Archive for the ‘Symmetry’ Category

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.”

No. 41, Forty-One Years Ago

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

We’re playing Symmetry again today, looking back forty-one years to the autumn of 1978 and seeing what record was at No. 41 at October’s mid-point.

A quick glance at the top five in the Billboard Hot 100 released on October 14, 1978 – forty-one years ago yesterday – shows five records that are familiar but not loved:

“Kiss You All Over” by Exile
“Hot Child In The City” by Nick Gilder
“Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste Of Honey
“Don’t Look Back” by Boston
“Reminiscing” by the Little River Band

I know all of those – though I’m oddly a little fuzzy on the Boston record – but none of them matter much to me. That, I think, is a function of age and busyness. I was twenty-five and working long hours at a job I loved during my first autumn at the Monticello Times. I listened to the radio during some evenings at home and in the car as I drove to and from interviews. But it was background, not foreground. No one at work was saying anything like, “Hey, did you hear the new record by Boston?”

So, none of those five rate very high on any list I might make. All of them are on the digital shelves here, which means I don’t detest any of them. None of them were included in the 228-record Ultimate Jukebox I offered here long ago (and only five records from 1978 were included). Two of them – “Reminiscing” and, oddly, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” – are in the iPod.

So though I didn’t notice it at the time, by the autumn of 1978, music had become far less central to my life than it had been (and far less central than it would, happily, become again).

So let’s get to what was supposed to be our main business today: Checking out the record at No. 41 on that Hot 100 from mid-October 1978. And we fall into instrumental disco weirdness: Parked at No. 41 is “Themes From The Wizard Of Oz” by Meco.

The record was the third by Pennsylvania-born Domenico Monardo to hit the Hot 100: “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” had spent two weeks at No. 1 during October 1977, and “Theme From Close Encounters” had peaked at No. 25 in early 1978.

After “Themes From The Wizard Of Oz” peaked at No. 35, Meco would see “Empire Strikes Back (Medley)” go to No. 18 in 1980, and – amid a series of similar but less successful releases (including a couple records tabbed as novelties by Joel Whitburn) – “Pop Goes The Movies (Part One)” would go to No. 35 in 1982.

But hey, it’s fun, it’s got a good beat, it’s easy to dance to . . . and it was 1978.

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.

No. 44, Forty-Four Years Ago

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

We’re in the mood for some Symmetry again, this time heading back to the summer of 1975, one of the great seasons of my life: I spent it clearing my general ed requirements in preparation for graduation from St. Cloud State in February 1976, casting a wide social net, working half-time on a campus-wide audio-visual equipment inventory with my pal Murl and some other good folks, and generally enjoying life in a way I hadn’t for some months.

So how good was the music I heard in the car, sometimes at home, and a lot of time at Atwood Center as I whiled away free time with other summer members of the The Table? Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from August 23, 1975, forty-four years ago tomorrow:

“Fallin’ In Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles
“Get Down Tonight” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band
“Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees
“Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell
“Why Can’t We Be Friends” by War
“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” by James Taylor
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John
“At Seventeen” by Janis Ian
“Please Mister Please” by Olivia Newton-John

That’s a decent set, with only one record that I did not – and still do not – care for. “Why Can’t We Be Friends” sounded kind of stupid to me then, and forty-four years of hearing it on occasion have not changed that opinion. I wasn’t crazy about “Rhinestone Cowboy,” but I like it a lot more now. And the James Taylor record is not nearly my favorite of his, but when it pops up on the radio I don’t reach for the buttons.

The rest are all fine listening, some of them favorites. And nine of the ten – even “Why Can’t We Be Friends” – are on the digital shelves. (The only one that wasn’t, surprisingly, was the Elton John single, an oversight that’s being corrected as I write.)

As to the stricter measure I use – checking to see if tracks show up in the iPod – well, six of those records show up at the moment. Those missing are the records by War, James Taylor, Olivia Newton-John and Elton John (and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” will be in the iPod by the end of the day).

So that’s seven out of ten that I like hearing yet today, and yet, only one of those records actually says “1975” to me when it comes out of the boom box in the kitchen: “At Seventeen” hung around into the autumn and got a lot of play on the juke box across the room from The Table, so that’s often where my mind goes when I hear it.

But what about our other focus for today? What do we find when we drop down that chart from August 23, 1975, to No. 44? What do we find?

Well, we run into a single from Paul McCartney & Wings that was on its way down the chart after having fallen a few spots short of the Top Ten: “Listen To What The Man Said.”

The record, with Tom Scott on saxophone, peaked at No. 1. (Not No. 13; thanks, Yah Shure.) It’s an immediate earworm and a good listen for a Thursday (and it, too, needs to be added to the iPod).

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.)