01 January 2009

December 1972: Lightning in a bottle .... mostly.

Hello and happy 2009 to all.

We open the year with a look at American Top 40 for December 16, 1972. Out of all the countdowns I've posted here, this might be one of my favorites. Plenty of magical, underrated hits all over this one. Yes, there are a couple of revolting pieces of vinyl, with a handful of "meh" records. But who or what is perfect?

Here we go..............

*40) ANGEL / Rod Stewart
The Rodster covers Jimi Hendrix. Not a five-star song by any stretch, but holds its own.

39) WHAT AM I CRYING FOR? / Dennis Yost & The Classics IV
Uhhhh, because your best days are long behind you??? They made their biggest hits - "Spooky", "Stormy" and "Traces" - in the late '60s. Two members of this sixsome (shouldn't this group's name have been "Classics VI" ... or was this an unresolved typo?) went on to be part of Atlanta Rhythm Section.

Here's a neat coincidence ... two records debuted the same week, each separately by husband and wife:

*38) DON'T LET ME BE LONELY TONIGHT / James "Stretch Marks on his Mouth" Taylor
A splendid piece of balladry. One of JT's better hits.

*37) YOU'RE SO VAIN / Carly "The Reason" Simon
It's long been a mystery as to whom this record was directed. Mick Jagger? Warren Beatty? Kris Kristofferson? Hell, one name suggested in The Online Encyclopedia Of Sometimes Dubious Credibility is Daffy Duck!

If you think it's about you, then we know the answer. ;-)

36) SUNNY DAYS / Lighthouse
Positively trippy. And positively wonderful. Should've been top 10.

35) I DIDN'T KNOW I LOVED YOU ('TILL I SAW YOU ROCK AND ROLL) / Gary Glitter
Follow-up to the top-10 smash "Rock and Roll, Part 2" ... or, as I saw it listed on my son's high school jazz band concert a couple years back, "The 'Hey' Song."

Uhhhhh, yeah.

34) ALIVE / The Bee Gees
The end of their first (i.e. 'ballad') era. Three years later, they'd be j-j-j-jive talking. It reminds me of the time Seraphim brought some '70s music to work with her for some employee function or other. One CD she pulled from the shelf was Bee Gees Gold., expecting the late '70s disco flavour. Imagine my wife's surprise when she realized the most uptempo song on that disc is probably "I Started a Joke."

33) IF I COULD REACH YOU / The Fifth Dimension
From the same corner of the room as 5D's sweet heartfelt romantic hit "One Less Bell To Answer." Close the window and draw the blinds, the sunshine ain't coming in no more.

32) I WANNA BE WITH YOU / The Raspberries
Eric Carmen wrote this one all by himse...... ummmm, errrr, ahhh, anyway. This was back when EC rocked. This was fantastic power pop.

31) BEEN TO CANAAN / Carole King
Melissa has. And now I want to go, too. At 50 degrees, it's too damned hot down here. I want mountains and snow.

30) I'LL BE AROUND / The Spinners
Soul music still had the magic touch, and there are more than a few R&B treasures. I'd say it's my favorite Spinners record.

29) I'D LOVE YOU TO WANT ME / Lobo
By this time it was clear that mid December of '72 was a wonderful moment of top-40 time. You've heard "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" so many times you want to rescue Boo from his evil caretakers. ILYTWM shined on late '72 radio. A great pop song.

28) PIECES OF APRIL / Three Dog Night
3DN come down with Ballad Fever. Danny Hutton must've had one beer too many with David Gates.

27) SUPERSTITION / Stevie Wonder
Stevie's Midas touch continued unabated in the '70s with this, one of the biggest hits of late '72 and early '73.

26) LONG DARK ROAD / The Hollies
A singles band most associated with the late '60s, with hits like "Bus Stop", "Carrie Anne" and the Richard Carpenter song "She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister." Oops, sorry. Well, you know what I mean.

The '70s gave this group two top-10'ers: "Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)" earlier in '72 and "Air That I Breathe" in '74. While "Road" didn't get much higher than this on the chart ... it remains my favorite Hollies track. It's dark, but not in a sappy, whiny kind of way.

25) DIALOGUE / Chicago
From one favorite to another. Robert Lamm writes and sings another winner. Peter Cetera's grubby paws hadn't yet destroyed the integrity of a great brass-flavoured rock & roll band.

In its long form (Parts I & II) on Chicago V, it stands as an underrated classic rock song. Here, it's in an edited version taken from both parts, something I hadn't heard since the early '70s.

24) YOUR MAMA DON'T DANCE / Loggins & Messina
Did anyone say "Peter Cetera's Disease"? Jim Messina carried Kenny Loggins' testicles around, and took 'em away when the duo split up in 1978. Like Cetera and a few others, it was ballad city for Kenny Boy. ("Whenever I call you fiend".....)

23) SITTING / Cat Stevens
One more lost classic brought to the forefront. I love the piano hook.

22) OPERATOR / Jim Croce
It was a little disturbing to hear Casey Kasem talking about Croce in the present tense (Like Buddy Holly, Croce had an untimely death just as his star was rising).

21) WALK ON WATER / Neil Diamond
Forgotten gem from the time when ND began to take that first bite from the Cetera Apple. I don't remember it firsthand, just years later through radio airchecks. One doesn't hear this much anymore, which is too bad.

20) LIVING IN THE PAST / Jethro Tull
What do you think I do with these AT40 review posts??!! In the dictionary underneath this entry it says "See also GLECK, TALMADGE" Or some would think. (I like to say I have one of my feet in the past, so I can enjoy the now with Seraphim on the other one)

The song? B2AC classic rock song. I prefer to dig into this group's great album tracks.

19) SUMMER BREEZE / Seals & Crofts
A staple of Light AC stations everywhere. If you're allergic to jasmine, you're pretty much screwed.

18) CORNER OF THE SKY / The Jackson Five
Yes, the J5 had hits well into the '70s. "Corner" is passable ... not bad by any measure, but doesn't peg my "Oh Wow" meter, either. Of course, this didn't test well with the Soccer Moms®, so all you hear from this group is "ABC", "I Want You Back" and "The Love You Save."

17) KEEPER OF THE CASTLE / The Four Tops
When Motown 'sold out' (so to speak) and moved to Hollywood in 1972, the Tops stayed in Detroit and signed with ABC/Dunhill Records. Their sound had evolved away from Berry Gordy's "safe" definition and toward a more edgy breed of soul. Here, Levi Stubbs' vocals are perfect for the sound. What's notable here is that the Four Tops went more than 40 years (!) without a lineup change. It took Lawrence Payton's death in 1997 to force the issue.

16) SWEET SURRENDER / Bread
David Gates somehow escapes the Peter Cetera curse with his over-reliance on ballads. I cannot put my finger on why, just that Bread doesn't cause my nausea level to spike. "Surrender"? I can take it or leave it. (Some of you might not be aware that Bread could rock out. Google "Mother Freedom" or the wonderful "Let Your Love Go" for examples).

15) SUPERFLY / Curtis Mayfield
Yeaaaaaaah. 1972. Blacker-than-black SOUL. Curtis' falsetto. The horns. The sound. Give me an extra helping, please.

14) CRAZY HORSES / The Osmonds
When Donny said he was "a little bit rock and roll", brother did he mean it. I don't recall hearing this record at all -- especially not in Tupelo, but not Birmingham either. It doesn't sound like The Osmonds, who themselves did get uptempo with the likes of "Down By the Lazy River."

Personally, I think this was a cynical effort to infiltrate AOR/"underground" FM radio. Listen for yourself.

13) SOMETHING'S WRONG WITH ME / Austin Roberts
Best-known for a top-10 hit in 1975, "Rocky." Supposedly, Roberts had a side gig as a collaborator on Scooby Doo and Josie & The Pussycats.

A worthy entry for the K-TAL Woe Is Me whiny wecords hall of fame. "Something's Wrong", indeed.

12) FUNNY FACE / Donna Fargo
No doubt, her status as "The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" caused a case of fatal ego. She was singing this as she looked at herself in the mirror. A revolting C&W crossover. Air sickness bag, please........

11) ROCKIN' PNEUMONIA - BOOGIE WOOGIE FLU / Johnny Rivers
One I fondly remember from second grade. Loved it then, love it now. Sounds best when played on AM radio.

10) I'M STONE IN LOVE WITH YOU / The Stylistics
Thankfully, my barf bag from the Fargo record above still has enough room for one more heaving retch. May I remind you again that this is a MALE singing lead?

9) I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW / Johnny Nash
Yeah, you know it. It's a good song, even with myopic vision. What I remember about the song is how much the wife of a co-worker of Dad's used to love it. They lived down the street from us in Tupelo, and she'd occasionally babysit my brother and me. Looking back, she was borderline hippie. She tried forcefeeding me David Bowie, but my grade-school self wasn't quite ready for The AOR Dark Side. (PS - they'd later divorce ... note to self: ask Dad about it some time)

8) VENTURA HIGHWAY / America
Another B2AC "adult contemporary" mainstay. At least they named the highway. Poor horse...

7) CLAIR / Gilbert O'Sullivan
Is there still enough roo.... Uh, never mind. I'm gonna need a whole new barf bag. From the album Cradle Robber (Naturally). At first you think it's a sick ballad about an older man's lust for a young girl, but then you learn it's actually a paean to his niece. Oh, and there really was a Clair, and she was the infant daughter of Gilbert's producer/manager. It's Clair's giggling you hear at the end.

Doesn't make it right, though. Pass the bag, I feel another song comin' on.

6) PAPA WAS A ROLLIN' STONE / The Temptations
Baby Daddy leaves. Makes one thankful for our own wretched lives. The song? The ever-lovin' temptin' Temps could do no wrong. Personified the dark sound of latter-day Motown.

5) IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / Albert Hammond

If so, then why do the cars on the dealership lots have windshield wipers? Oh yeah, you'll need them. Because .... say it with me ... "It pours. Man, it pours." (Sorta like my grandparents' old '67 AMC Ambassador.)

4) YOU OUGHTA BE WITH ME / Al Green
There was, and is, no such thing as a bad Al Green record. Period. (And that's REVEREND Al Green to us, buster!)

3) IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME BY NOW / Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Original version; some might remember the 1989 remake by Simply Red. As is the case 95% of the time, the original is superior.

2) I AM WOMAN / Helen Reddy
She came a long way, baby. And then blew up any hopes of ever becoming a feminist heroine by retreating into submissive balladry. I think I've ranted about this here before, so we'll just move along to this week's number one hit:

Hi, this is Godly Casem, and we're up to our Number Seven Commandment. Jingle, please....

[cue pipe organ and angelic choir] COMMANDMENT NUMBER SEVEEEEEEENNNN.....

1) ME AND MRS. JONES / Billy Paul
Adultery topped the charts in 1972. Sounds to me like Billy's wife didn't heed the sage words of Jack Jones back in 1963 from his hit song "Wives and Lovers":

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again


Mrs. Paul, with her hair still in those gaudy curlers and pins (allowing her to pick up radio and TV signals from 200 miles away), had the last laugh.

Think about that next time you pick up a box of frozen fish sticks at the grocery store.

So that's how pop music radio sounded at the end of 1972. I could've lived with such a list. For every "Funny Face" there were several "Sunny Days."

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge Coast To Coast

2 comments:

Melissa said...

It was a chilly 7 degrees in Canaan this AM. It was a balmy 15 when I went out for a walk - and I broke a sweat (too much clothes!)

Always interesting reading your top 40 entries! :)

word verification: uncolo...would that be 7up?

nettiemac said...

*40) ANGEL / Rod Stewart
I've heard this one. I far prefer the Hendrix version, but this one isn't totally wretch-worthy either.

*38) DON'T LET ME BE LONELY TONIGHT / James "Stretch Marks on his Mouth" Taylor
One of my favorite songs of JT's. That and "Walking Man"... and "Mexico." Oh heck, I love so many....

*37) YOU'RE SO VAIN / Carly "The Reason" Simon
A song that I can definitely take or leave. I like Carly Simon's music, but this one is just one that ... well, if I'm in the mood, I'll listen; otherwise, it's one big "NEXT!" and the dial goes to scanning.

30) I'LL BE AROUND / The Spinners
Soul music still had the magic touch, and there are more than a few R&B treasures. I'd say it's my favorite Spinners record.
As you know, I'm strongly of the opinion that even my beloved 80s R&B/Dance music cannot hold a candle to Good Ol' 70s Soul. And The Spinners helped make it so!

29) I'D LOVE YOU TO WANT ME / Lobo
Far better than "Boo"... but that's just me.

27) SUPERSTITION / Stevie Wonder
Stevie Reborn ..... and way better!

25) DIALOGUE / Chicago
I loved our discussion on Chicago and this song in Asheville. It would have been good for it to stay that way ... and we'd never have had "Stay The Night."

24) YOUR MAMA DON'T DANCE / Loggins & Messina
I do not like this song at all
I do not like to hear it call
I do not like its silly words
I hereby give it two big birds!

Oh yeah, and Poison's remake sucked even worse!


22) OPERATOR / Jim Croce
Every time I hear his music, all I can think is "What could have been...."

20) LIVING IN THE PAST / Jethro Tull
Not nearly as crispy as "Aqualung"... EEK!

19) SUMMER BREEZE / Seals & Crofts
This probably comes as no great surprise to you, but I am a big S&C fan.... something about their songs just take me back to the Sunny Place that exists in my head when I think of good 70s music.

16) SWEET SURRENDER / Bread
Would you believe that my big little brother is a Bread fan? Yes. And in high school one of my teachers listed Bread as one of her favorite groups, and I was the only person in the class who not only knew who they were but could name some of their songs. No surprise there, right?

15) SUPERFLY / Curtis Mayfield
Fantastic song!!!

11) ROCKIN' PNEUMONIA - BOOGIE WOOGIE FLU / Johnny Rivers
One I fondly remember from second grade. Loved it then, love it now. Sounds best when played on AM radio.
Agreed!

10) I'M STONE IN LOVE WITH YOU / The Stylistics
Thankfully, my barf bag from the Fargo record above still has enough room for one more heaving retch. May I remind you again that this is a MALE singing lead?
Oh my.... now see, I *love* the Stylistics and Delfonics and all that Philly Soul too. Great stuff, and as far as the falsetto, it never hurt Frankie Valli either.

9) I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW / Johnny Nash
Like it for me. If it comes on, I'm probably going to change the station. No bad memories of the song, just one of those things.

8) VENTURA HIGHWAY / America
I'll like this one for you.

6) PAPA WAS A ROLLIN' STONE / The Temptations
L.O.V.E. it. Fantastic song, good dark beat, and 30 years ahead of its time.

5) IT NEVER RAINS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / Albert Hammond
Now HERE's one for the Annals of Self-Pity .... along with "Lodi" by CCR, and "Take It To the Limit" by the Eagles -- which is the one song of theirs I usually pass on.

4) YOU OUGHTA BE WITH ME / Al Green
There was, and is, no such thing as a bad Al Green record. Period. (And that's REVEREND Al Green to us, buster!)
Can I get a witness? A-HAY-HAY-HAY-MEN!

3) IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME BY NOW / Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
Original version; some might remember the 1989 remake by Simply Red. As is the case 95% of the time, the original is superior.
Damn straight. Teddy Pendergrass' voice moves this song in a way that Mick Hucknall -- blue-eyed, red-headed soulster that he can be -- just doesn't have.

2) I AM WOMAN / Helen Reddy
I am feminist, and even I pass on this one.

1) ME AND MRS. JONES / Billy Paul
I don't remember it from '72 but I do remember it being played in later years, or seeing K-Tel commercials (or the like) years later .... and thinking, "Uh-huh. I bet he and Mrs. Jones aren't playing Monopoly. I don't know what they're doing exactly, but it can't be on the up-and-up." And they say I had a sheltered upbringing!!