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The summer of 76

As we swelter in the heat, Jonathan Hopson takes a trip down memory lane and remembers the summer of his O levels and a passion for the new music that was filling the airwaves at the time

The summer of 76

THE unexpected recent spell of uncharacteristically sunny weather have provided some poignant memories of the long hot summer of 1976.

  

Back then, along with the rest of my year group, I was sweating over O-level papers in a largely airless gym that was being used as an examination hall, praying for a good match between my revision schedule and the exam questions.

As well as uninterrupted sunshine for days on end and water shortages, 1976 was also a great year for new music releases.

I still have a vinyl copy of the rock group Metro’s eponymous first album recorded in 1976 and released the following year on Transatlantic and Sire records.

One of the best tracks is the fabulous One Way Night featuring Peter Godwin’s mellifluous vocals and some superb guitar work from Duncan Browne.

The album also includes the single Criminal World, a track which received much wider coverage when covered in 1983 by David Bowie on his Let's Dance album.

If you are not already familiar with the music of Metro, a visit to www.youtube.co.uk is recommended.

Two other musical gems from 1976 are, I think, also worth noting.

Genesis’ Wind and Wuthering features some of their best music and judging by the crowd reaction at the sell-out Genesis Revisited concert at the Hexagon, Reading, in April 2017, guitarist Steve Hackett and his 40-year-old music are still excitedly
and loudly appreciated.

Jean Michel Jarre, the French synthesiser genius and son of Maurice (who composed the Oscar-winning film scores for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Passage to India), burst onto the musical scene in 1976 with Oxygene, reaching No 2 in the UK charts.

Jarre has gone on to stage some legendary concerts, including playing to 1m people in the Place de la Concorde in 1979 and London Docklands in 1988.

I remember the Docklands concert for the torrential rain and a laughing Jean Michel telling the audience at the start that “at least frogs love the rain!”.

The year 1976 was a musical vintage that included much longevity – Jean Michel Jarre celebrates his 70th birthday in August this year and is still at the forefront of electronic music-making, having released two new albums, Electronica 1 & 2, in collaboration with other electronic musicians in 2015 & 2016, plus a two-year Electronica concert tour around the world, which finished in San Diego, California, in April 2018.

So with typical British optimism, let’s hope the golden orb in the sky will give us all something to smile about – and maybe a new wave of music will come along to remind us in future years of the balmy summer days of 2018.

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