The River's Badge

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Blast From The Past - Top Country Hits Of 1973

Unlike most years that I pull out of thin air to write about, 1973 actually does have significance for me. That was the year I graduated from high school. Ahhh, 35 years ago. And yet, I'm so young! So, I thought I'd go back and take a look at the year 1973 in country music. And hope for the best.

Surprisingly, as I scan the list of top hits on my trusty Wikipedia site, I find that there are number one songs that I don't even recognize, and yet there are songs that were considered "major hits", but not number ones, that are clearly recognizable. Wonder why that is. And you don't need to tell me that people had bad taste back in 1973......I was there........I had the clothes to prove that.

So, I'm not just going to stick with number one songs, because frankly, there were a lot of better ones that didn't make that list.

Just for fun, I thought I would start out with a video from a 1973 performance by Barbara Mandrell, on the Wilburn Brothers Show.

I really like Barbara Mandrell. But is it just me, or does she seem unnaturally pale in this video? I mean, not only the platinum hair, but the white lipstick (yes, I used that shade as well, back then. It helped one achieve that "fashionable ghoul" look).

One common thread that seems to run through this review of the year 1973 is that all the female singers seem to be wedded to those "Little House On The Prairie" dresses. I don't know what the scoop is on that. I, for one, distinctly remember wearing dresses that were, if anything, too short, NOT too long.

Perhaps I was a bit behind the times, fashion-wise, but I swear, I NEVER wore a floor-length dress; well, except at my wedding.

BARBARA MANDRELL - MIDNIGHT OIL

In keeping with the prairie homesteader look, here's Nellie Olson -- I mean Tanya Tucker, again from 1973, performing on Hee Haw.

Remember Hee Haw? Trying to forget, you say? Back when there were only 3 channels to choose from, and this was the only place you could get any country music, except for those syndicated shows that ran on Saturday afternoons.

The thing about Hee Haw was, you had to sit through a bunch of stupid, unfunny "bits", mostly about how stupid country people were -- you know, chewing on a piece of straw, missing several teeth, illiterate -- you know, just your typical country person, before you could get to see some actual musical performances.

So, upon further deliberation, I guess Tanya's dress fits right in with the overall theme. Cuz, you know, when I lived in the country, I always put on my long go-to-meetin' dress (and my bonnet) on Saturday afternoons and jumped in that old horse-drawn carriage to drive on down to the general store.


TANYA TUCKER - WHAT'S YOUR MAMA'S NAME



JEANNE PRUETT - SATIN SHEETS


Here's Jeanne Pruett, performing on one of those syndicated shows I mentioned earlier, That Good Ole Nashville Music.

Jeanne, while still technically wearing a long dress, at least has "glammed" things up a bit. And she apparently is not missing any teeth.

I like this song. It was a HUGE hit. Jeanne does a great job on it.

MARIE OSMOND - PAPER ROSES


Not to quibble, but isn't the subject matter of this song a bit too sophisticated for a flower girl at a wedding to be singing?

And I can't NOT mention the hairstyle. I think everyone I knew back then had this EXACT hairdo. I think even I had it at one time. I hope we weren't copying Marie Osmond. No offense.

BARBARA FAIRCHILD - THE TEDDY BEAR SONG


I can't begin to tell you how much I HATED this song, back in 1973. Watching this performance, however, was enjoyable! How can you beat a drunken Waylon Jennings trying to remember the words to the Teddy Bear Song? And everyone around him pretending that he's not really drunk. Excellent!

I love these group performances anyway. You get to see a bunch of people that you haven't seen for awhile; for example, BOBBY BARE! (I'm still waiting, Country Music Hall of Fame!) Gene Watson is here, along with BJ Thomas, RAY STEVENS! Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle, trying not to scream as the others accidentally sit on her hair. And, of course, leave it to RAY STEVENS to change the words to, "I wish I was Bobby Bare". So, fun!

DOTTIE WEST - COUNTRY SUNSHINE




Hey! Wasn't this a Coca-Cola commercial?

I bet if Coca-Cola uses your song in a commercial, you can start counting your money. All she needed to do was change one line. Easy enough.

Dottie West was a great writer. Probably my favorite song that Dottie wrote is, "Here Comes My Baby", which was a big hit for Ray Price.

Toward the end of her career, Dottie sort of meandered off into something else. I can't really put my finger on it, but it was, I guess, commercial, so who am I to judge? I just personally prefer her earlier stuff.

And sadly, all her Coca-Cola earnings didn't help Dottie towards the end. I remember she had to have a garage sale or something to raise money to pay her back taxes.

If I remember correctly, Dottie was killed in a car crash while on her way to perform at the Opry. A sad, premature end to a life of great talent.


Okay, yes, I started out my review of 1973 with all female performances. I hadn't intended to do that, but I became fascinated with all the long dresses, so I kept looking to see if I could find one female performer wearing a "regular" dress or pants.

It's a quirky thing, yes. But it's a footnote in the world of country music, circa 1973.

And then. I found one!

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN - LET ME BE THERE

I always liked this song. Olivia got a lot of flack back then from the country music establishment. But I don't think she was trying to "horn in" on country music. I think she was just doing a song, and it caught on with the record-buying public; then all of a sudden, she was nominated for country music awards and stuff. And she was caught in this big backlash. Kind of unfair, really.

Fortunately, all was forgiven by 1978, when she co-starred with John Travolta in "Grease".


Yes. I always like to throw in a "Grease" reference whenever possible. This has nothing to do with 1973. I just like "Grease".



So, on to the men:

Now is the time to tell you that, unfortunately, there were a lot of GREAT hit songs by men in 1973, but I couldn't find videos of them.

The great songs include:

Ride Me Down Easy - Bobby Bare
Why Me Lord - Kris Kristofferson
Southern Lovin' - Jim Ed Brown
Whiskey River - Johnny Bush
Pass Me By - Johnny Rodriguez
If We Make It Through December - Merle Haggard
Everybody's Had The Blues - Merle Haggard
Lovin' On Back Streets - Mel Street

Among others.

Luckily, I could find a video of one of the songs that I happened to place in my Top Twenty of the Greatest Country Songs Of All Time:

CHARLIE RICH - BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

So, in essence, 1973 wasn't that bad, overall, country music-wise. There were a few great songs (not that I could find videos of them, but take my word for it).

And while my high school prom theme was this (really):


I was listening to country radio, and from time to time, some rock, like this, that I think you will agree, is FAR SUPERIOR to Precious And Few.

DOBIE GRAY - DRIFT AWAY

While I may have been out of the mainstream back in 1973, I believe my taste in music has triumphed in the end.

That's all I ask.

Just to be vindicated.




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