No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

August 20th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, this time looking at a Billboard Hot 100 from August 1974. (There were editions of the magazine released on August 17 and August 24 that year; we’re going with the latter edition.) As always, we’ll take a look at the top ten first:

“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates
“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
“I Shot The Sheriff” by Eric Clapton
“Waterloo” by ABBA
“Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford
“I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim
“Keep On Smilin’” by Wet Willie

Okay, that starts badly. “(You’re) Having My Baby” is certainly in my list of the ten worst singles, so close to “Seasons In The Sun” territory that I don’t want to think about it much. And while “The Night Chicago Died” is not nearly as awful, it’s still thought of as cringe-worthy around here.

A little further down, we hit two more that don’t get much of my affection: I always thought “Wildwood Weed” was a bad joke gone very wrong, and while Donnie and Marie handled their cover of “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” all right, it missed the mark by a little when compared with the 1963 version by Dale & Grace. (And, of course, it didn’t come anywhere near the quality of the 1957 R&B original by Don & Dewey.)

That leaves six records from that August 1974 Top Ten that I generally enjoy, and three of those six – the records by Roberta Flack, Andy Kim, and ABBA – are among the 3,900 or so on the iPod and are thus part of my current listening. (The Rufus record may get added the next time I shuffle things around.)

But our business here is lower in that August 1974 Hot 100, as we check in on the No. 45 record from forty-five years ago. And we find “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes, which was on its way up the chart to No. 37.

When last I chanced on the record not quite seven years ago, I wrote:

The Rubettes were a pop rock sextet from London who put nine singles into the U.K. Top 40 between 1974 and 1977. Their “Sugar Baby Love,” a marvelous pop-rock confection that I don’t ever recall hearing (and that I might have thoroughly disdained at the time), went to No. 1 in the U.K.

The record – the Rubettes’ only entry ever in the Hot 100 – has since made its way onto the digital shelves here, where it had stayed unnoticed (except by my imaginary tunehead Pop, who no doubt grieves that his friend Odd and I are slow to comprehend the record’s greatness). Perhaps I should move it into the iPod.

Saturday Single No. 654

August 17th, 2019

So, Woodstock. Fifty years ago. What was I doing?

Well, on at least one of those days, I mowed the lawn. I’m guessing it was Friday or Saturday. I know that I’d seen on the news the evening before a story about the massive traffic jam caused by hippies invading a small town in upstate New York as they headed to a music festival.

I recall thinking about the story as I pushed our orange power mower back and forth across the lawn on the south side of the house. I also seem to recall having one of our transistor radios in my pocket, using an earphone to drown out the roar of the mower. (Actually, probably both of our transistor radios were in use, one in each front pocket, as one radio alone would not insulate me from the mower’s roar.)

And I recall vaguely thinking it would be nice to be in upstate New York among the invading hippies, but then, I would rather have been a lot of places that morning besides mowing the lawn.

Of course, the folks heading to the Woodstock festival weren’t all hippies. Some were, but most, I’d guess, were just college kids out for a weekend of music in the country. But we simplify things, and the news report I’d seen the night before, well, it blamed the traffic jam and resultant gridlock and confusion on the hippies (again, if I recall things correctly).

So what was I listening to that morning? Likely the Twin Cities’ KDWB, but since we took a look at a KDWB survey a little over a week ago, I see no point in going there. Instead, I stopped this morning at Airheads Radio Survey Archive and dug up a survey from fifty years ago from New York’s WABC. I figure that as the invaders in their cars and VW microbuses headed for Bethel, New York, most of them came through the New York City area. And most would have had the radio on, many of them tuned to WABC.

Here’s the top ten from WABC’s unnamed survey from August 16, 1969, fifty years ago yesterday:

“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & The Shondells
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
“In The Year 2525” by Zager & Evans
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder
“Baby I Love You” by Andy Kim
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon
“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” by Junior Walker & The All Stars
“My Pledge Of Love” by the Joe Jeffrey Group

That’s a decent forty minutes of listening. Many will complain that it’s ruined by the Zager & Evans single, but I’ve always liked it.

Normally, I’d dive to the bottom of the survey and look at the stuff there. But the information at ARSA about WABC’s Woodstock weekend survey is incomplete; the lower stuff isn’t all there. So we’re going to listen to WABC’s No. 1 record, “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” No doubt the invading hippies heard it plenty as they made their ways as close as they could to Bethel.

And in more than twelve years, it seems it’s never been featured here. So here’s Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Beatles ’65’ & The Long-Ago Photo

August 13th, 2019

Here I am in December 1964, sporting my Beatle wig and offering my mock assessment of Beatles ’65, which my sister and I had just received for Christmas. This long-sought photo, with “Christmas 1964” written on the back in my dad’s handwriting, answers a question that had been hanging in the air for more than ten years.

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In October of 2008, I wrote:

One of our family traditions at Christmas during my childhood was that just before we left St. Cloud for the three-hour drive to my grandparents’ home, either my mom or my dad would go back into the house to check on something. While in the house, Mom or Dad would pull from a closet two additional gifts, unwrapped, and place one on my bed and one on my sister’s bed, evidence we’d find when we came home from Grandpa’s that Santa Claus had not overlooked us just because we’d been out of town.

The gifts we found on our beds were generally toys and games, standard 1960s childhood fare. Twice, my sister and I shared gifts: One year, we each found the end of a ribbon on our beds, and found the ribbons attached to the game Geography, a game we enjoyed for many years. In December of 1965, we each found an envelope, containing pieces of a note that had been cut up. We quickly realized we each had only half a note and combined our pieces. The note read:

“We come to thee from across the sea
“With melodies quite rare.
“Which you will find if you look
“There or there.”

We looked at each other, digesting the meaning of Dad’s bit of doggerel.

“It’s a record!” we said, nearly simultaneously, and we ran downstairs to the living room, where the RCA stereo and our household’s few LPs were kept. There, in the front of the stack of records, was a crisp, new copy of Beatles ’65. As soon as we unpacked a little, we were allowed to open the record and play it for the first time.

Beatles ’65 was one of those records that Capitol – which issued Beatles’ recordings in the U.S. – created piecemeal, in this case by pulling some songs from Beatles For Sale, one track from the British version of A Hard Day’s Night and adding the single “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman,” which was not released on an album in the UK at the time.

I don’t know how well my sister liked the record. She never seemed to be too interested in the Beatles. As for me, I was still a few years from being a rock ’n’ roll boy. But I liked some of it: the opener “No Reply,” the feedback-triggered “I Feel Fine,” the sweet folk rock of “I’ll Be Back” and “I’ll Follow The Sun.” But my favorite track of all – and thus the first rock ’n’ roll cover I loved – was the Beatles’ take on [Chuck] Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.”

Sharp-eyed Beatles fans among my readership noted a potential problem: The album Beatles ’65 had been released in December 1964, with its title anticipating the coming year. I acknowledged that we might have gotten the album in 1964. A year later, in August 2009, after I wrote about the acquisition of the album in the context of my albums database, I wrote about the discrepancy:

Memory is a slippery creature. I read or heard somewhere about recent research into memory, and the theory was – and this is necessarily a paraphrase – that when we remember an event, our brain overlays the original memory with our new memory of that event, so the next time we recall that specific moment, we’re processing a second-generation memory and creating a third-generation memory. (Without any irony, I have to say that I cannot at all remember where I read or heard that bit of information.)

That seems to make some sense, even though it means our memories eventually become thinner and possibly distorted, like a favorite recording that’s seven generations removed from the original tape.

I got to thinking about this after Wednesday’s Vinyl Record Day post about the development of my LP database. Art D., a reader in Michigan, emailed me that afternoon and asked if I had the right date for Beatles ’65, after I said my sister and I received it for Christmas in 1965. He said the record had been released in December 1964. I nodded to myself, having verified that date at All-Music Guide that morning. I emailed back.

I said, in part, about Beatles ’65, that my sister and I got the record in 1965, about a year after it came out. I added:

“That’s what the red ink on it says, and that inscription dates from the day I began marking my LPs in 1970, and I suppose I could have erred then, and we actually got the album in 1964. At this point, we’ll never know for sure. I think, though, that I would have remembered – given the way I recall odd details – the paradox of getting a record titled Beatles ’65 when it was still 1964.”

And writing those words – “I think, though, that I would have remembered . . . the paradox of getting a record titled Beatles ’65 when it was still 1964” – triggered another memory, a recollection of a very young whiteray looking at the record jacket that December night and wondering about that very paradox. It’s not the kind of memory that jumps up and says, “Here I am and here you were!” It’s more like it’s dancing on the edge of clarity, so I’m not sure about trusting it . . .

I imagine that on that summer day in 1970, I looked at the title of the album and just assumed it came out in 1965 and thus showed up in our house that December. I might have been wrong; the record might have been there a year earlier.

But I’m going to be gentle with the kid I was back then. I examined the record and its jacket this morning, and there’s no copyright date on either, no hint of the year of issue. Beyond that, I would have had no idea in 1970 where to go to find out when Beatles ’65 was released. As I think of it today, I probably could have gone out to Musicland at the mall or to the library at St. Cloud State and learned something in either one of those places. Knowing the correct release date might have changed my mind about when we got the record. But at sixteen, I didn’t think of that. I did the best I could.

There is one thing I do know for certain about that December night when we found Beatles ’65 next to the stereo. I’ve seen the photographic evidence: Somewhere among all the slides in Mom’s storage unit is a slide showing me sitting in Dad’s chair, wearing my Beatle wig, holding Beatles ’65 in my lap and quite possibly putting my fingers in my ears as a jest.

I wrote to Art D. that “we’ll never know for sure.” But we might. If I ever find that one slide among the thousands in the storage unit, and if Dad wrote the date on the cardboard, we’ll know. I do have a hunch that, if I ever find that picture of me and it has a date on it, I’ll be changing the acquisition year in my database to 1964. But that’s just a hunch, so I’ll leave it for now.

And yesterday, just more than ten years since I wrote those words, I received a package from my sister, who’s been going through boxes of my parents’ stuff. Among the genealogical folders and assorted school pictures, I found that photo of me from December 1964 shown at the top of this post. It wasn’t a slide; it was a print. My fingers-in-ears assessment of the album was, of course, a joke. As I noted in the first post I quoted above, I liked the album. I still like it. And I uploaded it to YouTube this morning with the audio recorded from my 1964 Christmas gift, but that video was blocked worldwide. So I went and found a playlist of the album.

Here are the tracks and their origins:

“No Reply” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’m A Loser” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Baby’s In Black” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Rock & Roll Music” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’ll Follow The Sun” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Mr. Moonlight” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Honey Don’t” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’ll Be Back” (From A Hard Day’s Night)
“She’s A Woman” (British single)
“I Feel Fine” (British single)
“Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” (From Beatles For Sale)

Saturday Single No. 653

August 10th, 2019

As this month opened, we did here one of our exercises in Symmetry, matching the number of years in the past with a position on the Billboard Hot 100. In that particular case, we were in the year 1963, and we ended up listening to a dismal Al Martino ditty, “Painted Tainted Rose,” that topped off at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and No. 3 on the magazine’s Middle-Road Singles chart, the chart that these days is called Adult Contemporary.

It was a dissatisfying conclusion, as sometimes happens when blindly heading toward specific positions on specific charts. But as we seek a Saturday Single this morning, I thought we’d head back to the summer of 1963 and take a look at the top ten on the Billboard Middle-Road Singles chart during the second week or August.

That’s the kind of stuff that was playing on the radio stations we listened to on Kilian Boulevard at the time, when I was preparing for fifth grade and reading news stories in the Minneapolis Star that I didn’t entirely understand about places like Mississippi and Vietnam. I imagine I’ll recognize some of that top ten and find a tune suitable for an August morning fifty-six years later. So here we go:

“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“More” by Kai Winding
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Hopeless” by Andy Williams
“Abilene” by George Hamilton IV
“Green, Green” by the New Christy Minstrels
“Detroit City” by Bobby Bare
“Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton
“My Whole World Is Falling Down” by Brenda Lee
“True Love Never Runs Smooth” by Gene Pitney

Well, I’m familiar with seven of those, and I’d say I remember four of them from that long-ago season. The three I’m not familiar with by title are those by Andy Williams, Brenda Lee and Gene Pitney; none of the three show up in the digital stacks. (I thought the Pitney might, as I seem to recall scavenging a Pitney anthology once upon a time.) Even after a trip to YouTube, I recall none of the three.

And then there are the three I know most likely from other times: “Danke Schoen,” “Abilene” and “Detroit City.” I know Newton’s single, and I’ve never liked it (just as I’ve never liked anything I’ve heard from Newton, probably because of his voice). I know the song “Abilene,” most likely from a different version, as I have no memory of Hamilton’s version, which was itself a cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 recording. And I know Bare’s “Detroit City,” but only because I’ve come across it in the many years since. I doubt I knew any of those three back in the summer of 1963.

Then, there are four from that top ten that I generally recall hearing from the radio either at home or at friends’ homes or wherever: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “More,” “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” and “Green, Green.” I recall the Rolf Harris single mostly because I didn’t understand that the word “me” in the title was a possessive; I wondered why the singer wanted to be tied down like a kangaroo.

The other three have been part of my musical environment since that summer, especially the Peter, Paul & Mary and New Christy Minstrels singles. In the case of “More,” I have no doubt recalled the song itself over the years more than the specific single; versions of “More” floated around the easy listening world in amazing numbers. (I once put up a post here that offered the original version of “More” from the film Mondo Cane and eighteen covers of the song.)

Still, when I plunged into music collecting online in early 2000 and came across Winding’s version of the song, I was pretty sure it was the version I recalled hearing when I was a sprout. Call it eighty percent certainty.

As to the other two singles, I’m not sure I need to say anything. I remember hearing them – and liking them – in 1963, and Peter, Paul & Mary have popped up here often enough to make my opinions of them obvious. I also recall assessing “Green, Green” here favorably.

So how to decide between the two records this morning? Well, I’ve featured “Green, Green” here before at least once, and as far as I recall (and I may be wrong), for as many times as I’ve written about the music of Peter, Paul & Mary, their cover of perhaps Bob Dylan’s greatest song has seemingly never been featured here. And it was omnipresent during the summer of 1963. It was No. 1 on the Middle-Road Singles chart for five weeks and went to No. 2 on the Hot 100. And the album from which it was pulled – In The Wind – was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks.

So here’s Peter, Paul & Mary’s version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Survey Dig

August 7th, 2019

I have a physical therapy appointment this morning – I’m working on getting the muscles in my back into better shape following my surgery – so I’m here only briefly. But I do have time to dip into a 1969 survey from the Twin Cities’ station KDWB to see what we can find.

We’ll play Games With Numbers and take today’s date – 8/7/19 – and turn it into 34, and see what we find at No. 34 of the station’s 6+30 survey released during the second week of August in 1969. As we normally do, we’ll take a look at the top few records in the survey before dropping to its lower levels.

The top five records at KDWB that week were:

“Pain” by the Mystics
“Baby I Love You” by Andy Kim
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“It’s Getting Better” by Mama Cass
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder

Four-fifths of that group makes a great set of listening. “Pain,” of course, is one of my all-time favorite records, partly because of the recording itself, which I loved as a junior in high school, and partly because I went years without hearing it until I found a copy of it at a record show in the 1990s, and then went a few more years beyond that before finding my own copy of it in an antique shop in the small town of Royalton, Minnesota. (I’ve told the story of the record and of my find in posts gathered here and here.)

As to the other four of KDWB’s top five that week, I like three. The Mama Cass single, well, from a brief listen this morning, I know it and remember hearing it, but I am not all that fond of it. It’s worth noting that for whatever reason, it was favored much more in the Twin Cities than it was nationally, where it peaked at No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Baby I Love You” might be a better memory than a record, but Kim’s cover of the Ronettes’ 1963 hit – kind of a sub-Spector production from Jeff Barry (one of the writers of song with Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector) – was decent listening. Not as good as the Ronettes’ version when I finally got there, but it did sound good coming out of the speakers.

And there’s not much to say about “Honky Tonk Women” or “My Cherie Amour” except that they’re great records.

So what lies below? What do we find at KDWB’s No. 34 fifty years ago?

Well, we stumble for the third time in less than a month into Tom Jones, this time with “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.” The record was new to the survey; it would peak at No. 13 in early October. (Data from both Oldiesloon and the Airheads Radio Survey Archive.)

This was the record’s second release. It had gone out in 1967 and stalled at No. 49 on the Hot 100. The 1969 re-release did much better, going to No. 6 (and to No. 1 for one week on the Billboard Easy Listening chart).

It’s a decent record, and I’m a little surprised that it didn’t dent the Country Top 40. I don’t recall hearing it, but it’s a pleasant listen on a Wednesday morning fifty years later.

Saturday Single No. 652

August 3rd, 2019

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Top 40 didn’t always thrill me, as those who’ve been regular readers here know well, so looking at the Billboard Hot 100s from those years doesn’t seem to work when I’m looking around for a topic.

But, I wondered early this morning, what about the Adult Contemporary chart? That’s where KSTP-FM, the station that the Other Half and I listened to most evenings at home, had its niche. And quite often on those long ago evenings, one or the other of us would turn a page in a book or a magazine and say, “Good music tonight.” And the other would murmur an assent.

The station – which called itself KS-95 – used as its tag phrase in the early 1980s something like “The hits of the Sixties, the Seventies and today.” These days that would be a pleasant place to park my radio dial. So lets’ take a look at the AC Top Ten from the first week of August 1979 and see how it would sound today:

“Lead Me On” by Maxine Nightingale
“Morning Dance” by Spyro Gyra
“Mama Can’t Buy You Love” by Elton John
“Shadows In The Moonlight” by Anne Murray
“The Main Event/Fight” by Barbra Streisand
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick
“Different Worlds” by Maureen McGovern
“Heart Of The Night” by Poco
“When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” by Dr. Hook
“Suspicions” by Eddie Rabbit

Well, this might not have been that good an idea. Many of those titles ring faint bells at best, and most of those I recall clearly would not inspire a murmur of “Good music tonight.” Time to head to YouTube.

Having refreshed my memory, those ten records wouldn’t have been as dismal a stretch as I first thought, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as I hoped. I don’t remember fondly the records by Maxine Nightingale, Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick or Dr. Hook, and I’m not that sure about the Eddie Rabbit single. As it happens, the only one of those five that I find among the 78,000 tracks in the main digital archive is “Suspicions,” and its low bit rate tells me that I grabbed it early in my excavations of the ’Net when I was not being at all particular. I’ll have to listen to it again and see what I think.

How about the others? Four of them are okay, but the only record I really like there is “Heart Of The Night,” which turns out to be the only one of that bunch that’s on the digital shelves here. (It’s also the only one of those ten that’s in my current listening on the iPod.)

As it happens, “Heart Of The Night” has been mentioned here only once in these twelve years, and that was in passing. That’s a little surprising. It went to No 20 in the Billboard Hot 100, and forty years ago this week, it was at No. 8 on the AC chart, heading down after peaking at No. 5.

I imagine that those who celebrate Poco for its country rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s find “Heart Of The Night” to be a weak reminder of what the band once was. It’s true that it’s neither very adventurous nor really very country-ish (beyond some twang in the guitars). But it’s a lovely record and its first lines set a tone that – even if I have almost entirely ignored the record in this space – I still find affecting:

In the heart of the night
In the cool Southern rain
There’s a full moon in sight
Shining down on the Pontchartrain

And it’s today’s Saturday Single:

No. 56, Fifty-Six Years Ago

August 1st, 2019

We’re heading into 1963 territory this morning, to the summer between fourth and fifth grade. It was a time when I was still getting used to wearing glasses (and the photographic evidence in the boxes of Dad’s slides shows that I didn’t always wear them, which I don’t recall).

By the time August rolled around, any summer school program I was in had ended; I’m sure I was in one that summer, but I have no memory of it. Earlier summers found me at the Campus Lab School on the St. Cloud State campus, 1964 would find me in an enriched program at Washington Elementary with students from across the city, most of whom I’d know in high school; and summer programs after that would take me to South Junior High and to Tech High School.

But 1963? I don’t remember, which is odd (and a bit disconcerting). And I have a sense that when I look at the music of 1963 – the last summer pre-Beatles in the U.S. – I’ll know the records but not remember many of them from that summer. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the first week in August 1963:

“So Much In Love” by the Tymes
“Fingertips (Part 2)” by Little Stevie Wonder
“Surf City” Jan & Dean
“(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” by Elvis Presley
“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris
“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Easier Said Than Done” by the Essex
“Judy’s Turn To Cry” by Lesley Gore
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Just One Look” by Doris Troy

I don’t think we had any of those records in the house although I do remember my sister – three years older than I – picking up Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” earlier that year. I probably still have that copy of the record, as all of the 45s from Kilian Boulevard ended up in two metal carrying cases that are around here somewhere. And I vaguely recall hearing “Judy’s Turn To Cry” somewhere, probably from an older kid’s record player somewhere in the neighborhood.

Beyond that, I know I heard “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” that summer, which is not surprising, as those records were No. 1 and 2, respectively, on what Billboard then called the Middle-Road Singles chart (now called Adult Contemporary) as August began in 1963. (And with only occasional excursions to KDWB by my sister, all radios in our house were tuned to stations that offered records from the Middle-Road Singles chart). And I probably heard “Wipe Out” somewhere, too.

Four of those records are part of my day-to-day listening still, fifty-six years later: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “Wipe Out,” and “Just One Look” have places in the iPod. That’s more than I expected when I began digging into things this morning.

But now to the second portion of today’s exercise: What sat at No. 56 during the first week of August 1963?

Well, we get a piece of traditional pop that I do not recognize by its title: “Painted, Tainted Rose” by Al Martino. It was the Philadelphia native’s eighth entry in or near the Hot 100; he’d charted earlier in the year with “I Love You Because,” which went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 and topped the Middle-Road Singles chart for two weeks. “Painted, Tainted Rose didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and spending two weeks at No. 3 on the Middle-Road Singles chart.

It’s a mournful tune sung from the point of view of a judgmental guy whose gal chose the “party life.”

She was a wild and lovely rose
Oh, how I loved her, heaven knows
But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Last night I saw my lovely rose
All painted up in fancy clothes
Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

Saturday Single No. 651

July 27th, 2019

Okay, so 651 is an area code around here, mostly covering St. Paul and the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities area. What else is 651?

Well, it was a year, of course. And in the year 651, Wikipedia says (noting that it’s an approximate date), King Clovis II of Neustria and Burgundy married Balthild, an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat sold into slavery in Gaul. She had been owned by one Erchinoald, Clovis’ mayor of the palace. Erchinoald, says the website, gave Balthild to Clovis, hoping to curry favor with the king.

Also in 651, according to Wikipedia:

In the Arabian Empire, “The Qur’an is compiled by Caliph Uthman ibn Affan in its present form. The text become(s) the model from which copies are made and promulgated throughout the urban centers of the Arab world.”

The Hôtel-Dieu de Paris is founded by Saint Landry. Still in existence, it is the oldest hospital in the city.

King Yazdegerd III of Persia is murdered by his followers in a miller’s hut near the city of Merv (a major oasis on the Silk Road). His murder ends both Persian resistance to Arab conquest and the existence of the Sassanid Empire.

That’s about it for the year of 651, except for the death of Aidan, the bishop of Lindisfarne, who founded the famed monastery on the holy island off the northeast coast of England.

And that tumbles us easily into Lindisfarne, the English folk-rock band that hailed from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, about sixty miles south of the island. So here’s “Run For Home,” a lush ballad from the group’s 1979 album Back & Fourth. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Truck Stop’

July 25th, 2019

So, still hanging around in July 1969, here’s the top ten albums from the Billboard 200 from fifty years ago this week:

Blood, Sweat & Tears
Hair, original cast recording
Romeo & Juliet soundtrack
This Is Tom Jones
The Age Of Aquarius by the 5th Dimension
A Warm Shade Of Ivory by Henry Mancini
Tommy by the Who
Crosby, Stills & Nash
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan

It’s entirely possible I had a copy of the No. 1 album in the house at the time. I had recently acquired my cassette tape recorder, and soon after I did, my sister came home from her waitressing shift at the mall with a gift for me: a cassette of Blood, Sweat & Tears. It had been on sale somewhere at the mall, and knowing I had no music for my new machine, she stepped up.

It’s an interesting ten, and music from four of them – the BST, the 5th Dimension, the Dylan and the CS&N – still show up on the iPod regularly. Eight of those albums would find their ways into the LP stacks over the years, everything except the Iron Butterfly and Tom Jones albums.

Which did I enjoy the most? Probably either the BST or the CS&N. The least? Most likely Tommy, which I got for my birthday in 1988 and played no more than two or three times until I sold it not quite thirty years later. (In fact, I have only two tracks from the album on the wide-ranging digital shelves, the overture and – for some reason – “Hawker.” I suppose I should get “Pinball Wizard” in there, some day.)

But anyway, let’s drop further down that fifty-year-old chart and take a look at the albums at Nos. 40, 80, 120, 160 and 200.

Parked at No. 40, we find another Tom Jones album, Help Yourself, on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5. It was his first Top Ten album; he’d have three more in the next year or so, but it contained only one hit single, the title track, which had gone to No. 35 in October 1968. Jones’ larger hit during the late summer of ’69 was a re-release of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” which had stalled at No. 49 in 1967 but entered the Hot 100 in this last week of July 1969 and went to No. 6.

We find another album on its way down the chart at No. 80: Cream’s Goodbye, which had peaked at No. 2. The last studio album for the bluesy and improvisational rock trio, Goodbye featured the perennial “I’m So Glad,” a live cover of the Mississippi Sheiks’ 1930 recording “Sitting On Top Of The World,” and “Badge,” a minor hit (No. 60 on the Hot 100) co-written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison (although Wikipedia notes that Harrison credits an inebriated Ringo Starr with the line about the swans living in the park).

Having never done this kind of digging into the Billboard 200 before, I’m not sure how obscure an album one might find at No. 120 or lower. For the moment, we’re not worried, as the No. 120 album fifty years ago this week was Crimson & Clover by Tommy James & The Shondells. Home to the group’s last two hits – “Sweet Cherry Wine” went to No. 7 and the album’s title track was No. 2 for two weeks – the album was heading out of the chart after peaking at No. 8. It was the only Top Ten album in the group’s history.

We chance on a favorite album of mine when we get to No. 160, where we find King Curtis’ Instant Groove. It showed up in my collection in 2008, when I bought the vinyl version online because it included Curtis’ version of “The Weight” and because Duane Allman was among its studio musicians. The LP was in decent shape, but a few years later, I added the CD version of the album to my stacks. Back in 1969, the album would go no higher than No. 160. Only two of the eight King Curtis albums that Joel Whitburn lists in Top Pop Albums did better: 1964’s Soul Serenade went to No. 103, and the 1971 album Live At Fillmore West went to No. 54.

And speaking of No. 200, the bottom record in the chart at the end of July 1969 was Truck Stop by Jerry Smith & His Pianos. The record by the Philadelphia-born pianist and songwriter – Whitburn calls him “a prolific session musician” – stalled at No. 200 for two weeks and then fell out of the chart. Two singles from the album showed up in Top Pop Singles: “Truck Stop” went to No. 71 and “Drivin’ Home” bubbled under at No. 125. Whitburn notes that Smith also recorded as Papa Joe’s Music Box; as Cornbread & Jerry, he wrote and sang on the Dixiebelles’ No. 9 hit in 1963, “(Down At) Papa Joe’s.” He also recorded as The Magic Organ, and Street Fair, his 1972 album under that name, went to No. 135 on the Billboard 200.

I was leaning toward posting “Badge” for our listening this morning, especially since I discovered that I’ve not mentioned the track even once during more than twelve years of blogging. But I’m fascinated by the weirdness of our final entry and by the multiple guises under which Jerry Smith recorded. And how often do I get a chance to post honky-tonk piano, anyway? So here’s “Truck Stop” by Jerry Smith & His Pianos, a No. 71 single from the No. 200 album fifty years ago this week.

‘Up To Abergavenny . . .’

July 24th, 2019

We may as well hang around in 1969 for a while, so here’s the top ten from the Billboard Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week:

“Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” by Henry Mancini
“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder
“Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver
“Quentin’s Theme” by the Charles Randolph Grean Sound
“Love Me Tonight” by Tom Jones
“Yesterday When I Was Young” by Roy Clark
“Hurt So Bad” by the Lettermen
“With Pen In Hand” by Vicki Carr
“In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
“The Days Of Sand & Shovels” by Bobby Vinton

Lots of familiar stuff there. In fact, only two of the records listed there are unfamiliar by title: The Tom Jones and the Bobby Vinton. So, off to YouTube. I vaguely recall the Tom Jones record (noting that it sounds like a lot of his other stuff), and hearing the Vinton record, I recall writing about it about a year ago, when I called it “dreadful.” That judgment still holds.

(Seeing the Elvis record in that top ten, I’m reminded of a comment I saw on Facebook this week at a Sixties group I frequent, asserting that Elvis was done by 1965. I replied that the commenter needed to check out Presley’s Memphis recordings from 1969.)

There’s some decent listening in that top ten (with the exception of the Vinton record). Favorites there include the records by Mancini, Oliver, the Lettermen and Presley, and I like the Vicki Carr record, too.

What do we find of interest in the lower portions of the Easy Listening chart from fifty years ago?

At No. 12, we find Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 covering Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.”

At No. 14 sits Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525,” heading to a two-week stay at No. 1 (and a six-week stay at No. 1 on the Hot 100).

At No. 20, Booker T & The MG’s cover Simon & Garfunkel with their version of “Mrs. Robinson.”

And for all of my love of 1960s easy listening, there are more records – a lot of them – that don’t sound at all familiar: “Think Summer” by Ed & Marilyn at No. 25. “Forever” by Mercy at No. 28. “First Hymn From Grand Terrace” by Mark Lindsay at No 30. “The Girl I’ll Never Know” by Frankie Valli at No. 32. “Abergavenny” by Shannon at No. 36.

That last entry caught my eye, and I headed to Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs and found something odd. “Abergavenny” is listed in the title index, but there is no listing for a performer named “Shannon” in the book. I ducked into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles and found a cross-reference from “Shannon” to Marty Wilde, an English singer-songwriter whose birth named was Reginald Smith. He’s listed in Top Adult Songs, too (and both entries note that he’s the father of 1980s singer Kim Wilde).

Abergavenny, it turns out, it a Welsh town six miles from Wales’ border with England. The record is, well, a mixture of pop vocal (with slightly surreal lyrics) about a trip to Abergavenny with some oddly pounding percussion in the background and a brass band instrumental in the middle.

It peaked at No. 22 on the Easy Listening chart and went to No. 47 on the Hot 100.