31 Days, Day 30: Soundtracks and Storytellers

photo credit; dreamstime.com

photo credit; dreamstime.com

I love movies.  Not as much as I love books, but both are a means of escaping from life into another one for just a little while.

Saturday Night Fever came out in 1976 and became a pop culture phenomenon, and with good reason.  I did see this movie in the theater despite the fact that it was rated R and I was only twelve years old.  Back then nobody really paid much attention to checking ID and if you looked old enough, you got in.  Mercifully I didn’t understand much beyond John Travolta! Dancing! Although I will say that when I saw the movie again as an adult I was a bit shocked at all the subtleties that went right over my head.

Anyway, SNF opened with a shot of John Travolta walking down the sidewalk carrying paint to Stayin Alive by the Bee Gees.  You Should be Dancin‘ and Night Fever kept the beat moving on the (lighted) dance floor, and How Deep is Your Love served as the sweet romantic ballad accompanying the love story (which I really didn’t get at the time).  More Than a Woman was another fantastic song in this movie – so fantastic that it was offered up by both Tavares and the Bee Gees.

Two years later, John Travolta was back on screen in another blockbuster movie musical called Grease. The big chart toppers in that movie were Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You (which I sang over and over into my tape recorder, thoroughly convinced that I sounded just like Olivia Newton-John. I totally didn’t.), and You’re the One That I Want.  I saw that movie without my parents too, but I was a little older and this time I *understood* the innuendo.  My favorite song was Beauty School Dropout and Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.  That’s not surprising when you remember that I love a good dose of irony and farce, plus I’m a big Frankie Avalon fan. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but the two leads in Grease were in their twenties when the movie was filmed and Rizzo was 33 at the time!  I want their makeup artists.

Another little movie came out in the 1970s that would change the world as we know it called Star Wars.  The composer John Williams also gave us the Theme from Close Encounters, and so many more.

Two adorable (or irritating, depending on your viewpoint) little tunes that I loved back then were You Light Up My Life (by Debby Boone) and the Theme from Ice Castles (by Melissa Manchester). And Ice Castles also had another one of my favorite things:  Robby Benson.

I could include all the music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which came out in 1975, but the movie didn’t hit my radar until the 1980s.

Elton John was the Pinball Wizard in Tommy, a movie I’ve never seen. Paul McCartney & Wings told us we should Live and Let Die in the title theme from the Bond movie and Carly Simon said Nobody Does It Better in a later Bond movie. Rocky Balboa soared to Gonna Fly Now, and Bette Midler gave us the sobfest The Rose. I did not know this, but the song Sky High by Jigsaw was used in a movie.  I’m so glad because I wanted to include it but wasn’t sure where to fit it in. Barbra Streisand sang The Way We Were and Evergreen. And finally, Maureen McGovern gave us hope that there would be a Morning After when the Poseidon sank. My parents took to me to see The Poseidon Adventure at least two or three times and frankly, it was pretty scary for a 3rd or 4th grader but I love Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters for some reason.

I’d like to end with a song that we sang in my high school choir that has stuck with me ever since:  The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie. It may not be easy being green, Kermit, but you make being a green rock star look easy. And you’re way more wholesome than Tony Manero and company.

31 Days, Day 29: Get Up And DANCE!

Photo credit: meetup.com

Photo credit: meetup.com

It’s time to hang the disco ball and boogie down!  Let’s talk about dance music of the 1970’s. These are in no chronological order whatsoever, but then again I’m sure you expected nothing less from me.

A Dancing Queen was born in 1976. Was Abba not just the quintessential 70’s band? I think I read somewhere that when they first started recording in English they didn’t speak it, so they learned the lyrics phonetically, but when I tried to research it online I got conflicting opinions. It does make for a good story though.  Abba enjoyed a renewed interest in their music when first the play and then the movie version of Mamma Mia came out. I was and am a HUGE fan of Mamma Mia, but my love for musicals is a whole other kettle of fish.

Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is so fun! Check out the roller skating girl in the video. Hello, satin pants! Anita Baker wanted someone to Ring My Bell and Amii Stewart was Knock(ing) on Wood. (that one’s a little psychedelic! And what’s on her head??)

Earth, Wind & Fire invited us to come to Boogie Wonderland and Rose Royce hung out at the Car Wash. And I hung out at the roller skating rink.  🙂

Van McCoy taught us to do The Hustle, The Village People extolled the virtues of the YMCA, and the Hues Corporation admonished us to Rock The Boat (or not. It’s hard to tell from the lyrics) The Bee Gees were Jive Talkin’ (more about them tomorrow) and Carl Douglas was Kung Fu Fighting. And try to listen to Le Freak by Chic and not..um..freak out.

The Commodores sang Brick House like it was a compliment. KC & The Sunshine Band just came right out with it and said to Shake Your Booty, while Peaches and Herb let us use our own imaginations in Shake Your Groove Thing, and Michael Jackson got a little more specific with Shake Your Body Down to The Ground.

I’m going to go off on a tangent here and include Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang on this list even though it’s not exactly dance music but it does make you want to get up and dance. My friend Vicki introduced me to this song (except she mispronounced it as Raper’s Delight. Um, what??) and we learned it word for word. Yeah, because we were cool like that.

And finally, let’s have our Last Dance with Donna Summer, who was arguably The First Lady of Disco.

Whew!  I’m tired. There was so much more that I just couldn’t include for space reasons but I hope these songs got you up out of your seat and finding your groove again.

31 Days: Day 28: Funny, Cute, and Just Plain Weird

I had so many songs that I wanted to discuss but it seems I’m running out of time.  I seriously could write about 70’s music for a year and never run out of things to say.  But I do have other subjects to blog about so this series must eventually come to an end.

Today I want to remind you about some of the funny, cute and/or weird songs of the decade.  Hopefully you’ll end up with a smile on your face.

Nobody in the 1970’s did “funny” like Ray Stevens AND he was clean. Sort of. In 1974 he released The Streak and paid homage to a fad called “streaking”.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what it is.  My Grandma Tunie just loved this song, especially at the end when he was hollering for Ethel to put her clothes back on. I was only 10 in 1974 and thought the whole idea of streaking was mortifying so I didn’t fully “get it” until years later.  Ray Stevens also looked something like my uncle Wendell which further muddied the waters for me.

And then there was Tom T. Hall, who recorded I Love, a song celebrating, among other things, little baby ducks and old pickup tracks. He also did one about Sneaky Snake and Old Dogs, Children & Watermelon Wine, which wasn’t necessarily funny but is still a good story song.

Jim Stafford took his turn with the snakes on Spiders and Snakes.  I don’t like them either, Mr. Stafford. He sang one about My Girl Bill, which is not about what you think it’s about. And then he sang about Cow Patty and the Swamp Witch as well. I love that he sometimes gets the giggles while he’s singing.

I will admit to knowing every single word of Mac Davis’ ode to egotism, Hard to be Humble.(caution: mild language in that video)

Joe Walsh of Eagles’ fame put his own spin on the trials of fame in Life’s Been Good. I do admire his and Mac Davis’ ability to poke fun at themselves and their own celebrity status. And Joe Walsh is a fantastically talented guitarist.  I’m not going to comment on his vocal ability or his fashion sense in this video because my Mama always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

And finally, because I have to end somewhere or I could go on and on, here’s one of my favorite underrated bands 10cc.  They make it into this post because their song I’m Not in Love is four minutes of flat-out sarcasm.  Or lying.  Or he’s just confused. I guess it depends on your point of view. I don’t know how “big boys don’t cry” fits into the whole concept though. They also recorded The Things We Do For Love, another of my favorites although it doesn’t fit into the “Funny” category.

Can you think of any other funny songs of the era?

31 Days, Day 27: Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and Tennille

captian-tennillePhoto Credit:  radaronline.com

Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and Tennille

I thought Tennille was such an interesting name I will admit to being a little disappointed when I found out her first name was actually Toni.  The Captain, however, had the uber-cool name of Daryl Dragon and it’s his real name.  Awesome!

If you remember 1975, you remember that this song was everywhere.  It was followed up with a string of hits, such as Muskrat Love (what is that even about??), Lonely Night, The Way That I Want to Touch You, Shop Around, and Do That to Me One More Time.  They also had a short-lived TV show, which ended when they asked to be released from their contracts in order to pursue their music and touring.  I do remember watching the show and listening for The Captain to say something – anything – because he rarely spoke.  I guess he is the strong silent (very silent!) type. Toni Tennille’s round bob was as iconic as the Captain’s hat, and all of my attempts to replicate her hairstyle were epic fails.  I never looked good in heavy bangs anyway.

Back in the day they both worked and toured with The Beach Boys, and Toni sang backup for some pretty heavy hitters, including Elton John.

In a stroke of irony, and not the funny kind, it turns out that love was not enough to keep them together because in January of this year, Tennille filed for divorce after 39 years of marriage.

I’m starting to panic a little here because I’m running out of days and I still have so much music to talk about!  So for the last few days I’m going to combine several songs/acts in each post.  Even so I’ll be leaving out a LOT of very good music. On Day 31 I’ll hit you with The Best of the Rest, so if you haven’t seen your favorite yet it may show up in the final blast.  Are we having fun yet?

31 Days, Day 26: If by Bread

Photo credit:  last.fm

Photo credit: last.fm

 

If by Bread

I loved the guitar melody and admired Mr. Gates’ ability to hit notes that didn’t come easily to a girl with an alto range. And who wouldn’t love to think that someone could feel this way about her one day?

I had a Best of Bread cassette tape (or was it an 8-track? Either way I’m further dating myself.) and played it endlessly.  Then when CDs were the thing, I bought the collection on CD.  Something about their soft rock sound just soothes the soul.

There was a lot of friction between the band members and the band broke up in the mid 80’s, but reunited in 1976 to record an album called Lost Without Your Love, which I owned on a 45. I guess goodbye doesn’t always mean forever, right?

Speaking of goodbye, after the band broke up the first time David Gates had a solo hit with the theme from The Goodbye Girl, which I also loved.  I think he has a very distinctive voice and style, and just listen to his accent when he talks with Dick Clark on this clip.  He’s from Oklahoma – can you tell?

Trivia Alert:  David Gates and Bread appeared on The Hardy Boys TV show, with Mr. Day 22, Shaun Cassidy.  The clip isn’t great quality and skips around a bit but it’s like a walk down memory lane, at least it is for me.  They just don’t make shows like that any more, do they?

 

31 Days, Day 25: Don’t Give Up on Us by David Soul

davidsoul

Don’t Give Up on Us on David Soul

David Soul is perhaps best known for his role as “Hutch” on the TV series Starsky and Hutch.  You might also remember that he played the lead in a movie called Salem’s Lot based on a book by horror-master Stephen King.  I watched it and it scared the whoopsie right out of me! (that was back when I liked having the whoopsie scared out of me so I watched horror movies all the time. Nowadays even the ads for scary movies creep me out.)  He released this song in 1976 while Starsky and Hutch was in its heyday and it went all the way to #1.  He released another song called Silver Lady that didn’t do quite so well.  Eventually he must have decided that England was more to his taste because he became a British citizen in 2004.

I don’t think I can overestimate just how much I loved this song.  I didn’t even mind the sappy lyrics about “it” being written in the moonlight and painted on the stars, “it” being, apparently, fate.  I do have to admit, however, that I raise a skeptical eyebrow when I hear those words come out of the mouth of a man who has been married FIVE, count ’em, FIVE times.  Clearly fate has nothing to do with his choice of mates.

I love this video too, because it’s just oozing with earnestness.  Look at those baby blues gazing sincerely into the camera!  Don’t give up on us, baby.  We can still come through.  David Soul is an actor and he really sells this one.  I’d forgive him.  Maybe he really lost his head last night and I have a right to stop believing but there’s still a little love left even so.

This song is dear to me for another, very personal reason. Back in 2005, when we were in China adopting our youngest daughter, we spent a lot of time at a Guangzho restaurant called Lucy’s.  Lucy’s attraction for us lay in the fact that their menu boasted some very American-sounding options, and after nearly two weeks in China we were homesick for chicken tenders and fries.  Their version was called “Chicken in a Basket” but basically consisted of chicken tenders and crinkle fries served in – what else? – a basket. There was no honey mustard sauce to be found and the chicken didn’t compare to O’Charley’s or even KFC but it was plenty good enough for us.  Lucy’s had a background music track that ran on a loop and contained a grand total of about four songs, all from the 1970’s.  This song was one of them.  I had to wonder if the owners of Lucy’s thought that was representative of the music we listened to in the States in 2005. (Also, just in case you think we were all “ugly & rude American” while we were in China, we were not.  We ate plenty of authentic Chinese food, which, by the way, is not the same as the Chinese food you find in the US.  But I digress.)

In the end David Soul made his mark on the world in the acting world and not the music world, even though he started out as a singer on the Merv Griffin Show.  I think maybe it was difficult for the world to take Hutch seriously as a vocalist.  The world was all:  Get back to solving crimes already! Starsky and Huggy Bear aren’t interested in singing back up on your world concert tour.  More detecting, less reflecting.

31 Days, Day 24: Runaround Sue by Leif Garrett

Photo credit: fanpop.com

Photo credit: fanpop.com

Runaround Sue by Leif Garrett

Oh, Leif! He had such promise, don’t you think?  I have to confess that I was not a huge Leif fan back in the day.  He had a sister named Dawn Lyn who was on the TV show My Three Sons, and he had numerous few roles on TV and in movies that you may have seen but have most certainly forgotten about.  One thing I didn’t know is that he took a turn as Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Leif is a cautionary tale about what can go wrong in the life of a former child star.  In fact, he’s kind of the living illustration for the Murphy’s Law of teen idols.  Drug abuse?  Check.  Trouble with the law?  Check. Failed attempts to regain some popularity?  Check.  If trouble was available it always seemed to find Leif.

We could probably trace his downfall to a car crash back in 1979 in which he was the driver and which left his friend Roland a paraplegic.  Roland’s family eventually filed suit, and it may be that the trauma and guilt helped to launch Leif into some dangerous habits.  Whatever the cause, it’s sad to see someone who once rode so high sink so low.  I do hope that one day he can get it together.  I’d much rather see him in the news for making a viable comeback than for yet another DUI arrest.