4 April 2015

Mick Robertson - Then I Change Hands/ Annabelle

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1975

As I've said before, it's easy to regard 1975 as being one of pop's least enticing years, but the mainstream still had its little wobbles. And this is one of the most peculiar examples of the period.

Mick Robertson was the host of the ITV children's programme "Magpie" at this time, and had picked up an unexpectedly enthusiastic female following and plenty of teen magazine space on the basis of his long curly locks and moody looks. This didn't escape the attention of PR man Peter Thompson and music industry mover and shaker Clive Selwood, who felt that, provided Robertson could hold a tune, there was no reason to confine his talents to "Magpie". Why not try and see if he could produce a few hit singles and albums? Given that the practice of getting attractive TV stars to front records has had mixed results over the years, but the odds are generally more favourable than punting on a complete unknown, nobody could blame them for having a go.

The first single "The Tango's Over" sold moderately well but failed to crack the charts. This, the follow-up, is where things start to get a bit strange. Whatever you'd classify it as being, "Then I Change Hands" is not really a mainstream pop record. Rather, it actually sounds peculiarly ahead of its time - Robertson howls up an angst ridden storm while distorted guitars and creepy string arrangements buzz around him, sounding as woebegone as someone from the nineties indie underground. Luke Haines and Stephen Jones almost certainly weren't listening, but they could have been. Indeed, Jarvis Cocker could have been getting "This Is Hardcore" styled ideas from this single. 

"Sometimes I feel lonely… / Then I change hands" Robertson cracks throughout, leading a lot of people to conclude that this song is actually a tribute to the stress relieving joys of masturbation.  I couldn't say for certain, but if that's the case, it makes it one of the most audacious rock stunts ever. A children's presenter wailing in despairing and lonely tones about wanking on a record had never been done before, and will almost certainly never be tried again. Given that Robertson co-authored the track, only he could possibly state what the purpose of the single was, and whether it was actually his ambition to subtly corrupt the youth with ambigious lyrics about bedtime tissue action.

Suffice to say, it wasn't a hit. Selwood blamed CBS for not pressing up enough copies to keep up with demand, whereas I'd argue they probably guessed this wouldn't sell well outside of Robertson's core fanbase and simply went through the motions. But nonetheless, I do really like this single. If I'd heard it blind as a new release, I'd be impressed - and that's a serious achievement for what was supposed to be a cynical money-spinning project.

An album with the same title followed. It flopped, and CBS broke the contract, allowing Robertson to return to the day job. We may never hear the like again. 


VanceMan said...

Anything with Richard Hewson's name on it, I'm there. Thanks for these two slices of pop.

Arthur Nibble said...

The A-side of Mick's third (and final?) CBS single was written and produced by Clifford T. Ward!

Graham Clayton said...

The pizzicato violin strings are an unexpected feature.

Graham P said...

I'm sure I've got this in my collection up in the loft.