Today, we look back through the hazy mists of ’70s rock to focus on a true one-hit wonder (at least in America) hailing from Scotland. No, not the Bay City Rollers — it’s Pilot, with their great power-pop single, “Magic.” However, lest we think that Pilot is at some level of musical sophistication high above the Rollers, two of the band members were actually former members of the Rollers. They weren’t all that different in sound — they just didn’t have cool tartan plaid pants to make them stand out from the crowd.
“Magic” is one of those sparkling moments in ’70s pop/rock — it stood out on the radio of the time for its pepped-up beat, wah-wah guitar intro, and energetic vocals. I’m still convinced that the members-to-be of Cheap Trick heard this and decided to use it as a starting point for their sound, blending in a bit of the up-and-coming punk sound for something new. (Don’t try to tell me that the studio version of “I Want You to Want Me” doesn’t sound an awful lot like “Magic”!)
Pilot’s 1974 self-titled debut album, Pilot (for some reason, even after saying “self-titled,” I can’t avoid stating the title as well) was the source of this magical single. It hit the radio at a prime point in my early radio-listening life, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs of the time. For years after, I would become quite excited to hear it on the rare occasions it would pop up on the radio. Finally, in college, I came across a used vinyl copy of Pilot in my favorite used record store in Ithaca, in the Collegetown area (I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve forgotten the store’s name! Any help? It was the other one, not Rebop Records…). I eagerly brought it home along with my other 5 to 10 records purchased that day (not at all an unlikely event, as my former roommates will attest), put it on, and . . . ugh. It was awful. I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to each song all the way through, they were so lame. “Magic” was still a great song, without doubt, but even that didn’t make it worth owning an entire album of ’70s dreck. So, filled with disgust, and with great ceremony, I set fire to the album in our fireplace. My roommates and I watched, filled with glee as it burned away to ashes (and probably inhaled some unhealthy toxins in the process). It was the only time I have ever desecrated an album like that — I may have broken one in half at some other point, but usually I can’t even bring myself to throw them away.
Yet, even with such a moment of ill-will attached to the thought of it, I love “Magic,” and will always enjoy it, I’m sure. Just don’t come near me with that album — there’s no telling what I might do.