Tuesday, October 17, 2006

October 1974: Gimme Something That I Can Remember

(Fifth in a series. Part four is here; part three, with links to preceding parts, is here.)

October 1974: I am equipment manager of the freshman football team, a job I really like. I play tenor saxophone in the band, which I don't like quite so much. I am in like with another unattainable girl, which I hate, although I try not to let it bother me inordinately--and fail. I am taking advanced algebra, which I hate, but I have another one of those cool English teachers, Mr. Prueher, and I can't wait to get to his class each day. I continue to listen to the radio every minute I can. And on the radio that month, there were these:

"Beach Baby"/First Class. In which British pop-meister Tony Burrows (England's answer to Ron Dante) created a California paradise that's based entirely on Beach Boys records. I once heard a DJ back-announce it by saying, "An English band singing about California in the '60s is like Donny Osmond singing about Africa."

"Nothing From Nothing"/Billy Preston.
While struggling with advanced algebra, I often felt like "nothing from nothing means nothing" was all the math I really understood.

"Sweet Home Alabama"/Lynryd Skynryd. I once read an academic journal article that called this the single most potent expression of Confederate mythology in popular music. By criticizing Neil Young for "Southern Man," which condemned slavery and the Klan, and by celebrating segregationist governor George Wallace, it's arguably the most racist record to make the charts since the era of coon songs.

"Who Do You Think You Are"/Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. This is the Looking Glass redux, really--"Billy Don't Be a Hero" was the pop smash of the summer, but group's followup hit in the fall barely scraped into the Top 40 even though it's extraordinarily good. The liner notes to Rhino's Super Hits of the 70s: Have a Nice Day Volume 13 calls "Who Do You Think You Are" "the great lost Buckinghams record," which is the best of all possible descriptions of it.

"Rock Me Gently"/Andy Kim. The idea of being rocked, but gently, is a concept that could only have come out of the sensitive 70s. Kim hit bubblegum paydirt with "Baby I Love You" in 1969 and a cover of "Be My Baby" one year after that, but this is nearly as good as his pop monument, the Archies' "Sugar Sugar," which he co-wrote with Jeff Barry.

(Buy "Who Do You Think You Are," "Rock Me Gently," "Beach Baby," "Billy Don't Be a Hero" and several other Top 40 essentials from 1974 here.)

Coming next: home.


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