It’s a sunshine day! Have a Coke and a smile! Groovy! Bullshit!
I have always loved 70s A.M. pop. It’s probably due to the fact that this was the music my mother listened to when I was growing up, but there’s something about the pop music from the 70s that makes me want to have a Coke and a smile.
Imagine, then, how thrilled I was when I got to college and found that my roommate, the venerable Lucille, also loved this kind of music. A soul mate, indeed. I can’t count how many times we would cruise around, maybe a little smoked up, singing along to “Sweet City Woman” or such like stuff. Nor can I count the times the other girls who were unfortunate enough to live with us rolled their eyes when they saw us, through a door left ajar, putting on our makeup or fixing our hair and singing along to “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).” I’ll bet they had a kegger when we moved out. Poor Ruby and Lucille. So misunderstood.
Who knows why we latched on to this music the way we did. If A.M. pop was created in the 60s, and surely it was, then it blew all to hell in the 70s. While there’s an innocence about this music, there’s also a subversiveness about it that most of the 60s pop (well, at least until the late 60s) often lacked. Brandy may be a fine girl, but there’s pretty good chance she’s also a hooker. And have you ever heard the song “Timothy?” By the interestingly named Buoys? Let’s have a quick listen:
Yep. Cannabilism makes for a great one-hit wonder, while capturing the essence of the pop music of the 70s. It’s often sugary, glossy and cheap somehow, but that’s not always a bad thing. Other times it’s bizarre, absurd, and so strange that you wonder how it ever ended up on the radio at all. And in special cases, like “Timothy,” it’s all the above.
So anyway, when I went to the library today, and saw, for my check-out pleasure, an almost-complete set of Time-Life AM Gold 70s CDs, you better believe I snatched them all up, honey. Nevermind the fact that I already had the majority of these songs on other CDs. And as soon as I got in the car, I called Lucille and said, “girlfriend, you’re not going to believe what I have. No, wait – what I got seven of.” Sigh. Too bad that we’re so responsible now that she didn’t even guess that it was green and skunky…
Now, for your listening pleasure:
Harry Nilsson – Coconut
Lord have mercy. Everyone in the dorm would hit the door when Lucille and I would start on this one. You could hear them muttering outside the door “what the hell are they listening to? And why are they giggling like that?”
Harry Nilsson was a genius. It would take a genius to pull this off.
Talk about your strange songs to hit the charts. “Coconut” has to be one of the 100 craziest songs to ever be in regular rotation on radio. Still, who can resist it? I know you can’t resist that awesome video.
Todd Rundgren – Hello It’s Me
Whenever I hear this song, I think of my mother, and how we would listen to this song on one of those K-tel type albums that she had.
Todd Rundgren has to be one of the most underrated songwriters ever. The album that this comes from, Something/Anything, is full of some of the very best pop songs ever recorded, period. Besides this one, you have “I Saw the Light,” “It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference,” and “Couldn’t I Just Tell You,” just to name a few. He had a way of writing songs that were both catchy and radio-friendly, while at the same time a little deeper and more truthful than most of the other songs on the radio. And he was succinct; there’s not a wasted word or note in any of these songs; they are as bittersweet and wonderful as anything I have ever heard, yet none of them last a second too long. Did I mention that it’s a double album, and that he played every instrument himself on most of the songs?
Paper Lace – The Night Chicago Died
Turns out Lucille and I weren’t the only ones who loved 70s pop. For a time, we worked at a steakhouse, a hellhole that was nonetheless full of people so fascinating that 10 years later, we still talk about them.
One of these charmers was a skinny little crackhead, all of about 5 ft. tall, who looked like he’d been eating D-Con, had about four teeth in various states of decay, yet somehow managed to romance not one but three of the biggest women (and when I say big I mean amazon – one of these women looked like a WWF wrestler in drag) that worked there. He was a grill cook, and he liked to sing while he worked. On Sundays he sang only gospel – every song was about the glory land. On the other six days of the week, “The Night Chicago Died” was one of his favorites. Better still, he was very open to suggestion; all Lucille had to do was stand behind him and whisper “Daddy was a cop/on the East Side of Chicago,” and that would get him started. However, if she tried to sing along with him, he’d get pissed off and quit singing.
This song is completely fictional, by the way – the ambush never happened, Chicago never died. But, the good news is, it appears Paper Lace has one rabid fan somewhere, from the looks of this video montage.
Here’s one more, just for Lucille and stray cats…