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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Songs of '78: "Driver's Seat"

Pop radio and the music industry which enabled and profited from it was a mystery 40 years ago--at least from the excruciatingly well-documented, Instagram-everything-and-put-it-all-on-the-cloud standards of today. It's difficult to believe you could have a major radio hit in 2018 whose every specific detail regarding its origin isn't to be found on the web. But that's the case for "Driver's Seat," a jamming, propulsive, proto-New Wave rock tune that is pretty much the only thing anyone except their immediate friends and neighbors remembers about the one-hit-wonder English band, Sniff 'n' the Tears. I suppose that's unfair to Paul Roberts, the composer of "Driver's Seat" and a working musician who has assembled multiple iterations of Sniff 'n' The Tears over the years. But for someone like me, who only knows the one song, and has never so much as seen a copy of the album it came off, Fickle Heart, nor heard more than a couple of other songs off of it--well, I'll take what I can get. At some point in my youth I heard this song (probably after its much-delayed released in America in 1979, but maybe not until a Dutch advertising campaign brought it back until general circulation in 1991), and its smooth, slick, driving sound buried in deep enough in my head that I figured it must have been one of the first pop songs I'd ever heard. As it turns out, I was kind of right. Hashed out as an early demo sometime in 1973, finally properly recorded in 1977, it was the lead single off the band's first album, where it went nowhere. But nonetheless, it was out there, in the airwaves, at some point in 1978, though for the life of me I can't figure out exactly when. So today, halfway through the year, seems good enough. Enjoy everyone. The mysterious, partly lost, definitely partly forgotten of world of 40 years ago still beckons.

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