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Sounds on Sunday: 50 years ago/6

50 YEARS AGO the Charts recorded the best-selling “singles” of each week. Have the hits of 1971 stood the test of half a century of time slipping by since they were released? Sadly, in most cases the top selling singles have not: with only some exceptions the number one hits of 1971 are either not memorable – or memorable for the wrong reasons. Join us as we look back and ask ourselves: “what were we thinking???”

This week 50 years ago George Harrison was enjoying his last of six weeks at number one with My Sweet Lord: see our “entertainment” section for a link to a video of him singing it. We therefore turn our attention to an enigmatic little number that occupied the number two slot for most of February 1971: “The Pushbike Song” by the Mixtures.

It’s hard to pin down “Pushbike”. In some ways it harks back to the innocence of the 60s: boy sees girl and forms an assessment that she is “pretty”. In others, it has that predatory edge of the 70s: he pedals after her. It has the simplicity of the 60s: boy sees girl on bike and now they ride a tandem together. It has a dash of the feminist optimism of the 70s: girl realises boy is looking at her and, as she is controlling her own mode of transport, she is able to choose to get away. It also has the disappointment of much 1970s feminism too: having started pedalling fast along a route of her own choosing, she is somehow (we don’t know how) snared and perched on the back end of a tandem, steered by her man, and sat where he can keep an eye on her in the rear-view mirror.

The Mixtures were an Australian band which enjoyed modest success and a rather less than modest number of line up changes. They released a cover of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” – now that won’t surprise you once you listen to “Pushbike”. One is reminded of 10cc releasing “Johnny Don’t Do It” as a follow up single to “Donna” – but type-casting worked better for The Mixtures (though “Johnny Don’t Do It” is arguably better than “Donna” – but we’ll keep that debate for another day).

Perhaps it’s not worth overthinking it. Perhaps it’s just another “boy has eye on girl” song – though it’s one of the catchiest. Happy humming.

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