Chewin’ on Cheese

Still in repeat mode around here for a while.

I have been waxing lyrical lately about how great the radio sounded in Octobers gone by, but at the same time, I have been ignoring the painful-but-true fact that while “Miracles” and “Jazzman” sounded great, each of them was frequently segued out of, or into, some of the most egregious dreck of the 1970s, which rode the charts at the very same time. So, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s the flip side of those glorious Octobers.

1974:
“Steppin’ Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)”/Tony Orlando and Dawn (chart peak: #7).
In which Orlando channels Fred Astaire doing a top-hat-and-tails tap-dance number. Despite its awfulness, this record does not make you want to pull off your own arm and use it to beat yourself to death. That would be Dawn’s hit earlier in 1974, “Who’s in the Strawberry Patch With Sally?”

“My Melody of Love”/Bobby Vinton (chart peak: #3). Proof positive of the broad demographic appeal of Top 40 in the 1970s. It’s hard to imagine anybody under the age of 40 buying this record back then. Or anyone under the age of 70 now. Remembering that a station could once play this back to back with “Sweet Home Alabama” without breaking any format rules leaves me kind of woozy.

1975:
“Feelings”/Morris Albert (chart peak: #6).
DJs often made a big deal about how many countries this song had been Number One in. Which only proved that pop sludge can be international and multicultural. Remember the episode of The Gong Show where every contestant sang this, and every one got gonged?

“Run Joey Run”/David Geddes (chart peak: #4). In which Julie’s father discovers that Julie and Joey have been making the Beast With Two Backs and resolves to cap Joey for it, only to have Julie take the bullet to save Joey’s life. Gains extra awfulness points for its offkey angel chorus and Geddes’ manly, Michael Boltonesque performance.

“Rocky”/Austin Roberts (chart peak #9). For a song in which the heroine dies in the end, this is pretty upbeat. Gains extra awfulness points because the song is titled after the singer and not the dead heroine, whose given name is never mentioned.

1976:
“Muskrat Love”/Captain and Tennille (chart peak: #4).
Possibly the most reviled single of all time. Gains extra awfulness points for the muskrat sound effects, and for the way Toni sings the words “chewin’ on cheese.” Once, when I had to play this on the radio, I jumped on the fadeout and said, “All right, you little rodents, get out of here—and take the muskrats with you.”

“Disco Duck”/Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (chart peak: #1). You remember it as awful, but if you go back and listen to it again—and I did this week, so you don’t have to—it’s truly shocking how awful it is. It’s not funny; it’s not even especially clever; and it went platinum.

And there you have it: some of the most craptacular music of all time, and every one a Top-Ten hit. Because in the 1970s, we couldn’t help ourselves.

(Originally posted on October 21, 2004.)

5 responses

  1. I know better than to attempt to defend “Disco Duck” ’round these parts, but I was reminded of how much in the minority I was last weekend when Deney Terrio dismissed it as “crap” on Saturday Night Party Fever. So there: the man who taught Travolta to dance is on your side.

    I will, however, call you out for omitting the oddest facet of “Rocky”: the line about “the crazy party when (their) baby girl turned one”. That’s not the first adjective I’d unpack for a first birthday party.

  2. You know how record companies would sometimes re-service radio with a shorter version of a breaking record in order to get more playlist adds? Part of me wonders whether RCA’s decision to replace the original 3:46 “Feelings” DJ 45 with a short/long 2:58/3:46 version had more to do with keeping the record *on* playlists by placating those programmers who’d demanded that it taint their airwaves as little as humanly possible.

    And let’s not forget the “‘Dime’ Feelings” version, which T.K. Records’ Audio Latino label licensed from Brazil. Where’d that Morrismania bandwagon go, anyway?

  3. I’m not sure if you’re aware of the role WISM-AM (Madison) then-Program-Director Jonathon Little had with that horrid “Muskrat Love” record. Jon says he heard the C + T do the song during a concert at the Dane County Coliseum…a concert promoted by WISM…and backstage after the concert, he talked to Daryl and Toni about the song. They just did it as a hoot, they told him…but Jon insisted it could be a hit and told them they should push it. He started playing it on WISM; A&M started pushing the song to T-40 stations; the rest is sordid history. Or so I’m told…..

  4. Of course “Disco Duck” is everthing you say. But listening to it on the Top Of The Pops reruns from 1976 a few weeks ago, it stuck me that thr disco arrangement itself is actually pretty good. It is then undermined by the duck, the intention of the song, its novelty value and, of course, its structure. It’s a shockingly bad song well arranged.

  5. C&T’s “Muskrat Love” never bothered me that much, but I do prefer the original version by America. It’s a nice arrangement, done with their usual lovely harmonies.

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