The frilly, spineless pop of the era wasn't all that punk rock was rebelling against. There was also arena rock. Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Eagles, et. al, hedonistic millionaires who redefined what it meant to be considered a "rock star." But one thing those groups had in common with the Ramones and Sex Pistols? None of them landed a track on Pop Goes the 70s.
"Go All the Way"--The Raspberries
Take a guy younger than many, smarter than most, and more full of himself than some. Give him a guitar. You know those songs that burst onto the scene and end as many incipient bands as they inspire? This is one of those songs.
Between Pilot and the Bay City Rollers, Scotland threatened to take over, I tell ya. Happier than a smiley face eating chocolate-covered vanilla fudge. Love indeed is magic, all tricks and sleights and cutting a woman in half. You can believe in love; I prefer to believe in tacos. Love will break you, but only you can break tacos. Unless you go soft shell, which you should.
"Reminiscing"--Little River Band
Weekends are for winding down, not winding up. The street lights reveal puddles on the road, and the moon takes care of the rest.
"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)"--Looking Glass
Hard luck broad surrounded by open shirts and closed hearts. The working woman can't win. Or, I'm never around when they do. Heh.
A glam rock snot rocket. Sing along, dance along, make up phallic parody lyrics...above all, have a below-the-belt blast.
A gritty song about an important social topic. You immediately thought of Louis C.K., right?
"Precious and Few"--Climax
Are the seconds my ears can stand. This shit would lose a pillow fight with a baby chipmunk.
The post-coital yak of hippies shouldn't sound so pretty. Especially when it mentions cunnilingus and a fox-trotting penis. Again, shouldn't be a rapturous classic--yet it is.
"Jackie Blue"--Ozark Mountain Daredevils
Veruca Salt grew up and hit the hallucinogens heavy after her dad died of a massive inevitability and her mother retreated to the woods. She moved to NYC, hooked up with a chick named Karen, and the rest is all crashing waves that make the pills go down easier.
"Singing drummer" finally scores a win! Larry Lee, cool job. You make Leo Sayer sound like Barry White! Not even Smashing Pumpkins could ruin this lysergic noodle soup.
"Saturday Night"--Bay City Rollers
As punk as Pop Goes the 70s dares to get. Amateurish all the way 'round, yet still incredibly likable. These kids didn't even comprehend the inhibitions they lacked. The chanting escalates, till visions of wind-up toys shuffling towards the table's edge dance in my head. More fuzz on the guitar than on any band member at the time of recording.
"Baby Come Back"--Player
Exposure makes the brain grow sharper, so after two weekends, my then-BF and I knew the infomercial by heart like we were a pair of lungs. We anticipated certain songs, certain visuals. When "Baby Come Back" hit? Forget it. We celebrated like the people of Vatican City at the sight of white smoke. (I would've felt bad for our neighbors had they been anything other than obnoxious, Bush-the-band-probably-also-the-President-loving white trash.)
"Baby come back!" BOOM went the kryptonite.
"Signs"--Five Man Electrical Band
Some great lines here. Some killer alliteration near the end of the final verse. The right to own property vs. the right of Earth to exist sans violation. No rights, no wrongs, just thoughts, just words.
Another singing drummer. The most striking aspect of the infomercial was how often the men looked prettier than the women. The hair, mostly. The key is always in the hair.
"Saturday in the Park"--Chicago
The sights and smells of nature clash with the sights and smells of humanity. Infectious, yes...but so is yawning.
"Play That Funky Music"--Wild Cherry
Tight on top, loose on the bottom.
"I'm Not In Love"--10CC
Ultra sound. He is in love, actually, see, because his wife wondered why he never told her more frequently and he was all, well if I say it every day it's a meaningless phrase, innit? So, right, listen--I don't love you!
What seems upon initial impression to be a misted-over glow from a ramshackle light source is one of the most inventive tracks of the decade, and also one of the very best.
"In the Summertime"--Mungo Jerry
I thought it was just the one guy, and can you blame me? (Were the mutton chops considered the other band members?) Singer Ray Dorset not only had resembled an eight-year-old Andre the Giant, he was one of drunk driving's most fervent champions. A body doesn't need money--much less a car--to drink from a sweaty pitcher of lemonade or inhale a freshly mown lawn.
"Come and Get Your Love"--Redbone
Jerky smash from a rare flock. Chris Pratt dances like a doofy.
"Black and White"--Three Dog Night
Songs stressing the need for social equality can sound so cringey because the very idea that social equality is something that needs to be stressed and sold is itself cringey.
"Sweet Mary"--Wadsworth Mansion
I'd love to be all, "Yeah, this sounds like a couple wads worth!" but nah. A little saucy, a little crusty, "Sweet Mary" sounds like a relic of the prior decade. Send 'em back to Christmas 1967, present them their stockings stuffed with effects pedals, and a spot on a Nuggets compilation would have been theirs.
"Last Song"--Edward Bear
Leave it to Canadians to name their racket-gang after Winnie the Pooh's real name. "Last Song" is pure Eeyore, and yet another Sixties sound-a-like.
"Nice To Be With You"--Gallery
Micro pave RNR. Forever in burlap sack. You guys, the punks were really unfair to arena rock.
"Baby I'm-A Want You"--Bread
Baby I'm-a vomit. Wallace and a-Gromit. It's simple mathematics, you gotta love it: three Tylenol for one Bread song. I can't imagine the number of overdoses these guys were responsible for. Soft rock? More like soft fat.
"Moonlight Feels Right"--Starbuck
There are four reasons to remember "Moonlight Feels Right".
2) Marimba solo
3) Singer fond of wearing a flapjack on his noggin
4) Chesapeake Bay!
These guys weren't even from Maryland. Crazed. Crabs. Let's get crackin', hon.
"My Sharona"--The Knack
Critically derided as inauthentic, The Knack scored their first (and biggest) hit a mere year after playing their first live gig. The lyrical content is ick-fest, but perhaps the fact that the real Sharona remained friends with singer Doug Fieger until his death mollifies that somewhat. Nothing more than huge drums, huge chords, and huge hook, but honestly? Still one of the most overrated things I'll ever hear.