If the Seventies taught me anything it’s that I should be wearing a silver robe by now, and I should have a numbered bar code instead of a name. The future was a horrible, dystopian place where Farrah Fawcett was euthanized at thirty and lime green shag carpets and pant suits ruled.
So what would the future sound like, according to people with wide ties and wider lapels? It would be cold, sterile — the sound of machinery. Forty years later that debate still rages, though now it is directed not at Moogs but Pro Tools and Auto-Tune.
Anyway, here are ten tracks from the Electronic Seventies. Thanks for dropping by, #61724 — watch out for the sandmen.
1970 – “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide,” Nik Raicevic. I know pretty much nothing about Nik Raicevic, other than the album Head upon which this track appears was on Buddah records. Why do I care? Because Buddah exec Neil Bogart left to form Casablanca, home to the mighty KISS during the Seventies. Warning: If you have any residual lysergic acid diethylamide in your system, it’s likely to find its way to the foreground when listening to this.
1971 – “The Funeral Of Queen Mary,” Wendy Carlos. Carlos is one of the most influential figures in electronica. Her 1968 album Switched On Bach, a Moog interpretation of Bach pieces, went gold, introducing legions to both Bach and electronica. Her 1971 score for A Clockwork Orange added a futuristic menace to the works of Loovly Loodwig among others.
1972 – “Popcorn,” Hot Butter. This song is pretty much the poster child of Seventies electronica. It was everywhere — the skating rink, the theme music to the local news. I could swear it was used in a commercial where it was the soundtrack to percolating coffee, but I can’t find any evidence of that. If you have any information on that please let me know.
1973 – “Tubular Bells,” Mike Oldfield. Huge, huge hit — hardly a deep cut. On the other hand, almost forty years have passed since Mike Oldfield helped The Exorcist frighten the Hell out of us, so maybe this is new to some of you.
1974 – “The Rockford Files,” Mike Post & Pete Carpenter. Moog hits the mainstream. My third grade music teacher, Mr. Krause, brought in a 45 of this track for us, cued it up on the heavy duty record player. “Listen closely,” he told us. ‘This is what music will sound like in the future.”
1975 – “Airwaves,” Krafwterk. From the krautrockers’ fifth album, Radio-Activity.
1976 – “The Tomita Planets: Part 2 (Mars),” Isao Tomita. This is the only Tomita album I own, but it’s a good one. “Mars” is my favorite piece from this electronic interpretation of Holst’s masterpiece.
1977 – “Imperial Attack,” Electric Moog Orchestra. When my big sister turned sixteen I gave her the Electric Moog Orchestra’s Music From Star Wars on 8-Track. Why? Because I wanted it, and it was in the cutout bin for a buck.
1978 – “Equinoxe 4,” Jean-Michel Jarre. In the throes of a (Who’s Afraid of) The Art Of Noise (and thus electronic music) obsession I got pretty into Jean-Michel Jarre for a while, specifically his Zoolook album. Equinoxe was a pretty cool album, too.
1979 – “Cloudburst Flight,” Tangerine Dream. From the brilliant Force Majeure. This song has become such an integral part of my personal soundtrack that I can hardly imagine life without it. So many of my life’s moments have had “Cloudburst Flight” as their score, even if it was only playing in my own mind. Keep an eye out for this one in future “Why It Matters” pieces.