(Pictured L to R: Johnny Mandel, Jody Miller, and Herb Alpert, among the winners at the Grammy Awards in 1966.)
The June 26, 1971, edition of American Top 40 took two posts to get through, and we’re not done. Here are some notes about the bottom 60 from the same week’s chart.
42. “You’ve Got a Friend”/Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
51. “Love the One You’re With”/Isley Brothers
91. “Suspicious Minds”/Dee Dee Warwick
98. “I’m a Believer”/Neil Diamond
100. “The Sound of Silence”/Peaches and Herb
In 2019, movies and television are obsessed with reboots, but you hear precious few remakes on the radio anymore. Except for Neil Diamond, each one of these remakes takes a successful song from the pop market and rebrands it for R&B. The covers didn’t always work—“The Sound of Silence” doesn’t—but both “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Love the One You’re With” would do well enough to make the pop Top 30.
48. “Double Barrel”/Dave and Ansil Collins
58. “Summer Sand”/Dawn
71. “Do You Know What Time It Is”/P-Nut Gallery
I always wonder if the corporate-owned oldies stations in various cities around the country take into consideration the local performance of certain records in deciding what to program. (Then I chuckle to myself and wonder why I’d even think that.) In Chicago, for example, all of these records made the local Top 10 on WLS, vastly outperforming their national chart numbers. In defense of the corporate programmers, however, “Double Barrel” just isn’t going to fit alongside the Cars and John Mellencamp, and “Do You Know What Time It Is,” with its references to the Howdy Doody TV show and chorus of yelling children, isn’t going to fit anywhere. (Its popularity in 1971 had to do with the fact that Howdy Doody host Buffalo Bob Smith was touring college campuses at the time, entertaining students who had been children in the 1950s, when Howdy Doody was a thing.)
61. “Signs”/Five Man Electrical Band
If you want the distilled essence of the summer of 1971, you could probably get it with these two records alone.
65. “Walk Away”/James Gang. This song is on the radio more today, on classic-rock stations, than it ever was in 1971.
66. “Done Too Soon”-“I Am, I Said”/Neil Diamond
82. “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer”-“We Can Work It Out”/Stevie Wonder
Both “I Am I Said” and “We Can Work It Out” were big hits earlier in the year. In an era when double-sided hits were common, record labels would sometimes push both sides, and sometimes radio stations would flip the A-side in favor of the B-side on their own. There are 11 records on the 6/26/71 Hot 100 with both sides listed, including the #1 song, Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel the Earth Move.” A couple of years ago, I wrote about one of them: Tom Jones’ “Puppet Man”/”Resurrection Shuffle.”
74. “What You See Is What You Get”/Stoney and Meatloaf. Stoney is Shaun Murphy, Meatloaf is Meat Loaf. They were in the Detroit cast of Hair together, and made a single album on the Motown subsidiary Rare Earth. “What You See Is What You Get” is a burner.
75. “He’s So Fine”/Jody Miller. In the summer of 1965, Jody Miller’s first big hit was the Grammy-winning “Queen of the House,” an answer to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road.” For several years around the turn of the 70s, she had a nice country-to-pop crossover career doing cover songs. Her versions of “He’s So Fine” and “Baby I’m Yours” made #5 on the country chart and the bottom half of the Hot 100, in addition to doing big business on Easy Listening. She also cut hit versions of “Be My Baby,” “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”
86. “Give Up Your Guns”/The Buoys. After outraging the public decency with the cannibal-themed “Timothy” earlier in the year, the Buoys were back in town with “Give Up Your Guns,” about a lawbreaker hiding out from the cops. The story is never resolved, however. The sheriff knocks at the door, and then there’s nearly two minutes of what sounds like movie soundtrack music (four minutes on the album version), then the record just kind of stops.
A few weeks ago, when I started doing what I’m calling American Bottom 60, I said I’d just sort of hit upon the idea. But I have since realized that Wm., whose fine Music of My Life should be on your reading list, has been doing it for a lot longer, under the banner of Songs Casey Never Played. I am happy to be able to acknowledge the debt.