Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Billboard Top 10 September 23, 1972

I have a theory that in terms of culture, the seventies don't really begun until sometime in late 1971, with 1972 the real first full year of the seventies. I decided to test that out with this month's flashback Top Ten from September of that year. The number one song definitely validates my thesis.

10. Gary Glitter, "Rock and Roll Part 2"

This has got to be one of the weirdest songs in the pop canon. It's hard for me to believe that it ever existed as anything other than something to be blasted over the speakers at sporting events. Now that Gary Glitter's sexual transgressions are known, it makes me feel icky to listen to it. Even without that knowledge, it's pretty damn weird. No lyrics except "hey" over a trashy glam rock riff and chunky handclaps, a sports cheer rather than a song that just needed a few years to find its true home at basketball games.

9. The Raspberries, "Go All The Way"

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, not least of which for its use of this song. Coming years before the advent of New Wave, the Raspberries perfected the power pop sound. Killer riffs mesh beautifully with the soaring melodies, so much that I forget that the singer is merely begging his girlfriend to have sex with him.

8. Elton John, "Honky Cat"

Elton John ruled the charts in the early 70s, and I've always liked this song (and the album it came from), because it's got a little more bite and less balladry to it. There's a good little boogie piano beneath the usually on point melody here.

7. The Main Ingredient, "Everybody Plays The Fool"

This is a nice little slice of catchy, sweet soul music. I was just listening to Parliament's "Make My Funk The P-Funk," which name checks them, but puts them down as not being funky enough. Yes, this song is poppy with those flute touches, but it still definitely holds up today.

6. Michael Jackson, "Ben"

Michael Jackson's first solo number one hit was a ballad from a movie about killer rats. No, I am not joking. It's a tepid but sweet song that is redeemed by the bright light of Jackson's unique talent, evident even at this young age.

5. Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Alone Again (Naturally)"

Now this here is most definitely a prime specimen of early 1970s pop music. It's a melancholic song about heartbreak and contemplating suicide set to a jaunty tune, the singer resigned to his fate. The seventies malaise certainly made music like this seem relevant.

4. The O'Jays, "Backstabbers"

The mighty O'Jays cut the best examples of the Philadelphia soul sound, a sublime combination of funky rhythms and lush arrangements. Although the song is about a man whose friend is making moves on his lady, I've always thought it appropriate that this song came out on the eve of Richard Nixon's re-election. The feeling of paranoia that drenches the song is just about spot on for the times.

3. Chicago, "Saturday In The Park"

Before Peter Cetera showed them the way to 80s pop ballad nirvana, Chicago played horn-driven, jazzy tunes catchy enough to make the Top 40. I don't care much for their music from either era, but this one has a nice mellow feel, similar to, well, spending Saturday in the park.

2. Three Dog Night, "Black and White"

Of all the artists on the top ten this week, Three Dog Night is probably the one most trapped in the early 1970s, a poppier version of Grand Funk Railroad. This band had a metric ton of hits, eleven in the top ten from 1969 to 1974, and 21 Top 40 entries total from 1969 to 1975. They represented the mainstreaming of the sixties counterculture in the 70s in songs like this one, which expresses support for racial harmony in the blandest terms possible. "Ebony and Ivory" might be edgier.

1. Mac Davis, "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me"

Hoo boy, this song is so seventies you can practically smell the polyester. Davis was a very 70s kind of performer, a songwriter who then started singing his own tunes, much like Carole King and Kris Kristofferson. Like Kristofferson he had one foot in country and one foot in the pop world. The theme of this song is about as seventies as it gets: a bored sounding man telling a young woman who he's boning not to get attached to him. It has lines like "You're a hot blooded woman child/ And it's warm where you're touching me." Eww. By the seventies the sexual revolution had become bland and banal, enough to make the top of the charts and not feel subversive in any way.

No comments: