The Clicker

March 2, 2013

clickerI was watching Pardon The Interruption the other morning before work when I heard Mike Wilbon mention something that – by his reference and my recognition – dated both of us.

The clicker.

The first people that I knew who were capable of dictating commands to the television by merely lifting their fingers would have been my grandparents.

My brother and I were gobsmacked.

We couldn’t wait to get our hands on The Clicker for a spin through the dial.

With half a dozen channels, it was a short trip, but, with the bulky controller in my grubby kid hands, I was momentarily the master of time and space with the ability to vaporize commercials with a shrug and a click.

(and I seem to recall that there was indeed an audible click)

The clicker meant power – sheer unbridled power. My brother and I behaved like jabbering idiots in its presence, coveting it as Gollum did that ring.

Unlike Gollum, there were two of us.

It would end in a brawl which would earn a swift sentence to vacate the house – as it was “too nice to be inside” – and a ban from playing with the remote as, like everything deemed for adults, it was “not a toy.”

It was sometime later in the decade when the parents replaced the television that I had known my most of my life with a new, modern edition that we finally had a remote control (of the non-click variety) in the house.

(what had seemed to be a glimpse into a Jetson-like future a few years earlier was now merely an expected convenience)

I don’t believe that my brother or I were even school-age when we had our first encounter with The Clicker which would make the introduction forty years in the past. Forty years ago, the television, not the radio, had my interest.

(and so it would remain for a half dozen years or so)

Here are four songs that were in the Top 40 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 forty years ago this week…

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song
from The Best Of Roberta Flack (1981)

Most of the music I was hearing in 1973 was courtesy of the car radio. So, there are hits from the time that I actually remember hearing and ones with which I would become familiar during the ensuing years as I grew older and music became a part of my life.

Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song is one of the former and, as it was one of the year’s biggest hits, I recall hearing it often. Though it would be toward the end of the decade when I truly became interested in music, there was something about the lovely song that drew me in even in ’73.

Carly Simon – You’re So Vain
from Clouds In My Coffee 1966-1996 (1996)

I once asked a friend’s girlfriend if people ever noted her resemblence to Carly Simon.

She was unfamiliar with the singer, but a couple of days later, the buddy called and informed me that the girlfriend had looked up Carly on the internet; she was none too pleased with my query which is puzzling.

I don’t believe that I knew who Carly Simon was until a few years after You’re So Vain when the singer had a hit with her James Bond theme Nobody Does It Better.

Did the speculation regarding who was You’re So Vain‘s subject begin in 1973 or was that something that developed over the ensuing years?

John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
from John Denver’s Greatest Hits (1973)

I seem to recall that Rocky Mountain High also served as a title for one of John Denver’s television specials at the time. I also seem to recall negotiating a cease-bedtime treaty to watch.

There he was – this long-haired fellow in the floppy hat and granny glasses, traipsing around the Rockies, communing with nature, animals, and granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair…

I was impressed with his style.

And I still dig the wanderlust spirit of Denver’s signature song.

King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

It was sometime in autumn of 1972 when I started hearing Dancing In The Moonlight on the radio. The song still changes the atmosphere for me to a crisp October day as it might have been when I was four and would heard the song on the car radio.

It was my favorite song and the first 45 I ever prodded my parents to purchase.

I’m not exactly sure what it was about the song. It is ridiculously catchy and it made me suspicious that I was missing some happening communal event that occurred well after my bedtime.

(I pictured Max and the Wild Things from Where The Wild Things Are having their rumpus under the full moon as the song would play)

I still find the song groovy beyond belief. Is it possible to not be put in a better headspace listening to this song?

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Four Singles

August 24, 2010

Unlike a lot of music bloggers whom I read, I have no fond memories of going to buy 45s with money earned mowing the lawn.

Many of these bloggers are capable of recounting with remarkable precision the details and circumstances of the first single they ever bought.

I can’t.

I can tell you that the first album I purchased (on cassette) was Christopher Cross’ debut.

And my first live show was seeing a band on a tour that would be infamously remembered and still discussed almost three decades later.

Sure, like most kids, I mowed acres of lawn, but I never bought more than a handful of 45s.

For one thing, I eased into a relationship with music, taking a good eighteen months or so from the point where I was turning on the radio to the point where music was beginning to consume the bulk of my budget.

Also, I had a tape recorder and would rudimentarily tape the songs I wanted from the radio onto crude mix tapes.

The sound quality was charmingly primitive but – as I was taking my time committing to the relationship – it didn’t matter. When I finally went all in, it was with full-length albums on cassette.

So, I mostly missed the experience of the 45.

However, just because I didn’t buy 45s doesn’t mean that I didn’t have any of my own. As a young kid, my mom would purchase a single for me now and again when a certain song would catch my fancy.

I sifted through the contents of my head and – more or less – retrieved the first singles that I ever owned. Though a couple were on radio in late 1972, all of them were on the charts during the first half of 1973…

King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box

It was sometime in autumn of 1972 when I started hearing Dancing In The Moonlight on the radio. The song still changes the atomosphere for me to a crisp October day as it might have been when I was four and would heard the song on the car radio.

I’m not exactly sure what it was about the song. It is ridiculously catchy and it made me suspicious that I was missing some happening communal event that occurred well after my bedtime. I pictured Max and the Wild Things from Where The Wild Things Are having their rumpus under the full moon as the song would play.

And it’s still groovy beyond belief. Is it possible to not be put in a better headspace listening to this song?

In fact, I nominate Dancing In The Moonlight as our global anthem.

Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California
from It Never Rains In Southern California

I doubt that I really considered the dire straits in which the protagonist of It Never Rains In Southern California found himself at the time. Again, I was four years old.

I did like sunshine, though and – as it was the dead of a Midwestern winter – the idea of a place where it was always sunny and warm sounded positively magical.

John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
from John Denver’s Greatest Hits

I seem to recall that Rocky Mountain High also served as a title for one of John Denver’s television specials at the time. I also seem to recall negotiating a cease-bedtime treaty to watch.

There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair…

I was impressed with his style.

Jim Croce – Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
from Bad Bad Leroy Brown: The Definitive Collection

I was also impressed with the style of one Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, especially after seeing the cartoon that accompanied the song on Sonny & Cher.

So, two of the first, male role models I had – aside from my father and grandfather – would have been John Denver and a cartoon version of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

(and things didn’t end well for either of them)

Jim Croce is another artist that I keep intending to explore further than the dozen or so songs I know. Even if I don’t get around to doing so, both he and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown will forever occupy a special place in my heart.