American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/2/74: Love Unlimited Orchestra, “Love’s Theme”

I’m not planning to do the “Best Songs of the Year” thing on a weekly basis right now, but Premiere is following a 73 show with one from 74, and it’s just a little too tempting not to play compare and contrast.

Let’s cut to the chase: the “best” tunes that topped AT40 in 74 don’t stack up to those of 73. This pains me a little to say—I have very fond memories of many of the big hits from the year I was 10. But while I still confess to really liking stuff like “Seasons in the Sun” and “The Night Chicago Died,” I recognize they give high readings on the schlock-o-meter. Anyway, it was a fair amount tougher than last week to identify ten songs to highlight, even with more choices (35 of ‘em). I did not choose “The Streak,” but I will go on record as saying that it’s well-written and even clever.

[Related aside: This past November jb and some of his commenters discussed why 74 didn’t stack up musically to other years. I’m not enough of a student of history, nor was I really old enough at the time, to attempt to chime in on the subject. Also, sometime around the same time I read another article online noting how generally awful the chart-toppers of 74 were; I wish I’d saved a link to it.]

Honorable mentions, again in chronological order:

Jim Croce, “Time in a Bottle”
Al Wilson, “Show and Tell”
Elton John, “Bennie and the Jets”
Hues Corporation, “Rock the Boat”
Billy Preston, “Nothing from Nothing”

I could have considered the Croce last week, since it was both the last #1 of 73 and first of 74. There was an eminently reasonable comment on FB from a friend saying he’d have picked Preston’s “Will It Go ‘Round in Circles” for HM in 73; it’s probably a better song than “Nothing from Nothing.” May get some grief for including “Rock the Boat,” but I can withstand it. The real issue may be if “I Honestly Love You” should be in here somewhere.

As for those receiving ranks:

#5: Barbra Streisand, “The Way We Were.” Not one of my personal top tracks for 74, but it tugs all the right heartstrings. It’s not terrible that it wound up as the #1 song of the year.

#4: Love Unlimited Orchestra, “Love’s Theme.” My primary memory of this song comes from its use by either ABC or NBC as background music for some of its weekend sports coverage. I hear the opening and suddenly I’m sitting in the living room of our house in Walton, watching TV. A golf tournament leaderboard pops up on the screen, with a gorgeous seaside course behind it… I will say that “Love’s Theme” is much better than Barry White’s pillow-talk hits. We’re hearing it on its way down this week, at #8.

#3: MSFB and the Three Degrees, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia).” Martha tells me that her high school pep band played this one a fair amount. Definitely wish I could say the same. Also wish I could say that I watched Soul Train growing up…

#2: Paul McCartney and Wings, “Band on the Run.” Warren took me to task last weekend for lumping “My Love” in with the kitschiest stuff from 73, and I suppose I see his point.  But “Band on the Run” is the best, by a decent amount, of McCartney’s post-Fab Four #1 songs.

#1: Gordon Lightfoot, “Sundown.” I really don’t know that I’m finding a clear “best” out of these 35 tunes, so I’m probably letting personal taste boost Lightfoot a little bit. But I’ve loved “Sundown” for almost 45 years now; it’s oblique enough to have held my interest all this time.

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