Saturday, July 1, 2017

My 1970s

This was originally distributed privately to subscribers of this blog on June 2nd, 2017. This is its first public appearance. You can subscribe to Boppin' (Like The Hip Folks Do) for a mere $2 a month: Fund me, baby!

Although the 1960s has always been (and will likely always be) my favorite decade of music, I also have a prevailing affection for much of the music of the '70s. That should be expected, really; I was ten years old in 1970, and a college senior a mere 17 days from my twentieth birthday when the ball dropped at midnight on 12/31/79. My adolescent and teen years were almost entirely contained within the 1970s, a time of personal exploration and discovery that took place in this time span of the Me Decade. If we concede the possibility that I ever did actually grow up, then I grew up in the '70s. Of course the music of the '70s looms large in my legend.

As noted in a previous reflection on My 1960s, I spent a great deal of the '70s rediscovering rock 'n' roll's past, deepening my appreciation for '60s music and also expanding a little bit into the '50s (with Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry standing out as key revelations). But I listened to the radio, AM Top 40 radio, every day, and I loved a lot of the contemporary stuff I was hearing. We've already covered the albums that defined the '70s for me; now, let's talk about what really mattered: the songs.

Badfinger's three big early '70s hits--"No Matter What," "Day After Day," and "Baby Blue"--floored me whenever I heard them on the radio. I liked the Paul McCartney-penned "Come And Get It" too, but I think I came to it after the fact. "Baby Blue" is still my favorite song of the '70s, even above cherished tracks by treasured artists like The Ramones, The Hollies, The Raspberries, The Sweet, Bowie, The Kinks, The Isley Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Big Star, Cheap Trick, and The Flashcubes. Each of those acts has at least one '70s track that could be on my All-Time Hot 300, and some are in my Top Ten; Badfinger's "Baby Blue" tops 'em all.

My love of The Beatles made me very receptive to singles by former Fabs. McCartney was the most interesting to me initially; the first solo McCartney track I knew was "My Love," and I liked all the Macca stuff I heard on the radio from "My Love" until "Silly Love Songs;" I tried to like "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'Em In," but could never quite muster much enthusiasm for either. Loved "Live And Let Die" and "Jet," giggled at the horny appeal of "Hi Hi Hi," and was far more tolerant and accepting of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" than most were. I watched the TV special James Paul McCartney, and that was the first time I ever heard The Beatles' song "Blackbird." In high school, I retroactively discovered the "Another Day" 45 (a flea market find), and purchased a used copy of the 1970 solo debut McCartney while visiting my sister in Cleveland Heights over Christmas break in '76. That was the first time I heard "Maybe I'm Amazed," which became my favorite solo McCartney track.

George Harrison had considerable AM radio success in the early '70s. I associate "My Sweet Lord" with a car trip to Missouri in December of 1970, the song playing on the radio as my Dad drove through winter weather, the snow viewed through the windshield resembling a cold white kaleidoscope that we were heading straight into; I was just drifting off to sleep when a loud BANG! alerted me to motor trouble that would turn into a struggle half way 'cross...Indiana, I think. My brother Rob's credit card helped get us back on the road again. Harrison's subsequent hit "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)" was a happier memory, as was "You," "This Song," and "Crackerbox Palace." "What Is Life" was my favorite.

Ringo Starr had a ton of hits in the '70s; the best of 'em was "It Don't Come Easy," but I don't think I heard that until a couple of years after its 1971 heyday. I was certainly aware of "Photograph" as soon as it hit the airwaves. Rumors that the single and its attendant Ringo LP were a de facto Beatles reunion--I even recall hearing a breaking-news report on WNDR-AM that The Beatles were getting back together--fueled my interest. I loved Ringo's singles at the time--"Photograph," "You're Sixteen," "Oh My My," even the frickin' "No-No Song"--but now I only really retain my affection for "It Don't Come Easy" and "Photograph." I also liked a couple of Ringo's album tracks, "I'm The Greatest" and "Goodnight Vienna," both of which were written by...

...John Lennon. I began the '70s regarding Paul as my fave Beatle, and I elevated John to that position well before decade's end. I was slow to catch up with Lennon's solo material, but I loved "Imagine," "Mind Games," "# 9 Dream," and "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night." Awareness and appreciation of album tracks would come later.

I loved Elton John. That interest waned by the late '70s, but ol' Elton was probably my favorite artist for a little while there, beginning with "Crocodile Rock." Frustrated would-be romantic that I was, I was particularly taken with the heart-on-its-sleeve confession of "Your Song," and I adored two of the singles from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the title tune and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting." Hated "Bennie And The Jets." Did like his cover of "Pinball Wizard."

I was largely indifferent to The Who. I didn't know them very well, though I knew "Pinball Wizard" and "See Me Feel Me," and later "Squeeze Box," too. Seems like I must have at least heard "Won't Get Fooled Again," but I don't recall doing so. I became engaged with The Who's music when my British Invasion mania led me back to their incredible '60s output. I later developed an appreciation of some of The Who's '70s work, but my main interest in the group remained in their work during the previous decade.

Artists like Jim Croce, John Denver, Seals & Crofts, and The Eagles were part 'n' parcel of my AM radio listening. I wouldn't start hating The Eagles until Hotel California. The only Hall & Oates song that ever meant anything to me was "Rich Girl," and that one only because it was playing when I saw my first stripper. There's a specific, pleasant memory. Speaking of Seals & Crofts, I did see The Isley Brothers deliver an incredible live cover of "Summer Breeze" on (I think) ABC In Concert, but didn't hear the Isleys' magnificent recorded version until decades later.

I did not like disco. To me, The Bee Gees had been a great group in the '60s, and right up through "Lonely Days" in 1970, and I had no use for anything they did later.

Syracuse was fortunate to have AM stations that played a lot of cool stuff that wasn't necessarily getting sufficient burn elsewhere in the States. The Raspberries' power pop classics "Go All The Way" and "I Wanna Be With You" were hits everywhere, but the 'Cuse was one of the few markets where the group's wonderful "Tonight" single also received significant airplay; by contrast, I don't remember ever hearing "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)" on the radio, even though chart history claims it was a hit for the 'Berries--I first heard it when I got Raspberries' Best. British hitmakers Slade wouldn't achieve much American success until the '80s, but their awesome stomper "Gudbuy T' Jane" was a welcome (and loud!) fixture of my Top 40 listening in the '70s. Elf, featuring Cortland, NY's Ronnie James Dio, had a huge local radio hit with "Hoochie Koochie Lady." and another noticeable hit with "L.A. 59."

The Sweet was a pretty big group for me. Desolation Boulevard was one of my favorite albums in high school, a flame stoked by the singles "Ballroom Blitz" and "Fox On The Run;" they had earlier hit big with "Little Willy" of course. In between, Sweet also did well here with "Blockbuster," which I don't think was all that popular in most of the American market.

There were so many great records on WNDR and WOLF in the '70s, and there were so many performers who caught my interest. Alice Cooper. War. Dawn. KISS. Johnny Nash. The Bay City Rollers. ABBA. Jethro Tull. Three Dog Night. "Ramblin' Man" by The Allman Brothers Band. Yes. "Uneasy Rider" by The Charlie Daniels Band. Led Zeppelin. Todd Rundgren. Queen. NazarethThe Hudson Brothers. The Stylistics. The Spinners. Emerson, Lake & PalmerBlue Oyster Cult. Kansas. Boston. Fleetwood Mac. "Band Of Gold" by Freda Payne. "Beach Baby" by The First Class. Gladys Knight & the Pips. My cousin Mark turned me on to Deep Purple. Rolling Stone and a British TV show called Supersonic turned me on to Suzi Quatro, my first and biggest rock 'n' roll crush.

Above: a progression of my '70s rock 'n' roll crushes
In the crucible of late '76 through 1977, senior year in high school and the first semester of college, other factors expanded my awareness and appreciation of more music. Utica's WOUR-FM drew my attention away from the disco and pap on my formerly-beloved AM stations, and hipped me to Nick Lowe, The Greg Kihn Band, Graham Parker, The Rubinoos, Starz, "Rio" by Michael Nesmith, "Must Of Got Lost" by The J. Geils Band, and, in the summer of '77, "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols. The rock tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine told me about punk and new wave, and college radio on Brockport's WBSU introduced me to the sounds of Blondie, The Runaways, Television, The Dictators, The Jam, The Flamin' Groovies, and--THANK YOU, JESUS!!--The Ramones, all by the end of 1977.

On January 28th, 1978, I saw a local band called The Flashcubes for the first time. I kinda liked 'em. I think I've written about them a bit.

The Flashcubes weren't the only live act I witnessed in the '70s. From December of 1976 through the end of '79, I was also able to see KISS, Uriah Heep, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Winters Brothers (a country band, not Johnny and Edgar as I'd hoped), Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Willie Alexander & the Boom Boom Band, The Runaways, The Ramones, Charlie, The Kinks, Bob Dylan, 999, The Joe Jackson Band, Artful Dodger, The Fast, The David Johansen Group, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Willie Nile, New Math, The Records, plus a lot of other great local bands, and maybe some others that are slipping my aging mind at the moment. It was a good time to be a young rock 'n' roll fan. That was my 1970s.

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