When I was experiencing the 1970’s I wasn’t at the time too impressed with the music. I had just returned from Viet Nam and was stationed at the long-since-closed Air Force Base of Castle a Strategic Air Command (SAC) training facility for B-52 bomber flight crews, located just adjacent to the small town of Atwater, California.
I brought my Southeast Asia purchased sound system along to my new home for the next two years in the nearby town of Merced. I would spend a lot of spare time trying to catch up with what was happening musically. I would don my headphones – tune in to a nearby FM radio station and turn on my reel-to-reel tape recorder and commence to record the current play lists. This was mid 1971 and what I was hearing was an endless string of “singer-song-writers” churning out their compositions. AM was different of course – sticking to the commercial pop tunes.
In reviewing 1971 a few things caught my eye that I found intriguing. So here they are:
Tony Orlando entered into his “second musical career” with a group called Dawn – landing in the number 1 position with “Knock Three Times” a song that I had first heard while on a late-in-my Viet Nam tour while on R and R in Honolulu. I heard it from the streets while passing by a back alley bar with my wife. The bar patrons were pounding on the bar to three beat “KNOCK THREE TIMES” refrain. Tony had earlier in his career been part of the Brill Building scene. He started off with a group out of Manhattan called the Five Gents and would eventually hook up with record executive Don Kirshner and record “Half Way to Paradise” and then “Bless You”.
“Knock Three Times” would remain at number 1 for 3 weeks.
Next are The Osmonds who launched their “rock career” with a monster hit “One Bad Apple” in February of ’71. That debut would stay at number 1 for a full five weeks which was impressive in the 1970’s. What caught my attention about the Osmonds is that they would become the only recording act ever to achieve 11 million selling singles in one year. Elvis? The Beatles? Go figure.
Speaking of the Osmonds, Donny would also step out from the group occasionally and in 1971 would hit #1 with “Go Away Little Girl” a song that had earlier hit the top spot for Steve Lawrence. “Go Away Little Girl” would become the first song in the “rock-era” to hit number 1 by two different artists. Donny would go on to become a “cover” specialist, charting with songs like “Puppy Love” (Paul Anka), “Hey Girl” (Freddie Scott), “Too Young” (Nat ‘King’ Cole), “Why” (Frankie Avalon), and “The Twelfth of Never” (Johnny Mathis). He was also later joined by his sister with the covers “I’m Leaving it Up to You” (Dale and Grace), “Morning Side of the Mountain” (Tommy Edwards) and “Deep Purple” a cover of a cover by Nino Tempo and April Stevens.
Paul & Linda McCartney
Paul McCartney would become the second Beatle solo to go to number one in September of the year with “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – #1 for a single week. George preceded Paul by nine months with his double sided #1 smash “My Sweet Lord” and” Isn’t It a Pity?”. Paul’s first solo single was “Another Day” which reached #5 in February of 1971.
Three Dog Night
That brings me to Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” a song penned by Hoyt Axton. Hoyt was the son of Mae Axton, a musician who co-wrote the Elvis Presley smash “Heartbreak Hotel” from 1956. This made Hoyt and Mae the only mother and son tandem to have composed number 1 Hot 100 hits. As I suspected, the song was originally intended for a children’s animated TV program. When I occasionally would DJ dances in the later 1970’s it would drive me crazy when a mother would come up and demand that I play “Joy to the World”. The mom’s loved it and the song would clear the dance floor every time. You just simply could not be that cool gyrating around the dance floor to “Jeramiah was a bull frog”…… (Oh yes, the song was number 1 for six straight weeks).
“Want Ads” was a number 1 hit for The Honeycone in 1971. The trio included Edna Wright who’s sister was the legendary Darlene Love of Philles Records fame (and a lot more). The song was co-written by General Johnson who also recorded with The Chairmen of the Board and earlier had been with the southeast beach music group The Showmen (“It Will Stand”). Edna was a member of a studio group called “Hale and The Hushabyes” which was produced by Phil Spector and included among others, Sonny and Cher, Jackie DeShannon and Brian Wilson.
Honeycone member Carolyn Willis was a former member of The Girlfriends, who had a hit record with “My One and Only Jimmy Boy”. She also backed Phil Spector’s group Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. The third member of The Honeycone – Shellie Clark had worked with as an Ikette with Ike and Tina and also backed Little Richard and Dusty Springfield. So the Honeycone were anything but a “group out of nowhere”.
Isaac’s “Theme from Shaft” in 1971 became – at the time – only the third #1 song to win an Academy Award. Hayes was an anchor composer rising out of the Memphis based label family Stax-Volt. He had composed many a hit prior to his own debut on the charts including “Soul Man” and “Hold On, I’m Comin'” (Sam and Dave), “B-A-B-Y” (Carla Thomas),