Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Meme Evasion

I see over at Creek Running North that Chris Clarke decided to play the current meme game, and that he graduated high school the same year I did.

That was 1974.

The fun rules of this meme are that you download the top 100 songs of your senior year and mark 'em up according to your opinion of them. God 1974 sucked for music. I can't play the game, because I was way too hip to listen to "top 40 bubblegum shit" (as we called it) back then, and my opinion of that list has mellowed only a little over the years. For what it's worth, I think Chris did a fine job of parsing the list, though he's too generous by half.

Pop music was in a deeply pathological state in 1974. The industry was fully geared for mass marketing, as a result of the commercially intoxicating explosion of creativity in "the sixties", but the artistic tank was on empty. The end of Vietnam, Watergate, and the long string of death, defeat, and ignomy among the iconoclastic set left a gigantic void that had been avidly filled by the usual gang of hucksters, promoters, and accountants. They made bad plans, and executed them expertly.

Of course it's true that Art is Eternal, and the seeds of the next great wave of gut-blowing innovation were already sprouting in New York, London, and around the world, but in my little town, we had to depend on radio, and the stacks at our local record store. Pickings were noticeably thin.

In that year, we mainly depended on older music. I liked Cream, Mussorgsky, Hendrix, Art Blakey, Spirit, and pretty much anybody who had played at Woodstock (except Joan Baez - her voice makes my neck hurt). One of my friends listened to Bob Dylan, John Prine, and the Doors. Another one was fond of Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Rush, and frickin' Ted Nugent (he was the man of the future, eh?). A girl I knew always played Traffic, Fleetwood Mac, It's A Beautiful Day, and Pink Floyd. Her brother foresook rock altogether in favor of Muddy Waters and other antique blues. My girlfriend liked Fairport Convention, Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. We enjoyed each others collections (umm, Future Guy was marginal), but as far as we knew, it was a private club, and an apparently timebound one at that.

Even so, there were a few highlights.

Some good albums released in 1974: (in no order)

  • Frank Zappa - Apostrophe(')

  • Sly and the Family Stone - Small Talk

  • Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

  • Kraftwerk - Autobahn (CREDIT: A Future Guy contribution)

  • Lou Reed - Rock 'N' Roll Animal

  • Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic

  • Tom Waits - The Heart Of Saturday Night

  • Bob Marley and The Wailers - Natty Dread

  • Little Feat - Feats Don't Fail Me Now

When I got to college later that year, my roommate introduced me to David Bowie, which was a Good Thing. Our suitemates listened incessantly to Genesis and Yes, which swiftly became quite exhausting. My neighbor kindly played for me every single one of the Isley Brothers' albums (to that date), for which I'm everlastingly grateful.

Fight the Power. HUNNH!

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