Posted below are three songs from the early '70's that each, in their own way, defied expectations. The three songs were released by groups that any music listener at the time would have dismissed as crass, commercial, bubblegum, middle of the road, mainstream and at best, trivial.
At least one of the groups - the Carpenters - has undergone a rightly-deserved critical evaluation and are now recognized not only for the artistry and beauty of Karen Carpenter's voice, but for the brilliance of the arrangements and the high quality of the song writing.
Paul Revere and the Raiders were actually a very good Northwest garage band who had the dubious good fortune to be signed by Columbia Records with the intention of making them the American Beatles. Hype and silly costumes prevented them from ever being taken as seriously as they deserved, even though their early hits included such legitimate classics as "Kicks," "Hungry" and "Just Like Me."
As for the Osmonds...uh, yeah. At least on "Crazy Horses," (written by Alan Osmond) they demonstrated a surprising willingness to experiment. And even though though the song bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," there are enough interesting things going on -- synth parts, screeching guitars, no Donny vocal - to make the song a truly unexpected pleasure.
"Goodbye to Love," from the Carpenters' 1972 album A Song For You is in many ways a classic Carpenters song, in that the melody is instantly memorable and accessible without sounding like anything else you have ever heard. However, what distinguishes the song is the guitar solo by studio musician/engineer Tony Peluso, thick with fuzz and adolescent aggression, yet simultaneously so clean as to instantly identify it as a product of the LA studio system.
There is a hint of the solo after the second chorus, then it disappears, only to reappear in the long choral coda as the song ends. I have always felt it was a kick ass solo and I thought it took balls for the Carpenters to feature it so prominently on one of their ballads.
I first heard "Powder Blue Mercedes Queen" coming out of my car radio in Albany, NY in the summer of 1972, which was entirely appropriate, since it's one of the best driving songs I've ever heard. It's pop, but bordering on rock, more Crabby Appleton or Jo Jo Gunne than Raspberries or Big Star. Which makes sense, since the Raiders were at heart a punk band, not a pop band. I've always thought the lyrics were a little corny, but the distorted power chords and Plant/Stewart vocal moves totally make up for that.
Crazy Horses - The Osmonds
Goodbye to Love - The Carpenters
Powder Blue Mercedes Queen - Paul Revere and the Raiders