‘So Very Hard To Go . . .’

My eyes wandered down the Billboard Hot 100 from July 21, 1973, the other morning. The titles and artists at the top of the chart were familiar and brought back a summer of sweeping floors, doing maintenance on audiovisual equipment and sitting by my bedroom window late into the night, wondering what I would find that coming school year in Denmark.

Topping the list were Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles” and the Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More.” My gaze moved downward, passing “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, “Diamond Girl” by Seals & Crofts and “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich.

And my eyes stopped at “So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power, parked at No. 18. I know the record, but I don’t remember it belonging to that summer, not like the ones mentioned above nor like the records that bracketed it on that chart: Diana Ross’ “Touch Me In The Morning” and Chicago’s “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.” I don’t recall hearing the Tower of Power record on either KDWB or WJON, and I don’t recall it popping up on the jukebox in St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center.

It likely showed up in all those places, but it did so without making an impression on me. The incomplete surveys at the Oldiesloon for WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other main Top 40 station, show “So Very Hard To Go” peaking at No. 15 in early August, and the Airheads Radio Survey Archive tells me that on Chicago’s WLS – an occasional late-night stop for me – the record went to No. 17 in July. So the record was around, and I just missed it.

Nationally, “So Very Hard To Go” went to No. 17 on the Hot 100, No. 36 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 11 on the R&B chart. On all three charts it was the highest-placing record Tower of Power ever released. And it’s still a great record, one I wish I recalled from that summer of work and preparation.

So how did I get to “So Very Hard To Go” if it didn’t stick from that summer forty years ago? Well, when I was playing in Jacques’ band in the latter half of the 1990s, our lead singer suggested we tackle some Tower of Power tunes. We settled on “So Very Hard To Go” and “Get Yo’ Feet Back On The Ground” from the 1973 album Tower of Power, and “Don’t Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)” from 1974’s Back to Oakland. We found charts for the three songs and off we went. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t try “You’re Still A Young Man,” but we did okay on the three we chose. And I checked my LP collection and put lots of Tower of Power on my shopping list.


4 Responses to “‘So Very Hard To Go . . .’”

  1. porky says:

    as a newly minted 13 year old that summer (yesterday was my b-day) I was detassling corn and many of these tunes are connected with that Central Illinois rite-of-passage. I would add Pink Floyd’s “Money ” and “That Lady” by the Isleys.

    It’s one of those things where the details are forgotten: who had the radio? how big was it? how did we hear it over the detassling machine/tractor? But I definitely heard those tunes…..

    Absolutely love the fleugel horn (?) solo on “So Very Hard to Go.”

  2. Yah Shure says:

    I liked “So Very Hard To Go” enough to have bought the single, and enjoyed it for a couple additional years before it went into a decades-long mental hibernation. I don’t recall ever seeing it in the WJON library, or I certainly would have pounced on it. But for some reason, I started skipping past it when thumbing through the 45s at home. In putting together compilation CDs from those college radio years, a fellow staffer specifically requested the record, so I gave it a bath and needle-dropped it about three years ago.

    It was like hearing the song for the first time. I remembered playing it in ’73 and likely heard it on 15/KSTP (“The Music Station”) but the clappers in those memory bells going anywhere. My “You’re Still A Young Man” single had been equally ignored in the collection, and yet I could always call it up mentally at any time during those same years “So Very Hard To Go” had become so very hard to remember.

    That same staffer had also requested “Down To The Nightclub” and “This Time It’s Real,” but neither had ever been on my radar. There was only so much music a person could squeeze into a once-per-week airshift, and I was probably too busy cranking “Brother Louie” to the max on the air monitor to notice.

  3. Paco Malo says:

    When the first few bars of “So Very Hard to Go” kicked in, the track went echoing down the wind tunnels of my memory. Great selection from back in the days before I’d been properly exposed the plethora of essential songs on the R & B charts. I’ve been working hard to correct that error over the last two years, setting my default cable TV choice to Music Choice’s Blues channel; a setting that properly gives me a solid line-up of R & B. (For example, I just added a Louis Jordan Anthology to my Amazon wish list just last week.)
    Thanks for taking me back to the summer of ’73; it wasn’t hard to go at all, thanks to you whiteray.
    (Oh, one more little note: I was talking with a close friend just this afternoon and I had the opportunity to cite Charlie Rich’s timeless “Behind Closed Doors” within the context of the conversation. If I said more, well, of course, I’d be saying too much. 😉

  4. Steve E. says:

    “So Very Hard to Go” got all the way to No. 4 on KHJ in Los Angeles the week of July 31.

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