Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Patterns On The Window – Various Artists

Patterns On The Window is the latest release in Cherry Red’s overview of particular years in music, focusing this time on 1974. It features several tunes which were major hits, some which were intriguing misses as well as key album tracks from bands who never quite achieved stardom – despite all the critical praise accrued. Anyone wanting to know what the mid-seventies music scene was like, this is your starting point.

For those of us who’re long in the tooth and can remember the early seventies, 1974 politically/economically, was not exactly a high spot. Two inconclusive general elections, a three-day week and waves of industrial action, plus an inflation rate averaging 16.4% .. and you think you have it bad today? However, despite all this, the music scene was still very vibrant and flourishing. Indeed, according to revered NME scribe Ian McDonald, 1974 was ‘the most vital year for rock ‘n roll since 1967.’ And he’s certainly got a point .. one look at the list of classic albums released this year should be all the proof you need.

By 1974 prog rock had already established itself as a vital creative force, and even though glam was entering its death throes, the more musically adventurous elements in glam rock had thrown up a swathe of new bands ..Roxy Music, Be Bop de Luxe and Cockney Rebel, amongst others .. whilst the London ‘pub rock’ scene produced several artists and bands who went on to become very famous – including Ian Dury, Nick Lowe and notably Dr Feelgood, whose re-energised take on rhythm & blues proved a welcome shot in the arm for those who found the music of bands like Yes and Genesis somewhat too complicated.  1974 also saw a Swedish act called Abba winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo,’ after which, along with Slade and Bowie, they’d go on to ‘own’ and help define the rest of the seventies.

1974 was also significant in several other respects. Bob Dylan returned to the stage again after an absence of several years, Mick Taylor left the Stones, The Ramones played their first gigs and both Mama Cass and Nick Drake died well before their time. 

In the midst of all this, Patterns On The Window brings together a collection of mixed and extremely varied tunes and artists. It includes some of the biggest hits of the year, from acts like Ace, Cockney Rebel, Sparks and the divine Noosha Fox, whose breathlessly delightful hit, ‘Only You Can,’ reached No.3. But a main part of the strength of this set is the inclusion of many acts who, despite seeing little or no chart action, nonetheless still produced some great music, which includes acts like Richard & Linda Thompson, with Richard going on to achieve legendary status, and Splinter, who achieved little despite George Harrison’s involvement with them. Bands like Thin Lizzy, Nazareth, Man, Quo, SAHB, Manfred Mann’s Earthband and UFO all went to ’70s and ’80s success through their albums and storming ‘live’ gigs and early album tracks are included here. Though bands like Fruupp, Medicine Head and Byzantium released equally good albums but failed to make the grade. Performers such as the ethereal Brigit St John, the wholly unclassifiable Stackridge, plus total mavericks like Kevin Coyne and Peter Hammill, were never going to trouble the charts, despite the brilliance of their music, but they went on to achieve cult status, with ‘Hammill’ still releasing new music in 2024.

There’s also the inclusion of songs which deserved to have been hits but for whatever reason weren’t – including Brian Protheroe’s excellent ‘Pinball,’ which just about scrapped into the top 30. Album tracks from bands who’d already had ’60s chart action, like Spenser Davis Group, The Pretty Things and Procul Harum show that despite no further hits, they remained credible artists. Rod Stewart is also featured, caught in the period between having massive solo hits whilst still in The Faces, before going on to trash his rep as being one of this country’s great bluesy soul singers by releasing transatlantic tripe like ‘Hot Legs and Sailing’.

This 3-CD set even comes with a picture of William ‘Jesus’ Jellett on the inside cover. Younger fans might not know the name but, for anyone who attended any of the Reading Festivals and Knebworth’s in the 1970’s, and the first few Glastonbury’s, he’s a legendary and iconic figure who was a fixture at all these events .. walking around mostly or wholly naked and engaging in some quite exuberant ‘idiot dancing’ in front of the main stage, no matter who was playing. Sadly, he went up to the great festival in the sky in 2021, but it was lovely being reminded of him again. Thanks for the memories and all the dancing, Jesus.

The skill in any box set like this is to be able to compile a collection of songs which hang together and give a true flavour of a particular time. Cherry Red have largely succeeded in this because taken as a whole, Patterns On The Window offers a fascinating slice of the vibrant music scene of 1974. As someone who was there, this writer can vouch for the fact what’s on offer here, despite all the surface noise of this extraordinary year, provides a valid insight into the tastes and musical trends of a year which saw some truly remarkable music being released across a wide mix of genres and, as this set illustrates, much of it still stands up today.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Patterns On The Window is the latest release in Cherry Red’s overview of particular years in music, focusing this time on 1974. It features several tunes which were major hits, some which were intriguing misses as well as key album tracks from bands who...Patterns On The Window - Various Artists