No. 47, Forty-Seven Years Ago

We’ve not done anything in 1973 since sometime last year, so I thought we’d fire up the Symmetry machine and jump into the middle of April 1973.

I was finishing my second academic year at St. Cloud State, but I recall at most two of the classes I took. I think I repeated the basic history class I’d failed during my first quarter on campus, replacing African history with a look at Nineteenth Century anarchism in Europe. And with more than a hundred other folks, I was taking an orientation to Denmark (once a week, I think), and as we met, I had no clue that most of the people in that room would become friends with whom I would still gather more than forty years later.

(Of course, at nineteen, I couldn’t conceive of things being forty years later. Hell, I trouble trying to figure out what life was going to be like five months later when most of us in that room headed out to Denmark. And I kind of knew that however I envisioned it, it would be different.)

Otherwise, I was hanging around at The Table in the student union, laughing and sipping coffee with about ten other folks, three of whom remain in my life today. And I assume we heard at least some of mid-April’s Billboard Top Ten as we gathered not far from the jukebox:

“The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence
“Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye)” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn feat. Tony Orlando
“Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)” by the Four Tops
“Sing” by the Carpenters
“The Cisco Kid” by War
“Danny Song” by Anne Murray
“Break Up To Make Up” by the Stylistics
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green

Well, the records by Gladys Knight, the Four Tops, the Stylistics, Roberta Flack and Al Green save that set of ten, although “Neither One Of Us” is one of Knight’s lesser efforts (and the same might be said of the Four Tops’ record).

Lawrence’s attempt at a southern gothic tale of good ole boys, illicit romance, murder and lynching has always fallen flat to me, with too much pop sheen and too lilting a chorus. Slow it down a fair amount, add some swamp, and have Cher include it on her Muscle Shoals album, and I’d probably like it.

I tuned out “Yellow Ribbon” and “The Cisco Kid” whenever I heard them, and even though I liked some of the Carpenters’ stuff, “Sing” was just too saccharine. As to “Danny’s Song,” I much prefer Loggins & Messina’s 1971 version.

So, how many of those ten have stayed with me for nearly fifty years? Among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod, I find only the records by Gladys Knight and the Stylistics. I’m surprised by the absence of the records by Al Green and Roberta Flack; those will be added by the end of the day.

And what of our other business today? When we drop to No. 47 in that long-ago Hot 100, what do we find? Well, we find the only Top 40 hit for an R&B group from Harlem, and it’s a record I remember well, one I liked a lot. And it was in fact one of the first tracks I dug out of the LP stacks to rip to an mp3 when I got my digital turntable: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City.

Released on the Chelsea label, the record went to No. 17 in the Billboard Hot 100, No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and No. 8 on the Easy Listening chart.

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One Response to “No. 47, Forty-Seven Years Ago”

  1. Casey says:

    Sounds like victory to me. Good stuff!

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