‘Denis’ by Blondie (see vid box to the right)
Like every 13 year old boy in the country I was brainwashed by Debbie Harry when she appeared on Top of the Pops to sing this song. She could have taken over the world at this point, such was her control over her faithful, spotty, adolescent army but instead chose to carry on churning out pop hits. This was the best, though.
‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc
This was the sound of the summer of 1978. I had various attempts at taping it off the Top 40 radio show using my brother’s little portable cassette recorder but each time some family member or other would burst into the room garbling on tea being ready or had I nicked someone’s copy of the Beano. I don’t think I ever managed a ‘clean’ recording.
‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ by Crystal Gayle
Naturally, I would never have admitted to liking this at the time, but although a commercial hit it had an undercurrent of melancholy that was appealing. Country music seemed preoccupied with heartbreak, something I hadn’t really encountered except in terms of pets being run over on the nearby A46. Come to think of it, a country album about dead pets could have been a real winner….
‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’ by Plastic Bertrand
I first heard this on my school exchange visit to France in the spring. It was the soundtrack to various adventures involving pinball, mopeds, green minty drinks, coffee, baguettes, baby foot and exotic French women who didn’t understand a word of English.
‘Substitute’ by Clout
A slightly lumpen rock pop number that I liked due to the ‘Peter Gunn’-style guitar riff in the middle of the chorus. On Top of the Pops they looked liked slightly dolled-up members of my mum’s local Young Wives group or more accurately perhaps a group of trendy aunties. This only added to their appeal.
‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO
I’ve always had a slightly complex relationship with this track. For a while in 1978 I was drawn to the strings-in-rock aspect of their stuff, a leftover from the Sgt Pepper songs we listened to on our only serious rock LP, my brother’s Beatles 1967-70 double album. But by the end of the year I had put my life through a ‘punk’ filter and rejected ELO songs as bourgeois mini-operettas displaying the crass whiny vulgarity of western consumer culture (I was paraphrasing what I’d read in NME of course). This kind of thing really was part of the soundtrack of our lives at the time and I only really understood this by watching a recent-ish episode of Doctor Who, in which the song features.
(Sadly, I now look like a member of ELO)
‘Stay’ By Jackson Browne
Another that I only knew thanks to the Top40 radio run down on a Sunday evening. I wasn’t mad about this but what I did like was the woman who came in to sing the second verse – something plaintive/sexy/crazy about her voice – and the little kid with the high-pitched comedy voice who comes in at the end (I only recently realised after watching this Youtube clip that it’s actually a bloke).
‘Because The Night’ by the Patti Smith Group
This was on the radio a lot in 1978 but I didn’t understand Patti Smith. She just seemed to be part of the wave of older person’s American soft rock pop that was around in the charts. Plus how could a song start with the word “because”? Was that grammatically correct. When I went back to France a year or so later I discovered that most normal French teenagers worshipped her and this song was their anthem. (Get this song on iTunes)
‘Daddy Cool’ by Boney M
This is not actually the best Boney M song (think ‘Rasputin’ or ‘Ma Baker’) or even the best song called ‘Daddy Cool’ around at that time (there was a sort of rockabilly number by Darts). But I’ve put it in because the group’s hazy shuffling disco sound and reverbed accented vocals was ubiquitous in 1978/9. Plus the bloke who did the talking bits was a gloriously rubbishy dancer in the style of drunken uncles at parties.
‘Uptown Top Ranking’ by Althea and Donna
This gloriously catchy pop tune was everywhere in 1978 – on the radio, in shops, at your friends’ houses, on the telly, in the street, in your head as you lay in bed at night. Althea and Donna, who wrote the song as well, looked so normal and were like an earlier Jamaican version of the girls who joined The Human League in 1981 – disco lasses with their own idiosyncratic dancefloor moves. The line “you see me in me pants and ting ” was controversial. You weren’t really allowed to say “pants” to the nation in 1978.
‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ by Andrew Gold
I liked this, even though it was made by a bearded hippy*. The song was made by the opening crunchy rhythm (Cabaret Voltaire meets The Glitter Band) and cheery keyboard chords. Back in 2004 I was sitting on the top deck of a no. 19 bus when, around Highbury Corner, the conductor started to whistle this song to the passengers. He whistled it from there all the way to where I got off near to the old Penny Black pub on Exmouth Market/Rosebery Avenue (can’t remember what it’s called now – something like Le Cafe Pretentious). I said to him “I haven’t heard Andrew Gold’s ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ for about 20 years. Cheers for that.”
“Was it by Andrew Gold?” he said. “I just know the tune. I had no idea who it was by.”
“You should listen to it and learn to whistle the intro. It’s got these lovely off the beat organ chords.”
“Thanks, I will,” he said.
* I now look like this as well.
Help these old artists get their next meal/bottle of wine/facelift/back operation/expensive dental work by buying their product on iTunes:
10cc: ‘Dreadlock Holiday’
Crystal Gayle: ‘Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue’
Plastic Bertrand: ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’
ELO: ‘Mr Blue Sky’
Jackson Browne: ‘Stay’
Patti Smith Group: ‘Because The Night’
Boney M: ‘Daddy Cool’
Althea and Donna: ‘Uptown Top Ranking’
Andrew Gold: ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’