Archive for the ‘1969’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (December 1969)

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

We’re back after a week filled with snow, a holiday and more snow. We probably got eleven or so inches of snow here, though the official count for the city showed less. And the two storms were sandwiched around Thanksgiving; we made our customary trip to Maple Grove, fifty miles away, and celebrated with my sister, her husband and their son.

And all we’re going to accomplish in this corner today is a brief post looking back again at the late autumn of 1969, checking out the Billboard Hot 100 from around this time during that season, looking at the Top Ten and then dropping down to the bottom of the chart.

The Top Ten fifty years ago this week was:

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Wedding Bell Blues” by the 5th Dimension
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Some Day We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes
“Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night

Well, wow. That’s fifty minutes of living in a country long gone but still present. I’ve probably written, sometimes at length, about all twelve of those records singly – certainly about most of them – but seeing them stacked like 45s in sequence leaves me, well, wordless. I remember how I felt back then – the only record from that time that would make this stack more potent would be Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”* – but trying to put that into words this morning is a task I cannot accomplish.

And that’s a reminder that back then – fifty years ago – a lot of my life ran through music, mostly through the radio but increasingly through LPs and cassettes as well: I had the Beatles’ two singles and the Blood, Sweat & Tears record on tapes and the 5th Dimension single on an LP. I was listening to the same music as my peers, and that was new to me. The autumn of my junior year was, in most ways, a fine time.

And as if I need confirmation that those records mattered to me and still do, every one of those twelve singles has a place among the 3,900 or so tracks in the iPod.

But what of our other business today? What do we find lurking on the lowest rung of the Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week? We find a rarity, a record that spent one week at No. 100 and then went away forever: “Camel Back” by a group called A.B. Skhy. And as it happens, we’ve dabbled in this Hot 100 before, about six years ago. Here’s what I wrote about A.B. Skhy and “Camel Back” then:

In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn notes that the group came from San Francisco, but the notes at the video I found this morning indicate a significant Wisconsin background for the group, and Wikipedia in fact says that the group began in Milwaukee during the late 1960s as New Blues. Once in California and playing as A. B. Skhy, the original lineup – along with a seven-piece horn section, according to William Ruhlmann of All Music Guide – recorded one self-titled album for MGM and released the one single, which was written by the group’s keyboard player, Howard Wales. (After some personnel changes, the group recorded and released a second album in 1970.)

That was six years ago, and that’s long enough for the record to have a second listen here. Here’s “Camel Back” by A.B. Skhy:

*It turns out that Christie’s record had left the Hot 100 after the November 8 chart.

Saturday Single No. 667

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Let’s take a look at the top ten LPs in the Billboard 200 during this week in 1969, fifty years ago:

Abbey Road by the Beatles
Led Zeppelin II
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas
Puzzle People by the Temptations
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Johnny Cash at San Quentin
Santana
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! by Janis Joplin

At the time the chart came out – on November 29, 1969 – three of those albums were in the house on Kilian Boulevard. I had the Beatles and BST on cassette and the Johnny Cash album on LP. I was far more in tune with current trends than I had ever been (even though that didn’t take much movement).

These days, I can do without the Tom Jones, I never really liked the Kozmic Blues album, and I never had the Temptations’ album (getting along with anthologies of their singles instead). The other seven, I like just fine, and they all showed up eventually – along with the Joplin – in the vinyl stacks and on the digital shelves. Four of them – the Beatles, CSN, BST and Cash – are also on the CD shelves here.

Singles from at least eight of those albums – all except the Jones and the Joplin – were coming out of my radio speakers that autumn, and I liked most of them. (I still care very little for CCR’s “Down On The Corner.”) Still new to Top 40 listening, one of the singles from that group of albums startled me the first time I heard it, and I was also startled on second and third hearings to realize that I liked it.

And just that little bit of memory is enough this morning to make Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” today’s Saturday Single.

The Moody Blues in 1969, No. 2

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

As was noted the last time we talked about the Moody Blues in the context of their two 1969 albums (a discussion found here), I noted a couple of tracks that I thought missed the mark on To Our Childrens Childrens Children and promised to do the same for the other album from that year, On The Threshold Of A Dream.

Well, as I listen to Threshold, I’m reminded of a discussion I’ve seen or heard many times over the years, most recently among the members of a Facebook group devoted to music of the 1970s: An artist or group releases its debut album to acclaim, having spent at least a couple years putting together the material, and is then expected to produce another album in a very short time, resulting in a less-than-stellar effort. I think, to an extent, the same thing happened with Threshold, sandwiched as it was between 1968’s In Search Of The Lost Chord and To Our Childrens Childrens Children, released later in 1969: The work on Threshold kind of pales in comparison to the albums that bracket it.

Now, as I noted when I discussed it (here), I wasn’t all that impressed with Lost Chord when I first heard it in 1972, and it’s still not high on my list. But I’ve come to realize in the last few months of heavy Moody Blues listening that at least the songs on Lost Chord, though flawed, are interesting. The songs on To Our Childrens Childrens Children are generally interesting, though – as I noted in that post a little more than a week ago – I have a few quibbles with some of them.

But the songs on the album between those two albums – On The Threshold Of A Dream – are for the most part dull. They’re competently arranged and played, but as I ran the album through the CD player a few times and then played individual tracks sitting at my desk, I found myself less and less interested in the album. Nothing on what was Side One in the LP configuration grabs hold of me positively, and only the first track on what was Side Two does so: “Never Comes The Day,” which I find one of the group’s best efforts ever.

After “Never Comes The Day,” another few tracks meander by until we get to “The Dream,” which does commands my attention because it’s another one of those spoken word tracks the Moodies liked to throw out in the early years:

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Came to witness spring’s new hope, born of leaves decaying.
Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.
Live hand-in-hand and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a dream.

Heavy, man.

The album closes with “Have You Heard (Part One),” “The Voyage” and “Have You Heard (Part Two),” all of which ends with about a minute of not quite white noise slowly fading into silence. And I imagine that all of it seemed quite astounding and deep in a college dorm room in 1969. Or maybe it sounded mostly silly and pretentious then, too.

A lot of folks were listening to the two 1969 albums: On The Threshold Of A Dream spent 136 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 20 , and To Our Childrens Childrens Children was on the chart for forty-four weeks, peaking at No. 14. But only one single from the two albums charted: “Never Comes The Day” lurked near the bottom of the magazine’s Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 91. I’d say it deserved better.

I gave In Search Of The Lost Chord a letter grade when I discussed it (a C-), so I suppose I had better keep doing that as I wander through the rest of the Moody Blues’ catalog. On The Threshold Of A Dream earns a C- as well, and To Our Childrens Childrens Children gets a C, mostly because it has better songs (and because, having learned in the last week that the album was a response/tribute to the Apollo 11 moon landing, I now hear its introductory track as a little less ludicrous).

Here’s “Never Comes The Day,” the best track on either of the two 1969 albums (though “Gypsy” from To Our Childrens Childrens Children comes close).

Note: I’m bothered by the missing apostrophes in the title of To Our Childrens Childrens Children, but the title – as ill-advised as it might be – is the title.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, October 25th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’ll go back to the last week of October in 1969 during my first autumn as a dedicated Top 40 listener. We’ll take a look at the top of the chart and then drop down to No. 50.

The top five records in the Billboard Hot 100 released fifty years ago today were:

“I Can’t Get Next To You” by the Temptations
“Hot Fun In The Summertime” by Sly & The Family Stone
“Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies
“Jean” by Oliver
“Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley

As most top fives from that season would be, that’s a nice eighteen or so minutes of music. I don’t recall the Temptations’ single getting as much airplay as a No. 1 record would get. And it turns out the record is absent from all the autumn 1969 surveys from the Twin Cities’ KDWB that are offered at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. And that leaves me wondering how many No. 1 singles over the years failed to reach the station’s survey. Can’t be many.

As to the other four, I recall hearing all of them often and liking them all. My favorite among them is “Suspicious Minds,” which I think is the best post-1950s single Elvis ever released, maybe the best ever. (I’m not going to wade into it today.) And four of the five – all except “Sugar, Sugar” – are among the 3,900 or so on my iPod, meaning they’re still among my current listening.

But how about our other business? What was sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago today? Well, it’s not in the iPod, and it’s not one I recall. It’s “Time Machine” from Grand Funk Railroad, the first Hot 100 hit from the band from Flint, Michigan. It would rise two more spots and peak at No. 48. The band’s first Top 40 hit would be “Closer To Home (I’m Your Captain),” which went to No. 22 in 1970, and the trio would hit No. 1 in September 1973 with “We’re An American Band” and in May 1974 with “The Loco-Motion.”

Here’s “Time Machine.”

The Moody Blues in 1969, No. 1

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

As I’ve noted in earlier posts – without actually saying so, I imagine – I came late to the Moody Blues (as is true of most pop-rock music), only beginning to listen to them in the early 1970s. The first of their albums that I was aware of at the time of its release was 1971’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and the first Moodies album I acquired close to the time of its release was 1972’s Seventh Sojourn.

So I missed the band’s deepest forays into what I call “hippie mysticism,” which is my stereotypical shorthand for the ethos that led college students and others of their age during the very late 1960s and very early 1970s to utter murmurs of admiration for the deep ideas they garnered from the LPs on their turntables. That’s caricature, of course, but I heard enough folks around me during my first two years of college (during the early 1970s) telling me how deep the Moody Blues’ albums were, how filled with insights each song was, to wonder if I was missing something.

The sources of those murmurs and assessments were four albums: In Search Of The Lost Chord from 1968, On The Threshold Of A Dream and To Our Childrens Childrens Children, both from 1969, and A Question Of Balance from 1970. The first of those four was discussed her not quite two weeks ago, and we’ll take on A Question Of Balance in the near future. This week, we’re going to briefly tackle the middle pair of those four albums.

Why briefly? First of all, I know those two albums less well than most of the rest of the group’s catalog. I missed them when they came out, and they were the last two of the Moody Blues’ original releases to find their ways to the vinyl shelves, arriving there during the summer of 1998. (I played both once and placed them on the shelves, probably vowing to get back to them, a vow unkept until this year.) And they were among the last CDs to arrive here on the North Side during this summer’s spree.

And briefly, too, because – being far removed from the late 1960s and also being a far more critical listener than I was then – I don’t find the two albums to be much more than collections of mostly pleasant and occasionally impressive songs. Both, seemingly, were considered “concept albums” when they were released, but I’m not sure what the topics under discussion were. Maybe that means I’m just shallow. Maybe it means that I need to listen to the two albums over and over and over. Or maybe it means that the two albums are just collections of (generally) good songs with a couple of tricks used that seem to set the tables and the bind the things together.

Both start with silly introductions: To Our Childrens Childrens Children starts with a track called “Higher and Higher” that gives us a crescendo of instruments and voices starting from nothing and truly going higher and higher for ninety seconds until the band kicks in underneath a spoken verse:

Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
With the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes
Man with his flaming pyre
Has conquered the wayward breezes

Climbing to tranquility
Far above the cloud
Conceiving the heavens
Clear of misty shroud

Maybe it was far out in 1969, as we said back then. (Yeah, I called things “far out” for about two weeks.) But it seems lame now (and probably did back then to those less impressionable). But however much it limps, it’s a far better start than the conversation between an unformed youth and a computer that starts On The Threshold Of A Dream. “In The Beginning,” as the conversation is called, is just silly and painful to listen to.

Both of those introductions kind of sour the modern listener on both albums, I think (having listened to both entire albums about four times each in the last couple months). Using the “skip” button on a CD player at the beginning of each album gives that modern listener a much better experience.

There are still some misses: The two-part “Eyes Of A Child” and the split “I’d Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred/Million” on Children would each have been served better, I think, as single tracks. And “Candle Of Life” on the same album offers majestic music accompanied by lyrics that had to have seemed trite even at the moment they came out of John Lodge’s pen:

Something you can’t hide
Says you’re lonely
Hidden deep inside
Of you only
It’s there for you to see
Take a look and be
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

Something there outside
Says we’re only
In the hands of time
Falling slowly
It’s there for us to know
With love that we can go
Burn slowly, the Candle of Life

So love everybody and make them your friends
So love everybody and make them your friends

But the music is lovely. So listen to “Candle Of Life” and stop back here later in the week when we’ll look at a few missteps from On The Threshold Of A Dream and note a few tracks on both albums that I think rise above their general qualities.

Saturday Single No. 662

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

All right, it’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’re going to take today’s date – 10-12-19 – and turn that into 41, and then we’re going to check out the records at No. 41 on few Billboard Hot 100s from this week over the years to find a tune to feature this morning. Since we’re fifty years out from 1969 – a year favored greatly here – we’ll head to October of that year and then move five years away in both directions for a couple of other years as targets: 1964 and 1974.

As we generally do when we play these games, we’ll check out the No. 1 and No. 2 records from those weeks along the way.

We’ll start in 1964. The record sitting at No. 41 in a chart released fifty-five years ago this week was “I Like It,” the fourth charting record for the Merseyside group of Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Two of the group’s singles had reached the Billboard Top Ten earlier in the year: “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” had gone to No. 4 during the first weeks of summer, and “How Do You Do It” had reached No. 9 during the first week of September. Oddly, the same week that “How Do You Do It” (b/w “You’ll Never Walk Alone”) entered the Hot 100, so did the group’s “I’m The One,” which had “How Do You Do It” as its B-side.

That seems strange, and I’ll need someone wiser than I in the ways of record companies to explain. In any case, “I’m The One” stiffed at No. 82, leaving “I Like It” as the follow-up to that odd set of releases. Actually a re-release of a 1963 single that did not chart, “I Like It” went to No. 17.

It’s an okay record, but then, the only thing I ever loved by Gerry & The Pacemakers was “Ferry Cross The Mersey,” which I heard a fair amount at home in early 1965 because my sister bought the record. So “I Like It” seems a little pale to me.

Sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the Hot 100 released October 10, 1964 were, respectively, “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann.

Five years later, the record at No. 41 was one that I’ve written about before: “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South. In a meditation on how music reflects the desire to return to a better time and/or place, I wrote:

Joe South’s 1969 lament, “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home,” mourned the changes brought to his home place – and by extension, the entire south – by the so-called progress of that decade, which replaced orchards with offices and meadows with malls (and the orchards and meadows continue to disappear to this day, of course, not just in the south but all across the country).

The era during which Joe South sang – those volatile years from, say, 1965 to 1975 – was one of displacement for a lot of folks. Many of those who were displaced, of course, had not one bit of use for rock or soul or any of their relatives; they instead found their solace in gospel music or in the country stylings of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and their contemporaries. But the sense of longing wasn’t limited by genre. It’s not an accident that one of the better singles of the Beatles, the best group of the time – or any time, for that matter – told us all to get back to where we once belonged. We all wanted to go home.

Oddly enough, for a record of such subtle power during a time of confusing change, “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” did not make the Top 40. It peaked right where it sat fifty years ago yesterday, at No. 41.

Parked at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, during that week were “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies and “Jean” by Oliver.

Five years after that, at October 1974 hit the one-third point, the record at No. 41 was a profession of faith and a prayer for endurance that crossed over from the country chart and provided its singer with her only pop hit. Marilyn Sellars (who turns out to have been born in the college town of Northfield, Minnesota) put a couple of records into the Country Top 40 in the mid-1970s.

The one we’re concerned with today is “One Day At A Time,” which, forty-five years ago today, was a week past its pop peak at No. 37. Written by Marijohn Wilkin and Kris Kristofferson, “One Day At A Time” peaked on the country chart at No. 19. For the record, Sellars’ other country hit, a plaint of lost love titled “He’s Everywhere,” went to No. 39 in early 1975.

Sitting at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, during this week in 1974 were “I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John and “Nothing From Nothing” by Billy Preston.

So, given those three to consider, there’s not much question about which direction we’ll go this morning. Almost by default, Joe South’s “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 660

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Rummaging about in the archives this morning, I came across this piece from December 2007. It’s a meditation on words that I thought I’d resurrect – edited slightly – this Saturday morning:

I remember reading a piece – likely in the newspaper – about a linguistics professor who had taken it upon himself to determine the most beautiful word in the English language. I don’t recall when I read that, nor do I remember which university was involved, but I do recall that the professor concluded that the most beautiful word in the language was “cellar door.

First of all, that’s two words. (It could be that the professor was considering sets of words.) Second, although the two words together do have a nice sound, words are more than sounds. Maybe as a linguist, one can separate the sound of the word from the meaning of the word, but as a writer, I can’t. And “cellar door” isn’t going to make the cut.

So what are the most beautiful words in the language? After all, if I’m going to quibble about someone else’s judgment, I’d better have some idea of my own, right? Well, I don’t have a Top Ten list, but I do have a couple of words. I think “home” and “tomorrow” top the ranks of English words.

Home, as poet Robert Frost noted, is our last refuge: the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. We all need such a place. In fact, I don’t think it’s at all far-fetched to say that, whatever else we do with our lives, our main business here is seeking and creating a better refuge, a better place, a better home. In terms of pure sound, it’s a rather plain word, but its meaning makes “home” the sound of belonging somewhere. When we don’t have that, we ache, and when we find it, we are healed. How much better can one word be?

“Tomorrow” comes close. For someone as attuned to the past and as intrigued by memoir and memory as I am, it’s odd in a way that I didn’t select “yesterday” as one of my top two words. But as much as any of us might ponder yesterday and its lessons, we know all about it. And “tomorrow” brings the promise that things can change, that we can use yesterday’s lessons to make things better as they come to us.

Thinking about tomorrow is an act of optimism, it seems, maybe even an act of courage, even if all one is doing is putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

To accompany that, I sorted the 70,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer and looked for those with “tomorrow” in their titles. And a tune from my old favorites Brewer & Shipley caught my ear. “Too Soon Tomorrow” is more plaintive than hopeful, perhaps, but I think it still fits here today. It’s from the duo’s 1969 album, Weeds, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (September 1969)

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Around here, we like our game of Symmetry. It gives us an excuse to dig into old Billboard charts and listen to old records (as if we ever lack for reasons to do either of those things anyway). So we’re going to lean on the idea again today, heading back to mid-September of 1969, fifty years ago.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school, right around the time I got my first Beatles album in almost five years (Abbey Road, on a cassette my sister brought home from the mall), right around the time I began standing on the sidelines of the football field as a manager for the St. Cloud Tech Tigers, and right around the time I first noticed the new violinist in the high school orchestra (whose tale I told long ago).

The RCA radio newly installed in my bedroom was tuned during the early evening to WJON across the tracks and to Chicago’s WLS when I went to bed. And as I listened, I began to learn about music – and things about that music – that my peers had known for, oh, at least five years.

As always, we’ll stop first at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Here was the Top Ten as of September 20, 1969:

“Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
“Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night
“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” by Tom Jones
“Get Together” by the Youngbloods
“Jean” by Oliver
“Little Woman” by Bobby Sherman
“I Can’t Get Next To You” by the Temptations

Now, that’s forty minutes or so of radio bliss. The only one of those that doesn’t immediate play clearly in the radio of my head is the Tom Jones single, a re-release – as we discussed a little more than a month ago – of a 1967 single. The other nine make up a solid vein of AM gold for me.

And I am not at all surprised to find all nine of those records among the 3,900-some on the iPod and thus a part of my current playlist. I talk often about times that were formative for me; given my passion for music, those first months of Top 40 listening fifty years ago were just that.

But let’s go find our target for today, the single parked at No. 50 on the Hot 100 fifty years ago this week. And we come across a record by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles originally released as a B-side: “Here I Go Again.” It would peak at No. 37.

It’s a dreamy tune, perfect for a slow dance. And Smokey’s lyrics, well, as he did so many times, he knew exactly what so many of us were feeling in those days:

Saw you there and your laughter seemed to fill the air
A scent like perfume from your lovely hair
I said that I do adore

My heart said to me, don’t walk head on into misery
Hey, with your eyes wide open can’t you see?
A hurt’s in store just like before

Oh ho ho, but here I go again walking into love
Here I go again never thinking of
The danger that might exist
Disregarding all of this just for you

I ignore the detour sign
I won’t stop until you’re mine
I’m past the point of no return

Girl, you walk by and I said to me, myself and I
Now we’ve got to give it one more try
I know somehow the time is now, right now

Oh whoa, here I go again walking into love
Here I go again walking into love

Here I go, here I go
Here I go, here I go again

It’s probably just as well that I never heard the record fifty years ago.

What’s At No. 100? (August 1969)

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

It was in August 1969, as I’ve noted before, that I went down to the basement one evening and adopted my grandfather’s old RCA radio, which had been sitting on a shelf near my dad’s workbench, mostly unused, for some time. (As I think about it this morning, the radio might not actually have been that old: I vaguely recall that Grandpa had won it in a contest or something and didn’t need it, so he gave it to us, and it went on the shelf in the basement, obviously waiting for me to need it.)

I was just becoming interested in pop/rock radio in August 1969, so I asked if I could bring the brown and white radio up to my room. Dad had another radio by his workbench (always tuned to the country sounds of WVAL in nearby Sauk Rapids), so the RCA became mine.

So, as August 2019 nears its end, I thought we’d play What’s At No. 100, taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the last week of August fifty years ago. But since we looked a 1969 Top Ten the other week when considering Woodstock Weekend, we’ll do things a bit differently this time. We’ll look at the records at No. 10, No. 20, and so on until we get to No. 100. Most of the records we chance on, I assume, will be familiar; some may not. (The number in parentheses at the end of each entry is its peak in the Hot 100.)

No. 10: “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & The Shondells (No. 2)
No. 20: “Workin’ On a Groovy Thing”: by the 5th Dimension (No. 20)
No. 30: “I Can’t Get Next To You” by the Temptations (No. 1)
No. 40: “It’s Getting Better” by Mama Cass (No. 30)
No. 50: “Simple Song Of Freedom: by Tim Hardin (No. 50)
No. 60: “Lowdown Popcorn” by James Brown (No. 41)
No. 70: “Ease Back” by the Meters (No. 61)
No. 80: “You, I” by the Rugbys (No. 24)
No. 90: “I Want You To Know” by the New Colony Six (No. 65)

The first four of those are familiar, of course, with the 5th Dimension single being more familiar back then from my having the album than from radio play. I noted the other week that I had to go to YouTube to refresh my memory of the Mama Cass single.

The lower five of that list, though, are fuzzy shading to blank. I doubt that I’ve ever heard the Tim Hardin single until today, although I’ve heard covers of the tune by Bob Darin and by the Voices Of East Harlem. I’ve also likely never heard “Lowdown Popcorn” or “Ease Back” until today, which is a result of my digital shelves having not nearly music from James Brown or the Meters. Too much music, too little time.

The Rugbys’ fuzz-charged single is vaguely familiar only because I came upon it not quite ten years ago when I dug into a WDGY survey from September 1969, and “I Want You To Know” is, again, only vaguely familiar.

So that didn’t go so well. But what’s at the bottom of the chart, right at No. 100? Well, we find a piece of funky blues from B.B. King, “Get Off My Back Woman.” That one is on the digital shelves here although I’m not at all certain where I found it. And it was received by listeners about the way most of his singles were received: It peaked at No. 74 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 32 – a little lower than I would have guessed – on the magazine’s R&B chart. (In just a few months, though, King would release the biggest hit of his career, “The Thrill Is Gone,” which went to No. 15 on the Hot 100.)

Chart success or not, “Get Off My Back Woman” is exactly what you want a B.B. King record to be: funky, melodic and plaintive.

Saturday Single No. 654

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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