|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
5. The First Single (1971)
The Au Pairs
questionnaires, musicians are often asked to name the first single they
ever owned. The question is presumably designed to give us an indication
of the artist’s earliest formative influences, and so the answers
given are invariably – suspiciously – classics. Anarchy In The UK.
My Generation. Starman. Virginia Plain. Dancing Queen. I Heard It
Through The Grapevine. Heart Of Glass.
Mine – the record which
single-handedly turned me on to rock and roll - was “Chirpy Chirpy
Cheep Cheep”, by Middle Of The Road.
Summer 1971 was the time when I first
started following the singles charts, and over 30 years later, I still
haven’t quite stopped. I’d just been given a transistor radio, and
I’d found Radio One. Tony Blackburn at breakfast time, Jimmy Young in
the mornings, Noel Edmonds, Dave Lee Travis, “Diddy” David Hamilton
but most importantly of all, Alan Freeman’s “Pick Of The Pops” top
20 countdown on Sunday evenings. I visualised the singles chart by
imagining all the artists standing in a line on little podiums. The
number one act would be standing on the far left, in the foreground,
brightly lit. The number two act would be next along on the right,
slightly lower, slightly further back, slightly less well lit. And so
on, snaking back to 20, to 40, to infinity. Every week, when the chart
changed, I imagined all the acts swapping places - the climbers stepping
up hopefully into the light, the fallers gradually slinking back into
the shadows, the new entries descending onto their podiums in a puff of
smoke. In this way, the charts were entirely personalised, bestowing a
natural, endless drama upon the weekly statistical ritual.
My big songs of that summer were mostly
catchy bubblegum. “Co Co” by The Sweet, “Tom Tom Turnaround” by
New World, “Never Ending Song Of Love” by the New Seekers, “Me And
You And A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo. Also, slightly more credibly, “Get
It On” by T.Rex and “I’m Still Waiting” by Diana Ross. But
“Chirpy Chirpy” was the one for me. A nice bouncy tune which you
could sing over and over again on car journeys, and their singer Sally
Carr looked so cool, carefree and groovy on Top Of The Pops, with her
long blonde hair, mini-dress and boots. I thought it must be great to be
a pop star – you’d just have fun all day long, and you’d live in a
world where everything was shiny, colourful and new.
My father had just bought a cassette
recorder, and he taped myself and my sister singing our own version of
the tune, with my sister doing the “all together now!” bits towards
the end. Later that Summer, he was helping out at a large Inland
Waterways Association boat rally, by doing a spot of commentating over
the site’s tannoy system. In between events, he took along some
cassettes to play. He hadn’t written down what was on each cassette.
Yup, you’ve guessed it. A couple of thousand boat enthusiasts from
around the country were treated to the sound of Michael (9) and Mary
Jane (7), sweetly trilling “Oo-wee, chirpy chirpy cheep cheep, chirpy
chirpy cheep cheep chep (all together now!)”.
And the bastard let the tape run! We
Middle Of The Road are still performing to this day, mostly in Germany from what I’ve gathered. Do you know what? I’d still quite like to see them.