70’s Radio Rock, Part 3

…Ahem. OK, done ranting about the Supreme Unfairness of Being Ordinary, I swear. Have reconciled myself (once again) to the realisation that I am in fact not a lead Pixar character, therefore if I want drama and excitement in my existence I’m gonna have to work for it.

Have also, not co-incidentally, read a rather scathing article indicating that the most successful blogs are those in which the author looks up from their navel occasionally and enthuses over their areas of outside interest. Which works out rather neatly, since as part of the reconciliation agreement I get to work out my Bob & Ray fascination around here whenever the need strikes.

Anyhoo, that’s an entry for another day, when I’ve found a hook to hang those particular observations on. Meanwhile, I was casting about for something else I do around here that isn’t personal, and realised it’s been ages since I updated this series (follow the tag below) of major mellow musical moments from everybody’s fav…no, wait…everybody’s…the decade that didn’t contain the Jonas Brothers, OK? Or Hannah Montana. Say what you like about disco, at least the fantasies were legal. Sort of.

Maggie May, Rod Stewart: Speaking of fantasies, you can learn pretty much all you need to know about young male performers by the way they approach the ‘cougar/stud’ axis, which reached rite-of-passage status in this decade. I think it may have had something to do with all that chest glitter.
The drill goes roughly like this: If you’re Simon and/or Garfunkel, you use it to simoultaneously pity and parody a generation’s loss of innocence. If you’re Elton John, you invest it with such virulent self-loathing that you apparently can’t even sing straight, meaning that same generation is left trying to wring Angst from what sounds like “Hump’n the harmin back touyme…”.
…And if you’re Rod Stewart, you blithely inform your patroness that “the morning sun, when it’s in your face/Really shows your age…” and announce your intention to “steal my daddy’s cue/and make a livin’ outta playin’ pool.” I can’t help it; dude has the same resignedly affectionate effect on me as my [equally blonde] sister.

Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard, Paul Simon: There are moments when you realise not only that your innocence has become stained in the rough and tumble of life, rather like the ‘before’ t-shirts in the detergent ads…but that no amount of New Super-Fresh Fast-Acting Gleem is ever going to get it bright and white again.
I had one such moment upon discovering that Simon had once performed this song on frelling Sesame Street. Not only that, one of the adorable Muppet moppets had improvised a verse, right there on the spot. For the life of me, I could not help wondering if we had finally found out what it was the mama saw. And how it ended up on the cover of Newsweek...This particular attempt involved several gallons of hi-test brain bleach, and frankly we’re all better off just moving on now…

*Memorable lyrics: Mama look down and spit on the ground/every time my name gets mentioned/Papa said ‘oy, if I get that boy/gonna stick him in the house of detention’…

Minstrel of the Dawn, Gordon Lightfoot: Yes, they had the ’70’s in Canada, too. Only instead of semitalented wonders convinced that only they could express the True Meaning of Life, we had serious musicians convinced that…well, I don’t know exactly, but it likely involved heavy consumption of the same stuff that propelled the former. (Yeah, I know we also had the Poppy Family, but my therapist tells me it’s not wise to dwell on that for long.)
At any rate, this seems as good an explanation as any for how we repeatedly end up tripping over lyrical marvels like “He’s tryin’ to get into things/More happy than blue…” in what is otherwise this almost ethereally lovely folk ballad. I’m telling you, the Canadian conscience has more to answer for than we’ll probably ever realise.

*Memorable lyrics: Look into his shining eyes/and if you see a ghost don’t be surprised…

Mother & Child Reunion, Paul Simon: There are times when I’m convinced Simon is a refugee from a parallel universe where everything is just a little bit more interesting than ours. You know what ‘mother and child reunion’ actually refers to? It’s the name of an Asian dish, popular in New York City…chicken and eggs cooked together. (Think about it for a sec.)
Really. There he is, sitting in a downtown restaurant, staring at a menu, musings on the connexions among life, death and love running haphazardly through his head…and hey presto, it all becomes clear. Or something. Hey, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s not to argue with genius.

*Memorable lyrics: But I would not give you false hope, no/On this strange and mournful day/When the mother and child reunion/Is only a motion away…

Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song), Billy Joel: Yeah, yeah, I know. I learned to love the guy at my Shoemom’s knee, whaddaya want? She has a thing about ‘great driving songs’, and trust me, when you’re eleven and you’re zooming down the 401 shrieking ‘You should never argue with a craaaazzzzyyy mi-mi-mi-mind…’…well, good times.
At any rate, even now that I’ve reached maturity (of sorts) and have learned to regard such adventures with the proper amount of Ironic Detachment, the affection still lingers. I cope by occasionally envisioning a scenario wherein Anthony’s the crazy one, and the terrified populace are actually trying to run him out of town, reduced to leaving timid little notes on his door lest he break their backs like he did the local fuzz, man. Try it, it’s fun!

My Life, Billy Joel: Right, so it’s the 4597952th reiteration of how Joel is a Free Spirit whom no amount of suburban hypocrisy can tame…but I can guarantee this is the only version that features somebody quitting to become a stand-up comic in LA. Still not convinced? Did you know this one was used as the theme to Bosom Buddies, the sitcom about cross-dressing college buddies that starred Tom Hanks?
…You still don’t care? OK, fine. Go ahead and be all detached and ironic and stuff. Just remember what you’re gonna be missing the next time you find yourself at a PTA meeting needing to express angst and isolation in mixed company. Where’s your Green Day gonna be then, huh?

New Kid in Town, The Eagles: There’s an Agatha Christie novel that’s famously dedicated ‘To Those Who Lead Monotonous Lives, in hopes that they may experience second-hand the delights and dangers of adventure.’ I think the Eagles may have performed a similar service for my teenage years.
Anyway, I think this one holds up better than most; it actually sounds like it might have a real-world point. Of course, it also sounds a lot like it belongs on the soundtrack to a Kenny Rogers TV movie from the 80’s, which if nothing else is a definite step up from Kevin McCarthy.

*Memorable lyrics: They will never forget you/’Til somebody new comes along…

Nights in White Satin, The Moody Blues: Another entry in the Let’s See How Pretentious We Can Get Without Actually Becoming Physically Unable To Record It sweepstakes. Actually, I think these guys may be the guest celebrity judges.
Seriously, setting your own poetry to…er…I think that’s supposed to be a free-form rendition of the satin nights in question…is never a hot idea. Pretty much ever. What happens is, the more the music soars the more desperately you start reaching for grievances to match, until by the Righteous Brothers-eat-your- heart-out climax you’re left ranting about how you’re a Free Spirit that no amount of suburban hypocrisy can tame. And I love every precious purple second of it.

*Memorable lyrics: Nights in white satin/Never reaching the end…

Oh Very Young, Cat Stevens: This is either a truly sweet, poignant tune about love surviving death into eternity…or the  schmaltziest, most insultingly exploitative ditto ever, possibly excluding Seasons in the Sun, except even Terry Jacks never mentioned ‘your dad’s best jeans.” Frankly I’m not sure I even want to get to the bottom of it.
This, friends, is the effect Cat Stevens’ voice has on me. I can’t say I’m proud…but the very least, I’m pretty sure he never performed it on Sesame Street, or anything. (“Here we are at the hospital! What message would you like to send to heaven, kids? Yes, Susie? Your tattered old teddy bear that your gran’pa gave you when you were two and beating cancer for the first time? Very good!”)

Old Man, Neil Young: You can imagine my amazement at hearing it explained by a rabid fan that Neil considers this one of his happy tunes. Setting aside the vaguely disturbing mental image of a bright chipper Neil Young for a moment…with some considerable effort…anyway, somehow it does not surprise me that I no sooner develop an entire specific set of deliciously Angsty Memories around a song that a revelation like this comes crashing through.
It’s OK, though; music is a subjective experience at the core, and I will muddle through somehow. On the other hand, should anyone have inside info that Lovers in a Dangerous Time is actually a touching tribute to Bruce Cockburn’s  junior high crush…kindly keep it to yourself.

Next time: Ian Thomas goes astray, America gets lonely, and Stealers Wheel get stuck…


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