Jan 02

The Cottage Industry Of Moments

FT/4 comments • 11,152 views

Top Ten Britgum Classics

1. PICKETTYWITCH – That Same Old Feeling (1970)
Like so much Britgum, the imagery here – oak trees, cottages etc. – couldn’t be further away from everything pop music is now, and will continue to be. That, I guess, is the root of my fascination with this era.

2. WHITE PLAINS – I’ve Got You On My Mind (1970)
A real charmer, this: more like a birthday party on an upper-middle-class lawn than most subsequent pop music, and all the better for it, amazingly.

3. MR BLOE – Groovin’ With Mr Bloe (1970)
Nothing but bass, harmonica and groove – not funk, not rhythm, but groove in excelsis, and sometimes that’s enough.

4. MARMALADE – Rainbow (1970)
Some of the greatest Britgummers let go of their jollity and breathe pure melancholia and, at heart, deep sadness.

5. BLUE MINK – Banner Man (1971)
Ritualism and pop don’t normally go together unless someone can make an arcane ritual sound like the very stuff of pop. This was such a song.

6. THE FORTUNES – Freedom Come, Freedom Go (1971)
Britgum was never more socially significant: this might just signal the moment when social and cultural flexibility became, in defiance of the kind of society the UK had been, something British people accepted as a matter of course.

7. DANIEL BOONE – Beautiful Sunday (1972)
Britgum’s finest moment of all, a neo-folk song structure of almost religious, redemptive simplicity / sublimity. One of the greatest singles of the 70s, if not ever.

8. STEPHANIE DE SYKES – Life Is A Beautiful Book (c. 1973/74)
Watch and listen to this in its true form – i.e. accompanied by the gambolling sheep of the ATV startup film – and marvel at how innocent we once were. For once, you can assert such a thing without being accused of trying to be Steve Wright presenting TOTP2.

9. PAPER LACE – Billy, Don’t Be A Hero (1974)
Formulaic heart-pumping, for sure, but the art of emotionally manipulative chord-changes has rarely reached this level of perfection. “Two Little Boys”? Sorry, never heard of it. I wish I hadn’t, anyway.

10. FIRST CLASS – Beach Baby (1974)
Britgum’s dying fall: put the fade on repeat play and hear pop, for the first time, become pure period pastiche.


  1. 1
    Doctor Mod on 30 Sep 2006 #

    I love it. Never was this neglected subgenre ever so well defined–and appreciated. Perhaps the sheer Britishness of it kept it from going over quite so well in the US, but I think it represented a finer form of pop than its US equivalent. The best songs (e.g., Edison Lighthouse’s “Rosemary,” The Flowerpot Men’s “Moment of Madness,” Jefferson’s “The Colour of My Love”) were beautifully crafted examples of pure pop, admirable in and of themselves.

    They expressed a sense of youth and innocence without having to resort to the nursery, as most of their US analogues did. Then and now I find the idea of prepubescent children (Jackson 5, Osmond Brothers) expressing adult or even adolescent sentiments semi-obscene at worst and inane at best. The BritBubblegum voices were those of individuals of an appropriate age, and thus could address both teen audiences and young adult ones as well. I may be wrong, but somehow I think that this is what pop is supposed to do.

  2. 2
    son of haggart on 14 Oct 2006 #

    Thanks for a thoughtful of summary of an era I leave though in my pre and early teens. I loved that White plain stuff even though I knew in my heart it couldn’t last

    Tore your shirt again, fighting in the rain

    With whats-his-name

    Shoe-black on your face, you’re really a disgrace

    Mummy smiles and all the while

    Because she loves you

    She will worry so

    And if you’re good you know

    That when you grow to be a king

    Never do a thing

    Four and twenty blackbirds sing along

    Royal gifts they all will bring

    When you are a king

  3. 3
    ian on 19 Nov 2006 #

    Thank you, never thought I`d track down a discussion on a era i still rememebr with fondness. Anyone one remember `Tintin` and the lyrics “toast and marmalade for tea, sailing ships upon the sea….?”

    Good times,


  4. 4
    wichita lineman on 28 May 2008 #

    Yes, Tin Tin’s greatest moment sits nicely alongside When You Are A King. There seems to be endless amounts of this stuff that hasn’t been compiled. I love Tony Burrows’ solo 45s Melanie Makes Me Smile and Every Little Move She Makes on Bell. And one gem that has been digitalised is the Tony Hazzard album just re-issued by Rev-Ola – it has spot-on versions of Listen To Me (The Hollies), Fox On The Run (Manfred Mann) etc. by this under rated writer.

    It was a bit of a golden age and the perfect genre for Brit songwriting teams too: Cook/Greenaway, Macaulay/McLeod, Arnold/Martin/Morrow, Fletcher/Flett, Hammond/Hazelwood, and John Carter with a few collaborators (Alquist, Stephens, Lewis and Shakespeare (his missus). Denmark Street was the Brit Building.

    I always think of this genre as ‘soft pop’ rather than ‘bubblegum’, maybe because the Kassenetz/Katz school of writing always seemed so cynical and short-term; the UK stuff generally seemed much more crafted.

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