What’s At No. 100 (May 1971)

We’re gonna look around in late May of 1971 today, forty-nine years ago. It was that week or the next – my memory fails me and I don’t want to dig for documentation – when I put on a blue cap and gown and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. (I also wore an orange and black woven cord, signifying that I was graduating with honors, a fact that baffled me and surprised and pleased my parents.)

Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen from May 29, 1971:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“Wants Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet And Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Rainy Days And Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“If” by Bread
“Superstar” by Murray Head & The Trinidad Singers
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Helen Reddy

There’s some good radio in there. Let’s take them five at a time:

Three of the first five are five-star records: “Brown Sugar,” “Joy To The World,” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” And the other two – the Jackson 5 and the Honey Cone singles – are not far behind. But then, this was a time when top 40 radio was my musical focus, and it’s hard to separate the times from the music that was the soundtrack for those times. And my senior year of high school, though it had its challenges, was a pretty good time.

The next five are a little tougher. The Ocean record no longer speaks to me, and I never liked Donny Osmond’s single. Daddy Dewdrop was a hoot, but not one with legs, and the Lobo record, well, I don’t mind hearing it, but it’s not a big deal. The A-side of the Aretha record is a great performance, but I found it later and don’t remember it at all from 1971. (My digging at Oldiesloon seems to say that the record did not get into the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB’s but I’m not sure.)

Finally, the five records at Nos. 11 through 15: I liked all five and still do, though the order in which I’d rank them has changed in nearly fifty years. Back in 1971, I likely put “Love Her Madly” at the top of that small heap; today, I’d put either “If” or “Rainy Days And Mondays” there. And seeing the Helen Reddy record in a springtime chart feels odd. I heard it on the radio, sure, but I heard it a lot more the next autumn coming from many rooms in the two women’s dorms I visited at St. Cloud State, so it feels like a college-time record more than one that comes from my high school days.

Usually, at this point I check the records in the chart against my iPod, but I got a new computer last week and I am still in the process of reloading about 3,900 tracks into iTunes and the iPod from the 80,000-some in my main music files. So we’ll see which ones are among the 2,900 or so in the device right now and I’ll make some notes as to which of the remainder will get there, too.

Right now, of the top five, the Stones, Ringo and Three Dog Night are in the device. Honey Cone and the Jackson 5 will follow.

None of the second five are in the iPod, but Lobo likely will be, once I get to the “L” folder, and the Aretha A-side might, depending on my mood, when I get to “F.” Donny Osmond, Daddy Dewdrop and Ocean? No.

From the final set of five, “If” and “Superstar” have already made the cut. The Carpenters and the Doors likely will follow. I did the second half of the alphabet first this time, so I’ve already passed on the Helen Reddy single, but I may change my mind. I did pull in four of her tracks already (“Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” “Angie Baby,” “Don’t Make Promises,” and “Somewhere In The Night”).

And then, there’s our nominally main business today: Checking out the single at No. 100 in that long-ago chart. And it’s “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds Of Sunshine. We’ve run across it before. Finding it inspired the following (edited a bit):

The Sounds Of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. In the film, after the two lovers have a spat, McGraw’s character tells O’Neal’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. Originated by Erich Segal, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based, the famous line is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

That’s probably much more than you wanted this morning. Here’s the Sounds Of Sunshine single:

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