No. 46 Forty-Six Years Ago

We’re going to fire up the Symmetry machine this morning and jump back to the third week of May in 1974. Why then? Because it was during that week – on May 21, to be precise – that I returned to Minnesota after my college year in Denmark. I don’t think I’ve ever looked to see what was atop the Billboard Hot 100 at the time (And if I have, it was evidently so long ago that another look won’t hurt.)

Here’s the Top Fifteen as of May 18, 1974, three days before our St. Cloud State contingent got onto a Finnair jet in Copenhagen to come home.

“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch
“The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk
“The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night
“Bennie & The Jets” by Elton John
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur
“(I’ve Been) Searching So Long” by Chicago
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by MFSB feat. The Three Degrees
“I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by the Carpenters
“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell
“Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient

Let’s take these five at a time. The top five has three sure station-turners (assuming one would ever hear them on an oldies station while in the car these days): the singles by Stevens, Grand Funk and Three Dog Night. None of Stevens’ work has aged well in this corner of the universe; “The Loco-Motion” shows Grand Funk at its sludgiest and most boring; and “The Show Must Go On” just feels silly, not nearly up to the level of Three Dog Night’s work from the years 1969 to 1971.

That leaves two of those five: “Dancing Machine” and “The Entertainer.” They aren’t gems, but hearing them once in a while is fine.

The next five are a different matter altogether. Any of those can pop into my ear anytime they want, even the Chicago, despite some of the things I’ve said about the band’s mid-Seventies work. My favorite among those would be “Midnight At The Oasis,” which was the fuse for my fascination with Muldaur’s oeuvre: Between vinyl and CD, I have six of her albums; those albums and more make up the more than 200 tracks from Muldaur on the digital shelves.

The bottom five of the list above is not quite as stellar: I don’t mind the Carpenters’ single, but it’s not something I seek out; and I cannot recall the last time I heard the “Tubular Bells” single. I do recall listening to Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album on occasional Sunday mornings in Missouri as I read newspapers from Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and New York. The album is probably still here – and both sides of the single are likely on the digital shelves – but I don’t really go looking for any of it.

On the other hand, “TSOP,” “Help Me,” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” are welcome here any time at all.

So let’s use our usual measuring stick on those fifteen. How many of them are among the 3,900-some tracks on my iPod and thus are among my day-to-day listening? Well none of the top five are there, and four of the second five are, all except the Stylistics’ single. Two of the bottom five – the Mitchell and Main Ingredient tracks – are there, and “TSOP” should be.

So all in all, that’s not a bad Top Fifteen.

And now to our other business. What was at No. 46 forty-six years ago? Well, these things sometimes happen, as we land on a record that I didn’t like then and I still don’t like: John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” The record was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 1 at the end of March. At least I wasn’t around when the record was in heavy rotation on the radio. Here it is:

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