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Music In The '70s: From Bubblegum To Led Zeppelin

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For as long as I can remember, I have been a music lover. Mom would break out her John Gary and Nat King Cole records, and although I wasn't crazy about either artist, it was hard to miss how happy she was while listening to them. I don't remember all the things Dad used to listen to, but I was impressed when he got the "Superstars of the Seventies" eight tracks. He probably got them for one or two songs he liked, but there was a lot on them that I liked, too.

If the family was ever going anywhere that involved driving in multiple cars, then I always wanted to go with my sister Susan and her future husband Terry. I much preferred their taste in music. Terry had an eight track in his car, and I would bug him to play the Beatles Abbey Road. Side one had songs that were easy for a kid to love, like Octopus's Garden and Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Since adulthood, side two has been one of my all-time favorite album sides. Around that time my brother John was a high school teacher, and he used the rock opera Tommy by the Who in his classes.

I had my trusty transistor radio, which I would hide under my pillow and listen to when I was supposed to be sleeping. AM radio was so cool in the early seventies because it was so eclectic. There weren't all the specific categories that there are now, so you could hear all kinds of stuff.

I could be wrong, but it seemed that in the daytime it would be Top 40 heavy, and then things would loosen up a bit at night. I was a huge fan of bubblegum pop, although I didn't know what that meant at the time. Songs like ABC by the Jackson 5, Knock Three Times by Tony Orlando and Dawn, One Bad Apple by the Osmond's, The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Robert John, Little Willy by Sweet, Billy, Don't Be A Hero by Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, and Hooked On A Feeling by Blue Swede were some early favorites. Hooked on a Feeling was a bit confusing. The first version I heard was by B.J. Thomas and it was popular when I was only four years old. Of course I was too young to know names of artists and understand that sometimes people "covered" songs. So when Blue Swede's version came out five years later, I was convinced that I had originally made up the song, and asked Mom to call a lawyer. Listening later at night, it seemed they would play different things (from all the way back in the sixties) like Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.s. and The Wind Cries Mary by Jimi Hendrix. The guitar jumped out and really grabbed me, a harbinger of things to come.

Starting in fourth grade, I began to move away from AM radio and listen to FM on the stereo in the basement. Songs I remember from that transitional period include Bungle in the Jungle by Jethro Tull, Radar Love by Golden Earring, Killer Queen by Queen, and Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. I hadn't completely abandoned my transistor radio yet. Besides a couple of fifth grade songs that still give me the creeps (Fame by David Bowie and I'm Not In Love by 10cc), the biggest trend was dance music, the beginnings of Disco. Jive Talkin' by the Bee Gees, The Hustle by Van McCoy, Pick up the Pieces by AWB and Shining Star by Earth, Wind and Fire were all hits in 1975.

I didn't mind those songs at first, but eventually the Disco craze would push me away from AM radio altogether. I didn't fully realize it yet, but I had acquired an appetite for electric rock guitar and I could find much more of it on FM. Besides, they would play much longer and guitar heavy songs on FM radio, like the full length version of Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. I fell in love with the way that song started with slow, soft acoustic guitar, and then introduced electric guitars, building in tempo and volume. The guitar solo is still one of my favorites. When I was in sixth grade, I went to see the Led Zeppelin film The Song Remains the Same with my friends. When Jimmy Page played the bluesy number Since I've Been Loving You, I had found my first Guitar God, and I never looked back.

I think my progression can be measured by the first 3 albums I ever owned:
1) Looney Tunes from K-Tel
2) KC and the Sunshine Band
3) The Song Remains the Same

What was your musical progression?

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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