Who You Are

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(Pictured: Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods on American Bandstand, 1974.)

One of my nephews started his freshman year in high school last week. On his first day, I found that I couldn’t remember a single damn thing about my first day in high school, which would have been in 1974. (I’d like to think it’s because my memory is full rather than failing, but anything’s possible.) Then I listened to the American Top 40 show from September 7, 1974. I didn’t remember specific incidents as much as I remembered who that freshman was, and how it felt to be him: game for a challenge but nervous about it, optimistic but wary, holding on to what was familiar as a compass for navigating the stuff that wasn’t.

This chart sits right between the seasons, with songs I’d been hearing on AM all summer and songs I would be hearing when I discovered FM that fall. The latter also provide the soundtrack for one of those autumns I remember as especially happy and secure, although it almost certainly was not. The usual handful of notes is on the flip.

40. “Stop and Smell the Roses” and 36. “One Hell of a Woman”/Mac Davis. This may have been the week in which the 1970s reached peak Mac-itude. Davis had his own TV variety show in the summer, and “One Hell of a Woman” had peaked at #11 in July. It had fallen to #41 for the week of August 31 (its 23rd week on the Hot 100), but then jumped back into the 40 for two more weeks before falling out again. As for “Stop and Smell the Roses,” I have always thought it sounds mighty good on the radio, although nobody plays it anymore.

30. “Earache My Eye”/Cheech and Chong. The hottest record on the show this week, up nine spots. The raging riff around which “Earache My Eye” is built (which is actually pretty great) made for a horrible train wreck next to…

29.  “I Love My Friend”/Charlie Rich. Rich charted five singles on the Hot 100 in 1974 alone, all of which were #1 country singles. And that’s not counting “The Most Beautiful Girl,” which had done time at #1 pop and country in December 1973.

24.  “Free Man in Paris”/Joni Mitchell and 23. “Who Do You Think You Are”/Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. These two records plus golden early September sunshine equals Jim being unable to take your call at the moment. Please leave a message and he will return your call when he gets back from 1974.

16.  “Rub It In”/Billy “Crash” Craddock. This cheesy summer goof was a #1 hit on the country chart and it maintained its #16 Hot 100 peak for three weeks. Here’s something deeply weird: ARSA shows it at #1 on a survey from LM Radio 917 in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, dated November 3, 1974. Which means “Rub It In” hit #1 in Mozambique while the country was being wracked by revolution.

12.  “Hang on in There Baby”/Johnny Bristol. In which Bristol is fairly explicit about making love to his “sweet virgin of the world,” exploding in ecstasy and such. Obviously, this wasn’t the easiest thing for me to hear in the fall of 1974, and it was no picnic the other day in the car if you wanna be honest about it.

11.  “Feel Like Makin’ Love”/Roberta Flack. Stay horny, my friends.

10.  “Then Came You”/Dionne Warwick and the Spinners. This record cracked the Top 10 in its seventh week on the Hot 100. It would go 8-6-4-3-3-2 before hitting #1 for the week of October 26, which I believe was some kind of record for slow cooking to #1. For the week of November 2, it would fall to #15. A few years ago I wrote about the unusual plunges made by certain records in the fall of 1974; the drop by “Then Came You” was one of the strangest, although the week after it happened, Billy Preston’s “Nothing From Nothing” would take exactly the same dive.

1.  “(You’re) Having My Baby”/Paul Anka and Odia Coates. When I was writing World’s Worst Songs for Popdose a few years ago, this was a particularly low-hanging piece of fruit. Long story short, it earned Anka the title of Ms. magazine’s 1974 Male Chauvinist of the Year, although he’d started down that route years before by writing “She’s a Lady,” the 1971 Tom Jones hit.

I don’t hate “Having My Baby” as much as some people do, however. There are worse records on this chart. For example: if I have to choose between “Having My Baby” and “Rub It In,” hit it again, Paul.

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2 responses

  1. Is your answering-machine riff a deliberate reference to “The Rockford Files” (debuted September 1974), or is that just coincidence?

    Some interesting-to-me stuff on the back half of that chart, like Grand Funk with the weird, swampy-sounding “Shinin’ On,” and Tower of Power making one of its few Top 40 appearances.

  2. 1974 seemed like a long year to me: getting the nerve to put my arm around a girl on a school bus trip to “Seasons in the Sun; Boy Scout camp with somebody’s radio playing “Waterloo,” “The Air That I Breathe” and “LaGrange;” our trip to Florida with the radio playing “I Shot the Sheriff, “Rock Me Gently” and “Sweet Home Alabama” then watching the Nixon resignation on the hotel teevee. Like you, high school loomed. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the cafeteria had a juke-box and someone played “Come Monday,” “Let it Ride” and “Woman From Tokyo” every single day that fall.

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