(Pictured: Roland Kent Lavoie, better known as Lobo, the bard of unrequited lovers.)
Certain seasons of the 1970s make me feel fortunate to have been listening to the radio then, and the fall of 1972 is one of them. The American Top 40 show from October 28, 1972, displays that season’s remarkable richness: James Brown (“Get on the Good Foot”) and Alice Cooper (“Elected”) sit back to back, while Emerson Lake and Palmer’s “From the Beginning” is bracketed by “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (new that week) and “Back Stabbers.” Nilsson’s “Spaceman” sits next to Hot Butter’s “Popcorn.” The show has famous songs—“City of New Orleans” and “I Believe in Music”—and early performances by acts that would help define the sound of the 70s: the Doobie Brothers (“Listen to the Music”) and the Eagles (“Witchy Woman”). While it’s true that the chart is topped by one of the worst records of all time—“My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry, spending its second week at #1—the preceding 39 records are more than strong enough to make up for it.
(Well, maybe not Donny Osmond’s double-sided “Why” and “Lonely Boy,” which was sitting at #13, but that still leaves 38.)
During the week of October 28, 1972, “I’d Love You to Want Me” by Lobo was blasting up the chart, tied with Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” as the fastest-moving song of the week, leaping to #15 from #30 in its third week on. I wouldn’t buy the 45 until later, probably sometime toward the end of November, when it reached #2 on the both the Hot 100 and on WLS, held out of the #1 slot on both charts by “I Can See Clearly Now.”
I bought “I’d Love You to Want Me” while I was living it.
It was the fall of seventh grade, a weird and confusing time of new routines, new classes, new teachers, new friends and most important, new girls—and it took practically no time at all for me to fall in love with one of them. But there was no way she was ever going to love me back. I doubt that she even knew my name, even though we had a couple of classes together.
“When I saw you standing there / I ’bout fell off my chair / And when you moved your mouth to speak / I felt the blood go to my feet.” That’s pretty much how it happened.
Eventually, Lobo is able to see the want in his girl’s blue eyes. I couldn’t see anything in my girl’s eyes, partly because she was so beautiful that looking into her eyes would have been as dangerous as looking into the sun. Nevertheless, my love was resilient and my hope would not die. (Not for a while, anyhow.) “You’d love me to want you,” I thought, “the way that I want to / If you’d only let it be.”
It may have been the first time I suffered in love unrequited, but it would not be the last. And even now, the pain remains at least somewhat familiar, the frustration of having something important to say but being unable to conjure the words with which to say it, not the right words anyhow, words that would make magical sentences capable of reshaping reality to fit what I am imagining.
There are words, goddammit—I know it. Why can’t I figure out what they are?
“I’d Love You to Want Me” came on in the car the other day, on the kind of gray, rainy morning I find most conducive to time travel, and for a few minutes, I was gone, a million miles and 44 years away, still trying to find the words.