Swinging To The Sounds Of The ’70s

October 26, 2011

During several years as the head buyer for a very large record store, I had a few dozen label reps wooing me on a regular basis.

As they were giving me stuff, I was receptive to being wooed and I got along quite well with all of them except for the one we’d dubbed Dodgeball. He went behind my back to get an order for some long-forgetten band called Space Monkeys.

(no one needs 300 copies of Space Monkeys – not in 1997, not now, not ever)

One rep who I always got a kick out of was Lenny, who walked with a limp and resembled Kenny Rogers.

As much as those details alone made him compelling – had The Gambler been shot? – I liked Lenny because he’d worked in the music industry for decades and could spin a yarn.

He had little interest in the grunge and alternative rock that was dominating the musical landscape at the time and he’d often ask me how old I was.

He’d bob his head like some bird that might eventually end up as part of a meal at a Kenny Rogers Roasters.

“You know, you’ll eventually end up listening to country music.”

I suppose that he was telling me that I’d outgrow the greasy kids stuff.

This migration toward country music hasn’t occurred, but I have come to realize that there’s something about the music of the ’70s that makes for a good morning commute.

I was two as the decade began and twelve as it concluded. Music was just beginning to be of interest to me in the period after disco had crashed and burned.

The music of ’70s is familiar to me, but much of it’s not overly so. Even big hits of the decade are songs I’ve probably heard less than some of the minor hits of the ’80s when I was listening to the radio obsessively.

And though the ’70s – like the ’80s – have certainly been unfairly maligned, hearing Hot Chocolate’s Every 1s A Winner, 10cc’s The Things We Do For Love, Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown, and The Knack’s Good Girls Don’t (as I did on the commute one morning this past week) works well enough for me.

And, to add some detail to the sometimes fuzzy memories I have of the music of the ’70s, 7 Inches Of 70s Pop and 70s Music Mayhem – two wonderful sites devoted solely to the decade – are frequent destinations.

Here are four mostly random hits from the ’70s…

Jim Croce – You Don’t Mess Around With Jim
from Bad Bad Leroy Brown: The Definitive Collection (1998)

I remember my dad quoting the advice given in You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, so I might have heard the song when it became Croce’s first hit in late summer of ’72. It’s a rollicking number much in the vein of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, which would be an even bigger hit the following spring.

At one record store where I worked, five or six of us had a bookie named Stick Daddy.

I never met Stick Daddy, but Jim Croce probably did.

Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
from Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

Though I was a toddler in 1971, I do remember hearing Lobo’s Me And You And A Dog Named Boo on the radio at the time. I imagine the fact that the singer had a dog appealed to me.

(my brother and I had to make do with a hamster and hamsters, if no one has ever told you, don’t fetch).

But I dig the breezy song which I can’t help thinking would have made a most excellent theme song to a Saturday morning kids show.

Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)
from Have A Nice Decade: The 70s Pop Culture Box (1998)

Brandy is perfect, a song that is always welcome when it pops up on the iPod’s shuffle (or in the supermarket, for that matter). It seems that it would be ripe to be covered, but, then again, perhaps its nautical themes and tale of those residing at a port in a harbor town wouldn’t resonate with today’s pop audience.

Boston – More Than A Feeling
from Boston (1976)

For some reason, even though it was apparently a hit in the winter months, I think of More Than A Feeling as a summer song. Although I’m not rabid about the song, it does conjure up a good vibe for me and I’ve never quite understood the venom reserved for Boston.

Also, I find it amusing that Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was influenced by the song.

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You Go Canoeing To Aintry With Burt, You Take Your Chances

January 8, 2011

I stumbled across Deliverance the other night and stopped.

After a grueling day under the flourescent lights of an office, a commute from hell, and the rawness of a dark winter’s day in early January, does anything goose the spirits like a river trip to Aintry, hillbillies, and Ned Beatty getting sodomized?

I checked out before the mountain man lovin’, but I did watch the early part of the movie.

I barely remember the hulabaloo surrounding the movie when it came out in the ’70s. I do recall it airing on television as ABC’s Friday Night Movie and the previews issuing one of those omnous voiceovers warning that the following feature was “of a mature nature.”

I didn’t see it then.

I actually didn’t see Deliverance until college, fifteen or so years after the acclaimed movie was in theaters.

Several housemates and I were hanging out one weeknight, watching our school’s basketball team on television. The game ended and, like the other night, we stumbled across Deliverance on cable.

I think that I knew nothing about the movie, but it had a strange vibe that drew me in.

I had no idea where the flick was headed, but I knew within the first few moments of his character’s introduction that following Burt Reynolds into the sticks was asking to be made an example of by natural selection.

We all have a buddy or acquaintence who will constantly be willing to test the bounds of good sense, legal statutes, rational thought, and/or physics, but, if Burt Reynolds invites you to ride the rapids for some weekend thrills in the mountains, there is no excuse for not caveating the @#$% out of the emptor.

It wasn’t more than fifteen minutes into the movie and we had already met the hillbillies and had the bluegrass jam of Dueling Banjos between Ronny Cox’ character and Banjo Boy.

Growing up in a small, Midwestern town, we had our share of rural types, but the hill people in Deliverance were unsettling.

I don’t think any of us moved for two hours as we sat in the dark and watched the movie. We’d gone from boisterous during the basketball game to – for the most part – quietly engrossed by the palpable sense of dread and wondering what would go wrong for our intrepid quartet next.

(maybe Burt Reynolds will open a chain of Deliverance-themed water parks and call it Burt Reynold’s River Ride Through Hell)

And I do still remember jumping a bit at the end when that pale, lifeless hand popped up to the surface of that eerie lake.

Dueling Banjos is well-known, but I seem to remember some trippy, electronic music during one part of the movie that made things super-surreal.

In the real world, I was four when Deliverance was released in July, 1972, so there wasn’t a lot of music I was hearing – mostly in the car from the radio or the random times the parents might put on an album.

But there are a lot of songs that I do recognize from the Billboard Hot 100 from that July in ’72 – a few from then, most from hearing them in the years since…

Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box

I seem to recall Looking Glass’ one major hit from that time and, apparently, they had another lesser hit called Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne which, if I have heard, I’m unaware.

But Brandy is perfect, a song that is always welcome when it pops up on the iPod’s shuffle (or in the supermarket, for that matter). It seems that it would be ripe to be covered, but, then again, perhaps its nautical themes and tale of those residing at a port in a harbor town wouldn’t resonate with today’s pop audience.

The Hollies – Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)
from Big Hits Of The ’70s

I can’t really say that I know much of The Hollies’ catalog aside from a handful of singles, but I’ve always quite liked Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress). It’s certainly more muscular than the other hits by the band with which I’m familiar.

The 5th Dimension – (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All
from Up, Up and Away: The Definitive Collection

I do very much remember hearing (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All on the car radio as a four-year old in ’72. I think that I was even aware that The 5th Dimension had also sang Up, Up And Away which I loved and seem to recall hearing on Sesame Street.

I also remember being quite captivated by (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All as a kid, even though I had no frame of reference for the angst-riddled insomnia of the song. Instead, I’ve no doubt that the gorgeous melody and dramatic vocal was the hook.

And singer Marilyn McCoo, a natural beauty if there ever was one, would become familiar to me from her television series with husband Billy Davis, Jr. and, in the ’80s, as a host on Solid Gold.

The Eagles – Take It Easy
from Their Greatest Hits

Though I’m not as opposed to The Eagles as The Dude was in The Big Lebowski – in which his abiding hatred of the group gets him tossed from a cab – I’ve never been much of a fan, either. Maybe it was the overkill of hearing their music so much on radio as a kid.

Over the years, I’ve slowly softened my resistance to their music and find myself far less inclined to change channels or skip forward when I hear them. And, there is something about the carefree vibe of Take It Easy that is hard to resist.