(Pictured: Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes on Soul Train.)
I have already written a little about the American Top 40 show from October 7, 1972, but I could say more. How the sequence of “Starting All Over Again,” “Listen to the Music,” “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” “Beautiful Sunday,” “Freddie’s Dead,” and “City of New Orleans” says a lot about who we were and what we cared about at that moment. Or about the thunderous train wreck created by James Brown’s “Get on the Good Foot” back-to-back with Donny Osmond’s cover of the Frankie Avalon song “Why.” How “You Wear It Well” back-to-back with “Tightrope” caused me to come unstuck in time. But you’ll find it more interesting to read about what was beneath the Top 40 in that bygone week.
42. “My Man, a Sweet Man”/Millie Jackson
87. “If You Can Beat Me Rockin’ (You Can Have My Chair)”/Laura Lee
98. “Man Sized Job”/Denise LaSalle
Somebody should write a book about the female soul singers of the late 60s and early 70s whose songs reflected the experience of black women in that time and place. I’m not the one to write it, but I’d read it.
44. “I’d Love You to Want Me”/Lobo. I wrote about this song a few years ago, and how it’s “about the frustration of having something important to say but being unable to conjure the words with which to say it.”
47. “A Piece of Paper”/Gladstone. Pop music’s desire to be “relevant” was never stronger than in the early 70s. “A Piece of Paper” is about how words on paper legitimate a marriage, encode a religious belief, send young men off to war, and most notably, three months before Roe v. Wade but at a moment when many states were liberalizing their abortion laws, make possible “a legal abortion so the family won’t know / A piece of paper says the problem won’t grow.” Head over to Bloggerhythms to read more about Gladstone and their record.
51. “Sweet Caroline”/Bobby Womack. Bobby Womack does it his way, and it works.
52. “Slaughter”/Billy Preston. This is the title song from a blaxploitation movie starring Jim Brown as a former Green Beret out to settle a score with the mob, which was backed, incongruously, with a song called “God Loves You.” “Slaughter” resurfaced a few years ago in the movie Inglorious Basterds.
59. “Summer Breeze”/Seals and Crofts
60. “All the Young Dudes”/Mott the Hoople
61. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”/Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes
62. “Let It Rain”/Eric Clapton
“If You Don’t Know My by Now” is in its second week on the chart; the others are in their third, and all will be on the radio for a long time thereafter.
75. “Colorado”/Danny Holien. Danny Holien is so obscure that Allmusic.com misspells his name as “Hollen.” I can tell you that he was from Minnesota originally but moved to Colorado, where he made an album for Denver’s Tumbleweed label, which was owned by future Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk. “Colorado” is about the degradation of the environment, very on-brand for that time and place. Holien would likely have disagreed with the idea that his song came out of a desire to be relevant, however. He told an author that he considered himself a poet, not a philosopher: “I don’t want people to hear what I have to say, I want them to hear what I’m saying.”
84. “Best Thing”/Styx. Styx got its record deal in the spring of 1972 and released their debut album shortly thereafter. “Best Thing” is recognizably Styx-ish, with some progressive-rock flourishes, but doesn’t sound much like hit radio material.
86. “The Mosquito”/Doors. And speaking of not sounding much like hit radio material, we have “The Mosquito,” from the second post-Jim Morrison Doors album, Full Circle. Robbie Krieger said he borrowed it from a mariachi band he heard in Mexico. A particular sort of Doors fan is gonna dig it, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to think of it as anything other than a novelty song.
90. “Sunny Days”/Lighthouse. Everybody knows “One Fine Morning,” but Lighthouse charted several other singles. “Sunny Days” has a great late-summer vibe and a sense of humor, and it deserved better than to barely scrape into the Top 40.
In October 1972, the Swingin’ A’s were winning the first of three straight World Series, the Nixon campaign was barreling toward re-election despite the looming specter of Watergate, I was in the seventh grade, and the radio sounded pretty good.
I’ve got a backlog of AT40 shows again, so stand by for more Casey flavor over the next few weeks.