What Happened, 1972-1974

September 25, 2017 at 9:24 am (Uncategorized) ()


It’s easy to adopt a worldview on the history of popular music that goes something like this: The Beatles break up, for six or seven years music sucks, and then punk rock and rap and new wave come along to save everyone. If, like me, you grew  up in the postpunk era, you were trained to believe implicitly that the early 1970s were the famine years, the bleakest of eras in rock and soul music. As the yearly mixes from Scott Miller’s Music — What Happened show, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The barren years are indeed coming, but 1972 through 1974 are are a rich and vibrant musical landscape.

Think about it: after a year of post-Beatle breakup shock, you have a number of heady artists leaping into the fray to fill the void…some of whom are even represented here. During the early 1970s, Bowie, Zeppelin and The Stooges put out great records. Roxy Music exploded onto the scene. Badfinger  was ever present. The gas tank is about to hit empty…but Miller makes a great case here that 1972 through 1974 was a wonderful time to just stomp on the accelerator and enjoy things while they last.

And so here it is, three years of an end-of-the-world-and-I-feel-fine bacchanal for rock and pop music. This is where rock earns the whole “sex, drugs, and …” sobriquets, where the excesses truly manifest. The next three are going to be slim pickings, even accepting the premise that disco and prog rock were pretty good. Set the controls for the heart of the sun, and let’s jump into some notes on the year-by-year mixes.

1972: The biggest culture shift noted here is part of Scott’s writeup of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”. This was the peak — and also the end — of musical racial integration. As the 1970s proceeded, FM radio caused a huge split and segregation of radio audiences and pop music fans in general. Miller notes that “By 1977, the tribe that had become disco people did not talk to the tribe that had become heavy metal people, and radio that wasn’t market-specific had become commercially unviable.” This final Temptations hit was the kind of song that would suffer the most in this break.

Also ushered in for 1972 is glam. We’re at peak Bowie with “Hang on to Yourself”, and Roxy Music comes zooming in with “Virginia Plain.” If you’ve ever wondered why the nerdiest of guitar nerds champion Richard Thompson above all others, the track here should answer that for you. Jethro Tull brings us another song in a 5/4 time signature, and also an anachronism alert. “Living In The Past” had been released in the UK as a single years earlier, but didn’t show up stateside (and become an FM radio hit) until the early years Tull compilation of the same name arrived in ’72. There’s a generation who won’t understand how perfectly Jethro Tull segues into Pure Prairie League, but that generation didn’t grow up on 1970s FM radio; that Miller takes it right into Curtis effing Mayfield is some kind of awesome genius. The year concludes with my favorite two songs from this year, one from Yes (don’t hate me) and one from Todd Rundgren.

1973: Buckle up kids, this is the longest single yearly mix to date. This particular year contains a number of radio edits that you’re unlikely to notice unless you’re a wonk, but I didn’t try to duplicate Scott’s homebrew edits of “All The Way to Memphis” or “Jet Boy,” and both are just fine as is. Miller also cleverly insists on the 45 rpm single version of “Everyone’s Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine” by Stealer’s Wheel. I agree with him that the album version is far inferior, so the single version is the one I used.

This year’s mix is full of crowd-pleasers. We get our first and only Eagles cut, and it’s the only Eagles song I don’t actively dislike. I also love the way Miller describes beeing a 13-year-old kid in a record store and hearing Roxy’s “Do The Strand”, and how that probably transformed his life and career. Also, “Sweet Lady Genevieve” never gets mention with the greatest Kinks songs ever, and it should. Finally, although Scott Miller passed away in 2013, his eerie prescience on interesting music stuff written about in 2017 begins here with his inclusion of “So Very Hard To Go”, which is an incredibly amazing song, and whose inclusion at the opening credits of the game “Watch Dogs 2” this past year was one of the most noted uses of licensed music in a video game in recent memory.

1974: Look, buster. You got through 2 minutes of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy in 1968, you can get through 2 minutes of The Residents to kick off 1974…especially as the “song” intriguingly finds a melody of sorts after all that noisy craziness in the beginning.

Scott specifically notes that he segues out of that with the radio edit of “Radar Love”, and I’m happy for that. The song loses nothing with the loss of 3 minutes of single-note bass riffs. And then comes out of that with Barry Manilow. Take that, radio programmers. Elsewhere, Miller captures the quintessential Roxy Music track, “All I Want Is You”. Dave Marsh I think described the peak Roxy years as basically sounding like a DC-10 revving its engines, and that perfectly encapsulates the wall of beautiful rock noise here.

I didn’t try to copy Miller’s homebrew edit of John Cale’s “Gun”, and I think it stands as is just fine; if your only exposure to solo-era Cale was his hyperserious 1990s and onward work, finding out that he could rock like hell back in the day absent his Velvets compatriots is a revelation. Finally, ’74 concludes with the monumentally influential “Back of a Car” by Big Star. Miller requires this to be a vinyl rip, and so it is.

The other thing worth pointing out though is that with the Residents’ weird experimentation alongside Big Star, Roxy Music, Bowie, and yes, Barry Manilow in the same mix, we’ve essentially got the building blocks of inspiration on which Miller would build his own entire music career on.

What Happened, 1972

1972 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Joy” Apollo 100
  2. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” The Temptations
  3. “Virginia Plain” Roxy Music
  4. “Lean on Me” Bill Withers
  5. “C Moon” Paul McCartney and Wings
  6. “Living in the Past” Jethro Tull
  7. “Amie” Pure Prairie League
  8. “Superfly” Curtis Mayfield
  9. “Dirty Work” Steely Dan
  10. “Rocks Off” The Rolling Stones
  11. “Give Me Another Chance” Big Star
  12. “Roll Over Vaughan Williams” Richard Thompson
  13. “Big Brother” Stevie Wonder
  14. “Hang On to Yourself” David Bowie
  15. “Rock and Roll, Pt. 2” Gary Glitter
  16. “All the Young Dudes” Mott the Hoople
  17. “And You and I” Yes
  18. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” Todd Rundgren

What Happened, 1973

1973 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Can You Hear The Music” The Rolling Stones
  2. “Needle in the Camel’s Eye” Brian Eno
  3. “Speak to Me/Breathe/On the Run” Pink Floyd
  4. “So Very Hard to Go” Tower of Power
  5. “Everyone’s Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine” Stealer’s Wheel
  6. “Jet Boy” New York Dolls
  7. “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” The Main Ingredient
  8. “Gimme Danger” Iggy and the Stooges
  9. “All the Way from Memphis” Mott the Hoople
  10. “Sweet Lady Genevieve” The Kinks
  11. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” Bob Dylan
  12. “International Feel” Todd Rundgren
  13. “Certain Kind of Fool” The Eagles
  14. “Drive-In Saturday” David Bowie
  15. “The Song Remains the Same” Led Zeppelin
  16. “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” Elton John
  17. “My Old School” Steely Dan
  18. “Do The Strand” Roxy Music
  19. “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder

What Happened, 1974

1974 mp3 to download and track list

  1. “Boots/Numb Erone” The Residents
  2. “Radar Love” Golden Earring
  3. “Mandy” Barry Manilow
  4. “Home” Roy Harper
  5. “All I Want Is You” Roxy Music
  6. “Jungle Boogie” Kool and the Gang
  7. “Boy Blue” Electric Light Orchestra
  8. “Just a Chance” Badfinger
  9. “Sweet Home Alabama” Lynyrd Skynyrd
  10. “#9 Dream” John Lennon
  11. “Gun” John Cale
  12. “Free Man In Paris” Joni Mitchell
  13. “Tell Me Something Good” Rufus
  14. “Amateur Hour” Sparks
  15. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” Steely Dan
  16. “Killer Queen” Queen
  17. “Tangled Up in Blue” Bob Dylan
  18. “Sweet Thing/Candidate” David Bowie
  19. “Back of a Car” Big Star

What Happened,  1972-1974

What Happened 1972-1974 three-year mix to download or stream.

What’s all this then? It’s what happened, musically, during these particular years. No really! Hit that link for more info.

1 Comment

  1. Brad Kessell said,

    Thank you for this!

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