The Jukebox Time Machine – Bowie, The Sweet and a load of “Hocus Pocus”

Lately, I seem to have somewhat lost track of the original premise behind this blog. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that the domain name for this site contains the words Jukebox Time Machine but it wasn’t long before I decided to veer away from simply journeying back in time to select a random “track from my years”. Oh no, the featured song instead became inspired by what was going on in the news, by the seasons, or indeed what was happening in my own life. Once you delve into the backstory to a song, you find out so much more than was ever available back in the day, so it became appropriate to change the name of the blog to “What’s It All About?” (a nod to the opening lyric from the song Alfie, written by my favourite songwriting team Burt Bacharach and Hal David).

But just for a bit of a change, I am going to resurrect the idea of having an honest to goodness “time machine” that could randomly whisk me back through the years to find out what we were listening to, in terms of the music of the day. There are a fair few time machines in popular culture, but the one I’m going to use this time, is the contraption conjured up by H.G. Wells (very steampunk) and put together by some clever prop designers for the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor.

So, now we have a vehicle to take us back in time, but how will we randomly generate the date to which we will be taken? Fortunately there are lots of devices at our disposal and I’m going to use an online random number generator. The year will be generated from between 1964 and 2006, when the popular UK chart music show Top of the Pops aired on the BBC. I can at a push, remember watching that show with my parents right from the beginning (yes I’m that old), and I stuck with it through the good and bad years, until they pulled the plug on it in the mid-noughties. Since then I have kind of lost the plot as far as non-mainstream new music goes, so will stick to those more familiar years. The month and date can also be randomly generated after which all we have to do is refer to the Official UK Top 40 Archive. All sounds very complicated but trust me, it’s not.


Time to climb aboard then and generate the first date. Here goes:

Year – 1973
Month2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (cute, it’s Valentine’s Day!)

Anyone who visits here regularly will know that this year could not be better for me in terms of conjuring up memories, as it was not only the year I became a teenager, but it was also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the Official Top 40 Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, Scottish glam-rock band The Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.

Blockbuster by Sweet:

I’m not going to dilly-dally too long writing about that one however as it has been showcased very recently over at Charity Chic Music (link here) where quite a few of us chimed in with our schoolday memories of the song. It amazes me, watching this footage of the band perform, how they still somehow managed to look “macho” whilst wearing just so much glitter, gold lamé and make-up. ‘Twas the times obviously. Lead singer Brian Connolly was a particularly good-looking man back then, and I was very envious of his long blonde hair (although oddly, in this song he refers to someone with long black hair). I think I actually sported a not too dissimilar hairstyle myself for much of the noughties, but hadn’t realised until now that the inspiration for it must have been Brian from The Sweet.

But what else was in the 1973 St Valentine’s Day chart? Well as luck would have it, a song I have already featured in the blog – The Jean Genie by David Bowie (link here). It was pointed out back then by The Swede, that the opening riff of Jean Genie bore a striking similarity to that of The Sweet’s Blockbuster which was recorded for the same record label, at around the same time, and released just a couple of months later (go on, do a quick compare and contrast). But it was The Sweet who made it to the top spot on this occasion as Bowie’s offering only made it to No. 2. Having done a little digging, the date we’re travelling back to in time to was very relevant to Mr Bowie as it seems that it was on the 14th of February 1973 that he collapsed from exhaustion after a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He had been touring and giving press conferences as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for some time, but soon after this collapse, he abruptly retired the character live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

The Jean Genie by David Bowie:

So far we’ve revisited two songs that sound very similar to each other but what else in that chart sounded very similar? Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate all the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodeling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been that the album I got for Christmas that year was “Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists”, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists. If you look closely you will see that Blockbuster, The Jean Genie and Hocus Pocus (Track 7 on Side 2) all featured, so this February chart certainly seems to have spawned a fair few of the year’s most memorable hits. (Interesting to note there is a picture of the artist who is apparently Python Lee Jackson which caused lots of confusion at the time. Turned out PLJ was the name of an Aussie band and Rod Stewart had been a guest vocalist.)


Hocus Pocus by Focus:

Although we have travelled back in time 45 years, so many of these songs are now part of popular culture and I can’t imagine them ever being forgotten, whereas can we really say that about much of what is in the charts today? Maybe I’m wrong but could we envisage a time in the future when there will be another television cop show, this time inspired by the music of 2018? Not sure, but it certainly happened around 10 years ago when Life On Mars was made for our own BBC. The lead character Sam Tyler goes back in time to 1973 and finds himself working under the highly misogynistic, homophobic, borderline alcoholic Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – The Gene Genie. For those of us who remember those days, there were many, many amusing musical exchanges between Sam and Gene. These were only made possible because Sam knew the legacy left behind by some of the artists they listened to, on the Ford Granada car radio, or during a nightclub raid. For Gene all this music was as yet unknown, and anyway, he and his wife preferred listening to Roger Whittaker!

Ok, so Life On Mars aired a fair few years ago now but I think it is generally agreed that one of last year’s best films, for music fans at any rate, was this one, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my Jukebox Time Machine journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although I may change the mode of transport for next time as H.G. Wells’ time machine was a tad uncomfortable at times – Doc Brown’s DeLorean might make for a smoother ride.

As to whether the music of 2018 will feature in the movies and telly of the future, having thought about it all a bit more, it probably will. As the music-obsessed youngsters of today become the movers and shakers of tomorrow, they will use the “tracks of their years” when making directorial debuts, peppering their films with the works of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino (yes I watched the Grammys this week so am “down with the kids”). Problem is, by the time you make it in that world and are entrusted with the big budgets you are a generation older than the majority of your audience. Great for parents taking their kids to the cinema though as there is something for everyone, the action for the youngsters and the music for the mums and dads (Guardians of the Galaxy springs to mind) – All in all, a bit of a win-win situation.

Until next time….

Blockbuster Lyrics
(Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)

Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh
You better beware, you better take care
You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair
He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind
You better not go, you never know what you’ll find
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised
If don’t know what going on behind his disguse
Nobody knows where Buster goes
He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose

Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

The cops are out, they’re running about
Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out
He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught
‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a aho)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster


It occurred to me that although the journey back in time was primarily to find out what we were listening to in February 1973, perhaps it might be interesting to remind myself what I was doing at school. As luck would have it (that trusty archive box came up trumps once again), I still have a self-penned “magazine” which we all had to produce in English (the subject not the language) that year.

All very embarrassing as ever, but I was only 12 remember, and one of the “stories” was essentially an exchange between my mum and myself as to the merits of acquiring one of those new-fangled cassette recorders that had just come on the market. Ignore the fact I seem to have missed the letter “t” in the title (should be tempted) and please ignore the fact that it seems my family were a bit tight with the cash, as in reality I did get a MURPHY cassette recorder later that year. It was my absolute pride and joy and was heavily used for the rest of my teenage years. I give you an extract from the Reader’s Realm February ’73 edition (adverts were included).

img049 (2)

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

15 thoughts on “The Jukebox Time Machine – Bowie, The Sweet and a load of “Hocus Pocus””

  1. Nice artwork for your magazine! Years ago I did a newspaper with a friend at school in which we both contributed articles, maybe I’ll rediscover it one day.

    I might steal that Baby Driver clip for a future edition of my series. Not sure I want to watch the entire film though because of Kevin Spacey, though he does play the villain so I guess that makes it easier to tolerate!

    Do the group Focus sing in Dutch or mainly instrumentals by them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not sure about that artwork myself now – looks a bit dull for a magazine for teens. Must have got inspiration from my mum’s People’s Friend or some such publication!

      It is all getting very complicated isn’t it but I would thoroughly recommend Baby Driver – We can’t really stop watching everything that has KC in it or stop watching anything made by HW as would wipe out a large section of some of the best movies ever made. What’s great is that it’s all now come out in the open so going forward things will change.

      As for Focus and did they sing – Not that I know of, but no doubt someone with a greater knowledge than I could put me right on that score if I’m wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your ‘magazine’ made me smile, ah! Such neat handwriting too (we’ve noticed this before, haven’t we?) and proof in the interview that teenagers never change: “Oh but all my friends have one…” Brilliant stuff.
    It’s quite something I think that certain songs from 45 years ago – particularly the three featured here – are just so familiar, so engrained now, that it’s really hard to imagine a world in which they hadn’t yet been written. Or to try and spool back to the moment you heard them for the very first time.
    In response to Chris’s comment, my sister was a Focus fan, so I heard them when I was a kid, as was Mr SDS (both of them being the same age – 16 in ’73) and although lots of instrumentals I know they did sing in English – e.g. a song called ‘Why Dream?’ which Mr SDS has just found for me as I type, on youtube…!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve had this post half-finished for a while, and it ended up being quite long, but just shows you it’s often the little Postscripts that get noticed most. Yes the handwriting is neat but a bit of a dull “story”, it was just that it was music related – There is another that I am going to try and shoehorn in soon as much more entertaining.

      Glad we’ve cleared up the Focus question as to whether they sang on any of their songs or not, thanks to that fact your sister and Mr SDS were both 16 in ’73! Will have to head over to YouTube and have a look for that one although if you check out the link to Hocus Pocus above they are a bit of an odd lot and not a band I would really have started to follow heavily when I was 12. It was still Donny and David for me then, with a smattering of The Sweet thrown in.

      Thanks for dropping by – Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


  3. I remember Focus playing “Hocus Pocus” on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” back in the summer of 1972 and the impact on British music fans was amazing. My flatmate at that time was no prog rock fan but he bought the Moving Waves album on the strength of it an played it night and day. I recall the British music press (NME and Melody Maker) went ballistic about Focus and I think they won a couple of awards. There were no vocals on “Hocus Pocus” other than the yodelling of Thijs van Leer, but the highlight was the guitar work of Jan Akkerman. Although not a fan, I do remember their next single was called Sylvia but it was an instrumental too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh – lots of people who remember Focus well. I was certainly never a prog rock fan but somehow these two tracks that were in the Feb ’73 chart have stayed with me. Must have been a bit annoying though having a flatmate who played Focus ALL night and ALL day! Excellent guitar work as you say.


      1. Alyson – the same flatmate also bought Hawkwind’s “Doremi Fasol Latido” and played that constantly too. I wouldn’t have minded if it had been the 2nd album, but several hours of “Brainstorm” blasting out would do anyone’s head in!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello there. Very interesting to learn that Bacharach and David are your favorite songwriting team.

    I grew up on Long Island in the town of Roslyn. Hal David lived there. I never met him but sure wish I had!

    Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Be seeing you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Neil – Here you are again, casually throwing in a bit of trivia that for me, is really quite something!

      Yes this blog has had a lot of Bacharach & David tunes included over the 2 years I’ve been writing it and the title used to be “What’s It All About, Alfie?” until I decided to drop the Alfie part after having watched the film again recently. Very much of its time and not a very nice character Alfie, but a great song!

      Shame you never met Hal, but no doubt there will be many anecdotes from the people who still live there who did.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent as always – particularly Reader’s Realm. I have similar products of a misspent youth lying around somewhere, although mine would be typed because my handwriting has never been as good as yours – then or now. The English teacher in me refuses to correct the odd 12 year old spelling mistake – particularly as your writing and general SPG is stronger than most of my current students, whether they be 16 or adults! However, I can’t resist querying where the alliteration is in Hocus Pocus…?

    (Pedantic apologies.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear – I feel duly told off and of course you are right, not alliteration at all! Is it simply rhyming or is there another term? Finance/stats person by profession remember, so a bit rusty at all this stuff.

      Glad you didn’t correct the spelling mistakes however as I am fully aware of them but decided the pages were still worthy of being included, especially as it seems most adults nowadays would, as you say, fare no better. There are a couple of other “stories” in the Reader’s Realm that I am quite proud of however and I didn’t remember that my 12-year-old self could produce such imaginative work. They will put in an appearance in due course when I work out how they can be shoehorned into a post.

      Thanks for dropping by.


  6. Blockbuster – go on Youtube and look for John Otway’s take on the song. The Sweet’s B sides were always heavy, almost Led Zep
    Focus – Still going, although I think the 70 yr old Thijs van Leer is the only original member. Neal Morse / Transatlantic always include bonus tracks with the CD and have done a pretty good cover of Sylvia (and ‘Come Sail Away’ – but that was 1977 and in this past’s future).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha – John Otway, what a character! Yes the Sweet not as sweet as appeared on TOTP but very sad to see what happened to Brian. Wish I hadn’t seen the old interview footage, but too late now.

      Focus still going strong? Was reminded of them last year after watching Baby Driver and of course the year I stumbled upon in my Jukebox Time Machine (?!) was the one when they had the most chart success. Thanks for all the info – As I always say around here, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff but I am an enthusiast!


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