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1970 – The A+ List

Best Supporting cast

Best Supporting cast

OK, so I was busy yesterday in my converted janitor’s closet workspace watching WrestleMania III highlights and doing my incomparable “Macho Man” Randy Savage impression (“Dig It!”), when Iman “The Big Don” Lababedi strolled in, gave me the head shaking “tut tut” look, and asked me if I want to remain on the Rock NYC payroll through the end of the day.  His mime exclamation point was made when he waved an almond cream filled bear claw in front of my nose and then stomped on it.  You could hear my breathless sobs all the way to Hoboken. 

Without further ado, here are 20 high protein A+ cuts from 1970.

1.  “And It Stoned Me,” Van Morrison.  On the lead cut from Moondance, Van gives us an unparalleled ode to pastoral beauty – county fairs, fishing poles, mountain streams, and Jelly Roll.

2.  “Band of Gold,” Freda Payne.  This record gets the Best Supporting Cast award for 1970.  Motown legends Holland/Dozier/Holland wrote the tune under a lawsuit avoiding pseudonym and The Funk Brothers played on the track.  Ray Parker, Jr., who was still attending classes at Detroit’s Northwestern High School, played lead guitar.

3. “Brontosaurus,” The Move.   The brontosaurus is a genus of sauropod dinosaur that lived from about 154 to 150 million years ago – the same time period that Orrin Hatch was first elected to public office.  If you don’t love this song, we can still be friends.  But, not hugging friends.

4.  “Cinnamon Girl,” Neil Young.  Reprise Records smartly released “Down by the River” as the first single from the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album, because ten-minute rockers about slaying one’s lover have massive commercial potential.  Using the Machiavellian skills that would make him a successful wrestling manager, Jimmy Hart and the Gentrys rush released a cover version that hit radio first and went higher on the pop charts than Neil’s original.

5.  “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn.  Loretta’s signature song was so strong that it inspired a 1980 movie of the same name.  Levon Helm played Loretta’s father in the movie, even though he was eight years younger than Loretta in real life.  This gives me hope that I’ll play the lead love interest in the Scarlett Johansson biopic Curves Over Bones.

6.  “Fire and Rain,” James Taylor.  In general, James Taylor makes me want to abuse Kewpie dolls, but it’s always a pleasure to be reminded that someone else is more miserable than you are.

7.  “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” James Brown.  Bootsy and Catfish Collins gave Brown a new, even funkier edge in 1970 and this call and response, take it to the bridge jam is the hippest song ever recorded with a parenthesis in the middle of the title.

8.  “Hey, Hey What Can I Do,” Led Zeppelin.  Page and Plant hid this folk rock number on the b-side of “Immigrant Song,” making it the most sought after Zep tune during the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Answer to title question – dump her.

9.  “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” Charley Pride.  Pride had a compelling voice that made any track sound significant and the choppy fiddle riffs on this breakup tune belie the sadness of the lyric.  Also, check out the 1973 cosmic cowboy version by Doug Sahm.

10.  “Let it Be,” The Beatles.  While younger rock fans might only know Let It Be as an album title for The Replacements, it was also the title of the final studio album by the English rock band known as The Beatles.  The Beatles were a minor cult act in the States where songs like “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” were too avant-garde for mainstream tastes.

11.  “The Letter,” Joe Cocker.  I was only five years old in 1970 and the first time I really heard of Joe Cocker was when I saw John Belushi’s impression of the mad dog/Englishman.  It disturbed me.  Deeply.

12.  “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” CCR.  You can criticize me for not putting “Travelin’ Band” or “Who’ll Stop the Rain” or “Up Around the Bend” or “Run Through the Jungle” or “Long As I Can See the Light” on this list, as all of these were hits for CCR in 1970.  Look at those titles again and think about how many bands haven’t done that much substantive work in their entire careers.

13.  “Lola,” The Kinks.  From 1967 through 1969, The Kinks recorded some of the most brilliant songs and albums in the history of popular music and had not one hit record in America.  One queer single changed their fate.

14.  “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” Edison Lighthouse.  Irresistibly blithesome bubblegum pop.

15.  “The Love You Save,” Jackson 5.  The Jackson 5 released four classic #1 singles in a row starting with 1969’s “I Want You Back,” followed in 1970 with “ABC,” “The Love Your Save,” and “I’ll Be There.”  They had seven Top Ten hits after 1970, but never topped the pop charts again.

16.  “O-o-h Child,” The Five Stairsteps.  Like the Jackson 5, The Five Stairsteps were a family act; they took their name from the height differences of the growing siblings.  The Stairsteps had one of the worst batting averages in pop music history – they scored 18 hits on the Billboard Top 100 list from 1966 to 1980, but this pop soul classic is the only one that cracked the Top 40.

17.  “Rock & Roll,” Velvet Underground.  Simply the best song ever about a genre of music.

18.  “Tears of a Clown,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.  Did you know that Stevie Wonder and his producer Hank Cosby wrote the music for this track?  Did you know that this #1 hit was an album track in 1967 and was first released as a single in the U.K. in 1970?  Did you know that nobody ever got rich using the Socratic method of rock criticism?

19.  “Working Class Hero,” John Lennon.  Jann Wenner, “Do you think you’re a genius?”  Lennon, “Yes.  If there is such a thing as a genius, I am one.”  “Working Class Hero,” a take no prisoners gut punch about class suppression, emphatically proves Lennon’s thesis.

20.  “Yes We Can (Part 1),” Lee Dorsey.  When Dorsey wasn’t busy being one of the top auto mechanics in New Orleans, he was hitting the pop and r&b charts with “Ya Ya” and “Ride Your Pony” and “Working in the Coal Mine.”  The Pointer Sisters had a bigger hit with their 1973 cover version, but when it comes to leisure travel, always pick N’awlins over Vegas.

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