From the fifties last month, we’ll take a giant step into the seventies where this November of 1977 threw up several items of interest. Well, I hope you think so. Let’s kick off with the music….
This Swedish supergroup could do no wrong because yet again they dominated the UK charts with what has been called “their most stately, dramatic work to date”. Yup, Abba’s “The Name Of The Game” stayed at the top for a month, following their previous single “”Knowing Me, Knowing You”. another charttopper, their fourth. Anyway, “The Name Of The Game” was originally titled “A Bit Of Myself” and written for their fifth studio album, the soundtrack of ABBA:The Movie but as it turned out so well, was released as a single, replacing the planned track “Hole In Your Soul”. Both Agnetha and Anni-Frid shared lead vocals plus solo passages, with the guys, Bjorn and Benny, doing what they did best – letting the ladies take the spotlight! By all accounts, this November number one was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” from his groundbreaking “Songs In The Key Of Life”, an album that inspired so many artists with its revolutionary musical content. Oh, you might recall the promotional video where all four members of Abba sat around a table looking as if they were engrossed in a board game. They were; it was “Fia-spel” which apparently is based on the more familiar “Ludo”. I don’t recall anyone getting too excited about it though.
Although Abba won hands down the 1974 Eurovision with “Waterloo” hosted by us in Brighton, they struggled a smidge to get on their feet afterwards. However, by 1977 they were of course an unstoppable force, with their music successfully spanning the decades, not only in mega-million sales, but also with musicals and a couple of films, the second of which, Mamma Mia! Here I Go Again in 2018 surprised cinema goers with Cher bursting onto the big screen. Elegant, cool and, um, kinda different, and playing Ruby Sheridan (mother/grandmother/great-grandmother/mother-in-law) the lady brought a new dimension, or more of a dynamic ‘apparition’, to the lightweight, humorous, highly enjoyable singalong film. There was a method to Cher’s madness as she released cover versions of Abba’s songs on her first album in five years titled “Dancing Queen” around the time of the film’s outing.
Anyway, let’s return to 1977 where Baccara’s “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” stalled at number two as nobody had a chance of budging Abba from the top yet awhile. This was a strange one and I don’t think it was a particularly good slice of disco being rather feathery, if you see what I mean. I’m in the minority of course because the single sold over sixteen million copies globally; hit the pole position in most countries including (eventually) the UK, and went on to be listed in the 1977 edition of “The Guinness Book Of Records” as Baccara was biggest-selling female musical duo to date. They were also the first Spanish act to hit the UK top until Julio Iglesias came along four years later. Mayte Mateos and Maria Mendiola and their mixture of pop, disco and Spanish folk music was relatively short-lived though, so they changed tact to jump on the Hi-NRG bandwagon, to continue earning a decent living on the concert circuit. However, “Yes Sir I Can Boogie” refused to die. In November 2020 it returned to the UK top forty after being included in online videos posted by the Scotland football team after it qualified for the European Championships. When told this, Baccara said they’d be happy to re-record the song for the finals. Oh no!
With reference made to his favourite football team, our very own Rodney Stewart sat in the top three with “You’re In My Heart”, a track from his “Foot Loose & Fancy Free” album. With a career spanning several decades the naughty boy of pop grew disgracefully into a respectable everyday husband and father, or, father and husband, with the same spiky hairstyle that was his trademark throughout. Rod’s oh, so recognisable raspy voice grated/graced hundreds of songs, elevating him to one of the top-selling and most endearing artists of all time. And he’s still knocking ’em out; the only difference being he’s become mellow with age, while retaining his cheeky chappie, often risqué, sense of humour. I’m thinking his third wife, Penny Lancaster, may have had a hand in taming this loveable wild child, don’t you?
Sitting at number six, behind La Belle Epoque’s “Black Is Black” and the mighty Quo’s “Rockin’ All Over The World”, was “We Are The Champions” from Queen, one of their most recognisable anthems. To be fair, this was a double A-sider with “We Will Rock You”, yet despite its worldwide popularity, the single failed to reach the top in the UK. I so well remember this release because at the time I worked for Queen’s record company, EMI. During a particular sales conference where new product was presented to company executives, marketing, promotion and sales departments, we were all handed press kits within which were scarves bearing Queen’s name. They meant little to us until we heard “We Are The Champions”, whereupon like a mass of frenzied fans we stood, danced and waved our scarves high in the air in time to the heavy beat of the music. For sure, the song had hit written all over it thanks to Freddie Mercury’s canny approach to penning deliciously commercial music. You don’t need me to say this – but just in case – “We Are The Champions” went on to be an adopted anthem for sporting events, including the 1994 FIFA World Cup. I’m thinking though, such is the strength of the song, it’s automatically sung at every opportunity to celebrate a winner: usually with a glass of something alcoholic in one hand. Even I’ve been known to sing it extremely badly (so I’ve been told!) if I’ve managed to win after, say, cheating at a game of Monopoly. Am I the only one?! Thought not.
While on the subject, “We Will Rock You” grew legs to become a musical that opened in May 2002 at London’s Dominion Theatre, closing on its 12th anniversary with a staggering 4,600 shows under its belt. It was one of the best musicals I’ve seen; the weak story line was more than compensated for by the music. Wow – didn’t that shake the walls and floorboards in this Grade II listed two-levelled theatre along Tottenham Court Road. A-m-a-z-i-n-g! Featuring different actors, various “We Will Rock You” musicals also toured the world becoming a hot ticket event at every venue. Moving on …..
Stephen Spielberg, probably one of the most popular and influential film directors and producers of our age, delivered the outstanding Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. What a vision he had with his eye on the future. Here’s a little backstory. Mr Spielberg originally approached Steve McQueen for the starring role of Roy Neary, but apparently Steve turned it down because, although he loved the script, he was unable to cry on cue. What!! Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino likewise gave it the thumbs down for different reasons, which meant it was a lucky day for Richard Dreyfuss. “I would walk by Steve’s office and say stuff like ‘Al Pacino has no sense of humour’ or ‘Jack Nicholson is crazy’. I eventually convinced him to cast me.” John Williams wrote the score that included the now iconic five tone sequence, used as a mathematical language allowing scientists to communicate with the visiting aliens. The one used in the actual film was one of three hundred versions John had penned and went something like this: G, A, F (octave lower), F and C to attract the spaceship prior to its arrival at the Devil’s Tower. When the ship arrived at the Tower, the sequence changed to B flat, C, A flat (octave lower), A flat followed by E flat. My thanks to a popular internet site for this information. Hah, I’m actually silently humming it now…..
In my humble opinion I reckon Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is timeless – and while I accept future science fiction films have taken similar storylines that much further thanks to computer generated imagery – this was among the first to treat the subject with respect, although the ending could have been a whole lot worse. “The best expression of Stephen Spielberg’s benign, dreamy-eyed vision” wrote one reviewer at the time, and while many felt the film was a load of tosh, it went on to gross a staggering $288 million globally. Nominated for a whole rack of awards, winning several, it really was a slice of gentle science fiction despite some slow sequences. UFOs, things that go bump in the night, spaceships and strange looking aliens – hey, what’s not to like!
While on the subject, here’s an off-the-wall item to tickle your memory buds. Do you remember Southern Television’s news programme being hijacked by a hoaxer claiming to be a member of the Ashtar Galactic Command? I can’t say I do, but this interruption was on the short side – certainly not of the Third Kind – and was found to have been transmitted from Hampshire on earth. The alien, um, intruder, was never identified despite the police’s best efforts. Perhaps their five note sequence was played in the wrong order!
Boo hoo…this month saw the final episode of the BBC sitcom about the unlikely motley crew known as Dad’s Army. From the brilliantly imaginative pens of Jimmy Perry and David Croft, lovable characters were brought to life for our watching pleasure over eighty episodes. Re-runs continue to make us laugh today. OK, I put my hand up, it’s compulsive viewing for this gal even after all these years. “Who do you think you’re kidding Mr Hitler….” And when Captain Mainwaring, Sergeant Wilson, Lance Corporal Jones (“they don’t like it up ’em”) mingle with Privates Frazier, Walker, Godfrey and “stupid boy” Pike, in dubious adventures, all I can say is – God Bless the Home Guard of Walmington-on-Sea! Just to complete this section – and my apologies if Dad’s Army isn’t on your list of favourite programmes – last year three missing episodes were re-created for screening on television Gold. There was also a 1971 full length feature film which I don’t remember, but certainly do the 2016 version which, although it was extremely watchable once I’d got over not seeing the original actors, received far from favourable reviews. Rather unfair I thought as have seen much worse.
So that’s it for now. Thank you for being with me this month as we tip-toe through a quick visit to late-1977. Who knows which decade I’ll land on next month but I’ll handle it in my usual, erm, respectful way.