Chart Digging: March 17, 1973

Looking back, there was a question I never asked.

It was early in the autumn of 1974, and – as was my habit – I was on campus early, right around seven o’clock. I don’t remember when my first class of the day was, but I’d take at least an hour, maybe more, to sip some coffee, read the Minneapolis paper and greet other folks from The Table as they stopped by before or between classes.

And every day for the first few weeks of that autumn, a young woman with dark blonde hair would come into the same area of the snack bar and settle at a table near the jukebox. Every day, she’d put a quarter into the machine and punch the buttons for just one song. Every day, she’d sit at her table and listen as Diana Ross made her way through Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning Heartache.”

And every day, after the record ended, she’d sit for a few minutes more and then gather her books and leave.

Eventually, as often happens between strangers who see each other every day, she’d nod and give me a half-smile as she arrived or as she departed. We began to talk, briefly at first. Then one day, instead of sitting alone at her own table, she sat at the long table with me. Over the next few weeks, she became a regular at The Table. And she quit starting her day with “Good Morning Heartache.”

We were friends. I think she wanted more, but my hopes were elsewhere that autumn. Still, she and a friend of hers were frequently at The Table through October, taking part in the good-natured needling and the sometimes ribald chatter. Then my quarter ended abruptly at the end of October, and I spent November at home.

When I came back to school in December, she was gone. Back to the Twin Cities after an unanticipated twist in her life, my other friends told me. As far as I know, no one ever heard from her again. And I still sometimes wonder, thirty-seven years later, why she listened to “Good Morning Heartache” every morning for those first weeks that autumn. I probably should have asked her.

The other thing I wonder about, and this is far less important, is why the Diana Ross tune was in the Atwood Center jukebox in the autumn of 1974 when its time in the charts had been in early 1973. I was digging around in the Billboard charts last evening, and saw that “Good Morning Heartache” had been at No. 34 in the Hot 100 in the chart that came out on March 17, 1973, thirty-eight years ago today. The record – from the soundtrack to Lady Sing the Blues – would go no higher and would fall out of the Hot 100 four weeks later. Why in the world would it show up in the Atwood jukebox seventeen months after that? (Readers with a good memory for unimportant detail will recall that I wondered the same thing about Shawn Phillips’ “We,” which topped out at No. 89 in January 1973 and then showed up in the Atwood jukebox during that same autumn of 1974.)

I have no answers for any questions this morning, so I think we’ll just move a little further down the Hot 100 from March 17, 1973.

That brings me to a group I’d never heard about until this week: Cymande, described by Joel Whitburn as an “Afro-rock band from the West Indies.” The octet’s single, “The Message,” was at No. 48 and would go no higher (though it went to No. 22 on the R&B chart). The only other single from Cymande that Whitburn lists in Top Pop Singles is “Bra,” a tune that All-Music Guide calls the band’s reaction to the women’s movement. It topped out at No. 102 during the summer of 1973. “The Message” is a pretty good single, funky and danceable, and it’s one I wish I’d heard years ago.

Another single with a West Indies tinge to it was sitting at No. 61 back in 1973, and it came from an unlikely source. “Follow Your Daughter Home” by the Guess Who – another tune I’d never heard until this week, as far as I know – has an undeniable and catchy island tinge to it. I would imagine that listeners and radio folks had no real idea what to do with the record, as it never got any higher in the chart. The band’s next charting single was “Star Baby,” which sounded a lot more like the Guess Who that scored seven Top 40 hits in 1969 and 1970 alone. It’s too bad “Follow Your Daughter Home” didn’t do better. It would be fun to hear it once in a while on the oldies stations instead of listening to “These Eyes” again.

From No. 61 we’re going to drop to the Bottom 10 from the March 17, 1973 chart, as there are a few gems sitting in those depths.

Circus was a rock quintet from Cleveland that got one record into the Hot 100, and it’s a great one. “Stop, Look & Listen” spent four weeks on the chart without getting any higher than No. 91, which is where it was thirty-eight years ago today. Beyond that, the only thing I really know about Circus is that “Stop, Look & Listen” should have done much, much better than it did.

One of the nine-day wonders of early 1973 was the racy movie “Last Tango in Paris,” featuring major star Marlon Brando and the relatively unknown (in the U.S., at least) Maria Schneider. I’ve never seen the movie but I’ve got the wonderful soundtrack by jazz saxophonist Gato Barbieri. And in early 1973, a cover of the film’s main theme by Herb Alpert and the TJB hung around the lower portions of the Hot 100. It sat at No. 94 in the March 17 chart and would peak at No. 77. It’s a good record, but it doesn’t come near to having the power of Barbieri’s original. (Another trumpet cover of the movie’s main theme, by Doc Severinsen, made a run at the Hot 100 in late March 1973 but never got any higher than No. 103.)

Our last tune of the day finds us at No. 98 with the record that gave Dennis Yost & The Classics IV their next-to-last stay on the chart. “Rosanna,” a decent country-ish ballad, was in its second week in the Hot 100, and would be there one more week, rising to No. 95. Two years later, Yost and The Classics IV would get to No. 94 with “My First Day Without Her.” I’ve never heard that last one, but “Rosanna” was okay. There have been worse records that have gone higher, but then again, there have been better ones that never got to No. 95. Whichever way you look at it, “Rosanna” is a pretty good listen.

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One Response to “Chart Digging: March 17, 1973”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I enjoyed the story of the mystery woman. I probably would not have had the presence of mind to ask her about the song, either. Maybe today, but certainly not then.

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