I got a portable cassette recorder for Christmas in 1971 and spent pretty much the entire rest of the holiday break from school (which seemed much longer back then. Was it?) sitting in front of the hi-fi recording off the radio. As a result, every song that was popular at that time is permanently etched on my brain.
I also got hooked on Casey Kasem‘s American Top 40 around that time — not just listening to it faithfully for three hours every Sunday (and I’d always miss 8 to 10 songs, depending on the length of the sermon, while I was in church…as if I needed another reason to hate on organized religion), but writing it all down and devising my own point system to rank each song’s popularity over the course of its chart run. “In the Rain” by the Dramatics got 93 points. “Heart of Gold” got 157. “You’re So Vain” got 231. Why do I still carry these numbers around in my head? Good question.
I was a strange little preteen…not so different from how I am now…but I blame, at least in part, my stoner, returning-Vietnam-vet educators (oh please don’t let them see this and send me comments). This was the early 1970s, a time when churches were trying out “folk mass” and middle school music teachers would spend a whole term “teaching” Jesus Christ Superstar or Tommy or whatever rock opera was popular.
Mr. Piggott (his real name!) used to bring in 45s and play them for us, and we got to vote them up or down, kind of like being on American Bandstand. I was in heaven. Once he brought in a warped copy of “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex. You’d never get away with playing a record about how rape is kind of fun in schools these days, but this was 1972. He tried to iron the record to get the warp out, but it just made it worse. (I’m not sure where he got the iron and the ironing board. Home ec maybe?)
I also started buying 45s at that time. “Baby Blue” by Badfinger was my first. I still have it, and it’s scratched up pretty bad. Mr. Piggott would probably advocate taking those scratches out with a belt sander, but I’ve stopped thinking of him as a role model by now.