Seven Songs From The Seventies

Published on December 5th, 2011 in: Dancing Ourselves Into The Tomb, Issues, Music, Staff Picks |

By Less Lee Moore

japan obscure alternatives
Japan’s David Sylvian tries to forget.

How to sum up a decade’s worth of music in one list? Bubblegum, country, disco, glam, power pop, punk, post punk, new wave, rock & roll, heavy metal, rap, show tunes . . . the ’70s had all of that and more.

Rather than trying to squeeze in every style that the 1970s presented, I picked seven songs that represent some of the decade’s most compelling—and perhaps unexpected—musical offerings.

The most interesting thing about this list is that I didn’t know about these songs until after the 1970s were over. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one, but I just followed my instincts.

1. The Stooges, “Dirt” (1970)

The first Stooges song I heard was “Loose” in the mid-80s, taped from the radio, listened to frequently, and much loved. When the tape disappeared, I was crushed. Remember, this was before the Internet, YouTube, and file sharing. When I finally got Fun House on CD in the ’90s, I was transported back in time to that same feeling of awe, and then some. “Dirt” has the droney, dirgey qualities that made the first Stooges album groundbreaking, but the slithery, sexy stuff that keeps you (and everyone else) coming back for more.

2. Nilsson, “You’re Breaking My Heart” (1972)

I received Nilsson’s The Point! album as a very little kid and spent endless hours listening to it and reading the enclosed comic book. Although the tale of Oblio and Arrow was heartwarming, Nilsson’s sardonic sense of humor seeps into every song. Stylistically, this track—featuring “The F” and thus ensuring no radio play—is as brilliant as anything on The Point. Childish, perhaps, but in a totally different sense, and one that I probably would have loved just as much then as I do now.

3. Aerosmith, “Seasons Of Wither” (1974)

The reason that “Dream On” is truly a Classic Rock song is that no matter how many times I hear it, it still gets to me the way it did back when I was a kid. In the ’80s I got a couple of Aerosmith Greatest Hits CDs from Columbia House and realized there was way more to this band than “Dream On.” Although they’re well known for doing wonderful job of rocking and/or rolling, “Seasons Of Wither” shows more of the beautiful, mournful—and yes, soulful—side of Aerosmith.

4. Sparks, “How Are You Getting Home?” (1975)

I didn’t find out about Sparks until their ’80s songs like “Cool Places” got played on MTV. Finding out they’d been releasing music since the year I was born blew my mind. It’s impossible to pick a favorite Sparks song from the ’70s—their first five albums are flawless—but this one displays some of their best qualities: marvelous wit, weird yet catchy song structures, and Russell Mael’s amazingly flexible voice. Any song that makes me laugh out loud EVERY TIME I HEAR IT needs to be on some kinda “best of” list, that’s for sure.

5. Cheap Trick, “Mandocello” (1977)

Another band I knew about as a kid, but didn’t get into until the ’90s when I discovered how amazing they were (and still are). Most people probably know about “Surrender” and the abysmal ballad “The Flame,” but “Mandocello” is that rarest of entities, yet something Cheap Trick pulls off so well: a truly romantic song that is not even close to being sappy. It also proves what a great voice Robin Zander has and that Rick Nielsen is not just a wacky guitarist, but also a gifted songwriter.

6. Japan, “Suburban Love” (1978)

You know how I got into Japan? Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran played “Visions of China” when they were Guest VJs on MTV. How could I resist the androgynous beauty and sultry vocals of David Sylvian? After hearing their suave pop stylings, it was a huge shock to find out about their first two albums (basically disowned by Sylvian in later years), which were unabashedly trashy, funky glam. And this David Sylvian snarled. “Suburban Love” is one long, danceable groove of awesome. It may actually be my favorite song of the entire decade.

7. The Dickies, “Fan Mail” (1979)

Although The Dickies are considered punk rock, and although they did come into existence during that time period, The Sex Pistols or The Ramones they are not. They actually have better pop hooks than a lot of pop bands of the late ’70s but they are decidedly not pop punk, either. Like Sparks, they have a hyperkinetic singer with an oddly compelling, bizarre vocal style, but unlike Sparks, they aren’t exactly critically acclaimed. It’s a real shame, as The Dickies are one of the most fun and surprisingly sincere musical marvels of the ’70s (and ’80s, too).

One Response to “Seven Songs From The Seventies”

  1. Bonnie:
    December 14th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    1970s music for me will forever be the BeeGees, Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, Paul McCartney&Wings, Fleetwood Mac, Kiss, Styx, Boston, Chicago, Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles.

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