376. ‘Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love)’, by The Stylistics

I’ll tell you this, folks: the mid-seventies was the era of The Intro (note the caps). Remember back in the pre-rock days, when almost every #1 started with a ridiculous swirl of strings and a clash of cymbals? Well, these days, disco and soul have taken the same technique and turned it into something much catchier, much cooler.

Can’t Give You Anything (But My Love), by The Stylistics (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 10th – 31st August 1975

I had it in my mind that this would be a glossy, sultry ballad. Not a bit of it. It is sweeping, grandiose, and a complete and utter foot-tapper. A hip-shaker. A shoulder-shimmyer. A few months ago the top of the charts were very disco-soul heavy, as Barry White, Carl Douglas and The Tymes followed one another to the summit. It’s been a more eclectic start to the year, but The Stylistics finally have us back on the dancefloor.

I can’t give you anything, But my love, But my love…. It’s a simple enough premise: the singer can’t afford much at all – no diamonds, no pearls, no chauffeured limousines. But my devotion I will give, All my love just to you girl… For as long as I live… All the while the horns parp, almost taking the role of a second lead-singer, and the strings go wild in the background. It’s completely OTT, but completely wonderful – a song that has complete confidence in where it is going from the very first note.

It’s always a sign of a good song if you find yourself singing along before the first listen has ended. That’s what happened with me here. The lead singer, Russell Thompkins Jr., has an excellent falsetto, especially when he extends the final ‘I’ in the title to an ‘I-I’. It’s tiny details like that which make a good record great.

The Stylistics were a five-piece vocal group from – you guessed it – Philadelphia. They were regulars in the Top 10 both before and after their sole UK #1 single. And I was probably right to expect a ballad here, as most of their other hits were much slower and sultrier. On ‘Can’t Give You Anything’, though, they let loose and scored their biggest British hit. A lesson for us all! They were recording albums up until the nineties, and are still touring and performing to this day, with a couple of line-up changes (including Thompkins Jr., who left in 2000). Anyway, a song like this doesn’t need me to waffle on about it. Press play below and let the music speak for itself. The soul train is up and running once more…

Listen to every #1 thus far, here:

375. ‘Barbados’, by Typically Tropical

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome aboard Coconut Airlines… It’s August ’75, and we’re spending the summer in the Caribbean.

Barbados, by Typically Tropical (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 3rd – 10th August 1975

‘Captain Tobias Wilcock’ delivers a pretty convincing pre-flight welcome, detailing our cruising altitude and speed, sounding just like what you might hear if you stepped on a plane today. Until he reminds us to refrain from smoking until the aircraft is airborne… that is. Ah, the seventies.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Woah, Back to the palm trees… Let’s address the elephant in the room before going any further. We’ve got two white guys, one of whom is giving us a heavy Caribbean accent (ah, the seventies…) I’m going to see my girlfriend, In the sunny Caribbean sea…

London’s rainy, Brixton’s a mess: it’s time to go home. ‘Barbados’ is one of the first ‘summer holiday’ hits – not a song about summer (we’ve had plenty of them); more a song that sums up the summer holiday feeling – the escape from the daily grind to a world of sun and cocktails. A song that wouldn’t hit #1 at any other time of year. (The ‘90s will be the peak of this phenomenon, when record buyers will send one cheesy Europop record after another to the top of the charts.)

However, the singer doesn’t seem to have much intention of coming back from Barbados. Maybe he’s there to stay. Maybe this isn’t a holiday hit at all! The fact his girlfriend is called ‘Mary Jane’ adds another layer to it… Maybe he’s just high as a kite? Layers upon layers… The song itself is catchy – I like the twiddly synth riff – but very disposable. By the end, the cabin crew have taken over again, preparing us for landing: The weather is fine, with a maximum temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit… Sounds lovely!

If time and space permitted, I might make more of social commentary on the growing accessibility of foreign travel in the 1970s, and the growing impact of the Windrush generation on British culture. Plus, there’s this decade’s clear and undying love for a novelty single. All of which culminate in a week at the top for Typically Tropical, who were two Trojan Records engineers, Jeff Calvert and Max West, stepping out from behind their mixing desks to record this single. It is a 100% certified one-hit wonder: none of their later singles charted at all.

I knew this song as a teen, as ‘We’re Going to Eat Pizza’… sorry… ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’, in which it was neither sampled nor covered, more reimagined, by one of those Euro-cheese acts I mentioned earlier: The Vengaboys. I’m not linking to it, though, as we’ll be meeting it atop the charts in twenty-four years.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that yet again this is a record completely absent from Spotify. It’s interesting to observe that it wasn’t until 1972 that I encountered this problem. All those pre-rock ‘n’ roll #1s that nobody has listened to in decades were all present and correct, but several big hits from the mid-seventies aren’t. Not sure what point I want to make, but it’s definitely something to note.

374. ‘Give a Little Love’, by The Bay City Rollers

There are certain rules that all boybands need to follow. Member wise, you need the serious one, the cute one, the bad boy, the joker… And then you need the ballads. Any boyband worth their weight in hair products needs a lighters-up (or a mobile phone with the torch function on-up) moment towards the end of a concert.

Give a Little Love, by The Bay City Rollers (their 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 13th July – 3rd August 1975

It’s a teenage dream, To be seventeen, And to find you’re all wrapped up in love… Here, then, is the Bay City Rollers’ chart-topping ballad. It is every bit as saccharine and as cloying as you might imagine. Give a little love, Take a little love, Be prepared to forsake a little love… (to be fair, not many teen-ballads throw words like ‘forsake’ into their choruses) And when the sun comes shining through, We’ll know what to do… This level of smarmy cheese haven’t been seen at the top of the charts since Donny O’s imperial phase.

The intro to ‘Give a Little Love’ actually promises a very of-the-moment funky soul song, but it doesn’t last. The arrival of the first verse sees things slip into the earnest plod of a proto-power ballad. That’s not to suggest it’s terrible. Bubblegum pop is always, at the very least, catchy. I admit I’m swaying along, while the hard rock guitars sound piped in from a completely different song and the backing vocals are almost, almost, Beatles-esque.

There is, inevitably, a spoken word bit. The mid-seventies are quickly becoming the age of the earnest, spoken word break. And I know, One day, I’ll find a way, To be safe and sound, Within your heart… Cue teenage girls around the country snogging their posters. Past this point, the song does start to drag. It’s just a bit too plodding. Plus, the Rollers’ voices aren’t quite strong enough to carry it.

Of course, as I wrote in my post on their first #1 – ‘Bye Bye Baby’ – it is unfair to reduce The Bay City Rollers to a mere ‘boyband’. They were a ‘proper’ band, ‘proper’ musicians, to start with. But, by the time this was released, they, or their management, were aiming squarely for the screamy teeny market. For the US, ‘Give a Little Love’ was re-recorded with extra strings, because the original just wasn’t drippy enough…

As with most pop groups, the Rollers burned brightly but briefly. In 1976 they took the US by storm, and were causing tartan-waving riots around the world, but by the late seventies several of the members had had enough. They became the Rollers and went New Wave, although this all took place far from the top of the charts. They would reform and tour in various guises in the decades that followed.

To finish, a story that shows just how manic Roller-mania was at its height: a friend’s mum went to school in Edinburgh, in the mid-seventies, and one August was given her maths textbook for the year. Casually glancing at the names of the students who had used the book before her in the cover, she spotted Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood’s name (the cute one). She maintains that she was lucky to come out of the scrum alive; while the textbook wasn’t so fortunate…

373. ‘Tears on My Pillow’, by Johnny Nash

Our next #1 single feels a little bit misleading. It has a title that hints at other things… Is it a cover of the fifties classic ‘Tears on My Pillow’? Does Johnny Nash sound anything like Johnny Cash?

Tears on My Pillow, by Johnny Nash (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 6th – 13th July 1975

Its starts off very lush and soulful, with the swirling strings that have soundtracked many of the past year’s disco hits, but just when you think you know where this record is heading it changes tack and seamlessly slips into a reggae beat.

I remember, All the good times, That we had before… He loves a girl, she doesn’t love him back like she once did. Baby, Every night I wake up cryin’… Tears on my pillow… (and then, in a nice nod to the ‘50s song of the same name) Pain in my heart…

I like this one. I’d never heard it before, but I like it. I can even cope with the spoken word section (not something I often say) because it’s not too overwrought. I’ll always remember that day, You promised to love me… Meanwhile the reggae beat in the background is just too darn perky to make you feel sad.

Is ‘reggae-soul’ a thing? If it is, then that is what is happening right here. I especially like it when the horns come in at the end, playing an almost music hall refrain. They are – and there is simply no other word for it – funky. The more I listen to this song the more I’m enjoying it.

One thing’s for sure, 1975 is turning into one hell of an eclectic year. We can now add reggae to Philly soul, hard rock, a country classic, a novelty from a sitcom, and some spoken word sexiness from a TV detective… Those were the days! Johnny Nash was a Texan – one of the first non-Jamaicans to have reggae hits – and best remembered for the classic ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, which had reached #5, and #1 in the US, in 1972. That is a stone-cold classic, but I’m kind of glad that ‘Tears on My Pillow’ was his only chart-topper here. It really is a fun little tune.

It was the last of six UK Top 10s for Nash, who passed away just a few months ago, aged eighty. And for those of you left disappointed that this wasn’t a cover of Little Anthony & The Imperials’ doo-wop classic, just hang on fifteen years until an Australian legend takes to the top. Those of you disappointed that this is Johnny Nash not Cash… He never charted higher than #4.

372. ‘I’m Not in Love’, by 10cc

You’re listening to Smooth FM, The smoothest hits, All day long… No, come come. That’s not fair. Just because this next #1 is an easy-listening classic, it doesn’t mean it’s not great.

I’m Not In Love, by 10cc (their 2nd of three #1s)

2 weeks, from 22nd June – 6th July 1975

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the song itself, the first thing of note is just how far this is from 10cc’s first chart-topper, the rollicking ‘Rubber Bullets’. They were a band that kept things interesting. That record was keeping it pretty glam; ‘I’m Not In Love’ is giving us lush, mid-seventies soft-rock.

And I mean lush. There are layers upon layers, vocals and synths that melt together, that ebb and flow. At one point, in between the verses, we are in full ‘Sounds of the Rainforest’ mode, and you can imagine yourself face down on a massage table, covered in lavender oil. I knew that a lot of production went into this disc – that’s pretty well known – but the actual facts and figures are amazing. It took three weeks of Eric Stewart recording the other band members going ‘ahhh-ahhh’, until he had forty-eight tracks to lay on top of one another.

It’s a wall of sound, though not of the Phil Spector variety, that makes this record utterly distinctive. You can literally hear the amount of work that went into it, but it hangs together in a very nonchalant way. Helping with this a great deal are the lyrics: I’m not in love… The singer tries to convince himself… It’s just a silly phase I’m going through… He then tries to shrug off the things that might make him seem like he’s actually in love. If he calls: Don’t make a fuss… Don’t tell your friends about the two of us…. He might have her picture on the wall: It hides a nasty stain, That’s lying there…

Let’s be honest, he sounds a bit of a dick. Oooh, you’ll wait a long time for me… (Let’s hope she didn’t.) And then, in the middle, there’s a whispered: Be quiet, Big boys don’t cry… that I take to be the voice of a mother figure from the past, explaining the difficulty the singer has in admitting he’s in love. It was recorded by the studio’s receptionist, who had been chatting while the band recorded. They loved her voice, and she all of a sudden found herself front and centre on a worldwide hit single!

I think the reason that this song works is that underneath all the dressing it’s a perfectly simple pop song. It would work just as well in a higher tempo (see the Fun Lovin’ Criminals swinging version, for example). Plus it’s got a hook that everyone remembers. I’m not in love… No, no… While most other pop songs, especially those in the same soft-rock ballpark, are about being very much in love.

It is, if I had to nit-pick, a bit too long. With a runtime of 6:04 it is the second longest #1 single yet – still way behind ‘Hey Jude’ – and towards the end it begins to drag. (In the US it was edited down to under four minutes.) But hey, Stewart had forty-eight vocal tracks and dammit he was going to use them all! In the final thirty seconds it builds to a slightly terrifying crescendo, then tinkles a dreamy close.

So there it is: Pt II of 10cc’s chart-topping trio, straddling the mid-seventies. Completely different from their first, and from their last. By the time that one comes along, the band will have split in two and be nearing the end of their chart careers. But that’s for the future. With this #1, 10cc were at the peak of their powers. Enjoy.

371. ‘Whispering Grass’, by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle

Well, what have we here then… On first glance, I thought it sounds quite poetic: ‘Whispering Grass’. Something Wordsworth might have written about on one of his Lakeland walks…

Whispering Grass, by Windsor Davies & Don Estelle (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 1st – 22nd June 1975

I’m going to have to split this review into two parts. Part I is what I make of the song, Part II will be what the hell this record actually is. Here goes. It’s quite nice – a lilting piano and some nice harmonies – and very old-fashioned. This must be a cover of an oldie, from the twenties or thirties.

The two vocalists, I am unsure which one is Davies and which is Estelle, are contrasting. One has a deep, Welsh baritone, and does a spoken intro and outro, and some backing bum-bum-bums. The other does most of the actual singing: Why do you whisper, Green grass…? Whispering grass, The trees don’t have to know….

So it’s a bit of a pun: grass as in the green stuff growing from the ground, and grass as in a tell-tale. It’s cute. Don’t you tell it to the trees, Or she will tell it to the birds and bees… the Welshman intones. It’s a novelty, that much is clear, but it’s not an offensively annoying one. This is quite a listenable record. But… I give up. Time for Part II. Help me, Google…

OK, so I half-knew that this was a spin-off single from a popular sitcom, ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, set among an army theatre troop in British India in the Second World War. Windsor Davies and Don Estelle are performing it in character: Davies as Sgt Major Williams and Estelle as Gunner ‘Lofty’ Sugden. It was quite the popular show, running for eight series until 1981.

But, as pleasant as this record is, I can’t help feeling a bit left out. It’s clearly some kind of in-joke that you would have got had you been alive in 1975, and a fan of the programme. At this far of a remove it’s little more than a shrug and move along moment. I have never seen ‘It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum’, as it doesn’t get repeated very often. (A ‘70s sitcom, set in the colonies, with white actors playing Indians, featuring lots of men in theatre drag… You can imagine it being deemed ‘problematic’ nowadays. Having never seen it, I will defer judgement.)

‘Whispering Grass’ was indeed a hit from the ‘40s – 1940 to be precise – for The Ink Spots. What’s clear from this and the previous #1 – ‘Stand By Your Man’ – is that the grown-ups had momentarily wrested control of the top spot from the young ‘uns. You can imagine this record being bought by mums and dads, grannies and grandads, in their droves. While the kids, and the bloggers writing about the song forty-five years later, look slightly bemused, and then move on.

370. ‘Stand by Your Man’, by Tammy Wynette

Sometimes it’s hard, To be… A woman… Let me ask you: Is there a better opening line out there?

Stand by Your Man, by Tammy Wynette (her 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 11th May – 1st June 1975

Then there’s the twang and the tremble in Tammy Wynette’s voice as she gives her piece of marital advice… Giving all your love, To just, One man… ‘World-weary’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. This is some proper, old-school, Nashville Country & Western, where life is tough and men just don’t appreciate you.

You’ll have bad times, And he’ll have good times… Oh Tammy, honey… Doing things that you don’t understand… Her husband stays out late, wasting his time in gambling and carousing and other manly pursuits, while Tammy pines at home. I love the clanging, reverbing guitars as the chorus clicks into gear: Stand by your man! Give him two arms to cling to… And somethin’ warm to come to… When nights are cold and lonely…

It’s a ridiculous sentiment, really, especially to 2021 ears. ‘Stand by Your Man’ would have sounded old-fashioned in 1975, or even in 1968 when it was recorded (feminist movements of the time certainly thought so.) If you love him, You’ll forgive him… No, Tammy! If your good-for-nothing husband’s staying out all night, drinking and fornicating, you change the locks and come at him with a rolling-pin! And if that doesn’t work, you divorce him. (Of course, Wynette’s other signature hit is ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’, although in that song she is the one being divorced…)

But then, if you think about it, to most women in the sixties, who lived in the conservative parts of America where country music is the defining sound, divorce wouldn’t have been an option. It would have meant disgrace, scorn and opprobrium. So this record would have resonated with many a put-upon wife, left with little option other than standing by her man. Wynette always argued that stand by your man wasn’t the most important line in the song. She pointed people’s attention to: ‘cause after all, he’s just a man… (Ouch!)

Why was this record hitting #1 now, in the spring of 1975? It had featured in a Jack Nicholson film a few years before, but I can’t find any other reason. Then again, I could ask that question about every C&W hit. They come along, every so often, standing out like a sore thumb. Kind of like reggae, it’s a genre that pops up every now and again, without changing very much, and the strings and echoey backing guitars are the same ones we heard in the fifties, on monster country hits like ‘Rose Marie’.

Tammy Wynette was one of the genre’s biggest stars – the ‘First Lady of Country’, no less – with seventeen #1s on the Billboard Country charts. This, being one of only three chart appearances here, doesn’t tell her full story at all. (Though a parody of one of her other hits will be featuring in this countdown very soon…) She died in 1998, but not before making one of the greatest music comebacks of all time, with the KLF, and the ancients of Mu Mu on ‘Justified and Ancient’ in the early ‘90s… Tammy, stand by the JAM…

369. ‘Oh Boy’, by Mud

I gave Mud’s previous #1, the mopey ‘Lonely This Christmas’ a pretty negative write-up, and I’m afraid this ain’t going to be much more positive…

Oh Boy, by Mud (their 3rd and final #1)

2 weeks, from 27th April – 11th May 1975

Rule number one for writing a post on a cover version: don’t just compare it to the original. (‘Oh Boy’, of course, was a huge 1958 hit for The Crickets, the follow-up to ‘That’ll Be the Day’, one of Buddy Holly’s blueprints in building the foundations of rock ‘n’ roll.) It is a fine rule, most of the time.

But when the original is so seminal, so brilliant… Well, it’s impossible. Especially given how Mud suck all the life out of what was a scorching rock song, and reduce it to a funereal plod. You wait for the tempo to raise, for the band to reveal that they’ve been stringing us along and to crack into life, but nope… It just keeps lumbering along, like a buffalo stuck in a swamp.

I do like the hard rock guitars, I suppose, that give this record a bit of a pulse, and there is a new spoken word bit in the middle, by a very seductive sounding lady. All my life, I’ve been waiting, Tonight there’ll be no hesitation… The way she moans her Oh Boys is very Serge and Jane. On the whole, though, I’m left asking ‘why?’ I’m all for trying something different, putting a new spin on an old song. And who knows, maybe if Mud had gone for a straight cover version I’d have called the attempt sacrilege? It’s just… very lifeless.

By the end, the tempo has slowed even further. It is now a certified funeral chant, the instruments having faded and the band going it alone and a capella. I’ve been saying it for a while now, but glam rock is dying a slow death. Time to stub the cigarette out and be done with it. The frustrating thing is… Mud had way better songs than this that didn’t get to number one. ‘The Cat Crept In’, ‘Dyna-mite’… They even did much better covers than what they’ve attempted here: their take on ‘In the Mood’ is silly fun, while their version of Elvis’s ‘One Night’ is what ‘Lonely This Christmas’ should have sounded like.

A frustrating band, then, Mud. Not in the top league of glam, but a solid promotion contender. If you want to know hear more from their back-catalogue, I’d skip ‘Oh Boy’ and crack on with the songs I listed above. And of course their one, true classic: ‘Tiger Feet’. We can forgive everything when we remember ‘Tiger Feet’… Hilariously, on Spotify, Mud’s back-catalogue has been combined with that of Müd (note the umlaut), a hardcore trance act with songs like ‘Fuck It’s Hot’. At least, I assume they’re not the same band… Who knows what directions they went in when the hits dried up…

Follow along with every number one so far…

368. ‘Bye Bye Baby’, by The Bay City Rollers

Our last number one, Telly Savalas’s ‘If’, caused us to wonder if a song can be simultaneously very good and yet very, very bad. Our next number one raises similar queries…

Bye Bye Baby, by The Bay City Rollers (their 1st of two #1s)

6 weeks, from 16th March – 27th April 1975

Let’s start with the positives. I like the nod towards ‘Do You Love Me?’– #1 twelve whole years ago! – in the spoken word intro. I love the disco-ish beat that drives the whole thing along. I like the fried guitar solo that comes out of nowhere. ‘Bye Bye Baby’ pushes all the bubblegum buttons that I am powerless to resist, and culminates in an earworm of a chorus: She’s got me but I’m not free so… Bye bye baby, Baby goodbye… Bye bye baby, Don’t make me cry…

On to the negatives. It’s a song that doesn’t know what on earth it wants to be. It chucks all sorts of classic pop references – Motown, a glam drumbeat, disco rhythms, Beach Boys’ harmonising – and hopes that they stick. That guitar solo that I quite like sounds like it should belong to another song entirely. To be fair, and this is something I had no idea about before writing this post, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ is a cover of a Four Season’s hit from 1965, which explains the Motown references. But I can’t say they’ve improved upon the original…

Then there’s the fact that I’m Scottish, and that The Bay City Rollers come laden with cultural baggage. I’d bet most Scots my age couldn’t name a Bay City Rollers song, save for this one, or maybe ‘Shang-a-Lang’, and yet they’d know exactly who they were. They’d know the tartan, and the goofy grins, and the screaming hordes of teenage girls last seen at the height of Beatlemania. They’ve also become by-word for manufactured pop, which is unfair, as they were self-formed and had been a going concern since the mid-sixties.

They were, though, groomed and prepped for success by a Svengali figure, Tam Paton. They went through various line-up and name changes (the past members section of their Wiki page lists over twenty people). Their name comes from them throwing a dart at a map of the USA and it landing on Bay City, Michigan. And they perform this song with semi-convincing American accents. It’s a fine tradition, British acts pretending to be American, which we last heard with Mud and we will continue to hear in acts like Busted and McFly many years from now.

Look at pictures of the band and it seems amazing that they were so huge, on both sides of the Atlantic. They just look very… ordinary. They’re cute; but not globe-humping, colossally successful boyband ‘cute’. Maybe 1 Direction would have looked like that if it weren’t for modern dentistry and Photoshop…? Who knows. Anyway, the Rollers have a second number one coming up pronto, so let’s save any discussion of their legacy, and their disintegration, until then. For now just enjoy, if you can, their most famous moment, and the biggest selling single of 1975… (Seriously – six weeks is the longest a song has spent at #1 for four years!)

367. ‘If’, by Telly Savalas

I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for days. Last time out I wrapped up my post on Steve Harley, and had a quick listen to what was coming next. A song I had never heard before: ‘If’. I started taking notes… And, my word. This is why I started this blog, to discover chat-topping moments such as this. This is amazing.

If, by Telly Savalas (his 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 2nd – 16th March 1975

Or wait. Is it actually not amazing? Is it actually awful? This record somehow manages to straddle the gaping chasm between ‘amazing’ and ‘awful’ with perfect poise. It is pure car crash music. We listen, we wonder, our eyebrows keep rising, but we don’t press ‘stop.’

The first note I made was that there is ‘a spoken word intro’. Which keeps going, on and on, deeper and deeper into the song. Telly Savalas talks. Or, rather, he purrs and caresses his way through the record. If a picture, Paints a thousand words, Then why can’t I paint you…? My second note reads: ‘Is he ever going to sing…?’ The answer to which is ‘no’. If a face could launch a thousand ships, Then where am I to go…?

There have been ‘spoken word’ number ones. Think Baz Luhrmann, The Streets… But I thought we’d be waiting a while yet for our first one. Here it is, though. Curling suggestively from the lips of James Bond’s arch-nemesis. When life is running dry.. You come and pour yourself… On me… he growls, and I almost spit out my coffee.

What am I listening to? Seriously? This defies serious analysis. Couple it with the videos I’ve attached below, in one of which Telly lights a cigarette before reciting his hit single, all the while being watched by a ginormous floating Barbie doll head. And… Is he wearing a glittering, gold undershirt?

How and why did this come about? Was it simply a cash-in on Savalas’s fame as TV detective Kojak? Was it for a bet? A joke? Or was it because Telly was one cool sonofabitch who people didn’t dare say ‘no’ to? I’d go with that. I think people bought this record simply because they were worried he’d come round their house and rough them up.

So ridiculous is this song, it takes me several listens before I can focus enough on the lyrics, and notice that the apocalypse has come. If the world should stop revolving, Spinning, Spinning slowly down to die… I’d spend the end with you… ‘If’ was originally recorded by Bread – making this the second Bread cover to top the charts in the space of a few months – and while I’m loathe to describe Savalas’s version as ‘better’, it is certainly more memorable.

This is not on Spotify (Come on Spotify!) But that means you have a chance to enjoy the many spectacular performances Telly Savalas made of his sole chart-topper, on YouTube. I’ve attached a couple below. (I don’t normally do this, but these videos are genuinely too good to miss.) Once one finished, YouTube auto-played Lee Marvin’s ‘Wand’rin’ Star’ – I had clearly triggered some gravel-voiced, middle-aged actor-slash-singer from the 1970s algorithm.

A couple of other things worth mentioning: Telly Savalas was fifty-three when this made #1, meaning he shoves the likes of Marvin, Frank Sinatra and Charles Aznavour aside to become the second oldest chart-topper, behind Louis Armstrong. And ‘If’ remains to this day the shortest-titled chart-topping single ever. Whatever it lacks in length, though, it more than makes up for in pure, animal magnetism. Telly Savalas, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy…