A Moment of Peak Popularity

(Pictured: Do I really need to say?)

It has been over two months since I did one of these Links and Notes posts recapping worthwhile reading from my Twitter feed. What follows won’t be everything, but it’ll be plenty.

—The great Rebeat Magazine retweeted an old story examining the 1970s revival of interest in the 1950s, from American Graffiti to Grease to the rise of Ronald Reagan. This is the kind of thing Rebeat does very well, and something I profoundly wish I had written. Also at Rebeat: Dickie Goodman and the history of the break-in record.

—The year 1970 is a distant planet, one where Iggy Pop played a gig at a high-school gym alongside Mitch Ryder and Brownsville Station. The pictures are pretty great. This is the kind of thing Flashbak.com does all the time. They also recently published an exhaustive list of 70s songs with “boogie” in their titles, an exposé of the sensual passions on Gilligan’s Island, and a fine selection of photos featuring Julie Newmar, who will always be Catwoman to many of us.

—A filmmaker decided to drive from Iowa City to Chicago, a trip that took him about five hours with the traffic, while listening only to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” It was an adventure.

—“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas has recently resurfaced, sampled in Drake’s new “Hotline Bling.” An NPR Music story discussed the making of “Why Can’t We Live Together” and the historical moment (late 1972/early 1973) at which it became at hit. On the subject of makings-of, the Wall Street Journal‘s Anatomy of a Song series featured an interview with Rod Stewart about the making of “Maggie May.”

—In the runup to Halloween, journalist Eamonn Forde found an old book called Backward Masking: Backward Satanic Messages of Rock and Roll Exposed and tweeted some of its best bits. Bottom line: you’re going to Hell, and I’ll see you there.

—Also just before Halloween, we passed the anniversary of Elton John’s 1975 Dodger Stadium concerts, which might have represented the moment of his peak popularity. Ultimate Classic Rock had a good look back, which linked to an even better one from a guy who was there, a 15-year-old at his first concert.

—The 50th anniversary of the great New York City blackout of 1965 is just a few days away. That Eric Alper found an aircheck from that evening on WABC featuring radio legend Dan Ingram, in which you can actually hear the power starting to fail and Ingram wondering what’s happening.

—Chicagoland Radio and Media has an extensive audio section. Recently, it added a Larry Lujack WLS aircheck dated October 19, 1970. I can’t be sure at this distance, but I believe I remember listening that morning. You can also hear well-traveled legend Big Ron O’Brien burning the joint down at WCFL in 1973. That includes a promo for the Last Contest, one of the most famous promotions in radio history.

—Bill Vancil is a well-traveled legend himself, a Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Famer and longtime Madison radio programmer, now retired. He’s recently started a blog, and one of his first posts told a great rock and roll radio story about a new duo who could maybe fill a hall.

—Writing about my recent East Coast trip, I told the story of listening to Bruce Springsteen’s The River for the first time. For its 35th anniversary, the album is getting a super-deluxe reissue. I’m probably not going to buy it, but I’ll damn sure listen to the album again.

—I have written a little bit about the state of contemporary country music. The Guardian‘s Grady Smith, a wise observer of the country scene, wrote about how some of today’s biggest stars are afraid to make music they actually like—how they’re caught between their personal taste and the demands of the starmaker machinery that’s propelled them to where they are.

—Two non-music, non-radio stories that have both been around a while came to my attention recently, and both are definitely worth your time. We’ve all seen the photo of John Carlos and Tommie Smith doing the black-power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics. But there’s a third person on that stand, and his story is remarkable. And on Christmas Eve 1945, a family in West Virginia lost five children in a fire. Or did they?

And that gets us back to the first of October, which is far as your patience and mine will stretch. To see more like this, you know what to do.

5 responses

  1. I just read the country music from the guardian. What passes as country today was often considered soft rock back in the day. It’s not real country anymore. If you play rock, come from the South, and wear a cowboy hat your country.

  2. had hopes for that Timmy Thomas story but what a piece of s**t. Glad to see the commenters on that page agreed with me.

    1. Same here. I was more than ready to bail less than halfway in, but, having already invested even that much time, felt nonetheless compelled to watch ’til every last car had left the rails.

      The hazmat team is *still* on the scene.

  3. Regarding the Timmy Thomas story, his part was more interesting to me than the rest of it, which is indeed a hash.

    Regarding contemporary country—for a while now, it hasn’t been soft rock as much as it’s been Def Leppard with a twang. The newest iteration is closer: the Timberlike-ization of country (Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Brett Eldredge). And with Justin Timberlake doing a guest shot on the CMA Awards this week, that trend is about to go into overdrive.

  4. Johnny Cash turned his back on the “machine” and started making the music he wanted and it seemed to turn out pretty well.

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