No. 40 Fifty Years Ago (Easy Listening)

We’re going to take care of some fifty-years ago business in these last days of 2021, looking back at the last week of December 1971, a time when my greatest concerns were trying to explain how I had managed to fail both chemistry and African history during the fall quarter just completed at St. Cloud State and trying to figure out what to do about a girlfriend who was moving too fast for my comfort.

(I solved the first by admitting I did not know how to study, never having been required to put much effort into schoolwork in high school. I solved the second by running away. In today’s parlance, I ghosted poor Jeannie. [I ran into her about ten years later on Main Street in Buffalo, Minnesota, and explained and apologized; she held no grudge.])

At the time, my listening was beginning to bend toward progressive/album rock, the result of my having begun to spend much of my free time on campus in the studios of KVSC-FM, the St. Cloud State student station. But I still heard enough Top 40 in the car and enough easy listening elsewhere that the records listed by Billboard in its last Easy Listening chart of the year were mostly familiar.

Here’s the Top Ten:

“All I Ever Need Is You” by Sonny & Cher
“Cherish” by David Cassidy
“Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night
“Friends With You” by John Denver
“Let It Be” by Joan Baez
“Baby, I’m-A Want You” by Bread
“Stones” by Neil Diamond
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” by the Hillside Singers
“Brand New Key” by Melanie
“An American Trilogy” by Mickey Newbury

Most of those were also receiving play on Top 40, which I still heard in the car and at friends’ homes and on occasion, at my own home. I had to refresh my memory of the John Denver tune the other day, and this morning, listened to the Baez single, which I do not recall at all. (It went to only No. 49 on the Hot 100, but I liked it today much better than I’ve ever liked her previous single, the ill-begotten cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”)

And I remember the Newbury single – a mash-up of “Dixie,” “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” and “All My Trials.” I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio – it went to No. 26 on the Hot 100 – but my pal Rick across the street had a copy of it, and I heard it enough over there to be underwhelmed.

Most of those, as I said, were familiar at the time, but that’s not to say that those ten are enduring portions of my musical world. The only singles in that Top Ten that are in my iPod fifty years later – and thus a part of my day-to-day listening – are those by Three Dog Night and Bread. The Neil Diamond track may join them, as might the Baez.

But what do we find when we drop down to the bottom of that long-ago chart, as the title of this piece promises?

Normally, when doing things with fifty-year-old charts, we’d go to No. 50, but the Easy Listening chart listed only forty records in 1971, so we’ll see what’s at No. 40. And it turns out to be a record I doubt I’ve ever heard: “I’d Do It All Again” by Vicki Carr, pulled from her 1971 album Superstar.

It’s a lost love tune, one in which the protagonist admits that the ending hurts but – as the title states – she’d do it all again. Decidedly middle-of-the-road with a big band backing, it’s something that I probably would have liked had I heard it a little more than two years earlier, in the days before I heard the Beatles’ “Come Together” coming from WLS in the middle of an August night.

“I’d Do It All Again” would move up one more slot on the Easy Listening chart; it would not make the Hot 100.

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