When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, music shows were all the rage. I watched a lot of them, mainly because my sisters did, but the show that I liked best was Solid Gold. This musical variety show had a bona-fide star as its host– Dionne Warwick, Marilyn McCoo, Andy Gibb, Grant Goodeve, or Rex Smith– and a weekly countdown. There would be an array of musical guests, many of whom would lip sync to their hits, and a duet starring the host and a musical guest, which was performed live. They had “man on the street” segments, which would show off the singing or lip syncing talents, or lack thereof, of everyday people on the street. And, at least in the early years, there would be comedy. All of it was accompanied by hyper-sexual dancing by the Solid Gold Dancers, led by the highly exotic and erotic Darcel Leonard Wynne.
How do I remember all of this? Well, I was a fairly regular viewer back in the day. But I also remember it because I binge watched a bunch of episodes yesterday. Someone uploaded several of the earliest episodes of Solid Gold, and in a few cases, even left the ads in circa 1980 and 1981. I found myself falling down the nostalgia time shaft as I watched these videos, remember when I was still a child in the early 80s. I never stopped listening to a lot of the music from that era, so that was less of a shock than the ads were.
I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the past. Maybe it’s because I wish I could do it over. There are other choices I would have made if I had known what would lie ahead for me. But I think I also like looking at the past because I genuinely enjoyed the music of that time period… and the fact that you could have a variety show that featured acts as diverse as Pure Prairie League (featuring Vince Gill), Glen Campbell, and The Rolling Stones! In fact, radio wasn’t unlike that back in the day. You could tune in to your favorite pop station and hear something by a band like Exile, which had sort of a country flair, and then hear Earth, Wind, & Fire or Led Zeppelin.
Since I have wildly diverse musical tastes, that kind of random characteristic of early media appealed to me very much. I miss it now, especially since independent TV and radio stations are now pretty rare. The person who uploaded the Solid Gold episodes lived in the Rochester, New York area, so the ads and PSAs were relevant to that area. But they also ran some pretty awesome early ads for jeans and person hygiene products. I felt both really old watching them, and young, as I remember how young I was in 1980 and 1981. There were poignant moments, too. Like, for instance, this song performed by the late Harry Chapin in a March 1981 episode…
I remember watching Stevie Nicks, as she performed live on Solid Gold. She was one of the few guests who performed live, rather than lip syncing and dancing to a recorded version. I seem to recall that she appeared to be a bit coked up for that performance, but who knows?
I am so glad someone uploaded those early Solid Gold shows. I had never seen them before yesterday, and they were truly entertaining in a campy kind of way. I forgot how different the early 80s were. We were a lot more innocent and fun back then. Not everything was about political correctness. And you really had no idea what you might see. The episode below had everyone from Rocky Burnette to Bill Cosby, as well as a truly hilarious performance by Cornell Gunter and The Coasters, and a strange dress worn by Stephanie Mills. The 80s were bizarre.
I think the reason I started watching yesterday, though, was because of the dancers. They popped into my head, even though I can’t dance at all. It was quite a shock to see that three of the former dancers were on a show called Live to Dance back in 2011. They were still pretty hot, despite their somewhat advanced ages.
It really doesn’t seem like the 80s were that long ago, especially looking at the outfits the dancers wore. To put it in perspective, though, most of what I watched yesterday was from 1981– forty years ago. In 1981, forty years ago would have meant 1941. That was when World War II was in full swing. And come to think of it, I’m sure people in those days thought the world was going to end, too. Somehow, we got through the war and everything that came after it. So I guess we’ll get through these weird times, too. Or, a lot of us will, anyway. I remember when AIDS the scariest thing. Now, it’s COVID-19, and global warming.
Anyway… it was a lot of fun to take a trip on the 1980s time warp. I feel old as hell now. Sometimes, I would like to go back to that era. Then I realize that there were many things back then that I don’t miss. I can always listen to music from the past without revisiting the many traumas of growing up. And watching Solid Gold is definitely a super fun and funny way to revisit the past. It also gives me a convenient topic to write about, other than the other “crap” in the world. God knows, I don’t feel like attracting more hate mail.
On another note, how lovely was Harry Chapin’s last performance! I wish I could have gone to one of his shows. What a wonderful, generous, and heartfelt song… and it was delivered by a man who truly loved and was loved by others. I’m so glad I got to watch it, even as it saddens me that he’s been gone for forty years. If you want to pick any of the videos in this post to watch, that’s the one I think you should watch. Harry Chapin was one in a million, and that last performance really warmed my heart.