In the Right Place

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(Pictured: Gladys Knight and the Pips.)

We continue here with a look at the Top 50 of 1973, from the year-end survey of KSTT in Davenport, Iowa, a place The Mrs. and I lived from 1987 to 1997. The station had ceased to be by then; with different call letters, the signal was home to a low-rent sports talk operation through most of that time. But in 1973, KSTT was playin’ the hits.

33. “Danny’s Song”/Anne Murray. I will always fanboy hard for this. I was never gonna grow up to be a metalhead.

32. “Shambala”/Three Dog Night. Either this or “Easy to Be Hard” was the farthest this band ever got down the hippie trail.

31. “Love Train”/O’Jays. Universal brotherhood was no closer in 1973 than it is today, but unlike now, it felt like maybe there was a chance.

30. “The Morning After”/Maureen McGovern. The Poseidon Adventure made quite an impression on me back in the day, but I haven’t seen it in adulthood. I wonder how it plays now.

29. “Stuck in the Middle With You”/Stealers Wheel. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Junior high, man.

28. “Rocky Mountain High”/John Denver. I had no opinion on this record in 1973 that I can remember, and none now.

27. “Loves Me Like a Rock”/Paul Simon. I bought the 45 in the summer of ’73, and I liked it a lot more then than I do now.

26. “Superstition”/Stevie Wonder. I don’t know how KSTT placed songs on its surveys, whether it had something to do with local sales, requests, callout research, a programmer’s ear, or some combination of them. But this is the first song I’ve seen among the Top 50 that seems to be ranked too low.

25. “Wildflower”/Skylark. Me, earlier this year: “The girl in ‘Wildflower’ clearly needed a man like me, because ‘she’s faced the hardest times you could imagine / And many times her eyes fought back the tears.’ Thirteen-year-old me promised himself that he would never do anything to make her cry. But that free and gentle flower was not growing wild in any field I knew of.”

24. “Midnight Train to Georgia”/Gladys Knight and the Pips. Not much in this world is perfect. But this is.

23. “Right Place, Wrong Time”/Dr. John. Almost too cool for AM radio. This is the kind of thing you would expect to discover on the local underground station at 2AM. Like the rest of Dr. John’s catalog.

22. “We’re an American Band”/Grand Funk. As subtle as a punch in the face. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

21. “Pillow Talk”/Sylvia. That this was on the radio at more-or-less the same time as “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” by Barry White was not helpful to 13-year-old me. Not at all.

20. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”/Stevie Wonder. See #24.

19. “Swamp Witch”/Jim Stafford. Me, earlier this year, in response to a reader comment : “Had I been a music director listening to ‘Swamp Witch’ and deciding whether to add it, I would have yanked it from the turntable and thrown it in the discard pile after that line about ‘sausage on a smokehouse wall.'”

18. “Little Willy”/The Sweet. You can hear this as a dick joke if you want, although if you didn’t, now you will.

17. “That Lady”/Isley Brothers. I don’t know where they got that buzzy guitar that’s on several of their records around this time, but I dig it.

16. “Frankenstein”/Edgar Winter Group. What hooked me about this record was not so much that opening guitar riff as it was the saxophone, an instrument I had been playing for a couple of years in 1973, without much success.

15. “Let’s Get It On”/Marvin Gaye. Marvin, Sylvia, Barry, for cryin’ out loud, give a boy a break.

14. “Drift Away”/Dobie Gray. Last fall, I heard a classic hits station on the East Coast play the 2003 Uncle Kracker cover of this amidst all their other stuff from the 70s and 80s. I assumed it was some kind of error, but I am told it isn’t uncommon for such stations to do that. But that doesn’t mean it’s not stupid and wrong.

13. “Half Breed”/Cher. Can a record that’s meant to decry racism be unconsciously racist itself? Discuss.

12. “Brother Louie”/Stories. The ass-kickingest record of 1973, and whatever came second (“Frankenstein”? “Smoke on the Water?” “We’re an American Band”? “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, which is on this chart at #67?) wasn’t close.

11. “Delta Dawn”/Helen Reddy. Earlier this year I looked back on the career of Helen Reddy, who was a much bigger star than we all remember. Likewise, “Delta Dawn” is better than you remember.

Coming in the final installment on the final day of 2018: KSTT’s Top 10 of 1973.

4 responses

  1. “C’mon dudes, let’s get it on! And, we preceeded to tear that hotel down!” How’s that for a punch in the face?

  2. The buzzy solo was almost certainly a guitar (I think I’ve seen pics of him playing a strat) straight/direct into the console (possibly an SSL) at an overdriven level and slammed with compression (LA-2 or 1176 with the “all buttons in” setting).

  3. Thanks for the callback from the summer re my (and your) comments on Jim Stafford. I’d bet anything that “Swamp Witch” is the least played of these hits nowadays. A few odds and ends here: I haven’t seen The Poseidon Adventure in a decade, but I think it probably holds up better than most of the other disaster films due to its fine cast (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons) and excellent special effects and stunt work. I’d put Drift Away (the original) close to Midnight Train to Georgia and You Are the Sunshine of My Life “close to perfection” category. The fact that Half-Breed songwriters Mary Dean and Al Capps (who died a few months ago) never had a hit as big as that indicates to me it was Cher’s star power and Snuff Garrett’s production polish that got this to be a chart topper, although I agree it’s problematic nowadays. And yes, Brother Louie and Delta Dawn deserve more spins on oldie stations than they’ve been getting.

  4. ” I will always fanboy hard for this. I was never gonna grow up to be a metalhead.”

    You and me together. Funny how everybody forgot this was the hit version, and instead think it was Loggins and Messina. If nothing else, Murray’s omission of the “Virgo rising” line totally de-cheesifies the song.

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