Nov 07

GEORGE McCRAE – “Rock Your Baby”

FT + Popular70 comments • 7,607 views

#353, 27th July 1974

Oh George!The high tide of glam goes out and soul music fills the gap, but soul is changing. Disco is heavenly music – it rests on a belief in the eternal (the groove), and decrees that such an eternity must be filled with sweetness… and if you weren’t a believer, its rewards might well have seemed like life-sapping monotony, the false paradise of a sinister cult.

Personally I say – heathens begone! I love disco and I love what disco wrought – “Rock Your Baby”, while plainly and deeply of its time, also sounds like the most modern thing I’ve covered so far. It’s still more sex music than dance music, more bedroom than club – the perfect union of music, place, dancing (and drugs) that links disco to now isn’t quite manifest here. But it’s still disco, and I still love it.

Mine isn’t an unusual love, mind you – even Mojo now runs features on Chic, and all but a handful of recidivist crits give disco at least grudging due. (The picture among fans is probably quite different, though I’m guessing that disco compilations comfortably outsell 70s rock ones). So I will do my best not to be defensive any more, and to assume nothing: after all it’s only the perversity of this project that makes “Rock Your Baby” feel like a break-point.

There had been big hits built on groove before, of course, but the rock groove feels so much more insistent, nagging and scratching away at a point. On “Rock Your Baby” the groove is yielding, its endless cycles there for you to relax into, and when you do you notice the little embellishments, flourishes and details so much more – McCrae’s voice included. He gives a lovely performance, tender and bliss-struck, but it’s also one happy to surrender to the rhythm and the mix: especially after the great beasts of glam, McCrae is wonderfully ego-free, dissolved in joy.



  1. 1
    Tom on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Apologies for the recent absence of entries, by the way – for those who don’t know, I had a health scare and spent a few days in hospital: everything fine now though!

  2. 2
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Blimey Tom, you didn’t say anything about that on Saturday (or was this after Club P?). Glad that all is well though.

    Now to “Rock Your Baby” – which incidentally is the second consecutive number one to owe little or nothing to the support of Radio 1 – well, it’s the beginning of time, isn’t it? The start of what we commonly know as disco, the use of the drum machine as a seducer (whereas on Sly’s “Family Affair” it ticks away like a time bomb), George’s near-androgynous vocal, and the immaculate yet human way in which Howie Casey makes the 1974 technology shuffle and swing in ways perhaps no longer possible. Inescapable on import in every worthwhile club for 3-4 months before President Records (home of the Equals and Dorothy Squires inter alia) secured UK release rights and put it out on their Jayboy subsidiary; an immediate hit on commercial radio, whereas Radio 1 only played it when they had to.

    Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together?” – #12 here in ’73, at least ten places too low – acted as a sort of John the Baptist for what was to come, so it’s fitting that the extra splash of heaven blessed to “Rock Your Baby” is the twin keyboard interplay between Timmy’s swirling Fender Rhodes and KC’s almost hymnal, stately organ which reminds me, in both nature and delivery, of what Zawinul, Hancock and Corea did on Miles’ In A Silent Way. It’s a sensual hymn (“come on…” McCrae’s voice trails off into the instrumental break as though nothing further needs to be said) and still sounds impossibly noble. As persuasively modern in its day as “Cumberland Gap” and “Telstar” were in theirs. A 10.

  3. 3
    Tom on 7 Nov 2007 #

    It happened after Club P Marcello!

    Great write-up as always.

  4. 4
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2007 #

    One of my very favourites – I can remember watching some silly Channel 4 Best 100 Number Ones Countdown a few years ago with my friend Harry and as there were only two left him asking “Well, what are the best two going to be, then?” and my replying “Well, if it was me deciding it would be ‘Rock Your Baby’ and ‘Tiger Feet'”, but sadly that wasn’t to be.

    Marcello has written acutely about how this works musically and rhythmically in several places, but all I can add to that is that the effect is to create a truly holy and sanctified sounding music. Rarely have I heard a more convincing evocation of the bliss and joy of love, and don’t know of any other song as likely to leave me feeling swoony when I listen to it. 10.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2007 #

    A warning to anybody who first experiences ‘Rock Your Baby’ through seeing George McCrae’s Top Of the Pops appearance. This was one of those performances by an overseas artist where – because of regulations about Musicians’ Union membership – the backing track was re-recorded by the BBC Orchestra at short notice. It sounds a lot better than that on the real record, believe me!

    McCrae went on to have a further 6 hits in the UK over the next couple of years. Which are the good ones?

  6. 6
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Nov 2007 #

    They do tend to be much of a muchness but they’re all good ‘uns; “It’s Been So Long” is superb but my favourite is “You Can Have It All” as subsequently (and beautifully) covered by Yo La Tengo.

  7. 7
    jeff w on 7 Nov 2007 #

    As persuasively modern in its day as “Cumberland Gap” and “Telstar” were in theirs

    This certainly chimes with my experience. “Rock Your Baby” sounded nothing like anything I’d heard before at the time. (Bear in mind that things that topped the charts were more likely to get a hyperactive nine year old’s attention than songs that missed the Top 10. When you also factor in that, Chuck Berry aside, this was the first UK number 1 by a black artist for something like three years you can probably more easily understand my ‘what the hell…?’ reaction.) It was those ecstatic, wordless top notes that clinched the deal though.

  8. 8
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2007 #

    The Story of Pop (of which Marcello still no doubt has every issue complete with binder) once remarked that, as a seismograph of pop, the charts may not be sensitive to every slight tremor but they never miss a worldwide explosion. It was talking in the context of the 1963 charts reflecting the Beat Boom, but the 1974 charts are a case in point as well. By July ’74, the only black face at number one in the UK singles chart for nearly three years had been Chuck Berry, and that with a song that was hardly a standout example of a black music genre. Just one black performer in a sequence of 48 number ones since the Tams had displaced Diana Ross back in 1971 (there may have been one lurking in the Simon Park Orchestra or the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards but I doubt it). Beginning with George McCrae, six of the next nine number ones were by black artists, and they were to have a fair share of the rest of the decade.

    However, here’s where I diverge greatly from the consensus of many of the contributors on this site. As you might already have guessed, I despised disco – I found much of it a repetitive, tacky, mindless, soulless mash, and hated its marketing, its World Disco Dancing Championships, its Saturday Night Fever hype, its monotonous exhortations to dance, etc etc. As ever, there were honourable exceptions and there are disco records I remember fondly, including two of the biggest summer hits of the next three years – but generally I find it to be almost the antithesis of soul. Yes, in answer to the charge of rockism, there were no doubt skilled musicians involved, but such a degree of cynical addiction to the beat as well. As for George McCrae, sorry but it never did anything for me then and doesn’t now.

    Glad you’re on the mend Tom, that’s what kids do to you…

  9. 9
    intothefireuk on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Well of course no one knew that it was eventually going to be tagged disco. At the time it just felt like a sublime soul groove with McRae’s gorgeous lead vocal soaring over the top of it. There were other tracks of a similar nature around, namely ‘rock the boat’ (a no.1 in the US) but this had more elements that we would later associate with disco although it still retains a huge element of soul thanks to George. Disco would eventually become used & abused by the great unwashed but for now & for the next few years it was a new & insistant urge to dance.

    George wasn’t the original intended artist to cover KC’s tune, it was, rumour has it, supposed to be for his then wife Gwen McRae who was unable to make the session.

  10. 10
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Nov 2007 #

    As Erithian has now unmasked himself as HATING FUN he is duly sentenced to three years of having to listen to a loop of “Dance With Me,” the 1980 single by Reginald Bosanquet.

  11. 11
    Steve on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Terrific song, intriguingly gentle. An exciting moment for reasons people give.

    A BBC documentary I annoyingly can’t remember the name of (it can’t have been the one about the history of the pop song, probably not Dancing In The Streets either, maybe one about Soul music inc. Disco) featured an amusing anecdote in which the person they’re talking to describes how McCrae was being denied any royalties from this song’s success by his label. He angrily confronted the label boss who placated him by offering him a fancy new car that he’d just bought. McCrae accepted but the car wasn’t insured and he subsequently pranged it.

    This song would, many years later, be a second hit for an act whose debut single (also a cover) reached #1. There is another cover of it I quite enjoy but once again my memory fails absymally. Carry on.

  12. 12
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2007 #

    I did once accidentally tape that Reginald Bosanquet song off the radio! Might even still have it somewhere. All together now, “Dance, doo-wop, doo-wop, oh wee…”

  13. 13
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Nov 2007 #

    In view of the recent controversy over whether Robyn was singing lead on the new Britney album, I have to say that Reggie sounds suspiciously like his great personal friend the late Rt Hon Alan Clark MP on this boss waxing…

  14. 14
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Someone should do a mash-up with “Oh Bosanquet” by Not the Nine O’Clock News.

  15. 15
    henry s on 7 Nov 2007 #

    I saw House Of Love cover this one live, back in “the day”…that was weird!

  16. 16
    Marcello Carlin on 7 Nov 2007 #


  17. 17
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2007 #

    God, I had completely forgotten about The House of Love’s interpretation, as featured on the 1992 NME charity covers album ‘Ruby Trax'(an album of great interest to all regular Popular contributors, come to think of it). I’ve just heard it again for what may be the first time in 15 years – Guy Chadwick treats it in the same vocal style as ‘The Beatles & the Stones’ while the band impersonate Curve behind him.

  18. 18
    Lena on 7 Nov 2007 #

    And Curve cover “I Feel Love” (I’ve never heard it, but I imagine they sound like themselves).

  19. 19
    admin on 7 Nov 2007 #


    this is only the third time that Ruby Trax has come up in Popular comments. (it is mentioned more on FT in general tho, obv)

  20. 20
    rosie on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Didn’t the writer of Oh. Bosanquet die recently?

    I saw Reggie Bosanquet once, propping up the bar of the Sun in Splendour in Portobello Road, back in the days when the Sun was a really good pub (Britannia tables, banquettes covered with scuffed and slashed red vinyl, hand-pulled draught Bass of exceedingly high quality) and before its transformation, firstly into a Victorian tart’s boudoir and then into a Firkin-clone. ITN were on strike, and this being Notting Hill, if you saw somebody who looked like somebody famous, it invariable was somebody famous. He looked bored and tired, and I didn’t feel the slightest inclination to emulate Anna Ford.

    Anyway, while I don’t remember this being number one, I do remember it very vividly from a visit to a sweaty club in the Manchester cellars the following autumn, and I felt very heady. I was impressed. Then I forgot all about it until I tracked it down for this project, and I was immediately impressed again.

    I was talking about Soul earlier today. Soul never went away, for me, but of course this is quite a way from Wilson Pickett. It’s Soul with its collar buttoned down and its shoes buffed up and ready to ride in something low-slung and Italian with the roof open to the wind. Something old and something new, all rolled into one. For me, it’s a point when the singles charts start being interesting again.

    It is undoubtedly sexy. But then both I and this record belong to an age when dancing was the vertical expression of a horizontal desire, something I’ll have more to say about anon.

    Eight feels about right.

  21. 21
    Brian on 7 Nov 2007 #

    When I was 20 and at University I hung out alot at a friends place and we listened to alot of music. I remember hearing this in his little room and thinkinig it was a really good R & B / SOUL record .

    While I was away guiding a trip I remember being in a nightclub – I don’t even know if we called them disco’s at that point – in Vancouver. This came on – people flooded to the floor and I remember thinking – this dance thing is really going take off – and , in my mind disco was born.

    I guess I just had to get out of that little room and into the wider world to see that popular culture was about to change again . ” Rock Your Baby” will always be the harbinger of those changes….

  22. 22
    wwolfe on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Full disclosure: I was the typical American Midwest smalltown white guy in my reaction to disco when it was new. Meaning I invested great passion in a quasi-religious insistence that it was not only bad, but somehow blasphemous. I remember with particular embarrassment a closing night cast party for a college play where I was deeply distressed when “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy” was taken off the turntable and replaced by the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.

    Now I listen to a lot of the disco hits and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?” Leaving aside for a moment the fact that many of those hits are very fun and enjoyable – it shouldn’t have taken me so long to figure that out, but I guess better late than never – even looking at it from my 15-year-old rock and soul purist’s vantage, a lot of disco (especially early disco) sounds like light soul. Why didn’t I hear that at the time?

    The three exceptions to my cloth-eared response to disco were Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love,” Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn the Beat Around,” and George McRae’s “Rock Your Baby.” I always loved those three singles – Donna’s because it was so strange in a wondrous way, and Vicki Sue’s and George’s because they were so exuberant. I wish I’d been as open-minded about the rest of disco – some of it did indeed suck, just like every other genre of music, but lots of it could have made my daily radio-listening much more enjoyable, if I’d let it.

    I owe a debt of thanks to my older sister for opening my mind a little. Sometime in the mid-1970s, when I found her listening to a disco song, I of course made a point of saying how stupid I thought it was. She replied, in so many words, that in a world as tough as this one, any music that made people feel like dancing was doing something important. That made me reconsider for the first time. (Many years later, when it finally dawned on me that Tommy James meant more to me than Robbie Robertson – that, in other words, Pop was infinitely greater than post-“Sgt. Pepper”/Dylan ponderously self-important Rock – I could finally hear what had always been right in there in the grooves of the good disco records.)

    Thanks to Marcello for the info about Timmy Thomas playing on “Rock Your Baby.” I *loved* “Why Can’t We Live Together,” so I’m happy to know Timmy played on this record, too. (Did he remain in the Sunshine Band?)

    I wish George McRae had been the permanent vocalist for KC & the Sunshine Band. Howie casey’s vocals have an Everyman charm, but I really like George McRae’s light, floating tenor.

    My only regret about this single is that it inspired John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” – a record that sounded like a hippo trying to dance – bad, in a word – even in 1974, at the height of my Beatle worship.

    I’d be OK with this as a 10, for a combination of artistic and historic reasons, as described by everone before me.

  23. 23
    Brian on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Rosie # 20 : “collar buttoned down and its shoes buffed up and ready to ride in something low-slung and Italian with the roof open to the wind”

    As groovy as this sounds, I think that the reality was – arghhh ! – leisure suits !

  24. 24
    mike on 7 Nov 2007 #

    Well, there’s not much more that I can add to the splendid observations above. This felt like a sea-change – even TOTP changed its format while Rock Your Baby was at #1, just to underline the final break from glam – and indeed it was a sea-change. Didn’t mean much to me at the time (although I lapped up “Rock The Boat”), as I spent the Summer of 1974 discovering prog. Sadly, and give or take the odd noble exception, I swallowed that “mindless brainwash music for the masses” line for far too long, from prog into punk. That’s sexual repression for you!

  25. 25
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    I seem to remember at the time there was a bit of a chicken/egg controversy regarding “Rock Your Baby” and “Rock The Boat” and who came up with the idea first. I recall Ray Fox-Cumming and his comedy parrot saying something about it in Disc and Music Echo, at any rate.*

    *now those were the days, kids; singles columns written by parrots!

  26. 26
    Erithian on 8 Nov 2007 #

    I should perhaps state here, in response to wwolfe, that “I Feel Love” was very much one of the records for which I made an exception to my anti-disco stance. Much more on that in a few years’ time. I was partial to the Timmy Thomas record too.

    Time perhaps to deploy my claim to fame, which is a mite less cool than Billy’s having sat next to KT Tunstall in Contemporary Feminist Playwrights. While I was staying loyal to Sweet and Slade, the ginger lad in the year above me at school was no doubt getting into the new sounds coming along. And given the sound of my singing voice, it was probably better for music lovers everywhere that Mick Hucknall was the one who took it to the next stage.

  27. 27
    Mark G on 8 Nov 2007 #

    or was it?

  28. 28
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Mick Out Of Simply Red’s true spiritual forefather hasn’t come up yet on Popular but he will do after having been kept at number two on three separate occasions!

  29. 29
    Lena on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Not Rod Stewart no…umm…er…not Paul Anka…umm…

  30. 30
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Although it should be recorded that Paul Anka unexpectedly returned to our top ten later in 1974 with the heartrending “You’re Having My Baby.”

    “I’m the only important one in this cot.”

  31. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    turns to midwife:
    “Now what are we going to do about these cutoffs?”

  32. 32
    Lena on 8 Nov 2007 #

    “Does the mobile have a spotlight?”

    Yes, while it went to #1 in the US…odd how all the #1s just after Nixon resigned weren’t very good, but then a month later things pick up again.

    So then…hmmm…not Tom Jones…oh dear…

  33. 33
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Think short and curly (but not Tom Jones ahem)…

  34. 34
    rosie on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Oh, him! He of the chain of Liverpool cake shops.

  35. 35
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Indeed, ’tis he.

  36. 36
    LondonLee on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Someone above asked about other good George McCrae records, the follow up single “I Can’t Leave You Alone” is terrific, more poppy and less slinky than “..Baby” but still great, and it had the classic funky b-side “I Get Lifted” – all those are on the ‘Rock Your Baby’ album.

  37. 37
    jeff w on 8 Nov 2007 #

    This GM track is pretty good as well:

  38. 38
    Caledonianne on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Rosie #20

    Ah, Reggie Bosanquet.

    He stood (successfully)in Glasgow University’s Rectorial Election in 1980.

    While he was at the University for the pre-election hustings he turned up in the refectory one lunchtime with his minders and sat at the table next to me.

    The poor sod was clearly so addicted to drink that the beverage he selected to wash down his lunch was a can of Schweppes Shandy. Clearly he couldn’t get through lunch in the non-licensed refectory without some approximation of booze. Sad, really.

    Anyone else remember how he cocked up the News at Ten announcement of the death of Elvis?

    As for the record – I’m another who likes it more now than I did at the time. Pretty classy stuff.

  39. 39
    Erithian on 8 Nov 2007 #

    A bit harsh! – he announced it and retracted it half a minute later. Not really his fault as they were clearly getting conflicting reports. I remember how the information didn’t really compute, the words “Elvis” and “dead” sounded so bizarre together. More of this in a few years’ time as well!

  40. 40
    Marcello Carlin on 8 Nov 2007 #

    Well, as the man himself wisely urged on “Dance With Me” – “Bop around, lose all your junk.”

  41. 41
    crag on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Theres a lot of disco i love but i’m going to come clean and say that personally i’ve never really seen the appeal of this one. I’ve always found the backing slickly adonyne and the vocal a little characterless to be totally honest. It doesnt know if it wants to be a four-on-the-floor dancefloor filler or a smooth uptempo soul ballad and as such just seems to settle for a bland middle ground.
    As for it being a pivitol milestone what i hear when i listen is not the dawn of some new musical era but rather merely a more commercial version of what the likes of Curtis, Marvin and Stevie had been doing since the start of the 70s. IMO a more obvious “birth of disco” tune would be Isaac Hayes”Theme from Shaft”- relentless hi-hat fuelled rhythm, sweeping strings, lush production-sonically it ticks a lot of the boxes for what we’d later know as “disco”.

  42. 42
    doofuus2003 on 9 Nov 2007 #

    All this summer (1974) I was working as a lorry driver’s mate, furniture removals and Babysham deliveries a speciality – and Rock your baby, and Rock the boat for that matter, were everywhere, and I had hardly thought of them in 10 years (since I left my record collection at home) and today they come flooding back. That’s why it is worth sticking with this Popular business. Basically, Thanks Tom.

  43. 43
    Erithian on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Nobody’s mentioned it yet but – Number 2 Watch – just behind George was Stephanie De Sykes with “Born With A Smile On My Face” – for those who haven’t heard it, the title pretty much tells you what it’s like. The second New Faces act to reach number 2, but the show didn’t have that long to wait for its first number 1.

  44. 44
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Also the second Crossroads-related hit, following Sue Nicholls’ “Where Will You Be?” in 1968. Always loved “Born With A Smile On My Face” and indeed the future (and now ex) Mrs Angus Deayton.

  45. 45
    mike on 9 Nov 2007 #

    I don’t think that Our Steph was ever on New Faces, Erithian – although she did perform the song on Crossroads, weirdly enough.

  46. 46
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Nov 2007 #

    She was certainly a regular on That’s Life at the time, singing a topical song every week. The woman who eventually replaced her definitely appeared on New Faces.

  47. 47
    Erithian on 9 Nov 2007 #

    OK, I take that bit back then. Funny, I can almost see Steph’s name in the odd lettering they used on the New Faces scoreboard. So did her break come via Crossroads or did she do the song on the programme after it was a hit?

    As for her replacement, who did New Faces then That’s Life then became a national treasure, it’s a pity she’s never had a hit record (unless of course you know better, as Cyril Fletcher used to say) – “Northerners” or “The Ballad of Barry and Freda” would have sounded great in the top 40 show.

  48. 48
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Nov 2007 #

    The song was specially written for Crossroads by Simon May, who seems to have written or co-written most soap opera-related songs from the seventies onwards, since Steph was appearing in the show as a visiting pop star (and where better for a visiting pop star to stay than at the Crossroads Motel?). There were lots of shots of her and her band (Rain) cruising around Spaghetti Junction to the soundtrack of the tune.

    Before that she was one of the shadowy cabal of female session singers along with Sue and Sunny, Madeline Bell etc. and sang back-up on a lot of songs which Dale is apt to spin of a Sunday.

    Later in the seventies she co-presented a kids’ TV pop show called Look Alive! with a chap whose actual name was Gordon Bennett.

  49. 49
    Billy Smart on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Sadly, not a single episode of Crossroads from 1974 appears to have survived. Stephanie de Sykes and Gordon Bennett can be seen in their full Look Alive! presenting glory on one of the extras on the recently released ‘The Goodies at ITV’ Network DVD, though.

  50. 50
    Erithian on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Simon May wrote the EastEnders theme as well. Speaking of which, I didn’t watch it in its early years, but there was a kind of Endersmania circa ’86 in which Nick Berry and several other cast members had hits – were any of them written into the storylines? There have been getting on for 30 performers who’ve had both a hit record and a stint in Enders, from Wendy Richard to Samantha Janus.

  51. 51
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Nov 2007 #

    I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity to discuss this *SPOILER ALERT*later on Popular*END OF SPOILER ALERT*.

  52. 52
    Steve on 9 Nov 2007 #

    It’s only a matter of time until David Essex turns up in Albert Square.

  53. 53
    Erithian on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Yes, MC’s right, we’ll come to that later – there’ll have been 40 by then!

  54. 54
    Marcello Carlin on 9 Nov 2007 #

    It’s only a matter of time until David Essex turns up in Albert Square.

    It so nearly happened

  55. 55
    mike on 9 Nov 2007 #

    Our Steph played a struggling singer called Holly Brown on Crossroads. There’s a neat little plot summary on this fan page, towards the bottom. Keep reading for the lyrics (“Forget the politicians, nuclear visions, the gloomy headlines, official deadlines…”), and an update on Ms De Sykes’ political beliefs…

  56. 56
    Waldo on 10 Nov 2007 #

    TOM: Hope you’re back in the pink. I’ve been pretty shitty myself these last couple of weeks. No hospital, though. Be well, buddy!

    Nothing gives me more satisfaction than getting a spoof letter past Ian Hislop. Although Ian is my direct contemporary, as far as sport and rock/pop is concerned, he becomes intrinsically enveloped in a Fraser Crane-like cocoon of innocence and ignorance without, I hasten to add, Fraser’s insufferable pomposity: “The fact is, Doctor Crane, you SHOULD be familiar with the works of KC and The Sunshine Band…” This gap in Hislop’s education is, of course, mercilessly exploited by Paul Merton on HIGNFY but Hislop smiles and does not protest. He’s actually one of the good guys, Ian.

    But not even I felt he or his sub-editors (mind you, they’re probably all about twelve) would fall for a letter I submitted to the “Eye” a couple of years or so ago from a guy from Motherwell called “George Macrae”, who was contributing to a running debate on the Scottish practice of “turd burning”, to wit, setting a piece of human excrement alight and posting this through someone’s letterbox. “Macrae”, now living in my home town, “remembered” catching two small boys back in 1974 on the verge of doing this very thing to him and punishing them by inviting them to consume the shit in question in exchange for not being severely wounded courtesy of “George’s” steelies. “You could get away with that sort of thing in 1974”, I concluded. To my delight, “Private Eye” printed this, convinced that the events had been genuine. I’ve hoodwinked Ian and one or two other editors a few times over the years but none are relevant to this loop. What flew merrily over Hislop’s head, of course, was “George Macrae” and “1974”, the giveaway link.

    Meanwhile, the real George Macrae, the son of a Florida cop, secured this KC number merely because he could hit the high notes and Casey couldn’t or wouldn’t. “Rock Your Baby” was a gigantic worldwide hit and I can say nothing bad about it at all. Great arrangement, great beat and terrific stuff from Lil’ George, who still turns up over here and on the continent. He used to tour with Edwin Starr but does no longer since Edwin has alas become “friend only to the undertaker”.


  57. 57
    Mark G on 12 Nov 2007 #

    re: Born with a smile on my face:

    I heard, back in the day, the song was originally written as a theme song for Jimmy Tarbuck, but he rejected it. (“The whole of my life’s been a pantomime” seems more like a line from a suicide note to me)

    If I’m wrong, OK. Bit of a shame though.

  58. 58
    Marcello Carlin on 12 Nov 2007 #

    Scansion-wise it might have been tricky inserting the word “oho!” into the song at regular intervals.

  59. 59
    Erithian on 12 Nov 2007 #

    Waldo – the collected turd-burning letters plus Boxing Day Bobby would make a great Christmas present for somebody, can’t think who at the moment.

    Hislop’s definitely one of the good guys, and his occasional shafts of insight into sport and pop help to make HIGNFY the consistent joy that it is – an absolute highlight being his Jimmy Somerville impression on “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. There’s been a timely repeat for his series “Not Forgotten” on Great War memorials this last week.

  60. 60
    Waldo on 12 Nov 2007 #

    Why thank you, Erithian. Perhaps I should after all give “Boxing Day Bobby” to Janette, my agent. It will need a bit of embellishing, though.

    Yes, Hislop’s a delight. I remember the name of the late tennis player Vitas Gerulaitis once came up on HIGNFY and Merton immediately turned to Ian:

    “I bet you think that’s a disease, don’t you?”


  61. 61
    Tilda on 30 May 2008 #

    A good example is the best sermon,

  62. 62
    DJ Punctum on 30 May 2008 #

    And the end of passion is the beginning of repentance innit.

  63. 63
    Billy Smart on 13 Feb 2009 #

    NMEWatch: 29 June 1974. Single of the week from a spot-on Charlie Gillet;

    “Too fast to type to, to catchy to concentrate on words to describe it, this slinky thing slips and slides for as long as you can stay on your feet. George McCrae is as new to us as he probably is to you, but he’s been listening to Al Green, waited until he saw Al’s eyes start to droop, and came in with this wide awake invitation to take him in your arms. The bass is steady, maraccas shuffle twice as fast, and this will leapfrog the charts before TOTP have time to take their copy out of its sleeve. Nice work by President to pick up the rights to it, from the Florida-based TK label; up till now Jay Boy has been restricted to meeting the peculiar tastes of Northern soul dancers, but the whole country will swing and sway to this one.”

    Also reviewed;

    The Sweet – The Six Teens
    ABBA – Ring Ring
    The Wombles – Banana Rock
    The Jackson 5 – Dancing Machine

  64. 64
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Feb 2011 #

    # 52 + #54 – Well, David Essex will indeed soon be arriving in Albert Square, playing Alfie Moon’s uncle, I believe. Rock on? Probably not.

  65. 65
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2011 #

    Very good record this one: 8 easy.
    All I have to add to what’s already been said is the song’s connections for me. On the one hand the drum machine anticipates the beginning of things like Heart of Glass for sure, on the other hand it reminds me of the first two bars of the Doors’s Break on Through. A clicky metronome pulse before the real beat comes in just is powerful in pop no matter where it comes from, I suppose. Interestingly, the early versions of Heart of Glass from 1975 (when it was called something like ‘The Reggae song’) have almost exactly RYB’s disco guitar but not its groove. That would reverse later of course. Famously – and I’m surprised no one’s mentioned this – Abba listened hard to RYB’s groove, and copied it and used it as the base for Dancing Queen. DQ is one of pop’s great joyous moments, and it’s easy to hear in retrospect that by starting from RYB (+ Frida and Agnetha’s voices) they gave themselves a huge head-start in that direction.

  66. 66
    swanstep on 19 Feb 2011 #

    Well, for some reason this record popped up on my itunes right after my second time through the slightly less somnabulent second half of King of Limbs – *god* it sounded and felt good.

  67. 67
    Paul Ramsey on 28 Jan 2012 #

    Deserves a ten if only for replacing the appalling she at number one. Has to be remembered though that the top of the pops strike at the time played a huge part. No opportunity for the quo and cliff and cilla to plug their records on that show and take up valuable places in the chart. George was broken through the discos; people danced to it and then enquired about it. It’s all about the underrated songwriting genius of casey and finch. They went on to write some of the most commercial and infectious dance music of the seventies.

  68. 68
    hectorthebat on 1 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 8
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 988
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Stephin Merritt (Magnetic Fields) – The Best Recordings from 1900 to 1999
    New Musical Express (UK) – NME Rock Years, Single of the Year 1963-99 (2000)
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 150 Singles of All Time (1987) 15
    Paul Roland (UK) – CD Guide to Pop & Rock, 100 Essential Singles (2001)
    Q (UK) – 100 Songs That Changed the World (2003) 92
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year

  69. 69
    lonepilgrim on 26 Oct 2019 #

    it is such a relief to hear something that sounds like the 1970s rather than the Butlins style 50s glam pastiches that have been clogging up the number 1 spot.
    The piano and organ are a staple of gospel but in that mode tend to have a propulsive energy leading the congregation ever upwards. As Marcello suggests, near the start of this thread, here they sound more like the shimmering gyroscopic movement of Miles and his band on something like ‘In a Silent Way’ and Macrae’s unworldly falsetto dances inside it. Glorious

  70. 70
    Gareth Parker on 5 May 2021 #

    I think this is a gorgeous record. I could go up to a 9/10 here.

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