Trying Times -- An Album Review

(Appeared on April 9, 1998)

Various Artists -- _'70s Party Killers_ (Rhino, 1998)

The case against me was clear. The prosecution had rested. I looked at the stressed, half-closed eyes of my attorney. He was clearly about to rest. And very probably fall over. Desperate, I stood and broke the tense silence.

"Your honor," I said, "may I approach the bench?"

"You're the defendant!" she exclaimed before calming and adding, "But since I'm just a character in a review you're writing, I suppose you can go ahead."

"Thank you." I crossed the smooth hardwood floor to the fore of the courtroom, tripping only once. Twice, tops. The jury, all in their late teens, snickered audibly. "Kids," I scowled to myself. "They'll never understand."

"Your honor," I began, respectful and slightly ashamed, "I stand accused of aiding and abetting 12 killers. There's some truth to the charges, but I can explain! And the jury would never understand! Look at those kids. They've never seen `Barney Miller'. They've never heard Supertramp, never even heard *of* Christopher Cross. Some of them think `Forrest Gump' is a documentary. They wouldn't understand how I could sympathize with any of these '70s Party Killers. But you...." I silently tried to spell "leniency" with two eyes. "I want you to know the truth."

My voice dropped to a whisper. I had never admitted this before. Some taboos just seemed unbreakable. I swallowed, proceeding in a hush. "I bought the Rupert Holmes album with `Escape (The Pina Colada Song)' on it. Twice. I couldn't pass up the CD reissue! But it's a great album, I swear! Don't you remember it?" The Judge's eyes softened. " `Torn Between Two Lovers' is a lovely, gentle song and `Sometimes When We Touch' is simply beautiful." I looked at the nameplate in front of the judge. "Surely you remember sweet moments with those tunes, don't you?" She seemed about to speak a nominal rebuke as an airplane flew referentially overhead, but instead she just nodded wistfully. "I supported them, yes, but surely these are not crimes...." She'd heard enough. I moved on.

"On the other hand, some of these charges are ridiculous! I can't make excuses for `Afternoon Delight' or `The Candy Man', much less aid or abet them. And I would *never* intentionally inflict the Captain & Tennille's `Muskrat Love' on anyone! Serious support of killers like those is...." I trailed off. The judge retched magisterially at the thought.

"When these killers and six others (all Billboard chart-toppers) came to me together as a collection -- in disguise, too! But I knew right away they weren't ` '70s Party Classics,' no matter what the side of the CD said -- I had to decide. Support or reject them, not as individual tunes, but as a record. And I supported them, I admit it! The liner notes are a blast, the CD art design is perfect, and between laughing at the background vocals of `Playground In My Mind', bopping along to the tragically upbeat `The Night Chicago Died', and appreciating the sentiment of `Tie A Yellow Ribbon...', I saw a collection I just had to support. ` '70s Party Killers' are killers, yes, and not all in the good sense, but a worthy group nonetheless."

The judge recoiled urbanely. "Your transparent attempt to argue for your own mental incompetence," she said, glaring, "has worked." Then, more softly, "Off the record, I have a copy, myself. It's a fun album, but I'd never let anyone catch me with it!" We smiled, sharing a guilty pleasure those jury kids would never understand.


Eric Aaron enjoyed watching Barney Miller, likes Supertramp, and thinks "This Is Spinal Tap" is a documentary. He didn't do it, whatever it is, and stop calling him "Shirley".

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