The Seventies

>> Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Driving home tonight, I was flipping through channels on the satellite radio. The wonderful range of channels is why the satellite radio is worth paying for, it also creates this cable channel-type situation sometimes where there's a hundred channels and nothing on, or at least not the right thing on if none of the few stations you inevitably settle upon as favorites aren't playing the song you want to hear. So I went down the dial to the low end and started dialing up, and here I found the '70s station playing C.W. McCall's classic, "Convoy":




I found myself laughing so hard I almost had to pull over. This is--as you may know, if you actually clicked on the embedded video above--a terrible song. An epically bad song. Just under four minutes of insanity that somehow became part of a brief trucking fad. I know, perhaps it's not fair to judge an obvious novelty song on it's merits; then again, it's also hard to understand how something like this becomes a number one song in two countries and inspires a feature film.

I made an observation on Twitter about how "Convoy" was an example of why it's hard to take the '70s seriously, and my friend Jim Wright replied:

10-4, Good buddy, but I respectfully submit "Disco Duck" as a better example of 70's irrelevance.


...which was funny, because I'd already decided I'd do a blog post about how the '70s was an underrated decade but for the fact that you had hysterically awful crap like "Convoy," and I was already planning on mentioning Rick Dees' terrible novelty cash-in, "Disco Duck." But I also suggested, responding to Jim, that it was a tough pick between them.

I stand corrected. Jim, you win:




C.W. McCall inspired a Sam Peckinpah film, Rick Dees inspired... this:



The '70s was arguably the last great decade of American cinema and as much as it gets knocked musically (largely and unfairly due to the backlash against disco), it's the decade that produced punk rock, launched Bruce Springsteen's career; the list of number one albums in the U.S. in the 197os starts in '71 with George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and ends in 1980 with Lennon and Ono's Double Fantasy.1 It's a decade that you can go back and find some damn fine creative work in a range of media.

All of which somehow gets eclipsed by... this:



You know, it isn't fair. And that may make the 1970s the greatest decade in human history, now that I think about it. No, bear with me: the fundamental truism of the world, actually, is that life isn't fair. You can be damn good at something and not get the breaks, awful people triumph, good people suffer, heroes can have their reputations wiped out by one awful act and villains rehabilitated and enshrined in statuary . You can produce a string of powerful creative statements and notable achievements and when people think of you all they can think of is:



...because, good gods, how can you possibly unsee a thing like that? You can't. It will haunt the dark alleyways of your brain and no matter how quickly you walk past, you'll know it's back there in the darkness somewhere. Like failure, like regret, like guilt, like humiliation and all the things that will ever taint the best you could do and all you would have been remembered for it if had been up to you and you were actually judged on your merits and not your most ridiculous and worst moments.






1If you begin the decade in 1970 and end it in '79, you start with Abbey Road and end with The Eagles' The Long Run, which either makes or breaks my point depending on how you feel about The Eagles. I'll admit I sort of cheated in the '71-'80 sentence because I don't think there's a lot of argument about the merits of All Things and Fantasy and there's poetry in the Harrison/Lennon symmetry of it; I'm alright with The Eagles, but I think it's fair to say they were or are a polarizing band that's both revered and reviled, the latter to the point that some folks will hold them up as an example of everything that was allegedly wrong with '70s rock-and-roll.

Which isn't fair, really, for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that KISS was a better example of what was wrong with '70s rock. I sort of regret having to write that, because I was cluelessly on the KISS bandwagon as a little kid in the '70s and, as an adult, am capable of relishing the cheesy goodness that KISS brings to the table. Whatever else they were (or are), KISS was a fun band and their stuff remains great stuff to crank up on the road, shouting, "And party ev-er-y day!" at the top of one's lungs at the appropriate moment of that song. But, let's be frank: KISS was also a pretty mediocre band that made up for deficits in ability with a lot of empty flash (although that flash did provide plenty of entertaining bang-for-buck) and succeeded largely through relentless self-promotion and promotional shenanigans by their management and label that made KISS successful more as a quote-unquote "phenomenon" than as a band that was actually doing something, for want of a better word, essential. I.e. The Beatles were a phenomenon and Velvet Underground frankly weren't, but what the Fab Four and the VU had in common was that they made it impossible to listen to music in the same way or for being in a band or to play rock-and-roll to mean the same thing, whereas is anybody going to seriously claim Destroyer changed their life forever and would you still respect them if they did?





5 comments:

Dr. Phil (Physics) Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:31:00 PM EST  

Sadly, every decade has the equivalent of a Convoy/Disco Duck argument. You can't just pick on the 70s.

Meanwhile, the 70s is just chuck full of great music. The best of the 60s is really early 70s. And some of the 70s leaked into the early 80s.

Try putting on some Renaissance: Live at Carnegie Hall. That'll rid of these atrocities from your brain. (grin)

Dr. Phil

dablegem -- pretty much describes disco

Jeff Hentosz Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 9:33:00 PM EST  

The '70s was the decade of The Muppets, National Lampoon, and Mel Brooks' best work. Nothing else matters.

Besides, "Convoy" is cancelled out by the wonderful song "East Bound and Down" by Jerry Reed, and "Disco Duck," bad as it is, is cancelled out by "King Tut" by Steve Martin AND "My Bologna" by Weird Al. It is as if neither happened.

vince Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 11:16:00 PM EST  

Well, Destroyer changed my life forever. It was the song "Beth" that was the life changer, as it made me realize that as good a party and live band as they were, such bands should never, ever, ever write and sing slow, romantic songs, even if the song is about how it sucks to be in a successful rock band because all the rehearsal and being on the road makes your girlfriend lonely and sad, and thus insured that I would gain so much extra life in my life because i wouldn't waste it listening to such sucky songs by bands that might or might not suck regardless.

Dr. Phil, you are the only other person I know who even knows who Renaissance was. That's an awesome album and I have the CD after wearing out the album. Ahhhh... the sweet voice and awesome range of Annie Haslam.

Eric Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 12:43:00 AM EST  

Vince, you have successfully contradicted my assertion about Destroyer as a life changer.

I stand corrected.

Nathan Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 1:07:00 PM EST  

Eric,

If you'd watched the Family Guy episode where they go to the Kiss Convention, you'd know that the correct lyrics are:

I wanna rock and roll,
and part of ev-e-ry day!


Please get these things right.

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