Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Christopher Cross (1979)

1979. A very strange and dark year. Only one real rock group in the top ten, but there was a lot of good music that year: Supertramp, Styx, Bad Company, Dire Straits, Cheap Trick, ELO. They gamely held their ground against the gradually diminishing but still overwhelming force of disco: Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Gino Vanelli, G.Q. and the Gibbs brothers in their various permutations. Billy Joel was rapidly abandoning his roots, nobody knew what the h*** the Doobie Brothers were thinking, and Bob Seger had gone decidedly sentimental. Streisand and Diamond were everywhere with their bubblegum lounge music. And then late in the year, some guy from San Antonio who no one had ever heard of released an eponymous album. The following year, he cleaned up at the Grammies.

In 1979, auto tune was still being used to analyze earthquakes. Synthesizers were still analog, mostly, unless you wanted to shell out $20,000 for a Fairlight. You could still make great pop music with a soaring voice, some decent guitar licks, carefully crafted songs and a bunch of famous musicians backing you up. And there were a lot of them on Christopher Cross' first album: Larry Carlton, Don Henley, Nicolette Larson, Michael McDonald, and plenty more you can read about at Wikipedia.

Superbly polished pop, perhaps. Why did the album get as popular as it did? This was something my friends and I discussed in the olden days, and something I still wonder about. The music on this album is slickly commercialized, no doubt about it, but there's still an honesty about the songs that speak of just some guy going for it and dedicating himself to making it big. The album was full of earworms; even the songs that weren't hits would have you humming along with them.

Mr. Geppert is still putting out albums; he released his newest just this year. But he still looks like some guy you'd likely run into buying plumbing fixtures at Home Depot--not like a pop star. I wandered into other musical paths in the early 80s, and didn't follow him much after that, except to hear him on the radio, mostly with "Arthur's Theme" which didn't thrill me, so I never bought another of his albums.

I wondered how the album would hold up after 30+ years. I'm not sure modern ears are able to hear it in the same way we heard it back then--modern ears used to saccharin auto tune and the uniform blandness of modern pop, able to listen to such older music only "ironically." I must confess that I cannot speak of this album objectively; it played a huge part in the development of my own musical tastes during a time when I had stopped listening to "my parents' music" and began developing distinctive tastes of my own which have led me down a widely varying and fascinating road. I bought this album on cassette as a new release and wore it out. I've been missing it for a long time now.

Earlier today I turned on "Ride Like the Wind" and turned the stereo up much louder than usual. My daughter asked me why I had it so loud. "Because that's the only way to listen to this song," I told her. It was true in 1980, and it's still true.

The guy from the Dyer Electronics commercials made it big, and I still love his music. I think maybe I should see what he's up to nowadays.

1 comment:

  1. The late seventies were a bad time for rock music, in my opinion. I spent most of that time listening to country western, waiting for better music on the rock stations.