17
Feb 05

UNIT FOUR PLUS TWO – “Concrete And Clay”

Popular8 comments • 4,199 views

#191, 10th April 1965

A love that will outlast not just the works of man, but mountains and time itself – how is a spindly pop song expected to contain it? The guitars realise as much and their attractively sudden runs and spikes feel like breaks for freedom. The rhythm, bumping away in the background like a cyclist down a cobbled road, is more stoical. The contrast illuminates an otherwise drab lyric. Enjoyably low-key.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Anonymous on 23 Feb 2005 #

    The rhythm track is the missing link between Steptoe and Son and Einsturzende Neubauten!
    Marcello Carlin | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 6:37 am | #

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    It’s a SUPER lyric. And I like the clankiness of the bossa. Plus, the guitars are Russ Ballard, and any record involving him (I wonder if there are any others? “Since you been gone” wasn’t a #1, was it?) MUST get at least a 7.

    What a great run we’re having – singles and entries.
    Alan Connor | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 6:37 am | #

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    Ten-year-old me *loved* this one. She also loved ‘Yeh yeh’ and tends to bracket them together now as a pair of not entirely dissimilar tracks with distinctive rhythms which informed my musical tastes much later on.

    Is it just my imagination (I’m no musician but I know what I like!) or has the pop industry generally been unkind to rhythms that step outside a bog-standard 4/4? I think my least favourite single *ever* was a reworking of Andrew Gold’s ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’ which had been overlayed with a synthetic disco beat. There was nothing wrong with the original – it remains one of my favourite tracks of the 70s – but it had an infectious and perfectly dancable rhythm all of its own. So why ruin it?

    Anyway, remembering Concrete and Clay had got my feet a-twitching. Anybody care to dance?

    Rosie
    rosie | Email | 02.17.05 – 8:11 am | #

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    “Since You’ve Been Gone” was only number three, alas.

    Then again, “Baby One More Time” by B Spears was originally written for Rainbow, fronted by Ritchie Blackmore who played guitar on “Johnny Remember Me.” SEE HOW IT ALL FITS???????
    Marcello Carlin | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 8:24 am | #

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    although when you break down the rhythm of “C&C” it’s exactly the same as “It’s Not Unusual”!
    Marcello Carlin | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 8:26 am | #

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    One of my dad’s favourites. I was most chuffed when it came on at a club I was at before Christmas.
    Will | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 8:56 am | #

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    “otherwise drab lyric”? it’s wonderful! “purple shades of evening”! you don’t get lyrics like that in pop songs anymore! you can tell what kind of world they came from …

    the generic dance version of “Never Let Her Slip Away” was by Undercover, who did much the same thing to Gerry Rafferty’s number-one-that-should-have-been “Baker Street”.
    Robin Carmody | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 12:25 pm | #

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    Yes, I maybe should have put “chorus lyric”, the my love and I will be bit.
    Tom | Email | Homepage | 02.17.05 – 12:39 pm | #

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    Can someone explain this band’s name? I was five when their song was a hit in the States and ever since I’ve wondered what “Unit Four Plus Two” signified.
    wwolfe | Email | 02.17.05 – 4:59 pm | #

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    For wwolfe: The band was originally a quartet who called themselves “Unit Four.” Shortly thereafter, they added two new members, so they weren’t exactly “Unit Four” any more, but wanted to retain the name, as they’d already started to get some notice. So they simply added “+2” to indicate they now they were six. (I’m not making this up! That was the official story.)
    Doctor Mod | Email | 02.18.05 – 3:36 am | #

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    While I don’t buy the rhetoric of McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs,” I do think that we don’t really value songs that are out-and-out romantic. Such is, perhaps, our postmodern condition; we can become cynical about them because they remind us of our disappointments. I have to plead guilty as charged. Nonetheless, this particular love song, which I found compelling at 14, still makes me want to experience the feelings it describes–by juxtaposing the poetic and the trite in its peculiar way–even now when I’m a few days away from being 54 and single for the past ten years. And, oh yes, it still makes me want to get up and do the bossa nova all around my flat.
    Doctor Mod | Email | 02.18.05 – 3:45 am | #

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    In me youth, I developed an utter obsession with Randy Edelman’s cover version of this, for reasons which I don’t fully understand.
    mike | Email | Homepage | 02.18.05 – 7:43 am | #

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    Never heard the Randy Edelman’s version–or Randy Edelman, for that matter–but it’s the sort of song that can easily fuel obsession.
    Doctor Mod | Email | 02.19.05 – 2:43 am | #

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    I wonder where my drunken ramblings about “Come On Eileen” and “Uptown Uptempo Woman” have gone? I probably posted them on XRRF by mistake.
    Alan Connor | Email | Homepage | 02.20.05 – 5:12 pm | #

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    I love this one. It’s the kind of thing you can happily sing your head off to.
    Adam 1.0 | Email | Homepage | 02.20.05 – 11:27 pm | #

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    “My feet begin to crumble”

    but love will never die.

    A tale of how legs may degrade over time, but love is staunch. That’s what I thought when I was five. Eventually I heared the proper title and chorus…
    Mark Grout | Email | 02.22.05 – 7:39 am | #

  2. 2
    Caledonianne on 14 Jul 2007 #

    Just found this website.

    I, too, came to this via the Randy Edelman version. Still play my old vinyl copy of “Fairwell Fairbanks” from time to time – with some pleasure.

  3. 3
    wichitalineman on 12 May 2008 #

    Darren Burn’s Moog-plus-Abbey-Road-gloss version of this is worth a listen. It was in the Man Alive programme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star about the search for the British Jimmy Osmond – the search only being by the likes of Joanathan King and Larry Page, obviously.

    Randy Edelman’s version has a slightly Spector-esque atmosphere from what I remember. I thought it was all terribly romantic when I was 10.

  4. 4
    DJ Punctum on 12 May 2008 #

    Kevin Rowland’s version is my favourite (“Cunningham Park – COME ON!”).

  5. 5
    DavidRayner on 1 Jul 2008 #

    Darren Burn’s version is certainly as good as, if not better, than the Unit 4 + 2 version, if only because Darren’s single is in stereo.

    The BBC2 “Man Alive” film, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, although also featuring eleven years old Ricky Wilde (being groomed for stardom by his producer Jonathan King) and The James Boys (being groomed for stardom by their producer Larry Page) primarily concerned itself with the expensive promotion and launch by EMI, where his father Colin was a top executive, of eleven years old Darren Burn, an ex-Christ Church choirboy from Southgate in Middlesex (now known as north London).

    Despite all the expensive hype, Darren’s record career never really took off, even though he had a fabulous singing voice and his first single, “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart”, backed with “True Love Ways” on EMI 2040, did reach number 60 in the charts. But watching EMI trying to turn him into the British version of Jimmy Osmond in the “Man Alive” programme is fascinating.

    Extensive coverage is shown of the “Concrete and Clay” single being laid down in Studio 2 at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in July, 1973. Some of the best session men in the business at the time, under arranger Cy Payne and producer Eric Woolfson, first record the backing track to the single, which takes a few goes to get right and then Darren sings to this pre-recorded backing track. Again, a few takes are needed before the finished result meets with Eric’s approval.

    The record, on EMI 2096, was eventually chosen as the flip side of Darren’s second single release, “Is It Love” and released on Friday, November 2nd, 1973, nine days after the “Man Alive” film went out on the air. As for Darren, a very talented; intelligent and sensitive boy, the intense feeling of failure he felt when all this came to nothing haunted him for the rest of his life and left him suffering from depression. In October, 1991, he killed himself in his flat with an overdose of his anti-depressant tablets. It was a terrible tragedy and a terrible waste of a unique and wonderful person.

  6. 6
    Steve Fuji on 6 Mar 2009 #

    UK record buyers may not have been aware of the Eddie Rambeau version of “Concrete and Clay” which reached #35 on the Billboard charts as opposed to the Unit 4+2 version reaching #28. Both versions were on the charts at the same time but each tended to hit regionally so in most areas both records were not receiving airplay on the same stations.
    Unfortunately, the Darren Burn version was never released here and copies are hard to come by.

  7. 7
    Billy Smart on 2 Jan 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Unit 4 + 2 performed Concrete & Clay on Top Of The Pops on four occasions.

    18 March 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Sandie Shaw, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers and The Yardbirds. Pete Murray was the host.

    25 March 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Cliff Richard, Donovan, The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds, plus The Go Jo’s interpretation of ‘The Last Time’. Alan Freeman was the host.

    1 April 1965. Also in the studio that week were; Freddie & The Dreamers, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds and Them. Jimmy Saville was the host.

    25 December 1965. Also in the studio that Christmas were; Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, Jackie Trent, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Seekers and The Walker Brothers. Alan Freeman, David Jacobs, Pete Murray and Jimmy Saville were the hosts.

    None of these editions survive.

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 24 Jul 2015 #

    The apocalyptic imagery of the lyrics puts me in mind of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by me’ although this is musically a lot lighter in mood. This kind of latin beat was a staple of light entertainment but the earnest vocals and slight wonkiness of the instruments make it sound fresher and poppier

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