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.
The new album by Miley Cyr… WAIT! COME BACK! COME BACK! Bear with me, I swear I haven’t lost my mind.
The new album by Miley Cyrus is a collaboration with The Flaming Lips called Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz that also features Ariel Pink. Intrigued by this team-up and wanting to be hip to the zeitgeist I gave it a listen online thinking I would last about five minutes and need an ear bleaching after. But instead I discovered that… (whispers) it’s actually quite good.
Well, about 75% good anyway. With 22 tracks clocking in at 92 minutes it’s way too long and weighed down with Miley’s self-indulgent need to keep telling us she enjoys sex and drugs. She obviously thinks this is edgy and controversial but instead I just want to give her a clip ’round the ear and wash her mouth out with soap. The album’s rambling, druggy nature makes me think of it as her “Exile On Main Street” but The Stones were mature enough not to record stoner nonsense like “Fuckin Fucked Up” and “I’m So Drunk” — I don’t think Mick Jagger ever sang a teary song about his dead fish either.
But cut out all that bollocks and you have a very strong collection of trippy spacepop that is as wonderful as you might think a young girl singer fronting The Flaming Lips would sound like. As the father of a young girl myself I have opinions about the way Miley dresses and behaves, but I do admire her balls in putting out something as quirky as this. As George Michael said, listen without prejudice.
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.
One of the best things about the pop charts in the 1970s is that records like this which owe more to Jazz and Edith Piaf could become hits, as this did in 1977 when it got to #1. Most of the “novelty” hits that decade were terrible but this was classier than most and I still have a soft spot for it. Surprised to see them on Whistle Test though.
I had a little crush on their lead singer at the time and she does look rather sexy here.