(Above: The Marmalade. Ford is in the blue jacket.)
Dean Ford, the lead singer of the Scottish band The Marmalade, passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 72.
If I were to ask you “Who was the first Scottish band to have a #1 hit in the UK,” here’s your answer. The band’s cover of the Beatles “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” which didn’t seem like it needed a cover in December 1968 as it hadn’t been out that long, went to the top of the charts across Britain. The Marmalade went on to have seven singles on the UK chart and toured with – of all groups – The Who. (I shouldn’t be surprised. The Monkees once had Jimi Hendrix open for them, the Beatles opened for Helen Shapiro – strange things happen on tours.)
Over in the US, though, they are basically a one-hit wonder, known for “Reflections of My Life,” which made it to #10. The follow-up single, “Rainbow,” stalled out at #51. It’s worth noting here that The Marmalade are not the same group as Marmalade, who recorded “Falling Apart at the Seams,” and neither band recorded “Lady Marmalade” to my knowledge. (I am here to keep all of this straight for you.)
While some readers may think “Huh. Never heard of them,” I knew the band right away for a couple of reasons. Firstly: that Rhino Records 70’s compilation series Have a Nice Day, which one day I will rescue from the boxes in the basement and go through again. We were very 70s-heavy at WCFL-FM/Morris, and had these discs in the studio. I can tell without opening the box that “ROML” is on Disc 2 – the orange one. Secondly: I love this record – now. At 21, when I was first working in Morris, I thought “Eeh, sleepy song.” Then, you turn 30 and hear it differently. Then again at 40, it’s different still. If I stand on a chair I can see fifty, and the words have a different sort of meaning to them. There’s more moonlight than sunlight – it’s math – and we long for the brightness of the day and begin to fear the dark a little more.
Now that the man who sang the line “The world is/a bad place/a terrible place to live/Oh, but I don’t want to die” has died, we can add an extra dose of poignant to the mix.