Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rockin' in '73

Has anyone ever asked you the question, "What was the first record you ever bought?" and then been hard pushed to provide an answer? Some people just cannot remember. I think in this case it could be because they are either not big into music, or it was too long ago. I have no trouble, but I tend to answer the question with other questions. "First I bought... or first I owned? First 45... or first LP?" (Note for some of our younger audience... LP stands for Long Playing record. In other words, an album.)

I can remember all of the above.

The first 45 I owned was "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds. Yeah, The Osmonds. Don't judge. I liked that record! Primarily because it was so different from their usual stuff. It had that heavy guitar riff, the tear-it-up lead vocal, the deep male chanting chorus, and that synthesiser wail simulating a horse's whinny. It rocked. I remember watching an interview with Donny in the late '80s where he told an anecdote about playing a concert in France, where "Crazy Horses" had been their only hit, and no-one knew anything of their teenybop boy-band stuff, and so consequently they played the show in front of what were the French equivalent of The Hell's Angels.

The first 45 I actually bought was different from the one I set out to purchase. First of all I should mention something about the whole record-buying process in my hometown of Tenterden, Kent, UK back in late '73. There were two places to buy records back then, one being Woolworth's (now sadly all closed down) and the other, an independent TV and hi-fi store called Potter Bros. Why I did not purchase my single from Woolies, I can't remember. All I know is I went to Potter's. But I digress. As usual.

The record I set out to purchase I am thinking was either Cozy Powell's seminal "Dance With The Devil", a hard rock instrumental from one of the greatest drummers ever to tune a floor tom, or it could also have been the classic "Radar Love" by Golden Earring. Either way, Potter's was out of stock of my choice and so I had to settle. I could NOT go out of the store empty-handed. I had come to buy a record, my FIRST record, and I was going to buy a record, gosh darnit! So I made my pick from what was in stock, and settled on "My Coo Ca Choo" by Alvin Stardust.

This was late 1973. The true glam rockers, Bowie and T-Rex, were moving on. Ziggy and Aladdin Sane were on the wane and David was already inventing his 'Thin White Duke' persona. Marc Bolan's star had risen but he was already changing his image. The glam pretenders, the bandwagon-jumpers such as Sweet, Slade, Mud, Gary Glitter et al were on the rise, filling in the gap between the Bay City Rollers and Led Zeppelin, for those who were about to rock, but not too hard. For those who wanted something harder than The Osmonds but who were too scared to buy a Sabbath record. This is where Alvin came in.

Londoner Alvin Stardust, whose real name was Bernard Jewry, first had a modicum of chart success in 1961 as Shane Fenton. His backup band was called - wait for it - The Fentones. After their final and biggest hit "Cindy's Birthday" reached UK #19 in 1962, Jewry went into management, but returned in 1973 as Alvin Stardust. He had a great look - black leather from top to bottom, including gloves, which were then adorned with huge rings on the outside. He held the mic with his hand curled over the top, emulating Elvis' semi-sneering lip-curl, and topped it off with his black Presleyan quiff-curl bouffant, and lots of meaningful deep stares into the camera from under those brows.

The lyrics to this song, as may be supposed from the title, were complete and utter nonsense.

Coo! Coo! I just want you
I really love the things that you do
Come on ! Love-a-me too
Won't you be my coo ca choo

But really, I wasn't so concerned with the lyrics as I was with the music. Big heavy riffs, followed by pseudo-Bonham caveman drumming, and Alvin's initial "Yeaahh!!" sounding like a cat that had had its tail trodden on, and we were away. As I write this, reading the lyrics for the first time in years, I wonder how they got away with them, especially purveying them to starry-eyed 7-year-old kids like myself. Particularly the verse that goes:

Tom Cat! Y' know where it's at!
Come on ! Let's go to my flat
Lay down 'n groove on the mat...

Like we can't figure out what that's supposed to mean. Really! This was 1973, and yet 11 years later Frankie Goes To Hollywood got banned by the Beeb for saying "Relax - don't do it when ya wanna come." I'm sorry, but the two are not a milion miles away from each other. 'S a funny old world we live in, ain't it?

Well, I've kept you in suspenders for long enough. You know you wanna hear it. You know you wanna see it. Here's Alvin, in all his leatherbound, bejeweled, bouffant glory.

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