Archive for the ‘1975’ Category

All In Texas

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

As we drove down the Interstate Saturday en route to meet friend and regular commenter Yah Shure for lunch, the radio offered us ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” I wondered out loud whether I should have included the record or the group’s “Legs” in this blog’s long-completed Ultimate Juke Box or the following series of posts called Juke Box Regrets.

Having decided that including ZZ Top’s “La Grange” in the long project was likely enough Texas boogie, I told the Texas Gal that one of my goals in life is still to drive through the streets of La Grange, Texas, with my car audio blaring out “China Grove.”

“Or the other way around?” she asked with a chuckle. That would do, too, I told her. And then she asked “But what about Luckenbach?” I said I wasn’t sure what to do about any visit to that city, and we began listing song titles that include the names of cities in Texas. It didn’t take us long to come up with a good list, and I’ve continued the work this week. So here’s a six-stop musical tour of the Lone Star State.

We’ll cross into the state from the Oklahoma panhandle, probably because someone told us to get of out Dodge City, just a ways north and east in Kansas. So the first major city we come to, smack-dab in the middle of Texas’ own panhandle is Amarillo. And it’s “Amarillo” by Emmylou Harris that starts off our musical tour. She’s lost her fellow, but not to another woman: “Oh I lost him to a jukebox and a pinball machine,” she sings.

The song, written by Harris and Rodney Crowell, was the opening track to Harris’ 1975 album, Elite Hotel. The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 25 on the Billboard 200. And we’re on our way south, noting that we could have listened to a couple of other tunes instead: “Midnight In Old Amarillo” by Cindy Cashdollar (2004) or “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait (1982).

But we head south to Lubbock and then make our way southeast to Abilene, which George Hamilton IV said, in his 1963 cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 song, was “the prettiest town I’ve ever seen.” Hamilton’s “Abilene” was a pretty major record, sitting on top of the country chart for four weeks and reaching No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 15 on the Hot 100.

The record was one of thirty-one that Hamilton got into the country Top 40 between 1960 and 1973. I have to admit that his work is mostly unfamiliar to me, and I may correct that. While in Abilene, we could also have listened to Bobby Bare’s 1963 cover of the same song, Dave Alvin’s similarly titled but entirely different song from 1998 or Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Way Out In Abilene,” which showed up for me on a 1973 album titled Legacy of the Blues, Vol. 12.

We head east along Interstate 20, now getting into parts of Texas I’ve seen, even if I don’t know them well. Eventually, we make it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and the first tune we come across is the 1984 single “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” by George Strait. His gal has gone to Dallas, not far away in miles, but far enough in culture. My take on the two cities – and the Texas Gal generally agrees – is that Dallas is a city that mixes Eastern and Southern cultures in a kind of uneasy truce, while Fort Worth, just thirty or so miles away, is a Western city, and the gap between the two is greater than the distance.

Strait’s record went to No. 1 on the country chart, one of an incomprehensible number of country hits in his column. (My copy of the Billboard Book of Top Country Hits goes through 2005, and Strait’s total at the time the book came out was eighty; All Music lists at least twenty country hits for Strait since then.) As we leave Fort Worth, we’ll skip Dallas and head south, but as we do, we can listen to Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Fort Worth” from 1968 and what seems to be an obscure single by Steely Dan from 1972 titled “Dallas.”

About ninety miles out of Fort Worth, we reach Waco and the Brazos River, where Billy Walker’s bandito was urging himself on in 1964’s “Cross The Brazos At Waco.”

The record went to No. 2 on the country chart and bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 128. “Cross The Brazos . . .” was one of thirty-eight records Walker put into the country Top 40 between 1954 and 1976. As we cross the Brazos and prepare to leave Waco, we can listen to Ronnie Dunn’s “How Far To Waco” from his 2011 solo album.

The road bends slightly to the southwest, and 180 miles later, we find ourselves in San Antonio. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys released two versions of one of his most famous songs: “San Antonio Rose” in 1938 had a traditional string band arrangement, while “New San Antonio Rose” in 1940 added horns and some odd vocal embellishments, but the two were essentially the same song.

As we head through San Antonio, we choose the instrumental “San Antonio Rose” by pianist Floyd Cramer. The 1961 single was the most successful of the records we’re listening to today: It went to No. 8 on both the country and pop charts and to No. 3 on the adult contemporary chart. There are no doubt other tunes about San Antonio, but they’re not on the digital shelves here, and as we drive southwest out of town, we listen to versions of Wills’ tune by Patsy Cline and Leon Russell.

Our last stop today is another 150 or so miles to the south: Laredo, right on the Rio Grande, celebrated in one of the great traditional American songs. The version of “Streets of Laredo” that we hear today is by Willie Nelson, found on his 1968 album Texas In My Soul. Oddly enough, no version of the song has hit the country Top 40, but a version by Johnny Cash bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 124 in 1965. (The tale of “Streets of Laredo,” as gathered at Wikipedia, is quite interesting.)

And if we’re in a mood for some different Laredo music as we reach the Rio Grande, there’s always the “Nuevo Laredo Polka” by Gilberto López, a 1950 track. And casting regretful thoughts toward records about El Paso, Houston, Brownsville, Galveston and more, we come to a stopping place.

‘He Did Me Wrong . . .’

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Sometime yesterday afternoon, my pal jb – the whiz behind the blog The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – found another website where I can lose myself for a few hours. Now, it’s not like I needed another such site – I already indulge my ADD tendencies in too many places on the Web – but when I saw how Rebeat describes itself, I knew I was lost, or would be soon:

REBEAT is a digital blog/magazine primarily dedicated to mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle. We say “primarily” because the category is so broad, and the mid-century influence is felt in waves rippling through time.

The specific piece from Rebeat that jb offered at Facebook was an appreciation by Sharon Lacey of country singer Bobbi Gentry on her 70th birthday, a piece that noted that Gentry hasn’t been seen or heard since the early 1980s and that went on to review Gentry’s life and career, assessing Gentry’s six albums (and her one-album collaboration with Glen Campbell) along the way.

I’ve got those seven albums, and I generally agreed with Lacey’s assessments. The piece offered a few bits about Gentry’s life that I’d not known, like the fact that she was once married to performer Jim Stafford, but the most intriguing bit of new information for me came near the end of the piece, when Lacey noted that Gentry’s last single, a 1978 release that went nowhere, was “Steal Away/He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right.”

It took me a second. I know “Steal Away.” It’s a tune that Jimmy Hughes wrote and took to No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1964 although I know Etta James’ 1968 version and Johnny Taylor’s 1970 cover better. And it turns out that I have Gentry’s 1978 version, which is pretty good.

What grabbed my eyes, though, was the B-side: “He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right.” I found it at YouTube:

While the track played, I clicked a few links and verified what I was pretty certain of: “He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right” came from the pen of my friend Patti Dahlstrom and her friend Al Staehely and was a track from Patti’s 1975 album Your Place Or Mine. (It’s also on the 2010 CD, Emotion: The Music Of Patti Dahlstrom.) Here’s Patti’s version:

So I’m going to go lose myself in Rebeat for a while today and see what other gems I can find that I either have forgotten or never knew about. In a related vein, I already know that there’s at least one more version of Patty’s and Al’s tune out there, but I think we’ll leave that, along with a surprise, perhaps, for tomorrow or Friday.

Saturday Single No. 450

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

A week ago, I mused here on things breaking down, noting our need for some repairs to the Nissan Versa and our need for a new recliner for the Texas Gal.

We got the first of those taken care of this week. The folks at the nearby tire place glanced at the car last weekend and told me there was a problem with the muffler, which is what I’d expected. They suggested that I take the car to a place up the road that deals with exhaust systems.

I’d been there before, likely for work on our long-gone Sentra, so on Monday, I took the Versa to the exhaust shop, and for a very reasonable price, the fellow there welded a patch and muffled the rumble. I asked him how long the repair would last, and he said about five to seven years. That sounded okay: The Versa is eight years old, and by that time, we’ll likely have replaced it. One thing solved.

The chair for the Texas Gal is more problematic. We’d like to avoid leather, because cat claws would rapidly leave scars in it. And fabric is difficult because everything we’ve looked at so far is made with polyester, and fumes from new polyester cause me great difficulty. We’re going to see if we can find anything made with natural fabrics, but price is a consideration. It’s a challenge, but we’ll find a solution, I’m sure.

There are, it turns out, many chairs – though none the Texas Gal can recline in – on the digital shelves here at the EITW studios. A search for “chair” brings up ninety-seven mp3s, ranging from a self-titled album by the 1960s group Comfortable Chair to about twenty mp3s that have the words “rocking chair” – or a variant thereof – in their titles.

Now, we’re not exactly looking for a rocking chair for the living room, but here that works fine. So, selected from a lot of similarly titled tracks, here is Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin’ Chair” from 1975. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Bit Of James Last

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

One of the better uses I’ve found for the files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 is to introduce me to new artists, performers whose work I never had a chance to hear, either because I wasn’t paying attention to pop music at the time or because their work languished in the lower levels of the chart during the years I was paying attention.

And this morning, I’m making a minor acquaintance with one such performer after his name caught my eye in the Hot 100 released on January 29, 1972, forty-three years ago today: James Last.

In that long-ago chart, Last’s “Music From Across The Way” was sitting at No. 85 in its third week on the chart; it would hang around one more week, rising to No. 84, and then drop out of sight. It would get to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart, which tells me I might have heard the record on WCCO, but the odds of that are slender; the kitchen radio was still tuned to ’CCO, but I wasn’t often listening there anymore.

Nor was I likely to have heard the bombastic cover of the tune that Andy Williams took to No. 30 on the Easy Listening chart about the same time. Five years earlier, when trumpet tunes, soundtracks and easy listening made up a lot of my musical menu, either version of the tune might have grabbed my ear and my allegiance, but not in early 1972, when pop and rock ruled my universe.

James Last had a long and incredibly successful career in Europe and Great Britain, as the biographies at All Music and Wikipedia make clear, but he was much less prominent on this side of the Atlantic. A few years after “Music From Across The Way” peaked at No. 84, a seemingly aimless “Love For Sale” disco-danced and bubbled under at No. 106 during the summer of 1975. Last’s most successful U.S. release came in 1980 when he recorded “The Seduction (Love Theme)” from the movie American Gigolo. The record, featuring the saxophone of David Sanborn, went to No. 28 in the Hot 100 and to No. 22 in the Adult Contemporary chart.

Am I going to dig deeper into Last’s work? Despite my love of easy listening music, probably not, with one exception: I saw a listing at YouTube for a 1973 album titled James Last In Russia, a collection of mostly Russian tunes (with the addition of “Midnight In Moscow,” No. 2 for Kenny Ball in 1962, and the ever-present “Lara’s Theme”). Given my love for easy listening music and my long-time fascination with things Russian, I might have to hunt that one down.

Saturday Single No. 416

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Not much time to dally here: It’s autumn baseball day here today.

In a couple of hours, Rick, Rob and Dan will be here for the autumn installment of our twice-annual Strat-O-Matic baseball tournaments. If Rob is to be believed from his emails, he’s going to bypass the two-time defending champions, the 1920 Indians, in favor of two new teams, thus abandoning the Indians’ chances of being the first team to win three consecutive titles. We’ll see what happens when he gets here.

Until then, however, I’ll assume that he’s going to bring the 1936 Yankees and 1998 Astros into the tourney, two new and very good teams. Rick is bringing back one of his old favorites, the 1954 Indians, and adding to the mix the 2003 Cubs. Dan is going with one of his frequent favorites, the 1998 Braves, and adding the 2001 Mariners to his stable.

And I’m going to counter with the return of the 2006 Minnesota Twins and add to my cluster of (so-far-unsuccessful) teams the 2004 Red Sox.

Along the way, of course, we’ll sip some beer, eat some barbecue and potato salad, and tell tales and laugh. And one of those eight teams will win the tournament sometime around five o’clock this afternoon.

So, all we need is a tune. The lyrics don’t necessarily fit, but the title does, so here’s Aztec Two-Step’s 1975 track “It’s Going On Saturday,” and it’s today’s Saturday single.

Saturday Single No. 405

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

I’m feeling old and battered this morning. I had a visit with Dr. Julie yesterday, and today, two new bottles of pills sit on the counter here in the EITW studios: an antibiotic for whatever it is that has annoyed my sinuses and lymph nodes, and a heartburn remedy for the gastric inflammation that’s arisen in the last two weeks.

It seems to be a given in our culture, with its miracle medicines and its resulting reliance on pills (not always a good thing, that last), that the older we get, the more bottles of pills gather on our counters and in our medicine chests. And they’re beginning to accumulate here, which makes me aware – as do a few other things – that in just more than a month, I’ll turn 61.

Still, I have to think myself lucky for at least two reasons: First, my collection of active prescriptions still numbers less than ten, far less than my mother’s current total and far less as well than my father’s total in the months before he passed on eleven years ago. Second, we have decent health insurance, at least as far as prescriptions go; other aspects of our current coverage have not yet, happily, been tested.

As to the “battered” portion of the lead sentence above, well, about two-thirds of the way down the stairs this morning, I stepped on a cat toy and thumped the rest of the way down the stairs on my posterior. That did no favors for any portions of my aging body. And the cats were distinctly unsympathetic. Two of them looked at me as I sat at the bottom of the stairs, shaking my head, and then they headed toward the kitchen and their breakfast.

Ah, well. I broke no bones and pulled no muscles. And if yesterday’s new prescriptions do their work, I should be feeling better in ten days or so. So I’m okay. And having decided that, I made my way through the Billboard files this morning to see if I could find out anything interesting about August 2, and I found a Hot 100 released that day in 1975.

The top five are familiar:

“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles
“I’m Not In Love” by 10 c.c.
“Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees
“Please Mister Please” by Olivia Newton-John
“The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony

Familiar, inoffensive and not at all inspiring. So, I thought, what about albums? Here are the top five albums from this week in 1975:

One Of These Nights by the Eagles
Love Will Keep Us Together by the Captain & Tenille
The Heat Is On by the Isley Brothers
Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John
Venus & Mars by Wings

All well-known albums, three of them – those by the Eagles, the Isleys and Wings – very good, but again, nothing that inspires this morning (although I suppose I should give another listen to the Elton John album as I’ve read that it’s a great album, which is a judgment I’ve never reached).

So I went back to the August 2, 1975, Billboard Hot 100, turned August 2 in No. 82 and scrolled down the list. And there I came upon a bouncy single titled “Rock & Roll Runaway” by Ace, the British group that in the spring of 1975 had a No. 3 hit with “How Long.” “Runaway” didn’t do nearly as well, peaking at No. 71.

And I wondered how many stations popped the single on their playlists. Probably not many, based on the station surveys available at ARSA. Three stations’ surveys gathered there list the record: WNCI in Columbus, Ohio; KLWN in Lawrence, Kansas; and KLIK in Jefferson City, Missouri, where the record was listed in the “Extras” section.

And that’s all I know. But this morning, it’s enough. So here’s Ace’s “Rock & Roll Runaway,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 396

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

It’s time to dig into some surveys this morning. Odd, Pop and I are going to rummage through the files at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, checking out surveys from June 7. What year? Well, instead of looking at several surveys from around the U.S. from the same year, we’re going to look at five surveys from different stations from June 7 on five consecutive years. Confusing? Well, it was Odd’s idea, so it’s kind of baffling to me, too.

Anyway, we’re going to play with the numbers as we often do here, taking today’s day – 6/7 – and turning that into 13. Then we’ll add that to 14 (as in 2014) for 27. And that leads us to check out the No. 13 and No. 27 records on the surveys, and, as we generally do, we’ll see what record was No. 1 in our various surveys along the way.

We’ll start in 1971 on familiar turf, taking a look at the “Big 6+30” from KDWB in the Twin Cities here in Minnesota. Sitting at No. 13 that week was Lobo’s “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo,” and parked at No. 27 was “I Love You For All Seasons” by the Fuzz. I remember the Lobo single, but not all that fondly, and I do not remember the Fuzz single from that time at all, though I’ve heard it several times during the years that I’ve been writing this blog. Topping the “Big 6+30” during the first week of June 1971 was the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.”

We’ll jump ahead a year and check in on the “Superhit Survey” from June 7 at Nashville’s WMAK. The No. 13 record that week in 1972 was “Layla” by Derek & The Dominos, during its second release on Atco, and the No. 27 record was the quirky one-hit wonder “How Do You Do?” by the Dutch duo of Mouth & MacNeal. Back in my newspapering days, I wrote a column detailing my favorite records, and “Layla” topped that list. It’s not quite that high these days, but it hasn’t fallen far. As to “How Do You Do,” well, no. Sitting atop the “Superhit Survey” at WMAK that week was Gallery’s “Nice To Be With You.”

We’ll look at the first week of June 1973 from the vantage point of the “Hit 30” at KFIV in Modesto, California. Taking up the No. 13 slot was Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles,” and sitting at No. 27 is the Carpenter’s “Yesterday Once More.” The Preston record might be the only song I’ve heard live by its original artist three times: When Preston played St. Cloud State in the spring of 1973, when he played a brief opening set for the Rolling Stones in Århus, Denmark, in October 1973, and when he was a member of Ringo’s original All-Starr Band during the summer of 1989. As to the Carpenters, I find myself admiring more and more as the years pass the late Karen Carpenter’s voice and Richard Carpenter’s production work, and if “Yesterday Once More” isn’t one of their best records, it’s still pretty good (and sitting here playing it in my head, I can hear every “shing-a-ling”). Getting back to KFIV, the No. 1 record during the first week of June 1973 was Elton John’s “Daniel.”

A year later on the other side of the country, we take a look at the “Big D Sound Survey” from WDRC in Hartford, Connecticut. The No. 13 record in Hartford during the first week of June 1974 was Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing,” and sitting at No. 27 was “I’m The Leader Of The Gang” by Brownsville Station. I tend to forget about “Don’t You Worry . . .” although I groove on it whenever it pops up in random. I don’t forget the Brownsville Station single because I don’t remember it at all. From what I see at ARSA and in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, it didn’t have a huge footprint, so I’m not alarmed that it doesn’t have a place in my memory. The top spot on the June 7, 1974, “Big D Sound Survey” was occupied by Ray Stevens’ “The Streak.”

We’ll close our survey scanning this morning with a look at the imaginatively named “South Florida Weekly Music Survey” from Miami’s WQAM. Parked at No. 13 during the first week of June 1975 was “Long Tall Glasses” by Leo Sayer, and sitting at No. 27 was Paul Anka’s “I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone.” Sadly, I remember both of those. The No. 1 record on the “South Florida Weekly Music Survey” thirty-nine years ago today was Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin’ Chair.”

The best thing here is “Layla,” but given the record’s omnipresence, what’s the point? I’m tempted by the Stevie Wonder record and the Carpenter’s record, but there’s something else going on here this morning. When I do these survey posts, I list the No. 1 records as a sidelight, not as records under consideration as the post’s feature. But today, I’m going to break that informal rule. In something like 1,500 posts, I’ve mentioned Gwen McCrae and her No. 9 hit just once, and I’ve never featured the record, which I loved back in 1975. So here’s Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin’ Chair,” today’s Saturday Single.

Out From The Sun, Part 2

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Having safely crossed the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars, we continue our trek outward from the Sun and approach Jupiter, the largest of the planets. Fittingly, our tune here is one that is related to spaceflight: A search for information about the 1958 instrumental “Jupiter-C” by Pat & The Satellites brings us, among others, a link to Wikipedia, where we learn that Jupiter-C was an American rocket used to test re-entry nosecones during three sub-orbital spaceflights in 1956 and 1957. The rocket, Wikipedia says, was one of those designed by the U.S. Army under the direction of Wernher Von Braun (whom I once met). The record spent four weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 81, and as I check that out in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I learn that the studio musicians who recorded “Jupiter-C” included the great King Curtis, whose sax is front and center for much of the record.

From Jupiter, we head on toward the beautiful rings of Saturn, and our tune is a Stevie Wonder track titled “Saturn” and found on Wonder’s 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life. The track was never used as even the B-side of a single, but the album was No. 1 for fourteen weeks, beginning in the middle of October 1976. And even though it’s an album that I heard frequently if not constantly in the spring of 1977 as I hung out with friends from the St. Cloud State student newspaper, I’m sad to say don’t recall “Saturn” and its message:

There’s no principles in what you say
No direction in the things you do
For your world is soon to come to a close
Through the ages all great men have taught
Truth and happiness just can’t be bought – or sold
Tell me why are you people so cold?

We’ll hang around
Saturn for a while yet and make a stop at Titan, the largest of Saturn’s many, many moons. And as we gaze at – as Wikipedia says – “the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found,” we listen to “Sirens of Titan” by Al Stewart, a track from his 1975 album Modern Times. The album sold decently, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard 200, but that pales, of course, compared to the reception received by Stewart’s next two albums, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages, which went to No. 5 and No. 10, respectively. Sonically, Modern Times is similar to the next two albums – all three were produced by Alan Parsons – but it sounds to me just a shade thinner than Cat and Passages. Stewart’s voice is, of course, unmistakable.

And we find ourselves approaching Uranus, the planet whose name is the source of thousands of schoolboy giggles, some of which have found themselves attached to some sophomoric song titles. But we don’t need to go there. Digging through the mp3 files and related tunes this morning, we find “Uranus” by the Brunning/Hall Sunflower Blues Band. According to All Music Guide, Bob Brunning was the bassist for the band that became Fleetwood Mac, but was let go by Peter Green once John McVie had left John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers to join Green’s band. Brunning went on to teach and continue recording part-time, and he and pianist Bob Hall formed the Sunflower Blues Band. In 1969, the band, with some participation from Green, recorded the album Trackside Blues, which included the track “Uranus.” It’s a decent blues track, but its primary appeal this morning is its title.

Heading on, we stay in the realm of the gas giants and find ourselves at Neptune, with the music provided by Nicole Atkins, herself a native of Neptune, albeit the city in New Jersey instead of the distant planet. “Neptune City” was the title track to her 2007 solo debut album. As I wrote in 2010, the album is “lushly produced pop with some tricks and warbles that made it clear how much Atkins listened to – among other things – the Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s.” And it’s an album that I like very much, one that stays pretty close to the CD player that I use for late-night listening.

Pluto is either a planet or a dwarf planet, depending on which cadre of astronomers you talk to, but all I know is that it’s out there and we need to stop by on our way toward the edge of the Solar System. Music was hard to come by here, and we had to dig deep into the digital shelves before finding a song that originally came from a Dutch pop duo called Het Goede Doel. In 1982, the duo’s single “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)” – which translates to “Belgium (Is There Life On Pluto?)” – went to No. 4 in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, the duo also recorded a version of the song in English. I didn’t look for that, though, because I have a cover of the tune in its original Dutch by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the Belgian girls choir that has popped up here at least once before. From a bonus disc included with the 2010 album Circle, here’s “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)”

Out From The Sun, Part 1

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It’s time for a trip, starting right at the center of the Solar System. Along the way, we’ll check in at the eight planets, a couple of moons and maybe a comet. Why? Well, maybe I’m in a space/science mood from watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series Cosmos. Whatever the reason, it seemed like a good idea this morning.

We’ll start at the center, with the Sun. There were lots of titles to choose from on the digital shelves, even after I weeded out all the mp3s originally released on the Sun label. I dithered a while, and then remembered something I read long ago written about solar exploration either by a second-grader or a slow learner: If the surface of the sun is too hot for humans to survive, then we can go at night. Well, we’ll go at sundown and listen to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” as we travel. Pulled from his 1974 album of the same name, “Sundown” went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop and adult contemporary charts and to No. 13 on the country chart.

Heading outward from Sol, our first stop is Mercury. After we eliminate the records on the Mercury label, we’re left with a few tracks about the element and a few tracks about the car but none about the planet itself. That’s okay. We’ll settle for the car, which might as well be our mode of transport on this journey. So here is “Mercury Blues” from Fly Like An Eagle, the 1976 album by the Steve Miller Band that went to No. 3 in the Billboard 200. The band had recorded a much more up-tempo version of the tune for the soundtrack to the 1968 movie Revolution, but I like the slower version. After all, we may as well take our time and see the sights.

Next stop as we head out from the Sun is Venus, and there are a few tunes to choose from about the goddess, if not the planet. Considered for an instant and discarded just as quickly was Frankie Avalon’s “Venus,” a No.1 hit from 1959, although I considered for a moment a 1962 version of the same tune by the Ventures. But if we’re going to land on Venus, then we’re going to land on “Venus” by the Shocking Blue. The record was a No. 1 hit for the Dutch group in February 1970, jumping out of millions of radios around the world – including my old RCA upstairs on Kilian Boulevard – with its ringing introductory riff. (I passed a little regretfully on a 1972 cover of the same tune by organist Zygmunt Jankowski. Maybe another time.)

Leaving Venus and its clouds and ringing riff behind, we head to our home planet. And we dig deep into Motown’s huge catalog for the 1970 cautionary tune “You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth” by the Temptations. I’ve noted in the past my general preference for the Four Tops over the Temptations, but I do love the freaky, funky and atmospheric production that Norman Whitfield brought to this tune and the others that he and Barrett Strong wrote for the Psychedelic Shack album. The album went to No. 9.

Leaving Earth, we’ll make a brief stop at the Moon before heading further out into the Solar System again. I was very tempted to go into my Al Hirt collection for his 1963 rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon,” but having dropped Big Al in here the other week when I looked at “I’m Movin’ On,” I passed on the horn. Instead, I opted for a track by the Doors that I first heard in 1971 when I picked up 13, the band’s greatest hits album. The slightly spooky “Moonlight Drive” comes from the 1967 album Strange Days and showed up as the B-side to “Love Me Two Times” late that year.

Our last stop today, as we cross the Asteroid Belt and finish the first half of our trek out into the Solar System, is Mars. A search for “Mars” in the RealPlayer’s files brings up a lot of stuff we can’t use, including lots of music from Marsha Hunt, the Marshall Tucker Band and Wynton Marsalis. But one single stands out among the unusable: “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” by Wings. Pulled from the Venus and Mars album, the record went to No. 12 in December 1975, and it provides a very hummable tune as we pause here on Mars before continuing our journey and heading to the giant planets.

‘Bring It Home . . .’

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Hot Sauce, a 1970s R&B trio from Detroit, placed just one record in the Billboard Hot 100, a single titled “Bring It Home (And Give It To Me)” on the Stax subsidiary label, Volt. Forty-two years ago this week, in the last days of May 1972, the record was at No. 98 in the second of three weeks on the chart; it would peak at No. 96 a week later (at No. 35 on the R&B chart) and then be gone.

That’s a pretty decent record, not a lot different from records that made it much higher and likely not a lot different from a lot of records of that era that never got near the charts. I’d never heard of Hot Sauce until this morning, when I happened to glance through that Billboard chart. But the sound intrigued me, and I started clicking some YouTube links and checking out some discographies. And I ran across Hot Sauce’s “Echoes From The Past” from the flipside of “Bring It Home.”

That, to my ears, is an even better record, and according to at least two generally accurate sites – Discogs and Soulful Kinda Music – “Echoes From The Past” was the intended A-side of the single. That’s not the side that got the airplay, and I don’t suppose it matters forty-two years later, but it’s the kind of thing that Odd, Pop and I notice around here.

And I dug a little further. The featured vocalist for Hot Sauce on all six of the group’s singles was Chuck Berry’s niece, Rhonda Washington, and it turned out – according to a blurb at Amazon for a CD collection of the group’s work – that Hot Sauce’s 1975 record “I Can’t Let You Go” was the last single released on the Volt label before Stax went bankrupt.

That brought me to a couple more tracks from the group. “Can’t Win For Losing” was the B-side to the group’s first single release in 1971, a record with the odd title of “I’ll Kill A Brick (About My Man),” which has a sound more like Stax/Volt than some of the other tracks from the group. (The phrase “kill a brick,” according to one reference online, is pulled from “I’ll kill a brick, shoot a stick, or stab a raindrop,” but I find no indication anywhere online of where that string of hyperbole comes from.) “Kill A Brick (About My Man),” which also showed up as the B-side to another Hot Sauce single in 1973, cooks:

I remember reading during my high school years a 1956 novel by Arthur C. Clarke titled The City and the Stars. As Clarke depicted life a billion years from now, his protagonist, Alvin, had access to all the world’s information via a screen on the wall of his home. I wondered what I could do with such a tool. I now know: I use that tool to look for obscure records (with a few other uses thrown in along the way). And sometimes in the pursuit of those obscure records and whatever tales they tell, I find something else, a bit of someone else’s tale.

As I wandered through the sounds of Hot Sauce this morning, I took a look at the comments at YouTube under “Bring It Home (And Give It To Me).” Three years ago, a woman named Willone Wilson wrote:

My mother . . . used to wear this song out! I was born in 1971 and I remember this song like someone just put it out. She would play it over and over and sing and it is a memory in song that I cherish very much. She loved music and happy times and of course my wayward dad. They later grew to be best friends and he was by her side until she died.

There are the seeds of a hundred songs and probably as many novels in Willone’s words, and I think there’s a good reminder in there, too, about how music reflects life. With six singles released, and only one reaching the charts, one can argue how much the group Hot Sauce accomplished. But Hot Sauce reached at least two people, and in the unlikely event that Willone and her mother were the only two, well, that’s still a type of success.