October 1975: Who’s Gonna Help You Through the Night?

I’ve made pretty clear on this blog during the two-plus years of its existence that October is my favorite month of the year. As I put it last year, it’s a time when “the temperature falls, the leaves change, and time runs in reverse.” A lot of the most fondly remembered tales from my younger days take place in October. This month I’m featuring a bunch of Top 5 lists, mostly from the 1970s (and not just on Fridays), because they provide the soundtracks for some of those tales. This is the fifth post in the series. Part four, at which you can find your way to the other parts, is here.

Think about the house you grew up in, or the place you associate most closely with the concept of “home.” Now, think about this–what season is it when you picture that place?

I grew up on a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin, almost within sight of the Illinois border. One autumn night during high school–it would have been 1976 or 1977–I was driving home in the dark after wrestling practice. I crested the hill east of the farm and started the slow climb up the next hill, where our farm was. For a moment, the farmstead in the distance resolved itself like a painting–a little oasis of warm light in an otherwise dark and vast night. I carried the picture in my head for years before I knew what it represented: It was a metaphor for the life we lived in that place, as a family while we were growing up. The world was a big place, not always easy to navigate, not always friendly–but we had our oasis of warmth and safety there, halfway up the hill. There were rocky times, as in every family–we let our parents down in various awful ways, and sometimes they were oblivious to the reality of our lives. But underlying all the temporary crises was the rock-solid assurance that in the long run, everything was going to be OK if we’d just hang on, both to that place and to the people who lived there. So we did, and it was. When I think back on growing up in that house, it’s almost always autumn. I remember vividly what it was like to live in that house during those years when the security of the place mattered most.

By the fall of 1975, I’d switched radio stations, to Chicago’s WCFL, and I listened to Madison’s Z104 when ‘CFL became inaudible after dark. Five tunes playing on both of those stations are part of our first podcast in approximately forever. It runs about 19 minutes, and you can download it here. It includes some politically incorrect commentary on the battle of the sexes, the irresistable comeback hit from an important 60s group, my favorite single of all time from one of the best albums of the 1970s, a slice of mellow gold that Jason Hare should get around to someday, and a fine cross-pollinated soul/disco record that sounds insanely great. Hope you enjoy it.

Coming next: One day in your life.

2 thoughts on “October 1975: Who’s Gonna Help You Through the Night?

  1. Oh wow! That disco breakdown in “Who Loves You….” awesome!

    And oh yes – “Dance With Me” is a great choice. God, I love that song. Singing it at the top of my lungs right now. Which is bad because I’m at work. But too bad for everybody else. They need to hear that ending. Thanks for mentioning me!

  2. Oh, man . . . We all have a golden season sometime in our lives, and mine was the autumn of 1975. Like you, I’ve always had the speaker on, and this podcast, well, it makes me laugh and cry and want to walk once more in that slanted sunshine on my college campus, aching for yet another girl/woman I’ll never have at my side. So long ago, and so immediately with me. Thanks so much, and keep on with the good work.

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