Here’s the Top Ten from the Billboard Hot 100 forty-two years ago today, March 22, 1975:
“My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli
“Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle
“Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton
“Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
“Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John
“Express” by B.T. Express
“You Are So Beautiful/It’s A Sin When You Love Somebody” by Joe Cocker
“Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow
“No No Song/Snookeroo” by Ringo Starr
“Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” by Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta
Almost all of those were coming out of the jukebox in the Atwood Center snack bar at St. Cloud State around that time. I don’t recall ever hearing either of the listed B-sides, nor – having listened to it this morning – do I recall ever hearing “Express.” But the rest of those records were a good portion of the soundtrack of my life as 1975 – one of the best years of my youth – approached its second quarter.
Sometime during the six weeks just past, one of my friends at The Table had given me some hard-to-hear but essential advice. He said I had to quit obsessing about the accident I’d been in at the end of October 1974. He was right, so I quit skipping my classes, I quit skipping my work shifts at the library’s periodicals counter, and I got to work on finishing three courses from fall quarter in which I’d taken incomplete grades.
In other words, I got busy being a student, and it was good for me. And most of the music listed above and plenty more from the rest of the chart came along with me as we headed into spring quarter.
Still, as always, there was music out there that never got to my ears, usually because it stayed for a brief time in the lower level of the Hot 100. Here are four records that caught my eye and my ear this morning:
“You’re A Part Of Me” by Susan Jacks was sitting at No. 90. The single, from the female voice of the Poppy Family (with then-husband Terry Jacks), was okay, based on some listening at YouTube. I never thought her voice was big enough to carry a career, though I likely would not have put it in those terms back when the Poppy Family stuff was coming out of the speakers. “You’re A Part Of Me” was intended for an album titled Dreams, but the folks at Russ & Gary’s “The Best Years of Music” say in a 2013 post that the album “was kept from market by Ray Pettinger, her husband’s former business associate at Goldfish Records.” I’m not sure about that: Discogs lists the LP as having been released in Canada. Either way, the album is available at YouTube, and – based on admittedly brief listening this morning – it sounds like the work of a limited singer trying to figure out which Seventies niche to land in. “You’re A Part Of Me” went no higher than No. 90 during its five weeks in the Hot 100.
Sitting at the very bottom of the Hot 100 forty-two years ago today was “Where Have They Gone” by Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners. Billed simply as simply the Skyliners, the group had offered the classic “Since I Don’t Have You” in 1959. And although the group had released a cluster of records that had gotten some airplay in the early 1960s – the best-performing being 1960’s “Pennies From Heaven,” which went to No. 24 – there’d been nothing in the charts since 1965. Even in the context of the big tent that Top 40 was in 1975, the string-laden “Where Have They Gone” sounds like a record out of its time, which I kind of like. I was intrigued to see that it had been written by Doc Pomus and Ken Hirsh, and it turns out there’s an interesting note at Wikipedia, where Pomus categorizes the songs he wrote in the 1970s – with Hirsh and others – as being for “those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain or not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed.” Not to be cruel, but I suppose that could fit Beaumont and the Skyliners after ten years with no records in the charts. And “Where Have They Gone” was itself gone after this one week in the Hot 100.
Heading into the Bubbling Under portion of the Billboard chart, I ran across a group name that I found irresistible: Ecstasy, Passion & Pain. Tagged as an R&B/dance group by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, the group had seen three records in or near the Hot 100 since early 1974, with the best-performing of them being “Ask Me,” which went to No. 52 in November 1974. Their next try was “One Beautiful Day,” which was bubbling under at No. 103 in that chart from forty-two years ago today. To my ears, there’s nothing there that maybe twenty other groups weren’t doing more compellingly at the time. “One Beautiful Day” would eventually peak at No. 48 (No. 14 on the Billboard R&B chart) and would be the biggest mark Ecstasy, Passion & Pain ever made on the charts.
Maybe the biggest surprise this morning was finding a record from Steppenwolf parked at No. 110, the very bottom of the Bubbling Under section. For me, John Kay’s group occupies the last few years of the 1960s, the years of “Born To Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” I somehow tend to forget that more than half of Steppenwolf’s charting records came in the 1970s. None of them flew as high as the two singles just mentioned, but the ’Wolf put six records into the middle to lower portions of the Hot 100 in 1970 and 1971. After an absence of three years came “Straight Shootin’ Woman,” which went to No. 29 in 1974, followed in 1975 by “Smokey Factory Blues,” which was sitting at No. 110 forty-two years ago today. It doesn’t really sound like Steppenwolf until about ninety seconds in, but then the chorus takes off, and when one listens to the story Kay and the rest of the band are telling, it’s a fitting coda to the band’s story: “Smokey Factory Blues” is what happens when you quit running and riding and living wild.