(Pictured: Stephen Stills onstage with Manassas, 1971.)
There are a handful of 70s seasons that have become particular favorites of mine simply because the music on my radio was, in retrospect, extraordinary, like the late summer and fall of 1971. Here’s some of the Bottom 60 of the Top 40 I wrote about last week, the week of August 21, 1971.
41. “Where You Lead”/Barbra Streisand. At scattered moments in the early 70s, Barbra was a rock singer, and the results were pretty great. “Stoney End” made the Billboard Top 10, and Carole King’s “Where You Lead” is pretty good too. It made #40 on the Hot 100 but was #3 on Easy Listening. A live version in medley form with “Sweet Inspiration” is probably better known, but this is the one you want.
46. “Maggie May”-“Reason to Believe”/Rod Stewart. “Maggie May,” beyond its humorous younger-man/older-woman dynamic, is about deciding who you are and where you are meant to be. I did not grasp any of that when I was 11, but I was already on that who-and-where journey by the time Maggie hit my radio.
47. “The Wedding Song”/Paul Stookey. This song has been sung at literally a million weddings, I’ll bet, including my own. But few wedding singers do it justice compared to Stookey’s original. It’s so familiar that we can’t really hear it anymore, but it nevertheless scales a height of beauty that pop music no longer strives for. His delivery of the lines “do you believe in something that you’ve never seen before / ohhh there is love” wrecks me every time.
48. “Do You Know What I Mean”/Lee Michaels
49. “The Story in Your Eyes”/Moody Blues
55. “All Day Music”/War
60. “Take Me Girl, I’m Ready”/Jr. Walker and the All-Stars
63. “I Ain’t Got Time Anymore”/Glass Bottle
64. “Marianne”/Stephen Stills
68. “Sweet City Woman”/Stampeders
73. “Resurrection Shuffle”/Ashton Gardner and Dyke
76. “Summer Sand”/Dawn
I keep repeating the phrase “pure AM radio pleasure” at this website because it’s the truest thing I can think of to say. This music in that environment was magnificent.
72. “I’ve Found Someone of My Own”/Free Movement. This record debuted in May and went 100-97-95-91-91 before falling off the Hot 100 for two weeks. It returned in July and spent two more weeks at #91 before starting to climb up again. It would crack the Top 40 in mid-September and make #5 for the week of November 13 before falling completely out of the Hot 100 after two more weeks. Its 26-week chart run was the longest of any record in 1971.
74. “Stagger Lee”/Tommy Roe. I have said this several times before and here it is again because it blows my mind: “Stagger Lee” is a legendary murder ballad about which entire books have been written. Tommy Roe’s version is a straight-up bubblegum recording.
79. “Easy Loving”/Freddie Hart
80. “How Can I Unlove You”/Lynn Anderson
92. “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”/Tom T. Hall
94. “I’m Just Me”/Charley Pride
97. “Good Enough to Be Your Wife”/Jeannie C. Riley
I’m a longtime fan of Freddie Hart and Tom T. Hall; you shouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Charley Pride at least a little bit; and there was more to Jeannie C. Riley than just “Harper Valley P.T.A.” Anderson’s “How Can I Unlove You” is “Rose Garden” turned sideways, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
84. “Top Forty (of the Lord)”/Sha Na Na. I caught a little bit of Sha Na Na’s more-enthusiastic-than-good Woodstock performance during WXPN’s rebroadcast of the show. Jimi Hendrix was a fan, and that helped them get the highly desirable spot right before he went on. (A spot that would have been more desirable at, say, 10:00 on Sunday night than it turned out to be at 7:00 Monday morning.) “Top Forty (of the Lord)” is a straight-up country joint that peaked at #84, and it doesn’t leave me any less perplexed about Sha Na Na’s appeal—a topic I plan to look into at some point soon.
87. “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie on the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll”/Long John Baldry. Many young British musicians growing up in the 60s idolized Long John Baldry. He played in bands that employed Rod Stewart and Elton John as sidemen, and each of them produced one side of his album It Ain’t Easy, for which he’s best known in the States. The single version of “Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie-Woogie” is fine, but you really need to hear the full-length version, featuring a three-minute prologue in which Baldry recounts the story of being busted in Soho for playing music in the street.