Here’s a book from my “What I Should Have Read in 2022” list. Its focus is 1970’s pop music. Looking back from our 21st Century position when we think of the 1970’s we probably give greater importance to punk, glam rock and disco which certainly made a lasting impression in terms of visual style but did not last that long as a market force. The music with the most longevity throughout the decade can be classed as singalong pop.
Will Hodgkinson studies an era where the first number one of 1971 was Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” and rounding things off so helpfully 10 years later was St. Winifred’s School Choir and “There’s No-One Quite Like Grandma”. So did nothing change during the 1970s? Still celebrating grandparents! Why did singalong pop exert such mass appeal for the whole of the decade. The author explores this and basically it is because Britain was so grim during this time that we needed pop music to lift the spirits!
Perhaps the inspiration for much of this came from an American song from the late 1960s, “Sugar Sugar”. This was marketed as being by a cartoon group, recorded by anonymous session singers and was disposable bubblegum music at its finest and importantly, was a massive worldwide hit. For a time, the song became more important than the artists. The UK responded to this by session musicians recording singles and then considering the formation of a group to perform afterwards – take a bow Edison Lighthouse, Brotherhood Of Man, Bay City Rollers, the whole range of singles put out by Jonathan King, or 10CC in embryonic form. One session singer Tony Burrows famously appeared in three (some say four) different acts on the same episode of “Top Of The Pops”.
And then came glam- stomping, singalong music geared towards and enjoyed by a younger audience- led by Marc Bolan, whose innovative influence on British pop has now been somewhat lost followed swiftly by Slade, Wizzard, Suzi Quatro, Mud, Sweet et al, with an even younger audience being feted by Messrs Osmond, Cassidy and Jackson. Will Hodgkinson explores and analyses all this with interviews, contemporary views and what was going on at the time. A sudden powercut plunging British homes into darkness could be enlivened by a family singsong of “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.”
This is a phenomenon mainly but not exclusively British and also had something to do with huge audiences for TV light entertainment shows, TV advertising jingles and theme tunes and pop music as a regular feature of children’s TV but mainly a country that ricocheted between Heath, Wilson and then Callaghan as Prime Ministers in a time of strikes, inflation, high unemployment needed something to feel cheered up by.
Given all that can we expect a New Seekers, Boney M, Tony Orlando and Dawn revival in 2023?!! Just nobody mention Gary Glitter….
In Perfect Harmony was published by Nine Eight Books in 2022.