Thursday, September 21, 2006

Depression Pop: "But the stars we could reach were just starfish on the beach"

Driving to work today, I heard the 70's song, "Seasons in the Sun." It got me thinking of all the songs in the seventies that were just darned depressing. Terminally depressing. Sure, there were anti-war songs like:
"Billy Don't Be A Hero" (1974) by Paper Lace
She said
Billy, don't be a hero, don't be a fool with your life
Billy, don't be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as he started to go she said, Billy, keep your head low
Billy, don't be a hero, come back to me

I heard his fiancee got a letter
That told how Billy died that day
The letter said that he was a hero
She should be proud he died that way
I heard she threw that letter away ...

Or "One Tin Soldier" by Coven (Joan Baez also released the song).

But I'm talking about songs that go beyond social commentary or even "you broke my heart and I want to die" ballads. These are songs about real dying or suicidal thoughts. I have a lovely selection for you:

“Alone Again, Naturally” (1972)by Gilbert O’Sullivan
In a little while from now
If I’m not feeling any less sour
I promise myself to treat myself
And visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top will throw myself off
In an effort to make it clear to who
Ever what it’s like when you’re shattered
Left standing in the lurch at a church
Where people saying "My God, that’s tough
She's stood him up
No point in us remaining
We may as well go home"
As I did on my own
Alone again, naturally

"Shannon" by Henry Gross (1976)(about a dead dog)
Shannon is gone I heard
She's drifting out to sea
She always loved to swim away
Maybe she'll find an island
With a shaded tree
Just like the one in our backyard

Terry Jacks (1974)
Goodbye Michelle it's hard to die
When all the birds are singing in the sky
Now that the spring is in the air
With the flowers everywhere
I wish that we could both be there

We had joy we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the stars we could reach
Were just starfish on the beach

SHEESH! And think of all the songs I didn't list: "Lonely Boy" and "Wildfire" to name a couple.

Don't get me wrong: I will caterwaul to "Alone Again, Naturally" and "Wildfire" with the best of them. But what was going on to produce such dismal pop and then what happened that led to the short reign of Disco just after? Sure, times were trying with the war and social protest, but that's happening today and we don't hear the same level of angst in any pop-music genre that I'm aware of.

"She ran calling W-i-i-i-l-l-d-f-i-r-e!"


Rinda Elliott said...

Do you have any idea how long these songs stick in the mind????

Kelli McBride said...

Yes I Do!! The only relief I had was when I got in my car that day and "Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting" was playing. I LOVE that song. ;-)

I've been tormenting a colleague with "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, so I guess this is karma getting me back. ;-)

Betty S said...

It is because it is forbidden to protest and those were all protest songs in response to vietnam.

Sucks doesn't it. Dixie Chicks only made one small comment and it almost trashed their careers.

Kelli McBride said...

Isn't it interesting that today, by far, the only mainstream songs we hear about current events are mostly from Country/Western singers, and those are primarily pro-Republican/patriotism. I think John Mayer has a song out now that is somewhat protest, but nothing comes close to the turbulent rock/pop songs of the 70s in terms of in your face activism. Shoot, even the 80s had Feed the World and We are the World.

A student of mine is writing a paper about grassroot activism, and we were talking about it in my office this week. I mentioned how the internet is a great tool now for grassroots, but he thinks when it's all said and done, we'll find that the internet has not been that great for activism. He thinks it dilutes energy and weakens people's resolve to get active because they can blog or post info on a web site and feel that they are doing something. This means they're less likely to join a group and do things face to face.

Interesting idea - and I think he's got a valid point. Of course, the internet also lets people connect to each other so that more communication and organization is possible. So it's a Catch-22.

Michele said...

I HATED those songs!
True , they have re-singability, but if you are in a manic depressive episode, these could send you over the top.

How about that stupid,
Run,Joey, Run
Timothy - still hear it was about cannibalism
Although I liked The Night Chicago Died.

Yep, there was a ton of political verses ... and I remember that Goodbe Michelle , its hard to die verse.
I hated that too ... I was in 6th grade. Music teacher in 6th grade .. wanted to have the class sing that song and when it came to that stanza, because I was "unpopular", EVERYONE stopped singing when it came to saying my name. Dead silence.
Teacher thought it was weird..I was mortified.

Who ever says shame isn't a physical pain never was unpopular.

I didn't go to my 25th High School reunion this month...and they wonder why??

Guess your post struck a sour chord with me this time.
Sorry, Kelli.

Rinda Elliott said...

Actually, there are a bunch of protest songs. Green Day's American Idiot is one that comes to mind. Perfect Circle released an entire album against the war.