Maybe as a reaction to the previous year, though maybe just coincidence, 1974 didn’t have the all round focus of it’s forebears. Whereas 1973 had been a home to various albums that have spanned generations, ’74’s best strengths were in the singles market.
Bowie’s escalating drug habit left him with ideas of an unfinished musical and an album that’s arguably his most unfocused of the decade. ‘Rebel Rebel’, however, remains a great and enduring single cut, brimming with the last vestiges of glam. Lulu did an excellent job of covering ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ and ‘Watch That Man’, filling both sides of an essential 7″, Ace’s ‘How Long’ – while easily dismissed as soft radio filler has stood the test of time and now sounds like a near perfect piece of songcraft, while everyone’s favourite ragamuffin, David Essex, topped the UK chart with a smart and disposable single about making disposable pop music.
For most, John Weldon ‘JJ’ Cale will be best remembered as the writer of ‘After Midnight’ and ‘Cocaine’, tunes popularised in the 1970s by Eric Clapton, and ‘Call Me The Breeze’, a number which became a Lynyrd Skynyrd staple. Yet, as ingrained as these songs are in the minds of classic rock fans, it always seemed that comparatively few are as familiar with Cale’s original recordings as they are these much-heard cover tunes.
Following Eric Clapton’s 1992 appearance on ‘MTV Unplugged’, in terms of inspiration, his recorded output floundered for two decades. While three albums of blues covers (one made up of standards, two of Robert Johnson numbers) are full of enjoyable moments, the rest of his post- ‘Unplugged’ work hardly ever hints at any former glories. At best (as with parts of 2001’s ‘Reptile’), these albums represent a once-fiery musician drifting into late middle age with wishy-washy results, while at worst (1998’s ‘Pilgrim’ and 2010’s ‘Clapton’), the albums are full of easy listening material which the younger Clapton possibly wouldn’t have given the time of day. On his pompously packaged eponymous release of 2010, the clean and sober Eric Clapton had a fixation with 30s and 40s jazz standards and – in comparison to his much younger self – had largely become a musical irrelevance. A somewhat legendary irrelevance, perhaps, but fact is, ‘Clapton’ (the album) presented very little that would interest anyone but the most died in the wool fan…and even some of those found the record to be often forgettable.