The Air Guitar Disciple . . .

airguitar2WHAT is it about 70’s music that evokes seemingly mature men to spontaneously adopt a Fender air guitar stance amidst normally civil (yet like-minded) individuals – and women to shun their inhabitations and regail in either the Nut-Bush or encouraging their girlfriends to join them on the dance floor – simply because “I love this song”?

One hit wonders including the likes of Patrick Hernandez or The Knack have a lot to answer for while groups such as the Bee Gees and their almost spirtual Saturday Night Fever album are just the tip of the whole disco iceberg.

Yes – Donna Summer, Roger Voudouris – the list goes on – and so does their music – no matter how good or bad their puritan talent may have been – you’ve gotta love an era where tie-dye was a fashion statement, where you could not only play vinyl but could wear it, where being a fan of big hair, big heels and big jewellery meant you were a big player.

But it was the ‘big acts’ – such as ACDC, Kiss and later Van Halen which led the Air Guitar renaissance – initiated by Chuck Berry and his legendary moves (so visually recreated in both Back to the Future I and II) with Johnny B. Goode.

There’s no doubt about it – the 70’s afforded us so much – yet the air guitar with its wailing six string riffs and hypnotic chord changes is a legacy which has defied the ages.

Go on – admit it – we’ve all done it before (either in the privacy of your own company) or on the dance floor – no doubt to the adulation of those adoring fans around you.

Why there’s even a US Air Guitar Championship – with auditions in no less than 14 States including Boston, LA, Washington and New York – where those handy with an invisble “Axe” via for $1000 in prize money and a trip to Finland to take part in the World Air Guitar titles.

Yes – disciples unite.

But take a moment to think about those lonesome Hofners, Rickenbackers and Gibsons lying dorment on shopfront showroom floors – just waiting for a home.

Ah – ‘ as my guitar gently weeps . . .’

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Pocket Money Memories

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REMEMBER when the tantalizing thought of having X-ray specs, trick soap or a ‘life like 7ft monster’ would be just the thing to amaze and delight your friends – all for a couple of week’s pocket money?

Generations of comic book readers will recall the promises of Sea Monkeys, Polaris Mini Submarines, the chance to be able to ‘throw your own voice’ or even have a body like Charles Atlas and avoid having sand kicked in your face ever again – if only your parents would allow you to order them.

The phrase “that’s just a waste of money,” still rings in my ears.

Personally, the whole get “X-Ray Vision Instantly” enabling you to see ‘real’ skeletons and nudity always grabbed my attention – I supposed the “optical illusion” disclaimer should’ve been a tip-off, but hey, which seven year old paid attention to fine print when the concept of checking out what bloomers the cute little girl up the street was wearing was at stake?

In fact I’d love to know how many of us who grew up in the 1960s and early ’70s were lured by those enticing ads?

It’s not surprising to learn that the man who patented X-Ray Specs also passed off brine as sea monkeys (remember them?)

Of course there was also the wonderful concept of being able to annoy your teachers and confound your parents by being able to ‘throw your voice’ or learn to become a ventriloquist – which basically meant sending you pamphlet which simply gave hints on how to articulate words without moving your lips.

Now, ever since the kid up the street would embarrass all and sundry by having a regulation six-pack (thanks to a regimented father who insisted on him doing 30 mins of exercise including sit ups every morning before school) I felt kinda besieged and the thought having Mr. Universe-sized biceps and never having sand kicked in my face again was – well – enticing.

I never sent away for the Charles Atlas program, but who doesn’t remember the humiliation of the 97 lb. weakling at the beach who remarkable turned his life around with a newly buff physique after subscribing to the Dynamic Tension program?

Then there was the 7ft life like monster, which was always pretty high on my list, along with the Polaris Submarine – which obviously had my sense of adventure working overtime – though at a whopping $7 was way beyond my means at the time – but hey – surely it was worth every penny – just check out the picture – it was high tech equipment – comic book ads don’t lie!

Toss in the Whoopie Cushion,. Black Soap, Exploding Golf Ball, Coffin Money Box, Joy Buzzer (the one you wore on the palm of your hand to give those ‘electric shocks’ to unsuspecting guests at family functions) and you start to feel my angst in never having been allowed to experience the joy of receiving that ‘special package in the mail’ – which in hindsight would have proved a life lesson in con-manship and scepticism.

I guess it meant that the pocket money I saved led to greater things – like skateboards and bubblegum cards, footballs n’ stuff that seven year old’s liked just as much.

Still, I can’t help but think about those X-ray glasses, that cute little girl up the road and what might have been . . .

Supergroups of the 70s

BATTLE OF THE BANDS GLANCE

THE ‘Supergroups’ of the 70’s – just who were the best, what legacy’s did they leave their fans – and what did their music mean to you?

Try to encapsulate a formal Top 10 and you leave yourself wide open for comment, criticism and perhaps a little egg on your face.

Sure you can base your results on sales, hits or longevity – but hey – sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut on this kind of thing and play favourites.

So in no real order let’s take a look at 10 of the best.

1. The Eagles
2. Boston
3. Queen
4. ELO
5. KISS
6. Pink Floyd
7. Led Zepplin
8. The Who
9. Abba
10. Fleetwood Mac

As for their best albums – well now you’re getting yourself into even deeper water – and yes – I’m expecting a little shouting from the rooftops on these as well.

1. Hotel California
2. Boston
3. Night at The Opera
4. Discovery
5. Alive
6. Dark Side of the Moon
7. Led Zepplin 3
8. Quadrophenia
9. Arrival
10. Rumours

OK – so I’ve left out your Steely Dans, Supertramps, Credence’s, AC/DC’s, Doobies, Status Quo’s and some of the more edgy stuff like the Ramones and Black Sabbath – but sometimes you’ve just got to draw a line in the sand.

Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda’s . . .

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Is there seriously anyone out there who can seriously say they don’t have a litany of woulda, coulda, shoulda’s?

For decades songwriters and artists have tugged on our heartstrings, regailing almost in their oft meloncholy tales of the one that got away – or worse still the one that never quite was.

Hollywood of course made an art form of it with movies like The Lake House, Somewhere in Time, Peggy Sue Got Married and even 17 Again – all resonated with audiences – not necessarily due to the credentials of the cast but the underlying theme when awakens that inkling in all of us.

Pleasantville, Back To The Future and dare I say it Groundhog Day are hardly Oscar nominee material yet all made gadzillions at the box office and for what reason?

Go on – admit it – there’s a coulda, woulda shoulda somewhere bottled up – that needs the celuloid genie to release every now and then.

Is there a lesson we feel we should be taking with us when we walk out of the cinema? Maybe – maybe not – but hey it is Hollywood and we all know the cost of dreams is still around $15 and a spare hour or two.

Glam or Sham?

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Finish this sequin – errrr – sequence.

The Sweet, Slade, The Rubettes, T-Rex, Alice Cooper, Gary Glitter . . .

Tough huh?

Once described as “a three minute long tribal outburst, with platform boots, glittering outfits, makeup, and a vaguely translatable chorus – and what you have is the outrageous freak show once known as ‘glam rock’.

From Hush to Kiss, Glam rock’s emergence into popular music was perfectly timed.

By the early 70’s rock had reached an evolutionary cul-de-sac. What the genre needed was something new and unpredictable – what we got was glitter and glitz – and all the hallmarks of a torrid but every so brief musical typhoon.

Although glam rock had been around in one form or another throughout the history of rock music – it was the era between 1972 and 1975 that many of the revered artists enjoyed their greatest success.

From David Bowie to Suzi Quatro, Iggy Pop, and later to the Bay City Rollers – Glam Rock was characterised by languid, narcotic ballads and raunchy, high-energy recietals.

Alice Cooper – the prophet of bad taste – characterised all that was good (and distainful) about Glam – relying on almost satirical opera and ‘shock rock’ to attract huge audiences– while at the same time being a craftsman of teen anthems including Schools Out, I’m Eighteen and No More Mr Nice Guy.

Powerful musical fluff – it’s now time to let the Rock n’ Roll music of the Glam Rock era to speak for itself.

Fan or Pan?

Stayin Alive (and kickin’)

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Here’s a quick quiz!

What’s almost 40 years old, has a main character named after a Brazilian colloquialism for “cool’ and was one of the very first of its kind to utilize the Steadicam?

If you said anything other than the movie Saturday Night Fever – then, sorry – go to the back of the disco.

Graduating from minor TV celebrity (following his role as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Kotter) – the world’s second most famous Scientologist – went onto superstar status as Tony Manero (yes – apparently “maneiro” is Brazilian for ‘cool’) in what is generally regarded as the movie that started it all – Saturday Night Fever.

Featuring the trials and tribulations of a Brooklyn paint store assistant (and local disco king) John Travolta almost single handedly (along with a little help from the Bee Gees) re-invented popular culture in the mid to late 70’s – strutting his stuff amidst flashing lights and mirror balls to the hypnotic beat of what was to become the biggest selling soundtrack of all time.

The cultural impact of Saturday Night Fever both locally and in the US was tremendous, bringing the burgeoning disco scene into mainstream society.

The Bee Gees had already written and recorded five songs for the film, “Stayin’ Alive”, “Night Fever” and “How Deep Is Your Love” (all performed by the Bee Gees), “More Than A Woman” (performed Tavares, and another by the Bee Gees), and “If I Can’t Have You” (performed in the movie by Yvonne Elliman) as part of a regular album (but apparently had no idea at the time they would be making a soundtrack).

Two previously released Bee Gee songs, “Jive Talkin'” and “You Should Be Dancing”, are also included.

Of course – there’s also the rumour, scandal and obligatory trivia such as John Travolta’s sister appearing as the pizza lady, and his mother appearing as the women for whom he gets the paint or ‘Connie’ – the girl that asks Tony if he’s “as good in bed as on the dance floor” was played by a then-unknown Fran Drescher, who later became famous on the TV comedy “The Nanny.” Drescher later confessed later she was not wearing underwear when she did her scene with Tony just before his big solo dance – hmmmm

Or even that the white polyester suit worn by John Travolta in the movie sold at auction for $145,000.

Iconic though is probably as close a word as you’ll get to trying describe the film and its soundtrack. Forget the analytical summations, forget the puritans – it was simply a package for its time – one that has transcended (and will continue to transcend) the generations.

. . . Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk – I’m a woman’s man: no time to talk.

I’m A Cusper . . .

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I had reason to squirm the other day, when I found myself in that place between uncomfortable reality and nostalgic recall.

If I’d ever had reason to doubt Stephen Hawking and his theories on time and space warping – it was dispelled in the blink of an eye.

I’m a ‘cusper’.

I’m one of those who can’t legitimately claim to be a genuine baby boomer – but equally can’t (by Georgian calendar standards) point to a Gen X lineage either.

I grew up with black and white television, ‘earned’ my pocket money and called everyone Mr or Mrs until such time as I was invited to address my elders by ‘name’.

Phone technology meant moving from two cans tied together by a length of string to the kid up the street whose parents bought him a walkie talkie for his birthday.

Google didn’t exist – we figured ‘stuff’ out for ourselves and what we couldn’t figure out we made up.

Teams were chosen by putting your feet into a circle and employing the democratic eenie meanie system of natural selection and insults were dished out using those little origami type contraptions a number and a colour.

‘Social’ and ‘Media’ weren’t used in the same sentence, vinyl was something you played at either 45 or 33rpms and ‘Spam’ was something you’re mother crummed and you were told ‘it would put hairs on your chest’.

‘Dobbers’ were (of course) never tolerated, grazed knees were worn as a badge of honour, fish n chips were considered a special treat and you could feast on 20c worth of mixed lollies.

The ‘tween’ years (when you weren’t quite a teen but then again not quite able to get into the flicks for half price) were almost as awkward as being an adolscent – but hey – the day I got my first handknitted ‘Starsky’ jacket was a day I’ll never forget.

So it was with the same awkwardness I endured as a 12 year old when asking a girl to go to my Year 6 end of school dance that all those feelings surfaced as one of my daughters proudly ‘waltzed’ into our loungeroom – decked out in her version of what the 70s represented.

Adorned with ‘peace’ chains, psychedelic colours, platforms and blue eyeshadow – she looked more like a cast member from Austin Powers than my recollection of the era – but no doubt the effort was there.

I cast my minds eye back 30 years ago when I remember shuffling off to a 50s-themed party decked out in what I thought was the quinntessential ‘Happy Days’ look – complete with letterman jacket, slicked back hair and stove pipe ‘strides’.

The wheel it would seem turns.

And like sands through the hourglass – so are the days of our lives . . .

Retro TV – The Beatles Animated Series

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As a kid, I had a lot of early television memories. Fury, Ruff n Ready, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillies and Leave It To Beaver among them.

Perhaps it was the cheap babysitting ideal the timber veneer His Masters Voice set represented – who knows – but as a three year old plainly televsion resonated.

Besides colour (which televsion WASN’T back in 60s Australia) – music would be a good reason to attract and keep the attention of a three year old – and The Beatles animated series featuring the fanciful and musical misadventures of the popular English band filled that niche.

Each episode had a name of a Beatles song, featured an animated story based on that song’s lyrics and also played at some time during its screening.

The series was a historical milestone as well, being the first weekly television series to feature animated versions of real, living people. In addition, there were also sing along sequences.

For the trivia buffs, John, Paul, George and Ringo had nothing to do with the series’ production beyond the use of their music with actors Paul Frees and Lance Percival doing the voice over work of the Fab Four.

Kicking off with the very first episode entitled A Hard Day’s Night and I Want to Hold Your Hand where The Beatles are in Transylvania rehearsing in a haunted house with “monstrous” visitors through to the final episode ‘Wait I’m Only Sleeping’ where a mythical The Prince of Krapotkin’s girlfriend is in grave danger and The Beatles help to save her by playing Penny Lane and Elanor Rigby to put a mythical dragon to sleep . . . the story lines just got better as the series unfolded- but for four years the series did just that – and had a legion of fans.

Did it matter to a young bloke in just shorts and a smile? Not in the least.

That it outlasted many other sitcoms also speaks volumes about the offering back in the day.

The series was syndicated worldwide on television after the original series ended in 1969.

One Hit Wonders of the 70s – Judie Tzuke

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SHE performed under the name of Judie Tzuke, was born in London to an English mother and a father of Polish extract – but more importantly is one of the more obscure ‘‘One Hit Wonders’’ to have breezed through the charts in the late 70s.

Judie Myers was educated in the visual and performing arts, and was a regular on the folk club circuit from the age of 15.

Her father’s family had come to Britain from Poland in the 1920’s and had originally settled in Yorkshire. They had changed their name from “Tzuke” to Myers because it was one of the more common names in Yorkshire at that time and they wanted to blend into the community.

Her father, was a successful Park Lane based property developer, who also managed artists and singers, and at one time co-managed and supported Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice while they wrote Jesus Christ Superstar but died a few weeks before the musical opened.

Her mother was an actress in films and popular TV series including The Marty Feldman show and The Goodies.

A poet at heart, Tzuke was convinced to produce a series of demo tapes and through circumstance managed to secure a record deal with David Bowie and T-Rex producer Tony Visconti’s label Good Earth.

Changing her name from Myers back to her original family’s surname Tzuke, the single ‘‘These are The Laws’ was released to little fanfare and even less success.

In 1977 she signed with Elton John’s label -The Rocket Record Company. Her first single was on Rocket, “For You”, released in 1978.
Her first (and only) major success, “Stay with Me till Dawn”, was released in 1979.

The track, which was co-written with Mike Paxman, became a Top 20 hit in the UK in the summer of 1979 and a Top 10 hit in Australia and was featured on Tzuke’s 1979 debut album, ‘Welcome to the Cruise’ which was also a Top 20 hit.

In 2002, “Stay With Me Till Dawn” was chosen by the British public in a poll of the 50 Best British Songs 1952–2002 (ranking at number 39).

In 1980, Judie and her band toured America for three months as support to Elton John – but during the tour Elton John decided to change the US distribution for his Rocket label from MCA to the new Geffin label.

MCA consequently decided to stop all tour support and promotion for the acts on the Rocket label, which meant that Tzuke was playing to huge audiences, including 450,000 people in New York’s Central Park, but no-one knew who she was and her records were not available in the shops.

Tzuke continues to perform to this day.

Where Were You in 1976?

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GIVEN the demographic, the question ‘where were you in 1976’ is probably a mute one – as I have to surmise that no doubt at least half of the blogging audience were little more than a twinkle in their parents eyes.

For those who weren’t and can still recall with fondness some of the great singles released in that year – there were a few standouts which have stood the test of time.

Some admittedly haven’t aged well.

Disco Lady from Johnnie Taylor and Love Machine from the Miracles would probably make that list – and have mercy on me even mentioning Rick Dees and the insanely tragic Disco Duck . . .

Yes, this was the era of The Bay City Rollers, The Captain and Tennile and George Benson. Obscure one hit wonders like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, John Sebastian and CW McCall. Even Cliff Richard and Neil Sedaka were still pulling big dollars.

But of all the songs from 76 – if I had to choose five which would prove themselves – the task becomes just a little bit tougher.

So as subjective as it may be here goes – in no specific order.

1. You Should be Dancing – The Bee Gees. In spite of claims by KC from KC and Sunshine Band that he is solely responsible for the birth of disco – I’m afraid history will show that the Bee Gees, John Travolta and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack well and truly trumps ‘Shake Shake Shake – Shake Your Booty’.

2. If You Leave Me Now – Chicago. Soppy sure! But admit it – you know all the words and sing along to it in the car when it surfaces on your classic hits station – go on deny it!

3. Fernando – ABBA. Cheesy and everything cliché you’d ever thought about the Swedish Fab Four – but there’s no denying it has been a survivor and regularly tops those Weekend of a Thousand Hit charts we’re bombarded with. Just don’t count me in when it comes to a sing along . . .

4. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody. Epic.

5. Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman. Not exactly their most revered track – but set them on the path to Music’s Hall of Fame without doubt.

Special Mentions:

December 63 (Oh What A Night) – The Four Seasons – ok so I have to disclose a pecuniary interest here.

Take It To The Limit – The Eagles – the meaning is in the message sometimes.

Thin Lizzy – The Boys Are Back – an evergreen party favourite – apparently.

Elton John – Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word. When Elton was still in his performing prime.

KISS – Rock and Roll All Night – iconic rock parodies of themselves – but hey glam rock never goes out of style right?

Boston – More Than A Feeling. So middle of the road soft rock that it genuinely challenges America and Sister Golden Hair and possibly the safest song to have ever hit the airwaves.

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