A couple of Facebook friends of mine both mentioned the record charts from this week in 1974 recently, so that naturally got me thinking about the spring of 1974 too.
It was the spring of eighth grade. I don’t remember many specifics about that year. I think I went on my first actual date with a girl around that time, and I know I watched baseball every chance I got. I had my own official scorebook, which I used mostly to score games on TV. In that book is the game in which Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home-run record, which happened 40 years ago this week. (I’d like to look at the book now, but I don’t know where it is. Last time I saw it was back in the 90s, in a box that was either just out of storage or on its way there.)
I’m not entirely sure what radio station I was listening to regularly. Probably WCFL in Chicago, where Larry Lujack was doing afternoons. The WCFL survey dated April 6, 1974, reveals a week as purely 70s as any you’d like to pick, with a Top 10 containing at least four half-novelties: “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Spiders and Snakes,” “Eres Tu,” and “The Lord’s Prayer”. One of the most reviled records of the 70s, “Seasons in the Sun,” sits at #11. (Do not revile “Hooked on a Feeling” or we’ll have to throw down.) The same Top 10 also contains a couple of songs that remained on the radio for years thereafter: “Bennie and the Jets” and “Jet.” Others fondly remembered, at least by me: “Rock On,” “T.S.O.P.,” “The Locomotion,” “Let It Ride,” and the Guess Who’s “Star Baby,” the world’s greatest fake CCR record.
It’s not an original observation of mine, but there was a Canadian invasion in 1974, with stars big and small scoring hits in the states. The Guess Who, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, and Andy Kim would count among the big ones. Several among the small were on ‘CFL 40 years ago this week.
15. “Virginia”/Bill Amesbury (up from 20). A rowdy hootenanny thing, “Virginia” was Amesbury’s only American hit amidst several he had in his native Canada. In the early 80s, Amesbury came out as a transsexual and goes by Barbara now.
25. “Last Kiss”/Wednesday (down from 16). More Canadians. “Last Kiss” was their version of the teenage death record written by Wayne Cochran and most famously recorded by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers.
27. “Simone”/Henry Gross (up from 32). Gross (who is not from Canada) was once a member of Sha-Na-Na, and he would become a household word (at least in my household) with “Shannon” in 1976. “Simone,” which didn’t make the Hot 100, is your garden variety 70s pop ballad, although every time Gross jumps into his high register, it’s like somebody’s being stabbed—maybe not him, but definitely the listener.
28. “I Am What I Am”/Lois Fletcher (up from 33). Yet another Canadian (who is not Academy Award-winning actress Louise Fletcher, as some Internet sites insist), she did time during the 60s in the folk group Back Porch Majority, which was intended as a farm team for the New Christy Minstrels to develop new talent. She doesn’t seem to have made it with the Minstrels, but she got her own record deal anyhow. “I Am What I Am” is likable enough, but at the same time it’s easy to hear why it didn’t become a smash.
39. “Tryin’ to Hold on to My Woman”/Lamont Dozier (down from 31). One-third of the great Holland-Dozier-Holland production and songwriting team at Motown and later Hot Wax, Lamont Dozier managed a couple of Top 40 hits as a singer. “Tryin’ to Hold on to My Woman” is a fine soul ballad that had risen to #15 on the Hot 100.
It is both surprising and not how much of the spring of 1974 I am unable to remember anymore. I suspect that without the music, Hank Aaron and streaking might be it.