From Clive Dunn’s Grandad in 1970 to St Winifred’s School Choir’s No one quite like Grandma in 1980, 1970s Britain’s Singalong pop was generally dismissed as naff, sentimental, unstylish, and downright bad. Could these songs so tightly woven into the tapestry of British life really be so awful? Do they have nothing to say about the era from which they came? This was the inspiration for my book In Perfect Harmony: A Serious Look at Family Favorites that the critical minds of the time parodied, for using the songwriter’s colorful description of bitter, vomit.
1970s Britain was beset by bloated inflation, national strikes, angry debates about European integration and fears of an environmental apocalypse – in fact like Britain in 2020. Amid all this, Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was the national anthem for the 1974 week that spanned For three days, Wombles responded to the brutal 1976 drought by hitting the eco-friendly disco Rainmaker, and Brotherhood of Man’s 1970 United We Stand was a rallying cry for a rookie. The gay rights movement. In other words, it was of social significance. Here are 10 other social and political crashes.
1. Midway – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1970)
When holiday packages first opened up the Continent to working-class families, and Ted Heath lobbied for Britain’s entry into the common market, a former Scottish hotel lounge band found themselves in Italy, stranded and bankrupt. In desperation, they recorded this delightful tale of parental neglect. It sold 10 million copies. why? “It reminded people of their holidays,” percussionist Ken Andrew suggested, a thin piece of nonsense that represented the British dream of European integration.
2. Millie Smalls – Enoch Power (1970)
While serious rocker Eric Clapton was drunk supporting anti-immigration troublemaker and Enoch Powell at a 1976 concert, young Jamaican pop star Millie Smalls comically responded to Conservative MP about racism that promotes doom Six years ago. Against a cheerful rhythm, Millie sings about leaving Jamaica to work for Wolverhampton’s constituency in Powell while dreaming of a time when “all men will be brothers,” turning a fearsome hard-line conservative into something of a cynic in the process.
3. Edison’s Beacon – Love Grows (Where Rosemary Goes) (1970)
After songwriter Tony Macaulay realized that the biggest problems in rock music were the rockers who played it, he created the Edison Lighthouse. A makeup troupe led by session singer Tony Burrows – who also introduced fellow makeup bands like Brotherhood of Man, Pipkins and White Plains. Macaulay and his colleagues were the pop equivalent of aliens in the legendary ad of instant mashed potatoes Smash who fall with laughter as one describes preparing old potatoes for foolish earthlings. Pop, like food, was being processed.
4. Lieutenant Dove – Moldy Dough (1972)
Showcasing home-recording fans Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher in Woodward’s parents’ living room in Coventry—and showing his 59-year-old mother Hilda playing the piano—turned this bustling pub into Lieutenant Begon’s first British mother and son. 1 phenomenon graph. It also represents bridging the generational gap imposed by the counterculture of the 1960s in being loved by children, mothers, fathers and grandparents alike. By the way, Lieutenant Old Pigeon is an anagram of a true potential – something my Old Dow was in spades.
5. Lynsey de Paul – Sugar Me (1973)
North London’s DePaul was charming and very angry with ex-boyfriend Sean Connery saying it was OK to slap women so much that she kissed him, told him and gave money to the Erin Bizzy Domestic Violence Charity. She and fellow mainstream songwriter Barry Green wrote a slice of jazz-influenced gypsy pop in the 1940s for a simple reason. “The ’70s were bloody frustrated,” Green said. “So we were singing lead songs that looked into the past through rose-colored glasses: Those were the days, my friend.”
6. Hector – Wired Up (1973)
In the 1970s pop singles were mostly aimed at children for the first time, and Hector of Portsmouth was duly marketed as the world’s first naughty student of rock. Things went wrong when Dungaree singer Phil Brown split in the middle, while showing ITV’s charming classic Wired Up for kids on ITV. “I was inviting the kids into the house they couldn’t see my underpants,” he said. “It was purple with green spots.”
7. The Sweet – Teenage Rampage (1974)
Moral fighter and solid self-propaganda Mary Whitehouse She was looking for a new crusade when she fell into her lap. Claiming that a blatant rock music about children all over the land taking over the land would spark a revolution in a turbulent period in the nation’s history, Whitehouse wrote to the BBC’s Lord Trithuan to demand his immediate ban. He replied that Teenage Rampage is completely harmless due to it being “completely empty of real content – much like all pop music”.
8. Jonathan King / George Baker’s Choice – Una Paloma Blanca (1975)
Una Paloma Blanca, an enduring vacation package and a hit of both King and one-man pop maker, and Dutch band MOR George Baker Selection, is a reflection of the freedom-price-wearing summertime favorite. He was playing on the radio when Gary Gilmore, the American double killer who became a celebrity after calling for his execution, was gunned down in 1977. None of that comedy stopped the bumpkins the Wurzels from stealing the tune for their Ode to West Country Life, I drink apple juice.
9. Tina Charles – I Love To Love (1976)
The latter half of the 1970s saw the emergence of suburban disco dance music for stressed adults who needed a respite from the climate of national strikes and economic hardship. One early example of this was this huge success of East Londoner Charles, who two years later went on a promotional tour for the sex series The Stud, the definitive disco movie in the suburbs, with its co-star Joan Collins. “They were both worlds,” she said. “An IRA bomb went off outside Harrods in the same place I parked my car, just as Joan Collins was telling me: ‘Always wear a hat in the sun, my dear. It stops skin aging.”
10. Dollar – Shooting Star (1978)
The dollar is proof that credibility is based on the image, not the content. After being kicked out of cabaret band Guys’n’Dolls, Theresa Bazaar and David Van Dye reinvented themselves as a sexy blonde duo that looked like they had just walked out of the salon. They were heavily ridiculed, but in this dream-like mix, Bazaar synthesized her supporting vocals up to 50 times, creating a heavenly mist of sound that modeled the electro-pop of the ’80s. Bazaar was creatively gorgeous but she’d never get her due that way, like, say, Kate Bush. This is the share of the singing star.
In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in 70s Britain by Will Hodgkinson is now available in Nine Eight Books (£20). To support the Guardian and Controller, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply