Sunday, March 04, 2012
Ten Great Songs From One Great Year
(for previous 1972 lists, click here and here)
The biggest stories of 1972 were about the Watergate Hotel break-in, that eventually took down the Nixon White House, and the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at 20th Summer Olympic games, in Munich, Germany. But there were other major developments as well this year. In science news, The first publication reporting the production of a recombinant DNA molecule marks the birth of modern molecular biology methodology. In financial news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time.
The year started on a disturbing note, as the United Nations named Kurt Waldheim Secretary General. Waldheim was a former Nazi intelligence officer who has been implicated in advancing anti-Semitic propaganda, as well as being personally involved in German war crimes. In technology news, the HP-35, by Hewlett-Packard, is introduced as the first "hand-held" calculator, and sells for $375. The Magnavox Odyssey video game system is first demoed, marking the dawn of the video game age; it goes on sale to the public in August. Atari kicks off the first generation of video games with the release of their seminal arcade version of Pong, the first game to achieve commercial success.
Space was still an area of great exploration in 1972. In January, President Nixon orders the development of a space shuttle program, in February, Mariner 9 sends pictures back of the Martian landscape and in March, Pioneer 10 becomes the first man-made satellite to leave the solar system. However, in December, Apollo program: Eugene Cernan is the last person to walk on the moon, after he and Harrison Schmitt complete the third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) of Apollo 17. This is the last manned mission to the moon. In entertainment, The Godfather is released and is greatly respected among international critics and the public and is routinely listed as one of the greatest films ever made. The TV series Bewitched ends its 8th and final season. However, new shows like M*A*S*H, Sanford and Son, Maude, The Bob Newhart Show and Kung Fu take over the airwaves. Locally in Dallas, 4 Country Reporter debuts as well. The back-home country show is still on the air every Saturday (now called Texas Country Reporter) after 40 years.
In sports, Bobby Fischer defeats Boris Spassky in a chess match at Reykjavík, Iceland, becoming the first American to be world chess champion. April brought in the first Boston Marathon in which women are officially allowed to compete. In Football, Terry Bradshaw throws a last second touchdown pass to running back Franco Harris, as Pittsburgh Steelers the Miami Dolphins, losers in the January Super Bowl, become the first team in history to win all 14 games played in a season. The will go on to win Super Bowl 7, the following January. Sadly, the year ended on a tragic note, as December brought in two major airline crashes; a United Airlines Boeing 737 from Washington National to Chicago Midway crashes short of the runway, killing 43 of 61 passengers and 2 people on the ground and just two weeks later, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashes into the Everglades in Florida, killing 101 of 176 onboard. Of course, this was followed by the crash of a chartered DC-7 off the coast of Puerto Rico, which took the life of baseball great Roberto Clemente. Clemente was en route to his native Nicaragua, in order to assist in the aftermath of a massive earthquake a few days prior
I'll Be Around - The Spinners (lyrics)
In 1954, a group of friends who grew up together in Royal Oak Township, Michigan, just outside Detroit, came together to make music. For a time, several of the band members resided in Detroit's Herman Gardens public housing projects. Billy Henderson, Henry Fambrough, Pervis Jackson, C. P. Spencer, and James Edwards called themselves The Domingoes, however James Edwards lasted only a few weeks. He was replaced by Bobbie Smith, who sang lead on most of the Spinners' early records (and many of their biggest Atlantic hits). C. P. Spencer left the group shortly afterwards, and would later go on to be a member of the Voice Masters and The Originals. He was replaced by George Dixon. The group renamed themselves The Spinners in 1961. This name was chosen after looking at popular car hubcaps and noting how they spun around on a car's wheel. However, although they had been around since 1961, they had not had any consistent success. This all changed with "I'll Be Around." Over the next 8 years, The Spinners reached the top 40 twelve times and had a number one hit ("Then Came You" with Dionne Warwick, in 1974). In September 2011, 57 years after forming in Detroit, and 50 years after "That's What Girls Are Made For", the group was announced as one of 15 final nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their first nomination.
Clair - Gilbert O'Sullivan (lyrics)
Alas, this is a love song that had a most unhappy ending. Gordon Mills, the father of Clair, was the man who can be said to have created Gilbert O'Sullivan. The Irishman was born Raymond Edward O'Sullivan, and moved to the North of England as a boy when his father was offered a job in Swindon. After finishing art college, Raymond moved to the capital to chase the dream, a path taken by countless songwriters and other artistes before and since, successful and not so. He got lucky when a workmate who had a contract with CBS gave him an intro to the company, and he was signed up for a five year deal, which must have been music to his ears at the time, but led precisely nowhere. Eventually, he came to the attention of Gordon Mills, who knew the music industry inside out, having been both a performer and a songwriter before moving over to the business side. (He co-wrote "It's Not Unusual", the song that launched the career of Tom Jones). Mills signed O'Sullivan to MAM, changed his name, and the world was his oyster. Alas, as often happens when a star arrives, he decides he is being underpaid, while the person who guided him to fame and fortune believes Mr. Ten Percent should receive a larger slice of the pie. Their relationship, which had been as much friendship as business, ended in the courts. After years of litigation, O'Sullivan came out on top; the London Times of May 6, 1982 reported that "agreements made between Mr. O'Sullivan and Mr. Mills and his company, Management Agency and Music Ltd [were] 'an unreasonable restraint of trade'." Among other things, O'Sullivan won control of his songs and master tapes. According to a July 1995 article by Grace Bradberry, the court case left Mills humiliated, his company collapsed, his wife divorced him, and he died in 1986 a broken man.
Everybody Plays The Fool - The Main Ingredient (lyrics)
The group was formed in Harlem, New York in 1964 as a trio called the Poets, composed of lead singer Donald McPherson, Luther Simmons, Jr., and Panama-born Tony Silvester. They made their first recordings for Leiber and Stoller's Red Bird label, but soon changed their name to the Insiders and signed with RCA. After a couple of singles, they changed their name once again in 1968, this time permanently to the Main Ingredient, taking the name from a Coke bottle. The Main Ingredient then teamed up with record producer Bert DeCoteaux. Under his direction, they reached the R/B Top 30 for the first time in 1970 with "You've Been My Inspiration." A cover of The Impressions' "I'm So Proud" broke the Top 20, and "Spinning Around (I Must Be Falling in Love)" went into the Top 10. They scored again with the McPherson-penned black power anthem "Black Seeds Keep on Growing," but tragedy struck in 1971: McPherson, who had suddenly taken ill with leukemia, died unexpectedly. Stunned, Silvester and Simmons regrouped with new lead singer Cuba Gooding, Sr., who had served as a backing vocalist on some of their previous recordings and had filled in on tour during McPherson's brief illness. Of course, Gooding Sr. is the father of actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. Over the years, the band released more material. However, they were only able to score one other top 10 hit - 1973's "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely"
Song Sung Blue - Neil Diamond (lyrics)
This was inspired by Mozart's "Piano Concerto no. 21." It's probably the bounciest hit inspired by the classical composer. Diamond: "This is one to which I never paid too much attention. A very basic message, unadorned. I didn't even write a bridge to it... I had no idea that it would be a huge hit or that people would want to sing along with it." While Diamond didn't think this song had hit potential, Russ Regan, who ran his record label Uni, was a believer, telling Diamond it would be his "biggest copyright ever." Said Diamond, "Although the lyric says everything I wanted it to say, there's not much meat to it, but it turned out to be a major, major copyright." By 1972, Diamond was already a successful recording artist. Two years earlier, he hit #1 for the first time with "Cracklin' Rosie". Although that wasn't the first #1 he was a part of. In 1966, Diamond wrote "I'm a Believer" for the Monkees - a song that went #1 and was the top selling song of the year. "Song Sung Blue became his second chart topper. All told, Neil Diamond made the top ten 13 times, had three #1 songs and hit the top 40 an amazing 37 times. He is one of just a few artists to have top 5 hits in three different decades and have a top 10 album in 5 different decades.
Rocket Man - Elton John (lyrics)
Space exploration was big in 1972, and that's what inspired Bernie Taupin's lyrics. It came out around the time of the Apollo 16 mission, which sent men to the moon for the fifth time. According to an account in Elizabeth Rosenthal's book, His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, the song was inspired by Taupin's sighting of either a shooting star or a distant airplane. The account goes on to relate that the notion of astronauts no longer being perceived as heroes, but in fact as an "everyday occupation" led him to the song's opening lines, "She packed my bags last night, pre-flight. Zero hour: 9 a.m. And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then." The lyrics in the song, inspired by a short story of the same title written by Ray Bradbury, and written by John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, describe a Mars-bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. in Ray Bradbury's "The Rocket Man," the astronauts of this story are few in number and work as they desire for high pay. One such astronaut goes off into space for three months at a time, only returning to earth for three consecutive days to spend time with his wife and son. From there he came up with the song about a man who is sent to live in space as part of a scientific experiment.
Black Dog - Led Zeppelin (lyrics)
The title came from a nameless black dog that wandered around the Headley Grange studios during recording. It has nothing to do with the song itself and is the first track on Led Zeppelin 4, one of the best selling albums ever. The album has symbols on the cover and is untitled, but since it was their 4th album, it became known as Led Zeppelin 4. Of course, this was the album that spurned the classic song, "Stairway to Heaven." Ironically, while "Stairway" has been long been considered their greatest work (and perhaps the most popular song on the Rock era), it was never released as a single. The start and stop a cappella verses of "Black Dog" were inspired by Fleetwood Mac's 1969 song "Oh Well." Before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in 1974, they were more of a Blues band led by guitarist Peter Green. Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones got the idea for this song after hearing Muddy Waters' "Electric Mud." He wanted to try "Electric Blues with a rolling bass part."
Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) - The Hollies (lyrics)
The Hollies are an English pop and rock group, formed in Manchester in the early 1960s, though most of the band members are from throughout East Lancashire. Known for their distinctive vocal harmony style, they became one of the leading British groups of the 1960s and 1970s. They enjoyed considerable popularity in many countries, although they did not achieve major US chart success until 1966. Along with The Rolling Stones and The Searchers, they are one of the few British pop groups of the early 1960s that have never officially broken up and that continue to record and perform. The Hollies were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. The original line-up included Allan Clarke as lead vocalist, Graham Nash as guitarist and vocalist, Vic Steele on guitar, with Eric Haydock on bass guitar and Don Rathbone on drums. Nash left the group in 1968 and joined Buffalo Springfield. Upon that groups demise, he was one of the founders of the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. However, Nash returned to the Hollies in time for their last charting hit, 1983's remake of the Supreme's best-seller, "Stop! In the Name of Love," which peaked at #29. This is the only Hollies single without any backing vocals. The reason why Clarke is the only singer on this record is that he didn't intended the song to be released on a Hollies album, but as a record of his own. When the band learned that he intended to do a solo recording, Clarke was issued an ultimatum - he could either remain with The Hollies or pursue a solo career, but not both. Clarke told Rolling Stone in 1973: "I think with me the band feared that if I got a hit I'd leave. How can you stop destiny? Now, if they originally agreed, I might not even have left. 'Long Cool Woman' would have been released a year earlier, and we'd have done a few tours of the States and maybe would have been really big."
Too Late to Turn Back Now - Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose (lyrics)
Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose was a family soul singing group from Dania Beach, Florida, that attained brief popularity in the early 1970s. The original members were the siblings Carter Cornelius, Eddie Cornelius, and Rose Cornelius. Another sister, Billie Jo Cornelius, was added later. The group hit the pop chart in 1971, with the single "Treat Her Like a Lady" (U.S. R/B Top 20, Billboard Hot 100 #3) and sold over a million copies. The act succeeded again in 1972 with "Too Late to Turn Back Now" (U.S. R/B #5, Hot 100 #2); both songs were written by Eddie Cornelius. This also sold over one million copies with a gold disc awarded in August 1972. While the group failed to find any further success on the scale of their first two singles, two releases, "Don't Ever Be Lonely" and "I'm Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore" reached the Billboard Top 40. Their final charting single was "Since I Found My Baby" in 1974, from their third and last album. The group broke up in 1976 when Carter Cornelius joined a black Hebrew sect in Miami and adopted the name Prince Gideon Israel. He wrote, recorded, and mixed the sect's music and videos for the next 15 years. He died on November 7, 1991 as the result of a heart attack at the age of 43. Eddie Cornelius became a born-again Christian and later an ordained pastor. He still continues to sing, produce, and write music that reflects his faith in God. Rose Cornelius appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in June 1967, and performed in Las Vegas and worldwide before joining her brothers. She came home to form CB and SR with her brothers at her mother's request. Rose Cornelius wrote most of the CB and SR background vocals. In 1970, she toured with another group called the Gospel Jazz Singers. She is working and living in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, and still performs with many groups.
Where Is the Love - Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (lyrics)
This was written by percussionist Ralph MacDonald and bass player William Salter. They wrote the song hoping The 5th Dimension would record it, but MacDonald was working on the session for the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway album, and when they needed one more song, he offered it to them. Flack and Hathaway were good friends and went to school together at Howard University. Their first collaboration was a cover of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." This led to an entire album of duets, which contained this hit. In this song, Flack and Hathaway sing about a relationship that is not working out. Unlike most male/female duets, they aren't singing to each other, but are both taking the role of the person who is on the short end of the relationship. It's a classic case of girl leaves boyfriend, tells another guy she will love him, then goes back to her original boyfriend, leaving Donny and Roberta to ask, "Where Is The Love?" During the best part of his career, Hathaway began to suffer from severe bouts of depression. It was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was known to take strong medication daily to try to control the illness. However, Eulaulah Hathaway has said that her husband was frequently less than diligent about following his prescription regimen. Donnita Hathaway has said that her mother gave her similar information about her father, saying that when he took his medication, he was generally fine, but that when he did not, it was impossible for her to deal with him. Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway's mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations. The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway's friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of "The Closer I Get To You" in 1978. Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets. However, on January 13 of that year, Hathaway began a recording session and the album producers each reported that although Hathaway's voice sounded good, he began behaving irrationally, seeming to be paranoid and delusional. According to one of them, Hathaway said that "white people" were trying to kill him and had connected his brain to a machine, for the purpose of stealing his music. Given Hathaway's behavior, they decided the recording session could not continue, so they aborted it and all of the musicians went home. Hours later, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York's Essex House hotel. He had jumped from his balcony. The glass had been neatly removed from the window and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule Hathaway's death a suicide. His friends were mystified, considering that his career had just started to pick up again, and Flack was devastated. Spurred by his death, she included the few duet tracks they had finished on her next album, Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway. This spring, Flack is set to release Let it Be Roberta, an album of Beatles covers including "Hey Jude" and "Let it Be". It is her first recording in over 8 years. Flack knew John Lennon and Yoko Ono personally as they both moved in 1975 into the The Dakota apartment building in New York City and had apartments across the hall from each other. Flack has stated that she has already been asked to do a second album of Beatles covers.
All the Young Dudes - Mott the Hoople (lyrics)
This was written and produced by David Bowie. Mott the Hoople had a cult following in England and Bowie was a big fan. The problem was, they weren't selling many albums and were about to break up. Bowie heard about their impending breakup when Mott bass player Pete Overend Watts called looking for work, and in an effort to keep the band together, he offered to produce their next album and provide them with a song he was working on. The challenge was getting Mott in the studio to record the song, since they had alienated their record label, Island. Bowie got them some time at Olympic Studios in London in the middle of the night, and that's where they recorded the song. Besides producing the track, Bowie played guitar, sang backup, and clapped. Mott The Hoople didn't know this when they recorded it, but Bowie intended this song for his The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars concept album. The, "All the young dudes carry the news" line refers to part of Bowie's story where there is no electricity, and Ziggy Stardust uses songs to spread the news. Said Bowie: "'All the Young Dudes' is a song about this news. It's not a hymn to the youth, as people thought. It is completely the opposite." Even though the band was heterosexual, this became a gay anthem, at least in America, thanks to lyrics like "Lucy looks sweet 'cause he dresses like a queen." This was the nature of Glam Rock, a style that emerged in England in the early '70s where singers performed in makeup and feminine clothes while playing bombastic rock songs. The performers were not necessarily gay, but they definitely blurred gender roles. Bowie may have been the biggest influence on Glam Rock.In January 2009, the band announced they would be re-uniting for two concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, in October 2009. According to lead singer Ian Hunter's web site, all five of the original members would participate in the reunion. Hunter wrote, "Why are we doing it? I can't speak for the others, but I'm doing it just to see what it's like.
Joy - Apollo 100 (instrumental)
Apollo 100 was a short-lived British instrumental studio-based group that had a hit with this Johann Sebastian Bach-inspired single. The recording of "Joy" as performed by Apollo 100 is a nearly note-for-note remake of the arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (but with modern pop music flourishes like percussion and bass) recorded by the British band Jigsaw ("Sky High") on their 1970 debut album Letherslade Farm. Arranger Tom Parker an accomplished multi instrumentalist/arranger responsible for most of the successful arrangements from the Young Blood catalogue, such as the Top 20 American hit "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" and a number of Don Fardon's recordings. Parker is a multi-instrumentalist, having played keyboards, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, and a number of other instruments from an early age. His first performances were in and around Newcastle, England, where he performed in a number of jazz clubs. Following this he was associated with a number of groups, including The Mark Leeman 5, Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, and Eric Burdon with the New Animals. He put together the band in 1972, with drummer Clem Cattini, guitarist Vic Flick, guitarist Zed Jenkins, percussionist Jim Lawless, and bassist Brian Odgers. Their first single, "Joy" rose to number 6 on the pop singles chart in the US. None of their subsequent efforts were as successful and they broke up in 1973. "Joy" has subsequently been featured in the soundtracks of the films Boogie Nights, One Day in September and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.