Toppermost of the Poppermost - UK Number Ones : part 3 - The 1970s

Started by daf, August 02, 2021, 01:55:00 PM

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Weird situation where there's virtually no proper info on the band - (their discography seems to be a jumble of repackaged compilations) - or why this track was even in the charts at all, let alone welded to the Top Spot for FIVE SODDING WEEKS!

Usually it's a theme from a TV show or film that kickstarts oddball nuggets like this into the popisphere, but apparently not in this case . . . In Toyah's words, It'th a Mythtery!


A pointless story about what memories this song evokes in me (a boring man off the internet) you say?

Well... I was 2 and a half years old at the time, so I have no direct memory of this being a Chart Topper, but many many (7) years later I watched the film On Giant's Shoulders, about Terry Wiles, and there's a scene in that where he and his parents (Prian Pringle and Judi Dench) are driving along in their van (I guess in 1972) and Amazing Grace comes on the radio and they all sing along.

The 9 year old me was watching On Giant's Shoulders because Terry Wiles had (before I went there) been a pupil at my Junior School, and so they'd spent a day filming us at school with him. He played himself as a nine year old, in spite of being 17 - but who else were they going to get?

So, that's what Amazing Grace means to me.


I saw a copy of The Original Version Amazing Grace in a charity shop the other day. I didn't buy it.


313.  T. Rex – Metal Guru

From : 14 May – 10 June 1972
Weeks : 4
B-side 1 : Thunderwing
B-side 2 : Lady
Bonus 1 : Acoustic Demo
Bonus 2 : Top of the Pops
Bonus 3 : Live 1976

The Story So Far & Further :  1972 - 1974
QuoteOn 5 May 1972, T. Rex released the single "Metal Guru", which, as well as causing panic on the streets of London, Birmingham, Carlisle, Dublin, Dundee, and Humberside, topped the UK chart for four disco-burning weeks in the UK.

In September 1972, T. Rex released the non-album single "Children of the Revolution" which reached #2 on the Official UK chart.

The follow-up, "Solid Gold Easy Action", released in Decemeber 1972, was another standalone single, and also peaked at number 2 in the UK chart.

The B-side, "Born to Boogie", was included on their next album . . .

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'Tanx', the fourth T. Rex album, was released on 16 March 1973.

A musical departure from previous works, 'Tanx' showed Bolan's interest for soul music, funk and gospel. Female backing singers appeared on a few tracks. New instruments such as mellotron and saxophone were featured, allowing the T. Rex sound to evolve.

The opening number "Tenement Lady" featured a mellotron and a phased effect on Bolan's vocals. "The Street and Babe Shadow", with saxophone as one of the main instruments, showed Bolan adding a funky side into his music. "Life is Strange" and "Broken Hearted Blues" were ballads closer to the old T. Rex sound, while "Shock Rock" was a boogie track.

"Left Hand Luke and the Beggar Boys" was seen by critics as a nod to gospel and featured several uncredited female backing singers, which included :  Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan, Vicky Brown, Barry St John and Sue & Sunny.

Other songs featured on the album included : "Rapids", "Mister Mister", "Country Honey", "Electric Slim and the Factory Hen", "Mad Donna", and "Highway Knees".

Bill Legend : "We never sat down as a rhythm section and figured out what we were going to do because sometimes we didn't even know what we were going to do, we just went in and heard the song are the song. But as far as Steve and I, (we) just kind of locked in pretty big together. We were similar kind of laid back characters, quiet, and we had the feel for what Marc was doing at the time. Steve and I became really good friends, Mickey (Finn) was a lovely guy as well. It's funny. Steven, I became close in a sense because we came from the same kind of working-class background and we just liked what we did. And I mean, I listened to a lot of funky stuff and soul stuff all down through the year and I just applied everything I knew into stuff that Marc was actually recording at the time."

The album peaked at number 4 in the UK Albums chart, number 3 in the Germany, and number 5 in Norway. 'Tanx' failed to match the success of 'The Slider' in the US, reaching only No. 102 in the Billboard 200.

At the time, the album received favourable reviews in both the NME and Record Mirror. However, it was derided by Rolling Stone - Pop Expert Paul Gambaccini wrote : "This one album might have made a good EP [...] I can't see many people being truly pleased with it. But I've been wrong before."

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Their next single, "20th Century Boy", another non-album single, was recorded on 3 December 1972 in Toshiba Recording Studios in Tokyo, Japan, and released in March 1973 - the same month as their 'Tanx' album.

The lyrics, according to Bolan, are based on quotes taken from notable celebrities such as Muhammad Ali. This can be seen through the inclusion of the line "sting like a bee", which is taken from one of Ali's 1969 speeches.

"20th Century Boy" entered in the UK Singles Chart at number 3 on 10 March 1973 and remained at that position for three weeks in a row. The B-side, "Free Angel", another non-album track, was recorded during the first session for the 'Tanx' album, between 1 and 4 August 1972.

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Their next single, "The Groover" marked the end of the golden era in which T. Rex scored 11 singles in a row in the UK top ten. The single was in the UK Singles Chart for a total of nine weeks, peaking at Number 4 in June 1973 - making it the last T. Rex song to enter the UK top ten.

Yet another standalone single, both "The Groover" and its B-side, "Midnight" were non-album tracks.

"Truck On (Tyke)" (b/w "Sitting Here"), another non-album single, was released in November 1973.

Marc Bolan : "Truck On (Tyke) is my 14th hit record and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it didn't make number one."

Despite Bolan's optimism, the record was poorly received critically and did not perform as well in the charts as previous T. Rex singles. The single was in the UK charts for a total of eleven weeks, peaking at #12.

Later, Marc would claim the move to be deliberate, stating that its release : "was a planned thing. I wanted something not so good to happen to compare [future material]  against."

After releasing records under the 'T. Rex' name since 1970, the single "Teenage Dream", (b/w "Satisfaction Pony"), was the first release to be credited to 'Marc Bolan and T. Rex'.

Released in February 1974, the single was co-produced by Tony Visconti and Bolan, and featured Lonnie Jordan of War on piano. It spent five weeks in the UK top 40, peaking at number 13.

Ken Barnes of Rolling Stone, wrote in a 1974 article that the song "suffers from pointless, jumbled lyrics and self-conscious Dylan-styled intonations and drags on for far too long." Bolan, however, regarded "Teenage Dream" as the best lyric he had written, so up your butt with a coconut, Barnso!

Written and recorded while on tour in the United States in August 1973, the song was included on his next album . . .

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'Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow' was released by in February 1974. It was the first and only album to be released under the name "Marc Bolan & T. Rex".

The T. Rex band was expanded for this release, incorporating second guitarist, Jack Green, session player B.J. Cole on pedal steel, and backing vocalists 'The Cosmic Choir', a soul duo comprising Bolan's lover, Gloria Jones and Sister Pat Hall, sometimes augmented by Gloria's brother Richard Jones.

Musically, the band ventured into blue eyed soul and blended rock with funk and R & B influences. Lyrically, the album harkened back to the Tyrannosaurus Rex days with long song titles and lyrical complexity.

Songs featured on the album included : "Sound Pit", "Galaxy", "Change", "Nameless Wildness", "Liquid Gang", "Carsmile Smith & the Old One", "You've Got to Jive to Stay Alive – Spanish Midnight", "Interstellar Soul", "Painless Persuasion v. the Meathawk Immaculate", "The Avengers (Superbad)", and "The Leopards Featuring Gardenia & the Mighty Slug"

Most of the basic recordings were done at Musicland Studios in Munich in 1973 between February and June. The album was mixed later that year after the band's return from their US tour. The mixing was difficult as Bolan was often smashed out of his bonce on booze and drugs. He wanted to keep control and didn't listen to any of producer Tony Visconti's advice. Soon after the album's release, Bolan split with Visconti.

Tony Visconti : "Zinc Alloy was supposed to be "one more for the kids" – it wasn't, it wasn't really anything. There's some great songs on it, but it's not the best T. Rex album. I don't like too... I mean he's not with us... but Marc had started drinking heavily – not that I'm an angel – but in the studio it was getting ugly and even other members of the band would not be at the sessions. Bill Legend quit at the time. I had one last plea with him, and said why don't you take some time off... we had this [unreleased] album, The Children of Rarn, on tape somewhere, so I said "why don't you take a year off". Pete Townshend did it when he wrote Tommy. But no, it was "one more for the kids" which wasn't helping him with the kids, or anybody, that last album. It's not the best album. But you know, to take a year off, he looked at me like, "are you crazy? I have to make another single" Even the the last single we made together, Truck On (Tyke), didn't even make the top 30..well... it stayed there for a day! It's sad. He couldn't accept that. He had to make a better single. But you know, these things have a peak and a trough. Life's like that. But he couldn't accept that. So after that, and a couple of other issues I had with him, including payment – he tried to cut my out of my royalties all of a sudden – things just soured, it was not the best conditions to work under. One of my best friends was treating me like that, so we called it quits."

Drummer Bill Legend had stopped working with Bolan by this time, and in December 1974, percussionist Mickey Finn also left the band.

Bill Legend : "I think it was probably personal family time, you know? I had three young children at home and I never got to see them. I wasn't a money grabber. but I just feel, I kind of saw things weren't the same and other introductions coming into the whole situation. I really didn't know what was going on, but I just felt uncomfortable. I did the tracks on the Zinc Alloy album as well and was just kind of, it wasn't the same kind of comradery.  Steve carried on because he was that kind of guy. He was there, he did the job, enjoyed playing. I already had my young family at home.  I had a good job. I was financially better off doing my illustration and artwork than I was on the road at that time. So basically, it was that kind of story, it just wasn't the same, it just wasn't the same anymore. Then I think I was in Australia at the time, my last gig was Brisbane, and I was thinking, they talk about we can go whatever way you like, and then get back together and stuff like that, and I just I didn't want go any further really. I didn't really think musically it was gonna be the same. But anyway, that's just my personal feelings at the time, it was nothing to do with anyone else. I just kind of saw what I consider was the beginning of not so much the end but it wasn't the same."

Initial pressings of the album featured a multi-layered triple gatefold sleeve, a latticework image of the current cover featuring Bolan's face in a pale gold surround, meant to fold-out into the 'Creamed Cage' of the subtitle.

'Zinc Alloy' was met with bemusement by the listening public. It reportedly confused listeners and divided the band's fanbase at the time. Poorly received upon release, with "universally hostile" reviews, the British press slammed T. Rex for copying the title of the album on Dave Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, even though Bolan had spoken of releasing work under the pseudonym "Zinc Alloy" during the mid-1960s.

While contemporary reviews were universally negative, critical re-evaluation has been slightly more favourable, but it remains an oddity in the T. Rex canon due to its style incorporating funk and R&B influences. The album, released five weeks after the end of the UK Tour, peaked at number 12 in the UK Albums chart.

Tony Visconti : "I think the only mistake made was that, that audience, those girls and the few guys that adored him, grew older. And that's the way pop works. Just in a few short years, some of them were going over to the Bowie camp and other things and you know, kids do grow up. And it was crystallised in that film, Marc thought that this is the way it's always going to be. After that we made some fantastic records, I love The Slider and Tanx and all that, but we clearly lost that audience... it's ironic now that in later years, a lot of teenage kids look to that music now. But the truth is the core audience [at the time] dwindled and it did make him angry. He couldn't figure it out and was frustrated."

Unlike many of T. Rex's previous albums, it was not released domestically in North America; instead, the record company released the U.S.-only 'Light of Love' in August of the same year . . .

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'Light of Love', released in August 1974 included three tracks : "Teenage Dream", "Explosive Mouth" and "Venus Loon", previously released in the UK on the  'Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow' album, together with 8 new songs recorded in the Spring of 1974 at Music Recorders Inc. Studios in Hollywood.

The album was engineered by Gary Ulmer and, in the absence of Tony Visconti who had left T. Rex production duties, was produced by Bolan himself.

Despite considerable publicity and a US tour, 'Light of Love' did not chart in the US. The reasons are disputed, but it permanently ended Bolan's attempts to gain stardom in the United States' pop market. By this point, Bolan's USA record label Reprise Records had dropped him and he had much difficulty finding a new label to sign him, but eventually signed to Casablanca Records. However, Casablanca was going bankrupt around the time and resulted in this being the last album of the band's to be released in the US.

Tony Visconti : "He is one of the all time greats. It's partly Marc's fault that he isn't always recognised as such because he didn't make it in America. He didn't do well there for some reason. It overwhelmed him. I saw many of his live performances there and he did not make it with Americans for some reason. The guys with the beards and the flannel shirt were still in power over there, while Glam Rock was a totally British invention. And he was the king of Glam Rock, if you want to pick such a ridiculous title."

After its failure, he concentrated on the UK again. The eight new tracks were recycled and included on the next UK album 'Bolan's Zip Gun'.

The Single :
Quote"Metal Guru" was written by Marc Bolan, and recorded by T. Rex.

"Metal Guru", the band's fourth, and final, official number one on the UK Singles Chart, topped the chart for four weeks from May–June 1972. It was also included on the album 'The Slider', released in July 1972.

Marc Bolan : "Is a festival of life song. I relate 'Metal Guru' to all gods around. I believe in a god, but I have no religion. With 'Metal Guru', it's like someone special, it must be a godhead. I thought how god would be, he'd be all alone without a telephone. I don't answer the phone any more. I have codes where people ring me at certain times."

Despite coming only ten months after the success of "Get It On", it failed to chart in the United States. The song reached No. 45 in Canada in July 1972.

Other Versions includeTop of the Poppers (1972)  /  Električni Orgazam (1983)  /  Smashed Gladys (1985)  /  The Smiths (1987)  /  Rooney (2005)  /  T Rextasy (with Linda Lewis & Clem Burke) (2007)  /  Danny McEvoy (2012)  /  High Speed Dubbing (2012)  /  Grace Clarke (2013)  /  Moopies (2017)  /  Steve Riks (2017)  /  Nightcore (2017)  /  Calling All Astronauts (2018)  /  Randy McSorle (2018)  /  Nena (2020)  /  The Pricks (2020)  /  rrchan (2021)

On This Day :
Quote14 May : A 13 year old Catholic girl is shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries in Ballymurphy, Belfast
15 May : Nigel Green, South African-born British character actor, dies of an accidental barbiturate overdose aged 47
15 May : "Hard Job Being God" opens at Edison Theater NYC
15 May : Bus plunges into Nile River killing 50 pilgrims in Minia, Egypt
16 May : Melvin Van Peebles' musical "Don't Play Us Cheap" opens at Barrymore Theater, NYC; runs for 164 performances
17 May : The IRA fires on workers leaving the Mackies engineering works in west Belfast
19 May : Jenny Berggren, singer (Ace of Base), born Jenny Cecilia Berggren in Gothenburg, Sweden
20 May : Busta Rhymes, rapper, born Trevor George Smith Jr. in Brooklyn, New York City
20 May : "Hard Job Being God" closes after 6 performances
20 May : Walter Winchell, American newspaper columnist, dies aged 75
21 May : The Notorious B.I.G., rapper, born Christopher George Latore Wallace in Brooklyn, New York
21 May : "Heathen!" opens & closes at Billy Rose Theater NYC after 1 performance
21 May : "Lost in the Stars" based on the novel "Cry the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton closes at Imperial Theater NYC after 39 performances
22 May : Margaret Rutherford, English actress, dies aged 80
22 May : Ceylon becomes Republic of Sri Lanka as its constitution is ratified
22 May : Over 400 women in Derry attack the offices of Official Sinn Féin in Derry, North Ireland, following the shooting of William Best by the "Official" Irish Republican Army
22 May : Cecil Day-Lewis, Irish poet, detective writer, and British Poet Laureate, dies of cancer at 68
23 May : Rubens Barrichello, Brazilian formula one driver, born Rubens Gonçalves Barrichello in São Paulo, Brazil
26 May : Alan White, drummer (Oasis), born Alan Victor White in Lewisham, London
26 May : Patsy Palmer, actress (Eastenders), born Julie Anne Harris in Bethnal Green, London
26 May : Blue-chinned ghoul US President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev sign SALT accord
26 May :  The IRA plant a bomb in Oxford Street, Belfast, killing a 64 year old woman
27 May : "Applause" closes at Palace Theater NYC after 900 performances
28 May : The Watergate burglars succeeded in their second attempt to break into the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.,
28 May : Abdicated king Edward VIII, dies aged 77
29 May : The Official IRA announce a ceasefire
30 May : The Angry Brigade goes on trial over a series of 25 bombings throughout Britain.
1 June : Dmitri Shostakovich's 15th Symphony, Dutch premieres in West Berlin
1 June : Tswanaland becomes Bophuthatswana in South Africa
1 June : West German police arrest Red Army Faction leader Andreas Baader
1 June : Pablo Picasso completed his final painting, The Embrace, at his home in Mougins, France.
1 June : Alice Cooper released their breakout album "School's Out"
2 June : Two British soldiers die in an IRA land mine attack near Rosslea, County Fermanagh
2 June : The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Indian tribes filed Joint Tribal Council of the Passamaquoddy Tribe v. Morton, a suit against the State of Maine
3 June : French Open Women's Tennis: American Jelly Bean King wins her only French singles title; beats Evonne "Ging-Gang" Goolagong of Australia 6-3, 6-3
6 June : Dave Bowie releases the album "The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"
6 June : US bombs Haiphong, North-Vietnam; 1000s killed
7 June : Musical "Grease" opens at Broadhurst Theater NYC for 3,388 performances
7 June : E. M. Forster, British novelist, died aged 91
8 June : Jimmy Rushing, American blues pianist and singer, dies aged 70
9 June : Bruce Springsteen signs a record deal with Columbia
10 June : Elvis Presley records a live album at NYC's Madison Square Garden

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! :