The memories that flood out while listening to this are so strong; I could absolutely swear to being 13 years old all over again. This is one of my most cherished singles, and I still can't quite understand why its not revered by the entire world as a true slice of rock perfection. It's three and a half minutes of complete yob-rock genius. I can vividly recall hearing it for the first time, on a tiny reel-to-reel tape player my Dad gave me, in 1974. My Dad would tape the Radio 1 top 20, on Sunday evenings (with Tom Browne) and put them onto tiny little tapes for me. In an age when most kids I knew just had access to their parents music centres, or maybe had an old Dansette record player in their room if they were lucky, I was able to take this tape recorder with me wherever I went. It was a sort of proto-walkman, and did make me the envy of my mates for a while! Also, it being a reel-to-reel, the sound of it was quite incredible: rich and powerful, but with loads of great top end too. Which made it perfect for listening to this; to the point that even now, it's never managed to quite recapture the magic of hearing it whilst watching the reels slowly spinning round, as I sat cross-legged on my bedroom floor. "Na Na Na" sent such a frisson of genuine excitement through me, the first time I heard it: every single element of it is absolutely perfect. The booming tom-toms at the start, swiftly followed by one of those classic "tennis racket" windmilling guitar chords...then there's the two-fingered salute of the chorus, the crowd noise in the breakdown.......
A lot of its sheer power comes from the inventiveness of the production, which was provided by Mickie Most at the top of his game. If you listen to it on headphones, you'll see what I mean: every single element of the song occupies a space around your head, without overlap, confusion or chaos. It's a little like tasting a glass of wine, closing your eyes and saying "well, there's vanilla, and oak notes, some peach, some grassy flavours...." This record is just like that- the separate elements are able to work together, yet retain their unique identities. The net result is that EVERYTHING sounds perfect, and the wave after wave of ideas just combine to create something unforgettable.
I'm fairly sure also, that it wasn't just me who was enthused by this record in the mid-70's. Have another listen to the start. Now tell me that there weren't some nascent punk rockers out there who were leaping around their bedrooms just like me. Specifically, the intro drums- remind you of anything? I'm willing to bet Rat Scabies had them somewhere in his mind when he pelted out "New Rose" for the first time. Then, there's the huge guitar chords before the first verse. We all know Glen Matlock ripped off Abba's "SOS" for "Pretty Vacant", but did Steve Jones ever hear "Na Na Na" and think "Hmm, maybe I could use that for Holidays In The Sun"? Yobbish oik-rock like this would have been as much an influence as the more obvious Stooges/Mott/T Rex reference points. With all of that in mind, I'm constantly shocked that this song doesn't crop up more often; even losing it's place on the available compilations to the (admittedly more commercially successful) "Dance With The Devil".
Cozy Powell, of course, went on to have a hugely influential and productive career, before his tragic death in a car smash on the M4. A full overview of his life is here , and CD's are available here, though it would seem that no-one has really taken charge of his back catalogue. There would appear to be no really definitive retrospective to speak of, and some of the newer compilations have a whiff of "cash-in" about them, which is a great shame.
And above all, I love this song for the middle eight. Have there ever been lyrics more designed to instill revolution in the heart of a thirteen-year old kid? I think not.
"I know you get your kicks playing Hendrix licks, you're the wizard of Wembley Central, You're the JS Bach of Belsize Park- but me, I'm just plain mental. When I play my boogie, when I play my blues, it's like a whole tank regiment on the move.....you can play the notes, you can tell the story- me, I'll just settle for the power and the glory"
Amen to that. It's a little crackly, this one, but I'm convinced it only adds to its charm, its power, and its magic. Enjoy.