‘I’m Doin’ Fine Now . . .’

Hi and welcome back! Garden Week is over, and we have plenty of small plants and seeds in the two gardens ready to do their things, given enough sunlight and water over the next eight to twelve weeks: Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers (mostly sweet), eggplant, onions, lettuce, green and wax beans, black-eyed peas and maybe more that I can’t think of at the moment.

Along with gardening work, we managed to try the ribs and beans from Smokin’ D’s, a new barbecue place in Sauk Rapids, the little burg just north of here. The verdict was split: The Texas Gal, true to her roots, prefers the ribs from Dickey’s, which originated in Dallas, while I like both the ribs and the beans from Smokin’ D’s a little more.

We also took in a movie, using a gift card someone gave us to watch good portions of California being destroyed in San Andreas. What did we get? A clichéd plot, which we expected. Indifferent acting, which was not surprising. And great special effects, which is exactly what the movie promised.

That brings us up to date, as we sit here on June 2, with the summer underway (in a cultural sense; the solstice will arrive on June 21). And in search of an idea, I pulled up the Billboard Hot 100 from June 2, 1973, when I was working at St. Cloud State, spending my mornings doing maintenance on audio-visual equipment all over the campus and my afternoons as a janitor in the Education Building.

The top ten forty-two weeks ago, as I washed projector lenses in the morning and blackboards in the afternoon, was:

“My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Daniel” by Elton John
“Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group
“Pillow Talk” by Sylvia
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando
“You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” by Barry White
“Little Willy” by the Sweet
“Hocus Pocus” by Focus
“Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes

Boy, that’s a long way from being a great Top Ten; none of those are records I’d request to hear on the radio, either then or now, and several of them – the records by Sylvia, Dawn, the Sweet and Clint Holmes – are guaranteed to make me find another station.

But maybe I’d have turned on the radio and found something from the next ten, which would have made for a much better bit of listening:

“Drift Away” by Dobie Gray
“Reeling In The Years” by Steely Dan
“Wildflower” by Skylark
“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison
“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel
“Right Place Wrong Time” by Dr. John
“Steamroller Blues/Fool” by Elvis Presley
“I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City
“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston
“Thinking Of You” by Loggins & Messina

The record that jumps out of there for me, oddly, is “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City. I probably didn’t hear it as frequently as I heard the rest of that second ten, and I know it’s gotten much less play on oldies radio over the years than most of the rest of that bunch (along with, I would guess, the Elvis sides). But I liked it, and I recall the slight burst of satisfaction in March 1999 when the Harlem-based group’s album – also titled I’m Doin’ Fine Now – popped up in the new arrivals at Cheapo’s just a few blocks from my South Minneapolis apartment.

Did the album track sound as good in 1999 as the single had coming out of the radio twenty-six years earlier? Well, yes, mostly because it and most of the records in that second ten from June 2, 1973, offer the sound of that summer as well as any group of records I can think of. (There are a few I might add, but not many.) The single went one more spot up the chart, peaking at No. 17 (and at No. 14 on the R&B chart). It was by far the best-performing single the group ever had: four more were in or near the Hot 100, but none of them went higher than No. 79.

And you know, it still sounds pretty good today.

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