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Radio sounds better when you have to pay for it
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
This isn’t intended to be an ad for Sirius Satellite Radio, but I’ve had a chance to listen to it a lot recently, and I like what I’m hearing. I’m in a period of my life where the past seems like a better place than the present, and my taste in music is reflecting that. Which is why I’ve been tuning the radio to Sirius channel seven, “Totally 70’s”. It’s the music of my youth; the theme from “Shaft,” Donny Osmond’s glass-shattering pre-adolescent vocal on “One Bad Apple,” the hip, urban offerings of Earth, Wind and Fire and The Commodores. Pop music seemed to have variety back then. You had instrumentals, novelty songs and syrupy ballads sharing space on the A.M. dial.
Songs also seemed more romantic back then. Who can forget Derek and the Domino’s “Layla,” released in 1970, which was written by Eric Clapton to express his love for Patty Boyd, then the wife of ex-Beatle George Harrison? Then there’s the “I’ll do anything for you” attitude of “Vehicle,” a song I’ve heard many times, but never knew the title of until a couple days ago. That’s one of the cool things about Sirius: on the little screen, it will tell you the artist and name of the song, and on the “Totally 70’s” station, will tell you the year the song was released. But where can you find lyrics like, “Great God in Heaven you know I love you,” today? That line comes from “Vehicle.” Love on today’s pop radio has been replaced with sex. And it’s not even done in a tasteful way.
Then, there’s the “Jukebox From Hell.” This is a feature of this particular station that highlights truly wretched songs. I’m embarrassed to admit our household owned at least two of the songs selected as being truly heinous. One of them was “Indiana Wants Me,” by R. Dean Taylor, which became a hit in of all places, Canada. However, one cannot entirely blame Canada for this. It was Motown’s own Rare Earth Records, a label dedicated to white artists, which signed Dean and caused this pathetic song, complete with police radio transmissions, to see the light of day.
Another song, “Eres Tu,” that my dad purchased, also made the jukebox from hell. I guess if a song is in a foreign language, that marks it as not being good. Despite it being sung entirely in Spanish, it received second place in the Eurovision song competition and placed at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974. It was a shock to hear it, as it reminded me of my dad. We had that on 45 rpm.
One thing about the 70s; it seemed to have an abundance of story songs, which I love. My favorite has to be “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” about a real-life shipwreck in Lake Superior. The song haunts and fascinates me. The gloomy lyrics are actually respectful, and with a few exceptions, are fairly accurate about what happened. Even if you weren’t alive when the ship went down, just listening to the song gives you an excellent idea of what happened and what the crew might have said or thought.
Here’s one of my favorite lines: That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed/When the gales of November came early.
Another story song, this one a bit more upbeat, was “Convoy” by C.W. McCall. I actually heard this while driving the truck, and I had to smile. According to Wikipedia, the song is about a “fictitious minor trucker rebellion,” but no one knows exactly what the drivers are protesting, other than the 55 mile an hour speed limit that was in place when the song was released. I wondered what a “suicide jockey” was, and Wiki filled me in: it’s a truck hauling explosives. The song ends with the singer of the song insisting he wasn’t going to pay the toll heading into New Jersey, so he “crashed the gate doing ninety-eight/I sez let them truckers roll, 10-4.” That would be a sight, especially with a suicide jockey riding somewhere in the middle of the convoy. Broiled truckers, anyone? Incidentally, some tractor-trailer units have speed governors on them, so they can’t go past say, 65 miles an hour or so. Of course, that changes if you’ve got an especially heavy load and you’re heading downhill. I’ve hit at least 75 going down a Pennsylvania mountain. I ought to write a song about that. The line “expensive crap let out of a trap” is rolling around in my head. Stay tuned!