My 100 Favorite Songs from 1973 (Part 1 of 5)

My earliest childhood memories are when I was seven years old and riding in Dad's super-sweet 1968 Chevelle SS 396 (below), listening to music on the radio and from his under the dash eight-track player.

I remember travelling all across the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro area with him as he looked for singles, albums and 8-tracks as well as books about music. What I consider to be my very first memory ever is sitting in back seat of that car, listening to the radio and hearing "Show And Tell" and "Playground In My Mind" played back to back on whatever station we were listening to at the time. I'm far form positive but I want to say it was the Fall of 1973, maybe between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
And thus begins My Favorite Decade For Music, ending appropriately enough with my absolute all-time Favorite Year in music - 1982. We counted down My 100 Favorite Singles of 1982 last month and then My 40 Favorite Albums from 1973 earlier this month so today we begin a similar journey through my 100 Favorite Songs of 1973. Notice I said songs this time around not singles. While my methods for compiling previous Favorite lists were often complicated and hard to explain, the method used to for 1973 was simple. No charts were consulted - the sole requisite for making my initial list of nearly 300 songs was the YEAR field in my lossless digital library had to contain 1973. Possible data integrity issues aside, I really love this list and today we're counting down from 100-81...
This yodeling, rocking rave-up and flute-filled freakout appealed to me a lot more when I was lot younger and if you asked me to make a new list tomorrow, there is a good chance I would leave it off altogether though it is one heck of a driving song. Though the original "Hocus Pocus" was recorded and released in 1971, the song didn't become an international hit until a couple of years later, with Sire Records snagging US distribution rights. By then, the band had even re-recorded the song at a much faster pace, calling it "Hocus Pocus II" on the flipside of the single pictured above. Watch them tear through it on the October 5, 1973 episode of The Midnight Special.
I associate this song more with an episode of The Andy Griffith Show - one of several featuring The Darlings - than I do with the film that made it famous. Variations of the song have since been featured on Hee Haw and The Muppet Show but for years now, I have enjoyed "Dueling Banjos" as part of my banjo-filled Bluegrass mixtape/playlist. Like the frantic Dutch ditty above, the song makes for really good hi-octane driving music. See Steve Martin duel with Kermit in a Funny Or Die clip or watch Eric and another Steve throwdown on The Midnight Special from March 23, 1973.
Because I am a huge fan of The Midnight Special, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Helen Reddy and her music. I find this to be one of her least irritating songs though there are reports that she absolutely detests the repetitive chorus and had vowed at one point in her career to never sing the song again. Fortunately, we have this video of her performance of The Tonight Show.
This is a groovy little number with childish lyrics that I absolutely adored when I was kid. Still like the swampy guitar groove nowadays, just wish the lyrics were a bit more mature. The 45 label above features two names we know and love around these parts: David Bellamy, the younger Bellamy Brother, with a co-writing credit and Lobo with a co-producing credit.  It was Lobo, a former high school bandmate of both Stafford and Gram Parsons, that helped Jim Stafford get a recording contract.  This clip of the song from an unknown show also features a well-known name duetting with Jim on this song.
I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I honestly never thought Diana Ross was as beautiful as people said until she walked into my work one day in the late Nineties, fresh off a plane from LA. She looked absolutely incredible in faded blue jeans, a tight white tank and an over sized unbuttoned white shirt and she smelled even better than she looked - if she was wearing makeup it wasn't noticeable. Ross could have easily passed for a woman half her age which is something my own wife has been accused of.  But I digress. 1973 was a busy year for Ms. Ross - she released three albums and notched three Top 40 singles. This was one of them and I really can't put my finger on why I like this song but I truly do, especially the "if I've got to be strong" part near the end.
Used to love singing along to this song.  Nowadays I just hum the melody.  Supposedly, it was first offered to Ringo Starr for consideration for his Ringo album.  The songwriters even wrote "(Should I) Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree"a sequel of sorts, using the same melody but shifting the lyrical perspective to the female point of view, that was recorded by Connie Francis, who re-emerged after four years of semi-retirement with the recording.  Watch Tony and the ladies of Dawn in this early music video.
Tanya Tucker was already a veteran of the music industry when this, her third single, was released in 1973. She was all of 15 at the time but there was something about her voice that belied her age. This was a favorite of mine on the legendary Cow Talk jukebox along with her hit from the previous year, "Delta Dawn". I don't recall Dad ever mentioning it and perhaps he was unaware of it but both he and Tanya were born in Seminole, out in West Texas.  Watch young Tanya sing "What Your Mama's Name" on Hee Haw in one of your Meemaw's dresses.
This song has become self-referential in that it is one of my favorite songs that came on the radio and I'd sing along just like Karen sings in the song itself. Her voice is just about perfect to my furry ears and she could drum better than any other woman - and most men - I have ever seen. I feel like I should enjoy Carpenters studio albums more but there just seems to be so much filler that I keep coming back to this classic compilation.
Anne Murray's voice beautifully handled this "Ken Loggins" composition and for years I preferred it over the writer's original version of the song until Virginia Chance (Martha Plimpton) sang it as a lullaby to her granddaughter Hope in the very first episode of Raising Hope. Reminds me of getting up with the kids and humming to them or putting them in the car and driving them around with music playing quietly until they fell back asleep. I seem to have forgotten those few nights where nothing worked and my wife and I instead just passed the kids back and forth while we took micronaps. Great times. Wouldn't trade them for the world. Watch Anne's performance of "Danny's Song" from the fifth episode of The Midnight Special that originally aired March 2, 1973.  She was the show's host that night as well.  
First heard this song in 1981 or 1982 when I picked up a used copy of  The Best Of Rod Stewart Vol. 2 at Al Bum's or PDQ.  I found it odd that I only knew one song on it before I bought it and I considered myself a fan of Rod Stewart thanks to early exposure to his classic Every Picture Tells A Story album from 1971, a favorite of Dad's.  Rod later re-recorded the song for the film Innerspace but I still prefer the fade-in of the original.
Though I had probably heard "Nights In White Satin" prior to 1973 - it had a very successful re-release just the year before - "I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)" is one I remember quite clearly. I remember Dad turning the volume up and drumming along on the steering wheel. It's got a funky bassline and the way the drums start the song is incredible; who knew the Moodys could rock? To his credit, Dad got back into the music of The Moody Blues again when he found their Gold CD at a flea market about ten years ago and I hooked him up with copies of seven of their classic early albums. Watch them perform the song in this early music video.
"Ken Loggins" returns to the countdown with his performing partner producer Jim Messina in a retro-sounding ode to the generation gap between The Silent Generation (1923-1944) and The Baby Boomers (1945-1964). Dad liked the song a lot and owned the 45 so I heard it plenty. Seemed the most natural thing in the world when Y&T and then Poison covered it as The Baby Boomers aka "my parents" were squaring off against Generation X (1961-1981) aka "me." See Loggins & Messina (as they quickly came to be known) sing "Your Mama Don't Dance" as they hosted the December 14, 1973 episode of The Midnight Special.
Actually surprised to see this righteous rocker was released as a single though I didn't hear it until the early Eighties when I got into hard rock and heavy metal.  I borrowed the greatest hits album When We Rock, We Rock And When We Roll, We Roll from a now forgotten friend one night after confessing to the crime of not owning a single Deep Purple album and just flipped on almost every track as I listened though I will say I was already a fan of the rockin' riffery "Smoke On The Water", I just didn't know it was Deep Purple. My bad. Love the riffs on "Woman From Tokyo" as well as Ian Gillan's "TOW-KAY-OH" shouts.
Fortunately for my burgeoning musical tastes, my father bought Al Green's Greatest Hits and listened to it on the regular.  Two of Reverend Green's four 1973 singles are on Greatest Hits and this one beat out "Call Me (Come Back Home)" to be my favorite Al Green song of 1973. Watch Al sing the ever-loving crap out of "Here I Am (Come And Take Me)" with a rose and a busted wing on the April 6, 1974 episode of Soul Train.
I remember hearing Chicago may times on the radio growing up as eleven of their first fourteen singles became Top 40 hits before "Just You 'N' Me" though I wouldn't buy my first Chicago 45 until "If You Leave Me Now" (1976) which was played to death on WLS.  I have a very vivid, crystal clear hi-definition memory of lying in my bed, listening to "Just You "N' Me" and reading the book pictured on the right, the first book I ever found that was about baseball cards. It was bit above my reading level at the time, oddly formatted and unlike any book I had read up til then but it had lots of pictures - "OVER 200 PAGES IN COLOR!"  I really need to find another copy of this one, the original 1973 paperback with the blue cover not the 1975 second printing with the black cover.  Just knowing it was on my shelf would help me sleep better and live longer. Probably.
Between Dad's eight-track of John Denver's Greatest Hits and radio airplay, this song is forever burned into my psyche though I still have some issues making sense of a few of the verses. Not gonna lie, when Coors co-opted this song for some of their commercials, my soul died a tiny bit.  Other than that, I got nothing but love and admiration for "Rocky Mountain High" and the sense of wonder, awe and amazement it conveys. I have been to the Rockies and they are MAGNIFICENT! Hear John sing "Rocky Mountain High" while images of the Rocky Mountains are shown during his 1974 TV special.
There's no denying I had heard this song in 1973 just not on the radio that I recall. It was probably on the mythical Cow Talk jukebox. Or maybe my Uncle Sam had Sloppy Seconds on eight-track though I kind of doubt it as it wasn't really his style. Bought my first Dr. Hook 45, their tender cover of Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen", in 1976 which was about the same time (5th grade?) I found Shel Silverstein's book of silly poems Where The Sidewalk Ends. It was only after I picked up a copy of Dr. Hook's Greatest Hits (1980) that I made the connection that he was the same guy that wrote "The Cover Of The Rolling Stone" among other Dr. Hook songs as well as songs that were covered by other artists.  I like the way the song just kind of casually starts and the different voices that come in throughout. Watch the band perform the song live in this very interesting early clip.
This song is a neglected favorite of mine and before listening to it for this list, I couldn't tell you the last time I heard it but I am glad I found it again. What I learned researching "Wildflower" for this post:
  • the single was produced by what may be the coolest named producer ever, Eirik The Norwegian, and he was given that moniker by none other than Paul McCartney while serving as mixing engineer on McCartney's RAM in 1971;
  • it was Eirik The Norwegian who discovered Skylark;
  • the keyboard player on "Wildflower" is David Foster (that David Foster) who along with his then wife BJ were members of Skylark, an interracial Canadian group that recorded a pair of albums, both of which contained "Wildflower", before breaking up shortly after relocating to Los Angeles;
  • the image of the 45 label above is slightly off-center and I have a few 45s with off-center labels and I remember they used to make me nauseous when I watched them play so in the name of science, I threw one on the turntable and sure enough, it still happens;
  • some fans and critics have cited "Wildflower" as one of the earliest examples of a power ballad and it is one of those unique songs whose lyrics never mention the song's title.
Watch Skylark, with BJ up front singing backup and a long-haired keyboardist named David Foster hidden behind the lead singer, perform "Wildflower" on an episode of The Midnight Special that originally aired on May 25, 1973.
Giving Marvin Gaye and Al Green a run for their money in the loverman game was big bad Barry White, who I don't recall ever hearing on the radio growing up but I saw him perform his magic on a few television shows including Soul Train and The Midnight Special.  My wife loves the man's music and that deep deep voice of his.  I'm 82% positive we haven't seen the last of Barry on this countdown.
According to legend, the song was demoed by the songwriter's wife (Lawrence, then a star of The Carol Burnett Show) in the hopes that it would be recorded by Liza Minnelli.  It was offered to Cher (and would have been perfect for her) but her husband/manager Sonny Bono was worried it would "offend Cher's Southern fans" so he took a pass on it.  Cher's producer Snuff Garrett took Vicki back into the studio and knocked it out in a three hour session with the renowned studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew.  I've always liked the eeriness and Cher-like qualities of the song though the mood is broken every time the chorus rolls around.  


  1. Lots of favorites of mine in this first part of your 1973 countdown. Good stuff.

  2. While I like and appreciate Focus' "Hocus Pocus" for the iconic anthem it is, I've just never been able to get past the yodelin'… Gary Hoey's version, however, has no such yodeling, and remains an ALL-TIME (all caps) guitar shredding anthem for Dirk.

    Always loved Skylark's "Wildflower", too; although for years I thought it was Tom Jones' hit "She's A Lady"... Had a rude awakening when I bought that oldie single years ago, only to discover that that t'weren't it!!