As we slide into 1971, we find the
Vietnam War still raging, Amtrak begins passenger service, Jim Morrison kicks
the oxygen habit in Paris, Disney World opens for business in Florida, and Duane
Allman is killed while riding his motorcycle... dammit, that one hurt. The list
of number ones is glorious and total crap. Onward...
NUMBER ONE HITS OF 1971
1. (January, 1971) "My Sweet Lord"
by GEORGE HARRISON
Surely John or Paul would be the first ex-Beatle to have a number one hit, right? Nope, it was the Quiet Beatle who hit it big with this paean to God, religion, etc...
Unfortunately, it wasn't long before George was singing, "Goddammit, Sweet Lord!" after he was successfully sued for copyright infringement. Apparently, his song was a little too close to "He's So Fine," as recorded by those nauseating boot-lickers, The Chiffons.
Some folks say that George was so upset; he shaved his head and spent the next six months down at the airport, beating a tambourine.
2. (February, 1971) "One Bad Apple"
by THE OSMONDS
Teeth, teeth, and more teeth. With those choppers, this family could eat corn on the cob through a picket fence. Also, don't they know about birth control in Utah? We'll just have to remember that one bad song don't spoil the whole Number One Hits list.
You know, the Osmonds would have been tolerable were it not for that damn Donnie. He was the antithesis of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson was the cute, young, black singer of a family band who pulled his hip dance moves from James Brown. Donny Osmond was the cute, young, lily-white singer of a family band who pulled his moves from Andy Williams. Right, the "Moon River" guy. Good God, ya'll.
3. (March, 1971) "Me and Bobby
McGee" by JANIS JOPLIN
NOW, we're getting some gonads back into our list! 'Bobby McGee' is probably the best example of Joplin's pure singing talent. However, if you want to hear a coyote with his leg caught in a trap, check out some of her other material; sometimes, she could make Yoko Ono sound like Olivia Newton-John.
Nowadays, any chick singer with a drinking problem and a voice like torn sandpaper is almost always compared to Joplin. Unfortunately, this tequila-swilling Texan wound up doing shots with St. Peter before this record's release; forevermore, a poster child for rock and roll excess.
4. (April, 1971) "Joy To The World"
by THREE DOG NIGHT
Man, this song brings back memories. Playing in redneck bars in the mid-70's, there would always be a table full of good ol' boys who would demand to hear this song and they'd yell, "Play Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog!" We knew what they meant and we gladly played it cause we didn't want our asses kicked. We gave up trying to tell them the song was actually called "Joy To The World."
Hey, maybe they were too tough to say the word, "joy." After all, I used to know a redneck that thought he was too tough to say the words "Egg McMuffin." He'd pull up to McD's and say, "Go in there and get me one of them things... you know what I'm talking about." What does all of this have to do with Three Dog Night and their number one song? Not a doggone thing.
5. (May, 1971) "Brown Sugar" by THE
This is one of the greatest rock tunes ever made. Somehow, these skinny English boys sound positively menacing as they sing about slave ships and the taste of "brown sugar." Plus, it rocks so hard; your feet will start to stink.
Hell, it even makes me forget about the Stones' Super Bowl show where sixty-something Mick Jagger strutted around, grinding his hips in front of thousands of young chicks and guys. I know it's only rock and roll, but... I had to spend a few sessions on the couch to get past that one.
6. (June, 1971) "It's Too Late" by
Man, this one takes me back. Way back to a simpler time, to the days of "Tapestry," where everyone wore hemp clothing and the women braided their armpit hair; a time when chicks tore off their shirts at rock concerts; a time when Patchouli Oil was the scent of choice; a time when album covers were used to remove seeds from your stash; a time when your buddy would take a huge toke, hold his breath, and somehow try to talk, bringing his head to the point of exploding.
Simpler times. Would I want to go back? Sometimes I think I would, but not really. No one ever had any money. By the way, "It's Too Late," was one of the all-time great break-up songs.
7. (July, 1971) "Indian
Reservation" by THE RAIDERS
Why does every tune with an Indian theme feature a thump-thump-thump tom-tom beat throughout the song? It's the same with any Asian-themed music... you'll invariably hear the plink-plink of those funky "angular banjos." Do they think we won't get it?
Okay, okay, enough of my griping. Mark Lindsey of The Raiders actually does a fine job of delivering the Indians' story and, God knows, we all can agree with the points he makes in the song; after all, the Europeans gave Native Americans the screw job of all time with nary a kiss involved. And it's a good thing the band had ditched their Paul Revere costumes by the time this song appeared; sort of like playing the soul circuit wearing white robes and hoods. Boy howdy.
8. (August, 1971) "How Can You Mend
a Broken Heart?" by THE BEE GEES
This is an achingly beautiful ballad... even with Robin Gibb singing the opening verse. I've always been a Bee Gee fan. They've always had an uncanny way of changing with the musical times and still putting out quality tunes. Okay, I shuddered when they went disco, but they were still great. The way Barry Gibb hit those stratospheric notes; I always figured his nuts were about the size of M & M's. Not the peanut ones either. This song is one of their best.
Hey, it just occurred to me--imagine the mammoth choppers an Osmond/Gibb union would've created. Let's thank whatever power kept those gene pools apart, shall we?
9. (September, 1971) "Go Away
Little Girl" by DONNY OSMOND
Oh my God, he's back. In 1971, I was beating the bushes for chicks of any religion, race or creed. I was a walking hormone. Then Mr. Poster Boy, Donny Osmond puts out a song telling this girl to "go away." I didn't get it. What did chicks see in this guy? They saw teeth... and lots of them.
My friends and I always took much comfort in the fact that we could kick Donny Osmond's ass. Not to mention David Cassidy's and Bobby Sherman's too. I also figured when these teen idols started shaving, their time would be over. I think history proved me right.
10. (October, 1971) "Maggie May" by
Now THIS, my friends, is a rock song. Topping the charts for four weeks, it tells the story of a schoolboy who diddles an older woman. You wanna know the difference between the men and the boys? Donny Osmond tells the girl to go away; Rod the Mod makes like a rat up a drainpipe. "Mother what a lover, you wore me out."
Stewart's voice can be an acquired taste for some; imagine Michael Bolton slinging sweat, taking the starch out of Kim Carnes; their offspring might sound like Rod Stewart. Little did the record buyers of 1971 know that, in 31 years, Stewart would be in a monkey suit singing the songs of Gershwin and Cole Porter. Swear to God. Cue the Twilight Zone music.
11. (November, 1971) "Gypsys,
Tramps & Thieves" by CHER
One of the worst number one songs ever, Cher probably didn't help the cause of Gypsies around the world by associating them with tramps and thieves, do you think? Or, with Cher's dating track record, maybe the song was about her love life; after all, during the post-Sonny years, her celebrity boyfriends piled up like guano in a bat cave. Worst of all, she single-handedly pulled Greg Allman from the ranks of bad-assed blues men and into the wussified world of Hollywood Boy Toys. I remember, after marrying Cher, Allman suddenly was wearing his hair like a French poodle. But, dammit, I digress.
What's with the line, "Picked up a boy just south of Mobile"? Last time I was in Mobile, it was situated right on the coast of Alabama. Maybe she picked him up on a jet ski.
12. (December, 1971) "Family
Affair" by SLY & THE FAMILY STONE
Family Affair is the first number one pop hit to use a drum machine. Anyone who knows me knows of my severe disdain for those contraptions. Give me a real drummer any day. So, do I hate this tune? Nah. I sort of dig the minimalist style of the track, and I've always loved Sly. Besides, Billy Preston and Bobby Womack play keyboard and guitar on it.
This is the last of our look at the year 1971. Some of the music was sublime; some was slime. You'll decide which was which. Sly Stone seemed so cool in 1971. Who could've guessed that, thirty-five years later, he would show up at the Grammies, hunchbacked, sporting a blonde Mohawk, and scare the living hell out of everyone.
Back to the List of Years