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Chartlander: New Zealand’s hottest singles the week Robert Muldoon became PM

Every week Chartlander travels back through time, landing in a different year on the official New Zealand singles chart in the hopes of (re)discovering forgotten Top 40 gold. Today we continue our tour of classic general elections in the mid-1970s.

The date is November 29, 1975 – almost as far back as the official New Zealand singles chart goes – and today National Party MP Robert Muldoon will be elected the 31st prime minister of New Zealand.

He will lead the country for nine tumultuous years, through the rise and fall of disco and the emergence of punk. In 1980 his refusal to lift sales tax will make him the subject of ‘Culture?’, a top 5 single by The Knobz. By the time of his defeat in the 1984 general election the singles chart will be almost unrecognisable from the one the day he was elected.

1975 is a simpler time for popular music in New Zealand. The acoustic guitar remains dominant, the drums are untouched by gated reverb; The Eagles are represented on the singles chart twice, as are Glen Campbell and ABBA. But, as always, there is still value and novelty to be found in the corners of the weekly top 40.

☝️ Number One

Johnny Nash – ‘Tears On My Pillow’

A prescient number one for the 39.6% of eligible New Zealanders who voted for Labour at the 1975 election and who will no doubt wake up on Sunday morning with tears on their pillow, pain in their hearts and a National government on their minds. Johnny Nash’s weepy reggae ballad – his biggest hit since 1972’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ – will spend a total of two weeks at the top of the chart.

Cover alert: The original was written and recorded by Ernie Smith in 1967; New Zealand act The Parker Project took the song back to number one with their cover on Pagan Records in 1991.

🏇 Best Bets

#13 & #14: Jim Gilstrap – ‘Swing Your Daddy’ / ‘Take Your Daddy For A Ride’

Jim Gilstrap spent most of his career as a session vocalist, contributing backing vocals to a bunch of Stevie Wonder records as welll as Boz Scaggs’ smooth classic ‘Lowdown’. ‘Swing Your Daddy’ and its follow-up ‘Take Your Daddy For A Ride’ are off the first of two solo albums he released in 1975 and 1976. The pair of joyful pop-soul singles, along with Van McCoy’s ‘The Hustle’ at #20, are early warning signs of an imminent disco explosion.

#32: Michael Murphey – ‘Wildfire’

Like many of the greatest songs, the lyrics to ‘Wildfire’ came to Michael Martin Murphey in a dream. His tale of a woman who died searching for her lost pony in a blizzard and the man who becomes infatuated with her ghost will go on to be one of the most timeless and enduring hits of the 1970s. In 2007 talk show host David Letterman will accurately describe it as “haunting and disturbingly mysterious, but always lovely.”

#36: Ambrosia – ‘Holdin’ On to Yesterday’

Folding smooth jazz and R&B influences into their soft rock sound, southern California band Ambrosia are one of the pioneers of a style of music that will later become known as yacht rock. The first single off their first (self-titled) album, ‘Holdin’ On to Yesterday’ is already noticeably smoother and than any other song in the singles chart, and the band’s technical proficiency is through the roof.

🃏 Wildcard

#10: Typically Tropical – ‘Barbados’

Typically Tropical probably aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last white artists to affect a faux-Caribbean accent on a top 40 hit, but they are easily the dorkiest. The British novelty act peaked at #5 in the New Zealand singles chart, one place better than the Vengaboys’ more well-known cover ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’.

Cover alert: The Vengaboys released ‘We’re Going to Ibiza’ in 1999

💦 Erotic Expo

#4: Bad Company – ‘Feel Like Makin’ Love’

Paul Rodgers (of Paul Rodgers and Queen fame) wrote this sex-having anthem while touring the US with his previous band Free, but it was Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs (formerly of Mott The Hoople) who came up with the song’s defining feature. His sudden guitar crunches at the start of the chorus shift the song from an easy listening country ramble to an awesome hard rock headbanger in an instant; decades later Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood will mimic them on his band’s breakthrough single ‘Creep’.

🔎 Major Artist, Minor Hit

#23: The Carpenters – ‘Solitaire’

Karen reportedly hated this Neil Sedaka-penned tune but Richard insisted it was the perfect fit for her haunting vocals. Both of them had a point – the melodrama is about as overwrought as it comes, but Karen has the voice to pull it off. After a golden run through the first half of the 1970s, ‘Solitaire’, from the Horizon LP, signals the beginning of the end for the Carpenters’ relevance and popularity.

Cover alert: Neil Sedaka recorded the original version in 1972, accompanied by members of the band 10cc.

🇳🇿 Kiwi Flagbearers

Total this week: 2

Only two New Zealand flags flutter on the winds of popular taste this week, but they are a pair of sweet hits: Mark Williams’ ‘Sweet Wine’ is #18 and the Yandall Sisters’ ‘Sweet Inspiration’ #22.

🎨 Cover Art of the Week

Amazingly manages to include the full lyrics as well as watercolour illustrations of the main plot points in David Geddes’ teenage tragedy throwback.

Previous episodes of Chartlander:

#5: October 12, 1996

#4: October 27, 1990

#3: June 14, 1984

#2: November 27, 1999

#1: August 10, 1991


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