Thursday, April 14, 2005

My Favorite Year

I think '71 is probably my favorite musical year of the 1970s. It was still the golden era of AM Top 40 and I was already hooked on it. And if you look back at the top 10 from this week in 1971, it's easy to understand how it could have happened.

10. "One Toke Over the Line"/Brewer and Shipley.
Bought it on a 45, I did--pink Kama Sutra label, the same day I bought "Sweet Mary" by Wadsworth Mansion and "Domino" by Van Morrison, as I recall. (Three singles at once was about as much as I could afford at 95 cents apiece.) Needless to say, I had no idea what a toke was.

9. "Proud Mary"/Ike and Tina Turner. I knew this version before I knew CCR's, and it's still the Tina Turner record to have if you're only having one.

8. "Another Day"/Paul McCartney. When you have just turned 11, as I had in the spring of 1971, McCartney's heroine, who "wraps a towel around her as she's heading for the bedroom chair," will pass for a fantasy girl.

7. "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted"/Partridge Family. Bought the 45. Has a picture sleeve. Still own it. It's David Cassidy's least-favorite Partridge record because of the spoken bit: "Now, where is love? And who is left? I gotta know!" Good call, Dave.

6. "Me and Bobby McGee"/Janis Joplin. The last 1:45 of this--the cranked-up instrumental over which Janis simply wails, is about as life-affirming as rock can be. So gorgeous it chokes me up sometimes.

5. "For All We Know"/Carpenters.
A harmless little record, with a nice little oboe thing in the intro and some lush wah-wah from Karen. The prequel to "We've Only Just Begun."

4. "She's a Lady"/Tom Jones. You've heard of cock rock? This is cock MOR. For a while in the early 90s, The Mrs. and I were wedding-reception DJs. The single most unfortunate request I ever got from a bride and groom was for this. I even asked the guy, "Are you sure you want this at your wedding?" He was--and the fact that I had to ask ensured that he would miss the point.

3. "Joy to the World"/Three Dog Night. You really want the 45 mix of this, which stomps the hell out of the album version--the one you hear most often on oldies stations these days. Imagine if you will a bus with maybe 60 grade-schoolers on board, all singing this song at the top of their lungs, every afternoon on the way home. Now guess who the ringleader of the singalong was.

2. "What's Going On"/Marvin Gaye. Again, get the 45, which is a different mix (and seems to be one or two more RPMs faster). But also listen to the whole What's Going On album, too.

1. "Just My Imagination"/Temptations.
This was my favorite song of all time for a long time, and is still right up there. What's not to love? There's that gorgeous guitar figure at the beginning, the Temps' wordless entrance a few seconds later, and that beautiful break in the middle:
Every night on my knees I pray
Dear Lord, hear my plea
Don't ever let another take her love from me
Or I will surely die
Her love is heavenly
When her arms enfold me
I hear a tender rhapsody
But in reality
She doesn't even know me
And I could do Number 11 through 20, too: Cat Stevens, George Harrison, the Grass Roots, Santana--as I've said before, there were giants in the earth in those days.


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