“Shack Up” remains a song best known as a Hip-Hop sample and, for people of a certain age, by the 1981 cover version by A Certain Ratio. The 1975 original by Banbarra wasn’t a hit but became a cult favourite in Northern Soul clubs which is where ACR would have heard it.
Not much is known about Banbarra beyond the fact that they were from Washington, DC and this was the only record they released, supposedly due to manager shenanigans. But in this age of knowing everything about every record ever made I like some things remaining a mystery, it makes the record even better.
10cc were known as a “clever” band who made quirky, pun-laden records, and even when they wrote a beautiful love song they gave it a twist and called it “I’m Not In Love”. But while the singles they made in the 1970s are some of my favourites of the decade I was never all that keen on their albums where their clever-dick tendencies often became annoyingly wacky.
But when they did show some restraint they could produce tracks like the bitterly lovely “Don’t Hang Up” from their 1976 album How Dare You. The story of a marriage from beginning to sad end which, typically 10cc, is a long, multi-part play of song told through a one-sided phone call, but untypically has a simple and low-key treatment — though they still can’t resist punny lines like “When the barman said ‘What’re you drinking?’ I said marriage on the rocks” which makes me think Elvis Costello must have been a fan of the song.
The first single I ever bought was by Wizzard (the Christmas one) and I had no idea who Roy Wood was at the time. He was just the strange bloke with crazy hair and makeup on Top of The Pops. He looked like a wizard so the band name was appropriate.
Of course I know now that Roy had previously been the founder and main creative force behind The Move and the Electric Light Orchestra and was something of a pop genius. But you never forget your first love, so the honking, Spector-ish Glam Rock of those Wizzard singles is my favourite thing he’s done. This was their first single in 1972 and it still sounds bloody bonkers and marvelous.
Who cares that England never qualified for a World Cup in the 1970s when we had Indoor League on the telly to show off our world-beating skill at pub sports? I bet the Germans were rubbish at Skittles.
Televised Shove Ha’Penny sounds like a Monty Python sketch — and looks like one too — but this was real and actually on our televisions in the 1970s. If you’re desperate to see that exciting Shove Ha’Penny final it starts around 3:25.
I’m no expert on the oeuvre of Cheap Trick but I do remember their 1979 album Dream Police being poo-pooed by some critics because of its big production and strings which made them sound like a Power-Pop ELO. Now I don’t know about you, but the idea of a “Power-Pop ELO” sounds great to me, and I’ve always loved every bombastic second of this record.