Nostalgia for Woodstock always leaves me cold. Born in 1960, I was nine at the time. Now in 2018, however, although there won’t be an outdoor music festival to commemorate, there will be the fortieth anniversary of me turning eighteen.
I think we are shaped as people by three things—our genetic makeup, the environment in which were raised, and the pop music of our adolescence. Granted, I can’t prove the last part of the theory, but in retrospect, I probably learned most of what I know about life, and love, from the songs that were popular as I was taking my tentative first steps into manhood. In further retrospect, I probably should have dated more in high school.
The musical landscape in 1978, like at any time, was a reaction to the zeitgeist. It was the year of Ted Bundy and the Hillside Strangler and the year Son of Sam was sentenced. The year of Jonestown, and John Wayne Gacy. Rhodesia attacked Zambia, and Vietnam attacked Cambodia. It was the year Garfield debuted. As a reaction to all of these horrific events, record buyers wanted something comfortable, something they understood in a world turned topsy-turvy.
Popular music in 1978 was, for the most part, soft and mushy, because the real world was hard. Sure, you had the Camp David accord (which worked out really well—thank God that led to lasting peace.) But all in all, things were kinda scary. And the last thing Americans wanted was angry music. We wanted songs about love. (Note: I did not live in a cave—I’m aware that punk music existed, but the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever sold fifteen million copies…I’m just sayin’.)
When I turned 18, five of the top ten songs on the charts were either performed, written or produced by some combination of Bee Gees. Whether it was Barry, Maurice, Robin, or Andy, fully half of the top ten songs in the country were sung in a quavery falsetto. To this day, I can’t walk down a street in Brooklyn carrying a paint can without hearing the faint harmonies of the brothers Gibb and the incessant mind-numbing rhythm of 103 beats per minute. It’s a damned good thing I don’t live in Brooklyn, or paint.
I’ve figured out that my lack of romantic success is directly related to the soundtrack to my coming of age. Without any siblings to consult for advice, I had to rely on the radio to understand dating, and I took the lyrics of the songs to heart. Except the lyrics to Steely Dan songs. I still have no idea what the fuck they were talking about.
In the following story, I reunite with an old flame after reconnecting on Facebook. But there’s a catch! Everything I say to her includes the title of a song that was on Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 chart in 1978, in order, starting with number one.
”All I know is that too much Shadow Dancing will lead to Night Fever. You Light Up My Life, but I’m just barely Stayin’ Alive. I’d like to Kiss You All Over, just to find out How Deep Is Your Love. Wait! Baby Come Back. I know I said Love Is Thicker Than Water, but maybe we could just, I don’t know, Boogie Oogie Oogie? No? Oh I get it – you’re too good for that now that you’re Three Times A Lady.”
”When I try to figure out why Grease is the word, I Go Crazy. But You’re The One That I Want—and I say that with a lot of Emotion. Now…Lay Down, Sally. I’m kidding! Of course I know you’re name isn’t Sally. I just Miss You, and I want you to know I love you Just The Way You Are.”
”I was thinking that With A Little Luck we could work it out, but If I Can’t Have You, I guess I’ll just Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah). That’s it—Feels So Good. Maybe I should ask that girl to dance…she looks like a Hot Child In The City. I just have to remember—Love Is Like Oxygen, and It’s A Heartache. But me–along with my buddies here—you know, We Are The Champions. We Will Rock You.”
”Of course, when I walk along Baker Street, I realize I Can’t Smile Without You, but I suppose it’s Too Much, Too Little, Too Late. How about you just Dance With Me? C’mon, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad. My friends Jack And Jill both think you should Take A Chance On Me, but I’m not so sure, because Sometimes When We Touch, it feels like our Last Dance.”
”I gotta tell you, I am Hopelessly Devoted To You. I’m Hot Blooded (check it and see)…You’re In My Heart, and The Closer I Get To You, I realize that all we are is Dust In The Wind. Or we’re like a Magnet and Steel or…something.”
”By the way, I have nothing against Short People. In fact, a short person Use Ta Be My Girl. I know I’m not making sense herer, it’s just—Our Love…well, let’s just say Love Will Find A Way. And I’m talking about An Everlasting Love, especially since Love Is In The Air. I could be wrong, though—don’t leave–oh, well—Goodbye Girl.”
I had felt her Slip Slidin’ Away for some time, so maybe I just need to get into the Groove Line, whatever that is. Or take a trip to Thunder Island with an Imaginary Lover. Realistically though, it’s Still The Same situation—me thinking about My Angel Baby. Frankly, I could walk past a Disco Inferno right there On Broadway, and if she were to ask me to Come Sail Away I would be Back In Love Again.
This Time I’m In It For Love, and I ‘ll just come right out and tell her “You Belong To Me.” Oh my god—I can’t believe it—”Here You Come Again! I thought you were moving to Blue Bayou, Peg (that’s her name—it’s Peg, not Sally!), but apparently You Needed Me. Yeah, sometimes I feel a little Shame when I start Reminiscing, especially since I said you could Count On Me. Baby Hold On—”
”Hey, Deanie—I wanted to ask you about those Summer Nights. I’m sorry—What’s Your Name? Sorry, thought it was Deanie. Anyway, I’m here with Sally—er, Peg, so I gotta go. Talk to you later.”
”Hey—watch this—this is cool–when I start to think about you, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue? Don’t it? Because The Night does strange things to a man.” You’re leaving again. Well, fine. I guess it takes Every Kinda People. “Well, at least we’ll have the Copacabana—Always And Forever, You And I. And, of course, the tragic memories of that Serpentine Fire. I know you remember that, because you always were a Sentimental Lady.”
”I will not be Falling again any time soon. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood—I am Bluer than Blue, but I’ve been Running On Empty here, and it seems like Whenever I Call You ‘Friend‘, you just say “You’re a Fool (If You Think It’s Over). That really doesn’t help– I just want to Get Off with a Sweet Talkin’ Woman. How am I doing? Well, Life’s Been Good, and you know me, I Love The Nightlife, but–hey, you’re changing the subject–You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On).”
”It’s So Easy for you. You’re a Native New Yorker. You should probably go, but…here, take this Flashlight, and whatever you do, Don’t Look Back. I’m serious—you’ll Turn To Stone. Take my umbrella, too, because I Can’t Stand The Rain. Now go…don’t look at me with those Ebony Eyes. Don’t cry—leaving is The Name Of The Game. We’re All Alone now. Just remember those Hollywood Nights.” They call Alabama the Crimson Tide—call me Deacon Blues.
Questions for Discussion
- Did the serpentine fire CAUSE the disco inferno?
- If love is thicker than water, how can it also be like oxygen?
- If you’re ‘bluer than blue,’ doesn’t that make you…indigo?
- If you date someone who is ‘three times a lady,’ are you actually cheating on two of them?