American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/5/73: First Choice, “Armed and Extremely Dangerous”

In last week’s Albert Hammond post I gave a quick shout-out to “The Free Electric Band,” a song I knew only because of its appearance on Fantastic, a K-Tel compilation that my father must have brought home toward the end of 1973. (If I had to guess, my sister and I might have requested it after seeing ads on TV; “Little Willy” would have been a big attraction.) As fate would have it, this weekend’s show features nine of that LP’s twenty-two tracks, including the songs at #1, #3, #5, and #8. But I don’t want to talk about Tony Orlando, Donny Osmond, or that mess that Vicki Lawrence sings (even if I do kind of like it). Instead, here’s a toast to a few of Fantastic‘s less well-known 1973 offerings.

Rod Stewart was in the midst of his mid-70s mini-drought between “You Wear It Well” and “Tonight’s the Night.” This Sam Cooke cover hit #59 in September.

I was really surprised to learn that Cliff Richard didn’t even chart with “Power to All Our Friends.” It was one of the cuts on Fantastic that really stood out after Amy and I took possession of the album and slapped it on the family hi-fi.

I’d be remiss not to include Hammond’s cut. It’s #89 on this chart and would reach #48 in a few weeks. Playing it a couple of times this past week has me realizing it’s quite the quality tune.

One of the greatest songs evah to peak at #40 was the top discovery I made from Fantastic. Worthy of its own post someday, but I can’t talk about this album without inserting Gunhill Road’s “Back When My Hair Was Short.”

Four of those nine Fantastic songs on the 5/5/73 show were played in the first quarter of the show; two debuts (from Barry White and Lobo), and two R&B one-hit wonders in their second week, both of which I’m thinking had received play in that ad: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now,” by New York City, and “Armed and Extremely Dangerous,” from First Choice. The latter song, courtesy of three women based in Philly, is at #34 here and would climb just seven spots higher. Casey compares them to the Honey Cone, and I’ll allow that “Armed and Extremely Dangerous” bears a resemblance, at least subject matter-wise, to “Stick Up.” It’s a tasty piece that should have fared better.

Our friend HERC has written up a number of K-Tel releases from the 70s and 80s; you can find his tribute to Fantastic here.

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