Feb 08

PILOT – “January”

FT + Popular66 comments • 5,276 views

#365, 1st February 1975

Well, first of all, love the intro and instrumental hook – glam guitars arcing over the track like a Red Arrows flypast – but then? The chorus of “January” seems feeble in contrast, with follow-the-bouncing-ball phrasing not exactly helping. So what we have here is a battle of the hooks – one huge, promising a much more expansive track than the mopey shrug the other settles for. I can buy that – he’s tongue-tied as his girl’s leaving, and the skyscraping bits are how he really feels – but this is still an annoyingly lopsided piece of pop.



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  1. 31
    Marcello Carlin on 13 Feb 2008 #

    Our Book Club is MUCH better than theirs!

  2. 32
    Waldo on 14 Feb 2008 #

    Yes, I’m sure that’s right, and I bet you and wifey don’t hoodwink the public with the old phone scam. Ten bob a time. Ker-chink! I thank you!!!

  3. 33
    Billy Smart on 17 Feb 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Pilot performed January on Top of the Pops on five occasions, only one of which survives in the archives. This is from the edition of the 2nd of January 1975, presented by Jimmy Saville. Also in the studio that week were Wizzard, The Wombles, Philip & Vanessa, Kenny, Mud and Pan’s People (interpreting ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’).

  4. 34
    Marcello Carlin on 17 Feb 2008 #

    Christ, Philip & Vanessa – a cover of “Two Sleepy People” IIRC?

  5. 35
    Billy Smart on 17 Feb 2008 #

    “Philip & Vanessa featuring the Top of the Pops Orchestra” for complete musical excellence.

  6. 36
    Waldo on 17 Feb 2008 #

    John Holt made a fine fist of “Help Me Make It…” I would imagine that Pan’s People’s invitation would have been readily snapped up by any bloke with a pulse.

  7. 37
    Caledonianne on 17 Feb 2008 #

    I’m with Marcello. This is a song for days like today – brilliant blue sky, not a cloud in the sky and a fierce, uncompromising nip in the air. Wondrous, happy bouncy days. It’s one of those songs that always makes me feel happy – like the Alan Price version of Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear or Dexy’s Come on Eileen.

    My Scotland was buzzing in 1974-78 – new sense of political self-confidence, Nats doing well, the national football team qualifying for the World Cup while England was at home twiddling its thumbs;-) Pilot are a genial part of the jigsaw of my then happiness, and for that I thank them.

    The host album, Second Flight, is one I still play today and enjoy with a sort of comfort-blanket nostalgia, and I’m not quite sure whether this or Magic was my first-ever purchase from Itunes. In the canon of great Scots intros its up there with the famous saxophone riff from three years hence that heralds the intro of a certain record by my (post-amalgamation) school’s most famous alumnus.

  8. 38
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Feb 2008 #

    Performed by the man Jimmy Young always insisted on calling R.A.F. Ravenscroft (you see).

  9. 39
    Waldo on 18 Feb 2008 #

    Yeees, the dancing bear song. A happy, feelgood offering indeed. Of course what wasn’t mentioned in this delightful little ditty is the bit where Simon Smith brays the poor fucked-up creature with a massive stick when it stops dancing.

  10. 40
    Billy Smart on 18 Feb 2008 #

    Hm, I’ve always read Simon Smith as being a bittersweet song about poverty, more than anything else…

  11. 41
    Marcello Carlin on 18 Feb 2008 #

    You never can tell with that Randy Newman.

  12. 42
    Mark G on 18 Feb 2008 #

    Didn’t call him randy for nothin’…

  13. 43
    mike on 18 Feb 2008 #

    Can I get away with a copy-and-paste reprint from this time three years ago, when “January” popped up on my annual Which Decade Is Tops For Pops Project (which by the most astonishing coincidence has just relaunched on my blog this very evening)?

    “…once the “ooh, I remember this one!” thrill has faded, all you’re left with is a rather slight, anaemic confection; nicely turned in several respects, but with some shrill, jarring qualities which tend to jar ever more with repeated listens. It also loses points for disobeying Pop Law, by failing to rhyme fire (FYE-yah!) with desire (diz-EYE-yah!).”

    (Sorry I’ve been away, folks. I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say about “Lonely This Christmas”, then the wind changed and I stayed that way…)

  14. 44
    Erithian on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Marcello (#34) – Christ, Philip and Vanessa would be some trio!

  15. 45
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Sadly, Christ was unavailable for contractual reasons.

    According to iMDB Philip & Vanessa were Canadian (!!!!!).

  16. 46
    Caledonianne on 19 Feb 2008 #

    The Newman and Price versions (and Newman is one of my five all-time favourite artists) have always felt very different to me.

    Of course perhaps the Geordie Boy was just having a try-out for what later gelled as the jaunty desperation of the Jarrow Song?

    (Just finishing the last chapter of Maconie’s Pies and Prejudice, where he’s dealing with Geordies and sundry South Tynesiders, and recognising the Sassenach members of my family in his pen portraits).

  17. 47
    Billy Smart on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Surely now would be the ideal time for Marcello to capitalise on this interest and put his long-promised Alan Price essay online…

  18. 48
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Yes, Bill’s right to pull me up on this. I promised/trailed the Price piece a mere three-and-a-half years ago but then I got a bit lost in that Koons ’74 jungle and I really need to do something about putting that to bed. I’ve got about 75% of my entry on the Goodies written but that’s as far as I’ve managed to date.

    Still the Price thing would be a good stand alone piece so I might try to work it into Blue in the Air sometime in the near future.

  19. 49
    Waldo on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Oh, and Marcello. Don’t forget your other promised project, that thesis on Scottish boy soprano Neil Reid and his Bobby Goldsboro moment with the temptress that was Molly Weir…

  20. 50
    Marcello Carlin on 19 Feb 2008 #

    *eats lunch twice*

  21. 51
    Erithian on 19 Feb 2008 #

    Your mind is one sick place Waldo!

  22. 52
    Waldo on 19 Feb 2008 #

    I know, buddy. But what you gonna do?

  23. 53
    Marcello Carlin on 20 Feb 2008 #

    You’ve done it all! You’ve broken every code!

  24. 54
    Waldo on 21 Feb 2008 #

    Good one, Marcello. And bless you. One tries one’s best!

  25. 55
    intothefireuk on 21 Mar 2008 #

    I have no problem at all in elevating January to classic status. Yes, Magic was a better song and possibly so good that this pales alongside it but it shouldn’t be dismissed that easily. A bright and breezy pop gem (did The Feeling base their career on this ?) it seems to have aged well chiming more with me now than it ever did then. The soaring lead guitar, high pitched vocals & exquisite production are probably reminiscent of Beatles et al due to the fact that Alan Parsons is on production duties. By the way the first group to be dubbed the New Beatles was almost definitely the Macca produced Badfinger.

  26. 56
    Caledonianne on 24 Mar 2008 #

    #41 Like the Great Nations of Europe? ;-)

  27. 57
    Stuart P on 5 May 2009 #

    “oh the irony” … it got to No1 on Feb 1st!

    smashing record – distilled-essence-of-mid-70s-pop-fun. Spangles, Jamie & The Magic Torch, PlaySchool, Bod, jumpers for goalposts etc…

  28. 58
    Paulito on 7 Oct 2009 #

    The lyrics are dire and the lead vocal twee, but this song still has much to recomend it apart from the explosive power-pop intro. The melody is ridicuously catchy (in a good way), the vocal harmonies are delicious, and the neat guitar work is complemented by a McCartneyesque bassline that bounces and bobs along beautifully. A curate’s egg that survives as a minor bubblegum classic.

  29. 59
    Conrad on 7 Oct 2009 #

    Brilliant track, very surprised it hasn’t rated higher.

    The chorus does take the tempo down a notch, but the track works all the better for it doing so.

    And of course it features the firey fretwork of Ian “Wuthering Heights” Bairnson, who reminds me a bit of Bernard Butler circa “Animal Nitrate”

  30. 60
    Patrick Mexico on 5 Apr 2013 #

    Sorry to ask a silly question – but did these guys play TOTP actually dressed up as pilots, or was that someone else? I’m sure I saw a band with airline/military attire on one of those 70s retrospectives.. and no, it wasn’t Legs and Co, you retrospective perv-ez Musharrafs.

  31. 61
    Mark G on 5 Apr 2013 #

    Was it ‘Airport’ by The Motors?

  32. 62
    Patrick Mexico on 5 Apr 2013 #

    Yes, it was. Many thanks for the warp speed reply! Much debate on Youtube about whether those uniforms look a bit “Di Canio before this week..”

  33. 63
    glue_factory on 6 Apr 2013 #

    Somewhere between Di Canio, and Luxton and District Bus Company, with resemblance to an aviator coming in a distant third.

  34. 64
    Larry on 3 Nov 2014 #

    “Magic” is perfect, perfect, perfect. This ditty is forgettable.

  35. 65
    lonepilgrim on 2 Nov 2019 #

    I just find this a bit dull – the comparison with McCartney is an appropriate one – a strong melody with inconsequential lyrics – rumour at the time was that they were session musicians slumming it and although the reality was more nuanced than that it does seem that they were later involved with the Alan Parsons Project and perhaps more credibly with Kate Bush’s early albums.

  36. 66
    Gareth Parker on 22 May 2021 #

    I don’t mind this at all, and I would stretch to a 6/10 here.

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