I grew up on a farm, but I was no farmer. I hated working on the farm. Even the year we talked my father into paying us the minimum wage (then $2.30 an hour), it didn’t help. I wanted out. In the summer of 1977, I made it out. A friend’s father ran a full-service gas station, and he hired me to be an attendant. Like farming, the job could be messy and unpleasant, and I wasn’t very good at it. (Rather like farming, too.) I was still making only the minimum wage, but at least it was the job of my choice. Before the summer was over, I would get a second job in town. Another friend had filled my head with tales of his great job working at a grocery store, so when I saw an opening at a different store, I applied. I got the job—and it was hideous. The work was backbreaking, the boss was a martinet, and the minimum wage was still only $2.30 an hour. I quit after less than a month—almost at the precise moment I lost the gas-station job, for reasons that were hazy then and still are today.
I didn’t care. I was 17, still living in the cocoon at home, in love, and perfectly happy with life, even when it dealt me a setback or two. I knew—in the oblivious way some 17-year-olds have—that everything would be OK, my ticket was punched, and there was no need to worry. Plus, many of the tunes that filled my life were pretty good. Here are five of them from the Cash Box chart 30 years ago this week:
1. “I’m Your Boogie Man”/KC and the Sunshine Band. (peak) I like most other KC singles better than this one. (Someday I’ll write about “Keep it Comin’ Love” and you’ll witness irrational exuberance firsthand.) This one is inoffensive, though, and it gives me an excuse to link to this video, which appears to be set in a paneled church basement, and in which KC busts a dance move before playing a piano solo consisting of approximately four notes. Your boogie man, indeed.
6. “Lonely Boy”/Andrew Gold. (climbing) This is the single greatest example of baby-boomer narcissism ever to make the Top 40. Apparently, our hero grew up in a snit and left home at age 18 in a snit because . . . his parents had a second child. Hate them for being materialistic, hate them for not understanding you, but fer chrissakes, don’t hate them because you aren’t the absolute center of their universe. It sounded great on the radio, but still.
22. “Couldn’t Get it Right”/Climax Blues Band. (falling) Y’know, when our friend Jason brands one of the treasured songs of my youth as Mellow Gold, I die just a little bit inside. Well, OK, not “die,” but I start to feel old and uncool. It occurs to me, however, that I might have been uncool even in 1977, and if I didn’t care about it back then, I shouldn’t care now. So Jason, with all of the respect that’s due to one of my favorite music bloggers, about this song? Bite me. “Couldn’t Get it Right” is a fine, funky clatter that had been on the radio every 90 minutes all spring for good reason, becoming their biggest hit.
36. “Whatcha Gonna Do”/Pablo Cruise. (climbing) One of the great radio records of that or any summer—if the “Cruise” part of the band’s name was intended to evoke strong fluid motion, as the band once claimed, this kind of thing is what they meant. (This is going to be Mellow Gold someday too, I just know it, despite the second half of the guitar solo, which is as close as the band ever came to being badass.)
64. “Dancin’ Man/Q. (falling) All I know about Q is that they were from Pennsylvania and they had the shortest artist name ever to make the charts up to that time. (This was two years before “Pop Muzik” by M.) My best friend back then, Dave, dug this song in a major way. When I hear it now, I can see him dancing to it. Well, not dancing, precisely—more like spazzing out. It’s a good memory, though. Dave was with us not nearly long enough, and has been gone a very long time. So let’s all dance like white guys together. “Dancin’ Man” is two minutes and 40 seconds of pure 70s awesomeness, coming to you straight off a radio promo 45, same song on both sides, stereo on one side and mono on the other.