Even Mike Leigh at his most misanthropic couldn’t have come up with something as grimly excruciating as this. Don’t miss “One of Great Britain’s top recording groups” about 3 minutes in, and stay for Charlie Williams making racist jokes. After that it somehow manages to keep getting worse.
We occasionally watched Wheetappers & Shunters at home and I don’t know what is more depressing: The show itself or the sad thought that I might have actually found it entertaining.
Petite, beauty-spotted singer-songwriter Lynsey de Paul originally wrote this song for the vocal trio Thunder Thighs who were famous for their backing vocals on “Walk On The Wild Side” and “Roll Away The Stone.” It was only a small hit for them in 1974, but the same year Lynsey put out her own version on the flipside of her theme song for the TV sitcom No Honestly which made the Top Ten.
She shouldn’t have hidden it away like that because this is a terrific record. Not only is it miles better than the a-side, it’s better than Thunder Thighs’ version too: sophisticated, glittery pop you can imagine Sarah Cracknell singing. Despite its shiny surface the song itself is a strange, dark affair about a policewoman shooting a stranger in Central Park at night. Shame Lynsey didn’t do more idiosyncratic songs like this and fewer themes for naff sitcoms — and made them a-sides.
Smokie (originally spelled “Smokey” until they were threatened with a lawsuit by a certain Motown legend) were a band from Bradford who had had been kicking around for years without any success before coming under the wing of the songwriting and production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman in the mid-70s. Though “Chinnichap” were famous for the Bubble-Glam hits they penned for Suzi Quatro, Mud, and The Sweet, they showed their versatility (and smarts) by not forcing the denim-clad Smokie into this mould and instead wrote some laid-back, country-rock songs for them that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an American FM radio station.
There must have been a gap in the market for a Northern English version of The Eagles — grey Yorkshire houses on the album cover instead of California hotels — because they were very successful. Their second album Changing All The Time was a big seller in 1975 down to the presence of the Chinnichap hits “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” and “Don’t Play Your Rock & Roll To Me.” They also wrote the title track which is a really lovely song, hard to believe it’s by the same guys who wrote “Blockbuster” and “Tiger Feet”.
Because of those hits my sister got the album for Christmas 1975 as a present from our Gran. She was 14 at the time and up until then had only owned Bay City Rollers and Osmonds albums so this might have been her first non-“teenybopper” record. Two years later she was into The Clash, but I don’t think Smokie were directly responsible for that. These days she really likes The Eagles which you probably can blame them for.