Wednesday, October 04, 2006

October 1970: It Says So in My Dreams

I've made pretty clear on this blog during the two-plus years of its existence that October is my favorite month of the year. As I put it last year, it's a time when "the temperature falls, the leaves change, and time runs in reverse." A lot of the most fondly remembered tales from my younger days take place in October. This month I'm going to feature a bunch of Top 5 charts, mostly from the 1970s (and not just on Fridays), because they provide the soundtracks for some of those tales.

Although the radio had been a big part of life at my house from my earliest memories, in the fall of 1970 I found my own station and my own music, which was a lot different from the polkas and country music my parents listened to. The station was WLS from Chicago and the music was Top 40, although I didn't know at the time that it was a soft Top 40 when compared to what some other big-city AMs were doing at the time. Here are the top 5 from the WLS chart dated October 4, 1970:

5. "Candida"/Dawn. The story is told that Tony Orlando, a music industry veteran by 1970, laid down a vocal track for a friend and never heard the finished record until he turned on WABC in New York one day to find it was a smash. He wouldn't even meet Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, the other members of Dawn, until after "Knock Three Times" had gone to Number One, in early 1971. "Candida" is still one of my favorite records of all time, which is quite something given that it was my first favorite record. It's almost perfectly constructed to take advantage of my tastes for both bubblegum and starry-eyed romance, which were present in the 10-year-old me, and still are.

4. "Indiana Wants Me"/R. Dean Taylor. This record is quite nearly sui generis--there's never been anything quite like it. It's thoroughly 1970s, made-for-TV melodrama all the way, albeit infused with its own brand of romance--Our Hero apparently capped a guy who insulted his beloved. It's also a marvelously overblown production, including sirens and a cop on a bullhorn saying, "You are surrounded! Give yourself up!" The long version (which wasn't on the 45 everybody bought back in the day) ends with Our Hero matching firepower with the Indiana State Police. Priceless.

3. "I'll Be There"/Jackson Five. A century from now, if there's anyone around to recall it, Michael Jackson's career will be defined by two records--this and "Billie Jean." Listeners a century hence will still relate, I hope, to the breathtaking beauty of this melody and the innocence in Jackson's voice. In the long run, they'll be wrong about his innocence, but right here, it's still intact.

2. "All Right Now"/Free. A somewhat bigger hit in Chicago than it was nationally, and an anomaly compared to the rest of the tunes on the chart. In the fall of 1970, WLS was playing the hits, but dayparting extensively--daytimes had a distinct housewife feel, and you likely wouldn't have heard this until night fell.

1. "Cracklin' Rosie"/Neil Diamond. A 10-year-old listener didn't get the pun in the title, or think twice about the lines "Cracklin' Rosie you're a store-bought woman/But you make me sing like a guitar hummin'." He just dug the hooks, and it would be one of the first 45s he would ever own.

Other notable records on the chart that same week: Michael Nesmith's "Joanne," a beautiful country song that proved there was more to Nesmith than a Monkee with a wool hat, and "Groovy Situation" by Gene Chandler, in which the guy who'd done "Duke of Earl" in the 60s proved he was down with the soul sound of the 70s.

(Buy "Candida," "Indiana Wants Me," "I'll Be There," and other great 1970 tunes here.)

Coming next: In the fading light of an October afternoon, I reach the pinnacle of my athletic career--at age 11--while great tunes abound.


At 5:59 PM, Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) said...

Great memories on ALL these songs and I still love "Alright Now" by Free, its sort of an anthem for me - a remidner of days gone by.

Great post!

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Jeff said...

I was 13 in October 1970, and my station was WOKY out of Milwaukee, but my story is otherwise the same. Keep on keepin' on!

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Dave White said...

Great memories. At WKLO in Lousiville, "All Right Now" could only be heard between midnight and 1:00AM when "Radio WKLO goes [hit the extra reverb] UNDERGROUND!" This was also the only time you'd hear Cream or the Chambers Brothers. I was working there then .. thanks for the memories!


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