10 Songs From the Seventies That Have Been Buried in the Sands of Time

One of the problems with modern “oldies” stations is simple: an hour of music never sounds the same as an hour of music did way back when. While the big hits keep playing over and over (and over and…), all the records that only dented the charts and got airplay for just a few weeks are gone. Also, when some groups later hit it big, their early songs were left off oldies playlists to make room for the big, big smash hits!

Sigh.

Here, in absolutely no particular order, are ten records that I remember well but don’t remember the radio playing in a long, long time. It’s likely nobody else remembers all these records, but it’s worth your time to give a listen to any that don’t sound familiar.

[1] The Entertainer by Billy Joel. I had seen posters for the musical group the Hassles back when I lived in Syosset (home of Christiano’s Italian restaurant) and went to Cold Spring Harbor High School, so I was aware of Billy Joel the first time he released an album. I wasn’t too impressed with his first album but played Piano Man from his second album on my radio show numerous times. When his third album came out Billy made it clear that he was cynical about the music business.  Nothing made this clearer than The Entertainer, a song that only made it up to #34 in 1974. I played that a lot on my show as well.  I couldn’t help but smile at his complaint about the record company cutting Piano Man down to 3:05 minutes – long records were not a problem on campus radio.

[2] Like A Sunday In Salem by Gene Cotton. If the name Gene Cotton is familiar to you at all it’s probably because of a pair of singles in 1978: Before My Heart Finds Out and You’re a Part of Me, a duet with Kim Carnes.  His third single that year got enormous airplay on album-oriented rock stations, reached #40 on the US charts, and then vanished without a trace.  The record seems to be about the blacklisting in the early 1950s and is often referred to as The Amos and Andy song because of one of the lyrics: “There was an Amos and Andy on the radio.”  We’ll talk about his UK-only single some other time.

[3] Celluloid Heroes by the Kinks.  Most of the oldies by the Kinks that get airplay are their guitar-heavy singles from the sixties.  Mostly forgotten are the biting commentary songs like Dedicated Follower Of Fashion and Sunny Afternoon.  Lola still gets airplay, but only after a small change to the lyrics.  1972’s Celluloid Heroes was a different animal – a nostalgic look at the cinematic heroes that dot the street of Hollywood Boulevard.  The video I have linked in does an impressive job of fitting the mood of the song.

[4] Avenging Annie by Andy Pratt.  Andy somehow mixed classical piano with hard rock and came up with his one claim to fame in 1973.  The record is meant to be a first-person account of living with an outlaw as told by his girlfriend, so Andy did his best falsetto when he sang on the record.  The release only got up to #78, but later the song was also recorded by Roger Daltry of the Who.

[5] Dialog by Chicago.  Early Chicago albums had the group experimenting with long-form music, most notably Ballet For A Girl From Buchanan, a series of connected songs running over 12 minutes.  Dialog on their fifth album was over 7 minutes long, but their record company cut it down to 3:02 (no surprise here, it was the same record company that chopped up Billy Joel’s song!)  The song managed to get up to #24 by presenting a series of questions and answers with a college student.  Somehow the record anticipated today’s special college snowflakes back in 1972.

[6] You Owe It To Me by Natchez Trace live at the Exit / In.  Warning: the first 15 seconds of the video suffer from tape problems; just keep listening!  Unless you lived near Nashville you aren’t likely to be familiar with this record, but those of us who did were lucky enough to hear it off and on from 1971 or so until the end of the decade.  Legend has it that Dan Fogelberg is playing piano on this live recording, but he was unable to record the song later on because of legal tangles.  This is the only surviving copy of the song that I’m aware of, and it was a thrill to find it again.

[7] Gimme Your Money Please by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  BTO came out of the remains of the Guess Who, and this was the first song on their first album.  The single release and the album went nowhere.  The group toured as the warm-up act for the Doobie Brothers, and that influenced the material on their second album, leading to hits like Let It Ride and Taking Care of Business.  Their third album had their biggest hit, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, and when they finally had a greatest hits album their record company re-released Gimme Your Money Please – but it only made it up to #70.

[8] Colorado by Danny Holien.  The single was released in 1972, but perhaps it was too folky to get much airplay on Top 40 radio.  The record did manage to sneak onto the charts, topping out at #66.  The song is a plea for Colorado to avoid the fate of California, a prescient view of how things have turned out for Denver.  The video takes us on a tour of some of the better landscapes in the state.

[9] Dear Abby by John Prine.  John’s first album may have been the peak of his career.  It contained the ironic song Illegal Smile (about pot smoking), the tragically sad song Sam Stone (about an ex-soldier with a drug habit), and a half-dozen excellent songs.  His second album was a disappointment, but his third album finally moved him into commercial success.  He tried recording Dear Abby in the studio, but it never sounded quite right.  When he did the song live at a show he was fortunate enough to have it recorded, and the live version apparently sounded the way he heard it in his head and gives us the most fun song on this list.

[10] Soldier in the Rain by England Dan & John Ford Coley.  The duo released a string of records that were moderate hits on the regular pop charts, but four of their singles (mostly melodic love songs) hit number 1 on the adult contemporary charts.  Soldier in the Rain was a track on their second album that was quite different.  Soldiers returning from Vietnam faced a hostile public that blamed them instead of thanking them for their service, and this song expresses the feeling of loss that many of them faced.  I only heard the song on the radio a handful of times, but I never forgot it.

This list barely scratches the surface of lost songs, so I’ll probably have to add to it in the future.

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