Well, it was inevitable.  Song of the day, turned into song every couple of days.  Today’s song comes from number 67 on Paste Magazine’s 70 Best Albums of the 1970s.  It’s Uncontrollable Urge from Devo’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!  The album, released in 1978, was Devo’s first album and was produced by Brian Eno. The band formed at Kent State in 1972.  They have stated that the 1970 Kent State shootings were one of the things that influenced them to start a band. Bob Casale, the band’s guitarist and one of the founding members, who recently passed away, said in an interview in 2012:

We came of age in the middle of a huge cultural war. This country was basically in the midst of a new civil war - the lines were drawn very clearly. There was the preppy college kid who was going to be towards the war and then there was the counter culture who embraced early Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and they were doing pot and hash and psychedelic drugs, and they were against the Vietnam War. And the two sides hated eachother, and were ready to kill eachother. It was real.

The band’s name came from their idea of devolution—that society was getting less, rather than more intelligent.  Their official bio explains:

 DEVO dramatized conformity, emotional repression, and dehumanization in order to attack them, not to pay tribute to them.

The performance in the video is from “Fridays.”  Fridays was ABC’s late night, sketch answer to Saturday Night Live.  It aired for three seasons from 1980-82 and featured some guys you might have heard of like Larry David and Michael Richards.  I was not familiar with this show, so watched a few clips on Youtube and I can see why it never replaced SNL, However, Larry David’s hair is this sketch is truly a thing of wonder.

 

Devo with David Bowie, 1977, by Bob Gruen.  Photo via Super Black Market

I’m a little bit ashamed to say that I first became acquainted with Nick Drake through this Volkswagen commercial from 1999.  You remember the one. As far as commercials go, it’s a great one.  A summer night, two couples speeding to a party in their Cabriolet, top down, listening to Pink Moon.  They get to the noisy party and decide, nah, lets keep driving. You have to understand. This commercial spoke to me on multiple levels. First, my dream car was always a Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible from the time I was a little kid. Second, I love driving.  I love road tripping with friends.  The commercial captures the parts I love about driving.  Third, that beautiful song.  I immediately wanted to know what it was and this was before Shazam people.  I actually had to do a little research to find out.

The song is Pink Moon, off Nick Drake’s album of the same name.  And it is my song today, because the album is Number 68 in Paste Magazine’s 70 Best Albums of the 70s list.  The album was released in 1972 and was Drake’s third and final album.  He suffered from depression and died only two years later in November 1974 from an overdose of his antidepressants.  His music did not sell very well during his lifetime.  He was shy and was not comfortable with the public or the press.  All three of his albums were re-released as a box set in 1979 and his music gained a steady following.  As you can probably guess, sales of his music also jumped after the Volkswagen commercial began airing. To me, Drake’s voice is one of the more beautiful I’ve ever heard. The quiet, breathy quality has such tenderness.  It is very touching to me.

 

My song today is from number 69 on the Paste Magazine top 70 albums of the 70s:  Blondie’s Parallel Lines, released in September 1978.  I picked One Way or Another, because it’s always been my favorite Blondie song.  The album was Blondie’s third studio album.  Rolling Stone describes it saying:

[the album] is a perfect synthesis of raw punk edge, Sixties-pop smarts and downtown-New York glamour. 

The video is from 1979 from Midnight Special.  Midnight Special was a late-night television series that aired from 1973-1981 and featured live performances.  There are so many great performances from this show available on youtube.  First of all lets stipulate the Debbie Harry is freakin’ hot. Second, what is up with the dancers that show up at 0:59. The dude is wearing plastic pants.  PLASTIC PANTS! I love that this song/performance is a little bit punk and a little bit disco.  The dancers in the crowd seem not know exactly what to do with themselves by the end.

Debbie Harry on the roof of CBGB, New York, 1977

I’ve been trying to make an effort to do more blog posting and writing and so I starting posting my song of the day.  I have been accused by some people of being obsessed with the 70s—at least music-wise.  But the real question is how can one not be obsessed with the 70s music-wise.  So as an exercise, I thought I’d post a song from each of the top 70 albums of the 70’s as chosen by Paste magazine.  

Number 70 is the soundtrack from the movie The Harder they Come starring Jimmy Cliff.  I am one of those people who always says, oh I like every kind of music.  Truthfully, though, Reggae is not generally my jam. I do, however, remember seeing this movie as part of a Caribbean history class in college.  The film ,made in Jamaica, by Jamaicans, a first of it’s kind, was shown at the Venice film festival in 1972.  Roger Ebert said about the film:

Perry Henzell’s “The Harder They Come” is sort of two movies in one. First we get a Jamaican version of the standard black exploitation movie, with guns and gangsters and a flashy superhero turned folk hero. But the second movie—the one that makes the experience worthwhile is a celebration of Jamaican music and style. This was the first extensive American movie exposure for reggae, the insinuating Jamaican music that was just then beginning to make itself heard over omnipresent rock.

The soundtrack is from 1973 and my song today is the title track. This is the song that Jimmy Cliff, as the hero of the film, an aspiring reggae artist, records as part of the plot.

Michael Dare in his Criterion Collection essay about the film said:

Reggae was more than a style of music, it was a political, social, and artistic movement throughout Jamaica. The police shut down production on The Harder They Come many times due to the radical political content…

The Harder They Come perfectly reflected the political climate of the times, when similar forms of anti-government movements were sweeping America and the world. Audiences were ready to identify with a film about a hero who would “rather be a free man in my grave/Than living as a puppet or a slave.”

Image Source: moviepostershop.com

As we all know, this has been a rough winter for everyone.  This was a long weekend for me and the snow came again and basically ruined it. So, for my song today,I was looking for something to cheer me up.  Heart ALWAYS cheers me up.  I could watch this video over and over again.  I don’t think the Kennedy Center could have picked better artists to cover this song in honor of Led Zeppelin.  Ann Wilson’s voice wins out over the whole band and the choir and she never sounds like she is screeching. Her voice sounds effortless. My favorite parts of this video:

  1. Ann Wilson being a bad-ass (as usual),
  2. 3:42  President Obama rocking out
  3. 4:04  Is that Yo-yo Ma rocking out?
  4. 4:15  The reveal of the gospel choir and Jimmy Page’s reaction.
  5. 5:30  The perfect silence.

Ann and Nancy Wilson, 1977 (I did some googling and was able to find a date for this photo, but no attribution.)

My Christmas present to myself this year was an Xbox 360. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy playing it. Cut to today. I just spent four hours playing the original Bioshock and forgot to eat dinner. So, my song today is Peter Gabriel’s Shock the Monkey. According to that reliable, unquestionable source known as Wikipedia, the song is about jealousy and how it makes us act out our baser instincts. The monkey is a metaphor for jealousy. The video is highly creepy, as is Bioshock.

I watched Casino for the first time today, so decided my song today should be one from the soundtrack.. There are a lot of good songs to chose from, but none has a video as awesome as this one. Could there be anything more 70s?  Bubbles, glitter, lip gloss, an eye patch, and a bitchin’ base line—what more can one ask for?  I was curious about Bryan Ferry’s eye patch situation and looked it up.  It seems, he injured his eye somehow before the video shoot and decided to throw a patch over it and go for it anyway.  Well, thank goodness for his perseverance.