Archive for the ‘Symmetry’ Category

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:

No. 49 Forty-Nine Years Ago

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Having found another way to dig into old charts the other day, I thought I’d take the same idea and move it forward a year, taking a look at whatever was sitting at No. 49 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-nine years ago today. (And we’ll no doubt keep moving forward a place and a year at a time at least through the early Eighties and perhaps backward through the Sixties into the late Fifties.)

Today we come across one of the heavyweights of my junior year of high school (actually one of the heavyweights of all time), a record that doesn’t need a whole lot said about it: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel.

I will note that this was the record’s first week on the chart, and it took only another three weeks for “Bridge . . .” to get to No. 1, a spot that it occupied for six weeks. Here it is:

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, February 1st, 2019

I’m moving slowly today, just an achy sense of general unwellness. But at least I’m moving.

I thought I’d at least show up here and take a look at whatever was sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty years ago today. And it’s a decent tune, “Things I’d Like To Say” by the New Colony Six.

The record, which would peak at No. 16 in mid-March, was one of two the Chicago band got into the Top 40; the other, “I Will Always Think About You,” had peaked at No. 22 in the spring of 1968.

I don’t remember hearing either of the two records, but then I wasn’t really listening at the time. I do recall a college friend from the Chicago area touting the group during our time in Denmark, something I recalled during the first few years of my online life. I checked the two records out and kind of shrugged. They were okay.

But maybe “Things I’d Like To Say” would be more than just okay if I’d heard it while dealing with an unrequited love . . .

Anyway, here’s “Things I’d Like To Say.”