When speaking with friends and radio fans over the decades, a very common denominator is the universal “I love that song” moment. “It reminds me of….. (insert here). Well, I’m listening to the July 4th Edition of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem from 1970 and guess what? “I love that song” Moment!!!! This is the very first AT40!!! It’s the 50th anniversary. It’s incredible how music takes us back.
I’m not sure why, but I was pretty excited about the new 70’s decade starting. There was a lot of publicity about it. Anyone remember “Here come the 70’s” series on CTV? Or that theme song by Syrinx “Tillicum”? There is a trivia toughy.
In the summer of 1970 I was 11 years old. I finished Grade 6 in June and was heading to Junior High in September, excited to be joining my older brother and sister. Little did I know Junior High would be a scholastic failure, but no matter now. It all turned out ok. Yes, I loved 1967 with Expo, and all that went along with that. Canada knew how to celebrate back then. 1968 was forgettable for some reason but 1969 made up for it with the Apollo moon landing and Woodstock and the summer of love. Although I knew nothing of that, it seemed cool. I remember my cousin Jenny being a hippy. Could not have been more proud then and now. Anyhow, on to my best year 1970.
In June, I was playing football with some buddies as I often did and was accidentally pushed in the perfect way to crash into a big, solid tree. Who plays football on a tree lined field? I hit my hand on the trunk and basically pushed my thumb into my wrist. It was gross. The guy who tapped me out of bounds was horrified. I was too. I’ve never experienced such pain up to that point and can’t recall ever feeling it again to that point. I got up, was in shock and walked home in the alley to my house and yelled for my Mom. She was always a little suspect of our “we broke a bone” claims but nevertheless, came to my call took one look and freaked out. When a nurse freaks out. (!!) My Dad was at work so she asked our neighbour Al Kliss if he could drive us to the hospital. Off we went in his pick up truck. While driving to emergency, he had the radio on and I will never forget hearing “Song of Joy” by Miguel Rios. Yes Beethoven’s work. It was a top 40 hit. Hearing that today during the countdown opened up the vault. I told my wife Dawn that this edition is going to be ridiculously good for my soul when that song came on. To close the dislocated thumb loop, I had surgery, got a full, knuckle to elbow cast, stayed overnight and began the healing the next day. It was cool having a cast back in the day because everyone would sign it. It brought sympathetic attention to me as the school year ended. Ha ha.
Now bring on the summer, which meant literally sleeping in our tent trailer or outside for 2 months in the backyard. Bikes, forts, popsicles, Barbecues, and MUSIC on the radio. I was a blooming flower in many ways that summer. Physically and emotionally. Life changes quickly in those years and the opposite sex became a wonder. Those my age and older!! Just keeping it real. Ha. We had many neighbours who were not afraid to display their liberated wares in 1970. Uhh, is that a 2 piece bathing suit? I’m assuming all my Mom’s friends were in their late 30’s and enjoyed life. Smoking and drinking and socializing. They were far from imprudent, it’s just the way it was then, at least on our street. Parties were the norm, not the exception. And music was a big part of it. “Abbey Road” played a lot. Exposure to it all was un-preventable.
The girl “stirring thing” was nice, no amazing, but it was the music that continued to soundtrack it all and intertwined the summer memories. The Pipkins, Blues Image, Ray Stevens, Rolling Stones were all over the radio in high rotation. God bless Top 40. In late July, Klondike Days were sensational. Dressing up, going to the exhibition and going on all the rides, which had extremely loud music blaring out of big speakers on the midway. Who could forget the carny DJ mantra “do you want to go faster”? “Hitchin’ a Ride” Vanity Fair and “Mama told me not to come” 3 Dog Night bring that back for me. As did “Spirit in the Sky” Norman Greenbaum.
I went to SeaScout Camp in the summer of 1970 and we slept in tents for 2 weeks in the woods on Lake Wabamun. My Dad was the troop leader. We sang around the camp fire every night to the radio. “Spill the wine” Eric Burden. “American Woman” Guess Who and “Venus” by Shocking Blue. We rented canoes for our adventure and decided to portage after we crossed the lake. In hindsight some of the stuff we did, yikes!! But we safely made it and I recall getting to our destination with tents and supplies in the canoes. One hot afternoon in particular we capsized purposely and got soaked. All to the sounds of “In the summertime” Mungo Jerry. I still had my cast on and it was scheduled to be removed when we got back to Edmonton. It was softened by the lake water so my Dad unpeeled it. Everyone loved that. We sang to “The Rapper” by the Jaggerz.
By September, we were ready to start school again with all the hopes and fears of Grade 7. The music that fall was just as good as the summer and it brings back great memories on every listen. Well maybe not all great memories. It surely did today. Whenever I hear “ohh ohh child” The Five Stair steps or “Close to you” Carpenters or “Bridge over troubled water” Simon and Garfunkel or “Band of Gold” Freda Payne or “The love you save” Jackson 5 or “Candida” Tony Orlando or “Thank you” falettinme be myself” Sly and the Family Stone or “Julie do ya love me” Bobby Sherman or “Patches” Clarence Carter or “Lookin out my back Door” Creedence Clearwater Revival or “My baby loves lovin’” White Plains or “Indiana Wants Me” R Dean Taylor or “Come and get it” Badfinger or…….well. You get the drift, it confirms that 1970 was the best year of my life. Or most memorable for music. And oh ya, girls. Happy summer.