Wednesday, September 08, 2010

My Look Back at the Music of the 70s (and recanting my previously confessed sins)

Photo: Sage in Japan, November 1979

In my last post, I sarcastically repented of being a chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic racist for my hatred of Disco. Bruce Shulman, in his book on the 70s, essentially blamed the backlash against disco on white guys with such characteristics. In this post, I will defend my choice of music and to show why I’m none of those things because of my taste in music. Furthermore, I am going to try to redeem the music of the 70s. Despite Disco, there really was some good music from that decade and now, thanks to Pandora Radio, I’m again listening to it. Some of the music, like Rick Wakeman’s albums, I’ve not heard since I got rid of my vinyl records in the mid-80s when I left the South to continue my schooling.

It’s hard to believe now, but AM radio stations controlled the airways at the beginning of the 70s. Top 40 stations were all in vogue and on Sunday’s, after church, we’d listen to Casey Kasen’s weekly countdown. With AM radio, I don’t know how I ever became familiar with albums like “In the Court of the Crimson Kings.” As the decade progressed, the AM stations caught Disco Fever. Instead of playing the music of groups like the Eagles, Chicago and Elton John, they flocked to groups like the Bee Gees, K. C. and the Sunshine Band and the Village People. At that point, many of us made the switch to “album stations” on the FM dial. These stations played music that didn’t fit into the top 40 genre. Here, I became aware of wonderful music by groups like Yes, Steely Dan, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Fleetwood Mac, Jeffro Tull and Bad Company.

Now let me defend myself of my sarcastically repented sins. If I was a chauvinistic and misogynistic, would have own the first two Heart albums (“Dreamboat Annie” and “Magic Man”)? I even saw them in concert in the mid-70s. Or would I consider Carol King’s “Tapresty” one of the greatest all time albums? And if I was truly homophobic, would I have listened to Elton John (admittedly, this was before he sang at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding) or Joe Jackson (not the baseball player)? And how about Traffic’s “Low Spark of the High Heel Boys”? That may not actually be a gay song, but “high heel boys does create an image with which I have a hard time. And I hate to admit it, but I even once liked Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” (now, when this song comes on and my daughter is in the car, I quickly change stations). As for a racist, during the late 70s I worked at a bakery and in the shipping area there were often radios blaring. Most of my colleagues there were African-American and they were certainly NOT listening to disco. In fact, most of them thought disco was a white corruption of their music. Of course, they always wanted me to “get down” whenever Wild Cherry came on singing “Play that funky music, White Boy.” Admittedly, we were all still more into the Motown sound, which I think is some of the best music ever recorded. And then there was Jimmy Hendrix.

So, Mr. Shulman, as much as I appreciated the rest of your book, your thesis about the disco backlash is full of crap. And as I finished this piece, Pandora Radio was playing the classic Yes song, "Yours in No Disgrace."

In Other News: This is crunch week as the big move occurs… In my spare time, I’m working on finishing up my 1987 Appalachian Trail posts, but am not sure I’ll get it done. It's taken me longer to write these than it did to hike to Katahdin.

I should write a post about that jerk down in Florida who is having his church burn copies of the Quran on Saturday (9-11). He says he wants to send a message, and he is, it just ain’t the message he thinks he’s sending. Enough said…


  1. I think you and I would get along with just one radio in the car and a long trip ahead of us. However, I seem to have fallen off the music bandwagon all together. These days it seems as all I listen to is talk radio if given control of the dial.

    I think the Quran burning in Florida and the torching of construction equipment at a mosque site in Tennessee only strengthen my point that the mosque 2 blocks from the 9/11 site in downtown New York is more about fear and hatred than about being sensitive to families of the victims.

  2. I don't know - I remember the Heart girls as being pretty. Maybe that was it! :) Just kidding. I think the greatest thing about being an adult is being able to evolve in your thoughts, tastes and beliefs.

  3. WOW, Sage n Japan and the Fujiyama Mountain behind you! Wonderful pic!

    Seriously, I can't think of you as a chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic racist for your hatred of Disco! My older brother had a similar taste to yours and he could listen to Pink Floyd and The Village People -YMCA can still be a hit at a party!-. I second Lynn: we evolve in our tastes and there have always been -and there will be- great musicians.

    About the Quran burning... the memory of what happened on 9/11 must be alive, but I think this is a scary initiative that will just generate hatred.

  4. What a ridiculous statement to think that's why we didn't like disco. I didn't like it because it sucked. My first impression was it was white guy music, like with the Bee Gees. I still hated it. And this is the first I've heard that disco was somehow connected to the gay world. News to me. I still hated it.

  5. no matter how I stretch my imagination I would never think of you, the writer, who is the only one I know as a chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic racist.

    As for your taste in music Eagles, Chicago and Elton John, I "dig", and I also like the Bee Gees,Carol King and the Village People. Heck, I still dance to YYYYMCA ( I still confuse which side the C goes). I dont recognize the rest, maybe because I came to the states in 1979, the very end of the decade.

    Casey Kasen, he's still around or is that an impersonator? seems he should be 100 years old; "keep your feet on the ground and your hand reaching for the stars".
    Something like that.

  6. Still I will defend his right to burn any books he has bought. The idiot.
    He is in that happy position where he can say and burn anything he darn well pleases, mostly because there are a vast majority in the West that hold a position like I do. Would though that I believed for one second that he held anything like such a position, for I hold he is far nearer to the Taliban and all other intolerant fascists than he might care to think.
    However, I do think that this pudding has been over-egged in a very major way.

  7. Ed, I don't keep up with much music these days-and generally am listening to NPR on the radio.

    Lynn, yeah, they were lookers! :)

    Leni, don't know why I didn't mention Pink Floyd. "Wishing You Were Here" is one of my all time favorite albumns, came out the year I graduated from high school. Yep, that's me in Japan WITH hair (and no beard).

    Charles, I'm overstating the connection between homophobic and disco--in 1979, there were some anti-disco rallys that got out of hand and some of them were anti-gay in substance. Interestingly, I don't remember the rallys at all

    Just Because, I am just making fun of myself and of Shulman's contention that some of the anti-disco movement had to do with those characteristics. It seems that I only hear YMCA these days when I go to minor league baseball games. I haven't heard Casey Kasen in years, but think he's still around

    Vince, yes, he has the right to burn books because of freedom of speech (just as a muslim or atheist can burn a Bible), BUT having the right and good taste are two entirely different things.

  8. No, Sage. He has the Right to burn books because he is Human.
    And from that concept everything derives.

  9. Even with notes, it's hard to think back on a trip and try to remember the details. So much easier to write about fresh subjects. I should have written a journal while I was traveling, even if I didn't publish until later.

  10. Disco - *shudder*

    I'm an 80s girl myself :)

  11. the 80s we still listened to heart...but it sounds like we would have gotten along back then...i spent my HS and college years on a loading dock too..

  12. There was such contrast in musical styles in the 70's, and overall some really great stuff. Some of my favorites were Kansas, Styx, FMac and REO, but probably a lot more folk and yes, even some disco now and then! I just liked good music and vocals... Good luck with the move!

  13. I like most all of the music from the 70's, but I wasn't much in to rock and roll at the time. As I grew older, I developed a strong liking of 70's-era rock. I've never considered it to be chauvinistic, homophobic, or racist.

    I think the pastor in Florida is a kook.

  14. As I listen to the rain and we enjoy the mountains near Lake Lure I smile at your Sage in Japan pic. I happen to like music of the 70s, but can't say I'm a disco fan. It is probably best if I don't comment on the Florida guy. With both the New York mosque and the Florida guy, having the right and being right are two different things.

  15. Vince, I don't know that I agree with you unless it's because we as humans have the right to burn because we have mastered fire... Or, he can burn the book and then face the consequences, whatever they may well be. Other freedoms, it seems to me, are granted by a collective. Of course, in the end, he didn't, it was just a media circus.

    Jen, I started journaling out of college in '79 and have done it (somethings doing it better than others) every since. I kept pretty good notes on my hikes

    TC, The Pretenders, the Police, Phil Collins, Pat Bentar?

    Brian, loading docks need good music, otherwise it's boring.

    Beau, I forgot about Kansas--I had several of their albums

    Kenju, I'm not personally moving, but work is moving

    Dan, I was taking the guys comments to their extreme conclusions to make such a statement about disco--which I hated probably because I've never been a good dancer

    Kontan, you're in a favorite place of mine, Lake Lure is beautiful, enjoy your Sabbath.

  16. I TOTALLY listened to the American Top 40 weekly countdown w/Casey Kasem! ...and loved Joe Jackson, Carole King, and Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album. Spectacular music all.

    I can't even think about that person in Florida. It's so unbelievably irresponsible and reckless of him to even speak about such a thing.

  17. My point hinges on the difference between the concepts of freedoms and of rights.
    One you hold and nothing and no body can take away from you.
    Much as I dislike the idea, for any time you hear of the burning of books then you find other nasty things, nevertheless he has the right to burn all the books he can afford. With the proviso he is not inciting crime or a breech of the public peace

  18. I loathed disco, too, being a classic rock sort of person. Also, given that my dancing ability only appears in inverse proportion to my sobriety, and you get the picture.


  19. Yes, we have lunatics in FL...they comes with the heat and the swamplands. What else can I tell you?

    I liked some disco music but preferred Led Zeppelin and other classic rock bands. I was more of a rock chick. :)

  20. I think you laid out a succinct argument in your favor and I feel much the same way. I really like Pandora radio myself. I was never a fan of Disco.