In 1977 every young musician in the UK cut their hair, ditched their flares and practiced their fiercest snarl in the bedroom mirror. Any songs they had written were made shorter, sharper and angrier. The Genesis and Pink Floyd LPs were consigned to the wardrobe. If you were not punk or New Wave you were nowhere in this momentous musical year. Over a decade later a number of the veterans of the Punk Wars were still around. Older for sure, wiser maybe & probably not that richer. Now the music they made could channel their inner Lennon & McCartney, the music they had grown up with. Here are three fine examples of quality melodic pop made by three bands who started in the 70s.
As the 70s became the 80s I lived around Greenwich and Deptford and Squeeze were the local band. “The church and the steeple, the launderette on the hill” from “Tempted” always reminds me of the walk back to my flat from the station up Royal Hill. I saw them bash out a great set, on borrowed instruments at a gig to celebrate the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 (“Let’s finish the job”). Glen Tilbrook had a team in a monthly quiz which we entered at a local pub. The drummer and I shared a coke dealer. They were part of the fabric of that lovely area of South East London.
The hits stopped coming and continuity was disrupted by personnel changes. In the 80s every Squeeze LP seemed like a come-back. Each one contained great music and finely crafted lyrics by Difford and Tilbrook, “If It’s Love” is just one of them. These guys should have been writing musicals. The clumsily assembled generic storyline stapled on to a band’s back catalogue is an insult to our musical tradition. Difford and Tilbrook are successors to Ray Davies and could have been just the men to do the job properly.
I saw Robyn Hitchcock’s first band, The Soft Boys, as support to the legendary Pere Ubu at the similarly renowned Russell Club/Factory in Manchester. Blimey, that was some gig. With the Egyptians his wide musical influence and his tendency towards lyrical surrealism meant that he could be all over the place. The records, though, did contain attempts to get played on the radio and some of them are the finest pop songs of the time. “Flesh Number One (Beatle Dennis)” is an obvious variation on a Fab Four theme. The distinctive guitar of Peter Buck (nowadays in Robyn’s touring band) adds to what sounds like a hit record to me.
I love Hitchcock’s later work. I have heard his interpretations of tunes from a wide range of music but it’s his own songs that I prefer. I must try and get three of them onto this thing but there are a lot to choose from.
From the same year, 1989, as the Squeeze track this is my favourite track from XTC’s “Orange’s and Lemons” LP. I have written before about the songs of Andy Partridge .https://loosehandlebars.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/stand-up-naked-and-grin-xtc/ Here he channels his inner McCartney for his own version of “All You Need Is Love”. It is such an uplifting piece of music which has to go on repeat whenever it comes around.
All of these songs were produced by mature musicians who had probably given up on the dream of the Number 1 records but still made music. They are all worthy entrants into the list of finely crafted, intelligent British rock. It’s just that to be a “classic” you had to be around in the 60s or to be as useless as the platitudinous nonsense of Queen or Sting (spit !). Not round here they don’t.