The period 3 January 1970 – 8 October 1977 covers 405 weeks.

Stevie Wonder spent 133 of those weeks with music in the Top 50 of the UK singles charts. 16 of his singles, stretching from Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday which was in the middle of a long run that had begun October 1969, through to Another Star, the fourth 45 to be lifted from Songs In The Key of Life, found huge favour with the record buying public, albeit he never enjoyed a #1 hit in this golden age, and indeed just six of them reached the Top Ten.

The fact that he was rarely off the airwaves during my most formative years in terms of listening to music on the radio meant that I was exposed to his songs way more than most other long-standing acts of that decade. I really don’t want readers to think that this was something I regretted then or now as there’s a high number of those singles in which I reckon I can sing many of the words unprompted and would be very confident of getting them all in the right order and to a fair approximation of tone if standing in front of a karaoke machine.

But it was really difficult in the early to mid-80s to admit of any love or affection for Stevie Wonder on account of the sheer awfulness of two songs that spent ages at #1 – Ebony and Ivory, in which he and Paul McCartney called for greater racial harmony over a non-tune and lyric that could have been penned by a nine-year old – and I Just Called To Say I Love You, a solo song lifted from the soundtrack to the smash hit film, The Woman In Red, and one which holds the remarkable distinction of being the biggest selling single ever issued in the UK by Tamla Motown (a stat which says a great deal about the general poor taste of the UK public).

I didn’t, until the time when he was having the #1 singles, realise that Stevie Wonder’s career went all the way back to the early 60s. I knew of songs such as Uptight (Everything’s Alright) from various radio shows that played oldies, but had wrongly assumed it was from the late 60s when in fact it was a hit back in 1965. We are actually edging close to the 60th anniversary of him signing his first recording contract, which he did as a child prodigy in 1961 at the age of 11. It’s fair to say that you could come up with a number of ICAs that cover his entire career, but this one focusses solely on the 70s…..and mostly on the hit singles.

Side A

1. Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday (peaked at #2, November 1969, exited the Top 50 on 13 February 1970)

This is a bit of a misnomer in that the song dates from 1967 but was released by Tamla in 1969 in lieu of the fact that Stevie Wonder was experiencing some severe problems with his vocal range when he reached the end of his teenage years, and rather than rush him back, the label went digging into the archives for previously recorded but unreleased material. It was his biggest hit in the UK, and would remain so until this……

2. Sir Duke (#2, May 1977)

Fun fact. The week that this peaked in the UK charts was the same week that The Jam debuted in the Top 50 with In The City – two completely contrasting but joyously upbeat pieces of music that have very much stood the test of time.

3. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ (#30, November 1974)

A wee bit of a cheat here on my part. This is one of the hits that I can’t recall from the actual time, probably on account of it only being in the charts for a short period of time; there’s also the fact that it was a highly political song, being an attack on the disgraced Richard Nixon which likely meant the BBC didn’t air it too often. Features a fabulous backing vocal from the Jackson 5.

4. He’s Misstra Know It All (#10, May 1974)

It was years before I found out that the title of this one wasn’t Mister Know It All. Again, I’d be pushing it to say that this was one that I fully remember from the time of its release on the basis that slower songs didn’t excite me all that much (which is probably the real reason that I feel head-over-heels for new wave), but it’s one of those songs that just oozes class and style from its opening second right through to its conclusion. It’s also incredible to realise that, with the exception of the bass guitar, every single note on this songs comes from the hands of Stevie Wonder….he was very much a genius.

5. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (#15, August 1970)

I reckon this is the first Stevie Wonder song that I can fully associate with. This joyous piece of music, complete with its ridiculously catchy chorus, would have sounded particularly good to the ears of my seven-year old self. I’ve had a look at the chart from the week it reached its peak, and there’s a few other songs that I can recall from the era, and in particular In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry, Lola by The Kinks and All Right Now by Free, although there’s every chance the latter two are more to do with them being played by older cousins whenever we went to visit them.

Side B

1. Superstition (#11, February 1973)

If I had bought this back in 1973, it would have certainly featured in my 45 45s at 45 rundown from 2008. I love this record in a way that it is difficult to express in words. Its opening notes offer one of the most immediately identifiable pieces of music in all history, one that defies any listener to stay rooted to their seat and not enjoy a boogie.

2. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (#7, June 1973)

The follow-up to Superstition and early evidence of the eventual shift into a more mellow, smooth sound that would reach its peak just over a decade or so later. As I mentioned previously in this ICA, the younger me wasn’t a fan of slow songs and ballads, so the inclusion of this track in the ICA is to acknowledge that my tastes matured a bit as I got older. I’m not saying that it’s one of my all-time Top 10 favourite Stevie Wonder tunes, but it does fit in well at this point of the imaginary album, setting the scene nicely to close things off.

The first two lines of the song are sung, not by Wonder, but by Jim Gilstrap while Lani Groves sings the next two lines. It’s also the album version of the song as it doesn’t have the annoying horns to distract you.

3. Living For The City (#15, February 1974)

This is very much a relative of this rap song that featured a short while back in the ‘Some Songs Make Great Short Stories’ series. It’s still so relevant today, more than 40 years on.

4. I Wish (#5, January 1977)

Another song that could have featured in the great short stories series, being one in which the singer/songwriter put the story of his childhood days to a funky, upbeat tune. If you want an example of how much the record industry has changed, imagine the reaction to an exec who made the suggestion nowadays to have this single released exactly one week before Christmas. There would be little chance, no matter the fact that it’s such an outstanding number, of it getting any airplay against the drivel that we are subjected to year after year after year after year.

5. Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing (non-single in the UK, #16 on the US Billboards chart, March 1974)

No apologies for finishing things off a third cut from Innervisions, an album that many critics and fans feel to be the pinnacle of Stevie Wonder’s career. It just seems the right way to sign this one off.


Bonus track.

Here in the UK, Top of the Pops was the name of a series of records on the Hallmark label, and they were made up of anonymous cover versions of current hit singles, intended to replicate the sound of the original hits as closely as possible.

The albums were budget priced and were a mainstay of the collections of many working class families for whom purchasing all the singles was prohibitive. There were more than 100 of the albums recorded between 1968 and 1985, at which point in time, the major labels realised there was something of a captive market and began to collaborate to issue compilation albums featuring the original artists and songs.

Volume 12 was released in 1970 and had this version of a Stevie Wonder hit

mp3 : Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

As usual, there were no credits given to the performer – they were always destined to be anonymous. It was later revealed that this had been the work of a jobbing singer called Reg Dwight, who went on to find huge fame and fortune under another name.


HAD IT. LOST IT. (Parts 1 & 2)

It’s not easy coming up with fresh ideas for this little corner of the internet that have the ability to run’n’run. The ICAs have worked, Jonny’s charged particles are proving to be popular and I suppose the weekend features will always generate copy. This one might work…but will again likely depend on the views and opinions of the readership.

I want to look at singers or bands who, at some point in time, had ‘it’ (however you choose to define ‘it’) and then all of a sudden, and usually without warning, lost ‘it’ and never recovered ‘it’. I’m not meaning those who gave us a stellar debut album and a bum follow-up as the rock and pop worlds are littered with such acts. This is about folk who were massively popular and deservedly so only for their music to go a bit ‘meh’; sometimes their popularity remained intact and their profile remained high while others would see their sales plummet and fade quietly into obscurity. Oasis are an example of the former while most of their Britpop peers can be filed under the latter.

I’m doing parts one and two in a single sitting. Two of the biggest stars whose music once made me smile but then made me squirm.


It was this incredibly imaginative advert that helped remind me of how much I enjoyed listening to Elton John songs when I was a young kid.

Rocket Man was a huge hit back in 1972, hanging around the singles charts for months when I was turning nine years of age. Like probably just about every other kid of that age and of that era, the idea of space travel was particularly exciting with tales of the exploits of astronauts all over newspapers and television, while Star Trek was a show that was watched and enjoyed my parents (whom I’ve just realised would have only been in their mid-30s at this time) as well as my five and six-year old younger brothers. Elton’s hit 45 just seemed to be part of the magic of that time.

I guess that made me something of an Elton John fan, albeit I wasn’t yet at the stage of going out and buying his, or indeed, anyone’s records. Besides, I didn’t need to as some of my older cousins, whose house I’d go and visit every two weeks or so, seemed to have all his albums and they would let me hear his stuff, whether on vinyl (with record sleeves that always seemed so vivid and colourful) or on 8-track cartridge, which one cousin told me would soon make bulky record collections a thing of the past.

Here’s a reminder of some of the 45s that I would be exposed to over the next few years:-

mp3 : Elton John – Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting
mp3 : Elton John – Crocodile Rock
mp3 : Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
mp3 : Elton John – Bennie and The Jets

In 1976, after many years of trying and near misses, Elton John finally hit the #1 spot; it took a duet with Kiki Dee to hit the pinnacle but Don’t Go Breaking My Heart just left me ice-cold. The thirteen year-old me didn’t have the capacity to offer any critical analysis of the song other than to say it was fucking shite (even as a pre-pubescent teen, I already had a capacity for swearing but never in front of my parents!). My admiration for Reg had come and gone. And it’s never come back.

Some of you will recall that myself and Jacques the Kipper pulled together a Billy Joel ICA for a bit of fun on 1 April 2016. We had a bit of a chat on the way to the football one day as to how we could follow it up this year and I really wanted to do similar to Elton John’s 1980s output. You know, the classic songs that area such a part of everyday listening on the smooooooooooooth radio stations.

Nikita; I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues; Sad Songs; Kiss The Bride; I’m Still Standing.

Jacques talked me out of it. I suppose I should thank him as I would have needed to listen to the songs again if I was to have a stab at such an ICA, even for piss taking purposes.


Stevie Wonder has been making music for some 55 years so inevitably there’s going to be a variation in quality. Some of the very earliest material hasn’t stood the test of time all that well but there are some golden nuggets to be unearthed such as this from 1965:-

mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

But it’s the period from 1968-1977 that holds up to anything anyone else has ever produced over a similar length of time. Fifteen of his singles went Top 20 in the Hot 100 in the USA; he was just as successful in the UK with thirteen Top 20 hits. Some of them were straightforward love songs, others were brilliantly conceived socio-political commentaries on the issues facing black and poor people in his home country. All of them had tunes that were just killer. Here’s four such examples:-

mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Superstition
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – Living For The City
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – I Wish
mp3 : Stevie Wonder – He’s Misstra Know It All

The first sign of decline came with the double album The Secret Life Of Plants in 1979, albeit this was more a soundtrack to a documentary than a ‘proper’ commercial release. The following year saw the release of Hotter Than July, an LP that turned out to be his most successful album in the UK, selling more than 300,000 copies and spawning four Top 10 singles.

One or two of the songs on the album are up there in quality with his 70s output but others are just awful, not least Happy Birthday, his the well-intended and heartfelt tribute to Martin Luther King that suffered immediately from being hijacked for every single celebration party of that period. But, given that the song did so much to raise the profile of the campaign to have Dr King’s birthdate declared as a national holiday in the USA, I really shouldn’t really be so curmudgeonly. The sad thing, however, is that it’s an LP that has, for the most part, dated really badly and the ballads/love songs in particular are not a patch on his earlier efforts in that genre.

But what followed afterwards in the early-mid 80s was cringeworthy. Ebony and Ivory – the toe-curling and insufferable duet with Paul McCartney; I Just Called To Say I Love You which seemed to be #1 for months on end in 1984, no matter which country you lived in; Part Time Lover, a song that sits alongside those of Phil Collins as examples of what was so wrong about the charts of the era.

In 2017, Stevie Wonder remains a hugely important and influential recording artist and social figure. Just don’t ask me to listen to his recent music.

Now. Any volunteers to come up with Part 3?