70s AOR – Still Creepy After All These Years

Johnny Loftus

Lately, it’s been the 70s Creep-Out Mix that’s been blowing up the hi-fi around the Glorious Noise HQ. A home-made compilation long thought to be lost to movers, car crashes, or simple human error, the 70s Creep-Out Mix was recently unearthed by its maker, and has found new life in and around the GLONO offices. The CD visits the entire canon of 1970s AOR, and includes both the perennial radio hit, as well as the one-off moment of long-haired, acoustic genius that could have only existed in the decade previous to Rayon, skinny ties and MTV. In an imaginary field of long green grass, where the men are bell bottom’d and the women go bra-less, the pop wonder of Badfinger’s “No Matter What” lies next to the bizarro production of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.” The former – barely making the decade at 1970 – presents rhythms that would define the decade’s AM-centric pop music. The latter, arriving in May of 1975, was a balladic freak-out that suggested the sounds of Inspiration Point on Alpha Centauri. It’s the wac convergence of tracks like these that define the creepy nature of the Mix, and in turn, the climate of pop music in the 1970s.

Nowadays, in the sophisticated 21st century, hipster revisionists are split over the influence of the tracks that make up the Creep-Out Mix. On one hand are the ironicists, who smirk at the songs’ saccharine production, over-indulgent harmonies and production, and the general geeky-ness of the era’s artists. On the other side of the aisle are the appreciators – the people who hear the beauty in the underpinning melody of King Harvest’s “Dancing In The Moonlight.” (Noted softie Jeff Tweedy makes mention of this phenomenon in Derek Phillips’ recent Wilco article.) The best part about this argument? No one’s right. There’s no question that Sammy Johns’ “Chevy Van” could be the cheesiest song this side of Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch.” But it’s the emotions and vibes expressed in Johns’ song (#5 in 1975!) that typify the creepy-ness of the 70s Creep-Out Mix. “‘Cause like a picture she was layin’ there/Moonlight dancin’ off her hair/She woke up and took me by the hand/She’s gonna love me in my Chevy Van” – here’s the punchline – “And that’s alright with me.” Johns’ casual, holy-shit-can-you-believe-this-is-happening-to-me vocal – “Her long leeeeeeeegs were tan and brooooooown” – makes the contemporary listener wince with laughter, while at the same time wish that it was still possible to write a hit pop song about hooking up with a beautiful hitchhiker. Even the ironicists admit that, yeah, that would be all right with them.

Ray Stevens is not included on The 70s Creep-Out Mix. “The Streak” is the kind of novelty that belongs on a mix compiling hokey tracks from each decade into one, succinctly un-purchasable compact disc. But songs like the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Jackie Blue;” Seals & Crofts’ “Diamond Girl;” and some classics from the Eagles’ middle 70s period – these are the tracks that make up the Mix that has transformed GLONO’s offices into a landscape of burnt sienna, orange floral patterns, and fondue. Keep in mind that this is not an exercise in nostalgia. Rather, the 70s Creep-Out Mix is as creepy as it is simply because its vibes ring so soundly here in our enlightened decade. Of course the ironicists will crap on this. They’ll accuse the appreciators of layering their own sardonic acceptance of these songs in faux “this is so stupid it’s cool” politics. But that’s simply not the case. There is something intangible in the songs collected on the Creep-Out Mix, something almost scary in the pretension-less approach to making music laid bare in its boundaries, that still somehow suggests otherwise. Everyone knows that the Eagles were (and perhaps still are) the most commercial group on the face of the Earth. And yet, there’s a spooky feeling of coolness that takes over the room when their Creep-Out moment happens. And that’s what keeps the Mix in the rotation.

There isn’t a lot of mystery in popular music today. Usually it boils down to a simple choice – sucks or not. The music that dominated AM (and later FM) pop radio in the 1970s was able to straddle the line between hokey and genius, to create some of the Creepiest fucking music ever made.



  1. Not on the hokey side but borrowing from some of the same elements is Clem Snide’s “African Friend.” From the spare acoustic guitar to the light tremolo of the Fender Rhodes, this song could have been prodiced in 1974. Great track.List other songs that give you the creeps but you can’t turn off when passing the Light Rock stations. I’ll prime the pump:Al Stewart–Year of the Cat10 CC–Not in LoveJefferson Starship–MiraclesGordon Lightfoot–SundownSeals & Croft–Summer BreezeBring out your dead!

  2. Oh yeah – “Sundown” is a total classic. One of the few commercially successful (#1 in 1974) “back door man” songs…right up there with Robert Cray Band’s “Smoking Gun” (#22 in 1987).Other creepy 70s hits on my list would be Hot Chocolate’s “Emma” (#8 in 1975) about a failed starlet who kills herself and the Buoys’ “Timothy” (#17 in 1971) about trapped miners who eat either each other or a donkey, depending on which version of the story you believe.Think Britney’s gonna tackle either of those topics on her next CD?

  3. I think there was a general sense of innocent doom in the early 70s though that added to my own psyche. Let’s remember that Viet Nam was still going, Nixon was a lout in in his last days, the economy was in the shitter, etc. The music, though often innocent and optimistic on the surface, was influenced by that. There’s a sense of remorse and sadness in that music. Like, “Man the 60s were great but didn’t turn out how we wanted…and neither did our lives.” There’s that line in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas where Thompson talks about the 60s hitting a high water mark and that the early 70s were kinda about watching the tide fall. Sometimes that crazy fucker really nails it.Great suggestions, Frank. Those songs are bringing back some very strange memories of my dad’s 1971 Dodge Dart.

  4. Yes, what is that track listing. I have found almost all the songs GLONO has mentioned, to be seriously creepy. Don’t Fear the Reaper… gah! Chills. And Evil Woman gives me chills, always has. that song really messes me up. I love songs that give you the chills, man.

  5. I Need You, by America, The First Cut is the Deepest, (Eagles?) “I Can’t Live if Living is Without You” (whatever that’s called officially) — these songs are sometimes so treacly you can’t stand it but you’re singing along to every note in the grocery store (and so is everyone else!) I was going to say Miracles, but Derek already did. I think you’re right about a certain sadness and sense of burnout in the 70s, Derek, but I also think these songs were hedonistic and over the top in a way that still resonates of 60s exuberance. Miracles is a totally joyful song… Oh, and Layla is an all-time great. Even Layla, though it’s about heartbreak, seems to be fuelled by some over-the-top, probably drug-fuelled turbo-love of music. Anyway, I love almost all of them. I just can’t think of more right now (just have to pop over to the grocery store for 4-5 more greats).

  6. Ugh, just thinking about 70’s pop schmaltz makes me ill. Spare me, oh Lord, from ever having to hear these songs again:Seasons In The SunWildfireThe Night Chicago DiedPina Colada SongAnything by Neil Diamond, but especially Cracklin’ RosieAnything by 10CCAnything by Olivia Newton John or relating to GreaseOn the other hand, here’s some 70’s pop I dig:Almost anything by Steely DanSuspicious MindsYou’re So VainMaggie MayBlinded By The LightBallroom BlitzCaptain FantasticSuperstarAnd of course, possibly the greatest 70’s pop hit ever – Saginaw’s own Stevie Wonder with ‘Superstition’. I just don’t get tired of that one!

  7. Oh, there are plenty of songs from the 70s I never want to hear again, but the 70s Creep Out Mix is full of songs that give me the willys but I love to hear. Miracles is the best example. I love that song but it makes me feel very strange. VERY strange.

  8. Seeing 60-year-old Neil Diamond in a shiny shirt singing “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” is pretty fucking creepy. (But not in the same way that this article is talking about.)”Wildfire” was my favorite 45 as a kid, and it always made me so sad. Back to the High Fidelity question: I think there is just something about people who love — and I mean LOVE — melancholy pop music… My favorite songs as a kid were all sad. “Rhinestone Cowboy” is a very sad song: “Where hustle’s the name of the game and nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain…” The entire Peter, Paul & Mommy album by Peter, Paul & Mary is in some kind of demented minor key that totally chokes me up. And it makes me rememeber listening to that album on headphones on the reel-to-reel in my underwear as a six year old. There’s actually a 8mm home movie of me doing just that. Fuck. Now I’m depressed. Still have the reel-to-reel player at least.

  9. jeez…how did you survive childhood? what a downer, I’m going to go eat lunch now…and I thought “leaving on a jet plane” was depresssing…

  10. I still have a great 45 from my childhood, Player’s “Baby Come Back”. I nominate it for the Creep List based on its effect on my behavior as an adult. With the chorus of “Baby come back. You can put it all on me. I was wrong and I just can’t live without you” ringing in my subconsious, I was fated to date my college girlfriend for far too long and never be able to survive our numerous breakups.

  11. ‘Muskrat Love’ is creepy to me. What the hell was that about, anyway? What twisted minds would compare their romance to a couple of muskrats? Why not cuter animals, like bunnys or something? All I can picture when I hear that song is a couple of real, hairy muskrats going at it.. And the cheesy, Ramada Inn liquor-lounge music just makes it worse…

  12. Yes, that Ramada Inn liquor-lounge music is so freakin’ weird. what I wouldn’t give to time travel and visit a real Ramada Inn liquor lounge in 1973 where the radio plays this stuff, they’re dressing like my dad’s closet, and bottles of Miller High Life look exactly the same. Okay does anyone dig this song: Brother Louie by Stories? Verrrry 70s but I love it and in fact I think it rocks. It has given me chills on more than one occasion and when I listen to it, the strange feeling I get, right in the stomach, up through my spine, fully eclipses any datedness issues. A housemate of mine once said, “the lyrics are like a story with 3/4 of the words missing” Also I must say after doing some research, creepiest 70s artist goes to America. They just never let up. Has anyone heard that song Tin Men? Eeeee!

  13. Brother Louie is a prime example of what we’re talking about.I have two America songs on 70s Creep out Mix Vol. I: Ventura Highway and Sister Golden Hair.The rest of the track listing is coming. I forgot the case at home and nobody is here in the GLONO office to watch the fort.

  14. “Baby Come Back” is an all-time classic of this bastard genre. Visions of Jack Tripper listening to it before heading on out to meet Foxy Rhonda at the Regal Beagle come to mind.(“Spending all my nights/All my evenings/Going out on the town/Trying anything to keep you off of my mi-i-i-i-ind.”)Oh yeah.

  15. Dammit guys, when are we going to get the complete track listing? At least fax it over to the satellite office here in Detroit!

  16. Baby I’m-a-Want You by the Breadsters anyone. My ex insisted on putting that steaming pile on more than one mix tape for me.

  17. Is anyone else terrified by every song ever put out by Gerry Rafferty? (Baker St., Right Down the Line, etc.) By the by, those two songs are difficult to sing without switching to the other. Anyhoo, I love his songs but they creep me the fuck out. I can’t turn them off either.

  18. Thank you so much for your site. For years I have been trying to find out the person who sings Chevy Van, as well as the name of the song. I found your site today, and I think its fantastic. I grew up with 70’s music and will love it forever. Thanks for what your’re doing.


  19. Well thanks to Renee or whoever for bringing this back.

    Cliff Richard “Devil Woman”

    Cher “Dark Lady”

    In addition to ‘Nam and too many drugs, an increase in hitchhiker murders and a new interest in Bigfoot and UFO’s also made it a creepy time to be a kid. Plus this was the first time many americans had access to vans–so creeps had a new tactic for abducting kids. Whne I was about 7 two fuckers escaped from the nearby looney bin. One dressed up as a woman and they got a couple of kids to accept a ride. I remember watching the news when they found bloody glasses belonging to one of the victims. It still creeps me out to this day–especially that one was in drag.

  20. 15 years later, here is the complete track listing to the 70s Creepout mix, Volume 1 (at least the copy I have). I’ve got a feeling there was more than one version of this thing floating around back in the day.

    Have You Never Been Mellow? 70s Creepout

    1. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
    2. Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight
    3. Stealers Wheel – Stuck in the Middle with You
    4. America – Ventura Highway
    5. Eagles – One of These Nights
    6. Rolling Stones – Fool to Cry
    7. Jefferson Starship – Miracles
    8. 10cc – I’m Not in Love
    9. ELO – Strange Music
    10. Orleans – Dance with Me
    11. Al Stewart – Time Passages
    12. Olivia Newton-John – Have You Never Been Mellow?
    13. Bread – If
    14. Hall & Oates – Sara Smile
    15. Michael Martin Murphy – Wildfire
    16. America – Sister Golden Hair
    17. George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
    18. Badfinger – Day After Day

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