on The Today Show, where he talked about his efforts to avoid getting deported by the US Immigration Department who claimed his 1968 drug arrest in the UK was grounds for deportation. Lennon also talked about the Red and the Blue albums, working with various Beatles ( even hinting that he'd appear on stage with George Harrison that Friday--he didn't). Lennon also suggested the major hold up to a Beatles reunion was the difficulty in getting the various members into the US at the same time. Such a reunion, Lennon said, was "quite possible" but "it would have to be interesting to us musically. Otherwise there would be no point."

    In the interview, Lennon explains the story behind his 1968 drug bust. His attorney, Leon Wildes,is also present . Lennon says he wants to live in America because he wants to live in his day's Rome. The deportation order was overturned in 1975. He received his permanent green card in 1976.

Monday, December 15, 2014

40 Year Itch : The Flying Aces


    These Scots, whose band name comes from the last name of the founding members ( P (Paton) L (Lyall) and T (Tosh), play perfect pop in the Badfinger style. When session guitarist Ian Bairnson joined the band, they gelled. "Magic" was the  #5 US hit, released as Pilot toured the UK with Sparks in late 1974. The first single, "Just a Smile", is an even bigger ear worm in my opinion. Maybe I'm a sucker for hand capping.

   Alan Parsons produced the album. Bassist David Paton and guitarist Ian Bairnson would join the producer for The Alan Parsons Project. Drummer Stuart Tosh would eventually join 10cc.


  "How Long", the blue-eyed soul single written and sung by future Mike and the Mechanics and Squeeze vocalist Paul Carrack, was the big hit for Ace. This is no love song. It's Carrack wondering how long Aces bass player,  Terry Comer, had been secretly playing with other bands. You might guess the rest of the album sounds like something Boz Scaggs or Hall and Oates might have released...and you'd be wrong. Most of Five-a-Side is rootsy pub rock.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

40 Year Itch : Top 10 Albums December 14, 1974

1. Elton John Greatest Hits 

Elton John's Greatest Hits was the #1 album in the US for 10 weeks straight and sold more than 16 million copies. Meanwhile, in just four weeks since its release, The Ohio Players album, Fire, with its sensational title cut, had raced all the way to #10.

2. Rolling Stones It's Only Rock 'n'Roll

3. Bachman -Turner Overdrive Not Fragile

4. Jethro Tull War Child.

5. Neil Diamond Serenade

6. John Denver Back Home Again

7. Harry Chapin Verities and Balderdash

8. Jim Croce Photographs and Memories

9. David Bowie Live at the Tower in Philadelphia

10. Ohio Players Fire

Saturday, December 13, 2014

40 Year Itch : A Dark Horse in the White House

  On December 13, 1974 George Harrison and members of his band, including Billy Preston, Tom Scott and Ravi Shankar visited President Gerald Ford at the White House. Invited by Ford's son Jack, the musicians apparently had a swell time with "the accidental president". Both were beaming despited muddling through difficult times and bad press. Some clips of the visit appear below.

George and Olivia that day

Friday, December 12, 2014

40 Year Itch : Mick Taylor Leaves The Stones

Mick Jagger promised him a credit on "Moonlight Mile" and a couple of other things but never have it to him. He saw Keith a couple of years ago and Keith was crying and saying "Oh, we really owe you, man. We really owe you". But nothing came of it. I think Ronnie Wood said, "Well, Mick Taylor neurally really was a Rolling Stone." And he was right.  He wasn't. I think Mick always felt he had sold his soul for rock'n'roll. And didn't get paid nearly enough in exchange. But then you never do, do you?"
-A "Stones Insider" quoted in Exile On Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield.

Between 1969 and 1974 The Rolling Stones made and released Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main St. and Goats Head Soup, and Mick Taylor played on all of them. He got one writing credit, for "Ventilator Blues" on Exile which he shared with Jagger. On December 12, 1974, at a party in London, Taylor told Jagger he was leaving the Stones. “To ask if I regret leaving The Rolling Stones is to ask the wrong question”,  Taylor has said. “The hard one to answer is, do I regret joining them?”

Mick Taylor's 6 Best Moments on Rolling Stones records:

1. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", Sticky Fingers.

 Sure, the song stars with a classic open chord riff from Richards but at about 4:40 in, Taylor takes the song --and his Gibson ES-345 --in a smooth direction reminiscent of Carlos Santana.

2. "All Down the Line" on Exile on Main St.

Mick Taylor on slide guitar, played with a  bottle on his finger, punctuates every Jagger line and takes a mind blowing single at the 2:10 mark.

3."Winter" on Goats Head Soup and 4."Moonlight Mile" on Sticky Fingers

Taylor should probably have received a co-writing credit for both tunes with Jagger. Richards wasn't even at the studio the day they knocked out "Winter". Taylor can be heard on slide guitar and then with a piercing lead on "Winter". It was Taylor's idea to add the string section on "Moonlight Mile".

4. "Stop Breakin' Down" on Exile on Main St.

Producer Andy Johns says this is his favorite song on the legendary double album. Jagger was playing rhythm guitar and Taylor those bluesy solos.

6. "Sway", Sticky Fingers

  Taylor plays the bottle neck guitar on this song which he always claimed to have written with Jagger. The last minute is all Taylor too.