So, as high school ended in early June 1971 and the summer stretched ahead, offering what turned out to be hours riding lawnmowers and wielding mops, what was I listening to?
Well, the first survey of June 1971 offered by the Twin Cities’ KDWB had this Top Ten:
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Want Ads” by Honey Cone
“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Indian Reservation” by the Raiders
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Albert Flasher” by the Guess Who
“It’s Too Late” by Carole King
“Chick-A-Boom” by Daddy Dewdrop
The only one of those I do not recall is the Donny Osmond record. I listened to it the other day, and I don’t think I need to hear it again. Seven of the rest are on my iPod this morning; the two absentees are “Indian Reservation” and “Chick-A-Boom.”
By the time the summer drew to a close – and it was the longest summer break of my school days, as St. Cloud State did not begin its fall quarter until sometime around September 20 – here was KDWB’s Top Ten:
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Wedding Song” by Paul Stookey
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“I Woke Up In Love This Morning” by the Partridge Family
“Stick Up” by Honey Cone
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Mac & Katie Kissoon
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Superstar” by the Carpenters
Wow. Only three of those are among the more than 3,000 tracks on the iPod: The Bill Withers, the Lee Michaels and the Carpenters. Was it just an odd stretch on KDWB, or was it my changing tastes? Probably a little of both,
I got some records for graduation and added a few that summer. We may take a look at those acquisitions sometime soon, but for now, we’ll find a single among the twenty records that at least in a radio sense framed that long summer of 1971. And out of the ten of those twenty I still listen to today, one has never even been mentioned in more than nine years of filling up white space here.
That makes “Albert Flasher” by the Guess Who today’s Saturday Single.
It was early in the autumn of 1974, and – as was my habit – I was on campus early, right around seven o’clock. I don’t remember when my first class of the day was, but I’d take at least an hour, maybe more, to sip some coffee, read the Minneapolis paper and greet other folks from The Table as they stopped by before or between classes.
And every day for the first few weeks of that autumn, a young woman with dark blonde hair would come into the same area of the snack bar and settle at a table near the jukebox. Every day, she’d put a quarter into the machine and punch the buttons for just one song. Every day, she’d sit at her table and listen as Diana Ross made her way through Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache.”
And every day, after the record ended, she’d sit for a few minutes more and then gather her books and leave.
Eventually, as often happens between strangers who see each other every day, she’d nod and give me a half-smile as she arrived or as she departed. We began to talk, briefly at first. Then one day, instead of sitting alone at her own table, she sat at the long table with me. Over the next few weeks, she became a regular at The Table. And she quit starting her day with “Good Morning Heartache.”
We were friends. I think she wanted more, but my hopes were elsewhere that autumn. Still, she and a friend of hers were frequently at The Table through October, taking part in the good-natured needling and the sometimes ribald chatter. Then my quarter ended abruptly at the end of October, and I spent November at home.
When I came back to school in December, she was gone. Back to the Twin Cities after an unanticipated twist in her life, my other friends told me. As far as I know, no one ever heard from her again. And I still sometimes wonder, thirty-seven years later, why she listened to “Good Morning Heartache” every morning for those first weeks that autumn. I probably should have asked her.
The other thing I wonder about, and this is far less important, is why the Diana Ross tune was in the Atwood Center jukebox in the autumn of 1974 when its time in the charts had been in early 1973. I was digging around in the Billboard charts last evening, and saw that “Good Morning Heartache” had been at No. 34 in the Hot 100 in the chart that came out on March 17, 1973, thirty-eight years ago today. The record – from the soundtrack to Lady Sing the Blues – would go no higher and would fall out of the Hot 100 four weeks later. Why in the world would it show up in the Atwood jukebox seventeen months after that? (Readers with a good memory for unimportant detail will recall that I wondered the same thing about Shawn Phillips’ “We,” which topped out at No. 89 in January 1973 and then showed up in the Atwood jukebox during that same autumn of 1974.)
I have no answers for any questions this morning, so I think we’ll just move a little further down the Hot 100 from March 17, 1973.
That brings me to a group I’d never heard about until this week: Cymande, described by Joel Whitburn as an “Afro-rock band from the West Indies.” The octet’s single, “The Message,” was at No. 48 and would go no higher (though it went to No. 22 on the R&B chart). The only other single from Cymande that Whitburn lists in Top Pop Singles is “Bra,” a tune that All-Music Guide calls the band’s reaction to the women’s movement. It topped out at No. 102 during the summer of 1973. “The Message” is a pretty good single, funky and danceable, and it’s one I wish I’d heard years ago.
Another single with a West Indies tinge to it was sitting at No. 61 back in 1973, and it came from an unlikely source. “Follow Your Daughter Home” by the Guess Who – another tune I’d never heard until this week, as far as I know – has an undeniable and catchy island tinge to it. I would imagine that listeners and radio folks had no real idea what to do with the record, as it never got any higher in the chart. The band’s next charting single was “Star Baby,” which sounded a lot more like the Guess Who that scored seven Top 40 hits in 1969 and 1970 alone. It’s too bad “Follow Your Daughter Home” didn’t do better. It would be fun to hear it once in a while on the oldies stations instead of listening to “These Eyes” again.
From No. 61 we’re going to drop to the Bottom 10 from the March 17, 1973 chart, as there are a few gems sitting in those depths.
Circus was a rock quintet from Cleveland that got one record into the Hot 100, and it’s a great one. “Stop, Look & Listen” spent four weeks on the chart without getting any higher than No. 91, which is where it was thirty-eight years ago today. Beyond that, the only thing I really know about Circus is that “Stop, Look & Listen” should have done much, much better than it did.
One of the nine-day wonders of early 1973 was the racy movie “Last Tango in Paris,” featuring major star Marlon Brando and the relatively unknown (in the U.S., at least) Maria Schneider. I’ve never seen the movie but I’ve got the wonderful soundtrack by jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri. And in early 1973, a cover of the film’s main theme by Herb Alpert and the TJB hung around the lower portions of the Hot 100. It sat at No. 94 in the March 17 chart and would peak at No. 77. It’s a good record, but it doesn’t come near to having the power of Barbieri’s original. (Another trumpet cover of the movie’s main theme, by Doc Severinsen, made a run at the Hot 100 in late March 1973 but never got any higher than No. 103.)
Our last tune of the day finds us at No. 98 with the record that gave Dennis Yost & The Classics IV their next-to-last stay on the chart. “Rosanna,” a decent country-ish ballad, was in its second week in the Hot 100, and would be there one more week, rising to No. 95. Two years later, Yost and The Classics IV would get to No. 94 with “My First Day Without Her.”I’ve never heard that last one, but “Rosanna” was okay. There have been worse records that have gone higher, but then again, there have been better ones that never got to No. 95. Whichever way you look at it, “Rosanna” is a pretty good listen.
There had been rumors for more than a year, but the news came out of London in the spring of 1970: Paul McCartney announced his departure from the band and then released McCartney, his first solo album, in April, just weeks before the scheduled release of Let It Be, which turned out to be the group’s final album.
To a fan in the American Midwest, one who’d only recently begun to listen seriously to the Beatles, the news was sparse. I’d imagine that my family paid more attention to current events than did a lot of folks in St. Cloud. We subscribed to two daily newspapers and to Time magazine. We listened to the world and state-wide news on the radio as we ate breakfast every morning. We frequently watched the evening news on television. We were about as plugged into current events as folks could be forty years ago. And I remember the dissolution of the Beatles being covered by all of those media: television and radio news, the daily newspapers and Time magazine. About the only additional source available that would have clarified – perhaps – the events was Rolling Stone, a magazine I’d eventually read, but not for a few years. (Newsweek magazine, which at the time seemed a little more tuned into entertainment and the like than was Time, might have given me a bit more information, but only a little, I think.)
But other than adding Rolling Stone to my mix of sources, there were no other places to go for information. I couldn’t click my way to forty-nine different websites for music and entertainment news. I couldn’t walk the remote control up fifty-five channels to see what the various cable outlets had to say. So my friends and I had nothing other than the very basic information that came through those very basic sources.
Beyond a galaxy of information sources that seemed like science fiction forty years ago, today’s media mix also includes the results of research, the release of archives and the revising of history that comes along to every major event as the years pass. We know more now about the events of those years, the Sixties and Seventies, and that includes the end of the Beatles. We know about the bickering during the Get Back sessions in 1969, we know about the hours of unfinished tape essentially laid in the lap of Phil Spector, which he cobbled into the Let It Be album, we know about the Beatles pulling it together to record Abbey Road, and we probably know more now than we really want to know about both the great and dismal portions of that last year of the band’s life.
(I should note here that I like Let It Be as Spector produced it. I recognize its limitations and find the short song jokes and asides a little tedious these days. But it was the first Beatles LP I’d ever bought, and as such it has some value to me. McCartney’s revisiting of the project a few years ago, resulting in Let It Be Naked, is interesting but not all that compelling.)
Anyway, to get out of the thickets and back to where I thought I was going, there were far fewer sources of information about, well, about anything and not just the Beatles back in 1970. And as the year moved on, Rick and I and our pals at his school and mine traded rumors about what would happen next. And we heard in the autumn of 1970 that George Harrison was going to release a three-LP album at the end of the year.
Now, we knew that Harrison had provided one, maybe two songs per Beatles album for years. We had no idea that he could’ve done so much more had he been given the opportunities. (It’s worth keeping in mind, I think, that, as good as many of his compositions turned out to be, Harrison was fighting for album space with the best pair of writers in the history of rock music. It was a tough spot to be in.) Nor did we have any idea that his impending album had been recorded with the same musicians who made up Derek & The Dominos and Delaney & Bonnie’s Friends (with a few other friends thrown in). Not having any information beyond the fact that album, All Things Must Pass, existed, we didn’t know what to think.
We got a preview in early December when “My Sweet Lord” popped up on radio, on its way to No. 1, and we liked what we heard. (We were utterly unaware that Harrison had, evidently accidentally, plagiarized the melody for “My Sweet Lord” from the Chiffons’ 1963 hit, “He’s So Fine.” We’d been nine when the Chiffons’ song was on the radio.) And sometime during December 1970, Rick wound up with a copy of All Things Must Pass.
I borrowed it and taped it, of course, and during the winter of 1970-71, as I played Don Quixote to my Dulcinea, I spent many evenings listening to Harrison’s work. I pretty much ignored the “Apple Jam” that made up the third disc of the three-record set. But the rest of the album became ingrained. I remember now leaving a purple-ink copy of the lyrics to Harrison’s valedictory “All Things Must Pass” in my young lady’s locker. I bought the book of sheet music for the album and began to master “Beware Of Darkness.” And I lost myself in the surreal lyrics of the song that became my favorite on the album:
I still like the song a lot.
A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 11
“Hitchcock Railway” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker! 
“No Time” by the Guess Who, RCA 0300 
“The Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)” by George Harrison from All Things Must Pass 
“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk, Capitol 3660 
“The Circle Is Small (I Can See It In Your Eyes)” by Gordon Lightfoot from Endless Wire 
“Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson from Thriller 
I’ve written about most of these songs and/or these artists before, so there are only a few things to say. First, about Grand Funk: I was not a fan during my high school and college years. I recall that one of the guys who’d worked on the lawn-mowing crew during the summer of 1971 loaned me the group’s 1970 album Grand Funk for a few weeks. I was still unimpressed. And I’m not sure that I was all that taken by “We’re An American Band” when it came charging out of the radio speakers in the last weeks of the summer of 1973. I left for Denmark early that September, so I wasn’t around when the record hit No. 1 at the end of the month, and the record was never really a part of my internal soundtrack. But when the song popped up during my sorting for this project, I put it in the keeper pile without a moment’s hesitation. In 2010, “We’re An American Band” sounds a lot better than a lot of things that I thought sounded pretty good in 1973.
“No Time” is probably my favorite Guess Who record, and the Guess Who was a pretty reliable singles band during my first couple years of Top 40 listening. The record went to No. 5, and I can’t ever hear it without being pulled back to February of 1970: Rick, Rob and I, along with a friend of Rob’s whose name I have lost, are heading to the Twin Cities to see the Minnesota North Stars play the Montreal Canadiens. We expect the North Stars to lose because, well, the Canadiens are the defending Stanley Cup champions. But somehow, the Stars manage a 1-1 tie, and as we drive back to St. Cloud late that evening, we hear “No Time.”
I don’t know whether the video I’ve found of “Billie Jean” is the single or the album track (or if there’s a difference, for that matter). The single spent seven weeks at No. 1 in the Top 40 and nine weeks at the top of the R&B chart. As is true of almost everything else from Thriller, if the song doesn’t make you wanna dance, you might as well be a zombie.
My affection for “Hitchcock Railway” comes from three sources. First, the version that closes Side One of Joe Cocker! still gives chills. Second, when I saw Cocker live in the spring of 1972, he took on “Hitchcock Railway” toward the end of the show, and his performance redeemed what had been to that point a less-than-good concert. Third, I have – through Patti Dahlstrom and this blog – the Internet version of a nodding acquaintance with the song’s writer, Don Dunn, and that’s kind of cool.
I wrote once long ago about my first boss, DQ, and how we staff members at the Monticello Times used to tease him about his affection for the music of Gordon Lightfoot. I joined in the joshing although, had truth been told, I also enjoyed Lightfoot’s music. During my nearly six years at the Times, I gathered in a few Lightfoot albums, and gathered in more as time went on. Many tracks from those albums were candidates for this project; the most difficult to discard were “If You Could Read My Mind” and the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.” Two of Lightfoot’s tracks made it into the final list, and one of those is “The Circle Is Small (I Can See It In Your Eyes),” which went to No. 38 during the spring of 1978. It’s one of the Lightfoot tunes that I first heard in the offices of the Monticello Times.