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Super Hits Of The Seventies:
Have A Nice Day, Volumes 1-10

Various Artists

Released: 1990

The silly, hippie shangri-la symbolized by the Summer Of Love supposedly collapsed at Altamont or the funerals of a handful of acid-rock icons, but if you grew up in the Seventies, you know better. The fact is that free love and bellbottoms were so pervasive by 1971 or so, they were absorbed by even the squarest segments of popular culture. Vanity Fare, five trusting souls from England, sang about "Hitchin' a Ride," not worrying for a second that the driver might be packing heat beneath his eight-track deck and a man called Lobo dreamed of conquering the wild frontier with you and a dog named Boo.

This was AM-radio pop -- as distinguished from FM-radio rock, which was fabricating medieval poetry or looking to Charlie Poole or Robert Johnson. Suddenly rock seemed obsessed with its authenticity. Commercialism was a mortal sin; rock was something serious, to be "appreciated," not used up and then disposed of. The Top Forty succumbed to teenybop wimps, studio musicians disguised as groups and TV stars disguised as singers, but if you scoffed at them, it's time you reconsidered. Rhino's Have a Nice Day, with ten volumes done (volumes 6 to 10 are due for release in late April) and five more in the works, is your chance.

Compiled, no doubt, by some very sick minds, Have a Nice Day captures the exploitative ephemerality of classic K-Tel Hell in all its raging glory. To my ears, at least one in every five cuts holds up as well as anything on Layla or Who's Next or even Moondance, partly because the decent tracks on those albums have been drummed into my consciousness so often for so long that they're not special anymore, but also because quite a few hits on this compilation had more electricity in the first place.

It's hard to envision very many of the acts on this anthology making a career of the music business; ubiquitous idols are bypassed in favor of what mainly amounts to one-hit wonders. The newest tracks on volumes 1 to 10 date from mid-1973, a full two years before the dawn of disco. There's too much Jesus rock ("Spirit in the Sky," "Put Your Hand In The Hand," "Superstar," et al.), and guitar grunge is generally ignored, though Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" dumps a two-ton truckload.

Since early-Seventies R&B, from the Spinners to Superfly, was such a righteous riot that it couldn't help overshadowing everything else in sight, the overwhelming Caucasian slant of the selections is perhaps excusable; as is, Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" seems somehow out of place, too legitimately good, not cheesy enough. Otherwise, only the countri-politan sequence on volume 4 -- "Rose Garden," "For the Good Times," "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "Mr. Bojangles" -- threatens to dissolve into mere integrity.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

The Top 100
Seventies Singles

200 Additional
Seventies Singles

Seventies Singles -
Month By Month

"The Pop 100:
The Seventies" FAQ

Top 1,200 Songs
Of The 1970s

The smarm can get real embarrassing. But in bubble-schlock miracles like the De Franco Family's "Hearbeat -- It's a Lovebeat" and Melanie's "Brand New Key" there's a Zeitgeist at work, and an aesthetic. The Zeitgeist says everything is beautiful; the aesthetic says everything's allowed. So Vanity Fare can back Monkees harmonies with Kurt Weill cabaret rhythms, and if the ragtime revival exemplified by the Pipkins' "Gimme Dat Ding" and Hurricane Smith's "Oh, Babe, What Would You Say?" is nothing but camp, so what? Bobby Bloom's "Montego Bay" wants to be a calypso; Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime" aims for skiffle. The Sandpipers' beatific "Come Saturday Morning" is out-and-out middle-of-the-road swill, but its Oscar-nominated arrangement is to die for. Succulent strings, bawdy brass, foreign words, primal chants -- Nixon-era pop proves how gimmicks can be good things.

Too often, the mood suggests all was for the best in this best of all possible worlds; thus the title Have a Nice Day. But in "Alone Again (Naturally)," Gilbert O'Sullivan promises to throw himself off a nearby tower when his bride stands him up on his wedding day. The Big Issues aren't ignored, either: We get imperialist carnage in Coven's "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)"; life on the run from the law in R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me"; discrimination against "longhaired freaky people" in the 5 Man Electrical Band's "Signs"; and rock journalism in Dr. Hook's "Cover of Rolling Stone." And forget Lou Reed -- it was the Buoys who overcame the modern world's final taboo, charting with "Timothy," a gruesome tale of cannibalism.

Face it: This crass trash was ahead of its time. In "Popcorn," Hot Butter let a new synthesizer come in and do the popcorn machine like Eurodisco producers would seven years later; likewise, in "Son of My Father," one such producer, Giorgio Moroder, initiates hooks he would revive almost a decade later in Blondie's "Call Me." Jerry Reed's "When You're Hot, You're Hot," Commander Cody's "Hot Rod Lincoln" and the introduction to "Gimme Dat Ding" provide solid rap links back to the talking blues and Pigmeat Markham and forward it to the hip-hop nation. And you'll be hard pressed to find a present-day forty-something rock survivor who can match the midlife angst of Bobby Russell's "Saturday Morning Confusion," a suburban nightmare where pregnant dogs and grill-swiping neighbors torment a hungover dad who just wants to watch the game of the week. It was the first single I ever bought; for better or worse, the songs on Have a Nice Day are our roots. I can't hear "Don't Pull Your Love" without imagining Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds peering down at me from Mount Olympus -- and I wouldn't have it any other way.

- Chuck Eddy, Rolling Stone, 3/8/90.

Bonus Review!

Rhino's ridiculously large (over twenty discs) series of the schlockiest pop hits of the '70s provides the definitive portrait of that decade's musical mainstream. Each of the volume contains at least two pop classics, but the most consistent volumes are 2, 5, and 14. * * * * *

- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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