Last Salute To The Blank Generation: My Top Seven Songs Of the '70s
7. “Blank Generation,” Richard Hell and the Voidoids. In 1959, Bobby McFadden, who provided the voice to Franken Berry in the ‘70s, and poet Rod McKuen released a novelty single titled “The Beat Generation,” about the low budget hipster lifestyle. Richard (Meyers) Hell reworked the tune, playing “Blank Generation” in an early version of Television and with the non-Petty Heartbreakers in 1976. Released with the Voidoids in ’77, law school graduate Robert Quine provided the razor sharp guitar while Hell howled about being “God’s consolation prize.” The tagline, “I belong to the blank generation,” became the battle cry for the CBGB’s punk rock crowd. The perfect angst anthem for self-designated outcasts.
6. “Tangled Up in Blue,” Bob Dylan. In the words of Rob O’Connor “Blood on the Tracks is the story of your life!” And “Tangled Up in Blue,” with its rootlessness and lost love and illusions from the past may be the central plotline. Dylan is 72 now and keeps on keeping on, constantly reminding us of his unfathomable brilliance.
5. “Shake Some Action,” Flamin’ Groovies. The Groovies debuted in 1969 as a retro rock outfit, went through a garage rock phase, and then created this power pop masterpiece in 1976. The relentlessly pulsating guitar chords on this record convey a remarkable sense of urgency; the dramatic tension in the verses is then released with the confident power of the declarative chorus. It is possible that I once self-published a book about music with this song in the title.
4. “Rock & Roll,” The Velvet Underground. Rock ‘n’ roll not as escapism, but as salvation. The greatest song ever about the subject of rock music. The 1970 Velvet Underground version and the 1974 Rock N’ Roll Animal live take, featuring Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter on guitar, are both essential.
3. “Search and Destroy,” Iggy and the Stooges. Apocalyptic both in musical execution and lyrical vision. When Iggy boasts, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm/I’m the runaway son of a nuclear A-bomb,” you have no choice but to believe him. Nobody’s iconic status in rock music has been more well earned than Mr. Osterberg’s.
2. “Surrender,” Cheap Trick. A son/parent saga where the kid worries about venereal disease while the parents smoke pot and have sex on the couch. Legend has it that the original lyric included, “Now I had heard the WACs recruited old maids, dykes, and whores.” (Couldn’t an enterprising female be all three?). “Surrender” is an affirmation that we can’t stay young forever, but we can stay young at heart.
1. “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen. Many people enjoy Bruce more than I do. I firmly believe that when the Boss and the E Streeters are firing on all cylinders, there has never been a more sensation rock ‘n’ roll band. However, at times, his penchant for dramatic overstatement just weighs me down, man. On “Born to Run,” Bruce reached for epic greatness and grasped the gold ring. If you were to tell me that there has never been a better song in the history of rock music than “Born to Run,” with its boundless life or death passion and the wondrous quest to know if love is real, I would not argue with your conclusion. I do hope that Bruce took a breath mint before that everlasting kiss.