Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seasons In The Sun-1970's AM Radio

That's me as an adorable toddler circa 1972, my oldest sister is holding me, with my cousin smiling sweetly in the middle and her somewhat sullen friend on the end. What a great collection of striped shirts and pants between the three of them! This picture captures the AM transistor radio innocent good times of those golden sunlit magical late afternoons spent outdoors in corduroys. Whew, I'm starting to sound like Allen Ginsberg.


1. I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing- The New Seekers
2. In the Summertime-Mungo Jerry
3. Saturday In The Park- Chicago
4. Summer Breeze- Seals & Crofts
5. Brand New Key- Melanie
6. Love Grows- Edison Lighthouse
7. Spiders and Snakes- Jim Stafford
8. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown- Jim Croce
9. Jackie Blue- The Ozark Mountain Daredevils
10. Cover of the Rolling Stone- Dr. Hook
11. Knock Three Times- Tony Orlando and Dawn
12. My Maria- B.W. Stevenson
13. Afternoon Delight- Starland Vocal Band
14. Mr. Big Stuff- Jean Knight
15. Give Me Just A Little More Time- Chairmen of the Board
16. Brother Louie- Stories
17. Lady Marmalade- Labelle
18. Brandy- Looking Glass
19. It Never Rains In Southern California- Albert Hammond
20. Sunshine (Go Away Today)- Jonathan Edwards
21. Rose Garden- Lynn Anderson
22. Alone Again (Naturally)- Gilbert O'Sullivan
23. O-O-H Child- The Five Stairsteps
24. Seasons in the Sun- Terry Jacks
25. Welcome Back- John Sebastian

AM radio in the 1970's was chock full of goodness, sadly it's all right wing talk radio and Tejano music nowadays. I'm a dyed in the wool sucker for a good pop hook and the AM airwaves were laden with killer hooks back then, especially in the early 70's, which is the time period this mix trades in for the most part (though I couldn't resist slipping in 1976's "Afternoon Delight" and "Welcome Back" beg pardon). As you can see in the pictures I was just a little guy but I remember many of these songs either because they continued to be played as the decade wore on or because my freshly minted mind was picking up more of what what was being put down by my older siblings than expected. 

Rather than do an annotated track listing I think I will just share some scatter shot memories of this time period. Now the late 1970's for me was all about Star Wars, comic books, Shogun Warriors, birthday parties at James Coney Island and sleep overs arranged around network weekend reruns of the Planet of the Apes movies. I remember staying up to what seemed like an incredibly late hour in order to see KISS on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. I remember a commercial that ran I think with a blank screen and the audio of the JFK's assassination asking the viewer to identify the number of gunshots, this must have been during the Congressional hearings that reopened the Warren Commission's investigation and eventually ruled the assassination a conspiracy. 

Since I was so young at the time my memories of the early 70's are even more vague and impressionistic, almost dreamlike-avocado green appliances, earth tones, The Brady Bunch, EZ Bake ovens, play-doh (the smell of play-doh was such a great thing, damn I want some now), station wagons, corduroys, Handy Andy supermarket, the smell of chlorine, bubblegum baseball and football cards and Slurpies (the neighborhood 7-11 was right next to the neighborhood swimming pool) and my grandmother's white Volkswagen bug (only AM radio and no air conditioning) in which I rode shotgun around town. One distinct early memory that survives is of my siblings and I watching a TV screening of Yellow Submarine during the Thanksgiving holidays. 

I recall my older brother's upstairs room as dimly lit and cavernous- strewn with 45's, LP's, junk food, dirty clothes and dirty magazines. I remember my sisters' having sleep overs, inchoate crushes on some of their friends in tight jeans or nighties, and scads of Chicago albums, all dully numbered rather than given actual titles. The family that lived across the street from us used to make tie-dyes together- the 1970's is when the counter culture of the 1960's finally filtered down into mainstream culture and the suburbs. I remember my best friend's family's excitement at purchasing their first color TV set. 

Of all the songs in this mix "Bad Bad Leroy Brown" is the one that I remember the best as I inherited a 45 single of this song which I used to play over and over fascinated by the rhythmic play of the words. What a great set of lyrics, my favorite line is "He's got a custom Continental, he's got an Eldorado too, he's got a 32 gun in his pocket full of fun, he's got a razor in his shoe". The weird bubblegum morbidness of Terry Jack's "Seasons in the Sun"captures the melancholy nostalgia for these times nicely, hence the title of this post. I hear a lot of sadness in these songs, (good Lord check out Gilbert O' Sullivan's "Alone Again" or the story behind "Brandy")  but it's often a melancholy mixed with a warming joy, it's there in that little instrumental hook in "Summer Breeze" for instance. Maybe it's just hindsight or nostalgia, or maybe there was some subconscious realization of the intertwining of joy and sadness that was channeled into these songs. Things certainly didn't "get easier" as the Five Stairsteps promised or maybe just hoped. Sebastian sang that your dreams were supposed to be your ticket out, but if you're already in the suburbs, out to where!? You never had it so good or so it seems. Then, as if to knock us down reality comes around and cuts us into little pieces. 

Christmas probably 1973, a rare snow in Houston, my brother and sister look on unimpressed by me and my ability to channel that Gerber baby look at will, they're perhaps pondering darker things. I love those large sized Christmas lights you can see on our house, the neighborhood delinquents liked to unscrew them and smash them, they made a great popping noise.

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