Thursday, 9 October 2014

Songs I grew up listening to in the seventies

I don’t understand music. I merely derive pleasure from listening to it. I listen to any form of music as long as it sounds like music to me. When I listen to songs, for instance, I don’t know if they are title tracks or sound tracks, who wrote or composed them, which albums they come from and when they were released, or how many people have sung the same song. I don’t bother with all that. It’s like this: if I can simply read a book written by an author, I can quietly listen to a song sung by a singer.

Yet, music touches me like it does most people. It lifts my mood and makes me feel good about myself and about others, and sometimes it allows me to take to the stage and lose myself. In that sense music is a non-intrusive and non-invasive remedy for a cheerful disposition. If meditation is a splendid tonic for the soul, music is a mighty stimulant for the senses. Both have curative powers.


My first brush with music came in the mid-seventies, when we used to listen to English pop songs on Binaca Hit Parade on Radio Ceylon and Saturday Date on All India Radio. Both shows were immensely popular in India.

I believe, in the fifties and sixties, Binaca Hit Parade was presented by the “happy-go-lucky” Greg Roskowski, one of the few “overseas announcers” on the station that was blaring in every household in South Asia. I don’t remember Roskowski.

Later, my father bought us a white-coloured Polish tape recorder for the princely sum of Rs.600 ($10 by today’s rate). The recorder looked a lot like its more famous Japanese cousin National Panasonic. 
It came with a small microphone. There was much excitement at home. We huddled around the recorder and taped nearly every song on Binaca Hit Parade and Saturday Date, and played them over and over again through the week. 

Recording was a tricky business owing to the absence of a cable link between the radio and the tape recorder. All external sounds got recorded as well. At times a song sounded like so much noise, because my father sneezed loudly, a car honked outside or my mother dropped a steel utensil in the kitchen, that we had to overwrite the song. Shushing had little effect.

Fortunately, like today’s cable television, the songs were repeated on radio back then. If we missed George Baker’s Una Paloma Blanca one Saturday night, we were sure to hear it the following weekend.

Those were simple and hassle-free days. We were contented with the little things we had, like Murphy Radio and the pop songs it belted out.

So then, which were some of the popular songs I grew up listening to in the seventies, right through most of school? Let me see…

Almost everything by Abba and Boney M. In my opinion, Abba has some of the best music and lyrics in the pop business. Boney M was preachy although I like their NASA-inspired Night Flight to Venus.

Carpenters: Top of the World, 1972, and Please Mr. Postman, 1975 (remake of The Marvelettes classic)

Tina Charles: Dance Little Lady Dance, 1976

Cliff Richard: Bachelor Boy, 1962

Perry Como: Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba, 1948

Bee Gees: Stayin' Alive and How Deep is Your Love, 1977

Elvis Presley: You Were Always on My Mind, 1972

George Baker: Una Paloma Blanca, 1976

Connie Francis: Stupid Cupid, 1958, and (He's My) Dreamboat, 1961

Mary Hopkin: Those Were the Days, 1972

Neil Diamond: I Am...I Said, 1971

Peter Frampton: Show Me the Way, 1975

Carl Douglas: Kung Fu Fighting, 1974

Neil Sedaka: Oh! Carol, 1958

Jim Reeves: But You Love Me, Daddy, 1959

John Denver: Annie's Song, 1974

Lee Hazlewood-Nancy Sinatra: Summer Wine, 1967

Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World, 1967

Lulu: To Sir with Love, 1967

The Mamas & the Papas: California Dreamin', 1965

Pat Boone: April Love, 1957

Simon and Garfunkel: Sound of Silence, 1966

Quantum Jump: The Lone Ranger, 1976

Brothers Four: 500 Miles

Tom Jones: Delilah, 1968

Trini Lopez: If I Had a Hammer, 1963

Village People: Y.M.C.A., 1978

Yvonne Elliman: If I Can't Have You, 1977

The Four Aces: Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, 1955

Gershon Kingsley: Popcorn, 1969

While these are by no means the only picnic songs I listened to as a kid, they are the ones that have stayed with me for more than three decades. I still listen to most of them, particularly Abba, whose popularity soared after the Swedish quartet came together for the film production of Mamma Mia! a few years ago. Every one of these songs hold up.

I'll round up by recommending two whacky numbers, the very funny Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas and the tongue-twisting The Lone Ranger by Quantum Jump, as well as Popcorn, an unusual instrumental by Gershon Kingsley.

18 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this. The list of songs brought back memories, and I'm amazed at the 1000s of them tucked away like that. Maybe tens of thousands. I grew up in the 1950s relying on a top-40 radio station in Omaha for my music and occasionally bought 45s, many of which I still have.

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    1. Ron, we never had a gramophone and the only music we listened to was on radio or the cassette player. My wife had LP records and one of the singers she introduced me to, in 1990, was Engelbert Humperdinck. I listen to his songs even now.

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  2. A great list, Prashant. As Ron says, it brought back memories. Some of these songs I know very well, some I don't. I still like to listen to my faves, mostly on youtube or occasionally I'll pop in a cd (yes I still have those, and even the occasional tape which I can't bring myself to throw away just yet).

    I grew up in the forties, fifties and sixties so my span of 'growing up' music is very widely drawn. I still love the old rock and roll tunes. I began to lose interest in popular music when I couldn't understand the lyrics anymore. I still can't. :)

    P.S. I have an ABBA cd that I love.

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    1. Yvette, thank you. Music memories are different for everyone and while our lists are bound to differ, we'll still be able to relate to the songs that each of us loves. I listen to a lot of music from the forties, fifties, and sixties—Bill Haley & His Comets is a particular favourite. I rarely listen to post-nineties music because it's not music.

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  3. I see some I like here. Kung Fu fighting was a particular weakness of mine!

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    1. Charles, I liked that one too. Check out the "Kung Fu Fighting" music video on the internet.

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  4. I recognise most of the tunes by the title but not all, though if I heard them I'm sure they would be familiar. I don't think I paid much attention to music until my teenage rebellious years. My tastes were a bit of a bone of contention at home!

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    1. Col, since I lived in a small state on the west coast of India before my family moved back to Bombay, my place of birth, I didn't have access to a lot of songs. Like you, I got into the thick of music only in my teens, in the eighties.

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  5. This really takes me back - in the 70s I used to record TV and radio with my portable tape deck (well, my parents but I commandeered it and never gave it back until it broke) - I bet I still ahve some fo those tapes somewhere! ABBA was definitely my favourite!

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    1. Sergio, those portable tape decks were really something, weren't they? In those days we used to compare our models just as we do with smart phones today. Panasonic with the blue button for "record" won hands down.

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  6. I was just listening to Mary Hopkin at the record store the other day. (The best part of my Saturday job is choosing which records to play!)

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    1. Kelly, that song still resonates with me. It holds a mirror to what was and what is today. If I'd your kind of job I wouldn't know what to do!

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  7. My brothers and I did the same thing with out portable cassette tape recorders. We taped TV shows too long before the VCR craze. Kind of dumb taping only the audio of a TV show. But we were kids. It was fun then.

    Yvonne Elliman from Jesus Christ Superstar covered a BeeGees tune? That's hysterical. I didn't even know she became a recording artist after her single of "I Don't Know How to Love Him."
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    Seeing Perry Como and Peter Frampton on the same list also makes me smile. What an eclectic mix of oldies, MOR and 70s pop. You had a unique and varied taste.

    Weren't Boney M a German pop group? I never heard of them until I visited Germany in 1977. How did they make it over to Indian radio. Hmm...

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    1. John, thanks for the kind words. The list more or less reflects the songs I heard in the seventies and early eighties. I could have added many more except I wouldn't know where to end. I still listen to all kinds of music without preference though I don't listen to hard rock as often as I do other kinds of music. VCR was a big deal in India as very few people could afford it. Those who couldn't settled for the VCP on which you couldn't tape. I don't remember "I Don't Know How to Love Him" by Yvonne Elliman but it'll probably come back to me if I hear it.

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  8. So many songs I loved in that list, Prashant. Very nostalgic. I love Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World.

    I still listen to ABBA too. I am not sure when I first discovered them.

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    1. Tracy, my first taste of pop music was through Abba and Boney M and later the film, ABBA THE MOVIE. They have been pretty consistent through the past few decades. I love the Louis Armstrong song too. He is natural in the music video of the song.

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  9. A lot of very familiar songs there Prashant, we obviously had similar tastes in a similar era.

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    1. Moira, I'm not surprised we shared the same tastes in music, Most of the songs I mentioned were very popular in my teens, and I think they still are.

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