One would have thought our coronavirus spring would have yielded more time for this ongoing, intermittent personal project, where I relisten to my entire music collection and catch up on some things I missed along the way.
But with work unabated, parenting demands increased and the existential fatigue felt by all of us lucky enough to continue existing, that has not been the case.
So, some quick notes and then the list:
1970: A new decade.
Decades are arbitrary, but in retrospect, if not at the time, this year has a transitional feel.
The Beatles went caput, with John Lennon immediately releasing what would remain the greatest of the group’s solo offshoots. (1969’s Abbey Road is the true swan song; the recorded earlier but released later Let it Be is a near-miss here and the singles comp Hey Jude not considered.) The Stones took a break amid an historic four-albums-in-five-years peak run and Bob Dylan reemerged in minor form with New Morning.
Meanwhile, the best American bands of the Sixties (Velvet Underground, CCR) released their last great albums (and just last in the Velvets case). Four of the greatest solo artists of the Seventies — Neil Young, Van Morrison, Randy Newman, Al Green — opened the decade with major statements and, in the case of Morrison and Newman, perhaps still career peaks.
That Newman record — a personal chart-topper in a year with lots of competition and no clear No. 1 — is quiet and short and weird and mean and perfect.
With Spirit in the Dark, Aretha Franklin followed Isaac Hayes’ lead (via 1969’s Hot Buttered Soul) in the transition from singles-oriented Sixties soul to the more conscious album-making of Seventies R&B, beating Marvin and Sly by a year and Stevie by a couple, though Curtis Mayfield’s Curtis also qualifies here. (Sly’s Greatest Hits, an avalanche of singles released in a tight tumble, makes the know-it-when-you-see-it cut as a compilation that functions as an album.)
Semi-popular music: The Stooges with the best American punk album before “punk” knew its name (and maybe still the best regardless). Delany & Bonnie (times two) and the Tracy Nelson-led Mother Earth with some roots lessons Americana should have better learned. Swamp Dogg with some idiosyncratic soul. The Insect Trust with a musical bohemia that unites Up North and Down South.
- 12 Songs – Randy Newman
- Loaded – The Velvet Underground
- Fun House – The Stooges
- Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon
- Moondance – Van Morrison
- After the Gold Rush – Neil Young
- Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek & the Dominoes
- Greatest Hits – Sly & the Family Stone
- Spirit in the Dark – Aretha Franklin
- Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- To Bonnie From Delaney – Delany and Bonnie
- Total Destruction to Your Mind – Swamp Dogg
- Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country – Mother Earth
- Al Green Gets Next to You – Al Green
- Gasoline Alley – Rod Stewart
- Part Time Love – Ann Peebles
- His Band and Street Choir – Van Morrison
- Sex Machine – James Brown
- Curtis – Curtis Mayfield
- On Tour – Delaney and Bonnie
- Hoboken Saturday Night – Insect Trust
- New Morning – Bob Dylan
- Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround – The Kinks
- Struttin’ – The Meters
- Bitches Brew – Miles Davis
- “Pressure Drop” – Toots & the Maytals
- “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” – Sly & the Family Stone
- “Don’t Play That Song’ – Aretha Franklin
- “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” – James Brown
- “Yes We Can” – Lee Dorsey
- “Ohio” – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
- “Up Around the Bend” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- “Help Me Make it Through the Night” – Sammi Smith
- “Vietnam” – Jimmy Cliff
- “Domino” – Van Morrison
- “Who’ll Stop the Rain” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” – Stevie Wonder
- “Band of Gold” – Freda Payne
- “ABC” – Jackson Five
- “I Can’t Get Next to You” – Al Green
- “I’ll Be There” – Jackson Five
- “Part Time Love” – Ann Peebles
- “Super Bad” – James Brown
- “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” – The Delfonics
- “Daddy Come and Get Me” – Dolly Parton
- “Once More With Feeling” – Jerry Lee Lewis
- “Rivers of Babylon’ — The Melodians
- “Turn Back the Hands of Time” – Tyrone Davis
- “It’s a Shame” – The Spinners
- “Shocks of Mighty” – Dave Barker & the Upsetters
- “Run Through the Jungle” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- “Stealing in the Name of the Lord” – Paul Kelly
- “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” – John Lennon
- “Coal Miner’s Daughter” – Loretta Lynn
- “Cinnamon Girl” – Neil Young
- “All Right Now” – Free
- “Paranoid” – Black Sabbath
- “Patches” – Clarence Carter
- “Duppy Conqueror” – Bob Marley & the Wailers
- “A Good Year for the Roses” – George Jones
- “Wake the Town” – U.Roy
- “Give Me Just a Little More Time’ — Chairmen of the Board
- “Heaven Help Us All” — Stevie Wonder
- “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe” — Swamp Dogg
Taking a pass at a movies list at the end of these — there’s no “rewatching” project — is always an exercise in realizing how many blind spots I still have. Oh, I still haven’t seen Claire’s Knee or Patton or Little Big Man or … .
But here are some 1970 films I have seen that I think that I like, based on the memories of when I saw them, in rough order of preference, starting with an easy No. 1:
- Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson)
- Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh)
- Husbands (John Cassavetes)
- M*A*S*H (Robert Altman)
- King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis (Sidney Lumet)
- Tristana (Luis Bunuel)
- The Ballad of Cable Hogue (Sam Peckinpah)
- Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles)
4 thoughts on “1970 Revisited”
Movie lists are always appreciated….no matter how incomplete. No one has seen everything, but you’ve seen a lot more than me. Your contributions help build this: https://www.instagram.com/centuryofsevens/
Music is a lesser passion of mine, but perusing the list always gives me a few things to check out. Keep ’em coming, whenever you find the time….
Chris … albums chosen are ones in your own collection, right? Trying to imagine my choices but wanted to clarify “the rules”. Haha
Mostly, but not necessarily. Also using the exercise as an excuse to listen to stuff I’ve never gotten around to before, since most things are available to stream now. I do like to own physical copies of music I care about, so I’ve added some titles to my shopping list doing this.
I do the same … owning physical copies still important to me. Good pickings in the used section given the mass shift to streaming. Incidentally … my 1970 list would have to include Davis’ Bitches Brew and Russell’s debut (studio lineup!!!!)