Category: Single of the week

Food For Thought (UB40)

‘I don’t like reggae, I love it’ Graham Goldman once sang on the 10cc number one hit Dreadlock Holiday, he was saying that he doesn’t just like reggae, he loves it – especially in the situation he was in – if you know the story behind that song. I love reggae too, but real reggae, not cod reggae which leads me nicely into this week’s Single of the Week, the debut hit by UB40.

UB40 had charted just over 50 UK hit singles since their debut in 1980, they had three number ones all of which were cover versions – the nauseating and over played Red Red Wine in 1983, I Got You Babe (with Chrissie Hynde) in 1985 and (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You in 1994. Their highest charting self-penned song was 1985’s Don’t Break My Heart which reached number three followed by the number four peak of Food for Thought.

The latter was released as a double A-side in March 1980 with another self-penned track, King which was written about Martin Luther King, but it was Food for Thought that received the majority of radio play, all thanks initially to Peter Powell and John Peel who championed them in their early days.

The writing credit on the song is, like all UB40 songs, credited to all members of the band regardless of who actually laid the music down or the lyrics. “We’ve always done that,” Robin Campbell told Songwriting in 2013. “The whole band’s credited for everything. That was a decision we made right at the beginning, because it seemed obvious that many bands fall out over who gets what song on what album, and the end result is that people all have to get a song or two on each album so they’re earning, and we just felt it watered down the quality. We had three or four strong lyricists and the whole band did the music, so we decided early on that whoever wrote any particular lyric, we would always credit the whole band and share it equally. I think that’s maybe part of the reason we’ve lasted so long. What seems to be one of the biggest causes of splits is over musical differences but from bands I’ve spoken to, very often it’s financial differences. So, from day one, we decided that wasn’t going to be a source of argument between us.”

It was actually Robin who penned the song and in the same interview he explained how it came about, “I wrote the lyrics, then I brought them to the band and we sat around and worked it to music. That’s usually how it works. Sometimes the lyrics might be written by more than one person, but often it’s one person that brings a lyric to the band, generally without a melody. As a band we just jam and record stuff that we like, and then it’ll be like okay, we’ve now got 25 backing tracks, we’ve got to come up with some lyrics! And we go away and come back with a bunch of ’em and select the ones we like between us. When Ali was with the band he was often the tunesmith: he would take the lyrics and fit them to an instrumental that we’d already come up with. That was our songwriting routine, pretty arse-backwards really compared to other people!”

The inspiration for the song came from the massacre of Kampuchea – now Cambodia. The state of Kampuchea was controlled by a Communist party whose members was known as Khmer Rouge. They had their own Army who killed anyone who opposed them. I actually wrote it in my flat in Birmingham, just before Christmas, so it’s actually a Christmas song! Or rather, it’s inspired by the hypocrisy of Christmas, the fact that there are starving people in Africa and here we are all sat around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord. People are still dying every day, every minute while we’re doing it.”

It’s a well-known fact that they took their name from the form which is to be completed by someone claiming unemployment benefit called the Unemployment Benefit Form 40, also known as signing on. It confused me initially as to whether their debut album, which was called Signing Off, was an error or just a play on words. To be honest, I’m still not sure.

Some of the lyrics in UB40 songs can be hard to decipher in the way Ali Campbell sings them, for example, the opening line of Food for Thought is Ivory Madonna which is often misheard as I’m a Prime-Donna or I Believe in Donna or other similar lines. Apparently, the band had a big debate about its subtlety before recording the final version and Robin Campbell said he “Regretted being too ambiguous. I find it incredible that people can’t understand it and that upsets me. I think the symbolism’s quite obvious. But now I’m concerned about writing too subtly,” he explained.

The Campbell brothers came from a musical family; their father was Ian Campbell who had a folk group and their cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are a Changin’ just missed the top 40 in 1965. Ian died in 2012 aged 79.

The UB40 sound was that of lead singer Ali Campbell who left the group in 2008 stating that for many years he had been unhappy with the business practices and managers of UB40 and launched an investigation into the financial handling of the business. A few months later the keyboard player Michael Virtue did likewise for the same reasons. Original members Robin Campbell, Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan and Brian Travers continue as UB40 but then six years later he reunited with Virtue and toaster Astro went on to form another version of the group called UB40 featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey.

Theme From S-Express (S-Express)

Over the years many TV and film themes have made the chart, especially in the sixties and seventies, in facts the best-selling single of 1973 was a TV theme. It was called Eye Level and was the theme to the TV series Van Der Valk which was about a Dutch detective and composed and formed by Simon Park. This week’s suggestion was the 18th best-selling song of 1988, it was called the Theme From S-Express and it wasn’t a theme for any programme nor film.

The song was performed by S-Express which was a pseudonym for DJ Mark Moore. Nowadays it’s common place for the chart to be littered with DJ ‘making’ music but back in 1988 it was a rare thing and much harder to achieve. It probably helps if you have a job within the music industry and that certainly benefited Mark who was the A&R man at Rhythm King Records. He was also one of the first supporters of Chicago house music and regularly mixed it with European electro music such as Soft Cell, Yello and Cabaret Voltaire. Mark first started DJing at Philip Salon’s Mud Club in London. The resident DJ, Tasty Tim, asked Mark to fill in one night and he performed such a good set that he was offered a residency, which lasted five years.

I interviewed him in 2004 and he said to me “I wanted the song to be a disco record with ’70s influences but with an ’80s feel.” In an interview with The Guardian, he explained, “I had this idea for a record made of a load of samples. At the time, the dance label Rhythm King had opened across the road from where I was living in London, so I was always hanging out there. They paired me up with Pascal Gabriel, co-writer of Bomb the Bass’ sample-heavy Beat Dis and I played him all these bits off various records. We put them on to a cassette – taping 10 seconds of this record, three seconds of that one – and when Rhythm King heard it they said: ‘We’ll put you in the studio.’

By taking the bass and brass sections from Rose Royce’s 1979 hit Is It Love You’re After and 1981’s Rose Royce Express that gave the song its intro. The ‘Uno, dos Uno, dos, tres, quatro’ count was ‘borrowed’ from Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s The Bottle. The line ‘I Got the Hots for You’ was originally by TZ and the brass stabs in the middle were from Crystal Grass’ 1975 funk anthem, Crystal World. He brought in a singer called Michelle who provided the ‘Enjoy this trip, enjoy this trip and it is a trip’ intro. The line that follows that, ‘Countdown is progressing’ steals from an obscure 1964 track The Martian Monster by Laura Olsher. The stand-alone line ‘Drop that ghettoblaster’ was originally the closing line from Karen Finley’s Tales of Taboo. Putting all that together he came up with a floor-filling disco track which topped the UK chart for two weeks in May 1987.

“It only took a few days,” Mark said, “we thought it sounded amazing and I knew it would work in the clubs I played, especially the mixed and gay clubs, like Pyramid at Heaven and the Mud Club. But we thought it would be two years before we got any mainstream success – pop music just did not sound like that in 1988! Things were coming through, such as Bomb the Bass and Coldcut, but pop was Kylie and Jason. Rhythm King said it was too weird for radio, and asked for a seven-inch mix. We didn’t want to, so we did a deliberately awful mix, and they said: ‘OK, you win.'”

Radio 1 eventually started giving the track airplay, but only once it had reached the top five. Then came the most important pop programme of them all but rather than stand behind a DJ podium pretending to sample and mix, Mark brought in some friends to make it look more like an act. “The friends I put in the band,” he said, “were Linda Love on keyboards, Anna Goodman, Chilo Eribenne, Michelle Ndrika who helped make it look good on TV, but we didn’t go down well on Top of the Pops because the producers were wondering why we didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t take ecstasy at Top of the Pops that time, but I did for my second hit Superfly Guy, and at one point I really didn’t know where I was, but I thought the lights were really pretty.”

In more recent times, there have been lengthy court cases and mammoth fines for people who use samples without permission so how did Mark get around all that? “People didn’t pay for samples back then, because nobody knew what the law was,” he said in The Guardian. “We used something like 14 different ones, and received a letter from our American lawyer saying, “Bomb the Bass was bad enough, but S-Express is a disaster. Karen Finley was really good about us using her sample. We wrote to her and she said, “You can have it for free, it’s fine.” Her contribution was a very small line, so how much would she have made from that? Maybe five per cent? She was cool – I’d have probably done the same thing. It’s not all samples, though, I wrote the bassline, and the S-Express vocal line is original. We used a can of hairspray for the hi-hats. I was bored with the average hi-hat sound and I thought about what we could do to make it different – so we sampled hairspray. The whole thing cost £500 to make. As for the rest of the samples, everything was settled but it took five years.”

More hits followed, after Superfly Guy came Hey Music Lover which featured future star Billie Ray Martin on vocals. In 1992 he covered Dobie Gray’s Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, Forget ‘Em that introduced the future number one hitmaker on vocals, Sonique. A remix by Tony De Vit and Simon Parkes, with the amended title Theme From S-Express: The Return Trip brought Mark back to the chart in 1996, when it reached number 14.

In 1984, Mark made a fleeting appearance in the video to David Bowie’s number six hit Blue Jean.

Everlasting Love (Love Affair)

This week’s suggestion is one of the most overplayed number one hits of the 1960s. Such is its popularity that it has charted eight times in the UK by eight different acts and has been a top 20 hit in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s – the only song to achievement that feat. The song is Everlasting Love by the Love Affair who didn’t do the original nor was it their debut single. Let’s find out more.

It all started when singer Steve Ellis and two friends answered an ad placed in NME by actor/comedian Max Bacon who had the idea that his 14-year-old nephew, Maurice Bacon, could fulfil his dream of playing drums with a band. Steve recalled, “I remember Decca Records came to a rehearsal and said they loved the band. They said we were just what they were looking for to follow on in a Small Faces vein. They told us they’d sign us up if we got rid of our drummer. Maurice was not that bad, so we all rallied round and said ‘No’. They signed us anyway. We called ourselves The Soul Survivors and were mostly doing Stax and Motown covers. But then the management wanted us to change our name to the Love Affair, which I thought was a crap name but was out-voted”.

In actual fact, there was no band on Everlasting Love. It was a bunch of session musicians with Steve Ellis singing lead, “The general opinion seemed to be that I should do it with an orchestra,” recalled Ellis in an interview with Shindig magazine. “Obviously I felt odd without the band being in the studio but it was for the good of all involved. Two takes and it was done. The band were not too concerned about this approach to things.”

The group’s debut release, in 1967, was a Jagger and Richards composition She Smiled Sweetly. The song bombed. Decca Records had acquired a reputation of being hard to work with, so The Love Affair once again followed The Small Faces and left the label. They moved to CBS who suggested they record a cover of Everlasting Love which had been written for Robert Knight, who was discovered by the song’s writer, Buzz Cason, performing in a trio with Daniel Boone and James Tait called The Fairlaines. Robert’s version was a US hit reaching number 13 on Billboard.

“The story of Everlasting Love began when I was playing with a band at the Phi Delta fraternity house at Vanderbilt University in Nashville,” Mac Gayden revealed in an interview with Songwriting in 2013. “During a break in our set, we came outside and heard this fantastic voice singing down the street. So, we ran down to the Kappa Sigma house to see who it was, and the singer, who was Robert Knight of course, was just going on his break. I told him, ‘I need to take you into the studio,’ and of course he just looked at me like, ‘What the hell? Get out of my face!’. But it turned out there was a connection between my family and his, so eventually I did take him into a studio. And I introduced him to Buzz Cason, and Buzz and I wrote Everlasting Love especially for Robert’s voice. The story actually starts a long time before that, when I was just five years old. I used to play on my grandmother’s piano and I came up with this simple little melody, almost like a lullaby, and that’s the melody that the horns and the Farfisa organ play on Everlasting Love. I’d always known I’d use that melody somewhere along the line! To this day I make a point of recording all my musical ideas. I have hundreds and hundreds of tapes all over the house, I keep everything – it’s like having a giant catalogue of melodies to draw on. It’s something very special when you custom-write a song for an artist, it’s a phenomenal thing. I think that’s one reason the song’s proved so popular over the years.”

Steve Ellis wanted to get a version out before Robert Knight’s was released in the UK. The first recording session, with Spencer Davis Group bass player Muff Winwood producing, was deemed a failure. So, the track was re-recorded with CBS’ producer Mike Smith and arranger Keith Mansfield, who often employed session musicians to provide a more commercial and orchestrated feel. Steve remembered, “I didn’t think the first version with the band was all that bad, but they insisted on me doing it with an orchestra and then giving it a Phil Spector-type production.”

In order to get noticed the Love Affair did a publicity photo shoot in London’s Piccadilly Circus and were arrested for insulting behaviour and causing an obstruction. Whilst in court, they received the news that Everlasting Love had entered the Top 20. Their arrests turned out to be a publicity stunt.

As the song was climbing the chart, the Love Affair appeared on a Jonathan King hosted show called Good Evening. When they had finished their set, Jonathan asked the bass player if they had played on their records, he admitted they didn’t. The next day the tabloids attacked them for admitting they didn’t play on their records and were banned from appearing on some television stations.

The Love Affair followed up Everlasting Love with Rainbow Valley which was another Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden composition and again originally recorded by Robert Knight. “We recorded an album, The Everlasting Love Affair, said Steve, “But there was no big campaign to promote it. When we were labelled teenybop idols and not being taken seriously, I got very disheartened and left the band”.

The song has been recorded hundreds of times, but the UK hit versions were, Rex Smith & Rachel Sweet in 1981, Sandra (Enigma’s wife) in 1988, Worlds Apart in 1993, Gloria Estefan in 1995 the Cast from Casualty in 1998 (and is the second highest charting version peaking at number five) and finally, so far, Jamie Cullum in 2004. Two years after that it was used in TV commercials for Pringles.

In 1981 Steve Ellis retired to become a docker but was involved in a horrific accident, which took him the best part of 10 years to recover. During the eighties and nineties there was a touring Love Affair that didn’t include any of the original members, so in 1994, he went back on the road as Steve Ellis’ Love Affair.

Robert Knight passed away in 2017 aged 77, but Buzz Cason, who also recorded under the name Garry Miles, is 80 and Gayden is 79 and both still live in Nashville, Tennessee. Gayden said, “It’s fair to say that writing Everlasting Love has enabled me to stay in the game, so I’m certainly not complaining when the royalty cheques come in! Lately I’ve been working with my daughter Oceana and with the 70s R&B group The Valentines, and it’s Everlasting Love that’s made that possible.”

Simple Man (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

“This song isn’t just a song it’s a lesson of life that everyone should be taught.” A statement someone made on YouTube about this song and there’s a whole lot of truth in that. There are some very touching tributes on there and seemingly a favourite funeral song. Simple Man is a simple song with heartfelt words about a mother and son relationship. It also shows that there is far more to Lynyrd Skynyrd than just Freebird and Sweet Home Alabama.

It’s a well-known fact how the band got their name, but if you didn’t know, they named themselves after Leonard Skinner, the school PE teacher who taught at the Robert E. Lee High School where a couple of members of the band attended. He hated boys to have long hair and the school had a policy about it which Skinner seemed to enforce more than others.

The band originally formed in 1967 and comprised lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom on bass and Bob Burns on drums. Previous names had included My Backyard and later The One Percent. After being mocked about the latter name with some saying the band had only one percent talent, they finally settled on the teacher’s name in 1969. After a few line-up alterations, they were playing a gig in 1972 when they were spotted by Blood Sweat & Tears musician Al Kooper who was impressed enough to sign them to his Sounds of the South record label which had the backing and distribution power of MCA records. Their debut album, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd was produced by Kooper who also co-wrote the track Mississippi Kid.

Simple Man featured on this album and the song came about very much like Mike + The Mechanics’ the Living Years some 16 years later in as much as it was written by its founding member, Mike Rutherford and songwriter B.A. Robertson who had both recently lost their fathers thus making it very personal to them and a song so any people can relate to.

Simple Man was written shortly after the deaths of Gary Rossington’s mother and Ronnie Van Zant’s grandmother. The pair sat down one day at Van Zant’s home and started talking about their respective losses. After learning that the two women essentially gave them the same advice, Ronnie penned the lyrics which open with, ‘Mama told me when I was young, Come sit beside me, my only son and listen closely to what I say, and if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day,’ while Gary came up with the chord progression. Within an hour the song was written. Pretty impressive seeing as the track clocks in at just under six minutes. The only thing not quite accurate is that Van Zant was not the only son, he had two younger brothers, Johnny and Donnie as well as two sisters, Darlene and Marlene.

The song goes on to offer more advice from personal experience and mistakes made in life that they have been through. She says, ‘Follow your heart’ and you can make it if you try. She explains that he will encounter troubles along the way but explains that she just wants her son to be happy by living a content life; to become a simple man.

Ronnie’s son Johnny is the current lead singer with the band and in a track-by-track commentary on the DVD that accompanied the 2007 live album Live from Freedom Hall, said, “Well that’s a great song and something that I think we all live by. I think anybody out there needs to respect their mother, and the words of their mother. It’s mama talking to you in that song and I think it’s probably one of my favourites if not my favourite to do live. It’s just a great song and that one stays in the set and the crowd always goes crazy on that one.”

Al Kooper didn’t like the way the song sounded. The band decided to re-record it without Al on it but agreed to let him add his organ part later. He also didn’t think they should release it, but after it was so well received in their live sets, he realised he was wrong.

During a radio interview in 1976, Ronnie admitted the writing itself isn’t hard to do, but the difficult part is getting started: “I think the whole trick to writing is it’s not very hard to do. The hard thing to do is to get yourself in the mood for writing, just get yourself in that right atmosphere. When you get yourself in the right mood and the right place all the pressure’s off your head.”

On 20 October 1977, tragedy struck. After a gig in South Carolina, the band boarded a plane bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana when it ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area in Mississippi, killing Ronnie, guitarist Steve Gaines and Steve’s backing singer sister Cassie as well as their road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. Other member suffered serious injuries.

The group disbanded shortly after the accident reuniting briefly in 1979 and then again in 1987 when they recorded Live from Freedom Hall which was a 30th anniversary tribute of the plane crash. The album was dedicated to Ronnie.

Memphis Tennessee (Chuck Berry)

A few years ago, I did a connection round at my Start of Year quiz which included the songs, I’m The Urban Spaceman, Clair, Always the Last to Know, A Boy Named Sue and Save Your Kisses for Me among others. Any ideas as to the connection? Well, the answer is that they all have a twist in the tale. One song I didn’t think of at the time was this week’s suggestion.

Chuck Berry was one of the original and most important figures in the history of rock and roll. John Lennon, who was a big fan, once said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.” He burst onto the scene in 1955 with Maybelline and despite his chequered history, his music was ground-breaking and original although he did stick to a winning formula.

Charles Edward Anderson ‘Chuck’ Berry was born on 18 October 1926 and grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where he showed an interested in rhythm and blues. He admired the blues guitarist T-Bone Walker and his flamboyant guitar style and went on to perform with a trio which was led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson. In 1955, he met Muddy Waters who suggested he contact Leonard Chess, the owner of Chess records. Chuck did so, Leonard signed him and thus his career began.

In September 1958, in his home town, he recorded the song Memphis Tennessee. He invited his long-time friend Johnnie Johnson to play piano and brought in Fred Below on drums and Willie Dixon on upright bass and like many of Chuck’s classic, it contains a simple but memorable guitar line. The song tells the story of the protagonist asking a long-distance telephone operator (or international operator as we knew it in the UK) to find a phone number for Marie which we are led to believe was an ex-girlfriend who had run off and the story-teller wants back. He even tries to describe to the operator where she lives, ‘Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge, just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge’ as if that was going to help. We’re further led to believe that the break-up was because the girl’s mother didn’t approve of the relationship, ‘Only that I miss her and all the fun we had, but we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree.’ In the final verse, Chuck reveals that Marie is only six years old and you realise, in a clever twist, that Marie is his daughter who is now living with her mum in Memphis.

Memphis Tennessee was never released as a single in the States, a cover by Pat Boone was released but never charted. The Beatles regularly performed it and Elvis Presley recorded a version in 1963. That same year, Decca records recording artist Dave Berry recorded a version and was his only UK hit credited as Dave Berry & The Cruisers. Chuck’s version was rush-released in the UK on the Pye International presumably after they heard about the impending un-related Dave Berry version but Chuck charted three weeks after Dave’s version. Chuck vs Dave, who won? Chuck reached number six whereas Dave stalled at number 19. Pye International cleverly coupled Chuck’s version with Let It Rock billed as a double A-side – just in case one failed!

Many have covered the song over the years, Rolling Stones (1963), The Hollies and Del Shannon (1964) The Animals and Tom Jones (1965), Dave Clark Five (1969), The Faces (1971), a new wave version by The Silicon Teens (1979), George Thorogood & The Destroyers (1985), Status Quo (2000), James Taylor (2009), Cliff Richard (2016) and George Benson (2019).

What you may not have known is that there was a sequel to this song called Little Marie which opens with the line, ‘Yes, oh yes, long distance, I’ll accept the charge, I’ll pay’ indicating they have got in touch but the protagonist is unsure who it is, saying, ‘Which love one is calling me, I did not hear you say. Both are deep within my heart, her Mom and my Marie.’ We learn at the end of the song that it was Marie’s mum when we hear ‘Then she spoke and asked me to come back and see Marie and live together in our home in Memphis, Tennessee.’ Aw, a happy ending.

Chuck, who is ranked fifth on the Rolling Stone list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, was an inductee at the inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1983. He was in good company as other inductees that year included, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, James Brown, Fats Domino, Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Chuck was induced by the Rolling Stones’ guitarist and song writer Keith Richards who, because Chuck stuck to a winning formula, commented, “Chuck continued to release effectively the same song over and over again. It’s true that Chuck Berry’s biggest hits contain many re-cycled elements. But heck, Chuck invented this stuff – why not stay true to a proven formula?”

Berry passed away on 18 March 2017 at the age of 90.

Bicycle Race (Queen)

This week’s suggestion came from one of my Thursday night quiz regulars, Mummybear who emailed to ask, “Having recently watch Bohemian Rhapsody, where Queen singles get the ‘Hollywood treatment’ as to their origins, we were listening to Bicycle Race in the car and were wondering about the origins of this song.” Well mummybear, let’s find out.

This song was released in 1978 as part of a double A-side with Fat Bottomed Girls which reached number 11 in the UK chart. It was their first of three double sided hits even though many cite We Are the Champions / We Will rock You, the previous year, as being their first, but the latter was never listed on any chart as such and was, therefore, not a UK hit. Even the record label says ‘B’ on it. It was just one of those much-played B-sides.

Both Bicycle Race and Fat Bottomed Girls were taken from their seventh hit album Jazz which was recorded in a remote area in France because they were using the time as a tax break. The band were being heavily taxed and that’s why they took off to France. For future albums they used a studio in Montreux in Switzerland. Queen’s drummer, Roger Taylor, recalled in the TV documentary, Days of our Lives, “We were being taxed as much as 98% on royalties on previous albums, so we decided to record outside the UK.”

It was while in his hotel room, the song’s author, Freddie Mercury, saw the Tour de France pass his hotel window and that’s what gave him the inspiration he needed for Bicycle Race. Fat Bottomed Girls was written by the guitarist Brian May and is seen from the point of view about a male liking a large lady. “I wrote it with Fred in mind, as you do especially if you’ve got a great singer who likes fat bottomed girls… or boys,” Brian said in a Mojo interview.

One of the bizarre things is that fat bottomed girls is mentioned in the lyric of Bicycle Race, ‘Fat bottomed girls, they’ll be riding today so look out for those beauties, oh yeah’. One of the other unique things about the single is that is it has a bicycle bell solo with an unusual chord progression shifting in time signature from a regular 4/4 to 6/8. Soon after the band began playing the track live, cycle shops in the area were suddenly selling out of bells because fans were buying them in their droves to ring at the concerts.

The song is not generally classed as a ‘list’ song, but could or maybe should be because it mentions John Wayne, cocaine, tax, Star Wars, Jaws, Jesus, Vietnam and Watergate.

Another memorable feature is the accompanying video of naked women riding round a cycle track. The whole thing was staged at Wimbledon Stadium in south-west London and featured 65 professional models cycling naked but clever photography covered their important bits. A poster shot of the event came free with the album but only if the stores decided to stock them. The more prudish owners refused and the purchaser had to order a copy via the good old-fashioned postage system.

In Queen – the New Visual Documentary by Ken Dean, Brian May gave his thoughts on nude bicycle racing, “We lost some of our audience with that one, ‘How could you do it? It doesn’t go with your spiritual side.’ But my answer is that the physical side is just as much a part of a person as the spiritual or intellectual side. It’s fun. I’ll make no apologies. All music skirts around sex, sometimes very directly. Ours doesn’t. In our music, sex is either implied or referred to semi-jokingly, but it’s always there.”

In 2005, a tribute album called Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen was released and featured 16 different acts performing a Queen song, mostly hit singles and Bicycle Race was performed by the Nashville garage band Be Your Own Pet whilst Fat Bottomed Girls was submitted by the lesser-known all-female all female rock band Antigone Rising.