Friday, June 30, 2006

Random Rewind: 1973

When I started writing this morning's post, I didn't intend it to be solely a book review--but when I saw how long the post was going to be if I did the accompanying Random Rewind along with the book thing, I decided to split it in two. (Your tolerance for my gasbaggery is admirable, but I'm not gonna push it.) So here's Part Two.

In my personal pantheon of favorite years, 1973 probably ranks last--not necessarily because of anything that happened or didn't, but because I simply don't remember much about it. That was the year I turned 13. I have since heard (although I don't know whether it's true) that the raging hormones of adolescence can provoke a kind of amnesia in some people. My guess is that this amnesia happens because what you feel in any given instant--good, bad, or indifferent--is so intense that your life becomes a kind of eternal now.

Well, at least you've gotta admit it sounds plausible.

Not even the music, which is my primary means of time travel, can salvage 1973 for me. When I look at the record chart from this week in that year, I see records I heard, records I bought, records I've listened to frequently in the years since--but they don't unstick me in time, certainly not like records from a year earlier or a year later. But since 1973 is our theme, here's a look back, via the Sound 30 from WSEA in Georgetown, Delaware--a little town on the Eastern Shore. I like both the look and the idea of this chart--a station serving a family vacation destination in 1973 could certainly have justified playing MOR--but they were rockin' instead.

1. "My Love"/Paul McCartney and Wings. (peak) Probably McCartney's most reviled song, from his most reviled album. Nevertheless, it's his third-biggest solo single ever, behind only "Ebony and Ivory" and "Silly Love Songs."

4. "Will It Go Round in Circles"/Billy Preston. (climbing)
One of the few seriously smokin' records of the summer, and as such a good antidote to the Tony Orlando/Carpenters dreck that was endemic in 1973.

7. "Bad Bad Leroy Brown"/Jim Croce. (falling)
A great radio record, thanks in part to that bangin' piano. It's safe to say millions of Americans walked around involuntarily humming this to themselves all summer--it's that kind of record, like it or not.

8. "I'm Doin' Fine Now/New York City. (climbing)
This group was a Spinners soundalike, produced by Spinners producer/Philly soul genius Thom Bell--and if that's not Spinners singer Bobbie Smith improvising over the fadeout of this great summer record, this group was channeling the Spinners even more than I thought.

9. "Monster Mash"/Bobby 'Boris' Pickett. (climbing) Originally a hit in the early 60s, "Monster Mash" had been back on the charts several times since, always around Halloween. Why it should have been a monster (insert rimshot here) in the middle of summer this time around, I cannot imagine. One of my favorite exhibits proving the bone-deep weirdness of the 1970s generally.

13. "Frankenstein"/Edgar Winter Group. (falling) This record gets its name from the fact that it was made up of bits and pieces of unfinished songs. We apparently had a taste for that in the summer of 1973. "Frankenstein"'s chart run overlapped with "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, which, if it wasn't also made up of bits and pieces of unfinished songs, sure sounded like it.

17. "Daniel"/Elton John. (falling)
Best bits: the harmony on "star" in the line, "Daniel you're a star in the face of the sky," and Elton's last repetition of the verse: "Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane. . . ." They're two lovely moments from one of the loveliest records Elton ever made.

20. "Long Train Running"/Doobie Brothers. (holding steady) On the Doobies' box set, you can hear an early version of this, which is for some reason titled "Osborne." The hit version is another great radio record, good boogie (as we'd have said back then) from the first second.

26. "Over the Hills and Far Away"/Led Zeppelin. (climbing) This didn't make the Billboard Top 40, but it should have. It's easily more commercial than "D'yer Mak'er," which would become a substantially bigger hit later in the year.

28. "Natural High"/Bloodstone. (debut) The summer of '73 was not exactly soul nirvana--the two biggest hits of the moment were heavy breathers by Sylvia ("Pillow Talk") and Barry White ("I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby")--both of which acted on my twitchy 13-year-old hormones to make me crazy. "Natural High" and its Temptations-style sweetness felt a lot safer.

This blog is now going on hiatus until at least July 5. In my absence, visit the music blogs listed at the right--all are recommended and many will be updating with interesting stuff throughout the holiday weekend.


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