Saturday, March 08, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Two - 70s Fashion Risk Edition, African-American Division


Okay, here's another poll. While I had originally planned on doing a "University Marxist" poll this time, there's just too much weird and wonderful stuff out there to do two Britpop ones in a row. We'll reschedule that one for a little later. This time, let's go back to the 1970s.


When I was a kid growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin, what was then referred to as "urban music" didn't gain much purchase on the local radio. Some of it hit the Top 40 stations, but you were much more likely to hear the Bay City Rollers or perhaps Pure Prairie League on the air where I grew up. Top 40 in Appleton in those days might be more accurately termed "Top 22 3/4" or something like that. Sometimes at night you could pick up WOKY in Milwaukee and you might get a fuller picture of the 70s music scene, but that took more effort than most of us were willing to undertake. The thing I understand now is that the 70s were weird and wonderful and there was a lot of really good music that I never had a chance to hear growing up. Probably the best example of that was the amalgam of bands that George Clinton ran in the 1970s, variously as Parliament, Funkadelic, Parlet, the Brides of Funkenstein, etc., etc., etc. I never heard any of it until I went off to college and even then it was barely on my radar screen. A lot of it is really cool stuff.


Still, it was the 70s, and that meant that the brilliance was heavily slathered with weirdness. And while the music stands up quite nicely 30+ years on, some of the fashions that folks sported back in the day are hilarious. So for today's contest I am offering three choices for your perusal, each somewhat weirder than the next.


The first is one of my all-time favorite tunes, the boogie down epic from the Spinners, making a return from the oblivion of the Obama soundtrack:




Next up, from roughly the same era, a classic bit of foolishness from the Ohio Players, featuring the always-strange "Sugar" Bonner. Also note the mid 70s dance crew that appears mid-song:




Finally, from a 1978 concert in Houston, Texas, George Clinton and crew in all their perverse glory:





Although it's the same era, we're a long ways removed from the Starland Vocal Band. Place your votes!




11 comments:

Dan S. said...

Gots ta go with the Rubberband Man on this one, mainly because of how frequently the song was stuck in my head when it was reincarnated as an Office Max commercial.

Daria said...

I have to go with Rubberband Man just for the catchiness of the tune, but Clinton gets an honorable mention for the industrial strength flashlight.

Forget the bulb! How many people does it take to change the batteries in that critter?

- D

Uncle Ben said...

I'm going with Rubberband Man as well based on the strength of the actual song. The other two, while interesting, are so freakin' repetitive.

Anonymous said...

Growing up in the aforementioned northwoods with bad radio, I did not hear the best 70's music at the time, and spent my high school years despairing over the fact that the Beatles weren't making music and I was stuck with the Bee Gees and Journey. Believe it or not, however, one of my earlier vinyl collections was a K-Tel set that had Rubberband Man (along with Junk Food Junkie, Smoke on the Water, Bad Blood by Neil Sedaka, and, I believe Styx "Ladie," among many others). "Too much rhythmn, grace and debonaire for one man" has long been one of my favorite descriptions of myself, if only to demonstrate that there is at least one person of German descent in this world who has discovered irony.

In the 1990's, I believe after Mr. Dilettante left Oak Park, I spent quite a while discovering great soul, singer songwriter, punk and reggae from the 70's, and again feeling pretty deprived over what I missed while disco fever was all the rage. One of my greater discoveries in the 90's was from the box set "The Philly Sound," which was a collection of all the great Gamble/Huff productions, including that Mr. Dilettante favorite, Me and Mrs. Jones. It also had some great Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (but not a single contribution from Harold Grant), such as 992 Arguments, The Love I lost, and I Miss You, the O'Jays Back Stabbers. I got the great 4 CD box of James Brown, the box set "The Big Old Box of 60's Soul and picked up separate 2 CD compilations of The Spinners, Curtis Mayfield, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, Parliament and Funkadelic, and smile everytime some of that comes up on shuffle on my i-pod. One of my favorites is "Make My Funk the P-Funk." I was also pretty fond of Drowning in the Sea of Love by Joe Simon, who strangly enough attended my Lutheran Church in the far north Chicago suburbs for a time because he knew our now former pastor. Not that there was anything unusual about that. You probably are not aware of the fact that a lot of the great soul singers were Lutherans. Otis Redding once came to my church in Schofied, Wisconsin, made the coffee and talked about his concern with the seeming deification of the Virgin Mary and the concept of the infallibility of the Pope. There are still some in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod who believe the plane crash was the result of a Vatican plot.

In any event, my excuse for what I missed in the 70's and didn't notice until the 90's is that I refuse to waste my time listening to music that hasn't proved the test of time. This means that when I am in my 60's, I expect to be listening to Hip Hop and Britney Spears, or whatever it is they listen to these days. I only buy CD's made by old guys, apart from Wilco, who are not that much younger than me. I am happy to report that I also have Rubberband Man, Games People Play, a few other Spinners classics and a lot of cuts from The Philly Sound on my i-pod.

Anonymous Truck Driver

Gino said...

flashlight. no question in my mind.

way back, in 7th grade and on thu jr high, my best buddy was a black kid who grew up white. when he was about 13, his parents told him that yes, they are a black family (very lightskinned, and dedicated catholic, so 'black' folks werent really a part of their social life).
over night, it seemed, he discovered some of his blackness, stopped parting his hair on the side, put away his clarinet and benny goodman records, and got with the identity program. and he took me with partway with him.

yep, this white boy became a parliament fan. we were the only two kids in our private school who knew what it was, and dared listen to it on the playground.
we had fun everyday, i met all kinds of cool black kids, and had an innocent relationship with a black girl. good times!
parliament and clinton were The Schitt.

although my cousin told me Parliament was living proof the wrong side won the civil war,in chi-town style, i hereby cast 15votes for 'flashlight', and another 15 on behalf of my old buddy Patrick.

Mark said...

Good comments!

I gotta agree with you, Daria -- that flashlight they are wielding at the end of the video is pretty amazing. And changing the batteries probably requires the services of jumper cables and an authorized automotive technician.

ATD, that's quite the musical tour. And nice job slipping the Harold Grant reference in there. Now when he Googles himself, he'll actually get a hit that doesn't involve Cook County judicial proceedings.

Gino, duly noted. Flashlight jumps out to a big lead!

Mark said...

Oh, and ATD: I can just picture Otis making the coffee up there in Schofield, with the entire congregation joining him in a rousing chorus of "I'm a Love Man."

Strolling Amok said...

Tough competition on this one but I've got to go with Love Rollercoaster. OMG I love that song. On the other hand I have to give George Clinton a special Lifetime Achievement in Funktasticness Award.

Strolling Amok said...

Oh, and another nomination of mine: Category: Songs by written Jimmy Webb (a grand master of the guilty pleasure song writing)
Nominees: Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell v. MacArthur Park by Richard Harris.

Mark said...

The Jimmy Webb is idea is really good, SA. I'll do that one soon. But watch this space for an imminent new contest.

Mike said...

Oh, I gotta vote for "Flashlight." P-Funk rules all, and that giant flashlight is outstanding!! I saw them in 1994 at Lollapalooza in Milwaukee. P-Funk stole the show!

It's funny, but when I was a kid, I used to try to get Milwaukee radio stations as well. Between Lazer 103, Hot 102, and V100, I got all the rock and "urban" music that wasn't getting any play on WIXX, WAPL or Magic 104 (this was late 80s-early 90s versus late 70s).

But anyway, the others are great songs, but "Flashlight" gets my vote.