memories of the ’70s – Tony Orlando and Dawn

From a solo artist, to becoming a group act to starring in their own variety show, Tony Orlando and Dawn were an essential part of the sounds of the 1970s.

Orlando had made his name in the 1960s as a solo artist, but by the end of the decade, he was a demo singer, and falling far from the spotlight he used to command.

Approached by producers with the song, Candida, Orlando couldn’t record under his own name because of contractual obligations, so he recorded the song under the name “Dawn”, with four backup singers and studio musicians.

The song shot to the top of the Billboard charts, hitting number three in Fall 1970 after being released in July 1970. Orlando followed up Candida with the song Knock Three Times in November 1970, recorded with co-writer/singer Toni Wine.

The song hit number one in January 1971 on Billboard Hot 100, and Orlando asked Motown/Stax backup singers Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson to permanantly become Dawn.

The trio toured Europe and then went into the studio to record, with Wilson’s sister Pamela Vincent joining them on vocals. Now billed as Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, the group released their third single “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” in 1973, garnering their third Billboard Hot 100 hit.

The group kept recording and garnering hits, adding disco-influences to their songs with tracks like Who’s in the Strawberry Patch with Sally and Steppin’ Out (Who’s Gonna Boogie Tonight”.

In 1974, the group was given its own variety show on CBS, filling the gap left by The Sonny and Cher Show when it ended. Like its predecessor, the show as a mix of comedy sketches, music and silly banter between the band mates.

In the next two years, the show furthered the band’s success and more hot singles were released including He Don’t Love You (Like I Do) and Cupid, gaining radio airplay and support on the adult contemporary charts. The show ended in 1976.

In 1977, the group split, after a six year run of hot singles, television performances and touring, having become a favourite of viewing and listening audiences.

memories of the ’80s – Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

In the mid ’80s, Brit rock band Dire Straits gained a new group of fans with its blues/pop song that was all about music videos with the single Money for Nothing.

Written by Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler, the song refers to a not-so-smart working class guy, who watches the newfangled music videos and comments on the images portrayal of apparently idyllic lives of these fictional characters.

Released as the second single from their album Brother in Arms in May 1985, the song gained radio airplay on rock and contemporary radio stations because of the lyrics as much as the addition of Sting from The Police as a co-vocalist on the track.

Knopfler had to be convinced to do a video, which he thought would destroy music, and the concept was to animate the title character of the song. This unique concept convinced Knopfler and the video was released to MTV in the US for heavy rotation and became the first video shown on MTV Europe when it debuted in 1987.

The video was my lure to the music – with its cool animation and the haunting voice of Sting on the chorus, I was hooked on this song and played it endlessly.

The single hit the Billboard Hot 100 number one spot in mid September 1985, staying at the top for three weeks. The album Brothers in Arms sold one million copies and was one of the first albums of the era that was focused on the new format compact disc.

The album has become the eighth bestselling album in UK history, certified nine times platinum in the US and won two Grammy Awards in 1986. The album sold 30 million copies and would become the band’s last album of the decade, before reuniting in 1991.

memories of the ’70s – Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell

For a songwriter of the mid 70s it took a major recording star’s interest in his song to get to the top of the Billboard charts: Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell.

Written by Larry Weiss in 1974, the song appeared on his album Black and Blue Suite, but had no impact on radio or the music charts. Meanwhile Campbell was touring through Australia when he heard the song.

Returning to the US, he went to his label, Capitol Records, to ask to record the song. He identified with the song’s themes of pursuing his dream for the brass ring reward.

Recorded in February and March 1975, the single Rhinestone Cowboy was released by Capitol in May, charting from its release on both the country and pop charts throughout the summer.

In mid September 1975, Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy was the first song since 1961 to hit both number on on the Hot 100 pop and the Hot 100 Country Billboard charts. The song also hit number one on the Hot 100 Adult Contemporary charts, and hit number one in Canada and Ireland.

The single was certified gold and silver and became a popular addition to Campbell’s catalogue of music. In recent years, the song has been covered by Radiohead, Soul Asylum, Belle and Sebastian, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and David Hasselhoff.