The Popstream: Al Green, "Tired of Being Alone" (live on Soul Train)


Seventies nostalgia was really starting to hit its stride when I was in high school: between Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused, all those wah-wah-drenched funk instrumentals on the Beastie Boys' Ill Communication and the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction ("Jungle Boogie"! "Let's Stay Together"! "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" via Urge Overkill, whose career has ironically been outlasted by Neil Diamond's!), there was plenty for a disaffected post-Nirvana teenager to look back upon and feel envious for missing. This, as people who grew up disaffected in the '70s themselves were prone to reminding us, was completely insane; Mike Watt figured that he was responsible for the well-being of my generation and decided the best way to inoculate us was to write a song called "Against the '70s" and get Eddie Vedder to sing it. We shrugged, cranked up our copies of the Minutemen's 3-Way Tie (For Last) when their cover of Blue Öyster Cult's "The Red and the Black" came on, and geeked out at the news Pearl Jam was recording with Neil Young. But really, the thing about the '70s -- and the '80s, and as we'll eventually rediscover, the '90s -- was that the bad and the good, the inanity and the profundity, the ugliness and the beauty, were both indelibly attached to each other. Removing one from the other would be like trying to separate a pair of siamese twins with one set of organs; it would eliminate everything that gave the era its personality, for better or for worse.

If you want a quick summarization of that particular blend of the horrible and the incredible, check out this clip of Al Green singing "Tired of Being Alone" on Soul Train back in 1971. I remember this as one of the first clips I ever saw on YouTube (which no longer hosts an embeddable version of the clip; I'm proud to announce the first DailyMotion-inclusive entry of The Popstream), and I was totally alarmed: I always pictured Al Green as a sharp-suit type of singer, even if said suits could theoretically be earth-toned and have shoulder-width collars, so to see him in this getup is to witness everything we were warned against when people my age started growing out muttonchops. Shiny black pleather hot pants, a glossy lavender tank top, a dookie gold rope chain, and a fuzzy purple velvet/shag pimp hat worn at a tilt -- truly this was an age where people just Did Whatever and called it stylish. It is one of the single most insane things I have ever seen a pop singer wear while performing on television -- and yet, even through the muffled, staticy, copy-of-a-copy-sounding audio, there's that voice. Hell, when a man sings that well, he can wear an Aquaman costume and a colander on his head for all I care.