American Top 40 Flashback: November 10, 1973

The full chart from November 10, 1973

How’s the chart as a whole?

Other than a string of variety-show-style pop in the top ten, it’s quite good. This chart marks a high point for funk, largely rooted in the southern USA but with an impressive degree of regional variation. Motown is still truckin’, and diversifying. Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes give a taste of the Philadelphia sound that would dominate the next few years. There are appearances from 60s heavyweights like the Stones, both halves of Simon and Garfunkel, and the less-considered half of the Beatles. The only thing that’s missing for me is a bit more hard-charging rock music; in this respect, it’s notable that “Free Ride,” “Rocky Mountain Way” and “China Grove” all fell off of the chart this week. I give this week a B-plus.

Forgotten gems

#24 – Ike and Tina Turner, “Nutbush City Limits”

#25 – The Pointer Sisters, “Yes We Can Can”

#26 – Millie Jackson, “Hurts So Good”

Together with Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” these songs form a great run of funk and deep soul in the middle of this chart. Millie Jackson’s husky, gospel-inflected soul song makes me a bit embarrassed that I previously only knew her for that album cover where’s she’s grimacing on the toilet. Then the Pointer Sisters ride a hypnotically cool groove of interlocking vocals. And then Tina Turner brings the fire with the hardest-rocking song on this countdown, her final hit with Ike.

#29 – Cheech and Chong, “Basketball Jones”

A tricky case, because comedy has a limited shelf life on the radio, and because the promotional video that was made for the song is (sigh) horribly racist in its depictions.  The song, though… its humor is so gentle that it makes me laugh in a life-affirming way. And Cheech and Chong roped in so many stars for the recording (George Harrison, Carole King, Billy Preston, and on and on) that it ends up feeling gloriously overstuffed. I’d much rather listen to this than the song it parodied.

Worth a listen

#33 – Gilbert O’Sullivan, “Ooh Baby”

Gilbert O’Sullivan sort-of goes disco before going disco was particularly profitable.

#7 – Billy Preston, “Space Race”

A sequel of sorts to his #2 hit instrumental “Outa Space” that doesn’t really recapture the magic, largely because it’s built around a synthesizer tone that might have sounded cool and futuristic at the time, but now sounds hideously dated.

Justly forgotten

#4 – The DiFranco Family, “Heartbeat—It’s a Lovebeat”

A family act from Canada that rips off the Osmonds– so they’re a copy of a copy, basically. The best part of this song is that you can sing the lyrics to the Pokemon theme over the verses.

#10 – The Carpenters, “Top of the World”

Just the most soulless, artificial country pastiche.

#21 – Bobby Goldsboro, “Summer (The First Time)”

I really wasn’t in the mood this week to hear a romantic song about a 17-year-old losing his virginity to a much older woman. Luckily, it’s an entirely forgettable song.

Is the #1 worthy?

“Keep on Truckin’” by Eddie Kendricks – It’s marginally worthy. It’s fun and funky and probably danceable, but there isn’t much substance to it.

Song I would banish from the radio forever

Cher’s “Half-Breed,” though I’m not sure it gets much airplay anymore. At least it’s a better fit for a Blue Swede cover than “Never My Love.”

Bubbling under

“The Joker,” “Living for the City,” “Rock On”

Top five

#23 – Stevie Wonder, “Higher Ground”

#24 – Ike and Tina Turner, “Nutbush City Limits”
#25 – The Pointer Sisters, “Yes We Can Can”

#6 – Ringo Starr, “Photograph”

#11 – Jim Croce, “I Got a Name”

Honorable mention: “Hello It’s Me,” “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Basketball Jones,” “Hurts So Good”