March 31, 1974, was a Sunday. The first ski marathon took place in Murmansk, Russia. Actor Giovanni Ribisi was born. TV shows on the air that night included Barnaby Jones and Mannix. That weekend, the Goldie Hawn film Sugarland Express, directed by Steven Spielberg, landed in theaters.
There was music everywhere, too. The pioneering punk-rock group Television made its debut at CBGB’s in New York, Badfinger played in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Kiss played in St. Louis. John Lennon held a small gathering for some friends at a beach house in Los Angeles, where he played with Paul McCartney for the last time. Other musicians involved in the impromptu jam included Stevie Wonder and Harry Nilsson. (There’s a recording of it called “A Toot and a Snore,” but the quality is reportedly very poor.) The rock radio concert series King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast a December 1973 concert by the Who.
And on the Top 40 station in your town, you were hearing some of the following tunes, randomly chosen chart positions from Cash Box.
1. “Sunshine on My Shoulders”/John Denver. (peak) Denver topped the album charts the same week. It was the 1970s. We couldn’t help ourselves.
8. “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”/MFSB. (rising) The pinnacle of Philly soul, and the theme from the TV show Soul Train. I was a dedicated fan, and I never missed it.
24. “Let it Ride”/Bachman-Turner Overdrive. (rising) Their first hit, rockin’ a lot harder than nearly everything else on the Top 40. I can find maybe four other records on this week’s Cash Box chart that are in the same crunchy league, but that’s it.
29. “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely”/Main Ingredient. (rising) Many who remember “Everybody Plays the Fool” don’t remember this–but they should. Features a great spoken introduction, when our hero notices his old lady is moving out: “Hey, wait a minute! Where you goin’ with that suitcase?”
37. “Touch a Hand, Make a Friend”/Staple Singers. (rising) Marvelous stuff, with more of the Staples’ self-empowerment testifyin’, this time over a gorgeous, flute-driven backing track.
39. “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo”/Rick Derringer. (falling) I always suspected that Derringer planned to replace “hoochie koo” in the lyric with something else, but it’s probably better now that he didn’t.
55. “Midnight at the Oasis”/Maria Muldaur. (rising) Out in the desert one fine night, a young girl’s thoughts turn to nookie. We should all be so lucky.
69. “Spiders and Snakes”/Jim Stafford. (falling) Stafford scored three straight hugely successful novelty hits in 1974–this one, which had been Number One; “My Girl Bill,” which seemed to be about homosexuality; and “Wildwood Weed,” which was definitely about smoking marijuana. Practically no one looked sideways at either of them.
80. “Mighty Mighty”/Earth, Wind and Fire. (rising) This was the first EW&F record I ever heard (it was probably the first one most people ever heard), and it appealed to the same funky streak in me that “TSOP” did.
97. “Rock Around the Clock”/Bill Haley and the Comets. (debut) Haley’s classic was back on the radio thanks to its use as the theme from Happy Days, which had become one of the hottest shows on TV after debuting in January 1974.