Random Rewind: 1972
A couple of years ago, I wrote here about spending a day in Oklahoma listening to the current incarnation of one of America's legendary Top 40 stations, Oklahoma City's KOMA. Thanks to the wonder that is the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, here's a look at a few randomly selected tunes from KOMA's Bookmark Survey for this date in 1972.
1. "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All"/Fifth Dimension. (peak) Thanks to oldies radio, we tend to think that the Fifth Dimension's career ended after "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In" and "Wedding Bell Blues," but they kept turning out hits for several years, as late as 1976 when their original version of "Love Hangover" was blown off the charts by the Diana Ross version.
3. "Love Theme from The Godfather"/Andy Williams. (climbing) One of those records that was monstrous on some Top 40 stations whose format it fit but unheard on others, such that it barely made the national Top 40 chart. You may know this song by another title: "Speak Softly Love," and the tune is indelible--if you remember it. (If this were a better blog, I'd post it, but it's not, so you're on your own.)
8. "Vincent"/Don McLean. (falling) All these years later, I still can't decide if the lyrics to this song are really poetic or really stupid. Either way, I like the bit about "portraits hung in empty halls/frameless heads on nameless walls."
14. "Look What You Done for Me"/Al Green. (climbing) Happy as I am that Al Green and producer Willie Mitchell have renewed their partnership in the new millennium, their new records don't have the melt-in-your-mouth sweetness of the old ones. Few of those were sweeter than this.
20. "Sylvia's Mother"/Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. (falling) They were still "the Medicine Show" back then, and a lot more countercultural than they would be after they became enormous stars later in the decade. The best thing about this record back then was figuring up how much the guy spent on the pay phone. The best thing now is the increasingly demented urgency in his voice every time he sings, "And the operator says 40 cents more. . . ."
24. "Nice to Be With You"/Gallery. (debut) This may be the record that brings the summer of 1972 back to me more vividly than any other. Name-dropper alert: I once worked with a woman whose mother had been a member of Gallery, although not during their 1972-1973 hitmaking stretch. But, since a close encounter with fame is a close encounter with fame, there ya go.
27. "Chantilly Lace"/Jerry Lee Lewis. (falling) Lewis was an enormous country star at this time--he'd had 15 Top 10 hits in the preceding four years. "Chantilly Lace," which was just wrapping up three weeks at Number One, was the biggest in that period. Although the 1950s nostalgia boom was still a couple of years away, the most amazing thing about Lewis' cover of this bombastic 50s classic, originally recorded by the Big Bopper, is that he didn't do it sooner.
31. "Baby Blue"/Badfinger. (falling) A masterpiece of 70s radio rock--but make sure you get the 45RPM version, which pumps up the drums for maximum sonic crunch on the AM band. Fortunately, the most recent edition of the group's legendary album Straight Up includes it.
32. "A Cowboy's Work Is Never Done"/Sonny and Cher. (falling) A deeply weird record about kids playing cowboys and Indians as some kind of metaphor for love. Gains bonus points for the extremely cheesy shootout-at-the-OK-corral vibe.
Hitbound: "Amazing Grace"/The Pipes and Drums and Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. First, a word about "hitbound," for the non-geeks out there--most stations that published a survey listed the new records they were playing as "hitbound" for the first week or two. Sometimes they'd make the regular chart, and sometimes they wouldn't. This one made lots of charts and rode high on them, eventually peaking at Number 11 nationally. Not bad for an hymm performed on the bagpipes.
That's why we love the 1970s.