Decades before iPods, well before there were Walkmen, there were transistor radios. I had one when I was a kid, and it looked exactly like this:
It was too big to fit in my pocket, but it had a leather strap that I used to hang it from the handlebars of my bike or from the bureau knob beside my bed. The strap was an extension of the black leather case that was always covering the radio, and that case just looked too cool to remove. I could pick up a couple of local stations (one being KUDE), and on a good day could capture some tunes wafting up the coast from San Diego. So much music, so much good music, and it was all free (unless you count the cost of batteries).
One of the stations I could pick up used to run a “battle of the hits” during the summer weekends. Here’s how it worked: the DJ would play one hit (say, The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”), follow it with another (“Hey Jude”), and while the listeners called in to vote for their favorite, he’d play a new current hit. When that song ended, he’d announce, with great fanfare, the winner. Thus, it could happen that hours would go by when “Hey Jude” – all seven minutes of it – would play once in every cycle of three songs. I remember this happening with suprising regularity, specifically with “Nights in White Satin.” It wasn’t until I was well into my 30s that I could enjoy listening to that song again. I personally think the DJs tortured their listeners this way just to generate phone calls, even if the phone calls were on the order of “Can’t you play something different?!!”
The songs collected here are ones I remember hearing during my tenth year and, more than likely, they hit my ear after escaping from my little Westinghouse companion.
As a Christmas gift in 1971, I was given a Philco cassette deck, with a black leather case designed with an array of hole punches positioned over the speaker. It matched my Westinghouse radio perfectly, but supplanted it tragically. My first cassette tapes – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street and Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat – pulled my attention away from the radio, which eventually ended up in a cardboard shoebox in the back of my closet.
Approximate playing time: 78 minutes.
- Rare Earth “Get Ready”
- The Delfonics “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
- The Ides of March “Vehicle”
- Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
- Edison Lighthouse “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”
- Neil Diamond “Cracklin’ Rosie”
- The Five Stairsteps “O-o-h Child”
- Melanie “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”
- Mungo Jerry “In the Summertime”
- Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band “Love Land”
- White Plains “My Baby Loves Lovin’”
- Alive ‘N Kickin’ “Tighter, Tighter”
- Bobby Sherman “Julie, Do Ya Love Me?”
- Badfinger “Come and Get It”
- The Kinks “Lola”
- The Guess Who “No Time”
- Clarence Carter “Patches”
- The 5th Dimension “One Less Bell to Answer”
- Gordon Lightfoot “If You Could Read My Mind”
- Tony Orlando & Dawn “Candida”
- Stevie Wonder “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”
- Freda Payne “Band of Gold”
- Simon & Garfunkel “Cecilia”
- Diana Ross “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
Some notes on the songs:
- Hearing “Spirit in the Sky” on the radio encouraged me to buy it on a 45. The b-side was a song entitled “Milk Cow,” with the annoyingly lethargic refrain “Jethro bought himself a milk cow” repeated over and over. I didn’t like it.
- I also had 45s of “Cecilia” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered…” both with superb b-sides (“Baby Driver” and “I’m More than Happy”). Take that, Norman Greenbaum.
- It amazes me that I can recite the spoken sections of “Patches” perfectly and right in cadence with Clarence Carter even today, forty years after hearing it on radio broadcasts. That’s really strange, as I know I haven’t heard it but maybe three or four times since then. There are other songs I’d prefer to have lodged permanently in my brain.
- The Guess Who’s “No Time” is from their American Woman album. “American Woman” was the bigger hit that year, but you know it so well.
- “Come and Get It” was composed by Paul McCartney.
- The radio version of Rare Earth’s “Get Ready” last only 2:48, but the album version is 21:06 in length. That’s some severe editing, folks.
- Because many hit songs are best remembered by their most unique line, I always did and continue to refer to that 5th Dimension song as “One Less Egg to Fry.”
Oh my gosh, I forgot one! Leaving this off the playlist would have been criminal:
“Love on a Two-Way Street” (1970), by The Moments