Top critical review
for 70s pop Compleatists
on 21 June 2016
Largely Forgotten or ignored on mainstream radio and sadly shunned by most retro-snobs [who only stick with the likes of Bowie or Queen etc when covering the 70s] I decided to re-visit Showaddywaddy four decades after they were a high-profile fixture of mainstream entertainment [over 300 TV appearences, according to the booklet provided, which sounds about right] as for better or worse, they were part and parcel of that eclectic decade.
The bulk of the 70s witnessed a more innocent time for popular music: the emphasis was more on novelty, melody and dare I say gimmickery [very like today, that last one] in the early-mid part of that decade: come late '76, and music took on a harder, more abrasive edge [which was healthier or otherwise, depending on your outlook] after this, it was all Pistols/ Stranglers/ Jam, etc, an era which saw the death-knell of the likes of Showaddywaddy, with their much less streetwise fare.
I picked up this 100- track, 5-disc set for 2 pounds 76 UK money, which works out at just over 50p a disc, so what was there for me to lose? The item looked brand-new as well, despite being sold as second-hand.
The early tracks by the group [mostly their own compositions] are the beat ones for me personally: sort of tuneful, stomping material with a then-contemporary Glam Rock tinge [Hey Rock and Roll/ Rock and Roll Lady/ Sweet Music, etc etc] however after this, the act takes on a more calculated, safer overtly commercial direction, with the emphasis on their updates on genuine 50s Rock and Roll compositions; although, shrewdly, many of these choices were reworkings of relatively obscure originals, largely unknown by the wider public.
After a while, this offering of too-safe material lost any real credibility, Showaddywaddy degenerating into a far-too-bland proposition, [their near-contemporaries Darts took the same ill-chosen route] especially in an era where more riskier material was being lapped up by a publiclooking for more forward-looking stuff.
Much of the groups'output sounds cheaply recorded using very basic studio techniques, suggesting they had a strict budget regarding expensive studio time: perhaps a lot of the album-only material was created this way? Very sparse, [but still often effective] arrangements and typically bland 70s production values creep into lot of the lesser-known covers: listening through this track listings, you can tell that all the stops were pulled when putting together the singles recordings, which usually have noticably better , varied use of instruments, multitracking, overdubs [and perhaps a name producer] in comparison to many of the album 'fillers' which sound very much like they have been recorded quickly: or at least that's the impression given, listening to this stuff.
I am sure Showaddywaddy were and are a viable, professional outfit, But there are signs they were working under typical studio-imposed limitations.
This collection gave me the opportunity to revisit the b-side 'Lookin' Back' after four decades and the only real ommission I can pinpoint is there is no 'Hey Mr Christmas', their Dec 1974 offering. 'Sweet Music' sounds like it is in basic mono, but that is indeed how I remember thec original recording, and these tracks are the genuine originals, I am sure.