1972 countdowns are some of my favorites; a metric arseload of great music came out that year.
What of it was playing on the radio during the week ending January 22?
I’ll get to that (with favourites in bold) after dispensing with the usual historic scene-setting:
* Another Super Bowl is on the cover of Time magazine, with art that’s either by LeRoy Neiman, or by a Time staff artist giving it his best LeRoy Neiman.
* Sports Illustrated, meanwhile, skips the Super Bowl to give its cover to another annual tradition: It’s the swimsuit issue, this year featuring model Sheila Roscoe.
* A former paratrooper named Richard LaPoint takes a page from the D.B. Cooper book — hijacking an airliner, then jumping from it over Colorado with $50,000. Unlike Cooper, LaPoint is captured.
* Dr. Baruch Blumberg receives a U.S. patent for a hepatitis-B vaccine.
* The Cleveland Indians release outfielder Chuck Hinton, ending his 11-year major league career. In retirement, Hinton goes on to found the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Hinton died earlier this week (Jan. 27, 2013) at age 78.
* Alvin and the Chipmunks producer Ross Bagdasarian dies in Beverly Hills, California, while Greg Page — a.k.a. the Wiggle in the yellow shirt– is born in Sydney, Australia.
So, yeah, the AT40 chart already:
No. 40: Bullet, from New York City, with “White Lies Blue Eyes.” Can’t say as I remembered ever hearing this before.
It’s always cool to come across a new-to-me song on these countdowns … even when it’s a relatively undistinguished bit of Grass Rootsy pop-rock like this one.
No. 39: A Boston band that rivals the Rolling Stones for “pure grubbiness,” Casey says: The J. Geils Band, “Lookin’ For A Love.”
An energetic distillation of Geils’ particular brand of mania, featuring nice contributions from the perennially underrated John Geils on guitar and the eternally legendary Magic Dick on harp.
(For years I thought Geils’ first name was Jerome, because that’s what Peter Wolf used to call him. An old friend set me straight on Geils’ real first name a few years ago. I replied: “I suppose next you’re gonna tell me Magic Dick isn’t his real name, either.”)
No. 38, debut: The Carpenters, “Hurting Each Other.” Some nice production touches in the second verse … yeah, that’s about as much as I have to say about this one.
No. 37, debut: Beverly Bremers, “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember.” (Casey says she sounds just like Karen Carpenter, and indeed she does, kinda.)
This is pure reheated Fifties — Connie Francis would have done this nicely, which is not high praise in this house.
No. 36, down 17: Three Dog Night, “Old Fashioned Love Song.” A staple of the Saturday-night-at-the-oldies radio shows that used to play at my folks’ cottage in the Finger Lakes in the ’80s.
Pretty good piece of work (especially the ragtimey electric-piano-and-voices breakdown) and probably deserving of bold. Don’t worry, there will be plenty of that.
No. 35, debut: Apollo 100, “Joy.” This song tickles both my prog-rock and pop funny bones at the same time, which is a pretty rare trick.
Plus it scores decently on the Smith-Earland Hammond Organ Quotient (SEHOQ — pronounced “seahawk”), my homegrown measure of how much life-nurturing Hammond organ is present on any given pop single.
I continue to insist that, if I ever own a sports team, this is the song I’ll play after home wins, when the players are massing on the field (or rink, or pitch.)
No. 34, debut: Climax, “Precious and Few.” (“Are the hairs on Telly’s head,” I always think, but I’ve told that story before.)
This is overdone but moderately, acceptably catchy. If this came on while I was driving over a bridge in a pissing rainstorm, with a cop car on my right side and J. Geils’ tour bus on the left, I wouldn’t change the channel.
No. 33: Sonny and Cher, “All I Ever Need Is You.” Sonny couldn’t sing. Like, sub-Ringo Starr bad. Couldn’t take more than a minute of this one.
No. 32: Wilson Pickett up five with “Fire and Water.”
Normally I love me some Wilson Pickett. But this time he chose to cover the opening track from Free’s album of the same name, a masterpiece of stripped-down, moody hard rock. The pop trappings of Pickett’s version don’t compare to the grinding rawness of the original. (Don’t believe me? Feel free to compare them.)
No. 31: For the folks digging WICB in Ithaca, New York (it’s gorges), it’s the Chi-Lites in their 13th week on the chart with “Have You Seen Her?”
I’m still not the world’s biggest fan of spoken-word intros. But I like the way they sing when they finally get around to singing, especially the wordless verses.
No. 30, up two: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “Make Me The Woman You Come Home To.”The weird echoed guitar and the random key-change can’t derail the greatness of this one.
Gladys is magnificently lathered up by the end — “Oh, good God almighty, boy!” — and the Pips are in fine form, not that that’s any surprise.
No. 29: Bobby Womack, up two with “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha.” Hey, this is four solid shots of soul in a row. Nice little streak.
I find the verses of this one to be the best part — the choruses get a little wandering and cluttered.
“You don’t know but God might have sent me here” is a great, cocksure loverman’s line … I’m gonna have to put that one in my back pocket.
No. 28, up two: Elton John, “Levon.”
This one is a little off-the-wall for me — what’s all that business about Jesus, and balloons, and Venus, and a garridge by the motorway?
That the Top 40 chart had room for this sweeping singer-songwriter weirdness says good things about the tastes of America’s program directors (and teenagers), though.
No. 27: My leastest favourite Led Zeppelin song ever, “Black Dog.” Worse even than “Carouselambra” (a song an old high school friend of mine used to pronounce “Carousel Romba,” as if it were some sort of circus-themed Latin dance number.)
No. 26, up nine: Faces, “Stay With Me.” Sometimes this song wears thin; sometimes it works just fine. This time it worked just fine.
Best musical detail: Right near the start, when Ronnie Wood’s guitar cuts across Ian McLagan’s double-time electric piano to set the tempo for the song.
No. 25: Redbone, “Witch Queen of New Orleans.” Hokum.
No. 24: David Cassidy, “Cherish.” The ’70s were golden days for teen idols and I suppose we were overdue for one.
The words on this are daft — “mold you into someone who could cherish me;” “not going to be the one to share your schemes” — but of course young David didn’t write ’em.
No. 23: Think, “Once You Understand.”
Casey says the producers of this manipulative spoken-word trash described it as “a sociodramatic commentary.”
I describe it as “shit.”
No. 22: Charley Pride, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning.” This is the Hallelujah Chorus compared to “Once You Understand.”
Country Charley does his thing and gets out, allowing a nation of suburban teenagers to say they’ve listened to country music.
No. 21, up 15: Nilsson, “Without You.” Cut from the same irresistibly overwrought cloth as Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.”
Nilsson gets good and cranked on the “without yoooooooooouuuuuuu”‘s … might have been fun to hear him duet with Gladys Knight.
No. 20: Partridge Family, “It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes Love.)”
It’s OK, not dreadful, but also not the cheesy pleasure that “I Think I Love You” is.
No. 19: Rare Earth, “Hey Big Brother.” Heavy-handed topical semi-funk, with a lead vocal that sounds like Grand Funk’s Don Brewer but isn’t. Scores pretty well on the SEHOQ, if nothing else.
No. 18: Carly Simon, “Anticipation.” Up four. Ms. Simon harmonizing with herself on the choruses pretty much makes the record.
I imagine James Taylor sitting on Martha’s Vineyard, listening to the radio, thinking, “I gotta get that chick’s digits.”
No. 17: Honey Cone, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.” This was charming in a repetitious sort of way, but after a while it wore thin on me.
Somewhere, a pop impresario (perhaps in the employ of Disney) is developing a girl-power-themed prefab singing group that will cover this.
No. 16: Donny Osmond, “Hey Girl.” Couldn’t take the voice. Not the worst record on this week’s countdown, anyway, thanks to No. 23.
I think the bolds start coming thick and heavy real soon now.
No. 15, down seven: Michael Jackson with “Got To Be There.” I like this, though not quite enough to bold it. It definitely stomps David Cassidy and Donny Osmond like grapes in the race for pre-teen America’s hearts, minds and dollars.
Casey lists the top-selling albums in the U.S., including the Zep album with the unpronounceable title “in the band’s own hieroglyphics.” Unfortunately, the Number One album is Don McLean’s “American Pie,” so we get treated to a bonus cut from the album. I gave it about thirty seconds.
No. 14: Sly and the Family Stone with “Family Affair,” with its gurgling bass and drums, and a fuzzy lead vocal phoned in direct from Opioidville.
(Thank you for talkin’ to me, Opioidville.)
I’m glad Sly managed to lay this song down before he passed out.
No. 13: The Hillside Singers, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.”
Somewhere, the ad exec with the Pepsi account was frantically scheming to get his client a similar pop-culture placement.
No. 12: For the folks listening to KAST in Astoria, Oregon, it’s Joe Simon with “Drowning in the Sea of Love.” Up four, and one of the many jewels of Philly soul.
No. 11: Three Dog Night, “Never Been To Spain.” Sinuous country-funk that gathers momentum with each verse. (Which is not an automatic thing; I’ve heard versions of this song that just kinda lay back and sit there.)
No. 10: Jax 5ive, “Sugar Daddy.” The kiddie-soul train was starting to lose steam for the 5ive by 1972, but they still had a little bit left to wring from their classic formula.
This one’s kinda old wine in new bottles — it ain’t quite to the same standard as “I Want You Back” or “Mama’s Pearl” — but it’s still a pleasure to listen to.
No. 9, up two: Stylistics, “You Are Everything.” Silky, maybe a touch too slow, but a good, simple evocation of romantic obsession (“You are everything / And everything is you.”)
No. 8, up two (seems like I’ve been writing that a lot): Betty Wright, “Clean Up Woman.” Another simple but effective song, though I find this a little too repetitious to bold.
No. 7: New Seekers, “I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing.”
Somewhere, the ad exec with the Pepsi account was feeling a migraine creep slowly into his temples.
No. 6: Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band, “Scorpio.” As I’ve pointed out before, for a guitar band, this record sure gives the drummer a lot of space.
Also, a “Detroit guitar band” is automatically 1,000 times more badass than any other guitar band.
(I wonder if Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer heard this and thought, “Uh, no. We are the Detroit guitar band“?)
No. 5, up nine: Badfinger, “Day After Day,” featuring a guest appearance by Liverpool’s most noted slide-guitar player. Can I claim this as a reference in my ongoing Year of Power Pop?
No. 4: Jonathan Edwards, “Sunshine.” No idea why this was so popular.
No. 3: Al Green, “Let’s Stay Together.” Is this among the most perfect singles ever released? Yes, it is.
No. 2: Speaking of stuff whose popularity I find inexplicable, here’s Melanie with a cover of that Wurzels tune, “Brand New Key.”
(yeah, I know Melanie came first. As far as I’m concerned, the farming lads from the West Country own this song.)
Stiff, gimmicky skiffle, topped with grating vocals.
Good work, America.
No. 1 for the second straight week: Don McLean, “American Pie.” Back-to-back metaphorical folkie strumming at the top of the Forty.
I’m OK with this song’s socio-musico-historical aspirations, but when it’s actually on the radio, I don’t listen to it much.
Funny, looking back on that countdown, it didn’t seem like I enjoyed it as much as I did.