Sunday, July 9, 2017

Starland Vocal Band – "Afternoon Delight" (1976)


And the thought of lovin' you
Is getting so exciting
Sky rockets in flight

[NOTE: All the photos below were taken at the 4th of July celebration at my neighborhood pool and tennis club, which featured a parade of decorated bicycles and tricycles, a goldfish “hunt” in the kiddie pool, and many other events that were fun for the entire family.]

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Let’s say I challenge you to name three better left-handed hitters than Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds.

You answer, “Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, David Ortiz and Hank Aaron.”

First of all, Hank Aaron was a righty, not a lefty.  So he doesn't belong.

Next, you’ve given me a list of seven hitters, not three.  

The crowd at my neighborhood pool
Also, two of the seven were on my list, and you can’t be a better hitter than yourself.  

Finally, there’s NO F*CKING WAY David Ortiz belongs on that list – he’s not even close.

But other than that, it was a great answer! 

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You’re probably wondering why I'm talking about left-handed hitters.  Let me explain.

In a recent 2 or 3 lines, I noted that the same songwriter was responsible for “Honey,” “Little Green Apples,” and “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.”

I then challenged my loyal fans to name three worse #1 hits from the sixties and seventies.

Decorated bikes
(Yes, I know that “Little Green Apples” only made it to #2 in 1968.  The #1 song that kept “Little Green Apples” out of the top spot was “Hey Jude,” for cryin’ out loud – pretty serious competition – so stop busting my b*lls.)

One of said loyal fans responded with the following list:

Having My Baby
Little Green Apples
Honey
MacArthur Park
Take a Letter Maria
Brandy
Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon

Only three of those songs made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”  Three others peaked at #2.  But I included a #2 song in my original list, so I’m not going to complain that she failed to follow directions by doing that.

But she did fail to follow instructions by including a song that never got higher than #10 on the U.S. pop charts — Neil Diamond’s “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon.”  (#10 is a long was from #1.) 

The next problem with her list is that it includes not three, but SEVEN songs.

A decorated poodle
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one, too, because she might have been making the point that she could come up with more than three songs that were worse than the three I listed.

Another problem with her list is that she included two of the songs that were on my list.

But the biggest problem is that one of the songs she listed is not only not one of the worst #1 songs of all time, it’s one of the BEST #1 songs of all times.

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Let’s go down her list, song by song.

“Having My Baby” is awful.  It doesn’t bother me as much as “Honey” or “Little Green Apples,” but that’s a matter of taste – I’m willing to admit that one can reasonably argue that it is just as bad a song as those two.

How about “Brandy”?  Yes, it’s bad – cheap sentiment up the ying-yang.  But if you can ignore the lyrics, the music’s not half bad.

I’d never really thought much about “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon.”  Neil Diamond’s songs are all pretty brown-eyed, and this one is more brown-eyed than most.  But once again, the music isn’t bad – it you don’t pay attention to the overwrought lyrics, it’s not unpleasant to listen to.

Goldfish hunters wait for their prey to be released
“Take a Letter Maria” doesn’t really bother me.  

That leaves “MacArthur Park” – which not only isn’t one of the worst songs of the sixties and seventies, it’s one of the best songs of all time.

I’m not sure Richard Harris was the best choice for the “MacArthur Park” lead vocal, but everything else about that record is perfect.

Want to hear it right now?  OF COURSE you do!



Like the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” “MacArthur Park” is a masterpiece despite the fact that it is a mélange of musical bits and pieces that are sewn together so that the seams are very obvious.  

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What could explain my fan’s including “MacArthur Park” on her list of songs that are worse than “Honey” and “Little Green Apples”?  

The answer may be sheer perversity on my fan’s part.  But I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was thinking of Donna Summer’s disco version of “MacArthur Park,” which was a #1 hit in 1978.  (Setting “MacArthur Park” to a disco beat is a very odd thing to do – almost as odd as doing a disco version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”)

The crowd at the kiddie pool
Summer’s cover doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should.  That may be because I’ve only heard it a few times.  

Bad songs that aren’t hits aren’t that bothersome – for a song to have a chance at landing on a “worst #1 songs” list, it has to be a song that was so ubiquitous when it was released that it makes you want to scream every time you hear it.

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Today’s featured song is one that many people would say belongs on the “worst #1 songs” list.  But I don’t think it’s as bad as “Honey” or “Little Green Apples.”

Those songs are nothing to write home about when it comes to music, but the worst thing about each are the words.

The lyrics to “Little Green Apples” are mawkish and sentimental – and while I don’t necessarily object to sentimental, the sentiment here comes entirely from the songwriter’s head, not his heart.  It’s as phony as a three-dollar bill.

My daughter and grandson celebrate the 4th
While “Honey” matches “Little Green Apples” when it comes to insincerity, it blows that song away when it comes to being maudlin.  Only a songwriter with absolutely no sense of shame would write a treacly song about a lovely, young, innocent woman, and then kill her off.  

The only way to top that would be to write a song about a child who dies of a lingering, incurable disease. 

It wouldn’t hurt to throw in something about a puppy as well.  (As the saying goes, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”)

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“Afternoon Delight” was a #1 hit for Washington, DC’s Starland Vocal Band in 1976.  It was so popular that CBS gave them a variety show to host in the summer of 1977.  (David Letterman was one of the show’s writers.)  None of the group’s subsequent singles came closer to breaking into the top 40.

The Starland Vocal Band
The Starland Vocal Band consisted of two married couples, both of whom ended up getting divorced.  (I guess afternoon delight got old for at least one member of each couple after a few years.)

Here’s a live performance of “Afternoon Delight” on the old Midnight Special TV show.  It was a mistake not to allow the group to lip synch to the record – this performance is excruciatingly bad:



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