I’ve said it before, and likely will say it again someday: one of the greatest things to come from listening to old AT40s over the past decade has been discovering Soul hits from the first half of the 1970s (when I was between six and ten years old) that failed to make the pop canon. This weekend, Premiere is playing the 5/1/71 show, and fully a quarter of its tunes went Top 10 on Billboard‘s R&B chart. A few are still well-known today; perhaps others deserved to be. Let’s investigate. (Note: any omissions are due to less-than-crack research on my part.)
33. Brenda & the Tabulations, “Right on the Tip of My Tongue” (peaked at #10 R&B)
An all-time great group name, notable enough to receive mention in Reunion’s fall 1974 stream-of-consciousness hit “Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me).” (Trivia question: in checking “Rock”‘s lyrics for mentions of other acts, I discovered that indeed there’s another group in this post who got name-checked in it–do you know which one?)
32. Honey Cone, “Want Ads” (#1)
I learned a lot when Casey started recapping the #1 songs of the 1970s in October 1978, but not enough. While I’m pretty sure I was passingly familiar with “Want Ads” by then, I didn’t know the name of the performers–my chart from 12/9/78 shows I thought they were called “The Honey Combs.”
29. King Floyd, “Baby Let Me Kiss You” (#5)
I did not know until writing this: 1) King was Floyd’s given name; 2) he and I share(d) a birthday. As was the case for Brenda & the Tabulations, we’re being treated to the second of two forays onto AT40.
25. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “I Don’t Blame You at All” (#7)
The 27th and final Top 40 hit by the Miracles while Smokey was with them.
23. The Fuzz, “I Love You for All Seasons” (#10)
Like Honey Cone, the Fuzz was a female vocal trio. I should have known this song well during the 70s. One deeply abiding mystery from that period is why I rarely flipped over K-Tel’s 20 Power Hits Volume 2 after side one (which I listened to frequently) finished. Had I done so, I’d be singing along this weekend instead of trying recover from a lost opportunity.
13. Stevie Wonder, “We Can Work It Out” (#3)
One great cover of a former #1 song…
12. Aretha Franklin, “Bridge over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” (#1)
9. The Temptations, “Just My Imagination” (#1)
Another final turn for a legendary vocalist before striking out on his own: Eddie Kendricks bowed out from the Temps after recording this classic.
4. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On” (#1)
I’ve never tried to rank my favorite 70s songs that peaked at #2; my initial reaction is that it’d be hard to pick anything over “What’s Going On.”
3. The Jackson 5, “Never Can Say Goodbye” (#1)
“Mama’s Pearl” had also broken their streak of #1 R&B hits; “Never Can Say Goodbye” temporarily righted that ship, though it’d be another three years before they had another #1 R&B (“Dancing Machine”).
Doing penance for past sins by embedding “I Love You for All Seasons.” It took a 12-position leap in this show, perhaps suggesting it might also go Top 10 Pop. The early 70s Hot 100 was a capricious place, though, one in which a song’s momentum could quickly prove ephemeral. From here, it’d go 22-22-21-28-33-off the chart. The Fuzz disbanded the following year.