#60: Part Of The Union by the Strawbs

City: Hamilton, ON
Radio Station: CKOC
Peak Month: May 1973
Peak Position in Hamilton ~ #6
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Part Of The Union
Lyrics: “Part Of The Union

In 1964, a band in England was formed a bluegrass band called the Strawberry Hill Boys. Dave Cousins was one of the original founders. Born David Joseph Hindson, in 1945, Cousins grew up in Chiswick, UK. The Strawberry Hill Boys played bluegrass, and expanded to folk music. In June 1967, before appearing in concert they shortened their name to The Strawbs in order to get their band’s name displayed on stage. They began to release singles and albums beginning in 1968 with their self-titled album, Strawbs. In 1972, they released a single from the album Bursting at the Seems, titled “Lay Down”, which was based on Psalm 23. The single climbed to #12 in the UK.

When the Strawbs released Bursting at the Seems, the members included Dave Cousins (vocals, guitar and banjo). Dave Lambert, on lead guitar and vocals, was born in 1949 in Middlesex, UK. Lambert was a member of several bands in the 1960s, including The Syndicate, The Chains, and Friday’s Chyld. In 1972, Lambert joined the King-Earl Boogie Band, and then joined the Strawbs. John Ford on bass guitar, guitar, and vocals, was born in 1948 in London, UK. In 1964, Ford joined with some school mates to form a band called Jaymes Fenda and the Vulcans. They released a few singles. In 1966, he became the bass player of a South London R&B/soul band called the Five Proud Walkers. In 1967, the band shifted to psychedelic music and changed their name to Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera. Ford joined the Strawbs in 1970. Blue Weaver on keyboards, was born in 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He was a member of the Amen Corner and Fair Weather, joining the Strawbs in 1971. Richard Hudson on drums, sitar, and vocals, was born in Tottenham, England, in 1948. With John Ford, he was also a member of Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, and left to join the Strawbs in 1970.

A second track from the album, “Part Of The Union”, was the followup release.

Part Of The Union by the Strawbs
“Part Of The Union” is a song in praise of union membership. In the union hall, union members can vote and with their solidarity are protected from retribution from the company. The union man states “As a union man I’m wise, to the lies of the company spies. And I don’t get fooled by the factory rules, ‘Cause I always read between the lines.” With the Union Card, the employee is “some kind of superman” who can “ruin the government’s plan.” Even if striking union workers are arrested by Scotland Yard, the union man in the song shows their union card. Accompanying their sense of invincibility, the song of the chorus repeats “You don’t get me, I’m part of the union.”

“Part Of The Union” peaked at #6 in Hamilton (ON), and #9 in San Jose (CA). Internationally, “Part Of The Union” peaked at #2 in the UK and Australia, #11 in Ireland, and #20 in the Netherlands. The song in the UK especially, became an unofficial anthem of the trade union movement.

In Brian Tarling’s Vancouver’s Charted Songs ’56 to ’78, he details that “When LG went on Strike in 1975, the union members left the station at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 1, leaving a continuous tape broadcasting the strike announcement and included the song  “Part Of The Union” by the Strawbs. This lasted for about 1 hour on AM and another hour on FM.” I remember hearing the endless loop of “Part Of The Union” that Saturday morning in February 1975. The BC Labour Heritage Centre reported in an article in January 2019  about the CUPE union strike that impacted DJs who were union members at CKLG. “Management scrambled for hours to obtain an injunction, unlock the studio and turn off the music (endless loop of “Part Of The Union”). Then they hired strikebreakers to keep the station on the air.”

In 1973, the Strawbs had a Top 40 hit in the UK after “Part Of The Union” titled “Shine on Silver Sun”. In 1973, Blue Weaver left the Strawbs to tour with Mott the Hoople, and Streetwalker. In 1975, Blue Weaver became part of the touring band with the Bee Gees. He was in the recording studio with the Bee Gees on “Jive Talkin'”, “Nights On Broadway”, “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)”, “You Should Be Dancing”, “Love So Right”, “Boogie Child”, “Stayin’ Alive”, “Night Fever”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “More Than A Woman”, “Tragedy”, “Love You Inside Out” and “Too Much Heaven”.

The Strawbs had one more charting single on the pop charts titled “I Only Want My Love to Grow in You”, in 1976.

In 1979, Ford and Hudson co-founded the punk band The Monks. They had a Top Ten his in 1980 in Toronto titled “Drugs in My Pocket”.  The Monks split up in 1982. Hudson went on to join High Society in 1984, and The Good Ole Boys in the 2000s.

In 1979, Dave Lambert became a ski instructor in Austria. He also taught guitar, and reunited with the Strawbs in 1999.

In 2004, Ford rerecorded “Nice Legs Shame About Her Face” and “Suspended Animation”  – two singles with The Monks – on his solo album Backtracking.

Between 1968 and 2023, The Strawbs have released 26 studio albums and 11 live albums. Their last was Settlement in 2021. On August 11, 2023, Dave Cousins and Strawbs gave their final live show and farewell gig at ‘Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2023’.

June 7, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Dave Cousins,” Strawbsweb.co.uk, 2005.
John Ford,” Strabwsweb.co.uk, 2005.
Richard Hudson,” Strawbsweb.co.uk, 2005.
Blue Weaver,” Strawbsweb.co.uk, 2005.
Dave Lambert,” Strawbsweb.co.uk, 2005.
Dave Thompson, “Strawbs make a strong statement with Settlement,” goldmine.com, May 12, 2021.
The Day Led Zeppelin Became Part of the Union,” BC Labour Heritage Centre, January 31, 2019.

Part Of The Union by the Strawbs
CKOC 1150-AM Hamilton (ON) Top 15 | May 23, 1973

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