Saturday Single No. 6014

August 18th, 2018

Well, as I opened my Word file this morning and typed in today’s date, I noticed that August 18, 2018 scans out to 8-18-18, and if there were ever a date begging for Games With Numbers, today’s is one of them.

So we’re going to take those numbers and turn them into Nos. 8, 18, 26, 36 and 44 and then visit a Billboard Hot 100 to see what treasures or dross we might find. The question is, what year? I think we’ll take the largest of those numbers and head back forty-four years to August of 1974. I spent that month working halftime in the cataloging department of the St. Cloud State Learning Resources Center and killing time, hanging around with my friends at The Table and waiting for school to resume and for my friends from the Denmark program to come back to St. Cloud. So what do we find as we dip into the Hot 100 from the third week of August 1974?

Heading to our lowest searching point first, we find Mac Davis singing about “One Hell Of A Woman.” The record, heading to a peak at No. 11, would be Davis’ first Top 40 hit since 1972, when “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” spent three weeks at No. 1. I’ve evidently not thought much about “One Hell Of A Woman,” as it’s not on the digital shelves (though couple of other Davis tracks are), but listening to it this morning, it’s a decent piece of Seventies pop, better musically than lyrically. As I look at that Hot 100 from August of 1974, I notice that by the time Davis’ record got to No. 44, it had already been in the chart for twenty-two weeks. That seems like a long time to get to that point. (The only other record that had been in the Hot 100 longer that week was the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” which, in its twenty-three weeks on the chart, had spent two weeks at No. 2 and was at No. 93, slowly making its way out of the chart.)

We move up eight spots to No. 36, where we find Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” making its way to a peak of No. 8. Some years ago, I wrote:

I don’t have a lot to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” except to note two things about the record that went to No. 8 in 1974: First, the ambiguous second verse that seems to have defended Alabama Governor George Wallace doesn’t actually do so, according to a 1975 interview with the late Ronnie Van Zant, co-writer of the song. Second, I think the current Alabama license plate is just perfect:


I’m not entirely certain, but it appears, sadly, as if that plate is no longer available.

We jump ten spots to No. 26, where Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” buoyed by doo-wop vocals from the Jackson 5, is heading toward No. 1. The record, says Wikipedia, “was one of [Wonder’s] angriest political statements and was aimed squarely at President Richard Nixon, who resigned two days after the record’s release.” Although there were numerous criminal and political reasons for Nixon’s resignation, it’s fun to indulge in a revisionist fantasy that has Nixon combing the AM band late at night, hearing Wonder’s thumping and funky put-down coming through the ether, and realizing, “Damn, if I’ve lost Stevie Wonder, I’ve lost the nation. I’d better call it quits.”

Speaking of thumping, moving up to No. 18, we find “Wild Thing” as offered by the English group Fancy. The record wasn’t a major departure from the Troggs’ original version, which went to No. 1 in 1966. Well, the breathy vocals of Helen Caunt and that twee little synth solo were different. Otherwise, the record plodded along as it headed toward a peak at No. 14. It was one of two U.S. hits for Fancy; “Touch Me” went to No. 19 during the first week of December 1974. (As I dug into Fancy’s work at YouTube, I noticed with some amusement that one video poster called Fancy a “[b]argain bin band that still had some talent on board.”)

Our last stop as we climb up the Hot 100 from August 24, 1974, is No. 8, where we find Donny and Marie Osmond covering Dale and Grace’s No. 1 hit from 1963, “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” though the Osmonds adjusted the title, making it “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You.” The record, inoffensive and bland, was heading to a peak at No. 4. It was the first of six Top 40 hits for the brother-and-sister duo; Donny, of course, had a bushel of hits on his own and with his brothers, some of which were pretty decent.

Just because we do this, I should note that the No. 1 record in that August 24, 1974, Hot 100 was the execrable “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates.

So we’ve listened to a wide range of stuff this morning, but only one record really grabs me. From its funk and its “Doo-da-wop!” chant to its message, Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin” resonates, and that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Queen Of Soul

August 17th, 2018

I should have more to say about Aretha Franklin, who died yesterday at her home in Detroit, than it seems that I do.

It’s not that I don’t value or love her music. I have plenty of it – more than 130 tracks – on the digital shelves; I have several of her CDs; and a few LPs survived the Great Vinyl Sell-off the other year. And her music provided a lot of the soundtrack of my early teen years, years when I wasn’t listening to pop, rock and soul, but years when she was one of those artists – like the Beatles – whose music nevertheless seeped inside me without any effort on my part.

So why do I feel I have I so little to say?

Because Aretha Franklin as a subject for eulogy, memoir or memorial is too damned big. She towers over the music world in a way that few artists do. So I don’t know where to start or to end or even what to put in or leave out. And knowing that stuff is a huge part what I’m supposed to do as a writer, so that’s a little deflating.*

So what did Aretha mean to me? I was a little too young and a lot too white to grasp her impact when she came to Atlantic in 1966 and, well, I’m tempted to say she destroyed the existing order, but that’s a little too sweeping. Nevertheless, her 1967 album I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You knocked a lot of listeners back in their chairs or wherever they were sitting. And Aretha continued to do that, single after single, album after album, year after year.

But y’all know that. Ain’t nothin’ new there.

So, my favorite Aretha? Well, I put “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” in the Ultimate Jukebox almost ten years ago, saying:

I don’t have much to say about Aretha Franklin and “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” I mean, she’s Aretha, and the record was one of her forty-five Top 40 hits (covering a span of years from 1961 to 1998). Add that “Since You’ve Been Gone” went to No. 5 in the early spring of 1968 (and was No. 1 for three weeks on the R&B chart), and all you need to do after that is listen.

See, even back then, Aretha was too big for me. There are, however, other Aretha records I like more than “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” I love her take on “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” from 1972. And I love her sinuous cover of “Spanish Harlem” from 1971.

(So why, you might ask, did those two recordings not make it into the Ultimate Jukebox? Well, Lulu’s version of “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” showed up on my radio during my junior year of high school and attached itself forever to the memory of one whose attentions seemed unattainable, and I did not want two versions of the song in the project. And on the day I was choosing between Aretha’s version of “Spanish Harlem” and Ben E. King’s, I made the wrong choice.)

But that’s about me, and this is supposed to be about Aretha Franklin. So the least I can do is point you at the very good obituary and appreciation of her work written by Jon Bream that ran on the front page of this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And maybe the best I can do this morning is to repeat what I posted at Facebook yesterday morning when I heard news of Aretha’s death:

There are plenty of reasons to grieve the loss of Aretha Franklin, but there are just as many reasons to celebrate our having had her here for so many years. So, by way of tribute, here’s her exultant “Freeway of Love” from 1985. (Saxophone courtesy of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.)

R.I.P., Miss Franklin.

*As I think about that this morning, my mind looks to the future, and I know I’m going to feel the same way on the mornings after Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen leave this world. And that terrifies me and saddens me.

What’s At No. 100? (August 1965)

August 15th, 2018

We’re going to play one of our favorite – and relatively new – games here today: What’s At No. 100? My imaginary tuneheads, Odd and Pop, and I have done this four times previously, but we’ve been headlining those excursions as Chart Digging. That was Pop’s idea.

“Well,” he said during the meeting when the new game was approved, “we don’t want to scare off readers who look for the comfortable and expected.”

“Pshhht!” said Odd. “If they want comfortable and unsurprising, let ’em buy a chair! We need to offer readers stuff they rarely hear anywhere else, stuff that expands their horizons, stuff that makes their musical worlds grow!”

“Really?” asked Pop. “Like ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richards?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Odd, shifting uncomfortably in his imaginary chair. “That was unfortunate.” He sighed, then perked up. “But the next time we played the game, we found something by Travis Wammack!”

Pop nodded. “And we’ve heard stuff from the Dells and from Stephen Stills.”

“So you’re both happy as we head into 1965?” I asked.

Pop nodded. Odd chewed his lip. “Well, ‘happy’ is a relative term. Sometimes, I can’t be satisfied.” He paused and then added, “And yes, that’s a Muddy Waters reference.”

With that, we turned to the Billboard Hot 100 from August 21, 1965, and its Top Ten:

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher
“Save Your Heart For Me” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Help!” by the Beatles
“California Girls” by the Beach Boys
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
“It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops
“Don’t Just Stand There” by Patty Duke
“I’m Henry The VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
“Down In The Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal

The three of us looked at that Top Ten with generally differing thoughts, although none of us were impressed by the Patty Duke single as we listened. I thought it sounded like mediocre Lesley Gore. The two of them agreed.

As to the rest of that Top Ten, Pop was pleased with the remaining nine and giggled happily as he thought about the record by Herman’s Hermits. As I expected, Odd dismissed that single as piffle but acknowledged most of the rest as decent listening. He was a little disturbed by the thought of the record from Gary Lewis & The Playboys, but he was pleased with the presence of the Billy Joe Royal record. “I know it was a pretty good hit back in the day,” he said. “And that was way back in the day,” he added, looking at me. “Even you were young then!”

And he and Pop – whippersnappers that they are – giggled as I gave them my best eye-roll.

“But,” Odd went on, “I can get into a No. 9 hit when it seems to be lost, and ‘Down In The Boondocks’ seems to be very much lost these days.”

Then I asked, “And how about the top of the list, Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’?”

“No. 1 for three weeks!” Pop said happily.

“Hal Blaine!” Odd added, just as pleased.

Then we were off for our business at the bottom of the Hot 100.

And we found a master of soul who’s been mentioned only rarely here during these eleven-plus years and who’s been featured only two times: Solomon Burke, whose “Someone Is Watching” was sitting at No. 100 fifty-three years ago this week.

Every time his name pops up in my reading or on the charts I scan, I think to myself that, yes, I need to know more about Solomon Burke, and I definitely need to know his music better. Those are goals that both Odd and Pop agree with, as there’s very little by the man on the physical or digital shelves here. That needs to be remedied.

But for now, here’s “Someone Is Watching,” a nice slice of Atlantic soul. It stalled at No. 89 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 24 on the Billboard R&B chart. Unsurprisingly, it’s nice stuff, with a sax solo that I’d think came from King Curtis.

Saturday Single No. 604

August 11th, 2018

We’ve spent some time this week considering what I was hearing on the radio as I prepared for my senior year of high school in August 1970, and we’ve theorized about what my cousins in California were hearing on the radio at the same time.

So I wondered this morning as the Texas Gal and I ran a brief errand: What was I listening to in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard at that summer played out? Well, the playlist was pretty slender as far a pop and rock went. As August 1970 hit its mid-point, these were the pop, rock and R&B albums I had available:

The Age Of Aquarius by the 5th Dimension
Let It Be by the Beatles
Chicago by Chicago
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Best Of Bee Gees
Hey Jude by the Beatles

For more pop/rock, I could, if I wanted to, dig deeper into the crate where I kept my albums and supplement those six with Herman’s Hermits On Tour and Look At Us by Sonny and Cher, albums my sister had given me as gifts for birthdays in 1965 and 1966, and Beatles ’65, which we had received for Christmas in 1964. And for some changes of pace, there were always my Al Hirt and Herb Alpert records and my John Barry soundtracks.

(Then, too, there were my sister’s LPs, which ran a wide gamut: Jefferson Airplane, Judy Collins, John Denver, Glenn Yarbrough, some classical LPs and Traditional Jewish Memories, the tale of which I’ve told here before.)

Those all were in the mix as I lazed on the green couch during that summer of 1970, with the more recent pop and rock certainly getting more frequent play. And as I think about that list, I single out the album by the 5th Dimension, which I bought through our record club during the autumn of 1969, my first full season of listening to Top 40. And I wonder, not for the first time: What moved me to select it?

As I ponder the question, I come up with several reasons: I was hearing “Wedding Bell Blues” (No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in November 1969) with increasing frequency on the radio; during the summer of 1969, I bought the single “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” after it spent six weeks at No. 1 in April and May 1969; and most importantly, in October of 1969, I spent a couple hours in the fifth row or so for a concert by the 5th Dimension at St. Cloud State.

For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been dating the start of my pop/rock/soul LP collecting to May of 1970, when I brought home Let It Be and Chicago. I think the dividing line I drew was that I purchased those records with my own money. The 5th Dimension album, on the other hand, was one of the six each year that Dad bought for me from the record club.

On one side, the fact of laying out my own cash for records makes a difference: Those records were my investment. On the flip side, just selecting from the club an LP by the 5th Dimension shows that my tastes were changing, my ears bending toward new sounds.

So what does all that mean to a reader? Probably not much. But I use this place to not only share the music I love and the story of my life but to sort out that story. And this wandering post is going to conclude that I should date my pop/rock/soul LP collecting from the autumn of 1969 with The Age Of Aquarius.

The medley that includes the title track was one of the selections in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, so we’ll look elsewhere on the album this morning, finding one of my favorite deep tracks, making “The Winds Of Heaven” today’s Saturday Single.

Survey Digging, California Style

August 10th, 2018

Sometime after World War II, one of my dad’s five sisters – Evelyn – moved to California, where her husband – my Uncle Bill – got into some kind of advertising or promotion business in Los Angeles. They had two kids, a girl and a boy, each about a year older than my sister and me.

Sometime in the late 1950s, another aunt and uncle – Dad’s sister Francis and her husband – headed to California, too. They settled in Oxnard, where my Uncle Newell was a dentist. They, too, had a pair of kids, a girl and a boy, a bit closer in age to me and my sister but still a bit older than we were.

I used to daydream about a California vacation, about visiting those distant relatives in that golden state, about getting to know my cousins better, and about seeing all the things in California that I saw on television and in the magazines and movies. But a California vacation was out of the reach of a state college teacher’s salary in the 1960s and early 1970s, and anyway, Dad’s sisters and their husbands and their kids made their ways back to Minnesota every couple of years, so we didn’t really have to go all the way west to see our relatives.

Digression: As did many kids I knew, I dreamed of going to Disneyland. Every week as we watched the Disney television show – always in black and white on Kilian Boulevard – I’d see the shots of people having an incredibly fun time at the park in Anaheim. For whatever reason, the attraction at Disneyland that grabbed my attention the most was the Mad Hatter’s teacup ride.

Finally, when I was twenty-nine, I got to Southern California covering the Monticello High School Marching Band’s participation in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. One of the band’s activities during the week we spent out west was marching in one of the daily parades at Disneyland, with pretty much an entire day of free time wrapped around that half-hour long parade. I headed to Fantasyland, home of the Mad Hatter’s teacups . . . and learned that Fantasyland was closed for a year-long renovation. I enjoyed the rest of the attractions at Disneyland. It was a fun day. But even now, thirty-some years later, when I see a picture of the Mad Hatter’s teacups, there’s a little twinge inside. End digression

Having taken a look earlier this week at what I was hearing on KDWB as the last weeks of summer 1970 played out (not all of which I remembered), I thought today, I would dig into the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and find a survey from this week from either Los Angeles or Oxnard and see what my California cousins heard coming from their radios.

I couldn’t find anything fitting the time frame from Oxnard, but I found the Boss 30 from Los Angeles’ KHJ for August 12, 1970. I don’t expect huge differences from what we were hearing back in the Midwest, but there might be one or two unexpected gems.

Here’s the top half of that week’s Boss 30:

“Make It With You” by Bread
“In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder
“Everybody’s Got The Right To Love” by the Supremes
“The Sly, Slick And The Wicked” by the Lost Generation
“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt
“Westbound #9” by the Flaming Ember
“Tell It All, Brother” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
“Looking Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Soul Shake” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“Tighter, Tighter” by Alive & Kicking
“Only You Know And I Know” by Dave Mason

No real surprises there, except maybe the records by Dave Mason and by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, both of which missed – by two or three places – the Top 40 in Billboard. Some of the other records that hit the Top 40 rank a fair amount higher here than they ever did in Billboard, most notably the records by the Supremes, the Flaming Ember, and the Lost Generation. But nothing looks horribly out of place.

Of the eight records that KHJ tagged as “hitbound,” three of them were new to the survey: “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman (which I mentioned the other day and was pleased the next day or so to hear coming at random from the iPod), “Look What They’ve Done To My Song” by the New Seekers, and “Candida” by Dawn.

Entering the Boss 30 the previous week and tagged as hitbound were: “Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band, “Hand Me Down World” by the Guess Who, ‘Summertime Blues” by the Who, “I (Who Have Nothing)” by Tom Jones, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond.

So there’s nothing real surprising there. What does surprise me – having dug into the blog archives as I’ve written – is that in more than eleven years and some 2,200 posts, it seems that I’ve only mentioned the tune “Only You Know And I Know” two or three times, and always in the context of the cover version released by Delaney & Bonnie in 1971. I’ve entirely ignored Mason’s original, which showed up on his 1970 album Alone Together. It went to No. 42 in Billboard and was obviously more popular than that at KHJ. So here it is:

‘Never Goin’ Home’

August 7th, 2018

Having messed up bigly in tracing Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” at KDWB the other week (and I still can’t figure out how my search went so awry), I thought I’d dive into the data at oldiesloon again this morning and take a look at the KDWB 6+30 from August 10, 1970.

As the second week of that August rolled in, most scheduled summer activities – enrichment classes, music programs, the state trap shoot – would have been over.

But the three weeks of summer football practice for the Tech Tigers had most likely just started, with me tending to boxes of footballs, bins of scrimmage jerseys, a primitive medical kit, and more. And before and after practice, the radio in the locker room’s small training room was almost always tuned to KDWB. I heard a lot of KDWB at home, too, but there, evenings belonged to WJON across the tracks and late evenings belonged to Chicago’s WLS.

Anyway, here are the Top Fifteen from that KDWB 6+30, records I would have heard nearly every day:

“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Make It With You” by Bread
“Ball Of Confusion” by the Temptations
“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps
“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
“Tighter, Tighter” by Alive & Kicking
“Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War
“Song Of Joy” by Miguel Rios
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne
“I Just Can’t Help Believing” by B.J. Thomas
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Neighborhood
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton
“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“Are You Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric

That’s a pure hour of bliss for me. At least today it would be, forty-eight years after the fact. At the time, I might not have been too thrilled by “Song Of Joy” and I vaguely recall that I tired rapidly of “Spill The Wine.”

Looking further down the survey, “In The Summertime” (the record that started this) was at No. 18, up from No. 27 the week before. Gene Chandler’s “Groovy Situation,” a record that popped up on my iTunes yesterday, was sitting at No. 27, up three spots from the previous week. And there were three new records in the 6+30: “Overture From Tommy (A Rock Opera)” by the Assembled Multitude was at No. 31, “Never Goin’ Home” by Owen B. was at No. 34, and Bobby Sherman’s “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” was at No. 36.

I’ve written about two of those three newcomers seemingly many times. The Assembled Multitude record was one of my favorites that season, and the Bobby Sherman record stays in my memory banks because years after the fact, I realized that there was a Julie who, if she didn’t truly love me, at least liked me a lot, and I never noticed.

I don’t remember the record by Owen B. and searching it out on YouTube this morning sparked no recognition. It turns out that Owen B. was a band from Mansfield, Ohio, that had one record reach the Billboard Hot 100: “Mississippi Mama” went to No. 97 over a two-week period in March 1970. “Never Goin’ Home” never made the Hot 100, and it didn’t stay on KDWB very long. The following week, the record had fallen to No. 35, and a week later, it was gone.

Among the surveys collected at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, only one other station gave “Never Goin’ Home” any attention. That was WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, where the record went to No. 1 during the first week of July. And that’s not surprising, as Columbus is just sixty miles from Owen B.’s home of Mansfield.

(If you’re interested in learning more about Owen B., there’s a brief history of the band in a 2013 post – seemingly written by band member Tom Zinser – at the blog Rockasteria.)

What interests me this morning is how – and why – “Never Goin’ Home” got any attention at all at KDWB. From what I can tell, the record never got into the 30 Star Survey at WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station. And from listening to the record several times this morning, that was a good decision. I mean, it’s not a bad record, but nothing much separates it from a thousand other records of the time.

I’ll let you make up your mind:

Saturday Single No. 603

August 4th, 2018

I was in a Nancy Wilson mood the other day – the pop jazz singer who was most popular in the early to mid-1960s, not the Nancy Wilson from Heart – so I was sorting through mp3s from a compilation, tagging them with the original album title and date.

When I do that kind of work (and of course, it’s not really work, it’s play), I use a variety of sources: my Billboard chart books (for non-album singles) and discogs.com and Second Hand Songs for album tracks. And I was having trouble tracking Wilson’s cover of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

That’s one of those titles that can be hard to track down, because of the last two words of the title: Sometimes cover versions have one or the other spelled completely instead of dropping the “g”. The original Philles release had – I believe – apostrophes at the ends of both of the last words, but I’ve also seen 45 sleeves for the Righteous Brothers with the second apostrophe dropped. So there are lots of choices to dig through.

Anyway, I finally found out at Second Hand Songs that Wilson’s version – released in 1965 on her album Today – My Way – listed the title with missing g’s and apostrophes on both of the last two words in the title. And then I saw a note at the top of the website’s main page for the song. It said that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” was “according to BMI, the performing rights organization that represents songwriters, the most played song of the 20th century.”

That startled me. So I took a look at the Righteous Brothers’ entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where I saw that bit of information confirmed with the addendum that, according to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector, was “the first eight-million performance song.”

I pondered that and then noticed that Second Hand Songs lists 188 versions of the song. The Righteous Brothers’ version was released in November 1964, and the first listed cover, released in early January 1965, came from Cilla Black. (It went to No. 2 in England.) Another cover followed in the U.K., by Joan Baxter, and then Nancy Wilson was the first to cover the song in the U.S.

The covers continued, of course, soon coming from, among many others, the Lettermen, Fontella Bass, the Boogie Kings, Johnny Rivers, Long John Baldry, the Pozo Seco Singers, Freda Payne, and George Hamilton. And that just gets us through 1966. The most recent cover listed at SHS came from Junko Onishi, a Japanese artist described by the website as a post-bop jazz pianist; she covered the tune in 1999.

I went back to Top Pop Singles to see which versions hit the Billboard Hot 100 or bubbled under. The Righteous Brothers original went to No. 1, of course, staying there for two weeks. Dionne Warwick’s cover went to No. 16 in 1969. A duet of the song by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway went to No. 71 in 1971. Another duet, this one by Long John Baldry (again) and Kathy MacDonald reached No. 89 in 1979. And the best performing cover was yet another duet, this one by Hall & Oates, which went to No. 12 in 1980.

(I should mention that R&B singer Vivian Reed bubbled under at No. 115 in 1968 with her medley of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling/(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration.”)

Several of those covers – and a couple not mentioned – are on the digital shelves here at the EITW studios. One of my favorites is the 1979 duet by Long John Baldry and Kathy MacDonald. It’s from the album Baldry’s Out! and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

First Wednesday: August 1968

August 1st, 2018

In this space ten years ago, I put up a series of monthly posts looking at the year of 1968, then forty years gone. I thought it would be interesting to rerun those posts this year as we mark the fiftieth anniversary of that remarkable and often horrifying year. We’ll correct errors or update information as necessary, but the historic portion of the posts will otherwise be unchanged. As to music, we’ll also update our examination of charts from fifty years ago if necessary and then, when possible, share the same full albums from 1968 as we did ten years ago, but this time – as is our habit now – as YouTube videos. The posts will appear on the first Wednesday of each month.

For years, just to confound people, when bull sessions turned to politics and to the public upheaval that frequently accompanied politics in the 1960s and 1970s, I’d nod and say quietly, “I was in Chicago in ’68.”

The other folks would get quiet, look at me – I’ve always looked younger than I am, a genetic trait that I now cherish in my mid-fifties – and wonder. Some asked me if things had been as bad as they saw on TV, and I could honestly say they were worse. Some might ask if I had been in danger.

And I’d laugh and then ’fess up: I was fourteen and was actually in the suburb of Morton Grove that week in August 1968, spending one night in the Chicago area with my parents as we headed east on vacation. Nevertheless, as my parents and I watched the events inside and outside the International Amphitheatre on the north end of Chicago that evening, we were less than fifteen miles from the absurd, troubling, heartbreaking and utterly unnecessary confusion and violence that surrounded the Democratic National Convention during its four-day run in the Windy City.

The confusion of the Democrats inside the amphitheater and the continued confrontations between police and protestors outside made the convention another one of those touchpoints of 1968, a year that continued to lay trouble upon trouble, grief upon grief. By the time the convention ended on Friday, August 30, the angry confrontations between the authorities and the protestors – the Youth International Party (Yippies), the Black Panthers and numerous other protest groups, some serious and some less so – had degenerated into what an investigating commission later termed a “police riot.”

(Along that line, in one of the few moments of levity to come from the Chicago convention, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley, frequently conversationally challenged, defined the role of law enforcement in his city thusly: “Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all – the policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”)

Watching the televised chaos that evening in a motel room so very close to the scenes we were seeing was – as was so much that year – confusing and dismaying. I stared at the scenes of bitter argument and confrontation inside the amphitheater and I stared at the scenes we saw of confrontation and violence outside the amphitheater. We saw on television, I am sure, less than what went on, but the news anchors and reporters for whatever network we were watching made frequent reference to the violence taking place in the streets of Chicago. And I do recall wondering, as I sat in our hotel room: Is this how grown-ups solve things?

But I also saw on television something that gave me hope. One of the heroes of the convention – and there were few of those in retrospect – was Georgia’s Julian Bond, who had led a civil-rights based challenge to the regular delegation sent by the Georgia Democratic Party. The challenge succeeded. As a token of respect (and I believe this took place during the evening my parents and I were in Morton Grove, fifteen miles away), Bond’s name was placed in nomination for the office of vice-president of the United States. He was forced to withdraw as he was only twenty-eight, seven years shy of the constitutional age requirement of thirty-five, but that evening, forty years ago, Julian Bond became the first African American man to be nominated for a national office by a major party.

The Democratic National Convention in Chicago might have been the largest news event of the month, and, as it came at the end of the month, it tended to wash over those events that had come before. But there were at least two other events worth nothing:

The Republican National Convention took place in Miami, Florida, during the first week of August. The Republicans nominated former vice-president Richard Nixon for president and Spiro Agnew, governor of Maryland, for vice-president. Nixon’s nomination was one more step in one of the most remarkable political resurrections in American history, and Agnew’s nomination was an utter surprise and puzzle. “Spiro who?” was the reaction of many news producers and news consumers. (Both were elected twice, of course, and both resigned in disgrace, Agnew in October 1973 and Nixon in August 1974.)

The other event worth noting was the crushing of what was known as the Prague Spring in the now dismantled nation of Czechoslovakia. In his book In Europe, Geert Mak writes:

“In January, orthodox Communist Party leader Antonín Novotný was replaced by the amiable Alexander Dubček, who immediately loosened reins: press, radio and television were allowed to criticise the regime freely, persecuted writers and intellectuals were granted amnesty, and plans were made to reform the economy along Western lines. The impending thaw became visible in the streets of Prague, in the length of men’s hair, the cautious miniskirts, the screening of Western movies . . .”

An opposition newspaper published an essay about true democracy by playwright Václav Havel: “Democracy is not a matter of faith but of guarantees” that allow “a public and legal competition for power.” Mak notes that all 250,000 copies of the newspaper sold out in a few hours.

But the changes were short-lived. On the night of August 21, a half-million soldiers from the Soviet Union and four other members of the military Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia and ended the experiments. New leader Gustáv Husák reversed almost all of Dubček’s reforms.

(Dubček managed to survive, not a minor accomplishment, and after communist rule over the country ended, served in Czechoslovakia’s Federal Assembly as a member of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia before dying in 1992 from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Havel, the writer quoted above, was imprisoned during the late 1970s for his work for human rights; after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Havel was elected the last president of Czechoslovakia and – in 1992 – the first president of the Czech Republic.)

On a personal level, August 1968 brought one major first: I earned a substantial sum of money for the first time by working at the first of three annual state trap shoots at a nearby gun club. As I wrote some time back, I earned $40 that first summer and learned that the tarry powder from the trap targets did nasty things to my skin. My face turned brown and its skin turned leathery for a few days before peeling off in large hunks. But the $40 seemed worth it, and the drudgery of spending nine to ten hours a day in a little blockhouse halfway underground was tempered by the songs on the radio I brought with me. Looking at the top fifteen records in the Billboard Hot 100 from August 3, 1968, I can remember hearing every one of them many times during the trap shoot:

“Hello, I Love You” by the Doors
“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
“Stoned Soul Picnic” by the 5th Dimension
“Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela
“Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones
“Lady Willpower” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
“The Horse” by Cliff Nobles
“Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues
“Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
“Pictures of Matchstick Men” by the Status Quo
“People Got to Be Free” by the Rascals
“Sky Pilot (Part 1)” by Eric Burdon & the Animals
“This Guy’s in Love With You” by Herb Alpert

Generally, when I cite Top Tens or Top Fifteens here, I have a quibble or two. But not this time. I imagine that some might find the Vogues’ entry a little slight, but for me it’s a cherished song, and that’s a great Top Fifteen.

So let’s take a look at the top ten from the album chart from that week and see if we stay as lucky.

The Beat of the Brass by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Wheels of Fire by Cream
Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel
The Graduate soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel/Dave Grusin
Aretha Now by Aretha Franklin
Time Peace/The Rascal’s Greatest Hits by the Rascals
Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
A Tramp Shining by Richard Harris
Disraeli Gears by Cream
Honey by Andy Williams

Well, I could live without the Andy Williams, but other than that, it’s pretty good. I do have two caveats: I think that the Jimmy Webb/Richard Harris opus “MacArthur Park” is one of those records people either love or hate, so that would determine the fate of A Tramp Shining. For my part, I like the single and the album. And maybe the Herb Alpert/TJB album is a little soft once you get past “This Guy’s in Love With You.” But in general, that’s a good bunch of albums.

The album I’m sharing today actually came out in October 1968 and quickly became a classic of its type. Jackie DeShannon’s Laurel Canyon didn’t sell well enough to make the Billboard Top LP’s chart (now the Billboard 200), but as a snapshot of 1968 life in southern California, the record loomed larger than its sales, an assessment that Jason Ankeny, writing for All-Music Guide, agreed with:

Laurel Canyon wonderfully captures the natural, idyllic vibe of its titular setting, the creative nexus of the late-’60s Los Angeles music scene. Swapping the polished pop approach of Jackie DeShannon’s past hits for an appealingly rough-edged country-soul sensibility, the record celebrates a place and time that transcended the physical world to signify a virtual Garden of Eden for the flower-power generation. Featuring extensive contributions from pianist Mac ‘Dr. John’ Rebennack and guitarist Russ Titleman, Laurel Canyon boasts a swampy, lived-in charm that perfectly complements DeShannon’s sexily gritty vocals. Her soulful reading of the Band’s ‘The Weight’ anticipates Aretha Franklin’s like-minded cover, but most impressive are originals like ‘Holly Would’ and the title cut, which eloquently articulate the rustic beauty of their creator’s environs.”

Beyond those three tracks mentioned there, which are stand-outs, I’d also recommend “She’s My Best Friend” (written by Don MacAllister), “Bitter Honey” (written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols) and the album’s closer, DeShannon’s own “L.A.”

Musicians on Laurel Canyon were: Mack Rebbenack on piano, Harold R. Batiste Jr. on electric piano, Russ Titleman on acoustic guitar, Craig Tarwater on electric guitar, Ray Trainer on bass and Paul Humphrey and Abe Mills on drums. Background vocals were by Barry White (yes, that Barry White), Brendetta Davis and Don MacAllister. The album was arranged by Battiste; Charles Greene & Brian Stone were the producers.

(In the years I’ve been collecting vinyl, I’ve only seen one copy of this album, the one in poor condition that I bought in September of 1999. The only available CD of the album is a British import [though these days, I’m not certain that’s a major distinction as far as availability is concerned]. This rip is from that CD; I found it online about two years ago. If you like the album, go find the CD if you can. Another note: The artist’s name is spelled both “De Shannon” and “DeShannon” on the record itself. I’ve gone with the latter spelling.)

Ten years later, getting a physical copy of the album is a hard buy: At Amazon today, a used vinyl copy of Laurel Canyon will run almost twenty-seven bucks, and a new copy will cost you $199.99. A used CD will cost at least $86.92. But the album is available in mp3s for $8.99. If one goes that route (or goes for the expensive CD), the album comes with eight bonus tracks, four written and produced by Bobby Womack.

Tracks and writers:
Laurel Canyon (Jackie DeShannon)
Sunshine of Your Love (Jack Bruce-Peter Brown-Eric Clapton)
Crystal Clear (Ray Trainer)
She’s My Best Friend (Don MacAllister)
I Got My Reason (Barry White)
Holly Would (Jackie DeShannon)
You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me (William Robinson)
The Weight (Jamie Robertson)
Bitter Honey (Paul Williams & Roger Nichols)
Come and Stay With Me (Jackie DeShannon)
L.A. (Jackie DeShannon)
Too Close (Jackie DeShannon, Charles Greene & Brian Stone)

The link below goes to a playlist of the remastered Laurel Canyon (with the above mentioned bonus tracks) at YouTube.

Jackie DeShannon – Laurel Canyon [1968]

Saturday Single No. 602

July 28th, 2018

It’s mid-afternoon. We’ve been out running errands (and having a larger-than-necessary lunch), and I’m utterly whacked. But the idea of leaving this Saturday space empty while I’m home distresses me.

So I’m going to open up my file of the Billboard Hot 100 from today’s date forty-five years ago – July 28, 1973 – and play Games With Numbers, turning today’s date, 7/28/18, into 53. Then we’re going to go to that Hot 100 and see what was at No. 53 forty-five years ago today.

And we land on the first charting single by David Gates after the group Bread split up for the first time in 1973. “Clouds” was an edit pulled from the album track “Suite: Clouds, Rain” on Gates’ album First. The single peaked at No 47 during an eight-week stay on the Hot 100 and went to No. 3 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. Gates would have six more singles hit the Hot 100, with the best-performing being 1977’s “Goodbye Girl,” the title song from the movie starring Richard Dreyfuss, which went to No. 15.

The musicians on First are all, for the most part, familiar: Jimmy Getzoff, Jim Gordon, Jim Horn, John Guerin, Larry Carlton, Larry Knechtel, Louie Shelton, Mike Botts, and Russ Kunkel. And of course, “Clouds” – and the rest of the album, for that matter – sounds very much like Bread (so much so that the only video available at YouTube of the single edit of “Clouds” ascribed the track to Bread).

For all that, “Clouds” is a very pretty and rather slight track, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Four At Random

July 27th, 2018

We’re going to let iTunes do the work today, pulling four tunes at random from the 3,900-some I keep in the program. (I only pull as many tunes into the program as it takes to fill my iPod Nano; I’m pondering increasing the memory in the iPod, but for now, the 3,900-odd tunes – ten days’ worth of music, says iTunes – do me fine.)

The tunes in the program run alphabetically from 1970’s “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to “Zou Bisou Bisou,” a French release by Gillian Hills from 1962. There are nearly forty tracks loaded into the program with titles that start with numerals, and iTunes sorts those tracks at the end of its listings, which seems odd. Those tracks start with three different versions of “007,” the James Bond action theme that John Barry wrote for the 1962 Bond film From Russia With Love, and end with “99 Red Balloons,” the English language version of Nena’s 1984 hit.

Traced in history, the 3,900-some tracks in iTunes span 229 years. They start with the First Movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K. 550), which the intemperate genius (if one is inclined to believe Peter Shaffer’s play and the ensuing film Amadeus) composed in 1788, and end with “The Observatory,” a track from Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, a 2017 album from the White Buffalo.

In terms of length, the tracks run from two seconds – Roy Scheider’s utterance, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from the 1975 movie Jaws – to the thirty-three-plus minutes the Allman Brothers Band invested in “Mountain Jam” during a concert at the Fillmore East in March of 1971.

So here are four from iTunes (excluding tunes we’ve written about during, oh, the last year):

During the first month or so of this blog’s existence – in February 2007 – I described the music of Jimmie Spheeris as having a “California post-hippie singer-songwriter vibe.” Nothing I’ve heard from the late singer-songwriter – he was killed in a 1984 traffic accident – has changed that view. On all four albums he released during his lifetime, and on the tracks I’ve heard from the posthumous Spheeris (recorded in 1984 and released in 2000), we get wandering, mellow tracks, leavened by the occasional tune that’s (a little) more up-tempo.

This morning, we hear “Long Way From China” from Jimmie’s 1973 album The Original Tap Dancing Kid. And, as always happens, Spheeris’ music reminds me at least a little of some of Shawn Phillips’ stuff. Spheeris, as I wrote in 2007, offers “odd misty melodies topped with poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics adding up to a lush romanticism that one almost never hears anymore.” It’s a fine way to start the day.

“Starin’ at the sun. Been stoned since half-past none,” sings Bob Darin to start out our second track. The tune is “Jive” from Darin’s 1969 album Commitment.

How many versions were there of the man we know most often as Bobby Darin? There was the novelty singer who took “Splish Splash” to No. 3 in 1958, and the Rat Pack-ish singer who topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1959 with “Mack the Knife.” There was the folkie whose version of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” went to No. 8 in 1966.

And this morning’s Darin calls himself “Bob,” as if to say, “Serious artist at work here, folks,” or perhaps to distance himself from his other work and fit into the ethos of 1969. And “Jive” certainly fits into those hippie-ish times in both its attitude and its vagueness:

I got a cloudy-day woman to make my bed and cook for me
When I’m gone a year too long she knows not to look for me
Coz I’ll be back when evenin’ comes
Sleepin’ through them crashin’ drums
Jive’s alive from nine to five my main man.

My favorite Darin track is “Mack the Knife,” but I do truly love “Jive” and the other stuff on Commitment.

And here comes some mid-Seventies sadness, courtesy of Dorothy Moore and her 1976 hit “Misty Blue.” The record went to No. 3 for four weeks on the Hot 100, No. 2 for two weeks on the magazine’s R&B chart and to No. 14 on the Easy Listening chart. (I honestly thought it would be much higher on that last chart.) But chart performance isn’t why “Misty Blue” matters around here. I mean, we’ve all been where Moore is here:

Ooh baby, I should forget you
Heaven knows I tried

Baby, when I say that I’m glad we’re through
Deep in my heart I know I’ve lied I’ve lied, I’ve lied

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

Our last stop today kicks off with a buoyant banjo riff, joined after a moment by bass and percussion, and then by the vocals:

Well, I’m on my way
To the city lights,
To the pretty face
That shines her light on the city nights
And I gotta catch a noon train, I gotta be there on time.
Oh, it feels so good to know she waits at the end of the line.

The record is, of course, “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, and for three-and-a-half minutes, we’re just fine, hearing the tale of a man whose woman can “make a man feel shiny and new” as she feeds him “love and tenderness and macaroons.”

The Stampeders were from Calgary, Alberta, and their 1971 hit went to No. 8 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on the Easy Listening chart. And even after forty-seven years, it’s a record that can still make me smile.