This week is a tribute to Walter Becker who died, aged 67, this week.
Becker was co-founder of American rock,jazz group Steely Dan along with Donald Fagen.
Steely Dan were more of an album band, and their jazz/rock American style didn’t resonate with younger UK record buyers, so didn’t have much single chart success. They had two top forty hits in the UK. They did much better in the US. Their biggest hit in the US “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” reached number 4 in the States in 1974 but only managed a lowly 58 in the UK!
Becker was a songwriter and played bass guitar and provided backing vocals in the group. However, he is relatively unknown as Fagen’s distinctive vocals tended to provide the focus. This doesn’t detract from Becker’s musicianship and massive contribution to one of America’s great bands.
Becker wrote today’s songs which are my two favourites of theirs.
“Do It Again” remixed here by Cubanix (but still almost the original). The original reached number 6 in the US in 1973 and 39 in the UK in 1975.
(Uploaded to YouTube by Cubanix)
Interestingly when it was covered along with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” by Italian producers Clubhouse in 1983 the song “Do It Again- Billie Jean” reached number 11 in the UK. The similarity between the rhythm of the two songs made for a catchy club hit. Becker and Fagen were credited for the use of their song. It only reached 75 in the US which just shows the disparity between the UK an US in music sometimes!
“Do It Again Billie Jean” by Clubhouse
(Uploaded to YouTube by Len E Bones)
“FM (No Static At All)” from 1978 reached number 22 in the US (49 in the UK)
Becker plays the guitar solo starting at 3:02
(Uploaded to YouTube by Moon doggy)
RIP Walter Becker.
This week it’s one of my favourite bands, British band The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO). They were formed in 1970 by members of The Move; Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan. The idea was to incorporate elements of classical music in pop, adding violins, cellos and some woodwind and horns
In America, where they did better initially, they were apparently known as “the English guys with big fiddles” !
In 1972, Roy Wood left to form Wizzard.
This band with it’s very distinctive use of strings have produced some of the best quality pop songs in the 70s and 80s but somehow seemed to pass the “cool” music press by. Despite not being beloved by critics they were loved by the public, their singles doing very well and their albums in particular, selling in the many millions.
Jeff Lynne ceased with the band in 1986 and went on to produce other artists and do other things such as being part of superstar group “The Travelling Wilburys” with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison & Tom Petty.
Drummer Bev Bevan continued with “ELO Part ii” and “Orchestra” and eventually sold his share of the band back to Lynne.
In recent times thanks to Jeff Lynne doing Glastonbury and other concerts, interest was rekindled and the band revisited their former hits and then produced new music as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”, winning “Band of the Year” in 2016 at the Classic Rock, Roll of Honour Awards. It was only this year they were finally inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2017”
Their greatest hits albums still sell very well as people realise just how good they were.
ELO had 27 top forty hits, including 15 top tens and 1 number one.
Their first hit was “10538 Overture” which reached number 9 in 1972.
Their only number one was “Xanadu” with Olivia Newton-John which stayed at the top spot for two weeks in 1980 and was from the musical film of the same name. Whilst a decent record, it is a shame that none of their other songs didn’t hit number 1 as there are loads deserving of the top spot. Just some worthy of that are “Mr Blue Sky’, “Livin’ Thing”, “Evil Woman”, “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” , “Telephone Line” and “Don’t Bring Me Down” which was their highest other hit which reached number 3 in 1979.
“Showdown” reached number 12 in 1973. One of their earliest hits and a favourite of mine. Love the violin riff throughout and the break distortion at 02:44.
(Uploaded to YouTube by TheMaster974)
“From the End of the World” wasn’t a single (why?!) but is one of my favourite tracks of theirs. It’s from the 1981 concept album “Time” which had a time travel concept about a man from 1980 going to 2095. The album is not one of their most well known, but still reached number one and is now considered to be the most influential of their catalogue due to it’s concept.
(Uploaded to YouTube by ELOVEVO)
This week it’s British music icon Peter Gabriel. He rose to fame in the 1970s as lead singer and concept artist to prog rock band “Genesis”. He left the band in 1975 to pursue a solo career and was replaced (somewhat reluctantly at first) by their drummer Phil Collins.
As a solo artist he has had 10 top forty hits including 4 top 10s. He first charted at number 13 in 1977 with “Solsbury Hill” when he followed up with “Games Without Frontiers” which got to number 4. His major breakthrough came with “Sledgehammer” in 1986 (of more later).
He went on to champion world music, founded his own record label, and has been involved in humanitarian causes and benefit concerts and co-founded WOMAD (World of Music Arts Dance).
He has received many prestigious awards for both his music and his humanitarian work including three BRITs, six Grammys, thirteen MTV video awards, first “Pioneer” award at the BT Digital Music awards, Lifetime achievement” from the Ivor Norvello and Q awards, icon award at the British Music Industry awards and “Man of Peace” award from the Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
“Sledgehammer” reached number 4 in 1986. It won a record nine awards at the 1987 MTV video awards! The video was groundbreaking and is the most played video in the history of MTV.
It’s so well known that I’ve decided not choose that video here (it can be found easily!) but concentrate on the song which in itself is a masterpiece of 80s production.
(Uploaded to YouTube by fendergibsonsounds)
“Steam” reached number 10 in 1993.
(Uploaded to YouTube by Edifice5151)
My favourite of his “Big Time” reached number 13 in 1987 and has already been featured on this blog Here
This week it’s American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Boz Scaggs.
Scaggs had a unique bluesy voice which added character to his songs.
He had four top 40 hits in the UK including one top ten, all in the 70s.
He is probably best known for “Lido Shuffle” which funnily enough wasn’t his highest charting hit. “Lido Shuffle” peaked at 13 whereas “What Can I Say” managed number 10 earlier the same year.
However, his most famous song is probably best known sung by someone else. “We’re All Alone” was released as a B side of “Lido Shuffle” but was covered by Rita Coolidge and reached number 6 in 1977 becoming one of her biggest hits.
Here are two of his songs.
“Lowdown” reached number 28 in 1976 (number 3 in the US)
(Uploaded to YouTube by BozScaggsVEVO)
”What Can I Say” reached number 10 in 1977 (number 42 in the US)
(Uploaded to YouTube by MrB0jangles70)
The US and UK obviously had differing opinions on which was the better song!
This week we have two massively catchy one hit wonder songs from 1979 which is my favourite year in pop. This was a massively strong year with all the biggest hitters in music active. These two songs burned brightly for their artists who couldn’t match their success again.
“Pop Muzik” by British band M was number 2 for two weeks in May 1979. It would have been a number 1 most other times but 1979 was a strong year. It was held off the top spot by “Bright Eyes” by Art Garfunkel which turned out to be the biggest selling hit that year and that number one was deposed by “Sunday Girl” by Blondie which was the 9th biggest hit that year. “Pop Muzik” was the 14th biggest hit, so not too shabby!
disco version of “Pop Muzik” by M
(Uploaded to YouTube by Clasicos de la Disco)
Next up is “My Sharona” by American rock band The Knack. This song reached number 6 in June 1979 in the UK. It didn’t make the UK 100 songs of the year
but it did top the US BIllboard hot 100 year end song list beating off competition from Donna Summer, Chic, Rod Stewart and many other famous artists. The song is famous for its very distinctive drum and guitar riff.
(Uploaded to YouTube by TheKnackVEVO)
The new year kicks in and as the tree and decorations are put away for another year, we have two downbeat tunes from 1981! They come from two massive 80s new wave bands who were influenced by reggae and ska music.
First up is “Invisible Sun” by The Police from the album “Ghost in the Machine”
If you asked people to name a Police song I bet this wouldn’t feature highly. It’s album mate “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” is far more famous and popular, due to its light poppy lyrics, but for me the political, thought provoking “Invisible Sun” is far superior. It was banned by the BBC due to its lyrics and video being influenced by the troubles in Northern Ireland. It still managed to reach number 2 in the charts. I remember buying the single and placing it on the turntable and hearing the fabulous low key yet haunting counting intro leading into a bleak verse with a hard hitting more uplifting chorus. Andy Summer’s guitar riff and solo is fantastic and Stewart Copeland’s drums are brilliant, along with Sting’s strong vocal. A very underrated track.
(Uploaded to Youtube by Golden Eighties)
Next up is another famous band from the 80s, Madness. They are known for their ska sound and upbeat wacky songs (and even wackier videos!) sung in a talking style by lead singer Suggs. In keeping with the bleak theme from the Police, here is a lesser known song which is downbeat, for them anyway! Here is the official video of “Grey Day” by Madness
(Uploaded to Youtube by Metropolis Touring)