My 40 Favorite Albums from 1973 (Part 1 of 4)

In 1973, I turned seven years old. My earliest memories are from that year and they are of music on the radio. It makes sense that if 1982 was the absolute ultimate year in music for me, then flipping back the calendar a decade would be a good place to start so here we are, the dawn of My Favorite Decade For Music 1973-1982. Full disclosure: As a seven year old, I owned exactly none of these albums in 1973 and would not own any of them until around 1978 or so. But because Dad owned so many of them on vinyl or eight-track, I had access and did indeed listen to a lot of them in 1973 and beyond. This list of my 40 Favorite Albums from 1973 is a combination of memories (real and imagined), actual play counts and the personal preferences of a man way too close to 50 for comfort.  David Bowie, Bob Marley, Iggy Pop and others failed to make the cut this time around and for that I make no excuses - these are the albums I have either grown up liking or have come to like after growing up and there is a subtle difference.

Hancock first registered on my radar in 1983 with his Future Shock album and smash hit single "Rock It".  There was talk that he was a bonafide jazz artist with a long discography and a sterling pedigree working with other jazz greats but I wasn't interested.  To me he was the "Rock It" guy and I bought a couple of his next albums - Sound System and Perfect Machine - which were along the same lines musically. In the early Nineties, my good friend John Book sent me the Head Hunters CD.  My views on jazz music in general and Hancock in particular grew from that day on.

Janis was a favorite of Dad's, another fellow Texan, and I am very familiar with every song here through extensive listening. If asked, Dad would say his favorite album of hers was Pearl, which is not saying much as it was only her second solo album and it was released posthumously. Her definitive edition of Kris Kristofferson's "Me And Bobby McGee" ranks as both his and my own favorite song of hers by a wide margin but this album is too sad, too depressing to rank much higher.  And that is why they it the blues.

After their complete and total dominance of the radio and MTV in the early Eighties, I circled back around and checked out the duo's earlier, formative efforts. Like this one, their second album. From it, "She's Gone" had been a hit in 1976 after failing in 1973 but I was more into "Rich Girl" and the Bigger Than The Both Of Us album around 1976 but then the twosome all but dropped off the radar and the airwaves though they released three studio albums and a live album before reemerging in 1980 to begin their gold and platinum era of world dominance. I remember seeing copies of this album in the cutout bin and took a chance on it one day and liked what I heard.

Dad had this 45 but not the album. He did have Greatest Hits 1974-78 though and it probably ranked high on his most played eight-track and vinyl combined chart. When I first heard the album version of "The Joker" with its extended coda, it was kinda cool and I like to listen to the album as a whole every once in a while. When I found out that this was his eighth album, I went back and quickly came to understand The Joker was the beginning of a new sound for him which he solidified on his next album, the three years in the making Fly Like An Eagle. That album I listen to all the "time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin' into the future."
"Let Me Be There" is one of the first songs I remember hearing on the jukebox at the Cow Talk in Navasota, Texas. My Texas grandparents managed the place four nights a week (M-Th) and again on Saturday morning and afternoon, when the livestock auctions were held in the adjacent auction barn. My job was to keep a stool at the counter warm in exchange for all the french fries and Frostie Root Beer I wanted. Plus I got a few quarters for the jukebox (2 songs for 25¢ I think) but during the dinner rush I would sit on my stool, spin around slowly and listen to the music others played and just people watch. My quarters were mostly used after the steak house closed during the week or before it opened on Saturdays. This song was an early favorite. People tend to forget that Olivia laid the groundwork for Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Taylor Swift by first becoming a country superstar and then crossing over to the pop charts with a smoother pop sound and becoming even more successful. Dad had the eight-track of this album and I could tell you four maybe five songs off of it from memory but I don't recall him playing it very much but I do remember Olivia looking pretty in the blue tinted picture on the tape.

My Uncle Sam, the youngest of Dad's brothers and sisters, turned eighteen in 1973 which means he'll be sixty-one this year. He had one of those space helmet looking eight-track player radios beside his bed and usually a few tapes piled beside it. I may be wrong but I believe GP was in that pile for a little while, at least the cover art sparks that memory but I don't recall hearing the album until the mid Eighties. Gram's voice and that of Emmylou Harris really had and continue to have an effect on me and when I happened across his second album, the posthumous Grievous Angel, I was hooked. (Man, two posthumously released albums in the first six albums on the list. Hope it doesn't get worse.)

When I get into a ZZ Top mood, this one gets mucho play but other than "La Grange" it has probably been a year since I listened to the rest of this album. The opening trio of tracks - "Waitin' For The Bus" seamlessly segues into "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and that's how I've always heard it on the X radio - is a blast, the perfect blend of blues, rock and Tejas attitude though the album sessions were recorded in Memphis. You don't have to be a native born Texan like me to appreciate this album...

I really don't watch scary movies so "Tubular Bells" wasn't very familiar to me until 1983 when I got my first job. I worked with a guy who was a few years older and out of school and all he did was work and party. On his breaks he would go out, sit in his car with the door open, smoke and listen to music. One night while I was taking out the trash from the lobby, he called me over and as I started across the parking lot towards his car, he said "After you dump the trash, brainiac" and so I switched my route back towards the dumpster a few hundred feet from the back of the restaurant, leaving a stinky liquid trail leaking from the bags the whole way. Coming back to his car, he has the music turned up loud and it sounded like crap in his busted, blown out system but he asks me if I had ever heard it before and I answered truthfully "No" and he said you better get back in there or something like that and that was that. On our next shift together a few days later, Dallas tells me to wait around after work as he has something for me in his car. A co-worker overhears him saying this and begins to tease me all night but by closing says he'll go out to Dallas's car with me to make sure "nothing happens." We all finish our closing duties and as we head out to Dallas's car, I signal to my Mom who was waiting to pick me up. We get to his car and he reaches in and hands me a tape and then puts two slim joints on top of it. I said thank you and he said enjoy. The guy who walked me out pockets the joints and I put the tape in my pocket and head towards Mom, waiting in her Datsun. The tape was pink and titled Tubular Bells and I listened to it for two days before returning it to Dallas on our next shift. Have listened to the album many times since then.

There are two songs on this album - "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging" - that blow away just about everything else Kool & the Gang has recorded before or since. In fact they blow away at least 50% of all songs ever. That's how good they are. One of these days I'm going to listen to the rest of this album.  Maybe.

Like a lot of kids my age, I got into the J Geils Band relatively late in their career with their eleventh album Love Stinks. After their fourteenth and final album You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd, I did that thing where I explore a band's back catalog which was a lot harder to do before the Internet, YouTube and Spotify. I discovered the band's two dynamite live albums, neither of which is titled Showtime! Also came across Bloodshot which kicks off with "(Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party" and ends with "Give It To Me" which became my favorite song for a few weeks in 1986, some thirteen years after it was originally released.

titleartistBest Ever Albums 1973 Top AlbumsCreem's 1973 Reader Poll Top 20Robert Christgau Ratings
40Head HuntersHerbie Hancock16
39Janis Joplin's Greatest HitsJanis Joplin120A
38Abandoned LuncheonetteHall & Oates81B-
37The JokerSteve Miller Band173B-
36Let Me Be ThereOlivia Newton-John415
35GPGram Parsons86B+
34Tres HombresZZ Top30
33Tubular BellsMike Oldfield14C+
32Wild and PeacefulKool & the Gang298
31BloodshotJ. Geils Band19C+



  1. In 1973, I was not buying albums either. I had barely started to pick up 45's at this point. Luckily I had an older brother who was just about at that album-buying age.

    1. Definitely have to give props to both my Dad and my Uncle Sam for exposing me to a lot of great music through my formative years. Their names will pop up more than a few times as we work our way through the list.