Archive for the ‘Survey Digging’ Category

Saturday Single No. 531

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

We’re gonna do the fifty years ago thing this morning because it’s fun and because the Airheads Radio Survey Archive just happens to have in its files the “The Big 6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from March 11, 1967, fifty years ago today.

And to find our Saturday Single, we’ll play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 3/11/17 – and check out the records that were at No. 11, No. 17 and No. 28 in “The Big 6+30” from that long ago date.

But first, let’s think about March of 1967 from the view of a 13-year-old whiteray. He was making his way through the thickets of eighth grade, dealing well enough with a basic curriculum of geometry, geography, English, Earth science, industrial arts and phy. ed. (Looking back fifty years this morning, I’m surprised that I don’t recall any art classes from that year; perhaps the junior high powers had observed my efforts during seventh grade and had wisely decided there was no point in investing any more tempera paint or India ink into my decidedly mediocre work.)

He’d had his tonsils out in February, and his throat was still a little tender. His heartfelt overtures to a cute blonde contemporary had been rebuffed sometime that winter, and his feelings were still a little tender. And he’d been kept after school sometime over the winter for defacing, literally, a magazine cover.

One thing he wasn’t doing – as I’ve noted here many times over more than ten years – was paying any attention to KDWB and its Top 40 music. He heard the station’s output at home when his sister listened and at friends’ homes, so much of what was on “The Big 6+30” fifty years ago would have been familiar if not favored. Here’s the station’s Top Five from that week:

“Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher
“My Cup Runneth Over With Love” by Ed Ames
“Kind Of A Drag” by the Buckinghams
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by the Electric Prunes

Of those five, the only one I knew well was Ames’ single, and being even then an utter romantic, I adored it. Could I have told you why? Not then. (I could now, I think, but there’s no point in my trying after reading my pal jb’s tender assessment of the record in a post from five years ago at And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.) And I would have heard Ames’ single more frequently on the Twin Cities’ WCCO or St. Cloud’s KFAM, as the record topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart (now called Adult Contemporary) for four weeks that winter.

Three of the other four in that top five are vague portions of the soundtrack of those times. The only one of KDWB’s Top Five that doesn’t ring old bells is the single by the Electric Prunes. But what about our three targets for this morning’s exercise?

Sitting at No. 11 in KDWB-Land was “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group. The No. 17 slot was occupied by “So You Want To Be A Rock ’N’ Roll Star” by the Byrds. And the No. 28 record in “The Big 6+30” was “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casino.”

I don’t recall the Byrds’ single from my life in 1967. The other two records ring those old bells: “Gimme Some Lovin’” because its unmistakable intro would have ingrained itself into the head of any kid whether he liked rock music or not, and the Casinos’ record because it was pretty and romantic, qualities that spoke to the awkward and lonely lad that I was. It was also fairly pragmatic, given the repeated line, “If it don’t work out,” a subtle virtue I did not grasp then and would not grasp in music or romance for many years to come.

By this time fifty years ago, the Casinos’ record had already peaked at No. 14 on KDWB and was on its way down. In the Billboard Hot 100 fifty years ago this week, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” was peaking at No. 6. (Given that the record was so clearly out of step with nearly every trend in pop music at the time, sounding like it belonged to, say, 1961 instead of 1967, I was startled to see this morning that it made no dent in the Easy Listening chart.)

So, it’s pretty, romantic and pragmatic; it’s only been mentioned twice here in more than ten years (once in 2007 and once earlier this winter); and it reminds me of a thirteen-year-old whiteray anxiously awaiting the day when he’d understand both girls and love (and of course, he still doesn’t fully understand either). Because of all that, the Casinos” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” is today’s Saturday Single.

The Starship Sampler, Part 2

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Last week, we took a look at the top singles listed by St. Cloud’s WJON in its Starship Sampler dates February 6, 1976. (The sampler images were, as I noted, a gift from regular reader Yah Shure.) Today, we’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” on the back of the sampler and see what we can glean from that list. (The scan is here).

Here are the top ten albums (with a couple of titles corrected).

Desire by Bob Dylan
Fool For The City by Foghat
Alive by Kiss
History by America
Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates
Captured Angel by Dan Fogelberg
Face The Music by the Electric Light Orchestra
Eric Carmen
Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
Chicago IX, Chicago’s Greatest Hits

That would be a decent seven hours or so of listening, with a few caveats from my side of the speakers. Seven of those records eventually showed up in the vinyl stacks; the ones that did not were the ones by Foghat, Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra. (No Foghat or Kiss ever showed up among the vinyl; three other albums by ELO eventually did, and the Foghat album is present on the digital shelves.)

So, are any of those essential as albums in these precincts? As albums, I see only one: Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a little startling to see a 1973 album on a 1976 survey, given that the entry of the re-release of “She’s Gone” into the Billboard Hot 100 was still five months in the future, but from the sweet “When The Morning Comes” through the funk-to-rock-to-hoedown epic “Everytime I Look At You,” it’s a joy.

Dylan’s Desire comes close, missing the cut because of the eleven-minute tale of gangster Joey Gallo. So does the Paul Simon album, missing the cut for no particular reason.

But perhaps, as we did the other day, it might be instructive to check out the 3,825 tracks in the iPod and see how well these albums are represented. Five tracks show up from the Hall & Oates album: “When The Morning Comes,” “Had I Known You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man),” and, of course, “She’s Gone.”

I find four tracks from Still Crazy After All These Years: The title track, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and two duets, “Gone At Last” with Phoebe Snow and “My Little Town” with Art Garfunkel. The only track present from Dylan’s Desire is “Black Diamond Bay,” though I may find room for “Hurricane.” America’s hits album is represented by “A Horse With No Name” and “Don’t Cross The River,” and I could throw “Sandman” in there.

As to the Electric Light Orchestra album, the iPod holds versions that appear to be single edits of “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” and the Chicago hits album is sort of represented there: I have the single version of “Make Me Smile” in the iPod, but I got it from the CD release of Chicago, the silver album. (The album offered edits of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” but I go with the full-length versions.)

Shut out on the iPod are the albums by Kiss, Foghat, Carmen and Fogelberg.

I’m not at all sure what that proves, but I find it interesting that the Hall & Oates album pleases me these days more than the Dylan, a judgment that I’m not sure I’d have made twenty or thirty years ago.

Here’s “Had I Known You Better Then” from Abandoned Luncheonette.

The Starship Sampler

Friday, February 17th, 2017

In one of those things that occasionally bedevil all of us in this digital world, I found myself for about two weeks unable to access my Yahoo! email account, the one that’s used for this blog and for offers to meet incredibly scrumptious women. When whatever gunked up the Intertubes cleared up – and I imagine it was a combination of digital Yahooligans and my own errors – I found a gift from regular reader and friend Yah Shure:

He sent along scans of the WJON/WJJO Starship Sampler from February 9, 1976, detailing thirty-eight top singles on each of the two St. Cloud stations – WJON was Top 40 (or near enough) and WWJO was (and still is) country – along with a list of 30 featured pop/rock albums on the back cover of the sampler. (Yah Shure had intended me to have the sampler in time to write about it on February 9, but whatever went wrong with my email put a dent in that idea, so we’re a little more than a week late, which seems like no big deal after forty-one years.)

The two stations, of course, were right around the corner and across the railroad tracks from my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard (and they’re still there in a newer building, just down Lincoln Avenue from our current place). For many years, WJON was one of the stations that gave me my evening Top 40 fix. Oddly enough, at the time of this particular sampler, that wasn’t the case: I was living in the Twin Cities, finishing an internship in television sports and getting my Top 40 from KDWB.

Still, it’s fun to know what the folks I left behind me in the Cloud were listening to, even though not much of it is surprising. Here is WJON’s Top Ten from that long-ago week:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

(I’m going to leave the country side of the sampler alone today except to note that “Convoy” was also No. 1 there.)

The only one of the pop Top Ten I did not recall was “Winners & Losers,” and a trip to YouTube did not impress me. The record, which went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, was HJF&R’s follow-up to the group’s No. 1 hit, “Fallin’ In Love,” which I also thought was a little flabby. (I’m not alone there. Yah Shure noted in a later email that both “Fallin’” and “Winners” were releases on the Playboy label, the group’s new home, and he noted that “their Playboy output was like listening to their Dunhill singles, minus any air in the tires.”)

The only surprise that Yah Shure pointed out on the Top 40 side of the sampler was the presence of Michael Murphey’s “Renegade” at No. 34, a decent enough record but one that I don’t recall at all. We both expressed amused bafflement that “The White Knight” by Cledus Maggard & The Citizens Band – a sort of rough-edged “Convoy” wannabee – sat at No. 26 on WJON. And he noted – half kidding, I think – that he was surprised that station owner Andy Hilger hadn’t “put the kibosh” on the station’s airing the Who’s naughty joke, “Squeezebox.”

Beyond that, the sampler was pretty much what you’d expect from early February 1976. There were a good number of records I recall fondly, some I love, some I don’t care about, and some I dislike. Beyond “Renegade,” there was only one I did not recall: David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love,” which sat at No. 19. A trip to YouTube refreshed my memory, and it fell into the “don’t care” category.

The interior pages from the February 9, 1976, Starship Sampler are here.

We’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” from February 9, 1976, early next week. And we’ll close today with a record that sat at No. 31 in the Starship Sampler that long-ago week, one that I like a great deal, and one that’s not been mentioned here since April 2007, Helen Reddy’s “Somewhere In The Night.”

‘New Jersey . . .’

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

With September here this morning, and considering the prospect of a 45-year high school reunion later this month, I thought about the long-ago month of September of 1971. As the month started, I was ready to go back to school, to get started on my freshman year at St. Cloud State.

But the fall quarter didn’t begin until sometime after September 20, leaving me three more weeks of scrubbing floors on campus during evening shifts with my friend Mike. The quarter’s late start was disconcerting; it felt odd to see the neighborhood kids head off to Lincoln Elementary, South Junior High and Tech High while I spent my daytime doing chores around the house and listening to the radio.

Here’s some of what I was hearing during those odd days, the top ten on the Twin Cities’ KDWB during this week in 1971:

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Wedding Song (There Is Love)” by Paul Stookey
“I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth
“Liar” by Three Dog Night
“Sweet Hitchhiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Beginnings/Colour My World” by Chicago
“Smiling Faces” by the Undisputed Truth
“Stick-Up” by the Honeycone
“Won’t Be Fooled Again” by the Who
“Bangla-Desh” by George Harrison

I liked all of those, some more than others, of course. I knew the Chicago B-side and the McCartneys’ record well by then, as Ram and Chicago were regularly on the turntable in the rec room. And as I looked this morning at the rest of KDWB’s 6+30 from that week, things were pretty familiar, too, until I got to No. 31: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

I knew the artists, of course. Their “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” is one of the records that brings back in an instant the summer of 1976 and my departure from Kilian Boulevard. But “New Jersey”? In 1971? I didn’t remember that from 1971 although something about the record was tickling my memory. So I went digging.

The record got some airplay on KDWB, but not a lot: It was in the 6+30 for about eight weeks and peaked at No. 22. How did it do elsewhere?

Well, the massive collection of Top 40 surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive shows little love for “New Jersey” anywhere except the Twin Cities. The record shows up on four other stations’ lists: It was listed as an “Instant Preview” in mid-August on the Music Guide offered by KRCB in Omaha/Council Bluffs. A week earlier than that, KAFY in Bakersfield, California, tagged the record “hit-bound” in its “Big 55.” In September, the record went to No. 12 on KSPD in Boise, Idaho, and to No. 7 on WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina.

Sadly, ARSA doesn’t have any surveys from stations in New Jersey during September 1971, nor are there any surveys there that came out of Austin, Texas, the duo’s home base, during that month. Maybe the record did better in those places, but I don’t know. In any case, even though ARSA doesn’t have complete archives, it seems to me that being listed on surveys from only five stations is a pretty slender showing.

Finally, we’ll go to the big book: Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where we find that “New Jersey” pretty well flopped: The A&M release bubbled under the Hot 100 for all four weeks of September 1971, never rising higher than No. 103.

For all that, it’s not a bad record, even though a first-time listener might think from the introduction that he’s listening to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” And with that in mind, I finally recalled where I’d previously heard “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley. The track was on a collection of the duo’s early work given to me about a year ago by pal Yah Shure. So here it is:

Saturday Single No. 507

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

There’s been some hoopla in recent weeks about the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ Revolver album. (And it’s been deserved hoopla at that: I’d put Revolver second among the Beatles’ oeuvre behind only Abbey Road and somewhere in the top dozen of the greatest albums of all time.) So I thought I’d check a few radio station surveys from August 20, 1966, and see what a few of the hits were fifty years ago today, when kids who bought Revolver the day it came our had been listening to it for a couple weeks.

(Of course, American kids were listening to an abridged and diminished version of the album, as Capitol sliced three tracks from the album and scrambled the original order of the ones remaining, which means that most listeners in the U.S. didn’t hear the album as it was originally envisioned until the group’s catalog was reissued on CD.)

So what was on the radio fifty years ago, based on a limited look? We’ll check out three station surveys and look at No. 8 and No. 20 (based on today’s date) and also take a look at No. 1.

First up is the WCTC Sound Survey out of New Brunswick, New Jersey, not all that far from New York City. The No. 8 record there was Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” which at the time was sitting at No. 10 in the Billboard Hot 100. At No. 20 in New Brunswick was the Mamas & The Papas’ “I Saw Her Again,” which Billboard had at No. 24. The No. 1 record on the Sound Survey fifty years ago today was the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City,” which also topped the Hot 100.

Not far away from me during that week fifty years ago – about 140 miles – WEBC in Duluth, Minnesota, offered “The Northland’s Original and Only Fabulous Forty Survey.” Parked at No. 8 was “Somewhere, My Love” by the Ray Conniff Singers (No. 19 in the Hot 100), while the No. 20 record on WEBC was Bryan Hyland’s “The Joker Went Wild” (No. 21). The top record in the Northland during that long-ago week was “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs (No. 3 in the Hot 100).

In southern California, some listeners were taking their cues from the KIST List sent out by KIST of Santa Barbara. Sitting at No. 8 in the KIST List that week was “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers (No. 27 in the Hot 100), while the No. 20 spot was occupied by “Tar & Cement” by Verdelle Smith (No. 38). The No. 1 record on KIST fifty years ago today was “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five, which would not enter the Hot 100 for another three weeks.

Looking at the three records from those three surveys brings something that’s rare and possibly unique. Usually, when I do these survey digging posts, I have some repeat records listed among the three to five stations I choose pretty much by whim. Today, we have nine different records. I don’t think that’s happened before, but if it has, it’s been rare.

We usually drop the No. 1 records, but I’m pretty impressed with the folks at KIST, who had “Psychotic Reaction” at No. 1 before it entered the Hot 100, so that one will be considered for today’s spotlight. Among the other eight records, most are familiar. I don’t remember hearing Hyland’s “The Joker Went Wild” before today, and I thought it was pretty slight. The rest I know, most of them well. The least-known of those in these precincts is probably “Tar & Cement.”

And there’s something else to consider this morning: In more than ten years of blogging about popular music, I have never once until today mentioned either Verdelle Smith or Count Five. And given that I want something with a little more bite to it this morning, here’s “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five, today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 499

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

So, as high school ended in early June 1971 and the summer stretched ahead, offering what turned out to be hours riding lawnmowers and wielding mops, what was I listening to?

Well, the first survey of June 1971 offered by the Twin Cities’ KDWB had this Top Ten:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Want Ads” by Honey Cone
“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Indian Reservation” by the Raiders
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Albert Flasher” by the Guess Who
“It’s Too Late” by Carole King
“Chick-A-Boom” by Daddy Dewdrop

The only one of those I do not recall is the Donny Osmond record. I listened to it the other day, and I don’t think I need to hear it again. Seven of the rest are on my iPod this morning; the two absentees are “Indian Reservation” and “Chick-A-Boom.”

By the time the summer drew to a close – and it was the longest summer break of my school days, as St. Cloud State did not begin its fall quarter until sometime around September 20 – here was KDWB’s Top Ten:

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Wedding Song” by Paul Stookey
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“I Woke Up In Love This Morning” by the Partridge Family
“Stick Up” by Honey Cone
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” by Mac & Katie Kissoon
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Superstar” by the Carpenters

Wow. Only three of those are among the more than 3,000 tracks on the iPod: The Bill Withers, the Lee Michaels and the Carpenters. Was it just an odd stretch on KDWB, or was it my changing tastes? Probably a little of both,

I got some records for graduation and added a few that summer. We may take a look at those acquisitions sometime soon, but for now, we’ll find a single among the twenty records that at least in a radio sense framed that long summer of 1971. And out of the ten of those twenty I still listen to today, one has never even been mentioned in more than nine years of filling up white space here.

That makes “Albert Flasher” by the Guess Who today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 493

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Wandering about the wilderness this morning in search of inspiration, I made my way to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, often a good place to find a nugget that points the way to a vein to be mined.

And I found something. It’s not the mother lode, but it’s something, and it leads the way to a group with a couple of Top 40 hits that has nevertheless managed to remain unmentioned during the nine-plus years I’ve been throwing stuff at the walls in this space.

I decided to scan the lengthy list of weekly surveys issued by the Twin Cities’ WDGY over the years. As I’ve noted before, KDWB was the Cities’ station where I got my fix. The only time I ever heard WDGY was when I wandered by the station’s booth during my youthful trips to the Minnesota State Fair, as we couldn’t hear the station in St. Cloud. The differences between the two stations’ playlists, as I’ve learned from other excursions to ARSA, are generally negligible, but it’s fun to have a doughnut from a different bakery once in a while.

So I scanned the list of WDGY’s survey dates and No. 1 records for early 1964, and saw what would be called an anomaly:

1964-02-01 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-08 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-15 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-22 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-02-29 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-07 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Want To Hold Your Hand
1964-03-14 Beatles / I Saw Her Standing There
1964-03-21 Beatles / She Loves You
1964-03-28 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-04 Beatles / Twist And Shout
1964-04-11 Serendipity Singers / Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)
1964-04-18 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-04-25 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-02 Beatles / Can’t Buy Me Love
1964-05-09 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-09 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-16 Beatles / P.S. I Love You
1964-05-23 Beatles / Love Me Do
1964-05-23 Beatles / P.S. I Love You

The fact that the Beatles dominated the top spot in WDGY’s survey at the time is not remarkable; that was happening all over the country. The fact that a record came along and broke the chain is not remarkable, either. That was bound to happen.

But the Serendipity Singers? Described by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles as a “pop-folk-novelty group” that hailed from Boulder, Colorado, the Singers, in 1964 and 1965, had two records reach the Billboard Top 40 and three more bubble under the Hot 100. Their music was slickly produced commercial folk, similar to – if less good than – the stuff that the New Christy Minstrels and the Seekers were putting out during pretty much the same time frame.

It’s not bad music, but that’s not the point. It’s just that the band’s appearance in the above list – as the breakers of the streak, as it were – is so unlikely. Given what I know and remember about the early months of 1964, if I’d been asked which record would butt into the Beatles’ long stretch, I’d have offered Louis Armstrong’s “Hello, Dolly!” And if I’d been looking at KDWB’s surveys, I’d have been correct: Armstrong ended a twelve-week Beatles’ streak there in the first week of May 1964.

The other thing that struck me – and that took a bit of digging – was that WDGY was one of the few stations that saw “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” reach the top spot in their surveys. From what I could tell this morning – and this ain’t a dissertation, so my research might have missed something – the Serendipity Singers’ record topped surveys that season at just three other stations: WAKY in Louisville, KQV in Pittsburgh and the mighty WLS in Chicago.

As to the national charts, “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” went to No. 6 in the Hot 100. (The Singers’ only other Hot 100 hit was “Beans In My Ears,” which went to No. 30 later that same spring.)

So here are WDGY’s Beatle-beaters, the Serendipity Singers, whose “Don’t Let The Rain Come Down (Crooked Little Man)” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 492

Saturday, April 16th, 2016

The Top Ten at the Twin Cities’ KDWB fifty years ago today was studded with records that were familiar to the kids around me at the time and have since become familiar to anyone who cares at all about mid-century Top 40 (or anyone, for that matter, who listened to the radio during Mrs. Villalta’s art classes at St. Cloud’s South Junior High School):

“(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers
“Bang Bang” by Cher
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas
“Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones
“Nowhere Man” by the Beatles
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Ssgt. Barry Sadler
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by B.J. Thomas & The Triumphs
“Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders
“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra

And looking further down the station’s “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, there are only three records that stick out as unfamiliar, two of which were debuting on the survey that week. Sitting at No. 33 in its first week in the survey was a country ditty called “Tippy Toeing” by three siblings from Arkansas who recorded as the Harden Trio. It would peak on KDWB at No. 23 in four weeks; nationally, it went to No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100, their only record to reach the pop chart. (The record went to No. 2 on the country chart, and the trio had two other records hit the country Top 40 in the next year.)

Parked at No. 40, and also in its first appearance on KDWB’s survey that long-ago week, was a drum-heavy cover of Bo Diddley’s “Mona” by a Twin Cities group called T.C. Atlantic. According to Discogs.com, the group put out at least seven singles and a live album from 1965 through about 1969. The record, which I think I would have dug in art class, peaked on KDWB at No. 30 in early May. It never got to the Billboard chart.

The third record unfamiliar to me in that April 16, 1966, survey is the Underbeats’ version of “The Book of Love” that was a little bit doo-wop and a little bit subdued garage rock. It was sitting at No. 12 in its fifth week on the survey, and it would go no higher. Like the T.C. Atlantic single, “Book of Love” would get no national notice.

But the Underbeats, well, they would get their shot at national attention four years later after revamping their style considerably and becoming the band Gypsy. I told the tale long ago, and over the past several weeks, as I’ve ferried the Texas Gal to and from work, among the music coming from the CD player in the car has been most of the early 1970s work from Gypsy, both the group’s self-titled album from 1970 and its 1971 follow-up, In The Garden.

And one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed most could easily have fit into our Long Form series here. I was reminded of it one evening this winter when I was driving home after a meeting at church. “Man,” I thought as I crossed the Mississippi River and headed down Kilian Boulevard, “that sounds like Gypsy.” I memorized a few of the lyrics in case I needed them, and almost as soon as I got into the house, I checked the playlist on WXYG. It was indeed Gypsy.

Tying all those threads together this morning – the Underbeats’ appearance in the KDWB “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, the presence of Gypsy in the car CD player in recent weeks, and a long track heard in that same vehicle on a cold evening sometime in the past few months – makes for an untidy piece of work, I suppose.

But I don’t care. The music hits my sweet spot, temporally and emotionally, and that’s why “As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel),” the longest track from Gypsy’s 1971 album In The Garden, is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 486

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

So, what were they listening to around the English-speaking world fifty years ago today? Let’s find out a little bit, anyway, by taking a look at four surveys offered at the Airheads Survey Radio Archive. We’ll check out the No. 27 record (selected for today’s date), hoping to find something worthy for a listen on a Saturday morning, and along the way, as we generally do, we’ll check out the No. 1 records.

Across the pond and anchored in the North Sea, Radio London was in its last year of sending its Fab 40 – as it called its survey – to British pop fans. The so-called pirate station began broadcasting in December 1964 and shut down in August 1967, when its activities became illegal under British law. It was still going strong in February of 1966, though, and fifty years ago today, it released its Fab 40 for the week. Parked at No. 27 was “Hide & Seek” by the Sheep, a record I don’t ever recall hearing. Checking the U.S. charts, I learn why: The record got only as high as No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100, and in those years before I was much of a pop listener, I wouldn’t have likely heard a record that didn’t make the Top Twenty.

The Sheep was actually the group the Strangeloves, who charted several times in 1965-66, most notably with “I Want Candy,” which went to No. 11 in the U.S. The joke, of course, is that the Strangeloves were marketed in the U.S. as wealthy Australian sheep farmers. As to “Hide & Seek,” a garage anthem heavy on the drums, bass and sax, the next week’s Radio London survey finds it moving up to No. 23. Sadly, the next two surveys are missing at ARSA, and by the time March 27 rolled around, “Hide & Seek” had dropped from the Fab 40.

The No. 1 record on Radio London fifty years ago today was “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” by the Kinks.

Heading Down Under, we check the Top 40 at 4BC in Brisbane, Queensland, where the No. 27 record on February 27, 1966, was “Wind Me Up (Let Me Go)” by Cliff Richard. I’ve written before that I’ve never quite understood the attractions of Cliff Richard’s music (save, perhaps, for “Devil Woman”), and if I didn’t get it during the years I listened to Top 40, I certainly wouldn’t have known anything from before those years, and that’s certainly the case with the plaintive “Wind Me Up (Let Me Go).” The record was on its way back down 4BC’s survey, having peaked a few weeks earlier at No. 13. It did not make the Billboard charts in the U.S., falling in the nearly four year period from August 1964 to June of 1968 when Richard was absent from the Hot 100.

The No. 1 record on 4BC fifty years ago today was “My Generation” by the Who.

Stepping on American soil, we head to the shores of Lake Michigan and check out the Silver Dollar Music Survey at WRIT in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And perched at No. 27 we find the melancholy classic “Crying Time” by Ray Charles. The record peaked there a week later at No. 25. Nationally, the record went to No. 6 in the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 5 on the magazine’s R&B chart and was No. 1 for three weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart. Even the kid who listened to trumpet music and soundtracks at the time remembers hearing that one coming out of the speakers.

The No. 1 record at WRIT fifty years ago was Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”

Our last stop this morning takes us northwest, across the Canadian border and up to Edmonton, Alberta, where CHED released its Hitline Top Thirty. Barely making the cut at No. 27 fifty years ago today was “Call Me” by Chris Montez. I know the song, and I suppose I’ve heard Montez’ version before; it went to No. 22 in the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the AC chart. But Montez’ voice is not one I would associate with the song; in my head, I hear a female voice, but it’s not Petula Clark’s version, which evidently was the original. Montez’ version is not bad, but his voice is pretty thin (and I’ve always though the same about his performance on his better-known hit, “Let’s Dance,” which went to No. 4 in 1962). I do like the backing on “Call Me,” and I note that “Let’s Dance” was included on the massive 2013 box set The Wrecking Crew: We Got Good At It, so it’s quite likely, I would think, that it’s the Wrecking Crew backing Montez on “Call Me.”

The No. 1 record in the Hitline Top Thirty fifty years ago today was “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’.”

So, we have four candidates. The Cliff Richard record drops out immediately, and the Sheep’s “Hide & Seek” – not awful but not what I needed this morning – goes next. “Call Me” is a great song, but Montez’ vocal just doesn’t do it for me. So we end up with Brother Ray, and that’s not a bad place to end up. Here’s “Crying Time,” today’s Saturday Single.

The First Slow Dance

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Last Sunday, after I sang “Come To Me” at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship, I wandered over to one of the activity tables. At the other tables, kids and adults were doing word puzzles, making posters and making balloon figures, all centered on Valentine’s Day.

The table where I sat had started with folks drawing random topics related to the day and telling tales from their lives. By the time I got there, the kids had moved to other tables, and the activity had evolved to the three or four adults sharing a tale on the same topic.

As I got settled, one of the women looked at me and said, “Okay, your turn. First crush?”

I thought for a few seconds. Evidently thinking I was struggling to remember, one of the women said something like “Men don’t remember that stuff.” And I told my tale.

She showed up on the first day of third grade, Marilyn did. Her folks had bought a restaurant in town and they’d set up housekeeping near the far end of Kilian Boulevard from us. I liked her, but no more than that for a couple of years.

Somehow, by the time fifth grade was ending, two years and nine months later, I really liked her, and I didn’t mind her knowing. I was pretty unclear on what might happen after that, but I wanted her to like me back. She did, kind of. At least, that’s what I perceived from quick glances and heard through whispers. But she didn’t like me as much as I liked her.

Well, it wouldn’t be the last time my ardor outpaced that of my chosen one.

That’s how it stayed through sixth grade. When we moved from Lincoln Elementary on to South Junior High in September 1965, I thought I’d try again (though I was still unclear on how to nurture a relationship and would remain so for some years).

She still kind of liked me, and I still liked her a lot.

Then came the seventh grade dance. I think it was our first of the year; it could have been the second one. That I don’t recall. For a while, many of us danced in groups, seemingly not wanting to pair off with anyone specific. I wanted to dance with Marilyn, of course, but seeking her out would be a very public declaration of what just my friends and hers knew about my feelings. Scary stuff. So I stayed with one group or another. Sometimes, I just watched from the boys’ side of the room.

Then the teacher running the record player announced a “girls ask boys” dance. I had little hope that Marilyn would invite me to dance, so I thought I’d sit that one out. Then Carrie came over to me. I didn’t really know her, though I’d likely seen her in the hallways. She smiled nicely at me as she invited me to dance, so we took the few steps out onto the dance floor. I don’t remember the record, but it was a fast dance. And when it was over, we each retreated to our side of the room.

After a couple more records, I decided that I was going to ask Marilyn to dance. In the short gap between records, I – shorter than most of my classmates – raised myself on tiptoes and scanned the room for her. As I did, my eyes caught those of Carrie’s friend Candace, who helpfully pointed out where Carrie was standing.

Not being a cad, I put on a smile, walked over to Carrie and asked her to dance. We got onto the floor just as a slow record started. I nervously put my hands on Carrie’s waist, she put hers on my shoulders, and I had the first slow dance of my life.

I remember thinking she had nice eyes. I remember liking her hair, which was in a sort of pixie cut. I remember her burgundy dress. I remember being thrilled and terrified at the same time. And I remember nothing else after those moments about that seventh-grade dance.

I should have, of course, tried to connect with her somehow in the days after the dance, maybe – as those things were done during seventh grade – through her friend Candace. I didn’t, and I don’t recall ever seeing her again.

And Marilyn? I never did dance with her. My crush on her faded, and I turned my gaze in other directions.

I’m not entirely certain when that dance took place. It was likely early in the school year, as I remember clearly that Carrie’s burgundy dress was sleeveless. (It could have been springtime, but I don’t think so; by that time, I was getting over Marilyn.)

And I don’t recall at all what record was playing as I danced with Carrie. Given what I find on various WDGY surveys from the late summer and early autumn of 1965 at Oldiesloon, it could have been the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” It might have been the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” Maybe it was “Baby, I’m Yours” by Barbara Lewis.

Whatever the record was, it should have been “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by the Silkie. The British group’s cover of the Beatles’ tune was first mentioned in a WDGY survey at the beginning of October that year and peaked there at No. 17 late that month. And it would have been perfect for my first slow dance with Carrie: