Back to Work

It arrived early this morning, right on time—that moment when you wake up and realize you want an extra blanket, so you pull it up and then drift back to sleep with the knowledge that autumn is on its way again. Football’s back, Labor Day approaches—and in Wisconsin, school starts next Tuesday.

I was never sorry to see school start in the fall. I recall asking my mother one time if she thought that was weird. She said, “No, it’s your job, and everybody needs to get back to work.” (I remember this, but it doesn’t mean it really happened. But it’s the kind of thing I would have asked and she would have said, so it’s true either way.) Looking back over the record charts from various back-to-school weeks, the most vivid comes from 1972. The radio was always on in the summertime, but that August, I must have lived with it even more intensely than usual, because the chart fairly drips with humidity, and the light comes brightly back even at a distance of 35 years. Several of these records put me back into the waning days of summer, or aboard the school bus on some rural road, or in some classroom noticing some girl I’d never noticed before.

1. “Brandy”/Looking Glass. (up from 2) I didn’t buy this on a 45, although my brother did, and I played his copy a lot. This is AM radio glory that you couldn’t improve upon.

4. “Hold Your Head Up”/Argent. (up from 6) Pretty heavy stuff for the Top 40, even in its edited form (to less than three minutes from over six), but that was the great thing about the Top 40, right?

6. “I Don’t Want to Be Right”/Luther Ingram. (down from 5) I would not have been able to talk knowledgeably about the glories of Southern soul at that point; all I knew was that there was something different about this kind of music, and I liked it.

7. “Goodbye to Love”/Carpenters. (up from 9) Karen Carpenter doesn’t often get the recognition she’s due for possessing a beautiful and unique voice. (Try singing along with her sometime. Even if you’re a guy, can you get that low?) As for “Goodbye to Love,” it’s a vastly underrated record in the Top 40 pantheon, containing as many killer hooks as any Carps record ever did.

10. “Guitar Man”/Bread. (up from 14) Although they’re synonymous today with mellow makeout music, in ’72 Bread had rocked within recent memory on records like “Let Your Love Go” and “Mother Freedom,” so the slide and wah-wah they deploy on “Guitar Man” wasn’t as great a departure then as it seems now.

11. “Back Stabbers”/O’Jays. (up from 18) This was the year I would become a confirmed Philly soul freak. I’d bought my first Stylistics record earlier (“You Are Everything”), and before the year was out I’d be introduced to the Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul—and the O’Jays.

13. “Rock and Roll Part 2″/Gary Glitter. (up from 25) I bought this on a 45, too, and if there were ever a record made for 45s and AM radio—and public-address systems in arenas and stadiums—this is it. Play it on FM or CD and it loses almost everything that made it such a smash back in the day.

15. “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA”/Donna Fargo. (down from 11) Fargo’s crossover success from country, with this and its even-bigger followup, “Funny Face,” is a bit hard to figure. That this could play on the same station in the same quarter hour with Gary Glitter or Argent makes me woozy.

17. “Black and White”/Three Dog Night. (debut) More cowbell from a band with an all-access pass to the Fountain of Hooks.

2o. “Beautiful Sunday”/Daniel Boone. (up from 21) As a genre, bubblegum’s day was largely past by 1972, but its influence never went away. It’s heard on this relentlessly happy record, which describes the kind of Sunday that seemed pretty appealing to my 12-year-old self. And to my 47-year-old self, too.

I fiddled around for quite a while trying to decide which of these to post and finally gave up. “Brandy” is posted as an individual track to bring in the folks via the Hype Machine, but in case you want any of the other nine, they’re in the 37.5 MB zip file below. Go nuts, but grab ’em fast because the files won’t be up for long.

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”/Looking Glass
The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ August 1972 collection

Buy “Brandy,” “Beautiful Sunday,” and “Rock and Roll Part 2” here
Buy Argent here
Buy Luther Ingram here
Buy the Carpenters here
Buy Bread here
Buy the O’Jays here
Buy Donna Fargo here
Buy Three Dog Night here

4 thoughts on “Back to Work

  1. Shark

    For some reason, the Beach Boys version of “California Dreaming” (1986) makes me think of the end of summer. Other songs that come to mind were hits from late August 1977 because they were blaring from dorm room speakers as I was moving into my dorm room for my freshman year of college. They include:
    Cat Scratch Fever – Ted Nugent
    Telephone Line – Electric Light Orchestra
    Jungle Love – Steve Miller Band
    Black Betty – Ram Jam
    Cold As Ice – Foreigner
    Don’t Stop – Fleetwood Mac (how appropriate!)

    —–Shark

  2. I was 8 years old in the summer of 1972 and I very fondly remember all of those songs being played all over the radio during that time. One record you forgot would be Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” I remember that playing all throughout the summer that year right up until it was time to go back to school again. Granted, it was definitely one of the heaviest songs to be played around then, but it was still great to hear it on AM radio. It still reminds me of summer to this day.

  3. Great selection of songs! I hadn’t thought about the Carpenters and “Goodbye to Love” for ages! And as I wrote once, hearing “Brandy” — perfect AM single that it is — puts me in a 1961 Falcon on the road north to Winnipeg.

  4. Phil

    Glorious! – 1972 – a touchstone year for me… probably because I was 14 and we had a record player in the house for the first time. The radio had always been there but now I could make my own playlist. It was radio that allowed me to buy Backstabbers as well as Rock and Roll Part 2 and not see anything wrong with it!

    In love with music as well as my first girlfriend, no wonder those tunes are definitive summer sounds for me too.

    Brandy was never a hit in the UK, but I heard it on the radio and located it buried on a Ronco hits collection at the time. I obtained it on CD many years later after being knocked sideways to suddenly hear it on the soundtrack whilst watching Charlie’s Angels!

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