'From Corned Beef to Caviar!
Sally Carr surveyed the milling photographers with an expression something akin to bemusement. She listened to the persistent questioning of journalists with an air of being somewhat baffled.
After all, a few months ago she was just another blonde trying to break into pop music via the Italian scene. And in those days nobody much wanted to even speak to her, let alone inquire solicitously about her health and her views on music.
One hit record makes all the difference. Sally is now a chart-topper, one quarter of Middle of the Road. It took a helluva long time for 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep' to make it in Britain, but it had already made it big in Sweden, Italy, Germany, Australia, Canada, to name five countries.
Said Sally: 'This bloke from Liverpool, Larry Stott, gave us the song when we were just about starving in Italy. The three lads just couldn't see it as a potential hit, but I argued the toss with them. I thought it was very catchy. That's the thing, you see - I don't know anything about music, but they do. I like it because I thought it was commercial. You can say my ignorance paid off...'
Which is now perfectly all right with the others, Ian Campbell Lewis, Ken Andrew and Eric Lewis.
Understandably they were interested to hear Sally's view on the follow-up, which is 'Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum'. Said Sally after due consideration: 'Yes, I think it'll sell. A rather different sort of song, sort of more technical, but it'll be all right.'
Middle of the Road come from Glasgow where, for a year or so, they built up a good reputation as a semi-professional team. Sally was a hairdresser; Ian a surveyor; Eric, a company representative; Ken, a film producer. They'd make maybe £100 between them in Glasgow, so the semi-pro scene was worthwhile and had none of the full-time hang-ups.
As Los Caracas, the team worked on Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks series and won a couple of times. On April Fools' Day, 1970, they decided to become fully professional, moved south to London - and dropped the earlier Latin-American musical routine.
Enter, then, one of those fast-talking 'I'll-make-you-stars' laddies. He proposed a world tour for the group, ending up in South America going via Italy. Fine, except that he left them stranded on a camping site near Rome. Their daily menu consisted of corned beef, medium rare, and spuds.
What with scraping potatoes and scraping an existence, things looked bad. But in the end RCA Records got to hear of the band and got them in to do some demonstration records. And Larry Stott turned up with 'Chirpy'.
And on to a number one record and much toasting in champagne at RCA's London headquarters.
That chap in the corner wearing a big smile is Dave Carey, general manager of Flamingo Music, who publish the song. He's on a definite winner - there are alternative versions by Lally Scott, the Others, House and Mac & Katie Kissoon. He too thought it was a very commercial song but was beginning to wonder if it would ever break through in Britain.
Middle of the Roader Eric was married a couple of weeks ago, so he was in the middle of a double celebration. The winsome Sally reckoned she didn't have any time these days for romance.
She said: 'I honestly don't think I'll ever get over the feeling of sheer surprise - of being top of the charts. It's a bit like winning the football pools...'
She toyed with a little caviar on toast.
And noted that it was much more interesting than corned beef and spuds.
Tips for the Top
Tips for the Top