They call it “Yacht Rock” these days, as in “you have to be a stiff, old, rich, white person to like this song.” But pop music in the early and mid-1970s — when I was 8, 9 , 10 years old — was so in your face and over the top that there was nothing stiff or boring about it. Sappy and a little cringe-inducing at times? Sure. But growing up, it seemed like every 70s pop song was engineered to elicit a maximal emotional reaction in its young listeners.
Love songs, songs of self-discovery, break-up songs and more love songs packed quite a punch back in the day, which is probably why “Yacht Rock” is so popular these days. All us 50-somethings are instantly transported back to those summer nights in 1972, or 1974 or 1976, waiting for our favorite song to come on the AM radio.
Yes, this was before Spotify and “Alexa, play Yacht Rock.” You had to wait and wait and wait for the DJ to play the tune that made you swoon.
Barry Manilow’s “Mandy?”
Little River Band’s “Lady,” or “Cool Change?”
“Brandy” by Looking Glass?
Anything by ABBA or, even better, by the Carpenters?
The sappier the better, especially when you’re just starting to get your first real grade-school crushes. Those songs taught us how to pine.
Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around “camping out” alone in the screened-in porch we had on the back of our house growing up in my suburban Boston home. I had a white hand-me-down AM radio with a broken antenna, and I listened to WRKO until I fell asleep on the weatherproof couch. At some point, my mom would come out to the porch to shut the radio off and throw a blanket on me. Simple pleasures.
So sure, go ahead and roll your eyes when the Yacht Rock comes on the radio this summer. But now you know why I seem to know every single lyric from every single pop hit released between 1972 and 1979 (in addition to every new wave song from the 80s).
Oh, and you know that viral TikTok video with the guy on the skateboard, drinking his cranberry juice and viben’ to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac? That song was a hit the first time around in 1977 before it topped the charts again in 2020 thanks to the video.
This stuff is timeless. Say this sometime and you’ll see what I mean: “Alexa, play ‘Yesterday Once More’ by the Carpenters.”
(P.S. Immediately change the channel when Rupert Holmes’ “Escape: The Pina Colada Song” comes on. The husband and wife in that song are sociopaths.)