AM radio and the lingering smell of perm

She walks across the linoleum-tiled kitchen floor with her plastic curlers clamped tightly into her head. The smell of perm is, well, it permeates the house; billowing over the scent of any food she may be cooking at the time (if she was in the kitchen, she was cooking, and she was ALWAYS in the kitchen. About once a week or so, wearing those damned post-perm curlers to boot.)

It was the 70’s, and I was a musical leech. Not quite yet old enough to own my own record player, as my ardent Beatles-fan older brother did, I was enslaved to the AM radio station of my mother’s choice (my mother’s choice by the way, toggled between WGRZ for newer tunes, and WJYE – “Joy. All Music, all the time.” – for the older stuff.) I didn’t know what was to come, musically-speaking (even though it was being birthed at that very moment), but to my young mind I couldn’t wait until it did. Especially considering…

I mean, to a five(ish) year old boy, what was that supposed to mean? Painted ponies by the riverside? What was this strange language? Turns out, it was just exactly what you’d think it was. But to the (somewhat overactive) imagination of a five(ish) year old, it went a lot further than all that. Into weird and strange places best left unvisited.

Easier to understand, but even more lyrically intense – to my young brain at least – were the boys of Three Dog Night (who, for the record, could not be mentioned, without at least one local chiming in with “did you know that one of them is from here???” I think it was the one with the mustache. Pretty sure it was him), who wooed my freshly born social conscious with their plea for racial harmony, in a world still on the brink…

Sadly, to my young existence, these two are about the “spaciest” tunes of the decade to wiggle their way into my ear, eventually nestling themselves deep down within my psyche.

The remainder of the 70’s were spent pretty much here…

And sometimes here…

Though being raised a suburban Polish kid (proud owner of my very own “mini” beer stein!), who was prone to celebrate things such as “Dingus Day,” Mr White and I didn’t really share what you would call a “common language,” outside of the above track.

A bit of a shame, as I really dug his smooth and silky voice otherwise.

Alas, it was here that I would eventually find my musical soul mate for the decade, though I knew not why at the time…

Maybe it was because it had just the right amount of mope, or despair, or longing, or self-pity. I mean, hell! When you read the lyrics, you almost wonder how it was, that Gilbert didn’t have a flock of black-clad moody youth envelop him in a slow motion riot, immediately upon the song’s release. But I suppose that’s a story for another decade altogether. One I didn’t know about then, but desperately hoped was coming soon.

Right after I purchased my own record player, of course.



This is my first foray into Jen’s Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday – I’m hopeful that I didn’t crash the party with my mix. Or at least, not so badly as to not be allowed into the clubhouse next week…!

20 thoughts on “AM radio and the lingering smell of perm

  1. BJ Thomas! Right on. I’d forgotten all about the smell of perms. When I was younger, I let my stupid stepmom give me one. I looked like a poodle and smelled like hell for three days. Ah, the good old days. I love your tagline by the way!

  2. Barry White!! ( I would try for a quote, but I don’t have any fonts that will convey the tone… maybe blold lower case italics…)
    Under the best of circumstances, lyrics from the (late) 60s and 70’s were a bit…ambiguous….
    ‘I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name, It felt good to be out of the rain’ (America)

    I don’t want to say that there is qualitative difference in the lyrics on am and on fm (back in the day)… but Warren was much more direct with his, “…looking for a place called Lee Ho Fooks”

    thanks for the commentation over at the Doctrine…

    • Beautiful, Clark! I too was hoping to find a “White” font when I posted, so we’re Legion on that, at least, given that the 70’s did not open the door of FM in to me until well into the 80’s =)

  3. Ok, I kinda wish that I had your list. Love it! I especially love the addition of Barry White and Spinning Wheel!! This is my first time reading your blog, I am totally following!! Have a great day!

    • Have you ever heard the 3rd Bass take on it? It is SOOOO part of my – Real Life – Mixed Tape series (suitable for burn or Dropbox download) “for me: for me too!” mix.

  4. Very interesting. 1) My mother who lives next door still gives herself a perm. A vile day to visit. 2) I am a pedigree Polish girl, imagine that. Why am I not surprised by Gilbert O’ Sullivan?

  5. My best friends mom used to give us perms in the kitchen with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. They had one of those giant stereo cabinets, and the radio was always on. That smell brings back some awesome memories, as vile as it is!
    Spinning Wheel was my very first favorite BS&T’s song. I was just like you, that wild imagination trying to interpret those words.
    I loved Another Done Somebody Wrong Song, still belt it out when it comes on the iPod and SO LOVE Alone Again Naturally. This is a brilliant list, please come back next week for the 80’s.

    • Grrrlfiend, I was already caucusing with the kids as to who would hit next weeks list… Thank YOU for digging my scene, as odd as it is, and I am SOOO looking forward to hitting it, with some Hair Band Realness next Tuesday as well!

  6. Nice to wander back through how the memories assembled. I have attachments to songs that affix shadows and temperature and smells and seasons.

    My personal favourite TDN song…

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