I was doing some reading the other might while listening to Pandora, and I needed some comfort music to help get in the right frame of mind. I popped on the 70s AM Gold station, and I immediately felt a soothing, warming glow. When it comes to Top 40 pop, I think the seventies has every other decade beat hands down. Pop got overproduced in the 80s, but in the 70s it had funk, groove, and strings instead of synths. For your listening pleasure, I offer some of my favorite songs in the genre, with commentary.
Barry White, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe." Speaking of strings, the Love Unlimited Orchestra laid down the silky smooth notes that helped ease Barry's singular voice to orgasmic depths.
The Bee Gees, "Nights on Broadway." The winsome Aussie trio went from their sixties baroque Sgt. Pepper-lite pop to being the funkiest white dudes on earth. Not only does this song have some funkaliscious, back on the beat drumming, it concerns one the great pastimes of the polyester decade: hooking up for casual sex at nightclubs.
Billy Paul, "Me and Mrs. Jones." Speaking of illicit sex, no song ever made adultery sound quite as romantic as this classic slice of Philly soul.
The Carpenters, "Rainy Days and Mondays." The seventies were a real comedown after the shocks, assassinations, and broken dreams that closed out prior decade. No song to me expresses the seventies' macramed malaise better than this one. It's also one of the first songs I can remember listening to, so it's got plenty of sentimental meaning for me.
Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Along Again Naturally." The Carpenters were masters of pop songs with a dark, depressing edge made for dropping a few Quaaludes and passing out on the shag carpet feeling sorry for yourself. As sad as they could be, none of their songs were as frank about this one in discussing suicide. You'd never guess it from the jaunty tune or delivery.
Lou Rawls, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine." Seventies pop just seems so much more ADULT than most of the hit music today. Sure, there were plenty of bubblegum tunes like "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes" and "I Think I Love You," but then there's this track. I have to admit, it cuts me to the bone every time I hear it; there's so much raw feeling in it that I like to think of it as the only kiss-off song that can qualify as a masculine equivalent to "I Will Survive."
Albert Hammond, "It Never Rains in Southern California." Back in the seventies, before the state's financial collapse, Midwesterners thought of California as the great golden land of opportunity far from the sinking farm economy and rusting factory towns. Most of 'em stayed on the farm in my Nebraska community, perhaps because this song showed the disappointing underside of the Golden State.
Queen, "You're My Best Friend." Even though they're more of a rock band, Queen still managed to turn out one of the most perfect pop love songs you'll hear this side of Lennon and McCartney.
Al Wilson, "Show and Tell." For my money this might be the best soul love ballad of the seventies, a confession of love so real and true that it hurts to come out.
Glen Campbell, "Rhinestone Cowboy." Country music gave us some great crossover tunes in the seventies, but perhaps none better than Glen Campbell's signature cri de couer. It might sound cheesy, but when I was stuck as a visiting professor working myself to the bone teaching, publishing, and applying for tenure track jobs, I found the line "there's been a load of compromisin' on the road to my horizon" to be inspiring, and still do. The video is also seventies cheese at its most Limburger.