I’ve been a DJ for most of my life, whether it was the imaginary radio station in my bedroom when I was 11, college radio, the years I spent getting a full-time paycheck, or the more recent years I’ve done my four and hit the door. Even during the nine years I was out of radio entirely from the mid 90s to the mid 00s, I couldn’t help talking over records in the car like my Top-40 heroes of old. So why did it take me until yesterday, after five-plus years at this blog, to shut up and play the hits?
This first one is one of the best autumn songs I know. On this live version (the song was originally on the radio this week in 1974), some famous folks show up at the end to provide backing vocals and rock some 70s fashions.
Billy Preston’s original “Nothing From Nothing” is one of the most economical records in pop history, streaking out of the gate and taking less than 2:30 to get to the fade, and I’ve always wished it went on longer. On this live performance from the 1980s, it does—about 6 1/2 minutes altogether, as Billy introduces his band.
The fall of 1975 may have marked the peak of Top 40 misogyny—on the chart at the same time you had Elton John’s “Island Girl,” a song about a prostitute that tries to take an admiring tone but misses (and is racist to boot), and Elton’s collaboration with Neil Sedaka on “Bad Blood,” in which Neil sings that “woman was born to lie” and “the bitch is in the smile.” And that fills this video with all sorts of contradictions. His backup singers both appear positively thrilled to be part of this smackdown of their gender, and Sedaka comes off as such a dweeb that it’s clear either one of them could kick his ass.
An alternate viewpoint—quite nearly an answer song—was on the radio at precisely the same time. It’s here. Meanwhile, back here on the show, the Brothers Johnson get on down in a video that seems to have been partly shot through a lens smeared with chocolate pudding.
Veteran TV director Louis J. Horvitz would have gotten away with it if the clip below didn’t include a credit roll from its original source, an episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert broadcast in October 1975. But now we know he’s responsible for giving us as many shots of the Tavares brothers from the back as from the front, and we know how much he loves the circular wipe. LOUIE FOR CHRISSAKES STAY ON A SINGLE SHOT FOR MORE THAN FIVE SECONDS DAMMIT
Mighty good song, though.