Thursday, February 05, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Six -- Yes, There Were Good Songs in 1974, Too

I've written about the year 1974 before in this space. It is, to my mind, the worst year in rock history, a year dominated by silly novelty songs and some truly cringe-worthy stuff. But let's not worry about "Seasons in the Sun" and "(You're) Having My Baby," or "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" or "The Streak." Let's turn our attention elsewhere.

Some of the best music that came out in 1974 shared two characteristics: the artists that performed the songs were either one-hit wonders or had limited success; and the acts were mostly comprised of minority groups. Here are five excellent examples:

Consider the first choice, a silky smooth ballad that might have come from Teddy Pendergrass or Lou Rawls, but instead was the only chart hit for Al Wilson:

Then there was this lilting number, which came from the same place as the highly successful K.C. and the Sunshine Band, but instead featured vocalist George McCrae:

Quick -- name a successful Native American rock band. For whatever reason, there haven't been many. These guys had a big, enduring hit in 1974 and pretty much disappeared after that, although I'm sure they enjoyed the royalties from the Alltel commercials that have rolled in recently. It's Redbone, performing on the Midnight Special, with:

Then there was this bouncy number, which was a one-timer for a trio called the Hues Corporation. Appearing on the British show Top of the Pops in weird camera angles, they perform:

And probably the best known selection this evening is this chestnut from the band that spawned Chaka Khan. They had a few hits after this one and Chaka herself sailed into the 1980s and beyond as a second-tier diva. Chaka knew where to get her music, though -- this number was written by Stevie Wonder. Again from the Midnight Special, with Chaka sporting a sequined halter top that I'm sure was highly comfortable to wear, Rufus asks us to:

As always, cast your vote for your favorite. Or if you have another jam from '74, tell me why it's better than the five I've chosen here.


Gino said...

the redbone song is OK, but all that that indian fauxery is as tastful as a pink flamingo on a suburban lawn.

now, you better start manning up and put some *rock* in these musical excursions of yours. how could you, if you had a pair, totally leave out every song from Queen's break-out album, and with it, that beautiful hymn 'killer queen'?

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Luckily for all, I came into the world the following year and life improved. Take Physical Graffitti for example. But since this is 1974, not the Year of Our Ben 1975, I'll cast my vote for Rufus.

Chruckwagon Boy said...

My comment is totally not about these songs, but about a Disney 3D ride that many of us forgot about. It ran for 10 years in at Epcot, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, executive produced by George Lucas and starred Anjelica Houston and.................Michael Jackson as "Captain EO".

I just had to mention it because it was stated in an article and I had totally forgotten about it! :o)

Mark Heuring said...


Did you just use "man up" and Queen in the same sentence? You did. "Killer Queen" is a very good song but not exactly a fountain of testosterone. But you raise a fair challenge -- '74 was the year of Shear Heart Attack, but also Eric Clapton's comeback album and Dylan's best post-60s album (Blood on the Tracks). So maybe a look at rock in '74 is warranted.

Ben, I noticed that things got better in 1975 but I was never sure why until now. Your arrival does explain it, though.

I hadn't thought about Captain EO in years, CB. Off-topic (as you admit) but fun to remember.

kingdavid said...

I can't believe you failed to mention the song that has been rated the greatest southern rock tune of all time; Sweet Home Alabama. Skynyrd's "Second Helping" came out that year, and also included Call me the Breeze and Ballad of Curtis Loew.

Personally, I'm not sure I'd even put Sweet Home in my top 10 favorite Skynyrd tunes.

I did check out this site to see what was playing my junior/senior year in high school;

I almost gagged when I saw Streisand's name at the top of the list.

Gino said...

well,gee, judging by your choices, i didnt think you could handle the title track.

KD: how does a MN boy get into southern rock,anyway?

Mark Heuring said...

I am a delicate flower, Gino. Glad you noticed! :)

I won't speak for KD, but Skynyrd was HUGE in the Midwest back in the day. I probably heard "Freebird" at every house party I ever attended and most of my friends had some in their record collections.

Night Writer said...

Ouga chaka ouga ouga ouga chaka!

How can you not mention "Hooked On a Feeling" by Blue Swede, with it's opening riff gouging ravines of memory like a retreating glacier?

For me, though, the song of the year had to be "Radar Love" by Golden Earring, the first song that played on the AM radio in my '64 Ford Galaxy Coupe after I passed my driver's test, got my license and mounted up for my first solo drive:

I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
It's my baby callin', says I need you here
And it's half past four and I'm shifting gear...

Mark Heuring said...

The bad novelty songs never seemed to end in '74, NW. Hooked on a Feeling, Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me), Kung Fu Fighting, the collected works of Jim Stafford – they were all there. It was something else.

Radar Love is a great song – I definitely agree with that. Considering how little English the members of Golden Earring could speak, it's one of the more eloquent songs in the rock canon.

kingdavid said...

Didn't Golden Earring just have one album? A-side was Radar Love and B-side was Twilight Zone. It was about a 4 hour album wasn't it.

I always think of Twilight Zone first; which reminds me of the movie; which reminds me of Vic Morrow getting decapitated; which reminds me of watching Combat when I was a kid. I loved that show.
Ahh, how music brings back the memories.

Right Hook said...

Minus the ouga chaka crap the '74 Hooked on a Feeling cover by Blue Swede is actually not as bad as BJ Thomas original, but
check out David Hasselhoff's video interpretation of the song, a high ranking candidate for the worst video ever...

We also unfortunately lost Billy Powell last week, one of the few remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and a great keyboard player.

Fly on Freebird!