Archive for the ‘Symmetry’ Category

No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, this time looking at a Billboard Hot 100 from August 1974. (There were editions of the magazine released on August 17 and August 24 that year; we’re going with the latter edition.) As always, we’ll take a look at the top ten first:

“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates
“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
“I Shot The Sheriff” by Eric Clapton
“Waterloo” by ABBA
“Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford
“I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim
“Keep On Smilin’” by Wet Willie

Okay, that starts badly. “(You’re) Having My Baby” is certainly in my list of the ten worst singles, so close to “Seasons In The Sun” territory that I don’t want to think about it much. And while “The Night Chicago Died” is not nearly as awful, it’s still thought of as cringe-worthy around here.

A little further down, we hit two more that don’t get much of my affection: I always thought “Wildwood Weed” was a bad joke gone very wrong, and while Donnie and Marie handled their cover of “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” all right, it missed the mark by a little when compared with the 1963 version by Dale & Grace. (And, of course, it didn’t come anywhere near the quality of the 1957 R&B original by Don & Dewey.)

That leaves six records from that August 1974 Top Ten that I generally enjoy, and three of those six – the records by Roberta Flack, Andy Kim, and ABBA – are among the 3,900 or so on the iPod and are thus part of my current listening. (The Rufus record may get added the next time I shuffle things around.)

But our business here is lower in that August 1974 Hot 100, as we check in on the No. 45 record from forty-five years ago. And we find “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes, which was on its way up the chart to No. 37.

When last I chanced on the record not quite seven years ago, I wrote:

The Rubettes were a pop rock sextet from London who put nine singles into the U.K. Top 40 between 1974 and 1977. Their “Sugar Baby Love,” a marvelous pop-rock confection that I don’t ever recall hearing (and that I might have thoroughly disdained at the time), went to No. 1 in the U.K.

The record – the Rubettes’ only entry ever in the Hot 100 – has since made its way onto the digital shelves here, where it had stayed unnoticed (except by my imaginary tunehead Pop, who no doubt grieves that his friend Odd and I are slow to comprehend the record’s greatness). Perhaps I should move it into the iPod.

No. 56, Fifty-Six Years Ago

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

We’re heading into 1963 territory this morning, to the summer between fourth and fifth grade. It was a time when I was still getting used to wearing glasses (and the photographic evidence in the boxes of Dad’s slides shows that I didn’t always wear them, which I don’t recall).

By the time August rolled around, any summer school program I was in had ended; I’m sure I was in one that summer, but I have no memory of it. Earlier summers found me at the Campus Lab School on the St. Cloud State campus, 1964 would find me in an enriched program at Washington Elementary with students from across the city, most of whom I’d know in high school; and summer programs after that would take me to South Junior High and to Tech High School.

But 1963? I don’t remember, which is odd (and a bit disconcerting). And I have a sense that when I look at the music of 1963 – the last summer pre-Beatles in the U.S. – I’ll know the records but not remember many of them from that summer. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the first week in August 1963:

“So Much In Love” by the Tymes
“Fingertips (Part 2)” by Little Stevie Wonder
“Surf City” Jan & Dean
“(You’re The) Devil In Disguise” by Elvis Presley
“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris
“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Easier Said Than Done” by the Essex
“Judy’s Turn To Cry” by Lesley Gore
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Just One Look” by Doris Troy

I don’t think we had any of those records in the house although I do remember my sister – three years older than I – picking up Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” earlier that year. I probably still have that copy of the record, as all of the 45s from Kilian Boulevard ended up in two metal carrying cases that are around here somewhere. And I vaguely recall hearing “Judy’s Turn To Cry” somewhere, probably from an older kid’s record player somewhere in the neighborhood.

Beyond that, I know I heard “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” that summer, which is not surprising, as those records were No. 1 and 2, respectively, on what Billboard then called the Middle-Road Singles chart (now called Adult Contemporary) as August began in 1963. (And with only occasional excursions to KDWB by my sister, all radios in our house were tuned to stations that offered records from the Middle-Road Singles chart). And I probably heard “Wipe Out” somewhere, too.

Four of those records are part of my day-to-day listening still, fifty-six years later: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “Wipe Out,” and “Just One Look” have places in the iPod. That’s more than I expected when I began digging into things this morning.

But now to the second portion of today’s exercise: What sat at No. 56 during the first week of August 1963?

Well, we get a piece of traditional pop that I do not recognize by its title: “Painted, Tainted Rose” by Al Martino. It was the Philadelphia native’s eighth entry in or near the Hot 100; he’d charted earlier in the year with “I Love You Because,” which went to No. 3 on the Hot 100 and topped the Middle-Road Singles chart for two weeks. “Painted, Tainted Rose didn’t do quite as well, peaking at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and spending two weeks at No. 3 on the Middle-Road Singles chart.

It’s a mournful tune sung from the point of view of a judgmental guy whose gal chose the “party life.”

She was a wild and lovely rose
Oh, how I loved her, heaven knows
But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Last night I saw my lovely rose
All painted up in fancy clothes
Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

But though my heart was true, it would never do
Party life was what she chose

Her eyes had lost their spark, the years had left their mark
She’s just a painted, tainted rose

No. 55, Fifty-Five Years Ago

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

We’ll play a game of Symmetry today, moving one year further into the past than we have before. We’re going to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-five years ago tomorrow – June 27, 1964 – and see what was sitting at No. 55.

As we customarily do, though, we’ll start at the top of that long-ago chart. Here were the top three records as June was about to turn into July during the summer I was ten years old:

“A World Without Love” by Peter & Gordon
“I Get Around” by the Beach Boys
“Chapel Of Love” by the Dixie Cups

Every once in a while this happens: A selection from the top of a chart fails to move me. There’s nothing wrong with these records, really. But they’re not records that I want to hear on a regular basis, and none of them are among the 3,900 in the iPod, which reflects my regular listening. And none of those three will be added to the playlist after I finish this post.

So what’s lower down? What do we find when we drop down the chart to No. 55?

Well, we get a sweet, broken-hearted single from Brook Benton: “It’s Too Late To Turn Back Now.” And it’s one that I’m certain I haven’t heard before this morning (although being an easy listening kid back then, I think I would have liked it).

I don’t think I need to go into detail about Benton (whom I first heard, I’m sure, in early 1970 when “Rainy Night In Georgia” went to No. 4). The raw numbers are fifty-eight records in or near the Hot 100, with eight of them making the Top Ten. And he placed thirty-seven records on the Billboard R&B Top 40, with twenty-one of them reaching the Top Ten.

As to “It’s Too Late To Turn Back Now,” it didn’t do much more on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 43, but it went to No. 8 on the R&B chart.

No. 46, Forty-Six Years Ago

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Having dabbled in 1973 the other day, looking at how I occupied my daytime during the summer of that year and what I likely heard on Chicago’s WLS during my nighttime ponderings, it seemed like a good idea to play our game of Symmetry with the early summer of 1973 and see what sat at No. 46 in the Billboard Hot 100 during that time forty-six years ago.

Two of the top three records in the Hot 100 that came out during this week in 1973 were also atop the WLS survey we looked at two days ago. At WLS, Paul McCartney’s “My Love” and Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk” were Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. On the Hot 100, they were Nos. 1 and 3, separated by Clint Holmes’ “Playground In My Mind.” As I indicated the other day, “Pillow Talk” really made no impression on me then, and I found the Clint Holmes record insipid from the start, and my distaste for it only increased.

“My Love,” though, I liked and still like. For some reason, it’s one of the two records that puts me in St. Cloud’s East Side Dairy Queen sometime during the summer of 1973, waiting in line with Rick and our pal Gary for some frozen treat. Even having heard the song live during a McCartney concert in 2002, it still pulls me back to soft-serve.

But let’s get to our game. What was it that sat at No. 46 in the Hot 100 forty-six years ago this week? Well, it’s a record that will please one of my long-time readers,assuming this blog is still on that person’s reading list: “Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road.

The record – the band’s only Hot 100 hit – was in its twelfth week on the chart, heading back down after peaking at No. 40. I recall it only vaguely. I can’t find a survey from the Twin Cities’ KDWB for the time, but a WDGY survey from late May of 1973 I found at Oldiesloon shows “Back When My Hair Was Short” sitting at No. 10. So I likely heard the admittedly catchy record back then but paid little attention. My loss, I guess.

No. 54, Fifty-Four Years Ago

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, today checking out the No. 54 record in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago, during the first days of April 1965.

That chart, actually released on April 3, fifty-four years ago yesterday, had as its top three records “Stop In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits, and “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie & The Dreamers.

Back then, I doubt whether I knew two of the three. I’m sure I knew the Supremes’ record; it was all around. But as the last months of sixth grade were going past, I doubt that I heard either of the other two often enough to recognize them. Later in the year – in September or December – I would get to know the Herman’s Hermits record, as it was the first track on Herman’s Hermits On Tour, which my sister gave me for either Christmas or my birthday that year. (Whichever it was, the other occasion was marked by her giving me Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us, thus providing me my introduction to the musicians of the Wrecking Crew.)

Fifty-four years later, the Supremes’ record still sounds good, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” is pleasant nostalgia, and “I’m Telling You Now” just brings up memories of Freddie Garrity and his mates losing their way (along with any credibility they might have had in the view of a twelve-year-old boy) by doing the Freddie.

So what do we find further down, fourteen places below the Top 40? Well, we find one of the classic middle-of-the-road pop singers of the 1950s and 1960s, Jerry Vale, and his single ‘For Mama.” The Bronx- born Vale first hit the Billboard chart in 1954 with “Two Purple Shadows,” which peaked at No. 20. His take on “You Don’t Know Me” brought him his greatest success on the pop chart when it went to No. 14 in 1956.

And the record that was at No. 54 during the early days of April 1965 was, well, a melodrama in a minor key, kind of a mish-mash that I doubt that I would have liked even in 1965, when traditional pop was my jam. It went no higher in the Hot 100, although it went to No. 13 on the Billboard chart that was then called “Middle-Road Singles.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the tale of Mama’s last request wanders all over the place.

No. 53, Fifty-Three Years Ago

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

With my time self-limited this morning – I have two or three errands that I want to complete before watching the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team take on Louisville in the NCAA tournament – I’m jumping into another game of Symmetry this morning, this time taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-three years ago.

During the third week of March 1966 – as represented by the Hot 100 released on March 19 – the top three records in the Hot 100 were “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler, “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones, and “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra.

I heard all three regularly, somewhere. (Most likely, as I think about it, in Mrs. Villalta’s art classroom, where she allowed us to play the radio at low volume while we drew or inked or clayed.) And I was pretty much okay with all of them, as I am with two of them these days: Both the Stones’ record and “Boots” are among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod.

About Sadler’s record: As awful as the war in Vietnam was, thoughtfulness about it had not yet percolated to the level of seventh grade; that – along with opposition to the war – would take a couple more years, so Sadler’s record, which was No. 1 for five weeks, did not bother me or my peers. We thought the Green Berets were heroes. But when it popped up on one of the Sixties radio channels maybe a month or so ago, I winced.

And now, we’ll drop a few slots past the mid-point of the Hot 100 and check out No. 53 from fifty-three years ago this week. There we find one of Edwin Starr’s first hits: Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.),” which would peak at No. 48 a week later (and would go to No. 9 on the Billboard R&B chart).

The record was on the Ric-Tic label, but in his 1989 book The Heart Of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh notes that Starr’s first hits “may have been released on this minor-league Motor City label, but their every inflection established that Motown was embedded in the grooves of his destiny,” adding that the record was “one of the greatest non-Motown Motown discs ever cut, with the same booting backbeat, the same thunderous baritone sax riffs and a vocal as tough and assured as any of the early Marvin Gaye’s.” (Marsh ranks the single at No. 210.)

No. 47 Forty-Seven Years Ago

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

As I hoped/expected, Sunday’s performance of Don McLean’s “Crossroads” at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship went well. The other two members of our music group in attendance pitched in on vocals (and on bass), and we got through it well enough.

But spending three hours at the fellowship – on top of having run some errands on Saturday – pretty well wiped me out. I spent a good deal of the rest of Sunday doing nothing, and the same was true yesterday.

As well as I may think I am recovering from January’s surgery, I still have a ways to go to get back even everyday strength and stamina. It’s a long road.

Today, we’re going to jump back into the category I have dubbed “symmetry,” a game we first played early in February when we looked at the No. 50 record from fifty years ago that week. We’ve moved forward and back from that particular spot a couple years each way, and this morning, we’re going to look at what was No. 47 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-seven years ago, in the magazine published on March 18, 1972.

In previous iterations of this game, we’ve done a quick check of the top two records; I think we’ll expand that to the top three records from now on, and forty-seven years ago yesterday, they were “A Horse With No Name” by America, “Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)” by Robert John. That last, of course, was a cover of the Tokens’ No. 1 hit from 1961.

And what of our business further down the chart? Well, at No. 47 in the third week of March 1972 was one of my favorites of that long-ago season, a song that I no doubt heard live in mid-May of that year when Elton John played at St. Cloud State: “Tiny Dancer.”

Surprisingly, it would just miss the Top 40, peaking at No. 41.

No. 48 Forty-Eight Years Ago

Friday, March 1st, 2019

So today we’ll head back to March of 1971, during the last half of my senior year of high school. I was taking courses in astronomy, mass media, journalism and civics and I was singing in the concert choir and playing my horn in the orchestra.

I was also writing lyrics (most of them poor and/or derivative), reading science fiction and, well, being seventeen. And as March began forty-nine years ago, the No. 1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 was the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple,” a decent enough record.

Our business, though, is further down, as it frequently is. Sitting at No. 48 forty-eight years ago this week was a record that we’ve heard here frequently, having explored its genesis and history at fair length as we went through my Ultimate Jukebox here years ago.

As I wrote back then, Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over The Line” was a happy accident, as some noted in some comments on the duo’s web page:

Michael Brewer: “We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We played there a lot. We were real bored, sitting in the dressing room. We were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us.”

Tom Shipley: “‘One Toke’ wasn’t meant to make it to record. We were opening for Melanie at Carnegie Hall, and we played two encores. We really didn’t have anything else to sing to them. So we played ‘One Toke,’ and the audience gave us a standing ovation. The record company president was there, and he said ‘Record it!’”

Record it, they did, with Jerry Garcia providing the steel guitar parts, according to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles. As March began in 1971, “One Toke Over The Line” was heading up the chart, having moved from No. 57 a week earlier. It would peak at No. 10, the duo’s only Top 40 hit. (Two others, “Tarkio Road” and “Shake Off The Demon,” would peak at Nos. 55 and 98, respectively.)

No. 52 Fifty-Two Years Ago

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

As expected, we got about six inches of snow, making this the snowiest recorded February in St. Cloud ever. The streets are slowly being cleared a little better each day, according to the Texas Gal. (Being pretty much housebound yet, I cannot say for myself.) The next time I’ll be out will be next Wednesday, when I see my surgeon for what will be a seven-week check-up.

And it seemed like a good day to check in with one of our recent gimmicks: We’re going to look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-two years ago and check out the No. 52 record.

At the top of that chart, released February 25, 1967, was the Buckinghams’ “Kind Of A Drag,” in its second week at No. 1. I know the record, of course, and I think I likely knew it back then, as I was in eighth grade and the music my peers listened to was all around me.

And the sense is the same when we drop down the chart to No. 52, where we find “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James & The Shondells. Like the Buckinghams’ record, the Tommy James record feels like something I’ve always known, something that was just in the air when I was in eighth grade whether I paid attention or not.

“I Think We’re Alone Now” was on its way up the chart fifty-two years ago this week, and the story of young lovers escaping disapproval – parental and/or societal – eventually peaked at No. 4. I still like the beating hearts.

No. 51 Fifty-One Years Ago

Friday, February 15th, 2019

It’s time for another dig into the symmetry of years gone and a record’s ranking in the Billboard Hot 100. This time, we’re going to see which record was poised at No. 51 fifty-one years ago this week. If we don’t hit the exact date, we’ll move ahead to the date when the next chart was released. We’ll also note the Nos. 1 and 2 records as we pass by.

And for today’s brief excursion, we’re looking at the chart released on February 17, 1968. The No. 1 record was “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, and right behind it was “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, both of which are favorites here.

Let’s hope we’re as lucky with our target. And we are, as today’s record turns out to be “Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers. It’s a record that’s popped up here once before, eight years ago, and one that I recall fondly from early 1968.

The record, catchy and a little poignant to my fourteen-year-old ears, was one of the last charting records for the Mills Brothers, a black family group from Piqua, Ohio. Between 1931 and 1968, the smooth vocal group placed ninety-three records on the various charts tracked by chart historian Joel Whitburn, eight of them No. 1 hits. “Cab Driver,” which peaked at No. 23, was the last Mills Brothers record to hit the Top 40. Two more settled in the lower portions of the Hot 100 before the end of 1968, closing the Mills Brothers’ career.

As I wrote here a little more than nine years ago, “Cab Driver” also “went to No. 3 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary, and that explains why I know the record as well as I do: I’m absolutely certain I heard it more than once from Dad’s bedside transistor radio – tuned as always to St. Cloud’s middle of the road station, KFAM – as we all prepared to retire.”

Here’s “Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers, the No. 51 record fifty-one years ago today: