2/24/16

My 100 Favorite Songs from 1973 (Part 3 of 5)

It was on the mighty WLS that I first heard Styx's "Lady". Only it wasn't in 1973, it was 1975, shortly after we moved to Illinois that Summer. Turns out "Lady", a dramatic power ballad, is one of those second chance songs that failed upon its initial release in 1973 but got a second chance when Jeff Davis, an influential DJ at - you guesssed it - WLS, heard the song on a jukebox at a Chicago area pizza parlor and convinced his program director to let him play it on air in Autumn 1974. Other stations followed and soon "Lady" was rising up the charts which is when I heard it. Flash forward 25 years and I'm watching the Saturday night shows I recorded on my VCR while I was at work. In that week's episode of Freaks and Geeks, Nick lets his feelings be known to Lindsey by reciting the lyrics to "Lady" while he plays the song from an eight-track tape right there in his basement. The whole scene is creepy, awkward and painful. Watch it.    
David Bowie's cover of "Sorrow" made little or no impact on me over the past thirty years; it was just one of a dozen tracks on his Pin-Ups album. Then he left us here on this Earth and we sought solace in his recorded legacy. One day not long after, "Sorrow" came up in a random mix of every Bowie song and I instantly felt a connection. Have enjoyed listening to it for the past five weeks. It is suitably somber but still full of life and as you'd expect, I traced it back to the original version from 1965 by The McCoys of "Hang On Sloopy" fame; "Sorrow" is on the same album as that song. But Bowie's version is patterned after The Merseys 1966 single which coincidentally peaked on that country's chart the day after I was born. So now I feel an even stronger connection with the song and can only see it rising in future rankings. Watch Bowie perform "Sorrow" on the November 16, 1973 episode of The Midnight Special he hosted that had been taped in London a month prior. The epsiode was repeated four times over the run of The Midnight Special, one of just four episodes shown that many times during the 423 episodes that were aired.
I have a soft spot for the super-smooth R&B of the early Seventies and "I'm Doin' Fine Now" is one of the smoothest. Great voices, great material and great production - co-written, arranged, conducted and produced by the genius Thom Bell. It's a welcome breath of fresh air whenever I hear it. Tom Moulton's eight minute remix can be found on the 2013 release Philly Regrooved 3 - Tom Moulton Remixes: More From The Master.
Country music was Olivia Newton-John's stepping-stone to fame here in the States. She was among a group of pop singers, including Anne Murray, Glen Campbell, and John Denver, that were gaining popularity on country radio. Newton-John's Female Vocalist of the Year Award from the Country Music Association in 1974 drove George Jones and his wife Tammy Wynette and other country traditionalists to form the short-lived Association Of Country Entertainers which lobbied for reform in the Country Music Association as well as more balanced radio playlists, whatever that means. All I know is that Olivia had two great 45s in the Cow Talk jukebox in the early days: "Let Me Be There" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)". See her shimmy her way through "Let Me Be There" in a performance from a British TV show.
Oddly enough, "My Maria" was also on the Cow Talk jukebox back then but completely absent on country radio until 1996 when it was faithfully covered by Brooks & Dunn who added just enough twang and yodel to make it the Number One Country Song of the Year. While I have both versions in regular rotation here at The Hideaway, my heart lies with B.W. Stevenson's original.
Who doesn't like "Superfly"? It's funky, orchestral, socially relevant and just a really cool song, then and now. I admit I was always more of a "Theme from SHAFT" kind of guy and sort of forgot how great and influential the Superfly soundtrack was until I heard the title song sampled on the phenomenal 1989 album, Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys. I made due with the single disc soundtrack until Rhino issued a double disc 25th Anniversary edition of Superfly in 1997. Curtis laid down the groove on each of his three appearances on The Midnight Special in 1973.
There is little doubt that I never heard "My Old School" prior to 1982 when I heard it played immediately after "Do It Again" and "Reelin' In The Years" over the Loco Records sound system. It made a huge impression on my 16 year old mind at the time, one that has stuck with me all these years. Even after learning why Fagen wrote it, I still liked it. He's not very likable yet he has created some very likable material in spite of himself. Watch Donald, Walter, Jeff and the rest of Steely Dan lipsync their way through "My Old School" in this audio augmented clip from the American Bandstand episode that originally aired on November 10, 1973.
Aside from the spoken intro, "Angel" is one heck of a pretty tune and definitely one of my favorite Aretha Franklin songs. It's a family affair as Aretha's sister co-wrote it and sings background with their sister Erma on it. Don't really see the point of the intro - maybe it was co-producer Quincy Jones suggestion? Aretha is in fine voice and the sisterly harmonies are heavenly. "Angel" is one of a handful of songs I can always count on to soothe my soul when I need it and it makes a great Sunday afternoon and life is grand song along with "Day Dreaming".
A great rocker about the band's adventures on the road, "We're An American Band" ranks right up there with Kiss's "Rock and Roll All Nite", Dr. Hook's "The Cover Of The Rolling Stone", Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good" and Skynyrd's  "What's Your Name" as great rock songs about the mythical rock lifestyle. Grand Funk rocks fer shure in this Todd Rundgren produced tune that was originally pressed on gold vinyl as pictured above. The boys in the band even shot a video for "We're An American Band" showing them working hard in the studio and having a good time outside the studio.
"I Can't Stand The Rain". Memphis. Hi Records. Willie Mitchell. Ann Peebles. 'Nuff said. 
One of several monster riffs found in the Doobie Brothers catalog, "China Grove" was a radio favorite back in 1973 and runs right alongside "Long Train Running" as my favortie Doobie guitar groover of 1973.  "China Grove" gets the nod for the Texas reference - China Grove is a tiny suburb of San Antonio. Check out the Brothers in this uncredited TV performance clip.
Besides having a cool name, one of the best Afros of all time and being ridiculously talented, Billy Preston also recorded and performed with the Beatles! "Will It Go Round In Circles" was a big radio hit and both the Brothers Johnson and Tom Scott can be heard playing on the track. I wanna say it was on the Cow Talk jukebox as well but I might be confusing it with a later jukebox in a Pizza Hut where my Dad took a part time job that we used to eat at in Illinois. Billy and his awesome fro performed "Wll It Go Round In Circles" on two airings of The Midnight Special in 1973.
Didn't know this was a cover of a Hot Chocolate song until the Eighties but "Brother Louie" was a favorite back on the radio back in 1973. As a fan of Hot Chocolate, I'm sorry to report that the Stories take is my preferred version. I'd even rank the Roy Ayers version of "Brother Louie" higher than Hot Chocolate's but that's just my opinion. See and hear the Stories rock it up on The Midnight Special from July 6, 1973.
Probably one of my favorite songs from Mick and Keef, "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" manages to sound simultaneously socially relevant and super soulful. Honestly surprised none of the awesome R&B groups of the early Seventies covered it. Love the funky guitar, the straight out of Memphis horns and that wicked fuzzed out keyboard. Another Uncle Sam favorite and probably the favorite of a lot of other eighteen year olds in 1973.
One of the most frequently asked viewer questions here at The Hideaway is this:
"If you claim your memory is so bad, how do you know the exact dates when you bought an album or CD?"
And I'll tell you. As a creative and imaginative but sexually abused youngster, I needed an escape and I began journaling, creating an alternate life where I wasn't abused. This self-therapy became a habit I still practice today - the journaling not the alternate life. Along the way, I began chronicling less of my inner world and more of my outer world including what I watched on TV, what I listened to on the radio, what girls I had crushes on, etc. When I became a full-time music fan in 1980, ditching my football cards, comic books, Legos and Hot Wheels in the process, I began documenting my music purchases in my journals. In 1985, I maintained a journal of nothing but my music purchases which I have featured HERE. As I started buying compact discs in the late Eighties, I had three habits:
  1. I maintained an index card for every album, 12" single and CD I bought, noting the artist, title, label, catalog #, date of purchase, each song title and the time of each song (if listed);
  2. For CDs, I would write on a tiny sliver of an index card the total amount of tracks and total time the player showed on its display once I inserted a disc and tuck it in beteween the front of the booklet and the plastic;
  3. I inserted my receipt into each CD I bought between the front of the booklet and the plastic. If I bought more than one CD at a time, the receipt would go in the first or most expensive one while the massive quantities of discs from mail order clubs got no receipt at all.

By the time our second child was born in 1990, I no longer maintained my index card file. (Though I still have it.) Here's a pic of the actual CD I bought in 1992 where I first fell in love with "Across 110th Street" nearly twenty years after the song was first released.
It was a great sampler of those so-called "blaxploitation" soundtracks and according to Ice T (back when he used to be a rapper) the disc was "mandatory listening for all true players" and you just know that as an almost 26 year old Caucasian and happily married father of two, working in a dead-end fast food job, I was most definitely a true player. Please note that the disc itself is the rarer screen printed promo only variation. (The retail one looks like this.) Love "Across 110th Street" but seriously doubt I heard it in 1973. Quentin Tarantino later used the song to both open and close his 1997 film Jackie Brown. Watch Bobby sing the song in this clip from the Soul Train episode from May 12, 1973.
Loyal viewers know I have playlists for nearly every occasion. "Dancing In The Moonlight" is on more than a few of them and the other night I was sitting on the back porch under the stars, listening to my lossless digital library through my Hitachi Smart Wi-Fi speaker (the highly recommended and affordably priced W200 model) and King Harvest came on just as I was dozing off. It sounded as if the band was right there on the back porch with me and I perked right up, grabbed another glass of sweet tea and listened to another hour or so of great music before turning in just after midnight. Felt good to be alive. 
Remember how I said I loved the smooth R&B from the early Seventies? "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)" another one of those, courtesy of the Four Tops and songwriters/producers Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter. Among other songs, the duo wrote and or produced many of my all-time favorite songs including Coven's "One Tin Soldier", Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds "Don't Pull Your Love", The Righteous Brothers "Rock and Roll Heaven", Glen Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy", Tavares "It Only Takes A Minute" and Player's "Baby Come Back". My favorite memory of this song is my wife and I slow dancing all alone on an outdoor dancefloor at an awards banquet we showed up too early to in Miami Beach - they were still setting up and the DJ put this song on first and followed it up with Lou Rawls "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" before we went back to our room for the night. Though we had only been gone 30 minutes, there were gifts on our bed inclduing boxed chocolates, a couple of CDs and a Sony Discman custom printed with her company's logo. Watch the Four Tops sing "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)" on Soul Train from February 17, 1973.
Man, this song rocks. Love that super fat guitar sound too. In another case of mistaken identity, for years I had always assumed "20th Century Boy" was a hard to find David Bowie song until I picked up the wonderfully named T. Rextasy compilation album in 1986 and discovered the truth alongside fourteen other T. Rex rockers. Watch Marc Bolan and his bandmates tear it up in this clip from Musik Laden on Valentine's Day 1973.
Love "Half-Breed" and remember it well from much airplay and jukebox spins back in the day. Seems the many cowboys that came into Cow Talk on auction days loved them some indian songs. Most vivid memory of the song is an absolutely stunning Cher singing it astride a horse on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour from September 12, 1973.
Don't recall hearing "Give It To Me" prior to the Eighties but as I mentioned here, it was my favorite song in the world for a few weeks in 1986. Did not know until researching this article that the full-length 6:31 album version was briefly released as a 45 in 1973 along with the 3:13 radio edit. Adding it to my want list. Now if you'll excuse me, my wife and I are in the midst of consolidating the Hideaway Archives - instead of having them spread out in three small rooms of The Hideaway, she wants them all in one grand room. We are emptying said room in prepartion for a coat or two of paint but once it dries, the load in begins.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes, that Freaks & Geeks shout out. I love it.

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