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.)
And: I think I just may come back to this topic at a later time.
I may never go back to the office again. I wonder if my plant is still alive. Has it really been five weeks? The days tend to run together.
Humans are such adaptable creatures. I've unwittingly settled into a routine -- wake up at 4:00 (yes), totter down to the kitchen with my cat, fix him breakfast while I simultaneously attempt to brew a pot of coffee, trip back up the stairs (with my cat), will the coffeemaker to drip faster. Smoke a couple of cigarettes, check the local news, go back downstairs and fix myself a bagel, then slump up the staircase to start work, coffee mug in hand. Hot coffee is the highlight of my day. Like virtually all industries, the shutdown has infected my job. No one is going to the doctor, no one is having elective surgeries; thus, medical claims have dwindled to a dull ooze. The hourly employees in my department were coldheartedly informed this week they would be "furloughed" for a week (a fancy term for "poor"). No one told me directly, but I got a screen shot of the letter from a friend and it stated, "as a non-exempt employee", which was my only clue that the hammer wasn't about to drop on me.Being exempt actually has an upside! My bank account is already overdrawn, so I thanked God for small indulgences. Who ever said working from home was a money-saver? Perhaps if one didn't have to order superfluous amounts of grocery items in the hope that something might appear on the doorstep; maybe if one didn't have to stock up on nicotine on one's rare excursions outside the house or didn't have to get liquor delivered in amounts that spared delivery fees (c'mon; you do it, too.) I used to spread out my expenses; now it's all or nothing. And, BTW, where the hell is my stimulus check? Work-wise, I'm floundering. Mornings aren't so bad, but the dearth of work for others creates a chasm for me. I do the second claim review, and if there's no first review... In my first couple of weeks of working at home, I relished those fifteen-minute breaks and the opportunity to escape outside for sweet clean air and a chance to stretch my cramped bones. Now my mind doesn't even register breaks -- I stay inside and keep working. It all seems like too much effort. And there's always someone about who doesn't understand the six-foot rule and I have to look like an anti-social jerk and hold back while they pass in front of me, simply to slide a key inside my mailbox and retrieve worthless direct marketing mailings (could we put a quarantine on those?). Trying to order my life has been inordinately difficult during this time. I have no access to a scanner or even a printer, so I had to beg my insurance broker to mail me a Medicare Advantage application. My dentist office is closed and I sorely need work done before my dental insurance ceases. I'm going to be cutting it perilously close. We were informed today that our new return-to-work date is now May 18. Guess it's time to pull the trigger and submit my retirement date to Human Resources. I guess the retirement party is out. Things I've done this week:
I ventured out to my local convenience store on Monday. I made sure to bring along my bottle of hand sanitizer and waited until no customers were lurking about. My workday friends at the store now stand behind plexiglass. I spent $200.00 I don't have to stock up on cigarettes.
I ordered groceries online. I was suffocating in a Microsoft Team meeting and missed my shopper's messages, so I didn't get the most vital items.
I ate anything and everything that caught my eye.
Things I've learned this week:
I despise my chair. No configuration of pillows and quilts provide any relief for my back and legs. I went on Amazon tonight and ordered an ergonomic cushion. What's one more overdraft in the scheme of things?
After thirty years of working at a computer, I'm developing carpal tunnel, so I've employed my friend Barb's sock/mask. She informed me she could use it as a combination wrist rest/coronavirus mask. I located one of my husband's orphan socks and rolled it up. It's gold!
All those wondrous things I swore I would do in "my free time" aren't happening. I've done next to nothing. And never will.
I was a sheltered girl. Much as I try to deny it, I knew nothing of real life at age eighteen. I'd reluctantly secured my first "real" job in 1973 right out of high school, because that's what I was expected to do. I'd never learned how to drive, so I depended on my dad or my brother to drive me to work every day. Why they agreed to it, I have no idea. I have a faint recollection of asking one of my co-workers, who had also been a high school classmate, if I could "carpool" with her and she said, "no.". I was taken aback; my sense of entitlement jarred. I'd been too scared to venture forth behind the wheel after one stressful outing with my dad and a short-lived attempt at driver's ed, during which the elderly instructor hyperventilated into a paper bag. So, I was helpless, frozen with highway fear.
It wasn't entirely bad. I made a friend at my new place of employment, a girl my age who actually knew how to navigate the world. She had a VW ~ not a bug, but some kind of passenger vehicle ~ a Golf maybe. I think it was yellow. Not that we drove much. Alice Two had an apartment about two blocks from the State Capitol where we worked, so we'd clomp down the sidewalk at lunchtime in our platform shoes to her place and she'd heat up a can of SpaghettiOs. I convinced myself I was sophisticated. I was an eighteen-year-old rube.
I can't even begin to describe the depths of my naivete. Even though my mom and dad were not model parents, I leaned on them as much as I could and allowed them to care for my needs, which essentially consisted of food and transport. It was a confusing time of transition. My best friend since sixth grade, Alice One, and I had begun to drift apart, despite my struggle to hang on. I desperately needed to maintain the mirage of normalcy, but nobody cooperated. It was almost as if I was being elbowed into maturity.
I was still living at home and not contributing any of my paycheck towards shelter, so I bought clothes and records. I obtained a JC Penney charge card (my very first!) that had a $75.00 credit limit and I ordered items from the catalog, took them home and tried them on; then returned most of them. It was, I guess, a semblance of the "grown-up game". JC Penney, in fact, was the go-to store in town. It had clothes and shoes and a basement full of record albums. Montgomery Ward and Sears were a bit more low-rent. There was also a local discount department store called Tempo, which was definitely inexpensive and definitely shoddy. Its tissue paper clothing almost disintegrated before my eyes as I lifted it from the shelf.
I had a boyfriend I tolerated, just so I could say I had one. I wasn't sophisticated like Alice Two, who had boys practically breaking down her apartment door, but then again, she did have her own apartment and I had a bedroom in my parents' house. My boyfriend wanted to get married, so I said okay. I was eighteen, after all ~ practically an old maid ~ and this might be my only chance.
My position with the State Health Department was called Clerk Typist II. The "II" was very important to me, because I was at least better than a "I", although the cache was imaginary. I began by typing up birth certificates for walk-in customers on an IBM Selectric; then toddling back to my director's office so she could emboss her official stamp on them. Sometimes the clients would want something that was stuffed inside a dusty file drawer in the back room, so I retrieved that. I must have either been a good retriever or a typist who employed Liquid Paper sparingly, because soon I was singled out to join a new project along with Alice Two; a vast undertaking to commit to microfilm every birth, death, and marriage certificate in the state of North Dakota from the beginning of time. It certainly sounded auspicious, but it quickly became as dull as dirt.
Alice Two and I and our new supervisor were cloistered inside a smoky back office, where we employed number two pencils to trace over the faded typeset (and in some cases, handwriting) of each document bound inside powdery albums dating back to 1889. Then we took turns inside the curtained microfilm booth sliding said records under the camera eye and clicking a button, over and over and nauseatingly over. It was scintillating work for a girl still in her teens. Worse, everyone else in the department grew to hate us, because we closed the office door behind us and smoked our guts out; carcinogens wafting out from beneath the door jamb.
We did have an AM radio for consolation and it buzzed out tunes all day long. 1974 was an odd year in music. There were breathtaking songs and then there were novelties. There were also tracks that were somehow taken seriously, but were actually revolting. In fact, 1974 most likely racked up some of the worst songs ever recorded.
I'll begin with the intentional novelties:
Then the unintentional:
It was AM radio ~ they weren't playing Led Zeppelin.
Not exactly sure what this was:
Don't care ~ I like this ~ and yes, it's strange;
The radio even played songs my little sister liked:
Ringo was trying to be relevant:
Then there were the good songs:
This one goes out to my little brother:
These are for me:
And most especially this:
Things did not end well in that little smoky back office. Alice Two's and my supervisor, an old married lady around age 26, insinuated herself into our friendship, desperate to regain her lost youth. As inevitably happens among a party of three, Linda did all she could to rupture Alice's and my bond. Fortunately for me, she focused her energies on Alice, setting up hapless blind dates and couples nights out. Alice was the cool one, after all. That experiment ended abruptly the night Linda's husband came a'knockin' on Alice's apartment door. While the whole imbroglio was never mentioned (expect in a whisper to me), the oxygen became heavy soon after. Linda turned brittle toward us. The AM radio was suddenly switched off. The three of us scribbled in silence.
Alice eventually met the man she would marry and we served as bridesmaids at each other's weddings.
And we simultaneously quit our jobs, leaving bitter Linda to sort out her life and find two new rubes to intimidate.
The joys of one's first job ~ little life lessons, even if we are merely innocent bystanders. We learn about allegiances and how much we're willing to assert them. And what the stakes are either way. Earning minimum wage helps in our decision making. I chose friendship over a job I didn't even actually like.
Nevertheless, for a time in 1974 we had the radio.
Hindsight is essentially useless, other than reminding us that we're (unfortunately) human, and therefore dumb.
In 1974 I was nineteen and ignorantly immature. In hindsight (see?) I realize just how green I really was. I, for instance, had no business pretending to be an adult. Society, however, deemed that a girl needed to be married by at least age nineteen or twenty. Every girl didn't do that, but most of us did. Our life's goal was to become betrothed. I remember when I told my parents that I was engaged, they were delighted. They almost clapped their hands together in glee, and muttered under their breath, "It's about time." I was still a few months shy of nineteen. My concept of marriage was having a sofa and a TV, and maybe a microwave oven. Life wouldn't change much, except that I could escape home. Truly, my primary motivation was escaping, as if that would make life better. Living a dysfunctional existence no doubt played a role. I had to get away from the craziness I'd lived with for the past seven or eight years. I was desperate. Additionally, my self-esteem was so minuscule that I couldn't pass up the only chance I'd ever have to snag a husband. (Happy ending: both of us have since found our true soulmates.)
I now think a good age to marry would be thirty ~ young enough to still have children; mature enough to know oneself.
I had a "starter" job ~ I could definitely type, so what better fit than a job as a clerk-typist? Living in the state capitol opened up a plethora of possibilities. There was never a dearth of job openings. One only needed to pass a test in order to qualify. The exam consisted of alphabetizing and vocabulary...and typing. All things that were well within in my wheelhouse. I didn't care or know how much I was getting paid for my position within the State Health Department. I did notice that my paycheck seemed to deduct a bunch of dollars for this and that; something called "Social Security" and other things I didn't understand, but that was neither here nor there. Shoot, I was still living at home, which was free, so all I needed was some clothes and new records.
All I knew about "credit" was my JC Penney charge card. Securing a place to live, in anticipation of my marriage, was contingent on what I liked; cost be damned. Payments? No problem. We perused the mobile homes on the sales lot. I was particularly enamored by the one with the black-and-white geometric kitchen linoleum and the harvest gold appliances. That's the one we got. Our mortgage, with zero down payment, figured out to be $149.00 a month. Everything else we came to own was secured through wedding gifts and hand-me-downs, including my console stereo. I did bring to the marriage a transistor radio.
I certainly didn't know how to cook, and was offended by the unreasonable expectation that I should. It was only after a fortnight of Kraft macaroni and cheese that I was informed a dinner of boxed dinners and toast would not suffice. I subsequently purchased the Betty Crocker cookbook, in a show of "cooperation". Thus began my too-brief immersion in cooking.
I soon quit my State job ~ I didn't even last there a full year. There was something (okay, someone) I didn't like. My pay was so low, one job was indistinguishable from another. Unfortunately, interviewing petrified me, so I nestled back in the bosom of my parents. They let me work for them again, not that I actually asked. I believe I just announced it. I panicked when faced with a new environment; I tended to not even give it a middling chance. Home was home. I knew the lay of the land, the arrangement of the furniture. I'd checked guests into our motel from the time I was far too young to be manning a cash register. Plus there was a lot of down time. I could read magazines, snatched from the rack. Mom had a fully-stocked refrigerator and I helped myself when I was hungry. And the motel office had a TV. It was like leisure time occasionally interrupted by work. I'd get up early, 5:30-ish, throw on some jeans, and scoot my blue '66 Chevy Impala across the Memorial Bridge, with nary another vehicle crossing my sight line. And back home by 2:30 in the afternoon, just in time for a nap.
Life, to me, at nineteen, still consisted of music. Music was number one, and if my new husband didn't get it, then that was unfortunate. I was more bonded to my little sister than I was to my husband, because she, at least, "got it".
I'd been a country music gal for so long, it was embedded in my bone marrow, but strangely, the songs I remember from 1974 are firmly Top Forty. One's exposure to music consisted of AM radio and television. There were still enough variety shows on TV that musical guests were de rigeur. I would sit through interminable comedy skits simply to see the hokey setup the show's producer had envisioned for the night's rock act, because he didn't trust that people would actually enjoy the music. Twenty-three minutes of torture simply to catch a two-and-a-half minute song. Truly, network television was awful. I guess people watched because they had no other choice but the Big Three, and the cathode rays hypnotized them.
There were tons of one-hit wonders in the seventies, and more power to them. Don't knock one-hit wonders. Do you think, I really enjoy the Dave Matthews catalog, or do you surreptitiously boogie out to the Hues Corporation?
I know what I do:
This was one of my little brother's favorites:
Some new girl singer, who'd, I guess, go on to make a movie, appeared on the scene in '74. She had a hyphenated name and was Australian, which was odd, because I only thought Americans made music:
A song that will always scream "tornado!" to me (but that's a story for another time) was a hit in 1974:
Paper Lace had a big hit (and I didn't know there wasn't an east side of Chicago ~ geography was not my strong suit):
The biggest phenomenon of 1974 was ABBA; no question. '74 will always shout ABBA.
'74 was a watershed year for me. Maybe it's because I was nineteen, embarking on adulthood. I'm not sure. I could include twenty more songs from that year. These will suffice. For now.
These tracks take me back to that black tile and to a time of utter obliviousness.
We all have to grow up. I think it just took me longer than most.
The friends in my life were friends of a time. I may have even forgotten some who were once important to me. I'm not sure how others make friends, but mine have mostly have been through my various jobs. I know people who've had friends ever since high school. That didn't work out for me. My best friend from sixth grade through high school graduation, Alice, died. I did have other friends in school, but they were ancillary friends. I only had one best friend, and that's all I needed.
And truth be told, Alice and I stopped being friends around the time we turned twenty-one. We had wildly divergent lives -- I became a new mom and she was single and singing in a band. I was searingly hurt when I called her and wanted to drive over with my newborn son to visit and she responded indifferently. I never did go. That was the last conversation she and I ever had.
Once my kids were older and my then-husband and I escaped for an occasional night out, we'd sometimes patronize the club where Alice and her band played every weekend, and we'd ease into a table next to the one where the band took their breaks, but she and I never even acknowledged one another. If I had been older and wiser, I would have made the effort to at least walk over and make superficial conversation, but I waited for her to make the first move. She never did. Hurt feelings; hurt pride; confusion -- she and I had once been as close as two humans could be, and now we were strangers.
Several years later, my son called to tell me Alice had died, and I mourned silently -- I guess mostly for the times that could never be relived. I frankly didn't know her; I'd stopped knowing her in 1974. That didn't erase the eons when her friendship had buoyed me through the hell I was living at home; the afternoons she spent in my dank bedroom teaching me how to play guitar; the giggling inside jokes we'd shared.
I never again had a best friend.
When I secured my first "real" job in 1973, I made another friend. Her name was -- Alice.
The truth was, Alice and I most likely became friends because we were thrown together, but I liked her, despite (or because of) her crazy life. I lived vicariously through her adventures. Alice had come from a small town of approximately 600 souls, but apparently very enlightened souls. She was a mid-twentieth century girl living a twenty-first century life. Alice was tall and willowy and apparently exuded a scent that attracted all manner of male persons; elderly, teen-aged, and in between; and she reveled in it. When I met Alice's mom, I was shocked to encounter a tiny immigrant lady who struggled with the English language and who steamed up a batch of Borscht soup and delivered it in a Tupperware container to her daughter's flat. I liked Alice because she tossed off testosterone-stoked attention matter-of-factly, and she was funny, self-deprecating, and guileless. Alice was confident in her identity. I, on the other hand, was still straining to figure out who I was supposed to be.
Alice and I dwelled in an office in the rear of the State Health Department, along with a hard-bitten bleached-blonde supervisor we quickly came to hate. It didn't help matters that our supervisor's husband, like every other man on the planet, magically fell under Alice's spell and showed up unannounced at her apartment door one evening. The ensuing fallout was awkward. Not for me, of course. I frolicked in the tabloid headlines. But that tiny back room became perilous, with glinting knives whooshing too close to my jugular for comfort.
Meanwhile, the desktop transistor innocently played.
Unfortunately, no live Grand Funksters to be found, but still...
Yes, this was a thing (in fact, number 8 on the charts) in 1974:
This guy was unusual, but intriguing, and a helluva singer. Fortunately, this track is a bit more memorable than "The Streak":
Maria Muldaur, I don't think, ever had another hit, but this was huge in 1974, although I didn't have a camel to send to bed. I didn't even have a dog:
I tried to convince Alice, once she finally found "the one", after rabid experimentation, that she should feature this song in her wedding. She declined. I still think I'm right:
Upon first hearing this next track, I was perplexed, yet intrigued. This was an old BJ Thomas song, but BJ wouldn't have thought to do an "ooga-chalk-a" intro, I'm pretty sure. Weird songs were de rigeur in 1974. Jim Stafford was big (whatever happened to him?) with Spiders and Snakes, and especially "My Girl Bill". Paper Lace invented the "east side of Chicago". My tween-aged sister's music came into being, with "Beach Baby" and "Billy, Don't Be A Hero". My little brother was enamored by "Smokin' In The Boy's Room". Some blonde-headed geek had sunshine on his shoulder. One of the all-time worst recordings in history, "Havin' My Baby", somehow became a hit. Wings became huge.
In the meantime:
Carly and James were still married, and National Lampoon's Vacation not withstanding, everyone liked this:
The Hues Corporation, which was a poorly-conceived name for a band, had a big hit:
There was a hit that I never really appreciated until years later, by a guy who knew how to write a killer song.
My favorite songs from 1974:
But the absolute most memorable to me was this next song, which I tormented Alice with as I sang along to the radio. I suppose I thought I was being cute, and maybe my judgmental side slipped out. My crooning never failed to elicit an exasperated response.
Alice had a little walk-up apartment two blocks from the State Capitol, and every day at noon, the two of us would ride the elevator down from the eighteenth floor and click along the street in our polyester mini-dresses and high heels to enjoy a lunch of SpaghettiO's heated in an aluminum pan on her gas stove. I never once thought to volunteer the fifty-nine cents to cover the cost of our little meal. I was a rube.
My stint at the State Health Department was my first real job. It ended badly, but in the grand scheme of life, it mattered little, except for the memories it created.
Alice and I remained friends for a while. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, as I was in hers. We bore sons at roughly the same time. She and her husband eventually moved to a little town where they purchased an auto body shop. She began selling Avon products. I visited...once. Alice was fun and upbeat. I felt happy being around her. I envied her. I guess I always had.
At eighteen or nineteen, one's life experiences are seared into their brain. We have so much empty brain matter, I'm guessing, that everything -- music, little day-to-day trifles -- assume vast importance.
Thus, many decades later, I wrote a song to try to capture that time.
I'll admit, I Googled Alice, just to know what had become of her. I found her, but I wouldn't ever try to contact her, because she probably doesn't even remember me, and that would be embarrassing and humbling. Some memories should remain just that -- memories.