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Senior Year

Senior Year, 1975: Have You Never Been Mellow?

by Chuck Eddy

Senior Year, 1975: Have You Never Been Mellow?

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When Olivia Newton-John first asked the world’s populace in 1975’s first month whether it had ever been mellow, requesting, “I just want you to slow down,” she might not have known what she was getting into. In the U.S., anyway, a near-unprecedented (and since unequaled) 35 songs hit No. 1 that year (not all of them Olivia's), and the vast majority were very, very … relaxed. And most of the non-chart-toppers all over the airwaves that year were just as low-key. Disco and punk were coming, of course, and teenagers might’ve been blasting Aerosmith in 7-Eleven parking lots, but it seems like most of America just wanted to put Watergate and Vietnam behind them and curl up with a trusty paperback of I’m OK, You’re OK and enjoy Gerald Ford being the most boring president in history.

So slow dances hit from all over: Sensitive singer-songwriter Sammy Johns made love in his Chevy van and Janis Ian got picked last for basketball; country crooner Michael Martin Murphey lost his pony in a Nebraska blizzard; and there were equally croony country-rock combos like Orleans and Ozark Mountain Daredevils as well as fancy-pants British twerps like 10cc and Jigsaw. You name it. There were also quite a few Tin Pan Alley throwbacks: Neil Sedaka, Frankie Valli, Melissa Manchester, Chopin fan Barry Manilow, Rachmaninoff fan Eric Carmen, and maybe above all Captain and Tennille, whose Sedaka-penned ivory-tinkler “Love Will Keep Us Together” was almost too raucous and rip-roaring to qualify for this two-hour playlist of the mellowest gold of a very mellow year. But it spent four weeks at No. 1, so you can’t hardly ignore it. (Carly Simon’s “Attitude Dancing,” though? Sorry, not mellow enough!)

Even hard rockers were getting in on the fun. Fleetwood Mac’s blockbuster self-titled album made everyone forget their power-boogie past, and with Nazareth’s Everly Brothers update “Love Hurts” and Alice Cooper’s feminist manifesto “Only Women Bleed,” 1975 counts as Ground Zero for the power ballad. Plus, speaking of '80s ladies’ choice genres in the making, while most 1975 R&B was too funky to ride the hammock to (though Hot Chocolate’s movie-starlet suicide tragedy “Emma” and Minnie Riperton’s glass-shattering proto-Mariah bird-call “Lovin’ You” were at least not fast), in April, Smokey Robinson laid the groundwork for future silk-sheet seduction by releasing an album called A Quiet Storm. “Never had time to lay back, kick your shoes off, close your eyes,” as ONJ observed? Well, this mix should help.

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