Should Have Been a #1…? ‘God Save the Queen’, by The Sex Pistols

I’ve done a few of these posts before: songs what should have been #1s, for a variety of reasons. Songs that missed top spot because of inconsistencies in chart compilation methods (‘Please Please Me’), songs that were way better than an act’s actual chart toppers (‘Crazy Horses’), songs that are just really, really good (Wizzard). Here, though, we arrive at a record which many allege was kept from reaching number one in the charts because the moral fibre of the British nation depended on it…

‘God Save the Queen’, by The Sex Pistols – #2 in June 1977

June 1977 marked Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Royal tours were planned, street parties were to be held, bunting was being strung from lampposts, Rod Stewart was keeping things sedate and acoustic at the top of the charts… But a gang of snotty, upstart kids calling themselves The Sex Pistols and playing an aggressively simple new style of rock music called ‘punk’ had other ideas.

They had only had one chart hit: ‘Anarchy in the UK’ which reached #38 at the end of 1976. But they had a reputation – which was probably more important than the music – having caused outrage when they called a TV host a ‘dirty sod’ and a ‘fucking rotter’ during a live interview. (Legend has it they were booked last-minute as a replacement for Queen, as Freddie Mercury had a dentist’s appointment. They were then plied with alcohol and goaded into saying something salty.)

In March 1977 they added Sid Vicious to their line-up, after original bassist Glen Matlock left following one argument too many. ‘God Save the Queen’ was one of only two songs Vicious stayed sober long enough to play on. Meanwhile, the conservative press and commentariat were working themselves into quite the tizz at this bunch of louts: “My personal view on Punk Rock is that it’s disgusting, degrading, ghastly, sleazy, prurient, voyeuristic and nauseating. I think most of these groups would be vastly improved by sudden death,” opined a Tory at the time.

Come the release of their second single, the band were already on their third record label. ‘God Save the Queen’ (she ain’t no human bein’) wasn’t written with the jubilee in mind, according to lead-singer Johnny Rotten (named for his rotten teeth), but the band’s manager Malcolm McLaren couldn’t pass up on the publicity. He organised a flotilla down the Thames, with the Pistols playing the song outside Westminster, and which ended in eleven arrests being made.

By that point, the band were riding high in the charts, with ‘God Save the Queen’ having risen from #11 to #2 just in time for Liz’s big day. The BBC had banned it, some magazines refused to acknowledge the song’s existence – preferring to mark its position on the charts with a dash – and various record stores refused to stock it. Virgin, the Pistol’s new label, were selling twice as many copies of ‘God Save the Queen’ as they were of Rod Stewart’s incumbent chart-topper. However, the BMRB, the company behind chart compilation, ordered that for one week and one week only… shops couldn’t sell their own records. No matter how many copies Virgin Records sold, they wouldn’t count.

Should it have been a #1, if every single had been counted? Possibly. Will anyone ever prove it? Probably not. It’s a bit like the Loch Ness Monster… The last thing the tourist industry of Inverness want is definitive proof that there’s no Nessie. The last thing ageing punks want is proof that they weren’t really denied a chart-topper. It is a hundred times more punk to believe you were silenced. Listening today, forty-five years on, ‘God Save the Queen’ sounds raw and thrilling, but lyrically pretty tame. I love the way Rotten rolls the word ‘Mo-ron’ around, and the refrain of No Future! is fairly iconic. (‘No Future’ was the song’s original title.) Essentially, it’s not so much an attack on the Queen as it is on Britain’s rigid class system: a fascist regime. However, there are far more shocking songs on their debut album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks (Here’s the Sex Pistols)’ – try ‘Bodies’ and its tale of a teenage abortion for a start.

Then again I wasn’t around in 1977. Maybe punk was genuinely thrilling, or terrifying, depending on your viewpoint. And for an older generation who had gone through the war, rock ‘n’ roll, the swinging sixties, and David Bowie’s drag, perhaps these uncouth, uncivil, ill-mannered upstarts were the final straw. I never thought to ask my grandpa what he made of The Sex Pistols, before he passed away… Though he would get very exercised at the sight of men with stubble, earrings and untucked shirts, so I can probably imagine where he stood on Rotten, Vicious and co.

The Pistols enjoyed several more Top 10 hits after this huge breakthrough, but by January 1978 they had disbanded. By February 1979, Sid Vicious had been accused of murdering his girlfriend Nancy, and had died of a heroin overdose. They burned brightly but briefly, a fleeting menace to the establishment. As I write this, Queen Elizabeth has just celebrated her 95th birthday, and will celebrate 70 years on the throne next year. While the Sex Pistols have long since disintegrated, only briefly reforming for money-spinning tours in the decades since their heyday. Last I heard, Johnny Rotten was wearing MAGA-hats, and endorsing Brexit, still winding everyone up in his role as the grandfather of punk.

405. ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ / ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’, by Rod Stewart

The most interesting thing about this next number one is the song which could, maybe should, have replaced it at #1. More on that later. First, Rod’s got some ballads to sing…

I Don’t Want to Talk About It / The First Cut Is the Deepest, by Rod Stewart (his 4th of six #1s)

4 weeks, from 15th May – 12th June 1977

Actually, another interesting thing is that ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ comes from the same album – ‘Atlantic Crossing’ – as Rod’s last chart-topper, ‘Sailing’, which reached the top almost two years ago! That’s a pretty rare feat, mining a LP for singles for that long.

Perhaps you can tell that I’m grasping for interesting things to write about this one, as I’m not finding the music all that gripping. It’s fine: Rod Stewart knows his way around an acoustic ballad like this in his sleep. And perhaps that’s the problem – it’s Rod on autopilot. It’s not got the novelty factor, or the drive, of ‘Maggie May’, or the ridiculous singalong chorus of ‘Sailing’. It’s simply pleasant.

I like the way the strings and guitars lift us to the chorus line: I don’t wanna, Talk about it… Which in itself is also a great line, sung with a lot of feeling. But it’s not enough to hang a whole, five-minute song on. (And that’s another thing – did nobody suggest a ‘single edit’ for this one?)

The guitars, fried and country, are cool, but especially towards the end the song does begin to meander. ‘I Don’t Want…’ was a cover of a 1971 song by Crazy Horse, Neil Young’s sometime band. Rod hasn’t strayed too far from the original, though his version is more polished… and that’s not a good thing. Anyway. What could we possibly need after that? Another heartfelt ballad, of course.

‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’ is another, probably more famous, cover, this time of a Cat Stevens original. It’s another acoustic, bittersweet love song. In fact, I’ll go further than that. It is a thoroughly miserable love song: If you want, I’ll try to love again… As declarations go, it’s certainly honest. He wants her by his side, but only to wipe the tears that he cries… Baby I know, The first cut is the deepest…

Hey, some people are into damaged goods. Again, this ticks all the classy ballad boxes, and Stewart’s voice is as smoky as ever. But, again, it washes over me. Maybe it’s not my thing. Or maybe it’s just dinner party background music. Plus, there’s always the earlier, superior version of ‘The First Cut…’, released by P.P Arnold a decade earlier.

The best double-‘A’ sides have a bit of yin and yang to them. Think of the most famous #2, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ / ‘Penny Lane’. Or Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ / ‘Cabaret’. Even our most recent double-‘A’ #1 from David Cassidy had two very different sounding songs on each side. Interestingly – here I go again – ‘The First Cut…’ was from a more recent album, ‘A Night on the Town’, making this potentially the only double-‘A’ to feature songs from different LPs by the same artist. (I say ‘potentially’, I have neither the time nor the inclination to check.)

So, we are two thirds through Rod Stewart’s chart-topping career, and it’s been wall to wall ballads so far. Luckily, his last two #1s up the tempo quite a bit. Wahey! It’s not that these are bad songs, far from it; they just don’t scream ‘four weeks at #1!’ to me. But, of course, there’s a good chance that, during the last of those four weeks, Rod Stewart didn’t really have the best-selling single in the land. Controversy ahead, then. More to come…

404. ‘Free’, by Deniece Williams

Yet again – and this is happening a lot recently – a record comes along that I realise I know as soon as the vocals begin.

Free, by Deniece Williams (her 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 1st – 15th May 1977

But before we get to the lyrics, we have a sexy, slinky bass-line that enters and wraps itself around us. Mmm yes… Is there a more seventies sound than a funky bass-line? And I just got to be me… Free… Deniece Williams’ voice is very pure, crystal clear. She sounds very young. Was she?

Not particularly, she was twenty-six when she recorded her one and only chart-topper. Still, there’s something very girlish about the way she sings, teasing the words around the beat. Whispering in his ear, My magic potion for love… On first listen, this is standard light-soul fare. Except, she just wants to be free. She wants a man, but not the commitment. How that man pleases me… But I want to be free…

That’s quite the feminist statement, and not one that we’ve heard much so far in our four hundred plus chart-toppers. Women can be steadfast (Cilla, Dusty), they can be playful (Connie Francis, Rosemary Clooney), and they can definitely be disappointed by the men in their lives (Freda Payne, Tammy Wynette). But Williams here is brazen in wanting her cake and eating it too. And good for her!

Perhaps the message is the best bit of this song. On the whole, it’s a bit too slickly soulful, with a bit too much tinkly, shimmering production for my tastes. I’ve noticed that in the first throws of this disco/soul era, around 1974, the production was very thick and layered. Here it’s stripped back and feels a little lightweight. My heart sank when I saw ‘Free’s runtime of close to six minutes, but the single edit chopped things down to three. Actually, though, the six-minute version works as an extended slow jam, with a bit more guitar.

Deniece Williams (from Gary, Indiana, like a certain pop icon we’ll be hearing from very soon) had been releasing singles since the late sixties. ‘Free’ was her big breakthrough hit, though it only hit #1 in the UK. She would have to wait a few months to reach top spot in her homeland, in a duet with our most recent Christmas chart-topper, Johnny Mathis. Then came ‘Footloose’, and the classic ‘Let’s Hear It For the Boy’.

I suppose, in a way, this song brings us back to the easy listening, balladry that was bogging us down a few posts ago. But I can stomach this kind of short, sweet and slightly sassy kind of easy-listening. Next up… a whole double ‘A’-side of hardcore balladry. Party on!

403. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, by ABBA

Already we reach the mid-point of ABBA’s chart-topping run! Their fifth #1, coming from the same album (‘Arrival’) as both ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Fernando’. Hit packed!

Knowing Me, Knowing You, by ABBA (their 5th of nine #1s)

5 weeks, from 27th March – 1st May 1977

Speaking of ‘Fernando’, the intro to this record sounds like a leftover from that recording session – acoustic guitars and a hint of pan-pipes. Fear not, though, for straight away that funky bass-line comes to our rescue and actually, the nearest comparison from the band’s earlier hits is to ‘SOS’. Power chords and actual hard rock guitars.

No more, Carefree, Laughter, Silence ever after… I’ve mentioned ABBA’s unique brand of English before, and I do love these rhymes that you can see coming from a mile off. Then we get a bit emo: Walkin’ through an empty house, Tears in my eyes… We are a long way from ‘Mamma Mia’s camp exclamations, or ‘Dancing Queen’s affirmation.

Knowing me, Knowing You, There is nothing we can do! It’s a break-up song, but at least it sounds like it’s mutual. A conscious uncoupling, if you will, and the intricate male backing vocals in the chorus do make it sound like a conversation. Breaking up is never easy I know but I have to go… Meanwhile the image of empty rooms in which children used to play is a powerful one.

In fact, it’s an early example of the sorts of songs ABBA would go on to make in the 80s, after their imperious phase and their disco phase. It doesn’t hit as hard as, say, ‘One of Us’, though; because the band had yet to go through their famed break-ups. Agnetha and Bjorn were still together, while Benny and Frida wouldn’t get married until 1978. Perhaps, then, we can say it’s a fictional story about a break up; while those later hits were documentaries.

I have seen ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ on top of several ‘ABBA – Ranked’ articles over the years, which has always surprised me a bit. It’s a cracker of a chorus (I mean, it’s ABBA, duh), but it’s never been my favourite. I have, for example, never really understood the song’s signature hook: the a-haaaaa. What does it mean? What does it signify? Meanwhile, Brits of a certain age will never now be able to listen to this song without picturing Alan Partridge.

Maybe it’s because those writers didn’t want to choose the obvious singles, or maybe the song’s slightly low-key vibe makes it a hipsters’ choice. (Though ‘SOS’ is the true hipster’s favourite ABBA single.) It is not as instant as their earlier #1s, but still a classic. Few bands have runs like ABBA did in the mid-to-late seventies. ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ gave them their 4th chart-topper, and their seventeenth week at #1, in little over a year. And they will be back soon enough…

402. ‘Chanson d’Amour’, by The Manhattan Transfer

At the end of my last post, I claimed that I had never heard this song before. I also offered a prayer that it might break our recent run of bland soft-rock…

Chanson d’Amour, by The Manhattan Transfer (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 6th – 27th March 1977

Well, I can state that I have heard this song before – somewhere, sometime long forgotten. Or, maybe it’s just that this sounds like a standard, a melody that we all have running through us. As for whether it ups the tempo…? It does, a bit.

I like it, though; for it immediately has a boozy, saucy, pub singalong feel to it. A rolling piano, accordions… Chanson d’amour, Play encore… I also like it because, while half the lyrics are French, they are at my level of French – i.e. very basic high school. Chanson d’amour, Je t’adore… And then there’s an inane refrain: rah-ta-rah-ta-dah…

Actually, so bad is the French that I feel qualified to pick them up on it. The pronunciation is well off, coming out more like Chanson d’amooor, Joo t’adooor… Safe to say there were no actual French people involved in the making of this record. But it’s fun. It kind of sounds like Edith Piaf having a singalong, half-cut on Pernod, down an East End boozer.

There’s another saxophone solo. Make that two in a row and throw in a comment about London buses. (This one grates less than ‘When I Need You’, but I still would have preferred them to stick to the piano, or the accordion.) Then we roll to a gentle finish, and I’m left to wonder what on earth this record was doing at the top of the charts in early 1977. It’s completely pointless, but catchy and – praise be! – fun.

Manhattan Transfer were a band from New York, around since the late sixties. They did swing, jazz, a cappella stuff and largely stayed away from the charts until this hit smashed out of nowhere. They are still a going concern, still with three long-term members. ‘Chanson d’Amour’, meanwhile, was first written and recorded in the late fifties, by Art and Dotty Todd. Going off on a complete tangent… the Todd’s had also recorded the original version of another UK #1 single: ‘Broken Wings’, which was one of the very earliest chart-topping singles back in 1953, for The Stargazers. (Never thought I’d be mentioning them again!)

Viewed in this way, then, the record makes more sense. We can slot it in amongst the rock ‘n’ roll revival records – some covers, some originals – that have been peppering the charts for a few years now (Showaddywaddy, the Rubettes, etc.) Meanwhile, perhaps the definitive version of ‘Chanson d’Amour’ came from the cast of ‘Are You Being Served’, in the show’s final episode. Come to think of it, that’s probably how I knew this song… From post-Sunday lunch re-runs as a child.

401. ‘When I Need You’, by Leo Sayer

Oh boy. More soft-rock…

When I Need You, by Leo Sayer (his 1st of two #1s)

3 weeks, from 13th February – 6th March 1977

We’re really hitting a slow and slushy moment in chart history. It must have been great at school discos, I suppose, with no shortage of last-dance tunes in which to snag your latest crush. But it doesn’t make for a very exciting listen forty odd years later.

It’s got all the instruments we’ve come to expect: gentle guitars, tinkly percussion, a glossy echo to everything. (Plus, this record has a secret weapon – more on that in a moment.) When I need you, I just close my eyes and I’m with you… Leo Sayer’s missing his girl while he works away from home… For some reason that I can’t quite place, I’m enjoying this more than the last-but-one chart topper, David Soul’s equally smoochy ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’. I think it’s the slightly funkier rhythm. If this one was sped up – a lot – it could be a disco classic.

I also like the emphatic It’s cold out, Just hold out… line. Plus, Leo Sayer’s voice has got a lot more oomph to it than Soul’s. He lets loose, in a fashion, for the fade-out. But, before that, we come to the secret weapon… the sax solo! Unleashed from out of the blue! They’re something we’ll have to get used to as the ’80s loom, but they’ve never sat well with me. Done well they’re fine; done badly they sound like the soundtrack to a bad date, or a porno.

It is sometimes hard to focus on the lyrics in songs like this, as they’re usually of the don’t leave me baby hold me baby variety. But, on closer inspection, on listen three or four, as Leo talks about closing his eyes and touching love while on the phone to his girl, and beseeching her to ‘do as he does’… I begin to wonder… Is this record actually about phone sex??

Or am I grasping to make it more interesting than it is? ‘When I Need You’ was the follow-up to the dorky but super catchy ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’, which I would have much preferred as a #1. As it stands, this makes it four slow and soft #1s in a row, and five out of the last six. It’s not something that you say every day, but thank God for Showaddywaddy! Looking to the next chart-topper on my list, a record I have never heard before, I offer a silent prayer that it might be up-tempo.

Leo Sayer had been scoring hits since 1973, and had peaked at #2 three times before this one took him all the way. He will be back on top, but not for twenty-nine years, when he’ll feature on a remix of one of his seventies hits. That’s one of the longest gaps between number ones, ever. Meanwhile, ‘When I Need You’ has been covered by the great and the good of easy listening: Cliff, Julio Iglesias, Luther Vandross, Celine Dion… Leonard Cohen wasn’t as impressed by it, though – he sued Sayer for plagiarising his song ‘Famous Blue Raincoat”.

400. ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’, by Julie Covington

Time for a proper show tune! The first, unless I am mistaken, since Shirley Bassey way back in 1961?

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, by Julie Covington (her 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 6th – 13th February 1977

It’s a long one, too. Five and a half minutes, with nearly a whole minute of portentous introing before Julie Covington actually sings. It won’t be easy, You’ll think it strange… Gosh she sings it proper. When I try to explain how I feel… Musical theatre really stands out against pop songs, belted out as they are with cut-glass diction, aiming for the back row.

We’re approaching two and a half minutes, and still no appearance of the chorus. I have never seen ‘Evita’, neither on stage nor on screen, but I can sing this chorus. (I’ll show my age by saying I’m more familiar with Madonna’s version, which made #3 in 1996.) Come on Julie, love… Don’t cry for me Argentina, The truth is I never left you… It’s a love song, with all the usual trimmings, but about a country!

Show tunes also sound a bit strange divorced from their play, plonked into the singles chart. Who is she, and why is she singing about Argentina? Amazingly, this record was released well before ‘Evita’ debuted on the West End. Nobody had seen the show… and yet there was enough interest in this record to get it to the top of the charts!

To be honest, that first chorus was a bit underwhelming. I’m waiting for her to go around again, to really belt it out for the finale. While we wait – cause this is a record that isn’t afraid to take its time – a little bit of history. ‘Evita’, the musical by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, tells the story of Eva Perón, First Lady of Argentina between 1946 and ’52 and, since her death, official ‘Spiritual Leader of the Argentine Nation’ (with a fair few allegations of fascism thrown in from those who were against her).

Finally, a full four minutes in, and were back at the chorus. I’m ready for Ms. Covington’s big finale. But it never materialises… The orchestra does the soaring, we could be back in the charts of 1954, and I’m left a little bored. What a strange #1 hit… Bring back Dame Shirley. She’d have belted the life out of this.

Julie Covington never actually played Eva Perón on stage – she turned the role down – and when the show finally opened Elaine Paige took the part. Covington was a fixture on the West End stage throughout the seventies and eighties, but doesn’t seem to have done much in recent decades. Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s show tunes will be back, though – off the top of my head I can think of at least two more chart-toppers penned by him.

As this is the 400th (!) number one, I had planned to take stock, to see where we stood in the musical landscape. Except, this is a completely random one-week wonder that has no bearing on the real sound of the mid-seventies. In an ideal world, we could tell the story of British popular music tastes through every hundredth chart-topper. Number 100 would have been Elvis… (It wasn’t, it was Anthony Newley’s clipped and clicky ‘Do You Mind’), 200 would have been The Beatles… (It was! ‘Help’.) 300 would have been something glam… (Instead it was Tony Orlando’s sex-pest anthem ‘Knock Three Times’.) And 400 would have been a disco classic… Instead we aren’t crying for Argentina. Funny old things aren’t they, music charts…?

399. ‘Don’t Give Up On Us’, by David Soul

And it is onwards into 1977. Officially the late seventies! Bring it on!

Don’t Give Up On Us, by David Soul (his 1st of two #1s)

4 weeks, from 9th January – 6th February 1977

Actually… I’m tempted to write the entire year off after thirty seconds of this next number one. It’s been creeping up on us, slowly but surely, with Demis Roussos, Chicago, Johnny Mathis… I fear the soft-rock years may officially be upon us.

In fact, I think this record has the exact same gloopy, doopy backing track from Johnny Mathis’s Christmas #1. They sure sound similar. Though David Soul’s voice has nowhere near the gravitas that Mathis had. Don’t give up on us baby, Don’t make the wrong, Seem right… It’s a decent voice, but a very soppy one.

I want to get a foothold on this song, a way in to appreciating it, but I can’t. It’s a puff of smoke. There’s nothing actually there. It’s a ‘check your watch’ kind of song, in that you start to wonder how long it’s going to go on for… Pulses are raised slightly come the middle-eight: I really lost my head last night… though you struggle to imagine the singer of this song being capable of any strong emotions… and then we get the blandest solo you could ever imagine, featuring a mish mash of guitars, strings and a French horn.

And then there’s a key change! Of course. Is there a more divisive trick in the songwriters’ handbook than the key change? Some make you punch the air and shout ‘YES!’; others make you wish the song would just end right there and then. No prizes for guessing which camp this record falls into…

Before coming to this record, I knew David Soul as being famous for his role in ‘Starsky and Hutch’, though I needed to check which one he was (Hutch). Soul’s record career came slap bang in the middle of the show’s four series run. So, he had the exposure and was perhaps always going to score a huge hit. But ‘Starsky and Hutch’ was a cop show, in which the two main characters used their wits and traded blows to catch the bad guys. They were cool, bad-ass. Yet, it is hard to think of another song that is as far away from being cool, or bad-ass, as ‘Don’t Give Up on Us’ is.

I just wish it had a bit more – a lot more! – life about it, is all. And glancing down the list of up and coming #1s for the year – including one more from Hutch – I worry that this might become a recurring wish. Not that there aren’t plenty of classics to come, though. So come on – think positive! I won’t give up on 1977 yet… (see what I did there?)

398. ‘When a Child Is Born (Soleado)’, by Johnny Mathis

For the third time this decade, and for the fifth time in all, the Christmas number one is an actual Christmas song. The previous two, from Slade and Mud, were very seventies, very glam. This one, though, could have been #1 at any point in chart history.

When a Child Is Born (Soleado), by Johnny Mathis (his 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 19th December 1976 – 9th January 1977

Let’s split this record in two, and start with the good half. It’s got that ‘classic standard’ feel to it, a sweeping melody of the kind that you think you must have always known. When the backing singers come in with the ah-ah-ah-aaahhs it’s quite sweet. Plus, Johnny Mathis sings it like the professional crooner that he is. A ray of hope, Flickers in the sky…

On to the bad bits… And let’s start with those lyrics. It’s all winds of change, silent wishes, brand new morns and rosy hews. It feels churlish to complain about soppy lyrics in a religious, Christmas-themed song. What kind of lyrics is it supposed to have? Except, I’m not religious, and it’s April. So there.

Plus, the production is very floaty, glossy, mid-seventies MOR goop. And there’s a stinker of a spoken section: The world is waiting, Waiting for one child… Black, white… yellow? No-one knows… It is what it is. I’m not going to knock it any more. Mathis means well, and I have fond memories of my late grandmother singing this by the tree after a sherry or three.

I had assumed that ‘When a Child Is Born’ would have been an old, old tune from the mists of time. But the melody, ‘Soleado’, was written for an Italian singer in 1972, while the English lyrics followed a few years later. It’s a skill, I guess, to write a song that sounds so timeless. Johnny Mathis had been around for a lot longer, releasing his first singles in the mid-fifties. He followed this up with ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late’, his first US #1 for almost twenty years. Some impressive longevity there. He’s still with us, aged eighty-five, having released his most recent album in 2017.

You will all be thrilled to hear that the 1970s, the decade of the Christmas #1, is not done with the festive tunes just yet. But that is some way off. Up next, we launch head-first into 1977, which marks the singles chart’s quarter century!

Listen to all the #1s from 1976, and from every year before, with this playlist:

397. ‘Under the Moon of Love’, by Showaddywaddy

In my last post, I wrote about how Chicago had forced me to take soft-rock seriously, to appreciate the subtlety, and the craft. ‘If You Leave Me Now’ was such a lovely, well-made song that it was beginning to work…

Under the Moon of Love, by Showaddywaddy (their 1st and only #1)

3 weeks, from 28th November – 19th December 1976

But here come Showaddywaddy to undo all their good efforts. There goes subtlety, flying out the window. In comes thumping, rollicking, primary-coloured rock ‘n’ roll. The 1950s, reimagined by a toddler on a sugar high. Without seeing a picture of the band, you can instantly imagine the comedy quiffs, and the colourful teddy-boy suits.

Let’s go for a little walk…! Under the moon of love! I offer you these lyrics as lead singer Dave Bartram delivers them, with an emphatic exclamation mark after each line, after each word even: Let’s! Sit! Down and talk! Under the moon of love…! He’s having a great time with this song, which means the listener – as long as they’re willing to leave their musical snobbishness at the door – enjoys themselves by the same measure.

I hate the concept of ‘guilty pleasures’. But, yes. ‘Under the Moon of Love’ is prime guilty pleasures material. ‘If You Leave Me Now’ is an objectively better piece of music, but I am enjoying this record ten times more. It’s fun, dammit! What I wouldn’t give for Showaddywaddy to invade the po-faced charts of 2021!

You were lookin’ so lovely… (Uh-huh-huh)… Because nothing says late-fifties doo-wop-slash-rock-n-roll like a well-placed ‘uh-huh-huh’… Under the moon of love! If you were being unkind, you could claim this as the final nail in glam rock’s coffin, the final fart of the corpse. The sound that can be dated right to the very start of this decade, in ‘Spirit in the Sky’ and ‘I Hear You Knocking’s fried guitar, through the huge-hitters like T Rex, Slade, Wizzard and The Sweet, down through Mud’s dancing, Gary Glitter’s prancing and The Rubettes’ falsettos. To this silly slice of rock ‘n’ roll revival.

Though to be fair, Showaddywaddy had been around since glam’s heyday, when their debut ‘Hey Rock and Roll’ peaked at #2. Since then they had revived Buddy Holly’s ‘Heartbeat’, and Eddie Cochran’s ‘Three Steps to Heaven’, while this, their only #1, kicked off a run of seven straight Top 5 hits lasting well into 1978, long after most of the big glam acts had fallen from the charts. They are still a-rocking to the this day, after a few line-up changes, on the oldies circuit.

As well as Eddie Cochran, they brought back the Kalin Twins’ ‘When’, and ‘Blue Moon’. But perhaps ‘Under the Moon of Love’ was the one that went all the way to the top simply because it wasn’t a big hit first time around. It was originally recorded by Curtis Lee in 1961, making #46 on the Billboard 100. It’s slightly better, in the way that originals usually are, while it was produced by an up and coming chap called Phil Spector.

Finally, Showaddywaddy’s turn at the top means we’ve now had a seven-piece (Pussycat), and two eight-pieces (Chicago and Showaddywaddy) atop the charts. Late ’76 seeing a reinvention of the term ‘big band’. But that run is about to come to an end, for the year’s final chart-topper is by a solo act. And I know it’s April, but we’re about to get a little festive…