When I sent off my list of favorites to Erik a few weeks ago, I’ll admit I was curious as to how many we’d have in common. I jokingly included an over-under line (7.5) in my email to him; I correctly took the under.
With so many possibilities, maybe it’s an upset that we even agreed on four selections. They’re a wide-ranging and interesting mix, that’s for sure. In chronological order:
Nilsson, “Without You” (February-March 1972, 4 weeks)
This is one I loved from the get-go—it simply feels like it’s always been there in my life. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard Badfinger’s original version. Their approach is perfectly fine, but I think the song demands Nilsson’s light, emotional touch on the verses and fantastic range for the chorus. I’d forgotten that Mariah Carey did a cover—she used the same arrangement, but Mariah is simply no match for Harry.
Love Unlimited Orchestra, “Love’s Theme” (February 1974, 1 week)
I hear the opening twenty seconds and I’m taken back to our living room in Walton, watching mid-70s weekend golf coverage on ABC—they’d chosen it for background music leading into or out of commercials. It’s such a smooth and easy piece—I think I could easily listen to a ten-minute extended version. To my mind, this is Barry White’s finest moment.
The Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat” (July 1974, 1 week)
I had to restrain myself a little from placing some complete schlock, mostly from 1974, on this list (“Seasons in the Sun,” “The Night Chicago Died,” even “The Streak”). You’re welcome. “Rock the Boat” may get the eyeroll from some of you, but it’s a super catchy number, and the metaphor in the lyrics has held up well over the years. (Listening to this again I’m reminded that I’ve been meaning to research how many songs include the phrase “your bad self,” particularly to identify the first one to do so.)
I may have been introduced to “Rock the Boat” by a babysitter that summer of ‘74, a high schooler from our church. I can envision us hanging outside with her when it came on the radio she must have brought along—maybe she began dancing to it in our front yard?
The Knack, “My Sharona” (August-September 1979, 6 weeks)
The LP version is a must because of Berton Averre’s amazing extended guitar solo. At some point I began referring to “My Sharona” as the first song of the ‘80s, I suppose mainly for its mainstreaming of new wave sensibilities. When I staked this claim in a conversation last year with the brain trust over at The CD Project, he immediately countered that the Cars’ debut album should be considered the ground zero moment. He’s got a point.
I began putting this collection of songs together last summer. If you look back at these posts, you’ll notice that each year of the decade was represented either two or three times. That was intentional, but in the end I don’t it had too much of a distorting effect on my choices.
Erik and I also decided to tack on a few “honorable mention” selections. In coming up with them, I avoided songs from Erik’s twenty-five that I’d considered for inclusion on my list. I also refrained from choosing any that got mentioned in one form or another in our comments along the way. Here you go; I could write a little about each but I’ll let them speak for themselves.
—The Carpenters, “(They Long to Be) Close to You” (July-August 1970, 4 weeks)
–The Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You” (November-December 1970, 3 weeks)
–The Honey Cone, “Want Ads” (June 1971, 1 week)
–David Bowie, “Fame” (September-October 1975, 2 weeks)
–Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, “A Fifth of Beethoven” (October 1976, 1 week)
I’m not sure what it says that out of the thirty songs I’ve highlighted across these five posts, nine come from the first two years of the decade, when I was really too young to know about music in any depth.
You can see Erik’s comments on our four joint selections and his HM selections here. Many, many thanks to him for agreeing to participate in this project. It’s been a blast, and we’re already kicking around ideas for future collaborations.