The Popdose staff, on the final installment of AM Gold: 1977…
David Medsker – What the hell happened here? This list pales in comparison to the ones from a few weeks ago.
Dw. Dunphy – It’s the beginning of the Carter Administration and the malaise has started.
Chris Holmes – This must be what stagflation felt like.
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#16: Alan O’Day, “Undercover Angel” – #1 U.S., #43 U.K.
Jason Hare – There will be no ill spoken of Alan O’Day!
Matt Springer – O’HELL NO.
Dw. Dunphy – I PROMISE NOTHING.
David Medsker – Dude wrote the theme for Mellowmas. He gets a lifetime pass from me for rhyming ‘flu-ish’ with ‘Jewish.’
Dunphy – Alan O’Day has nothing to be ashamed about…when it comes to his work on Muppet Babies. For this song however, I’ll be nice and say…
Jack Feerick – Say whu-u-u-ut?
Jon Cummings – I was a HUGE fan of this song when it was all over the radio, and it still gives me the giggles. I remember thinking there had to be a place that served as Central HQ for these mystery women: the Undercover Angel, the chick who appears out of nowhere to offer “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” … the Gypsy Woman, the Devil Woman … Kenny Nolan’s Rosie Palm … Anyway, anybody who responds to “Whaaaaaat?” with “Oo-hoo-hoo-wee” is aces in my book. Soft-rock on, Alan.
Keith Creighton – “Undercover Angel” gets the royal distinction of being my first-ever favorite song. As an almost-teen, I was really into the idea of having a secret girlfriend that nobody else knew about. This eventually morphed into my tall tale about having a girlfriend in Buffalo (at the time, I thought having a Canadian girlfriend was a bit of a stretch).
This Firefall track sounded great on Cleveland FM radio alongside Climax Blues Band, Average White Band and average white man David Soul. Though my favorite Firefall track wouldn’t emerge until the 80’s when “Runaway Love” made a brief splash on MTV. Their video vixen is one of the all-time hottest of the era; the band reinvented itself as a synth-driven new wave outfit moments before MTV banned anyone with a beard and receding hairline from appearing on the channel.
David Lifton – I love what O’Day did for us at Mellowmas, but still, I can’t abide by this. It’s not even as good as “Lonely Boy.”
#17: Shaun Cassidy, “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” – #3 U.S.; written by Eric Carmen.
Dunphy – This ain’t rock and/or roll.
Cummings – Clearly Shaun (and Eric Carmen, of course, because he wrote it) know what they’re talking about, because phrases like “get down, get with it” make for the rockin’est anthem since … I dunno … this. I mean, Jesus Christ, Eric, how quick was the fall from the Raspberries to this? (About three years, since Carmen’s original came out in ’75.)
Lifton – I have two older sisters who were of the right age when Cassidy hit, so my eight-year old self was bombarded with this. I had long since purged those memories. Fuck you, Time-Life.
Feerick – And yet, when John Fogerty wrote essentially the exact same song five, six years later, you all went nuts. Don’t hate Shaun just because he’s beautiful.
#18: Kenny Nolan, “I Like Dreamin'” – #3 U.S.
Dunphy – Scarily this gutless, smarmy, hands-down-my-own-pants monologue by Kenny “Imaginary Lover Dancing With Myself” Nolan actually does make Cassidy’s “That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” seem more like rock ‘n’ roll. Good going, Kenny and stop touching yourself.
Cummings – You gotta admit, the harp flourishes are milked (sorry) for all they’re worth here. Hope they paid that guy a couple grand above scale. In theme (obviously), but less obviously in melody and arrangement as well, “I Like Dreamin'” plays like a variation on “My Eyes Adored You.” Well, spank that monkey — Nolan co-wrote “My Eyes Adored You”! It turns out he also co-wrote “Lady Marmalade” (!) — which, considering how much wrist action he apparently was getting in the mid-’70s, must have been the only occasion on which the phrase “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” ever worked for him.
Feerick – What godless sadist gave a song with so many R’s in it to a man who sings like Elmer Fudd? That’s just cruel.
Lifton – Hey, here’s an idea. Let’s take Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams,” but remove everything that makes it great.
#19: Glen Campbell, “Southern Nights” – #1 U.S., #28 U.K.
Dunphy – Not as good as when Allen Toussaint does it, but Campbell doesn’t do harm to this bit of Nawlins’ musical etouffé either.
Cummings – Bless Toussaint. Listen to his version — on which his vocals are processed to sound like he’s singing from the bottom of the swamp. Yet it somehow remains more heartfelt and naturalistic than Glen, who sounds like he’s phoning it in from someplace that’s the anti-South.
Lifton – Thank you for saving the week, Glen.
Feerick – I don’t know what was in the air in the early-to-mid ‘70s that made everyone gravitate towards that piano-boogie rollin’-and-tumblin’ Southern groove, but it showed up in some unexpected places. I mean, it was inescapable: even John Cale, of all people, did a single called “Dixieland and Dixie” that drew from that same well. (Although, as always, he was ahead of the curve, releasing it back in 1971.)
I have a low tolerance for this kind of stuff, myself – I’d rather hear New Orleans music straight, no chaser, rather than a slicked-up, dumbed-down Nashville reinterpretation – but this is pretty good. Very much of its time and of its cultural moment, though.
Chris Holmes – Thanks to this discussion I checked out Toussaint’s “Southern Nights,” and it is quite a trip. His and Campbell’s takes really are two different songs with the same melody. Campbell’s is a decent enough take, although it has the cheesy, canned feel of a number from the Donny & Marie show.
#20: Firefall, “Just Remember I Love You” – #11 U.S.
Dunphy – I feel sad that I’m calling this the song of the week. I really am. This is the best that could come of this batch, Time-Life? Not terribly different from “You Are The Woman” in tempo or sentiment, the flute is replaced by a sax to let you know this is dark and smoky where the previous song was woody and had fruity notes. Or, to put it another way, it is a completely serviceable pop ballad about loving and being in love, and if you’re feeling that way that’s a perfectly fine thing. If you’re Kenny Nolan however, you should be ashamed of yourself. That’s only for pee-pee.
Feerick – Yeah, this one rubs me the wrong way. It seems churlish, I guess, to knock a pop song for being well-meaning but simplistic — I mean, that’s pretty much what pop is for — but this is a song divided against itself. The verse lyric lays out the symptoms, giving a painfully accurate of what clinical depression feels like, then the chorus offers up sunny banality as a prescription.
Newsflash: being reminded that she is loved will not cure someone’s depression, and may in fact make her feel worse. For someone in the grips of a depressive episode, who feels profoundly self-loathing and unlovable, the affection of others is an occasion for feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness.
If you really love her, man, don’t just send her this fucking Hallmark card: Get her to a doctor.
Cummings – Wait, wasn’t this Pablo Cruise? No, that was “Love Will Find a Way.” Wasn’t it Orleans? No, that was “Love Takes Time.” Wasn’t it the Little River Band? No, that was “Help Is On Its Way.” Actually, as much as it’s tempting to throw all these songs in a blender and see what comes out, I really like “Just Remember I Love You.” It’s got a great foreboding in the melody, even as it piles one sad-sack cliche atop another in the verses. And the last line of the chorus, descending into a minor key on the phrase “Maybe then your blues will fade away,” is one of my faves of the decade.
Lifton – Better than I remember, mainly because now I see that it has 12-string acoustic guitars, major seventh chords, and low harmony. I don’t much care for the lyrics, but it’s a pretty song.