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May 08

SHOWADDYWADDY – “Under The Moon Of Love”

FT + Popular146 comments • 8,029 views

#397, 4th December 1976

A recurring theme on recent Popular comments threads has been the idea that one track or another represents “why punk had to happen”: a feeling – easy, perhaps too easy, to identify in hindsight – that pop and rock had stagnated or slipped into irrelevance. The phrase is slightly weaselly – it suggests that bad or dull records somehow caused punk, whereas more likely they provided the background conditions for it to be embraced. Anyway, here’s another candidate, at Number One when the Sex Pistols were first nosing into the charts and when John Peel was publically embracing the new music.

Showaddywaddy’s rock and roll revivalism – covering obscure numbers like this and more fondly recalled classics – is bouncily riskless, a jolly dead end. It’s the culmination of a turn back to rock’n’roll that’s been gathering pace for most of the decade, from the half-remembered inspirations of Roxy and T Rex, through the muscular callbacks and pantomime references in glam, and ending up at Showaddywaddy’s honks and vamps and put-on voices.

But the problem is that punk is also born – in part – out of that opening up of rock’n’roll and the 1950s as a well to draw on: viewed through a particular lens the back-to-basics, DIY spirit in punk is skiffle run through the greaser aggression of the Teddy Boys and rockers. Showaddywaddy are as effective an alternative to progressive “bloat” or complexity as punk was – they just seem like a less honourable one.

Their alternative won in the end, though: making soundalikes for 20 year old (or older!) records isn’t disreputable any more, far from it. I’ve seen pop-loving comrades digging tracks this year by Duffy, Alphabeat, and Annie which keep the revivalist spirit burning bright. Turns out it’s a Showaddywaddy world after all.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Ouch. I’d say Duffy’s Mercy is cod, one step removed from mercenary, so not a zillion miles away from Under The Moon Of Love which is a straight copy of a catchy, and fairly obscure, record – ie one with minimal artistic input, but quite likely to rake in cash. Alphabeat and Annie are surely not as one-dimensional, even though they draw heavily on eighties electro-pop. I’d recognise an Annie song at twenty paces. Alphabeat are pretty identifiable too. A heck of a lot more joie de vivre than mid-period ‘Waddy, no question.

    Now pardon me while I take the only opportunity I’ll get to bring in one of my favourite pop/football-interface stories. I noticed that Stefan Oakes was playing for Wycombe in the play-off against Stockport. He’s the son of Showaddywaddy’s Trevor Oakes, as was Luton’s Scott Oakes. So when Luton played Chelsea in the 1994 FA Cup semi, with the winner playing Man Utd, there was the unlikely story of both Cup Final teams fielding a son of Showaddywaddy, because Dion Dublin’s dad was the drummer! Or so I’ve always thought until I checked the PFA website…

    “Dublin was also quick to scotch the oft-quoted story that his father was once a member of 1970s hitmakers Showaddywaddy. “That’s not true,” he says. “It began as a joke and seems to have become part of football folklore. That wasn’t my dad, it was a guy called Romeo Challenger who used to be the drummer in Showaddywaddy.

    “My dad knew Romeo and played with him and the story was started as a bit of a laugh. It’s been bandied about for around ten years now that my dad was in Showaddywaddy but he never was.”

    Hey ho. By the way, am I the only person who occasionally confuses pop and football in their dreams? I once dreamt that UK semi-riot grrl group Linus were a nippy blonde winger for Manchester United.

  2. 2
    Tom on 19 May 2008 #

    Alphabeat I’d put firmly in the cod bracket, Annie I agree has a lot more to her – and I like her record, but I found what sounds like (to my ears) the studied application of a mid-80s dance-pop sound to the song a bit weird: the production is so exact as to be actually a bit intrusive for me – though it makes the song stand out.

  3. 3
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Maybe it’s Alphabeat’s awful dress sense – approximating 1985 while clearly indicating they didn’t live through it – that makes me think they (pregnant pause) mean it.

  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    As for the Punk Wars…

    The general lack of energy and effort, all round, in 1976 could be seen in the plain white sleeves – not even company sleeves – that most 45s came in. Showaddywaddy became the most consistent British hitmakers for a couple of years after Under The Moon Of Love, with across the board Top 5 placings. Both facts point to laziness, even inertia, and show that pop needed some kind of vitamin injection in 76/77… The question is, would Electropop and New Pop have happened without Punk to open the door?

  5. 5
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 19 May 2008 #

    so did picture sleeves for singles start big then fade, or poke their heads up a teeny bit but not catch on till new hormones (and/or stiff)? when did they begin? the oldest one i own is — i am fairly sure– elton&kiki (which i imagine is my sister’s swallowed up in among all my records) which suggests there weren’t may around before earlier in 76 — but i am eager to be schooled here

  6. 6
    LondonLee on 19 May 2008 #

    Damn, I was hoping that Dion Dublin story was true. The best thing about Showaddywaddy was that they had a drummer called Romeo Challenger. Though I do have their more Glammy single “Sweet Music” lined up for a future blog post, always liked that one. This one is pretty duff though. Oi’ll give it 2.

  7. 7
    Alan on 19 May 2008 #

    the current 80s revivalism seems to extend to the aesthetics of the videos to go with the songs.

  8. 8
    pete on 19 May 2008 #

    The Alphabeat vs Showaddywaddy question (or indeed Annie) falls down in so many places that I don’t know where to start. Showaddywaddy existed as a proto-tribute band, if Alphabeat wanted to be the (er) Danish Human League they could be, that is actually a paying (not much) job option. Annie could be the Swedish Madonna, but after the fact just mere pastiche is not enough to replicate the feeling of the first time around. Showaddywaddy were about the fifties tracks, but also the colourful Ted affectation was massively important to a youth audience whose parents were (or were around) Teds. Nostalgia is the same as anything else, first time round its different: and in many ways less jaded.

    SWW were straight, safe nostalgia, turning the “danger” of one of the first teen fads (Teds), and making it Dad-friendly (esp as Dad may have been a ted). It was fumbling towards a multi-generational acceptance – unlike Alphabeat who are not aiming at the thirty somethings. They know they will hit the ones who wonder what the kids like. Just like you can’t easily compare SWW to original Teds, you equally can’t easily compare the sophisticated (pastiche – if you want) of Alphabeat and Annie to Showaddywaddy.

  9. 9
    tim davidge on 19 May 2008 #

    Phil Spector may or may not be a nice guy (the jury’s still out on that one, ha ha..) but he could do hit records. Sometime between being one of the Teddy Bears and producing all the wall-of-sound stuff from around ’62-’66, he produced a couple of records for one Curtis Lee. Both were US hits – his only hits. This is one of them, from 1961.

    Some pre-Beatles pop styles age well. Not so this one. Doo-wop, as it came to be known, retrospectively, after its era (roughly ’54-’64), seems somehow sealed in history, and has done virtually since its demise. It was as if, around the time the Beatles hit, someone had put all this stuff in a room and screwed a little brass plaque to the door. The Past, it read. From time to time people like Mud, these guys and a little later on the Darts, would creep in and sneak something out of the room.

    What they would have noticed was that their chosen artefact, if it was one of the more modern-sounding pop numbers from, say, Eddie Cochran, would need to be appended with the trappings of nostalgia, to deliberately make it sound old. This is indeed what happened when this group covered a famous Cochran number in 1975. However, the doo-wop numbers didn’t need any such embellishments in order to make them “retro” (by the way, the word didn’t exist in 1976) and so all they had to do was reproduce them pretty much as was. I haven’t heard either version lately but from memory all the ingredients were there, from a basso profundo line to that classic doo-wop theme – the fact that the protagonist hasn’t actually got the girl yet.

    In his introduction to a doo-wop compilation called Echoes Down the Hall some years back, one Emcee (I don’t know who he was) described the style thus: “while doo-wop is the warmest of all the rock-related (he meant pre-Beatle pop) styles, it is also the one most tinged with doubt and sadness” In the words of another famous doo-wop number, life could be a dream…

    This might be a bit clunky but as covers go it wasn’t their worst. Worth a five, maybe, in my opinion.

  10. 10
    Tom on 19 May 2008 #

    Except for Jessica P EVERY ONE of the people I’ve seen praising Alphabeat have been 30somethings!

    The proto-tribute thing is interesting, because of course in the early-mid 70s the whole “oldies” infrastructure wasn’t really there: you couldn’t obtain the material SWW covered that easily. Were there dedicated rock’n’roll radio shows? I think being a covers band made more sense than making pastiche material – now the reverse is true.

  11. 11
    tim davidge on 19 May 2008 #

    As far as radio shows go, Jimmy Savile used to present the Double Top Ten show (still going now, under a different name, under the aegis of Dale Winton). This was already going by 1973, and used to feature charts going back to the mid-Fifties. On London’s Capital Radio, Roger Scott presented “Cruising”, certainly going by 1976 or so, which was more specifically to do with the (pre-1964) rock’n’roll era. It featured both UK and US-only hits, the odd rockabilly curio, and of course doo-wop/pop hits like this one. There was plenty of interest in the 1950s in those days and there were certainly record shops where you could go and pick up old 45s – some of them imported from the USA. Anyone with an interest in the period would have known where to go…

  12. 12
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Re 9, I’d argue that doo wop mutated into group soul, starting with Shep & The Limelites’ Daddy’s Home (as covered by Cliff) which was the first doo wop hit to have that feeling of ‘letting go’ on the lead vocal, and certainly didn’t sound as much like The Ink Spots. The Impressions began as a doo wop act (For Your Precious Love is pretty much genre defining), and the Girl Groups of the 60s looked as one to Frankie Lymon for inspiration. The REAL second wave was ridden by the sublime Delfonics and Stylistics.

    So, it evolved. Meaning Showaddywaddy were too doo wop what McFly were to punk. With Darts as Green Day. Or is it that really going too far?

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    As for oldies radio, I have strong memories of Billy Lee Riley’s Red Hot, Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise and Jerry Byrne’s Lights Out on Radio 1 – possibly it was down to Stuart Colman* who later produced Shaky’s hits. Roger Scott on Capitol also used to have his drivetime Cruising spot which was all vintage R&R. Sean Rowley can wax lyrical about Scott’s shows.

    It certainly was hard to pick stuff up on re-issue; it’s hard to credit just how groundbreaking re-issues by Andrew Lauder and Mick Houghton at United Artists (Merseybeat, The Beat Merchants) were. Or The Joe Meek Story on Decca released in ’77, the only comp of his before the early 90s. Until Edsel, Bam Caruso and Ace hit their stride in the early 80s the pickings were very slim. Which may explain why Phil Spector’s Echoes Of The 60s, including Under The Moon Of Love, was such a big seller (possibly a number one album?) in ’76 or ’77.

    The feel of the period – the 50s refracted through a mid/late 70s modernity – is captured very well on the Rock On cd just released by Ace. Great notes, and I guarantee there’ll be something mindblowing on it you’ve never heard before.

    * Checking my 70s rockabilly comps, I see that Colman wrote sleevenotes on pretty much all of them. A real one-man R&R propaganda outfit!

  14. 14
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2008 #

    Darts were certainly superior to Showaddywaddy. They always look like a group who you might want to join, wheras Showaddywaddy always seemed a bit more workmanlike.

    That said, I wouldn’t entirely dismiss them. This may be a residual affection from my earliest pop memories. They were an act ideally designed to appeal to a very small child; clearly deliniated tunes, simple and vivid rainbow costumes, striking co-ordinated choreography. Even thirty years on. I can’t quite shake off this instinctive level of pleasure! And I’m not sure that I’d really want to… This certainly isn’t bad enough to fail to suffice as a cheery party record – if you’re in a good mood in the first place.

    They also, from this distance in time, really do seem to belong to a more innocent age: You couldn’t have called any of these men celebrities. They seem like hardened and skilled show people, and there’s something quite sympathetic about that, even if you don’t particularly like this sort of thing.

  15. 15
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Damn! Got in too late, sorry Tim… Roger Scott did play a lot of 45s that were obscure then and are obscure now, as well as Sh-Boom, Earth Angel etc.

    Seeing as Darts may not trouble us apart from in a run of no.2 alerts, I’ll take this chance to salute It’s Raining, an original tune as far as I’m aware.

  16. 16
    vinylscot on 19 May 2008 #

    Did Stuart Coleman not have a rock and roll radio show about now?

    Showaddywaddy (“New Faces” winners IIRC) seemed to have already run their course before this came out – a few top 20 hits in the wake of a promising debut, but a move back to their own material after a couple of big hit covers proved a mistake. So they went back to the covers, and this was the result, the first of seven consecutive top five cover versions.

    It benefitted not only from their wide-ranging appeal, from kids to grannies and grandpas, but also from a mini rock and roll revival going on at the time – Hank C Burnette was in the charts with his masterpiece; Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Feathers and Robert Gordon were enjoying moderate success.

    Showaddywaddy, I’m sure served as a decent introduction to this type of music for a great many kids back then. They never claimed to have any originality or cultural significance; they were just a fun band (and apparently they weren’t half bad live!)

    Tim’s post no 11 about there being record shops was not really the case in my experience, at least not in Glasgow, where there was little hope of getting hold of anything which had been deleted – even second hand shops were extremely thin on the ground (decent ones still are). My first visit to “Rock On” in Kentish Town Road was still some months away, and I can still remember walking through that door for the first time – it blew me away!!

    In Glasgow you had to listen to Richard Park’s (yes, that one) weekly oldies show “Dr Dick’s Midnight Surgery”, in the hope of catching some oldies you didn’t already know – and even then it took a long time to get hold of Tommy McLain’s “Sweet Dreams” and Bobby Vee’s “Walking With My Angel”. There weren’t even any Guinness books then, so I had a school jotter full of lists of tracks I wanted to get hold of – I’m sure many of you did much the same!

  17. 17
    vinylscot on 19 May 2008 #

    Yes, Darts was a better band; but then they would be, having mutated at least partly from the rather splendid Rocky Sharpe and the Razors, whose excellent DooWop EP must have come out around about now on Chiswick.

    However, do not confuse them with Rocky Sharpe and the Replays, who were not splendid at all.

  18. 18
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2008 #

    18 posts in and I’m the first person to mention Einsturzender Neubauten!

  19. 19
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Re 5, Pic sleeves were certainly a rarity before Punk – Stiff and New Hormones leading the way (no p/s for Anarchy In The UK). Even as a ten or eleven-year old, EMI 45s in plain white sleeves seemed half-assed, cheap and less alluring than 60s 45s in company sleeves (or even early 70s gems like Blackfoot Sue’s hit on Jam).

    No idea how the labels decided which 45s should have pic sleeves, though I can understand how it shifted copies of David Cassidy’s Could It Be Forever and David Essex’s first couple of hits.

  20. 20
    LondonLee on 19 May 2008 #

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers Darts (just barely though), they seem to have fallen off the memory map while Showaddywaddy still linger. Loved their version of ‘Boy From New York City’ – and of course they had another wonderfully-named member in Griff Fender.

  21. 21
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    And the less wonderfully named Bob Fish. Maybe it was a Conway Twitty-style anti-pseudonym!

  22. 22
    Dan R on 19 May 2008 #

    My grandmother got a free record from her local petrol station which she gave to me. It was a random mixture of late-seventies chart hits and included this. I rather liked the harmonies on it but even aged 9 or so I thought this was one of the more naff songs on it. The only thing that interested me about the band was that (a) one of my chemistry teachers at school looked like the lead singer (the one with the Jaggeresque lips), (b) they had two drummers (they did, didn’t they?) so join a select group of bands like The Allman Brothers and The Fall, and (c) that strange evening in the early 90s (?) when they were the specially-invited guests of Einstürzende Neubauten in a one-off concert in some curious mixture of postmodernism and affection.

    But they seem harmless. Surely punk happened because of the harmful and bloated and pompous, not the end-of-the-pier summer-season entertainers like this.

    EDIT: Darn, spent too long writing the post and got pipped to the Einstürzende Neubauten post…

  23. 23
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    I don’t think punk happened because of Showaddywaddy, but they were symptomatic of a need for new blood. Technicolour drapes were fun, but they weren’t really enough.

  24. 24
    Tom on 19 May 2008 #

    According to Wikipedia they were formed when two other bands merged and in a heartening reversal of standard merger practise they ended up with two of EVERYTHING pretty much!

  25. 25
    rosie on 19 May 2008 #

    I remember Darts, and they were very popular with one particular faction of my tutor group, who actually got a band together and persuaded me to sit with them in the music room after school while they rehearsed.

    If I didn’t have foreknowledge of what was coming up and I was asked which fifties-retro song was a number one at this particular time, I’d have guessed that it was Daddy Cool by Darts, which seemed to be ubiquitous at this time; more so I think than Showaddywaddy.

    Didn’t Darts have a particular act on TOTP with a couple of jivers in 50s gear behind the performers? And the singer looked of the right vintage?

    And yes, I thought Darts much better than Showaddywaddy.

  26. 26
    tim davidge on 19 May 2008 #

    Re~#13: Stuart Colman was indeed an old-record buff. I used to catch his “Record Hop” on BFBS when I was in Berlin in the mid-’80s. Great show – again, he chose ’64 as his cut-off date “although we very occasionally play something from the seventies if it’s *really* right”.
    Re~#18: I think there’s a Berlin connection here as well. The Kongresshalle in that same city is famous for, well, being a new building which collapsed. It was just sitting there one day and suddenly went: **krump**. (Einstuerzende Neubauten = collapsing new buildings…)

  27. 27
    tim davidge on 19 May 2008 #

    #25: I certainly remember Darts’ TOTP act. There was a singer (the bass, I think) who was a bit loopy. I seem to remember him doing a totally over the top visual performance, kneeling and sprawling all over the stage, that sort of thing. I think his name was Den Hegarty. Yes, they were a good act.

  28. 28
    wichita lineman on 19 May 2008 #

    Darts were clearly afficianados too. Daddy Cool and Come Back My Love sound like obvious hits, but I’ve only heard the originals in the last few years (The Rays, and The Wrens??). SWW, by contrast, were steely-eyed and sales-savvy enough to cover Curtis Lee’s only other hit – Pretty Little Angel Eyes – a few releases after Under The Moon Of Love.

  29. 29
    Billy Smart on 19 May 2008 #

    My favourite Showaddywaddy song is ‘Baby You Got What It Takes’, in which a woman is told that it doesn’t matter that she might not have a beautiful face/ the best of taste/ style and grace, etc, because “Baby you’ve got what it takes!”

    To which I always imagine the unfortunate girlfriend replying – “Well, who are you to talk – you, no oil painting, jiving away in your florescent yellow suit?”

  30. 30
    Jonathan Bogart on 20 May 2008 #

    As an American who has only the faintest memory of the 70s, the appeal of this sort of thing is wholly opaque to me. I love the original rock & roll songs of the 50s and early 60s, but what I love about them is inextricably bound up in the time and place of their composition and recording, and hearing cheerful nonentities run these songs through their cursory, glossily-produced paces nearly two decades after the fact is faintly depressing.

    Not to get all parochial about which side of the Atlantic “owns” what music, but the Rolling Stones aside I’ve never been able to enjoy British music when it simply imitates American music (whether trad jazz, the early beat groups and mods, Eric Clapton, or much 90s r&b), instead of using elements of American music as a starting point for particularly British kinds of pop. (As see the Kinks, Bowie, Roxy, Bolan, the Beatles after 1965 or so.)

    This is one of the real triumphs of punk, in my view: the end, in theory anyway, of the bland transatlanticism that dominated the “rock” end of radio and made Chicago sound just like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and a revival of regionalism and even parochialism. New York punk sounds nothing like London punk, and Cleveland post-punk and Manchester post-punk sound just as different.

    Which is, again, what I love about early rock & roll, how Memphis and New Orleans and New York and St. Louis and Nashville and Dallas and Kansas City and Chicago and San Francisco all had their own sounds, their own traditions which were informed by a sort of national pop consensus, but not defined by it. Showaddywaddy, says Wikipedia, were from Leicester, but they could have been from anywhere and end up sounding like they’re from nowhere — just the house band that lives inside the radio.

    Or perhaps their regionalism is simply inaudible from this side of the Atlantic in 2008, which is entirely possible.

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