It’s September of 1971. I have been an obsessive Top 40 listener for a year, I’m starting to understand the context of things, and my taste is improving. (I know this because nobody at our house buys the Partridge Family’s big single of the moment, “I Woke Up in Love This Morning”–at least not until it comes out on CD 20 years later.) One thing I have developed by this time is a real taste for one-hit wonders, and there are lots of good ones that month–the Undisputed Truth (“Smiling Faces Sometimes”) and Lee Michaels (“Do You Know What I Mean”) and Free Movement (“I’ve Found Someone of My Own”). I also know a killer hook when I hear one–like the demonically catchy breakdown in the middle of Honey Cone’s “Stick Up.” And I am buying 45s like crazy, for 95 cents each at S&O TV in Monroe, Wisconsin. Here are five of them I brought home that fall.
Maggie May-Reason to Believe/Rod Stewart. Nobody remembers anymore that 1971 was the golden age of the two-sided hit single, or that “Reason to Believe” was the side the record company was pushing when this single was released. I remember being disappointed when I got it home and discovered that the long acoustic guitar intro to “Maggie May” that I was used to hearing on the radio wasn’t on the 45.
Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey/Paul and Linda McCartney. As if to prove my point about two-sided hits, the B-side of this single, “Too Many People” also got some airplay. And as if to prove my point about killer hooks, this record has several–from the acapella opening to the low brass in the “Admiral Halsey” part.
Won’t Get Fooled Again/The Who. Listening to the 45 version of this now, after becoming so familiar with the nearly nine-minute album version, is like watching highlights on ESPN instead of a whole football game–you get the flavor, but not the experience. I couldn’t have gotten the lyrics about co-opted revolution back then, but it’s a different story now.
Signs/Five Man Electrical Band. If you wanted one song to sum up what the Top 40 sounded like during the late summer and early fall of 1971, this would be it. It was another disappointment for the eager young singles buyer, though–the 45 was missing the long intro, with the smokin’ organ and distorted guitar.
Marianne/Stephen Stills. Another killer hook, but one that went pretty much unrequited, as “Marianne” scraped only as far as Number 42, despite its jet-propelled wah-wah guitar and bubblegum feel. Definitely worth seeking out if you’ve never heard it, it’s on Stills’ second solo album, the inventively titled Stephen Stills 2.
You can make a pretty good car tape with nothing but songs from the fall of 1971–and I have. These are all on it.
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