Music of ‘70s was better than this, right?


I grew up in the 1970s. Well, if you want to consider that I was in junior high when the decade started and was working my second post-college job when it ended, then I “grew up” then. At the time, I didn’t think the music I was listening to was all that bad. That’s why last Saturday was a little surprising.

Saturday wasn’t exactly a fun day to begin with. After trying my best to put it off for some time, we were painting. Not a big project, mind you — one bedroom, one small bathroom. For some out there, I’m sure that’s a quick project. Not the way we do it. It pretty much tied up the weekend.

By now you may be wondering, what does painting have to do with the music of the ’70s? Well, you can’t do something like that in the silence of the library. I need music in the background. For part of the time I had the local oldies station on the radio. They were in full flashback mode by replaying a Casey Kasem special (kids, ask your parents) that was a countdown of the top hits of the ’70s. Wow, my era I thought, this could be interesting. Well, sort of.

Some were good, some not so great. But the real anticipation of course was: What’s No. 1? After hearing Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” at No. 2, a song I really like, then No. 1 must be great, right? But, at the risk of offending those who like this song, I was really disappointed to hear “You Light Up My Life” by Debbie Boone was at the top. Not a big fan. Apparently plenty of others are, though.

I looked at my wife and said, “That’s the best song of the ’70s?! I have albums stuck in boxes in the basement from the ’70’s with a lot better stuff than that.”

But then I got to thinking. When Casey counted ’em down, it wasn’t so much music quality as records sold. Like everything else, it’s all about the money. So surely, there were better choices. Off to the Internet for research. “You Light Up My Life” topped the charts for a then-record 10 straight weeks in the fall of 1977. A quick look at the songs that bookended this one could make one think it wasn’t the best of years.

The song that Boone bumped off the top spot was “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco. Anyone with Meco albums in your past, raise your hand. That’s what I thought. And what finally ended Boone’s 10-week run? “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees. Don’t get me started about the Bees Gees. I bought as many of their albums as I did Meco.

Now I’m getting depressed. Maybe the music of my youth wasn’t that great. As long as I had the list of No. 1 hits of 1977 in front of me, I dug for something I liked — maybe something to back up my boast that I have albums with music better than the best.

Let me tell you, there were some bad songs in 1977. Leo Sayer had two hits with a voice high-pitched enough to make your ears bleed. “Car Wash” was a hit in 1977. “Hotel California” by the Eagles upped the quality level, but it only stayed No. 1 for one week. And I didn’t buy that one.

Finally, Fleetwood Mac saved the day. “Dreams” spent a week at No. 1. That was off the “Rumors” album, widely acknowledged as a classic, and the only hit of 1977 that was on a record I had purchased. (That’s what you did before you downloaded them — again, kids, ask you parents).

I think maybe I obsessed too much on hit singles vs. albums. Maybe some snowy day I’ll see what the top albums of the decade were. Surely that will include some of my small collection. The ’70 weren’t that bad, were they?

For the Debbie Boone and Bee Gees fans still here, I salute our musical diversity, but now that I think of it, my record collection might have more ’60s nostalgia than the ’70s.

Russ Batenhorst

Don't expect to detect a common topic or theme in Russ Batenhorst's weekly column in the Hastings Tribune. Usually it's whatever slice-of-life observation pops into his head just in time to make the deadline for it to appear each Friday.

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