No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (October 1970)

Despite the concern at plowing fields already set into furrows, we’re going to play a game of Symmetry this morning and check out the record that was at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 during the first portion of October fifty years ago, in 1970.

We’ll start with a look at the top five from the Hot 100 as offered in the magazine’s October 10 edition:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent quarter-hour of listening. There might have been times over the past half-century when I would have looked askance at the Jackson 5 or Dawn singles, finding them a little bit lightweight, but these days, they’re fine. Neither one of them has been plugged into the iPod, where I find my day-to-day listening, but after this morning, they’ll be on the short list, with “Candida” a little closer to the top than “I’ll Be There.”

The Diana Ross and Free singles are in the iPod, but somehow while I was reloading the device after getting a new computer during the summer. I managed to do so without selecting any tracks by Neil Diamond. That oversight will be corrected today, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will be one of the tracks selected.

And what of our main business today? Well, sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago this week was a record that takes me back to late autumn evenings in 1970, when it was just me and my RCA radio killing time in my bedroom. Among the songs I heard that autumn was the only Top 40 hit by the English band named after its vocalist: “Yellow River” by Christie.

The record, says band leader and writer Jeff Christie, was inspired by the thoughts of a soldier going home after the American Civil War. Given the era in which it was released, with the U.S. still entangled in the Vietnam War, many listeners thought the record was about current events. On a page on his website, Christie has collected comments he’s received about the record over the years from Vietnam vets and others who lived through the times.

Fifty years ago this week, “Yellow River” was on its way to a peak of No. 23 in late November. The record also went to No. 22 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. A later single from the group, “San Bernadino,” got to No. 100 in late January 1971. (And yes, the record’s title misspelled the name of the California city.)

Here’s “Yellow River.”

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