22
Jul 08

BROTHERHOOD OF MAN – “Figaro”

FT + Popular67 comments • 3,556 views

#418, 11th February 1978

When pop’s weather changes, sometimes it’s the mediocre songs that tell you – left beached, suddenly seeming not just below-par but a bit ridiculous. Some records are the sound of a game being up. The hoofy hornsome jauntiness of “Figaro” wouldn’t have sounded good whenever it was released, but not so long before it would at least have fitted in better, just another bad mid-70s pop side, and why expect more? But in the context of 1978 it sounds risible in its complete paucity of ambition (those bastard horns especially). I like this a lot less than the much-despised “Angelo”: a pastiche that runs out of steam beats this horrid evocation of the holiday hustle. “Figaro” – well, “Figaro”‘s brass section – is like being woken at dawn, with a hangover, from an itchy bed by a Butlins Redcoat and made to party till your feet bleed. A single too far for the Brotherhood and their whole aesthetic.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    DJ Punctum on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Sounds like the Boydmeister, all right…

  2. 32
    Waldo on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Ah, “Magpie”!

    Theme tune sung by Spencer Davis Group and Susan Stranks followed by Jenny Hanley. Hotpants! Woo-Hoo! A little bit more trouser movement for the young fastly-developing Waldo than was to be had from watching Auntie Val stroking Jason, who I always thought was dead.

    And then one day, he was.

  3. 33
    Mark G on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Jenny Hanley used to work behind the bar at Playhatch, which is not a kids TV show but a village outside Henley and not far from us here. I think it’s her folks’ pub.

    Anyroad, we went, and I had to stop a friend of mine going up and asking her if she was her off Magpie. dense get!

  4. 34
    LondonLee on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Mick Robertson from Magpie came to our school once to film a bit about our Swing Orchestra (Glenn Miller type thing, they made an album!) and I was in a crush of kids around him trying to get his autograph but by the time I got to him the bell had gone for the next lesson and he told me I had to go to class so no autograph. The bastard.

  5. 35
    mike on 23 Jul 2008 #

    Mick Robertson was, I think, the first male Magpie presenter since the show’s inception whom I didn’t fancy. I blame the curly perm.

  6. 36
    Waldo on 23 Jul 2008 #

    I can recall Mick Robertson singing a song called “The Tango’s Over” and going nowhere in a hurry with it. As Mike says, the barnet was to blame.

    Lee – We didn’t have a bell sounding to denote lesson changes at my school. We had four pips/bleeps. The final “hometime” bleeps were then followed by the plumby tones of our librarian, Miss Barclay, announcing which kids, who were not already in custody, were warned for court the next day.

  7. 37
    LondonLee on 24 Jul 2008 #

    We beeps too over the school tannoy, it was just easier to say “bell”

  8. 38
    Billy Smart on 24 Jul 2008 #

    The thought’s just struck me – isn’t the chorus ripped off ‘Una Paloma Blanca’?

  9. 39
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jul 2008 #

    No doubt influenced by it, but I don’t think it’s a direct steal.

  10. 40
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I remember Mick Robertson’s follow-up single “and then I change hands” being better.

    It was about dancing the tango again, and not the old Boy Scouts joke.

  11. 41
    DJ Punctum on 24 Jul 2008 #

    “Then I Changed Hands,” a former Fab 208 Powerplay.

    I saw his album (also called Then I Changed Hands) on tape in a charity shop recently but alas the tape was too mangled to justify purchase.

  12. 42
    wwolfe on 24 Jul 2008 #

    It’s very strange to see Brotherhood of Man as a recurring chart topper here: they were a definitive one hit wonder in America, with “United We Stand.” I’d always thought they were a made-up band, a la Edison Lighthouse, but here I find them a veritable Pop Steamroller. (Well, not really, but still.)

    Re: The Survey:

    1. When were you born? 1959
    2. What was the year you were first regularly interested in what was at #1? 1971. (I listened to casey Kaem’s “American Top 40” every Sunday morning, even going so far as to keep track of how much each song had risen or fallen from the prior week.)
    3. Do you still listen to music in the Top 40 on a regular basis (and if the answer’s “no”, when did you stop)? Yes, I do. The main difference from when I began in 1971 to now is the segregation by genre that exists now across the American commercial radio dial. Which is why I’m about to subscribe to satellite radio, where you can pick channels that mix everything together. Much more interesting and fun.

  13. 43
    Mark G on 24 Jul 2008 #

    I’d always assumed the “Brotherhood of Man” to be a dormant bandname that was reactivated for the Eurovision song comp.

    But one read of Wiki has a consistent release schedule through the Deram singles all the way up through Pye and onto “kisses 4 me”…

  14. 44
    mike on 25 Jul 2008 #

    And on the Cattini-watch front, it’s time to bid Our Clem farewell for the best part of five years, as his impressive 15-year run of placing at least Number One in the charts each year draws to a close…

  15. 45
    DJ Punctum on 25 Jul 2008 #

    The constant (xpost) was Tony Hiller, who owned the Brotherhood of Man “brand name.”

  16. 46
    wichita lineman on 25 Jul 2008 #

    It took them six whole months to come up with this ‘sequel’. Wild.

    A pub conversation the other night was on whether a whole compilation could be made up of Abba-alikes from the late seventies. Angelo and Figaro obviously stake their lowly claims, then there’s the much better Wanted by The Dooleys (who, like BOM, switched from male lead to twin female lead with suspiciously ‘professional’ timing). I have a recollection of Dutch group Luv sneaking into this bag. Must be a bunch more acts across Europe doing something similar?

  17. 47
    wichita lineman on 26 Jul 2008 #

    “I’m rather hoping now that when we get to 1978, we don’t have all this over again, along with ludicrous accusations of “racism” being levelled at people who are merely expressing an opinion with which others disagree” said Waldo in the Typically Tropical thread.

    Was he referring to this grotesque Latin lothario? I’d like to think so. What next, stereotyping the Italians as overly defensive killjoys with all the entertainment value of Jack Charlton’s Middlesbrough?

  18. 48
    Billy Smart on 26 Jul 2008 #

    Re: 46 the 2M 2F pop group appears to be a model that comes and disappears for a few years. The most glaring example of this phenomena occurring out of time that I remember was Deuce (“On The Loose!’), much heralded by Smash Hits in the spring of 1995. The kids weren’t convinced.

  19. 49
    DJ Punctum on 27 Jul 2008 #

    #47: no, Waldo had another one in mind which we’ve yet to reach (and which similarly lowers the tone IMO but we’ll deal with that when we get there).

    Re. Italians: my office please, 9 am tomorrow sharp.

  20. 50
    Tom on 27 Jul 2008 #

    Typographers’ favourites Luv’ were definitely ABBA soundalikes though I don’t know if they followed the 2M2F formula. They cleaned up in some areas of the continent, acting kind of as the Coldplay to ABBA’s Radiohead, i.e. “they’ve gone all experimental so someone has to step in and play the early funny stuff”.

    They were pretty good though – I may just do an MP3 post on them this afternoon.

  21. 51
    Tom on 27 Jul 2008 #

    re. #48 and modern ABBA-a-likes: aside from a five-piece who are under Bunny Embargo, there’s of course Sweden’s own A-Teens, who vastly improved on their inglorious covers act beginnings with some excellent pop singles (“Upside Down”) and I believe Scooch followed the 2M2F formula – a modern day Brotherhood of Man, except for coming last in Eurovision not first.

  22. 52
    Billy Smart on 27 Jul 2008 #

    Best ever post-ABBA 2M 2F pop group: Propaganda!

  23. 53
    intothefireuk on 27 Jul 2008 #

    It’s February, it’s 1978, you are listening to the no.1 single – is it ‘Native New Yorker’, ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Lovely Day’, ‘Jamming’, ‘Wishing On A Star’, ‘Love Is Like Oxygen’, ‘Loves Unkind’ or even ‘Stayin Alive’ ?? Eh ?? No it’s this, intro sounds like ‘it’s a knockout’, God awful mid fecking winter holiday hit. I fear there will never be an ABBA style re-appraisal for the BoM.

  24. 55
    DJ Punctum on 28 Jul 2008 #

    #53: not to mention, a bit further down the chart, “What Do I Get?” and “Shot By Both Sides”…

  25. 56
    Lena on 28 Jul 2008 #

    I’m finding it hard to write about the one song on the charts at this time that I love so much that when it comes on the radio even now I yelp and run and turn it up!

    In short, “The Groove Line” by Heatwave (didn’t even make the top 10, alas) is like a vast door opening. The cymbals; the Kraftwerk-like wuh-wuh-wuh noise that comes from God knows where (I can’t figure out what instrument it is, must be a synth but which one?); minimalistic guitar; bass that seems bigger and richer than it has any right to be. All this and harmonies and rhythms and an amiable groove and I cannot help but think one Mr. Jones heard this and he couldn’t resist wanting to dance…and after dancing make a very important phone call. I swear I can hear ABC and Human League in this song as well, though maybe that’s because they are equally irresistable for me…

  26. 57
    DJ Punctum on 28 Jul 2008 #

    Yes, “The Groove Line” is a work of art as far as I’m concerned, especially its long, elegant and oddly elegiac fadeout…curiously, I don’t think Rod Temperton ever had a UK number one single as a songwriter (though am certain he must have done) but plenty of time and opportunity for proper assessment of that later on…

  27. 58
    Waldo on 30 Jul 2008 #

    # 47 wichita lineman – Marcello’s right. Not this one.

    And another vote for “The Groove Line”.

  28. 59
    Mark G on 30 Jul 2008 #

    Wanted by The Dooleys

    Funny, my memory had it they continued to have hits with this new formation, but one hit by the bloke again, one minor hit I can’t recall but suspect was a girlduo one, then it was all over…

  29. 60
    DJ Punctum on 30 Jul 2008 #

    “The Chosen Few” and “Love Patrol” in that order.

  30. 61
    Mark G on 30 Jul 2008 #

    “You chose me, and I chose you, we’re the chosen few”

    With logic like that, …..

    nah, one for the useless hit list.

  31. 62
    DJ Punctum on 30 Jul 2008 #

    I quite liked it at the time ‘cos it reminded me of the Archies.

  32. 63
    Mark G on 30 Jul 2008 #

    yeah, can see that…

    still..

  33. 64
    Malice Cooper on 12 Aug 2008 #

    To compare them to Abba is insulting. The only time they nearly managed it was on “lightning flash” which resembled a “Not the Nine O Clock News” parody of “super trooper”.
    “Oh boy” and “Angelo” were great pop singles. This is just dreadful summertime pop that you would normally condemn as fit, only for holiday makers in Marbella.

  34. 65
    brian on 23 Aug 2009 #

    how can anyone not like figaro? It was a hard core classic.

  35. 66
    Brendan on 24 Sep 2012 #

    I actually enjoyed this tune (in contrast to the unspeakable dirge that was ‘Angelo’) so I would switch Tom’s marks for the pair and give this one 5 and that one 2. It seems that the venom this one received was more down to the idea that more of the population liked it more than ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ which indeed is a tragic state of affairs (though the fact that UTR reached the top in the first place was remarkable enough in itself) but I believe there are certainly far worse injustices in chart history than that.

  36. 67
    Inanimate Carbon God on 13 Feb 2015 #

    @1: This is perhaps the Death In Paradise of number ones. One of its cast explained it as “It’s not The Killing, it’s meant to be fun.” To quote a better song of this era about ramshackle seaside resorts, THAT’S NOT THE POINT, IS IT?

    See also: anything on the big or small screen that consciously self-identify as those two words which go together like the human ear and a syringe made of piranha teeth.. “guilty pleasures.”

    Marcello – it’s okay for me to reply to comments of six years’ vintage, isn’t it?

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