Sunday, March 7, 2021



It's thursday night, it's 7.30, so it must be Top of the Pops, that covering most of my youth, from as early as I can recall, possibly aged five or so, and progressing much into middle youth, my twenties and thirties. I think I probably came off the bus in the '90s, as anonymous dance acts pretended to play, and it only took a couple of dozen sales to get in the chart, with the programme eventually running itself out of steam in the noughties. True, the time slot varied a bit, as did the length of the programme, but it was always, between those years, essential viewing, even when it was a family cringe-fest, ma and pa jutting in with their opinions, often broadly unhelpful, and requiring many Judas moments of denial that I liked that sort or thing. Or worse, if I actually did.

This song I shouldn't have liked at all, it being a novelty instrumental, a one hit wonder at that. But listen. It's actually very well played, and so it should have been, given the players. To be fair, I am wondering how much I did like it at the time, 1970, and how much it is the nostalgic feel good filter of rose-tinted earbuds. Be that as it may, I think it's a corker now.

It is actually a cover, the tune first cropping up, as above, a b-side of an already pretty hard to harvest band, Wind, who certainly evoke a me, neither response to anyone I know. They were a backing band for Tony Orlando, actually during the time he was better known for performing with Dawn. I guess Tony Orlando with Wind might prove a tad close to the bone, this instrumental the flip of Make Believe, a 1969 hit, seemingly, if not my side of the pond. Anyhow, it was picked up by Steve James of Dick James Music (DJM), then the record label for, amongst others, Elton John. Unable to pick up the rights to release the original, he picked a selection of artists available to him to recreate it. Elton allegedly played on the pilot project, but was ditched for a version with a Zack Laurence on the piano, the distinctive harmonica part possibly played by a Harry Pitch. However, by the time it came to Top of the Tops, the harmonica was being played by an Ian Duck. None of those three have any lasting backstory, but the rest of the band did, being, essentially, Elton's then backing band, later to become Hookfoot, with Dee Murray on bass, Roger Pope on bass and Caleb, brother of Finley, on guitar. A fairly huge hit, peaking at number two, courtesy the alongside presence of Mungo Jerry's In The Summertime. It then remained in the charts for eighteen weeks, and longer in the clubs, it fitting well into the then Northern Soul craze filling the dancehalls of northern England.

There were follow-ups, none successful. On the back of the UK success, Wind had their version re-released in the US, as and a-side, this time credited under the slightly safer band name Cool Heat. There have been the odd subsequent cover version, some very odd. Perhaps the oddest, and the least necessary, was by the Associates, the band the of maverick Scottish singer Billy McKenzie, more usually defined by his extraordinary vocal range and lifestyle choices. But, for posterity, I feel I should include it here.

Don't bloe it!

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