Friday Top 5: Hard Rock Comedy
So I was driving around one day this week when Cheech and Chong's "Sister Mary Elephant" came on. (Don't ask.) I was in eighth grade when Cheech and Chong first burst into public consciousness. It was an era when novelty songs and comedy cuts could become significant hits, without being limited to the morning-radio ghetto that comedy occupies today. C&C's first hit was "Basketball Jones," which made the Top 20 in the fall of 1973. "Elephant" entered the Hot 100 the week "Basketball Jones" dropped off, 31 years ago this month. It prompted the closest thing ever to an underground rage in my junior high, thanks to the album Big Bambu.
Kids who had copies of Big Bambu shared them, and then went out and got copies of their own. It's a wonder no adult tried to confiscate them--take, for example, "The Bust," in which a couple of dealers flush their stash, a radio spot in favor of the legalization of marijuana featuring a stoner named Ashley Roachclip, or a game show called "Let's Make a Dope Deal." Although its content would give parents and school officials an attack of the vapors today, it's doubtful that Big Bambu warped anybody I knew. To us, it was just funny. It certaintly didn't make a stoner of me. The giant-size rolling papers that came with the album, featuring a picture of Cheech and Chong, are still inside my copy today.
One of the reasons why Cheech and Chong's "hard rock comedy" became so popular on the radio when it did might have to do with the utter dreck that polluted the Top 40 during the fall of 1973. It's hard to find another season of the 1970s that was thicker with sludge. With that in mind, we present our Friday Top Five: The five biggest reasons why Cheech and Chong had to happen.
1. "Heartbeat It's a Lovebeat"/DeFranco Family. Low-rent bubblegum from these Partridge Family clones, featuring a bombastic introduction so incongruous that a radio station I once worked at used it to introduce newscasts.
2. "Paper Roses"/Marie Osmond. The longest 2:39 in history.
3. "Top of the World"/Carpenters. I'm not sure which annoyed me more back then--the sanitized steel guitar on this record, or the strident insistence by one girl I knew that it's about Jesus.
4. "Summer (The First Time)"/Bobby Goldsboro. In which our virginal teenage hero gets laid by an older woman--a common fantasy, yes, but in this song it just sounds creepy.
5. "The Most Beautiful Girl"/Charlie Rich It would get to Number One in December, dethroning "Top of the World." Ecch ptui. Worst month ever.