You Prob’ly Think This Song Is About You

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(Pictured: Carly Simon.)

For this final post of 2018, here are the top 10 songs of 1973—the year I turned 13—as listed by KSTT in Davenport, Iowa.

10. “Touch Me in the Morning”/Diana Ross. A classmate of mine died last week. We were close in grade school, but by the time we were 13, we’d drifted apart. It’s a pattern many of us repeat all our lives. Some friendships we deliberately break; others just stop. A few crumble in slow motion; like Diana Ross in “Touch Me in the Morning,” we know it’s over, or soon will be, but we resolve to hang on to it just a little bit longer.

9. “Playground in My Mind”/Clint Holmes. I had a “girlfriend” in kindergarten. I lost track of her when we moved to different schools, but our town had only one junior high, so when we got to seventh grade, there she was again. We went on a single date at some point that year. As we talked, it came out that she had no memory of me from kindergarten. We never went out again.

8. “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”/Vicki Lawrence. My seventh-grade English teacher required us to keep a journal in which we could write anything, as long as we wrote two pages a week. I wrote stories almost exclusively. Even though I no longer have the journals, I’m pretty sure they were pretty terrible. As an adult writer, I admire “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” although it didn’t make sense to me at first. I was never sure exactly who was dead or who committed adultery with who.

7. “You’re So Vain”/Carly Simon. Teachers liked me, administrators like me, most other kids liked me, their parents liked me, and I knew it. So I was not lacking in self-esteem, and it made me an insufferable ass as years went by. If there is one fault I have worked to eradicate in adulthood, it’s to rid myself of that level of ego. But I have two blogs in which I talk about myself constantly, so there’s still work to do, apparently.

6. “Will It Go Round in Circles”/Billy Preston. My only contact with black people came through listening to soul music and watching black athletes, with one exception. One summer (1969?), an inner-city kid from Milwaukee spent a week on the farm through some program our church was sponsoring. It was not an exchange program; we did not get to spend a week in the ‘hood, however enlightening it might have been to do so. And however racist it might have been that we didn’t.

5. “Crocodile Rock”/Elton John. Me, earlier this year, upon re-listening to this song: “Its goofy extravagance—not so much in sound as in attitude—came from a well Elton would return to repeatedly over the next several years.”

4. “My Love”/Paul McCartney and Wings. I don’t hate this record, although we’re all supposed to.

3. “Killing Me Softly With His Song”/Roberta Flack. All I remember of the ed psych I took is that adolescents often perceive themselves as actors on a stage with everyone watching, and often the part one plays is not one’s true self. That’s what made certain friends so important: you could drop the mask with them and let them see right through you, in all your dark despair.

2. “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”/Jim Croce. Maybe I’ve repressed memories of the worst of it, but I don’t remember being bullied in any significant way when I was a kid. A handful of socially prominent jocks used to lord their position and their prowess over those of us who possessed neither. My main defense mechanism was my smart mouth and a willingness to make jokes with it, and a lot of the time, it worked.

1. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”/Tony Orlando and Dawn. “I’m comin’ home, I’ve done my time / And I’ve got to know what is and isn’t mine.” At the end of this year in which I hoped to figure out why my 1973 seems jumbled and confused, I’m right back where I started: the year was jumbled and confused because that’s what it is to be 13 years old, dealing with a world that is bigger and more complicated than you ever suspected, making up your life as you live it, day by day.

(Please visit One Day in Your Life today for a new post, and for a programming announcement.)

5 responses

  1. Just want to thank you for the great posts this year. I’ve enjoyed ’em and look forward to reading more in 2019.

  2. modified for current times: Facebookers often perceive themselves as actors on a stage with everyone watching, and often the part one plays is not one’s true self

    Happy NY

  3. The fallout from the recording of “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” is almost as dramatic as its storyline. Cher was supposed to do the song first, but Sonny Bono rejected it as being offensive to the South (ironically, it first got airplay in Georgia). The couple divorced in 1974. Songwriter Bobby Russell had his wife, Vicki Lawrence, record it while she was a regular on The Carol Burnett Show. Its success for her made him jealous, and they divorced in 1974. Sonny Bono and Vicki Lawrence never made anywhere near the top 40 again, nor did Bobby Russell (a relief considering he was the guy who gave us “Honey,” that irritating hit from 1968 that Bobby Goldsboro did). Russell died in 1992 of heart disease at age 52, while Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident in 1998 at age 62. In the end, the ones who came out best were of course Cher and the song’s producer, Snuff Garrett, who Vicki credited for making it a hit with his eerie musical backing.

    1. nicely done! I was puzzled by “Nights….” lyrics from the get go. On his way home from Candletop? Canada? It’s funny how the “big-bellied sheriff” from the song was a staple of 70’s media from commercials, Smokey and the Bandit, Live and Let Die etc, one can just picture his mirror shades.

      Bobby Russell wasn’t all bad. If you’re a fan of Jimmy Buffett (I’m not) Russell and his partner Buzz Cason were instrumental in getting JB a record deal via Spar Studios in Nashville where they made those sound-a-like “Hit” label 45’s in the 60’s. If you wanted something by the “Bugs” or the “Beagles,” Hit was your label.

  4. Jim,

    Wishing you the best in 2019. Always a pleasure to come here and read your personal recollections and the backstory of many songs.

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