Archive for the ‘Back In 1970’ Category

Saturday Single No. 456

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

My search feature told me this morning that among the Billboard Hot 100 charts that have been released over the years on July 25, one of them fell in 1970. I glanced at it, knowing as I did that every record near the top would likely be familiar, tunes I would have heard on KDWB (or on WJON or WLS after dark).

And I thought, “Why not just look at the KDWB survey instead?” So I stopped off at the Oldies Loon website and pulled up the station’s survey for July 27, 1970. (The survey is here.) And every record was more than familiar until I got right near the bottom of the survey, where Glen Campbell’s “Everything A Man Could Need” didn’t ring any bells. I checked it out on YouTube, was reminded that the full title was “Everything A Man Could Ever Need,” and then remembered hearing it and not being very impressed. Neither were the rest of KDWB’s listeners, as the record made it only as high as No. 28 on the station’s weekly surveys over a four-week run.*

So with a survey full of memories – as I’ve noted many times, the summer of 1970 was one of the best radio seasons of my life – what do I do this morning? I thought about playing some games with today’s date, and did a quick scan of the records that would be involved, those at Nos. 7, 15, 22, 25 and 32. And then I went back to No. 25, Bob Dylan’s “Wigwam.”

Back in the summer of 1970, I knew very little about Bob Dylan. I knew about “Lay Lady Lay” from the summer of 1969. I knew about “Blowin’ In The Wind.” I knew he was one of the big trees in the forest of folk and rock and pop music. I didn’t really know why.

But I loved the wordless “Wigwam,” which peaked at KDWB at No. 23 a couple of weeks later (and made it to No. 41 in the Hot 100). I know now, of course, that it came from Self Portrait, the ramshackle album that left most critics and fans baffled and annoyed at best. I know now a lot more about Bob Dylan. There are numerous albums of his that I admire more and enjoy more than I do Self Portrait. There are Dylan songs and Dylan recordings that I admire more than I do “Wigwam.”

But I still love the record, just like I did back in 1970. Because of that, and because it’s not ever been mentioned even once over the course of about 1,800 posts here, Bob Dylan’s “Wigwam” is today’s Saturday Single.

* “Everything A Man Could Ever Need,” from the movie Norwood, wasn’t a big hit nationally, either, making it only to No. 52 in the Hot 100. The record did get to No. 5 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

‘Hard Luck & Troubles . . .’

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

The Texas Gal came down with a cold late last week: Sneezing, congestion, body aches, the whole bit. She soldiered through it, and as she did, I figured it was only a matter of time before the cold went viral, so to speak, and wandered my way.

It did so sometime between bedtime Saturday and the alarm going off Sunday morning. So I sat at the computer early Sunday, wondering if I felt crappy enough to postpone a meeting after church that had already been rescheduled twice in the past month. I had a musical performance scheduled during the church service that could not be missed, but the idea of ending the church day there and postponing the meeting again was attractive.

I had just decided to gut it out and stay for the meeting when I heard a series of “thump-thump” sounds coming from the stairway. The Texas Gal had slipped on a step coming down from the loft and, it appeared, had sprained her ankle. I got her into the living room and settled in her recliner. She shooed me off to church, where I did my part in the musical performance. Then I begged off, postponing my meeting once more in order to get home and see to the Texas Gal’s needs.

At bedtime, she limped upstairs, and we decided that Monday morning would bring a visit with Dr. Julie. And on Monday, Dr. Julie scanned the x-rays and told us that the Texas Gal had a spiral fracture of her left fibula just next to the ankle. “Well,” said Dr. Julie, “if you’re going to have a broken leg bone, that’s the one you want to break, and that’s the way you want to break it.”

So the Texas Gal is in a boot for four to six weeks. It’s taking some getting used to, but she’s moving around far better this morning than she was yesterday, and she thinks she’ll be able to return to work tomorrow without major complications.

As for me, I’m congested and sneezing and not sleeping well, but that’s really small stuff when looking at the larger panorama. Things could be much, much worse.

And, as always, I hear music in the background of our lives. Here’s an appropriate tune from Delaney & Bonnie: “Hard Luck and Troubles” from their 1970 album To Bonnie From Delaney.

One Chart Dig: November 6, 1970

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Glancing through the entries on the Billboard Hot 100 from forty-four years ago today, I was struck by a title in the Top 40 that I’d never encountered: “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World)” by the Temptations. The record was at No. 39, just down from its peak a week earlier at No. 33. (It peaked at No. 8 on the R&B chart.)

Despite the foreign language title (and after a brief sorting of links at Google, I’m still not sure which African language it is), to my ears the record holds no trace, either sonically or lyrically, of what we would eventually call world music: It comes straight from the Barrett Strong & Norman Whitfield notebook (with Whitfield producing).

Given the Strong & Whitfield sound, its relative failure on the charts is a little perplexing. In Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World)” is the fourth of a series of five singles listed beginning in August 1969: The three before it were “I Can’t Get Next To You,” which went to No. 1; “Psychedelic Shack” (No. 7); and “Ball of Confusion” (No. 3). And following “Ungena Za Ulimwengu (Unite The World)” in early 1971 was “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me),” which was another No. 1 hit, a record decidedly different than the four preceding it but still a Strong/Whitfield track.

My guess is that the foreign title might have put off programmers and confused the buying public, because it’s a pretty good record.

‘Summer Morning In The Sun . . .’

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The Texas Gal is on vacation, and consequently, I’m not planning to spend a lot of time in the EITW studios this week. But I will dig into a couple of Billboard Hot 100s and find a single record to ponder a couple times over the next few days. Today, I went back to the year that pops up more often here than any other – 1970 – and checked out the lower levels of the chart from August 29. And I found a record that I don’t believe I heard back then, but it’s one I think I would have liked: “(I Remember) Summer Morning” by the English pop group Vanity Fare:

It’s a little slight and saccharine for me now – at least it is this morning – but I’m pretty sure that the sixteen-year-old whiteray would have nodded his head as the record came out of the radio on a late August evening. He wouldn’t have been remembering a summer romance as the single played; that was an experience waiting for him some years down the road. But being the romantic that he was (and still is, more than forty years later), he would have thought to himself that what Vanity Fare offered in its record is the way one should feel about a summer romance.

(It’s possible, however, that even as he liked the record back in 1970, the young whiteray might have noticed even back then that the tale of romance is strong on generalities and very light on details of what the two innocents did during their summer: Did they ride the roller coaster at Beckman Park, or swim to the raft in the sunshine at Lake Anna, or walk along Crescent Street in the rain? The record doesn’t say.)

As far as I recall, “(I Remember) Summer Morning” never came out of the RCA radio in my room as summer dwindled and autumn approached in 1970. Forty years ago this week, the record sat at No. 98; it stayed there one week and then disappeared. Vanity Fare is, of course, better remembered for two other 1970 records: “Early In The Morning” went to No. 12 in April and “Hitchin’ A Ride” went to No. 5 in June. And it was probably just as well for that adolescent whiteray that “Summer Morning” wasn’t a hit; there were enough romantic notions coming out of the speakers of that old RCA as it was.

See you later this week.

Visualizing Sabres

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

I imagine it was sometime in February 1970 that I was doodling on my drawing pad, considering the recently announced nickname – the Sabres – of the new National Hockey League team based in Buffalo, New York.

And as I doodled, several threads of my life were coming together.

A few years earlier, probably sometime in late 1967, I’d wandered across the street to Rick and Rob’s house. Rick wasn’t home, but Rob was busy considering nicknames for teams he’d made up as members of sports leagues he’d created. One of them, I recall, was the Akron Hubs, with the nickname playing on the Ohio city’s prominence in the tire trade. Another was for a fictional college, the College of Cosmos & Damien, whose athletic teams would be called the Trumpeters.

He also, I think, showed me a basketball card game designed to be played either solitaire or with two players.

Being a newly hatched sports fan, all of that fascinated me, and I soon had my own basketball card game and began putting together lists of team names. I also began thinking about logos. In that year of 1967, as I’ve noted before, two new professional sports teams came to Minnesota, the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League and the Minnesota Muskies of the American Basketball Association. I followed the two teams, but more than that, I found myself considering the thought and design that went into naming the teams and then crafting their logos.

Then, after the Minnesota Muskies’ first season ended, the team announced it was moving to Miami, where it would be called the Floridians. Sometime during the summer of 1968, I looked at the map of Florida, and I envisioned a basketball flying out of Miami northeast like a comet or a hurricane, then curving around behind the state and coming out under the panhandle. And I sat down with my crude tools – a compass, an atlas and some colored pencils – and created a logo for the Miami Floridians. I don’t recall what colors I used, but I remember that it was a pretty raw piece of work. Nevertheless, I found the address for the newly relocated basketball team and mailed my creation off.

And here’s what came in the mail that August:

And here’s the logo the Floridians chose:

I filed the letter away and started making logos for my own fictional teams. I had a couple of basketball leagues of eight teams each (one using my card game and the other a simple dice game I invented), and then I expanded: I divided the U.S. into seven regions and used Canada as the eighth region to conduct a national basketball tournament. Each region had sixteen teams, and I pored over the atlas to find towns small and large to enter into the tourney; when a team reached its regional semifinals, it was awarded a nickname. If it won its region, it got a logo. The number of logos in my file – a file I have sitting behind me on a table as I write – increased rapidly.

I don’t know which I enjoyed more: playing the individual games of the tournament, watching the progress of the various teams through the tournament, selecting the nicknames for the regional semifinalists, or crafting the logos of the eight regional champions. All of it fed my soul. I eventually played five annual tournaments, with the last one coming during my sophomore year of college.

It was at the midpoint of that five-year run, in 1970, that I found myself one evening doodling as I considered how one might illustrate the team name of the Buffalo Sabres, a team that would begin play in the National Hockey League that autumn. I sketched a large and somewhat ornate capital B, and a little while later, I had what we would these days call a concept:

I made another version of it, this time making the blade of the sabre white, so the “uffalo” was more clearly visible. And I sent it off to Buffalo. A few weeks later, I got a letter:

I was pretty pleased just to have been noticed. And, yes, given the final portion of the letter, I must have asked if I should continue designing logos. I don’t recall doing so, but I think I was truly asking for an honest opinion. (Really, though, what was Mr. Burr going to say to a sixteen-year-old kid?)

A couple of years later, in 1973, I quit making logos, quit my annual basketball tournament and pretty much quit creating imaginary teams. I’ve resumed in recent years, taking a tabletop baseball game – not Strat-O-Matic, but a different one – and creating a league that over the course of almost thirty years has grown to eighteen teams. I’ve used Word to create the logos, which is kind of limiting, but good enough for now. Here’s one of them.

Getting back to 1970, I remember wondering on evenings in my room if the Buffalo Sabres would respond to me at all. I’m sure the radio was playing as I wondered, tuned to either KDWB or WLS or WJON just across the railroad tracks. So what would I have heard? Well, I would have heard many records that are now, as I often say, old friends, and I certainly heard some that I have long since forgotten. One of those forgotten until recent years was “Take A Look Around” by Smith. During this week in 1970, the record was at No. 31 on KDWB’s “6+30” survey; it would top off at No. 22 a couple of weeks later (and at No. 43 in the Billboard charts).

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Forty-Two Years

Friday, May 4th, 2012

“Ohio” by Mott the Hoople.
Live at Fairfield Halls, Croydon, England, September 13, 1970.

Saturday Single No. 213

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

 I have, as has been noted here several times before, a fascination with the music of 1970. So I thought that this morning – with a planned shopping excursion and the Texas Gal waiting on the other side of this post – I’d look at the Top Ten for this week in 1970, and then do a six-song random jaunt through that year’s music in search of today’s single. (As you’ll see below, for technical reasons, this became a seven-song jaunt.)

The Billboard Top Ten in the last week of November was almost unchanged from the Top Ten a week earlier, a list we looked at last week. The order had shifted, and “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul had been replaced by Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.” But it was a familiar list (with, as a commenter rightly pointed out last week, several iconic performances):

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom
“Heaven Help Us All” by Stevie Wonder
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf

So what I’m going to do from here is sort out the 3,100 or so songs I have from 1970, arrange them in time order, and with “I Think I Love You” as my starting point, click on six songs at random and see where we end up.

Our first stop is “Movement5 (Beginning)” by Mandrill, a horn-laden Latin R&B band from Brooklyn. Starting with some guitar feedback, the piece slides into a percussion driven chant of “Peace! Love! Peace! Love!”  Sounds like 1970. Eventually, the percussion fades away, and the chanting runs through an echo chamber before finally fading away itself.

And we’re on to “You’d Better Be Ready” by a group named Magic Sand. Google has plenty of information about the scientific toy called Magic Sand but nothing significant about the group, which, according to the listing at All-Music Guide,  released only one album in its creative life. “You’d Better Be Ready” is bluesy with a heavy circular riff and a busy boogieing guitar solo that sounds very much of its time. So, too, do the slightly menacing vocals: “That fella you’ve been seeing can’t love you like me. Step over to my side. There’s no room for three.”

And we move into familiar territory: the rollicking and triplet-enhanced piano of Little Richard as he leads Delaney & Bonnie & Friends into “Miss Ann,” a selection from D&B&F’s album To Bonnie From Delaney. (That was, I believe, the first Delaney & Bonnie album I owned, and my first listening to it brought me my first knowing exposure to Little Richard’s flamboyant musicianship. As soon as the track was over, I stopped the stereo, moved the needle back and listened to “Miss Ann” once more.)

From rockin’ out with Little Richard we move on to a subdued folkish reading of a Gordon Lightfoot song by a fellow who did his share of rocking out over the years. Released as the last track on Ronnie Hawkins’ self-titled 1970 album, “Home From The Forest” gets a quiet, meditative reading, appropriate for the tale of an old man whose home was a rooming house and whose friend was a bottle. It’s a side of Hawkins not often seen, and it’s all the more effective for that. (The track also has a sad and sweet harmonica solo from none other than King Biscuit Boy.)

Fifth up this morning is a tune from Traffic, pulled from John Barleycorn Must Die. “Stranger To Himself” is a halting, shifting tune with intentional dissonance, instrumental and vocal. I’ve heard it so many times over forty years that it sounds normal, and I wish I could remember what I thought of it the first time I heard it. Now, it just sounds like the rec room in our basement circa 1973.

And we head to country rock territory, with weeping fiddles leading us into “The Image of Me” from Burrito Deluxe, the second album released by the Flying Burrito Brothers. The track, written by country writing legend Harlan Howard along with Wayne Kemp, seems to be your basic Burrito outing: good but not great, as least not when compared to the group’s previous release, The Gilded Palace of Sin. That came out in 1969, though, and we’re concerned this morning with 1970 and prepared to stop right here. Technical difficulties, however, at 4shared.com force us to move on one more step to a seventh song:

Ian and Sylvia Tyson were one of the most popular acts of the folk revival of the early 1960s, with Ian Tyson writing some of the most evocative songs of that era, including “Early Morning Rain” and “Four Strong Winds.” As 1970 came along, they’d been passed by for the most part, but soldiered on, heading into country rock and straight country music. Their 1970 release, The Great Speckled Bird, was produced by Todd Rundgren, and although it was not all that successful commercially, I’ve always enjoyed it. And “Smiling Wine” from The Great Speckled Bird is today’s Saturday single:

(Whoops! “Early Morning Rain,” as reader Randy points out, is Gordon Lightfoot’s tune.)

A Case Of Senioritis

Friday, November 19th, 2010

As the third week in November of 1970 spooled out, I was right back where I had been during the last two Novembers – going to classes and then hanging around wrestling practice as a manager at St. Cloud Tech High School. My main duty as wrestling manager was to maintain the scorebook and the statistics, which meant that during matches, I sat at the table at the front of the gym with the scoreboard operator.

In addition, I dispensed aspirin for minor bruises and contusions, wrapped vulnerable thumbs and ankles with an armor of athletic tape, treated raw spots – we called them “strawberries” – on arms and legs with a viciously painful spray called Nitro-Tan, and spent a lot of time sitting and doing nothing. And doing nothing got boring, as did watching wrestling practice. So I got in the habit of bringing a book to practice and sitting on the small gymnastics mat on the side of the wrestling gym, reading science fiction and astronomy. I was a little bit bored with wrestling, and that season marked the seventh out of eight sports seasons in my high school life that I’d spent as a manager for an athletic team. I was getting tired of the locker room and was wondering if I had any options anywhere else.

I’d not focused entirely on managing during high school. I’d played one year in Concert Band, and I was in my second year in Concert Choir and my third year in the orchestra. And as the holidays approached, I would be a member of the ten-voice Carolers, who dressed in something approaching Victorian costumes and performed frequently during December around the St. Cloud area. I’d miss a few wrestling practices for that, which I’d cleared with the coach, but I wouldn’t miss a match.

Still, I was a little unsettled, anxious to try something new. I was being adventurous in my social life, seeing a number of sophomore girls, although the young lady I preferred was directing her attentions elsewhere. (I told the story here and here.) But I wanted something new in the rest of my life, and I was looking.

It didn’t go unnoticed. The wrestling coach – whom we called “Kiff” and who lived less than a block away from us on Kilian Boulevard – told me the following spring, “I could see your attention wandering.” I began to apologize, but he waved it off. “It’s pretty normal for seniors. You’d been there two years and you begin to wonder what else there is to do. Most kids, when that happens, quit what they were doing and go off. You hung in there, and I appreciate that.”

As it happened, come late January and for the rest of the season, my “hanging in there” required some flexibility from both Kiff and the English teacher who directed the winter play. On a whim, I auditioned for a part in Tech’s presentation of the Woody Allen comedy, Don’t Drink The Water, and, to my astonishment, I was cast as the comedy lead. That would be in January, though, after 1970 turned into 1971. As wrestling season got underway, I had no idea what to do, and that gave me one more thing to ponder during the evenings I spent in my room with the radio playing.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten I would have heard during the third week of November in 1970, as I was assessing my options.

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom

Boy, even the soul and R&B selections there are a little bit lightweight, but it’s a pretty good Top Ten. I don’t know what the critical assessment of the No. 1 song would be these days, but given its time and place associations for me, the Partridge Family’s hit is a keeper. And so are most of the rest of those. But “Indiana Wants Me” has not aged well, and I have never liked “Montego Bay” although I have no idea why.

Other stuff waited lower down on the chart, of course. This week’s exploration takes place entirely in the bottom half of the Hot 100 and in its subbasement.

B.B. King had been a blues star and a presence on the Billboard R&B chart for years, first hitting that Top Ten in 1955, and he would continue to do so into 1981. His appearances in the Hot 100 were nearly as frequent, according to the list at All-Music Guide. But only a handful of his singles – six in all – reached the Top 40. In early 1970, King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” had peaked at No. 15, his best showing ever. And in the third week of November, his “Chains and Things” was moving up the charts; it would peak at No. 45 in the Hot 100 and would climb to No. 6 on the R&B chart.

 

Back in July, when several commenters agreed with my reservations about Barbra Streisand’s post-1970 work (especially 1976’s A Star Is Born), another commenter noted that those who criticize Babs are likely too young to appreciate her genius. I’ll dissent, of course, on being too young: I was listening to Barbra Streisand in my living room sometime in the mid-1960s after my sister bought her 1966 album Color Me Barbra. I liked it. And I generally liked Streisand’s work up until the mid-1970s, when – in my view – her ego outgrew her considerable talent. During the third week of November 1970, Streisand’s single “Stoney End,” which I liked a lot, was sitting at No. 59, having leaped eleven places from the previous week. It would go on to peak at No. 6 and be the third of Streisand’s eventual twenty-one Top 40 hits (through 2003).

Earlier in 1970, Tyrone Davis had a hit with the brilliant “Turn Back The Hands of Time,” which went to No. 3 in the Top 40 and spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. It was Davis’ third Top 40 hit and his fourth Top Ten hit on the R&B chart. He’d have two more Top 40 hits and at least twenty-six more records on the R&B chart (depending on the accuracy of the AMG lists) through 1983. In November 1970, “Let Me Back In” peaked at No. 58 in the Hot 100 and at No. 12 on the R&B chart and was sitting at No. 73 during the third week of that month.

It had been five years since Little Anthony & The Imperials had reached the Top 40. In 1964 and 1965, the group had five Top 40 hits, three of them in the Top Ten, following a pair of Top 40 hits in 1958 and 1960. Other singles made it into the Hot 100 during the lean years from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1965 to 1970, but I’m not sure how many. I do know that during the third week of November 1970, “Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You)” was at No. 96 and in its first week in the Hot 100. From what I can find, it would sit there one more week before spending a week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then disappearing completely.

Sitting just below the Hot 100, we find Desmond Dekker and his version of the Jimmy Cliff song “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” at No. 103. Dekker had reached No. 9 during the summer of 1969 with “Israelites,” which was credited to Desmond Dekker & The Aces. “You Can Get It . . .” didn’t technically make the pop chart; the record sat at No. 103 for one more week, then fell to No. 107 for a week before falling out entirely. Two years later, according to AMG, writer Cliff used the same rhythm track to cut his own version of the song for the soundtrack to The Harder They Come.

I know absolutely nothing about the New Young Hearts, nor does AMG, really. The only thing certain is that the group recorded for the Zea label and released one killer track, “The Young Hearts Get Lonely Too.” Forty years ago this week, the single was sitting at No. 123 in Bubbling Under portion of the chart, having moved up one slot from the week before. A week later, the record was gone. It deserved far, far better.

See you tomorrow.

(Incorrcect clip replaced since first posted.)

Two Looks Back, One Look Forward

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

My list of things to accomplish today is longer than I would like, and following an early morning trip to the dentist – no major problems but the usual admonition to floss more frequently – I am short of time.

So I thought I would supply two looks back and one look forward today.

I wrote Tuesday about the beginnings of the metamorphosis of Paul Summers – whom I knew in Eden Prairie – into Paul LaRoche of the Lower Brulé Lakota Tribe and the music he now creates as Brulé with the band American Indian Rock Opera. I’ve been listening a fair amount in the past few days to their music, and I thought I’d toss another selection out there.

Here’s “Buffalo Moon” from Brulé’s first CD, the 1996 release We the People.

Since that release, as I mentioned this week, Paul LaRoche’s two children, Nicole and Shane, have joined in his musical efforts, and Nicole has released several CDs of her own. Here’s “Beyond the Trail of Tears” from her 2001 CD, Passion Spirit.

And, as I plan tomorrow to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1970 – my favorite musical year – here’s “Back to the River” by the oddly named The Damnation of Adam Blessing, which was at No. 107 in its first week in the Bubbling Under section of the Hot 100. (I may have posted this tune when I was at one of my other two locations on the Intertubes, but if so, it’s been a while and it’s a good tune.) From what I can tell, the record hung around the Bubbling Under section for four weeks in November and December 1970 and then disappeared for a bit before coming back for three more weeks of Bubbling Under in January 1971.

And I’ll be back tomorrow.

Back To 1970 Once Again

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

A lot of records from 1970 have been explored in this space in the past few months, but it’s been a while – going back to July, actually – since we looked at a chart from that year, which I noted some time ago was my first great music year and the first full year I spent digging into Top 40.

So what was I doing forty years ago as October entered its final fortnight? Well, I finally got my driver’s license, passing the behind-the-wheel test on my fifth try. Nerves had been my nemesis, but knowing that another failure meant retaking driver’s training focused my attention, even if it didn’t really settle my nerves, and I squeaked through.

My afternoons and Friday evenings were spent as head manager for the St. Cloud Tech high school football team, which was struggling through the first season of two high schools in St. Cloud. We had kids on the team who’d never gone out for football before in their lives, and although some of them did quite well, our inexperience showed on the field and in our won-lost record.

Other than that, I filled my time with a number of hobbies: I was deep into making model rockets, shooting them off in the empty field just down the alley from Rick’s house. I was expanding my collection of LPs, still catching up on the Beatles; but I was also savvy enough to be one of the first people among my small group of friends to get a copy of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And along with rockets and records, I spent a good deal of my free time pondering a group of sophomore girls, one of whom became, as I told some months ago, the recipient of song lyrics – original and otherwise – printed in purple ink.

Much of that pondering came as I listened to my old RCA radio in my room. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending October 24, 1970, forty years ago this week:

“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“All Right Now” by Free
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Candida” by Dawn
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Lola” by the Kinks
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross

The first seven of those are stellar. The final three, not so much. I liked “Indiana Wants Me” a lot at the time, and I still like it as an artifact of its time, but it’s aged much less well than the others on that list, with its sirens and police bullhorns. But it was fun at the time. I’ve never much cared for “Lola” or for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” though.

But there were plenty of records further down the chart that I liked a lot. And looking at the chart this morning, there were plenty of them that I didn’t know all that well.

Mark Lindsay, previously with Paul Revere & The Raiders, had scored two hits earlier in the year: “Arizona” went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970, and “Silver Bird” had reached No. 25 during the summer. During this fourth week of October, his current single, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” was sitting at No. 53. The record, which is a sweet ballad, got as high as No. 44, where it spent two weeks in mid-November, but it got no higher.

 

Sitting at No. 70 during this week in 1970 is a record I know I heard at least once, though I swear I also heard a cover version of the song as well. Jake Holmes released a few well-regarded albums in the 1960s: The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, A Letter to Katherine December and a self-titled effort. The best known of those is probably the first, as it includes the song “Dazed and Confused,” which was later seemingly appropriated without credit by Led Zeppelin. But the song I remember was from Holmes’ lesser known fourth album, So Close, So Very Far To Go. Forty years ago, “So Close” was at No. 70, and it peaked at No. 49 during the last week of November. Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it, and no, it wasn’t Robert Plant. Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ “So Close”?

It was likely during the autumn of 1970 that I made one of my worst LP purchases of all time, spending five or six bucks for Iron Butterfly Live. The review of the album at All-Music Guide nails it, noting that the album “is noteworthy for its second side, which contains a 20-minute version of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.’ Even though it’s only three minutes longer than the original version, it’s three times as tedious.” I would have done far better to get a copy of the group’s new album, Metamorphosis, which included a pretty good single. “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” was at No. 82 during this week in 1970; it peaked at No. 66 during the third week of November.

Just a little further down, we find the first record to reach the Billboard charts from one of the first country rock bands. Poco, the foundations of which had emerged from the wreckage of Buffalo Springfield, would have four Top 40 hits from 1979 through 1990, but the group’s best music, most fans would say, came in the first half of the 1970s. “You Better Think Twice,” which was at No. 88 during the week of October 24, 1970, peaked at No. 72 during the third week of November. It should have done far better.

Dipping into the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100, we find a great slice of southern soul sitting at No. 105: “Ace of Spades” by O.V. Wright. While he never had a record reach the Top 40, Wright – according to the listings at All-Music Guide, which are sometimes incomplete – had three records reach the Hot 100 and twelve records in the R&B chart between 1965 and 1978. His highest-charting single was “Eight Men, Four Women” – a song about the jury that convicted the narrator of a crime – which went to No. 4 on the R&B chart in 1967. “Ace of Spades” didn’t do quite that well, but it did all right: No. 11 on the R&B chart and No. 54 in the Hot 100.

And closing our search this morning is a one-hit wonder by a group from Los Angeles: “Games” by Redeye. The record was sitting at No. 116 during the fourth week of October 1970; by the fourth week of January 1971, “Games” was at its peak of No. 27. The record was Redeye’s only Top 40 single, though the group did see “Red Eye Blues” get to No. 78 in the Hot 100 later in 1971.

Now that we’re facing our first week since February without an installment of the Ultimate Jukebox, Odd, Pop and I are dealing with the task of finding something else to fill our time and our posting space here. Stop by Thursday and see what we come up with. (We have no clue at the moment what that will be.)

Baseball Report
For those who are interested, this year’s Strat-O-Matic tournament, about which I wrote briefly on Saturday, went to Dan, whose 1998 Atlanta Braves defeated Rick’s 1961 New York Yankees two games to none in the finals. My 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2006 Minnesota Twins both went down in the semifinals.