Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep! Why ’70s Sing-along Pop Was Sharper Than You Think | Music

ffrom Clive Dunn’s Grandad in 1970 to the St Winifred’s School Choir’s There’s No One Quite Like Grandma in 1980, Britain’s sing-along pop of the 1970s is generally dismissed as bland, sentimental, unstylish and just plain bad. Could these songs so firmly sewn into the fabric of British life really be so terrible? Don’t they have something to say about the era they come from? That was the inspiration for my book In Perfect Harmony: A Serious Look at Family Favorites that have been derided by the discerning minds of the day as, to use the colorful description of an embittered songwriter.

Britain was ravaged in the 1970s by mounting inflation, national strikes, raging debates about European integration and fears of an environmental apocalypse – a bit like the Britain of the 2020s, in fact. Amid it all, Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody was the anthem of the three-day week of 1974, the Wombles responded to the punishing drought of 1976 with the eco-disco hit Rainmaker, and the Brotherhood of Man United’s 1970 ballad We Stand was the rallying cry for an emerging gay rights movement. In other words, they were socially important. Here are 10 more sociopolitical sing-alongs.

1. Middle of the Road – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1970)

Middle of the road: Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – video

When package holidays first opened up the continent to working-class families and Ted Heath lobbied for Britain’s entry into the common market, a former Scottish hotel lounge band found themselves stranded and destitute in Italy. In desperation, they took up this happy tale of parental neglect. It sold 10 million copies. Why? “It reminded people of their holidays,” suggested drummer Ken Andrew, of a transcendental fuzzy bit of nonsense that represented the British dream of European integration.

2. Millie Small – Enoch Power (1970)

While serious blues rocker Eric Clapton drunk at a concert in 1976 would support anti-immigration brand Enoch Powell, Jamaican teen pop sensation Millie Small had made a comedic response to the conservative MP’s racist doomsday six years earlier. To an upbeat ska beat, Millie sings about leaving Jamaica to work in Powell’s Wolverhampton constituency, dreaming of a time when “all men will be brothers,” turning the dreaded Tory hardliner into an object of ridicule in the process becomes.

3. Edison Lighthouse – Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (1970)

After songwriter Tony Macaulay realized that the biggest problems in rock were the rockers who played it, he came up with Edison Lighthouse; a made-up band led by session singer Tony Burrows – who also fronted other made-up bands, the Brotherhood of Man, Pipkins and White Plains. Macaulay and co were the pop equivalent of the aliens in the legendary ad for Smash instant mashed potatoes who burst out laughing when one of them describes the old-fashioned potato preparations of idiot Earthlings. Pop, like food, was processed.

4. Lieutenant Dove – Moldy Old Dough (1972)

In the living room of Woodward’s parents in Coventry, with his 59-year-old mother Hilda at the piano, scolded by home recording enthusiasts Rob Woodward and Nigel Fletcher – and with his 59-year-old mother Hilda on piano – this rattling pub singalong Lieutenant Pigeon changed. in Britain’s first mother-and-son. 1 graph phenomenon. It also represented closing the generation gap that was being broken by the counterculture of the 1960s by being loved by children, mothers and fathers and grandparents. Lieutenant Pigeon, by the way, is an anagram for real potential – something Moldy Old Dough had in spades.

5. Paul’s Lynsey – Sugar Me (1973)

Lynsey de Paul: Sugar Me – video

North London’s Paul was a glamorous figure who was so enraged when her ex-boyfriend Sean Connery said it was okay to hit women that she kissed and told him and gave the money to Erin Pizzey’s domestic violence charity Refuge. She and fellow mainstream songwriter Barry Green wrote this gypsy jazz-influenced piece of sensual, escapist 1940s pop for one simple reason. “The 1970s were damn depressing,” Green said. “So we did big key numbers looking at the past through rose-colored glasses: those were the days, my friend.”

6. Hector – Wired (1973)

In the 1970s, pop singles were first primarily aimed at children and Portsmouth’s Hector was rightly marketed as the world’s first naughty rock sensation for schoolboys. Things went horribly wrong when, during a performance of the glamor classic Wired Up on the ITV children’s show Lift Off With Ayshea, singer Phil Brown’s dungarees ripped in half. “I prayed that the kids at home couldn’t see my underpants,” he said. “They were purple with green spots.”

7. The Sweet – Teenage Rampage (1974)

Moral campaigner and inveterate self-publisher Mary Whitehouse was looking for a new crusade when it fell into her lap. Whitehouse claimed that a raucous rocker about children across the country getting the upper hand would fuel the revolution at a volatile period in the country’s history, Whitehouse wrote to the BBC’s Lord Trethowan demanding his immediate ban. He replied that Teenage Rampage was completely harmless because it was “totally empty of real content – like all too much pop music”.

8. Jonathan King/The George Baker Selection – Una Paloma Blanca (1975)

The George Baker Selection: Una Paloma Blanca – Video

A perennial for a package holiday and a hit for both one-man pop factory King and the Dutch MOR band the George Baker Selection, Una Paloma Blanca is a reflection on the price of freedom dressed as an innocent summer favourite. It was playing on the radio when Gary Gilmore, an American double murderer who became a celebre after taking his own death sentence, was put to death by firing squad in 1977. ode to West Country life, I’m a cider drinker.

9. Tina Charles – I Love to Love (1976)

In the second half of the 1970s, suburban disco emerged – dance music for stressed adults who needed peace of mind in a climate of national strikes and economic hardship. An early example was this huge hit for East Londoner Charles, who two years later went on a promotional tour of sex stunt The Stud, the ultimate suburban disco movie, starring Joan Collins. “It was two worlds,” she says. “An IRA bomb went off at Harrods, right where I parked my car, just as Joan Collins told me, ‘Always wear a hat in the sun, honey. It keeps the skin from aging.”

10. Dollar – Shooting Star (1978)

Dollar is proof that credibility is based on image, not content. After booting out of the cabaret band Guys’n’Dolls, Thereza Bazar and David Van Day reinvented themselves as a sexy blonde duo who looked like they’d just stepped out of a salon. They were criticized critically, but on this dreamy concoction, Bazar layered her backing vocals up to 50 times, creating a heavenly haze of sound that set the template for ’80s electro-pop. Bazar was creatively brilliant, but she would never get her dues. in the way, let’s say Kate Bush was. That is the fate of the sing-along.

In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in 1970s Britain by Will Hodgkinson is now available from Nine Eight Books (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

What’s your favorite mocked mass-market hit from the 1970s? Let us know in the comments.

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