(Pictured: Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles onstage in 1971.)
The American Top 40 show from May 8, 1971, was a recent weekend repeat, although if your local affiliate didn’t carry it, I’m not surprised. Too bad for them, because I found the show to be fabulously entertaining for a lot of reasons, some of which are listed below.
40. “Don’t Change on Me”/Ray Charles. From the album Love Country Style, “Don’t Change on Me” would spend four weeks on the show and reach #36, although it hit the top 10 at KHJ in Los Angeles and KNUZ in Houston. It’s not all that country, and is pleasant but not essential.
38. “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People”/Chi-Lites. Which Casey introduces by telling you that there’s nothing wrong with your radio; it’s just the way the group has chosen to start the record.
37. “Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley/C Company Featuring Terry Nelson. Which we discussed in an earlier post at this blog.
32. “Eighteen”/Alice Cooper. This was listed on the Love It to Death album as “I’m Eighteen,” which is how it’s known today. But on the original 45 issue, it was called simply “Eighteen.”
30. “Right on the Tip of My Tongue”/Brenda and the Tabulations. One of the finest, oddest group names in pop history, and a fine soul record too.
25. “Here Comes the Sun”/Richie Havens and 19. “We Can Work It Out”/Stevie Wonder. Two Beatle covers in this week’s countdown, along with three Beatles as solo acts. As it happens, I bought both of these on 45s in the sping of 1971, before I knew the Beatles’ version of either one.
In the early years of the show, Casey would occasionally play a song from the #1 album on the Billboard chart, which is Jesus Christ Superstar this week. He’s already played Murray Head’s “Superstar” (#27) and Helen Reddy’s version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (#28), so he chooses the exhilarating Palm Sunday song “Hosanna,” which I hadn’t heard in many, many years. It was snipped from the remastered repeat but offered as an extra to fill unsold commercial time.
15. “Just My Imagination”/Temptations. There are few things in this world better than “Just My Imagination.” Other songs, books, movies, foods, sexual acts, you name it.
14. “Another Day”/Paul McCartney
13. “Brown Sugar”/Rolling Stones
12. “Love Her Madly”/Doors
11. “Power to the People”/John Lennon
Despite the fact that it includes neither Paul’s nor John’s best work, that’s nevertheless a dang solid sequence right there. “Brown Sugar” is up 27 spots from #40 last week. It would go to #6 the next week, then #3, and finally #1 for the weeks of May 29 and June 5, 1971.
9. “Chick-a-Boom”/Daddy Dewdrop. There were better, more critically acclaimed and historically important records on this chart, but there wasn’t one I enjoyed hearing more than “Chick-a-Boom.” (AM radio-processed version here.)
8. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”/Aretha Franklin
7. “Stay Awhile”/Bells
EXTRA: “Somewhere My Love”/Ray Conniff Singers
6. “What’s Going On”/Marvin Gaye
These are all records I’ve written about before, and I’m extremely fond of them all. Aretha takes “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to church as only she can; “Stay Awhile” sounded romantic to 11-year-old me, as much as an 11-year-old can understand such a thing; the first post ever at this blog, back in 2004, was titled “What’s Going On,” and the record is Peak Marvin; “If” is two minutes and 33 seconds of perfection. And back when I was offering songs for download at this blog, “Somewhere My Love” racked up more downloads than any other. Really.
1. “Joy to the World”/Three Dog Night. In its fourth of what would be six weeks at #1. Heard in its natural habitat, up against all the other radio hits of the day, and keeping in mind that it first charted in March, a time of year when we throw open the windows and joyfully welcome the return of spring, you realize that there was no force in the universe capable of stopping it from hitting #1. And it took the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band to knock it out.
The remastered repeat also included Fats Domino’s “My Blue Heaven” “and “There! I’ve Said It Again” by Bobby Vinton, in addition to “Somewhere My Love.” In 1971, those songs were not that old—15, seven, and five years respectively—but today, they just don’t fit anymore. Our world is so changed from the world of 1971 that it might as well be in an entirely different galaxy.