AM radio pop

Transistor Heaven: The Next Generation

I guess that September of 1972 was a big time for me. It was my first month of high school and first time at a non-parochial school if you don’t count kindergarten. I had been liberated from the yoke of the educational nunnery and free to live out the remainder of my days as a secular humanist. In truth, they hadn’t been all that bad the last couple of years, what with their folk masses and the stamp of approval they gave to Jesus Christ Superstar.

Yes, there was a recent infiltration of “messiah rock” into the charts—–think “Spirit in the Sky” and “Put Your Hand in the Hand” (even “King Herod’s Song” from JCS was a minor hit at least in my area). But in the larger musical world (in those days for me that meant WMEX 1510, Boston’s “NEW Music Authority”) reflected the wider temporal world of big ideas, big ideals and multi-culturalism, not dogma. The variety of styles in the Top 30 songs of their countdown for the week of September ’72 was impressive: along with about ten classic R&B numbers there was power pop, adult contemporary, prog rock, folk rock, an Elvis song and even a novelty instrumental with “Popcorn.” As music reflects the era, the times felt expansive instead of the strangely insular vibe that comes with our more “interconnected” 21st century.

This is an idea that I’ve tried to relate to my now 17 year-old son. While he is more open-minded than a lot of others, he still has the instinctive need to make fun of dad’s “stoner rock” even though he has wistfully acknowledged its superiority in an unguarded moment. I was good about it, not claiming victory and running out to buy a “I May Be Old But At Least I Saw All The Cool Bands” t-shirt. When I was driving the Ry-man every day this summer to his seasonal job at a day camp, we had the old radio tug-of-war game going. It was a Snapchat pop station (as I would call it) vs. the Classic Hits morning drive team. I had sorta raised him on the latter so we were all good to go on that (though I had a problem finding any redeeming value in the former) and we reached radio symbiosis one morning in July when the slinky introduction to the O’Jays song that was #1 in Boston 45 years ago this week. I was all ready with the opening cry of “What they do?” Ryan was soon joining in with “Backstabbers” in that full-throated way of his–he’s on his high-school A-Capella team. It became such a favorite that I was compelled to dig up my best-of O’jays CD.

The O’Jays smooth but muscular arrangement and the pointed vocal about your so-called friends trying hit on your old lady (even showing up when you’re not home!) is but one example of the imagination, creative verve and sheer variety of the records that made up that week’s survey on WMEX. At #5, the Main Ingredient (featuring lead singer Cuba Gooding, Sr.) delivers one of the all-time great “advice songs,” that informal genre that started to fade as the Me Decade took hold earnest. The Beatles were experts at this with such songs as “She Loves You,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” and “Hey Jude.” Many R&B artists were just as adept at this form of lyrical magnanimity.


The Main Ingredient, introduced by the late Don Cornelius on “Soul Train. The fact that they’re lip-syncing to the record can’t hide the smooth charisma of Cuba Gooding Sr.

“OK, so your heart’s broken,” concedes Gooding on the tune’s memorable spoken intro. After calming down his extremely distressed friend (“You say you even talking about dying?”), he convincingly assures his pal, and the rest of us, that even though “Everybody Plays the Fool” sometimes before you know it the shoe will be on the other foot. A similar heart-to-heart dialogue opens “Starting All Over Again” by Mel & Tim, the Stax Records cousin act who had hit the U.S. Top Ten three years earlier with the euphemistic “Backfield in Motion.” Well-articulated hopes of romantic reconciliation also informed the 5th Dimension’s “If I Could Reach You” and Rod Stewart’s “You Wear it Well.” Other lyrical gambits ranged from lava-lamp philosophizing (“Nights in White Satin”), to space-program satirizing (Nilsson’s “Spaceman”), to early midlife reconciling (the lost classic “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” by Dan O’Keefe).

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, the diversity of just this small sample exposes the cultural banalities of today’s “woke” generation. But us baby boomers (esp. those of us that are radio programmers) could also learn a little bit about variety these days. Ryan’s musical horizons would probably widen considerably if Dad’s station weren’t basically rotating the same few dozen songs all the time. I note my own pencil notches next to long-overplayed hits like the Raspberries “Go All the Way” and the Doobies’ “Listen to the Music.” Even back then a prescient Rolling Stone reviewer said that the latter song changed from a “volume-raiser” to a “station-switcher” in record time. A quick scan of the Top 30 suggests infusing fresh blood into the classic-hits format would not be difficult. A few I would nominate off the top of my head: Presley’s lusty “Burning Love” which still sounds as vital as it did when recorded during the King’s comeback era. How about “Freddie’s Dead” from Curtis Mayfield’s superb Superfly soundtrack (which was #1 on the album survey)? Maybe even “Loving You Just Crossed My Mind” by the nearly-forgotten singer-songwriter Sam Neely, though I’m sure that’s asking too much. Even the inclusion of “Witchy Woman” by the too-big-to-fail Eagles would ease the stress of hearing “Take it Easy” for the eight millionth time.
WHAT SONGS FROM THE SURVEY WOULD YOU LIKE COMMERCIAL RADIO TO PLAY MORE OFTEN?

There are many to choose from and even more if you scan the list of a dozen hitbound songs (“1st on 1510″) where, among the more familiar material, there are couple of nice outliers: the infectious “Stop” by the Newark singing group The Lorelei (a favorite record of the Northern Soul gang in England) and “No” by the Rascals spinoff group Bulldog. However, the inclusion here of the frivolous Dutch duo Mouth and MacNeal reminded me of the notion that there’s always a little bit of hell in Transistor Heaven. So I must mention the perversely naïve “Playground in My Mind” where Clint Holmes imagines marrying off a bunch of little kids as he watches them on the swing set. If released today, this song would be borderline prosecutable. And don’t even get me started on the Wayne Newton song that snuck in at #29. “Can’t You Hear the Music”?? Sure, I can hear it—that’s the whole problem!

But I’d like to finish with the now-obscure “American City Suite” which back 45 years ago was holding down the middle spot in the Top 30. Even then it was a bit of an anomaly, an 8-minute three-part bittersweet ode to the New York City. Songwriter Terry Cashman, half of this folk duo called Cashman & West, is better known for his later solo hit “Talkin’ Baseball.” So if this song were Willie Mays, it would start with his spectacular back-to-the-plate catch in the deepest recesses of the Polo Grounds outfield in the 1954 World Series and end across town in 1973 with him falling down after striking out for the Mets in 1973, his last season. This song may get a bit melodramatic as it traces a tendentious timeline from doo-wop and friendly neighbors on front stoops to the depressed Panic in Needle Park days of the early 70s. But with today’s current events, it’s hard not to be a little moved at the end of an epic song with “American” in its title while hearing, “They tell me that a friend is dying/And there is nothing in the world I can do.”

So I’ll try to guide my son in part by turning him onto what he may benefit from in terms of the musical olden times, while recognizing that it’s got to be his world going forward. But I still say he got his old soul from Dad. When our local Radio Shack was about to close its doors for the last time, it was he who encouraged me to get a spare transistor radio before it was too late. I owned one concurrently since the days I brought one along on my afternoon paper route (see Transistor Heaven, Part One). Today, my old transistor sits on the kitchen window sill, ready for Red Sox games or the classical station as none of the oldies stations can ever match the variety and pleasure of my own collection. But in case that little palm-sized device ever goes kaput, I’ve got a spare one ready to take me into my golden years, thanks to the chip off the old block.

Transistor Heaven III: School’s Out Completely

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Alice Cooper’s intransigent anthem was of course well-timed with its release date coming in the late spring of 1972. Zipping up twelve spaces this week some 43 long-ass years ago, it signaled the “blessed” end to eight years of parochial school. After a white-sky summer where I suddenly turned agnostic, September would lead me gratefully into the rebel-held territory of public-school hallways. On the last day at St. John’s I imagined myself poised to push the bar on the exit door, calling out over my shoulder to any nun within earshot: “If that don’t suit ya, that’s a drag!”

I was still collecting the WMEX weekly surveys at the record dept. of my local Lechmere (the Massachusetts pre-equivalent of Best Buy), another music-mad kid like so many others at the time. My collection of these brightly-colored snapshots of pop history that survived as one of the few remaining physical items from boyhood (and unlost through a dozen moves as an adult) would drop off as summer waned. I’m not sure if they stopped printing them or if I was putting aside childish things. At the very least, there was an inkling of the young adulthood to come. Several of the songs on this Top 30 I always relate to the events of the 4th of July on Juniper Point where friends of my parents were throwing a BBQ. That part of Salem Neck was mostly residents by then but still held vestiges of its summer colony identity. We, meaning us younger kids, quickly caught on to the news that this was a “hippie house” a couple of blocks away.

There was this narrow walkway between two tall houses and an open door leading out to it. A little child in our group half wanders into it. A fortyish guy in a bathing suit is coming up the other way. “Don’t let her go in there, she’ll never come out the same way.” Cool. We’ve already heard the reports of emanating marijuana smoke. The walkway leads to a large rocky outcropping from which you could take a dip in the “refreshing” waters of this Atlantic inlet. Straights and freaks and kids all congregate there in the late afternoon sun and someone brings out a radio. It was playing my beloved WMEX, still cool enough (as a “progressive” AM station) for the twentysomethings and plenty hip for the young teens. “Layla” plays, as does David Bowie’s “Starman” and we bob our heads, the kids and the bearded guys sitting next to girlfriends with silky middle-parted hair, as straight and long as yardsticks. When the ballad “I Need You” plays, one dude says to his buddy, “Oh yeah, man. I saw America play in upstate New York last year so when the album came out I got it right away.” The independent rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle beckons, I felt like I already had one foot in the door.

“It’s Too Late to Turn Back Now” Cornelius Bros. and Sister Rose. Swooshing into the #1 spot on a cushion of silky strings, the second (and last) big pop hit for the soulful family-act from south Florida. Like their first (“Treat Her Like a Lady”) this had the close harmonies and the good-advice lyrics but also a sweet mid-tempo grooves that always associates positively with the early 70s. “Nice to Be With You” Gallery. By contrast, songs like this by Detroit soft-rockers Gallery would one day be representative of the type earning the second-hand scorn of later generations, associating the age with the Brady Bunch and sidewalk-sweeping bell bottoms. But with its era-typical unpretentious optimism (and delightful pedal steel solo) we knew what we liked. May it ever be thus. “Sylvia’s Mother” Dr. Hook. Before their successful gambit to get on the “Cover of the Rolling Stone”, the Hooksters had a pretty decent hit with this melodramatic payphone ballad about some unlucky guy who just wants to say farewell to his former girlfriend who’s marrying some “fella down Galveston way” but he can’t get past her ball-busting mom. A little overwrought maybe, but us old-timers from the pre-cellular age know the particular agony of that “forty cents more for the next three minutes” refrain. “Conquistador” Procol Harum. The only other Top 40 hit for the “Whiter Shade of Pale” band. When PH did this re-engineered version live with an orchestra, only vocalist-pianist Gary Brooker and drummer BJ Wilson remained from the 1967 studio original. “Hold Your Head Up” Argent. Another proggy song to round out the top five, ex-Zombie Rod Argent found he could really stretch out on the keyboards in this day and age, though MEX were likely playing the single edit.

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“Candy Man” Sammi Davis, Jr. The Revenge of the Rat Pack? Those crazy rock ‘n’ roll sounds had been dominating the charts for almost a decade now, but Rat Packer Sammi was representing the old guard with this “Willy Wonka” teeth-grinder. At first reluctant to do the song, Davis had a change of heart when it revived his career (#1 Billboard) and after that sang the sickly-sweet lyrics with grateful gusto. “School’s Out” Alice Cooper. Now quickly back to the rock ‘n’ roll. “Brandy” Looking Glass. Eternal one-hit-wonder (over 10 million hits on YouTube), it seems the world will never tire of this finely-crafted tune with its slightly archaic lyric of a dishy barmaid pining away for some sailor dude whose real “love and lady is the sea.” His loss. “Where is the Love” Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. The Marvin & Tami of the 70s? This velvety duet also has had major staying power in compilations, soundtracks and a re-tooled version by the Black-Eyed Peas. “How Do You Do” Mouth & MacNeal. OK, sometimes the Seventies did stink. Exhibit A, this insidious earworm foisted on the world by the zany Dutch duo whose legend lasted a lunchtime, just like the Rutles. “Oh Girl” the Chi-Lites. More smooth soul, this time for the Chicago vocal group that had been together in some form since the late Fifties. Their long-deserved first national #1 followed the even more brokenhearted “Have You Seen Her” which hit #3 late in 1971.

“In a Broken Dream” Python Lee Jackson. A real anomaly of a hit, this Aussie rock band had re-located to the UK in the late 60s and used a still relatively-unknown singer named Rod Stewart for three lead vocals. But these did not see wide release until three years later when this powerful number was sent out to compete head-to-head with Rod’s own “You Wear it Well.” Not sure why classic rock radio stations don’t trot this out more often. “Layla” Derek and the Dominos. Well, this one has no problem staying in classic rock rotations. “Day by Day” Godspell cast. Thanks to the good folks at St. John’s, I had my first live theater experience in spring of ’72, and the original cast LP dominated our Music Appreciation class. As to the continued cultural revelance of “Day by Day,” please refer to the first “Meet the Parents” movie. “Song Sung Blue” Neil Diamond. “Song sung blue/everybody knows one”? For proof of that, Meet The Parents again.

“I Need You” America. Oh yeah, maann. “Take it Easy” the Eagles. I better plan that rock ‘n’ roll field trip to Winslow, Arizona. After all, I’m not getting any younger. “We’re on Our Way” Chris Hodge. Mr. Hodge was a bit of a protégé of Ringo Starr (they shared a common interest in UFO theories) and released two decent pseudo-glam singles on Apple before returning to obscurity (in a flying saucer?). “Lean on Me” Bill Withers. Wait, there are two songs at #18? This evergreen soul hymn to abiding friendship will remain a strong reminder of an age when such sentiments were still valid for lyric ideas. It also didn’t hurt that royalties earned here allowed early-retiree Bill to enjoy a future relaxing at home and watching “Judge Judy” as he let us know at his recent Hall of Fame induction. “Small Beginning” Flash. Another great proggy hit, this time by a Yes spin-off band with their original guitarist Peter banks as leader.

“I Can Feel You. The Addrisi Brothers. When is someone going to make an Addrisi Brothers biopic? OK, they weren’t that famous, probably best remembered for writing the smash “Never My Love” for the Association, which would become one of the most valuable song copyrights ever with over 300 cover versions. But they were born in Winthrop, Mass. where the jets fly right over the house on their way to/from the adjacent Logan Airport (making for a great opening scene) and their family were trapeze artists for f**k’s sake. But brothers Don and Dick were musical naturals and were helped into the business by Lenny Bruce. I know, right? With groovy songs sporting titles like “I Can Feel You” and “We’ve Got to Get it on Again” I see a “Boogie Nights” vibe when we get to the Seventies. Unfortunately, their career as a vocal duo was cut short when Dick died at age 45 in 1984. Fade to black.

“Alone Again, Naturally” Gilbert O’Sullivan. The impish Irishman, whose sub-Peter Noone warblings delighted and dismayed radio listeners the world over, debuted this week at #21 with this suicide-contemplation anthem that would go on to be #1 both on WMEX and nationwide. I was never sure what the countdown meant when it said PICK in the “weeks on list” column. In this case, it might have meant that Gilbert couldn’t decide whether to PICK jumping off a building or drinking poison. “If I Were a Carpenter” Bob Seger. By 1972 you might think that this standard was a bit played out. Yet this soulful version by the future “Night Moves” man is one of the better versions I’ve heard. “War Song” Neil Young & Graham Nash. This anti-Nixon screed, credited to “Young & Mash” by the mistake-prone employee who typed up these surveys, was said to have been timed to give a boost to George McGovern’s campaign just ahead of the Democratic convention. A lost cause but a cool lost single from Neil’s discography. “Daddy Don’t Walk So Fast” Wayne Newton. Yeah, Dad. Don’t walk so fast or you may rush by a washed-up lounge singer without recognizing him. “Tramp” Sugar Bus. I don’t recall this one and the combination of those three words has proven to be Google-proof. Can anything in this day and age really remain a mystery? If anyone knows this song, please comment below.

“Starman” David Bowie. Not the first thing I had heard from D.B. as there had been “Changes” and “Space Oddity” but when my cross-the-way buddy got the Ziggy Stardust album it was a whole new ballgame, led by this single which was not just an earworm, but a mindworm as well. “I’m Comin’ Home” the Stories. If all one knows by them is “Brother Louie” than a little deep-diving is in order. Great tune. “Sealed With a Kiss” Bobby Vinton. Dang, this is a sweet-sounding classic but it sounds like it was made ten years before, and may even be a re-release. At any rate, the Old Guard wasn’t giving up easy and that’s OK. “Cat’s Eye in the Window” Tommy James. Well, this one is not a classic, but still has that trademark T.J. sound. It might be the era when he was sneaking in Christian themes but damned if I can tell. “Troglodyte” Jimmy Castor Bunch. It’s the last song on the survey and the last typo. This knuckle-dragging funk workout by Jimmy “Castpr” should be high up in an imagined book called “1001 Novelty Songs You Must Hear before You Die.” Especially so considering that this has apparently been much sampled in dance clubs and hip-hop parties thru the years. Evidence enough of the future and past push-pull of these great surveys at such a fertile time in pop history.

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And naturally there was a lot more to come that summer by looking at the “1st on 1510” section, with new entries on the way by The Who, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder—as well as the immortal “Motorcycle Mama” by Sailcat. The Top 15 Albums? Well, about half of them I would put down as Rock all-timers, starting with “Exile on Main Street” in the #1 spot. By I’m also glad to see the “Godspell” cast album hanging tough at #12. I wouldn’t want to burn my bridges that quickly.

By the spring of ‘73, I’d have my own stash and an almost girlfriend and the times of the first countdown in this 3-part series (summer of ’71) were starting to seem far off. City life and punk rock was only five years away, and a whole other zeitgeist to replace these halcyon days—then many years after that, my own family and the inexorable creep back to the suburbs. But through it all, I always owned a transistor radio and they went with me as far afield as Europe on two occasions. There were five Replacement songs in a row as I got ready to go out and see them at the Paradiso in Amsterdam and the Pogues’ “Sally MacLennane” played in my room after hitting the pubs in Dublin. Nowadays I own two—when I heard that Radio Shack was in trouble I got a spare just in case. Happy listening in all the days ahead.

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Transistor Heaven 2: February Made Me Shiver

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“A long long time ago, I can still remember how that music made me smile.” I know, right? What I have more trouble recalling is whether or not I had one of my several boyhood paper routes (as described in Part One) during that winter when Don McLean’s middlebrow magnum opus “American Pie” topped the charts. The pensive introduction to this 8-minte rock-history metaphor recalls his own days as a newspaper slinger, especially the heartbroken morning when the news told of the plane-crash deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. “The Day the Music Died” was February 3rd, 1959, a day after my first birthday. Exactly thirteen years later on Feb. 4th, it was me side-arming the papers into snowbanks (presumably, anyway) and digging the tunes on my beloved WMEX in Boston. Thing is, like paper routes, classic pop music for me seemed to largely exist in some vaguely-defined eternal summer, with only a minority of favorite songs associated with cold weather. Even songs released in October or March became mentally backdated or fast-tracked into a heat wave. Or that is how it seems as I look back down the “foggy ruins of time” with apologies to the so-called Jester. Despite this meteorological-based selective memory, here were the songs counting down on the great 1510 on the 13th anniversary of that terrible crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

“Without You” Harry Nilsson. This plainitive and despondent big ballad was catnip to those young ones carrying a classroom crush into 1972. Nilsson’s versatile vocal abilities were perfect for this Badfinger song featuring hushed verses and an anguished wail of a chorus. Unfortunately, the specter of untimely death looms over this as well. Badfinger co-writers Pete Ham and Tom Evans both committed suicide over the next decade and the hard-living Nilsson died in 1994 at age 52.


Speaking of 1994, that was the year Pariah Carey tried to ruin this song for everyone.

“Let’s Stay Together” Al Green. Some sweet soul cajoling by the Reverend and another one destined for a long shelf live on classic-hits radio. “Hurting Each Other” the Carpenters. Another hit arriving right on schedule for the brother-sister team with the honeyed contralto of future pop martyr Karen sounding particularly sad. “Heart of Gold” Neil Young. The only national #1 hit for Neil but Top 40 success seemed an ill-fit for the Laurel Canyon maverick and he was soon releasing the astringent concert LP “Time Fades Away” and recording material that would later end up on the junkie polemic “Tonight’s the Night.” “My World” the Bee Gees. Not to worry, guys. Disco is only a few years up the road. “Precious and Few” Climax. I LOVE this song. There, I said it. Sure it’s sappy and sounds like it was made five years before but it did the trick for those of us who didn’t want to quite give up their association with the Association, whose sound this recalls. “Everything I Own” Bread. And I’m doubling down on this one. Bread had a hit song about every three months from the summer of 1970 to early 1973, tapping the market for us young teens with budding romantic longings, though the tone struck by David Gates and Co. was always more adult-seeming than that. “Drowning in a Sea of Love” Joe Simon. Right behind Bread at #8 was a smoldering chunk of primo early 70s R&B that no one will feel shy about admitting to liking.

“Softly Whispering I Love You” English Congregation. Every so often, Transistor Heaven takes a side trip to hell. “Sweet Seasons” Carole King. Her mega-successful “Tapestry” album practically defined 1971 and was just cooling off when this first single off the follow-up took hold. It was an appealing, mid-tempo number that nudged listeners’ expectations towards springtime, not a bad mission for a winter hit. “Mother and Child Reunion” Paul Simon. Jumping up ten spots this week, the first of many Top 40 hits for Simon sans Garfunkel and definitely a winter song since the first time I heard it was driving thru the snow with my old man. “Clean up Woman” Betty Wright. Another in this era’s long line of great hits by lesser known woman soul singers, a list that would also include Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold”, Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” and the Honey Cone’s “Want Ads.”

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” New Seekers. Come back, English Congregation, all is forgiven. This vacuous sub-kindergarten sing-along paved the way for corporate takeover of the peace-and-love ethos. At least the pie-in-the-sky lyrics were minutely tolerable in its original form, but when a diabetes-peddling company called Coca-Cola hired a gang of Stepford Youth to sing the revised words from an idyllic hilltop, you knew the Sixties were over for real. #13 in the charts and #666 in the boardroom. “Never Been to Spain” 3 Dog Night. The hits keep on coming for these Top 40 titans, with another quirky Hoyt Axton tune (“Joy to the World” was the first) and one notable for confusing Oklahoma with heaven. “The Witchqueen of New Orleans” Redbone. This danceable Cajun-influenced rocker from the Native American band was their first hit, followed two years later by the perennial “Come and Get Your Love” revived last year by its prominent place in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack. “Rock and Roll Lullaby” B.J. Thomas. Some would think that the terms “rock and roll” and “lullaby” are a bit on the mutually exclusive side, but it seems on YouTube many boomers love this now as parents. Who am I to hate on it?

“Lonesome Mary” Chiliwack. I remember a WMEX DJ quipping that this trio came from so far up in Canada that their drummer was a grizzly bear. Ba-boom. Actually this band was from relatively civilized Vancouver (hello there, Canuck fans!) and singer-guitarist Bill Henderson is still going strong. Chiliwack wouldn’t hit the U.S. Top 40 until their more New Wavey incarnation in the early 80s but I absolutely loved this early power-trio outing that hit at least as high as #10 in Boston.

“Changes” David Bowie. My radio introduction to the wonderful world of rock’s great chameleon as the earlier “Space Oddity” only became a hit with its 1973 re-release. An awakening to adult concerns was no doubt part of this single’s appeal, reminding us that “pretty soon now you’re going to get older.” But what a trip it would be tracing time with Bowie thru the years starting now. “Bang a Gong” T. Rex. Marc Bolan’s group seemed to be coming up thru the ranks right along with his friend David Bowie, though this radio staple would be their only big stateside hit before Bolan’s tragic death in a 1977 car crash. “Down By the Lazy River” the Osmonds. Pass.

“Handbags and Gladrags” Rod Stewart. This bittersweet ballad written by Mike d’Abo was first heard on Rod’s first solo album, released exactly two years previous, but it seems it was pressed into service as a single in the lull between his monster LP “Every Picture Tells a Story” and the follow-up to hit the stores in the upcoming summer. A definite winter song this one, as an old man casts a cold eye on the trendy ways of his school-skipping granddaughter.

“American Pie” Don McLean. After three months on the local survey, Donnie’s anthem slipped thirteen places, out of the Top Ten to #22. Its impact was still pervasive. (8th grade English teacher: “That part ’I met a girl who sang the blues and I asked her for some happy news,’ that’s about Janis Joplin.” Class: “We know that!!”) “Stay With Me” the Faces. Here’s Rod again, with his old mates and a raucous stomp about a lady of easy virtue, well loved by us boys in that 8th grade class. “Ring the Living Bell” Melanie. I had completely forgotten this one from the Woodstock poster girl and when I looked it up all I could find was 5-minute LP version, which was about three minutes too long for me. “We’ve Got to Get It on Again” Adrisi Brothers. The pride of Winthrop, Mass. (the flyover town next to Boston’s Logan Airport) and another Association association, as these guys wrote “Never My Love” once cited by BMI as the second most played songs ever, with over 7 million airings, just ahead of “Yesterday.” “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” Bobby Womack. The classic slow-burner by the recently passed-on R&B legend. I loved when it was slow dance time on Soul Train.

“Two by Two” Steve Martin. A great but nearly forgotten single by the former Left Banke lead singer. “A Horse with No Name” America. According to Randy Newman, a song “about a kid who thinks he’s taken LSD”. More on the greatest of all folk-rock army brat trios in the third and final Transistor Heaven installment this summer. “Glory Bound” the Grassroots. The second-to-last national Top 40 hit for these guys, who were still mining their classic sound amid a sea change that was less favorable to pure pop bands and more so to singer-songwriters or heavier groups. “Vahevella” Loggins and Messina. At first you would think this is more a summer song, but a sailing tour of the Caribbean had just the right touch of February escapism.

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The pick of the litter for the hitbounds this week has to be “Caroline Goodbye” by former (and future) Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone. As in Part One, the Top 15 albums show a pretty good smattering of classics. Interestingly, at #4 (and hot on the heels of the “American Pie” LP) was “Jamming With Edwards” (sic), the ramshackle jam album featuring Mick, Charlie and Bill from the Stones as well as Ry Cooder and Nicky Hopkins. Jagger has admitted the record was cobbled together one morning while waiting for Keith Richards to get out of bed. Elsewhere, there seems to be a Christmas season hangover, with double-album best-of offerings from both the Stones and Bob Dylan and the 3-LP “Bangla Desh” box set from George Harrison and friends. Not to be out done, Chicago upped the ante with a four-disc live set. Ah, but those were bigger times.

Now if you’ll excuse, I have another new snowfall to shovel, “bad news on the doorstep” of another kind.