28 July 2010

One Hit Wonders #10 - Candlewick Green - Who Do You Think You Are?

Candlewick Green - Who Do You Think You Are?

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

The way Simon Cowell waffles on, you'd think that the X Factor and its ilk were a revolution in television broadcasting, that the TV talent show slid straight out of his marvellous and unfathomable brain and on to the nearest beermat.  Why more people aren't prepared to challenge this fallacy is slightly beyond me - TV talent shows merely took a bit of a break in the nineties (ignoring Jonathan Ross's "Big Big Talent Show", which is probably a wise thing to do).  They weren't some new noughties phenomenon, although admittedly the methods and the presentation had changed by then.  "And what about the Eurovision Song Contest?" says a man at the back. "That never went away at all".  Indeed, my good chap.

One big advantage Cowell has had over his television genre's predecessors is that he has the necessary inside music industry knowledge to market the winners as stars.  That's something Hughie Green and his producer friends could never do with many of the musical acts on "Opportunity Knocks" - winning that particular show meant very little in particular apart from (perhaps) one minor hit and a career on the working man's club/ cabaret circuit in Britain.  Ask these lads.  After winning the show, their debut single "Who Do You Think You Are?" climbed to number 21 on the charts, and their tour van took them to all the social clubs in Albion where the best pie and peas could be had.  Follow-up hits were not forthcoming.  If the same fate had greeted Leona Lewis, rest assured her breakdown would be plastered all over the national newspapers.

Before we break open the knife drawer and give Candlewick Green an angry pricking, however, it's worth listening to this.  "Who Do You Think You Are?" is actually a ruddy good pop song, complete with gentle, washed-out hints of Northern Soul influences.  It may sound slightly suppressed in places, as if they're frightened to really let fly with the song, but they can't keep it entirely down - with the bouncy piano, parping brass, and brain-naggingly good chorus, it's actually a well crafted piece of work, and one which deserved to sell in far greater quantities.  The case for the prosecution would probably correctly cite the fact that the tune isn't their own - belonging to sometime sixties psych-poppers Jigsaw - and may have sat better with an artist with a more powerful, or at least more emotive, voice.  Still though, by the standards of most TV talent show winners, The Green come out of this extremely well.  Its self-conscious swagger actually suits the conflicting doubt and defiance expressed in the song very well, and it's a brooding but simultaneously slightly groovy piece of work.

Saint Etienne later covered the song in 1993, but finished two rungs lower in the charts with their effort.  As for Candlewick Green, they'd release several albums, including a surprisingly mellotron-heavy (though determinedly pop) eponymous effort in 1977.  The lyrics of this track otherwise tend to tempt me to mock their fate - "every day sees another star", indeed - but it's an old, old story now.  After nearly 37 years, it's time to drop the subject, ignore the ironies and enjoy the record, I'd say.

One last thing, though - can anyone please put me out of my misery and tell me what the Wikipedia listed "Pete The Plate Spinning Dog" act was like on "Opportunity Knocks"?  It sounds like a real crowd pleaser from this distance, but you never can tell.

This track is commercially available in all the usual places, and can be watched on YouTube too.  


The Confused said...

Yes, it always annoys me too when people go on about talent shows being a "new" phenomena when Opportunity Knocks ruled the roost for 16 years later to be joined by New Faces. Cowell clearly modelled himself on Mickie Most and Tony Hatch in those shows since both weren't afraid to be scathing in their criticisms. Sad how they seem to have been forgotten, not helped by the fact very little of those shows survive in the archives.

The only real difference as you point out is Cowell's inside knowledge of the music industry to which I'd add knowing how to make a tired predictable series on the air via endless publicity scams effectively making it feel like a carefully scripted soap opera... if there isn't as many viewers one week, you can guarantee the "judges" will start bickering in the papers... all to generate publicity of course, so it is much more calculated than what we had before though Hughie Green was not averse to stunts and scams of his own. The weirdest one has to be getting PJ Proby as a contestant wearing a mask. Proby claimed that Green wanted it to cause such a scandal that he would be fired by Thames TV and be able to accept a better paid job in Australia!

I can reveal that this Candlewick Green disc remains much loved around Liverpool... almost everybody over the age of 35 remembers it fondly.

23 Daves said...

The X Factor and its ilk are more cynical on many, many levels, I'll agree.

I'm glad to know that this song is fondly remembered in Liverpool, though. I'm sure it is elsewhere as well, and despite its number 21 chart placing - not particularly great shakes, really - it probably punches well above its weight. I suspect it may be the least obscure thing I've ever uploaded here.

I'd be interested to know if Candlewick Green had strong regional followings, though. A lot of club/ cabaret bands did, having loads of fans in some towns and cities but not others. The quantities of private pressings which have survived for "club acts" act as a stark reminder of how huge that circuit was at one point.

Trevor A said...

I saw Candlewick Green perform in a summer season show in Blackpool in 1978 and they were very entertaining - good music and good comedy. They did many summer seasons in Blackpool over the years although the line-up changed from time to time. Last I heard of them they were performing in the Tower Hornpipe Gallery/Showbar a few years ago and were reduced to a three-some by that stage. Good group and very talented.