Top 40 Radio in 1973 Sucked, too

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I think we tend to romanticize things from long ago. How things were better. How things were cooler. That’s not always true. In fact, this morning I was listening to the radio with my 11-year old, and was thinking how much better music was when I was his age. So, I decided to look up the top radio hits from 40 years ago, just to test my theory. And guess what? I was wrong. Top 40 radio sucked in 1973, too.

Here are the top hits of that year.

#1 – Tie A Yellow Ribbon Around The Old Oak Tree – Tony Orlando and Dawn. Really. That was the best song of the entire year? We couldn’t do any better than that? My guess, it was one of those songs that got into the public’s head, and wouldn’t let go. Let’s face it – this is a song about an ex-convict coming home from prison. Who know what he did. Yet, it was the #1 hit of the entire year. It must get better.

#2 – Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce.  A song about another really bad guy. In fact, he was the ‘baddest man in the whole damn town.”  But this guy got what’s coming to him. While Tony Orlando’s bad guy got the girl in the end, Leroy Brown got into a bar fight and ended up looking like “a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.” I have to admit, I remember when Jim Croce died and was very sad. My school played “Time in a bottle” over the PA system the day he died.

#3 – Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack. I guess this was the beginning of the soft rock ‘70s.  While this is a beautiful song – where are all the rock and roll songs? Where are the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin?  This is the early ‘70s.  Didn’t it rock?

#4 – Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On. I can’t argue with this song. An all-time classic, which I would listen to today if it came on the radio and not cringe. In fact, there’s a new song in the top 40 called “Classic” by MTKO that references Marvin and this song. (As well as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s Kiss.)  Go Marvin.

#5 – Paul McCartney & Wings – My Love.  Before Sir Paul was Sir Paul, we was still the ex-Beatle with a new band. The only problem is Linda McCartney is singing background instead of John Lennon. And while this song is #5 – I won’t be learning to play this any time soon.

#6 – Kris Kristofferson – Why Me. I have to admit, I have no idea what this song is.  I don’t remember it. I don’t think I ever heard it. It could be great. I don’t know.

#7 – Elton John – Crocodile Rock. The beginning of the end for Sir Elton.  I liked his music before he became bubble gum with this song. His first 3 albums were among my favorites.  Never loved this song.

#8 – Billy Preston – Will It Go Round In Circles? A catchy little tune. The Beatles Apple records freshly signed Billy. Had played some back up tracks on the Let It Be album. And then this hit.   But I still notice. No rock and roll.

#9 – Carly Simon – You’re So Vain.  Huge break out hit. Everyone wondered whom she was singing about. Was it really Mick Jagger? Was it someone else? In the summer of 1973, this song was everywhere.

#10 – Diana Ross – Touch Me In The Morning. Uggg. I hate this song. “We don’t have tomorrow, but we have yesterday.”  Kill me now.

So I scanned the rest of the list. There had to be some rock ‘n roll in the top hits of the year, right?

Not at #11. The was Vicki Lawrence, you know the woman who played Carol Burnett’s mother on her TV show. She did “the night the lights when out in Georgia.”

The right Rock ‘n Roll song shows up at #16 – Edgar Winter Group’s Frankenstein. Next #23 – Grand Funk Railroad – We’re an American Band.

I next pass John Denver, Maureen McGovern, Barry White, the O’Jays, Anne Murray, Gladys Knight and The Pips to finally get to a real rock song.

Buried at #50 – Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water.  Finally. They just beat out Loggins and Messina, Chicago, The Carpenters & Gilbert O’Sullivan.

And if you’re wondering, The Allman Brothers? #79 – Ramblin’ Man.  The Rolling Stones? #85 – Angie. Pink Floyd? #92 – Money. Led Zeppelin? They lost out to Donny Osmond. He has the #99 song of the year – The Twelfth of Never.

That’s exactly how I felt about the music from 1973. So the next time you’re in the car and complaining about Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or Imagine Dragons or even One Direction, remember Top 40 music sucks. And it always has.



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