One Chart Dig: July 10, 1971

By the early days of July in 1971, I’d been shifted by my supervisors in St. Cloud State’s maintenance department from mowing grass to an indoor janitorial position, one that would evolve into my partnering with my eventual friend Mike as a wandering floor cleaning team.

Frankly, I was relieved. The big riding lawnmowers scared me, and that left me moving much more slowly than the other members of our crew, a fact noted with increasing displeasure by our supervisor. And trimming around the edges of the lawns with push mowers had its risks: The mowers would frequently shoot small rocks, aluminum cans and other pieces of junk out from underneath, and that was scary.

So even though I felt a little lonely after being part of a crew, and a little limited being assigned to one building – Headley Hall, where the art and industrial art departments were based – I soon fell into a routine of sweeping floors and stairs, washing windows and shining bannister railings. I got to know, at least a little, one of the student potters, chatting with him occasionally as he worked at his wheel. In early August, as I was finishing up my time in Headley, he gave me one of his hand-made mugs; it still sits in my cupboard more than forty years later.

By that time, Mike was working in Headley for a while, filling in while the regular janitors took vacations, and the potter dropped off a mug for Mike as well. When the regular janitors came back from vacation and summer session ended, the janitorial supervisor paired me with Mike as a floor washing team.

We moved from building to building for the rest of August and the first weeks of September, scrubbing floors and hallways, and for one week, we worked nights so we could get to the floors in the college’s administrative offices (from which stemmed the tale of the bat and the rolled-up Playboy magazine, which I told long ago). After the scary roar of the lawnmowers and the isolation of working alone, partnering with Mike was a gift. He was not that much older than I, our senses of humor were similar, and we had plenty of time to chat and laugh as we waited for floors to dry.

So as I thought this morning about the shifts in that summer of 1971 and glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 for July 10 of that year – forty-four years ago today – I noticed a title that would have given me some hope: “Gonna Be Alright Now” by Gayle McCormick. (Even though the record was about a romance instead of life in general, I likely would have found some inspiration in the title/hook, had I ever heard the record. I doubt I ever did.)

McCormick had been the lead singer in Smith, which had a Top Ten hit with a cover of “Baby It’s You” in 1969. By 1971, the group had broken up and McCormick released the first of three solo albums, with “Gonna Be Alright Now” going out as a single. Forty-four years ago today, it sat at No. 97 in its first week in the Hot 100. It would hang around another four weeks and peak at No. 84 (No. 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart).

McCormick would see two other singles from that first album reach the Hot 100: “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” went to No. 44 (No. 9, AC) later in 1971, and “You Really Got A Hold On Me” got to No. 98 in early 1972. A 1975 single, “Coming In, Out Of The Rain,” went to No. 40 on the AC chart.


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