Top 5: Watching the River Flow

Back in the spring I wrote about a survey from KSJB in Jamestown, North Dakota dated 1966, which contained several of the future classics on the radio at the time, along with a selection of oddities. Five years later, KSJB was a little less adventuresome, but their survey dated July 16, 1971, features everything that defined the sound of that summer. The first 13 songs on the survey would have to appear on any comprehensive list of the best singles of the year. Further down, we find a few tunes less well-known but nevertheless noteworthy.

14. “He’s So Fine”/Jody Miller (holding at 14). Jody Miller is probably best known for “Queen of the House,” the answer record to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” in 1965. (Scopitone for “Queen of the House” here, made in the 60s for coin-operated video jukeboxes, and therefore a bit racier than what would have been acceptable for TV back then.) In the early ’70s, Jody started remaking pop hits from the 1960s, several of which scored big on the country charts: “He’s So Fine” (which stalled out at Number 53 on the Hot 100)  and “Baby I’m Yours” made Number 5 in 1971; “Be My Baby” and “To Know Him Is to Love Him” went Top 20 in 1972. In 1999, after several years in Christian music, she was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

16. “Red Eye Blues”/Redeye (down from 9). Redeye earned its place in one-hit wonderdom with “Games” early in 1971 and lost it with this, which reached Number 78 nationally and had been Number One at KSJB three weeks before. It also seems to have gotten a fair amount of airplay in Los Angeles, Redeye’s hometown. Nearly 40 years later, Redeye is about as obscure as a band can be. If you know anything about them, or about “Red Eye Blues,” help a brother out.

18. “Watching the River Flow”/Bob Dylan (up from 22). This was the first Dylan song I can remember hearing on the radio, although I’m sure I heard some of his 60s hits on WLS before this without recognizing what they were. It just missed the Top 40—not shocking for a blues tune in a season dominated by telegenic teen idols and Carole King’s keyboard cool. Dylan hasn’t forgotten this song. He’s been playing it recently on his neverending tour.

19. “What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John”/Tom Clay (first week on). There is no describing this record; you have to hear it.

Clay was a DJ who worked in Detroit and Los Angeles, and were it not for this record, he’d be best known for sending cigarette butts to listeners who were promised exclusive Beatles memorabilia for joining his station’s Beatles club. (So sayeth Wikipedia.) With the 1960s not far in the rearview mirror and the lost dreams of that decade still fresh in memory, it’s probably not so surprising that “What the World Needs Now/Abraham Martin and John” became a nationwide Top 10 hit, and Number One in San Diego, Minneapolis, and St. Louis.

25. “Rainy Jane”/Davy Jones (down from 19). In a marketplace where the top performers included Bobby Sherman, the Partridge Family, and Donny Osmond, there was certainly no reason to believe that former Monkee Davy Jones wouldn’t be able to claim his own slice of the pie. Except he didn’t, beyond this.

In the summer of 1971—and let’s just say it was the middle of July—I spent a few days with my cousin at his house. One night we camped out in his back yard. I remember two things about that night. First, we were disappointed when my aunt wouldn’t let us build the roaring campfire we had been planning. Second, the radio stayed on all night. It kept me company while I lay awake in my sleeping bag, wishing I was in a comfortable bed in the house. Even then I knew that camping wasn’t for me.

“Games”/Redeye (because I can’t find it anywhere else online, I guess I’m gonna have to post it; out of print)

One thought on “Top 5: Watching the River Flow

  1. porky

    I remember “Games” from my youth; it was hard to track down because its hook (“you know, yeah you know etc”.) wasn’t related to the title. To my ears the tune is like a cross between CSN &Y and the Cowsills.

    From the LP jacket:
    Bob Bereman, drums
    Dave Hodgkins, rhythm guitar and vocals
    Douglas “Red” Mark, electric guitar and vocals
    Bill Kirkham, bass and vocals

    Produced by Al Schmitt (Jefferson Airplane among others)

    The label, Pentagram, had no major distribution, so it’s hard telling how this became a hit (maybe due to Al Schmitt’s pull).

    “Red Eye Blues” wasn’t on the LP.

    As Art Garfunkel would say, that’s all I know.

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