With the number of 1970s compilation CDs I have bought or otherwise listened to, and now with the resources of Youtube at my fingertips, it is sometimes hard to sort which songs I actually remember from the time, and which I discovered later. A resource like ‘Every Number 1 from the 1970s’ helps. Although there are a few unexplained outliers, I can be reasonably confident that I become consciously aware of pop music in my eighth year. Having two older sisters helped/hindered; they were listening to and talking about pop music, so I heard pop songs sooner than I otherwise might.
One song from my very earliest recollection is See my baby jive by Wizzard. We didn’t have a television at the time, so it is relatively recently that I discovered the music video on Youtube. This video can politely be described at ‘bizarre’, even by the standards of early 1970s glam rock – the lead singer (Roy Wood) with his robes, makeup and big hair, holding a French horn which, if he plays it at all, is not audible; the bass guitarist (Rick Price) with angel wings and roller skates, and (apparently) Bill Oddie (of Goodies fame) on saxophone.*
One definite memory is Seasons in the sun,** sung by Terry Jacks (video). I remember, many years later, sitting in my sisters’ lounge room listening to it on a compilation CD with tears streaming down my face. Also relatively recently, I found out that this version was based on an original version by the Belgian songwriter/singer Jacques Brel, Le moribond (The dying man). Rod McKuen’s English lyrics, sung by Jacks, are bittersweet, with the verses addressing the protagonist’s childhood friend, father and ‘Michelle, my little one’ (?his daughter). Brel’s lyrics are sardonic,*** addressing the protagonist’s best friend (‘you’re as good as gold’), the local priest (‘we weren’t on the same path, but we were seeking the same port), the ‘friend’ (‘I didn’t like you well’) who was the lover of his wife, and the wife (‘I loved you so well’), and inviting everyone to ‘laugh … dance … have fun like a bunch of crazies … when they put me in the hole’. His performance is up-tempo, with prominent parts for piano and accordion.
* He is not officially credited, but there can’t be too many English saxophone players who look like that. The people in a music video aren’t necessarily the people on the recording – the backing singers don’t appear in the video.
** The school playground version was ‘We had joy, we had fun, we had Kimbies on our bum, but the hills that we climbed were a * waste of time’. (Probably ‘bloody’ (‘the great Australian adjective’); I don’t think we knew ‘f-cking’ at that age.)
*** One blogger describes it as ‘cynical, wistful, sad, loving, angry, and hilarious, with surprising twists’. Among other things, McKuen’s protagonist sings ‘It’s hard to die’; Brel’s sings ‘I’m going to die’ (at least in the English translation). This is possibly the first time I have ever used the word ‘sardonic‘ in writing or speaking.