Stop, Look, and Listen

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(Pictured: Carly Simon says hello from the summer of 1971.)

I wrote about the American Top 40 show from June 5, 1971, last month. Now here we are again, six weeks later in that summer (the July 17 show), with more to say about other songs from the ever-more-distant past.

40. “Liar”/Three Dog Night
8. “Draggin’ the Line”/Tommy James
One night in the summer of 1971, my cousin and I decided to camp in his back yard. We were not sleeping rough; we were in a tent 15 feet from the back door of his house, which was located on a fairly busy street in the small town where he lived. I didn’t like it, tossing and turning and wishing that morning would come. Thank goodness I had my little transistor radio, the one I’d gotten for my birthday in February, with the Packers logo and the little earphone, so WLS kept me company through the long night. These two songs bring that experience back.

39. “Stop, Look, and Listen”/Stylistics
37. “If Not for You”/Olivia Newton-John
The first week in the Top 40 for two acts who would spend a lot of time there in years to come.

33. “Rings”/Cymarron
25. “Get It On”/Chase
24. “Double Barrel”/Dave and Ansil Collins
21. “Signs”/Five Man Electrical Band
15. “Funky Nassau”/Beginning of the End
11. “She’s Not Just Another Woman”/8th Day
Some of these you know, some you might not. (Honk if you remember the Magnificent W-O-O-O. Honk twice if you could live for days in the last verse and fade-out of “Rings.”) They have been a part of me for half a century now, and each of them leaves me with a feeling of awe and wonder at the passage of so much time.

32. “You’ve Got a Friend”/Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
29. “Love the One You’re With”/Isley Brothers
3. “You’ve Got a Friend”/James Taylor
We were approaching peak “You’ve Got a Friend” in this week. I once predicted that James Taylor’s version would still resonate 100 years after its release, and we’re halfway there. I’ve written before about the Flack/Hathaway and Isleys covers, but I don’t think I’ve said how much I like them. The Isleys’ “Love the One You’re With” just might outdo the Stephen Stills version.

31. “Brown Sugar”/Rolling Stones
30. “Wild Horses”/Rolling Stones
Radio stations probably shouldn’t play “Brown Sugar” anymore, in the era of BLM and #MeToo. That’s fine. But I have adored every lascivious second of it for 50 damn years, so if you come for my personal copy, you’ll have to pry it out of my sticky fingers.

EXTRA: “Maybe Tomorrow”/Jackson Five
EXTRA: “Harbor Lights”/The Platters
“Maybe Tomorrow,” which would chart at the end of July, was a modern-day extra offered to affiliates by Premiere Radio Networks to fill unsold time. The original cue sheet shows “Misty” by Johnny Mathis as an extra, but it’s scratched out and replaced with a handwritten “Harbor Lights.”

20. “Want Ads”/Honey Cone
16. “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again”/Fortunes
10. “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”/Carly Simon
6. “Mr. Big Stuff”/Jean Knight
4. “Don’t Pull Your Love”/Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds
If you were going to teach a class on songwriting and record production, you could build whole lessons around these. Some are rich in clever, figurative language (“experience in love preferred but will accept a young trainee,” “misty morning eyes I’m trying to disguise the way I feel”), and Carly Simon presents text enough for a whole seminar on the sexual politics of 1971 (“you say we’ll soar like two birds through the clouds but soon you’ll cage me on your shelf”). All have memorable melodies, and the productions stand up to repeated listening—50 years’ worth.

EXTRA: “I Feel the Earth Move”/Carole King
1. “It’s Too Late”/Carole King
The original cue sheet shows that Casey planned to play a cut from Tapestry in the last hour of the show, but it doesn’t specify which one. Since the show was being recorded in real time in 1971, I wonder if they decided on “I Feel the Earth Move” based on the timing of the show as it got close to the end. Introducing “It’s Too Late,” Casey says that it’s only the third time since 1955 that a song by a female artist has spent five or more weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart. Carole joins Gogi Grant (“The Wayward Wind”) and Lulu (“To Sir With Love”). But King was the first to write her song and to play on it, which is a different, and more significant, milestone. (Ralph Schuckett, who played the electric piano that entwines so  seductively with the sax and guitar on “It’s Too Late,” died last April at the age of 73.)

10 thoughts on “Stop, Look, and Listen

  1. porky

    Man, these tunes are just so much of my DNA, pure AM gold. Great job putting it into words. The “kids in the neighborhood” were certain that “Double Barrel” was a dirty song. I found the sheet music recently and the opening words are thus (probably missing a comma):

    “I….am the magnificent. I’m backed by the shack of a soul boast most turning storming soul sound!”

  2. Yah Shure

    I’d missed the news of Ralph Schuckett’s passing, so thanks for mentioning it. I had an email exchange with him after he ran across a post I’d made on the now-defunct xmfan chat board. Ralph said the song I’d mentioned was the very first professional session he’d done on which he’d actually been paid, and he’d been searching for a copy of it.

    According to Ralph, the artist on the session, Freddie May, was both a pretty good schmoozer and golfer, who wrangled the one-off single after joining three RCA Records executives on a round. The session was memorable to Ralph for another reason: everybody was sky-high. The plug side of Freddie’s 1971 45 was a pretty good cover of Robert John and Michael Gately’s “Color All The World”, but it was the B-side’s title that was sure to earn it at least a cursory listen on most music director’s turntables. Ralph thought it was hilarious that the M.D. at my college station said it would have gone straight into the reject pile… which wasn’t the one Freddie had in mind on “Let’s All Get Naked And Jump In A Pile”:

    If they’d trimmed off the first 48 drugged-out seconds, it could’ve been a non-hit!

  3. John Gallagher


    Thanks for linking to the actual 45 version of “Rings” from Cymarron. Such a great song for 1971.
    70’s on 7 has been playing it and I’m sure it’s the faster, stereo LP version.

    Luckily, the hit, mono 45 mix of “Draggin’ The Line” finally appeared severl years ago on the “40 Years – The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006)” from Tommy James. I never remember the stereo LP mix of of the song in 1971.

    1. Yup, same is true for the version of “Rings” on the Rhino “Have a Nice Day” series. It’s slightly faster, and I believe it’s a few seconds shorter (which it would be if it were faster, but also I think the 45 has a little more of the song). Most people—especially those who think 70s on 7 isn’t cheap, lazy, and and largely unlistenable—won’t care. But nerds remember.

      Editing this post to underline how awful 70s on 7 is. The Sirius Totally 70s channel was better—deeper library, better jingles and sweepers, and it ran jockless, IIRC. 70s on 7 has one of the worst jingle packages in radio and the music library is one inch deep, but it’s their jocks, trying to ape the style of 70s Top 40 without A) understanding what made it great and B) having the talent to do it, are what makes it unlistenable.

      1. mikehagerty

        I dialed into SXM’s Yacht Rock today, lured by what was playing at the time—or at least what the readout said. Got there half a second too late and heard their imaging, which basically sounds like they hate the music and hate you for listening to it.

      2. Yeah, I wrote about the Yacht Rock channel a few years ago. I am convinced it’s not aimed at people who actually remember that music, but at younger people who enjoy the station as a postmodern joke. It’s insulting to the musicians, and to those of us who legitimately loved (and still love) some of that music.

  4. John Gallagher

    The Yacht Rock channel has a playlist of less than 75 songs, I swear lol. I subscribe to Sirius in our vehicles for those road trips for weddings out of town so I’m not hitting ‘seek’ all the time and coming up disappointed. Sadly, I missed the days of the Totally 70s with a much larger playlist.

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