Single of the week

Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)

Back in the early 1980s when I was working at Radio 1, I witnessed something I never expected. There was a wonderful executive producer named Doreen Davies who was much loved and respected by virtually everyone who knew her and worked with her. Her role was immeasurable and her favourite line was, “My door is always open” and it genuinely was. She had time for everyone, but this week’s suggestion was a record she never liked and gave strict instructions that it was never to be played on daytime radio. Someone broke that rule on the breakfast show. Doreen heard it start as she arrived at Broadcasting House one morning. She marched to the studio, took the needle off the record and instructed the DJ to see her after the show. She deemed the lyric, ‘even when she was giving head’ too gross for radio play – this was the 1970s and things were very different then.

It had nothing to do with the song being about prostitution that upset her, it was just that line. The song tells us about Holly, Candy, Little Joe, Sugar Plum Fairy and Jackie who are all real people and all with the Andy Warhol connection. Each verse of the song introduces us to someone different. The song opens explaining that ‘Holly came from Miami, F.L.A’ and hitchhiked her way across the USA. Holly Woodlawn, like Candy Darling and Jackie Curtis, are all real drag queens who appeared in Warhol’s 1972 movie Women In Revolt. “I always thought it would be kind of fun to introduce people to characters they maybe hadn’t met before, or hadn’t wanted to meet,” Lou Reed once said.

Holly had a tough upbringing, “My father got a job at a hotel, so we moved from New York to Miami Beach,” she explained in an interview with The Guardian in 2008. “I was going to school, getting stones thrown at me and being beaten up by homophobic rednecks. I felt I deserved better, and I hated football and baseball. So, aged 15, I decided to get the hell out of there and ran away from home. I had $27, so hitchhiked across the USA. I did pluck my eyebrows in Georgia. It hurt! My friend Georgette was plucking them and I was screaming, but all of a sudden, I had these gorgeous eyebrows and she put mascara on my eyes. We ran into some marines in Lafayette in South Carolina. They tried to attack me. I was 15 and not used to this stuff. I was sitting in a car with this marine, terrified that he was going to rape me and kill me. I said, ‘I’ve never done this before.’ He said, ‘You don’t wanna have sex with me?’ I said it wasn’t that I didn’t find him attractive, I just didn’t want to do it. But he was wonderful. He protected me. While Georgette was in a motel screaming and yelling with 18 marines but having a good time, he said, ‘When you’re with me, nothing will happen to you.’ And they drove us all the way to New Jersey.”

The journey continued to New York and then Holly continued the story, “In New York I was living on the street. Then I met Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling, and they’d watch Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo movies at 1am. There was this club called Max’s Kansas City. Jackie and Candy had just done this movie called Flesh, and they said, ‘You have to meet Andy Warhol. He’s gonna make you a superstar.’ I didn’t want to be a superstar. My wig looked like yak hair. One day Jackie put on a show and I was in the chorus. I saw this bag of glitter and a jar of Vaseline, and smeared myself with it and got this boyfriend to throw the glitter on me. The film director Paul Morrissey said, ‘I don’t know who she is but she’s a star.’ Next thing Paul’s calling me up to star in a movie called Trash, and the rest is history.”

One day a friend called me and said, ‘Turn on the radio!’ They were playing ‘Walk On The Wild Side.’ The funny thing is that, while I knew the Velvet Underground’s music, I’d never met Lou Reed. I called him up and said, ‘How do you know this stuff about me?’ He said, ‘Holly, you have the biggest mouth in town.’ We met and we’ve been friends ever since.”

The second verse says, ‘Candy came from out on the Island, in the back room she was everybody’s darling’ – Candy had already been mentioned at the subject of a Velvet Underground tracks called Candy Says. She grew up on Long Island and ‘the island’ was a regular feature in ‘the back room’ which was a real room at Max’s Kansas City, a club in New York. The third verse tells us of Little Joe, a nickname for Joe Dallesandro, the actor who appeared in the film Flesh, which was about a teenage hustler. In a 2014 interview, he claimed he was still to meet Reed when the song was written and offered that the lyrics were based on his character in the film and not his person.

The Sugar Plum Fairy in verse four was a reference to the actor Joe Campbell, who played a character of the same name in Warhol’s 1965 film, My Hustler.

The song was produced by both David Bowie and Mick Ronson and features an iconic bassline provided by future Sky musician Herbie Flowers and the baritone saxophone solo was played by Ronnie Ross who knew David Bowie because he lived near him and when Bowie was a teenager he asked Ross to give him saxophone lessons which he duly did. Bowie arranged for Ross to do the session but didn’t want to be there until afterwards. Ross did the take in one and Bowie walked in a surprised him. The ‘do-do-do-do-do-‘ backing vocals were provided by the all-female trio Thunderthighs who were Karen Friedman, Dari Lalou & Casey Synge and had their own hit in 1974 called Central Park Arrest.

The B-side of the single, Perfect Day was just as famous and eventually achieved greater success when it became a top 30 hit in 1995 for Duran, a minor hit later the same year for Kirsty MacColl And Evan Dando and a number one in 1997 when  was recorded by Various Artists as the Official song for Children In Need.

Walk on the Wild Side has also been ‘borrowed’ by other acts, namely by A Tribe Called Quest who used the bassline in their hit Can I Kick It? and again by Ant and Dec on their 1997 top 10 hit Shout. It has featured highly in various television shows including three episodes of The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210 and Master of None.

What happened with all those people long after the hit? Holly continued to act in various films her last being The Lie in 2010 and died of brain and liver cancer in December 2015. Candy Darling died of lymphoma in March 1974 aged just 29. Little Joe Dallesandro was a Florida-born actor and during the 1970s appeared in a few Italian or French-made films before returning to the USA in the mid-80s. Later that decade he appeared in Critical Condition with Richard Prior (1987), Cry Baby with Bruce Willis (1990) and Guncrazy with Johnny Depp (1992). He semi-retired in 2009 and is now 73 and living in Los Angeles. There is one part of him some people will remember but not know it’s him and that’s on the cover the Rolling Stones 1971 album Sticky Fingers – It’s his crotch with the real trouser zip.

As for The Sugar Plum Fairy, actor Joe Campbell, It was revealed in The Guardian in 2015, “In 1955, he entered into a love affair with an older man, with whom he lived for seven years – that older man, Harvey Milk, would later find fame as the highest profile gay politician in the US. His late 60s boyfriend, Billy Sipple, became famous in September 1975, when he thwarted Sara Jane Moore’s attempt to shoot Gerald Ford. Campbell himself died at home in California in 2005, after 29 years of a relationship with Stanley Jensen.”

Finally, with regards to Jackie Curtis, she began writing poetry and plays and had two small parts in Underground U.S.A. (1980) and A Coupla White Faggots Sitting Around Talking (1981) a long-lost satire. She turned to drugs and the addiction took its toll and she died of an overdose in May 1985 aged just 38.

Lou Reed himself outlived most of the characters he made famous in his song. He suffered from hepatitis and diabetes for many years, but developed liver cancer in around 2012. He underwent a liver transplant the following year but died just five months later from a liver disease. He was 71. He was married to Laurie Anderson who had the memorable 1981, number two hit, O Superman.

His classic song now serves as a memorial to some long-forgotten names from a very different world back then which would be more the norm in the 21st century.

Straight Lines (New Musik)

This week’s suggestion came from a man who I know has good taste in music much it from the late 70s and early 80s and this group, I feel, never got the recognition they deserved despite much radio play on Radio 1 and plenty of support from DJs like Peter Powell, Kid Jensen and Mike Read. They are New Musik.

Originating south of the capital, but lead singer and songwriter Tony Mansfield said in an interview with Miklos Galla in the mid-80s, “We don’t really come from anywhere. We’ve just been doing basically what we’re doing now, but for different people. Before New Musik I was doing sessions for various people. Nobody really that well known, just sessions in general: playing guitar in a unit of local musicians – I say local, I mean south London area. I mean I’ve done various different jobs and I left school at the age of 15 with the intention of becoming a rock star. It didn’t actually work out.”

New Musik were formed in 1977 by Mansfield who explained, “Initially New Musik was a three-piece band which was myself, Phil Towner as a drummer and Tony Hibbert was the bass player. The majority of the keyboards I did myself, although I came across more as the guitarist and the singer. And then the fourth member, Clive Gates, was brought in, mainly as an additional member, it was a very small unit so it was necessary to make it a four-piece band.” Nick Straker, who was a friend of Mansfield’s from the same area was briefly in the original line up. Straker explained how he got involved, “Most of us went to the same school (Spencer Park in South London which no longer exists) this also includes Dennis Bovell and other members of the original Matumbi. I joined a disco band in 1976 called Limmie Funk Limited (Limmie was from Limmie and the Family Cookin’) Pete Hammond was the bass player, Phil Towner was the drummer and Tony Mansfield actually became our Roadie for a time! The intention was for myself, Tony, Phil and Tony Hibbert to form a band and start putting down some tracks at a studio (TMC) where we had a deal to record and pay later.” Straker went on to form his own band and had one hit in 1980 called A Walk in the Park on which Mansfield played guitar.

They were signed to GTO records who preferred to sign Tony as a solo artist, but he insisted he bring the band with him. They agreed but one probably reason they remained slightly under the radar is the lack of promotion outside of radio. “New Musik is one of those names which easily catch on,” Mansfield explained in an interview with Sounds in 1980. “Our promotion has been low key so far, no badges or T-shirts yet, but is has caught on with radio people. Even Gerald Harper’s (on Capital Radio) playing the new single! Radio music is usually seen as run of the mill,”

Their songs are more meaningful than they may appear, “I find it easier to write about real situations than writing love songs,” Mansfield told Record Mirror in 1980. “I like things to mean something. It’s a challenge to write something sensible in a few lines and mean something. Straight Lines was very simple. It’s about making decisions. You can go one way or another but whatever you decide is, in the long run, one specific way from A to B. [The follow up] Living by Numbers is a similar thing, we are all living by numbers. Whatever situation you are in is based on a statistical thing. You are born and given a number on a birth certificate, you drive a car and you get registered – you’re always a specific age. It’s a bit morbid. I don’t want to be morbid but you’ve got to look at realities of what’s around. It’s all down to reality.” What about the next single, This world of Water? “It’s really doomy, a really nasty song. The whole LP is doomy. We’re doomy,” he told Sounds. “But it’s put in such a jolly way that people don’t take in the words. New Musik is something new. People who’ve heard our records or seen us live just aren’t certain about it all. The idea of New Musik preceded Gary Numan’s first hit; the synthesised percussive sounds, we were doing that ages ago. The John Foxx used the same riff as in ‘Sanctuary’ on Underpass. It’s on our old demos, honest!”

Clive now works for a software company and Tony has a live music bar in South London, but Tony is still making new music as New Musik and Tony’s brother, Lee, launched a Youtube channel showing some exclusive items for the fans.

Mansfield turned his hand to production for other artists and had success with Captain Sensible and even co-wrote his hit There Are More Snakes Than Ladders. Later in the 1980s, he worked with Mari Wilson, Aztec Camera and A-ha.

Pass the Dutchie (Musical Youth)

It’s often cited that Michael Jackson was the first black act to received regular rotation on MTV when it launched in 1981, which is not quite true. He was the first black (which he was then) solo act, but this week’s act beat him to it by just a few weeks. They were Musical Youth but, unfortunately, they suffered the same drawback as Laurie London in the 1950s and Our Kid in the mid-1970s which was, because they were too young to tour and promote their songs, their career was limited. Both the aforementioned had one hit each, but at least Musical Youth managed seven.

Freddie Waite, a former singer with Jamaican band, The Techniques, was teaching music at his local community centre in Birmingham. He began assembling a band in 1979 with his two sons Patrick on bass and Junior on drums and he named them Musical Express. He set up some auditions and found the keyboard player, Michael Grant. Michael suggested that his brother Kelvin (then only eight), who played guitar did an audition. Once Freddie saw his performance, he recruited him as well. Finally, he brought in the vocalist, Dennis Seaton. In late 1979 he changed their name to Musical Youth and they showed the potential of being Britain’s answer to The Jackson 5.

They took a couple of years to get going, “If we’d all been 18 and legally able to cope for ourselves, Musical Youth would still be going now”, said Musical Youth’s lead singer, Dennis Seaton back in the early 2000s. Musical Youth were only allowed to work 39 hours a week, the legal requirement for kids their age. It was a hindrance to them because they had to cancel tours to attend school, thus lack of promotion.

Pass the Dutchie was co-written by Jackie Mittoo, a reggae songwriter who was the musical director at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One label and Lloyd Ferguson and Fitzroy Simpson were both members of a young group called the Mighty Diamonds who had formed in 1969 in Trenchtown. The lead singer with the Diamonds was Donald ‘Tabby’ Shaw and all three were school friends when they decided to form as a group then known as Limelight. Shaw’s mother often referred to them as ‘the diamonds’ and that’s when they changed their name to the Mighty Diamonds. They remained together until 2012. Tabby was murdered in a gun attack on 29th March 2022. He was among a group seated on the road when they were sprayed with bullets. Lloyd Ferguson said, “Tabby was one of the great soul singers, we did 46 albums and a whole heap of singles together and toured the world. He will be greatly missed.”

Mittoo, Simpson and Lloyd Ferguson wrote a song called Pass the Kouchie in 1981 which itself was based on a 1968 reggae instrumental by Leroy Sibbles called Full Up. Sibbles was a respected figure on the Jamaican music scene because he had been Coxsone Dodd’s right-hand man at Studio One. The song had its own share of problems – a kouchie being a slang term for a cannabis pipe which people passed around for each to have a toke but the then-Prime Minister of Jamaica, Edward Seaga, condemned it for endorsing the use of illegal drugs.

Freddie White had found the song and had the foresight to realise that a song about a device for making and consuming illegal substances would not go down well with the radio authorities, or even with their fans, so they decided to change the lyric to ‘Dutchie’. Whenever they were interviewed and asked what a ‘Dutchie’ was, they always replied, “It’s a kitchen cooking utensil.” When one BBC interviewer asked him why it had to be passed to the left, Dennis replied, “It doesn’t matter, you can pass it to the right too.”

It is, without doubt, that the airplay it received on MTV helped launch them in the States where the Dutchie flowed up the chart to number 10 and won them a Grammy for Best Newcomers. In the UK, it was John Peel who gave them their first radio play and in turn that led them to signing a deal with MCA records. It entered the UK chart at number 26 at the end of September 1982 and the following week rocketed to number one giving them (then) the third biggest jump to number one after Elvis Presley’s Surrender (27-1 in 1961) and Captain Sensible’s Happy Talk (33-1 exactly three months before Musical Youth).

They followed-up their chart-topper with Youth Of Today, with its memorable intro ‘Dennis, come back with my apple pie’ and were in the chart at the same time as uncredited backing singers on Donna Summer’s hit State of Independence. They had one further Top 10 hit with Never Gonna Give You Up. Unable to cope with the pressures, they split in early 1984. Both the Grants continued in other aspects of the music industry, Junior became a recluse, and tragedy befell Patrick. As Dennis described, “He became bored and returned to joyriding and drugs.” When he turned 22, he served three years in prison for robbery and assault, and died in a car accident in 1993. His brother Junior Waite was later institutionalised, and Kelvin Grant became a recluse. Eventually he returned the music business and, in 2016, he was working on two music videos for two new singles, Defend Them and Jah Love Light.

In 2001, Dennis and Michael reformed Musical Youth as a duo and about to embark on a US tour when the 9/11 attacks put paid to that. Dennis formed a new reggae band called XMY standing for Ex Musical Youth but failed to make any impact on the UK charts. He was last known to be selling second-hand cars in the Birmingham area but occasionally ventures back into the music scene where he can be booked with 4-piece band called Seabass or as a Stevie Wonder tribute act under the name Know Wonder.

Private Dancer (Tina Turner)

Numerous acts have made a substantial comeback after their career was seemingly over, Santana, Cher and Take That are all notable examples, but none more successfully than the singer of this week’s suggestion, Tina Turner. She first graced the UK chart with husband Ike in 1966 when River Deep Mountain High elevated to number three and their last appearance was in 1973 when Nutbush City Limits peaked at number four. Then Tina was gone for over 10 years. Thanks to Rod Stewart who asked her to be his support on his 1981 US tour which, in-turn, led to an appearance at the British Electric Foundation on a remake of the Temptations’ hit Ball of Confusion, she was back. She signed a deal with Capitol record and Tina was ready to go again.

Tina’s career, in the 60s, was with a husband Ike but it is well documented about his behaviour and how he used to beat her. She was bitterly unhappy and one night, whilst staying in a hotel in Dallas, Texas, Tina plucked up the courage to walk out on him whilst he slept. She left with nothing except the clothes she was wearing and 36 cents in her pocket. With the help of a close friend, who paid for her to fly to Los Angeles, she made a new start.

She was born Anna Mae Bullock in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1939 and it was Ike who gave her the name Tina Turner. Her comeback began in 1983 when she was 44 years old and it was a cover of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together that put her back on the chart map when it peaked at number six. She followed it with a cover of The Beatles’ Help which stalled at number 40 and within four months she was back in the top three with What’s Love got to Do with It. She always had good some writers including Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Holland Dozier Holland in the early day. The only hit Tina solely wrote herself was Nutbush City Limits. Once she was back, songwriters wanted to write for her.

Her comeback album was Private Dancer which peaked at number four and spent 147 weeks on the chart and had a staggering six singles lifted from it. The title track was the fifth and probably the best known despite peaking at number 26 in the UK. The song was written by Mark Knopfler for his band Dire Straits.

Once it was finished, Knopfler realised very quickly that singing, ‘I’m your private dancer, a dancer for money’ was not something a man should really be singing and it wasn’t going to work so it was his idea to pitch it to Tina. In a 2004 interview, she explained her thoughts when she first got to know about it, “Mark said this song is not for a man, it’s a girl’s song. He recorded it but won’t use it so when he put the demo on, he sung ‘I’m a private dancer, dancer for money, do what you want me to do,’ I told him, ‘I think you’re right, it’s not a song for a guy. I liked it a lot. I wasn’t sure whether the girl was a hooker or a very classical private dancer but I thought I’d take it.” Mark later said, “Tina injected a whole lot of power and stuff into it.” In an interview with the late Roger Scott, Tina said, “He [Mark Knopfler] gave me the track and I copied it with Dire Straits’ people – most of them. At first, I was going to try to just put my voice on Mark’s tapes, but there was a record company problem, so we got Mark’s musicians, Dire Straits, and went into the studio… Someone said, ‘Why did you select Private Dancer? It’s a song about a hooker. Is it because you’ve been a hooker?’ And I was shocked. I didn’t see her as a hooker. I can be naive about some of these things. But actually, the answer is no. I took it because it was an unusual song. I’d never sung a song like it. And I wish you could hear Mark’s version of it. He’s got a very English-sounding voice and it was really quite beautiful. A very arty song, so I put the old soulful touch on it.”

The musicians on the track are Dire Straits’ own bass player John Illsley and drummer Terry Williams. Mark was unavailable for the session so the guitar part was played by Jeff Beck.

Over the next 15 years Tina had a further 31 UK hit singles including duets with Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton and even Barry White. Arguably her best-known song is The Best which peaked at number five in 1989. In 1996, such was her fame that she copied singers like Kylie Minogue, Diana Ross and Janet Jackson by dropping her surname from the artist credit. In the download era, her 1960s cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary charted for the first time in the UK.

In 1994, she relocated to Zurich in Switzerland. A couple of years later she announced that she was working on a musical based on her life under the title Tina. The show opened in London in April 2018 with Adrienne Warren playing Tina. She also reprised that role the following year on Broadway. That same year Tina received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and also announced her retirement at the age of 79. It didn’t last long because in 2020 the Norwegian producer Kygo lured her out of retirement to collaborate with him of his re-mix of her hit What’s Love Got to Do with It. That song peaked at number 31 but in doing so it gave Tina the accolade of being the first singer to have UK hit in seven consecutive decades.

The money over the previous 40 years has come in handy because, despite her relatively poor health these days, Tina and her husband, Erwin Bach, have just bought a $76 million waterfront estate overlooking Lake Zurich.

Perfect Moment (Martine McCutcheon)

Tiffany (Darwish) first charted in the UK in January 1988 and it took 11 years until Tiffany was back at the top, but this time a different Tiffany, Tiffany Raymond. This was the character name of East-end-born singer Martine McCutcheon who was given an obscure track first recorded by a Polish singer and took it to the top. Martine had a hard upbringing in the London borough of Hackney and once said, “I’d spent my whole life wanting to get away from the East End, it’s where I’m from and I didn’t want to portray reality, I wanted glamour. I wanted to do movies, or be in Dynasty, wearing shoulder pads.” Dynasty it wasn’t but Eastenders it was and it’s where she became a household name for three and a half years. When Martine topped the UK chart in April 1999 she was only the second star from the soap to get to number one – 12 years after the first which was Nick Berry with Every Loser Wins.

Martine Ponting was born on 14 May 1976 and her father, Thomas, was an alcoholic market trader who often resorted to domestic violence, so at the age of two, her mother took Martine away. Thomas tracked them down and the problems reoccurred, so when she was nine, the courts denied Thomas parental visits. Her mum later met and married John McCutcheon and Martine eventually took his surname. Martine first got the taste for show business from watching fifties and sixties movies. “I was fascinated and intrigued by them,” she recalled to Spencer Leigh. “I was beginning to dream about following my heroines – such as Barbra Streisand and Marilyn Monroe – on to the big screen.”

She won a place at Italia Conti, the Academy of Theatre Arts, where among other things, she learned to speak eloquently. “I spoke really beautifully when I left there, it was only when I got into Eastenders that I went back to my old habits.” Not long after joining Italia Conti, Martine landed her first television job in a children’s series called Bluebird, which starred Barbara Windsor and Lance Percival. “It only ran for six weeks but I learned so much about acting from Barbara, little did I know that years later she would end up as my mother-in-law – well, in the soap, anyway.”

As well as acting, she was still keen to show her vocals skills and so she auditioned successfully for the all-girl group Milan. They signed with Polydor and she, Claudia and Dionne seemed ready to take on the world. As Martine noted, “At the time, all-girl groups were quite a rarity. Bananarama had had their day and the Spice Girls were years away.” The only girl group making it big were Eternal. “We all loved Kylie and our image was vaguely Kylie-esque, with the emphasis on ‘vaguely’.” They recorded a cover of Rose Royce’s 1979 hit Is It Love You’re After, but it missed the chart completely. After a couple of years, things weren’t going well. Their management preferred Claudia to do lead vocals and Martine was reduced to a backing vocalist. They received little airplay and had to resort to performing in the dingiest clubs. On one tour they supported East 17, but that ended in disaster. “The East 17 fans thought we were getting off with the boys backstage and used to throw mints at us on stage,” recalled Martine. “As for their manager, Tom Watkins, he hated us too because he thought we were a distraction to his boys.” It was time to quit. But in 1995, the keyboard duo Uno Clio ‘borrowed’ Martine to front their single Are You Man Enough, which peaked at number 62 but at least her vocals got an artist credit.

 

Things were quiet and she’d taken a job in the Knickerbox shop briefly when her agent called to tell she’d had an audition for Eastenders. She got the job immediately and was only supposed to be in for a few weeks but she impressed everyone and ended up staying. She became a barmaid at the Queen Vic, “I loved the character,” she explains. “My mum had been a barmaid in a pub in the East End, so I knew what that life was like.”

Typically, like a lot of soap stars, managers and labels bosses want to ‘enhance’ their career, and presumably their own pocket, by enticing them into the chart and it was no different with Martine, but at least she had experience. In 1998, Martine met Simon Cowell and Hugh Goldsmith and they got on well, but as she said, “Simon knew how to make money quickly for his artists, but a quick buck wasn’t the issue. I wanted to have a long-term career in music.” It was Hugh’s friend, Cheryl Robson, an A&R expert who first played Martine a version of Perfect Moment. “This is your song,” she said. It was written by Wendy Page and Jim Marr, who had written and produced hits for Billie, it was first recorded in 1997 by the Polish singer Edyta Górniak. Martine was growing tired of the Eastenders’ storylines. “I was also getting fed up being strangled by my on-screen husband, Ross Kemp every other episode. I made a fair amount of money from the soap, but the money Hugh was talking about convinced me of a career in music.”

Martine’s storylines were pretty tragic with various members of her family having affairs and then she ended up in a coma having fallen down some stairs. Having indicated to the bosses that she wanted to resume her music career, she was eventually written out but in a more brutal way than she expected. She was eventually run over and killed by Frank Butcher. She wasn’t coming back, mind you Harold Bishop came alive again in Neighbours so anything’s possible!

Having secured a deal with Virgin’s Innocent label, Martine crashed in at number one and spent nearly four months on the chart. The follow-up, I’ve Got You, went to number six as did the next single the double A-sided Talking in Your Sleep (first recorded by Marmalade) / Love Me with all proceeds being donated to the BBC’s Children in Need Appeal. Her debut album, You, Me & Us reached number two.

She had a total of six solo singles and all of them made the top 10. her final effort was a great cover of Donna Summer’s 1980 hit On the Radio which peaked 25 places higher than the original.

As her musical career ended, she wrote her autobiography Who Does She Think She Is? and then raised her profile when she starred as the lead in the stage show My Fair Lady in 2001, then  in the blockbuster Love, Actually alongside Hugh Grant in 2003.

In 2012, she married singer-songwriter Jack McManus who had a minor hit in 2008 with Bang on the Piano and a top 30 album called Either Side of Midnight.

I read with interest that she likes music quizzes, “Sometimes we’ll go to Jack’s mum and dad’s or my mum’s, and have a music quiz on the sofa,” she said, “We get really involved, there’s even a cup, and the winning team sings We Are the Champions! Well Martine, why not come to one of mine and we’ll see how good you are!

Car 67 (Driver 67)

This week’s suggestion is classed in many places as a novelty song. I strongly disagree. The Birdie Song, YMCA, Agadoo et al are novelty songs, this is not. It’s certainly different, but then again, most of the 1970s unearthed sometinhg different which is what made it such a great decade for music. This song had a very strong emotional appeal and is sad at the same time. It has a lot of meaning, even the late Queen Mother thought so.

The man behind Driver 67 is Paul Phillips from Wolverhampton whose career started in the early 1970s playing in a local band until he met an American multi-instrumentalist called Pete Zorn from Pennsylvania. The two struck up a wonderful friendship and they started making music together. The usual story ensued where they spend a few years trying to get numerous record labels interested in their product, but eventually, after three years, the new fledgling Logo records showed interested. They had already signed the punk band Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias whose hit, Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie gave them their first hit in 1978. They also signed The Tourists who were Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox before they became the Eurythmics and Streetband who really did have the novelty hit Toast as sung by Paul Young. Driver 67 is actually a proper band and comprises musicians Dave Mattacks, Ian Lynn and Martin Jenner as well as Phillips.

Car 67 is a mini soap opera set into almost three minutes which is probably what the perfect pop record should be. Paul had a very brief stint as a real-life cabbie and began writing this song whilst idly ranked up somewhere waiting for a fare. He once said he was “Possibly the worst cab driver London has ever known.”

The song tells the story of a cab driver who sets off to work when the radio controller calls him and asks him to pick up a passenger at 83 Royal Gardens. There is no real road called Royal Gardens in Wolverhampton but there is a small area by that name. The taxi driver, the previous night, had split up with his girlfriend and that address is where she now lived. He pleads with his boss not to let him do the pick and after explaining his reasons the boss relented and found someone else for the pick. Eventually car 23 was asked if he could do it.

The song entered the chart the week before Christmas 1978 and was selling so well that the record label wasn’t able to keep up with demand. It could well have got higher than its number seven peak, maybe even number one. What gave it extra appeal was when it appeared on Top of the Pops, Phillips played both the part of the taxi driver sitting in a real Cortina Mk III and also in a BBC studio pretending to be the controller. The song apparently cost £850 to make and the production, according to the label, says It’s a Tax Loss Production.

In the early 1980s, Radio Two DJ Ed Stewart had attended a gala where he met Princess Margaret, Ed said, “I asked her if her mother might like a birthday request played?” A couple of days later Princess Margaret called Ed and made the request saying that her mother liked the song because it, “told a warm and human story about a mini cab driver who is asked to pick up a girl who has jilted him.” Ed later admitted he was, “Surprised to get the call but was very flattered.”

There was a follow-up single called Headlights, but due to its content of a truck driver menacing an innocent girl who was stranded at the side of the road. Even though she tells him to back off, he persists so the BBC refused to play it. According to Phillips, “Headlights was part of a package of songs that Pete Zorn and I had amassed over a three-year period. It came to me in a dream and was in my head when I woke up in the middle of the night. I always kept pen and paper by the bed, and I quickly scribbled down the words that appeared to be on a radio playing in my head. Somehow – I didn’t even try to resolve the means – the girl escapes from the truck and the rest of the song has the asshole driver following her and menacing her, ‘I can see your fright in the dead of the night. I can pick you up in my headlights'”.

Phillips has written a book for aspiring musicians on how to make it in into the music business and he is still making music. In 2014, he released an album called Now That’s What I Call Divorce which was based on some real-life experiences. So, all in all, the theme of his songs hasn’t changed much in over 40 years.