In the beginning, there was only the quiet tinkling of a child’s mobile swaying in the breeze above my crib. And though the earth was without form, the sound of church choirs harmonizing and my Louisiana mom playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the piano could be discerned. Family witnessed this, and apparently said it was good.
And somebody said Let There Be Rock: and there was indeed rock. And the earth brought forth neighbourhood playmates, who made mention of things like KISS and THE EAGLES. And my parent’s copy of Jesus Christ Superstar (original concept double LP, London Records, 1970) was discovered, and subsequently played to death. And it was so.
And I saw it was good.
But there went up a mist up from an AM transistor radio, and it watered my ears something fierce. And the songs were believed by me to have living soul. And their names were as follows:
1. GLEN CAMPBELL – “Rhinestone Cowboy” (Rhinestone Cowboy, 1976) Probably the first song I remember ever calling a favorite – it was a desperate choice when cornered and questioned by a precocious Jewish friend of mine about my musical interests circa ’76. All I knew was that saying “Puff the Magic Dragon” wouldn’t make me look so hot; at least he didn’t laugh. Being a transplant from Dallas, I suppose it was easier for me to imagine what it might feel like to be a country boy with his feet in LA, like Glen. Today I don’t really approve of all this retro reevaluation of production-pop hitmen from the 60’s/70’s . . . but listening to Glen as a kid, in real time, as it was unfolding? Count me in, compadre.
2. FLEETWOOD MAC – “Don’t Stop” (Rumours, 1977) Me and my pal J. were inseparable for a couple years there in the late 70’s – we’d ride our bikes up and down the cliffs, explore uninhabited houses side by side, and rendezvous together with stolen matches to burn things deep in his backyard. But it was his family – dad always shirtless with waist-length premature grey hair, mom with bitter scowl and dangling cig, sis with fuck-it-all laugh and feathered rocker cut – that really tripped me out. My favorite memories of them were spent around the BBQ behind their house, when J.’s dad would drive his Lincoln Continental up onto the lawn, roll down all the windows, and blast FLEETWOOD MAC’s Rumours at full volume through the car stereo speakers. And oh my that party would start! J.’s older sis – totally hot in a pre-teen, 70’s rocker sorta way, dancing and singing along – she loved this one. So I loved it too.
You guys who don’t have any tangible memories from the 70’s . . . man I pity you.
3. CHEAP TRICK – “Southern Girls” (In Color, 1977) Close pal G., hip to rockin’ lightyears before me, played me this not long after it came out. I was in Heaven Tonight for weeks after. I longed to be stylish like pouty Robin Zander with his breezy hair and skinny, high-waisted pants, or downloose cool like Tom Petersson with his messy hairdo and fuck you expression. If I could’ve grown up into a teenager right then, I woulda somehow made sure this tune followed me everywhere I went.
4. STYX – “Renegade” (Pieces of Eight, 1978) What us little 8 yr old kids in the suburbs imagined punk rock sounded like, had we been aware of it, back in ’78. All that quiet, a cappella minor-key brooding, and then Aaaaaaaaah! . . . the scream. Oh man. I admit everything after that was a major comedown, but so what! You’d just pick the needle up, drag it back an inch, and BLAMMO! I’d be in the clouds for another 40 seconds or so. Me and G. would put on our buckskin fringe hacking jackets (please, don’t ask) and make up cool dance routines to this one – at least until his older brother would come in and for no good reason try to wrestle me to the ground. Still STYX, for one brief second, were it.
5. BILLY JOEL – “My Life” (52nd Street, 1978) An Armenian kid I knew turned me on to this and later Glass Houses, for which I thanked him dearly for a year or so. This is the closest I ever veered to something kinda/sorta annoyingly STEELY DAN sounding. But it was also the first rec I bought with lyrics included. Other than my couple-year fixation on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN in ’84/’85 and a similar period locked on NICK CAVE in the later ’80s, I’ve rarely paid this much to lyrics since. Can still remember every second of T. spinning this while I followed along closely with the lyric sheet . . . though I also clearly recall his wildeyed dad walking in and slapping the shit outta him for “mishandling the turntable.” Oh man that kid had fucking great reasons to hate his parents.