"Sad Eyes"--Robert John
Bobby first hit the Billboard in 1958, as 12-year-old Bobby Pedrick singing about "White Bucks and Saddle Shoes." Then his cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" hit No. 3. Third time proved the narm when this so-long to a side-piece became one of the few #1 songs of 1979 that wasn't a booty-shaking good time.
Am I supposed to feel bad that Bobby and his jumpoff have to sever sex ties with the imminent return of his wife/girlfriend? Aww, monogamy? I'll admit, the build to the chorus is so glorious though, like a million angels exploding in a glitter storm.
"Sentimental Lady"--Bob Welch
Welch was a member of Fleetwood Mac in the relatively brief period between Peter Green's incarnation of the band and the blockbuster line-up with Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. When Welch made his solo debut three years after quitting the Mac, his first single was a revisit of a song that had originally appeared on the group's 1972 LP Bare Trees. He took "Sentimental Lady," threw her in something low-cut and velvet, guided her onto a yacht, and they spent the weekend together on a record industry pal's friend's island.
Without fail, this record grabs my shoulders and promises to stop swaying me to and fro only if I state my unshakable belief in romantic love. I swear I mean it when I say I will, really I do.
"Montego Bay"--Bobby Bloom
Welcome to wherever you want. The cares costs nothing, but happy hour is actually only twenty minutes.
"I Go Crazy"--Paul Davis
Maudlin acid rain. Such a blatant attempt a tearjerker radio hit, crassly composed and barely performed.
"Hot Child in the City"--Nick Gilder
In 1976, Elton John was arguably the biggest rock star in the world. Then he came out as "bisexual" in a Rolling Stone interview and saw his popularity take a massive hit. Things got better, of course, but for awhile, Reg must have wondered why he opened his mouth. See, for all the hoopla surrounding the 70s as a time of personal exploration and bold self-expression, there were things the population at large were not prepared to handle. Illusions and delusions die hard, and they rarely go out alone.
Nick Gilder, neither bisexual or the biggest rock star in the world, was just one example of the "Bowie-lite" acts (generally one-hit wonders) that the record-buying public supported because an androgynous image was just that, an image, and could be worn with the ease of a tube top or a denim jacket. Did the artist really mean it? Don't ask, don't tell, just look and act the part out accordingly. It was, as account after account will attest, a naive time at best. These were people who looked at Freddie Mercury and marveled at the amount of pussy a superstar like that must get.
I don't have a larger point to make here. I just write out whatever the songs make me think, and this is what you get.
"I'm In You"--Peter Frampton
"When I cry, you don't laugh." Why is that noteworthy, if you don't mind my asking? What were his relationships like before? "Your mum's in hospital? Cheers!" If this is something you have to tell the girl, well, she clearly does not feel like you do.
"Do You Wanna Make Love"--Peter McCann
To you, sir? No. Maybe not to anyone else ever again, if this sudden vaginal paralysis doesn't pass.
MTV destroyed schlubs like Peter McCann. Him, Robert John, Rupert Holmes, all these sweaty bastards had a Zero shirt's chance in a Lamb of God mosh pit of surviving once visuals became a vital promotional tool. And you know my thoughts on that? Good. Nothing of value was lost. World somehow kept spinning without balding four-eyed jackholes trespassing in the waves.
"Seasons In the Sun"--Terry Jacks
A reinterpretation of Jacque Brel's "Le Moribond." More accurately, a bastardization of a sardonic suicide note into a mawkish see-ya. Even without foreknowledge, the song is imminently despicable. Jacks doesn't even sing, he auditions.
If the popular music of the 1970s were represented as a salad, "Feelings" would be the lettuce: bland and ubiquitous. Ladies and gentlemen, what we-uh have hee-uh is trash. Garbage. Trash-garbage. But what's funny? The first handful of listens weren't bad. Albert's vulnerability, his desperate yearning for emotional respite, had definite appeal. Then, listen six happened, and things went ass over teakettle. And I've been a coffee gal ever since.
"Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me"--Mac Davis
Mac D. is rugged, what with the unkempt hairs, loose buttons and hard eyes. Understand, he ain't no street corner rapper. He's gonna give it to a gal straight, so don't you dare come at him sideways. Don't be no fabric sheet, girl. Pardon me, mister drummer sir, could you please stop being somewhat interesting back there? I'm trying to wrap this up.
The sole joy this song brings me is the memory of its mention in the Roseanne episode "The Getaway, Almost" (AKA, That Time Riot Grrl Got Mentioned On a Hit Sitcom):
"Remember 'Baby Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me'? 'I'll just use you then I'll set you free. Use me and I'll set you on fire, you bastard."
"Show and Tell"--Al Wilson
Adult music for adult times. On a scale of 1 to 10, I score "Show and Tell" a positive pregnancy test. Who loves ya, baby, indeed.
"Rock Me Gently"--Andy Kim
Nothing here a spoonful of caramel syrup can't galvanize. If and when Adam Driver gets casts in a Neil Diamond biopic, he'll look a lot like Andy Kim did when he captivated soft American ears with his only hit (well, only one he recorded; this is the man who co-wrote "Sugar, Sugar" after all).
Wisely, Andy talk-sings more than he sing-sings. Things are at a decent heat, then--that breakdown. Where in the hell did did that come from, and where did it get those shoes?
Anti-authority or just anti-routine? Why didn't Uncle Sam's mama tell her boy that it's rude to point?
"Undercover Angel"--Alan O'Day
From possibly tolerable to definitely tossable in fifty seconds.
"So this fantasy girl got in the sheets with me last night, right?" is admittedly a unique way to begin a pick-up attempt. Like whaaat? Imagine being told that you're not only dead, but your only ticket out of purgatory is to seduce Alan O'Day so that he can get up the gumption to one night fuck a real live human broad.
"I Can See Clearly Now"--Johnny Nash
Inflation and unemployment and war and political corruption and "it's gonna be a briiight..." Hey, I like my lies incandescent.
"You Make Me Feel Like Dancing"--Leo Sayer
The Simpsons and J Dilla both mined comedy silver from "You Make Me Feel Dancing." Laughter counts! I give this song considerable slack, since it extended the same courtesy to me.
"I Just Wanna Stop"--Gino Vannelli
Montreal memories taste sweet, but life's vicissitudes can't keep the melancholy dogs at bay. Gino's the Canadian-Italian George Benson if I'm being generous; the Canadian-Italian Barry Manilow if I'm being realistic. Blow and tickle.
"Magnet and Steel"--Walter Egan
Sensitive dude; the album on which this appeared is called Not Shy, for Chrissake. Alan Alda couldn't sing this sweetly, though.
"Just When I Needed You Most"--Randy VanWarmer
Nothing is forever, so why does the end still hurt so badly? Here's how a man in the '70s could sound lovelorn and deserving of sympathy. I believe Randy is suffering, but I also believe in Randy. Chin up, sir. See, the thing about us womenfolk, we be exchanging currency for goods. So just ease up your mind, pay a visit to the nearest mall and find you a new woman.
"Welcome Back"--John Sebastian
The other TV theme on the comp. A man leaves his much-derided hometown behind to pursue his dreams, only to return, mouth full of crow. I never liked this song too tough in my best days, and I loathe it with the power of a million shiny Macintosh apples now.
"You Take My Breath Away"--Rex Smith
What's so sexy Rexy about layered hair and a vest? Gross, man. Is that an ocarina I hear? Was this a demo? People of the Seventies, did y'all top-ten a demo?
"She's a Lady"--Tom Jones
Delicates-dodger extraordinaire Tom Jones works his magic, and I don't have to tell you what he's stirring the potion with. Of course she's a hell of a woman; she'd have to be, to handle Tsunami Tom.
Paul Anka wrote this? How in the...? Oh, right. Broken clock.
"Drift Away"-- Dobie Grey
Ever get out of the shower and just collapse on your bed? Wake up an hour later and momentarily forget why your hair's wet? That doesn't happen if you have music playing. Try it sometime.
"Oh Babe, What Would You Say?"--Hurricane Smith
Guy in the industry pushing 50 takes one of his wife's songs and scores a surprise hit. Less shocking is how forgettable the track itself is. A name goes a long way, especially meteorological ones (see also: "Something In the Air" by Thunderclap Newman).
"Sometimes When We Touch"--Dan Hill
"You ask me if I love you, and I choke on my reply." Dan should have taken a cue from the 10cc guy. Record some session musicians blowing raspberries into the mic, manipulate the speeds on each individual track, layer them like a Smith Island Cake and pow--instant rhythm track. Then, instead of going the introspective and tormented route, say the opposite of what you truly think and feel about her.
Look, I've no beef with the sensitive man, but a guy can be perceptive and solicitous while still having balls. But Dan Hill? He sings like he's one strong cough away from weeping, not to mention he looks like a cross between the GEICO caveman and Harley from Epic Meal Time. I'd rather choke down a mouthful of glass-filled cow heart then hear this one more time.
"Please Come To Boston"--Dave Loggins
Man goes cross-country in search of success, and at each stop he beseeches his down South lady love to join him, but each time she shoots him down with reminders of what a fool he's currently being. Not even finally striking gold in L.A., house with a hella view and all, can sway her. Easily the least compelling love story since Dax and Deral on Deep Space Nine.
A gauzy, depressing tale of untimely death and unseemly obsession, beloved by the same people whose lives were changed by Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I can't even make it to the vocals before my eyes go all Spirograph. The world is a worse place for this song having been recorded.
"It Never Rains In Southern California"--Albert Hammond
Under the lights, dreamers either wither or expand. Well done, Al; crushing disappointment has rarely sounded so catchy.
"I'd Love You To Want Me"--Lobo
"I feel the blood go to my feet." Hmm, that could be neurocardiogenic syncope. Or love. Only tests will tell.
"Rock On"--David Essex
A good way of coping with unanswerable questions? Ask some of your very own.
The twin illusions of space and time command the stage. Less polyester, more polyrhythms. Speed limits exist to be broken and reassembled. When someone's down and out, they have only one way to go--bullshit.
"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"--Rupert Holmes
The final #1 of the 1970s. Sure, "I was tired of my lady" is a pretty harsh line, but turns out she was tired of him too! Oh, Rod Serling, eat your heart out. Who can begrudge anyone their need to feel wanted? Maybe this couple reconnected and learned to appreciate trees. Maybe they ditched the square life and took to the roads, committing themselves to a life of spontaneity. Maybe they got real bold and tried some bourbon! Speaking of which, I could really use some to wash my blood clean.
The footage used in the infomercial is taken from this clip. Behold that man. That showmanship. Air guitar. Perpetual smile, 'cause he knows he is defying the odds of nature just being at that place in that time doing that thing. Hand gestures so frequent that KRS-One would have told them to scale back. Get a load of "stair mode"! There was around the same time another, lesser Time Life compilation being hawked after hours, Yacht Rock-Soft Pop whatever it was called, and "Escape" appeared on that one as well. The footage used there was from an entirely different performance, some talk show it looked like, with Rupert decked out in a blue and white track suit (I think), lip-syncing in front of some curtains and looking inexplicably over to his right. It took a bit before my friend and I made the connection. Obviously the talk show performance took place after the "stairs" one, and Rupert was still dealing with some displacement issues.
"Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"--Jim Croce
A straight boss hog MF'er, quick with the silver, luster of the gold, answers to no one since Sylvester Ritter left town. All the pants he left bunny-eared, the flesh he left open, the guy just needed himself a nice girlfriend. That he no doubt would cheat on habitually but still. Let's see some effort, Leroy.
"Crocodile Rock"--Elton John
The man born Reg Dwight has notched a total of nine #1 singles in the U.S., the first six coming in the Seventies (placing him second behind the Bee Gees, who you will notice are missing from here, at least nominally). "Crocodile Rock" kicked it all off, a semi-classic Farfisa-palooza celebrating the joys of good love and great music. The lyric "Suzie went and left us for some foreign guy" left me confused as a wee lass--what other guy is he talking about? Ah, the days when I had yet to appreciate the many ways a speaker of English could wield the language (especially the English)!
"Will It Go Round In Circles"--Billy Preston
My dad's favorite song was "Nothing From Nothing." I much preferred Mr. Preston's other #1. Occasionally I entertained the idea of starting a nice debate, but I could never muster the necessary bravery. My dad was the sort that you not only needed to step on eggshells around, you would also be advised to check the size and color of the fragments.
The last year of his life he was confined to a bed in the living room, entirely dependent on my mother. The stereo/CD player sat in the kitchen some twelve feet away, but rather than have it relocated, Dad would yell for Mom to put in The Best of Billy Preston, a disc which kicked off with my song. His song was all the way at number seven. Sometimes, Dad would let my song play; most times, he'd yell again, telling Mom to skip ahead. I'd clench my teeth and remind myself that I could just buy my own The Best of Billy Preston to avoid this angst.
I don't know the reason(s) my father so loved "Nothing From Nothing." It was difficult for me to fathom that he was capable of enjoying something so simple as a song. If I could have ten more minutes with him, I would ask. Then I'd tell him why I love "Will It Go Round In Circles," because I'd finally know for sure he cared.
This bites down and locks on. This lets the bad guy win, but only sometimes. The chorus makes the center of my chest all Grinch-y. It doesn't tell me; it asks. It makes me wonder. Great feat for a song to pull off; for a person, a parent, maybe not so much.
"Cat's in the Cradle"--Harry Chapin
Mrs. Chapin cobbled "CITC" together shortly after pushing out their first kid, worried as she was that her husband's workaholic ways would prevent him from being the best father. Points for effectiveness, but as a staunch non-breeder, the song's moral will forever be seen and never felt.
"American Pie"--Don McLean
A bold, ambitious look at a turbulent era in the nation's history. From the cold milk comfort of the 1950s to the scorching chaos of the 1960s, "American Pie" hit people square in their chests. Was it really such a long, long time ago? Anyone who claimed pop music and poetry were mutually exclusive had to eat humble pie when McLean's melancholic masterpiece hit the top of the charts in the winter of 1972.
Fuck all the way off.
McLean's legacy is as a sideline reporter. The fucking Jim Lampley of rock. He's not a poet, he's a peanut. He's not a seer, he's a sucker. All the artists McLean referenced were his superiors beyond debate, and yes that includes the Big Bopper. Beginning with the Day the Music Died and concluding in Altamont, Donny Boy manages to grow even more grating and self-righteous with every overthought, overwrought line, until he actually attenuates his ultimate message.
Well, I wasn't there, so I guess I don't get it. Except there's nothing to get. "American Pie" is not a social movement, or a philosophy, it's a song. And it's not enjoyable on any level. Even criticizing it makes my legs restless. The only tragedy that took place on a football field in 1969 was Super Bowl IV. Okay?
"American Pie" makes me hate North America, South America, pie, men named Don, and former Vancouver Canucks goalie Kirk McLean. On those rare occasions I have made it to minute four, "American Pie" has even made me hate music.
Of the 150 songs on Pop Goes the 70s, none won the Grammy for Song of the Year, and only one earned Record of the Year honors: "Love Will Keep Us Together."
67 hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and all 150 made the top ten.
For various reasons, there are no songs by the Bee Gees, Carole King, the former members of the Beatles, Elvis (whose biggest hit of the decade, "Burning Love," is my personal favorite of his), and many many others. But to lament what wasn't included is to miss the point. As an amusing time capsule of a legendary era is where Pop Goes the 70s finds enduring value.
I leave you with my top 10 and bottom 10 songs from the entire shebang.
1. "Will It Go Round In Circles"
3. "Right Back Where We Started From"
4. "I'm Not In Love"
5. "Go All the Way"
6. "If I Can't Have You"
7. "A Horse With No Name"
8. "Jackie Blue"
9. "Rock On"
10. "Le Freak"
1. "American Pie"
2. "(You're) Having My Baby"
3. "Afternoon Delight"
4. Hooked On a Feeling"
6. "I Go Crazy"
7. "How Do You Do?"
8. "Do You Wanna Make Love"
9. "Higher and Higher"
10. "Puppy Love"/"Shannon"