So the purpose of this exercise is for me to trip down memory lane and visit the songs from my formative years that left a memorable impression on me. I find that there aren’t many songs that really stand out in my memory from this particular time of year. I think vacation times in general (Christmas holidays, Summer) were a better time for absorbing music. Early to mid-spring always seemed like the time in school that you wished you were a bit further along in the year. Here are a few selected songs with associate memories:
1971: Another Day, Paul McCartney.
I have very vivid memories of any music associated with the Beatles both before and after their breakup. Hey Jude came out when I was in Kindergarten and I remember our school librarian writing a broad parody of the lyrics to remind us to return our books. I remember listening to Get Back at summer camp I attended with my best friend Andrew after Kindergarten. I loved the guitar sound even though I never consciously knew why I loved it. For whatever reason, it was probably the songs written or performed by McCartney that probably connected with me the most as a child. I didn’t really know that Another Day was a bad song or anything like that. I barely listened to lyrics at that time. Another Day had a slightly mathematical feel to it, there was a pattern or something that I figured was like some sort of game. A lot of McCartney’s songs have some strong musical pattern or logic to them apart from what the lyrics are trying to convey. I found this very friendly and reassuring to listen to as a child.
1972: A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done, Sonny and Cher
I started to really connect with music I heard on the radio in 1972, but but apart from a couple of songs early in the year, most of my intensive listening was done starting in the late spring and summer. A lot of what I heard around her house was whatever my oldest sister brought home. She was a Sonny and Cher fan so we had a few of their albums. Doing a rudimentary Wikipedia search, I see Sonny is attributed as the writer. I know Sonny wrote and produced a lot of their material as well as songs for other artists so I’m not surprised but I thought this may have been a cover of someone else’s song. I was too young to experience the duo’s emergence in the sixties, so all I have is the entertainment package for television that they provided in the seventies. It must have been really painful for the two to live so publicly in the seventies when there was so much strife in their personal life.
1973: The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia, Vicki Lawrence
As an American child with Canadian roots, I always paid attention to songs that had the word “Canada” in them. Well, I thought it said “Canada”. Wikipedai informs me the lyric is “Candletop”. Boy, this is a rather dark song isn’t it? It seems to be a rather unusual choice for Vicki Lawrence to cover. Well, not really. Vicki was then the wife of composer, Bobby Russell. As a ten-year old, the lyrics might have well just been about a power outage in Georgia. Power outages I knew about. We’d get them once or twice a summer and every 10 or 12 years or so, there would be a power outage bad enough to affect the entire New York metropolitan area and there would be TV footage of looters. I don’t think that’s what the song was about, though.
1973: Tie a Yellow Ribbon ’round the Old Oak Tree, Tony Orlando and Dawn
I really don’t get Tony Orlando at all. He had the whole thing going with Dawn with “Knock Three Times” and the much better “Candida”. Sort of a Latin/Soul/White-Guy-with-a-Mustache thing. This song just exploded when it came out, presumably because it resonated with the general public in the U.S. dissatisfied with the continuation of the Vietnam war. And he explores this whole Ragtime motif with this and a few songs that followed. I wonder if this song started the whole phenomenon using coloured ribbons to signify general awareness of a health or social issue?
1974: Bennie and the Jets, Elton John
At about the age of 10, I started to really like Elton John’s music while being generally unaware of the really special music he produced on his early albums. I mostly knew just the songs that made their way to AM radio like “Honky Cat”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Daniel” and the hits from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. A few things that puzzle me about Elton’s phenomenal success on radio- First, his songs were really long compared to the conventional hits on AM radio. He released a number of singles that clocked in at more than five minutes, and to my ears it sounds like a lot of them could have been shortened by a minute or more by reducing the musical filler. Second, I could never make out more than a few words of a Bernie Taupin lyric as sung by Elton. His diction was atrocious. But his songs were musically exciting and the music was varied. Elton was big on not repeating himself. And I love how he used the same musical trick as Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, emphasizing non-root bass notes in chords.
1974: Eres Tu, Mocedades
Is it just me, or does anyone else think the opening riff was lifted from the Canadian national anthem?
1975: Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John
By this time, I was purchasing singles and albums on my own. The first album I ever received as a gift was Elton John’s greatest hits. Next two albums I either purchased or received as gifts for my twelfth birthday were Chicago VIII and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The Elton John record came with a really cool comic book telling the story of Elton and Bernie. Philadelphia Freedom was one of my favourite Elton John songs of the time. This song probably reminds me of early 1975 more than any other song of the period.
1975: Lady Marmalade, Labelle
This was a fantastic musical production, which I grew to appreciate more as I got older. Because I was the only Canadian in the 6th grade and my classmates knew that Canadians knew some French, I would be asked for the translation of the line in this song. Thanks to Mom for providing the translation and giving me some social cachet with my classmates.
1976: Right Back To Where We Started From, Maxine Nightingale
An odd time in my life, before my thirteenth birthday and my Bar Mitzvah when my brain started developing the characteristic quirks that would define my adolescence and adulthood of living with anxiety disorders and slightly obsessive behaviours and thinking. I think I was mostly listening to CHUM AM radio at this time. I always liked this song, the string arrangement is pure 1976.