Don and Jeff Breithaupt, Precious and Few: Pop Music in the Early '70s
(Macmillan/St. Martin's Griffin, 1996). I like the Breithaupt Brothers
, both as writers and musicians: Don has helmed the crack jazz-rock band Monkey House for a couple of decades now (you can get the jaw-dropping Atmos mix of their latest, Remember the Audio
, at IAA.com) and he also penned the volume on Aja
--some of the best Steely Dan writing ever--for Bloomsbury's 33-1/3 series. I was a little disappointed with this book, though: it surveys 70s radio hits in thirty-plus breezy, three-to-five-page, topical chapters (e.g., "Bubblegum," "Utopian Pop," "Feminist Pop," "Macho Soul," "Self-Pity Pop," "Story Songs")--extended listicles, really--and the format ends up fostering more glib pronouncements than illuminating analysis. The bros love 70s music, and they clearly meant the book as a kind of "reclamation," but their penchant for tongue-in-cheek snark and smart-alecky punning is often at cross-purposes with their program. I suspect that if they were to re-write the book now, in "poptimism
's" wake, they might soften some of the jokey superciliousness--towards bubblegum, country, disco, even prog--that was so deeply ingrained among a certain breed of music fan of their/my generation. Still worth seeking out. And to be fair: I think it would probably work better in short bursts, as bathroom reading, maybe. If you grew up in the 70s, it'll definitely get you recalling all kinds of tunes (like the title song, by Climax, the first 45 rpm single I ever bought with my own money) that you used to love--and hate. They also did a companion volume on the late 70s
that I haven't read.