In 1975, unemployment in Britain rose to over one million, inflation peaked at a post-war high, Margaret Thatcher was elected Tory leader and as if all that wasn’t bad enough, as we all know from watching documentaries on punk, absolutely no good music was produced with the singles chart being clogged up with dross like Barbados by Typically Tropical and Whispering Grass by those two fellas from that laugh free sitcom set in India while the only albums being released were by Tolkien obsessed Bill Bailey lookalikes ham-fistedly fitting their latest pompous concept onto four sides of vinyl, wrapped in some airbrushed fantasy landscape gatefold sleeve courtesy of Roger fucking Dean.

Or maybe not.

Peter Hammill: Nadir’s Big Chance

Speaking of prog, although a solo work, Hammill’s fifth album is performed by the members of Van Der Graaf Generator, who after a break of a couple of years, reformed in 1975. VDGG are a group that I think of as the epitome of tiresome proggishness so what’s with the one-two-three-four opening, raucous guitars and angry young man lyrics here then?

In Nadir’s Big Chance ex-public schoolboy Peter Hammill adopts the persona of alter ego Rikki Nadir, an anarchic teenager who rails against the music biz and the world generally. Hammill told Sounds that during the recording of the album: ‘I was absolutely, absolutely Rikki Nadir’ and in the song he screams: ‘I’ll show you what it’s all about; enough of the fake / Bang your feet in a rage, tear down the walls and let us out!’

Johnny Rotten was a huge fan and punk is only a few steps away from Rikki’s glorious racket.

David Bowie: Fame

Okay, the video below isn’t technically Fame but it is the first appearance of the killer riff from Carlos Alomar which is added here to a medley of old R&B hits – Foot Stomping by the Flares and Shimmy Like Kate by The Olympics – and rasped out by Bowie here on The Dick Cavett Show. You can see the accompanying interview online where the Beckenham boy seems to be plagued by some kind of, ahem, nasal problem.

Fame went on to become Bowie’s first US numero uno and the track was swiftly and slavishly copied by James Brown for his far less successful single Hot which you can hear here.

 
Hamilton Bohannon: Disco Stomp

And on the theme of rip-offs, this UK top ten hit also inspired another big hit in ’75, New York Groove by Hello. Both were favourites of the very young Johnny Marr and, along with Bo Diddley, were a big inspiration for How Soon is Now?. Can’t quite imagine the young Mozza, though, doing the disco stomp.

Kraftwerk: Radioactivity

One famous Columbia ad campaign of the time claimed: ‘I saw rock’n’roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.’

Actually, it could be argued that the future of not just rock’n’roll but music generally was being created not in New Jersey but in West Germany and one of the strangest sights of ’75 had to the appearance on Tomorrow’s World by Düsseldorf based Kraftwerk, four guys who could have been mistaken for bankers, standing almost like statues behind a quartet of synthesisers, while playing a song about their country’s motorway system with the show’s host Raymond Baxter informing the audience (a large percentage passing time before Top of The Pops came on) that: ‘Next year, Kraftwerk hope to eliminate the keyboards altogether and build jackets that can be played by touch.’

Neu!: Hero

And also from West Germany, this is Neu!and a song that was in David Bowie’s mind when was writing and recording his album “Heroes” a few years later. On his Head Heritage site Julian Cope claims that Neu! ’75 is that act’s perfect album. ‘Side 2,’ he writes, ‘begins […] with the classic Ur-punk of “Hero”, in which every proto-punk device is thrown into its six heavenly screamed minutes. Klaus Dinger sings like a man possessed (though not possessed with a singing voice) over banked Steve Jones massed guitars and the double drumming of life.’

Dr. Feelgood: Back in the Night

Pub rock is nowadays often spoken of as some kind of pointer towards punk, a direct precursor even though the vast majority of it was backward looking and lame like Bees Make Honey (you just knew a band with a name like that would be a bore). Few bands broke out from the pub scene but by the summer of ’75, amped-up R’n’B act Dr Feelgood were certainly making waves. Looking like a bunch of villains from new hit show The Sweeney, the Canvey Islanders were installed as second top of the bill at the opening night of that year’s Reading Festival, where they were deemed by many the hit of the weekend. According to Melody Maker: ‘They had within the hour slot of their set transformed the festival site into ‘a tiny, sweaty, steaming R&B club.’

 
Jet: Nothing To Do With Us

By early ’75 the lustre of glam rock was rapidly losing its sparkle and many, if not all the young dudes, had by this point decided they’d had enough of silk sash bashes and hazy cosmic jive and it was a case of wham bam, we’re fed up of glam. Bowie’s Ziggy cut has been replaced by a wedge and he’s wearing zoot suits while Bryan Ferry starts sporting his GI look.

A kind of peculiarly English post-glam sound though lingers on with influences as diverse as music hall and Noel Coward. Think bands like Sailor and a little later Deaf School. Think also of Jet – no, not the pointless Aussie dullards – but the band fronted by Andy Ellison, he of the extremely arch vocal style who was upon a time was the singer of John’s Children and in the future would become a Radio Star.

Television: Little Johnny Jewel

Back in 2004 Television announced a very rare live performance at the Arches in Glasgow. On the night of the show I get a subway into the city centre early and meet my pal. It’s the night of a football match between England and Portugal and my pal has a big bet on Portugal so we find a wee bar showing the game and have a few beers. At half time I want to head to the venue but he insists we stay as the game is in the balance. It stays in the balance and remains a draw after ninety minutes. Extra time beckons. I try and drag him out the pub but he buys a double round in and almost manages to convince me that Television won’t be on till much later. I am easier to convince after a few beers and a glass of whisky.

Of course, extra time doesn’t settle the game and there’s no way he is leaving before the penalty shootout. I rush out during the spot kicks and Television have already started their set. I fail to locate my pal later inside the Arches until a voice I recognise shouts out a request for Little Johnny Jewel in between songs.

Television have already played that one.

Patti Smith: Gloria

I completely missed out on Patti’s performance of her album Horses in Glasgow back in June of this year but I’m assured it was an utterly mesmerising show of which Gloria was a highlight. This is Patti and band on Later With Jools Holland in 2007.

 
Gavin Bryars: Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

This is one that was never destined to be jostling at the top end of the charts with the likes of The Stylistics or Showaddywaddy.

In 1971, Bryars worked on a documentary about homeless people in London and during the shoot one old fella was filmed singing a stanza of the religious song Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. This clip wasn’t actually used in the film but Bryars was given the tape of it anyway, which he played while at home and began improvising some music on his piano as an accompaniment which he later looped before adding an orchestral element. The original version of the piece was first performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall a year or so later, and then recorded for Eno’s Obscure label and released in 1975 as side two of the album The Sinking of the Titanic and I find it absolutely haunting.

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On another day these might have been included:

Eno: Another Green World / War: Low Rider / Roxy Music: Both Ends Burning / Ian Hunter: Once Bitten Twice Shy / Chris Spedding: Motor Bikin’ / Sparks: Get in the Swing / Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) / SAHB: Action Strasse.

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