Only two more sleeps, wow that’s gone quick hasn’t it? Winter solstice is over for another year and the days are getting longer again, well in the northern hemisphere at least. Any how that means that it must be December 23rd and day 23 of this years Advent Calendar blog post. Regular readers will have quickly worked out that the 23rd letter of the alphabet is ‘W’. This years subject is the ABC of British bands and for today I have chosen a band who once recorded a true Christmas classic, ladies and gentlemen please welcome Wizzard to this years advent calendar posts!
Roy Wood, the founder of Wizzard was also a leading light in the Move and co-founder along with Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). After the first ELO album Roy was moving apart from jeff Lynne both personally and musically. he left the band to form Wizzard and the The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits says, ‘Wizzard was Roy Wood just as much as Wings were Paul McCartney‘. Given that Jeff Lynne clearly wanted to be in the Beatles maybe there are some parallels.
The band had six UK top ten hits from 1972 to 1974, including two number ones with “See My Baby Jive” and “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)”. Both of those songs hit the top spot in 1973, “See My Baby Jive” was also number one in the Irish chart. Many people probably only know Wizzard for the rather excellent “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” a song which only reached number 4 in the UK on its initial release in 1973. It has re-entered the top 50 ten times since then, obviously every Christmas time. On that Christmas single the band are credited as Wizzard featuring vocal backing by The Suedettes plus The Stockland Green Bilateral School First Year Choir with additional noises by Miss Snob and Class 3C. Whatever happened to Miss Snob?
Their first two albums made the UK album top 30 in 1973 and 1974. “Wizzard Brew”, number 29 in 1973 and “Introducing Eddy And The Falcons”, number 19 in 1974. Roy Wood is a multi instrumentalist who plays keyboards, horn, cello, guitar, bass and bagpipes. he also wrote some songs that were dedicated to his one time girlfriend, Lynsey De Paul, one of which, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Winter (Looney’s Tune)” reached number 6 in the UK singles charts.
Blimey where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was putting together last years Christmas posts for this blog. This years advent blog post theme is an A to Z of British bands. I should point out that they are not all bands that I like, but hopefully someone out there does. Anyway the first post on this first day of December relates to one of Sheffield’s finest, a band who in my opinion recorded one of the best albums of the 1980s. I am referring, of course to ABC. Is there a better way to start a series like this? I think not!
ABC’s début album ‘The Lexicon Of Love‘ released in 1982 was also a major success for former Buggle Trevor Horn who produced it. The album topped the UK album charts, although sadly the band never topped the UK singles charts. They did reach the peak of the US Dance Chart on three occasions from 1982 to 1987 though. The band is now largely just singer Martin Fry and can be found on many 80’s nostalgia tours. Now it’s time for you to enjoy a few of my favourite ABC songs.
Songs returning to the top of the UK singles charts on separate chart runs is not an uncommon occurrence. Often after a death; “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “My Sweet Lord“. However in the USA it has only happened once to my knowledge. That was a feat achieved in 1960 and 1962. The song was originally by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, although their version only made it to number 28 in the US chart in 1959 and even that was as a B-Side to “Teardrops On Your Letter”
Pharrell Williams‘ rather excellent song “Happy” has returned to the summit of the UK singles chart having deposed “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha. I have loved this Pharrell song from the moment I heard it on the soundtrack of the rather excellent film ‘Despicable Me 2‘. I suspect that it could be a big year for Pharrell, I believe he has a new solo album ready to go and also a collaboration with Paloma Faith due out in February.
Back in 1975 when Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was number one in the UK charts for the first time did you notice that it’s lyrics contained the name of the song which succeeded its 9-week run at the top in early 1976? I certainly didn’t notice, but obviously it has the phrase “Mama Mia” in it which is the title of the Abba song which followed it to number one. I wonder if that has ever happened since? It certainly didn’t happen when “Bohemian Rhapsody” returned to the UK number one spot after the death of Freddie Mercury in 1991. It was followed by Wet Wet Wet with “Goodnight Girl” then.
Just two more days at work for me before Christmas now. Then it’ll be eight days of over indulging in food and drink before going back to the office in January probably considerably fatter than when I left. December 22nd or day 22 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts for 2013. Clearly you know the drill, this means that you get two songs with the number 22 in the title.
The first of those is from the Modfather, Paul Weller. The song is “22 Dreams“, the title track from Paul’s double LP (single CD) released in 2008. The song was also part of a single coupled with “Sea Spray” from the same album. Sadly it only made it to number 59 in the UK singles chart. The album fared much better though, reaching the number one spot in the UK album chart in 2008. This was Weller’s third solo album to reach the top spot. The song was co-written by Weller and Simon Dine. The latter also plays, cowbell, horns, guitar and bizarrely, siren on the track. It was one of eight tracks on the album that Dine had a hand in writing. Although the album was called ’22 Dreams’ it didn’t quite match that number for tracks. The standard issue of the album has 21 tracks.
The second of todays songs comes from another iconic British act, Iron Maiden with “22 Acacia Avenue”. The song is taken from the band’s 1982 UK number one album ‘The Number Of The Beast’, but it wasn’t released as a single. Iron Maiden are one of the most succesful heavy metal bands in history with 85 million album sales worldwide. The band were formed back in 1975, appropriately for these posts on Christmas Day. So they are close to their 38th birthday. Steve Harris is credited with choosing the name after he saw a film based on the Alexandre Dumas novel ‘The Man In The Iron Mask‘. The band went through many personnel changes in their early years. Perhaps the best known Maiden vocalist is Bruce Dickinson. He replaced Paul Di’Anno in September 1981. Prior to that Dickinson had been the lead singer for another UK band, Samson.
It’s December 16th and therefore day 16 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts. I’m enjoying the music in these advent posts and I hope that you are too. So on to two songs with the number sixteen in their title.
The first song for today is from Ernest Jennings Ford who was better known as Tennessee Ernie Ford. The song is about working in a coal mine and it is called “Sixteen Tons” it reached number 1 in the US charts in 1955. The song has been recorded by many artists; including Stevie Wonder, the Redskins, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Bo Diddley, Robbie Williams, Dandy Warhols, Tom Morello and the Eels. Whilst Elvis Presley never recorded the song he did play it live when touring the US in 1955. The Clash had the Ford version of the song played just before they came on stage during their ‘Sixteen Tons’ US tour in 1980.
The second for today features an artist that appeared as part of one of his earlier bands on day 7 of my advent posts. It’s Jack White with a track taken from his first solo album, ‘Blunderbuss’ released in 2012. White says that the inspiration for the song came from his daughter. When Jack asked her what she would like as a snack she said sixteen saltine crackers, he said she could have three. The singles B Side was a cover of U2’s “Love Is Blindness“. The single was sadly largely ignored in the UK reaching only number 129 in the UK singles chart. The album went to number one in the UK though and also reached the top in Belgium, Canada, Switzerland and the USA.
Can you believe it’s the 11th December already? Where the hell is the time going. Still I am very close to being in the smug zone; I’ve bought all my presents now it’s just a case of wrapping them, posting some of them and hiding the rest! Have you done all your Christmas shopping or will you be waiting until the turbo kicks in on 24th December? Anyway enough of all that, it is of course day 11 in the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent posts which means you get two songs with the number 11 in their title.
First up it’s U2 with “11 O’clock Tick Tock” which is the band’s second single released in May 1980. It was a non-album release produced by Martin Hannett who had previously produced Joy Division among others. There is also a great version of the song on the mini live album ‘Under A Blood Red Sky‘. In their early days the band often played the song twice during their set because they didn’t have much material. An earlier version of the song had different lyrics and was called “Silver Lining”
Second tune for today is from Julian Casablancas off of the Strokes; it is called “11th Dimension”. Casablancas is the lead singer of the Strokes and “11th Dimension” is so far his only hit outside the band. It was taken from his 2009 solo album ‘Phrazes For The Young‘. Describing the song as a hit is a little loose; it only charted in Japan where it reached number 48 in 2009. One of Casablancas’ most recent recordings was the vocal on “Instant Crush” from Daft Punk’s planet-conquering album, ‘Random Access Memories’. He has also inspired someone to write a song about him. Notably Courtney Love who included a song called “But Julian, I’m A Little Bit Older Than You” on her first solo album, ‘America’s Sweetheart’ in 2004.
It’s December 10th, therefore it’s day 10 of the With Just A Hint Of Mayhem advent blog posts for 2013. It is also only just over two weeks to the arrival of the fat bearded bloke in the red suit who will fly in on a sleigh laden with millions of presents and pulled by at least one large inebriated (well he has got a red nose) venison steak called Rudolph. So you have by now figured out that todays songs have the number 10 in their titles.
First song of the day today is a 70s disco smasheroo released by Double Exposure on the Salsoul label in 1976. It is called “Ten Percent” and was according to some music historians the first ever commercially available 12″ single. Personally I had always heard that it was either “You + Me = Love” by Undisputed Truth or “Black Is Black” from La Belle Époque. In those heady days of 1976 I was a fledgling mobile DJ in partnership with my good friend Glen Voisey. I actually had the 12″ vinyl singles for all three of those songs at the time! “Ten Percent” made it to number 54 on the US Billboard charts. The band began recording the album that would include “Ten Percent” 38 years ago tomorrow. The album, which was recorded at the famous Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia was also called ‘Ten Percent’. In the 60s the band were called United Image and recorded some songs for the Stax label. The band included James Williams, Joseph Harris, Charles Whittington and Leonard ‘Butch’ Davis who had sung together since High School.
The second song for today is in my opinion a great deal of double entendre riddled and innuendo driven slice of humourous smut, and I love it. It is part of a series of pop reggae tunes from Englishman Judge Dread a former DJ, Debt Collector (for Trojan Records no less), Bouncer and bodyguard. Ladies and gentlemen and those of you who aren’t quite sure, I bring you “Big Ten”. This song reached number 14 in the UK charts in 1975, which is bloody good considering it was not allowed to be played on the radio. It was the last of six UK top 20 hits that the Judge had between 1972 and 1975. Judge Dread was actually Alexander Minto Hughes and he sadly died in 1998 aged just 52. When I was just a lad two regular Christmas presents that I was allowed to choose from my parents was one vinyl album and one vinyl single. being young and somewhat strapped for cash I always chose a double album as the album present; “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (Elton John), “Quadrophenia” (the Who) and “David Live” (David Bowie) were three of those choices. So I would like to publicly apologise to my Mum for being such a conniving little urchin. But more importantly I should apologise for choosing Judge Dread’s “Big Eight” as my single in at Christmas 1973. I was rather amused that my Mum had to go into the record shop and buy it without having any idea that it contained a whole selection of lewd and crude nursery rhymes. Sorry Mum!
Well that’s it, the first week of December is almost over and now it’s just over eighteen days until the big old bloke in the red coat parks his venison on your roof and somehow manages to squeeze his excessive girth down your chimney! That means of course that today is December 7th and that in turn means that todays choices that sit behind the advent calendar door feature the number seven in their titles.
First I bring you the mighty Queen with a magnificent slice of rock, “Seven Seas Of Rhye” taken from the album ‘Queen II‘. It was the bands first single and their first UK hit. It reached number ten in 1974 which was far better than their first two singles none of which charted. They were “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Liar”. It was the success of “Seven Seas Of Rhye” that supposedly inspired Freddie Mercury to take up Queen as his full-time job. The band made their first Top Of The Pops appearance performing the song in February 1974. The album version of the song fades into a few people singing an old British Music Hall song; “I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside”. It was written by John A Glover-Kind and first recorded by Mark Sheridan in 1909.
The second song for today remains one of my favourites. It is “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes. Is this perhaps Jack White’s finest hour so far? Very possibly in my opinion. It was released in 2003 and comes from the album ‘Elephant’. It reached number 7 in the UK chart, number 4 in Germany and number 3 in Italy. While it only made it to number 76 on the US Billboard chart it did climb to number one on the US Alternative Songs chart. It became their second biggest UK hit after “Icky Thump” from 2007. “Seven Nation Army” which was written by Jack White has been covered by many artists including; Living Colour, Flaming Lips, Metallica, Alice Russel, the Oak Ridge Boys, Kate Nash and Kelly Clarkson. It was also massacred (in my opinion) by X Factor runner-up Marcus Collins in 2012.