‘Mercy, Mercy On The Love Defenders . . .’

Even forty-one years later, I remember being a little baffled.

It was mid-December 1971, and I spent part of a weekday evening with my first two college buddies, Dave and Wyoming Rick. (I call him that to differentiate him from Kilian Boulevard Rick; the new Rick came from the small town of Wyoming, Minnesota.) They’d stayed in St. Cloud during the break between fall and winter quarters, and with the dorms closed, they were living with a group of other guys in the basement of a house south of campus.

(The house, as it turned out, was the home of one of Kilian Rick’s friends from Cathedral High School. At the time, it was on the edge of the campus area, across the street from a series of block-sized unpaved parking lots and not far from a packing plant; today, that area holds the university’s football stadium, the two-rink hockey center and a series of now-paved parking lots with a public bus hub.)

The three of us hung around their kitchen for a while and then decided to go get something to eat. Before we headed out, though, they brought out a squarish and flat paper bag that clearly held an LP. “We didn’t get it wrapped,” one of them said, “but we got you a Christmas present.”

I protested that I hadn’t gotten them anything, and they waved that off and told me to pull out my present. It was a used copy of Naturally, the Three Dog Night album released about a year earlier. I smiled and thanked them, and put the record in the back seat of my car as we headed out to find a cheap restaurant.

As I said above, I was baffled. I’d never paid much attention to Three Dog Night, and I doubted that I’d ever indicated to Dave or Wyoming Rick that I was looking for any of the group’s albums. I knew the group’s hit singles, of course, and had particularly liked “Eli’s Coming” and “Out in the Country.” I had one Three Dog Night LP, Captured Live at the Forum, and I suppose I might have dropped that 1969 album on the turntable when the two guys (and likely a few young women) had spent an evening hanging around in the basement rec room at my house.

Whatever their reasoning, I appreciated the gift, as the album turned out to be pretty good, one of the best in the (relatively) lengthy history of the group. The biggest hit from the record was “Joy to the World,” never one of my favorites, but the record also brought along “Liar” and “One Man Band,” which I liked pretty well. My favorite track on the record, however, was an album track: “Heavy Church,” written by Alan O’Day.

Looking at the comments for that video, one thing confuses me: There is a reference to “Heavy Church” having been a B-side, and I’m wondering on which single that was. I can’t find a reference to “Heavy Church” as a B-side. Does anyone out there know anything? (I did learn from a little bit of digging this morning that R&B singer Al Wilson, whose “Show and Tell” went to No. 1 in January 1974, released “Heavy Church” as a single, and I may have to spend a few nickels for a copy of that, as well as for a copy of Alan O’Day’s version of his own song.)

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3 Responses to “‘Mercy, Mercy On The Love Defenders . . .’”

  1. Charlie says:

    WOW! I thought I was the only person alive who loves and remembered “Heavy Church.” It truly was one of 3DN’s best songs, overall, not just a great album track. Sadly when I got the double disc box set a few years back it had all of the singles and many deep tracks but not “Heavy Church.” Thanks for giving this song some attention.

  2. Yah Shure says:

    The local Target store’s record department manager tipped me off one day that she’d just gotten in two or three copies of the then-new ‘Naturally’ album that had been ticketed around one dollar. Haven’t played the LP in at least several decades, but by the time TDN neared the first hook on the clip, “Heavy Church” became immediately recognizable. Score another assist for whiteray as the track moves to the “to digitize” pile.

    TDN’s “Heavy Church” was never issued as a U.S. Dunhill B-side, and the label’s foreign licensees generally mirrored the American TDN A/B pairings at that time. They might’ve been different on planet YouTube.

  3. carol says:

    Add me to the list of “Heavy Church” fans. Always a big favourite as a kid and it was pretty darn wonderful to hear it again after a long, long, looooong time. Thank you!

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