1973: Ain’t No Woman Like The One I’ve Got, Four Tops
According to a list compiled of the most often misheard lyrics, this song ranks high. Apparently there are more than a couple of people who hear the title line as “Ain’t No Woman Like The One-Eyed Gott”, which makes me think of Blue Jay pitchers from the Eighties, but I don’t know enough about his personal life to verify the other details. One thing that amazes me is that as a child, I made no judgement on liking a song based on the genre- soul music, country music, pop ballads, disco, folk- they all seemed part of a whole. I can readily imagine being a child growing up in the late eighties or nineties and making no distinction between rap music, heavy metal, power ballads, etc. I associate this song with my dad’s record store. I think by the time I was six or seven, I was finally allowed in my dad’s shop as a frequent visitor. As a toddler, I used to wreak havoc on stores, looking for plugs to unpull, shelves to climb, switches to turn, etc. My dad’s record store holds special memories for me and my older sisters. I’m sure we all have the occasional nightmare or flashback of having to use the toilet located on flight up from the main store level. First, it was a tortuous climb to hurdle all the junk and debris between the downstairs entry and the upstairs bathroom door. Second, the record store building housed every kind of insect imaginable. It was like I could leaf through one of my Golden books on insects and identify more than half found in the pages!
1973: Killing Me Softly With His Song, Roberta Flack
Listening to this song today, it’s easy to see how this song could have been successful regardless of what year it was released. It could adapt to a number of arrangements, and even though the seventies arrangement of this record is tastefully subtle, it is easy to hear it with production overkill that would be more suitable to later eras.
1974: Hooked On A Feeling, Blue Swede
This song was number 1 during the first week of April in 1974. Those Ooba-Chukahs, I’m telling you, really grabbed the ears of this ten year old. I had little awareness of the B.J. Thomas original. The production, to my current ears, represents a lot of what was happening around that time, and I’m amazed at how well this fits in with current American recordings of the time. Many songs were arranged with a significant number of horn and string players. Probably the majority of the songs during that time didn’t need full horn or string arrangements to serve the song well, but this song sounds really slick with the arrangement and production. I’ve never bothered to search online the origin of the Ooba-Chukahs; I have a feeling the real story would never live up to my imagination.
1974: Seasons In The Sun, Terry Jacks
The first classmate I ever really started to talk about pop music with was Alan Tillinghast. Alan switched to our school in the 5th grade, and he lived roughly in the same area as I did so we would sometimes walk home together and occasionally talk about music. Alan grew to be really close friends with a good friend from my elementary school days, Andrew Voelkel. Alan and I would sometimes sit together during vocal class because we liked to sing loudly. I remember talking with Alan about this song when it came out in 1974. Without understanding the full meaning of the song, I think we understood that there was a strong romantic feeling attached to this song that we probably both associated with grade school crushes. Some cool things I found out about this song in later years is that it was a song that was originally going to be released by the Beach Boys sometime in the early to mid-seventies. Terry Jacks, in addition to his career with the Canadian group The Poppy Family also sang backup vocals on recording sessions with the Beach Boys. I would imagine this would have had to have been for the Holland sessions. The Beach Boys ultimately decided not to release this, and Jacks was granted permission to record and release his own version. Terry Jacks’ voice is extremely distinctive, and I find his voice to be one of the most unusual I’ve heard in pop music.
1975, Lovin’ You, Minnie Ripperton
I don’t know how I would perceive this song today if it came out, but it felt to me at the time refreshingly sincere and unaffected. The high notes, of course, are the real hook of this song. I don’t remember coming across any parodies of this, but there must be several floating around. The video I’ve linked almost looks like a parody at the start, seeing the classical guitarist next to some kind of parakeet or budgie or something making the same kind of bird noises heard on the record. You can see the strong resemblance between Minnie and her daughter from Saturday Night Live, Maya Rudolph.
1975, Have You Never Been Mellow, Olivia Newton John
Had a huge crush on Olivia during her period where she recorded a string of hits in ’74 and ’75. I think I bought a couple of her singles, including this one. Objectively, I can understand why this has shown up on several Worst Song lists, and I think my favourites today are still the ones she did in ’74 with John Farrar belting out the bass notes. I have a thing for distinctive bass vocal parts.
1976: December 1963 (Oh, What a Night), The 4 Seasons
Franki Valli made a huge comeback in the seventies starting in 1975. I love all of his comeback hits. What I love about this one is the bass line. I’m not a bass player nor can I sing a convincing bass vocal, but I am drawn to innovative bass lines in songs. Probably comes from playing a low brass instrument in school. I remember one female friend from school in Toronto digging this song because she imagined it could have been about her conception, had she born a year later. Doesn’t even make sense to me today, but we all had crushes on her so it sounded logical.
1977: Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen), Barbara Streisand
I think it was at this point in my life that I realized that songs from movies featuring big celebrities and really lush ballads was a really, really bad idea. I’ve never been hugely drawn to Streisand’s music, although I love her version of “Stoney End” as much as Laura Nyro’s original version.
1977: The Things We Do For Love, 10 cc
An old school acquaintance recently sent me a link showing the making of 10 cc’s earlier hit, ‘I’m Not In Love’ which caused me to realize I had badly underestimated the genius behind this group. There were a number of clever, catchy pop songs from the late seventies that I only really grew to appreciate more in later years including this one. I wrote a song several years ago based on this title called “The Things We Do For Lust” but like many songs that seem like really good ideas, I was never able to execute this one properly.