The Singles Collection – Blue Mink (Glam CD 124)
Take yourself back to the early 1970’s, to an age when the big noise was the humble pop song, whether shrieking out of a tiny transistor radio or blaring out of a bruiser of a record player. The better-selling LP was the older, less fashionable brother’s format, but the 7’’ single still had near-totemic power over the nation’s nation’s pop kids, who were staring at the posters on their walls, and happily enjoying this subculture, to the amusement – or more likely, the complete incomprehension – of their parents.
As Britain’s rock acts became ever more LP-orientated, the Top 30 (see glossary for these archaic terms) soon filled with a great variety of light rock, MOR and honest-to-goodness, well-crafted pop. The latter was perfectly exemplified in the talented team of Blue Mink. Basically a conglomerate of long-experienced session players, singers and pop craftsmen, their respectable string of hits from ’69-’74 are all collected on this neat CD, with the welcome addition of some of their less successful output.
‘Melting Pot’s simple and honest plea for racial understanding may sound a little patronising these days, but this Roger Cook-Roger Greenaway ditty was minted at a time when racially bigoted attitudes were common currency. The vocal duo of Roger Cook and Madeline Bell delivered the lines with a gentle touch, and the song peaked at No 3.
‘Good Morning Freedom’s bright, wide-awake start couldn’t fail, with its rolling piano and Gospel tinged harmonies, and managed a No 10 for this rangy group. A stab at the eco-protest song with ‘Our World’ followed, opening with doomy chords, but soon slipping into the shared vocals of Madeline Bell and Roger Cook and a rousing, hopeful chorus. Although not as successful as the previous two singles, it still sold enough to matter.
‘Time for Winning’s failure to chart proved an early set back, in spite of its use in film ‘The Raging Moon’, but the band were soon back on top with the schmaltzy Salvation Army march, ‘The Banner Man’. Their most successful single and a global hit, and Madeline Bell’s voice is as honeyed as ever, I bet you still remember the words.
‘Sunday’s bluegrass feel was a departure from their usual fare, but despite its lazy, summery beat and drawling vocals, it met with no success, and it looked like Blue Mink had peaked early. ‘Count Me In’s creeping intro, a little reminiscent of Three Dog Night’s ‘Mama Told Me Not To Come’, suits this further slice of protest pop, with some finely orchestrated backing and heartfelt vocals.
‘Wacky Wacky Wacky’s jolly tune and nonsensical lyrics mask a song of longing that still didn’t work its magic for a chart placing. Fans of stoner humour will no doubt appreciate some of the song’s cultural references, ‘Stay with Me’s smoochy ballad, with a simple backing and fine, blended vocals saw the band back in the Top 20, in amongst the first stirrings of glam rock.
The Gaelic lick and ‘join in’ vocals of ‘By the Devil I Was Tempted’ show the band’s strengths well and this simple, almost stereotypical Gospel song propelled them to a fairly respectable Top 30 position. Their final hit, a Top 10-er at that, would be the pub singalong, ‘Randy’, with its tinkling piano, choppy guitar and celebratory vocal, about a whimsical, carefree character, all so common in those far-off days of virtual full employment and endless possibilities for the young.
‘Quackers’ silly instrumental may try the patience a little, but ‘Get Up’s jaunty piano and funky beat proves more palatable, with its essential countdown and expert vocalising. ‘Another Without You Day’ tugs at the heartstrings, with its pastoral guitars and gentle vocals, hinting that the well wasn’t quite dry yet. Ironically, the single didn’t get released until after the band had called it a day.
‘You’re The One’ marked a belated return for the band in 1976, although this chugger, faintly reminiscent of The Captain and Tenille’s ‘Love will Keep Us Together’, also failed to pay dividends. ‘Five Minute Wonder’s stab at disco is enjoyable enough, but their take on this hugely popular genre didn’t garner any chart action. ‘Where Were You Today’ seemed a return to the jauntier rhythms they were so fond of, but a rival version of the song by its co-writer, David Dundas, was released at the same time. Neither version met with success, and Blue Mink laid down their instruments for the last time.
Scensters’ Useful Glossary:
Transistor radio: Ingenious, inexpensive device from Japan, giving th’ kids access to a world of pop perfection via the medium of the airwaves. As ubiquitous as the mobile phone today, no possibility of cyber-bullying and no ridiculous contract amount to pay each month.
Record player: Heavy, wooden box with cast iron arm and spinning platter on which to play your singles and LPs. Design basically unchanged since Victorian times, except for electrical propulsion.
7’’ single: A disk of vinyl plastic inscribed with a spiral groove, with enough room for one shot of pure musical heaven, and a rather dodgy support song on the other side.
LP: Long playing disk of vinyl plastic, the big bro’ of the above, with enough room for about twenty minutes’ worth each side of potential singles (if you were lucky) or sheer self-indulgent clod-hoppery (if you weren’t).
7’’ singles and LPs were also both known, confusingly, as ‘records’, as if something generated by the National Archive.
Top 30: Allegedly the 30 singles which garnered the highest sales that particular week. Cynics suggested it was more to do with offers of bungs and sexual favours and the pop world’s equivalent of the Old Boy’s Network, which placed a single in the higher reaches of the Top 30.
‘Hit’: A record which succeeded in reaching the ‘charts’. Stretching the definition, a ‘Hit’ could be Top 20, Top 30, or Top 40, depending on whether you were a pop fan or a record label skivvy.
‘MOR’: Middle of the Road, a stereotypical song or act. Often wildly successful viz the late great James Last.