One of the greatest-ever sequences of musical creativity was in full flow exactly 40 years ago, when Stevie Wonder was in the middle of his extraordinary series of studio albums that produced several all-time classics. 40 years ago exactly, on the survey for September 14, 1974, that run took him to No. 1 on the American album chart for the first time since his debut there 11 years before, as ‘Fulfillingness’ First Finale’ hit the top.
The album, which followed ‘Where I’m Coming From,’ ‘Music Of My Mind,’ ‘Talking Book’ and ‘Innervisions,’ entered the US chart on August 10, rising to the summit in just six weeks in what became a 65-week run on the list. It then did exactly what ‘Innervisions’ had done in winning the Album of the Year Grammy, an unprecedented run that would continue with 1976’s ‘Songs In The Key Of Life.’
‘Fulfillingness’ is of course the album containing the major hit singles ‘You Haven’t Done Nothin’’ and ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman,’ and much more besides. It’s also the one with ‘Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away’ (interestingly, with backing vocals by Paul Anka and Wonder’s ex-wife Syreeta Wright); ‘Too Shy To Say,’ on which Stevie worked again with Motown’s Funk Brothers bass figurehead James Jamerson; and ‘Creepin,’ with backing vocals by Minnie Riperton. Other vocalists on the album included Deniece Williams, Jim Gilstrap and the Persuasions, not forgetting the Jackson 5 supplying the “doo-doo-wops” on ‘You Haven’t Done Nothin’.’
The album started its two-week run at the US pop album chart summit by taking over from Eric Clapton’s ‘461 Ocean Boulevard,’ as Bad Company climbed 3-2 with their self-titled debut album. The top ten also included climbers for the Beach Boys (with their career-reviving ‘Endless Summer’ compilation), Rufus, Olivia Newton-John and Chicago.
In the UK, ‘Fulfillingness’ had entered the chart at No. 5 and stayed there two weeks; 40 years ago exactly, it was dropping out of the top ten as Mike Oldfield’s ‘Hergest Ridge’ debuted at No. 1.