We now continue our look at the U.S. top-10 hits of the 1970s, with artists and groups beginning with the letter M.
George McCrae- Rock Your Baby: Nice, atmospheric, minimalist and somewhat slow disco.
Gwen McCrae- Rockin' Chair: Wife of George, and a little more lively. Also atmospheric.
Maureen McGovern- The Morning After: Most famous for being performed in the disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure. The hit version is a little overdramatic, but the instrumentation stands out. The version in the movie was not performed by McGovern.
Don McLean- American Pie: It's fun to decode the lyrics in terms of its references to the Beatles, the Stones and others (kind of like Rick Nelson's Garden Party, soon to come in this series), but I've just heard this lengthy song too many times. It makes people who were young adults in the 1970s swoon, though.
Sister Janet Mead- The Lord's Prayer: Just goes to show that almost anything could be a big hit in the 1970s, if it is sufficiently funky.
Meco — Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band: An absolutely terrific disco version of the movie theme and the jolly music in the cantina scene. I heard it so much in the day that I soon convinced myself that this version was actually in the movie, which I saw in Glens Falls, New York in the late summer of 1977. This hit is especially fun for those with virtual surround-capable headphones and/or smartphones.
Melanie — Lay Down (Candles in the Rain), Brand New Key: This artist was the quintessential "hippie chick", with a unique vocal style, in the early 1970s. The first hit was a cinematic celebration of the then-recent Woodstock festival, while the second hit (which i heard as a kid) was purportedly about a boy and girl collaborating on a roller skating venture, but really had more sexual entendres than an episode of Three's Company.
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes — If You Don't Know Me By Now, The Love I Lost: Wonderful examples of the soul-with-strings Philadelphia Sound of the early to mid-1970s, and the most manly-sounding of the genre, thanks to the intense vocals of Teddy Pendergrass.
MFSB- TSOP: Another of many hits that were part of the Philadelphia Sound — a largely instrumental song that is beautifully arranged and produced and features great vocals from the Three Degrees. Officially, MFSB stands for "Mother Father Sister Brother," but some believe it stands for something I can't print on a family website.
Lee Michaels- Do You Know What I Mean?: A pretty good, punchy hit.
Bette Midler — Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy: Midler started off her career reviving oldies in a kitschy/soulful way, and this song was originally a big hit for the Andrews Sisters.
Steve Miller Band — The Joker, Rock 'n Me, Fly Like An Eagle, Jet Airliner: The king of spacey, funky rock in the 1970s. Due to its echo, Rock 'n Me sounds HUGE.
Frank Mills — Music Box Dancer: A beeyoutiful instrumental from a Canadian artist, but I prefer his vocal hit, the touching Love Me Love Me Love, which only hit #46.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles/The Miracles — Tears Of A Clown, Love Machine: The first hit was actually a remixed and renovated version of a 1967 album track. The 1970 hit version has more punch, and the musical sequence just before the lyric "just like Pagliacci did," is genius. Love Machine was a big hit years after Smokey left for a solo career. My opinion: a) I've heard it too many times; b) it lacks Smokey's touch and c) some of the vocalists emit an irritating gurgling sound that, for some reason, was popular on some soul hits in the 1970s (Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, James Brown's Get Up Offa That Thing, etc.).
Next time: Joni Mitchell and others.