A funky bass riff takes us into our next #1, a huge hit single that settled in for a long stretch at the top of the charts in the autumn of 1970…
Band of Gold, by Freda Payne (her 1st and only #1)
6 weeks, from 13th September – 25th October 1970
It’s a fun mix of a single. It’s soulful, it’s Motownish, it’s got strings, with some very early-seventies sounding electric sitar for the solo. Not that it’s a messy mix, not at all. It all comes together to make a great pop single. ‘Band of Gold’ was a perennial long car journey favourite as a kid, an ever present on my parents’ ‘Best of the ‘70s’ compilation tapes. It’s been nice getting to know it again.
And even as a child, I could tell that this record’s lyrics stood out. They tell a story… Since you’ve been gone, All that’s left is a band of gold… A young woman, left alone and crushed on her wedding night. Long before I knew what was meant to happen on one’s wedding night, it still drew me in, intrigued. You took me, From the shelter of my mother, I had never known, Or loved any other… Freda and her fiancé exchange vows, and kiss, but that night, on their honeymoon, they sleep in separate rooms…
This is the plot of a soap-opera, not the lyrics to a #1 single! Is she rich, and he only married her for her money? Was it an arranged marriage? Is he gay, and in need of a beard? Is he impotent?? (These are all bona fide theories that have been espoused over the years.) We never find out, left hanging as the song fades out.
Freda never stops hoping that he’ll walk… Back through that door, And love me, Like you tried before… He has tried to love her, then… The plot thickens. I love the image of her left in the dark, with her band of gold (it took me a long time, as a child, to work out that she was singing about her wedding ring.) Payne sings it forcefully, and the drumbeat comes down on every word. You can really picture her beating her chest in sorrow.
‘Band of Gold’ was written by the Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland, but it wasn’t released on Motown due to an ongoing dispute between the writing team and the label. Which means it’s half a Motown hit, and frustrating as it deprives us of two-in-a-row following Smokey and the Miracles’ ‘The Tears of a Clown’. Ron Dunbar, who worked on the song alongside the trio, blames all the theories on the fact that he had to cut a line about the singer being the one who turned her husband away, to keep the runtime down. The full story can be heard on the 7” version…
I love the way that Freda Payne really lets loose for the final Since you’ve been go-o-o-ne… as she takes it home. Though apparently she had to be persuaded to record the song. She did, and it gave her what would be by far her biggest hit. In fact, ‘Band of Gold’ was Payne’s only Top 10 hit in either Britain or the US. She kept releasing music until the early eighties, when she moved into TV work and acting. She was married to fellow singer Gregory Abbott, for three years. Not a long marriage, but at least it got past the honeymoon.
Why not listen to all the #1 singles in one handy place, with my Spotify playlist?