Digging for Gold: The Time-Life “AM Gold” Series, Part 56
As we will learn in this, the fourth and final installment in AM Gold: 1975, few things inspire passion and raw emotion in us like… Glen Campbell and Carly Rae Jepsen?
AM Gold: 1975 is dead, long live AM Gold: 1975!
(Spotify users, you can subscribe to our Best of AM Gold playlist, which is updated regularly.)
#17: Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy” – #1 U.S. Hot 100, U.S. Country, and U.S. Easy Listening, #4 U.K.
Jack Feerick – Talk about your bait and switch. So he starts out talking about pounding the pavement in grimy 1970s NYC, where “Hustle is the name of the game,” and I’m thinking PHWOAR! MOAR LIKE “MIDNIGHT COWBOY,” AMIRITE? But then it turns out he’s talking about the metaphorical whoredom of show business. WEAK SAUCE.
Dw. Dunphy – The 1970s was the first decade in a long time where countrification was acceptable again. There was a degree of it in the 1950s as a reaction to the crooners and, later, the burgeoning rock ‘n roll and r&b. Sun Records, the rockabilly artists, and mainstays of folk were part of the culture, only to be extricated later in the decade by and large. By the end of the Fifties, folk would splinter into to sects: down-homey harmonies for songs of nostalgic value and a front for “communist tendencies.”
But that was then. In the ’70s I see the revival of country tropes as a reaction to many different movements, from the city mice with their disco beats, their sex with anything that will allow it, and their money from their big-deal Manhattan day jobs, and also from those shiny, Hollywood folks that “do lunch,” feather their hair, and those Washington insiders with their Watergates, Deep Throats, and all that. So by this time in the Seventies, the southern influence was an act of rebellion against just about everything that was deemed relevant at the time.
So I find it funny that out of that should come “Rhinestone Cowboy” with its big string section and it’s pop hooks. It was a huge grab for the most audience at once, and it succeeds at it with little resistance. The strings were a nod to the orchestrations of the time, most often in disco and soul. The subject was stardom and celebrity, glamor and glitz. It was done with a twang. In short, every base got covered here. And not too shabbily so long as you don’t dissect it (like I’m doing right here). The song stands ultimately as anachronism and has not become a cover-band staple, except as a sort of in-joke (although I did rather like Radiohead’s version). It may be a big slice of bologna, but it is tasty bologna; ultimately not good for you, but you aren’t considering that while you’re ingesting it.
Mike Heyliger – “Rhinestone Cowboy” is one of the first songs I remember really liking as a kid, and despite the cheesiness it has obtained over the years, I still would leave the station on if it came on the radio (well, if I actually listened to the radio.) It’s everything great about pop music: great lyrics, killer chorus, an exuberant vocal. This would be the point where I’d say…wow, I knew what great pop music was even before I was a toddler! But some would argue that I don’t even know what great pop music is now.
Cummings – We are solidly in my childhood-consumerism wheelhouse now, as I owned 45s of the first five of this week’s six songs! (We’ve been solidly in my childhood crappy-song-loving wheelhouse since ’74, but I didn’t have the bones to buy music ’til the next year. I must have gotten a raise in allowance or something.) Popdose regulars have already read and forgotten, on three separate occasions, how I purchased, loved, and then either gave away or destroyed my copy of “Rhinestone Cowboy” after my moralistic 10-year-old self learned that Glen had stolen Mac Davis’ wife. The fact that I’ve put two different stories out there proves what you should have known all along — that I’m an unreliable narrator. I think the melting story is the right one, but I’m willing to use whichever version gets my point across better in the moment … as Glen himself sang, faithful truth-tellers get washed away like the snow and the rain.
In any case, “Rhinestone Cowboy” remains an interesting piece of work. When I was a kid, I thought the song had a nice little depressive edge to it — the “load of compromisin’,” the train that’s takin’ the long way, etc. When I got a bit older (and more cognizant of both geography and showbiz tropes, AND more familiar with “On Broadway”), I found the jumble of Broadway, subway tokens and “a star-spangled rodeo” rather disconcerting … but such a jumbling of iconography is precisely what made “Rhinestone Cowboy” such ideal crossover bait. I’d argue to Dw. that country-to-pop crossovers were always the easiest ones to make (even during the ’60s … shall we go back and play all those Bobby Goldsboro hits again?) — though such crossovers dried up for a while during the ’90s, when acts like All-4-One began pulling the reverse-Pat Boone and recording R&B versions of songs like “I Swear.”
Dunphy – Easy, yes — but there are times when it is easy and gets you a little pop credibility in the process, and other times when it just gets you on the chart. Some of those songs will linger through the years while the others blow off like the fart-stink that gets blown off the curtains in a springtime breezes. You did remind me, though, that the ’90s really was the time for the change-up, where country-pop became grist for the R&B mill instead of the other way around. I hadn’t thought of that!
David Lifton – I loved this song as a kid. It’s one of the first songs I remember singing (see last week’s discussion of Captain and Tenille). Of course, when you’re six years old, everything you love will suck by the time you’re 10. So after “Southern Nights” Glen Campbell became a joke to me. Then, at some point, probably in my 30s, I learned that he was part of the Wrecking Crew and a great guitarist, and then I read an interview with someone I admired who praised “Wichita Lineman,” so I got the chance to hear that with fresh ears. Five years ago I had the chance to interview him, so I bought a compilation and realized what an incredibly likable song “Rhinestone Cowboy” is, for all the reasons Heyliger said. And I love “Call Me Maybe,” too.
Matthew Bolin – Personally, I’ve always found this song rather ridiculous: the title alone puts this song in an awkwardly dated place, and the arrangement makes me want to start singing the theme to The Greatest American Hero, which is NOT a plus in my book. Overall, I’ve never been a big fan of the “outlaw” period of country that this song is caught up in. I’ve always preferred Campbell’s more soulful works (usually via Jimmy Webb) than this.
Really though, considering the type of articles I write for the site, I can’t let this opportunity go to say something more about Campbell in general, especially since I don’t believe I’ll be contributing to the week where his last song in the series will appear: For what it’s worth, Campbell had chops as a singer and underrated musician. But you know what? Screw him. He would have already been an article in my “When Good Albums….” series if I actually thought any of his albums front to back were worthy of it. Even into the 1990s, in his autobiography, he was more interested in blaming Tanya Tucker for his problems than taking responsibility for what he’d done to her, and he spent more time talking about his golf game and how abortion is wrong than his music. He even said that Lucinda Williams’ “Passionate Kisses” was what was WRONG with country music. Yes, yes, of course it’s a shame about him and Alzheimer’s, but it’s not going to change how I feel about this song or about Campbell as a person, and it actually irks me that because of the disease and his age that he was given a standing-o at the Grammy Awards this year, while I’d bet a good majority of those who specifically were praising him continue to tear into Chris Brown.
Heyliger – I could kiss this comment. Praise you, Bolin.
Cummings – There goes Matthew, spreading sunshine as usual…
Matthew, I just can’t get on board with such an abject dismissal of Campbell’s career because he had bad relationships and a drug problem, then came out of them with help from fundamentalist Christianity (or, apparently, “Messianic Judaism,” whatever that is) and an inexplicable attitude toward a song I like. I think music, and showbiz in general, is the wrong field in which to take such a judgmental stance. Unless you’re Anita Bryant, that is … which unfortunately is how you come off sounding here, particularly when you pull every one of your examples of Glen’s hedonism and (later) moralism from an Entertainment Weekly review. I won’t defend all the shit he’s pulled, but I won’t judge it either — mostly because I just don’t care.
Bolin – You compare me to a noted homophobe because I point out that someone whose song you like treated women like crap?
Also, I wrote NOTHING about his situation with drugs in my write-up, so I don’t know why you include it in your rebuttal like it was something I said. In fact, if you look at what I really wrote did NOT “abjectly dismiss” his career. I said “For what it’s worth, Campbell had chops as a singer and [was an] underrated musician.” That doesn’t sound like a dismissal. I just appended it with the problems I have with him as an individual.
Also, that EW review was written by David Browne, not one of their no name pencil pushers. I think Browne has the chops, career, and right to criticize such things if he wants to.
#18: America, “Sister Golden Hair” – #1 U.S.
Feerick – In the words of a great American: “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man.”
David Medsker – I mentioned in an earlier post that Gerry Beckley is the Neil Finn of America, and this is his “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Or is it his “I Got You,” or his “One Step Ahead,” or his “Message to My Girl”? Either way, I imagine that George Martin’s eyes went all Tex Avery when Gerry came into the studio with the demo of this one. “Sweet! There is absolutely no way that this won’t be a smash!” And he was right, but adding that Harrison-esque slide guitar was a nice touch.
Dunphy – My favorite America song, and can you imagine the relief on the part of the production team and the label to find the lyrics were somewhat stable? This is the ode to cold feet, nothing more but nothing less either. “I ain’t ready for the altar” wasn’t a message that was coming out of radio much at the time. Mostly it was about doin’ it and not being worried about marriage (before or after the act of the doin’ it) or it was about being thrilled about the prospect of getting hitched. That it should be America, of all artists, that should raise the subject of pre-marital ambivalence is a little bit of a jolt.
Doesn’t hurt that the thing has enough hooks to hang a school of fish off it.
Cummings – We took some grief, four years ago, for placing “Sister Golden Hair” at #28 on our Popdose 100 favorite songs of the last 50 years … but I’m still happy to defend the choice. It’s just so damn hooky. For me, though, what puts it over the top is the line, “Well, I’ve been one poor correspondent, and I’ve been too, too hard to find.” It’s just a bit of lame wordplay, but it always gets me. On the other hand, Medsker — comparing Gerry Buckley to Neil Finn is like comparing Pabst Blue Ribbon to Chimay. They can both be intoxicating, but you’d only serve one of them in a wine glass.
Medsker – That was not meant to be taken literally. I made an analogy in an earlier AM Gold column that Beckley and the other guy were a bit like the Finn brothers in that odds are you prefer one of them over the other. I am in the Beckley/Neil camp. That is all I meant by that. I would never think of putting the two on the same level.
Dunphy – I would. Not because I think it is true (I don’t) but because it is news that could make people’s heads explode.
On that same note: Tom Waits/Travie McCoy…kindred spirits?
Cummings – The ’90s were such a weird time, as crossover goes — country ALBUMS were suddenly recognized for the huge sellers they were, thanks to SoundScan (Garth Brooks perpetually at #1 and all that), but country artists rarely could get a SINGLE on pop radio. That pretty much changed with LeAnn Rimes and “How Do I Live,” though, and then with Shania Twain and (for a moment) the Dixie Chicks. Now pop radio is full of female-sung country-pop, from Taylor to Carrie to Lady Antebellum … which is itself ironic, because female artists historically have had a devil of a time achieving anything like equality with men on country radio.
Dunphy – Do you think that’s a sexist thing? After all, as our friend Lefsetz keeps intimating, country starlets tend to be hot.
Cummings – I think it was partly old-line sexism at country radio, but mostly a demographic thing. According to the brilliant Nashville history Finding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music, there was a longstanding belief at country radio that the listenership would never put up with two songs in a row by female artists. The demographic, which for decades skewed even more toward housewives (a/k/a women over age 25) than it does now, was thought to prefer male voices and personalities to female ones on their radios — apparently female listeners were thought to be soothed (or turned on) by male voices, intimidated or made jealous by female ones. (It’s important not to be too sweeping with this — clearly, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette and Barbara Mandrell and numerous other women were popular in the ’60s and ’70s — but apparently you’d very rarely hear any two of their songs back-to-back.)
Obviously, those stereotypes have loosened considerably in recent years — but the preference for men-with-twangs at country radio is the opposite of what’s desired at pop radio, where country women rule because the post-Shania/Faith Hill/etc. trends among country women are poppier than the post-Garth/Randy Travis trend toward “new traditionalism” among male artists.
Lifton – I go back and forth on this. I love the hooks and the opening line is as good as any in pop history, but Beckley’s vocals are so friggin’ wimpy.
Bolin – I. HATE. AMERICA. (The Band). These guys were the soft rock Bon Jovi of the 1970s. Not an original bone in their bodies. This song is nothing but an Eagles rip off (though a decent one). “Horse With No Name” was nothing but a Neil Young rip-off (it even bumped “Heart of Gold” from the top slot on the charts). Their band name was AMERICA, for Christ sakes. Is there anything more bland or less original than that? Even into the 1980s with their last hit “You Can Do Magic”, they weren’t just jumping onto what was the most obvious, MOR soft-rock of the day, they were freaking ripping off Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra” from the previous year. On top of that, these guys were the originators of “Muskrat Love.” There are people who have been tried in The Hague for lesser crimes than “Muskrat Love.”
The only interesting thing about the band is that the cover art for their greatest hits album (which goes by the (of course) bland name of History) was painted by Phil Hartman. Yes, THAT Phil Hartman.
Cummings – OK, you hate America (the band). So do I, generally speaking. But I LOVE “Sister Golden Hair” — and you didn’t have a single thing to say in your diatribe about that song, specifically.
#19: The Doobie Brothers, “Black Water” – #1 U.S.; the Doobies’ first chart-topper and third Top 20.
Feerick – So much Southern-flavored stuff on the charts in the 1970s — and all over pop culture, actually, from The Dukes of Hazzard to pretty much every movie Burt Reynolds made. A curious time — a five-year stretch when redneckery was something to which we were all presumed to aspire.
Yeah, I fucking hated the 1970s.
Anyway. “Black Water” is certainly catchy. As catchy as influenza. And like the flu, it leaves me kind of queasy and spent.
Medsker – I remember loving the a cappella break at the end. Listening to it now, it’s hard to believe that this was a #1 hit. It’s just so…odd.
Dunphy – Popular music in any decade is about circuitous decisions, and in this case I don’t mean the fiddle, the vocal arrangements, or the evocation of the Mississippi moon. As a matter of fact, if you are able to, try not to think about any of that and what you have, at the core of “Black Water” is a song not too dissimilar from Seals and Crofts. I posit that the distance between “Black Water” and “Summer Breeze” may be shockingly short. Now, taking that in, we have been saying of Seals and Crofts for the past few columns that their incorporation of jazz styles was that of a poor man’s Steely Dan. It would not be long before the Doobies fully embraced that jazz ethic by scrounging both Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (for all I know he is already on this track) and Michael (Yes, that guy) McDonald from the Dan, making the Doobies absolutely huge later in the decade.
But you can hear the genetic traits of all of that change here on “Black Water” if you listen hard enough.
Heyliger – My grandmother’s always been a major fan of easy listening radio. It was the only thing she listened to besides religious radio. So, I’m pretty sure I heard ‘Black Water” quite a few times before realizing it was…the Doobie Brothers? Really? Where the hell is Michael McDonald? It probably wasn’t until I was an older teenager that I realized there were Doobies before there were McDoobies. What’s become even more surprising over the years is that I probably enjoy Black Water/Long Train Runnin’/Listen To The Music Doobies more thanI like Minute By Minute/Real Love Doobies.
*exception being “What A Fool Believes,” which would be an amazing song even if it was written and performed by Satan featuring The Black Eyed Peas.
Dunphy – Wait…this isn’t already a thing?
Cummings – It’s difficult to overstate the impact this song had on me and my friends, as Southern boys who had no use for straight-up country and were slightly too young for real Southern Rock. There was a certain pride of place involved in knowing that a song with such backwoods appeal was also the coolest song on the radio at the moment. And we would stand around my next-door neighbor’s front yard for hours trying to re-create the a cappella section, like some sort of pre-teen redneck doo-wop group, fighting over who got to sing “I’d like to hear some funky Dixieland, pretty mama come and take me by the hand.” Having been weaned on stuff like this and “China Grove” and “South City Midnight Lady” (which was a daily staple on pop radio in southwest Virginia for years), I was definitely a Patrick Simmons/Tom Johnston guy and not a McD guy (sorry, Jason) — which means that, as Doobie greatest-hits albums go, I’ll always take Vol. 1 over Vol. 2.
Lifton – I went through a Doobie Brothers phase during my “classic rock is the only rock” phase of my late teens, and while I don’t listen to them these days (except for, of course, “What A Fool Believes”) , I have to admire how incredibly versatile they were, even before McD and Skunk joined. This, “China Grove” and “Long Train Running” are all very different in tone, and they’re all performed exceptionally well.
Matt Wardlaw – Wait. So classic rock isn’t the only rock?
Lifton – It is again now that Ween have broken up, Matt.
Medsker – Wait, when did Ween break up?
Lifton – About six weeks ago.
Wardlaw – Excellent.
I knew that something good would come out of Ween going away. Besides everything.
Medsker – I stand behind White Pepper. You can have the rest.
Bolin – I’m a bit too young to know the answer to this, so maybe someone can help me out: was Southern Rock so big throughout the majority of the 1970s that groups that had no connection to the south would either either write about it, or go so far as to sound like they were from that area of the country? I think that was one of the reasons I’ve never been able to really get into CCR, because it just seems like they were trying way, WAY to hard to make people feel that they were straight from the Bayou, instead of from the Bay Area. I get the same sort of vibe from a lot of the early Doobies, who gave off the vibe-never more so than in this song, which literally talks of Mississippi-who came off as folks from “flyover country” instead of what today is Silicon Valley. The tune itself though is rather nice, from the opening chimes (there were a lot of chimes in 1970s music, too, wasn’t there?) to the complex sing-along harmonies, this is nice music for a Spring drive, though it was still missing that one thing that made you say “Jesus Christ, that’s SMOOTH!”. That would come a bit later.
Cummings – Buck Owens lived in the Phoenix area through most of his childhood. Dwight Yoakam (since I’m riffing on the “Bakersfield sound”) grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Alison Krauss and Gretchen Wilson are from Illinois. Juice Newton is from New Jersey. Shania Twain and Robbie Robertson are Canadian, yet Robbie (another of Matthew’s faves) managed to write “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I could go on and on and on about people who sing country or Southern rock but aren’t from the South.
#20: 10cc, “I’m Not in Love” – #2 U.S., #1 U.K.
Feerick – I hadn’t heard this in years — probably not since I was a kid, when I remember the “big boys don’t cry” bit freaking me right out — and so I was not familiar with the distinctive floating-voices thing they’re doing here. I sussed it out pretty quick, though — there’s a Todd Rundgren album track that does the same thing, loading up a multi-track mixing desk with endless tape loops of voices singing a single note, then playing the faders like a keyboard. It’s clever, yes; but, you know, clever for the sake of being clever.
I like that you can still just tell that it written as a bossa nova. It’s barely there, but it’s there.
Tangentially: the ‘90s band Boys Don’t Cry allegedly took their name from this song. Mm-hm. Just as the alt-rock singer (and early-round washout on the last season of The Voice) Charlotte Sometimes supposedly took her name from the childrens’ book of the same name. Uh huh.
Look, the Cure have sold a shitload of records over the years. How come nobody is willing to own up and acknowledge them as an influence?
Medsker – I don’t know whether she was telling me the truth when I asked her about her stage name (she said she knows the song but was never a die hard fan), but I have a major soft spot for Charlotte Sometimes. Cute, sassy, and I love that she doesn’t sound like every other pop star wannabe, which is probably why Universal both signed her (she’s not like the others!) and dropped her (she’s not like the others), and why she used The Voice as a comeback vehicle. Sad. That record of hers was pretty damn good for 2008-era pop music.
Like “The Air That I Breathe,” this is on the short list of songs I wish I had written. Love, love, love those multi-tracked vocals, and I about exploded when Air paid tribute to the song 25 years later. Like I said about the Hollies track, you can see why people love covering this song, and you can see why no one has come close to replicating the original.
Dunphy – I love this song in spite of its weirdness, and it is eminently weird. It is a soft rock tune about a sad breakup, but it was being done by a band known as much for their musical sarcasm and proggy leanings as anything else. On the record The Original Soundtrack, this rather normal (in comparison) tune follows the opening long-form suite Une Nuit A Paris (One Night In Paris) that had more inclination to Queen and musical theater than the pop charts. The song itself has that whispered chant midway of “big boys don’t cry,” the admission of the picture on the wall hiding “the nasty stain that’s lying there,” and as Jack said, it’s totally a bossa nova (most evident on the bridge “Ooh, you’ll wait a long time for me”). It is extremely pretty and well produced, perhaps over produced, but I like it a lot.
You had conflicting forces at work here. Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman represented pop normalcy with the latter being a UK pop charts hit man (“Herman’s Hermits’ “No Milk Today,” The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love”). Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were pop anarchists, evident on 10cc forerunner Hotlegs and “Neanderthal Man.” That these two should somehow converge is unlikely, but it all came together on this album and song. When Godley and Creme left, Stewart and Gouldman continued on (from, I believe Deceptive Bends and thereafter) later taking on American lite-rocker Andrew Gold.
Heyliger – One thing I find interesting is how many songs pegged as innocuous easy listening have lyrics that are disturbing. This song gives me the creepy-crawlies from a lyrical standpoint, but it’s SUCH a well written piece of music. It’s definitely been covered to death at this point, but all the covers I’ve heard-from Will To Power on down to Tori Amos (maybe I got that backwards) are pretty good, with The Pretenders’ cover from the early-mid ’90s ranking among the best. Chrissie Hynde’s voice is perfect for this song.
Cummings – What’s the messy stain? WHAT’S THE MESSY STAIN?!? And wouldn’t the stain be ON her picture, not behind it? Among all my million and one responses to “I’m Not in Love,” in all its greatness, this is the one that best represents my verging-on-puberty self, circa 1975. So that’s the one I’ll stick to. The rest of you guys can have all the analysis of harmonies and tape loops and whatnot. I’ll just say that this song is amazing, and I would never dream of breaking out the Formula 409.
Lifton – I respect this song a lot but don’t really like it very much. I get it, he doth protest too much, so he really is in love. But it still goes on way too long, and seems to revel in its then-unique production. I love R.E.M.’s “Star Me Kitten,” though.
Bolin – Like the tune in the verse. Like some the arrangement. The rest of it have never jived right me me: it seems a combination of spooky, slightly prog-like music filtered through a Wings filter, with lyrics which can’t decide if they’re longing or just passive aggressive, and one of the weirdest middle breaks I’ve ever heard–like the studio was possessed by the ghost of a disapproving British schoolgirl who fucks with their instruments and then lectures them on making wimpy Mellow Gold, only to fade into the ether and let them have control of their song again.
#21: Jigsaw, “Sky High” – #3 U.S., #9 U.K.
Feerick – Damn, why didn’t I know about this when I was putting together my mixtape of themes for imaginary James Bond movies?
Medsker – Such melodrama in the opening! I don’t remember that from my youth – just the chorus, which is an earworm along the likes of that Carly Rae Jepsen song. That said, this is the most dated track of the bunch. May I point you to the lack of cover versions of this song compared to the other songs in this week’s batch?
Dunphy – Now we simply must talk about this. I had been seeing the image for this for weeks, hearing about it, hearing that everyone and their distant relatives are putting up covers of it on YouYube, but never actually hearing it. Then I heard it and thought, “Is that it? That’s the thing everyone is tripping over? When did this become a thing?”
Cummings – Paraphrasing Britanny from an episode of Glee (and continuing to shred my street cred) … “Call Me Maybe” has been a cultural icon for weeks now.
Keith Creighton – Had labelmate Bieber never tweeted and YouTubed about it – which sent 22 million girls into Pokemon-like seizures – the song, like the word “fetch” would have never happened.
Jeff Giles – I don’t know, man. It’s a pretty catchy song. And you could make a similar argument about any hit that ever happened — it always takes one person/team/label/coincidence to set the ship in motion.
Creighton – I agree – it’s a great song (I picked it up during last week’s Amazon $0.25 song sale). But the Bieber support elevated a hit song to a global phenomenon, just like Daniel Tosh’s tweet did to last year’s less stellar “Friday” by the Rebecca Black (a sweet kid who would kill as a Disney or Nick TV star).
Dunphy – I wouldn’t say it was an awful song but the reaction to it seems so off-kilter to whatever it actually is, at least to my ears. There are times when I feel totally Rip Van Winkled, and this was one of them.
Medsker – I’ve only heard it once, but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’ve still got the chorus in my head, so it has that going for it. Like I said, earworm.
Michael Parr – I hadn’t heard it until the Jimmy Fallon / Roots cover and was hooked. You can’t escape a hook like that.
Creighton – I’ll take “Call Me Maybe” and “Friday” any day over last year’s other inexplicable earworm, Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” Other than the Fallon/Springsteen version, I saw no redeeming qualities in it whatsoever. Though its hyper chorus proved the Fox News adage, repeat something often enough and people will accept it.
Medsker – I couldn’t shut Willow’s version off fast enough.
Parr – Oh, I was talking about the “Call Me Maybe,” that fucking Willow Smith song can go to hell.
Also, more on topic, “Sister Golden Hair” might be one of my favorite tunes from that era.
Heyliger – Screw you guys. I LIKE the Willow Smith song!!
Dunphy – On a Venn diagram, you can just vaguely see Jigsaw between Pilot (“Magic”) and 10cc, nailing that ’70s British pop sound but not really getting past the surface textures. I like the song from my memories of it but, having heard it recently after a long time away from it, the track is as weak as can be. It is repetitious, the chorus flounders and lacks the real punch it needs and instead degrades into a bit of a whine, and the whole becomes a contrivance versus an inspiration. However, as a sickly child of a man who ran an electronics repair shop in the mid-seventies, I remember Dad buying this 45 for me as well as Mike Post’s theme for “The Rockford Files,” and subsequently recording them onto an 8-track mixtape for me (yes…8-Track). My dad is 85% pragmatist and barely 15% sentimentalist, so as impotent as “Sky High” might be, the extenuating circumstances mean a whole lot to me.
Cummings – Another 45 that I plumb wore out, so much so that I had to replace it. Whenever I listen to “Sky High” to this day, in my head I can still hear the spots that were shredded by the record needle into a light fuzz. A few weeks ago, when discussing “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” I referenced an old column of mine called “Six Degrees of Bo Donaldson.” That column noted that the guys from Jigsaw had written the Heywoods’ follow-up hit, “Who Do You Think You Are,” which was one of my first faves. FYI for Jack, in that column I also noted that “Sky High” was originally written for a martial arts film called The Man from Hong Kong, which starred George Lazenby. So “imaginary James Bond films” isn’t a stretch at all.
Robert Cashill – I own a DVD of The Man from Hong Kong. Not many people outside of Australia do. Special edition, no less. HK martial arts star Jimmy Wang Yu is the lead and Lazenby plays a gangster in the Sydney-set film. It’s got a fair amount of hangliding in HK and Oz (hence, “Sky High”), which was second only to swinging as a recreational activity back then. The director, Brian Trenchard-Smith, is a Tarantino favorite; the Popdose-inclined should also check out his “Stunt Rock,” which mixes stunts and “wizard rock” by a band called Sorcery. Fun, ’70s style.
Cummings – Jesus, Bob, you’re such a dork. Happy Birthday! Go to bed.
Lifton – I try not to let my nostalgia affect my opinions of the songs, but this song, and “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention are perpetually associated with my first-ever trip to the dentist, where I distinctly remember them playing on the radio. You can’t erase that type of trauma easily.
Bolin – Ah, the ’70s. when everyone was a spy, and a band of anonymous, homely looking dudes could have a massive pop hit. I think this song, though it’s undoubtedly the one of the bunch least known in 2012, is my favorite of this week, as it doesn’t try to be anything more than a catchy, disco-influenced power-pop song. Plus I dig the bombast in the horn and string arrangements. I had to check to see if Rod Temperton had anything to do with this song, since the horn riff reminded me of those in “Burn This Disco Out”, but alas, while he was already in Heatwave, and probably beginning to make a name for himself, this track is sans-Temperton.
Also, re: “Call Me Maybe”, while I find it to be sort of an earworm, that just may be grading on the scale of what qualifies as a Top 10 hit nowadays, since I think overall the lyrics aren’t that great. My biggest problem with the song may be with the video, as well as the image of Jepsen that she/her management/record company is portraying of her. In the video, she’s got a “band” of guys who look to be around 17 years old “playing” instruments that in no way show up in the song. But than that, Jepsen is portrayed as the same age as her band, maybe even younger–as the high school or maybe even junior high girl crushing on a slightly older boy (maybe he’s even in college…ooooh), all decked out in pigtails and not knowing what to say or do to attract him. She comes off as your average, inexperienced fifteen or sixteen year old.
But she’s twenty six.
Let me repeat that….Carly Rae Jepsen is TWENTY-SIX years old, and she’s portraying a version of herself in the video (and for the most part, in the media) that’s made up to look 8-10 years younger than she actually is.
So let’s get this straight: the biggest selling album in at least a decade is by a woman who is three years YOUNGER than Jepsen, but instead of looking for the next Adele, more is being put in to making twenty-six year old women look like jailbait.
Feerick – Chasing that tall ephebophile dollar.
Lifton – Yes, but still…Cookie Monster.
Dunphy – E-FREAKING-NUFF!!
Lifton – Joyless heathen.
#22: Minnie Riperton, “Lovin’ You” – #1 U.S., #2 U.K.
Feerick – Rotary Connection used Minnie Riperton sparingly, as a special effect. Putting her upfront — the Maxi Riperton option, if you will — is a fraught proposition primarily because of the difficulty in crafting material to showcase her freaky-deaky voice in a leading role. “Lovin’ You” succeeds wonderfully — just about. It’s not a moment too short, that’s for sure, and that siren-like descant comes around not one time too few. One time too many? I dunno; and your mileage may vary. But definitely not one time too few.
Medsker – I can’t hear this song without thinking of two tone-deaf guys and a guy who speaks through a voice box trying to sing it. “Ahhhhhhh.”
South Park references aside, this is another one of those ‘only in the ’70s’ type of songs. Birds chirping in the background, impossibly high female falsetto notes…it’s mellow gold at its most unhinged. Personal results may vary.
Dunphy – I’m sure it’s a lovely song, but that screech rips my soul’s testicles off.
Heyliger – I’m almost sad that Minnie Riperton is best remembered for this song because it’s so…goofy, almost. Gimmicky might be the better word, actually. I hated HATED this song as a kid-found it unbearably saccharine. I’ve warmed up to it over the years. Not really sure why. Maybe the South Park episode won me over. Maybe I started liking it after I found out it was dedicated to Maya Rudolph, who I have kind of a crush on.
As much as people say Mariah Carey was a knockoff of Whitney Houston, I find that a lot of her more soulful work sounds like Minnie Riperton.
Cummings – Beautiful. And excruciating. And beautiful. And excruciating. And it was so sad when Minnie died in 1979, less than a month before Thurman Munson. (Pop stars die? Baseball players die?) But, really, her voice was excruciating. It made me giggle.
Lifton – I honestly can’t abide by this one. “Loving you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful?” I simply can’t deal with that level of shallowness, no many how many times women have said that to me.
Bolin – I really want to like this song. It has a pleasant melody and Riperton has a lovely voice. Plus, she’s responsible for Maya Rudolph, being one of the first celebrities to make people aware of the realities of breast cancer, and this song helped us believe that John was the Stamos with all the talent. Yet, this song just plain irritates the hell out of me: the arrangement so light it makes Seals & Crofts seem like speed metal; the damn bird noises; and, most of all, that “tea kettle” effect that she does with her voice. If I’m going to give Mariah Carey crap about the same thing for years, then I can’t be a hypocrite and not point out the same thing about Riperton just because she’s passed on. Simply put, just because you CAN do something with your voice doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. If one was able to do incredible beat-box work via farting, would I think it was a good idea to put that on a record. Hell no? Am I saying Riperton’s tea kettle sounds are equivilant to musical farts? Yes. Yes I am. This song would have been so much better if it has even the slightest bit of backbone, with maybe a Philly Soul arrangement and some actual percussion, and without the vocal “techniques” that push the performance closer to novelty than is necessary.