Certain rarely-heard names, such as Jo Jo Gunne or Atomic Rooster, are guaranteed to induce a nostalgia rush in men of a certain age. The fact that such ’70s semi-stars aren’t acknowledged ‘greats’ makes their very mention all the more bittersweet. In a good way. Cherry Red, who I think I must avoid meeting at all costs if I’m not to turn into a sad spotter babbling on about the hidden joys of Redbone and The Partridge Family, have taken this frisson further and asked Mark Stratford, Bob Stanley and Phil King to compile a themed album, not just of obscure hits from the era but?more insane than that?to evoke the colour, shape and sound of pop life at the time. Magpie is bookended by the voice of silver-tongued smoothie and walking cravat Peter Wyngarde (aka Jason King) and pays homage to a period of space hoppers, hot pants and possibly space hoppers in hot pants. It was a weird phase: the trippy was mainstream, and everyone bought cheap, hastily-bashed-out cover versions?”Hot Hits”, “Pick Of The Pops”?by the truckload. In this bargain-bin nirvana you’ll find “TV themes, film music, adverts, junkshop pop 70-74” and Don Fardon singing “Belfast Boy” about Georgie Best.
The memorable Magpie theme itself was written/recorded by The Murgatroyd Band, who were basically The Spencer Davis Group moonlighting. Alexis Korner’s CCS adapted Led Zepp’s “Whole Lotta Love” into the still-definitive TOTP theme. “Whatever Happened To You”, from The Likely Lads, remains inexplicably poignant, and excerpts from the movies Take A Girl Like You and Loot are brittle and affecting. A pre-fame Elton John hacks out “Spirit In The Sky” for one of those tuppenny covers sets: probably a Pan’s People clone adorned the sleeve. This is a purgatory of forgotten fool’s gold which slipped through the cracks, and it’s cracking. One for sorrow, two for joy.