Chart Digging: February 1972

As the winter of 1971-72 was thinking about loosening its grip, right about this time thirty-nine years ago, I spent the second of two weekends visiting friends in Stearns Hall, one of the men’s dorms at St. Cloud State.

I was staying with a couple of guys I knew, the guys who were the foundation of my social life on campus for a good chunk of that freshman year. I’d met them late the previous summer, when we’d occupied adjacent rooms during an overnight campus orientation for incoming freshmen. Living no more than a mile from the campus, I really didn’t need the overnight accommodations for the orientation, but I signed up anyway, hoping to meet some people.

And I did. Rick from Wyoming, Minnesota, and Dave from (I think) St. Paul were good guys, and through them, during the school year, I met others, guys and gals both. We all ate lunch together almost every day. We spent good chunks of a couple evenings a week and most weekends together. And twice during the year, I packed a small suitcase and rolled up a sleeping bag on a Friday afternoon and stayed on campus for the weekend.

During the first weekend, which took place in October, I think, we’d spent Friday evening (and early Saturday morning) at one of St. Cloud’s nearly countless keggers, sipping foamy beer from plastic cups. The party was on the northwest end of town, some distance from campus. I recall riding in the back seat in the early morning with one of the other guys driving vaguely and amid much laughter in the general direction of the college, which we eventually found. (From the perspective of almost forty years, that drive was, of course, chillingly unwise and unsafe, but that didn’t deter us.)

After whiling away Saturday’s daytime – spent hanging around with other dorm friends, shooting hoops on the parking lot, visiting a downtown record store or two and buying snacks at the nearby grocery store – we again found a party on Saturday night, this one close to campus, so our drunken post-party trip back to the dorm was shorter and on foot. On Sunday, sometime after lunch, I went home.

As I planned my February stay with the guys, I expected the weekend to be similar. It was and it wasn’t, but two things make that second weekend I spent on campus stand out:

First, somehow – and the details were cloudy then and are even more so after nearly forty years – Rick from Kilian Boulevard joined us in our Saturday evening partying. That was fine with my on-campus pals; they’d met Rick during visits to the East Side, so he came along as we found a party or two close to campus for the evening and then made our ways back to the dorm sometime after midnight.

Second, while chatting earlier that week with a secretary in Headley Hall – one of the buildings where I’d scrubbed and polished floors the summer before – I’d been introduced to a young woman who was a student worker there. Near the bookstore Friday morning, I ran into the same young woman. In the course of our conversation, I asked her if she wanted to hang around with us on Friday evening. She did so, and we got along well, which led to me spending a couple of hours with her on Sunday. That pairing didn’t last long, but its beginnings made the on-campus weekend more memorable yet.

There were no more on-campus weekends for me that year, but I continued to spend a lot of my free time with Dave and Wyoming Rick until the academic year ended and they went home for the summer. By fall, however, I found myself moving in other directions and spending time with other people.

So it’s likely very normal that I’ve lost touch over the years with the folks from my freshman year of college. The college friends I still know come from three sources: The Table in Atwood, my Denmark group, or my fellow mass communications students. I do know where a couple of those first-year friends are: One of the women – Dave’s girlfriend for a good chunk of that freshman year – teaches in the same school district as my sister. And Dave is a writer based in Colorado, and has done some teaching. But beyond some perfunctory emails – “Yeah, life is fine and didn’t we have a good time back then?” – they’re gone from my life and I’m gone from theirs.

Their entrances and exits mattered, though: I recall the months before I met the Texas Gal in early 2000. During the summer of 1999, I was in a romance, the first I’d had in about ten years. It didn’t last long as a romance – a friendship still exists – and eleven years ago this week, the Texas Gal and I met. I believe that the summer pairing that didn’t last – as painful as that was – prepared me for the one that did last. In other words, as well as being enriching and difficult and fun and all the other stuff, that first romance in years helped make me ready for the Texas Gal.

And I think the same thing holds true about those friendships from my freshmen year, when all of us, I think, were trying to find out where we fit in. Even though none of those friendships has lasted, they did their work: In the years that followed, I found the places that Wyoming Rick and Dave and the others had helped me look for during that first year.

Part of that looking involved music, of course. It was Dave who introduced me to the Doors’ The Soft Parade and the long version of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” two of his favorites. When records weren’t turning during our gatherings, the radio was on. And I know that I heard at least one of the records in the Billboard Top Ten from February 19, 1972 during those quiet Sunday hours I spent with my new young ladyfriend:

“Without You” by Nilsson
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
“Hurting Each Other” by the Carpenters
“Precious and Few” by Climax
“Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night
“Down by the Lazy River” by the Osmonds
“American Pie (Parts 1 and 2)” by Don McLean
“Joy” by Apollo 100
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John
“Everything I Own” by Bread

That’s not a very distinctive Top Ten. The Nilsson, the Al Green and “American Pie” are welcome any time. Other than that, there’s nothing that I either really like or really dislike today although I was not fond of “Down by the Lazy River” at the time. I did hear “Precious and Few” far more often than necessary back then as Dave and his ladyfriend had tagged it as their song.

One record I didn’t hear enough back then – I’m not sure I heard it at all – is Wilson Pickett’s R&B version of “Fire and Water,” the title tune to Free’s 1970 album. Pickett’s brilliant reimagining of the tune (Free’s version is here) was sitting at No. 24 – its peak position in the Billboard Hot 100 – thirty-nine years ago this week. On the R&B chart, Pickett’s cover version spent two weeks at No. 2.

In 1970, Paul Revere and the Raiders had dropped Revere’s name to become simply the Raiders, and in 1971, they’d scored a No. 1 hit with “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Indian Reservation)” and reached No. 23 with “Birds of a Feather.” Their next appearance in the Hot 100 came from “Country Wine,” a pretty decent record that brings back memories of Boone’s Farm wine shared with those freshman year friends. (Hey, we were young and poor and knew no better!) The record was at No. 51 this week in 1972 and would go no higher.

Dropping a little bit further, we find a striking bit of vocal R&B at No. 64: “Love Gonna Pack Up (And Walk Out)” by the Persuaders. The record was the second by the Harlem group to hit the Hot 100; the classic “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” had gone to No. 15 in 1971 and had spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. “Love Gonna Pack Up . . .” didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 64 on the pop chart and making it to No. 8 on the R&B chart. But it’s just as atmospheric as “Thin Line . . .” and maybe more interesting, at least to me, for not having been heard as much over the years.

The Grass Roots’ “Glory Bound” doesn’t wander far away from the sound that had brought the band – staffed by a changing group of players behind singer Rob Grill – a total of eighteen Hot 100 hits through 1971. Well, maybe the piano is a bit more prominent than usual, but once the record gets going, the sound is familiar. And that sound worked again, to a degree, as “Glory Bound,” which was at No. 72 during this week in 1972, eventually made it to No. 34. It’s a good record, which I’m not sure I would have said back then, being pulled toward more “serious” rock music by the people I knew at the campus radio station. (The Grass Roots would have three more hits in the Hot 100, with one of them – “The Runaway” from later in 1972 – barely reaching the Top 40 and peaking at No. 39.)

The Fabulous Counts were a funk band from Detroit, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, and they hit the Hot 100 in the spring of 1970 with “Get Down People,” which went to No. 88 on the pop chart and to No. 32 on the R&B chart. In early 1972, the group was back in the Hot 100 but had changed its name to Lunar Funk. The group’s single “Mr. Penguin, Pt. 1” was a funky instrumental with brief spoken interjections by the titular Mr. Penguin. The record was at No. 82 during the third week of February 1972 and would peak at No. 63. It was the last hit for the group under any name.

Terry Black was a Canadian singer who (barely) hit the charts in 1964 at the age of fifteen: “Unless You Care” reached No. 99. More than seven years later, he and his wife, Laurel Ward, got almost halfway up the Hot 100, reaching No. 57 with “Goin’ Down (On the Road to L.A.).” During the third week of February, the record was in the second week of its climb and was sitting at No. 87. There’s nothing remarkable about the record, but it’s got a decent hook and decent production, and it sounds like a lot of other stuff from the time. (The record was also released in Canada, but I don’t know how well it did there.)

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3 Responses to “Chart Digging: February 1972”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Great post, whiteray. I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. I also spent about two weekends on campus my freshman year, except that I lived in the dorm but returned home each weekend to work at a part-time job.

    You nailed it on how the college social connections evolve over the academic years. My freshman year dorm group was pretty tight, always going to dinner together. My roommate and I were like oil and water, though. Jeff was a thespian from Cedar Rapids who tried his darndest to convince me that he was Jewish. I still laugh when I think about the day I picked up our mail at the front desk, then handed Jeff his copy of ‘Presbyterian Life’ magazine. Although I never fell for the ruse, Google tells me that he’s gone on to a successful career in his chosen field in Seattle.

    The only kegger I ever attended came not long before summer break, taking place on the Mississippi River flats just south of Minneapolis’ Franklin Avenue Bridge. It was only a couple blocks’ walk from the dorm, but getting back up the steep banks post imbibing proved to be, as you would say, problematic. Eric – a Chinese student from a few doors down – and I became fast friends on our arduous trek up what seemed like Mt. Everest. Not bad for having previously said nothing beyond “hi” in the hallways.

    Sophomore year I roomed with Mike from Little Falls, who’d lived across the hall the previous year. But things had changed; the freshman group had dispersed, he was devoting most of his time to studying architecture and I was drawn more into all things radio. By junior year, I’d joined a fraternity and the campus radio station, and those opportunities provided the lifelong connections.

    Of the six songs you linked to, we may have had the Raiders’ “Country Wine” amongst the college station’s current singles, but I don’t ever recall hearing or playing it. “Glory Bound” was in there, for sure. None of the others are at all familiar; soul and funk weren’t generally very popular with either the staff or listeners. Ditto for the two top-40 stations in town.

    We did play more than our fair share of Cancon records, but the Black & Ward single wasn’t among them. It was a much bigger U.S. hit than it was back home; “Goin’ Down (On The Road To L.A.)” spent the week of January 15th at number 99 on Canada’s RPM top pop singles chart, then vanished. Odder still, RPM listed the record under the U.S. Kama Sutra release number, rather than the Canadian Yorkville issue.

    Thanks for stirring more than a few fond memories.

  2. Paco Malo says:

    Happy Anniversary, whiteray and “Texas Gal”! Love rocks.

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