I don’t remember much about November 1974. But as I recovered from a traffic accident, I did listen to a lot of music.
Reading was difficult as I dealt with the impact of a concussion. (The memory of the fog in which I found myself that autumn makes the current discussion of concussions in athletics frighteningly relevant; as much as I love watching the game, if I had a grandson, I would exert all of my persuasive powers to keep him from playing even one game of football at any age level.) So, as I had many times before, I leaned on music to get me through, spending large portions of my days in the basement rec room, where the albums on my turntable included records by the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, the various combinations of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and a smattering of other artists and groups. During other parts of the day and in the evenings, I carefully made my way upstairs and listened to the radio in my room, sometimes tuning in the campus radio station, sometimes an album rock station I remember hearing without recalling its call letters, and quite often, the Top 40 offered by KDWB in the Twin Cities or in the evenings by WJON just across the tracks.
So what did I hear? The Top Ten on November 23, 1974 – thirty-six years ago today – was:
“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express
“My Melody of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“Tin Man” by America
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Back Home Again” by John Denver
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin
If ever there was a Top Ten that deserved to be called a mixed bag, this one is it. I can do without the John Denver and “Kung Fu Fighting,” and for some reason, my tolerance over the years has been low for “Cat’s In The Cradle.” I still enjoy the novelty of a Top Ten record sung partly in Polish – “My Melody of Love” – although the frequency of its airplay at the time became wearisome. Otherwise, we’ve got a good mix of some rockabilly, some folk-rock, some post-era Brill Building pop, some funk and some R&B. And I’ve proclaimed in this space not all that long ago my deep affection for the Three Degrees’ record.
Heading a little further into the Top 40, there’s a gem sitting at No. 24, a record I do not at all recall hearing that autumn. Prelude was a folk-rock trio from England made up of the husband-and-wife team of Irene and Brian Hume along with Ian Vardy. During the week in question, their cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” was at No. 24; it would peak the next week at No. 22. The group would reach the Billboard Hot 100 two in 1976 with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” which would go to No. 63. Of the two, I prefer the 1974 record, which carries in its grooves an anticipation of the version of “After the Gold Rush” recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris on their 1998 album Trio II.
At No. 54, we find the last Top 40 hit for the Righteous Brothers that wasn’t titled “Unchained Melody.” “Dream On” was on its way up the charts during this week in 1974. The single – on which Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield did a decent enough job – was pulled from their album Give It To The People and peaked at No. 32. After that, the only RB hit singles were a rerelease of their 1965 version of “Unchained Melody,” which went to No. 13 in the autumn of 1990, and a new recording of the same song, which went to No. 19 during that same season.
In 1975, Sammy Johns had his only Top 40 hit with the delightful and very much of its time “Chevy Van,” which went to No. 5. The previous year, he’d come relatively close with “Early Morning Love.” It’s not quite as good a single as “Chevy Van,” but it’s pretty good. Thirty-six years ago today, “Early Morning Love” was at its peak of No. 68. (In 1975, “Early Morning Love” would get to No. 75 on the country chart, and Johns’ “Rag Doll” would reach No. 52 in the Hot 100.)
By the autumn of 1974, the Main Ingredient had scored three Top 40 hits: “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” (No. 10, 1974) and “Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” (No. 35, 1974) had followed the brilliant “Everybody Plays The Fool,” which went to No. 3 in 1972. The group had also reached the Hot 100 and the R&B chart several times, and would continue to do so into 1976. In the autumn of 1974, the group reached No. 75 (and No. 48 on the R&B chart) with “California My Way,” a decent enough bit of light R&B. In the chart released thirty-six years ago today, the single was just short of its peak, sitting at No. 76.
As 1974 began to head toward 1975, disco was beginning to pop up more and more in the charts. I don’t know exactly when to date the beginning of the disco era, but if we weren’t quite there yet in November 1974, we were very close. And one of the most fun – and frankly, a little bit screwball – records of the beginning of that era was “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. Sitting at No. 90 on November 23, in its first week in the Hot 100, “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” would enter the Top 40 during the last week of the year and peak in early 1975 at No. 10. (Later in 1975, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes would reach No. 23 with “I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo [Doo Dat Dance], Part 1.”)
All-Music Guide says of Dick Feller, “Best-known for a brief run of country novelty hits in the mid-’70s, Dick Feller was also a songwriter responsible for several hits by other artists, most notably his oftentime writing partner, Jerry Reed.” And in fact, it was Jerry Reed I thought of this morning when I heard Feller’s 1974 recording, “The Credit Card Song” for the first time. An almost spoken-word tale of Feller’s introduction to computerized record-keeping and what we now call customer service, the record was at No. 105 in the Bubbling Under section of the chart thirty-six years ago today. It dropped one spot in the next week, and then, as far as I can see, fell off the chart for a week before coming back and bubbling under for another four weeks, never going higher than No. 105. On the country chart, however, “The Credit Card Song” went to No. 10.