-DeeT's 70s Thoughts

Before I begin, let me confess that I haven't sorted this all out yet by any means. But here are some observations which seem to make sense.

Early 70s Children's Television

Children's television changed forever with the introduction of Sesame Street in 1969. Other wonderful children's shows from the era should be familiar to almost everyone: Mister Rogers's Neighborhood, The Electric Company, Zoom, Romper Room, H.R. Pufnstuf, and Captain Kangaroo, to name some of the most popular ones.

Children born before 1964 or so had a very different early television experience. Same goes for those born much after 1968, since many of the early shows didn't last past 1973 or so.

Late 70s Magic

Starting in 1976, a lot of really exciting things started happening. The US was celebrating its 200th birthday, disco and soft rock were just starting to really take off, new discotheques sprang up everywhere, and the CB craze had everyone talking. Heels had scarcely been higher, nor pant legs more flared, nor polyester more worshipped. It was a magical era for fads and fashion, which got everyone carried away.

By 1981, all of the above magic had faded, and those who had participated were embarrassed. They felt silly and didn't care to be identified with any of it. The old clothes were put away or even destroyed. The CB radios were reserved for emergency use on long trips. The red white and blue bicentennial shirts were buried deep in bottom drawers and backs of closets. The "Disco Sucks" mentality was pervasive, and people didn't hesitate to join in the chant.

The people I'm talking about in the above paragraph are the people who actually partook of these fads as young adults in the late 70s. Those who were older weren't so easily swayed by fads, and those who were younger, like me, didn't get to do most of the stuff. Those who were younger still, of course, were too young to even realize what was happening.

People my age never quite got to really live the late 70s. I was too young to flirt with chicks on the CB, too young to go to a disco, and too young to make any real impression with a bold statement in polyester. But I wasn't too young to get excited about these things. Like so many youngsters I idealized what the bigger kids were doing. The catch is that I never had the chance to really get involved, much less to become disillusioned or embarrassed later. Therefore, I still idealize the fads and fashions of the late 70s. For me the magic will never die because I'll never have the chance to try it and find out it was all just a lot of hype.

A Certain Age

I feel there's a select group of people, those born within a year or two of 1966, who share these experiences and feelings, more or less. I've gotten quite a few letters about the 70s page, and the most enthusiastic letters are invariably from people very near to my age.

Please don't get me wrong... this page is for everyone, and I'm sure that in many ways, people 10 years my senior will be able to get more out of it, just as they were able to get more out of the actual 70s. Hey, if you're 10 years older than me, I envy you and always have! That was your magical time. I was just along for the ride. Likewise, people younger than me may find a delight in things from the past that are just out of reach of their memory. (See the section on teens later.)

But there is definitely something magical about the 70s for people my age. Those a few years younger (born 1970 and after) tend to identify more with the 80s, a magical and exciting decade in its own right, with far less associated stigma! Those a bit older (born 1962 and earlier) often prefer to recall the splendor of the incredible sixties, of which I know so terribly little.

My 70s Wish

I think a small group of us (not even spanning a decade of birth dates!) will forever idealize the 70s, against strong pressures from both sides. Give me a sleek '78 Trans-Am, with a CB and an AM radio playing Moonlight Feels Right, some nice flare-legged jeans and an irregular polyester shirt, and a disco chick with the tallest platform shoes imaginable, and I'll give you the ten years off my life, no sweat.

Tape Therapy

Of course, we can't all get what we want, especially when we want such outlandish things as "to have been born 10 years earlier" or "to have had a less turbulent childhood". But I find that listening to old recordings really can help get your thoughts and feelings in order. Several times while I was going through these tapes, I wept. Sometimes there was a specific, painful memory. Other times I had no idea why I was crying. But in all cases, I felt like I had "finished" crying. That is, a few playings of a particular tape actually made it possible for me to drag out and resolve an issue from my distant past, long forgotten.

I find it amusing that psychology and self-help books often refer to bottled-up emotions from the past as "old tapes". In my case, real-life old tapes have released some of those demons and helped me to get on with life.

Tape Is Cheap

I feel very blessed to have as many tapes as I do. I urge anyone with children to record them frequently, and give them recorders if they're interested in it. And try to not ever record over anything. Now that I have more than 25 years of recording experience, I can say with a lot of humility and regret that you just never know what you will want to keep years down the road. Example: nearly all of the exciting, historic sound bites on my 70s page are from partially-erased tapes! There was *more* but it didn't seem important at the time. Now I treasure every precious second of that stuff. "Never Destroy Information" had become my motto in 1984, but if that's too broad, at least Save Those Tapes!!!

A Deserved Plug

From having gone through lots and lots of tapes, I can tell you which cassette brands from 20+ years ago held up and which did not. (Reel to reel tape is ageless, I've decided!) No one is paying me to say this. I just thought some people might find it interesting.

At the top of the list is.....(drumroll, please).... TDK. The TDK cassettes I have, even from 1973, are still as good as new in every way. Ampex: labels faded in color, just a few dropouts. Sony: labels and pressure pads fell off. Sounds just as good. BASF and Kmart: didn't like it when it was new, but it didn't age badly. Audio Magnetics: flimsy, breaks easily when old. Audiopak and Memorex: tape aged badly -- got extra noisy. Dynasound and Radio Shack: aged just fine, but noisier (to begin with) than TDK, Ampex and Sony.

I think today's cassette tapes are made better than ever, but I wouldn't hesitate to use TDK for my most precious memories.

[Update: TDK learned of this web page and subsequently sent me a few free cassettes (from the 1990s, they were careful to say!). It was a very nice gesture. Watta cool company!]

Did Disco Suck?

By 1981, a lot of people were really tired of disco music. I was right in there with them, and didn't rediscover it until pretty recently. My theory is that back in the late seventies, any old piece of crud with a disco beat could get airplay, whereas today only the best songs are fondly remembered and included in "best of" CDs.

So, in a sense, I'd have to say that disco sucked. It was and is a valid art form but the airwaves were so saturated with inferior offerings that it was hard to get to the good stuff sometimes. Today I tell people I love disco, because now I get to hear the best disco.

I suspect I'll feel the same way about rap music some day. I've liked a few rap songs, but mostly as soon as I hear a rap song I turn it off more or less automatically because again, rap has been selling so well that crummy stuff is out there getting airplay and MTV play more than the good stuff. Years from now I might buy a K-Tel rap album and enjoy the heck out of it. ;^)

No Bad Bass Lines

Recently I've had the opportunity to go back and listen to a lot of 70s pop music. I find that, as a whole, I love 70s pop more than that from any other era, but that's no revelation!

What was a revelation to me was the observation that ya just couldn't find a bad bass line in 70s pop. I mean it! Even on the crappiest "all your favorite hits as played by some cheesy garage band" albums, everything else might be falling apart, but by golly there's a nice 70s bass line underneath it all.

I'm a bass player myself and I'm grateful to have been influenced by the music of the 70s. I do some studio work, and no one complains when I give their 90s song a little touch of that smooth 70s feel on the bass. It's enjoying a comeback.

You can chalk some of it up to the development of the electric bass as a melodic instrument in the sixties. Paul McCartney had a lot to do with that of course, and he kept right on playing those fantastic bass lines throughout the seventies. You can probably also credit some of it to the emergence of more keyboard bass playing in the eighties. While not a lost art, bass guitar playing wasn't as all-important in the eighties as it had been. (Not that I'm slamming keyboard bass by any means! Check out "Dream Weaver" from the seventies and Chris DeBurgh's beautiful "The Lady In Red" from the eighties for keyboard bass at its best.) You could also attribute some of it to a few monster players like Leland Sklar who graced the albums of various artists with his tasty style throughout the decade.

No matter how you try to explain it away, I think it's truly remarkable how consistently good the bass playing was on pretty much all pop records throughout the whole 1970s, from "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl)" right on up through "Take the Long Way Home".

To finish this off, if you have an example of bad bass playing in a 70s pop hit, please tell me about it. It would be a little comforting to know they weren't really all bass-gods back then!

Wonderful New Music

I have favorite songs from every year, but I stopped listening to pop radio around 1982. From 1970 until 1982, sure we had our share of dumb songs, but generally if a group or artist had a good sound and could write good songs, they had a shot at success. From 1982 until 1995 or so, we had plenty of good music as always, but the radio stations and record labels tended to focus on trends and gimmicks (short term profits?), leaving the folks who simply make good music to fill in the gaps. Today, I believe pop is back on track, and I'm listening eagerly. The focus once again seems to be on playing good music and developing and supporting talented artists.

A Bow to the Teens

Lately I've been getting a lot of letters from teens (particularly ages 14-16) who are genuinely fascinated with the 70s. They listen to the music, wear the clothes, and really honor the era in thought, word, and deed. I just want to devote this space to pay a special thanks to those teens who are keeping these traditions alive, often more fervently than we children of the 70s are doing ourselves. You guys are the greatest!

Gentlemen Prefer Hanes

Maybe it's just me, but as I was growing up in the seventies, I think I saw more women and girls in pantyhose than out of them. My mom wore them, my teachers wore them, my female classmates wore them. Since I was ages 4-14 in the 70s, pantyhose became, for me, almost an archetype of femininity.

But what has happened? In the 70s, it seemed that women loved pantyhose, and now it seems that they hate them. Why is that? I'm guessing that neither generality was true. In the 70s pantyhose were "in", for whatever reason, so women who hated them kept it to themselves. Today, pantyhose are "out" and women who hate them are saying so loudly. Those who like them tend not to admit it, or even wear them terribly often.

And of course the men never admit to anything. I've said way too much already!

Fashion Footwear Then and Now

Open-toed, high-heeled sandals are back, popular now as they were 20 years ago. Unfortunately I find it's just not the same, as I point out in this cartoon drawing.

Mixed Feelings

Lately, the seventies are enjoying a sort of comeback. Teens are listening to disco (disco from the 70s as well as new stuff) and enjoying it just as much as we did the first time around. 70s radio stations are popping up all over the place. Bars and clubs often have a night with a 70s theme, such as "Thursday Night Fever" featuring "Polyester Punch". There are even a few bars that specialize in a 70s theme every day of the week, such as Polly Esters back east. Even some (but not enough!) of the fashions are back.

You would think that a seventies nut like me would be in heaven as a result of all this. Certainly I like being able to talk about the 70s and not get laughed at quite so hard, and I love at last being able to find the music I've been looking for. But at the same time this makes me less special. I used to be one of a very few people who still took an interest in the decade, but now it's trendy to like the 70s.

As with any fad or trend, there are always those who just "go along" with it, and share no genuine appreciation for it themselves. Today there are people who put on the most outrageous 70s fashions they can find and listen to the most obnoxious disco music they can find, just for the fun of it. There's nothing wrong with this, but these "trendies" don't make me any happier personally. I think the number of genuine 70s nuts is about the same as it was before the fads and fashions started to come back. Now I think I know how genuine fifties fans must feel when they see the 800th sock-hop party with "Rock Around the Clock" and "Tequila" playing over and over again.

Another unfortunate tendency is that of 70s radio stations to focus almost exclusively on "classic rock" (which doesn't upset the very important baby boomers) as opposed to being true to what got airplay in the 70s. Since I've been tuning in the 70s stations, I've received mega-doses of Doors, Stones, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, etc. -- which *is* a very important part of 70s music. But where is the breezy pop, like "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" or "Moonlight Feels Right"? Where is the disco? Where is "Where Is the Love"?

Please don't take this the wrong way: my overall feeling about the present "bring back the 70s" trend isn't particularly good or bad. It is what it is. People can party the way they want to party and play what they want to play on the air. I welcome quite a lot of it. I just wanted to make it clear that there are two sides to it. Just because I love the seventies doesn't mean that I'm happier if thousands more learn to hustle this year.

Tellya what, though, I'm very happy, and grateful, that you took the time to visit my web pages and read my thoughts. Comments are welcome, and whether you're here to join me in worship or just to giggle, I'm so glad you came.

Yours in the seventies...

Go back to -DeeT's 70s page.

-DeeT (70s@dt.prohosting.com)