Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 709

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Our main task today here on the North Side is to defrost the freezer. Somehow, when we bought our new freezer the day we moved into the condo (or perhaps the day after) in February 2018, we neglected to see if the new appliance – like the old one – was frost-free.

It isn’t, and defrosting the thing is one of those chores we tend to put off. Today, however, is the day.

We have plastic bins in the kitchen, waiting to be filled with the freezer’s contents, and nature is helping out today, with an outdoor temperature that will stay well under freezing all day. So we’ll just put the filled bins on the deck as we get to the work inside.

With the Texas Gal doing some prep upstairs, it’s about time for me to make my appearance, so we’ll just default to a record I’ve mentioned a couple times before but never featured here: “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. In 1966, it went to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 12 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

The Airheads Radio Survey Archive tells us that “The Philly Freeze” went to No. 1 on WJLB in Detroit, and hit the Top Ten on WJMO in Cleveland, WVON and WBEE in Chicago, WCHB in Detroit, and CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. The highest it went in Philadelphia – at least according to the information compiled at ARSA – was to No. 52 at WIBG.

Anyway, here’s “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘New Jersey’?

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

Hoping for inspiration, I scanned the entries on KDWB’s 6+30 survey released this week in 1971, seeing lots of familiar stuff: Rod Stewart, the Carpenters, Carole King, Donny Osmond, the Stampeders, Lighthouse . . .

And then, at No. 24: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

My mind shuffled through its internal files, quickly confirming that the first hit for the pop-rock duo came in the summer of 1976, when “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” often came wafting from the ceiling speakers at St. Cloud State’s student union as I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day.

So, No. 24 at KDWB in the autumn of 1971? I must have heard it, right? I dug a little more at Oldiesloon, my source for the KDWB surveys. “New Jersey” had peaked at No. 22 during the week of October 4, 1971.

So – and this is a question that’s not at all rhetorical – how many times in a day would KDWB have played a record that peaked at No. 22? Maybe my listening hours at the time and “New Jersey” never intersected. A trip to YouTube brought me the record, but beyond its introduction’s resemblance to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” there were no memories there.

Looking for more information, I visited the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and learned that KDWB was one of only five stations that listed “New Jersey” in its surveys.

The record was hit-bound at KAFY in Bakersfield, California, during the second week of August; was listed the next week as an “Instant Preview” at KRCB in Council Bluffs, Iowa; went to No. 7 in early September at WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina; and went to No. 12 at KSPD in Boise, Idaho, near the end of September.

And it was on KDWB’s 6+30 for nine weeks, crawling from No. 35 to No. 22 in seven weeks, then sitting at No. 24 for two weeks – where we found it – before falling out of the survey.

Nationally, it did next to nothing, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 103.

Even after a couple of listenings, I don’t remember “New Jersey.” It’s got a harder edge than the stuff that would bring England Dan & John Ford Coley into the Top Ten four times during the period from 1976 to 1978. But it’s an okay record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 708

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

As long as we’ve been messing around in the Billboard charts published this week in 1970, let’s look at the Top Ten in the Easy Listening chart from the edition that came out fifty years ago today:

“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“It’s Only Make Believe” by Glen Campbell
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray
“Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” by the New Seekers
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Candida” by Dawn
“Pieces Of Dreams” by Johnny Mathis
“Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band

Most of those are familiar and were so fifty years ago. I’d forgotten about the Glen Campbell and New Seekers records, and despite a stop at YouTube this morning, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Johnny Mathis single before. It turns out to be the title theme from a movie starring Lauren Hutton that I don’t recall either. I don’t really care for the record, which went no higher on the Easy Listening chart and didn’t come near the Hot 100.

I remember finding Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” on a collection sometime during the late 1980s and remembering how much I’d liked it in 1970. It went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, and I must have heard it on KDWB from the Twin Cities or maybe WJON down the around the corner.

The more interesting of the two records I’d forgotten about – “It’s Only Make Believe” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” – is the latter. It would peak at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart and get to No. 14 on the Hot 100. It was a cover of a tune by folkie Melanie, slightly retitled. (Melanie’s original version was titled “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It was originally on her 1970 album Candles In The Rain and was also released as the B-side to “The Nickel Song” in early 1972.)

Several strands are coming together in a loose pattern here. I was weeding out some unwanted tracks in iTunes the other day and spent some time thinking about the New Seekers’ medley of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me.” (It stayed.) I also spent some time the other evening sorting through videos at YouTube, looking for the long version of Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” and watching several of her performances on long-ago talk shows.

And the other day I got from our local library a CD anthology of Melanie’s hits as I pondered investing my own cash in a copy. She’s long fascinated me: I used to have seven of her LPs on the shelves – only Candles In The Rain survived the Great Sell-Off – and I wrote a lengthy post about her and Candles In The Rain during the first year of this blog’s existence.

So with all that going on, it seems as if the universe gives me no choice. Here’s the British/Australian group the New Seekers with “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” their cover of Melanie’s “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 707

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

We’re going to play some Games With Numbers today as we seek a song to highlight this morning, taking today’s date – 10/3/20 – and turning it into 33. Then we’ll take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 charts closest to this date in four years from my so-called sweet spot and see what was sitting at No. 33 at those times. As we nearly always do, we’ll take a look at what was sitting at No. 1 at the time as well.

We’ll start in 1969, during my first season of Top 40 fandom. And we fall on “In A Moment” by the Intrigues, a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before. It was released on the Yew label, which Discogs tells me was based in New York, but it sure has echoes of Motown and its subsidiaries. (Well, I’m not sure about the organ fill.) The Intrigues themselves were from Philadelphia, and “In A Moment” was their best charting record, peaking at No. 31 on the Hot 100 and at No, 10 on the Billboard R&B chart. I bet that if I didn’t listen to anything else in the course of creating this post, “In A Moment” – propulsive, catchy and nicely done – would be rolling through my head for a good part of the day.

The No. 1 record during the first days of October 1969 was “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies.

Two years later, as the rigors of college academic life were beginning to reveal themselves, the record sitting at No. 33 was another piece of R&B, this one smoother and more heart-broken, “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)” by the Dells. The record fits right into the catalog of the Chicago-based group, but it rose only another three spots on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 30; on the R&B chart, however, it got to No. 10. The track also serves as a reminder that I need to get more tunes by the Dells onto my digital shelves.

The No. 1 record the first weekend of October 1971 was Rod Stewart’s double-sided “Maggie May/Reason To Believe.”

The first weekend of October 1973 found me quaffing Danish beer and pondering Viking burial mounds. The Top 40 was a long way from my thoughts, and it would in fact be years until I heard the record that was at No. 33 that weekend: “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” by the Looking Glass. It’s an okay story record in the “two kids wanna get out of town” genre, but what makes it work for me is the backing track with its swirling organ solo and some tasty fills along the way. The record was at its peak on the Hot 100, and it went to No. 16 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. It was the last charting record for the group from New Jersey.

The No. 1 record during the first week of October 1973 was Cher’s “Half-Breed.”

October of 1975 was, as has been noted here numerous times over the past decade-plus, the centerpiece of one of the best seasons of my life. Given that, one would hope for a classic record to be perched at No. 33 in the first Hot 100 of the month. What we get is “The Way I Want To Touch You” by the Captain & Tennille. Well, it’s a sweet love song with excellent production, a better record as I listen to it this morning than it is in my memory. It was on its way to No. 4 on the Hot 100 and to a two-week stay at No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart.

The No. 1 record during the first days of October 1975 was “Fame” by David Bowie.

And even though I’m still not sure about the organ fills in the background, we’re going to make “In A Moment” by the Intrigues today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 706

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

The trees around the condo are doing their autumnal things. From where I write, I can see some lower branches of our flowering crab; about a tenth of its leaves are yellow, and some have fallen, while the remainder are yet green (though not at all a becoming shade of green). Down the alley, the leaves on one of the maples in front of a nearby unit are turning a vivid red.

Also near that unit, another tree – this one closer to us – has only a sparse collection of yellow leaves remaining in its branches. I do not know what type of tree it is, but its part in the autumn symphony, my favorite among nature’s performances, is almost over.

I find, though, that as October approaches, bringing the midpoint of my six favorite weeks of the year, that I am not nearly as pleased this year by nature’s displays as I have been during most of the sixty-plus autumns I can remember. As I’ve noted before, the events of the world have left me unsettled.

We try here to maintain, though. We spent an enjoyable Thursday evening in the parking lot of a local dining and drinking establishment with about a hundred other folks – all groups sensibly distanced and some, at least, masked when appropriate – listening to the country band Mason Dixon Line. Two of the band’s members are acquaintances of ours, and they and their two mates did nice work on a program of covers.

It was a pleasantly cool evening, and I sat with my attention shifting from the band and a few dancers in front of me to the sky, where the moon was in its waxing quarter phase (more commonly called a half-moon) with a planet in attendance to its east. I learned later that it was Jupiter, with Saturn only a little bit farther east.

That was our first evening out since sometime in maybe early February, and given reports of a rapidly rising infection rate in Minnesota in recent weeks, likely the last for some time to come. And as I sat there in my lawn chair alternating my gaze between the stage and the sky, there was a song that kept popping into my mind, even as Mason Dixon Line offered tunes by Alabama and Alan Jackson. “Half moon,” I kept hearing. “Nighttime sky . . .”

That’s why Janis Joplin’s “Half Moon,” from her 1971 album Pearl, is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 705

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

We had a busy day yesterday, the Texas Gal and I: We did a grocery run in the morning, then spent the afternoon preparing the house for company for the first time since March. Tom, a friend from our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, had offered to come over and help us with a household problem, and we in turn had offered him dinner.

The problem was basically pretty simple. The light bulbs in the ceiling fixture over the landing had finally died. The fixture hangs from the main floor ceiling and can only be reached from the landing a story-and-a-half below. Not long after we moved here, we bought a twelve-foot step ladder, but we soon learned we were uncomfortable – both of us being a bit wobbly – near the top of the ladder.

Tom isn’t. Soon after he arrived, he was checking out the light fixture, tightening screws on the fan blades and installing light bulbs. Not long after that, he and I were quaffing Oktoberfest brews while the Texas Gal put finishing touches on dinner, and then all three of us were dining on chicken breasts with an apple-onion-raisin curry sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

It was good to have company again. And yes, it’s good to have lights over the landing again, but we would have been pleased with the company even without the household assistance. As I’m sure many folks out there agree, the last six months have been fairly isolating, and a taste of safe normality – we’ve known Tom long enough that we trust him and he trusts us in all matters, not just those related to the corona virus – was good for all three of us.

But I’m tired today. So I’m not doing a whole lot here this morning. I just dipped back into the Billboard Hot 100 we looked at yesterday – released on September 19, 1970, fifty years ago today – and looked for something interesting in its lower reaches.

And I found a cover I’d never heard before, a take on Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Fifty years ago today, it was bubbling under at No. 101, and that’s as high as it ever went, although it went to No. 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. I do wonder why Mendes thought 1970 was a good time to cover the tune, which the Buffalo Springfield originally released in 1967. Whatever the reason. it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 704

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

Among the 81,000-some tracks on the digital shelves, there are a bunch that name “September” in their titles. How many is a bunch? I don’t know. Let’s find out, taking the first half of the alphabet this week and the second half in a couple of posts over the next week.

Alphabetically, the first one that shows up is “23 Days In September” by Richie Havens, from his 1973 album Portfolio. The same song shows up again with a slightly different title: Its writer, David Blue, used it as the title track for his 1968 album These 23 Days In September. Blue’s version of a lover in depression and a love fading into silence is languid with some nice sonic touches; Havens’ take is faster, driven by his acoustic guitar work.

Then we come to Teddy & The Pandas’ “68 Days To September,” a poppy 1968 tribute to the girl the singer will miss during summer vacation: “Things will be so fine when we’re together again . . .”

“Black September/Belfast” from Mason Proffit’s 1972 album, Bare Back Rider, is an odd an disconcerting piece of work, focusing on the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches by Black September terrorists during the summer Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, in 1972 and citing as well the concurrent sectarian Troubles in Belfast at the same time. References to U.S. Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz and to the ongoing war in Vietnam make it all seem a little scattershot, despite evocative, haunting music.

And from that we go to easy listening maestro Mantovani taking on a tune by country singer Hank Thompson: “Come September (I’ll Remember)” is two minutes and forty-one seconds of shimmering strings, the kind of stuff I remember KFAM-FM playing in St. Cloud during the mid- and late 1960s. Beautiful music, you know.

Up next is is a Wall of Sound-ish piece less than a minute long from Brit Paul Weller. “The Dark Pages Of September Lead To The New Leaves Of Spring” comes from his 2008 album 22 Dreams, where I imagine it served as a transition between two longer pieces. I’ll have to go back and verify that some year.

There are two versions of Carole King’s “It Might As Well Rain Until September” in the stacks here: King’s original, which went to No. 22 in 1962, and a cover by Peggy Lipton from 1968, when Lipton was one of the stars of the TV show The Mod Squad. King’s version is pretty standard Tin Pan Alley pop, while Lipton’s is more subtle, almost easy listening with some nice saxophone work in the background. But Lipton’s sometimes uncertain voice seems overpowered by the production. If I could have King’s voice with the production Lipton had behind her, I’d be very happy.

‘It’s September” by Stax man Johnnie Taylor starts in September and chugs and grooves through the autumn and then – by the end of the record – the entire year, wondering where his woman is while he and the children wonder when life will get back to normal. The 1974 release got to No. 26 on the Billboard R&B chart.

The last track we find in the first half of the alphabet comes from the Dream Academy, perhaps best known for the 1985 hit “Life In A Northern Town.” Today we’re listening to “Lucy September,” a tale, it quickly becomes apparent, about an addict:

Lucy September’s put a hole in her arm
She wonders where all daddy’s money’s gone
Lying on the bed with a wasted friend
Oh yeah she could have been someone
With all the advantages under the sun
But sad to say this is where her story ends

It’s an okay piece of work, but not quite to my taste this morning.

So what is our choice this morning? Well, David Blue’s track haunts me, as his work seemingly does whenever it pops up here. That makes his “These 23 Days In September” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 703

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

We’re going to dabble, as we often do, in 1970 this morning, looking at the No. 1 records in the various Billboard charts from fifty years ago today. Those records were:

“War” by Edwin Starr on the Hot 100.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder on the R&B chart.
“Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Sonny James on the country chart.
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray on the easy listening chart
Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival on the pop album chart.
ABC by the Jackson 5 on the R&B album chart.
Charley Pride’s 10th Album on the country album chart.

As might be expected, I know everything but the country stuff from that list. And even though I should probably know more about Sonny James and Charley Pride than I do, I’m going to pass on them today, and we’re going to take a look at Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Cosmo’s Factory.

Even though I liked hearing CCR’s singles coming out of my radio in the years from 1969 to 1972, I never thought to get any of the group’s records until the summer of 1988, when I came across Willy And The Poorboys and Green River (probably used at a garage sale). The rest of the group’s catalog landed on my shelves during the years of vinyl madness in the late 1990s, with today’s topic – Cosmo’s Factory – coming home with me in October 1998.

Is it my favorite Creedence album? No, I think Green River take that label. But it’s got three Top Five double-sided singles: “Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop The Rain” (No. 2), “Up Around The Bend/Run Through The Jungle” (No. 4), and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door/As Long As I Can See The Light” (No. 2), as well as the eleven-minute jam on “Heard It Through The Grapevine.” So it’s got some cred.

Fifty years ago today, the album was in the second week of a nine-week run atop the Billboard 200, so here’s my favorite track from the album, “Long As I Can See The Light.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 701

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Of all the books about music on my shelves – and there are many, encompassing biographies, histories, chart references and more – the one that’s least used, I would guess, is The Billboard Book Of No. 2 Hits.

Written by Christopher G. Feldman, the book catalogs the records that have peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s main singles chart(s) from 1955 through 1999. (Yeah, it’s more than twenty years out of date now, but since the focus of this blog is generally the years, oh, from 1965 to 1977, that doesn’t matter.) Feldman provides a brief history of the record and notes which record (or records) kept it from reaching the top of the chart.

(The book starts in 1955 because – and I don’t know why I’m explaining this to readers who most likely already know it – that was the year when “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets became the first rock & roll record to reach No. 1 on any of the magazine’s charts, kind of a Big Bang for chart geeks.)

The first entry in Feldman’s book is for “Melody Of Love” by Billy Vaughan & His Orchestra, which hit No. 2 during the first week of March 1955 on both the Best Seller and Disc Jockey charts. Vaughan’s instrumental version was one of five covers of the 1903 song (some with newly written lyrics) to chart in 1955. It was blocked from the top spot by the McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely.”

The year with the most records peaking at No. 2 was 1969 with sixteen, three of them – “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Green River” – by Creedence Clearwater Revival. (CCR also peaked at No. 2 twice in 1970 with “Travelin’ Band” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” but remarkably never hit No. 1.)

And because we looked at a chart from 1977 yesterday, I’m just going to list the records that peaked at No. 2 that year and see what we can find for a single this morning. The records from 1977 in Feldman’s book are:

“Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller
“I’m In You” by Peter Frampton
“Your Love Has Lifted Me (Higher & Higher)” by Rita Coolidge
“Float On” by the Floaters
“Keep It Comin’ Love” by KC & The Sunshine Band
“Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon
“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle

Two of those – the singles by Frampton and Coolidge – were in the chart we looked at yesterday. A few of the others, I’ve featured before. But it seems I’ve never, in this blog’s thirteen-plus years, featured a record by KC & The Sunshine Band. So, okay. “Keep It Comin’ Love” was at No. 2 for three weeks in October 1977, kept from the top spot by “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco and “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 700

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the only logical conclusion that comes when anyone who counts things – in any endeavor – finds the total number of things counted reaching 700.

And it has been a while. It’s taken me thirteen years and six months to reach that Ruthian number one Saturday Single at a time. (Well, there were a few weeks when I had two featured singles; call those doubleheaders.) And in the last year, as that large round number got closer and closer, I began thinking of what kind of post should accompany it.

And after dithering for a while, I decided to repeat the post that accompanied Saturday Single No. 300 in July 2012. It’s still all true, and I recall that one of my readers called it “charming.” On top of that, it’s one of my favorites among the more than 2,600 or so posts I’ve offered since 2007 – not quite 1,600 of them here and about 1,000 of them at this blog’s two previous locations. With a bit of editing, here it is:

The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.

I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.

And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”

That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.

Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.

And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – nearly sixty years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 24,000 to choose from now.

Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.

There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would.

But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.

I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life.

But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures at hand (coffee chief among them early this morning), and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is still sleeping. The cats are scattered and dozing, and my morning newspaper waits for me in the driveway. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this day, once more, the best day of my life.

And music, of course, always makes a good day better. Here’s a tune from Paul Williams that I loved the first time I heard it in 1975, hoping that someday its lyrics would describe my life. It took some time, but thanks to my Texas Gal, that’s been true now for more than twenty years. From Williams’ 1971 album, Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, here’s “I Never Had It So Good,” Saturday Single No. 700.