Showing posts with label elton john. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elton john. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Were The Seventies Really Cheesy...Or Were We?

To anyone who wasn't around in the nineteen seventies, the pop hits of the day most likely sound cringeworthy. It's like my dad trying to describe the majesty of a tube radio to me. "Oh, for God's sake, Dad, get with the times!" How naive!

In hindsight, however, the old days were actually kind of good. I give my dad props for The Big Band era -- I love listening to the Glenn Miller Orchestra -- not every day, mind you, but I'm humble enough to admit those recordings were sublime.

Of course, the seventies were an entirely different vibe. I don't know what happened to music then; maybe it was a backlash against the seminal sixties decade of timeless songs. Maybe the seventies had no choice but to go a different way, to distinguish themselves.

When I think back to that time, I see myself as a young woman navigating the unknown. I, frankly, knew next to nothing about life, and every day was a brand new experience. I, a newly married woman in 1974, was pitifully poor, but I didn't know it. We lived in a mortgaged mobile home, the first ever home I could call my own. I shopped for decorating essentials at Woolworth's and at a bargain warehouse called Tempo. If I was ever forced to put a purchase on a credit card, my balance never exceeded a hundred dollars. But mostly I just paid in cash -- yes, actual paper money -- though sometimes I would fill out a check and hand it over to the cashier, who demanded two forms of ID.

As for musical sustenance, my main source of music was AM radio. I had a portable radio at my bedside, I had one in the kitchen, and most importantly, I had AM in the car. I don't think my '74 Chevy Vega even had a FM option. Besides, AM was where it was happenin'. My mom and dad had upgraded their musical experience, so they bequeathed their console stereo/radio/eight-track player to me, and that plank of pine dominated my living room. I rarely invested in albums unless they were K-Tel compilations advertised on TV. Of course, I still had my old collection of LP's and singles, but the few new albums I remember purchasing at the time were The Eagles Greatest Hits and Emmylou Harris's Elite Hotel.  

But those albums were for days off or weekends. During the week, it was all AM radio, all the time. And yes, there were plenty of cheesy songs. Some were so awful they inspired ridicule; like Havin' My Baby or You Light Up My Life or Muskrat Love. But there was also Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Dave Loggins' Please Come To Boston. And everything ABBA. 

And there were lots and lots of one-hit wonders. The seventies ruled the one-hit realm. It was a time of feeling one's way as an artist. Maybe something would hit; maybe it wouldn't; and if it didn't, you'd go back to your day job at the Tastee Freez. I'm willing to bet that the original members of Paper Lace are swirling up soft-serve cones right now. And Blue Swede's players are traversing the Norwegian fjords in their kayaks. Andy Kim could be a successful Hollywood hairdresser, for all I know.

Seventies radio was a pure arbiter of what was good, what was putrid, and what was so cheesy it attached itself to your brain.


                                                         Starland Vocal Band


Barry Manilow


The Captain and Tenille
Terry Jacks

Many of these singles weren't necessarily bad, taken in context. Right now today I can open up Spotify and spin practically any song that strikes my mood. But in the pre-digital days of the seventies, if you weren't flush with disposable income, your radio and your TV were your sources of musical entertainment. The decade was big on variety shows -- Donny and Marie, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, Tony Orlando and Dawn, even Dean Martin and Jim Nabors (seventies network television pretty much reeked). And all the shows needed musical guests. So, whoever had the hottest Top 40 single at the time showed up over and over. That's how we learned what these artist looked like. The Captain and Tenille were so pervasive, even they eventually were awarded with a show of their own.

And with the networks' delicate sensibilities, only "safe" artists were allowed to appear. Thus, we saw The Carpenters, balladeers like Jim Croce and the benign songstress Roberta Flack. Old-even-then Paul Anka. If we wanted to catch anyone people our age actually liked, well, we had The Midnight Special. That's where Elton popped up, along with Gordon Lightfoot (although no one could actually call him "dangerous"), Grand Funk Railroad, The Guess Who.

That was it. Except for the radio.

There isn't an artist anywhere who hasn't been influenced by those surrounding him. In the sixties Brian Wilson was in a de facto competition with The Beatles. Even Bob Dylan's early songs were influenced by Woody Guthrie. Who were seventies artists surrounded by? Other seventies acts. So we had a few categories of hits:

Junior High Girls

  • Playground In My Mind ~ Clint Holmes
  • Seasons In The Sun ~ Terry Jacks
  • Me And You And A Dog Named Boo ~ Lobo

Junior High Boys

  • Smokin' In The Boy's Room ~ Brownsville Station
  • Takin' Care Of Business ~ Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  • Kung Fu Fighting ~ Carl Douglas

Young Single Women

  • Please Come To Boston ~ Dave Loggins
  • I'd Really Love To See You Tonight ~ England Dan and John Ford Coley
  • Star Baby ~ The Guess Who

Young Single Men

  • The Loco-Motion ~ Grand Funk Railroad
  • The Joker ~ Steve Miller Band
  • I Shot The Sheriff ~ Eric Clapton

Middle-Aged Couples

  • After The Lovin' ~ Engelbert Humperdinck
  • Midnight At The Oasis ~ Maria Muldaur
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Old Oak Tree ~ Tony Orlando and Dawn

People With Zero Musical Taste

  • You Light Up My Life ~ Debby Boone
  • (You're) Havin' My Baby ~ Paul Anka
  • Muskrat Love ~ The Captain and Tenille

Disco Pseudo-Hipsters

  • Le Freak ~ Chic
  • I Love The Night Life ~ Alicia Bridges
  • Love's Theme ~ The Love Unlimited Orchestra

25-Year-Old Guys

  • Radar Love ~ Golden Earring
  • Black Water ~ The Doobie Brothers
  • Smoke On The Water ~ Deep Purple

25-Year-Old Women

  • It's A Heartache ~ Bonnie Tyler
  • Midnight Blue ~ Melissa Manchester
  • Get Closer ~ Seals and Crofts

Those With Excellent Musical Taste

  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ~ Elton John
  • Fooled Around And Fell In Love ~ Elvin Bishop
  • Sister Golden Hair ~ America
  • Stuck In The Middle With You ~ Stealer's Wheel
  • Sundown ~ Gordon Lightfoot
  • Please Come To Boston ~ Dave Loggins (cross-referenced with Young Single Women)
  • Star Baby ~ The Guess Who (cross-referenced with Young Single Women)
  • I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song ~ Jim Croce
  • Without You ~ Nilssen
  • Rock The Boat ~ Hues Corporation
  • How Can You Mend A Broken Heart ~ The Bee Gees
  • Waterloo ~ ABBA
  • You're Only Lonely ~ JD Souther
  • Drift Away ~ Dobie Gray
The 1970's offered something for everyone. It was probably the most schizophrenic decade in popular music.
Maybe that's why I rather like it.
















Saturday, September 24, 2022

Seventies Pop

My husband I have a difference of opinion. He loves classic rock; I hate, hate it. I hate Aerosmith, and to me, Rolling Stones tracks sound tinny and weak. Led Zeppelin is okay, but I never bought any of their records. The Who is a complete mystery. Forget any of the heavy metal bands. I'm not a fan of angry music.

I think the disconnect is as simple as AM radio versus FM. In the seventies my spouse was an album guy. I bought no rock records, but I binged on AM radio, mostly because I was surrounded by it, either at work or on my portable transistor. In my small town, FM radio was a niche. Nobody actually tuned into it, probably because the lone classic rock station was lazy and didn't even try. Anybody who was anybody glued their car radio dial to 550, KFYR. KFYR played the hits; not deep album tracks.

Thus, my husband's and my musical experiences were completely divergent.

Like I once denigrated seventies country music until decades later when I learned better, I scoffed at seventies pop ~ cheesy, manufactured, trivial. 

Turns out I was wrong. 

Oh, there were plenty of cheesy hits throughout the decade, including possibly the worst single of all time, "You're Havin' My Baby"; and there were others. You Light Up My Life, My Girl Bill, Muskrat Love, Afternoon Delight, American Pie (😉 ~ maybe that's just me).

And tons of one-hit wonders. But that's what makes the seventies so singular. One top ten hit and never heard from again. Come on, Brownsville Station? Paper Lace? Yet, if you were around then, you've never forgotten those singles.

I currently have 310 tracks on my seventies Spotify playlist, but never fear ~ I'm not going to inundate you with 310 music videos. I'll choose six or seven, tops, ranging from "fun" to "classic" (yes, there were classics!)



1973 ~ The Hues Corporation ~ Rock The Boat

 1974 ~ ABBA ~ Waterloo

Also 1974 ~ The Guess Who ~ Star Baby

1975 ~ America ~ Sister Golden Hair


1974~ Dave Loggins ~ Please Come To Boston

1973 ~ Elton John ~ Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

1971 ~ Nilsson ~ Without You (sorry for the fake "live" video)

1974 ~ Gordon Lightfoot ~ Sundown

1977 ~ The Bee Gees ~ How Deep Is Your Love

I could go on and on (obviously), but one must know when to stop. Suffice it to say, I now love the seventies. It could be nostalgia, but I believe it's a case of not recognizing the good while it was happening.

By the way, I like cheesy songs as long as they're deliberately corny and not a steaming mound of cow patties masquerading as "super serious" ditties. (I'm lookin' at you, Paul Anka and Debbie Boone.)



I think I just may come back to this topic at a later time.

I like having fun.



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Record Collections

Ever know someone who's a collector? These are guys (and trust me, they're always guys) who relish the hunt, not the plunder. Of their approximately 978 record albums, they probably play five, tops.

That's how it is with collections. I'm guilty. I've collected thousands of individual tracks and full CD's through the years, but I mostly surf over to SiriusXM to be surprised. I recently retrieved my personal PC after months of working on a loaned company computer (thanks, COVID), and today I decided to remind myself of all the tracks I'd ripped.

After hours of deleting duplicates (one of the joys of retirement is infinite time), I decided to bestow stars upon the songs I like The dilemma is choosing between three and four stars. "I really like this track, but does it deserve a superior ranking?"

Five stars can be intimidating as well. Do I go with songs that are classic or just honor my gut and choose the ones I love? I went with love.

The interesting outcome of this experiment is the number of really mediocre tracks I ripped. I think I just wanted to own them. In case. In case a nuclear incident transpired and all I was left with (remarkably) was my personal computer. In the ragged aftermath I might have a hankering to hear Barbara Fairchild.

I own hundreds of physical CD's, but if I ever chose to pop one into my disc drive, I would need to be suffering from one-song withdrawals.

Instead I rely on my uploads.

My Windows Media Player is a really fun app -- it no longer allows me to rip CD's, so if I don't have something on my computer I really really need, I am forced to purchase it from Amazon, even though it's here, sitting on my shelf. Microsoft rocks. Today, in fact, I purchased "Dreaming My Dreams" by Waylon. I have no cognizance of why I never ripped it when my WMP worked, but clearly I did not. However, it was vital that I added it to my collection, because it is a five-star single.

The results of my star ratings? Well, there are approximately three Beatle tracks that merit five stars, although not the ones anyone but me would pick. Elton, too, represents. California Girls shows up as first on the list. Otherwise, I'm stone country.  George Strait has at least three; Gene Watson is a treasure. Then it's an eclectic mix, demonstrating my superior musical taste. Jerry Lee, Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny Bush, Highway 101, Mark Chesnutt, Marty Robbins, Ray Price. Roy Orbison.

Face it, it doesn't get much better than this:

I'm feeling good that I chose wisely.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Sixty-Four Years of Music ~ The Seventies

The decade of the seventies was a strange time. It was garish. Color TV was still relatively new and televisions either couldn't quite get the colors right or that's how everything actually looked, which is actually worse. Reds were REALLY RED; orange was flamboyant and pervasive; lime green was somehow a desirable color. It was a visual assault. No wonder everyone was so uptight.

Early seventies TV shows tried to straddle the line between budding social consciousness and corny catch-phrases (Dy-no-MITE!) Hit sitcoms included Sanford and Son ("It's the big one, Elizabeth!") and Alice ("Kiss my grits!"), and everyone was in the doldrums because they couldn't fill up their gas tanks and the usurers were lending money at eighteen per cent interest.

Living room rugs were a thick shag that had to be raked (with an actual rake) and was either burnt orange or avocado green (to match the kitchen appliances). A hit song was all about some dude talking over his CB radio, which no one but long-haul truckers actually owned. My little brother taunted me with his Rubik's cube, which I could never solve nor never cared to; but twisting its sides around acted much like a stress ball, until I got sick of it and tossed it into the dense carpet, never to be unearthed again.

Everyone who was anyone, and those who were no ones had a variety show ~ Tony Orlando and Dawn, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, Flip Wilson; and they all featured the same rotating cast of musical guests ~ Jim Stafford was a mainstay. Ray Stevens showed up a lot. Mac Davis was a pain in the ass, because he was everywhere on TV and never had one song that wasn't boring as a dead fish.

AM radio was the tether that cloistered us.

I was in high school in the early seventies, and I separate the decade into two parts. Because the first half actually yielded some classic tracks. Or maybe I was just seventeen.

Songs that Alice and I sang along to in the car:

It wasn't so much that we liked this one, but we couldn't ignore it. After all, it spoke of the "pompatus of love":

Johnny Rivers was still making hits:

This was pure gospel:

A new guy who seemed to have two first names pierced my soul with this song:


If this man had never written another song, he'd be legion with this alone:

But he also had this one:

In the second half of the seventies, music got away from...I guess, trying. Pop culture was curious. Sitcoms apparently longed for the distant past ~ Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley were set in the fifties. And almost all TV comedies were written at a sixth-grade level, which is why it was a revelation on the rare occasion when a smart one came along.* On Three's Company, poor John Ritter spent the half hour leering, while the dumb one (which is relative), Chrissy naively uttered double entendres. A smash hit when it debuted, Welcome Back, Kotter became famous for stupid lines that became cultural touchstones, like "Ooh ooh, ooh, Mister Kot-TEER!" and, of course for that new guy, John Trav...something. And not content with two hit series, Garry Marshall created another idiotic one about an alien, launching the career of a hairy guy named Robin.

*The smart one was Barney Miller.

In fashion news, polyester reigned! And not today's polyester-cotton blends, but a springy extraterrestrial fabric that could withstand a Chernobyl-like meltdown and still look "pretty". Culottes were also a thing. Sort of shorts, but you could wear them to work. The worst fashions were actually worn by men, who were somehow talked into dressing like a Times Square pimp ~ leisure suits (polyester, of course), gold chains, gaudy flowered (polyester) shirts with butterfly collars. And don't forget the long sideburns.

Voters elected a peanut as president; and not just any old peanut, but a truly hapless legume. Never fear, however; everything he failed at he simply blamed on us (and by the by, I didn't vote for him).

No wonder the music became outlandish. Here is a sampling of hit songs from the last half of the decade. You be the judge:


(And I didn't even know that the late political commentator Alan Colmes had a seventies gig as a soft rock singer!) 


1978 (Hey! There's that guy from Welcome Back, Kotter!):


It's a giant leap from Gordon Lightfoot to the Village People, but there was a lot happenin' in the seventies. Musically, one could say that the seventies saw the biggest transformation of any decade; not necessarily for the better. Personally, changes proliferated. I went from a high school girl to a mom twice over. I accepted that I had to grow up, although my quest wasn't entirely successful.

I'm still working on it.