(Pictured: Loretta Lynn is not here for any of your nonsense.)
On Wednesday I wrote about the American Top 40 show from April 12, 1975. The rest of the Hot 100 from that same date has some records worth hearing and discussing. Some of them had been in the Top 40 earlier in the year and some of them would make it later, while others would not.
41. “Young Americans”/David Bowie
42. “Beer Barrel Polka”/Bobby Vinton
How could a juxtaposition such as this fail to spark joy?
45. “Shaving Cream”/Benny Bell. This 1946 novelty would eventually make #30 on the Hot 100 as one of the weirdest one-shots ever. Credited to Bell but sung by Paul Wynn (who later got label credit, although few radio stations were all that precise about mentioning his name), its first listing at ARSA is from KQV in Pittsburgh at the end of January 1975. WAKY in Louisville and WNBC in New York were on it in late February. In March, it took three weeks for “Shaving Cream” to hit #1 at CKLW in Detroit, and in May it would stay #1 for four weeks at WLCX in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. WLCX also ranked it at #9 for the entire year, which makes me think that in 1975 at least, the portal to Hell was somewhere in western Wisconsin.
58. “The Immigrant”/Neil Sedaka. According to Wikipedia (so who knows), lyricist Phil Cody wrote this song about his father. According to Sedaka himself, it’s about John Lennon’s struggle to get his green card. Sedaka said that Lennon called it “beautiful,” and I have no reason to doubt him. But Sedaka’s cheery, begging-to-be-liked delivery undercuts its message, and it’s positively painful to listen to.
79. “Pinball”/Brian Protheroe. At Allmusic, the estimable Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls “Pinball” “exquisite.” And it is in fact pretty damn great, although it would be hard for me to dislike a song that starts with the lines “I have run out of pale ale / And I feel like I’m in jail.”
97. “The Pill”/Loretta Lynn. I could write a whole post about Maren Morris, who used her spectacular 2016 country single “My Church” as an entree into pop music (most famously “The Middle” with Zedd), and has never recorded anything remotely as good since. Her current single, “Girl,” is being praised as a female empowerment anthem, partly because its sentiments are entirely absent from mainstream country right now, and so it’s a positive development for that reason. Were it on adult-contemporary radio, however, that audience wouldn’t find it much different from records of similar ilk by Rachel Platten, Sara Bareilles, Kelly Clarkson, and others over the last half-dozen years. In 1975, “The Pill” was a feminist empowerment anthem with practical, real-life effects in some parts of rural America among women who had never before considered birth control as an option for them.
99. “All Right Now”/Lea Roberts. You will want to play this R&B cover of the 1970 hit by Free as loud as you can. It’s the first track on Roberts’ 1975 album Lady Lea, which is fabulous. Other covers on the album include “She Don’t Love You,” a gender-flipped version of Jerry Butler’s “He Will Break Your Heart” by way of Tony Orlando and Dawn, and Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain,” which comes off far more romantic than his version. (Had she tried, she could not have failed to improve “The Immigrant.”)
109. “Pick Up the Pieces One by One”/A.A.B.B. A.A.B.B. stands for “Average American Black Band.” Larry Grogan told the story of this record way back in the day, and you should go read his post. The short version is that James Brown supposedly disliked the way the Average White Band had pilfered his style for “Pick Up the Pieces” earlier in 1975, so he made his own answer record under the A.A.B.B name.
The whole summer of 1975 was outside the Top 40 during that April week, full of songs that will, 44 years later, remind a listener of what it was like back then, “Bad Time,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Bad Luck,” “Only Women,” “Magic,” “When Will I Be Loved,” “Black Superman,” “Wildfire,” and “Dynomite” among them, his last summer without a car or a driver’s license, on the edge of one life and close to beginning another.
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