Radio Hits of May 1973: Clowns to the Left of Me

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You’ll figure it out…

Springtime 1973… the Watergate scandal was in full swing as the Nixon White House swept out key players H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and Counsel John Dean. The Sears Tower in Chicago was completed and became the world’s tallest building. The magnificent thoroughbred Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby on his way to winning horse racing’s Triple Crown.

And on Top 40 powerhouse WLS-AM in Chicago, plenty of all-time classic rock hits were in the Top 10.

Bubbling under at #25 was the Rolling Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The song, from the group’s 1969 Let It Bleed album, peaked nationally at only #42. The group was in the midst of a huge slump – for them – on the pop charts with no hits reaching the Top 20 during a 16-month period. (They’d come roaring back later in the year with “Angie.”)

At #21 was Dr. John with the highest-charting single of his career, “Right Place, Wrong Time.”

Just outside the Top 10 at #11 was “Hocus Pocus” by Dutch band Focus. You don’t hear a lot of yodeling on pop radio but this rocking track pulled it off.

Paul McCartney and Wings‘ “My Love” jumped from #16 to #10 this week on its way to becoming a #1 chart hit. It’s hard to imagine, but it was the only single released from their Red Rose Speedway album.

Related: Where did hits like “Hocus Pocus” and “My Love” rank overall in 1973?

Dominating the charts like few others in the ’70s was Elton John. “Daniel” was one of nine John singles to reach either #1 or 2 in a five-year period from 1972-76.

At #8 was one of Steely Dan‘s first pop hits, “Reelin’ in the Years,” from their great debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill. The song features a memorable guitar solo from Elliott Randall. Here’s their performance of it from The Midnight Special with the then-ubiquitous Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on guitar.

Dobie Gray‘s great version of “Drift Away” was at #5 (where it would peak nationally). The song has also been performed by such classic rockers as the Doobie Brothers, Ringo Starr, Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart and Uncle Kracker but we like Gray’s the best.

At #4: Scottish group Stealers Wheel‘s “Stuck in the Middle With You” which was co-written by the band’s Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. The song peaked at #6 nationally. For Quentin Tarantino fans, though, the song will be forever associated with a certain torture scene in Reservoir Dogs. Rafferty died in 2011 at just 63.

There was a time when instrumentals were huge pop hits. But the Edgar Winter Group‘s, er, monster hit “Frankenstein” really stood out from the pack. It was #3 this week and would eventually dislodge McCartney’s “My Love” at the top of the singles chart. That’s Winter on the synthesizer.

Related: “Frankenstein” is on our list of 11 Surprising 1970s Radio Hits

We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree,” the week’s #2 song from Dawn featuring Tony Orlando. The song had been the #1 hit the week prior and was actually ranked by Billboard as 1973’s biggest hit.

And at #1? None other than Stevie Wonder‘s great “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” one of the star’s five #1 hits within a six-year period when he, Elton John and McCartney ruled the pop charts.

25. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones (London)

21. “Right Place, Wrong Time” – Dr. John (Atco)

11. “Hocus Pocus” – Focus (Sire)

10. “My Love” – Paul McCartney and Wings (Apple)

9. “Daniel” – Elton John (Uni)

8. “Reelin’ in the Years” – Steely Dan (ABC)

7. “Pillow Talk” – Sylvia (Vibration)

6. “The Twelfth of Never” – Donnie Osmond (MGM)

5. “Drift Away” – Dobie Gray (MCA)

4. “Stuck in the Middle With You” – Stealers Wheel (A&M)

3. “Frankenstein” – Edgar Winter Group (Epic)

2. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” – Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando (Bell)

1. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – Steve Wonder (Tamla)

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  1. Baybluesman
    #1 Baybluesman 16 May, 2022, 18:24

    ‘”Right Place/Wrong Time”/Dr. John:

    “My head is in a bad place –
    But I’m having such a good time –
    I been running trying to get hung up in my mind –
    Really got to give myself a good talking to this time.

    Just need a little brain salad surgery
    Got to que my insecurity”

    They just don’t to write ’em like that as anymore.

    Had the chance to see the good Doctor in 2016, and passed on the tickets, thinking “Oh, I’ll see him the next time around” – Life Lesson – There was no next time around.
    Do what you think you should do – gut feelings are good compasses.

    Very nice to see the Night Tripper remembered –

    Thank you BCB.

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