(Above: It’s a cool layout with a clumsy slogan.)
I don’t believe we’ve ever done an FM playlist on the blog, so let’s fix that today. I just happen to have, in a pile of surveys I file under “research” in my office, the playlist from WZZM-FM in Grand Rapids, Michigan from October 22, 1971.
A bit of history: In 1962 both WZZM-TV and WKLW-FM went on the air, operated by West Michigan Telecasters. (They are the same group that did a recruitment video for my school in 1968 when it was Grand Valley State College. I’ve shown that clip in media history classes, and it usually sparks discussion about how much has changed.) The call letters got flipped to match the TV station in the mid-60s, and both remained co-owned until 1978. (By that time it was using WZZR as a call sign, which it kept until becoming WLHT in 1984.)
This list represents a period in time when, if memory serves me, WGRD-AM had recently completed its purchase of WXTO-FM from the Archdiocese of Grand Rapids and launched WGRD-FM, adding competition for the younger FM audience. (WLAV-FM had been doing the “Joy” format, and WOOD-FM was the elevator music station.) Let’s see what’s on the charts, as we count up:
First, the “hits to break” this week are “Fireball” by Deep Purple and “Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards. The latter made its way onto Oldies stations I programmed (and younger readers know it from Anchorman), but I can’t recall the last time I heard the former.
Also note: the Hot 40 has 35 records. Two “hits to break” and three “feature albums” and you get forty entries total. This is where Lays got the idea to fill their chip bags.
#35. “Love” – The Lettermen. This somehow doesn’t say “now generation” to me, but your mileage may vary. Next?
#34. “Sour Suite” – The Guess Who. Now we’re getting somewhere. This one did better in GR than nationally (#50), and I’ll wager that you haven’t heard it in a while. Not a bad record. (Trivia: the zip code 46201 is Indianapolis, IN.)
#33. “White Lies Blue Eyes” – Bullet. This one sounds fantastic coming right out of a shotgun jingle, and I realize just how old I sound typing that sentence. It reminds me of the summer of 1990, when as a 21-year-old kid I was allowed to play DJ on WCFL-FM on the weekends with a ton of reverb.
#32. “Long Ago and Far Away” – James Taylor. Here’s another one we can file under “I haven’t heard this in forever.” It was a #31 hit nationally, and James gets some help from Joni Mitchell and Carole King on the record, so it sounds like your parents’ hi-fi.
#31. “Behind Blue Eyes” – The Who. I’ll never not play this loudly, and just did again. 1971 was the year of Who’s Next, which still sounds fantastic in my office (or anywhere, really).
#30. “Your Move” – Yes. I’m used to hearing the full-length version of this one, but this is the single. It’s the debut for the band and did land at #40 on the national chart. (Their biggest hit, of course, comes in 1984, and I have feelings about that.)
#29. “Don’t Wanna Live Inside Myself” – The Bee Gees. The survey lists it as “Don’t Want To Live Inside Myself.” Good grammar is important. Nationally, this only hits #53, and ‘m thinking: this is a pretty light-rock list thus far, with minor exception.
#28. “Everybody’s Everything” – Santana. OK, the pace just picked up a bit. But can we talk about The Emperors for a second? You don’t know them? Well, you know their song “Karate,” which sounds, well – let’s just say the composers got writing credit on the Santana record.
#27. “It’s a Crying Shame” – Gayle McCormick. This came on in the car, and I had forgotten that Gayle was the lead singer for Smith. (The longer I’m off the air, the more some of this information starts to rust.) This missed the Top 40, which I think qualifies as… no, we’re not going to make that joke.
#26. “Wild Night” – Van Morrison. Another one that requires volume. It’s a good thing that the students are on break, because I would have disrupted a classroom.
#25. “I’d Love to Change the World” – Ten Years After. Question for friends still in radio: does this get played with the “dykes and fairies” line intact, or did it go the way of “Money For Nothing” and get an edit? I would think this would be the tougher one to slice, since it’s right off the top of the record. Does anyone still play it at all?
#24. “Theme from ‘Shaft’” – Isaac Hayes. As a baby DJ I heard Steve Dahl craft this into a show intro, replacing “Shaft” with his jock shout. I so badly wanted to copy it in college radio, but didn’t have a jock shout, so I used a clip of Bill Murray saying “Lenny!” from Ghostbusters. It sounded as lousy as you’d expect. Years later, when I had a jock shout from WJMK, I made one the right way, and only used it once on WROK/Rockford. In the fall of 2018 I went back to WLRA for a reunion and – in my 30 minutes on the air there – played it again. That’s a lot of call letters and a lousy story about a song that won an Oscar.
#23. “Questions 67 and 68“/”I’m a Man” – Chicago. Both sides of the single are listed, and I don’t doubt both got played. I am much more partial to A than B.
#22. “Only You Know and I Know” – Delaney and Bonnie. I know the Dave Mason version from classic rock radio, but this one I had to hear again to jog the memory, and I kinda like it. This one makes #20 nationally, while Mason only did #42. Clearly I’ve had it backwards.
#21. “One Fine Morning” – Lighthouse. Just for the intro alone this needs to be on a playlist, as long as DJs promise not to try and talk it up. (It’s 52 seconds, if you feel ambitious.) They’re also not a one-hit wonder, as “Sunny Days” made #34 in 1972.
#20. “Do You Know What I Mean” – Lee Michaels. This one falls into the “if I had a nickel for every time I played it” category, but I have to admit – it’s been a while, and with fresh ears it’s still a fun record. (I’m much more comfortable talking up the ramp of this one.)
#19. “Peace Train” – Cat Stevens. Another college radio flashback: at WLRA I think the cover of this song by 10,000 Maniacs got played about every twenty minutes for a while, or at least that’s what it felt like. Maybe it was the bongos (or Natalie Merchant missing the “r” almost every time the title came up), but I prefer the original.
#18. “Military Madness” – Graham Nash. OK, this one caught me blind. I have no recollection of this tune. It spent six weeks on the Hot 100 and landed at #73. (The next single, “Immigration Man,” fared a little better.) The subject seems a little out of place for sleepy ol’ GR; then again, I wasn’t there.
#17. “Birds Of a Feather” – Raiders. As in Paul Revere And The, of course. What a fun sound that, to me at least, just screams ’71. Nationally it made #23, so it’s faring a little better here.
#16. “Charity Ball” – Fanny. Given what I know of British/Aussie/Kiwi slang, how did they backsell this in those places, if at all? This one just snuck in at #40 nationally, so it’s really over-performing in GR.
#15. “Lookin’ Back” – Bob Seger. Hometown discount applies, as Seger tended to do a little better in his home state. Nationally, this charted for two weeks at #96 and disappeared. It’s fun to hear this one again.
#14. “Baby I’m A Want You” – Bread. Ah, the make-out portion of the playlist has arrived. We look past Bread, but between 1970 and 1976 they placed 12 consecutive singles in the Top 40, and half of those were Top Ten records. There’s no missing their influence in ’71. This was at #28 on the WZZM chart last week, so it’s moving up in a hurry.
#13. “Go Away Little Girl” – Donny Osmond. Let’s hope the making out stopped. Some records haven’t aged well, and this is one of them.
#12. “Two Divided By Love” – The Grass Roots. Pure AM pop, even if this is an FM list. It’s fun to play and even more fun to shout over that intro.
#11. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – Joan Baez. I will freely admit to not being a big Baez fan for no other reason than my mother played her in the house A LOT when I was a little kid and, with one phonograph, I was forced to listen to it until I got my own. I’ve gained an appreciation for her work since then, especially this one, which you don’t hear that often despite being a #3 record. (You’re far more likely to hear The Band, which isn’t a bad thing either.)
#10. “Inner City Blues” – Marvin Gaye. I didn’t expect to see this one as popular in Grand Rapids; then again, this was a bigger hit than you probably recall, making #9 nationally. I know that when I was writing my dissertation I spoke with Bob Mason, who was on the airstaff, and he explained that WZZM had strict rules about the number of Black records that could be played every hour. Note that you’re not seeing many of them on this list, and in part that’s why. (He also indicated that songs would sometimes turn up on the list as “paper adds” and not get much airplay. I’ll ask him about this one. Note – Bob chimed in below, so make sure to read the comments on this piece.)
#9. “Do I Love You” – Paul Anka. We’re not yet to peak Anka comeback; that’s in 1974 with “You’re Having My Baby.” This one is a #53 national hit, but it fits the overall feel of this station, doesn’t it? I’m not surprised to see it this high.
#8. “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” – The Persuaders. My same thoughts about #10 apply here. This was a #15 hit around the country and the biggest one the band had. (I’m partial to their other T40 hit, which is far better than the Rod Stewart cover that came out years later.)
#7. “If You Really Love Me“- Stevie Wonder. Man, it’s getting tough to achieve that artist
segregation separation on this station, isn’t it?
#6. “Yo Yo” – The Osmonds. Man, I wanna hate this record so, so badly, but – I can’t. Quoting Larry Lujack on WCFL’s last day in the rock format: “I like rock and roll. It’s junk, but I like it.” I think the sentiment applies here. This is a #3 hit record.
#5. “Desdemona” – The Searchers. Wow. Now we’ve got something cool. This is the last single to chart for this British Invasion band, and “chart” is applied liberally here. The record spent two weeks in Billboard, hit #96, and disappeared. In Grand Rapids, it’s a Top 5 record, and it’s fun to listen to.
#4. “Superstar” – The Carpenters. See above, “Bread.” They were a pop powerhouse in the early 1970s, and perhaps more so than Bread. Four #1 songs and five #2 songs (including this one)? I’d listen to Karen Carpenter sing the phone book. And, of course, there’s that scene in Tommy Boy….
#3. “Imagine” – John Lennon. A couple of thoughts here: first, I’m surprised that it got played in the notoriously-religiously-conservative GR market, and second – and perhaps more controversial – I can’t remember the last time I heard this and got all the way through it without turning it off. It’s not out of any sheer dislike on my part, it’s more that, well, I just don’t need to hear it again. It doesn’t make me feel good, the “time and place” moment has passed, and – well, I just hit “next.” There’s plenty of other Lennon solo work that I enjoy, and this isn’t one of them. You may say I’m an idiot.
#2. “Maggie May” – Rod Stewart. I won’t bore you with the details of how this was supposed to be a B-side. I loved, loved this record until actually burning myself out on it in fifteen years in Oldies radio. Now, I can hear it every so often, but only with the full intro intact as heard on the LP, since Oldies never played it that way.
And, at #1 for another week (I only have this chart, so I don’t know for how long it’s been there), it’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” by Cher. This actually came up on my iPod a couple weeks ago, and I suddenly remembered a kid in grade school who brought the 45 to school for us to play at recess time. (We’d find ways to amuse ourselves in the classroom when the weather kept us indoors, and were occasionally allowed to use the phonograph.) The song became “Gypsies Chimpanzees” in our second grade classroom, and that’s how I was singing it in the car. Thank goodness the windows were up. Perhaps my post on misheard lyrics needs an update? Anyway, this spent two weeks atop the national charts as well.