My two favorite Top-40 years are 1971 and 1976, and I know I can’t write about them every week and expect you to keep reading. But I’m going back to 1971 today because of a mighty interesting survey I found over at ARSA, from WMEX in Boston, dated November 11, 1971. It features most of the same records that were blasting out of AM radios all over the country at that moment (“Got to Be There,” “Baby I’m-a Want You” and “Gypsys Tramps and Thieves” at the top, and David Cassidy’s cover of “Cherish” blasting from 25 to 5), but farther down, there’s more interesting stuff.
4. “Je T’aime . .. Moi Non Plus” /Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg (down from 2). If this is remembered at all, it’s because it got banned by lots of radio stations. It’s entirely in French, but you don’t need to speak English to understand what’s going on. It had been a hit in the rest of the world about a year-and-a-half earlier, and I haven’t been able to figure out why it was on the radio in Boston in the fall of 1971.
10. “Student Demonstration Time”/Beach Boys (down from 7). A takeoff on the old Leiber and Stoller song “Riot in Cell Block #9,” this Mike Love rewrite name-checks the Free Speech Movement, People’s Park in Berkeley, and the shootings at Jackson State and Kent State. If you didn’t know it was the Beach Boys, you’d probably never peg it as the Beach Boys (and you might well ask yourself “who the hell is this and what the hell are they doing?”). Verdict on the song from Allmusic.com: “cloddish [effort] at agit-prop hipsterism.”
11. “Jesus Was a Crossmaker”/Judee Sill (up from 15). Sill might have become a superstar along the lines of Joni Mitchell, had it not taken her forever to write songs, and had she not been addicted to heroin and cocaine. (An overdose of the latter killed her in 1979, at age 35.) “Jesus Was a Crossmaker” was produced by Graham Nash; you can hear it here, in a live performance from 1973.
16. “You Are the One”/Sugar Bears (up from 28). Glorious late-period bubblegum that many of us owned on a record cut off the back of a Sugar Crisp cereal box. I’ve posted it before, but it’s so insanely great that I’m posting it again.
28. “Mandolin Wind”/Rod Stewart (down from 24). WMEX called itself “the new music authority” on its survey (which has a distinctly non-Top 40 look to it), and they were proving it here. While the rest of the country was still playing Rod’s two-sided Number One, “Maggie May” and “Reason to Believe,” WMEX was on another fine cut from Every Picture Tells a Story.
Closed Circuit Message: One of my favorite new-to-me blogs, Radio Radio, has disappeared from the Internet, and the e-mail address I have for its proprietor bounces. So Clive, if you’re out there, find my e-mail address here and please get in touch. And the rest of you, keep an eye on Fufu Stew over the weekend for an enormous Thanksgiving buffet. Thanks to Vincent for inviting me to bring a dish to the dinner.