The best of 1974 mix tape
First off, I need to apologize to the year 1973. I bad mouthed it a bit when comparing it to the awesomeness that was 1972, and that wasn’t fair. Especially when you look at the steaming hot mess that was 1974. I feel pretty confident in saying that this is hands down the worst year for music that I’ve tackled so far.
My normal process for putting together these mixes is to scroll through lists of albums released during the year and create a “long list” of songs to consider for the final mix. Normally this “long list” is around 30-35 songs long, although it has been as high as 40. For 1974 I was barely able to scrape together 25 songs, and I was pushing it to get that many. If you want an example of how terrible the year in music was, there was an album released called “Having Fun With Elvis On Stage” that had no music on it; only Elvis’ stage banter. AND IT MADE THE TOP 200 ALBUM CHARTS. So, several thousand people thought it a good idea to buy this record.
The funny thing is, some of my favorite songs and albums of all time were released in 1974, so the entire year wasn’t a complete waste. I was tempted, however, to just put all the songs from Big Star’s Radio City on this mix and call it a day. I’m still not convinced that wasn’t the way to go, but here’s the final list that I came up with following the usual criteria.
Mighty Mighty – Earth, Wind & Fire
Mighty mighty indeed. EW&F were a ridiculous groove machine for a good part of the decade.
Killer Queen – Queen
Freddie Mercury & Co make their first appearance on the best of mixes. There’s most definitely more to come.
Love Hurt – Gram Parsons
Gram was already gone by the time this song and the album Grievous Angel were released, which makes it all the more poignant and tragic. Plus, Emmylou Harris, Grams perfect foil.
September Gurls – Big Star
May just be the most perfect pop song ever, from perhaps the most perfect pop album album ever.
Don’t Start Me Talking – The New York Dolls
Another vital precursor for punk and modern “alternative” music. I’m still trying to get over David Johansen’s “Hot Hot Hot’ turn though. *shiver*
Take Me To The River – Al Green
The Talking Heads version is better known, but nobody did this song with more soul than Rev. Al.
Sundown – Gordon Lightfoot
I will defend the greatness of this song to anyone, in any venue, at any time.
Bad Company – Bad Company
The true marker of how much I dislike this year is that I had to put a Bad Company song on here to get close to 60 minutes. I really do not like Bad Company, but what else was I going to put on here? Leo Sayer?
Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
Another mark of how bad 1974 was is that even Bowie put out one of his worst overall albums of the decade (Diamond Dogs), but this song is one of the few highlights.
Jolene – Dolly Parton
One of my favorite songs ever, and another artist that I defend with terminal intensity as one of America’s great songwriters.
Up for the Down Stroke – Parliament
Yeah, this song is a little overplayed, but it’s Parliament and overwhelmingly funky, so all is forgiven.
Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky
This album is an under-appreciated gem.
If You Can’t Rock Me – The Rolling Stones
In just about any other year this song likely wouldn’t have even sniffed the final cut, but this is 1974. I mean, I like it and all, but it is a far cry from Exile or Beggars Banquet or side 2 of Tattoo You even.
Blue Skies – Tom Waits
Look, I totally get it if you can’t listen to Tom Waits because of his voice. It’s an acquired taste, no doubt. You can’t, however, dispute his greatness as a musician and songwriter. Here’s a great example.
You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder
I’ve used most of my superlatives for Stevie Wonder already, but this mix would be sorely lacking without this track.
Tin Cup Chalice – Jimmy Buffett
Another great example of how good he could be when he wasn’t off endorsing blenders and sleeping on piles and piles of money. (And for the record, I don’t blame him, I would have done the same thing probably, though perhaps the Margaritaville branded Florida lottery scratch off tickets are a bit much.)
So there it is, the new worst year in music so far. I have a feeling 1975 will give it a run for its money.
Have I been too hard on 1974? If so, what did I miss?