Tuesday, October 28, 2014

1974's hot streak of streaking songs

1974 was the year of "The Streak." Streaking as an activity—that is, running naked through public places—had been around for centuries, but 1973 saw an outbreak of streaking incidents that received national media coverage and led to an outbreak of streaking songs in 1974.  

The streaking craze started at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. The university had so many streaking incidents in 1973 that the president tried to contain the epidemic by designating a sanctioned streaking day in the spring of 1974. Streaking couldn't be contained, though, and it spread internationally to concerts, sporting events, and any other public happening that presented an opportunity and a crowd of spectators. 

Country star Ray Stevens was quick to act. His song "The Streak" was released in March of 1974 and sold 5 million copies. A flood of copycat streaking songs followed, but none was as successful as Stevens' record. By the end of the year, the streaking craze in music had died out; I know of only one streaking record that was released in 1975. As with the hula-hoop songs of 1958-59, a number of artists took a gamble on this seemingly lucrative opportunity that turned out to be not all that much of an opportunity. 

Today on Music Weird, we'll look at 1974's parade of streaking songs. I'm sure that I haven't listed all of them. 

The expression of streaking in music wasn't confined to songs, by the way. That year, Billboard reported that Canadian country star Ray Griff streaked across the stage at a Cal Smith concert and that disc jockey Peter C. Cavenaugh of WTAC-AM sent a picture of himself streaking to Claude Hall, Billboard's "Vox Jox" columnist. Streaking was everywhere, in the air, in print, on television, and on the airwaves.

Ray Stevens – "The Streak"  (Barnaby, 1974)

"If there's an audience to be found, he'll be streaking around," Stevens sings in the most successful streaking song of them all. It's halfway between a song and a skit, with its fake newscast segments and canned laughter. Stevens' album that contained this song, Boogity Boogity, pictured Stevens streaking on the cover. James Elliott released a competing cover version of "The Streak" in Australia.

Larry Black – "One, Two, Streaking" (RCA, 1974)

Country music, funk, and break-in comedy records were the musical genres that most ardently embraced the streaking craze. Larry Black's "One, Two, Streaking" is a mostly one-chord funk tune with group vocals. The flip side was another streaking song, "Streaking."

D'Jurann Jurrann – "Streakin'" (Dawn, 1974)

Paul King, the composer and producer of this British streakin' single, had been a member of Mungo Jerry in the early '70s. No audio. 

Four Guys – "Streakin' With My Baby" (Cinnamon, 1974)

A dryly humorous country song about streaking as a couples activity. The song's composer, Richard Garratt, was a radio personality who passed away last year.

Ohio Players – "Streakin' Cheek to Cheek" (Mercury, 1974)

Dayton's Ohio Players topped the charts with "Fire" and "Love Rollercoaster" but not with "Streakin' Cheek to Cheek," a funk workout with sparse vocals.

The Streakers – "Streakin', Part 2" (ABC, 1974)

This single by country music songwriter and producer Glenn Sutton charted in Kansas City. No audio.

Shorr's Streakers – "Streakin' '74"  (Virgil, 1974)

A break-in comedy record like those of Buchanan & Goodman, but less funny.

Harold Hardsell – "Speaking of Streaking" (ABC/Dunhill, 1974)

Another break-in comedy record as well as another streaking record from ABC/Dunhill, which also released the Streakers' "Streakin'," that Glenn Sutton record I was just talking about a couple of songs ago. The flip side of "Speaking of Streaking" was also a streaking song: "Streak Easy" by the Soul Streakers. 

Country J.T. – "My Fellow Streakers" (Johnny Dollar, 1974)

Yet another break-in comedy record. Country J.T. was John Telich Jr., the Cleveland sportscaster, and the record was produced by Johnny Dollar and released on his label with a Johnny Dollar song on the flip side.

Rick Springfield & Springfield Mass – "Streakin' Across the USA" (or UK/Australia) (Columbia, 1974)

It's incredible that Rick Springfield recorded a streaking song. This little-known record is the second greatest song of the whole streaking craze, after Ray Stevens' "The Streak." The song featured the vocal group Springfield Mass, who also contributed the flip side, "Music to Streak By." As part of an international marketing blitz, versions of the record were released for the U.S., Australia, and the U.K., with country-specific place names listed at the end, like in Tommy Facenda's 1959 hit "High School USA," which was released in different versions for different major U.S. cities (as well as in a generic "national version"). The video below has the Australian version of Springfield's record. You can listen to the U.S. version and the Springfield Mass b-side here. The song is a great call-to-action anthem that makes all listeners want to immediately start streaking.

High Voltage – "Streakin'" b/w "Here Comes the Streaker" (Drive, 1974)

I don't know anything about High Voltage, but their two streaking songs were co-written by former teen idol Steve Alaimo!

Randy Newman "The Naked Man" (Reprise, 1974)

A song about a purse-snatching streaker, from Newman's 1974 album Good Old Boys.

The Streaks – "Streakin' and Freakin'" (20th Century, 1974)

With a name like "The Streaks," you knew they'd be a fly-by-night act. In fact, they lasted for all of one single. "Streakin' and Freakin'" was co-written by the team that wrote Helen Reddy's "Keep On Singing" and Mark Lindsay's "California." No audio.

Matrix – "Streakin' Down the Avenue" (Motown, 1974)

Motown's entry into the streaking sweepstakes. Matrix had previously released a self-titled album on Motown's Rare Earth subsidiary in 1972. No audio. 

Jimmy Ward – "Midnight Streaker'" b/w "Streakin'" (Briarmeade, 1974)

I know nothing about this record. 

The Honey Drippers – "Streakin'" (Alaga, 1974)

A streaking instrumental. The band Campus Security also released an instrumental that was titled "Streakin'," and Greenfield Express released one called "The Streak."

Mike Foley & the New Streakers – "The International Streaker" (Pumpkin, 1974)

A novelty record from Australia. 

Dash Flasher and the Sreakers – "They Call It Streaking" (Ace, 1974)

I know nothing about this. 

New Village Streakers – "Streakin' USA" (Streak, 1974)

A streaking version of "Surfin' USA."

Happy Streakers – "Pa-Pa-Pa" b/w "Yellow Primrose" (Elektra, 1974)

The Happy Streakers' band name and cover art celebrated the streaker's art. 

Jean-Claude Pelletier – Streaking! (Disques Vogue, 1974)

An entire streaking album! It's instrumental, though—a funk effort from the French jazz pianist and composer Jean-Claude Pelletier.


Harry Hepcat & The Boogie Woogie Band – "Streakin' U.S.A." (Graffiti, 1974)

Here's an excerpt of Hepcat's "Streakin' U.S.A.," a remake of "Surfin' U.S.A." with lyrics about streaking. 

Red Simpson – "Streakin' the Opryland Park" (Portland Ltd., 1975)

Truckin' country star Red Simpson turned to streakin' country with this single, which name checks a number of other county artists. 

Jerry Clower talks about streaking (1978)

Cornball country comic Jerry Clower, who was always on top of current events, talks here in 1978 about the "new fad" of streaking. I attended a Jerry Clower show once. Zzzz.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a huge fan of Ray Stevens. Ray has another song about streakers that wasn't released as a single. It's on that 1974 album you wrote of, 'Boogity Boogity'. The song is actually a spoken word sketch called "Smith and Jones"...about a couple of undercover agents on the lookout for a streaker. I also like Jerry Clower. I see he isn't/wasn't your cup of tea. I seen him in concert in 1995 when he appeared at a local fair. I enjoyed his whimsical routines of his experiences growing up in the deep south during the '30s and '40s. That video clip from a 1978 episode of "Nashville on the Road", which he-hosted for 6 years, is his re-telling of a comedy routine from his 1974 comedy album, 'Country Ham'. On that album the routine is called "The New Fad".