Top 5: New Teachers and Old Landmarks

It’s October 1971. I’m in Mr. Schilling’s sixth-grade class at Northside School. He is the first male classroom teacher I have ever had, a peculiar and unpredictable combination of fun guy and hard-ass. I like him, and not just because he’s the first teacher who doesn’t give me a poor grade in handwriting—he can’t do it, he says, because his handwriting is even worse than mine. A teacher I like much less is Miss Hibbard, which is not her real name. She is the director of the district’s sixth-grade band, which rehearses one or two afternoons a week, and I am a not-particularly-talented saxophone player with a smart mouth. What I remember about Miss Hibbard is that she was extremely young—on her first teaching job that fall, if I had to guess now—and she had the habit of speaking her mind, often without editing. One day in rehearsal, she said something to me, or about me, that incensed my mother when I reported it at home. I don’t remember what it was, but Mom actually called Miss Hibbard to complain, which is something I can’t recall her doing any other time.

A big obsession that fall is touch football. Being on the 1971 Grade Football League champion Northside Browns is the highlight of my sorry athletic career. But my biggest obsession is the radio. I have written about the music from October 1971 during several other Octobers in the life of this blog, ringing changes on the most familiar songs: “Maggie May” and “Spanish Harlem” and “I’ve Found Someone of My Own” and “All Day Music” and others that still retain the power to take me back there, to the football field or the band room or the school bus, like “Annabella” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds or “Charity Ball” by Fanny. So this time, here are the Top 5 albums on WLS for the week of October 4, 1971:

1. Every Picture Tells a Story/Rod Stewart. This album didn’t appear on the WLS list of top albums for the week of September 27, but it stood atop the list the next week and stayed there through October. It may have been Number One in Chicago even longer than that, but WLS apparently did not publish an album list on its November surveys until the last one of the month, when the album had fallen to eighth.

2. Every Good Boy Deserves Favor/Moody Blues. Propelled by “The Story in Your Eyes,” which wasn’t especially big on WLS that fall, making only Number 14 on the station’s chart in a six-week run. In the years since, it’s become my favorite Moody Blues song.

3. Shaft/Isaac Hayes. The title song from the movie wouldn’t debut on the WLS chart for a week yet, but the album had come out during the summer. It hit the top spot in Billboard in early November, a couple of weeks before the title song did the same thing.

4. Tapestry/Carole King. This landmark album had been on the radio all summer, and the double-A-sided single “So Far Away” and “Smackwater Jack” kept the roll going. Favorite piece of trivia about the album: King is pictured on the cover at her home in Laurel Canyon with her cat, who was named Telemachus.

5. Who’s Next/The Who. I bought the single version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” late that summer, edited to 3:37 from 8:32, and it would be maybe three years before I heard the full-length version on the radio. The familiarity of the full-length version makes listening to the 45 a distinctly odd experience. A colleague of mine once suggested that the unexpected transitions are so jarring that they make you feel as though you’re tripping over something.

In October 1971, I have made a full trip around the sun with WLS in my ear. I have more to come, but it will be several years before another autumn trip captures my imagination the way 1971 does.

7 responses

  1. I can’t even begin to imagine hearing Won’t Get Fooled Again edited that short! That would be quite jarring.

    The one other egregious example that comes to mind is Chicago’s [i]Beginnings[/i] which was chopped from 8 minutes down to 2:55. OUCH! Granted the percussion solo on the end does go on a bit, but it doesn’t go on THAT much.

  2. Love that record label: “From the motion picture ‘Lifehouse.’ ”
    I’ve read that Townshend suffered a breakdown over the failure of the Lifehouse concept to come to fruition. Things like this mini-ad for the movie must only have increased the pressure on him to come through.

    Also love the misspelled credit for “Glyn John” and the massive credits for the executive producers, whose names are as large as the artist’s.

  3. My sixth grade teacher was the first “mister” in my school days, and because the first two letters of his last name were “G” and “J”, we were all drilled in the proper spelling by the end of hour one. It’s still committed to memory, too. He drove a bizarre-looking car I’d never heard of called a Volvo (hey, it was 1962) and moonlighted at night at a brand-new local discount store called Target. Running into him in that context with one’s parents in tow somehow seemed very odd. He was a great teacher, and I don’t know how he managed to find the time for everything.

    I happened to be recording an aircheck at the time, so I still remember the exact spot during “The Story In Your Eyes” where someone back in the production studio at my college station unwittingly bumped a switch or unplugged something that brought the studio turntable to a halt and simultaneously took the station’s transmitter off the air. I half expect the record to die at that same spot whenever I hear it.

    @Kinky: It was only the “Won’t Get Fooled Again” pressings from Decca’s Gloversville, NY plant that were labeled with that weird oversized font (my promo copy from that plant sports producer credits that are *on top of* – and even *larger* than – the “The Who” billing!) My commercial 45 from the Pinckneyville, Ilinois Decca plant had more typically-sized credits listed below a large “The Who.” Its song title was also spread over two lines, with “Won’t” perched atop “Get Fooled Again.” It still has the “Glyn John’ misspelling, though.

  4. Substitute Mr. Metscher for Mr. Schilling, and move the date back to October 1968, and you have my experience.

  5. I was in eighth grade in October 1971, and I’ve long looked back on that as one of my favorite years musically. There was still one great single after another, and yet I was starting to explore albums too, including the ones you mentioned. (“Who’s Next” is in my personal top 10, and “Every Picture Tells a Story” captures Rod Stewart at his peak.) “The Story in Your Eyes” still sounds exhilarating (Dick Bartley played it tonight). I agree that the edited version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” sounds jarring, but the single version of “Beginnings” did work for me, since that’s how it was played on KHJ here in Southern California, but also because it was the song I most wished I could sing to a girl I then had a hopeless crush. “I wish I could sing it to you” indeed. Unlike in “Fooled,” the edits worked for me. That said, I do prefer to hear the full version but without the long percussion finale, but when I hear the short version, it takes me right back to fall 1971.

  6. In 1971, my Dad let me install an 8-track player in his truck. An uncle of mine later handed me a few 8-track tapes he said he hadn’t listened to in awhile so he gave them to me. I recall one of them being a Ringo Starr album and another was “Who’s Next” by The Who. One of my favorite memories was riding home from our farm in the early evening as the sun was setting and my dad saying to me, “Why don’t you put on one of your 8-track tapes and we’ll listen to it on the way home?” You can imagine the sheer joy of a 12-year old at the time, listening to all 8:32 of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with his Dad behind the wheel. I’m sure he didn’t care for the song, but he seemed to like his son’s enjoyment of the “modern” technology that was in place at that time.

  7. Interesting how memories and music go together. When I worked in radio in the mid-70’s we played a six minute version of Beginnings by just fading the long percussion part out and even today that is how I play it. Story In Your Eyes has always been a personal fave. Love hearing it. With Rod Stewart I remember WCOL fading it out at about 3 minutes in before the mandolin. I didn’t know it was longer until later that year when the full 5:15 started getting play. The Who I can listen to the long or short version and be ok, although that single long organ solo near the end goes on a little to long on the LP for my taste. It’s like the song sits there for a minute waiting for something to happen. Like to this day I prefer the radio edit of Radar Love because that is how I remember hearing it. Although there are many songs that I prefer the LP version over the single, it just depends. My two cents.

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