Monday, 23 January 2012

Paul's Incomplete Guide To Classic Pop 1975-79 Part 2

'That's Rock 'n' Roll' - Shaun Cassidy (1977)

In 1977 I was still a year away from being a regular (or even semi-regular) radio listener; and the main way I got to hear pop music was through after-school turntable play at friends' places; and of all the songs I got introduced to in this way 'That's Rock 'n' Roll' was easily my favourite. And I still like it a great deal...
      ...but, I’m prepared to admit that despite the fact that it was written by power pop wunderkind and sometimes genuine rocker Eric Carmen (yes it’s true, the guy who sang the exquisitely awful ‘Hungry Eyes’ from Dirty Dancing used to be good, very good; check out the first Raspberries album for proof), ‘That's Rock ‘n’ Roll’ fits nicely into sub-category of songs about rock ‘n’ roll that contain very little actual rock ’n’ roll (other prime examples being Billy Joel’s 1980 hit ‘It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll To Me’ and Starship’s massively over-produced ‘We Built This City’ from 1985); with the most glaringly un-rock ‘n’ roll aspects being the virtually non-existent drums, Cassidy’s overly breathy rendering of the lyric, and the sax fills and solo that no one would ever confuse with Clarence Clemons (or The Stones’ Bobby Keys).
      The Joe Hardy connection: At the time Shaun Cassidy was starring in a television series called The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in which he played Joe Hardy, an ameuter sleuth, who together with his brother Frank (played by Parker Stevenson), maintained impeccable hairstyles (whilst solving the odd 'mystery'). 
      (The Hardy Boys story lines were interspersed with largely separate Nancy Drew mysteries with Pamela Sue Martin playing the feisty girl detective; and I managed to develop a bit of a pre-adolescent crush on Pamela Sue, which is probably not of any real interest to anybody, and is certainly not germane to the topic…)
      Anyway, the ninth episode in the first series ('The Mystery of the Flying Courier') opens with Joe Hardy giving a fully arranged rendition of  'That's Rock 'n' Roll'. The fact that Joe had no solid background in singing, let alone performing dead-on Shaun Cassidy covers, seems to have been conveniently overlooked in the name of stunningly cynical cross-promotion. I would say that it's worth seeking out the episode and/or the series on DVD, but that would be being untruthful...


'Mull Of Kintyre' by Wings

Mrs Parsons. She was the first (and only) teacher I had who name-checked pop singers and popular songs on a regular basis. She urged us to post a copy of the times-table on the back of the toilet door "next to a poster of Rod Stewart!". She was directly responsible for me starting to listen to the radio.
      In early 1978, one of her fellow teachers had managed to procure the sheet music to 'Mull Of Kintyre'; and when he came into our classroom to hand it over to Mrs Parsons she couldn't hide her excitement.
      "Ah, this is what I’ve been waiting for,” she said.
      Suddenly, the maths we were doing was of little or no importance. She went and got her nylon-stringed acoustic guitar out from behind her desk; she opened the booklet; and she started to strum her way through the (fairly rudimentary) chord changes. 
      Then she paused: “If you don’t know this song, then you don’t listen to the radio enough.”
      I didn’t know it.
      That night when I got home I tuned in to 3XY (1420 on the dial) and, in that moment, my world  turned from black and white into colour. I sat there transfixed as unfamiliar singles spilled out one after the other. (Songs I heard on that first night included 'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush, 'Stayin' Alive' by The Bee Gees, 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth' by Meat Loaf, and the reigning number one 'Isn't It Time' by The Babys).
      'Mull Of Kintyre' itself is a ponderous dirge of a thing and under normal circumstances wouldn't be a song that I'd give any thought to; but it was the catalyst for opening up a world that has sustained me during some very dark times. And that's good enough for me...

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