teaching and learning
what i watched last week

friday random ten, 1974 edition

1. Al Green, "Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)." Sometimes, people are ubiquitous. Al Green cranked out hit after hit in the first half of the 70s, great songs all of them. He was so good, when he put out a Greatest Hits album in 1975 (one of the best albums ever made, BTW), this fine Top Ten track didn't even make the album.

2. Bob Marley & the Wailers, "No Woman, No Cry." Speaking of ubiquitous ... and still enormously popular. The video has gotten more than 15 million views.

3. David Bowie, "Rebel Rebel." Punk rock was waiting, just around the corner.

4. Freddy Fender, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls." The underrated Fender's greatest ballad.

5. ABBA, "Waterloo." Since I got a full season package to the San Francisco Giants when they opened their new ball park in 2000, I've sat in the general vicinity of the same people, something that doesn't happen when you sit in a different place for every game. Over time, we get to know each other's quirks. Among other things, I am known for adopting certain players as the object of my ire ... guys like Neifi Perez or Pedro Feliz. It's gotten so that each year on Opening Day, someone always asks me who my "new guy" will be. If I ever finally decide to retire my endlessly boring rants against the Carpenters, I think ABBA will be the Pedro Feliz to Richard and Karen's Neifi Perez.

6. Labelle, "Lady Marmalade." Hard to find a video of the original, so you get the Moulin Rouge version. Labelle were the glam rockers of R&B.

7. Electric Light Orchestra, "Can't Get It Out of My Head." They sounded most like the Beatles on songs such as this one, where Jeff Lynne's vocals approximated the sound of a John Lennon ballad.

8. The Sweet, "Ballroom Blitz." Bowie, the Sweet, even Labelle ... Glam Rock may not have lasted very long, but it was all over the place for a bit ... ubiquitous, since that seems to be the word of the day.

9. Kraftwerk, "Autobahn." Meanwhile, this odd song ended up being more a harbinger of the future than all of the other songs on this list put together.

10. Roxy Music, "The Thrill of It All." I've never quite "gotten" Roxy Music, although I like a lot of their music, especially Country Life. But I feel like I'm missing something ... I know there's more than I've taken in. Which is what separates them from, oh, ABBA, about whom I'm pretty sure I'm not missing anything at all.



More and more convinced with each passing year that 1973 and 1974 are between them maybe the most underrated years ever in pop. Loved most of last week's playlist and pretty much all of this (maybe I'm a little sick of that particular Marley tune, and I'll admit it's years since I've listened to Freddy Fender).

Roxy Music mean almost as much to me as Springsteen does to you, but I can't suggest any easy way in (I find them a ridiculously hard band to explain). If you were a newbie -- and I don't think you are; it sounds like you've tried -- I'd suggest the Stranded LP first, followed by Siren, with the other three of the first phase (1971-1975) pretty evenly matched for highs and lows. It's just the overall gauzy (?) effect of their sound I love so much -- the atmosphere. Plus Phil Manzanerra's guitar. Obviously, how much you like them will depend a lot on how much you like Bryan Ferry.


When I admit to "not getting' Roxy Music, I only mean at the highest levels of a fan like yourself. I like them fine, but I've always known that there are people I trust who like them a lot more than fine.

I, too, find much to like about the pop music of that time. For me, the problem is that the dreck bothered me more for some reason. It could be simple ... I worked as a bus boy in those days, and listened to the hits over and over again as they got played on the jukebox. But whatever it is/was, while I know in my head that every generation has its share of dreck, this period's version really gets to me. I was really ready for something to save me in those days, which was lucky timing for me, since Bruce Springsteen and punk rock were very obliging in that regard :-).


There's surely something generational there too. I'm (I think) ten years younger than you (born '64), so I didn't have many deep thoughts on the pop of the day, and while I certainly recognized some of the dreck even at that age, I also just went along with it because... well, to some degree that's what you do when you're ten years old. Looking back now, I recognize more dreck than I would've at the time, but also more richness, particularly in areas like soul and early disco, things I wasn't hugely opinionated about in 1974. (And yet, when I've looked back at certain charts from '75 or '76, I've usually felt very little connection to the stuff. Even though there was a lot of good pop in those years -- particularly disco -- something about the mid 70s feels a bit more desolate to me, and I've never been able to put my finger on why exactly.


I like desolate!


Okay, well I didn't really mean it in the Dylan sense! Maybe the word I should've used was "inconsequential" or "flaky."


Oh, I love Roxy's Avalon...and Ferry did an amazing cover of Lennon's Jealous Guy. Avalon is a perfect cousin of ELO's Eldorado. It's a slam dunk to know that Jeff Lynne and Harrison would hook up with the Wilburys...like six degrees of music separation. But what I really want to write about is your stunning Pete Happy metaphor and ABBA. And I had to practice exceptional restraint against leveling an eating disorder simile, re: Carpenters and Chris Speier's slugging percentage. (Well, i guess I just did.) But at least neither are the Ed Goodson of Captain and Tenille to the Johnnie LeMaster of the Bay City Rollers. I need a nap.

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