One Man Band

Album: Just A Boy (1974)
Charted: 6 96
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Songfacts®:

  • In one of his earliest hits, Leo Sayer sings about a hungry busker trying to make a few coins by entertaining passersby on a bustling road in London. Sayer and his songwriting partner David Courtney were working on material for Sayer's first two albums when Roger Daltrey showed interest in their work for his first solo release, Daltrey. As a result, the Who frontman got first crack at many of the tunes intended for Sayer, including this one, on the 1973 album. Sayer's version features noted roots guitarist Ry Cooder on acoustic guitar.
  • The lyrics reference Ladbroke Grove, an area of northwest London that surrounds Notting Hill and North Kensington, and the name of a road that runs between Harrow Road and Holland Park Avenue. Ladbroke Grove has strong music roots. The psychedelic rock band Hawkwind formed there in 1969, and several other songs reference the area. Van Morrison spotted his "Slim Slow Rider" walking down by the Ladbroke Grove; Pulp jabbed the region in the vengeful 1995 tune "I Spy," singing "Your Ladbroke Grove looks turn me on, yeah, with roach burns in designer dresses"; and Blur's "Fool's Day" mentioned riding a bike through the area.
  • Around the time Daltrey was climbing the UK charts with the Sayer-penned hit "Giving It All Away," Sayer was breaking into his own recording career with his first hit, "The Show Must Go On," in 1973. To accompany the music hall number, Sayer took on the persona of a Pierrot clown and performed many of his early songs, including "One Man Band," in costume. He explained to Rolling Stone in 1974: "We chose the Pierrot because he's the sad, lonely figure who really doesn't want to get involved in it all. He's the face behind me. You don't tear the mask off the clown - you tear off the mask of me and he's the character inside. I think he's the little sad character which lurks inside everybody."

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