Saturday Single No. 709

October 24th, 2020

Our main task today here on the North Side is to defrost the freezer. Somehow, when we bought our new freezer the day we moved into the condo (or perhaps the day after) in February 2018, we neglected to see if the new appliance – like the old one – was frost-free.

It isn’t, and defrosting the thing is one of those chores we tend to put off. Today, however, is the day.

We have plastic bins in the kitchen, waiting to be filled with the freezer’s contents, and nature is helping out today, with an outdoor temperature that will stay well under freezing all day. So we’ll just put the filled bins on the deck as we get to the work inside.

With the Texas Gal doing some prep upstairs, it’s about time for me to make my appearance, so we’ll just default to a record I’ve mentioned a couple times before but never featured here: “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. In 1966, it went to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 12 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

The Airheads Radio Survey Archive tells us that “The Philly Freeze” went to No. 1 on WJLB in Detroit, and hit the Top Ten on WJMO in Cleveland, WVON and WBEE in Chicago, WCHB in Detroit, and CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. The highest it went in Philadelphia – at least according to the information compiled at ARSA – was to No. 52 at WIBG.

Anyway, here’s “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘It’s A Monday Kind Of Friday . . .’

October 23rd, 2020

An appointment with the eye doctor – no biggie, just some surprisingly large floaters – has pulled me away today, leaving the day disjointed and my left eye dilated. So here’s a tune from 1967 with an appropriate title: “Monday Kind Of Friday” by a group called Dawn’s Early Light.

A comment at YouTube by a fellow named Eddie Black says that the group was made up of four guys who otherwise were in a five-man group from the Bronx called the Five Sharks. He says the record was No. 1 in upstate New York, but nothing at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive supports that, although the record went to No. 13 on WINN in Louisville, Kentucky, and to No. 14 on WVAM in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The record also made it onto surveys in Montgomery, Alabama; Lowell and Medford, Massachusetts; Quincy, Illinois; and Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as well as in Milwaukee, New York City, Seattle and Montreal.

The record came to me in the massive Lost Jukebox collection that floated around the ’Net a decade ago or so.

On The Map, No. 1

October 21st, 2020

So, last Saturday, I wrote about England Dan & John Ford Coley’s 1971 single “New Jersey,” only to have long-time reader and friend Yah Shure remind me that I’d written about the record before (a post that spurred him to share the early work of the duo with me).

I went back into the archives and found – as I expected – he was correct: A little more than four years ago, I’d written pretty much the exact same piece, even down to mentioning that the introduction to the single sounded a lot like Joe Cocker’s cover of “With A Little Help From My Friends.”

Well, as I said at the end of the more recent piece about “New Jersey,” it’s not a very memorable record. Neither, it seems, are some of my posts, even to me.

But the record’s title got me thinking, as I sometimes do, about records with geographical names in their titles: Nations, states, counties, cities and towns. And I wondered how many such titles are on the digital shelves. There are many, no doubt, and I thought I’d dig into that this morning in an entirely unsystematic way.

I have a hunch, perhaps wrongly, that the city of Memphis has more title mentions than any other place among the files in the collection here. A quick count this morning finds a total of ninety-three tracks with “Memphis” in their titles. There are some duplicates, I know; for one, I saw two copies of Mott the Hoople’s “All The Way From Memphis,” one from my own digging and one that I got courtesy of the Half-Hearted Dude.

(The last time I counted the Memphis tunes in the files, for a post almost ten years ago, the total was about fifty, so I’ve been working on it.)

The Memphis tunes cross a broad swath of time. Among those that have been tagged with the appropriate dates – the vast majority have; I am still working on some anthologies – the files range from Bessie Smith’s “Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town,” which she recorded in 1926, to Melissa Etheridge’s cover of “Memphis Train” which was released in 2016.

And there are sometimes multiple versions of the same song. I found, for example, six versions of “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again,” one by the Grateful Dead, one by Cat Power and four of them – different takes all – by Bob Dylan. There are also six versions of “Back To Memphis,” two of them by The Band, one by The Band with the Cate Brothers, one by Levon Helm of The Band, and versions by Rory Block and Alvin Youngblood Hart.

Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” shows up five times: Berry’s version is kept company by versions by Billy Strange, Sandy Bull, Al Caiola, and Tiny Tim with The Band. (Don’t ask.)

So, do I have a favorite Memphis song? Yes, I do. It’s by Etta James, from her 2003 album, Let’s Roll. Here’s “Wayward Saints Of Memphis.”

‘New Jersey’?

October 17th, 2020

Hoping for inspiration, I scanned the entries on KDWB’s 6+30 survey released this week in 1971, seeing lots of familiar stuff: Rod Stewart, the Carpenters, Carole King, Donny Osmond, the Stampeders, Lighthouse . . .

And then, at No. 24: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

My mind shuffled through its internal files, quickly confirming that the first hit for the pop-rock duo came in the summer of 1976, when “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” often came wafting from the ceiling speakers at St. Cloud State’s student union as I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day.

So, No. 24 at KDWB in the autumn of 1971? I must have heard it, right? I dug a little more at Oldiesloon, my source for the KDWB surveys. “New Jersey” had peaked at No. 22 during the week of October 4, 1971.

So – and this is a question that’s not at all rhetorical – how many times in a day would KDWB have played a record that peaked at No. 22? Maybe my listening hours at the time and “New Jersey” never intersected. A trip to YouTube brought me the record, but beyond its introduction’s resemblance to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” there were no memories there.

Looking for more information, I visited the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and learned that KDWB was one of only five stations that listed “New Jersey” in its surveys.

The record was hit-bound at KAFY in Bakersfield, California, during the second week of August; was listed the next week as an “Instant Preview” at KRCB in Council Bluffs, Iowa; went to No. 7 in early September at WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina; and went to No. 12 at KSPD in Boise, Idaho, near the end of September.

And it was on KDWB’s 6+30 for nine weeks, crawling from No. 35 to No. 22 in seven weeks, then sitting at No. 24 for two weeks – where we found it – before falling out of the survey.

Nationally, it did next to nothing, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 103.

Even after a couple of listenings, I don’t remember “New Jersey.” It’s got a harder edge than the stuff that would bring England Dan & John Ford Coley into the Top Ten four times during the period from 1976 to 1978. But it’s an okay record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Who Tipped The Balance?

October 15th, 2020

So what was it this week that got me – as I noted yesterday – in mind of the Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit “Rock and Roll Heaven”?

Well, there was a conversation at one of my music groups at Facebook. One of the members – inspired, no doubt, by the recent passing of guitar genius Eddie Van Halen – asked when it would have been that the musical talent in Heaven’s band outweighed the talent here in the living world. The writer opined that the balance may have tipped when Prince died (2016), or when David Bowie passed (also in 2016), but seemed certain that if those transitions had not given the afterlife all-stars enough heft, the subtraction of Van Halen from this realm and his addition to the next had done the trick.

I was pondering the question, knowing my answer would be different, when I broke out in laughter. In the comments, someone had written, “Well, Bach died in 1750.”

That was no doubt a better response than anything I would have said, which might have included Robert Johnson (1938), Glenn Miller (1944), Louis Armstrong (1971), Duke Ellington (1974), John Lennon (1980), and on and on, including Richard Manuel (1986), Rick Danko (1999), George Harrison (2001), Clarence Clemons (2011), and Levon Helm (2012).

So I kept my personal Pantheon off the page and wandered along.

I also saw at Facebook this week a recurrent post – or one of several similar recurrent posts – that show portraits of departed musicians and asks which one the reader would bring back for one more show. I think there are several versions of that one, but the musicians whose faces I seem to see most frequently are Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Presley, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Kurt Cobain.

I mentioned it to the Texas Gal after dinner the other day and told her that when I bother to leave an answer to those posts, I usually say “Beethoven.”

She shook her head. “Vivaldi,” she said, as I knew she would. I also know the program would include “The Four Seasons.” I told her that Vivaldi would be quite a show, too. And I said that although I’ve never bothered to make a ranking of my favorite classical composers, I imagine that if I did, the Italian Baroque master would likely end up in the top twenty or so.

And I added, thinking more deeply, that my choice of Beethoven for my concert would not indicate that he is my favorite classical composer. I have read, though, that he was likely the classical world’s second-best performer on the piano. The Texas Gal asked who was best. I told her I’d read over the years that Franz Liszt generally topped the list, adding that my choice simply reflected that I preferred Beethoven’s music to Liszt’s.

So who is my favorite classical composer? There are four that I would have to sort through: Mozart, mostly for his symphonies, especially No. 40 in G minor; Antonín Dvořák, mostly for Symphony No. 9 in E minor, “From the New World,” and his Slavonic dances; Bedřich Smetana, for his Ma Vlast (My Homeland), the set of six symphonic poems that includes “Vltava (The Moldau)”; and Franz Schubert, mostly for his Hungarian dances and his Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished).

Yes, there’s a Bohemian and Magyar tinge there. Works by composers from those areas touch something deep in me, as do works by Slavic composers from portions of Europe further east. (Think Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, and more.)

I’m not going to sort out those favorite composers today (and I may never do so). It’s enough to have a jumble of favorites for those moments when I want some classical tunes (and those moments do arise). For now, I’ll just leave some Dvořák here. This is Slavonic Dance No. 8 (Furiant, Presto), composed in 1878. I first heard it when I played it in a summer orchestra in 1967 or so.

‘If You Believe In Forever . . .’

October 14th, 2020

Here’s a single that I’m not sure I’ve ever posted here before, the Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit “Rock and Roll Heaven.” Years ago, I had an email conversation with one of the song’s co-writers, the late Alan O’Day, and the record and the conversation popped back into my head this week because of a couple of posts on Facebook.

I’m out of time and energy this morning, but I hope to get into all of that tomorrow. For now, here’s “Rock and Roll Heaven,” which went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 38 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 708

October 10th, 2020

As long as we’ve been messing around in the Billboard charts published this week in 1970, let’s look at the Top Ten in the Easy Listening chart from the edition that came out fifty years ago today:

“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“It’s Only Make Believe” by Glen Campbell
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray
“Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” by the New Seekers
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Candida” by Dawn
“Pieces Of Dreams” by Johnny Mathis
“Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band

Most of those are familiar and were so fifty years ago. I’d forgotten about the Glen Campbell and New Seekers records, and despite a stop at YouTube this morning, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Johnny Mathis single before. It turns out to be the title theme from a movie starring Lauren Hutton that I don’t recall either. I don’t really care for the record, which went no higher on the Easy Listening chart and didn’t come near the Hot 100.

I remember finding Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” on a collection sometime during the late 1980s and remembering how much I’d liked it in 1970. It went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, and I must have heard it on KDWB from the Twin Cities or maybe WJON down the around the corner.

The more interesting of the two records I’d forgotten about – “It’s Only Make Believe” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” – is the latter. It would peak at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart and get to No. 14 on the Hot 100. It was a cover of a tune by folkie Melanie, slightly retitled. (Melanie’s original version was titled “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It was originally on her 1970 album Candles In The Rain and was also released as the B-side to “The Nickel Song” in early 1972.)

Several strands are coming together in a loose pattern here. I was weeding out some unwanted tracks in iTunes the other day and spent some time thinking about the New Seekers’ medley of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me.” (It stayed.) I also spent some time the other evening sorting through videos at YouTube, looking for the long version of Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” and watching several of her performances on long-ago talk shows.

And the other day I got from our local library a CD anthology of Melanie’s hits as I pondered investing my own cash in a copy. She’s long fascinated me: I used to have seven of her LPs on the shelves – only Candles In The Rain survived the Great Sell-Off – and I wrote a lengthy post about her and Candles In The Rain during the first year of this blog’s existence.

So with all that going on, it seems as if the universe gives me no choice. Here’s the British/Australian group the New Seekers with “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” their cover of Melanie’s “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Still In 1970 (LP Edition)

October 9th, 2020

Here are the top ten albums listed in the Billboard 200 on October 10, 1970, fifty years ago tomorrow:

Cosmo’s Factory by CCR (December 1998)
Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker (August 1975)
A Question Of Balance by the Moody Blues (February 1989)
Woodstock film soundtrack (August 1988)
Third Album by the Jackson 5
Tommy by the Who (September 1988)
Chicago (May 1970)
Abraxas by Santana (April 1989)
After The Gold Rush by Neil Young (January 1985)
Sweet Baby James by James Taylor (August 1989)

(In his Top 10 Billboard Album Charts (1963-1998), Joel Whitburn lists the Chicago album as Chicago II. The title on the spine of my 1970 LP is simply Chicago, which is how I present it here. The use of Roman numerals by the band began with Chicago III.)

The months in parentheses above tell me when those albums came to my shelves. The only one of those albums that never showed up in my home is the one by the Jackson 5. (It seems as if I write that sentence, or others very similar, frequently, as I never bought an album by the Jackson 5, although I had numerous tracks by the group on various anthologies.)

Anyway, that’s a pleasant ten hours or so of listening. If I were asked to sort out a favorite from among those ten, I’d have a hard time choosing between the albums by Chicago, Joe Cocker and the Moody Blues. I think all of A Question Of Balance (along with the single version of the title track) is in the iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening; all of the first LP of the Chicago album is also there, so call it a tie.

As to Mad Dogs, three tracks show up in the device: “The Letter,” “Cry Me A River,” and “Give Peace A Chance.” I’ve got the album on CD, but it’s one that rarely gets popped into a player, unlike a couple other Joe Cocker efforts. I think that somewhere along the line the pace of the album became overwhelming and not very much fun anymore, kind of like a eighty-minute adrenaline rush that leaves you exhausted instead of fulfilled.

That’s possibly even the case when the single tracks pop up on random, but then, something else comes along, something by Bread or maybe even Steely Dan that isn’t nearly so manic. So, just for fun, I’m going to cue up “Cry Me A River” in iTunes and see what comes next.

And – in a demonstration that my iPod might be the most eclectic listening device in Minnesota, if not the Upper Midwest or even a larger area – we get a track from a 1964 album I wrote about in a post almost ten years ago. When my sister bought the album in the mid-1960s, it was titled Traditional Jewish Memories. When I found it as a CD in 2010, it had been retitled as Hava Nagila & Other Jewish Memories (and now, seemingly, has been retitled again as Traditional Jewish Melodies). Here, performed by the Benedict Silberman Orchestra & Chorus, is “The Welcoming Melody.”

No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (October 1970)

October 7th, 2020

Despite the concern at plowing fields already set into furrows, we’re going to play a game of Symmetry this morning and check out the record that was at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 during the first portion of October fifty years ago, in 1970.

We’ll start with a look at the top five from the Hot 100 as offered in the magazine’s October 10 edition:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent quarter-hour of listening. There might have been times over the past half-century when I would have looked askance at the Jackson 5 or Dawn singles, finding them a little bit lightweight, but these days, they’re fine. Neither one of them has been plugged into the iPod, where I find my day-to-day listening, but after this morning, they’ll be on the short list, with “Candida” a little closer to the top than “I’ll Be There.”

The Diana Ross and Free singles are in the iPod, but somehow while I was reloading the device after getting a new computer during the summer. I managed to do so without selecting any tracks by Neil Diamond. That oversight will be corrected today, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will be one of the tracks selected.

And what of our main business today? Well, sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago this week was a record that takes me back to late autumn evenings in 1970, when it was just me and my RCA radio killing time in my bedroom. Among the songs I heard that autumn was the only Top 40 hit by the English band named after its vocalist: “Yellow River” by Christie.

The record, says band leader and writer Jeff Christie, was inspired by the thoughts of a soldier going home after the American Civil War. Given the era in which it was released, with the U.S. still entangled in the Vietnam War, many listeners thought the record was about current events. On a page on his website, Christie has collected comments he’s received about the record over the years from Vietnam vets and others who lived through the times.

Fifty years ago this week, “Yellow River” was on its way to a peak of No. 23 in late November. The record also went to No. 22 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. A later single from the group, “San Bernadino,” got to No. 100 in late January 1971. (And yes, the record’s title misspelled the name of the California city.)

Here’s “Yellow River.”

Saturday Single No. 707

October 3rd, 2020

We’re going to play some Games With Numbers today as we seek a song to highlight this morning, taking today’s date – 10/3/20 – and turning it into 33. Then we’ll take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 charts closest to this date in four years from my so-called sweet spot and see what was sitting at No. 33 at those times. As we nearly always do, we’ll take a look at what was sitting at No. 1 at the time as well.

We’ll start in 1969, during my first season of Top 40 fandom. And we fall on “In A Moment” by the Intrigues, a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before. It was released on the Yew label, which Discogs tells me was based in New York, but it sure has echoes of Motown and its subsidiaries. (Well, I’m not sure about the organ fill.) The Intrigues themselves were from Philadelphia, and “In A Moment” was their best charting record, peaking at No. 31 on the Hot 100 and at No, 10 on the Billboard R&B chart. I bet that if I didn’t listen to anything else in the course of creating this post, “In A Moment” – propulsive, catchy and nicely done – would be rolling through my head for a good part of the day.

The No. 1 record during the first days of October 1969 was “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies.

Two years later, as the rigors of college academic life were beginning to reveal themselves, the record sitting at No. 33 was another piece of R&B, this one smoother and more heart-broken, “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)” by the Dells. The record fits right into the catalog of the Chicago-based group, but it rose only another three spots on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 30; on the R&B chart, however, it got to No. 10. The track also serves as a reminder that I need to get more tunes by the Dells onto my digital shelves.

The No. 1 record the first weekend of October 1971 was Rod Stewart’s double-sided “Maggie May/Reason To Believe.”

The first weekend of October 1973 found me quaffing Danish beer and pondering Viking burial mounds. The Top 40 was a long way from my thoughts, and it would in fact be years until I heard the record that was at No. 33 that weekend: “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” by the Looking Glass. It’s an okay story record in the “two kids wanna get out of town” genre, but what makes it work for me is the backing track with its swirling organ solo and some tasty fills along the way. The record was at its peak on the Hot 100, and it went to No. 16 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. It was the last charting record for the group from New Jersey.

The No. 1 record during the first week of October 1973 was Cher’s “Half-Breed.”

October of 1975 was, as has been noted here numerous times over the past decade-plus, the centerpiece of one of the best seasons of my life. Given that, one would hope for a classic record to be perched at No. 33 in the first Hot 100 of the month. What we get is “The Way I Want To Touch You” by the Captain & Tennille. Well, it’s a sweet love song with excellent production, a better record as I listen to it this morning than it is in my memory. It was on its way to No. 4 on the Hot 100 and to a two-week stay at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart.

The No. 1 record during the first days of October 1975 was “Fame” by David Bowie.

And even though I’m still not sure about the organ fills in the background, we’re going to make “In A Moment” by the Intrigues today’s Saturday Single.