No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

We’ve not bounced around in 1972 lately, so it’s likely a good time to see what folks were listening to in early December of that year, at least as reflected in the top section of the Billboard Hot 100. And we’ll play a game of Symmetry, heading down the chart to see what was sitting at No. 48 during that late autumn forty-eight years ago.

It was my second autumn as a student at St. Cloud State (because of a couple of failed courses a year earlier, I wasn’t technically a sophomore), and it was an unmemorable time. The friendships that has sustained me through my first year of college had faded away, and I was pretty much on my own. I hung around with some folks from a speech class that fall quarter, but I never quite fit there, either. And I wasn’t dating anyone, nor were there any candidates in sight.

I was exploring musically, having finished my Beatles collection in August. Some record club purchases brought me albums by the Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones and Mountain, and those sounds filled the basement rec room many evenings as I played a Sports Illustrated tabletop football game by myself.

And I still listened to the radio in my bedroom and in the car, so the records in the Top Ten forty-eight years ago (as reported by Billboard on December 9, 1972) were likely familiar:

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Ventura Highway” by America
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics

That’s pretty heavy on the soul/R&B side of the ledger, with a couple of southern California records (stylistically as well as literally), one piece of fluff (“Clair”) and one record – the Helen Reddy – that’s sui generis. And nine of the ten are as familiar as was the interior of my 1961 Falcon, which I’d inherited that summer from my sister.

The one record not familiar by title is the Al Green, which I recalled after a quick listen; I don’t know that I heard it often, and I certainly haven’t heard it as much over the years as I’ve heard “Call Me (Come Back Home),” “Tired Of Being Alone” and “I’m Still In Love With You.”

So, here’s the question we almost always ask when we look at a Billboard Top Ten: Do those records matter now? And we find the answer to that question by seeing if they’re among the 2,700 or so tracks in my iPod.

And I find four of those ten: The records by Nash, Paul, Hammond and the Stylistics. I might add “Ventura Highway,” but the others that I recall – as I ponder them this morning – carry a sense of sorrow. (Well, not “I Am Woman,” but as I noted above, that’s one of a kind.) I was not happy during the latter months of 1972, and nearly a half-century later, that unhappiness seems to be still attached to some of that era’s music.

But what of our other business here? What do we find when we move further down that Hot 100 to No. 48? Well, we come across a record I knew well at the time, one that I heard from an album that took its place between the Moody Blues, Mountain, the Beatles and the rest as I pondered third down and three in the basement rec room: “Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton.

The track came from Clapton’s first solo album, a self-titled effort released in 1970, and was released as a single in 1972, I think, because of its inclusion that year in the two-LP Polydor release Clapton At His Best (which is where I found it). We’ve caught it here at the peak of its thirteen-week stay on the Hot 100. And whether you count it as forty-eight years or fifty years, the track – co-written by Clapton and Bonnie Bramlett – is still a brilliant piece of work.

 

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