In the belated second part of the 1978 instalment in this series (in which I revisit songs that have the capacity to take me back to the time when they were hits), the 12-year-old version of Any Major Dude shows himself to be an eclectic sort. In the first part, which covered the first three months of 1978, we became reacquainted with Blondie’s X-Offender and songs by the likes of Uriah Heep, Bonnie Tyler, Tom Robinson Band, Sex Pistols, Wings and The Stranglers. Here we revisit Blondie, Sham 69, Boomtown Rats, a couple of Italians, and some prog-rockers.
Blondie – (I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear.mp3
Blondie – Denis.mp3
In the first part of 1978 I described how it was the image of Debbie Harry that made me buy X-Offender unheard. I loved the song, and when on a trip to Amsterdam I bought the Presence Dear single (with the pictured cover) I became even more smitten. Deborah looks positively post-coital on the cover, though I don’t think that at the time I quite realised that. Her smile was appealing though. On the same trip I bought a fold-out Blondie fan magazine thing; a rather odd thing, because there wasn’t a big poster on the reverse side of all the photos and articles. And these were in Dutch, which I could more or less translate into German. Not that the text fascinated me much; far more agreeable were the pictures – and in particular a nude shot of the lovely Ms Harry (I have tried to locate in, unsuccessfully). Needless to say, it went up my wall; on the concealed side where I guessed – possibly incorrectly – my mother would not look.
I’m not sure about the release dates of Blondie singles. Most references date the release of Denis before Presence Dear. Perhaps the Dutch did things differently, or maybe they released Denis long before it came out in Germany. Anyhow, I bought the single soon after our return from the Amsterdam trip. By now I was so much a Blondie fan that I insisted our new kitten be named Denis. The song is one of those Blondie covers which the band chose astutely; that is, the originals tended to be not very well known. The original of Denis, by Randy & the Rainbows, was discussed in The Originals Vol. 1. Other Blondie covers treated in the series are Hanging On The Telephone and The Tide Is High. My unconditional love for Blondie reached an end a year later with Heart Of Glass, a discofied number which in a fit of misplaced self-righteousness I regarded as a sell-out.
Sham 69 – Angels With Dirty Faces.mp3
Coming late into my barely pubescent punk career, this is still a favourite. I bought this single before it was a hit in Britain. It entered the UK charts in mid-May; I bought it in late April, even if I did so unheard and only because the cover suggested that this was a punk song (I might have listened to it on headphones in department store’s record bar though). I was so taken with the song that I bought a big yellow badge with some sort of reflector pattern and in red the name Sham 69, “the people you don’t wanna know”. It was the most disco item I have ever owned, but at the time the irony of that passed me by completely. I’ve often wondered about the name Sham 69. For many years I had no clue, and the idea that it refers to a faked position in the mutual administration of oral sex just made no sense. Apparently it’s lifted from a graffito that said, “Walton and Hersham ’69”, a reference to the band’s local football club winning an amateur league in 1969.
Genesis – Follow You, Follow Me.mp3
In the mid-80s I left my record collection back home while living in London for three years. When I returned I found that almost all of my many singles and several LPs disappeared. I suspect they were stolen by a particular someone (ironically with the initials CD) and sold on to feed whatever partying habit he was maintaining. Among the few records he did not take were this and the late Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street (which might have featured here, but I’ve heard it too often since to let it transport me to April ’78). The Genesis single was the first the group released after Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett’s departure and the first with Phil Collins at lead vocals. At that point we had no idea just how unloved Collins would become among right-thinking people. There isn’t much Genesis v.2 has done that I approve of, and a lot I positively despise (I Can’t Dance and its supposedly satirical video above all), but I do like Follow You, Follow Me, especially Tony Banks’ keyboards.
El Pasador – Amada mia, amore mia.mp3
At this point I must emphasise that the songs featured in this series are those that take me back, when I hear them, to the time when they were hits. Many of them I had on record, others I recorded off the radio. Most I still rather like. And then there are songs like this, the single of which I decidedly did not own (I mean, look at the guy’s comedy moustache!). But it was everywhere in the first half of 1978. I never owned the record, and much as I was a student of popular music, I never even knew the name of the performer until I came across the song by pure coincident a few years ago. And yet, when I hear it (preferably not too often), I can smell the corridor of my school, and taste the sickly sweet cold drinks the machine in the hall dispensed in flimsy plastic cups. I can feel the heat of the slightly more agreeable hot chocolate dispensed in the same flimsy plastic cups (the same machine also offered clear broth; surely nobody ever bought that). A Schlager herbert by the name of Roland Kaiser, who had a bit of a line in covering Mediterranean hits, made a German version of this, incoporating the Italian title in a feeble seduction routine. Some people thought it was very amusing; to me there was no mirth to be derived from Schlager singers; not until the following year when I was faintly amused, for a moment, by a song about drinking in suburban Berlin.
La Bionda – One For You, One For Me.mp3
Likewise, One For You, One For Me wasn’t really my bag either. Though when the Italo-disco track was performed on the Musikladen TV show, I thought it was rather sexy, what with the cover girl cut-out’s nipple caps and the dancer’s very transparent blouse. Remember, I was 12; I would have considered surrealist art depicting deboned chicken breasts sublimely sexy. Surely the Zappa-lite on guitar and that absurd drummer should’ve persuaded me that there are sights that involuntarily and sometimes abruptly unsettle the libido. I cannot say that my opinion of the song has improved greatly, though if it played at a retro party, I’d get up and boogie. The opening piano riff is actually pretty good. The La Bionda brothers, Michelangelo and Carmelo, apparently specialised in folk and prog-rock before jumping aboard the disco gravy train.
Jethro Tull – Moths.mp3
I might have been on the cutting scene of punk, but I also took an apparent interest in prog rock. Hell, I had two Barclay James Harvest albums by then. I liked neither of them (except for their song Hymn), but pretended that they were spiritually enriching. But I did love Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s Davy’s On The Road Again. Anyway, at around this time my older brother by six years began to introduce me to the music he listened to, mostly prog rock stuff (plus, I remember, Them and Donovan). When you’re 12, six years is a massive age difference, of course. Plus he was a DJ for the church youth group. And he had a party cellar populated by people with moustaches and girls with make-up who all smoked (Marlboro packets look really good when stuck on the ceiling next to each other) and probably drunk too. And perhaps had sex (even the lovely Sandra!). So when so cool a role model introduces you to the wonders of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, and soon after you happen upon the brand new single by that group, you obviously buy it, unheard, to impress the old guy. Happily, the song was quite nice. Anderson looked a bit like the British TV character Catweazle, and I supposed that he might sound like Catweazle in the programme’s original English dub.
Goldie – Making Up Again.mp3
More rock stuff, so these chaps are not to be confused with the British artist of dental misfortune and Strictly Come Dancing appearance. In fact, I don’t know much about this Goldie lot at all. I know they were label mates of Uriah Heep on the Bronze label, and that they were English (from Northumberland, a bastion of rock). Their founder, Dave Black, toured with David Bowie in 1976, which would have given the group some cool factor which their sole hit must have quickly negated. Their look, seriously rivalling that of REO Speedwagon, can’t have helped either. Making Up Again, a UK Top 10 hit, sounds like a song which Boston refused as being too soft. I may sound like I’m mocking it, but I actually rather like the song.
The Boomtown Rats – Like Clockwork.mp3
The kind reader may regard this writer as an individual of entirely sinless record, but there were times when he deserved punishment. One such merited punishment included, apart from a good thrashing, the confiscation of my record collection, for the crime of redistributing the familial wealth. The cruel penalty would prove, contrary to initial threats, transient (a little over a month, perhaps). In the interim, my dear grandmother financed my unabated record-purchasing addiction, and in a spirit of clandestine conspiracy let me keep new acquisitions at her place, to be played on her gleaming old music box. It was a gorgeous piece of furniture, with a mirrored liquor cabinet that smelt of brandy. To access the record player, you had to press a button, whereupon the middle front of the cabinet opened. The record player had known opera and classical music, Schlager and the dreadful German Volksmusik that always seemed to include too much yodelling. Now it could add the pub-rock of the Boomtown Rats to its playlist. The alarm clock bell at the end of the song is pretty good.
The Motors – Airport.mp3
In those heady days of 1977/78 any rock act that wasn’t prog or glam was prone to be called punk. Pub rocker Elvis Costello was initially called punk, for pity’s sake. So were The Motors. Look at their picture on the sleeve for Airport. None of them is likely to kill their girlfriend in a crazed heroin rush. They look like the third-choice goalkeeper for Rochdale, a geography teacher at a secondary school in North Wales, a trainer in telesales for Tupperware products, and a university economics major dropout battling his way through by working as a bus conductor to finance the modern arts course he really wanted to do but his father vetoed. All noble conditions of existence, of course, but unequivocally not punk (though the bus conductor might join the other arts students in being punks when he re-enters academic pursuits). And Airport is much better than most punk records. It’s a splendid song. In his marvellous memoir of growing up with vinyl, Lost In Music, Giles Smith recalls how he and his mates would endeavour to time the high-pitched background cries of “airport”. I did the same, as did a fellow with whom I discussed Airport at, of all places, the Dead Sea.