Monday, November 9, 2020

Animal Crackers pts. 2 and 3: The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over The Lazy Dog: "Fox On the Run" Sweet and "Love Me Love My Dog" Peter Shelley

For the foreseeable future I am going to have to speed up some here at MSBWT in order to get out of the emotional ditch known as ‘the mid-70s’ – perhaps you feel the same way? Though when (for lack of a better word) landmark #2s come along, I will devote more time to them.

Thus, these two very different songs have to be together. They both point to something – the end of the Glam Slam and what happens next. The Sweet, a bit at a loss as to what to do (and politely told by their label to have another hit already), found a song on their album they wrote themselves, rejigged it and lo and behold it was a worldwide hit, just at the time when Glam was pretty much over and this tougher style, I can’t use that word just yet.

They continued to exhaust themselves touring and relying on writing their own material, eventually hitting it big with “Love Is Like Oxygen” in 1978. That is the first time I heard them – however that song is no fun* whereas "Fox On The Run" (not as odd as The Hollies’ “After The Fox” of course) rocks and jumps and struts around its Glam victory lap before disappearing, all shiny and loud and stompy as ever.

Peter Shelley (I’m sure he’s heard all the comments) once wrote songs for Alvin Stardust, but as Glam faded he and Marty Wilde wrote about his dog instead, about how anyone interested in him should appreciate his dog too. Which is.... fine. Every sentiment can get written about, though in this case the song (an NME #2, posted below) has disappeared from the common memory just as “Sugar Candy Kisses” did, hiding somewhere on a European compilation which is lingering in an attic. The song is sincere at least (he appeared on Top of the Pops to perform this song with his loyal dog by his side) and it does add to the odd number of mid-70s songs about animals, including “Shannon” and “Mandy” (originally) and “Wildfire” which I think is about a horse that disappears into the West.**

These were anomalies for the time, little signals of the decade as it turned quite decisively to something else. Disco, reggae, these guys from Germany called Kraftwerk, the Rollers – this replaced Glam***, along with the Soulboy contingent who were into...well, anything from Bowie to jazz-funk to Northern Soul. Any casual look at the charts from this time will show that what was going on wasn’t boring, though if you were fifteen or so you might find a lot of what I just mentioned too...sophisticated? Safe? The very complicated situation (or you could say grown-up) of music meant certain sectors felt a bit ignored and left out.

This is addressed eventually, but for now there’s a homely man and his dog, and a fox disappearing over the horizon.


Next: The birds and the bees et les fleurs.


*It’s them trying to be New Wave, and failing miserably.

**Loudon Wainwright III’s “Dead Skunk In The Middle Of The Road” sort of fits in here, more or less.

***Not that Glam goes away entirely – there will always be echoes of it here and there, the most prominent of them showing up in the due course of time.



1 comment:

Robin Carmody said...

Always haunting to see that TOTP performance where Shelley appears with an Old English Sheepdog, a breed that boomed spectacularly then and has bust equally spectacularly now (like the Irish Setter, which "Shannon" was, only more so).

There aren't many other eras in which a song as drippy and insipid as "Love Me Love My Dog" could be such a big hit - a likely culprit would be the BBC's financial crisis which had Radio 1 once again merging with Radio 2 during the afternoons, so it had to be even safer than usual (though the relevant presenter, David Hamilton, did play a lot of contemporary pop when he was on Radio 2 in the 1980s, until the BBC was put under pressure to distinguish the stations so Radio 2 went back to a Light Programme approach and he left: if only they had gone the other way, and made Radio 1 younger, as they eventually did when under similar pressure in the 1990s).

I do hope you blog faster now: I would have hoped you'd have got to "Heartbroken" at least by this point! My great regret for spring 1975, with the referendum in which Corbyn was blatantly on the wrong side approaching, is that Gilbert Bécaud's "A Little Love and Understanding" - always skipped by POTP; it's hard for them to cope with because it was considered "Radio 2 music" when it was new, so seems too old for their target audience now - didn't get high enough, somewhere, for you to write about it.