Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1972

Every list has a surprise, and today’s it’s Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again,” as bleak as Joy Division but disguised as a Cat Stevens trifle. Most of the rest is predictably weird in the early Nixon sense: supper club smoking enveloping the singers and songwriters, whether Sammy Davis Jr. or Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)”, or well-intentioned liberal gestures like Three Dog Night’s “Black and White.”

I loathe the Hague selections. My top category requires no introduction.

The Hague

Don McLean – American Pie
Sammy Davis Jr. – The Candy Man
Mac Davis – Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me


Gilbert O’Sullivan – Alone Again (Naturally)
Neil Diamond – Song Sung Blue
Three Dog Night – Black and White
Chuck Berry – My Ding-a-Ling

Sound, Solid

America – A Horse With No Name
Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now
Helen Reddy – I Am Woman
Michael Jackson – Ben

Good to Great

The Temptations – Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone
Billy Paul – Me and Mrs. Jones
The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There
The Chi-Lites – Oh Girl
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together
Bill Withers – Lean on Me
Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)
Neil Young – Heart of Gold
Nilsson – Without You
Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

3 thoughts on “Ranking #1 singles, U.S. edition: 1972

  1. Good To Great. Bump up Johnny Nash. Toss Harry Nilsson and Looking Glass into Meh and we have a picture. Indisputably. It took nearly half a century, but Roberta Flack finally clicked with me. Now I see the light.

  2. Agree about Johnny Nash. O c’mon, the buzzing synths in the breakdown presages the clouds will never go away and that’s why the song is far from the color-me-rad everyone think it is. It’s all about that breakdown, really. Too ominous to ignore. Hence It’s positive, but not stupid.

    Disagree about Nilsson with pospunk. It took me nearly half a century to undertand nobody should have touched it. Because nobody would sound as bleak as he does here. And if you look further into Pete Ham’s story behind it, it’s also terryfing. I don’t care for Looking Glass, tho.

    However, now that I GET Flack, I still don’t get this. I know why everybody likes it. It’s all thumping bass (heartbeat in jazz codes) and space, and that alone would get everyone crazy…but if the coming strings sounds like a relief from the space within (too much space makes for a vacuum: take your time Roberta, we’ll wait) then something is wrong with me. It last nearly 5 minutes that seems like 15. I don’t know. It tests my nerves. I don’t enjoy it. I prefer Flack in feisty Brazilian pop mode, not icy jazz queen. But I can see why someone would see it as the ecstatic occasion of first l-o-v-e. I see the “suspended in time” feeling draggin too much for its own good with this. Come back from the clouds, Roberta! Your’e crush already is married!

    PS: This is a great list.

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