Days of Future Past

It seemed like such a good idea, one of those momentary lapses of reason when both impulse and inspiration collide. The proverbial bolt from the blue, at once whimsical and foolhardy. It all began during my weekly perusal of this very publication. There it was, in the "Concert Calendar," the Captain and Tennille, performing live, on my birthday no less. What a gas. Groovy.

Not only did I dig the idea of attending the concert, I'd even write a preview of the thing. I mean, I used to have these guys on eight-track for chrissakes. And their TV show A I remember watching the damn thing when I was a kid, on Wednesday nights, at 8:00 I think, on Channel 10.

So I pitched the idea to my editor, and by the time he was through chuckling it was too late to change my mind. My bluff had been called, I had reached the point of no return.

Usually a show preview is a simple endeavor. They send you a press release, clips of stories from around the nation, a couple of photos, and the latest recorded output of the act in question. It's customary to arrange a phone interview so the piece can be peppered with quotes. But remember, we're talking the Captain and Tennille.

See, it's been a decade since Toni Tennille put out a solo album, and it was a full four years before when the Captain and Tennille proper had anything on the shelves. No CD reissue is being hyped, no greatest hits collection has hit the shelves.

But you know what? It doesn't matter at all. The past is not always such a bad place. The songs of C&T, the hits anyway, are still there, lodged in my subconscious among a slew of other fond childhood traumas, and it took only a gander at the titles on those dusty old sleeves before I was humming away as if it were yesterday.

The melodies, as it were, had lingered on. "Love Will Keep Us Together," "Muskrat Love," "Do That to Me One More Time" -- when I thought about them, I could still hear Toni's radio-sweet voice melting over the words like a summer ice cream cone in a grimy fist. When I really put my mind to it, I could even see her smile.

So what if C&T weren't exactly the hippest of the hip. Their tunes, for better or worse, left lasting impressions. They were part of the kitsch-culture landscape, and that, my friend, is cool enough for me.

And what's scary is that it really was just yesterday that Alabama-bred, classically trained Toni Tennille met her Captain (Daryl Dragon, son of composer Carmen Dragon) during the run of Mother Earth, an eco-musical she co-wrote. The Captain was serving as sideman to the Beach Boys (Mike Love gave him the nickname), and he invited Tennille to join their tour. Soon they were married and contributing to the soundtrack of my youth.

I was still cutting my cynic's teeth after Watergate and Vietnam while the duo was signing to A&M (which already had their somber counterparts, the Carpenters) and taking the Neil Sedaka-penned "Love Will Keep Us Together" to the top of the pops.

I was suffering through the Bicentennial to the strains of "Muskrat Love" and "Shop Around," sugar-coated poppin'-fresh sing-songs written by others (America and Smokey Robinson, respectively). C&T were riding these hits to the television limelight via ABC. The critics, of course, couldn't have cared less about the Captain and Tennille. The duo's beaming smiles (and certainly their bankbooks) showed that the Captain and Tennille couldn't have cared less about critics. What're a few naysaying hacks compared to the undying love of millions?

Sadly, summer always ends, a new school year begins. By 1978 the bell had rung. C&T was dismissed by A&M and ABC. Undaunted, the twosome set out to prove they were something more than mere three-hit wonders. The next year they released Toni's own "Do That to Me One More Time" for Neil Bogart's flash-and-burn Casablanca label and found themselves back at number one.

Those glory days quickly faded into the Reagan Era, although Tennille, markedly predating the trend, issued a couple of collections of big band-backed classics, More Than You Know and All of Me, which, being ahead of their time, were roundly ignored.

And now, for some reason, the Captain and Tennille are back, busy with a summer tour. Tennille has a new slab of standards, Things Are Swingin', set for release soon. The Captain writes scores in his studio, and has launched his own label, Rumbo Records. Love, indeed, has kept them together. And I, for one, know exactly the nostalgic longing that has brought them back.

The Captain and Tennille perform at 8:00 p.m. Saturday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave, 462-0222. Tickets range from $15 to $35.

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John Hood