Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

No. 47, Forty-Seven Years Ago

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

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.

‘I’m Doin’ Fine Now . . .’

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Hi and welcome back! Garden Week is over, and we have plenty of small plants and seeds in the two gardens ready to do their things, given enough sunlight and water over the next eight to twelve weeks: Tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers (mostly sweet), eggplant, onions, lettuce, green and wax beans, black-eyed peas and maybe more that I can’t think of at the moment.

Along with gardening work, we managed to try the ribs and beans from Smokin’ D’s, a new barbecue place in Sauk Rapids, the little burg just north of here. The verdict was split: The Texas Gal, true to her roots, prefers the ribs from Dickey’s, which originated in Dallas, while I like both the ribs and the beans from Smokin’ D’s a little more.

We also took in a movie, using a gift card someone gave us to watch good portions of California being destroyed in San Andreas. What did we get? A clichéd plot, which we expected. Indifferent acting, which was not surprising. And great special effects, which is exactly what the movie promised.

That brings us up to date, as we sit here on June 2, with the summer underway (in a cultural sense; the solstice will arrive on June 21). And in search of an idea, I pulled up the Billboard Hot 100 from June 2, 1973, when I was working at St. Cloud State, spending my mornings doing maintenance on audio-visual equipment all over the campus and my afternoons as a janitor in the Education Building.

The top ten forty-two weeks ago, as I washed projector lenses in the morning and blackboards in the afternoon, was:

“My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Daniel” by Elton John
“Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group
“Pillow Talk” by Sylvia
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando
“You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” by Barry White
“Little Willy” by the Sweet
“Hocus Pocus” by Focus
“Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes

Boy, that’s a long way from being a great Top Ten; none of those are records I’d request to hear on the radio, either then or now, and several of them – the records by Sylvia, Dawn, the Sweet and Clint Holmes – are guaranteed to make me find another station.

But maybe I’d have turned on the radio and found something from the next ten, which would have made for a much better bit of listening:

“Drift Away” by Dobie Gray
“Reeling In The Years” by Steely Dan
“Wildflower” by Skylark
“Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” by George Harrison
“Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel
“Right Place Wrong Time” by Dr. John
“Steamroller Blues/Fool” by Elvis Presley
“I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City
“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston
“Thinking Of You” by Loggins & Messina

The record that jumps out of there for me, oddly, is “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City. I probably didn’t hear it as frequently as I heard the rest of that second ten, and I know it’s gotten much less play on oldies radio over the years than most of the rest of that bunch (along with, I would guess, the Elvis sides). But I liked it, and I recall the slight burst of satisfaction in March 1999 when the Harlem-based group’s album – also titled I’m Doin’ Fine Now – popped up in the new arrivals at Cheapo’s just a few blocks from my South Minneapolis apartment.

Did the album track sound as good in 1999 as the single had coming out of the radio twenty-six years earlier? Well, yes, mostly because it and most of the records in that second ten from June 2, 1973, offer the sound of that summer as well as any group of records I can think of. (There are a few I might add, but not many.) The single went one more spot up the chart, peaking at No. 17 (and at No. 14 on the R&B chart). It was by far the best-performing single the group ever had: four more were in or near the Hot 100, but none of them went higher than No. 79.

And you know, it still sounds pretty good today.