The Isolation Generation – Sugar Sweet Seventies Part I

Pop music took an almost impossible 180-degree turn as the 1960’s ended. From the passionate songs of social conscience, songs with heart and soul, suddenly, radio stations became encrusted with the confectioner’s sugar frosting of gentle love ballads, songs to help you cope. There were songs that had no actual meaning, the radio equivalent of a slapstick sitcom. There were songs that implied a meaning, but left it up to interpretation. And there were the sad, the caring, the love songs.

This period was meant to ‘mop up’ the emotional mess of the Sixties. However, if you were just coming to understand the world at this time, as many Space-Agers were, you hadn’t experienced these problems, or at most, received limited exposure to them.

Instead of true feelings, more often than not, it was “dreams” and “wishes” or “self-pity” and “self indulgence” being sent to young ears, incapable of distinguishing truth from fantasy.

Sugar Sweet Seventies presents this collection of heart-warming, well meaning songs and wonders: What if pop music’s focus on social change had continued and strengthened instead of being abandoned?

*Note: Some of the commentary offered here is meant to temper the incredible sweetness of the music (which, of course, we all love). The object is to bring the material back to a tolerable glucose level.

Let It Be – The Beatles: When the 60’s were over, so was the most successful collaboration of the Rock Era. Yes, each member went on to a solo career, and received success in roughly equal amounts to talent, but even as they were splitting, the Fab Four set the tone for the time. The heroic anthem is almost a hymn (“Mother Mary/comes to me/speaking words of wisdom”). As they prepared for the end of their Beatle lives, they still had a couple of things to say as mouthpieces for the generation.–Let+It+Be

(They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters: “That is why/all the girls in town/follow you/all around.” Is this the first ‘stalking’ song ever? Not really, with Karen Carpenter’s golden voice. This a case of singer and song intertwining as if they were formed from the same DNA. Bacharach/David strike again.–(They+long+to+be)+Close+To+You

I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family: The Space-Agers get their first teen idol: David Cassidy. Constructed from some of the best session musicians (and an occasional vocal from step mom Shirley Jones) David carried this ‘family’ on a music and television odyssey with several hits, all faked by the actors on the show. Danny Bonaduce (who played bratty Danny Partridge) was quoted during an “E! True Hollywood Story” episode about the group: “We were the original Milli Vanilli.”–Partridge+Family

The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia – Vicki Lawrence: Written by Vicki’s then husband Bobby Russell, according to rock legend, this song was to be sung by Cher. Perhaps as a foreshadowing of his political career, Sonny vetoed it, saying it was “too offensive.” In a not-so-subtle manner, the song did criticize the justice system in small towns throughout Dixie (“well don’t trust your soul/to no backwoods southern lawyer/’cause the judge in the town’s/got bloodstains on his hands”). However, the narrator here is just as guilty as the system, so what’s the message?

Daniel – Elton John: A definitive “soft rock” song, it seems like there’s a concrete meaning to this tune, and yet, there’s plenty of room to project your own feelings into it, making it more appealing for everybody. Elton was commercial from the very start.–Daniel

Betcha By Golly Wow – The Stylistics: Aside from evoking images of children’s games (“Candy Land appears each time you smile”) and Barbara Eden (“you’re a genie in disguise”), this song brings home the point of finding that special person (“you’re the one/that I’ve been waiting for/forever”). Hey, no pressure.–Betcha+By+Golly+Wow

Another Day – Paul McCartney: Would The Beatles have performed this song? Elevating the mundane to important, the song is a veritable celebration of the tedium in life, through the eyes of an unnamed woman (“Every day she takes a morning bath/she wets her hair/wraps the towel around her/as she’s heading for the bedroom chair”). But, fewer specific details allow the listener to project their own lives into the song. Paul always was the most commercial of the group.–ANOTHER+DAY

For The Love Of Him – Bobbi Martin: Here’s a song that never got any play at an Equal Rights Rally (“make him your reason for living/give all the love you can give him/all the love you can”). The premise is the woman must play the subservient role to get love in a relationship. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap backwards for womankind.–For+The+Love+Of+Him+Jun+’70–Audio+Only+HQ+Stereo+++Lyrics

Day By Day – Robin Lamont and the Cast of “Godspell”: This entire song is thirty-three syllables long. It’s a prayer from the Broadway musical “Godspell,” (which later became a movie). Oddly, the song’s construction has more in common with Hare Krishna chants than any western religious songs. The repetition, the rhythms and handclaps make it almost trance inducing, until the final zither chord.–Godspell

Angie – The Rolling Stones: Devoid of both Love and Money (“with no loving in our souls/and no money in our coats/you could say we’re satisfied”), this relationship is over, whether anyone is willing to believe it or not. Clearly depressed, but unsure of what to do next, the singer is trying desperately to find a grip on reality, though gently.–Angie

Legend In Your Own Time – Carly Simon: Subtle disappointment and parental disapproval, dream support is at a premium here (“think kind of sadly/to yourself/this isn’t exactly/what we had planned”). Here, a child follows his heart into a creative career at the expense of a mother’s love. That’s a pain that will linger.

Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) – George Harrison: Would The Beatles have performed this little ditty? It does stick to the typical Boomer “demand-for-what-I-want” philosophy (“give me hope/help me cope/with this heavy load/trying to/touch and reach you/with heart and soul”). The question: is this a prayer? Or is it simply a command for humanity to get it together? Perhaps it’s both.

Rubber Duckie – Ernie (Jim Henson): From “Sesame Street,” it’s an honest-to-goodness Top 40 hit for Bert’s pal, who does an old-time 1920’s style Vaudeville song with a tribute to his bathtub buddy (“joy of joys/when I squeeze you/you make noise”). It’s an absolute delight to everyone (but especially to the “Post Lunars”).

I Am Woman – Helen Reddy: Billie Jean King, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug and millions more took this song to heart. It includes the most controversial lyric of the day (“but I’m still an embryo/with a long, long way to go”). However, it’s the issue of Equal Rights for women that made this the anthem of every Ms. On the planet (“I am strong/I am invincible”). One of the few “60’s style issue” leftover tunes, it proved that pop music could still flex its social change muscle.–I+Am+Woman

Touch Me In The Morning – Diana Ross: Almost, but not quite cancelling out Helen Reddy’s message of strength, this is a codependent ballad of a singer who wants their lover to spend one more night before the inevitable (“we’ve seen how love can grow/now let’s see how it dies”). It’s definitely trying to be sweet and comforting, but isn’t it, ultimately, cloying?–Touch+Me+In+The+Morning

Mother And Child Reunion – Paul Simon: “No I would not/give you false hope/on this strange/and mournful day/but the mother and child reunion/is only a motion away.” Simon references both the Bible and The Beatles here in this parallel parable to the Easter story.–Mother+And+Child+Reunion

The World Is A Circle – Diana Lee, Bobby Van and the Chorus of “Lost Horizon”: In the tradition of such great musical numbers as “Ya Gotta Have Heart,” “High Hopes” and “Theme From Laverne & Shirley,” this tune shows the audience that our group of underdogs, though down are not out (“and just because/you think you’re small/that doesn’t mean/that you’re small at all”). Yes, children living in Shangri-La can have their bad days, too.–Diana+Lee+Bobby+Van

If – Bread: Another wished-for romance, this song made the end of the world sound appealing (“then one by one/the stars would all go out/then you and I/would simply fly away”).–IF

Knock Three Times – Tony Orlando and Dawn: In those long forgotten days of yore, you knew your neighbors. At least you weren’t afraid to meet them (“if you look out/your window tonight/pulling the string/with the note/that’s attached to my heart/read how many times I saw you/how in my silence I adored you”). That’s a stalker by today’s standards.–Tony+Orlando+and+Dawn

I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony) – The Hillside Singers: This was a classic commercial, parodied dozens of times. The product was “The Real Thing,” Coca-Cola. Just like Jackie DeShannon’s anthem, heard on Commercials, this song also taps into the ‘Brotherhood of Man’ concept. However, it really was selling a product (the lyric heard in the commercial: “I’d like to buy/the world a Coke”).’d+Like+ToTeach+The+World+To+Sing愛するハーモニー訳詩付with+lyrics-Hillside+Singers

Vincent – Don McLean: The artist Van Gogh is the unmistakable subject of this song, filled with images of both his art and his life (“starry, starry night/paint your palette blue and gray…”). It’s a kindly revisionist’s history though. Everything was being romanticized at this time.–vincent

Song From M*A*S*H – Al DeLory: The movie/television theme turned Jazz Fusion instrumental, it takes the message of the music (“Suicide Is Painless”) and dumps it for a happier tempo, just as Herb Alpert did with “A Taste Of Honey.”–Song+From+M*A*S*H+(1970)

Time In A Bottle – Jim Croce: “If I could save time in a bottle/the first thing that I’d like to do/is to save every day/’til eternity passes away/just to spend them with you.” Is this the philosophy of a normal, well-adjusted person? Or are we swimming in the waters of codependency again? Even the dearest of lovers need some time apart. “Eternity” just doesn’t provide that.–Time+In+A+Bottle

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life – Stevie Wonder: Another ‘soft rock classic,’ the Harlem Boys and Girls choir serenaded the songwriter with his own composition at the 1999 Kennedy Center Honors (“you are the apple/of my eye/forever you’ll stay/in my heart”). It’s sentimental, without being sickeningly so, which is why it is still heard on radios all over the world.–You+Are+the+Sunshine+of+My+Life

Love Her Madly – The Doors: Almost robotic in its execution, Jim Morrison stays fully in control here, and that’s the joke (“all your love is gone/so sing a lonely song/of a deep blue dream/seven horses seem/to be on the mark”). The swinging organ and tack piano made it sound like the backup band was “The Groovy Ghoulies.” Now, that would have been ‘mad.’–Love+Her+Madly

A Horse With No Name – America: Who could have foreseen that the “Personal Odyssey” would become a lifestyle for so many Americans (“After two days in the desert sun/my skin began to turn red/after three days in the desert fun/I was looking at a riverbed”). The early 70’s focused on Ecology, as we looked to save the earth from the people who were destroying it: namely, us.–A+Horse+With+No+Name

Old Fashioned Love Song – Three Dog Night: Don’t be confused. This isn’t a love song; it’s a song about love songs (“you swear you’ve heard it before/as it slowly rambles on/no need in bringing ‘em back/’cause they’re never really gone”). Typically though, we only get the essence of the feelings, not the substance. We are avoiding, during this era.–An+Old+Fashioned+Love+Song

Clair – Gilbert O’Sullivan: Clair is a little girl, and, by today’s cynical standards, we would probably consider the singer a pedophile (“the moment I met you I swear/I felt as if something somewhere/had happened to me/which I couldn’t see”). That’s a sad statement. Still, though, there is a romantic element between these two, the doting babysitter and the child. It’s clear they care for each other, though what isn’t clear is their relationship (the singer isn’t Clair’s parent, since you cannot baby sit your own daughter — “I don’t care what people say/to me you’re more than a child”). But, if you can remove your gray-colored glasses, you’ll find an exceptionally sweet song to end Part I.’Sullivan–Clair

More to come…


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