Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 17

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A solid roundup of the biggest British hits for June 1971, Top of the Pops, Vol. 17 is renowned among collectors as the first edition ever to include a David Bowie song, a full year before Bowie himself shot to fame. Peter Noone's version of the Thin White Zig's "Oh You Pretty Things" went to number 12 that month, a decidedly lighter, safer interpretation of a song which, in Bowie's own hands, is as foreboding as any look at the end of the world could be -- and it is to the Top of the Pops team's credit that their version is no breezier than the erstwhile Herman's turned out to be. Bowie purists will hate it, of course, but they're the only ones who will have a problem. Elsewhere, Tony Christie's "I Did What I Did for Maria" and, continuing that song's murderous theme, R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me" are both executed with gritty desperation. But death, doom, and despondency are not the collection's sole themes. Indeed, volume 13 is a mixed bag through and through. On the one hand, the likes of the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" and Free's "My Brother Jake," not to mention the lesser-known joys of McGuiness Flint's "Malt and Barley Blues," are an excuse for some good old-fashioned rock and boogie, but balanced against that, Dawn's "Knock Three Times" and the Eurovision Song Contest champ "Un Banc, un Arbre, une Rue" possess a syrupy quality that defies the most energetic attempts to erase them from your mind. If you've never spent a week with a French-language, Monaco-ian mega-hit stuck in your head, you have a real treat coming your way.

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