Disco might have been the dominant musical trend of the 1970s but there was plenty
of great music produced in other categories during the so-called me decade. I'd like you to hear some of my favorites.
Mountain men Felix Pappalardi and Leslie West
The antithesis of disco, the Long Island hard rock band Mountain is credited as one of the forerunners of heavy metal. The band had its origins in the Vagrants, a blue eyed soul band inspired by the Rascals. My first exposure to the Vagrants was their 1967 East Coast hit "Respect," a killer cover of the Otis Redding/Aretha Franklin hit. I discovered the track decades ago on the epic garage rock compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968.
"Respect" - Vagrants (June 1967, uncharted)
Super sized singer/songwriter/guitarist Leslie West, nicknamed The Fattest Fingers in Rock N' Roll, left the Vagrants to form a new band called Mountain. Mountain included, on bass guitar, the late Felix Pappalardi, a classically trained musician who had produced for the Vagrants as well as for the British psych-blues rock band Cream. Rounding out the titanic trio was drummer N.D. Smart. Mountain scored their biggest hit in 1970 with the #21 charting rocker "Mississippi Queen." My favorite Mountain performance is "Never in My Life," another track from their Climbing album.
Mountain had stones. Boulders might be a better word.
With lyrics that included:
When I wake up in the morning
You make me feel so good
Bringing me the cider whiskey
Feel a bit lonely too...
"Never in My Life" was a macho, two-fisted, no apologies, no holds barred, no prisoners sonic avalanche that, once and for all, put the heavy in hard rock!
"Never in My Life" - Mountain (March 1970,
uncharted track from album Climbing!)
Leslie West was a very large man back in the day. He looked like a double serving of Meat Loaf. Both West and goth rock legend Meat Loaf are diabetic. In June of 2011 Leslie West needed to have his swollen leg amputated to save his life. Rock on, Leslie!
In the 1970s Ann Peebles was the reigning queen of R&B/soul at Hi Records and Al Green was king. Infidelity was a common theme in Ann's recording catalog. "Breaking Up Somebody's Home," the third biggest hit of her career, is my Pick to Click for this gifted thrush. The buttery smooth Hi horn section alone is worth the price of admission. Add Ann's sultry voice to the mix and you've got a southern soul sizzler!
"Breaking Up Somebody's Home"
- Ann Peebles (March 1972, highest chart
position #83 Hot 100, #13 R&B)
"Hocus Pocus" cast its magic spell on me the very first time I heard it. The recording is a wacky, hallucinatory instrumental jam performed by Focus, a Dutch prog-rock/art-rock band from Amsterdam. The inventive recording has something for everybody: heavy guitar riffs, neo-classical organ, demented alpine yodeling, rapid-fire muppet gibberish uttered over a polka beat, an angelic falsetto, a manic flute solo in an echo chamber, an accordion solo, dubbed-in stadium applause, even whistling! On the full length album track the mayhem lasts nearly seven minutes! "Hocus Pocus" is infectious insanity, a studio masterpiece. The All Music Guide describes it as “the most inspired bit of looniness to come out of the prog rock era.” Originally released in 1971 on the Focus album Moving Waves, "Hocus Pocus" became a surprise top 10 hit on the American chart in the spring of 1973 - quite an unusual feat for a Dutch recording act. Best of all, "Hocus Pocus" still sounds fresh to me today. (Gee, I never thought I could love a record with yodeling on it!)
"Hocus Pocus" - Focus (March 1973, highest
chart position #9
In September of 1979 I went to see Sister Sledge on the Grandstand at the York Fair in a show that included the latest incarnation of Peaches and Herb. As expected the North Philly sister act performed "We Are Family," a disco song that had topped the charts a couple months earlier.
As I recall the girls also sang "He's the Greatest Dancer"
a top 10 hit from the spring of that year along with their
new release "Lost in Music."
I don't remember them singing "Mama Never Told Me," an obscure killer bee recorded in 1973 and originally released
on a 45 with "The Weatherman." Neither side of the single charted but "Mama Never Told Me" became an underground club hit and two years later reached the top 20 on the UK Singles chart. The extended mix of "Mama Never Told Me" was one of the tracks on my favorite dance music album
of the 70s, the heavily Phillyfied Disco-Trek.
"Mama Never Told Me" - Sister Sledge
THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
I was already hooked on the sound of California's Doobie Brothers band from their early 70s hits "Listen to the Music," "Jesus is Just Alright," "Long Train Runnin'," "China Grove" and "Black Water." In 1975 Doobies co-founder Tom Johnston persuaded the band to record a cover of "Take Me in Your Arms," a 60s Motown hit written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, originally sung by Kim Weston and also covered by the Isley Brothers. Johnston was raised on soul music and that made him Dell rat material. He won me over big time with his impassioned vocal rendition of the Motor City classic.
"Take Me in Your Arms" - Doobie Brothers
(June 1975, highest chart position #11)
Shipped platinum, the record industry's barometer of massive sales success, aptly describes the fortunes of arena rock super group Foreigner. Their first four albums sold like hot cakes and were chock full of commercially appealing, radio friendly rock hits. The band, consisting of three British and three American members was one of the most successful acts of the 1970s and remained popular in the 80s despite changes in personnel and musical style. Foreigner was and still is led by English rock journeyman Mick Jones on guitar and vocals. Jones had been with Spooky Tooth and the Leslie West band after Mountain crumbled. During Foreigner's early hit-making years Jones' American counterpart was lead vocalist Lou Gramm. I have more Foreigner favorites than I can even count including their ballads, but it's their rock anthems that float my boat. Here's Foreigner at their gritty, low-down hard rockin' best: a high charting single extracted from their third album Head Games, "Dirty White Boy."
"Dirty White Boy" - Foreigner
(October 1979, highest chart position #12)
Stay tuned. There's a Part 2 to Me Likey the 70s and it's coming your way soon!
Have a Shady day!