Folks, I’ll be the first to tell you that our last CHART ATTACK! was just a little depressing. Marky Mark? Ugh! Color Me Badd? Ugggggh! Bryan Adams? Uggggggghhhh!  Good news, though: I’m pleased to report that this week’s Top 10 is much, much better — sure, there are some mild clunkers, but the majority of these songs are absolutely fantastic. See if you agree as we attack November 3, 1973!

10. All I Know — Garfunkel   null
9. Space Race — Billy Preston
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8. Let’s Get It On — Marvin Gaye null
7. Ramblin’ Man — The Allman Brothers Band null
6. Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat — The DeFranco Family Featuring Tony DeFranco
5. Paper Roses — Marie Osmond
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4. Half-Breed — Cher null
3. Keep On Truckin’ (Part 1) — Eddie Kendricks null
2. Angie — The Rolling Stones null
1. Midnight Train to Georgia — Gladys Knight & the Pips null

10. All I Know — Garfunkel (download)

Following the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel in 1970, Art Garfunkel removed his focus from the music business; for three years, he focused on his acting career, appearing in Mike Nichols movies such as Catch-22 and Carnal Knowledge, taught mathematics at a private school in Connecticut, and studied classical music in Europe. Finally, in 1973, he assembled a group of songwriters (what, you thought he was going to write songs himself?) and recorded songs for a new album, entitled Angel Clare. The first single, “All I Know,” was written by Jimmy Webb (the first of many Garfunkel/Webb collaborations) and was his first solo entry on the Top 10 — and by “first,” I mean “only,” though he did have three #1 hits on the Adult Contemporary charts. The song is exactly what you’d expect: musically, it’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” minus the bridge or troubled water, and lyrically, it’s deep into Mellow Gold territory. Art’s voice sounds a touch creepy here on the original, especially any time he gets near a low note. Still, it’s quite pretty, and you really can’t go wrong with songs like these, especially ones that feature Webb’s beautiful piano. The only thing I don’t understand is why, for his first few albums, Art was only billed as “Garfunkel.” Was he concerned that if he added the “Art,” people wouldn’t know who he was? How many Garfunkels are out there, really? If he wanted to capitalize on familiarity, perhaps he should have billed himself as “& Garfunkel.”

I found a nice video of Art Garfunkel performing “All I Know” on Saturday Night Live, but it’s on a Chinese website and I can’t figure out how to embed it. Still, it’s worth a watch; the song is much more effective in this stripped-down incarnation.

9. Space Race — Billy Preston

I personally had never heard “Space Race” before this week, but if you watched American Bandstand regularly, chances are you’ll recognize it as the music played during the mid-show commercial break, from 1974 until the show’s end. It worked great for that purpose, too — a sequel of sorts to 1972’s “Outa-Space,” “Space Race” is a thick slab of instrumental funk with a fantastic groove. But here’s the thing: on American Bandstand, you never got to hear more than a few seconds of the song. At around a minute and a half, it becomes pretty clear that a better title would have been “Holy Crap You Guys, I Just Got a New Keyboard and Look at All the Cool Sounds I Can Make, Wah Wah Wah Wah!” I can’t help but wonder if this song is what inspired Daryl Dragon to buy a Casio, and that just breaks my heart. Still, I can’t give Billy Preston too much grief. Apart from having the world’s greatest afro, the man was an unbelievable talent. And who doesn’t love the hell out of “Nothing From Nothing”?

8. Let’s Get It On — Marvin Gaye

Man, what a week! “Let’s Get It On,” though not Gaye’s biggest selling single, was certainly one of his most popular, and became his first chart-topper in five years. It began as a religious song, written by Ed Townsend (who became a success with a song called “For Your Love” solely due to a 1958 appearance on American Bandstand), and was then re-written by Motown songwriter Kenneth Stover as a political anthem. Gaye recorded the demo of “Let’s Get It On” in this form:

Marvin Gaye — Let’s Get It On (Demo) (download)

Townsend protested, and insisted that the song should have a love/sexual theme (what happened to religion?), and of course, that produced the version we all adore today. It’s a shame that those opening four notes have become such a cliché in recent years, no doubt due to its appearance in commercials and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (among a million other movies, most likely), but when you hear Marvin belting out those lyrics with every ounce of passion in the world, it’s hard not to fall in love with it all over again. Here he is at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980.

I mentioned this in a previous Popdose article, but one of my favorite songs (and the first one I ever purchased on iTunes) is Shannon Lawson’s bluegrassy, fun cover of “Let’s Get It On.” We played it during the ceremony at our wedding, as we danced back up the aisle, and I think maybe only one person figured out what song it was. Gotcha, Grandma! We danced up the aisle to a song about sex and you didn’t catch it! Ha ha ha ha!

Shannon Lawson — Let’s Get It On (download)

7. Ramblin’ Man — The Allman Brothers Band

I’ve never been much of an Allman Brothers fan — I’m not much for extended noodling — so it may not surprise you that I like this song, since it doesn’t feature any of it. Instead, it’s a fine Southern rock song featuring great instrumental work by lead guitarist Dickey Betts and pianist Chuck Leavell. Included on Brothers and Sisters, the first Allman Brothers album fully recorded after the death of Duane Allman, it reached #2 on the charts, while the accompanying album hit #1. It remains the band’s only real hit, though they did reach the Top 40 on a few other occasions.

6. Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat — The DeFranco Family Featuring Tony DeFranco

By 1973, we’d seen massive successes from the Jackson Five, the Osmonds, and though not related, the Partridge Family. So it was only a matter of time before execs sat down and tried to figure out how else they could capitalize on the family craze. Black group? Check. Mormons? Check. What’s left? Canadian Italians, duh! See, the DeFrancos were performing in their native Ontario when someone in the business (undoubtedly seeing dollar signs) sent a photograph of the group to Chuck Laufer from Tiger Beat. Laufer flew ’em out to Hollywood, had them cut a few demos, and before they knew it, they were the next big family sensation. No, seriously, before they knew it: the group had a fan club before they had even released a single. “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat” reached #3, and the DeFrancos were shuttled all over the country to mime their hit, complete with racy, incestuous, half-naked dancing.

Just kidding. You couldn’t get any cleaner, whiter and lamer if you tried.

So after watching that video, you’ve probably surmised that this is indeed the weaker part of the Top 10 this week — although to be honest, “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat” is way better than it has any right to be. I’m speaking mainly about the music behind the song; it’s somewhat dark and psychedelic, and actually sounds credible up until the chorus, when everything suddenly turns happy and hunky dory (I’d bet Laufer forced the writers to add some major chords here). Part of the musical success is due to the appearance of members of the famous “Wrecking Crew” on the recording (Hal Blaine, Larry Carlton and Max Bennett). The lyrics aren’t that terrible either, but lil’ Tony just doesn’t sound old enough to be saying them. Not that anybody cared back then, but the difference between the Jackson Five and all other kid/family groups was that Michael Jackson was one of the precious few youngsters who could credibly sing words meant for an adult.

After “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat,” the DeFrancos had a couple of other Top 40 hits, but interest quickly waned and the group disbanded in 1978 — partially due to a change in producers. Their original producer, Walt Meskell, was fired after one of their songs stalled outside the Hot 100. Their record label hired producer Mike Curb to take over, who was intent on turning the DeFrancos into a cover band. The family resisted and that was essentially the end of their career. You can hear all about what it was like to be a young DeFranco in this interview with Tony — it’s actually more interesting than I thought it would be. You can also see more at the DeFranco website, and if you’re looking to buy a house in California, Tony’s your guy.

5. Paper Roses — Marie Osmond

You may be wondering why I went into all that backstory about the downfall of the DeFrancos. Part of it is because I get a kick out of filling your brain with useless (and I mean really, really useless) information. But I also thought it’s worth noting that while Mike Curb’s cover idea failed by the DeFrancos, it worked for both Donny and Marie Osmond. Curb had been directly responsible for the Osmonds’ chart success in the early ’70s, and he oversaw Donnie’s covers of songs like “Hey Girl,” “Puppy Love” and “Go Away Little Girl,” which all reached the Top 10. He used the same approach with Marie and chose “Paper Roses” — originally recorded by Anita Bryant in 1960 — as her first solo single. It peaked here at #5 (and remains her only Top 20 solo hit), but reached #1 on the Country chart.

Was that paragraph as boring for you to read as it was for me to write? I’m only trying to match the song, which makes me want to take a nice, long nap. Here’s the video, and let’s at least give credit to Marie for being absolutely adorable. Note: Popdose.com is not responsible for any seizures that might result from staring at the background of this clip.

4. Half-Breed — Cher

This song was written especially for Cher and is certainly appropriate, seeing as she is half woman, half horse. I keed, I keed! Cher is part Cherokee, and the lyrics revolved around a woman whose mother is Cherokee and father is white. Lyricist Mary Dean brought the song to the attention of Sonny and Cher’s former producer, Snuff Garrett. Garrett had been responsible for numerous hits for both the duo and Cher as a solo artist, including “All I Ever Need is You” and “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done,” and Cher’s #1 hit “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” However, Snuff quit as their producer after Bono turned down his suggestion that Cher sing “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (which wound up becoming a #1 hit for Vicki Lawrence earlier in April of ’73). Snuff held on to “Half-Breed” for a number of months, until Cher fired her next producer (uh, Sonny Bono) and returned to work with him once again. By the time “Half-Breed” hit #1 the recording duo of Sonny & Cher had disbanded.. She did promote the song on their show, however; here’s Cher in a bikini and full Native American regalia, looking kinda hot, sitting on a horse for no real reason.

3. Keep On Truckin’ (Part 1) — Eddie Kendricks (download)

nullOh God, yes. On a chart already chock-full of great songs, “Keep On Truckin’ (Part 1)” gets my vote for Song of the Week. (It’s a category I made up just now.) With enough funk to make “Space Race” look like “Paper Roses,” this song allowed Kendricks to essentially give the finger to his former group, the Temptations. He had quit the group in 1971, dissatisfied with the “psychedelic soul” direction in which producer Norman Whitfield was leading the band; additionally, he wanted to record his own solo album while remaining in the group, but Berry Gordy opposed the idea. (A more clever writer could now link Eddie Kendricks to Peter Cetera, which makes my head explode a little.)

Kendricks’ solo career got off to a slow start, and the fact that the Temptations released “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” as a direct insult to both Kendricks and David Ruffin didn’t help matters much. However, a number of his songs began attracting attention in dance and burgeoning disco clubs, and by giving them exactly what they were looking for, Kendricks scored his first (and only) #1 solo hit, followed by his #2 hit “Boogie Down” in January of 1974.

There wasn’t actually a “Part 2” to this song; it received the “Part 1” addition when it was edited down for single release, from eight minutes to just under three-and-a-half minutes. But the unedited version is absolutely wonderful and worth checking out above.

2. Angie — The Rolling Stones

I was in rehearsal the other day for my Acoustic ’80s gig tonight (shameless self-plug!) and I mentioned to my partner Mike that “Angie” was on this week’s chart.

Mike: I LOVE “Angie.”
Jason: Not me.
Mike: How can you not love “Angie”? It’s a beautiful song.
Jason: Mick Jagger.

There is something incredibly, incredibly annoying but Mick Jagger pronouncing the word “Angie” as “Ayyynjeh” for two or three lines and then choosing, like, three other pronunciations throughout the song. Actually, there’s something incredibly annoying about Mick Jagger in general. I guess you can see that I’ve never been a Stones fan. It seems like a lot of people are either Stones fans or Who fans, and I’m the latter. My singer may not be able to hit all the high notes anymore, but at least he doesn’t look like a caved-in ashtray with his shirt off.

Anyway, “Angie.” I did go back and listen to the song again (and again, and again), and Mike is right: it’s really quite beautiful, especially the string section and Nicky Hopkins’ wonderful piano work. I can almost — almost — ignore stupid Mick Jagger. “Angie” was the band’s first #1 since ’69’s “Brown Sugar,” a feat they’d repeat once more in their career with “Miss You,” a song I despise (primarily because of the obnoxious video, and no, Mike, you’re not changing my mind on this one, even with considering the line you love about the Puerto Rican girls).

Here’s a video of “Angie.” Am I seriously the only one who wants to punch Mick in the face every time he looks into the camera?

1. Midnight Train to Georgia — Gladys Knight & the Pips

I’m going to take a deep breath for a sec and reflect on how happy I am to end the chart with this song.

You know, with a name like “Gladys Knight & the Pips,” it’s only natural to assume the group would take a backseat to the lead singer — but in this version of the song, I’d say the Pips are every bit as important as Ms. Knight. Where would this song be without their backing vocals? They’re the support to Knight, just as she’s the support to her man, heading home with him after his dreams have fallen apart. Lyrically, I’m just torn apart by the simplicity in “I’d rather live in his world than live without him in mine.” Absolutely beautiful. It’s hard to believe that this song might have never been written were it not for one woman.

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I swear it’s true: writer Jim Weatherly had been on the phone with Farrah and she mentioned she was flying home to Georgia to see her folks. Weatherly dreamed up the story of the song, using Fawcett and her then-boyfriend Lee Majors as characters, and titled it “Midnight Plane to Houston.” The song made its way to Cissy Houston; her producers asked if they could change the title to something a little more “R&B,” and so Houston (the city, not the singer) became Georgia and the plane became a train. Knight recorded the song afterward and within two months of its first Billboard appearance, it reached the #1 spot — both here and on the R&B charts. It also won the group a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus, and remains their most popular song. As well it should be!

You can hear Weatherly’s “Midnight Plane to Houston” demo over at Songfacts, and the Goldmine article “Hop Aboard the Midnight Train to Georgia With Gladys Knight & the Pips” is pretty much required reading. Did you know that, save for one line, Knight’s lead vocals were recorded in one take? It’s all in the Goldmine article. Check it out! I don’t know about you, but I wish that every week of CHART ATTACK! could end like this.

And that does it for this week! Will we have similar good luck next time we meet? Only one way to find out — stop by again in two weeks! Thanks for reading!