The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50, 1970, by Rich Paschall
The sweat on your brow tells us that you have been dancing to the oldies all week as you eagerly awaited our Top Ten picks from 1970 Rock and Roll. If you were here for “Golden Oldies, Part One,” then you read about the top events in rock music history. There were top political events as well.
Protests erupted in cities and on college campuses over a variety of social issues, but most particularly the war in Viet Nam. As actions expanded in Cambodia, college students took to the streets to show their anger over this escalation. At Kent State the Ohio National Guard fired 67 rounds in 13 seconds on a crowd of unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine others. Protests grew across the country and the military was called up to protect the president, as 100,000 took to the streets of Washington DC five days after Kent State. Five guardsmen were indicted for the Kent State massacre, but a federal judge later dismissed the charges.
Postal workers in New York City went on strike over the deplorable conditions and low wages there. The strike spread to other cities and the president called up military units to NYC post offices. This lasted two weeks.
Ten days after Kent State, law enforcement officers fired for approximately 28 seconds on a group of student protestors at historically black Jackson State College, killing two black students and wounding twelve others. No charges were brought.
The Laguna Fire in California burns from September 22 to October 4 and destroys 175,425 acres and 382 buildings. There were 16 casualties.
In April an oxygen tank exploded on Apollo 13 and the entire world sat on the edge for four days as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) tried to bring the craft safely back to earth. You may have seen documentaries or the award-winning movie.
American Motors launched the Gremlin automobile. Chevrolet brought out the Vega and Ford introduced the Pinto. It was not a good year for American-made cars.
The North Tower of the World Trade Center is completed making it the tallest building in the world at that time (1368 feet tall).
For a positive memory, Garry will be pleased to recall that the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup after a long drought. Elvis Presley went on tour for the first time in twelve years. PBS made its debut following the end of National Education Television.
Some of the best rock and roll ever produced blasted out of transistor radios, jukeboxes, and from all those 45s and albums we purchased. After careful review of my memory banks, here are my top ten.
10. Make It With You, by Bread. Written, produced, and sung by David Gates. Except for drums, he played all the instruments on the recording and sang the harmony. It was the first number-one song for Bread. “And if you’re wondering what this song is leading to,” you are probably right.
09. Mama Told Me Not To Come, by Three Dog Night. Randy Newman wrote the song for Eric Burdon in 1966. The single by Eric Burdon & The Animals was not released, but it did turn up later on their album. Newman recorded it himself for his own album in 1970. It was Three Dog Night who scored big and their version was the number 1 song in the country when American Top 40 premiered on the radio.
08. Your Song, by Elton John. This Elton John/Bernie Taupin song first appeared on the third Three Dog Night album in March. Later in the year, John released it as the B-side of “Take Me To The Pilot.” Disc Jockeys preferred “Your Song,” however, and it became a hit. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
07. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, by B.J. Thomas. The song was written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach for the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was the first number one hit of the 1970s and stayed there throughout January.
06. Rainy Night In Georgia, by Brook Benton. The song was written by Tony Joe White. Yes, the same guy who had a hit with “Polk Salad Annie” in 1969. This one just made it on to the List of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at 498.
05. 25 or 6 to 4, by Chicago. This Robert Lamm song was being written at 25 or 26 to 4 AM. It was the first Chicago song to break into the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Wanting just to stay awake / Wondering how much I can take / Should have tried to do some more / 25 or 6 to 4.” Enjoy this vintage video with the original Chicago lineup.
04. He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, by The Hollies. There are several versions of the origin of the phrase in the title. It is famously a slogan at Boys Town children’s home. In 1918 a boy was said to have been carrying another boy who had polio and wore leg braces up the stairs. He said to Father Flanagan, “He ain’t heavy, Father. He’s my brother.” Elton John plays the piano on the hit recording.
03. Evil Ways, by Santana. It’s the organ solo and the guitar work of Carlos Santana that makes this single a hit, just like so many of his hits. Carlos also lends backing vocals while Greg Rolie sings lead. It was recorded in 1969 for the debut album and released as a single in January 1970. This was Santana’s first Top 10 hit. There is a 1970 video, but the quality of the Woodstock video is much better.
02. Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon & Garfunkel. The story goes that Garfunkel originally declined Simon’s request to sing lead thinking Simon should do it, but Art eventually agreed. The arranger transposed Simon’s work from G-major to E-flat major to suit Garfunkel’s voice. The rest, as they say, is music history. It is Art that you hear throughout the excellent recording. If you see the famous Concert in Central Park film, it is just Garfunkel there too. I thought I would give you a more recent treatment when the “old friends” decided to do it together. Still, Garfunkel delivers a powerful ending.
01. Make Me Smile, by Chicago. By now you must have been wondering which Chicago hit I was going to place here. This song is actually a piece of the much larger work “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” posted here with the original Chicago lineup. The entire work was written by trombone player James Pankow and includes another hit, Color My World. They consistently play the entire suite in concert. It is one of my fondest musical memories.
What is your number 1? To listen to any song on the list, just click on the title. To listen to all 21 on the countdown, click HERE.