Song Of The Day 7/20/2016: Helen Reddy – “No Sad Song”

The Hidden '70s, Part 1 – Most renown for Australian singer Helen Reddy comes from her single iconic statement song "I Am Woman," which she was. Well, still is, even though she relishes being away from the spotlight these days, and I mean far, far away. You know how anthems are. You could record an entire album's worth of quaint chansons about complicated characters struggling with the minutae of metropolitan being, but you make one "We Are the World" type, all-encompassing statement and it's like those songs don't even exist. That's when you give it all up and get into aromatherapy.

But Reddy had some twists in her sobriety. "Angie Baby," from the songwriter who brought you "Undercover Angel," featured an anti-social recluse who seduces would-be assaulters, shrinks them into Fun Size portions and stashes them inside her radio. "Delta Dawn" desperately needed a hobby. "Ruby Red Dress" from "Leave Me Alone" - look, just get that thing looked at, okay? The strangest thing Reddy ever recorded might have been "Baby, I'm a Star," co-written with rock impresario and human skidmark Kim Fowley, in which she uncharacteristically brags about her wealth and status in a half-moan, adding with very little intimidation, "I don't take no shit from nobody."

I'm particularly fond of Reddy's emponymous 1971 album, one of my favorite pop artifacts to defend. "Summer of '71," one of the first Songs Of The Day ever, casually dropped lines about doing peyote, mescaline specifically, and some sort of eccentric sisterhood that traipses around SoCal "munchin' sand and sandwich." Helen Reddy also included some appealing, low-scale interpretations of John Lennon, Randy Newman, Leon Russell and Donovan.

But the song that takes the genoise is "No Sad Song" (#62, 1971), which comes straight from the dark heart of, well, Carole King, co-written with lyricist Toni Stern, who also penned King's breakthrough solo hit "It's Too Late." The verses tell the tale of a particularly harsh cad who "rolled (women) up just like cigars," before depositing them on the "hardwood floor." Things don't end well at all for Don Juan; there's a lot of blood and no concilatory affirmation on which James Taylor sings harmony. But the freakiest thing about Reddy's version of "No Sad Song" are the sounds of children happily chipping in on the chorus, which in context of the rest of the song is disquieting enough without kids: "Sing me no... sad... song!" We used to look only to Jacques Brel to give us such tales where decadence and simplicity whack each other in the chops with cuttlefish. Little did I know that Helen Reddy and Carole King were all over that stuff too.

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