Grapefruit Records’ 3CD anthologies covering music from 1970 and 1971 captured a British music scene during a period of change. Psychedelia may have been considered long gone, but various pop bands still seemed keen to dabble with the quirky and odd. Although the artier side of the era’s pop and rock scene during that period was often interesting, these sets suggested that the era didn’t always have a clear identity.
There are no such issues with ‘Beyond The Pale Horizon’, a triple disc collection promising to bring “The British Progressive Pop Sounds of 1972”. By the time 1971 had coughed its last and the pop and rock machine rolled into the new year, progressive rock was a dominant force within the album buyers’ market, while glam rock and hard rock were never far away from the singles chart. Between these two or three musical tribes, ’72 came with a strong musical base, but – as always with Grapefruit’s abilities to dig through a rich musical history – the year offered so much more greatness. Naturally, three discs really isn’t enough to paint the most complete picture, but the chosen highlights within ‘Beyond The Pale Horizon’ offer the kind of listening experience that so many lovers of 70s pop and rock will find both nostalgic and educational.
Ever since the CD boom of the 90s, the market has been flooded with easily affordable and easily accessible rock compilations. These sets, often adorned by artwork showing a guitar or having a car and open road theme have typically been aimed at the undemanding listener – the kind of person wishing to revisit the classic rock singles of their radio filled youth; the kind of person who’d happily listen to Thin Lizzy’s greatest hits in their car forever. You’d think the market would eventually run out of these people as their target market, and yet year after year, cheap comps featuring Thin Lizzy’s ‘Boys Are Back In Town’, Rainbow’s ‘Since You Been Gone’ and Free’s ‘All Right Now’ seem to fill supermarket shelves continually.
There are few things as ubiquitous with the 1970s as glam rock. The first half of the decade’s music was shaped by David Bowie in his Ziggy and Aladdin pomp, Marc Bolan’s colourful pixie-like antics on Top of The Pops, and a run of stompin’ great hits from Birmingham’s finest, Slade. Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn penned a truckload of hits for Mickie Most’s RAK label, making the music mogul’s yacht almost as famous as the acts themselves. In full leathers, Suzi Quatro helped pave the way for a generation of female rock stars and self-confessed “navvies in mascara” Sweet hadn’t “got a clue what to do”. On the artier end of things, there were Roxy Music’s appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test where Bryan Ferry and company looked – and, indeed, sounded – like they’d been dropped to Earth by aliens and Sparks’ appearances between the likes of The Hollies and Wings on your favourite Thursday evening pop show had ability to frighten small children. It was very much a fertile time for new pop music.
Switching between being an actor, a musician and a radio host, Michael Des Barres has had a long and interesting career. You might remember him as the vocalist with 70s rock bands Silverhead and Detective. If hard rock wasn’t your thing back then, you might know Michael as the cool, scene stealing kid in To Sir With Love. Maybe you saw him get murdered in an alley in the Amicus horror film I, Monster. You almost certainly saw him fronting The Power Station during the TV coverage of the Live Aid footage. The point is that Des Barres has always been there, doing his thing.
By 2019, he returned to the rock scene fronting The Mistakes, whose ‘Crackle & Hiss’ single captured a great retro sound, injecting a little garage punk spirit into some huge swaggering riffs. The kind of number best played loudly, it placed Michael in a similar musical sphere to Duff McKagan’s extra curricular projects Neurotic Outsiders and Loaded.