Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome back to CHART ATTACK! This is a pretty solid, diverse week on the charts: six out of our ten artists are black, and the other four are, like, the whitest artists in the world. They’re all a part of April 22, 1972!
10. Doctor My Eyes — Jackson Browne Amazon iTunes
9. A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done — Sonny & Cher Amazon iTunes
8. Heart of Gold — Neil Young Amazon iTunes
7. Day Dreaming — Aretha Franklin Amazon iTunes
6. Betcha By Golly, Wow — The Stylistics Amazon iTunes
5. In the Rain — The Dramatics Amazon iTunes
4. A Horse With No Name — America Amazon iTunes
3. I Gotcha — Joe Tex Amazon iTunes
2. Rockin’ Robin — Michael Jackson Amazon iTunes
1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face — Roberta Flack Amazon iTunes
10. Doctor My Eyes — Jackson Browne
I’ve never really paid much attention to Jackson Browne, but I really, really like this song. I love the piano with the stuck key at the beginning. I love David Crosby’s backing vocals (and I didn’t know until now that Nash was on there as well). I love the percussion, and I love the guitar work. And of course I love the bass playing — it’s frickin’ Lee Sklar! Who doesn’t love Lee Sklar?
This was Browne’s debut single from his debut album, and his only entry in the Top 10 until 1982’s “Somebody’s Baby” (which was his last). The song was covered — and this totally baffles me — by the Jackson 5 almost instantly, appearing on their 1972 album Lookin’ Through the Windows. The “baby, baby” opening kind of sucks, but Michael sounds great.
The Jackson 5 — Doctor My Eyes (download)
9. A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done — Sonny & Cher
Let me just play you something. Here’s the opening of “A Cowboy’s Work is Never Done.”
Got it? Okay, now listen to this.
Am I crazy?
Peaking at #8, this incredibly stupid song was (thankfully) the last Top 10 hit for Sonny & Cher. And you know what sucks more than this song? This song’s video. Watch Sonny Bono play air guitar. It’s terrible.
8. Heart of Gold — Neil Young
Neil Young has only had one #1 single in his career. This is it. And it’s his only song to crack the Top 30 as well. I think it’s safe to say that Neil Young is a failure. I’m sure he’d agree.
I’m not a big Neil Young fan. I appreciate his lyrics, sure, but just can’t get behind his voice. Neil, like Dylan, seems to be incredibly polarizing in this respect. I look at it pretty simply: he’s just really, really whiny at times. (I can do a pretty good Neil Young impression. I should record a Young/McD duet.) However, I do like gentle, wimpy songs, so I can dig this one. And I do like this earnest performance.
That’s Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor providing backing vocals on the studio recording, by the way. I totally picked out Ronstadt immediately but had no idea JT was there. And now I’m thinking about how cool it would be if it was actually James “JT” Taylor from Kool & the Gang singing on it instead.
7. Day Dreaming — Aretha Franklin (download)
From Neil Young to Aretha! (Hang on, let me take a minute to wrap my head around that statement.) I love this song — it’s gentle, smooth, and sultry, and I can’t get enough of any song where she sings in that lower range. Written by the queen herself, “Day Dreaming” may have peaked here at #5, but went to #1 on the Soul Singles chart — her twelfth chart-topper. Aretha had one more hit in the Top 10 the following year with “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” and wouldn’t return to the Top 10 until 1985 with “Freeway of Love.”
I can’t embed the clip here, but check out this fantastic vocal performance from Soul Train in 1973.
6. Betcha By Golly, Wow — The Stylistics
I know a bunch of people who really, really love this song. Honestly? It doesn’t do much for me. I think it’s incredibly pretty and romantic, but if you’re going to use the words “betcha by golly, wow,” there should be some kind of vocal dynamic change, shouldn’t there? Otherwise he might as well just be singing “I like chocolate milk,” which scans correctly if you want to sing it instead. I checked for you.
“Betcha By Golly, Wow” was written by the powerhouse team of Linda Creed and Thom Bell, responsible for many hits by both the Stylistics and the Spinners. Creed also co-wrote “Greatest Love of All” (originally recorded by George Benson in 1977). It’s been covered by many, many artists, including Prince on his triple-disc release, Emancipation. How has this not been yanked off of YouTube?
5. In the Rain — The Dramatics
What an appropriate song for a band named the Dramatics: 25 seconds of thunderstorm sounds before the music even starts, and all sorts of echo and reverb on the guitars throughout. Still, this is a fine soul song, even if the ending is a little belabored. The Dramatics had found chart success with one previous single — “What You See is What You Get” reached #9 in 1971 — but “In the Rain” was the biggest hit of their career. How big? So big that Keith Sweat recorded a cover featuring Ghostface Killah! Just what you all wanted, right? C’mon over here, baby. Keith Sweat wants to go outside. With you. Just you and Keith Sweat, baby. In the rain. Can’t you see the water falling all down Keith Sweat’s body, baby? That ain’t Keith Sweat’s sweat, mama. Those are raindrops. Falling down Keith Sweat’s immaculately shaved chest. Ain’t a hair on Keith Sweat’s body, pretty lady. You want to see? Come on outside. Outside with Keith Sweat. Because Keith Sweat wants to go outside. In the muthafuckin’ rain. Ooh, baby.
(Sorry about that little outburst — I was just thinking about Mellowmas 2007.)
Enough about Keith Sweat. If you don’t know the Dramatics from “In the Rain,” surely you know them from their work on the 1993 masterpiece single “Doggy Dogg World.” The video for the single actually takes place at a Dramatics concert.
While the video is pretty good and I’m all for the Dramatics making a little extra, uh, cashizzle (??), this cameo resulted in one of the worst ideas ever — the Dramatics releasing their own cover of “Doggy Dogg World.” You can find it on YouTube. I’m not even going to link to it. The original members of the Dramatics must be rolling in their graves. If they’re dead. I’m assuming they’re dead. Man, I just do no research at all for these ’70s charts.
4. A Horse With No Name — America
This is a really great song.
Ha! Just kidding! What I meant to write was, “This is a really great song, if you have never picked up a guitar in your life but would like to learn to play something in the next two minutes.” Seriously. Just pick up a guitar. If you can find an Em chord, all you have to do is move your index finger up one string and your middle finger down one string. Technically, this chord has a name (Dadd6add9), but from now on, we’re calling it “D-Bag.” It’s the D-Bag chord, because it was clearly written by someone who wasn’t thinking “you know, I bet a Dadd6add9 would sound really cool here,” but by someone who said, “Hey! Me move one finger here and one finger here, and me play chord real good.” D-Baaaaaaaaaaag!
I’ve mocked “Sister Golden Hair” and “You Can Do Magic” before, but I felt all right about it because I actually like those songs. I can’t find one damn redeeming quality in “A Horse With No Name.” If it’s not the chords, it’s the lyrics. “There were plants and birds and rocks and things/There was sand and hills and rings.” Please don’t make me explain why this sucks so much. Okay, fine. I’ll explain it. “And things.” There you go. (Someone please discuss “the heat was hot” in the comments. Thanks.)
Actually, I think I can find one redeeming quality about this song, and you will only care about this if you’re a Howard Stern fan: America appeared on the Stern show and re-wrote the song as “A Boy With Horse Teeth” in honor of Baba Booey.
America — A Boy With Horse Teeth (download)
3. I Gotcha — Joe Tex (download)
It’s generally a given on CHART ATTACK! that most of the songs we’re reviewing just wouldn’t cut it on the charts in 2009. But I have to tell you — when I heard the opening of “I Gotcha,” I had to look back to my iPod to make sure I was really covering a song from 1972. I mean, once the song gets going, it sounds a bit dated, but Tex’s vocals at the beginning (and at around the :45 mark, where he’s talking about something filthy) clearly should have been sampled by now. Especially the beginning. Wikipedia says the song has been sampled numerous times, but no examples are cited.
Joe Tex was a fantastic soul singer, and clearly had a gift for rap as well. He had many, many hits on the soul/R&B charts, though this one was his biggest. He had actually written the song for King Floyd in the ’60s, but when Floyd didn’t record it, Tex took it back for himself. He released it as the B-side to his song “A Mother’s Prayer” in ’72, and DJs took a liking to it. Despite the success of the song, Tex retired briefly after its release, only to return a few years later with the awesomely titled “”Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).”
You know who loved this song? Bob Fosse. Liza Minnelli performed it in her special Liza With a “Z”, and, um…it’s kind of sort of good. If you’re into that sort of thing. I was actually quite impressed. The song was used again in the 1999 Broadway show Fosse (which was awesome, by the way). Here’s Liza:
2. Rockin’ Robin — Michael Jackson
In 1971, Motown wisely decided to capitalize on cute lil’ Michael Jackson and his ability to drive the Jackson 5 singles to the top of the charts. Jackson’s spin-off career began with the release of Got To Be There, an album featuring covers of songs like “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and this song, which was originally a #1 hit for Bobby Day in 1958.
It’s a catchy cover (I like any song that mentions an oriole, ’cause why not?) and was obviously a perfect fit for cute lil’ Michael Jackson. You can find plenty of clips on YouTube from the early ’70s, but I much prefer this clip from The Jacksons, their 1976 variety show. Cute lil’ Michael Jackson isn’t so cute and lil’ anymore. Sure, the band sounds great, but MJ is having a bit of trouble with his new post-pubescent body — he can’t sing in the same key (although to be fair, who could?) and has a hard time getting all the words out of his mouth. Poor Mike. I hear puberty is tough. I’ll let you know how it pans out for me.
I just love really forced dialogue from ’70s variety shows!
1. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face — Roberta Flack
I don’t want to say too much about this song. I feel that what this song deserves most of all is respectful silence. Roberta Flack’s subtle and gentle delivery just leaves me speechless. But the song does have an interesting history: it was written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, for his wife, Peggy Seeger (sister of Pete). You can hear her version here, although it’s nothing like this one. Flack recorded her version on her 1969 debut album, First Take, but it went relatively unheard until 1971, when Clint Eastwood used her version in his movie Play Misty For Me. The positive response prompted Atlantic Records to quickly issue an edited version of the song, and the song reached #1 in just six weeks. It stayed at #1 for an additional six weeks, which at the time was the longest any solo artist had held the #1 spot since 1956.
I’ve said too much. You wanna hear the great story behind the track? Listen to Joel Dorn, producer of Flack’s First Take. The clip’s a bit long but worth every second.
And that brings us to the end of another week of CHART ATTACK! Hope you enjoyed the read, and catch you back here in just a couple of weeks!