A few months back, my dear friend Robert, one of the team involved in the Simply Thrilled nights, laid down a 30-day song challenge on Facebook. I naturally accepted, given it was another chance to show off my exquisite musical tastes although I tried hard to stay mainstream this time. I was tempted to share all of them with you today, but most of the tracks will have featured on the blog at one point or another over the years.

But not the song for Day 12, which had to be something from my pre-teen years.

I went with this:-

mp3: David Essex – Rock On

David Essex was our home-grown equivalent of Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, with his music selling by the millions, particularly to teenage girls who would scream the place down at the gigs and shows.  At the age of 10/11, and having no interest in anything much beyond sport and music, the teenybop element of the thing didn’t really register with me as the screaming etc. wasn’t allowed on Top of The Pops and I wasn’t the least bit bothered by the fact that certain mates called me ‘a poof’ for liking his music.  The only acceptable music in the gang was glam-rock, with Slade, The Sweet and Gary Glitter all the rage.

Rock On sounded unlike any other song I’d ever heard in my life.  The young me couldn’t explain it, but looking back it was perhaps the first indication that my ears were attuned to something just a bit out of the ordinary, albeit with sales of many millions and a #3 placing in the charts, I was far from being alone in loving it.  It’s the sparse, yet full arrangement that drags the listener in – there’s not a lot of music to get caught up in for the first half of the song and the vocal delivery just seems to fit like a glove.  I’ve heard a few cover versions over the years, but they have never come close to being decent far less capture the magic of these three and a bit minutes.  I even have one in the collection, courtesy of its inclusion on the bonus disc to a ‘best of’:-

mp3: Smashing Pumpkins – Rock On

(Warning…….this cover is ridiculously overblown, overlong and incredibly tiresome, a long way from the sort of stuff from Mr Corgan and his mates that I’ve enjoyed over the years).

I’d continue to enjoy the next few David Essex singles – Lamplight, Gonna Make You A Star, and Stardust – but the decision to go for easy-listening pop, as a precursor to returning to his musical theatre roots, had me turning my nose up in future years.  And the advent of punk/new wave meant that David Essex could only be mentioned in hushed whispers, and even then, to a very select few.  You can take this is my confession.

One final thing.  The first time I heard Sign ‘O’ The Times, I was reminded of the opening few notes to Rock On – blame it on the basslines.



  1. I remember going to see Stardust at the Toledo in Muirend.It was an AA (14 and over) and I was 12 or 13 so it was a big deal to me at the time

  2. Can’t fault you for throwing Rock On in there. It’s definitely a song from my earliest listening years. I bought (well my Mom likely paid for) an album called Don Kirshner Presents…Rock Power when Rock On came out that included it along with Barry White, Gladys Knight + The Pips, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath on it! I’m sure it’s still hiding somewhere in my collection.

  3. Essex’s Rock On evokes vague, comforting memories. I remain a fan of That’ll Be The Day and Stardust – dated, but still enjoyable films. Both soundtracks are stunning.

  4. I loved ESP’s version on their Love Inks album and was suprised when I discovered that it was a David Essex song. Even more amazed when I researched it and found that the original wasn’t a cheesy pop that ESP had brought darkness to, but was a fairly faithful reproduction

  5. “Rock On” has been rightly lauded by no less than Andy Partridge as his first exposure to dub, and he’s right! It’s possibly the first instance anyone might name of the influence of Jamaican dub influencing white pop/rock and it’s actually a rather large hit single; even in glam-resistant America where I grew up where only a handful of the classics managed to penetrate the charts.

    The cover versions I’ve heard all miss the obvious dub foundation of the sound, so naturally, they all flounder while the original is still a queer thing of wonder. A vital synthesis of disparate cultures and elements to attain hybrid vigor. I’ve never heard any other Essex songs but from what I’ve gleaned, I’m fine with that. Thank goodness I have it on the US “Wham Bam, Thank You Glam!” compilation that my wife bought some years back. Every home needs this one.

  6. Echorich – I remember “Rock Power” in the convenience store racks by the checkout where the occasional K-Tel or Ronco album [like this one] would taunt me as a pre-teen. 20 HITS! 20!!

  7. I don’t know any other songs by David Essex but I’ll never forget ‘Rock On.’ There really aren’t that many songs like it. It’s written in C# minor, a key you don’t often hear in pop music. The stripped-down approach was startling at a time when production was crazily overblown. And of course JC is correct in mentioning the predominant feature: a bass line drenched in slap-back delay and doubled in octaves by Herbie Flowers, most famous for his electric and upright lines on ‘Walk on the Wild Side.’ An absolute classic.

  8. Not ‘Rock On’ but ‘Stardust’ was covered fairly well by Martin Gore, and remixed confidently by Atom TM.

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