Howdy, everybody! I tend to stick to the ’80s when writing CHART ATTACK!, as they’re the years I remember best. But this week, I decided to pull up something from the early ’70s and see what I could find. I came across a pretty solid chart with some great rock, pop, country and R&B … and Gordon Lightfoot. Enjoy as we take a look back the charts exactly 38 years ago today: February 27, 1971!
10. Me and Bobby McGee — Janis Joplin Amazon iTunes
9. Mr. Bojangles — Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Amazon iTunes
8. Amos Moses — Jerry Reed Amazon iTunes
7. Sweet Mary — Wadsworth Mansion Amazon iTunes
6. I Hear You Knocking — Dave Edmunds Amazon Amazon mp3
5. If You Could Read My Mind — Gordon Lightfoot Amazon iTunes
4. Rose Garden — Lynn Anderson Amazon iTunes
3. Knock Three Times — Dawn Amazon iTunes
2. Mama’s Pearl — The Jackson 5 Amazon iTunes
1. One Bad Apple — The Osmonds Amazon iTunes
10. Me and Bobby McGee — Janis Joplin
The first of four covers on this week’s Top 10, “Me and Bobby McGee” was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, and found success by two other artists before Joplin: Roger Miller, whose version reached #12 on the country charts, and Gordon Lightfoot (also on this week’s Attack), who hit #1 on the Canadian country charts. At least five other artists recorded their own versions before Joplin, including Kenny Rogers & The First Edition and Bill Haley & His Comets, but clearly hers is the version most remember best. It was recorded only shortly before her death, and when it topped the charts, it became only the second posthumous #1 on the Hot 100 — the first being Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”
So who is Bobby McGee, anyway? According to Kristofferson, the title came from Foster, who knew a secretary named Bobby McKee. Kristofferson just misheard him.
9. Mr. Bojangles — Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The problem with me not being around in 1971 is that I can’t always be like, “I remember when this song was a hit.” All I can do is occasionally add some personal thoughts, like “Bojangles” is the thing we’d say to each other in college as we tried to hit each other in the nuts. And that really has nothing to do with the song. Except I suppose if we had a teacher showing us how to do it, he’d be Mr. Bojangles. (By the way, this is what happens when you’re Managing Editor at Popdose. Nobody else reads your stuff before you publish it. Otherwise this last paragraph would be long gone.)
But what I can tell you is that contrary to popular belief, “Mr. Bojangles” isn’t about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Rather, it’s about an old homeless man that singer and songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker met while in jail in New Orleans. The man told Walker about the various trials and tribulations in his life, and when someone called him “Bojangles,” and hit him in the nuts asked him to do a dance for the other inmates in the cell, he obliged. Walker claims that Mr. Bojangles is “a composite. He’s a little bit of several people I met for only moments of a passing life. He’s all those I met once and will never see again and will never forget.”
None of this explains, of course, how the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band managed to reach #9 — their only top ten hit — with the song, higher than any other performer who’s covered it.
8. Amos Moses — Jerry Reed
Although a relatively constant staple on the country charts, Reed only had crossover success twice, and in the same year — “Amos Moses,” here at #8, and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” which reached #9 in June. I don’t know exactly what the hell Reed is talking about in “Amos Moses.” I suppose I could figure it out if I could just get through the song once without having nightmares. If my kids ever act up, I plan on sneaking this song onto their bedtime mix. That’ll learn ’em.
Here’s a video of Reed singing “Amos Moses.” I really can’t figure out what the deal is with this performance, but I was fascinated by the entire clip.
7. Sweet Mary — Wadsworth Mansion (download)
It took me a while, but I finally uncovered some information about this short-lived, one-hit-wonder band: Wadsworth Mansion recorded their only album in 1970. “Sweet Mary” was a surprise hit, as none of the other songs from the album even cracked the Hot 100. After the success of this single, the band hit the road, opening for Alice Cooper and appearing on American Bandstand and The Dating Game. However, any chance of the band capitalizing on the success of “Sweet Mary” was destroyed, literally, in a flood: the band was scheduled to play in Edwardsville, PA when floods ripped through the town and destroyed all of their equipment, at a cost of over $15,000. It took a while, but the band rebounded, only to be busted by the cops after a gig in Louisiana for causing a public disturbance. The band finally gave up and went in different directions. The only member who had any success after “Sweet Mary” was Forrest McDonald, who played the guitar solo in Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.”
6. I Hear You Knocking — Dave Edmunds
“I Hear You Knocking” made appearances twice prior on the Billboard charts: Gale Storm took the song all the way to #2 in 1955, and Fats Domino reached #67 in 1961. Edmunds name-checks Domino over one of the solos, as well as Smiley Lewis, another artist who’s covered the tune the first artist to record the song (thanks, Brett!).
In a 1971 Rolling Stone interview, John Lennon told Jann Wenner “I’ve always liked simple rock and nothing else,” and mentions Edmunds’ version as a specific example. Edmunds puts his own fingerprint on the song through production, but obviously, the song’s simple, 12-bar blues structure has kept it popular throughout the years. Here’s Edmunds performing the song last month, on Jools Holland’s New Year’s Eve special.
5. If You Could Read My Mind — Gordon Lightfoot
Hearing Gordon Lightfoot only triggers one thought in my brain: “Take a nap, Jason.” I don’t mean that as an insult; Gord’s voice just makes me want to cuddle up on my couch and close my eyes for a bit. He makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. It doesn’t matter what he’s singing about, and “If You Could Read My Mind” is a perfect example — it’s a song about his divorce featuring an elaborate story that I try to follow each time I hear it, yet always fail. Because I fall asleep. You see my problem?
Here’s a boring tidbit about this song: it was the first of only three Lightfoot songs to reach the US Top 10. Okay, now here’s an interesting tidbit about this song: in 1987, Lightfoot sued songwriter Michael Masser, claiming that Masser took the “I don’t know where we went wrong…” part and used it in his hit for Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All,” specifically, the “I decided long ago…” part. I can totally hear that. Sexual Chocolate.
Here’s Lightfoot performing the song earlier this decade. This man must be so sick of performing it.
4. Rose Garden — Lynn Anderson
I know it was placed here for rhyming purposes, but in general, I think using the term “I beg your pardon” in a song is lame. I’m not positive, but am pretty sure that this song might be the origin of the phrase “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” That might mean we have Lynn Anderson to thank for all the times our parents used this phrase on us as children. It wasn’t just me, was it?
Anderson was actually the third person to record “Rose Garden.” The first was its songwriter, Joe South. British singer Sandie Shaw also recorded it in the ’60s, as did Dobie Gray. However, it was Anderson’s version that eventually reached #3 on the pop charts and #1 on the country charts, becoming the biggest selling recording by a female country artist until 1997. (Holy cow!) Anderson had to fight with Columbia Records to record the song, and even when she did, it wasn’t slated to be released as a single — until Columbia head Clive Davis heard it. We all know the power of Clive. Anderson won a Grammy for the song, as did South. And a quick side note about South: he won two Grammys for his 1969 song “Games People Play” (not the Alan Parsons Project song), and plays lead guitar on Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.”
Here’s Anderson singing the song in 1973, with her feet apparently in cement for the majority of the song. I can’t stop looking at the three wrinkles that continuously pop up on her forehead.
3. Knock Three Times — Dawn
Ahh, just like the Sylvers’ “Hot Line” from a few weeks ago, here’s another song that sounds “cute” on the surface but really has some serious stalker vibes going on. He’s in his apartment with his ear to the floor, listening to her dance all alone? How does he know she’s all alone? Forget that — how does he know she’s dancing? He’s above her. It’s not like she’s dancing on the ceiling. Everybody knows that ceiling dancing wouldn’t become a popular pastime for another 15 years.
“Knock Three Times” was the follow-up single to Dawn’s hit “Candida,” which reached #3 in the fall of 1970. Tony Orlando had recorded the lead vocal to “Candida” as a favor to the group’s producers, and left his name off the final product just in case the song bombed. After it became a hit, Orlando quickly changed his tune, and recorded “Knock Three Times” before even meeting the girls in Dawn, Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson.Â (Our reader Pete has corrected me: the vocals for both “Candida” and “Knock Three Times” were actually recorded by Sharon Greane, Jay Siegel, and Toni Wine, with Linda November singing on the latter as well. Orlando asked Hopkins and Wilson to become “Dawn” for the promotional tour following this song’s success. I’m not sure why the other ladies weren’t asked. Maybe they were ugly. Thanks, Pete!)
I’m in a YouTube mood today, as you can tell. I wasn’t going to post a clip for this one, even though there are plenty of 1970s clips of the trio available, but I just had to post this clip, because it made me more than a little sad. Poor Tony. Nobody is paying any attention to him at all, and he’s singing along to a CD of the original recording. His original vocal isn’t even removed. Sad.
(The commenters are saying this isn’t actually Tony Orlando, making this my most inaccurate CHART ATTACK! ever posted.Â But I’d like to think it’s him — it makes for a better story.Â So…Tony Orlando, everybody!)
2. Mama’s Pearl — The Jackson 5 (download)
Of all the Jackson 5 singles to grace the Top 10, this is the only one I hadn’t heard before. It’s a great song, written and produced by The Corporation, aka Berry Gordy, Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards and Freddie Perren, who also wrote other Jackson 5 hits like “The Love You Save,” “I Want You Back,” and “ABC.” And though apparently the lyric in the second part of the chorus is “goody girl, let down those curls,” I swear he’s singing “dirty girl, let down those curls,” which makes the song quite different.
1. One Bad Apple — The Osmonds (download)
I want to make fun of the Osmonds for a variety of reasons, but they kind of earned their success. They formed in 1959, and reliably performed on both Andy Williams and Jerry Lewis’ variety shows between 1962 and 1969. They didn’t head in a pop direction until 1970, and their debut single — this one — went to the top of the charts only six weeks after its debut in the Hot 100. And as much as I want to make fun of this song, it’s really not bad at all. Probably because it’s a straight Jackson 5 ripoff — songwriter George Jackson penned it with the Jackson 5 in mind. Rumor has it that the Jackson 5 turned it down in favor of “ABC.” Enjoy this download, because I don’t think the Osmonds ever sang it in this key again. Donny’s voice dropped and the song quickly followed.
And that brings us to the end of another week of CHART ATTACK! See you next time, when I suspect we’ll be flashing ahead about 20 years. Thanks for reading!