With September here this morning, and considering the prospect of a 45-year high school reunion later this month, I thought about the long-ago month of September of 1971. As the month started, I was ready to go back to school, to get started on my freshman year at St. Cloud State.
But the fall quarter didn’t begin until sometime after September 20, leaving me three more weeks of scrubbing floors on campus during evening shifts with my friend Mike. The quarter’s late start was disconcerting; it felt odd to see the neighborhood kids head off to Lincoln Elementary, South Junior High and Tech High while I spent my daytime doing chores around the house and listening to the radio.
Here’s some of what I was hearing during those odd days, the top ten on the Twin Cities’ KDWB during this week in 1971:
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Wedding Song (There Is Love)” by Paul Stookey
“I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth
“Liar” by Three Dog Night
“Sweet Hitchhiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Beginnings/Colour My World” by Chicago
“Smiling Faces” by the Undisputed Truth
“Stick-Up” by the Honeycone
“Won’t Be Fooled Again” by the Who
“Bangla-Desh” by George Harrison
I liked all of those, some more than others, of course. I knew the Chicago B-side and the McCartneys’ record well by then, as Ram and Chicago were regularly on the turntable in the rec room. And as I looked this morning at the rest of KDWB’s 6+30 from that week, things were pretty familiar, too, until I got to No. 31: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.
I knew the artists, of course. Their “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” is one of the records that brings back in an instant the summer of 1976 and my departure from Kilian Boulevard. But “New Jersey”? In 1971? I didn’t remember that from 1971 although something about the record was tickling my memory. So I went digging.
The record got some airplay on KDWB, but not a lot: It was in the 6+30 for about eight weeks and peaked at No. 22. How did it do elsewhere?
Well, the massive collection of Top 40 surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive shows little love for “New Jersey” anywhere except the Twin Cities. The record shows up on four other stations’ lists: It was listed as an “Instant Preview” in mid-August on the Music Guide offered by KRCB in Omaha/Council Bluffs. A week earlier than that, KAFY in Bakersfield, California, tagged the record “hit-bound” in its “Big 55.” In September, the record went to No. 12 on KSPD in Boise, Idaho, and to No. 7 on WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina.
Sadly, ARSA doesn’t have any surveys from stations in New Jersey during September 1971, nor are there any surveys there that came out of Austin, Texas, the duo’s home base, during that month. Maybe the record did better in those places, but I don’t know. In any case, even though ARSA doesn’t have complete archives, it seems to me that being listed on surveys from only five stations is a pretty slender showing.
Finally, we’ll go to the big book: Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where we find that “New Jersey” pretty well flopped: The A&M release bubbled under the Hot 100 for all four weeks of September 1971, never rising higher than No. 103.
For all that, it’s not a bad record, even though a first-time listener might think from the introduction that he’s listening to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” And with that in mind, I finally recalled where I’d previously heard “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley. The track was on a collection of the duo’s early work given to me about a year ago by pal Yah Shure. So here it is: