Chart Digging: Mid-January 1972

January of 1972 is mostly a blank spot. I know I’d just started my second quarter at St. Cloud State. I recall two of the classes I took: Music Theory 1 and a one-credit practicum at KVSC, the campus radio station; as a result of the latter, I began to spend a lot of time hanging around the station’s offices. I recall that I wasn’t dating anyone and that I was still palling around with Dave and Chisago Rick and the other guys I met during orientation the summer before.

But nothing much happened, as far as I remember. I was just there. And looking at the Billboard Top Ten from this week in 1972, I get the same kind of sense. Nothing all that interesting was going on.

Well, maybe that’s not fair to Don McLean, whose “American Pie” hit No. 1 that week; it would stay there for four weeks. At the time, McLean’s coded history of rock ’n’ roll was – as I’ve noted before – the fodder for lengthy discussions: What did this line mean? Who was the jester? But after many listenings, many interpretations and forty years, the record has lost its power. I mean, I still sing along when it pops up on the car radio, but the record no longer amazes me the way it did during that long-ago January.

Sitting below McLean’s opus in the Top Ten were some good records, but I don’t see much else that made me say “Wow” back then or would do so today:

“Brand New Key” by Melanie
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards
“Family Affair” by Sly & the Family Stone
“Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey & the Detroit Guitar Band
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the New Seekers
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Hey Girl/I Knew You When” by Donny Osmond
“Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright

I know some folks who loved “Scorpio” (and still do), but I don’t recall hearing it all that much. I guess the best of that bunch for me was “Let’s Stay Together,” which I still like today. The rest of those records didn’t move me much then and still don’t.

That disenchantment (if that’s not too strong a word) was paired with the album rock ethos I discovered early in 1972 at KVSC. The station still played classical music during the daytime, but we shifted to rock in the evenings, and the only person in the studios and office who ever listened to the classical music going on the air was the disc jockey on duty in the main booth. For the rest of us, one or another of the other turntables in the studio was used to play albums that the evening and night-time jocks had brought in from their own collections.

So I wasn’t all that thrilled with what I heard on the radio in the car or when I was hanging around with Dave and Chisago Rick and the others. But as I dig into the lower portions of the Billboard Hot 100 from January 15, 1972, I find a number of records that I think I would have liked to hear coming out of the radio speakers.

Four of the six records below are by R&B acts that I’m rather familiar with today (though that would not have been the case forty years ago). The other two are by acts I’d not heard of until I began digging through that distant Hot 100, one a pop group and the other an R&B singer.

Little Johnny Taylor was a blues singer who passed on in 2002 and who spent much of his performing life not being Johnnie Taylor, the R&B singer who had memorable hits with “Who’s Making Love” and “Disco Lady.”  Little Johnny Taylor’s only Top 40 hit came in 1963, when “Part Time Love” went to No. 19 (and to No. 1 on the R&B chart). In mid-January 1972, the bluesy “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing, Pt. 1” was sitting at its peak of No. 60. It would be the last of seven Johnny Taylor records to reach or bubble under the Hot 100; six of his records reached the R&B Top 40. (The video I’m linking to includes both sides of the 45 – Part 1 and Part 2.)

I’m pretty sure I knew about Junior Walker & The All Stars in early 1972, if for no other reasons than the two No. 4 singles the group scored: “Shotgun” in 1965 and “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969. But I had no clue that “Way Back Home” was in the chart that January. The song can be filed with other tunes that catalog the desire to go back to one’s southern roots; “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South and “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips come quickly to mind although there are many others. As mid-January rolled past, “Way Back Home” was at No. 68. It went only to No. 52 for some reason; it sounds to me as if it should have done much better.

On the other end of the familiarity scale, I found N.F. Porter and his “Keep On Keeping On” sitting at No. 77. I know next to nothing about Porter, just that he was an R&B singer who also recorded as Nolan Porter and just plain Nolan, which meant he had a different billing for all three records he got into the lower portions of the Hot 100 (and into the R&B Top 40) between 1971 and 1973. “Keep On Keeping On” was the second of the three, and No. 77 was as high as it would climb. (The first record, “I Like What You Give,” went to No. 70, and the third, “If I Could Only Be Sure,” peaked at No. 88.) “Keep On . . .” is a good record, but maybe the coolest thing about it is that – like its predecessor – it was released on the Lizard label.

The Detroit Emeralds have shown up in this space twice before when I’ve dug into the charts, and, as I research these posts, I find myself perking up whenever I see the group’s name. This time, “You Want It, You Got It” was the title I saw, and the record didn’t disappoint. It turns out to have been the first of two Top 40 hits for the group, peaking at No. 36 (and at No. 5 on the R&B chart). The only record that did better for the Emeralds – who were actually from Little Rock, Arkansas – was “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms,)” which went to No. 24 (No. 4 R&B) in the spring of 1972.

We’ll take a break from blues and R&B for a moment with a rather odd, almost psychedelic version of the folk song “Five Hundred Miles” as recorded by a group billed as Heaven Bound with Tony Scotti. At the time the single was released, Scotti – according to All-Music Guide – had produced albums for Petula Clark and Joey Heatherton and would go on to produce for Jim Stafford and the Bellamy Brothers. (Three of the members of Heaven Bound – Joan Medora, Eddie Medora and Tommy Oliver – have significant writing credits listed at AMG; I suspect the same would be true for Michael Lloyd if I could find the correct Michael Lloyd.) “Five Hundred Miles” was the second of three singles by Heaven Bound to reach or bubble under the Hot 100, and it peaked at No. 79, the highest any of the three singles went. (When you click on the player, be prepared to think for a few moments that you’re hearing a cover of the Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine.”)

The difficulty of being “the other man” is the topic of the last record in today’s digging: “If I Could See The Light” by the Detroit group 8th Day. While perhaps not as good as the group’s “She’s Not Just Another Woman,” which went to No. 11 in 1971, “If I Could See The Light” rolls along in an infectious up-tempo R&B groove. It was sitting at No. 89 during mid-January 1972, heading toward its peak of No. 79. It’s an energetic – if ethically dubious – way to close today’s digging.

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2 Responses to “Chart Digging: Mid-January 1972”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    I was so wrapped up in Melanie and Sly that I missed the Rev. Al for many years. I have a copy of the greatest hits record on CD, now. You can’t always get what you want, but you can steal what you need. Mick Jagger didn’t say that, although the idea is based on Jagger Richards compostion “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. (I should mention I found Let It Bleed much, much later. But not too late.)

  2. […] week ago, as I explored tunes buried in the deeper portions of the Billboard chart in mid-January 1972, I shared the version of […]

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