Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Love the 70s Thursday Thirteen












I’m dropping in on Thursday Thirteen for the first time in a long time because I had a quirky thought about some 70s songs this week and said to myself, “Hey. That sounds like a TT.” And that’s how genius is born, my friends.

“My friends.” Oh, Senator McCain. Please stop saying that phrase; I beg of you. Please.

OK -- Thirteen 70s songs which contain funky stories.

These are not just odes like Elton John’s “Daniel,” or love songs, or songs about an event like when Buddy Holly died and Don McLean wrote that song which I won’t name here because then it will be stuck in my head for 6 weeks.

No, these are songs that have a beginning, middle and end, a narrative, if you will. I have listed either the writer or artist after the title. And here they are, my friends:

13. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. (Jim Croce, 1972). My 5th grade music teacher let us sing this song, but he was very adamant that we weren’t going to substitute some “pansy” word like “darn” for the “d” word in the song. As a result, when we came to the crucial lyric, half the class laughed uncontrollably, half the class yelled the “d” word, and I took the road less traveled by, and sat there mute and fearful that a lightning bolt was going to take out half of my classmates for swearing. That teacher was … not smart.

12. Brandy. (Looking Glass, 1972). Brandy the barmaid's story painted the strongest case for the feminist cause, ever. When I hear this song, I always want to say, “Brandy, you don’t need no stinkin’ sailor. Go back to school, get your degree, travel--see the world yourself instead of listening to some blowhard’s tall tales. Stop waiting around on that scalawag sea dawg.” I like to imagine that Brandy invented those little paper baskets that hold chips and pickles and became an independent, powerful multi-millionaire chain restaurant owner. Or something.

11. Wildfire. (Michael Martin Murphy, 1975). A horse “busted down” its stall and got lost in a blizzard. Then the narrator felt haunted by the horse and some girl who ran calling “Wildfire.” The end.

10. Indiana Wants Me. (R. Dean Taylor, 1970). Somebody dissed somebody’s woman, so the narrator killed the disser. And somehow, Indiana, my state, got mixed up in this awful song which includes sirens and the actual words: “This is the police. You are surrounded. Give yourself up.” Given a choice between hearing this song and being shot by the police, I might take the bullet.

9. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia. (Vicki Lawrence, 1972). So, Little Sister is singing this song about her older brother’s wife who cheated with everyone in town. Through a strange and totally implausible chain of events, Brother goes off to kill his friend, Andy, who cheated with the wife, but discovers that someone has already killed him. In a flash of brilliancy, Brother fires his gun in the air to summon a passing sheriff but is found standing over the body with a literal smoking gun. Brother is then hauled off, tried for murder and executed at midnight, which apparently sucked all the electricity out of the entire state of Georgia, in spite of the fact that he was hanged, not electrocuted. Plot twist: Little Sister done it for her big brother [“Gee, thanks, Sis!”] and got away with it.

8. Delta Dawn. (Helen Reddy, 1973). A beautiful girl gets jilted then walks around town with a suitcase in her hand for pretty much the rest of her life, or at least until she's 41, at which point her daddy still calls her "Baby." So she's got more than one problem. Modern day Miss Havisham.

7. Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. (Cher, 1971). The narrator, a 16 year-old girl, reminisces about the zany life after “being born in the wagon of a travelin’ show.” It wasn’t pretty, but Cher was, so everyone cheered and bought the album.

6. I Shot the Sheriff. (Eric Clapton, 1974). I think this is a song about perceived retributional justice, with the stoopid rationale for shooting the sheriff being, “Reflexes got the better of me/And what is to be must be.” He did not like it that the sheriff had it in for him, so his trigger finger got “itchy.” Noble, indeed.

5. Honey. (Bobby Goldsboro). Sad songs, they say so much. OK, this one’s about a guy who’s missing his “Honey,” who died. It’s a sappy, sad, sad song, which actually includes the lyrics: “She was always young at heart/kinda dumb and kinda smart” Nothing says “love” like a back-handed compliment. “Honey” planted a tree, and now it has grown big. And that is sad, my friends.

4. My Eyes Adored You. (Frankie Valli, 1975). Pre-pubescent, innocent love that haunts a grown man even after he has found fortune and fame. Contains the name of a bridge which confused every listener who never heard of “Barnegat Bridge and Bay.” It is a real bridge in New Jersey. Looking at this picture, I can’t help but think they’re lucky they made it past 6th grade since they walked that treacherous route every day.

3. Cat’s in the Cradle. (Harry Chapin, 1974). This song preys on every fear that conscientious parents have about not spending enough time with their kids. The lesson is, if you ignore kids, they will grow up to be just like you, a bad person/parent, and they will probably stick you in a nursing home and never come see you, and you deserve it, you bad, bad parent.

2. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (Gordon Lightfoot, 1976). Possibly the worst, funniest song every written, imho. “The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee.” Any song with the words “Gitche Gumee” and “Cleveland” in the lyrics doesn’t lend itself to elegiac stanzas, but Gordon overcame those challenges, and unbelievably, this dirge made it all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Next time you have a party, have everyone link elbows, sway, and take big, sloppy drinks of ale from frothy mugs while you sing this song at the tops of your lungs. Good times!

1. Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. (Dawn, Featuring Tony Orlando, 1973). This song is #37 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time, selling 3 million in 3 weeks. Wow. We must have loved that song even more than I remember (I was 11). Plot: Ex-con is returning home but is afraid to look at the old oak tree, because if the ribbon’s not there, he’s gonna have to bust some heads. No, just kidding. He’ll be … sad … and he’ll “stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me,” but it turns out he’s wringing his hands and asking the bus driver to look for him for no reason because lo and behold—100 ribbons are around that old oak tree! Everyone on the bus cheered! We just know they lived happily ever after, right?! Right!

And there you are, my friends, 13 story-telling songs of the 70s!

44 comments:

FickleMinded said...

the #1 song is the only one I know. :)

Nicholas said...

I love this TT! I remember so many of those, and they bring back all sorts of memories! It’s interesting that a bad song can be attached to good memories. Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves makes me think of my first job. Tie A Yellow Ribbon reminds me of one of the best summers of my life. I won’t say anything about Honey, because I’m still digesting my dinner! I Shot The Sherriff takes me back to college. And I was in northern Ontario when the huge storm blew up and the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Ontario. I was sad, but not as sad as I became when that dreadful song was released. Lightfoot is Canadian, so in Canada there was no getting away from it. I must have heard it every day! Boys, it’s been good to know ya!

Tightening the Corset Again said...

Most of these songs I never heard during the actual seventies because my parents a) didn't have fm radio and b) were part of that whole Billy Graham religious movement and didn't allow us to listen to secular music... however... in my adult years I have become familiar with most of these songs. Delta Dawn is one of my favorite karaoke songs...

thanks for the flashback! And btw, Tie a Yellow Ribbon was popular when I was in kindergarten! Ha!

heather

JohnH985 said...

That's some good songs and some songs I'd rather not remember. Anything by Jim Croce is great as far as I'm concerned.

I did 13 Beatle songs from their cartoon.

Malcolm said...

I really enjoyed the humorous commentary you included with this list of songs. I'll probably listen to these songs in a whole new way from now on... and that's a good thing.

Because you included "The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia", it made me think of a tidbit I read somewhere. That song was offered to Cher, but Sonny Bono reportedly turned it down. I wonder if or how that affected their relationship.

Susanne said...

You crack me up! Now every one of those songs are going to be running through my head all night long until I have dreams of Vicki Lawrence chasing Gordon Lightfoot with adoring eyes around the old oak tree and over that bridge while the Edmund Fitzgerald blows it's horn as it goes under it and Cher's gypsy wagon full of theives shoots the sheriff as he pulls them over for hauling a cat in a cradle behind their wagon. Thank You. LOL.

Angela said...

Vicki Lawrence from Mama's Family? I never knew.

lmerie said...

LOL, great run down of thrirteen 70's songs - you are so funny. And I am sorry to say, I had not put that together, the lights going out, yet he was hung. Things that make you go hmmmm

annie's eyes said...

Good job! Did you do this with lots of research or just from an amazing memory. I sang most of these songs from beginning to end--stories in songs--does that make them ballads? Now I'll be singing all day--it's not a bad thing, if you're not in my company most of the day. Happy Thursday 13 to you--fun memories. Love, A

Leebird said...

Oh my gosh....Wildfire....I think my sister and I wore out our 45 record of that song! Of course...I WAS the junior rodeo princess and my sister won first runner up in the senior pageant...even though she got too hot on stage and passed out. ;)

Becky said...

All I have to say is "Hey I married a "scalawag sea dawg." >:-[

LOL!

I love Cats in the cradle... its one of my faves... very illuminating ;-)

Great job on the list Linda.

Pam from alertandorientedx4 said...

ARWK! The Vicki Lawrence album was the very, very first album I ever bought! I know every word to the title cut. And on the album she covered Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly. I thought that Roberta Flack stole it from her. I used to set my "stereo" arm with the automatic record changer on it to repeat, and play that album over and over and over and over....my parents must've been driven crazy. I turned 11 the year it came out, but I even remember walking to the Globe store to buy it with my best friend the summer I was 10. Thanks for the blast from the past...and yes, I probably know EVERY SINGLE ONE of these. Some others I memorized: Angie Baby, by Helen Reddy and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.

Patrice said...

I loved the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree! I can remember singing that whwen I was a child!! Thanks for the trip down memory Lane!

Dena @ Green Acres said...

What a fun way to remember the 70s, even though I'm going to be singing Tie A Yellow Ribbon in my head all day now. Oh and my eyes went all wonky with the tie-dyed I love the 70's banner. That'll wake you up faster than any cup o' joe. LOL Fun post!!

Chatty Kelly said...

I absolutely LOVED this. I was singing along with all the songs.

It reminded me of a song (70s? I don't know) "Give me 3 steps, give me 3 steps Mister, give me steps toward the door." That song tells a story too.

And who knew Vicki Lawrence sang? I knew the song, just didn't know it was her.

sara said...

Here's the sad thing.....as I read each one, I started singing them......how is it that after all these years I can still remember the words? The only one I didn't know was Honey...I'll have to google that one!

Brenda ND said...

Of these songs "Brandy" is my favorite. Thanks for the memories.

Barb said...

I was in my twenties in the seventies. This brought back a whole flood of memories. And now that song by Don McLean is firmly stuck in my head, even though you didn't say the name...all because he drove his Chevy to the levy and I can't remember the next line! Arrggghhhh.

(Totally agree with you about McCain - I cringe every time he says it.)

Toni said...

Although born in 1972, there were only 2 that I didn't know. I actually have several of those on CD. I did not know the Indiana one or the Honey one.

Great list! Now, let's hope that at some point "And I said Brandy" in of course that weird raspy voice, gets out of my head!!!

Happy TT!

Gwendolyn said...

ROFL...I will never listen to these songs the same way again. My mother used to play every one of these on her record player when I was a little girl. Ah, the momories! I sang "Delta Dawn" all the way to my grandmother's house the night my mother was in labor with my baby brother when I was four years old. I somehow doubt that I had any idea what I was singing about. :o)

Mocha with Linda said...

Okay, Blogger just gave me an error after I wrote my whole comment. Guess that's what I get for being long. Let's see if I can remember. . .

1) I said thanks a lot for making these all run through my head. I can't remember Brandy & Indiana Wants Me right now but probably would recognize them if I heard them.

2) Young whippersnapper Angela's comment about Vicki Lawrence made me feel old. And reminded me of the time my husband heard a young gal in the 80's say "You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?" He just about died."

3) And I couldn't believe you didn't put a Carpenters song on there. Because this post IS Yesterday Once More. "When I was young I listened to the radio, waitin' for my favorite song, When they played I'd sing along, it made me smile. Those were such happy times AND NOT SO LONG AGO!"
("every sha-la-la-la. . . ")

I think that was all. I'm sure you're hoping so. :-)

Cyndy said...

We lived in Seattle when most of these songs were popular (Delta Dawn is now stuck in my brain for the rest of the day I'm sure) and I can remember sitting in the back of my parents 1973 baby blue Ford Pinto station wagon and listening to them all on the car radio with the windshield wipers a goin'.
The other song I remember singing at the top of my lungs was Sweet Gypsy Rose...you know, rings on her fingers and bells on her toes.
Was that Tony Orlando and Dawn?
Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Greg C said...

No no no. You forgot the best one of all. "Timothy" You remember. The one where the plane crashes and when the rescurers arrive Timothy is gone but the survivor has a nice full belly and doesn't know a thing. It kind of reminds me of todays politicians. The money is all gone and as Sgt Shultz used to say "they know nothing".

DidiLyn said...

This so made me laugh, Linda. One of my fave posts of yours to date.
I am awful because I always only know the chorus of songs and then make up words for the rest. Works for me. But I loved your take on the lyrics. LOVED IT!

jennifer@love,laughter,and lyrics said...

I love this post!!!

I'm laughing my rear end off over here!

I especially loved the story about that music teacher. What in the world?!?

PJ said...

I think I'm happy that I spent the 70's in South American blissfully oblivious of American pop songs...although I read both Time and Newsweek from cover to cover (3 times) every week. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" must have made it to S.A. because I know all the lyrics to that one!!! Yeah. Happy Ever After!!

Nadine said...

I'm a year older than you and do remember these songs except #10. Your description cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh and the walk down memory lane.

Tamara said...

Oh my, this was funny!

#13 struck me as funny, because my dad is an Aggie (Texas A & M). Their fight song, "Hullabaloo, Kaneck, Kaneck" contains the phrase "Sounds like h*ll". We always sang "heck" or just went mute on that word. Guess that's why I grew up to go to a good Baptist school (Baylor)!

#4 I totally thought, right up to this very moment, that they went over Bonnica Bridge & Bay. Huh...learned something new!

Laurie Ann said...

I was born in '70, so I didn't exactly grow up on those songs, but umph, some were not so good. I did enjoy your comments! They were hilarious! Great TT!

Patricia said...

Linda, you make me laugh!

We didn't get to sing any of those in chorus class. I remember learning "Lean on Me." I even have a vague memory of hearing that one playing in the gym during gym class. I guess it distracted me because I ended up with a jammed knuckle on my middle finger.

Couldn't have been I was totally clumsy and didn't quite catch the basketball right. Must have been worrying about being "your friend" and helping "you carry-oooonnnnn." *grin*

Heth said...

Would it be bad if I told you that all these songs were released before I was born? Heh, heh, heh.

Even though I'm not familiar with most of them. Your commentary was hilarious.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Um, yeah, Heth, that would be bad. You are some kind of Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown.

Robin said...

What a great list. I've now got so many different songs competing for air time in my head that I'm likely to start singing about how Edmund Fitzgerald with that flower he's got on went out and shot the sheriff...

Debbie said...

Too funny! I laughed and sung my way through the whole list. I'm with Greg that Timothy should have made the list along with Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. I can't believe you missed the dog song!

Barb -"but the levy was dry - and good ole boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye singin' this'll be the day that I die.

Kim said...

OhMyWord this brought back memories! Can't carry a tune but that didn't stop me from singing along with the radio :-)
It's sad that I can't seem to get my Spanish vocabulary down but still remember all the words to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.
Hey! That sounds like the beginnings of a good song...

kongobe said...

I laughed out loud thinking about your 5th grade class singing "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," haha. That's is hysterical!

Random Fact: my first night at Emens, Vicki Lawrence was there doing a 2 part show (as herself, and then as Mama). I had no idea she sang that song, and then soon after she came out right next to me as Mama (the way I remembered her from growing up).

Michelle@Life with Three said...

This was a great TT! I had no idea that Vicki Lawrence made an album. Wow. And Brandy, well that is one of my most favorite songs of all time. :)

Bernie said...

I'm sorta in the music business so this got my attention. THIRTEEN songs from the 70s that tell a story, not including that Don Mclean song that is now stuck in my head even though you wouldn't say it's name? No way, I thought. But sure enough, there they are. I have to admit I had no idea Tie A Yellow Ribbon told a story. And I'm so used to hearing the Reba McEntire version of The Night The Lights went Out In Georgia, that I forgot about the Vicki Lawrence hit.

Linda said...

Oh, I was singing right along as I read this! This is a FAB post! A few notes...

I loved Vicki Lawrence and I thought it was soooo cool that she made that song!

I think of the show Roseanne (back when it was all in fun and not hatin' on people. I remember them saying that Darlene thought that the one of the lines of Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves was "and every night all the men would come around...and lay the monkey down. I still giggle when I think of that.

And Dave Barry has a book about songs and one of them is one you didn't mention...America's "A Horse With No Name. He said - you're in the desert, you have nothing else to do...NAME THE HORSE!

He also mentions Wildfire...I don't know where you live, but Wildfire died in a killing FROST?! Plants die in a killing frost! Not horses.

Oh, this has to be one of my favorite posts! Thanks for the laughs.

Connie@Little Red Hearts From God said...

well Girl... I know them all...

Does that show my age or what??

i use to LOVE LOVE Brandy...

I was so not into that feminist stuff... just bring on the music... peace and happiness.... smile

Leigh said...

I LOVE 70's tunes and some of these are my favorites! Fun list!

Gretchen said...

Oh my goodness. I'm so having a trip (non-psychedelic) down memory lane. THanks for the smile. I had to come over here after visiting Barb's place and seeing the comment you made about your hair.

Honey, you done good. It's warm and so soft. Course you were cute in the other shot, too.

Susan said...

OK Linda, I'm reading this on SUNDAY after you posted it...and it is CRACKING ME UP! My cousins and I used to act out "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" along with "Dark Lady" from Cher. And, oh my goodness, "My eyes Adored You" was my "mantra song" in 7th grade.

Ah, the memories!!

:-) Susan

Darnelle said...

(concerning song #1)

"...because if the ribbon’s not there, he’s gonna have to bust some heads."

(You should know that I sprayed Chai Tea Latte all over my computer screen when I read that! And THIS, my dear, is why you're my fave!!)