(Pictured: James Brown on stage, 1972.)
OK, let’s do that thing where after we listen to an American Top 40 show, we look at the Bottom 60 of the same week’s chart to see and hear what there. This is from March 25, 1972.
42. “Talking Loud and Saying Nothing (Part 1)”/James Brown
44. “King Heroin”/James Brown
James Brown put 15 singles on American Top 40 between 1970 and 1974, but it was his enormous popularity in the R&B market that got him there. The people buying “King Heroin” weren’t the same ones buying “Puppy Love” and “Horse With No Name,” but they were buying it in numbers sufficient to make it competitive.
45. “I Can’t Help Myself”/Donnie Elbert. Elbert hit the Hot 100 four times in two years, but “Where Did Our Love Go” and “I Can’t Help Myself” made #15 and #22 respectively. Each one takes the Motown groove of the 60s and updates it in a uniquely 70s way. They don’t improve on the originals because how could they, but they’re pretty good on their own.
47. “Tiny Dancer”/Elton John. Surely “Tiny Dancer” was a big hit, as it is one of Elton’s more familiar songs. But it was not, peaking at #29 in Cash Box and #41 in Billboard. It made local Top 10s in Honolulu, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and some smaller markets. There are no ARSA listings for it from any station in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles.
49. “Suavecito”/Malo. There is nothing about “Suavecito” that isn’t great, although I think it’s one of those cases where the single edit is superior to the long version. In either version, however, it sounds like the first bright, warm days of spring.
55. “Son of My Father”/Giorgio
91. “Son of My Father”/Chicory
That’s Giorgio Moroder, future pioneer of electronic and dance music, most famously with Donna Summer. His “Son of My Father” sounded unlike anything that had been on stateside Top 40 radio before. The Chicory version had been to #1 in the UK in February, about the time both versions first charted in the United States. Giorgio would get to #46 here, but Chicory (known as Chicory Tip in the UK before the tip was snipped for the American market) was done at #91.
58. “Iron Man”/Black Sabbath. What’s this doing here? It’s doing pretty well, actually. Down from a peak of #52 and in its ninth week on the Hot 100, “Iron Man” would go all the way to #1 at
Seattle’s KSEA in San Diego in May, in a Top 10 that also featured “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Rockin’ Robin,” and Don McLean’s “Vincent.” It was #2 in San Diego, #4 in Louisville, and #8 in Minneapolis/St. Paul. But again, there’s no record of New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles Top 40 airplay at ARSA.
63. “Rock and Roll”/Led Zeppelin. “Black Dog” had been a #15 hit earlier in the year, and “Rock and Roll” seems more commercial, but it would stall out at #47. Its highest position at ARSA is #9 at WFRS, an AM station in Big Rapids, Michigan, which is up in the middle of nowhere but is also the home of Ferris State University, which might account for its wildly eclectic playlist.
78. “Baby Blue”/Badfinger
79. “The Family of Man”/Three Dog Night
Badfinger and Three Dog Night are debuts in this week, both great AM radio records that come out of the gate at full force and never let up. “Baby Blue” was remixed from the Straight Up album for American single release, and that’s the version you want. It punches you in the face, but in a good way.
82. “Nice to Be With You”/Gallery. This record will require 10 weeks just to crack the Top 40 but only four more to make the Top 10, finally peaking at #4 at the end of June. It’s one of the records that takes me most vividly back to the first days of that summer: school’s out and the swimming pool is in the dooryard, but for the first time, I am also expected to drive a tractor on the farm whether I want to or not. It’s my first experience with the world of work as it would be forever after.
A lot of books have been written about individual years in music, mainly from the 60s, and there’s a new one about 1984. But surely there’s material enough for a book about 1972: the ongoing crossfade between 60s and 70s styles, the rise of soft rock and prog rock, the underrated soul music of the time, and the historical forces that would, by 1974, transform the pop-music landscape into something entirely different. I’m not the person to write it, but I’d read it.