Rockin’ With the Superstars

The Warner Special Products compilation Superstars of the 70s, which I wrote about on Friday (and which elicited a comment from Yah Shure clarifying precisely what a cutout is), turned out to be the first of four volumes under the Superstars of the 70s umbrella. I have all four, and I’m not parting with any of them.

I am guessing that I bought the second volume, titled Heavy Metal, with money I got for Christmas in 1974, because right now I am looking at a sheet of notebook paper I tucked inside the jacket with the track listing and the length of each track, personally timed by me and my stopwatch. For some reason, I signed and dated the listing—December 31, 1974. I played the living hell out of this album for the next two or three years. It’s not really a heavy-metal album (the first two tracks, “Kick Out the Jams” by the MC5 and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” come closest); you could digitize it and put it on your favorite classic-rock station even now and nobody would be the wiser. The summer I worked at WXXQ in Freeport, we played a couple of songs directly off a copy of Heavy Metal. The synchronicity made me woozy, given the number of times I had pretended to be on the radio while playing that very album at home.

The album had to have some hits, though, or I wouldn’t have bought it to begin with: “Smoke on the Water” (the outstanding live version from Made in Japan), “Right Place, Wrong Time,” “D’yer Mak’er,” and “Radar Love.” It had several tunes I’d bought as 45s (Van Morrison’s definitely-not-metal “Domino” and “Bang a Gong” by T. Rex), and it was my introduction to several songs I still dig today, including “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image and “Outlaw Man” by the Eagles. The oddest track is probably a live version of “Starship Trooper” by Yes—not exactly the typical compilation tune circa 1974.

Volume 3 in the series, Rockin’ Easy, was released in 1975, and I got it maybe a year later—on a by-God 8-track tape, although I acquired a vinyl copy in later years. Unlike the two previous volumes, it purported to contain “laid-back hits.” That didn’t make it wimpy, though, except for America’s “Muskrat Love” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” The bulk of the tracks came from the softer side of album rock. Rockin’ Easy was my introduction to the original version of “Sentimental Lady” (Fleetwood Mac), to Jackson Browne’s version of “Take it Easy,” and to Bonnie Raitt (“Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy”), as well as to superb tracks like the Doobie Brothers’ “South City Midnight Lady” and Stephen Stills’ “Change Partners.” Plus it’s got some hits: “Hello It’s Me,” “Diamond Girl,” “She’s Gone,” and “Suavecito” by Malo.

The fourth volume, Silver Bullets, was also released in 1975. It has more R&B than the other sets combined, featuring hits by the O’Jays, Chi-Lites, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Staple Singers, AWB, the Spinners, and Tower of Power, plus lesser-known tracks by the Persuaders, the Main Ingredient, Aretha Franklin, and Isaac Hayes. Add a few dollops of other stuff—Foghat’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead, “Lookin’ for a Love” by the J. Geils Band, and, because they were on Atlantic, Abba’s “Waterloo”—and you’ve got the least cohesive entry in the set. That didn’t stop me from playing it regularly for several years.

You can tell from the looks of all four sets that they were well-loved. The covers are as worn as any in my library. The discs inside, however, are not especially bad off after nearly 40 years. I have replaced a lot of the songs with pristine CD versions in the intervening years, but I’m keeping the vinyl. Some people have baby pictures of their kids to cherish in their old age. I’ve got these, and that’s OK with me.

(Rebooted from a couple of 2007 posts.)

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3 responses

  1. Used to play a lot of tracks from the Heavy Metal one on the air.
    Van Morrison on a heavy metal comp? Weird.

  2. The synchronicity made me woozy, given the number of times I had pretended to be on the radio while playing that very album at home.”

    Excellent!!

  3. Live version of “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple = TASTY (as written on the record label at WKAU/Appleton-Oshkosh-Green Bay 1983)

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