Friday, October 22, 2004

Something in the Air That Night

Everybody's got one: a single season in which you would live forever, if you could. The fall of 1976 is mine. I had a car ('74 AMC Hornet, robin's-egg blue), I had a girl (you know who you are), and the music was spectacular. Now it's possible that it was the car and the girl that made the music seem spectacular--after all, we're in a realm here that defies dispassionate analysis, and if you've ever been there, I think you know what I mean. So here's just one possible soundtrack for this week in 1976:

"If You Leave Me Now"/Chicago. Chicago's first Number One song, a lovely, grownup mood, which Peter Cetera quite nearly blows with an astoundingly stupid ad lib right at the fade: "Whoo, mama, I just got to have your lovin', hey." Dude, shut up.

"Still the One"/Orleans. Next to the Raspberries' "Go All the Way," quite possibly the best record with which to start your radio show. Great intro, great finish, and impossible not to sing along with, so don't forget to turn the microphone off. From the album Waking and Dreaming, which has, in retrospect, one of the gayest album covers of all time.

"Lowdown"/Boz Scaggs. "Turn on that old lovelight/turn a maybe to a yes." From Silk Degrees, one of the essential albums of the 1970s. October 1976 might have represented the pinnacle of white-boy soul, thanks to Boz and . . .

"She's Gone"/Hall and Oates. Their greatest hit, and if you notice, beneficiary of one of the oddest edits ever. On the 45 version, the first two lines of the first verse are spliced to the last two lines of the second verse. Get the long version. though. Hall and Oates never again did anything remotely like it.

"I Only Want to Be With You"/Bay City Rollers. A surprisingly good update of the 1964 Dusty Springfield original. Yes, it's incredibly overblown--the instrumental break in the middle sounds like the 101 Strings on a caffeine high, with the French horns blowing the hardest. Nevertheless, It's the great bubblegum record the Rollers were always destined to make and renders the rest of their catalog unnecessary.

"Devil Woman"/Cliff Richard. It was Halloween season, after all, with lots of mysteries in the air. A superstar in England since the 1950s, Richard barely moved the needle in the United States until he recorded this, and followed it with the even-better "We Don't Talk Anymore," and "Dreaming."

"Fernando"/Abba. This record is completely absurd, really, because it seems to be about the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), and from the Mexican point of view at that, which seems rather odd coming from a bunch of Swedes--but try and resist the refrain: "There was something in the air that night . . ."

"Did You Boogie"/Flash Cadillac. Raise your hand if you remember this at all, which was straight out of the Happy Days-driven '50s nostalgia boom of the time. The original 45 features a rap by Wolfman Jack that wasn't heard on the radio version: "Sometimes I get to thinkin' there's just not enough love and romance in our lives today. So that's why I like to reminisce, and relive that first feeling of love, and do it all over again."

"With Your Love"/Jefferson Starship. "Don't know what's happened to me since I met you." The middle period of the Starship's career, post-Airplane and pre-just-plain-Starship, produced some of the 70s' best records: this one, and "Miracles," and "Play on Love," and "Runaway."

"Say You Love Me"/Fleetwood Mac. Another great radio record, with an intro that grabs you from the first microsecond and a fade that's positively intoxicating: "Fallin', fallin', fallin'." (I was already hot for Christine McVie by this time, and I still am.)

The radio was always on in those days. And in a way, it's been on for me ever since, always playing this stuff and the rest of it from the other Octobers I've been remembering of late. I'm not a good enough writer to tell it, really, so maybe this is all too opaque to you. (You can't say I didn't warn you that sometimes on this blog, I'll be the only one who gets it.) Maybe you had to be there.


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