RSS Feed

Tag Archives: seventies

Ten for the books.

Posted on
Ten for the books.

A jag doesn’t go away until it comes out through the fingertips. And so we continue …

The “Stairway to Heaven” yearbook I linked to the other day will probably always be the standard-bearer for Seventies high school yearbook covers. It’s just so thoroughly of its time.

But as I continue to browse the online collection at archive.org, I find so many more that deserve to be brought out and recognized.

Sure, if you search the archive for “yearbook,” you’ll find lots of obvious cover photos of changing leaves, seagulls and sunsets. (Or are they sunrises? We discussed that the other day.)

But you’ll also find plenty of schools willing to stretch the boundaries of imagination — sometimes good taste, too — to do something new and catch the spirit of the time and place.

And that’s really what it’s about, no? A yearbook isn’t supposed to be timeless; it’s supposed to be carved out of a moment, or a collection of them, and it’s supposed to take you there when you look at it.

Anyway, here are 10 classic Seventies high school yearbook covers you need to see, because they’ll take you there. Or they’ll take you someplace interesting, anyway.

I put numbers on ’em, but I wouldn’t really argue that No. 2 is better than No. 9. It’s all good:

10. Belmont High School “Reflections,” Belmont, Mass., 1973.

Belmont73

You’ll find all sorts of freaky-deaky photo effects on Seventies yearbook covers. Fisheye lenses. Redscale film. Photos that have been given that posterized treatment — I think that’s what it’s called — when an image is boiled down to only two or three colors, producing a garish outline that hints at the real thing.

Choosing a “best” in this category is highly subjective. But if you know the kind of photo treatments I’m thinking of, I think you’ll agree the ’73 Belmont Reflections cover is a fine example. It waves the flag of the genre high and proud.

(“High” perhaps being the operative word. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

9. Minnechaug Regional High School “Falcon,” Wilbraham, Mass., 1977.

wilbra77.jpg

If you are of a certain age — too young to have received any of these yearbooks, certainly — you may remember the opening credits of The Electric Company. You’d see a clip of a character on the show doing something; then the actor who played that character would saunter into view and wave, or grimace, or curtsy, or something.

(Ringing no bells? Here you go:)

Anyway, I’m having a hard time putting a finger on why I like the Minnechaug High ’77 yearbook cover.

But I think it’s because the concept — separating the moments from the people behind them — subconsciously reminds me of these opening credits.

(Minnechaug also gets mention for its 1975 yearbook, which looks like Poor Richard laid it out, and its 1978 annual, which looks like Pedro Bell, of Funkadelic fame, laid it out.)

8. Johnston High School “Johnston High Fever,” Johnston, Iowa, 1979.

johnstonhigh79.jpg

Remember when I was waxing eloquent about how the “Stairway to Heaven” yearbook cover was the quintessential expression of its time and place?

Yeah, I mighta just been talking out the side of my neck on that.

7. Bishop Fenwick High School “Lance,” Peabody, Mass., 1975.

fenwick7X.jpg

Somebody’s grandma did this one, and don’t tell me otherwise.

(If you’re wondering why there are so many Massachusetts high schools in this post, it’s not because of my love for the Bay State; it’s just because Massachusetts is overrepresented in the archive.org collection. A year from now, perhaps fresh goodness from elsewhere will have been added.)

6. Highland High School “Shield,” Highland, Indiana, 1974.

shield74.jpg

There’s really nothing identifiably Seventies about this shot. I just think it’s colorful and charming and whimsical and kicky and fresh.

Who would expect to see an old-fashioned gumball machine on a yearbook cover? And who could be crabby enough not to smile at the sight of it?

5. (tie) Port Huron High “Student,” Port Huron, Mich., 1976; and Longmeadow High School “Masacksic,” Longmeadow, Mass., 1976.

porthuron76

masacksic76.jpg

As you can imagine, all kinds of schools went in on the Bicentennial for yearbook inspiration.

If you like Bicentennial designs — and, really, who doesn’t? — you could easily build a top 10 list just from those. I’ve chosen to bundle two together and count them as one.

Port Huron gets the nod for patriotic simplicity. Conversely, Longmeadow gets points for using distinctive art and not using the obvious red, white and blue.

A Bicentennial special mention goes to Fermi High School of Enfield, Conn. Their art wasn’t great, but the cover incorporates “76” in an unexpected way.

4. (tie) Warren Central High School “Wigwam,” Indianapolis, Ind., 1973; and Southeastern Regional Technical Vocational High School “Invictus,” South Easton, Mass., 1973.

wigwam73

invictus

Blue jeans were a great Seventies look (just ask David Dundas) and several covers in the archive.org collection feature denim-themed riffs.

The Warren Central Wigwam shot brings to mind the kind of homespun, faded, super-patched jeans worn by Neil Young on the After the Gold Rush cover, while the much cleaner look of the Southeastern Invictus cover almost anticipates the coming trend for designer denim.

Wonder if anybody at Southeastern even realized they were putting a big closeup of an arse on their yearbook cover until it was too late?

3. Turners Falls High School “Peske-Tuk,” Montague, Mass., 1978.

pesketuk78

The Seventies may have been a time of wild excess, but a fortunate few still found genius in simplicity.

I love the typeface these western Massachusetts kids used for “1978.” And the exclamation point is perfect. Without belaboring the point (like the kids at Liberty High in Brentwood, Calif., did), it says: “Now, wasn’t that one hell of a year we just finished? And aren’t you glad to be in this moment?”

(White yearbook covers probably don’t wear well, but we’ll not get bogged down in practical concerns like that.)

Edit: After looking at this one for the tenth time, I discerned the outline of the words “HERE COMES” above the big blue “1978!” This kinda deflates, or at least redirects, my interpretation above … and I kinda liked it better when all I could see was the year. But I’m just gonna leave the post the way I wrote it.

2. Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, Va., 1977.

wl77

Veering wildly one last time into fantasyland, we have … this design, which looks like an album cover Nektar rejected.

It’s so audacious that it’s won me over. It bears no connection or relevance at all to the day-to-day lives and dreams of teenagers, but whoever designed and approved it seems to have been fine with that. And I guess I am too.

1. Sutton High School “Exitus,” Sutton, Mass., 1973.

exitus73

What this one lacks in art it makes up for in pure high-school attitude. (Although the “handwritten” typeface is a nice artistic touch. Makes it look like a teenage girl’s journal or something. Starkly personal.)

In high school, you don’t realize that everyone has your problems, and that none of them really matter. Your passage through the grades, trials and tribulations seems like an epic journey to you.

And when the door slams behind you, you perceive it as the end of an era … because you don’t have the perspective to know it’s just one step along the way.

To be fair: When you open the ’73 Exitus and read a little bit, the “end of an era” mentioned on the cover turns out to be the end of six years of double sessions at Sutton High. The kids who came up with this cover phrase didn’t (entirely) do it because they were in love with their own personal journey-myth; they were referring to real-life events.

But my purpose does not require me to consider context. I’m just looking at covers. And this one, absent context, delivers loads of that sort of unique, endearing self-importance that comes as part of the high school experience.

Really, every one of these covers marks the end of an era for a certain collection of people.

Even the cover with the arse on it.

A few more honorable mentions I couldn’t find room for:

Advertisements

They too have their story.

Posted on

The yearbook I linked to in yesterday’s post is still the ne plus ultra of Seventies yearbook covers. (Go see it if you haven’t.)

But when I found this one, I thought it deserved sharing as well, for the way it evoked that uniquely Seventies collision of deep, profound thought (or what was perceived as deep, profound thought) with the mass market.

I give the Stoneham High Class of ’74 credit: Their reproduction of the work in question, inside the front cover, is accurately credited. None of that 1692 nonsense, or whatever canard it was that was going around back in the day.

It had been a few years since the recording of this work had been on Top 40 radio; the members of the Class of ’74 were mere wet-behind-the-ears sophomores when it was a hit. I guess it made a lasting impression in Stoneham.

Finally, while I’m thinking about it: I have always perceived the sun-photos on the covers of yearbooks (including this one) as sunsets. It has only hit me just now that they’re probably supposed to be sunrises — representative of the dawn of a new day, and like that.

I accept whatever that particular Rorschach test says about me.

(Beyond a wholesome discipline, I am being gentle with myself.)

The piper will lead us to reason.

Posted on

Seventies yearbooks are an intermittent jag of mine, and I’ve been cruising a bunch of them over at the Internet Archive — to the point where I’m starting to develop a Seventies Yearbook Bingo game based on my favorite themes.

(One favorite game: Guess how many pages you have to get into each yearbook before you find a picture of somebody playing a guitar. When you find one, it will almost certainly be an acoustic guitar, the tool of pained, earnest troubadors everywhere. Give yourself five extra points if it’s not.)

But this is a digression. The real kernel in tonight’s post:

If you like Seventies culture, you simply have to see the front cover of the Weymouth South High School 1979 yearbook, from Weymouth, Massachusetts.

I’m not gonna give you any hints as to what’s on it. But once you’ve seen it, you will not forget it, because a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Seriously. I’m not trolling or rick-rolling you; I’m not linking to a Playboy centerfold or a gore-shot from some ungodly horror movie. I’m steering you to the distilled essence of Teenage Seventies, or part of it anyway.

Odds are, you won’t even notice the howling spelling error at top right.

Well, OK, now you will.

(If by chance you click the link and you get the inside cover of the yearbook, just click on the left-hand page to get to the front cover.)

Dude.

Encore Performances: When British eyes are smiling.

Posted on

The smiles seem to be coming harder and harder lately so I am turning to the old blog for help. Originally published September 2010. I actually did get a comment or two on the original post; feel free to jump in.

Time for some audience participation, folks.

Who among the following performers has the Best British Rock Smile of the Seventies?

Tom Evans, Badfinger: Several times in this TV performance clip of “Come And Get It,” Evans breaks into a wonderful, completely unforced, somewhat lopsided smile.
(Watch around 0:35, and especially around 1:12. It really looks like he’s trying to hold back his pleasure, and failing miserably.)
This, of course, was the band’s first hit; and it’s easy to imagine that Evans might have been totally jazzed to be singing (or at least lip-synching) on Auntie Beeb.

Given the turbulent future that would await Badfinger, this clip gets extra points for sentiment … these guys wouldn’t have much to smile about in the years to come.

evansStuart Tosh, Pilot: Tosh’s bandmates in Pilot weren’t much to look at; you’ll notice that keyboardist Billy Lyall doesn’t even get face time in this TV clip.
No matter.
Tosh looks up at about 0:20 and gives a big, winsome, look-Mum-I’m-on-the-telly smile, and you just want to ruffle his hair and send him out to play until dinner.

toshColin Earl, Mungo Jerry: The keyboard player for the immortal Mungo Jerry has a certain rugged handsomeness that reminds me of … somebody, like maybe a character actor I can’t quite put my finger on.
(He looks a little bit like Robinson Crusoe after ten days on the island, is what he looks like.)
Anyway, at about 1:14 and again at 2:08, he looks to be laughing at the absurdity of something — perhaps at the appearance of MJ frontman Ray Dorset, who looks like a berserk Juan Epstein.

earlNorman Watt-Roy, Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Look quick at about 0:15, and you’ll see a big grin spread across the bass player’s face as he locks into the trench-deep groove. It’s another one of those “they pay me to do this!” moments.

wattroy(While we’re at it, Watt-Roy also flashes a totally different but still wonderful grin about one minute into this live performance of “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.” He looks ecstatic and totally drained.)

wattr2George Harrison: The “Crackerbox Palace” video features the Quiet/Somber/Reticent Beatle flashing a crazed smile at about 2:12 (as he murmurs, “It’s twue, it’s twue!,” a completely irrational “Blazing Saddles” reference.)
The smile at the very beginning, when Neil Innes is pushing him in the baby carriage, is kinda charming too.
And then there’s the bizarre moment at about 3:00 in, when George is shimmying and driving the lawn tractor at the same time.

hari

Ray Davies and John Gosling, the Kinks: In the early to mid-’70s, the song “Alcohol” was a highlight of Kinks stage shows, with Ray Davies drawing the drama of the verses out to absurd lengths, balancing bottles of ale on his head, and generally camping about to the ragtag strains of the band’s in-house horn section, the Mike Cotton Sound.
This particular clip, representative of the era, uses split-screen to give us simultaneous smiles from the gap-toothed Davies and his accompanist, keyboardist John “The Baptist” Gosling. They’ve had a couple, and they know what’s coming.

goslingdaviesPete Budd, The Wurzels: It would be easy to dismiss the frontman of this West Country novelty act as either infantile or maniacal.
But I like his style, me.
He buys merrily and completely into the weirdness of his own particular schtick.

buddAny other nominations? You know where the Comments section is.

Why me, indeed.

Posted on

A roundabout Wikipedia journey this afternoon reminded me of something I’ve said before:

While I can sing you significant chunks of many pop hits of the Seventies, I’m totally ignorant of their country counterparts.

I was raised in a house where country music was pretty much disdained, and I’ve been content to maintain that attitude into almost-middle-age. (Today’s “country” hasn’t changed my mind.)

In an effort to right that possible wrong, or at least to offer something like fair play, I decided to listen to the Number One country hits from the summer of 1973 and see what I thought of them.

I chose the year not quite at random: The summer of ’73 was the summer of my birth. It also felt too obvious to go for a big round anniversary like 40 years. We bloggers do that all the time.

So here we go. Anything good on?

Week ending June 16: Tammy Wynette, “Kids Say The Darndest Things.” Knowing nothing about it, I pegged this as a weeper in which a wide-eyed child of divorce looks up at his/her mommy and innocently asks when Daddy’s coming home.

I wasn’t quite right, but I was close enough: The wee ones talk about divorce, mention Daddy’s absence and drop cuss words.

It’s kind of a one-joke setup that shows its hand early, leaving us with no alternative but to enjoy the relentlessly skittering xylophone.

(How much work do xylophone players in Nashville get, anyway? If this tune made the percussionist enough for a down payment on a new Monte Carlo, I guess it was worth it.)

Week ending June 23: Jeanne Pruett, “Satin Sheets.” This one crossed over onto the pop Top 40, and I’ve heard it on rebroadcast Casey Kasem American Top 40 shows.

A real weeper, this, with steel guitar and a somewhat less cloying lyric than “Kids Say The Darndest Things.”

A couple more chord changes might have been nice, though. Those famously clever and inventive Nashville songwriters didn’t really knock themselves out on this one.

(Wiki tells me — and feel free to read this paragraph in a Casey voice — the song was actually written by an unknown songwriter from Minnesota farm country who spent three years trying to get someone to listen to it, and was eventually rewarded with a big hit for his trouble. Nice backstory, but it’s still kind of a cookie-cutter song.)

Week ending June 30: “Don’t Fight The Feelings of Love,” Charley Pride. The second of three country Number Ones in ’73 for the ex-minor league ballplayer.

And whaddya know, it rollicks a little bit, in a root-fifth kind of way.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I like it; and I’m a little hard put to explain why it was such a big hit, as it doesn’t have one of those killer melodic or lyrical twists that really stick in the mind.

But it doesn’t offend me, and it gets in and out in a spare two minutes.

Week of July 7: “Why Me,” Kris Kristofferson. Yeesh. Another tune that became a good-sized pop crossover success, spending 19 weeks in the pop Top 40.

I’ve never been able to stand it myself, in between Kristofferson’s froggy croak and a lyric that would go nicely in Hallmark’s “For A Religious Friend In Turmoil” section.

(I’m also acquainted with the song from Elvis Presley’s mid-’70s shows, when it served as a vehicle for featured backup singer J.D. Sumner. I don’t care for it much in that setting either.)

Weeks ending July 14 and 21: “Love is the Foundation,” Loretta Lynn. Apparently Faith Hill and Conway Twitty have both had their ways with this one as well.

They didn’t have to remember much. There’s kind of a spare construction here — a single verse, twice through the chorus, and done.

(Is it, or was it, a general rule that country audiences don’t demand as many hooks or arranging touches as pop listeners do? Even a one- or two-chord pop hit — “Everyday People,” say, or “Rhiannon” — goes more places than these songs do.)

I’d call this one a sludgy and fairly uninspiring ballad myself; the hints of lust and cheatin’ don’t really add that much spice.

Week ending July 28: “You Were Always There,” Donna Fargo. Please tell me this isn’t about Jesus …

… no, but it’s only marginally less maudlin. It’s a song from a daughter to one or another deceased parent, ruing the fact that they never took the time to talk about anything substantive.

I can see why this was big, but it ain’t my cup of tears.

Week ending Aug. 4: “Lord, Mr. Ford,” Jerry Reed. I was sorta hoping this was a raging political screed aimed at the occupant of the White House, until I remembered Mr. Nixon was still president in the summer of ’73.

No, instead this is a fast-talking, fed-up, somewhat corn-poney recitation about the evils and frustrations of the automobile.

It ain’t great, but it tears up everything around it.

And I bet a few months later, after those Ay-rabs dropped an oil embargo on our landau-roofed asses, it sounded awful prescient.

Week ending Aug. 11: “Trip to Heaven,” Freddie Hart. Does this trip involve driving? ‘Cause Jerry Reed tells me driving’s a pain in the arse.

More straightforward acoustic-guitar raking here, cut from familiar musical cloth. Somehow this song makes me imagine a dance hall in Texas, chock full of couples two-stepping slowly around in each others’ arms.

Which is fine as far as it goes — the world needs honky-tonk shitkicker love songs as much as it needs any other style of music.

I suspect, though, that 100 other country singers released 100 (or 1,000) other songs that sounded just like this in ’73, and I’m not sure how to explain why this one landed at the top of the heap.

Week ending August 18: “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. Country songwriters sure love their specific references: Nothing establishes credibility like a name-drop of a Chevy truck, some Hank Junior on the radio, or, in this case, two Southern states separated by one big river.

(Hey, has anyone suggested that Florida Georgia Line cover this song? You’d have four of the most populous states south of the Mason-Dixon line wrapped up, even before the song started.)

Anyway: There’s just enough snap, energy and shared spark here to put this above the rest of the pack.

And, speaking as we were about those special touches that set a song apart, check out how the rhythm moves from a sort of country canter in the verses to a rocky shuffle in the choruses. That’s a perfect example of the kind of effort that sets a good record apart.

Weeks ending Aug. 25 and Sept. 1: “Everybody’s Had The Blues,” Merle Haggard.

I wasn’t expecting a song called “Everybody’s Had The Blues” to knock me flat with lyrical innovation, and this one doesn’t. (Again, something more than the sparsest of repeated lyrics might have helped.)

But as a straight slice of no-nonsense country, it does its job.

Also, kinda cool the way the band breaks time for the lines, “A lonely song / Someone is gone,” and “Love, hate / Want, wait.”

Weeks ending Sept. 8, 15 and 23: “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” Conway Twitty. Yup, him again.

I’ve heard this one — it cracked the pop Top 40 — and I’m not gonna bother listening to it again. If you want to, knock yourself out:

(OK, the bum-bum-bums are a catchy touch.)

So, yeah. Not sure why I spent so much time taking that trip.

But now, when someone brings up country, I can say with a little more familiarity that I’ve been that way before.

Bum bum bum.

Drive yourself down to the sea.

All those singer-songwriters with their flared jeans and Martin guitars and Steinway pianos and pot baggies and bruised hearts and major-label deals and L.A. condos and trenchant observations and impressive moustaches and anonymous-but-tight backing bands, all mouldering around under that big collective spacey dome we think of as the 1970s — aren’t they super-marvelous!

Yes, the Seventies were halcyon days for rock n’ roll troubadours, be they sensitive and thoughtful (Jax Browne, John Denver, Stephen Bishop) or working-class and combative (Billy Joel) or flaky around the edges (Dean Friedman) or heavy around the edges (Joe Walsh) or country around the edges (Glenn Frey and Don Henley) or marginally sociopathic (Warren Zevon) or … well, you get the idea.

Thanks to YouTube, I’m building up an interest in one of the lesser-known members of the grand fraternity.

Jay Ferguson couldn’t be called obscure. His CV includes the Top Ten solo hit “Thunder Island” and the Foreigner-esque Top Forty hit “Shakedown Cruise,” as well as membership in Spirit and Jo Jo Gunne, two bands well-remembered by crate-diggers and seekers of high-quality sounds just off the beaten path. (Spirit’s 1970 LP Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus comes highly recommended in these quarters.)

Ferguson never landed a solo album in the U.S. Top 50, though. And he left his solo pop career behind after only a half-dozen years or so to go into TV and movie composing.

Over the long run, then, he stands as a secondary member of the Los Angeles songwriter mafia … another guy in the cutout bins with a lush mustache and a partially unbuttoned shirt.

Which is unfortunate, because he seems to have had enough talent to paper his sunroom with gold records.

Ferguson — who recorded with Walsh’s producer, Bill Szymczyk, and sometimes with Walsh himself — turned in a portrait of sun-kissed hedonism to match any of his feather-haired rivals on “Cinnamon City,” from his first solo album, 1976’s All Alone in the End Zone.

Over a slice of mid-tempo, piano-driven boogie funk, Ferguson paints pictures of beautiful scenery, affluence (“Gucci suits” and “German cars”), and, this being the Seventies, plenty of restorative drugs (“sexy darlin’, never see you yawnin'” … yes, cocaine does have a way of picking one up, doesn’t it?)

Check it out, and see if it doesn’t deserve to have been beaten to death on classic-rock radio for the past 40 years, just like the work of so many of Ferguson’s contemporaries.

Gulp.

I’ve enjoyed any number of Robert Christgau’s music commentaries over the years, even if I don’t always agree with him.

I was delighted, then, to find out that he and spouse Carola Dibbell once tackled my other favorite subject — beer.

In the May 1975 issue of Oui magazine, Christgau and Dibbell wrote a piece called “The Great Gulp,” including shorthand reviews of a whole bunch of American and imported beers.

I’ve long been interested in the American beer market before the craft-brew revolution. Those days are  frequently — though not entirely accurately — depicted as a bland sea of Old Milwaukee.

Christgau and Dibbell’s reviews probably aren’t representative of what the average American beer drinker could get in 1975.

It sounds like they combed New York City for everything they could find, then invited a couple out-of-town friends to fly in with their regional favorites as well. A more provincial city might not have had quite this much choice on hand.

Still, it’s an interesting firsthand look at what an earlier generation drank, and what they thought of it.

And you can read it here.

A few of my own thoughts:

Interesting to see a couple brews from Allentown’s late, generally unlamented Horlacher Brewery included in the roundup. Horlacher was already in its death throes in 1975, and would go under three years later.

Also cool to see Natick, Mass.-brewed Carling in the survey, even if it was lousy beer. I was in that brewery 25 years after the story ran; it had been converted to the headquarters of a high-tech company.

The mention of the old Coors cult makes me notice the absence of Yuengling on the list. Yuengling wasn’t a regional favorite in 1975; it was just an obscure family-run company hanging on in the middle of nowhere.

I love the line about first trying Pearl Beer in Big Bend National Park. Makes me want to stow a six-pack of something in a cooler and set out for the Great Outdoors.

Also love the reference to Stegmaier, the pride of Wilkes-Barre, as “a Pennsylvania cheapo.” It’s too bad Christgau and Dibbell didn’t try Stegmaier Porter, which for a number of years was the best beer you could find at less than $20 a case. (In their infinite wisdom, Steg’s corporate owners have since turned the porter into a seasonal release. I’ve not seen it in years.)

By my count, I have had 18 of the domestic beers mentioned in the article. Not too shabby. (Anyone got a can of Ortlieb I can try?)