Your crusty chronicler is wildly waxing nostalgic yet again. Having seen so many young’uns in the Los Angeles area wearing vintage rock band t-shirts, it struck me that it might be a good idea if these kids knew something about the assorted artists advertised across their chests. With the number of classic rock stations surviving in the L.A. area as well as all the remakes by popular artists, sampling and cover versions on such hit shows as Glee it seemed like a good time to experiment with a fairly new idea.
Hence this series: “Retro Rock: Do You Remember?” Here your favorite record reviewer lists and briefly describes actual songs (on 45s/singles) personally purchased over the years. The songs here will be presented in the order in which they were purchased not necessarily the order in which they were actually released. (So read on and by all means let me know if YOU remember any of these tunes!)
“Spiders And Snakes”—Jim Stafford: (Your crusty chronicler used to croon this in the shower. Ask any woman who has had yours truly spend the night since the divorce. Don’t expect the rest of us to wait though, mmmkay?) Stafford, an American comedian, musician, and singer-songwriter, was prominent in the 1970s. This was his biggest hit. By early 1974 the tune had peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It went gold, selling over two million copies.
“Seasons In The Sun”—Terry Jacks: This one is backed with a lesser-known but fun song called “Put The Bone In”. This is actually an adaptation of the tune “Le Moribond” by the Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics by American poet-singer Rod McKuen. In 1974 it became a worldwide hit for Terry Jacks as well as Christmas Number 1 in 1999 for the group Westlife. Jacks’ version is one of under 30 singles to have sold at least 10 million copies. The tune is essentially a dying protagonist’s farewell to friends and family (and a popular “morning after” shower song for your favorite randy writer).
“The Night Chicago Died”—Paper Lace: (This is another occasional shower tune.) It’s by the British band Paper Lace. It was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander. It hit number 1on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1974 where it remained for one week. It hit number 3 in the UK.
It was the group’s follow-up single to their hit “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” which (although it hit number one in the UK) most Americans never heard until it was later covered by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. The song is about a fictional shootout between gangster Al Capone and “the forces of the law”. The tune went platinum selling over one million copies. Oddly, Paper lace was never able to play the tune live in the US because of contractual obligations.
“Have You Never Been Mellow”—Olivia Newton John: OK, guys and gay/bi gals, which Olivia did YOU want to boink? (Your rascally reviewer almost married a rich woman who lived in Australia and who would call her “Liv” and “Livvie”.) This was the title track of her 1975 studio album. The song and the album both climbed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts and the Billboard 200 albums charts). The single was successful anywhere else but in Japan where it number 26. John received a Grammy nomination for singing the song.
“Philadelphia Freedom”—Elton John: Released under the name The Elton John Band, this was a hit single in 1975. In fact, it was one of many number one singles in the US put out by John in the early and mid-1970s. Written by John and Bernie Taupin for tennis pro Billie Jean King (who was part of the Philadelphia Freedoms).
Taupin has always said that his lyrics have nothing to do with “tennis, Philly Soul or even flag-waving patriotism” even though the tune would be repeatedely used the following year to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. It was, however, dedicated to the Philly sound and producer Thom Bell, with whom John would soon work (on The Thom Bell Sessions EP). The lyrics to this song are printed on the walls of the Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia. This hit tune was even backed with a memorable live track. It’s Elton John and John Lennon doing The Beatles’ classic “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Do YOU remember any of these songs? What are YOUR memories of these tunes? Let your favorite record reviewer know if any of this struck a chord with you!
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.