I was thinking about the summer of 1974 as I drove home today, because I heard the song Rock Your Baby by George McCrae on the radio. It was one of those songs that you seemed to hear everywhere, whether you were at the pool, or listening to the radio at home, or out on a date. Upon reflection, the summer of ’74 was a pretty good summer. I was working at Big Bear and therefore had some money in my pocket, all of which I gladly spent on dates with my girlfriend. I was getting ready for my senior year at Upper Arlington High School, where I would assume the weighty responsibility of serving as co-editor of The Arlingtonian along with my friend JD. We attended a summer journalism workshop at Ball State that summer, and they kept the TV tuned to the Watergate hearings the whole time we were there.
I seemed to spend a lot of time in my car that summer, listening to tunes. There was some great album music on the airwaves, including Sweet Home Alabama and various selections from On The Border, Band On The Run, and Bad Company. WCOL-FM was the classic “head” station, with extended play of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and various “album rock” artists. On the Top 40 stations like WNCI and WCOL-AM there was lots of Elton John, Wings, and John Denver, as well as novelty songs like Blue Swede’s version of Hooked on a Feeling and arguably the worst song ever to become popular in America — Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks.
During the summer months, you didn’t watch TV because it was all reruns, but you did go to movies. The venue of choice was the Loew’s Arlington, at the corner of Reed and Henderson, and the University City Cinema, both of which were big, standalone theatres with enormous screens and lots of seats. That summer saw the release of first Death Wish, which was a great, chilling summer movie that raised an important, but as-yet unanswered, question — why in the world would Charles Bronson’s wife open the door to a giant bald guy in a leather jacket, and why would the producers cast the actor best known for his roles on Love American Style as the guy who gave Bronson the gun he eventually used to mow down lowlife scum when he returned to the city? The Longest Yard also came out that summer, when Burt Reynolds was cool and Bernadette Peters made an impressive screen debut as warden Eddie Albert’s beehived, lipstick-smeared, nympho secretary.
It was a fine summer, indeed.