One Chart Dig: July 1970

Here’s what the top of the Billboard Hot 100 looked like in mid-July 1970, as I wandered through the last months before my senior year of high school:

“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“The Love You Save/I Found That Girl” by the Jackson 5
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by the Temptations
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers
“O-o-o Child/Dear Prudence” by the Five Stairsteps
“Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins
“Make It With You” by Bread

I don’t recall ever hearing the B-sides of the Jackson 5 and Five Stairsteps singles. Otherwise, every one of these records echoes in my head today, forty-eight years after their time. Did I like them all? Actually, yes, even the juvenile silliness of “Gimme Dat Ding.”

My pal Mike – whose mother was soon to banish me from their home because of my approval of the Beatles – brought the Pipkins single over one Saturday morning. We headed to the rec room in the basement, and I tried to tape the single, but without suitable equipment, every take was ruined by household noise. Finally, we were seconds away from getting the job done when Rick – coming over from across the street – gave me his regular signal of his arrival by tapping three times on the basement window. In exasperation and amusement, we gave up.

With that, we’re going to leave that Top Ten behind and dive deep, checking out – as we’ve been doing recently – the very bottom of the Hot 100, the record parked this week in 1970 at No. 100. And there we find “Long Lonely Nights” by the Dells.

I expected a sad tune, but the hard hitting “Lonely nights!” intro – which seemed to promise something up-tempo – threw me. And after that bit of oddness, the record settled into a standard Dells joint: Harmonies and sad sounds, swirling strings and punchy horns, a little bit of spoken word melancholy. Then, at the end, we get an unsettling reprise of the up-tempo “Lonely nights!” It’s as if the Dells and producer Bobby Miller weren’t sure what kind of record they wanted to make.

And whether it was the odd mix of up-tempo and slow sounds or something else, the record didn’t do very well. It peaked at No. 74 in the Hot 100 and at No. 27 in the magazine’s R&B chart. Here it is:

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