Song Of The Day 3/14/2015: Cotton Candy - "Born With"

Overpop: The '70s: Cotton Candy is a delicate spur of a TV movie that’s lodged in whatever charred bits of my DNA are still left. Ron Howard directed the flick and it appeared on the NBC television network in October 1978, more than a full year after his first feature directorial effort, Grand Theft Auto, appeared in theaters with big screens. Back in those days there was a little more status with movies that went “straight to video,” because even on a bad night you were guaranteed an audience of at least a million people, and nobody was going to be put out of sorts by having to clean up the popcorn from the floors. Idyllic times, but we didn’t have Lunchables, so not exactly Shangri-La, you know?

Anyway, Cotton Candy starred redoubtable national treasure Charles Martin Smith, a few years removed from his brilliant turn in American Graffiti, the most solemn work by George Lucas not to contain Jar Jar Binks. Smith played a high school football player who’d suffered an injury (I’m getting this from online sources ’cause I don’t remember that part) and was forced to turn to other avenues of creative/destructive expression. Turns out he also writes songs in his spare time, so he gets a band together.

But as I recall (I’m not getting this from online sources, I’m conjuring up my own memories here) the band he formed was, initially, something of a Bread/Carpenters knockoff. This was a disastrous P.R. move, a fatal slippage from his perch in the gridiron pantheon to the composer of the soundtrack to a sparsely-attended Macy’s White Sale. His fellow jocks cajoled him, his friends began to doubt him, his parents wondered if electro-shock was socially acceptable again and Hilly Kristal hung up on him in a fit of giggles. Things looked dire, and then there was a commercial for Fleischmann’s Spread, ’cause you gotta get your omega–3’s.

In the film’s climax, however, the Smith character discovers power pop. It’s 1978, so I’m figuring he’s stumbled onto some Cheap Trick albums, or maybe heard a Nick Lowe album on in-store play at a Wherehouse. Through some kind of machination he gets roped in to playing a prom. Just when everyone’s expecting him to launch into some jive like “Torn Between Two Lovers” or the theme from Mahogany, dude whips out this joint, "Born With." A room is transfixed, a reputation regained, Smith is applauded, then Suzanne Somers bursts out of a T-Bird and runs into his arms, saying she always preferred him to Richard Dreyfuss.

It was the ’70s. The dream was alive until The Wall bummed everyone out. And that’s when power pop died, as did we, though some of us graduated from technical college and got through it.

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