“My blue jean baby, she’s the queen of them all
She’s the only one who makes me wanna rock and roll
Don’t have to say goodnight
Dancing on a Saturday night”
Growing up in the early 70s the world was a different place and life seemed much simpler. Being young, things seemed definite (right or wrong, good or bad, left or right), I wasn’t aware of the ‘grey’ areas that take up so much of our time as we grow up.
Watching movies was simple – the good guy was an upstanding member of the community while the bad guy was shifty. There was none of this good guy with a tortured soul and a bad guy with redeeming qualities.
Football? Well all UK teams were good, all European teams bad (the first time I heard whistling from a crowd when they disagreed with the referee my dad turned to me and said “that’s foreigners for you, we don’t do that sort of thing over here”).
Politics? Easy. The USA were good and the USSR were bad. If you shopped in Slough you voted Labour whereas if you shopped in Reading you voted Conservative.
TV? This was a bit more problematic. While generally ITV was for normal people (like me), BBC1 for posh people and BBC2 for intelligent people there were exceptions. The most notable was the Blue Peter vs Magpie debate, here Magpie lost because they asked for money in their appeals rather than milk bottle tops.
Music? Well here I started to have problems. While Glam Rock was the right type of music, I was aware of some groups that seemed to be more manufactured than others and for the first time in my life I came across a ‘grey’ area. This ended up with certain Glam artists being ‘good’ and some ‘bad’. On the good side were the likes of Slade while the bad were headed up by Barry Blue.
Looking back on this now I can see how naive I was on all the above and I cringe when I think of my splitting of Glam into good and bad. I actually really liked Barry Blue and “(Dancing) On a Saturday Night” but I felt his name was too false and the song too ‘manufactured’. Why do I cringe? While I derided Barry Blue I remained vocal in my support for two key artists, Alvin Stardust and the Sweet, who between them probably owed more to a false name and ‘manufactured’ hits than any others in the Glam genre!
Barry Blue’s name was in fact only a few moves on the Dulux colour chart away from his true name. Born Barry Green in 1950 the name change was more of a Priscilla White to Cilla Black shift than a Bernard Jewry to Alvin Stardust rechristening.
Always interested in music Barry was only 14 when he wrote his first major song “Rainmaker Girl” for Gene Pitney. His playing career began in the late 60s and while he was involved with a number of groups the closest he came to stardom was a brief period playing bass with the group Spice in 1967/8. Formed by Mick Box and David Byron the group would eventually sell millions of albums after its transformation into Uriah Heep.
Stepping up to the mike Barry then recorded a number of singles for Decca (as Barry Green) in 1971 but none of them made the charts. It was at this point that he realised that his true talent was away from the spotlight and in the background as a composer. While he had some success by himself his major breakthrough came when he joined up with Lynsey de Paul. The writing partnership was a successful one and in 1972 they hit the UK charts with “Sugar Me” (recorded by Lynsey and reaching number 5) and “Storm in a Teacup” (recorded by the Fortunes and reaching number 7).
With hits beneath his belt Barry moved on to write for other artists. But, as it transpired, his biggest customer was to be himself. With the Glam era in full swing and a number of ‘old’ stars becoming ‘overnight sensations’ Barry took the plunge and became Barry Blue. His song writing was more than ready for an assault on the charts and his debut release “(Dancing) On A Saturday Night” reached number 2 in the UK charts during July 1973. Its success was replicated abroad where it also hit number 2 in Australia, Sweden and Austria while also making the top twenty in Germany, Holland and Belgium. The skill of the track was the way that it caught in your memory, more than 40 years on I just need to see the name Barry Blue and the song starts up in my head. (And it’s not just me! While I was writing this a friend phoned up and I mentioned that I was writing about Barry Blue. His response – “God I loved ‘Dancing On a Saturday Night’, I haven’t heard it for years”. Unfortunately then he started to sing it down the phone to me.)
Barry’s follow up was, surprisingly, a cover of “Do You Wanna Dance”. While this didn’t score as well as its predecessor it still managed a respectable number 7 in the UK and number 11 in Germany. Barry released another 3 singles during the following year but he saw diminishing returns in terms of chart success. Like many pop stars Barry then disappeared from the public eye.
His move away from the stage however did not mean the end of chart success, if anything it speeded up as he continued writing and moved into production. Amongst many successes he can include producing “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave, working with Celine Dion & Diana Ross and composing music for films such as “The Long Good Friday” and “The Eyes of Laura Mars”.
However despite my personal reassessment of Barry there is one act of wanton musical vandalism that I can never forgive him for. He was the man behind Toto Coelo and “I Eat Cannibals”!