The Least Of The Best: 1975

Here’s the end of the line for our game, The Least Of The Best, as we hit 1975, the last year in what I call my sweet spot. It was the last year during which I liked most of what I heard on AM radio and on jukeboxes in bars, restaurants and down in the snack bar at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center.

It was also the year when I started taking college seriously, when I realized that the classes I was taking in Mass Communication were actually intended to give me skills I would need when I got my degree and had to go out into the real world and make a living. Along the way, I learned that I liked to write and was pretty good at it.

Add some good friends, a fun part-time job, and 1975 was year during which most things went well. Even forty-seven years later, 1975 is still among the best three or four years of my life.

So, what was at the top of the Billboard year-end chart, as offered by Joel Whitburn in his book, A Century Of Pop Music? Take a look:

“Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille
“Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention
“Island Girl” by Elton John
“He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by Tony Orlando & Dawn
“Bad Blood” by Neil Sedaka

Three of those – the records by Silver Convention, Elton John and Neil Sedaka – peaked in the autumn, which was one of the ten or so best seasons of my life, so they’re hard to assess. “Fly, Robin, Fly” is probably the least of those three with its throbbing bass, keening strings and the nearly chanted vocals. I may be wrong here, but it’s not quite disco; call it proto-disco, and I’m not sure what leads me to that conclusion.

Nor do I think that “Island Girl” and “Bad Blood” are great records. At least, I’m not sure that they are. (And I’m not sure the first could be released today.) But they’re parked right in one of the sweetest spots of my sweet spot, and I can’t sort out quality from memory; all I can say – and this holds true for “Fly, Robin, Fly” as well – is that every time I’m at leisure and hear any of those three, I’m lost in them and their time for at least a few seconds.

As to No. 1 from that distant year, I got tired of it at the time. It sat at No. 1 for four weeks during the early part of the summer, and I thought I’d be glad to never hear it again. Then, maybe about eight to ten years ago, “Love Will Keep Us Together” popped up on a random game here, forcing me to reassess it. And I decided that it’s a marvelous piece of popcraft.

That leaves Tony Orlando & Dawn. The record peaked in early May, spending three weeks atop the Hot 100 (as did the records by Sedaka, John and Silver Convention). But I don’t recall hearing it nearly as often as I did the other four. Maybe “He Don’t Love You . . .” wasn’t in the Atwood Center jukebox. It could be as simple as that. But it doesn’t move me one way or the other.

So, how about now? Do any of those five matter now (as measured by their presence in my day-to-day listening in my iPod)? Well, Silver Convention is there (as is a cover of “Fly, Robin, Fly” by the string quartet Bond). “Island Girl” is there, and so is “Love Will Keep Us Together.” The other two singles aren’t likely to be added.

What record, then, sits at the bottom of 1975’s Top 40? Well, it’s a record that I know I heard a lot and liked okay, but if you’d asked me a couple of hours ago what year it came out, I’d have had to stop and think a bit. “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles peaked at No. 2 in early November of 1975, but it’s not instantly connected to that season. And it’s not one of the nine Eagles’ singles in the iPod. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t matter much to me, either.

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