Top 5: You Get What You Need

I have written here previously of my amazement that the whole country didn’t end up diabetic in the summer of 1973, given the sugary goop that was proliferating on the radio: Donny Osmond’s “The Twelfth of Never,” “Sing” by the Carpenters,” “My Love” by Paul McCartney and Wings, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Dawn, “Playground in My Mind” by Clint Holmes. But holy smokes, look at the top of the chart from WCFL in Chicago dated May 26, 1973: How many other charts of the 1970s were topped by two instrumentals, and by two hard-rockin’ instrumentals at that? “Hocus Pocus” by Focus and “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter hold down the top two spots, with Steely Dan’s guitar-driven “Reelin’ in the Years” at Number Three. Plus Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, the Stones, and Pink Floyd are on the chart to counterbalance the cotton candy.

This is why I love me some 70s Top 40.

Elsewhere on the chart, these tunes were happenin’:

8. “Cherry Cherry”/Neil Diamond (holding at 8). This is the version of “Cherry Cherry” from Hot August Night, a live album recorded as Diamond’s transition from rock ‘n’ roll kid to tasteful adult balladeer was in progress. In later years, Diamond would sound uncomfortable singing these rockin’ old numbers—or maybe he just had trouble summoning up the passion to do them one more damn time.

18. “Let’s Pretend”/Raspberries (up from 21). After you’ve made one of the greatest AM radio rockers of all time in “Go All the Way,” what do you do for an encore? The same thing, again. “I Wanna Be With You” was “Go All the Way” with extra caffeine, while “Let’s Pretend” is the prequel, before the protagonist of “Go All the Way” got quite so horned up. Its failure to become a national hit on the scale of the earlier two singles is a crime against art. Here it is, in a TV performance from approximately 1973:

21. “Back When My Hair Was Short”/Gunhill Road (up from 24). One of the profoundly great one-shot singles of the 1970s, “Back When My Hair Was Short” narrates a young man’s experiences growing up in the 1960s. He’s a sock-hop refugee from the 1950s making his way in a decade of change; the song is goofy/nostalgic, and damn catchy. But that is not the story the song originally set out to tell. The version that appeared on Gunhill Road’s eponymous album was vastly different, and in no way fit for AM radio circa 1973. A representative verse follows:

Back when my hair was short
Before I’d been to court
For selling dope to some kids
Only a couple of lids
They stood around and made bids

The Gunhill Road album and both versions of “Back When My Hair Was Short” were produced by a fella named Kenny Rogers. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

22. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”/Rolling Stones (down from 19). This song had been on the flipside of “Honky Tonk Women” in 1969, but was released on its own in 1973 in hopes of spurring sales of the Hot Rocks 1964-1971 and More Hot Rocks compilation albums, which had both been released the previous year.

25. “Wild About My Lovin'”/Adrian Smith (up from 28). I have been able to learn practically nothing about Adrian Smith, except that she’s not the guitarist with Iron Maiden. The phrase “tiny lady, big voice” pops up in a significant number of web citations about her self-titled album, but that’s it. “Wild About My Lovin'” rode the charts at WCFL for at least 12 weeks in the summer of 1973, and it got some play on other Chicago stations as well. If you know anything more, help a brother out.

“Back When My Hair Was Short” (original album version)/Gunhill Road (the Gunhill Road album and various compilations that once contained the 45 version of “Back When My Hair Was Short” are all out of print; as is often the case with officially out-of-print material, used and after-market copies remain available; see comment below)

6 responses

  1. I’m embarrassed to say that I had never heard a Raspberries song until I got Rhino’s power pop compilation some 10 years ago. I grew up with the solo Eric Carmen (“She Did It” and “All By Myself,” not “Hungry Eyes”) and was oblivious to his former life.

    I’m glad I got that off my chest.

  2. “Back When My Hair Was Short,” the 45 version, is available on the “Buddha Box” set. I checked Amazon, and it has new and used copies available. (I have the set and it’s a fun one just in terms of the diversity of music on it.)

  3. I have the single version of “Back When My Hair Was Short” on a compilation LP I picked up recently, and I almost ripped it … but, man, that tune was so lame! Just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

  4. I embarrassingly admit this is the first I’ve heard of the ‘original lyrics’ for the Gunhill Road song.

    Did some underground album rock station in the middle of anywhere U.S.A. ever play the original?

  5. Don’t know much about her either, but there is currently an eBay auction for a copy of her self-titled LP (also on the MCA label, MCA-322). Songs include Wild About My Lovin’, Sweet Sweetheart, I Say, Let Yourself Go, You Win Again (side 1); That’ll Be The Day, Steer Clear, Close Your Eyes, We All Gotta Do It, It’s All Over Now (side 2). Produced by Jim Long and Clark Gassman, arrangements by Clark Gassman.

    Here’s a link, including pics of the LP (front and back): http://cgi.ebay.com.sg/ADRIAN-SMITH-self-titled-LP-MCA-322-sealed-1973-female-/350332971941

  6. David L. Bisese | Reply

    Couldn’t disagree with you more about Neil Diamond. In later years the song rocked even more in concert. In these early years he played the song a bit faster than the recorded version. Somewhere around the mid-80’s Neil must’ve realized how many current artists had stolen his E-A-D-A “Cherry, Cherry” riff and he reverted back to playing the song at its original tempo. The result was a much less “rushed” feel and a much more streamlined rocker that illustrated just how much then-current hits like “R*O*C*K in the U.S.A.” and “What I Like About You” had stolen his riff. (Check out the live version on Neil’s late 80’s “Hot August Night II” collection and you’ll see what I mean.)

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