Various Artists

Top of the Pops, Vol. 37

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Spring 1974 has passed into history for just one thing -- the first ever hit by a new band called Queen. And that is as it should be. In an ocean of scarcely listenable mediocrity, "Seven Seas of Rhye" was like a breath of absolutely magical inventiveness, and that was before you switched on the television and caught the band in all their flamboyant glory, camping it up on tea-time pop programs. Pause to take stock of what else the season brought, though, and you wonder how anybody ever deemed it likely that such a stunning concoction might actually break the chart. Secure at number one was "Billy, Don't Be a Hero," as performed by television talent show discoveries Paper Lace. When it finally fell from grace, Terry Jacks' painfully mawkish rendition of Jacques Brel's "Le Moribund," "Seasons in the Sun," slithered in to take its place. And fighting it out beneath them, Olivia Newton-John pursued Eurovision Song Contest glory with the grating "Long Live Love," Little Jimmy Osmond threatened "I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door," and Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye came over hot and heavy with the steamy breathy "You Are Everything." Oh, and squeaky-cleaner than any of them, the New Seekers were simpering "I Get a Little Sentimental Over You." You try and make a decent compilation from that kind of content! Top of the Pops, Vol. 37 is not, then, an especially thrilling listen. No problem with the actual interpretations -- at its best, it reminds you why you hated the original songs in the first place; at its worst, it makes sure you'll never want to hear them again. But even the triumphantly pounding rent-a-glam of the Glitter Band's "Angel Face" sounds sordid in such surroundings, while Gary Glitter's supremely plodding "Remember Me This Way" is just a drone, shattered by the discordance of a none-too-clever Salvation Army band. There is a movingly maudlin attempt on Hot Chocolate's "Emma," but even that falls apart before the album is over. All of which means, history was right. The emergence of Queen was all the season had to offer -- and the Top of the Pops version knew it.

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