Saturday Single No. 237

Sometime during this last winter – I think it was in February – the Texas Gal and I joined my pal Dan and his wife along with his two brothers and their wives for dinner and a performance at the Paramount Theater in downtown St. Cloud.

The attraction was an evening of the music of the Eagles, performed by the Fabulous Armadillos, a pretty well-known area tribute band, and a group called the Collective Unconscious. It was a very fun evening; the performances were pretty well spot-on, and it was good to spend some time with Dan and the rest of his family. (I’d known one of his brothers since we shared some classes at St. Cloud State, but it had been years since we’d had a chance to talk to each other.)

Our seats were scattered throughout the restored theater’s main floor, and during the intermission, Dan made his way over to where the Texas Gal and I sat. He plopped into the seat next to me, and after a few minutes of talking about the show, we began talking about how our musical interests had formed. And he said something interesting: “I think that every music fan has a about a five- or six-year period – call it a sweet spot – and the music from those years influences that person’s listening for the rest of his life.”

That made sense. His sweet spot, if I recall correctly, ran from 1972 to 1977. He’s a couple years younger than I am, and those years cover the end of his junior year of high school through a couple years of college. Mine, I told him, covers nearly the same period of my life, starting the summer before my junior year in 1969 and running through 1974.

A quick look at the distribution of records in the Ultimate Jukebox project verifies that: Of the 228 records in that list, 108 come from 1969-1974. And along with being an interesting idea, the concept of a sweet spot – which I think I’ve mentioned a time or two along the way – provides another way to sort information.

So the thought this morning is to take a look briefly at the Billboard Hot 100 charts released in the first week of May during the years I consider my sweet spot: 1969 through1974. And because today is May 7 – 5/7 – I’m going to look at the No. 1 tunes and then at the tunes that were at No. 57 during those weeks. Maybe we’ll find some previously un-noticed gems.

In 1969, the first Billboard Hot 100 of the month was dated May 3. Topping the chart for the fourth week was “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)” by the 5th Dimension. The most successful of the group’s thirty-one records in or bubbling under the Hot 100, it would stay in the No. 1 spot for two more weeks. Fifty-six places lower on the chart sat Tyrone Davis with “Is It Something You’ve Got,” his second hit record (after 1968’s “Can I Change My Mind”). “Is It Something You’ve Got” was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 34. Davis eventually placed twenty records in or near the Hot 100.

During the first week of May in 1970 – in the Hot 100 dated May 2 – the No. 1 record is “ABC” by the Jackson 5. It was in its second week at the top of the chart, and was the second of four No. 1 hits and the second of thirty-one total records in the Hot 100 for the group from Gary, Indiana. At No. 57 that week, we find some country: “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife,” by Marty Robbins. One of thirty-five records by Robbins to make the Hot 100 or bubble under it, the single was retreating from its peak at No. 42. (Robbins was far more prolific on the country charts, of course: He put a total of eighty-three records into the country Top 40 between 1952 and 1983.)

As I was opening the file of the Hot 100 for the first week in May 1971, I made a guess as to the No. 1 record. And I was right: It was “Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night. By the time the chart dated May 1 was released, the Hoyt Axton tune had been at No. 1 for four weeks and had another two weeks left in the top spot. It was the second of three No. 1 hits for Three Dog Night and the tenth of the group’s eventual twenty-two singles in or bubbling under the Hot 100. And at No. 57, we find a performer whose name doesn’t often pop up in thought or conversation any more: Perry Como, with “I Think Of You.” The record, which marked the fiftieth time that Como had either reached the Hot 100 or bubbled under it, had peaked at No. 53 a week earlier and was on its way down the chart. Como would end up with fifty-three records in the Hot 100 or the Bubbling Under section.

By 1972, as I’ve written before, I was listening less to Top 40 and more to albums. But as long as there were radios in cars and jukeboxes in restaurants and songs used in movies, the Top 40 would remain familiar. Sitting at No. 1 in the Hot 100 dated May 6 was in fact a song I’d first heard in the movie Play Misty For Me: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack was in the No. 1 slot for the fourth week with two weeks to go. Deeper in the Hot 100, at No. 57, was a double-sided single that had already been in the chart for eight weeks and would eventually climb to No. 2: Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song.” Flack would end up with twenty-one records in or near the Hot 100 – the last in 1980 – and Preston would score nineteen such records, the last in 1981.

“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” was in third week at No. 1 when the Billboard Hot 100 dated May 5, 1973 was released. Credited to Dawn, the record would stay at No. 1 for another week and provide Tony Orlando and the rest of the group their second No. 1 hit (“Knock Three Times” topped the chart in 1971). Counting Orlando’s pre-1970 work, he and Dawn reached the Hot 100 twenty-five times between 1961 and 1979, with four early singles perching in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart. At the same time as people were thinking about tying ribbons to trees, the Staple Singers were holding down the No. 57 slot on the chart with “Oh La De Da,” a live performance from the previous summer’s Wattstax concert in Los Angeles. The single was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 33. The Staples would end up with fifteen singles in the Hot 100 and one more that bubbled under between 1967 and 1984.

The first week of May in 1974 is the last one we’ll take a double-barreled look at this morning. Sitting in the top spot in the chart dated May 4, 1974, was “The Loco-Motion,” Grand Funk’s cover of Little Eva’s 1962 hit. It was Grand Funk’s second No. 1 hit (“We’re An American Band,” 1973), and was one of nineteen records the band put into the Hot 100 (with an additional record bubbling under) between 1969 and 1981. At No. 57 that week was ‘Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” by Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods,” in the third week of its climb to No. 2. It was the second of five eventual Hot 100 hits between 1972 and 1975 for the group from Cincinnati, Ohio.

So our early May adventures through the years of my sweet spot bring us six very familiar No. 1 records and six No. 57 records that range from familiar to obscure. And sifting through the less well-known records, there is one gem: Tyrone Davis’ “Is It Something You’ve Got” from 1969. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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