The One-Hit Wonders – The 70s Part 1.

You might have noticed that I haven’t done that many pieces about pop music from the 70s in this series… and well, that’s because I wasn’t around at the time. I do like some 70s music of course, but there isn’t the emotional connection of actually being there first time round. There were a remarkable amount of genres on the singles chart in that decade though.

And whilst some of them vanished, some of them started to develop. I’m always keen to discover more from this decade though, and recently, I had one of those moments where I came across a song that simply made me go “what?”, and I had to find out some more. Telex are an electronic group from Belgium who formed in the late-70s. Do you remember telex machines? No?

Now you don’t get many groups from that part of the world feature on the UK chart, but they really did do something rather extraordinary. I don’t normally feature covers, but this is such an unusual take on the original, which has been rebuilt, and placed into a totally different genre. “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley And The Comets was one of the most successful and important singles of its era.

This is because this helped to establish the Rock ‘N’ Roll genre (and it’s a surprise to realise that this was 25 years old even then), and this really was an example of how technology has changed in all that time. The singer really does sound like he has a robot voice, he was clearly years ahead of his time, and this must’ve been an influence on all of those up-and-coming electronic groups on the scene.

Telex’s cover of “Rock Around The Clock” was released in July 1979, and reached no. 34, to become their first and only hit single in the UK. This also reached no. 51 in Australia. They even went on to make a suitably odd appearance on Top Of The Pops (the man himself thought that this version was terrific apparently). This definitely wouldn’t be the last time that they would be heard of in this country though.

In 1980 they were chosen to represent Belgium at the Eurovision Song Contest in The Hague, Netherlands. “Euro-Vision” (performed in French) was another bizarre song, and this must be one of the oddest moments in the contest’s long history. They scored 14 points, finishing in 17th place out of 19 competitors. They were very proud. This wasn’t a hit in the UK though, but Telex continued to work together, and released albums until the late-80s.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 8.

Following on from M who I looked back at recently, this is another group who found fame in the 70s with a song that would help to set the shape of early-80s music (I have no idea what that means, but it is a rather good turn of phrase). Buggles are a British production group who formed in the late-70s, and consisted of Trevor and Geoff. They hit the big time almost straight away.

In September 1979 “Video Killed The Radio Star” was released. This was their biggest hit single by some distance, this was a chart-topper in the UK for one week, and this was also their only Top 40 hit in America. This has been a hugely influential song, which has been covered by lots of groups. And of course, in August 1981, this was the first-ever video to be shown on MTV. This was such a clever idea, I can only hope that whoever thought of this got a pay rise.

They did go on to have some more hits, but their fame dropped off fairly quickly. Next in January 1980 was “The Plastic Age”, which reached no. 16. Not long after, their debut album “The Age Of Plastic” made the Top 30. Next in April 1980 was “Clean Clean” which made no. 38, and this would be the final time that they made the Top 40.

And in November 1980, “Elstree” reached only no. 55. Looking back at some of these songs now, they really do come across as so futuristic, so pioneering, this was a time when listeners really hadn’t heard anything like this before, there was something of a “this is what life will be like in the year 2000” tone to it, which must’ve been very exciting. It makes it all the more surprising that their final hit was barely a year after their first.

They did continue for a while yet though. in 1981, their second and final album “Adventures In Modern Recording” didn’t make the chart, and some more singles, including “On TV”, were released, the last being in 1982. After this, the members of Buggles have gone on to work on several other musical projects, with Trevor especially being a hugely successful producer.

“Video Killed The Radio Star” is a song that has deservedly endured. And it would seem that the talent runs in the family, because in 2012 Trevor’s son contributed to a chart-topping single, placing the two of them on a rather short list of a father and son who have achieved this in the UK. I suppose that a little of the production magic rubbed off on the next generation.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 7.

This is someone who found fame in the late-70s, although this would turn out to be rather short-lived. Robin Scott is an English musician, who released his first single under the name M in 1978. But in April 1979, “Pop Muzik” was released, which reached no. 2. This was in the synthpop genre, and looking back, a lot of people seemed surprised that this was made in the 70s.

This is because this is rather similar to the sound that would be commonplace on the chart and define this genre in the early-80s. It really is a song that can claim to be ahead of its time, and the rather nonsensical lyrics added to the quirkiness as well. And then, in November 1979, this was a chart-topper in America for one week, and for a moment it really did seem like everyone was talking about “Pop Muzik”.

He would have no further hits in the US though, and his success in the UK also dropped off fairly quickly. In December 1979 “Moonlight And Muzak” reached no. 33, and was his final Top 40 single for a rather long time. In March 1980 there was “That’s The Way The Money Goes”, which reached no. 45, and finally, in November 1980, “Official Secrets” reached only no. 64.

Barely 18 months on from “Pop Muzik”, and his chart career was just about over. He also released four albums between 1979-1982, although none of these were a success. Several other famous musicians contributed on these though, including Thomas Dolby who brought along his synthesizer (presumably The Human League were unavailable at the time).

But M returned to the scene in June 1989 when a remix of “Pop Muzik” was released. This reached no. 15, they’re playing our song again… for the first time since about 1979. However, this is one of the most blatant examples of a “squeeze one final hit out of your faltering career by doing a remix of your biggest hit from about a decade earlier” on the chart.

Especially when this sounded almost identical to the original anyway. But Robin made the most of his first Top 40 hit single since “Moonlight And Muzak” in 1979, by making a memorable appearance on Top Of The Pops, where he wore a suit covered in CDs. But this was his final hit. Since then, he has continued to work with various other groups and musicians.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 6.

This is a British group who were one of the biggest successes on the chart throughout the 80s. Although their story is well-known, I have decided to feature them to reveal some of my highlights, and how I got into them. Madness (or “The Nutty Boys”) were a septet who started out making Ska music, which was usually done in a rather lively and charismatic style.

In September 1979 they had their first hit single with “The Prince” (when frontman Suggs was still only 18), and this was followed in November 1979 by “One Step Beyond”, which was their first Top Ten hit single. Many more would then follow, as they went on to release a very long run of popular singles throughout the early-80s, rarely being absent from the chart during this time.

Among the best of these for me were “Baggy Trousers”, “Driving In My Car”, and “Our House”. But it was just about all over for them by the late-80s. But I first really came across Madness in 1992, which turned out to be their most high-profile year for a while. In February 1992, their cover of “It Must Be Love” was re-released, and became a Top Ten hit for a second time, the first being back in 1981.

This was in anticipation of their best-of album being released, along with the original septet getting back together for the first time in a while to play some special concerts. In April 1992 “House Of Fun” (which was their first and only chart-topper) was also re-released, and reached no. 40 (and this was also used as the theme to some of the later editions of Noel’s House Party).

There was a third re-release in August 1992 when “My Girl” reached no. 27. They then finished off this year with a new single, when “The Harder They Come” reached no. 44. But there would be one more re-release, when in February 1993 “Night Boat To Cairo” reached no. 56. It all went rather quiet again after this, as Suggs went off to concentrate on his successful solo career for a few years (and also get into TV hosting).

But they eventually returned (and their careers were now at the point where every new single and album, however shortly it came after the previous one, was described as a “comeback”) in July 1999, when “Lovestruck” reached no. 10, to become yet another Top Ten hit single (and their final one to date). A lot of people were very pleased to have them back, and felt that their songs were as good as they ever were.

They went on to have a small amount of further hit singles throughout the 2000s decade, including “Shame And Scandal”, “Sorry”, and “NW5”, along with more acclaimed albums (and appearing in the occasional advert for fish fingers). They are now at the point where most members occasionally get back together to tour the hit singles once again, but so many are classics that people will always enjoy it.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 5.

This is another American group, who had some hits that can be described as rather “zany”. The B-52’s formed in Georgia in the mid-70s, the main core consisting of Fred, along Kate and Cindy, and their rather remarkable hairstyles. They had their first hit single in the UK in August 1979 when “Rock Lobster” was released, which reached no. 37.

This is a song that has become better known in more recent years for being parodied in an episode (or two) of Family Guy. The 80s were actually a rather quiet period for them. They only had three hit singles in the UK, two of which didn’t make the Top 40, which was rather disappointing as 1983’s “(Song For A) Future Generation” is among their highlights for me.

In May 1986 “Rock Lobster” was re-released (and paired with “Planet Claire”), and this time reached no. 12, a 25-place improvement on seven years earlier. It’s a shame that 1987’s “Wig” wasn’t a hit at all, because they performed this on CITV’s Hold Tight! It wasn’t really until the early-90s that they hit the big time though, already over a decade into their career.

In March 1990 “Love Shack” was released, which reached no. 2 (and stayed there for three weeks), and this was also their first Top Ten hit single in America. Folks were lining up outside just to buy this, probably. And once again, this falls right into the “you either like this or find this immensely irritating” category, but I’m sure that this did get many a party started at the time.

Next in May 1990 was “Roam”, which reached no. 17 in the UK, and this was also their second and final Top Ten hit single in America. Their next big hit was in June 1992 when “Good Stuff” reached no. 21. About five years later, this was used as the theme to Carlton’s entertainment guide show, which had the same name, and was briefly hosted by Davina McCall.

Their last wave of fame came in July 1994 when “(Meet) The Flintstones” reached no. 3 (and stayed there for three weeks as the chart just about ground to a halt behind Wet Wet Wet during that summer). This was on the soundtrack to the first live-action film of The Flintstones, and they even briefly changed their name to The BC-52’s for this.

However, after about 15 years of making songs like this, some felt that they were beginning to fizzle out, and their zany routine was becoming tired. Indeed, their final appearance on the UK chart was in January 1999 when “Love Shack” reappeared at the lower end for one week. The B-52’s have also released seven albums, and some best-ofs, a later one was described by one critic as “a cure for nostalgia” (surely such a thing is not possible…), plus several tours.

Great Moments In Pop – The 70s Part 2.

I have decided that I will do a few more pop music pieces about acts that found fame in the 70s. Although I wasn’t around at the time, I have discovered more stories that I think are worth sharing. Squeeze are a group that formed in London in the mid-70s, the main core are Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, although there have been many other members over the years, including Jools Holland, who had perfected his boogie woogie piano style even then.

They soon become well-known for their quirky songs. Their first hit single was in April 1978 when “Take Me I’m Yours” was released. But 1979 was one of their most successful years. In March “Cool For Cats” was released, and this was notable for having a rare lead vocal from Difford. I do have the vinyl single of this, which is a rather weird orange/pink-type colour.

“Cool For Cats” reached no. 2, as did the follow-up “Up The Junction”, which was released in June 1979. They went on to have many hits in the 80s too, but it is a surprise to realise that some of their best-known songs didn’t even make the Top 40, including 1980’s “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)”, and 1981’s “Tempted” (featuring a vocal from Paul Carrack, who was also the vocalist on Mike And The Mechanics’ “The Living Years”, but let’s not think about that right now…)

Their final Top Ten single was when “Labelled With Love” was released in October 1981. Also notable is 1987’s “Hourglass”, which had an amusing video that was directed by Adrian Edmondson. But strange as it may seem, I first really came across Squeeze in 1992 when “Cool For Cats” was recycled for use in an advert for milk (no particular brand, but the National Diary Council). I feel that I should quote the rewritten lyrics…

Me mum is down the bingo and the old man’s out of town
They said that I could party so I wouldn’t mess around
I spot a little diamond in the corner on her own
The lads all try it on but end up with their fuses blown
And then she eyes me bottle in a way that I condone
So while the party’s raving I said give me some old chat
And let her share me pint of milk because it’s cool for cats it’s cool for cats

I remember really enjoying this advert, but I don’t know if Difford was brought in to perform the rewritten lyrics, or if a soundalike was used in a “Mr Soft”/Softmints style. In April 1992, it was actually decided to rerelease “Cool For Cats”, and the (original) lyrics appeared in Smash Hits, accompanied by some screenshots from the advert. This only reached no. 62 though, definitely not repeating the success of 13 years earlier.

And then in May 1992, a “Greatest Hits” album was released, which did make the Top Ten, although it did seem a little odd that they were trying to kickstart their career off the back of an advert for milk. And then there was a second advert made which had rewritten lyrics too. Squeeze continued to have hit singles until the mid-90s, and since then Difford And Tilbrook have occasionally got back together for various projects.