No. 50 Fifty Years Ago (September 1970)

As promised earlier this week, we’re playing Symmetry, looking back fifty years to whatever record was sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 at this point in September 1970. First, though, we’re going to take a look at the Top Five released fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by CCR
“Patches” by Clarence Carter
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman

This is not a particularly great five (or six) from where I listened long ago. There are some nice moments here, especially the intro to the Diana Ross single (although the spoken word portion of the record tamps that down a bit for me), and “War” is always going to get one’s attention. I like the CCR B-side, and the Bobby Sherman single always reminds me that there was a young lady named Julie during that long-ago season who was – clearly in retrospect but not evident to my seventeen-year-old self – interested in me.

As to the CCR A-side and the Clarence Carter single, I’ve never been interested, though I could no doubt sing along without errors as each of them played.

The four I dealt with two paragraphs above are in fact in the iPod and thus are part of my current listening, but if I were forced to trim, say, a hundred tracks from the device, three of them would likely be among those culled. Julie would stay.

And what do we find when we drop halfway down the Hot 100? We chance on one of the great singer-songwriter singles, one that’s been, I think, devalued and set aside somewhat as a result of its prominence, its ubiquity, and its status as one of the foundations of the decade’s singer-songwriter movement: James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard the record, but I do know that as I heard it frequently during the autumn of 1970, its personal and confessional lyrics touched something in me. I’d guess – not for the first time – that the record was part of what moved me to begin writing my own stuff later that school year. (The other part, of course, was an unrequited affection for a sophomore girl, the tale of which I told in 2009 and revisited some years later in a post found here.)

If one tries to listen to the record with fresh ears – an almost impossible task after so many years and so many hearings – it remains a remarkable piece of work, one that went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Tags:

Leave a Reply