Sunday, January 25, 2009

Give Me the Chance to Make You See

I believe that the general quality of popular music suffered a serious decline in the late 1970s. One way you can measure this, since quality in popular music is a rather subjective concept, is by looking at what kind of staying power the hits of the time had. I recently listened to an installment of Casey Kasem's "American Top Forty" from Jaunary 1978, and there was hardly anything in there that people still listen to.

To take two artists that everyone is familiar with, Wings, a band headed by former Beatle Paul McCartney, was on the charts that week with "Girls' School." Further down the countdown, Diana Ross had a hit with "Gettin' Ready for Love." No one has heard either of these songs since 1978.

"Baby Come Back," by the band Player, was at Number One that week, and would be for three weeks, despite the fact that no one at that time or at any time since has been able to tell it apart from Exile's "Kiss You All Over."

I see here that Player's bassist, Ronn Moss [sicc], played Ridge Forrester on the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful. I'm sure he appreciated the extra scratch.

15 comments:

Volly said...

What I miss the most is the while mixtures of genres on Top 40 radio. Living in the south, I hear a lot of people opine that "only country folks know country music." That's not true -- in the early to mid 1970s in NY we heard almost as much Dolly Parton and Charlie Daniels as we did The Who and Bruce Springsteen. There were also those great 'novelty' songs by Ray Stephens ("The Streak") and Gilbert O'Sullivan. It was true entertainment, almost like vaudeville. Not just some corporation doing a focus group and raking it in.

Volly said...

Um, that's "wide" mixtures of genres. Not "while" mixtures...

T. Nawrocki said...

Yeah, I feel like those of us who grew up listening to the radio in the 1970s got a great gift in the eclecticism of the music we heard. Everything is so compartmentalized now that you have to switch stations compulsively in order to hear what came naturally back then.

Joe said...

That might be different than today. But not different from growing up in the '80s and listening to contemporary hit radio, or whatever they called top 40 then.

But beware golden age-ism. I'll just point that Taylor Swift, who's awesome, gets played alongside Kanye and Beyonce on Z-100 in New York. All three of these artists are crossing stylistic boundaries in interesting ways.

T. Nawrocki said...

That's as may be, but here in Colorado, aside from a handful of crossover artists like Beyonce and Alicia Keys, the Top 40 station plays Taylor Swift alongside Nickelback and Katy Perry, and the R&B/hip-hop station plays Kanye alongside Ludacris and whoever does that "Low" song, and never the twain shall meet.

Joe said...

Right. There's not a lot of hip-hop on Z-100, either. And there wasn't a lot of P-Funk on Casey Kasem's countdown.

Don't get me wrong. I agree that there was more cross pollination in the '70s, or at least that more hard rock and popcraft was danceable. (Black Oak Arkansas! Jim Stafford! The Bellamy Brothers!) But there's little question in my mind that Taylor Swift is a major artist, or that Rihanna is a major hit maker, or that Justin Timberlake represents a more significant blending of black and white culture than Jim Stafford.

In other words: Then, pretty great. Now, pretty great as well. General quality of popular music suffered a serious decline in the late 1970s: Pshaw. Chic's peak: '78 - '79. Sugarhill Gang debuts in 1979. Tom Petty breaks through in the same year. That's off the top of my head, not even mentioning "My Sharona."

T. Nawrocki said...

If you find Jim Stafford danceable, you're a much better dancer than I.

Joe said...

That kind of went without saying. But that song has a distinct groove. Some might call it swampy. I just played it and was surprised how glam it sounded. What's not to dance to?

T. Nawrocki said...

I take it you're not talking about "My Girl Bill."

Joe said...

No. And sorry I wasn't specific -- the only song of his I know is "Spiders and Snakes." Which turns out to be his biggest hits. And which you can dance to.

Joe said...

Now that I've read a little bit about Jim Stafford online, it's hard to believe you haven't devoted an entire post to him, or a series of posts with attendant YouTube links -- the man co-hosted "Those Amazing Animals" for the love of God.

Get to work.

T. Nawrocki said...

I've heard both "Spiders and Snakes" and "My Girl Bill" on the radio recently, and both left me surprised that Stafford had as much of a career as he did. To my mind, the most impressive thing about him was that he married Bobbie Gentry.

Joe said...

And he cohosted "Those Amazing Animals"! With Burgess Meredith and Priscilla Presley! That's a lot of living for one life.

I look forward to your serious of Stafford posts, culminating in your trip to Branson to interview him.

Seriously.

I am in no way joking.

T. Nawrocki said...

If I weren't so protective of my commenters' anonymity, I'd ask if you were the editor of a major music magazine. Because if you were, you could then pay me to write up the Compleat Jim Stafford.

Joe said...

Joe Levy
Editor in Chief
Blender
1040 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10018
212.372-3829
jlevy@alphamediagroup.com