See that surly, snot-nosed punk at the right in the incongruous sartorial ensemble of life-jacket and fetching engineer’s cap? That’s a roughly 11-year-old me, circa July of 1978. It was snapped during a family vacation wherein we went white-water rafting down the Green River in Colorado. Yes, that’s the same Green River later used to identify both a certain serial killer who strangled a bunch of women in the ‘80s and dumped their bodies in same and, a little while after that, a certain Seattle punk band that later fractured into Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney and, a little later still, Pearl Jam. But, at the time of this photo, none of those things had happened yet.
As histrionically alluded to in my last post, the 70's were a long, long time ago. I lived through their entirety, but still emerged at the tail end of them as a pre-teen. Nowadays, whole decades seem to pass while I’m popping out to drop off my dry-cleaning, but, as mentioned in that last post, the years move slowly when you’ve only been around for a few of them. As such, the 70’s seemed to last forever. Here I am again in the midpoint of the decade. I'm the squirt at the top.
At the tail end of last week, a friend of mine I’ve never actually met (i.e. a fellow rabid music geek who lives in the Jesus & Mary Chain’s hometown of East Kilbride, Scotland) posted one of those annoying Facebook challenges (well, it’s only annoying if you’re simply a passive user of social media and don’t give a damn about nerdy minutia) called the Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge. As its name suggests, the mission is to post clips of music, over the course of a week, pertaining to the decade in question. I actually believe it was intended to be genre-specific (i.e. all disco, or all punk, or all glam rock, etc.), but when I undertook it, I chose to disregard that particular codicil, as no sane person only listens to a single genre of music.
I started off playing by the rules with “1970” by the Stooges (a song I didn’t actually hear for the first time until 1985), but gradually figured I’d sculpt my unwieldy list of selections -– much like most of this here blog -- to be predominantly specific to my own experiences. As I mention later in this post, while I was alive and more or less sentient during the 70’s heydays of iconoclastic bands like Suicide, Neu, Dr. Feelgood and Glenn Branca’s Theoretical Girls, I was still only 12 years old by the decade’s end, and thus only had a limited amount of exposure to more adventurous music than one might have encountered on the radio and/or via the record collections of older siblings -- although my big sister Victoria served me well in that latter capacity, as you’ll read below .. should you not have abandoned this post by now.
In addition to side-stepping the one-genre-only stipulation, I also cheated by posting more than a single track a day -- invariably much to the consternation of many a now-former Facebook friend. Ah, well. Be that as it may, I was still forced to leave out a wide swathe of songs by artists like the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Ramones, the Jim Carroll Band, Cat Stevens, Frank Zappa, Abba, Queen, Bon Scott-era AC/DC, Traffic, Roxy Music, David Bowie, James Taylor, Judy Collins (yes, you read that right), Supertramp, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Boston, Al Stewart, Yes, Gil Scott Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Cheap Trick, Mike Oldfield and many more. Seven days isn’t enough, really, to sum up the sounds of my Seventies.
Anyway, since I put something of an inordinate amount of time and effort into my stupid list, I figured I’d save it from being swallowed down the black hole of my Facebook feed, and post it here as well. You’re welcome, I guess.
I was nominated by Kerr to do the Seven Day Seventies Classic Challenge. While I could be happy just to be nominated, I won't be until I take home the actual award. Thus, challenge accepted. Seventies, eh? There is only one (1) place to start...
Once again, I was nominated by Kerr to do the Seven Day Seventies Classic Challenge. Herewith entry #2. I honestly didn't hear this track until 1985, courtesy of my comrade Warwick Carter's incendiary late night radio show on WDUB (91.1 FM in Granville, don'tcha know). Recorded in `78 and certainly born of Punk, while not exactly sonically akin, "Power in the Darkness" is as righteously on point today as it was then -- if not more so. For the easily offended, it should be noted that the spoken-word bit in the middle is satire of the sharpest variety. Turn it UP.
Okay, Day 2 of the Seven Day Seventies Challenge (blame Kerr). I think he naturally assumed I was going to do all punk bands, but for me, the 70's weren't about a single genre. As such, you're going to get a mixed bag. I don't believe Sweet were as big a deal here in the States as they were in Europe, but I vividly remember this track blaring out of the shitty radio of my family's pea-soup-green Volvo station wagon (I would have been about 11 years old) and imploring my otherwise-disinterested elders to turn it up, a request that was blithely ignored. To my ears, it really captures a time and a place.
Yes, it’s still Day 2 of Kerr's Seven Day Seventies Challenge. He wants me to stay genre-specific, but I shan’t be doing that. This selection is about as 70's as you can get, as far as I’m concerned, and this particular track brings me right back to a period wherein I was living on East 93rd Street. Across the avenue lived Spencer Gillen and around the corner lived Billy Kaynor, and for a fleeting moment, we three seemed to be united in our allegiance to all things KISS, culminating with the much feted release of 1976's Destroyer. Both Spence and Billy moved on (Billy, if memory serves, was an early champion of Patti Smith), but I remained slavishly loyal to the KISS Army longer than might have been advisable. Still rocks, though.
Day 2 of Kerr’s Seven Days of Seventies Challenge plods ever onward. Switching gears again. This 1975 classic is amazing for at least two reasons: 1. The awesome piano/synth intro, which sounds like the theme song to a badass cop show. 2. The fact that the lyrics are so incredibly creepy. I mean, Trent Reznor WISHES he could pen so effortlessly catchy an ode to seething, unrequited love and flagrant stalking as “Nights On Broadway.” “I WILL WAIT — EVEN IF IT TAKES A LIFETIME!! ... MAKE IT LIKE IT WAS BEFORE!” It’s completely bonkers *AND* incredibly funky.
Day 2 of Kerr's Seven Days of the Seventies keeps on truckin'. I'll get back to the hard stuff in a bit, but if ever there was a single track that sums up the decade in question, this would be it (if you asked me). Visuals aside, it remains a remarkable bit of music, I think -- especially the slightly creepy middle-eight.. "big boys don't cry...big boys don't cry..."
Like the decade in question, Kerr's Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge seems to go on for years. It's now Day 3, and a new opportunity to flip the bird at convention. Zamfir's haunting theme to Peter Weir's frustratingly unresolved "Picnic at Hanging Rock" bears all the hallmarks of a certain era of 70's cinema that was gorgeously steeped in experimental weirdness (see also "Don't Look Now," "The Wicker Man," "The Valley [Obscured by Clouds]," etc.) Sure, it's the pan flute, but it's crazy creepy and memorable (for me, anyway).
Day 3 (Cinema Day) of Kerr's Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge continues. Normally, I'd have waited a bit, but some friends were snatching up some of my picks, so I have to act fast. As such, here's Giorgio Moroder's inimitable score to the classic, "Midnight Express," essentially prefiguring and defining the sound of the decade that would follow. `Cos, y'know, nothing says "Happy Easter" like the soundtrack to an escape from an oppressive Turkish prison. Enjoy.
Cinema Day of the Seven Seventies Days Challenge from Kerr continues. My estimable comrade Tod Ashley took a big runny dump on electronic music pioneer Giorgio Moroder, but if he says even the slightest negative word about Jerry Goldsmith's score for "The Wind & the Lion" (which featured greatest human alive Sean Connery as a Bedouin pirate with an inexplicable Scottish accent), he faces a bleak and unlivable future of suffering the eternal torments of the damned.
It's Day 4 of Kerr's Seven Days of the Seventies challenge. For those who haven't unfriended me as yet, that means it's time for some Sabbath inna mellow styley.
Day 4 of Kerr's Seven Days of the Seventies won't be stopped. The Tubes should have been massive. Not quite Punks, Not quite New Wave, Not quite Prog, Not quite Glam, Not quite Metal, but a messy collision of all of the above. Sure, they had a few tidy pop singles in the 80's, but their best songs were from their entirely insane period in the 70's, this single being arguably foremost among them (narrowly rivaled by "Mondo Bondage" from the same LP).
Day 4 of Kerr's contentious Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge, and it’s already caused a number of spats among the flock. Can’t we all get along? Anyway, my next track is by the abjectly uncool Alan Parsons Project. When I was in fourth grade circa `76/`77, I had a teacher named Tom McLellan (who is heroically on Facebook) who had a vision of our class play that year being an exceptionally loose adaptation of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies,” dubbed, I believe, “The Island.” What set this ambitious production apart (beyond some strenuously liberal deviations from the script) was the implementation of music. At one point in the somewhat dubious proceedings, there was to be a dance sequence set to this very track, a proto-goth prog-rock rumination on Edgar Allen Poe’s signature work (courtesy, if memory serves, of the record collection of my classmate Zachary Towbin). I want to say that on the night of the performance, the needle skipped across the vinyl quite severely, and dramatic havoc ensued. Regardless, I still have a soft spot for this song.
It’s Day 5 of Kerr’s laborious Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge. It’s almost over … kinda. In any case, I think the first time I ever heard or saw Devo was via an episode of "Saturday Night Live." We were up at my cousins’ place in the Berkshires and, by some lapse of parental judgement, I was allowed to stay up late (I being about 11 at the time). Fred Willard was the host and introduced them, and no one in the room seemed quite sure whether they were a real band or simply another surreal sketch. I was later fully indoctrinated into the faith at Great Oaks, a camp up in Maine, via the prescient musical tastes of an older schoolmate (hello Andrew Romeo), and there was no going back. I’m citing the album’s opening track, but every nanosecond on that first LP is entirely, bracingly, life-affirmingly crucial. Are we not men?
Day 5 of Kerr's insidious Seven Days of the Seventies challenge lingers like a tenacious infection, but hang in there -- only two days left. This is just a great song. No big extrapolation necessary.
Kerr’s deathless Seven Days of the Seventies challenge is almost over! It’s Day 6! In the summer of 1977, my father was serving as a London correspondent for Forbes magazine and made the truly rare, good-footed move and sent my sister, Victoria, and I a giant crate of promo LPs after making in-roads with some dude at Epic Records. In it was a lot of predictable bullshit, but there were some choice slabs vinyl as well. Scattered amidst records by acts like Boston, the O’Jays, the Isley Brothers and a needlessly sprawling double-live album by REO Speedwagon (featuring a flatulent trek through “Ridin’ The Storm Out”) were two curious LPs that immediately gave us pause: PURE MANIA by the provocatively-named Vibrators and a jarringly-sleeved debut LP (the elusive Brit edition, no less) by a little band called The Clash. Dropping the needle on this first track off the latter changed everything. REO Speedwagon this was NOT! **WELCOME TO PUNK ROCK!!!**
It's still Day 6 of Kerr's Seven Days of the Goddamn Seventies Bataan Death March Challenge, but we're in the home stretch. How's this for `70's? We had an eight-track tape player when I was a kid! I don't remember a grand selection of titles, but we had a lot of singery-songwritery shit like Cat Stevens, Carole King, James Taylor, the Partridge Family (not sure how that one got in there), Paul Simon solo and this album by Simon and his hirsute nemesis Art Garfunkel. This album seemed to be in constant rotation in our living room out in Quogue, ... until one day, the stoner teen who sometimes mowed our lawn broke into the house and ripped off the eight-track player. I always liked the somewhat shrill horn section going bonkers at the end of this ....
Yep, still Day 6 of Kerr's plague-like Seven Days of the Seventies. We're almost done, and you'll probably miss it when it's over. This next one is another rapturous shout-out to my older sister, Victoria, who routinely brought home a slew of great albums -- this one foremost among them (although `twas also she that introduced our household to the B-52s, Earth Wind & Fire, Brass Construction and the Police). This album, though, totally blew a new part in my hair. We listened to it constantly ... much to the pointed chagrin of our mother. If you can't appreciate this, you're living a life dimmed by a paucity of funk excellence.
It’s the last day of Kerr’s soul-immolating Seven Days of the Seventies. Deliverance is at hand. Look, I lived through the entirety of the 70s, but was still only a snot-nosed 12-year-old by the end of 1979. So, while it would be fun to say I spent the decade listening to cool, prescient shit like Faust, the Modern Lovers and the New York Dolls, apart from a few chance discoveries and random instances, I didn’t discover most of that sorta stuff until a few years after the fact. I was a child through all of the 70’s, which meant I largely listened to crap that is now considered classic rock. This is why I’ve always loved Paul McCartney and/or Paul McCartney & Wings, and not in any ironic hipster, guilty pleasure sorta way. Choosing a single song by same was a veritable “Sophie’s Choice” scenario. Do I go with a canonical favorite like “Maybe I’m Amazed” or the insufferably poppy “Silly Love Songs” or the inarguably finest Bond theme ever recorded (“Live & Let Die,” bitches). No, I choose “Uncle Albert,” as the palpable *STENCH* of the decade in question is all over it, and it sounds like my childhood. Deal with it.
Once again, it’s the last day of Kerr's cursed Seven Days of the Seventies challenge, so before you unfriend me for unspeakable crimes against good taste, know that it all ends after today. Just because I’m citing a song here, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I espouse everything about it. There’s actually a “proper video” for this song, but the visuals are just too aesthetically disturbing that I thought I should spare you. While it’s true that ELO was more or less the hirsute embodiment of everything that Punk Rock strove to destroy, that doesn’t mean they didn’t write some indisputably memorable pop tunes along the way. The windswept strings on this number instantly hearken back to the warm summer breezes of the late `70s.
Nope, you’re not quite out of the woods yet. It’s still the last day of Kerr’s ponderously oppressive Seven Days of the Seventies Challenge, and I couldn’t possibly go on living with myself if I failed to include anything by the `Floyd, a band I spent a large swathe of time adoring during that decade (as well as the decade that followed, despite diminishing returns in quality on their part). It was once again my sibling Victoria who first brought Dark Side of the Moon into our apartment, indoctrinating me into the cult via its lushly expansive atmosphere of mild-mannered, existential dread. With apologies to Roger Waters, this track has always been my favorite, largely due to the contributions of Dave Gilmour (who sounds uncharacteristically pissed-off throughout this track) and his inimitably lyrical guitar solo, which soars, waxes, wanes and weeps at all the right moments. I went on to adore Animals, Wish You Were Here and The Wall quite significantly as well, but this song on this album was what kicked it all off. This colorful, effects-laden video rendering of same is also suitably trippy.
Alright, last one. Herewith the arguably predictable final selection in Kerr’s abominable Seven Days of the Seventies challenge. At the risk of courting cliche, my first hearing of the Sex Pistols was indeed a revelatory moment. I believe I first heard the scathing entirety of Never Mind the Bollocks courtesy of my late comrade Ralph Menapace (may he rest in peace), who — musically speaking — was always several steps ahead of the rest of us (and the first one of my little friends to dye their hair a different color — citrus orange, in Ralph’s case). While the `Pistols ultimately weren’t really pushing any envelopes, their endearingly finesse-free attack and the palpable, gob-soggy vitriol of Johnny Rotten made the Pink Floyd and Boston records I’d been listening to sound wheezy, corpulent and obsolete. In the wake of everything that’s come since, Never Mind the Bollocks doesn’t quite inspire the hysteria it once did, but it’s still rife with amazing songs (like this one) and still packs the signature pugnacious punch of PUNK, full fucking stop.