On 5 January 1980, “I Want You Tonight” by Pablo Cruise peaked at #19, its highest position in the 80s.
Rock in the late 70s had a particular sound. I’m not talking about the bands who were active through the whole of the 70s, like Yes or Kansas or Deep Purple. I’m talking specifically about bands that rose and fell between roughly 1975 and 1982. They have an upbeat rolling soaring feel to them that gallops along at a steady but not frenzied pace. They’re exuberant and happy, perhaps a little bit angstful and more subtly syncopated than disco. They aspire.
They all sound like the theme to The Greatest American Hero, which we’ll talk about once I get to 1982.
Anyway, while I don’t get particularly excited about this sound, I don’t find it offensive either. I can’t explain why — they all sound very similar to each other. They all also conjure up in my mind an image that can only exist in the 1970s, a TV studio all done in maize-yellows and rust-orange with pixelated lights all over and funny close-cropped carpeted stairs leading to mysterious doors. Sort of like the Match Game set:
It’s also the style of music I associate with AM radio stations. I’d be driving somewhere (well, at this stage, my mother would be driving), and it’s the sort of music WLS would be pushing out, fighting against the static heroically as we went through underpasses.
I have no idea if I’ve ever heard Pablo Cruise’s “I Want You Tonight“. If I have, I have no firm memories of it in particular. The lyrics are a pretty standard forbidden lust story, and, like many of the songs in this genre, just as you think it’s ready to fade out (at 2:50 in this case and then again at 3:52) it breaks to a stripped down bridge, complete with cowbell, to let you know you’ve got two minutes more to rock. But it conjures up a time and place for me that’s indelible, but cloaked in the deep recesses of my memory. It’s a perfect example of that late-70s garage band sound and it takes me back to a time when really all I can remember are images and sounds, and it makes me feel warmand wistful inside..