1) The latter half of 74 saw three male singers from yesteryear begin impressive comebacks: first up was Paul Anka, with “Having My Baby,” then Neil Sedaka, with “Laughter in the Rain,” and finally Frankie Valli, with “My Eyes Adored You.” All of them hit #1, and before things began petering out again in mid 76, they each hit the Top 40 multiple times–Valli even dragged the Four Seasons back into the spotlight. They’re all in this countdown: Anka at #18, Sedaka at #33, Four Seasons at #40.
Of the three, I’d argue that Sedaka’s return was the most impressive (though I’ll admit it clearly helped to have Elton on his side). Not only did he hit #1 twice in 75, but three other songs he co-wrote also made the charts in this period. Captain and Tennille helped the most with #1 song of the year “Love Will Keep Us Together,” followed not too long after by “Lonely Night (Angel Face).” And then there was the beautifully sad “Solitaire,” sung by the tragic figure of Karen Carpenter, here at its peak of #17.
2) I have a very early memory of “Close To You.” It had to have been the late summer of 70, when I was 6 and it was at the top of the charts. I see myself with my sister, playing in the driveway at my grandparents’ house in Richmond. I guess there was a radio on somewhere. Or maybe we’d encountered it often enough to be able to sing about angels and moondust on our own. Regardless, the song and I are both there.
The Carpenters came over the airwaves a lot on the car radio in the first half of the 70s. My strongest memories are of the songs from 73, after my family and my grandparents had moved back to the northern part of Kentucky. “Sing,” “Yesterday Once More,” and, in particular, “Top of the World.” Seems like only last week that I was riding with Mom and Amy the ten miles between our home and my grandparents’ farm, joining in on “…and the only explanation I can find…”
My recollection is that I was also in the car when I learned of Karen’s death. Friday, February 4 of 83, my first winter in college, heading home for the weekend. WLAP-FM in Lexington had just gotten a new set of tapes of current hits to play (much more on this tomorrow); I heard “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and “One on One” for the first time on that journey. Around the halfway point, Williamstown, the news broke over the air. I imagine that I didn’t react overly to the news, though it was notable enough that I recall hearing it. One of the first cases of an important vocalist from my youth being silenced.