Thursday, July 02, 2009

I Nearly Died From Hospitality

The Climax Blues Band. 1976. You know, that still strikes me as a hep, peppy little tune.

It's conspicuous for its lonesomeness. I recall 1976 as a vast, desolate wasteland. Every aspect of life, too, not just the dratted radio. But the radio was especially bad. You can easily cobble together really good entertainment for yourself now, but back then you had to take what came out of the transistors or tubes, good and hard, and like it. LPs were expensive and you couldn't transfer them to anything you could carry around much yet.

Think I'm exaggerating about music in 1976? Here's a list of all the Number One hits of the year, from Billboard:
  • Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
  • Blinded by the Light - Manfred Mann's Earth Band
  • Boogie Fever - The Sylvers
  • Car Wash - Rose Royce
  • December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) - The 4 Seasons
  • Disco Duck (Part 1) - Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots
  • Disco Lady - Johnnie Taylor
  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John & Kiki Dee
  • A Fifth of Beethoven - Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band
  • Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel (Part 1) - Tavares
  • Hurricane (Part 1) - Bob Dylan
  • I Wish - Stevie Wonder
  • I Write the Songs - Barry Manilow
  • If You Leave Me Now - Chicago
  • Kiss and Say Goodbye - The Manhattans
  • Let Your Love Flow - Bellamy Brothers
  • Love Hangover - Diana Ross
  • Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
  • Rock'n Me - Steve Miller Band
  • Saturday Night - Bay City Rollers
  • (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty - KC & The Sunshine Band
  • Silly Love Songs - Paul McCartney & Wings
  • Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright) - Rod Stewart
  • Torn Between Two Lovers - Mary MacGregor
  • Welcome Back - John Sebastian
  • You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show) - Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.
  • You Make Me Feel Like Dancing - Leo Sayer
  • You Should Be Dancing - Bee Gees
Yeesh. Loading those songs in that order into your iPod is more likely to end all life on Earth than turning on that supercollider they built in France. At the very least, the listener will end theirs. DIY mercy killing, if you ask me. The Stevie Wonder record -- Songs In The Key Of Life -- was pretty good. The Wild Cherry song was a kind of dumb fun. You can go to any wedding and you'll hear it, if you get a hankerin' for it. The rest was ...

Sorry, had to run to the bathroom. I was going to go through the list one by one and append mordant remarks about each one of these turds in turn, but that would be dull. For me, I mean. Let's make it a puzzle! Match up the following trenchant observations with the appropriate songs and win a prize!
  • Execrable
  • Me? You make me feel like Manson, you execrable midget
  • Execrable
  • Don't go killing my dog with that execrable song
  • Execrable
  • Yes, you write the execrable songs, you bastard, one after another
  • Not all that bad. Not all that good, either
  • Execrable
  • Heaven must be missing a mongrel, more likely. An execrable mongrel
  • Execrable
  • Tonite I'm going to rock you tonite. Execrably
  • Execrable
  • Like the other execrable Wings songs were serious.
  • Torn between two horses, sounds more like. Two execrable horses
  • Execrable
  • If you leave me now? I smashed the radio. Now you want me to leave, too? Execrable.
  • Execrable
  • Stop singing like that. It's execrable
  • Execrable
  • Stop singing like that. It's execrable
  • Execrable
  • You should be... horsewhipped until you sing in a normal, less execrable register
  • That execrable guy was manifestly guilty
  • Execrable
  • I wish I was deafened by the execrable light.
  • Execrable
  • Execrable
  • Where does this execrable singer live? I want to know. No reason


Anonymous said...

ed in texas

Ah, yes. Neutron bomb tunes. Play 'em, and there's not a living thing left in the room. I think one of the reasons smoking was so accepted then was that it gave you a good excuse to head outside at any random moment. There WAS good music going on at that time. Just not on the radio.

SippicanCottage said...

Ed- Ha! We actually used to call her Olivia Neutron-Bomb.

Anonymous said...

Climax Blues Band! I still listen to those guys! Try "Little Link" from Tightly Knit while driving on a country road sometime to reset your brain. A savage road trip to see them in San Francisco ca. 1977 left me almost blind after Peter Haycock reflected a spotlight off his gold plated guitar right into my eyes. Love your blogs - One of my morning highlights.


Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, that was a pretty dark time musically. I remember it well. Perhaps the date is not insignificant, as it is exactly 20 years from the birth -- or at least widespread recognition -- of rock & roll, with Elvis in 1956. In short, it took one generation for rock to exhaust itself as an art form.

In fact, you could say that the emergence of punk in 1977 was a recognition that the end had come. It was simply a replay of the original impulse to Rock, only now more coarsened and less veiled by musical skill. Since then, there have been some competent performers, but nothing truly novel. It's all recycled now.

I would note that 1976 gave birth to Graham Parker's excellent first album, Howlin' Wind. In fact, his second album as well, Heat Treatment. He never equalled them.

Dylan's genius abandoned him in 1975, not to reappear for some 25 years.

In the category of soul music, I might cite Earth, Wind & Fire, who were still at their peak. That was probably the last good year for Philly Soul, with some fine contributions from the O'Jays and Harold Melvin.

It seems to have been a turning point in country music as well. Waylon Jennings was still in good form, but country music was about to go the way of the Urban Cowboy ethos, never to recover. It is also an exhausted art form.

I'd never thought of it before, but that was a real turning point: more or less the end of the classic soul, rock, and country eras.

Anonymous said...

ed in texas

I didn't check. Is 'execrable' the word of the week?

Hazy Dave said...

You tend to forget how bad it was, even knowing how popular the rubbish was at the time (and still is). A couple almost passable songs (minus getting played to death), and there were others in the Top 10 and Top 40, but it was not a banner year for popular music, by any means. Ten or twenty years later, finding good unpopular music was only more difficult.

(When we called her anything, it was often Olivia, Newt & John, but the Neutron Bomb epithet was hurled, as well. Not that she wasn't a cutie, unimportant distractions such as music aside.)

1966 had it a lot better. My partial list of #1's from that year:

Petula Clark - My Love
Lou Christie - Lightnin' Strikes,
Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
SSgt Barry Sadler - The Ballad Of The Green Berets
Righteous Brothers - (You're My) Soul And Inspiration
Young Rascals - Good Lovin'
Mamas & The Papas - Monday, Monday
Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman
Rolling Stones - Paint It, Black
Frank Sinatra - Strangers In The Night
Beatles - Paperback Writer / Rain
Troggs - Wild Thing
Lovin' Spoonful - Summer In The City
Donovan - Sunshine Superman
Supremes - You Can't Hurry Love
Association - Cherish
Four Tops - Reach Out I'll Be There
Question Mark & Mysterians - 96 Tears
Monkees - Last Train To Clarksville
Johnny Rivers - Poor Side Of Town
Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
New Vaudeville Band - Winchester Cathedral
Supremes - You Keep Me Hangin' On
Monkees - I'm A Believer / (I'm Not) Your Steppin' Stone

Thud said...

I bought Ramones 1st album and pistols single in dec 76, for better or worse my life was never the same again.

SippicanCottage said...

Thanks Charles466, for reading and commenting.

G. Bob- Can't argue with any of dat. You seem to know your bass players. Verdine White from EWF was excellent. I never cared for their records all that much but listened just for his playing.

Ed- Didn't you get my execrable memo?

We love Hazy Dave!
I explored 1966 as a high water mark for pop radio here: The Unified Field Theory Of Music. Enjoy!

Hi Thud- Gabba Gabba Hey.

Gagdad Bob said...

Hazy Dave:

Many people feel that 1966 was the pinnacle of pop culture. Well, one guy, anyway. However, I'm inclined to agree. 1967 gets all the attention, but really, 1966 was better musically.

NKVD said...

I stopped listening to the radio in 1972 - thought it was going downhill even then.

ed in texas - you could smoke indoors in those days. I used to work in an office where 7 of the 13 people smoked. I didn't. But I did. That sucked. All day long I had to breath that smoke.

That was in California, where now you can't even smoke outside, I imagine. I live in NC now, and even here, where the local economy was almost totally based on tobacco, one can't smoke. I am thinking of taking it up - speakin' truth to power and all that. Drinking, too - going to start drinking - from what I understand it's just 12 steps from sobriety to being a broken down drunk. I better get going.

NKVD said...

HOLY CARP - I just tried to play that video - what a terrible song! And this was just 7 years after Woodstock? Words fail me - that was, what's the word I am looking for? Oh, right, EXECRABLE!!!

SippicanCottage said...'s got COWBELL!

Gagdad Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gagdad Bob said...

Best cowbell songs of all time... that I can think of off the top of my head:

Born on the Bayou, Creedence
Time Has Come Today, Chambers Brothers
Grazing in the Grass, Young Holt Incorporated
You Can't Do That, Beatles
Oh Well, Fleetwood Mac
Can't Get Enough of Your Love, The Maestro

More maestro.

Joan of Argghh! said...


she had an onion ring,
she had a pickle
she forgot to tell me
that she didn't eat meat. . .

TmjUtah said...

Soma music then.

Now we have hip hop.

And the Brave New World is here.

SippicanCottage said...

Dear lord, the Gollum video is hilarious.

As far as cowbell goes, ain't you forgetting something?

SippicanCottage said...

Joan- Dean Friedman? Awesome. Paramus represent!

Sarah Rolph said...

Ack! My brain is now filled with that crap! I mean, excrement! It all comes back far too clearly.

I never liked the Bee Gees, couldn't understand the falsetto thing. I remember it took me a long time to realize the singers were all guys!!

I have to admit, however, that I do like Hurricane. I remember the first time I heard it, on the car radio, and we all said "oh my gosh, that is definitely Bob Dylan! A new Dylan song, wow!!!"

What you said at the beginning of the post--the zeitgeist unfolded at a far slower rate back then.

Casey Klahn said...

I am too old. now, to comment coherently on pop music. After all, I graduated from HS in '76.

I guess they even made a movie @ 1976 and youngsters. Dazed and Confused, I think it was.

While I am rambling on about eras - oh, I guess you were - I'll make note that I was born a week before Jacko. Our generation has been through *so much*.

Gagdad Bob said...

Am radio was still pretty strong through the early 1970s, especially soul music, which was still particularly good, the reason being that rock became an album oriented medium by the late '60s, so most of the good stuff was on FM, while the primary medium for black music remained the single until the rise of Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, and Marvin Gaye a little later.

As evidence, I would introduce the 7CD Rhino collection of 70s music, Have a Nice Decade.

Look at disc one, which actually begins in late '69. Still some good stuff there, e.g., early Jackson 5, Guess Who, Blues Image, Five Stairsteps.

I would say the first real warning sign that something sinister is over the horizon occurs with Joy to the World, by Three Dog Night, who, prior to that, had had some excellent "blue-eyed soul" singles. This was a real departure, an augur of Things to Come. Execrable things.

The flow of Disc 2 is disrupted by the execrable "Chick-a-Boom," and the equally execrable "One Tin Soldier" and "I Am Woman," not to mention the contributions of Hot Butter and Apollo 100.

But I would say that the wheels really begin coming off the decade with disc four, or 1973, with the hideously execrable The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia, Seasons in the Sun, The Night Chicago Died, Billy Don't be a Hero, Kung Fu Fighting, The Streak, Do it 'Til You're Satisfied. None of these has even kitsch or nostalgia value. They were and remain active and even execrable irritants.

After that, Chevy Van, Feelings, The Bertha Butt Boogie, Convoy, Afternoon Delight, Disco Duck. The horror!

Gagdad Bob said...

As to the reason for the shift, I think you could say that the musical '60s begin with the death of JFK in 11/63 -- or with the arrival of the Beatles two months later -- and are definitely over with the resignation of Nixon in 8/74, but really prior to that: with the end of the draft in 12/72.

SippicanCottage said...

G. Bob- Very trenchant observations.

I looked at that Rhino Compilation. I do believe I could assemble one fantastic disc out of it. Unfortunately, it's seven discs worth of material.

Terry Jacks? That's when I reach for my revolver.

Gagdad Bob said...

One more thing. Consider the 25 volume Rhino collection of Soul HIts of the '70s. It also begins in late 1969, but most of the tracks are quite good right through the mid-seventies. With rock the sharp decline begins in '73, whereas with soul it's more like '76.

Uncle Mikey said...

Compared to what's on the radio today, that was a Golden Age.

angelnfreefall said...

Oh, great, now I won't be able to get MULTIPLE songs out of my head for hours....and it's getting crowded in there, what with all the voices, who are insisting on singing along to this little anthology of horrors....

Das said...

Not to get too heavy on delightful post...memory lane...yes these are my memories and I loved all the clips...but I am haunted by the still photo of the slaves in the Muddy Waters clip. In the first one - the detail - just for a few seconds - there is a very pretty woman smiling. Smiling. She is beautiful. Whatever way you want to cut it there is something amazing about black Americans. The black church was the dynamite keg that gave us the blues and rock n roll, a fact that still amazes me...