Saturday, March 25, 1972

America “A Horse with No Name” hit #1

A Horse with No Name

America

Writer(s): Dewey Bunnell (see lyrics here)


Released: November 12, 1971


First Charted: December 18, 1971


Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 13 HR, 3 AC, 1 CL. 3 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 18.59 video, 458.75 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley were American kids who were songs of fathers in the Air Force based in England. They met at London’s Central High School, a school primarily for children of military families, FB and “bonded over the shimmering, heavily harmonized folk-rock that was coming out of California. When they started a band, they called themselves America because they didn’t want anyone to get the idea that they were English kids trying to sound American.” SG

They released their self-titled debut in the UK in 1970. They wanted to release the ballad “I Need You” as a single, but the label was more interested in releasing a new song the band initially called “Desert Song” which they thought “would be a fun little novelty…that…was too weird to be a big success.” SG The non-album single was named “A Horse with No Name” and took off. When they released it in the U.S., the song was added to the debut album.

The song is “about finding an existential epiphany after a trip through the desert.” SG Bunnell, who was 19 when he wrote it, said it was about “solitary thinking in a peaceful place.” SG He was “inspired by a homesickness for America and the desert countryside he remembered when he lived briefly at Vandenberg Air Force base” FB in California.

The song “is hazy and memorable” SG despite some “real lyrical clunkers…that nobody older than 19 would’ve been able to sing with a straight face;” SG lines like “There were plants and birds and rocks and things” and “The heat was hot.” Of course the question the song has raised since the beginning is why doesn’t the protagonist name horse after nine days in the desert? Bunnell also distractingly “sounds a whole lot like Neil Young” SG with his “very distinct vocal tone, an airy high-lonesome quaver.” SG

Despite that, “’A Horse With No Name’ works. There’s a warm, cloudy sense of mystery to the song. The band (and the session musicians who filled out the song) play with a real confidence. It’s full of neat production touches: murmuring bongo drums, a politely meandering bassline, a darting-hummingbird dual guitar lead that nods to flamenco without giving into it altogether. The harmonies add a mythic out-of-time quality even as they imitate what Young’s buddies Crosby, Stills & Nash were doing at the time, and the arrangement builds to a pleasant swirl.” SG


Resources:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for America
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 309.
  • SG Stereogum (2/22/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia


First posted 7/13/2022; last updated 7/24/2022.

Saturday, March 18, 1972

Neil Young hit #1 with “Heart of Gold”

First posted 2/5/2021.

Heart of Gold

Neil Young

Writer(s): Neil Young (see lyrics here)


First Charted: January 29, 1972


Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 8 AC, 1 CL, 10 UK, 12 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK, 1.2 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 92.0 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Critic John Rockwell once called Neil Young “the quintessential hippie-cowboy loner.” BR1 The legendary artist first made a name for himself with Buffalo Springfield in the late ‘60s before striking out on his own. In 1970, he collaborated with Crosby, Stills & Nash, contributing classics like “Ohio” and “Helpless” before returning to his solo career. In 1972, he found his biggest success with Harvest, his fourth solo album. The album produced the only top-40 hits of his solo career with the chart-topping “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man,” backed by “The Needle and the Damage Done.”

Harvest and “Heart of Gold” were quintessential representations of the ‘70s singer/songwriter era, when adult-contemporary and folk-driven artists like Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor found huge mainstream success. Both of them lent their backup vocals to “Heart of Gold.” They were in Nashville to perform on Johnny Cash’s TV show and Elliot Mazer, the producer for Harvest, invited them to perform on the album. WK

During the recording of the album, Young was wearing a brace because of a back injury. He explained that it made the album mellower because he couldn’t stand for long periods of time to play electric guitar, but he could play acoustic sitting down. All Music Guide’s Denise Sullivan called it “the ultimate campire song,” AMG noting that it is marked by “a little harmonica, a little peddle steel, his natural twang, and two simple verses that speak of the universal condition.” AMG “Heart of Gold” served as the “perfect expression of the brooding idiosyncratic artist at the height of his quest.” BR1

Bob Dylan said that while he always liked Neil Young, he despised “Heart of Gold” because it was the only time it bothered him that someone else sounded like him. WK Young himself has knocked it, saying in the liner notes for his 1977 Decade compilation, “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.”

A wide variety of artists have recorded the song, including Tori Amos, Boney M, Johnny Cash, Bettye LaVette, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Passenger, Roxette, and James Taylor. WK


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Neil Young
  • DMDB page for parent album Harvest
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Denise Sullivan
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 308.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Saturday, March 11, 1972

Neil Young’s Harvest hits #1 in the U.S. and U.K.: November 11, 1972

Originally posted 11/11/2012. Updated 3/8/2013.


Release date: 14 February 1972
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) 1. Out on the Weekend 2. Harvest 3. A Man Needs a Maid 4. Heart of Gold (2/5/72, #1 US, #10 UK, #8 AC, sales: 1.0 m) 5. Are You Ready for the Country? 6. Old Man (4/29/72, #31 US) 7. There’s a World 8. Alabama 9. The Needle and the Damage Done (7/17/93, #75 UK) 10. Words (Between the Lines of Age)

Sales (in millions): 4.3 US, -- UK, 16.1 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 12 US, 11 UK

Rating:


Review: Young’s previous two solo efforts, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, mined gritty rock anthems and folky love songs to perfection.” SY He followed that with Harvest, which featured “the solitary troubadour…at his most elegiac.” ZS The overall “sound was Americana…stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed,” RS500 but Young also “employ[ed] a number of jarringly different styles.” AMG “But the album does have an overall mood and an overall lyric content, and they conflict with each other: the mood is melancholic, but the songs mostly describe the longing for and fulfillment of new love.” AMG

“His usual dissonant touches, like the otherworldly guitar in Out on the Weekend, are less spooky in this new context.” AZ Songs like “the hypnotic rocker” AZ Words (Between the Lines of Age), with “a little distorted guitar along the way,” AD “predict Tonight’s the Night, Young’s haunted 1975 classic.” AZ

“The singer’s acquired-taste voice comes across smooth and beautiful” AZ in songs like the aforementioned “Out on the Weekend” and “rolling laments like Old ManSY which “are unusually melodic and accessible.” AMG Nowhere is this more apparent than Heart of Gold, “by far Young’s most commercial-sounding song,” AZ complete with “steel guitars and Linda Ronstadt’s backup vocals.” AZ The latter “helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion.” RS500

On the controversial A Man Needs a Maid, Young “contrasts the fears of committing to a relationship with simply living alone and hiring help.” AMG On the “country-tinged” AMG Are You Ready for the Country “Young detoured briefly to the Nashville mainstream.” AZ “The harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction” AMG on “the deceptively gentle” AZ The Needle and the Damage Done is “one of the most poignant songs about drug addiction ever recorded.” ZS

In reference to the album’s “simple arrangements, simple songs” AD some “critics accused him of dumbing down at the time.” JI Although Harvest “lacked the through-the-night-until-the-morning-after crush of its predecessors” SY it “can now be seen as simply another facet of Young’s musical personality, representing the acoustic, pastoral idyll that usually preceded another barrage of electric howl.” JI In any event, it was Young’s “most popular album” AMG and sealed his “voice-of-a-generation fate.” SY


Resources and Related Links:


Award(s):


Friday, March 3, 1972

Gary Glitter “Rock and Roll” released

Rock and Roll

Gary Glitter

Writer(s): Gary Glitter, Mike Leander (see lyrics here)


Released: March 3, 1972


First Charted: June 10, 1972


Peak: 7 US, 3 CB, 6 HR, 3 CL, 2 UK, 3 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): --


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 119.87 video, 90.31 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The lesser-known first part of “Rock and Roll” is a vocal track which offers a reflection of the history of rock and roll. However, with its rousing and repetitive chants of “hey,” the second part of this song has become an arena-rattling anthem widely used by professional sports teams during games. It was first used in 1974 for the high-minor International Hockey League team the Kalamazoo Wings. Kevin O’Brien, the team’s public relations and marketing director, later used it with the NHL’s Colorado Rockies, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, and the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

Songfacts.com has called it “the greatest example of ‘glam rock,’ which was characterized by male lead singers dressed in outrageous, usually feminine clothes singing anthemic songs with massive drums.” SF Glitter was known more for his outrageous appearance and wild stage shows than the actual music – which he himself said he wasn’t very good at. SF

The use of Glitter’s music became controversial after he was convicted in England in 1999 of downloading child pornography. After serving two months in prison, he moved to Cuba, Cambodia, and then Vietnam – where he was sentenced to prison again in 2006 for sexually assaulting minors. SF He was sent back to England after his release in 2008 and arrested in 2012 for a number of sexual assault charges of young girls in the 1970s and ‘80s. He was given a 16-year sentence for the offenses in 2015. SF The NFL asked teams to stop playing the song after the second conviction was held up in court. WK

The song gained attention again when the second part was used in Todd Phillips’ 2019 movie Joker. In one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, the title character dances down a staircase with the song playing. Use of the song generated controversy when people suspected Glitter was profiting. However, he had sold the U.S. rights, meaning he didn’t receive any money for the use of the song in the movie. WK


Resources:


First posted 7/23/2022.