Dr Who at Christmas: the 1970s Christmas omnibuses: Part 2

Ken Dodd’s ‘We Want to Sing’, those slightly grim visits to children’s hospital wards fronted by Leslie Crowther… Christmas television wasn’t all a bundle of fun for a child of the early 70s.  

But the Dr Who Omnibuses certainly were.  From 1971-75, these glorified adventures became a fixture of my childhood TV Christmas as much as (well, rather more than) the Blue Peter Christmas appeal, Disney Time and All Star Record Breakers. 

Part 1 gave an overview of the tradition.  Here I’m recalling the stories which made up Christmas omnibuses for 1971- The Dæmons, 1972 – The Sea Devils and 1973 – The Green Death.


1971: Dr Who and the Dæmons
Tuesday 28th December,
4.20-5.50pm 

1.10 Grandstand – introduced by Frank Bough
3.55 Here’s Lucy
4.20 Dr Who and the Dæmons
5.50 National News: weatherman Jack Scott
6.00 Tom and Jerry

‘For the first time a complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr Who’  – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-1971

Spotting The Dæmons in Radio Times so completely unexpectedly just before Christmas excited me tremendously.  The anticipation of an hour and a half of my favourite story from my favourite TV programme totally out of the blue was a thrill almost beyond belief.  There was something amazing about Dr Who brightening a mere Tuesday too.

Even better, I’d missed episode two back in the Spring as it had coincided with our Whitson (rain and mumps) break at Lyme Regis in a bungalow which needless to say had no television.

Feature length fun

Note how the Radio Times billing, (which was accompanied by a Frank Bellamy illustration depicting the Master and the Doctor) highlights the omnibus’s feature film feel, encouraging the sense that it is a post-Christmas afternoon matinee treat for all the family to gather around and enjoy.

The 4.20pm start time (earliest ever for Doctor Who to date) meant I watched it with my parents almost throughout; in 1971, Christmas deamons-bylinewas still no more than a two day break from work for many people but this year Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th were Bank Holidays.

When it came to Dr Who, my father was fully signed up to The Daily Sketch’s maxim, ‘the children’s own programme which adults adore,’ dissenting only if it got ‘a bit too silly’ (Alpha Centauri was a bugbear).  He enjoyed and even admired the programme when he got the chance to see it and the relaxed schedule of Christmas offered an opportunity to really sit back and soak it all up.  My mother flitted in and out to prepare turkey sandwiches (well it was still the 70s) and slice Christmas cake as Azal ruminated on whether or not to sacrifice the Earth.

“A pleasing terror”

As drama dealing in the supernatural, Doctor Who relates to Christmas’ associations with darkness and magic.  This is especially true of The Dæmons.

The supernatural was a popular theme in film and television in the early 70s.  December 1970 had brought the unsettling Play for Today Robin Redbreast and it’s not insignificant that regular Christmas dramatisations of M.R.James ghost stories began in 1971.  Derek Johnston’s Haunted Seasons: Television Ghost Stories for Christmas and Horror for Halloween is an excellent account of this broadcast tradition.

Undoctored

The Dæmons had been the indisuputable highlight of Season Eight, or at least it was certainly seen that way at the time.  An expensive, location feel resembled British horror and supernatural films of the early 70s, meaning the serial lent itself extremely well to feature film format.

A reprise would remind audiences of the Master’s capture at the tale’s end, a storyline which would be followed up with the Doctor and Jo visiting an imprisoned Master in the following season’s The Sea Devils.

As a five parter, once titles and cliffhanger reprises were omitted, The Dæmons came in at just under two hours long, still a trifle longer than the average film.  Perhaps it was this, or the requirements of the schedule, which dictated a trim.

Approximately thirty-five minutes are lost to give an omnibus running time of ninety minutes.  So (forgetting cliffhangers and reprises) about a fifth of The Dæmons actual storyline has hit the cutting room floor.  I don’t think it has ever been revealed who decided what should be cut but Barry Letts must have had the final say.

The omnibus drew a very respectable audience of 10.5 million viewers, more than the average of 8.3 million who viewed the original showing.

ITV were showing a number of mostly children’s programmes in opposition.  As Thames viewers, we would have had The Charlie Brown Show, the always to be avoided Junior Showtime and radio-times-dr-who-daleks-jan-1972Magpie, none of which were competition for The Dæmons.

I still remember the sense of anticlimax when the final end credit of The Dæmons – ‘Directed by Christopher Barry’ – faded from the screen along with the ‘Dddrrrrrrrrrwwwrr!!!’

Still it was only four days to go before a brand new story began and in the meantime there was a Radio Times Frank Bellamy cover to study, depicting these strange ‘Daleks’ which, curiously, my parents were already familiar with.


1972: Dr Who and the Sea Devils
Wed 27th December, 3.05-4.45pm 

1.05 Grandstand – Introduced by Frank Bough
2.35 Screen Test
3.10 Dr Who and the Sea Devils
4.35 Thursday’s Child – 1/6 adaptation
5.05 A Collection of Goodies
5.30 National News
5.40 Tom and Jerry
5.45 Fifty Years of Music – or They Don’ Write ‘Em Like That Any More

‘The complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr Who’… ‘Now you can see again the whole of the Doctor’s struggle against the Master and the strange creatures from the bottom of the sea’ – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-1972Thump!  The Radio Times Christmas number lands on our doormat and I turn straight to the after Christmas listings and – yes!  As I had hoped, The Sea Devils is there.  At this point, my expectation of a tradition was established.

The billing is accompanied by a Frank Bellamy illustration and a caption bearing all the hallmarks of an enthusiastic but not very knowledgeable Radio Times staffer: ‘Time warp time – the Doc takes on the Master and the Sea Devils’.

No turkey  

Again, the choice of story is fervently the right one.  As Season Nine finale, The Time Monster was something of a damp squib: studio bound, experimental, too cerebral at times and a bit of a mess much of the time.

The Sea Devils was expansive, exciting, glossy, stylish, all round cracking entertainment.  With its flashy seafaring escapades, the most fondly remembered story of the 1972 Season ideally lent itself to feature film format.  And then there was that splendid swashbuckling swordfight between the Doctor and The Master.  Could that be a turkey sandwich Jon Pertwee is munching?sea-devils-byline

8.7 million viewers watched The Sea Devils in December, compared to an average of a little over eight million for the original Spring broadcast.

Meanwhile, Thames opted for an afternoon lineup of Looks Familiar (30s/40s nostalgia panel show) at 3pm, The Saint at 3.30, and at 4.25 Lift Off With Ayshea (Roger Whittaker, Olivia Newton John, 10C.C., and Frankie Stevens).

As a six-parter, an unedited transmission of The Sea Devils would have a running time of 2:30.  The omnibus clocks in at 1.40, representing a loss of approximately 50 minutes.

The Sea Devils omnibus was repeated again at 10.50am on Thursday 23rd August 1973 and again on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May 1974 in place of a cricket match making it the most exposed Pertwee story within his tenure.

Who on standby

In other repeats, Day of the Daleks appeared in a one hour slot on Monday 3rd September 1973 in place of the European Athletics Championships.radio-times-dr-who-three-doctors-jan-1973

It seemed as if Dr Who was becoming a reliable schedule filler.  As a child with no interest in sport, these totally ‘out of the blue’ reappearances had a magic of their own though why I was on hand to have seen them all, I cannot say.  It was almost as if, even in the middle of a summer morning, by wishing Dr Who were on, I made it happen.

After that breathtaking Christmas Sea Devils omnibus there would be only three days to wait for the new season.  My appetite had been whetted by the charismatic threesome adorning the New Year Radio Times cover.


1973: Dr Who: The Green Death
Thursday  27th December, 4.00-5.30pm 

1.00 Racing
2.30 The World of Jimmy Young
3.15 Penguin City – narrated by Peter Scott
4.00 Dr Who: The Green Death
5.30 National News
5.40 Tom and Jerry
5.45 Top of the Pops – Ten Years of Pop Music, 1964-74 with Jimmy Saville

‘A complete adventure in one programme starring Jon Pertwee as Dr. Who.  Deep in an abandoned coalmine the Doctor faces the hideous result of industrial pollution.  Now you can see once more the whole story of the terrible threat of the giant maggots’ – Radio Times billing.

radio-times-christmas-19731973 was the Christmas of The Goodies and the Beanstalk shown at 5.15pm on Christmas Eve on BBC-2.  But even The Goodies at their best was trumped by a repeat of my favourite Dr Who story to date.

Yes, the one with the maggots.  What lovely Christmas viewing to accompany a nation collectively munching on cold turkey sandwiches.

Radio Times this time features a two panel photo-strip to accompany the billing which shows Pertwee in close-up declaring: “The maggots are all over the place!” whilst in the second panel Jo and Cliff, clambering over rocks within sight of a giant maggot, exclaim: “…come on let’s get out of here!’

BBC-1 New Season!

The 1974 season of Dr Who began not on the first Saturday of the New Year (as had been the case on 3rd January 1970, 2nd January 1971 and 1st January 1972) but two weeks before that on 15th December 1973 meaning that The Green Death omnibus fell, somewhat inconveniently, between episodes 2 and 3 of The Time Warrior.

This inauspicious timing removed some of the impetus behind a repeat as curtain-raiser to a new season, especially as Jo Grant was now a Season Ten throwback having left at the end of The Green Death.  

Green Christmas 

The Green Death was by far my favourite story of Season Ten and my favourite Dr Who story to date.  I was thrilled that it, not, as I had feared The Three Doctors, was picked as the Christmas omnibus.  The 10th anniversary story featuring William Hartnell and Patrick green-death-bylineTroughton was of course a major landmark and had a pantomime whimsicality which lent itself well to Christmas.  But no, there’s nothing like a Welsh coal mine full of giant green maggots to brighten a Yuletide afternoon.  I suspect Barry Letts would have been especially keen to push for The Green Death as the serial aired many of his environmental concerns.

For all its high revulsion factor and ecological proselytising, The Green Death also had an unusually emotional storyline: the developing romance between Jo Grant and the young Professor Jones.  At the end of episode six, Jo accepts Cliff’s proposal of marriage, leaving the Doctor to drive off alone into the sunset.  This affecting side to the story and its tear jerking culmination makes for an appropriately heart-warming story for Christmas.

Galloping home

I vividly recall being so excited seeing The Green Death again that I could hardly tear myself away to go to the toilet (though you’ll be pleased to know I did).  I can remember galloping downstairs three steps at a time to get back to the sofa.

As a six-parter, The Green Death would have been 2.30 in episode format, so, approximately 60 minutes have been lost, unfortunately a more major incision than The Sea Devils’.

The audience was a healthy 10.4 million viewers, substantially more than the average of 7.7 million who viewed the original broadcast.

Thames gave us at 4.20pm Children of Eskdale, a re-showing of Barry Cockcroft’s acclaimed documentary and at 5.20pm Lift Off With Ayshea (Slade, New World and The All Night Rock Show sing ’20 Fantastic Sounds’).

The start of the new Dr Who season had still been marked by a Radio radio-times-pertwee-et-al-dec-1973Times cover (the pre-Christmas edition) which was perhaps not the best but at least Pertwee was centre stage.  So it seemed as if the Radio Times tradition was confidently continuing along with the omnibuses.  More than that, there was November’s brilliant Radio Times Dr Who 10th Anniversary Special to enjoy and the 1974 Dr Who Annual courtesy of Father Christmas.

Next week, I’ll conclude with a look back to the omnibuses of 1974 and 1975, Planet of the Spiders and Genesis of the Daleks, and speculate as to why the tradition ended there.


Dr Who 1970s’ Christmas Omnibuses Part 1
Dr Who 1970s’ Christmas Omnibuses Part 3

 

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The Casuals: with Jesamine gone, 1970-76

1970/71: the end of the Decca years

Come early 1970, over eighteen months since the release of Jesamine and with a clutch of unsuccessful singles behind them (not to mention a commercially unsuccessful album), Decca still believed the band had a future.

Stalwart Ivor Raymonde was recruited for May 1970’s My Name Is Love (co-written by Chris Andrews) b/w John Tebb’s I Can’t Say.  Sales were over too long a period to chart and both slightly plodding songs comprise The Casuals’ weakest single to date.

On live dates, Chris Evans stood in for Howard Newcomb who was ill and when bassist Alan Taylor and drummer Bob O’Brien left in 1970, Evans became a permanent member, along with Lloyd Courtney.

Roger Grey and Steve Wallace joined the band in October 1970.

Tony Hiller (of Brotherhood of Man fame) became producer with Tebb’s eminently commercial Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady, recorded in December 1970 and released as a single in January 1971.

By now, The Casuals had grown their hair and favoured a more, well, ‘casual’ look for the 70s.

Along with changes in line-up and an updated image, the catchy Some Day Rock ‘n’ Roll Lady marked a new sound for the group, linking into bubblegum and the current rock ‘n’ roll revival mood while still sounding fresh.  A ‘toy’ feel remains given the deliberately lightweight production and there is some chirrupy laughter during the instrumental break.  The contrasting B-side was Newcomb’s A Letter Every Month, a fine song which deserved more exposure.  The single sadly made little impact.

The Decca demos

I have several demos made by the band during that 1970/71 period at Decca with either Tony Hiller, David Hitchcock or Peter Sames as producer.

Casuals, Sunday Morning Coming

 

Some sources show Hey Mary b/w Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming was recorded November/December 1970 whereas mine is stamped with a February 1971 date.

Hang On To Your Life (the Guess Who song from 1970?) b/w Let Him Live was possibly recorded November 1970.  I don’t know as I don’t have this one.

Everything’s Alright b/w/Peace Is All You Need with Peter Sames producing at Decca’s West Hampstead studios was recorded in June 1971 according to my single-sided demo though some sources say May 1971.

Who Trevor was, we might never know.

I would say all three are highly respectable interpretations of moderately strong songs with fairly low-key arrangements (no orchestra now though these are, of course, demos) suggesting some commercial potential.  The overall flavour is a kind of pop take on folk-rock or, in the case of ‘Sunday Morning Coming’, gentle country-rock.

For a while, a second album was in the offing but this was not to be and following a prolonged period of a lack of commercial success, The Casuals were dropped by Decca in 1971.

Label to label

June 1972 marked a move to Parlaphone for Tara Tiger Girl b/w Nature’s Child written by the band’s Chris Evans and with a Move-like bouncy-stomp.

There was an American Jam single for which the band were renamed American Jam Band though as both singles had the same B-side, the link was obvious.  According to John Tracy’s sleeve notes for 1991’s Casuals CD compilation, the group was probably Chris Evans and Rob Moore AKA Kansas Hook/ American Jam Band.  AnyCasuals The Witch resemblance to Jesamine is entirely accidental.

They took a punt on progressive label Dawn in June 1974 for The Witch (written by the band’s Chris Evans) b/w Good Times, both sides produced by Robin Blanchflower.  ‘The Witch’ is a last ditch attempt to be heavy (‘black eyed queen you’re the devil’s machine’) and ‘Good Times’ has zingy snyth but neither convince.

The Casuals were consigned to the cabaret circuit now that the hits had very much dried up.  They disbanded in 1976.

Fragments of an afterlife

A spell of session singing followed for John and then involvement in Big John’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus by John Goodison, founder of Brotherhood of Man.  Tebb left for France in 1987, worked solo in the south of France and, last heard of, still fronts a number of bands.  Rockafantazia profile of John Tebb (scroll down a little).

Bassist Alan Taylor had a spell with Italian jazz oriented group Ping-Pong  in the early 70s, re-emerging as Bulldog.

Taylor surfaced again for a 1977 single Song for Magdalena in 1977 which you can read as a sort of mid-70s Casuals sound.  It is smoothly competent but strains for a certain ambitiousness it cannot quite muster.

A 1982 single appeared in Italy on Polydor, Out of My Mind b/w Take Your Time credited to Casuals with music and lyrics by Alan Taylor.  I haven’t heard a copy.

Alan was involved with various Euro disco projects for a number of years.  He passed away in Italy in 2011.

On and off the record

Two CD compilations of The Casuals have been released.

Jesamine: The Casuals [Decca, 1991, Deram 820 990-2] offers eighteen tracks and sleeve notes by John Tracy.

The Very Best of the Casuals [Karusell, 1996, 552 088-2] is the superior collection, providing 20 tracks and a better selection from Hour World  though Brian Gammidge’s sleeve notes  are perfunctory (this was only ever a budget release).

The 1991 compilation is no longer available but is worth getting hold of for several tracks which don’t appear on the later comp, namely Don’t Dream of Yesterday, Touched, I Can’t Say and A Letter Every Month.  

As I mentioned in an earlier post on The Casuals, Shapes & Sounds 2: Shades of Deepest Purple from the BBC archives 1967-1971 [Top Sounds, 2008, TSSCD 003] provides interesting insights into the band live and by far the most comprehensive sleeve notes on the group’s history, with some colourful reproductions of memorabilia for good measure though, be warned, the text is tiny!

There is still plenty of room for a definitive compilation which gathers together all the single A and B-sides – including the European only ones – Hour World in its entirety, the leftover album tracks and the 1970/71 Decca demos.

Further loose ends

A few years ago I caught a request for a Casuals song on Sounds of the 60s by a former group member.  I think the requester was John Tebb, and if I remember correctly, the request wasn’t for ‘Jesamine’.

I think John may have entertained on cruise ships and in hotels and bars in the south of France for at least a few years.

According to their joint Facebook page  Howard lives now in Manchester and John in the south of France.

The Stoke Sentinel reports that The Casuals and Herman’s Hermits played a charity gig for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice in Knutton.

The Casuals Official Site

But we’ve not finished with The Casuals yet…

Ten of the Best from The Casuals


CORRECTION 26 Feb 2016:  I inadvertently reversed the A/B sides of ‘Tara Tiger Girl’/’Natures’ Child’.  Sorry about that.  The text now shows the A-side correctly as ‘Tara Tiger Girl’.


Previous posts on The Casuals

The Casuals: beyond Jesamine
The Casuals: before Jesamine: 1961- mid 1968
Jesamine Part 1

Jesamine Part 2
When Jesamine Goes: Singles 1968/69

Hour World 1969

Lynsey De Paul – No Honestly!

Embed from Getty Images

Singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul died yesterday at the age of 64.

She was one of those early-mid 70s figures who always seemed to be ‘around’ whether as a Whodunnit panellist (I got her muddled with Anouska Hempel) or as a Top of the Pops regular and, I would imagine, the musical interlude in countless comedy and variety series, introduced as ‘And now, adding a little glamour to proceedings, it’s the lovely – Lynsey De Paul!’.  But that is how it was for many women in the 70s, set to play second fiddle to the men.

Like many young males at the time, I was probably a little in love with Lynsey De Paul.  As well as glamour, she had a cheekiness and a slight air of mystique as if willingly trapped in the femme fatale role she often chose for herself.   She was looking to be rescued by a knight in shining armour.  There was a definite coy sexuality at play too as some of her record sleeves show (1974 album Taste Me, Don’t Waste Me and 1975’s frankly tacky Love Bomb though chart success was proving a little more elusive by this time).  Her music often had a 20s/30s feel which wasn’t uncommon in the early 70s.  It was the way to go if you were pure pop rather than glam or prog.

Three Sugars

Today I’ve listened to the three songs of Lynsey De Paul’s which I remember best:  Sugar Me [1972], Won’t Somebody Dance With Me [1973] and No Honestly [1974].  It’s probably the first time I’ve heard all three in nearly forty years.

I’m quite surprised that Sugar Me was her breakthrough single as it doesn’t really seem to do a lot beyond that cutely, boppy feel. It comes and goes without leaving much of a trace, well maybe a sweet aftertaste.

Won’t Somebody Dance With Me (why never a question mark at the end?) took the period mood to greater lengths and appropriately perhaps, won an Ivor Novello Award.  Inspired by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s pre-pop style, it’s coyly enticing with a pretty melody sung in Lynsey’s demurely sultry voice and is easily the best of these three songs.  It also forms my most personal associations of Lynsey De Paul and a memory of a particular weekday afternoon around late 1973.  A friend of mine, Richard, had bought the single and wanted to play it to me after school one day.  He was hugely excited about it.  So we sat on the floor beside his sister’s record player, he put the needle on the record and the music played.  He was clearly in love with Lynsey and, I think, with the song’s air of fatalistic romance.

No Honestly was the theme to the London Weekend sitcom of the same name and is still insanely castanet-catchy.  I used to tune in just to hear the theme at the start and was disappointed when the ‘No’ became ‘Yes’ and a new, hugely forgettable theme, Yes Honestly, replaced Lynsey’s.

It’s been said that she wrote a song for the 1983 Conservative Election Campaign, or was it the Party Conference?  I’m hugely relieved to find there is no trace of it.

So these three De Paul songs will suffice for me though I’d swap Sugar Me for Storm In a Teacup (which she co-wrote) if it could be The Fortunes‘ version.

There are a couple of 2CD compilations if you want the full Lynsey.

Lynsey de Paul – 11th June 1958 – 1st October 2014


More Take Three Songs

Take Three Songs… on Blackpool
Take Three Songs… by David Bowie
Take Three Songs… by Cilla Black
Take Three Songs… or early 60s instrumentals
Take Three Songs… on Suburbia

Bad Bad Dreams

No. 33 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocals: Barry & Robin
Album: To Whom It May Concern 1972


“Feel like I’m crying, there’s no use denying it’s all been done”

Showing that the Bee Gees were still strongly influenced by The Beatles as late as 1972, this is a wonderfully infectious, seemingly effortless and immaculately performed (in just one take) piece of guitar and drums rock punctuated by bursts of brass and with some great vocals (unison as well as harmony).

Bad Bad Dreams throws a spanner in the idea that the band were all about slow ballads at this time and forms a vital part of the diverse and under-rated To Whom It May Concern.

There are references to the overall craziness of the world which perhaps reflect the brother’s awareness that their ‘60s success was rapidly waning.  Lyrics are defiant – ‘For your information we still own the nation’ and at times self-addressing – ‘Your only hang-up is you hesitate’.  In fact, the song can almost he heard as a call to brotherly arms as the three musketeers muster renewed confidence that they can take on the world and win again.

Nevertheless, the album title To Whom it May Concern tells a different story.  Its anonymous greeting shows the group feeling undermined by their diminished fortunes.

No 32 You’ll Never See My Face Again
No 34 The Change is Made

Paper Mache Cabbages and Kings

No. 38 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocals: Barry & Robin
Album: To Whom It May Concern 1972 
Single B-side 1972


“Jimmy had a bomb and the bomb went bang, Jimmy was everywhere”

Paper Mache Cabbages and Kings sees the Bee Gees looking for novel ways of expressing their quirkier side.  Marked eccentricity had been a hallmark of their late ‘60s albums but tended to fade along with psychedelia so that by Two Years On and Trafalgar the quirky quotient is low indeed.  Paper Mache ostensibly attempts to resurrect a kind of playfulness but presents a darker vision, a bad trip, in fact.

On a first listen, the song seems simply weird and nonsensical.  Jumbled, arbitrary lyrics (‘cabbages and kings’ is taken from Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’) are set to a European schlager feel with balalaika-like mandolin accompaniment.

Two near-identical outer sections relate the craziness of the brothers’ lives, the strains of constant touring and travelling, of communications and missed communications (‘telegraph poles’, ‘autograph books’, ‘people you don’t meet’).   A Paper mache byline left 9ptfraught landscape is seen as if through a child’s eyes – ‘Things go dead in the night… make you want to jump with fright’.

Shredding vocals

There is a slow middle section about the pain of a broken relationship.  It’s as if the brothers pause for a moment to catch their breath – and their feelings – realising the personal casualties of their success and their own emotional burn-up.  This ‘breakdown’ section culminates in some shredding vocals from Robin – there is something disturbing yet bizarrely comical about hearing ‘paper mache’ yelled with such extreme intensity – before the deranged circus of ‘cabbages and kings’ starts-up again, now gathering pace.

We fade to the manically repeated ‘Jimmy had a bomb and the bomb went bang, Jimmy was everywhere…’ with its intimations of a child under unbearable pressure about to explode. In fact ‘manic’ is what underscores the song throughout.

So Paper Mache Cabbages and Kings turns out to be not a psychedelic fantasy after all.  Neither is it any kind of nonsense song. Actually, it’s more of a no-nonsense song: the paper mache is hearts torn apart and the cabbages and kings, the fragility of success.

No 37 Hudson Fallen Wind
No 39 Dearest

Alive

No. 42 in Top 50 Bee Gees’ Songs 1966-72

By Barry & Maurice Gibb
Lead Vocal: Barry
Album: To Whom It May Concern 1972
Single A-side 1972


“I know I should be going somewhere, I just can’t arrive”

A subtler beast than this highly commercial song at first appears thanks largely to Barry’s carefully considered dynamic vocal range, beginning intimately hushed, confessional, and becoming an impassioned realisation during a ‘build’ which is almost stuttering in its urgency.  The chorus itself is then sustaining and cathartic.

Alive’s simple, humble message ‘I know that I’m alive’ recalls ‘now I know that the world is round’ from World although there is no hint of that song’s slightly ironic undercurrent.

Alive shows the Bee Gees’ songwriting prowess was as fit and well as ever during their ‘wilderness’ years.  Peel away the layers and maybe that’s exactly what the song is about.

No 41 Lamplight
No 43 I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You

The Family Dogg: A Way of Life: Anthology 1967-1976

Double CD on RPM Records, Released 21st April 2014

Family Dogg CD cover

This is a truly comprehensive compilation weighing in at over fifty tracks across two CDs.  All single A and B sides are represented together with both the 1969 and 1972 albums in full and a slew of more obscure material.  There is a nicely produced and informative sixteen page colour booklet.

The Family Dogg was essentially the brain-child of producer Steve Rowland along with singer-songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood. Steve Rowland had produced Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich for over a year prior to The Family Dogg, scoring big chart successes with the likes of ‘Hold Tight!’, ‘Zabadak!’ and later ‘The Legend of Xanadu’.  You can hear how his production skills were brought to bear in Family Dogg’s cover of The Bee Gees’ ‘The Storm’, using layered instrumentation and repeated chant-like passages of boy/girl harmonies to create a sense of gathering drama.  The material Family Dogg had to work with was more melodically ambitious, less gimmicky than DDDBMT.  The production needed not to overwhelm the melodic appeal, so no whip-cracking here, though generously applied reverb provides a sense of dignified vastness.

The more upbeat material works best – I’ll Wear a Silly Grin (definitely a step up on The Critters), Julie’s Just Gone, Jimmy Webb’s ‘Pattern People’ and a super-charged Save the Life of My Child with some great soaring strings towards the closing fade.  A tight rhythm section drives these faster numbers as well it might – many of the earlier arrangements were by John Paul Jones with fellow  Led Zeppelin members to be Jimmy Page and John Bonham providing backing.  Familiar names such as Alan Parker, Alan Hawkshaw and Clem Cattani also lend quality support. Listen out for those nice flashes of ‘60s brass.

Smooth style

Vocals, shared between the three men but mainly Steve Rowland, are of the smooth style, the same vein as the smooth school of acting of that time – (Gerald Harper, Peter Wyngarde).  Indeed, Steve had been an actor before entering the music business and there is something slightly actorly in his vocal delivery – not a theatricalism but a rather well-judged quality, a sort of inflected seriousness of intent.

The Family Dogg was Steve Rowland first and the male triumvirate second.  Although a vital element in the group’s sound, the girls tended to play second fiddle to the guys, allowed only one lead vocal each on the first album.  Indeed, the women were replaced at a quite alarming rate – Pam ‘Zooey’ Quinn, Christine Holmes and Ireen Sheer were the mainstays.  This turnstile tendency became something of a music press joke at the time – ‘no change to Family Dogg line-up this week’.  Whilst admitting that penchants for women and fast cars sometimes got the better of him, Steve Rowland says that the press and media never understood the flexible concept of the band’s line-up, although this was something not at all uncommon at the time.

Only one in-house composition made it onto the group’s first album, strange, perhaps, given that Hammond and Hazlewood were quite capable of penning commercially successful songs for the likes of Leapy Lee (Little Arrows), Joe Dolan (Make Me an Island) and Blue Mink (Good Morning Freedom).  The group’s thoughtful signature hit, A Way of Life, also came from outside courtesy of Cook-Greenaway.

Hammond and Hazlewood’s departure to the US essentially spelt the end of the band by early 1970.  A surprisingly spartan, non-UK released cover of Early Bird’s ‘Sympathy’ was credited to ‘Steve Rowland and The Family Dogg‘.

Rowland’s talent-spotting skills proved their worth again when he took up an option to produce little known American songwriter Rodriguez.  Forty years later, this decision bore remarkable fruit as Rodriguez became an internationally hailed star whose story was told in the acclaimed 2012 film Searching for Sugar Man.

Six Rodriguez songs appear on the second and final Family Dogg album.  The View from Rowland’s Head is very much Steve’s project, as the title suggests, although Mike and Albert are still credited as members. The album embraces a diversity of styles – pop, rock, soul, gospel, country – the overall feel being less poppy, less overtly ‘produced’ than its predecessor.  Guitars are a bit more to the fore and a reflective, socially concerned mood sometimes underscores proceedings.

Slow build

The opener, I Wonder, again shows Rowland’s liking for the slow, repetitive build, this time breaking out into an impressive gospel chorus.  Riker’s Island, a Hammond/Hazlewood song marries a chain-gang chorus to searing sound effects.  Sweet America would not be out of place on Lou Christie’s 1971 album Paint America Love.

But my favourite track is Crucify Your Mind, a Rodriguez song given a lovely spacious production.  Combining a sense of inevitability with an almost cruel defiance in defeat and laced with bleakness throughout, it bears comparison with Scott McKenzie’s excellent Like an Old Time Movie.

And that was just about it for The Family Dogg save for Uptown, Uptempo Woman, a 1976 afterthought which perfectly incorporates the careful observations of Randy Edelmann’s piano solo original into a Family Dogg sensibility.

Work with Jerry Lee Lewis and later The Cure, The Thompson Twins and Japan beckoned for Steve Rowland.  Hazlewood and Hammond both found US success and one time member Kristine Sparkle (née Holmes) penned Cliff Richard’s ‘Devil Woman’.

This is a highly enjoyable collection of intelligent but commercial pop with a sunshine feel.   Some of the more obscure unreleased tracks might be of fairly temporary interest but an exception is the mysterious CD2 Track 23, Maresca-Curtis’s Joe South-like Child of Clay, given a production gloss which sounds like a great single in the making.


The Family Dogg: a tail piece 
The Family Dogg: It’s Just a Way Of Life