Saturday, September 23, 2017

Me and Country Music in 1977

Music wasn't foremost in my mind in 1977. My son was born in November of 1976, so I was busy. I had known nothing about babies, but the old adage is actually true -- babies are resilient, despite their parents' ignorance. Unless, of course, you can actually kill them with love (you can't).

I had quit working -- which is sort of amusing. As if one can just quit and magically be able to sustain their family. It would be more accurate to say that I took a break. Considering that we were pitiably poor, taking a break was either a selfless act of motherly love or a dimwitted blunder. Honestly, though, how many material goods does one need? Most every newly-married couple I knew lived in a mobile home (it was the seventies -- thanks to Jimmy Carter, nobody could afford anything).  It's funny how people love to throw around the term "trailer trash", but much like commenters on news sites who are instant experts on health insurance, people in general are ignorant. My house was nice. It was new, for one thing. I guess people are put off by the "shape" of mobile homes. Inside, however, it's a regular home. Morons. I had actual appliances and everything -- a washer and dryer; not a washboard. I will grant you that heating and air conditioning costs were astronomical. That was thanks to the paper-thin walls. But it was a mobile home. If I'd wanted good insulation, I guess we could have rented an apartment -- if we could find one. Apartments in the seventies in my town were practically unheard of. Some homeowners had little apartments on the upper floors of their houses. There were a couple of squat brick buildings that were "apartment houses". They were generally situated in the less-than-desirable areas of town. And they were meant for singles; not for families. The working girls, the State employees who hadn't yet found a husband.

I bought baby clothes at Woolworth's. I was a big Woolworth's consumer. We had a TV and a stereo and a stroller. The drawback of living in a mobile home park was the habitat -- long, long streets that went on forever. And yea, there were undesirable people I encountered while pushing my baby in his stroller down that interminable street. The park was a conglomeration of regular working people, those on their third divorce and their fourth batch of kids, upwardly mobile couples who held their nose and padded their savings accounts until they could afford to get the hell out, groups of party-bros sharing the rent. Yet, in 1977 there was a pastoral horse pasture across the street from my home. A white picket fence and lazy mares sidling up for a snack. That didn't last long -- progress and more lots to develop -- but it was there for a while -- and my baby boy and I saw it.

Music hovered between background minutiae and rare gems. Country music was in flux in 1977 -- the Outlaws and the In-Laws. Sixties holdovers, urban cowboys, and new jewels. I was nearing the end of the line with country music, yet I wouldn't give up on it completely until 1984. I hated most of it, but I kept holding out hope that something magical would happen.

This is what I remember:

Apparently Waylon and Willie saw no need to do a live version of this song. This was the best video I could find, and all in all, it's not bad:

After a time, I grew tired of Crystal Gayle and her hair. I mean, how many times can one watch a girl flipping her four-foot-long tresses? It was odd and led to many questions, such as, how much did she pay for plumber visits? And how much must the plumbers hate getting that call? "Oh, it's Long Hair again. You wanna take this one, Bob?" Nevertheless, this was a nice song the first fifty times I heard it.

George and Tammy got back together briefly in 1977, because they knew a good thing when they heard it. And when we heard it. It's so nice to hear Tammy again. There are two female singers who knew, really knew, how to sing country -- Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. It's that indefinable, know-it-when-you-hear-it quality. Tammy had it:

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, many of the hits I remember from 1977 are unavailable on YouTube, so I will forego "The Wurlitzer Prize" Instead, let's take a look at a track that was truly country, and sustained my puny faith in country music. Unfortunately, no performance from 1977 can be found (and Emmylou had long black hair then -- not as long as Crystal Gayle's -- just sayin').

If one was to tick off the top singles from 1977, there would be these two. One is catchy -- really really catchy. The other is stuck in time. I'll let you be the judge:

But you know me. I'm a sucker for real country. This song, to me, will always represent 1977. My baby boy won't remember it, but I do:

If one is to remember the good times, music provides that nudge. When I hear these songs, I'm back in my mobile home kitchen with its frilly curtains, the FM radio blaring out of my faux-walnut console stereo, my baby nodding off in his play swing in the living room as I watch him from my perch in front of the avocado GE range. I was but a child then, playing at being a grownup. 

But I had my baby...and music.

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