American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/2/72: Billy Paul, “Me and Mrs. Jones”

I’ve mentioned previously that one of the pieces of data I noted in my early days of charting and 45 collecting was the artist’s label. There was still a decent variety of labels in the mid-70s, though even then it wasn’t too hard to figure that the two biggest players appeared to be the Warner/Reprise/Atlantic/Asylum/Elektra and Columbia/Epic families. It was interesting enough to track the changes the various companies made to their logos/labels on 45s as the 70s slipped into the 80s. Mention a single that I bought during that period and often an image of the label pops immediately into my head.

Even though I don’t believe I owned anything on Philadelphia International (which was distributed by Columbia) back in the day, I still associate the name with the grey-green color used on its 45s. It was a Kenny Gamble/Leon Huff joint, and they, along with Thom Bell, deserve much of the credit for what we know as the “Philly soul sound” of the 70s. I think of Lou Rawls and the O’Jays as their primary acts, but they also had MFSB, the Three Degrees, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (as well as Teddy Pendergrass after he went solo), and Billy Paul.

“Me and Mrs. Jones” was PI’s first pop #1 hit, spending three weeks there at the end of the year (here, it’s #13 and zooming up). At the time, it caught the attention of me and my sister mostly for Paul’s dramatic singing of the title phrase (even though she was just seven, Amy could do what sounded to me at the time an acceptable imitation of it). I now recognize it for the fabulous slice of early 70s soul it is.

Paul kept recording for a few more years after his smash, but success was mostly limited to the soul charts (he did have one other pop Top 40 hit, “Thanks For Saving My Life,” which made #37 in April 74). He died in April 2016, part of the big wave of musical artists who passed on that year. Today would have been his 84th birthday.

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