(Pictured: Carole King and Tapestry producer Lou Adler, at work in 1971.)
The summer of 1971, 50 years ago now, was the first summer I ever spent with a radio in my ear. The American Top 40 show from June 5, 1971, creates not memories, not exactly, but a jumble of images that pop up and disappear before I can grasp any one of them. It all adds up to a vibe, however, and that made for a very enjoyable show.
39. “Reach Out I’ll Be There”/Diana Ross
38. “I Don’t Blame You at All”/Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
A downtempo version of the Four Tops epic seemed like a good idea to somebody, if not to me. “I Don’t Blame You at All,” meanwhile, is a “Tears of a Clown”-level master class in record-making.
EXTRA: “Call Me”/Chris Montez. Casey tells about a 1963 run of shows Montez made in Britain, during which he was billed above the then-unknown Beatles. “Call Me” was written for Petula Clark by her impresario, Tony Hatch, and first released in late 1965, although the Montez version, arranged and produced by Herb Alpert, was bigger, making #22 on the Hot 100 and #2 on Easy Listening early in 1966. “Call Me” was soon recorded in famous versions by Frank Sinatra and Brazilian keyboard star Walter Wanderley (a bright-n-bubbly version on the flip side of his “Summer Samba”), and by lots of other people, although it faded from general popularity in the 70s.
31. “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”/Yvonne Elliman
14. “Superstar”/Murray Head
13. “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”/Helen Reddy
The most-discussed album of 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar, spent only three non-consecutive weeks at #1, one in February and two in May. June, however, marked peak Superstar on the singles chart.
EXTRA: “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet“/Henry Mancini. Casey’s special report on “the most popular lovers history has ever known” contains a weird production choice. He introduces the bit and then starts listing famous couples, including Sonny and Cher, Marc Antony and Cleopatra, and Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara (complete with a brief Clark Gable imitation). His voice fades out while he’s still listing pairs of lovers, and Mancini comes up behind him; at the end of the song, his voice fades back in, still listing pairs of lovers, including David and Julie. If you recognize them, you’re probably old. If you don’t, their identity will be revealed below.
19. “Love Her Madly”/Doors
17. “Chick-a-Boom”/Daddy Dewdrop
16. “Here Comes the Sun”/Richie Havens
15. “Treat Her Like a Lady”/Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
This is a great AM-radio run right here. Casey says that the Doors have tied Creedence Clearwater Revival for the longest string of certified-gold albums. L.A. Woman becomes their sixth—but 50 years later, does any other Doors album matter to anybody, as an album? I remain gobsmacked at the beauty of “If,” amused by the madness of “Chick-a-Boom,” and impressed by whoever is playing the hot lead guitar on “Treat Her Like a Lady.” And as I have said before, I knew this “Here Comes the Sun” long before I ever heard George Harrison’s.
11. “I’ll Meet You Halfway”/Partridge Family
10. “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”/Lobo
9. “It’s Too Late”/Carole King
8. “Never Can Say Goodbye”/Jackson Five
7. “Sweet and Innocent”/Donny Osmond
6. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”/Aretha Franklin
4. “It Don’t Come Easy”/Ringo Starr
3. “Want Ads”/Honey Cone
2. “Joy to the World”/Three Dog Night
One of these things is not like the others, and it is “Sweet and Innocent.” “It’s Too Late” is up to #9 in only its third week on the show, and it will spend the first of its five weeks at #1 two weeks hence. “Want Ads” will be #1 for the week of June 12.
5. “Rainy Days and Mondays”/Carpenters
1. “Brown Sugar”/Rolling Stones
By the standards of the analog world, when you had to put on pants and leave your house to buy a piece of plastic with your favorite song on it, these songs were unusually hot. During the week of May 1, “Brown Sugar” came on the Hot 100 at #40, then went 13-6-3 and to #1 for the week of May 29, ending the six-week run of “Joy to the World.” On May 15, “Rainy Days and Mondays” entered at #46 before going 20-11 and to #5 in this week, eventually stalling at #2. In a download world, both would probably have debuted at #1.
On his list of history’s greatest lovers, Casey included David Eisenhower, grandson of the former president, and Julie Nixon, daughter of the current president. They’d known one another since they were children, and they married in 1968, both age 20. They were, in 1971, one of the most famous couples in America. They’re still married today.