My Top 100 Albums of 1970

1970

Call me lazy, or maybe I’m simply an organized person. Regardless, I have been struggling to find ideas for this blog. So, while looking through my document files that I have been keeping for years prior to starting this blog a couple of years ago, I noticed a set of files that had not been updated in three or more years. When I opened them, I discovered a plethora of lists of my favorite albums from the years 1970 through 2000. I honestly thought I had used these at one time or another, but apparently not. Currently, I am in the process of tweaking the lists to better reflect a refinement in my tastes, whatever that means.

You see, I had gone through Billboard‘s year-end Albums Charts for those years, as well as referring to the original Book of Rock Lists (1981) in addition to several websites to help me compile these lists. Now, you may be asking why I did these lists for this particular years covering three decades? Well, 1970 represents the end of my first grade school year and the beginning of second grad, so I had a year-and-a-half of riding the school bus and hearing the 8-Track tapes the high school kids were having the bus driver play. Therefore, 1970 is the year during which I began to transition from a singles and Partridge Family kid into something of a lover of the art of the long playing record.

1970 Deja Vu

By no means am I an expert of the first couple of years in this countdown. I really did not come into my own as a music listener until 1975. And while I still loved the thrill of a three-minute single, I began to find magic in the grooves of those great albums of those days. I ended these lists in 2000 as Y2K is the end of the not only the millennium but also the year when my boys’ musical tastes eclipsed mine. In other words, they were discovering all the new exciting music of the moment while I was playing catch up.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, I really think I will end this whole project in 1999, since that will make the whole thing an even thirty years. Plus, in my mind, free radio died during the Nineties, so they were beginning to have less of an influence on musical trends and began their incestuous relationship by being dictated by a sales chart. My original intent was to carry this thing all the way to the present, but that seems like too much effort. Maybe, one day one of my boys will pick up the mantle of this blog and carry it through. Then again, with how unimportant music appears to be to the Millennials and Gen Y, our music will be left for discovery by kids 50 to 100 years from now. Rock will probably become like Mozart, Dixieland, Jazz, Big Band, Blues, Folk and all the rest and be carried on by the music teachers of the future.

1970 History of Rock

With all that said, let’s get this academic series going! Here are my Top 100 albums for 1970.

  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu
  2. Chicago – Chicago II
  3. Grateful Dead – American Beauty
  4. Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection
  5. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
  6. Van Morrison – Moondance
  7. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water
  8. The Stooges – Funhouse
  9. Led Zeppelin – III
  10. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead
  11. David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World
  12. Todd Rundgren – Runt
  13. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
  14. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
  15. Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  16. The Band – Stage Fright
  17. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
  18. Derek & the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
  19. Elton John – Elton John
  20. The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
  21. The Who – Live at Leeds
  22. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
  23. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman
  24. The J. Geils Band – The J. Geils Band
  25. The Kinks – Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
  26. Van Morrison – His Band and the Street Choir
  27. Curtis Mayfield – Curtis
  28. Badfinger – No Dice
  29. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James
  30. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs
  31. Bob Dylan – New Morning
  32. Paul McCartney – McCartney
  33. The Beatles – Let It Be
  34. The Temptations – Psychedelic Shack
  35. Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
  36. Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton
  37. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
  38. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter
  39. Randy Newman – 12 Songs
  40. The Move – Shazam
  41. Funkadelic – Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow
  42. Emitt Rhodes – Emitt Rhodes
  43. Otis Redding/The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live at Monterrey
  44. Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock
  45. Santana – Abraxas
  46. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  47. Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen
  48. Nilsson – Nilsson Sings Newman
  49. Bob Dylan – Self-Portrait
  50. The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
  51. Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed and Delivered
  52. The Guess Who – American Woman
  53. The Jackson 5 – ABC
  54. James Brown – Sex Machine
  55. Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South
  56. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
  57. Tim Buckley – Starsailor
  58. Free – Fire and Water
  59. Eric Burdon & War – Eric Burdon Declares “War”
  60. The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py
  61. he Beach Boys – Sunflower
  62. The Doors – Morrison Hotel
  63. MC5 – Back in the USA
  64. Funkadelic – Funkadelic
  65. Aretha Franklin – Spirit in the Dark
  66. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum
  67. Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother
  68. The Flying Burrito Bros – Burrito Deluxe
  69. Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon
  70. King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon
  71. Grand Funk Railroad – Grand Funk
  72. Velvet Underground – Loaded
  73. The Delfonics – The Delfonics
  74. Andrew Webber & Tim Rice – Jesus Christ Superstar
  75. Ike & Tina Turner – Workin’ Together
  76. The James Gang – The James Gang Rides Again
  77. Aretha Franklin – This Girl’s in Love with You
  78. Various Artists – Woodstock
  79. Wilson Pickett – In Philadelphia
  80. B. King – Indianola Mississippi Seeds
  81. Rod Stewart – Gasoline Alley
  82. Rodriguez – Cold Fact
  83. The Byrds – (Untitled)
  84. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band – Live Peace in Toronto 1969
  85. Soft Machine – Third
  86. Clarence Carter – Patches
  87. Kris Kristofferson – Kristofferson
  88. Willie Dixon – I Am the Blues
  89. Delaney & Bonnie and Friends – On Tour (With Eric Clapton)
  90. Can – Soundtracks
  91. Isaac Hayes – The Isaac Hayes Movement
  92. The Doors – Absolutely Live
  93. Diana Ross – Diana Ross
  94. Rare Earth – Get Ready
  95. The Beatles – Hey Jude
  96. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears III
  97. The Mothers of Invention – Burnt Weeny Sandwich
  98. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy
  99. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – I Am the Blues
  100. King Crimson – Lizard

1970 All Things Must Pass

Screw Drake and Kanye! Give Me Fitz and the Tantrums!

6.20 Fitz-ande-the-Tantrums-1

My wife and I went to a concert on Father’s Day. Right here and now I have to admit that I bought the tickets for only one of the three bands playing that night. Every since we first heard the song “MoneyGrabber” by Fitz and the Tantrums on the radio, we have been fans. Sunday night made the third time we have seen the band perform in Indy. Back in 2012, my older son, Graham, and his now-wife Kaitlyn came with my wife and me to a little club in an Indy neighborhood called Broad Ripple to see the band perform. All four of us came away impressed with the band’s energy and musicianship. It was everything that you have about seeing an up-and-coming band in such an intimate club setting.

First, it was a very hot and humid summer night in Indianapolis, so the band was literally sweating through their suits. Then, co-lead singer Noelle Scaggs was a thunderous ball of energy, pushing the crowd to ecstatic new heights of participation. Lead singer and songwriter Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick was every bit as energetic leading the band. The sound of the band landed in a sweet spot somewhere between Sixties Motown, Seventies Stax Soul and 21st century Maroon 5 indie pop/rock, something of an updated version of Daryl Hall & John Oates. But, unlike all of those aforementioned artists and sounds, FATT lacked a guitarist, placing the onus upon a very good keyboardist Jerry Ruzumna and a crack rhythm section of drummer John Wicks and the T-Bone Wolk of the band bassist Joseph Karnes to carry the basic sound. The throwback part of the band is the use of a saxophone, as well as flute, keyboards and whatever else the band needs, by James King. This was a tight band with a great take on a classic sound. The band play so hard that Wick actually busted a drum head during the performance. And, when you are a young band as they were at the time, people were scrambling for a replacement. Fortunately, the club was close to a music store, so within a minutes a new head was being placed as the band gamely continued to blow us away.

6.20 Fitz and the Tantrums

A short six months later, FATT returned to Indy to play an outdoor concert a couple of days before the Super Bowl was held in town. Fortunately, it was a relatively warm Super Week, so the weather was good. And, the band killed it that night in front of thousands. Another eights months, FATT returned to Indianapolis, which now seemed to becoming a strong fan base for the band. This time FATT graduated to a bigger venue as they played a bigger club setting. The first time we saw the band, the audience was mainly college-aged millennials and Gen X-ers. But, I noticed at this third concert, the audience was a little bit younger, mainly because the band’s latest single, “Out of My League” was getting big run on pop radio in town. But, since FATT we still in a small setting, you could see the band still working extremely hard to make fans of every person in the audience. And, the audience had a great time dancing the night away.

Since that night, I basically slowed down going to concerts, especially in big venues. I just cannot really take standing for long periods of time at those outdoor amphitheaters since it kills my back. However, FATT were coming to a newer small amphitheater in town where we had never been. So, I bought the tickets. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, Indiana residents have been advised to begin building their own Biblical arks because of the amount of rain we have had. So, the concert, which included COIN and Young the Giant, neither of whom I knew anything about, was moved to the bigger outdoor venue. The difference was a loss in intimacy to which we had gotten accustomed when seeing FATT. However, it was heartening to me to see so many Generation Y kids grooving to FATT. That night gave me hope that these kids were dying to hear “real” music created by real musicians. And, every time there was a sax solo, those kids simply erupted. Horns just may be the biggest missing ingredient in today’s prefabricated music. Come on radio! The kids want something more than the latest boy band, non-real hip hop artist or some crappy pop artist who is a studio creation.

in concert

To my ears, Fitz and the Tantrums may just be the perfect band for a post-modern world. They have feet in the electronic present, with their music awash in synth sounds. And, they have their feet in the past, with their living and breathing rhythm section, strong songwriting with pop hooks and melodies and the prominent use of horns. But, they are stretching into the future by marrying current pop textures with rock and soul basics. They are a band that potentially could appeal to a wide range of age groups. As a young Boomer-slash-old Gen X-er, they appeal to me because of the whole auditory and visual experience. They work hard, have the talent and desire to succeed and they have the goods.

So, may I present to you, my favorite current band, Fitz and the Tantrums by listing my favorite 20 songs of theirs from their three studio albums and one EP.

6.20 More_Than_Just_A_Dream

20. “House on Fire” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)

19. “We Don’t Need Love Songs” (Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1 EP, 2009)

18. “Santa Stole My Lady” (Non-album single, 2010)

17. “Dear Mr. President” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)

6.20 Pickin'_up_the_pieces

16. “L.O.V.” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)

15. “Darkest Street” (Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1 EP, 2009)

14. “Spark” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)

13. “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)

12. “Break the Walls” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)

6.20 FitzSelfTitleAlbum

11. “Get Right Back” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016)

10. “The Walker” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). One of the bands more well-known songs from its use in commercials. Just a great and fun little pop/dance number.

6.20 FATT 123456

9. “123456” (Newly released single, 2019). Fitz’ songwriting is beginning to blossom into Daryl Hall area as Fitz is now beginning to meld all of his influences into a big, new sound. We are getting closer to the band’s version of Hall & Oates’ own breakthrough album Voices. Mark my words, within the next three FATT albums, if the band can stay intact, they will explode into the stratosphere.

8. “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). I absolutely love the neo-soul sound of the first album, but this song actually transcends the niche of that great album and shows the world the path FATT will be following for their career.

7. “Roll Up” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016). If there is a FATT song that could be a foreshadow of things to come for this band is this song that only explodes when the band performs it live. Still, it would NEVER be out of place in a dance club either.

6.20 FATT Handclap

6. “HandClap” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016). What a simple hook: “I can make your hands clap.” But, if it really were that simple, then why isn’t everyone doing it? Hell, FATT will be teaching my grandkids to dance and talk when at my house with this song, “Roll Up” and “123456.”

5. “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). Sure, at first, the song seems on the surface to be a little derivative. But, once you see FATT perform it live and listen to it over and over and over, you realize this song is much deeper. I keep beating this old horse, but didn’t Hall & Oates do the very same thing early in their career?

6.20 FATT live

4. “Fools Gold” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). This may have been released as a single, but it was not an obvious choice for one. Still, it’s a great song, more of a terrific deep cut that only true fans would love than a radio hit, whatever that all means.

3. “Out of My League” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). This is the band’s “Rich Girl.” It will be their most long-lasting pop song. One day, some rocker will choose that song as being his or her blueprint for their career. Just totally underrated yet eternal.

2. “6am” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). Here I go again, but this is the band’s “She’s Gone” – the song, that if re-released after their next big hit, will send them into the pantheon of the rock immortals. It’s that good!

6.20 FATT MoneyGrabber

1. “MoneyGrabber” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). The song that grabbed me by the throat like no other song during the 21st century has everything that makes rock/soul/pop songs so eternal. There’s the quiet soulful verses, followed by the raucous Stax-like chorus and a double countdown middle-eight that only proves that Fitz knows his way around a song as a writer. This is FATT’s song to place in their time capsule.

6.20 Fitz Tantrums

What can I say? I’m big on Fitz and the Tantrums! There is really some great new music artists out there for us old fogies.

Always Remember to Be Careful While Listening to Daryl Hall & John Oates’ Music

6.13 Hall & Oates today

On a cool rainy Fall day in late October of 1984, I was suffering from a minor sinus infection. I was bummed because it was the day of the last home football game of my senior year and wanted to go. But, because my girlfriend, who is now my wife, was attempting to get me to transition from an underachiever to something more meaningful, I did not go to the game. Instead, I reluctantly recopied my Immunology class notes, which for some reason was the only way I learned things. For some reason, I had been extra-lazy that week, skipping the recopying ritual all week long. I no longer was living in the dorm with all of the potential distractions and was living off-campus in a house with a group of guys who were all a little more focused than I was. Now, do not misconstrue this statement, but I never really found college too challenging academically. And, that drove my friends crazy, because I was ALWAYS ready to do something, nee anything.

That day, instead of studying at my house, I drove over to my wife’s house, with whom she shared with five other women. Now, when you throw a hyperactive, hormone-driven 21-year-old male into a hen house of estrogen, well, he goes crazy. So, needless to say, I was driving everyone crazy, attempting to weave my tired sophomoric sense of humor with these attractive young ladies and their boyfriends. Finally, around two in the afternoon, my wife had enough of my random acts of stupidity, so she took me to Target to get some Tylenol and cold medicine for me (apparently an attempt to calm me down).

At the time, I was obsessed with two songs: Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Out of Touch” by Daryl Hall & John Oates. Ironically, those songs ended up being back-to-back number one songs the following month, but I digress. While walking through the store, I quickly picked up the meds I needed, then I shot over to the records. I noticed that Hall & Oates’ new album, Big Bam Boom, had been released. Since I had just gotten paid the day before I picked up the album. After Jill walked me around the store in an attempt to burn off my energy, we made our purchase and went back to her house.

6.13 hall & oates 80s

In a move right out of storybook tales, Hall & Oates’ music calmed me down. Now, you would have thought me 7 AM hung-over four-mile run would have calmed me down, but, in all honesty, physical exercise could wind me up tighter. But, the combination of cold medications and Big Bam Boom settle my soul. Well, you know how it can happen, but one thing led to another, and, well, as we learned a month later, we had conceived our first son that day. And, the two of us attribute it to Daryl Hall & John Oates’ music.

Now, fast-forward to the late Summer of 1988. Jill and I had just attended a Daryl Hall & John Oates concert in Cincinnati. We drove back to her parents’ home where our older son was staying. In Jill’s hometown, the residents hold a little festival to raise money for the town’s volunteer fire department, with the big attraction for young people in their twenties being a beer garden. So, obviously, we continued our party attitude in the beer garden with her family and childhood friends. It was a classic night. Of course, whenever Hall & Oates are involved with us, things happened. And, well, the outcome was yet another son being conceived. So, yes, the music of Daryl Hall & John Oates was “two-for-two” in the baby-conceiving department, which made us a little leery to spin their music for too long.

6.13 hall & oates live

Yes, a little TMI, “Too Much Information,” but we find it humorous…now! To this day, we understand the danger of too much Hall & Oates in our lives, so we stick to moderation, even though we are in our fifties and completely out of the baby-making business, you just never know if God might find it funny to make us into another biblical situation.

Anyway, the two of us have always loved the music of rock’s finest duo, even before we became a couple and then a statistic in unplanned pregnancies. As we near our older son’s thirty-fourth birthday, I thought it would be fun to list my Top 50 Favorite Songs by Daryl Hall & John Oates. I think my wife and I are safe, but you can read this at your own risk!

6.13 Romeo Is Bleeding

50. “Romeo Is Bleeding” (Marigold Sky, 1997)

49. “Without You” (Our Kind of Soul, 2004)

48. “Forever for You” (Do It for Love, 2002)

47. “It’s Uncanny” (No Goodbyes, 1977)

46. “The Sky Is Falling” (Marigold Sky, 1997)

45. “Don’t Hold Back Your Love” (Change of Season, 1990)

44. “Missed Opportunity” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

43. “I’ll Be Around” (Our Kind of Soul, 2004)

42. “Promise Ain’t Enough” (Marigold Sky, 1997)

41. “A Night at the Apollo Live! The Way You Do the Things You Do/My Girl (with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks)” (Live at the Apollo, 1985)

6.13 someday we'll know

40. “Someday We’ll Know” (Do It for Love, 2002)

39. “When the Morning Comes” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973)

38. “Portable Radio” (X-Static, 1979)

37. “Don’t Change” (Beauty on a Back Street, 1977)

36. “Do What You Want, Be What You Are” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976)

35. “Downtown Life” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

34. “Philadelphia Freedom” (Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin, 1991)

33. “I Can Dream About You” (Our Kind of Soul, 2004)

32. “Possession Obsession” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

31. “Italian Girls” (H2O, 1982)

6.13 jingle bell rock

30. “Jingle Bell Rock” (Non-album single, 1983)

29. “Method of Modern Love” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

28. “Your Imagination” (Private Eyes, 1981)

27. “I Don’t Want to Lose You” (Along the Red Ledge, 1978)

26. “How Does It Feel to Be Back” (Voices, 1980)

25. “Camellia” (Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1975)

24. “Back Together Again” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976)

23. “Family Man” (H2O, 1982)

22. “Everything Your Heart Desires” (Ooh Yeah!, 1988)

21. “Man on a Mission” (Do It for Love, 2002)

6.13 Adult Education

20. “Adult Education” (Rock ‘n’ Soul: Part 1, 1983)

19. “Did It in a Minute” (Private Eyes, 1981)

18. “Do It for Love” (Do It for Love, 2002)

17. “So Close” (Change of Season, 1990)

16. “It’s a Laugh” (Along the Red Ledge, 1978)

15. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (Big Bam Boom, 1984)

14. “One on One” (H2O, 1982)

13. “Private Eyes” (Private Eyes, 1981)

12. “Kiss on My List” (Voices, 1980)

11. “Say It Isn’t So” (Rock ‘n’ Soul: Part 1, 1983)

6.13 You've Lost This Lovin' Feelin'

10. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (Voices, 1980). I know I will catch crap from the Boomers on this, but Hall & Oates made the definitive version of this song. Sure, Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production is outstanding and timeless, and the Righteous Brothers’ vocals are so very soulful. But, Daryl Hall & John Oates just kill this song, paying homage to the Sixties all the while bringing it into the Eighties proving the song is a piece of art.

9. “You Make My Dreams” (Voices, 1980). Can you believe this song never reached the top of the charts back in the day? It’s true! Hell, I cannot remember what song kept it from reaching number one. Was it “Jessie’s Girl”? Oh, who cares?!?! This song is now immortal.

8. “Out of Touch” (Big Bam Boom, 1984). The forgotten number one song in Hall & Oates catalog. People have forgotten about this great song.

7. “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” (Private Eyes, 1981). I remember a black friend of mine just loving this song. He was always stopping by my dorm room to say, “Those white boys sure can sing!” This song has been sampled many times over by hip hop artists.

6. “Rich Girl” (Bigger Than Both of Us, 1976). This song damn near won a write-in contest on Muncie radio station when I was 14. I was one of three entrants in a contest to list the Top 3 Songs of 1977, with this song at number 3 for the year on the station. I lost the drawing, but I do have the memory. Oh, by the way, Brandon Flowers of The Killers once said that you can learn everything about writing a great pop song from this song. I couldn’t agree more!

5. “Wait for Me” (X-Static, 1979). This song is just fabulously underrated. What a great hook! I cannot believe that it never caught on with the public back in the day. This was the blueprint the duo used for their breakthrough album Voices the following year.

4. “Maneater” (H2O, 1982). This song is a classic! And, that bassline by the late Tom “T-Bone” Wolk is just delicious. What teenager wasn’t moved by this song back in the day?

3. “Everytime You Go Away” (Voices, 1980). Never a hit for the boys but a number one smash for British blue-eyed soul singer Paul Young five years later, this song is definitive Daryl Hall. He simply makes the song a soul/gospel tour de force that may have been too raw for the American public at the time.

2. “Sara Smile” (Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1975). This song was my entry into the world of Hall & Oates. I bought the album for the sale price of $3.99, and it remains the best buy of my life. Additionally, the song remains burned in my memory as a slow dance song at a seventh-grade dance.

6.13 She's Gone

1. “She’s Gone” (Abandoned Luncheonette, 1973). Released in 1973, but not a hit until the Summer of 1976, “She’s Gone” is the thesis for the duo’s whole career. The soulful amalgamation of rock, pop, R&B, Philly soul and folk is as timeless as it is peerless. It will always be the duo’s calling card. One hundred years from now, some smart ass kid will rediscover it, record it and make a huge hit out of it. “She’s Gone” has to be one of the 100 greatest songs of the rock era.

I really could have listed 100 songs, but I whittled it down to 50 for time sake. These guys will always remain one of my ten all-time favorite artists. Thank goodness I no longer have to bitch about them being left out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They just might represent the first band that was more of a favorite of Gen Xers than Boomers, who just seemed to make fun of them.

The Greatest Band That Few Heard in Their Heyday: Big Star

6.11 big star doc

I have just two words for you today: Big Star. This band from the early-Seventies was never popular during their run. Their original lineup of former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, guitarist Chris Bell, drummer Jody Stephens and bassist Andy Hummel was only together for one glorious album that no one seemed to hear until in the Eighties ironically titled #1 Record. The album failed due to poor record distribution and promotion, although critics praised the album at the time. Upon this failure, Bell left the band, taking with him the sweetness of his melodies but also a touch of personal darkness that made his contributions so important.

The remaining trio produced two more classic power pop albums over the next three years, Radio City and 3rd (or Third/Sister Lovers as the 1992 re-release is titled). But, these were essentially Chilton albums, that, to me, lacks the yin-and-yang, give-and-take of the first album that Bell and Chilton created. Now, don’t get me wrong! Those albums are fantastic, but they are not transcendent as the first album.

Unfortunately, Chris Bell passed away due to injuries in a car accident at the tender age of 27. At the time, he had released a single, “I Am the Cosmos” that became something of a cult hit over the years. Finally, in 1992, Bell’s album, also called I Am the Cosmos, saw the light of day and has been praised by critics throughout the rock world. Yet, once again, what made Big Star’s debut album so magical, was, as The Beatles’ songwriting dynamic proved, Chilton’s gruffness and Bell’s sweetness rubbed up against each other creating an artistic tension that made their music so soaring yet grounded with a lyrical darkness that made the band so very appealing.

Big Star

Like I said, the band created this music in the Seventies but did not come into prominence until the Eighties. All of a sudden, it was as if Big Star had been transported to the correct decade to influence just the right group of early Generation X-preferred artists, such as R.E.M., The Bangles, The Replacements and many of the other alternative bands of the day. Personally, I discovered the band through The Bangles terrific cover of Big Star’s now-classic song “September Gurls” that appeared on The Bangles’ commercial breakthrough album Different Light, as well as The Replacements fantastic tribute song “Alex Chilton.” But, as hard as I tried, I never could locate any of Big Star’s albums until the heyday of CD reissues in the Nineties. But, once I obtained those three glorious albums, I was a fan. As a matter of fact, I have a Big Star T-shirt that I wear and bought my granddaughter a Big Star onesie so we can match. Of course, my boys get it. Big Star is an obsession of mine. So much so, that I continue to purchase every Record Store Day repackaging of their material on vinyl. It’s sad but true. I just love the band and their music.

The band’s influence can be traced from those great Eighties bands to the prominent power pop revival artists of the Nineties and today. I am talking about Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Jimmy Eat World, Green Day, Material Issue, Fountains of Wayne and all the other pop-punk and power pop bands around. All of them are indebted to Big Star, either directly or indirectly.

6.11 big star live

So, today, after covering the Raspberries and Badfinger, I felt that it would be appropriate to finish this little tribute to three of my favorite early-Seventies bands who all contributed to me going back to learn about The Beatles, Beach Boys, etc., while priming me for the great music of my teen years in the form of Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Romantics, Marshall Crenshaw, Shoes, Fotomaker, Pezband and all the other great power pop/new wave artists of the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. So, here’s my Top 25 Favorite Songs by Big Star.

6.11 Radio City

25. “What’s Goin Ahn” (Radio City, 1974)

24. “Slut” (Columbia: Live at Missouri University, 4/25/93, 1993)

23. “Blue Moon” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

22. “Take Care” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

21. “Til the End of the Day” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

20. “I’m in Love with a Girl” (Radio City, 1974)

19. “Kizza Me” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

18. “My Life Is Right” (#1 Record, 1972)

17. “Give Me Another Chance” (#1 Record, 1972)

16. “O My Soul” (Radio City, 1974)

15. “She’s a Mover” (Radio City, 1974)

14. “You Get What You Deserve” (Radio City, 1974)

13. “Turn My Back on the Sun” (In Space, 2005)

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12. “Jesus Christ” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

11. “Kangaroo” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992)

10. “When My Baby’s Beside Me” (#1 Record, 1972). What an awesome song! This song is just begging to be heard by teens on the radio.

9. “In the Street” (#1 Record, 1972). More famous for its cover version by Cheap Trick that was used as the theme song for That 70s Show, this song is even more powerful in its original form.

8. “Holocaust” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992). What a wickedly dark ballad.

7. “Feel” (#1 Record, 1972). This song is the blueprint for Cheap Trick’s entire career, all wrapped up in three minutes of pure bliss.

6. “Back of a Car” (Radio City, 1974). I would have loved to hear The Bangles cover this song just to hear the ladies work their vocal magic on these lyrics. Yes, I know what the lyrics say. I just want to hear women sing it.

5. “Thank You Friends” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992). What a powerful swansong to a great band.

4. “Nighttime” (Third/Sister Lovers, 1992). This is the spiritual godfather to R.E.M.’s outstanding “Nightswimming.”

3. “The Ballad of El Goodo” (#1 Record, 1972). This is just a perfect song. Why isn’t it #1 on my list? Because the next too are classics.

2. “September Gurls” (Radio City, 1974). Sure, The Bangles made it their own, but the original is the perfect amalgamation of Sixties sweetness and Seventies sass.

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1. “Thirteen” (#1 Record, 1972). Oh my! This song is one of the finest examples of teen yearning in all of rock history. It should be covered, but, on the other hand, probably not because it is just perfect the way it is. This song represents both the power and potential not fully realized by Big Star. This one melts my heart while reminding me how painful growing up was.

Badfinger: Fate Was Cruel to You!

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After the initial run of the British Invasion, rock music began a natural progression from pop-based rock to a more experimental, and some might say “bloated,” sound that expanded upon the blues, incorporated classical music, stretched out folk and R&B into directions thus unheard. Yet, as the Sixties began to turn into the Seventies, a small coterie of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic wanted to try to bring back the exciting sounds from their youth. What these artists were doing, unbeknownst to each other was to update the sound of the British Invasion by making more muscular versions of those sweet sounds.

In the States, we had the Raspberries doing this up in Cleveland, while Big Star, who seemed to not really get discovered until the Eighties, were doing this in Memphis. Yet, before these bands released their respective, now-classic, debut albums, an English band appeared destined to bring this sound to the masses. The band was Badfinger, and although history conspired to keep this band from fulfilling their apparent destiny, their musical legacy remains intact.

Back in the earlier days of rock and roll, artists were used up and thrown off quickly as snakes gorged themselves off the talents of these talented men and women. This is what stymied Badfinger. In the band’s defense, when musically talented kids just out of their twenties start to be courted by labels, unscrupulous managers often try to swoop in to take advantage of these naive kids. And, even though Badfinger had been discovered by The Beatles, signed to Apple Records and mentored by all involved, the band still was not strongly advised as to their management. And, that was the Badfinger’s fatal mistake, with the cost being high.

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Right off the bat, Badfinger was ripped for sounding like The Beatles. What the critics of the day missed was that The Beatles were the jumping off point for Badfinger. Now, we all acknowledge that power pop artists are expanding upon the blueprint of the British Invasion. But, in the late-Sixties and early-Seventies, Badfinger was getting generally ripped for this. But, their first couple of singles were hits. First, they struck Top Ten with the Paul McCartney-penned “Come and Get It.” Then, a couple more hits followed with “No Matter What,” “Day After Day,” and “Baby Blue.”

But, what followed is a conspiracy of mismanagement that totally screwed this band from ever reaching the potential first thrust upon these four young Englishmen. First, The Beatles imploded, along with Apple Records. So, at the top of Badfinger’s commercial appeal, they became free agents, signing with Warner Bros. But, instead of reaching new heights, the band’s Warners debut was released at the very same time as the band’s last album from Apple. This fiasco left the record-buying public confused, and both albums ended up dying quickly on the charts.

And, if this were not bad enough, the band’s manager had taken all of Badfinger’s money for his own profit, even though millions of dollars had been made by record sales of albums and singles. Essentially, the band was broke. And, to top things off, that manager had run off with the Warner Bros cash advance for the band to make their next album. In a stupid move by the label, they pulled Badfinger’s fifth album from the shelves within a couple of weeks of its release, even though the band was receiving some of the best reviews of their career of their ironically-titled album Wish You Were Here. The band pulled the album due to the missing money.

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The saddest part of the whole ordeal is that lead singer and primary songwriter Pete Ham ended up committing suicide after becoming distraught over the financial mess. In the early Eighties, still depressed from the loss of his friend and songwriting partner and the financial mess, Tom Evans also committed suicide. To top things off, the remaining original members, drummer Mike Gibbins and guitarist Joey Molland argued over the legacy of the band and which member could use the name Badfinger for touring. Even when the band was honored for their song “Without You” as one of rock’s most covered songs ever, the ceremony was drenched in controversy when ASCAP honored all the members and not the songwriters Ham and Evans.

To me, the whole Badfinger saga might just be one of the saddest story ever. From the heights of Apple Records, working on George Harrison’s solo debut All Things Must Pass, playing at Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, having a number one hit with Harry Nilsson’s cover of “Without You” and their own hits to the depths of the financial mess caused by their manager and the deaths of their creative minds, Badfinger was snake-bit. Still, the quality of their songs remain and seem to be rediscovered by young musicians to this band. That is why Badfinger should be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What these young men created is eternal, their music.

So, today I present my 20 favorite Badfinger songs. Enjoy!

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20. “Love Time” (Wish You Were Here, 1974)

19. “We’re Here for the Dark” (No Dice, 1970)

18. “Rock of All Ages” (Magic Christian Music, 1970)

17. “When I Say” (Ass, 1973)

16. “It’s Over” (Straight Up, 1971)

15. “I’d Die Babe” (Straight Up, 1971)

14. “Dennis” (Wish You Were Here, 1974)

13. “I’ll Be the One” (Straight Up reissue, 2010)

12. “Name of the Game” (Straight Up, 1971)

11. “Lonely You” (Badfinger, 1974)

10. “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch/Should I Smoke” (Wish You Were Here, 1974). What a great album cut that only underscores the similarities between McCartney’s solo sound and Ham’s songwriting.

9. “Apple of My Eye” (Ass, 1973). I love it when an artist takes a simple, common phrase and turns it into something so much deeper and richer when you understand the whole story of that person. This was a heartfelt letter to The Beatles.

8. “Hold On” (Say No More, 1981). If Badfinger seemed like a natural for any time during rock history, it was during the new wave/power pop days of the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. And, the band responded with a song that should have been a huge hit, if fate could have just been kinder to these guys.

7. “Love Is Gonna Come at Last” (Airwaves, 1979). Once again, see my previous comments.

6. “Come and Get It” (Magic Christian Music, 1970). McCartney may have written it, but Badfinger provided the magic.

5. “Baby Blue” (Straight Up, 1971). Wasn’t it great when this song was used during the Breaking Bad series finale and Millennials downloaded the heck out of it so it reappear in the Top Twenty? Was it too much to ask for a Badfinger revival at the time? I guess so!

4. “Maybe Tomorrow” (Magic Christian Music, 1970). To me, this is THE song on the band’s debut album!

3. “Without You” (No Dice, 1970). This song was a monster in its original version, but Harry Nilsson made it a classic. Why, Mariah, why did you have to cover it?

2. “Day After Day” (Straight Up, 1971). This song is just transcendent of the stupid Beatles-soundalike comments. If anyone else had done this song, they would have been praised and knighted.

1. “No Matter What” (No Dice, 1970). This remains my favorite Badfinger song to this day. It reminds me of first grade and the joy of youth. What’s better than that?

Kiss My Butt! I Love the Raspberries!

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Yesterday, we had our granddaughter over. Sloane is closing in on her first birthday, so her personality is quickly emerging. Thanks to her Mommy and Daddy, she loves her music. But, I think she was exposed to a whole new world with my wife and me. You see, after a week of funk music culminating with my Parliament/Funkadelic concert Saturday, from which I am STILL recuperating, I am going through a little palette cleansing with some early-Seventies pop music. So, I had Pandora playing “Raspberries Radio,” and Sloane got to hear a mix of power pop, bubblegum and some Sixties pop, all of which was making her “dance.” It was so great watching another generation react viscerally to some timeless music.

All of this got me thinking about this music of my pre-teen years. This music was often maligned at the time, yet it continues to find its sound filtering through some of the traditional sounding pop music today. Remember when the radio was filled with the sounds of the Edison Lighthouse, The Archies, Tommy James & the Shondells, The Grass Roots, The Cowsills, The Guess Who, in addition to so many other great pop artists? Sure, that stuff wasn’t as “cool” as Zeppelin, Hendrix, Sabbath, Yes and the rest, but to me, there is something absolutely magical about a great three-minute pop/rock song, an art-form unto itself. To me, that’s what I love about power pop music. You get the energy of those early Who and Kinks songs coupled with the vocal harmonies of The Beatles, The Hollies, The Beach Boys and The Byrds. It’s like having the best of both worlds, as you get rock energy and the safety of some sugary melodies. And, sometimes, these power pop bands create some truly transcendent music.

As you can tell, I have been thinking this through a bit over the past twenty-four hours. To this day, three bands stand out to me from this era of terrific AM radio hits. Two of them lit up the charts at the time, while the third was not discovered by me until the Eighties. I am talking about the triumvirate of early-Seventies power pop: Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star. The Raspberries were the pride of Cleveland, Badfinger was from England and Big Star hailed from Memphis. Yet, all three embraced the sound of the pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles, early Who, Small Faces and Beach Boys at a time when that type of music was considered uncool. But, if you begin to trace the development and acceptance of power pop, you will see these bands’ fingerprints all over disparate artists’ sounds such as Cheap Trick, The Knack, Marshall Crenshaw, Bangles, Tommy Keane, Jellyfish, Material Issue, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, Jimmy Eat World and the rest.

Badfinger and Raspberries found chart success, while Big Star ran into nothing but problems. Both Badfinger and Raspberries stuck to the apparent cheeriness of The Beatles, while Big Star embraced a little more lyrical darkness which led them to be so influential on the bands of the Eighties. While Big Star encountered poor luck with their record company, causing them to miss out the sales they deserve, Badfinger may have been the most snake-bit band of the three. They were marketed as the “NEW” Beatles, always a kiss of death. They were mismanaged to the point where they were left broke after all of their sales, which tragically led to the suicides of two of their creative minds in the band. On the other hand, the Raspberries just never found the radio play their songs were calling out to have. Sure, they had hits, but only one found its way into the Top Five, “Go All the Way.” So, over the next three entries, I would like to make a case for each one of these bands for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, knowing full-well this is an act of futility. Still, I want it known that these musicians to know how much more meaningful my life has been because of their music.

In honor of the fact that I FINALLY have obtained a copy of the brilliant writer, and musician, Ken Sharp’s 1993 book about the Raspberries, I want to give Eric Carmen’s initial foray into my musical library a huge shout-out. A couple of years ago I bought a copy of the Raspberries’ fantastic live album Pop Art Live and did a write-up of the double-CD set on this blog. It was my first brush with one of my musical heroes when Eric Carmen himself gave me a shout-out on Twitter for the blog entry, thanks to the promotion of my longest-tenured friend in the world, Mike Bond, who was constantly sending my tweets to record companies and artists for them to read. But, when Eric Carmen, God bless him, sent me a “thank you,” well, that was a dream come true. Most of you may know the man through his hit songs “All By Myself” and “Hungry Eyes,” my his work with the Raspberries is impeccable.

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The Raspberries were not a vehicle for Carmen, though he was the dominant songwriter of the band. The give-and-take between the members of the band, who initially were Carmen on bass, guitar and vocals, Wally Bryson on lead guitar, drummer Jim Bonfanti and guitarist/bassist Dave Smalley. After the band’s first three albums, Bonfanti and Smalley were replaced by bassist/vocalist Scott McCarl and drummer Michael McBride for the band’s swansong. What was an extremely short run, spanning from 1972 through 1974, the band was given heaps of critical praise that greatly outweighed their actual success on the charts. Yet, the band’s music is now being cited by a third generation of musicians as an influence. You might be surprised to know that the Raspberries are not only held in high regard by the relative small community of power pop artists, but by big names such as Bruce Springsteen and Mötley Crüe.

To be perfectly honest with you, I am sick and tired of all the whining Eddie Trunk does about the lack of metal artists in the RRHOF. Really, Eddie?!?! Metal, while a very important genre in rock’s history, is also one of rock’s most limited, with the most passionate fans who predominantly believe that rock music is ONLY metal. But, when you analyze the Hall’s membership, sure there are glaring omissions from metal, such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Mötörhead, but power pop only has Cheap Trick, of whom I would argue is not a total power pop band. So, Eddie, quit your bitching! My beloved, and equally influential Raspberries, Badfinger and Big Star sit on the outside, while hundreds of Jimmy Eat Worlds continue to ride the coattails of these trailblazers to some hit songs and albums.

So, with part one off my chest, here is my ode to Cleveland’s beloved Raspberries and my 20 favorite songs of the band.

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20. “It Seemed So Easy” (Fresh Raspberries, 1972)

19. “Last Dance” (Side 3, 1973)

18. “Making It Easy” (Side 3, 1973)

17. “Hard to Get Over a Heartache” (Side 3, 1973)

16. “I’m a Rocker” (Side 3, 1973)

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15. “On the Beach” (Side 3, 1973)

14. “If I Could Change Your Mind” (Fresh Raspberries, 1972)

13. “Don’t Want to Say Goodbye” (Raspberries, 1972)

12. “Starting Over” (Starting Over, 1974)

11. “Cruisin’ Music” (Starting Over, 1974)

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10. “Rose Coloured Glasses” (Starting Over, 1974). What a brilliant little ode to the days of the British Invasion, only a decade later. No wonder the people of my age grew up playing punk, power pop and new wave.

9. “I Don’t Know What I Want” (Starting Over, 1974). This song lyrically typifies the Pete Townshend male teen angst cry of wanting change for the sake of change. I have read that Carmen prefers the second album, Fresh Raspberries. But, I sure love the final album since the band, with its two newest members, sure seem to be more fully realizing The Who/Beatles mix the band originally envisioned.

8. “Let’s Pretend” (Fresh Raspberries, 1972). What a beautiful McCartney-esque ballad! This is probably Carmen’s hot zone.

7. “Party’s Over” (Starting Over, 1974). What The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” was to the Sixties, “Party’s Over” should have been to the Seventies: a party song for the ages.

6. “Ecstasy” (Side 3, 1973). Are you seeing a pattern? I kind of dig the latter two albums more than the first two. Sorry Eric! I love their rawness. I just love the sexual innuendo of the lyrics.

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5. “Tonight” (Side 3, 1973). What a terrific song!

4. “Play On” (Starting Over, 1974). This is a fantastic example of what McCarl brought to the band. Since McCarl is from Nebraska, I want to know if fellow Husker Matthew Sweet was the second coming of McCarl? Just a thought.

3. “I Wanna Be with You” (Fresh Raspberries, 1972). This song is great in the studio form, but just pops from the speakers on their live albums released here in the 21st century. Maybe, in retrospect, the Raspberries should have released a live album, which might have broken them to a much bigger audience, just as what happened to Peter Frampton, Kiss and Cheap Trick. Oh, what could have been!

2. “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” (Starting Over, 1974). The old “if only my band could get a hit song” hit song, cut from the same lyrical cloth as Dr. Hook’s pleading “Cover of the Rolling Stone” from the same era. Only thing, this is a PERFECT pop/rock song, full of Brian Wilson productions touches, Keith Moon-inspired drumming, Beatlesque sound affects and outstanding musicianship. Honestly, this is power pop heaven at its finest. Normally, a song of this caliber and quality should be a band’s best, but the Raspberries also had…

1. “Go All the Way” (Raspberries, 1972). This is POWER POP!!! If I would have been given the task to choose one song to represent the greatness of Seventies pop/rock to send into the universe for alien civilizations to discover, this is my song! It is perfect. From the loud Kinks-style guitars, to The Who’s power chords and rhythm section, to the Hollies’ choral harmonies, all the way through the lyrics describing a GIRL begging her boyfriend to “go all the way” with her. My goodness! To a pre-teen whose male hormones were just beginning to kick into full gear, this song was a revelation. I was taught that girls were all good and virtuous. I had absolutely no idea they were like me at the time – a horn dog! And, if you can hear Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs’ version of the song, with Susanna purring “go all the way” chorus, OMG! It’s a call to the groin. Still, I prefer this version because of the sexual tension the band brings to the song. PERFECTION!

Since I began this little mini-series with the dessert, I will bring it back to a main course of Badfinger for the next go-around. Stay tuned!

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