Reprint: 70’s Radio Rock, Part 1

–I’ve spent this evening’s hour – and then some – catching up on the correspondence that had lapsed, along with yours truly, into semiconsciousness this past week. New (sort of) and (vaguely) exciting resumes tomorrow, promise…

Remember ‘way back in the Music thread on the old forum, when I mentioned I was deep into an experiment to see how well my favourite AM songs held up? No? Well, too bad.

Since then, I’ve accumulated an entire iPod playlist based on the ineffable grooviness that is the ‘Sounds of the 70’s – the lite-rock stuff that tends to get collected on the K-Tel label a lot. (Albeit some of it technically comes from the early eighties or late sixties. The 70’s, I’ve discovered, are less a date than a state of mind.)

Yeah, it’s definitely possible to construct snark scenarios around this stuff involving fish, barrels and convenient artillery. Still…somehow you can’t help but love an era in which ‘keepin’ it real’ was still such a wide-eyed novelty. With the likes of Neil Young and Carole King leading the way, simple and direct and heartfelt was suddenly like, totally cool, man.

Of course, as the intervening decades have relentlessly proven, just because it is in there doesn’t mean it should be hauled out for everybody to hear (Idol makes this particular error pretty much once an ep, and it drives me nuts every time) but every now and then I fall apart…

Africa, Toto – In doing research on what I had hertofore merely believed to be Walking in Memphis only with 75% more clueless white boy, I ran across an entire Webpage analyzing the lyrics. Frankly, anything I could add would be wholly superfluous.

After the Love Has Gone, Earth, Wind & Fire – Mmmmmm..,.I do love me some smooth R&B classic. Phil Bailey and the gang school their endless wannabes in how to deconstruct a relationship without ever harshing the mellow. Man, I wish more of ’em had taken the hint; unfortunately, as it stands, this song has become kind of a meta-commentary on the state of the genre.

*Memorable lyrics: After the love has gone/What used to be right is wrong/Can love that’s lost be found…

Baker Street, Gerry Rafferty – Basically ‘the girl can’t hack the big city’ set to some of the most memorable sax wailing ever in a pop tune. Classic ‘don’t think about it too much or your brain will go all explody’ going on here, folks.

By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Glen Campbell – I have always liked Campbell’s voice a lot…also his gift of making his simple, plaintive love songs sound indefinably like suicide notes. I dunno, it may just be me, but there’s definitely a note in there that wants to see this chick go down.

Carefree Highway, Gordon Lightfoot – We already know how I feel about Gordie Legend, right? Right. Also, I just noticed I seem to have developed a thing for songs about vaguely depressed folksingers a-heading down the road a spell. Couple more stamps on the card and I qualify for the free Wacky Orangutan Sidekick option!

Cold on the Shoulder, ibid – I loves my Gordie even more when he’s being sarcastic, albeit gently. He’s like the anti-Air Supply.

*Memorable lyrics: I don’t wanna know/Everything you’ve done/if you get a tip then tell it to the Eskimos…

Daniel, Elton John – To be strictly honest, this one might be leaving the list soon. Once you’ve given up trying to figure out the lyrics, you can’t help but notice it’s the blandest thing he ever recorded…and this is a career featuring both That’s What Friends are For and Sad Songs (Say so Much), folks.

Dust in the Wind, Kansas – Justifiably famous as one of the most gorgeous songs about utter nihlism ever produced. Seriously, guys, I can imagine that must’ve been one killer hangover, but you were hoping to sell the occasional LP with this, right? Because if not…I hate to break this to you…but money can actually buy quite a few more minutes. High-test medical care, and all that. You have your existentialism confused with your class system, occupational hazard of making music in the 70’s. Still, that is one, like, way uplifting instrumental…

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon – No, not for the chorus, which is so inane that even my head (which remembers old Barbie commercials from 1985) refuses to let it get stuck in there. No, my affection is reserved for the unjustly-neglected verses, which feature Mrs Robinson and Benjamin only both clearly in on the joke. In other words, pure Simon.

*Memorable lyrics: She said why don’t the both of us just sleep on it tonight/And I believe that in the morning you’ll begin to see the light…

Hard Habit to Break, Chicago – OK, treading carefully here lest Monica kill me…um…I like early-model Chicago, I really do, but their 80’s-onward stuff just gets old a lot faster than I thought it would. There’s something about Peter Cetera’s relentless self-abasement that makes me hold him directly responsible for Michael Bolton.

Next time: the Hollies get smug, Cat Stevens gets religion, and 10cc get a synthesizer…


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anonymous
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 08:05:29

    Just a commment, Get To Phoenix was actually a hit in late 1967/early 68. Not really a 70’s song. But your reflections on the song are excellent!

  2. solo_1
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 08:47:04

    In agreement with Baker Street being a classic.

    I love Sax…

  3. shoebox2
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 18:14:20


    Yeah…I should probably retitle this project ‘Songs Roughly of the 70’s’. It’s more a collection of stuff that played on the radio in that time period than stuff that was actuall recorded then. Kind of all falls into the same mindset, though.

  4. shoebox2
    Oct 12, 2007 @ 18:17:06

    Yes, but how about Violins? 🙂

    [ahem] It is a great tune, isn’t it? I have no idea what made Rafferty decide to put those particular elements together (and frankly, am not sure I want to know) but it works a charm.

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