"Delta Dawn"--Helen Reddy
Tanya Tucker's version, recorded while she was still in the amniotic sac, is better. But that's not the one on here, now is it? Check it, the sequel to Gone With the Wind, with Rhett continuing to give none of the damns. Cryptic enough to keep people re-listening, and a safer pick than the Australian's other number one, "I Am Woman." (Which for all its flaws was emblematic of the increasing social mobilization of progressive females.)
"Mr. Big Stuff"--Jean Knight
Stay loose, baby, but remember to keep it tight. The implied strength shines brighter than any ululation or bleat. Flash, dash or cash, let's see you take it to the bank with that ass.
"Brand New Key"--Melanie
If this mononymous one-hit wonder taught me anything, it's the lesson that women need to demand more of themselves. Ladies, let us endeavor to be more awesome overall. Let us never be cloying, clinging Melanies wheeling after jive turkeys in hopes of catching a crumb or two of fickle affection.
Think of all the sexual euphemisms you've ever heard used in the service of song, is there even one more ludicrous than roller skating?* Melanie and INXS have both tried it, and at least the INXS song made me laugh, because "abrupt ska chorus" will kill arousal quick as a bullet to the brain.
"Torn Between Two Lovers"--Mary MacGregor
The fruits of feminism do not follow the same ripening process. An airhead's confession of infidelity to her man (as written by a man, the "Peter" third of Peter, Paul & Mary) captured the interest of a clearly-bored nation. Mary MacGregor sounds like a diaphanous gown. Hard to imagine her enjoying sex, or least worthwhile sex.
"The Morning After"--Maureen McGovern
Winner of the Oscar for Best Song in 1972. Hilarious, given that from top to bottom it screams "Made For TV." Only the second-worst Academy Award given out that year, though.
"Have You Never Been Mellow"--Olivia Newton-John
Cruise control pop. Don't skip breakfast, skip this song.
"Right Back Where We Started From"--Maxine Nightingale
I wake up, I want to see the sun. I cue up a song, I want to hear the chorus. Farewell, blues; hello, reset button. ('Cause the "resist" button is stuck.) Naive probably, wicked certainly. A country ready to unite in dance had their boisterous anthem. So pick up your feet and stick in your teeth. Even if it is equivalent to plopping a wig on a pig, what's the harm so long as no fibers get in the bacon?
For sure blasting this one in Chinatown if the Caps win the Cup this year.
"Midnight At the Oasis"--Maria Muldaur
Mildly exotic, lightly erotic--how sexy is getting sand lodged in the dark places, really? That's what fantasy is for, folks. A sun-loving city girl can get lost and found in seconds.
"Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves"--Cher
The Waltons co-existed in millions of American homes with the Bunkers. Men looked to Archie and saw their fathers. The men of M*A*S*H provided a glimpse of what they, the sons, could become. Women recognized themselves in Laverne and/or Shirley, while obsessing over which Angel they would be.
Which man looked at Sonny Bono and said, "Far out! I gotta get my mustache looking like that!"? Which woman considered Cher and wanted her life? Seriously. What woman, without the benefit of personal stylists, wants to deal with that much hair cascading down from her head?
All I'm saying is, how the hell did television not die after five years of Sonny and Cher variety shows?! It's a minor miracle. Oh, the song? Who cares loses.
"You're So Vain"--Carly Simon
A sophisticated, smart aleck classic. Simon as consistently claimed that the record addresses multiple men, not just a single rakish paramour, and the mystery continues to intrigue.
That bass intro is no enigma, though. God. Damn.
"Higher and Higher"--Rita Coolidge
Choker. I'm not referring to the accessory. I'm making a request.
All the high stakes of a Connect Four Battle Royale, all the romance of a sitting at a stop sign. This song, "Undercover Angel" and "Do You Wanna Make Love" all placed in the Billboard top 15 for 1977. You see, then, why punk rock had to happen. The music world needed punk, needed new wave, needed no wave, needed those insolent outliers who bristled at the idea of achieving mega-success or being background noise for people who treated songs and albums like just more accessories cluttering up their lives. Anxieties mount, frustrations multiply, and not everyone will run to the same outlet. Some will create their own.
"Wild Flower"--The New Birth
The struggle is long. Chin resting on a sunken chest, swollen eyes shut, waiting for the ache in her bones to fade. The future is unimaginable. But, in the absence of strife, a person has nothing to prove.
"Too Late To Turn Back Now"--Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
Fat bee's take longer to die after they lose their stinger.
"Love Train"--The O'Jays
A hot licks unity anthem that entered the US Top 40 on the same day that the Paris Peace Accords were signed. Earth days still ain't easy, but songs like "Love Train" make them easier. Contrast this with "What's Going On." Now that's not precisely fair, especially to the O'Jays, but while their song makes people feel good and hopeful, Marvin Gaye's shattering lament confronted listeners with the problems they were trying to avoid. Both tracks are quality and both are necessary. Now name two modern equivalents.
"Everybody Plays the Fool"--The Main Ingredient
"Dig this." Ah, the infallible wisdom of perspective. So many R&B and soul classics of the era feel friendly, even outright familial. Fittingly, "Fool" starts with a literal talking-to. Love is tougher than life.
"When Will I See You Again"--The Three Degrees
A redoubtable opponent, romance. Every lyric is a question, so permit me to add my own: "How long could he realistically stay away?"
Amazing moment inspired by the infomercial #68: "Wait, the Three Degrees? They were a real group?"
Oh, Sanford and Son. You tricked at least one white boy.
Christina Aguilera and her cadre did not ruin a classic. They simply turned mud into dog poo. I don't want to step in either one. Why is this so beloved? The French? Well if that's the sort of thing that pricks your scalp, behold: Das ist Müll, meine Schwester.
"Best of My Love"--The Emotions
You wanna know what love is? You want I should show you? Too bad, I can only tell: love is when you inform your partner that cake is what's for dinner, and they don't even inquire what kind, they just roll with ya. Love.
"Fire"--The Pointer Sisters
Circadian shenanigans. Who can sleep with all that shaking going on? Don't know what to do, total skip of the heart. I would have mistaken this for a tune from the early 80s first time I heard it, had I not already known better.
Convection carries away energy and brain cells. Of all the romances to reference in your song, you pick two of the most tragic?
"Give Me Just a Little More Time"--The Chairmen of the Board
All hail patience. Bake, don't fry. The horns are pretty convincing. Just don't crowd me.
"The Cisco Kid"--War
What. A. Stud. That groove is a leading cause of "lemon face." The words come in, water to the shore, and as soon as it recedes, here comes the sandpipers to peck and patter.
(So glad this was selected over "Low Rider," which I fear has been indelibly stained by George Lopez.)
"Want Ads"--Honey Cone
Efficient girl-group fluff.
"O-o-h Child"--The Five Stairsteps
Uplift where we belong. Rebirth and rejuvenation. A person doesn't need to have all the answers, they just need to show concern. Dare to care, hope to help.
The fade-out is a bag fulla marbles and gravel, though.
"TSOP"--MFSB (feat. The Three Degrees)
(Largely) instrumental Philly soul (train) from the whole GD family. This shit here's double knit. The ladies aren't vital, but I doubt anyone would kick them out of bed for eating crackers.