Chirpy Chirpy Tweet Tweet! Why singing 70s pop was more daring than you think | Music

FFrom Clive Dunn’s Grandad in 1970 to St Winifred’s School Choir’s There’s No One Quite Like Grandma in 1980, the pop of 1970s Britain is generally dismissed as vulgar, sentimental, unstyled and just plain bad. Can these songs so firmly sewn into the fabric of British life really be that horrible? Don’t they have something to say about the era they came from? That was the inspiration for my book In Perfect Harmony: a serious look at family favorites that have been derided by critical minds of the day as, to use the colorful description of an embittered composer, vomit.

Britain in the 1970s was beset by runaway inflation, nationwide strikes, angry debates over European integration, and fears of an environmental apocalypse — a bit like the Britain of the 2020s, in fact. this, Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was the anthem of the three-day week of 1974, the Wombles responded to the harsh drought of 1976 with the eco-disc hit Rainmaker and the 1970 Brotherhood of Man ballad United We Stand, It was the war cry of an emerging nation. gay rights movement. They were socially significant, in other words. Here are 10 more sociopolitical successes.

1. Middle of the Road – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1970)

Middle of the Road: Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – video

As package holidays opened up the continent to working-class families for the first time, and Ted Heath pushed for Britain to enter the common market, a former Scottish hotel-lounge gang found themselves in Italy, abandoned and penniless. . Desperate, they recorded this joyful story of parental abandonment. It sold 10 million copies. Why? “It reminded people of their holidays,” suggested drummer Ken Andrew, of transcendentally fluffy nonsense that represented Britain’s dream of European integration.

2. Millie Small – The Power of Enoch (1970)

While earnest blues rocker Eric Clapton would drunkenly support anti-immigration agitator Enoch Powell at a 1976 concert, Jamaican teen pop sensation Millie Small had made a comedic response to the Conservative MP’s racist speech six years earlier. Against a buoyant ska beat, Millie sings of leaving Jamaica to work in Powell’s Wolverhampton constituency as she dreams of a time when “all men will be brothers,” turning the feared Tory hardliner into an object of ridicule. in the process.

3. Edison Lighthouse – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (1970)

After songwriter Tony Macaulay realized that rock’s biggest problems were the rockers who played it, he came up with Edison Lighthouse; a made-up band led by session singer Tony Burrows, who also fronted the made-up bands Brotherhood of Man, Pipkins, and White Plains. Macaulay and company were the pop equivalent of the aliens in the legendary Smash instant mashed potato commercial who burst out laughing when one of them describes the old-fashioned potato preparations of idiot earthlings. Pop, like food, was being processed.

4. Lieutenant Paloma – Moldy Old Dough (1972)

Hit by home recording enthusiasts Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher in the living room of Woodward’s parents in Coventry, and with his 59-year-old mother Hilda at the piano, this rowdy pub tune made Lieutenant Pigeon the first mother and son of Britain’s No 1 graphic phenomenon. It also represented bridging the generation gap forced by the ’60s counterculture by being loved by kids, moms, dads, and grandparents alike. By the way, Lieutenant Paloma is an anagram of genuine potential, something that Moldy Old Dough had in spades.

5. Lynsey dePaul – Sugar Me (1973)

Lynsey de Paul: Sugar Me – video

De Paul from north London was a glamorous figure who was so outraged by her ex-boyfriend Sean Connery saying it was okay to slap women that she kissed him and gave the money to Erin Pizzey’s domestic violence charity Refuge. . She and her songwriting partner Barry Green wrote this slice of sultry, escapist pop influenced by 1940s gypsy jazz for a simple reason. “The ’70s were bloody depressing,” Green said. “So we were making big key songs that looked at the past through rose-tinted glasses – those were the days, my friend.”

6. Hector – Connected (1973)

In the ’70s, pop singles were predominantly aimed at kids for the first time and Hector from Portsmouth was duly marketed as the world’s first naughty college rock sensation. It went terribly wrong when, during a performance of the junk-shop glam classic Wired Up on ITV’s children’s show Lift Off With Ayshea, singer Phil Brown’s dungarees snapped in half. “I was praying that the kids at home couldn’t see my underpants,” he said. “They were purple with green spots.”

7. The Candy – Teenage Rampage (1974)

Moral activist and inveterate publicist Mary Whitehouse had been looking for a new crusade when this fell into her lap. Whitehouse wrote to the BBC’s Lord Trethowan to demand an immediate ban on it, claiming that a raucous rocker about children across the country gaining the upper hand would foment revolution in a volatile period in the nation’s history. She responded that Teenage Rampage was completely harmless due to being “totally devoid of any real content, like too much pop music”.

8. Jonathan King/The Selection of George Baker – A White Dove (1975)

George Baker’s Selection: A White Dove – video

A perennial package holiday and a hit for both one-man pop factory King and Dutch MOR band George Baker Selection, Una Paloma Blanca is a reflection on the price of freedom disguised as an inoffensive summer favourite. It was playing on the radio when Gary Gilmore, an American double-murderer who became a cause célèbre after exacting his own death sentence, was executed by firing squad in 1977. None of that stopped the Wurzel comic townspeople from They stole the melody from his ode to West Country life, I’m a cider drinker.

9. Tina Charles – I love to love (1976)

The second half of the ’70s saw the rise of suburban disco: dance music for stressed-out adults who needed a respite from a climate of national strikes and economic hardship. An early example was this huge success for East Londoner Charles, who two years later toured the sex comedy The Stud, the best suburban disco movie, with its star Joan Collins. “It was two worlds,” he said. “An IRA bomb went off outside Harrods in the same place where I had parked my car, just as Joan Collins was telling me: ‘Always wear a hat in the sun, darling. It stops skin aging.’”

10. Dollar – Shooting Star (1978)

Dollar are proof that credibility is based on image, not content. After being kicked out of the cabaret band Guys’n’Dolls, Thereza Bazar and David Van Day reinvented themselves as a sexy blonde duo who looked like they just walked out of a salon. They were ridiculed by critics, but on this dreamy mix, Bazar layered his backing vocals up to 50 times, creating a heavenly haze of sound that laid the groundwork for ’80s electro-pop. Bazar was creatively brilliant, but he’d never give it a go. his comeuppance in the way that, say, Kate Bush. Such is the fate of the singing star.

Will Hodgkinson’s In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in 70s Britain is available now from Nine Eight Books (£20). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Shipping charges may apply

What’s your favorite ridiculed hit from the ’70s for the mass market? Let us know in the comments.

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