In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in ’70s Britain

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In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in ’70s Britain

In Perfect Harmony: Singalong Pop in ’70s Britain

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Someone had to explore the geopolitical significance of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Middle of the Road. While Hodkinson makes sterling efforts to compartmentalise the information into chapters defined by genres and age groups (The Great Taste Of Bubblegum, Kids, The Disco Of Discontent etc), there are inevitably overlaps and the author often goes where the story takes him, resulting in an organic and fluid read. The 1970s was a remarkable decade which saw Britain creaking under the strain of social and political turmoil. Hodgkinson, top music critic for The Times and regular Mojo contributor, celebrates the records that people actually exchanged money for at a time when money was as hard to get as it's about to be, arguing quite reasonably that “if a song chimed with the mood of the nation, doesn’t it say something about the time and place it came from”. To the art school-educated Bowie/Roxy Music fans," or those pretentious sorts we mentioned in paragraph one, "Slade might have seemed hopelessly recherché; the kind of people for who a shag carpet in the bathroom and a personalised number plate on the Roller were the height of sophistication" but, as our guide points out.

The differences between the 1970s and the "new age of plastic" of the 80s are illustrated by comparing the main characters of TV high watermark Minder; Terry was the seventies, "forever bringing chirpy young women back to his dingy flat and being the kind of honest, ordinary Joe who you know would pay his union dues and join the picket line" and Arthur "with his flashy camel coat and clumsy attempts at sophistication" was the eighties incarnate. Singalong pop in ’70s Britain is a massive subject, especially given the constant juxtaposition of the music and the historical context. The story of how Kenny Everett’s constant lampooning of the Bee Gees proved to be “…the death knell for the band who took disco to the masses as a serious proposition for years to come.

The woman who ran the nursery school I attended must have gone off for a bit of sun at some stage as I can remember dancing around to that classic in her front room, all those years ago. album releases, perhaps hoping to cop a bit of his accessible glamour in an era when it was in short supply.

This is something of an epic, weighing in at 532 pages, the concept album to the subject matter’s 7” single, and such is the author’s obvious enthusiasm and thoroughness that he could have undoubtedly penned 500 pages more. From bubblegum to brickie glam, suburban disco to cabaret pop, this is the music that soundtracked everyday lives and for that reason it has a story to tell. There's a fair and decent case to be made for Slade's strikingly coiffured and perma-grinning guitarist Dave Hill as the greatest rock star ever. These were the songs you heard on Radio 1, during Saturday-night TV, at youth clubs, down the pub and even emanating from your parents' record player. In Perfect Harmony takes the reader on a journey through the most colour-saturated decade in music, examining the core themes and camp spectacle of '70s singalong pop, as well as its reverberations through British culture since.

Will Hodgkinson said: “I had a simple goal with In Perfect Harmony: to take seriously the singalong pop of 70s Britain, which so far has not been taken seriously at all. We are also treated to a rollercoaster revisitation of the wider popular culture of the time with references to the comforting presence of Morecambe and Wise, Delia Smith, Tommy Cooper, The Good Old Days and Tiswas as well as the more sinister presence of Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, The Black And White Minstrels and Love Thy Neighbour; a reflection of a rich melting pot beset by the thinly veiled tensions which epitomised the times. In Perfect Harmony takes the reader on a journey through the most colour-saturated decade in music, examining the core themes and camp spectacle of '70s singalong pop, as well as its reverberations through British culture. I, and many, others would contend that the 1970s is the greatest era of recorded popular music, where everything from reggae to rock reached its apogee - and the records just sound better - but here giants like Bowie and Roxy Music are mere background figures, over shadowed by the hit machines of Slade and Sweet.

These were the songs you heard on Radio 1, on Saturday-night TV, at youth clubs, down the pub and even emanating from your parents' record player. Against a rainy, smog-filled backdrop of three-day weeks, national strikes and IRA bombings, this unending stream of novelty songs, sentimental ballads, glam-rock stomps and finely crafted pop nuggets offered escape, uplift, romance and the promise of eternal childhood - all recorded with one goal in mind: a smash hit.Add into the mix the underlying fear created by the IRA bombings and it’s easy to imagine ten years of unremitting misery. It’s all very well for pretentious rock snobs like me to prattle on about Gram Parsons, Big Star, or even The Clash, but that’s not what people were really listening to in the 1970s. In Perfect Harmony is a definitive work; the rosetta stone for anyone interested in the true cross generational people's pop soundtrack of the 1970s. While bands such as Pink Floyd, Queen and Fleetwood Mac were ruling the albums chart; the singles chart was swinging to the tune of million-selling blockbusters by the likes of Brotherhood of Man, the Sweet and the Wombles.

Against a rainy, smog-filled backdrop of three-day weeks, national strikes, IRA bombings and the Winter of Discontent, this unending stream of novelty songs, sentimental ballads, glam-rock stomps and blatant rip-offs offered escape, uplift, romance and the promise of eternal childhood - all released with one goal in mind: a smash hit. However, if you’re not overly bothered about Clive Dunn’s life story or the trials and tribulations of Hot Chocolate and Hector, you can easily dip into the book with the help of the exhaustive index to find your favourites, be they Slade, Steeleye or Showaddywaddy. During the era of the three-day week, strikes, and - Oi, Oi - energy shortages, British ears turned en masse to cheery and optimistic fare, and who could blame them?In Perfect Harmony is a loving paean to the artists of the time set against the volatile historical backdrop; an evocative and insightful book in which author Will Hodgkinson brings to life the hardships but also the fun and frivolity of the time. The reasonably minded are now picturing Hill, perhaps dressed as a nun from outer space, and nodding.



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