On Monday, Erik Mattox and I began surveying chart-toppers from the 1970s that are near and dear to us, and now we’re back with another batch of fine tunes. This time my selections run the gamut from Motown and Philly soul to pure pop and AOR. When you’re done here, click over to Erik’s pad and to check out his next set of picks.
The Captain and Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together” (June-July 1975, 4 weeks)
WH: My sister and I loved this so much when it came out and, like hordes of others, we became huge Toni and Daryl fans almost instantly. I’ve noted before that by 1975 I was getting old enough to consider there might be such a thing as a “#1 song of the year,” and that, based on my own anecdotal radio listening experience, “Love Will Keep Us Together” had to be the top song for ‘75. (Even if my logic wasn’t sound, I turned out to be right.)
EM: I watched tons of TV as a kid, more than I listened to music. And I was a sucker for variety shows, which would quench my thirst for both. So, I always made sure to catch Daryl & Toni each Monday night they were on. They used this as their theme, and why wouldn’t they? This keyboard-driven tune is easily the best pop single they recorded. Also, it’s the last #1 that drummer and Wrecking Crew member Hal Blaine played on.
Did you know that the song’s writer Neil Sedaka originally recorded this in England in 1973 and was backed up by 10cc?
Dawn, “Knock Three Times” (January-February 1971, 3 weeks)
WH: There is no question that side one of K-Tel’s 20 Power Hits Volume 2 (an album my father picked up along the way) plays an outsized role in my memories and feelings about the music of the early ‘70s. “Knock Three Times” is the only #1 hit on that compilation. Despite all the lyrical clues, my seven-year-old brain screwed up where Tony’s apartment was relative to that of the object of his affection. It took years to unlearn the mistaken thought that she lived above him.
EM: Even though Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown stole a lot of this tune from the Drifters’ “Spanish Harlem” (and Dawn’s previous hit, “Candida”), I can’t deny how catchy this is or how it gives me a burning desire to smash things during the chorus. I do wonder what situation they imagined Tony Orlando (or us) to be in where we would have exposed pipes in our house to bang on and how tall we were or how low our ceilings were.
The O’Jays, “Love Train” (March 1973, 1 week)
WH: It’s great when such joy and positivity gets rewarded. Forget about the Coors Light commercials of the last decade or so; just join hands and climb on board.
Its trip to the top prevented Roberta Flack from having a second song spend six weeks at #1 .
EM: The biggest triumph for Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff has been co-opted so many times in the decades since. It’s easy to forget the significance of this slice of proto-Disco as a rallying plea for gender and racial equality and as the smoothest anti-war tune, you’ll ever hear. Lyrically, its strength lies in telling what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t. And I don’t care who has covered or will cover this tune. You are never gonna beat the choral sound of Walter Williams, William Powell, and Eddie Levert’s voices blended together.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Blinded by the Light” (February 1977, 1 week)
WH: Here’s another song that snapped me to attention when I began hearing it on the radio; bought the single early in its chart run. My sister and I tried our best to decipher the lyrics that winter, to little avail. It took buying a copy of Song Hits magazine to knock out some of the more obscure passages, and even then, it was what Springsteen had written and not what Chris Thompson sang.
EM: As soon as I hear Manfred’s organ stabs, I’m transported to my backyard, rolling around the grass and running through our forsythia. When the verse was finished, and the guitarist played his triplet licks, I would run across the lawn as fast as I could before that Minimoog lead slid up to the top note, and as it wavered, collapsing to the ground while I stared into the Spring sun. Cause that was where the fun was.
And while everyone got caught up in the ‘was it deuce or douche’ discussion, I thought for sure Thompson said that “little Early Pearly gave me anus curly wurly, not “came by in his curly-wurly.” Mine makes more sense, especially since Bruce is writing about the music business.
The Jackson 5, “I Want You Back” (January 1970, 1 week)
WH: The song that launched/paved the way for quite a few careers, most notably that of precocious, eleven-year-old Michael. The intro is smoking, with a bass line to die for. MJ’s “All I need!” toward the end is simply the cherry on top.
EM: Thanks for including this, William. I didn’t put any MJ or his brothers in my list, but I will fully admit that their records are the only bubblegum that transcended the genre. I loved their cartoon and would watch reruns any time that I could. So, when I hear this single, or “ABC” or “The Love You Save,” all I can think about is the show’s theme song, a sped-up medley of all their hits at the time, while the band members flicked across the screen placed in their respective hearts along with Rosie the snake and the two mice, Ray & Charles.
The third installment is slated to go live early next week.