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The Decade That Wouldn't Die (Part I)

All this talk of the 70's has obviously woken a sleeping giant within.

Today I'll be offering a series of my older pieces on that wonderful, horrible decade. First up:

The Summer of '76:

Summer memory: On my 14th birthday I received Frampton Comes Alive. I sat with my friends behind 7-11, drinking beer hidden in Slurpee cups and smoking cigarettes. I had the album with me, in all it's vinyl glory, and my eyes glazed over in that 14 year-old girl way whenever I looked at the picture of Frampton on the cover. That hair! Those eyes! Swoon!

I never confessed that I didn't really like Frampton's music. I liked his hair. Ok, I went crazy over three songs on the album but the rest was crap. But I was cool for having it, and we went back to my house and listened to the stupid wah-wah pedal thing and when you are 14 and you just smoked some pot and the record player is emitting sounds of "do you feel like we do" played through some voice synthesizer, all you think about is some Charlie Brown special where the teachers are doing that wah-wah-wah voice and maybe playing some air guitar to Show Me The Way.

Holy shit! I was smoking pot at 14? You mean I only have about two years before my daughter comes home reeking of resin and bong water?

Anyhow. As much as Frampton's hair and synthersizer amused me, I had other musical avenues to explore. 1976 was the year the Ramones debuted. Kiss's Destroyer came out that year. Blue Oyster Cult's Agents of Fortune. Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak. And even though I had all that metal running through my brain, there was no way to avoid the musical vomit that came out of the tinny AM receiver that summer.

How many times could you hear Rick Dees singing Disco Duck before you wanted to go deaf? The song that defined my summer of 1976 in the worst way possible was Starland Vocal Band's Afternoon Delight. Sure, I was too naive to know the song was about catching a little noontime nookie but it annoyed the piss out of me anyhow. On one end of the radio dial you had Gordon Lightfoot mourning his Edmund Fitzgerald and on the other end was a constant barrage of More, More, More and Fly, Robin, Fly. I would always hope that somewhere in between I would catch Play That Funky Music, White Boy and I would close my bedroom door and do some spastic dance while pretending to be ultra cool.

I wore my Disco Sucks button with pride. And I spent hours in my air-conditioned bedroom dreaming up ways to change the music industry. I wrote my own lyrics, 4-chord save-the-world type lyrics that would show those white suit wearing disco freaks that there was more to life than dancing.

Save the whales, Save the whales
Send your money through the mail.

Later on, I would form a band called Pond Scum with my little sister and we would have revolutionized the music industry if we only knew how to play an instrument. Even though Lisa could bang out the Theme from M*A*S*H* on the recorder, we didn't think that was quite enough.

I would lay in bed that summer listening to the radio and Nazareth's Love Hurts would come on and I would cry. At 14, I knew nothing of love or hurt, but I knew that the voice coming out of my speakers did and his hoarse cry of sadness always made me feel as if love were nothing to look forward to.

1976 was the bicentennial of our nation, and while I remember the fireworks and the ships in the harbor what I remember most is the local theater only charging 76 cents to see a movie for the rest of the summer. Maybe we saw the Bad News Bears or maybe it was Blood Sucking Freaks, all I know is that at some point in 1976 I saw Burnt Offerings in a movie theater and complained that there wasn't enough gore or scares and that Oliver Reed gave me the creeps. And that year there was Carrie, which made me vow to never go to a prom or date John Travolta, and Taxi Driver, which made me leery of cab drivers and Robert DeNiro and Logan's Run, which made me think of plot holes and bad acting.

1976 was the year that there was all that hoopla about Red Dye #2 and I had to stop eating maraschino cherries by the dozen.

1976 was the last summer I remember feeling so innoncent, so oblivious to the world around me. 1977 brought the Son of Sam and loot-filled blackouts and the feeling that the world wasn't about some pop song and summer would never mean quite the same to me. At least not until 1978. But that's another story.

(And just for the record, Summer of Sam was one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life)

Comments

That Seventies nostalgia site (the one with the Bicentennial nostalgia) is absolutely terrifying and it's going in my bookmarks.

Oh god, you hated Summer of Sam too? I am not alone! That movie confirmed to me that Spike Lee is an across-the-board Hater of Humanity, though maybe he singles out white people for an extra helping of Special Hate Sauce. There wasn't even a cute, sensitive twelve-year-old African-American girl (his usual Mary Sue) to offset the utter hatred for every single character in the script that was simply oozing from every scene. Even the dog was made to look like an idiot.

"Love Hurts" made me cry too ... because I couldn't stand Nazareth!

Later I heard the Everly's sing it a few years later ... wow. In their hands, its a beautiful, tender ballad. YYMV, of course. ;-)

Didn't "Dreamboat Annie" come out in the summer of '76?

I never liked Heart.

I'm pretty sure AC/DC invaded the U.S. that year with High Voltage, too...

I was still too young at that point... I'm going to have to do something like this with the early '80's.... MY time!

AGH!! Spent that summer on the East Coast. First at the 4th of July bicentennial celebrations in DC (my mom still has a picture of me and my brother sitting somewhere overlooking the Potomac and the tall ships...gad). Then we went down to FL for a family reunion and to check out this new place called Disney World. For a brief time we were very cool for having been among the first of our friends to go to Disney World.

Summer of '76? I was 13 and not nearly as cool as you. I don't even think I knew what pot was (drank my first beer at age 18 and smoked my first joint at age 19). Maybe I can regain some cool points by stating that I NEVER liked disco. Then again, maybe not 'coz I didn't appreciate the musical genius that is George Clinton until I hit my '20s.

SIGH I am SUCH a nerd!

Summer of Sam didn't get 1977 at all. The CBGB scenes looked like a bad mid- 1980's British designer punk scene. Mohawks and body piercing did not come a long until later- circa 1980-81 or something. I was born in 1981 and live on the other side of the planet and even I know that.

The rest of the movie: cliched Italian characters and crude signposting [Don't Leave Me This Way is played when Mira Sorvino's character... is leaving her husband]

Bleaah.

My brother caught me crying to "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and beat the crap out of me. That jerk.

Of course, '76 was also the year that the Big Red Machine swept the Yankees in the Series. So it wasn't all bad ...

That any record reviewer thinks "True Confessions" was (even in 1976) Blue Oyster Cult's "greatest song" makes me lose all faith in humanity.

Or at least record reviewers, who probably aren't human anyway. Then again, he was writing for Rolling Stone, which means he's going to be wrong about everything anyway.

I'm still upset with my parents for not letting me see Kiss that year at the Civic Center in Portland, ME.

p.s. LOVE the Rock'em Sock'em Robots graphic.

Thin Lizzy is one of the most underappreciated rock bands ever, and Jailbreak is one of their best, for sure.

I've got this vague memory that '76 was the year of Rocky I also. Am I right on this? I was playing football and basketball for my junior high and working out and running to "Gonna Fly Now" all the way.

I remember my Mother gave me Frampton Comes Alive for my birthday that year. She gave it to me as if it were radioactive waste, and had that look like "why would anyone listen to that?" look on her face.

I have to confess I agreed with her after I listened to it (other than the "feel like we do" song).

In '76 I joined the KISS army, and that really freaked out my parents.

Holy shit! I was smoking pot at 14?

The 70s are like Vegas...what happened in that decade stays in that decade.
Or it should, anyway. As I said on my radio show recently: "War, recession, high gas prices, awful music, bad clothes...hey, the 70s are back...!"