It’s funny how one film can help change perceptions about music once dismissed as uncool. It used to be that pop music from the early to mid ’70s got a bad rap, even before the disco backlash.
Rock music was no better, the excesses of studio bloat and glam indulgences marked a period of shame according to critics who until recently preached the gospel of anti ’70s everything. Disco of course may have started the backlash, but the music of the 1970’s had one thing going for it that seemed to falter in the following decades: strong melodies.
So it’s not surprising that a soundtrack bent on nostalgia would introduce a new audience to the ‘poetic sorcery’ of ’70s era AM gold. The summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy cleverly work into its plot music from the childhood of a character that could have been anyone of us. His moms mix tapes, recalled a ritual many of us performed like it was a part of life itself.The ironic juxtaposition of AM gold classics with futuristic Si-fi imagery was a refreshing contrast to the usual electronic music that accompanied such films in the past.
Songs like Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by Elvin Bishop may have been in other films, but in Guardians of the Galaxy, it resonated with a certain audience more incline to download rather than wait patently as electrical signals are committed to magnetic tape in real-time. In fact, many were likely born never knowing to joys of the mix tape.
The producers of the soundtrack remembered this joy and were careful to select feel good moments from the late ’60s through the mid ’70s that might resonate with people of a certain age. There was one song from the edge of disco like “Escape (The Pina Colada Song}” by Rupert Holmes. That 1979 classic is known by most people even if they don’t know when or who made it. The same could be said for Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 classic “Spirit in the Sky”, a song remade on a number of occasions (most notoriously by Doctor and the Medics in 1986).
Old feel good standbys like” O-o-h Child”,”I Want You Back” and “Aint No Mountain High Enough” added a bit of soul while keeping the euphoric quotient high. I personally wished the collection focused more on the edgy side of the melody boom of the era. David Bowie’s 1971 “Moonage Daydream” and The Rumor’s 1976 punk hit “Cherry Bomb” give the collection it’s edge, but it’s the prog rock meets adult contemporary masterpiece “I’m Not in Love” from 10cc that captures the feel of the era best.
Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1 does a great job of lacing together various genres by showing how strong melodies of the era were. An expanded edition covered the Tyler Bates score, but scores are too much like classical music to most pop fans and remain the province of Star Wars, Star Trek and The Hobbit /LOTR fanboys.
That said the film’s soundtrack was second only to Frozen in sales for 2014 and #20 overall on the final albums sales chart for 2014. The film like the soundtrack suggests a sequel. It will be interesting to see what other era or possibly genre from the ’70s the film might explore as a sub plot device. With retro being cool at the moment, you can be certain it won’t stray too far from the 1969 to 1979 range of the first film.