Monday, August 5, 2019

You've Come A Long Way: "Rock Me Gently" and "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"

Now then, where was I?....

You may or indeed may not know that I have had a long break from this blog as my husband was diagnosed and tested and then finally operated on last year.  It was a big and rarely-done operation and was, thank goodness, a success.  I spent a lot of last year either at work, shopping or in the process of visiting him in hospital, which I did nearly daily until I knew he was okay physically and mentally.  2018 was a hot summer; a summer of record; but I was blanked out by the end of the day, able eventually to listen to music (impossible at first), eat dinner, rest.  And then phone early the next morning to see how he was overnight, and it would then all start over again.

Now however, he is back at work, and my brave (possibly), unheralded and amazingly unrivalled blog can continue.  If you are new here – hello!  I hope you like it and have time to catch up with what I have written already.  And if you have read it before, you know how it goes...

It just so happens that I left off at a place very few people want to be stranded in – The Fog.  Or, if you are a psychogeographer, the liminal period.  Late 1974 was confusing and contentious - the Glam Slam era was virtually over, and disco had yet to really catch on.  Naturally it was a time (as ever) when record companies wanted hits, they wanted something catchy and oh well who cared what the lyrics were about as long it had a decent chorus and some good hooks.  The sexual revolution?  Who upstairs approved of that though?

Leave it to the Canadians, as always, to inadvertently push things forward.  Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the prairie kings of HRS, were working on Not Fragile and someone from the company came along to see if there were any obvious singles from the album.  Nope.  Well what else do you have, guys?  They had a song they only used to play to warm up which no one saw as being anything great or even okay – it was just a crappy song to them.  The company man knew it would be a hit though, so “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” was duly recorded, deliberate stuttering put in by Randy as a tribute to his brother.  And so it was a hit, this song about a naive young man who has fallen in love with a more experienced woman, and hooee is he having fun.  The stuttering works as a way of showing his shock, his pleasure – and the simplicity of the cowbell-rockin’ song does too.  That it’s a song about a sexually assertive woman and a man most happy and even greedy (“I took what I could get” he says, after “any love is good love” which actually gives the song a risqué element beyond mere greed) is very quietly revolutionary.   He is not resentful or bitter or neurotic about being the one who has things to learn – quite the opposite.  This isn’t “Summer The First Time” – the implication, as much as BTO can be bothered, is that they are equals, save for this one thing. Listen to the bass and you will see how sexy and knowing the song is, without being tiresome.
Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently” is a similar song, though it was very much intended to be a single, one that Kim had to finance and release on his own label as no one else was interested in it.  It was a gamble so desperate that on the b-side there was no time for another song, just the instrumental part of the a-side.  That both were hits (the b-side got airplay on US R&B stations) shows how gambles can indeed pay off sometimes.

Kim – and I’ve had a lot of time to consider this – sounds a lot more experienced than the prairie-boy narrator from BTO.  He wears linen and good cologne; he knows about art and music and yet is not a boring hipster.  He is a together dude and thus when he comes across a woman he loves and she wants...something he’s a bit unfamiliar with, he can be generous and gracious.  He knows about liberated women, the sexual revolution, and he’s perfectly fine with it, as long as it’s a gentle one.  Polite.  Thoughtful.  Sends flowers.  That kind of revolution!  Which was happening now that the 70s was busy putting the 60s ideology into actual practice. The lyric “Don’t you know that I have never been loved like this before” is sung in a way that it could be just that, or you could hear a little smile in it, implying....whatever you think it means. 
Both of these songs went to #2 here in the UK, and #1 in the US; there is a sweetness and humility and generosity in these songs that are sexy, a counterpoint in the UK at least to the usual idea of this era being something scary and most certainly macho.  
Now then, I should note that I have skipped some songs as I didn't really *feel* the need to write about them - "Wombling Merry Christmas" being one, "Far Far Away" by Slade being another and there's a Rollers song in there too - and of course "Killer Queen" by Queen I wrote about over at Then Play Long.  This is so I can better focus on the wonders of 1975, which I will be doing as usual but with the addition of the odd album or two* when needed to give a greater context to what was an exciting time musically (unlike some people who were just bored by music at the time).  Those of you who know what 1975 meant in UK terms will be waiting for June; in some ways we are living in the opposite of that time, when the UK said yes.
Up next:  a hunky folksinger takes you on a tour.
*Not in a TPL sort of way, but more as a sidebar, as such.


oh, nevermind said...

Wonderful to have you back, Lena.

Allen Baekeland said...

Hurray! Welcome back.