15 June 2008

1972: AT40 Bandstand

I'm in the mood for a doing some more American Top 40 reviews. There are several to come over the next week or so, but let's get this one over with first.

It's from the week ending March 25, 1972. I was in first grade, having moved from Madison, Ala. to Tupelo, Miss. three months earlier. Life for me was in a freefall of sorts, something I explained last year (6th Flavor). The year 1972 is a like a black hole in my life. Some remembrances but a whole lot of things I've mentally destroyed. If that makes any sense.

Another thing involved the local top-40 station in Tupelo. WTUP, a/k/a "The Top Dawg". It would loosen up just a little bit later in the decade, but in '72 the station was so strait-jacketed by management that it could barely be truly classified as "top-40." And I hadn't yet discovered the Memphis stations. It was just WTUP, WCPC in nearby Houston, Miss. (more on that station in a later post), and a fuzzy signal of WVOK "The Mighty 690" out of Birmingham.

With all that in mind, I approach a lot of 1972's music in the same way as, say, Kate/Susan or Melissa -- as they were born later in the decade, it's familiarity after the fact. Still, there are some interesting tunes on this week's 40 and they deserve a healthy dose of Tal-snark.

Occasionally, Casey Kasem would take weeks off and line up "guest hosts" to pinch-hit. And at the bat this week in 1972 was none other than Dick Clark. Usually the host would be one of his fellow La-La Land DJs like Charlie Tuna, Robert W. Morgan or the like. But Dick Clark, while doing American Bandstand out of Hollywood, was in a different orbit.

Clark sounded positively subdued on this program, too! If you remember the early to mid '80s Dick Clark National Music Survey (a top-40 countdown show that used Cashbox or Radio & Records instead of Billboard), you'd likely agree with me that his mind was somewhere far from the studio.

Maybe he was pouting because the producers wouldn't let him survey records from #35 to #98. Or that the engineer gave him hell about his ridiculous idea of a "Long Distance Rate-A-Record."

Allrighty then, here's Talmadge Gleck, 43 to start off the countdown..........

*40) DO YOUR THING / Isaac Hayes
Not to be confused with "It's Your Thing", the 1969 smash by The Isley Brothers. Not a half-bad soul record. WTUP's station manager auditioned every record before it was added to the playlist, and it was clear where his biases lay. The only black acts heard on 'TUP in this time frame were the '60s-holdover, i.e. "safe" outfits. Or, put another way, MOR soul. If it sounded too "black", it could only be heard on Johnny Weber's overnight "Soul Patrol." Long story short, it didn't get played.

*39) COULD IT BE FOREVER? / David Cassidy
I don't remember this one, either. Low-charting (peaked the next week at #37, then fell off) follow-up to his cringeworthy cover of The Association's "Cherish."

*38) THE DAY I FOUND MYSELF / Honey Cone
Another filed under the tab "I don't recall, Senator." Yet another decent soul song. 1972 was in the middle of a great watershed period of R&B music ... Motown had lost its mojo, Stax/Volt was imploding post-MLK in Memphis, and the disco renaissance was still a few years in the future. In spite, there were many many fine black records made in the '70s.

*37) GIVE IRELAND BACK TO THE IRISH / Paul McCartney & Wings
Oh yes, Macca Goes Political! The BBC banned it, surprise surprise! WTUP didn't play it, and the only way I remember it was from early in the Summer during a visit to Birmingham. I don't remember hearing it on WVOK (they tended to be a bit too 'bubblegummy'), but WSGN played it more than a few times.

Mr. Carlos didn't disappoint in 1972. A fringe classic rock staple in the present day. I don't think we heard this one locally, either.

35) EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE / Bobby Vinton
Once more: the top 40 of popular music prior to the '80s was a five-and-dime. Everything. Mainstream pop, country crossovers, R&B/Soul music, and even stuff that sounds positively middle-of-the-road. To wit. And WTUP, big surprise, found no offense in this record.

Mr. "Blue Velvet" and Mr. "Oye Como Va" on the same survey? Yup. On the same station? Usually (although the harder stuff got played at night and the MOR-leaning stuff was reserved for daytime listening, i.e. housewives).

34) GLORY BOUND / The Grass Roots
It was nearing the end of the road for this fine pop group. "Midnight Confessions" and "Wait a Million Years" were a long time ago. 1971 gave them two final big hits, "Sooner or Later" and "Two Divided By Love." #34 was the 'glory' this record was 'bound.' It fell from here, and their next hit, "The Runway" (#39) would be their final pop single. The song? I liked it. Then and now.

33) TAKE A LOOK AROUND / The Temptations
"My Girl" was waaaay distant in the rear-view mirror. The Temps got uppity with such things as "Ball of Confusion." WTUP did let this one in the lobby, if only for the station manager to take it with him for his next hunting trip. Can you say "PULL!!!"

The group would have a hit with their next single: "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"

*32) DAY DREAMING / Aretha Franklin
One with a story from the first time I ever heard it: At some point -- I think this would've been during our Spring holiday, my grandparents came over from Birmingham to visit for a few days. Early one weekday afternoon they left to go back home, and about 45 minutes to an hour later, the phone rang, Mom answered it, and suddenly my brother and me were summoned to "get dressed" ... we had to go 'rescue' the G/Ps, whose car had broken down in Amory, Miss., about 30 miles from Tupelo. I remember the Chrysler dealership, which is strange because they drove a '67 AMC Ambassador - yellow, LEMON yellow, with black vinyl top and window seals that leaked something awful. Maybe Chrysler places fixed AMCs in small towns, who knows? Well, ANYway, we had to ferry 'em back to town while they fixed the car, and they left the next day.

On the way to Amory, we had WVOK on the radio. And that's the first time Aretha's latest (underrated) hit entered my ear canals.

(a year later, they would finally get the message .... after that very Ambassador literally shed half its exhaust system south of Montgomery. What was it about my grandfather and AMC cars anyway??!!)

31) TAURUS / Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band
One of two top-10 instrumental hits for this group, the other one being 1971's "Scorpio." Both great and funky pieces of vinyl. "Scorpio" was said to have had a role in the formation of something that would go on to be called 'breakdancing.'

30) DON'T SAY YOU DON'T REMEMBER / Beverly Bremers
MOR-flavored R&B ballad. Yeeeech. Just my opinion and I have the blog.

29) SWEET SEASONS / Carole King
Carole King went from a songwriting cubicle and out front into her own as an amazing force in the singer/songwriter idiom that defined the 1970s. "Seasons" would go on to be yet another smash. One of those I was "meh" about at age 7, but have grown to like a lot in adulthood.

28) FLOY JOY / The Supremes
YES, THE SUPREMES CONTINUED AFTER DIANA ROSS LEFT THE GROUP LATE IN 1969. YES, THEY HAD SEVERAL HITS WITHOUT ROSS. But Diana Ross does not want you to know this. There's a reason all post-Ross Supremes product is either difficult to find, or out of print altogether. The group (now with Jean Terrell up front) still had its Motown contract, but the label - with Ross in firm cahoots - did the bare minimum to promote, i.e. not at all. That songs like this, "Up the Ladder to the Roof" and "Stoned Love" charted as high as they did ("Floy" maxed out at #16) speaks highly for their merit. Proving, as Berry Gordy himself once famously said, "It's what's in the grooves that counts."

Even today, 99% of the Supremes songs you see on compilations or whatever are all from the Ross era. And I'll have you know that in my music database, I catalog them as THE SUPREMES. The phrase "Diana Ross & ..." is left off for a reason.

27) JOY / Apollo 100
Johann Sebastian Bach was heard muttering angrily to himself, "@#$%, when I get my hands on that bastard P.D.Q., I'm gonna ram that glockenspiel down his throat faster than he can say 'Schickele'" Yeah, it's a decent 'modern' reworking of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. That much is true. Otherwise, well, I don't know what Johann would've really thought. No doubt his wig would've gotten all tangled up.

26) CRAZY MAMA / J. J. Cale
Another wild and wacky '67 Ambassador memory: on a Birmingham visit (the same one that yielded "Give Ireland...."), on the way back from getting something to eat, we went through a car wash tunnel, and as we entered I heard this song (on WSGN). Water was soon coming in the window, running down the door handles and getting my hands all soapy wet ... truth be told, I was getting a little freaked. Would this car get flooded out? Gotta love those AMC cars. Not.

It's notable, too, as one of the only times those grandparents allowed the dial pointer of either of their car radios to go near 610. They couldn't stomach rock 'n' roll. With Big John it was 850 (WYDE, country) and my grandmother's choice was even worse: 1260 WCRT - borderline easy listening (or, as it was called in radio back then, "good music").

25) GOT TO GET IT ON AGAIN / The Addrisi Brothers
Started climbing late in 1971. A holdover memory from first hearing it on WVOV while we were still back in Madison. Melancholy song that fit that time of my life like a glove.

24) HURTING EACH OTHER / The Carpenters
Talmadge Gleck now must go fetch some more Ex-Lax for Karen, a bottle of chill-pills for Richard .... and a big ol' Sam's Club size jar of valium for himself.

23) RUNNIN' AWAY / Sly & The Family Stone
I hadn't yet discovered Johnny Weber's overnight show on 'TUP (more on that when I do a 1974 review, later this week), so I didn't become more familiar with this fantastic single until many years later.

22) AMERICAN PIE / Don McLean
17th week on the top 40. You know it. I don't even have to say another word, just initials: B2AC!

21) AIN'T UNDERSTANDING MELLOW / Jerry Butler & Brenda Lee Eager
Too "black" for 1972's flavor of WTUP. See "Running Away", above.

The short version, of course. Their second top 40 single - first was "Your Move", part of the album-length suite "I've Seen All Good People." More burnt bacon off the griddle.

Lame song from Wednesday night's TV dynamic duo. Taught many husbands how to act p-whipped.

18) BETCHA BY GOLLY, WOW / The Stylistics
That was NOT a woman singing lead; HIS name was Russell Thompkins, Jr. I never liked this group ... all their songs sounded very depressing, at least to these young ears. This was the kind of "safe" soul WTUP allowed to be played during regular hours.

Any softer and slower and you wouldn't have been able to hear it. Yes, this puppy entered the top 40 at #17. Big, BIG monster hit in 1972. And no sir, I don't like it. Then, or now.

16) ROCK & ROLL LULLABY / B. J. Thomas
To me it was neither.

15) BANG A GONG (GET IT ON) / T. Rex
A real 'power station' of a song on this week's chart. Vague memory of hearing it on WSGN and WVOK. That's about it.

14) ROCKIN' ROBIN / Michael Jackson
Hated it. The "Karma Chameleon" of my first grade days. Moved up 19 big spots from the previous week. Early '70s bubblegum didn't get any worse ... no, wait, yes it did. Big time. See below, but don't get too blinded by all those teeth. (And WTUP was all over it, too. Ecch.)

13) IN THE RAIN / The Dramatics
I love it. This is what God intended for soul to sound like. Did I love it then? No. 'Cuz it wasn't until well into the '80s before I heard it for the first time. No joke.

WTUP played this piece of proto-Delilah "Cream Of Wheat." But -- and I kid you not! -- the jocks were verboten from saying the artist.

11) DOWN BY THE LAZY RIVER / The Osmonds
The Toothy Wonder Boys Of Utah try to out-rock the Carpenters.

10) I GOTCHA / Joe Tex
Seraphim has a great story to tell about this song. I'll let her tell it. One piece of controversy in the day was that a lot of radio stations (including .... you-know-who) didn't go near it. Why? Because of a 'misheard lyric.' More than a few radio people and listeners, listening on AM stations with their often high-compression audio, thought Tex was saying "I'll teach you not to play with my erection", when it was actually: "I'll teach you not to play with my affection"

More Cream of Wheat. Okay song, as far as they go.

8) JUNGLE FEVER / The Chakachas
Orgasm city. Sleazy. Dirty. And I love it. JF is a delicious piece of '70s funk. I imagine Bill Clinton gettin' it on with a high school hottie in the astroturf-lined bed of his '70 El Camino sissy truck as it's blasting on the Delco.

Middle-of-the-road garbage. Again, my opinion. Your mileage (and future Botox) may vary.

6) WITHOUT YOU / Nilsson
Badfinger originally recorded it, but it was Harry "You're Breaking My Heart, You're Tearing it Apart, So F--k You" Nilsson who made a big smash out of it. Reaches for the pink packets, but doesn't quite get there.

Yet another "didn't like it then, like and especially appreciate it now" song.

4) PUPPY LOVE / Donny Osmond
Stop smiling, dammit -- your teeth are blinding me!!

Maalox, please!! I loathe this song, whether by The Tokens (original version, 1961) or this just-as-horrid cover. MGM, please tell your lion to swallow both whole!

2) HEART OF GOLD / Neil Young
Burnt-to-a-crisp, to be sure, but it's Neil Young. The album from which this came (Harvest) was the best-selling LP of 1972.

And the number one hit of this week? Saddle up.......

I hear this and I think to the back side of our subdivision in Tupelo. It was a county road, and unlike the other streets, there were no street markers identifying it. At this age, I called it "Street With No Name", to go with the song. Later, they finally named it: Southern Heights Road.

And that's all for now. More AT40 reviews to come in the next week or two ..... 'till then, keep your feet on the ground and ..... [salute] .... so long!

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge Coast to Coast


Kate/Susan said...

I knew a whopping 7 of those songs.


Talmadge Gleck said...

So ... which seven?

And your thoughts about those seven are welcome. Inquiring musicologists want to know. :-)

Kate/Susan said...

Ok, I know all the following:

1. Horse With No Name. Thoughts: not crazy about it, but the General likes it, so we have it on MP3.

2. Heart of Gold. I'm not a Neil Young fan, but of all his songs, this is the one I find the least loathesome.

3. The Lion Sleeps Tonight, but I don't know the Robert John cover, only the original. I enjoy singing it and making my voice all high pitched.

14. Rockin' Robin. I was never too crazy about anything Michael Jackson did, and this was no exception.

17. The First Time Ever I saw Your Face... It's an OK song. As far as songs of the time go. Don't love it, don't hate it.

18. Betcha By Golly Wow. HATE THIS SONG. HATE IT.

22. American Pie. Who doesn't know this song? I think I've heard it so much, sung it so much, been sung at by it so much, it's kind of lost its appeal. I fast forward it a lot now... it's fun once in a while, but it's overdone.

There you go! :-) The 7 I knew... And not a one I love.

Talmadge Gleck said...

Yeah, "Horse With No Name" has been played to several deaths. Much fonder of the other single from their first album, "I Need You." (and even more so the album cuts "Sandman" and "Riverside")

As I heard a comedian say, "You're in the desert with nothing else to do -- name the freakin' horse!!"

"Lion": There isn't a whole lot of difference between Robert John's cover and The Tokens' original.

And I'm not too crazy about those other songs, either. "Betcha By Golly Wow" is l-a-m-e.