Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (June 1972)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

It’s been a while since we looked a chart from 1972, so let’s pull up the Billboard Top Ten from June 10 of that year – exactly forty-eight years ago today – and then head to the bottom slot in that week’s Hot 100.

Here’s the Top Ten:

“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outta-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension

Well. That’s not a very inspiring set of eleven singles. The only one of those that grips me very hard at all these days is “I’ll Take You There.” The Chi-Lites’ single was a favorite back then, and I still like the singles by Neil Diamond, Gallery and Roberta Flack (although that last wore its welcome out in 1972 and is still on some form of repetition probation).

None of the others matter one way or the other except for “The Candy Man,” which approaches “Seasons In The Sun” territory on the “The First Time Ever I Heard The Record I Hated It” scale. I turned nineteen that year, and the presence at No. 1 of the “The Candy Man” in the spring and then Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling” in the autumn taught me at that early age to be skeptical of the tastes of the masses.

So how many of those records matter to me today? Normally, we’d take a look here at the contents of my iPod. But since I got a new computer and had to reload things, the iPod is being balky, so we’ll look at the iTunes library and its 2,800-or so tracks, which remains a work in progress. How many of those eleven singles are in my day-to-day listening?

Right now, four: The records by Gallery, Robert Flack, Cat Stevens and the Billy Preston A-side are there. Likely joining them as the library is re-seeded will be the Staple Singers, the Chi-Lites and Neil Diamond. The 5th Dimension? Maybe.

Now, on to our supposed main business here: The record at No. 100 forty-eight years ago today. And we come across one of Petula Clark’s last records to make the Hot 100, her cover of Mary Wells’ No. 1 hit from 1964, “My Guy.” Clark’s cover went to No. 70 in the Hot 100 and to No. 12 in the Billboard Easy Listening chart.

Clark would have two more records in the Hot 100: Her cover of Noel Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song (There Is Love)” would go to No. 61 in the autumn of 1972, and “Natural Love” would get to No. 66 in 1982. Both of those would hit the Easy Listening chart (at Nos. 9 and 24, respectively), and “Natural Love” would be Clark’s only entry on the country chart, going to No. 20.

Here’s her take on “My Guy.”

What’s At No. 100 (May 1971)

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

We’re gonna look around in late May of 1971 today, forty-nine years ago. It was that week or the next – my memory fails me and I don’t want to dig for documentation – when I put on a blue cap and gown and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. (I also wore an orange and black woven cord, signifying that I was graduating with honors, a fact that baffled me and surprised and pleased my parents.)

Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen from May 29, 1971:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“Wants Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet And Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Rainy Days And Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“If” by Bread
“Superstar” by Murray Head & The Trinidad Singers
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Helen Reddy

There’s some good radio in there. Let’s take them five at a time:

Three of the first five are five-star records: “Brown Sugar,” “Joy To The World,” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” And the other two – the Jackson 5 and the Honey Cone singles – are not far behind. But then, this was a time when top 40 radio was my musical focus, and it’s hard to separate the times from the music that was the soundtrack for those times. And my senior year of high school, though it had its challenges, was a pretty good time.

The next five are a little tougher. The Ocean record no longer speaks to me, and I never liked Donny Osmond’s single. Daddy Dewdrop was a hoot, but not one with legs, and the Lobo record, well, I don’t mind hearing it, but it’s not a big deal. The A-side of the Aretha record is a great performance, but I found it later and don’t remember it at all from 1971. (My digging at Oldiesloon seems to say that the record did not get into the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB’s but I’m not sure.)

Finally, the five records at Nos. 11 through 15: I liked all five and still do, though the order in which I’d rank them has changed in nearly fifty years. Back in 1971, I likely put “Love Her Madly” at the top of that small heap; today, I’d put either “If” or “Rainy Days And Mondays” there. And seeing the Helen Reddy record in a springtime chart feels odd. I heard it on the radio, sure, but I heard it a lot more the next autumn coming from many rooms in the two women’s dorms I visited at St. Cloud State, so it feels like a college-time record more than one that comes from my high school days.

Usually, at this point I check the records in the chart against my iPod, but I got a new computer last week and I am still in the process of reloading about 3,900 tracks into iTunes and the iPod from the 80,000-some in my main music files. So we’ll see which ones are among the 2,900 or so in the device right now and I’ll make some notes as to which of the remainder will get there, too.

Right now, of the top five, the Stones, Ringo and Three Dog Night are in the device. Honey Cone and the Jackson 5 will follow.

None of the second five are in the iPod, but Lobo likely will be, once I get to the “L” folder, and the Aretha A-side might, depending on my mood, when I get to “F.” Donny Osmond, Daddy Dewdrop and Ocean? No.

From the final set of five, “If” and “Superstar” have already made the cut. The Carpenters and the Doors likely will follow. I did the second half of the alphabet first this time, so I’ve already passed on the Helen Reddy single, but I may change my mind. I did pull in four of her tracks already (“Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” “Angie Baby,” “Don’t Make Promises,” and “Somewhere In The Night”).

And then, there’s our nominally main business today: Checking out the single at No. 100 in that long-ago chart. And it’s “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds Of Sunshine. We’ve run across it before. Finding it inspired the following (edited a bit):

The Sounds Of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. In the film, after the two lovers have a spat, McGraw’s character tells O’Neal’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. Originated by Erich Segal, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based, the famous line is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

That’s probably much more than you wanted this morning. Here’s the Sounds Of Sunshine single:

No. 46 Forty-Six Years Ago

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

We’re going to fire up the Symmetry machine this morning and jump back to the third week of May in 1974. Why then? Because it was during that week – on May 21, to be precise – that I returned to Minnesota after my college year in Denmark. I don’t think I’ve ever looked to see what was atop the Billboard Hot 100 at the time (And if I have, it was evidently so long ago that another look won’t hurt.)

Here’s the Top Fifteen as of May 18, 1974, three days before our St. Cloud State contingent got onto a Finnair jet in Copenhagen to come home.

“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch
“The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk
“The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night
“Bennie & The Jets” by Elton John
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur
“(I’ve Been) Searching So Long” by Chicago
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by MFSB feat. The Three Degrees
“I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by the Carpenters
“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell
“Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient

Let’s take these five at a time. The top five has three sure station-turners (assuming one would ever hear them on an oldies station while in the car these days): the singles by Stevens, Grand Funk and Three Dog Night. None of Stevens’ work has aged well in this corner of the universe; “The Loco-Motion” shows Grand Funk at its sludgiest and most boring; and “The Show Must Go On” just feels silly, not nearly up to the level of Three Dog Night’s work from the years 1969 to 1971.

That leaves two of those five: “Dancing Machine” and “The Entertainer.” They aren’t gems, but hearing them once in a while is fine.

The next five are a different matter altogether. Any of those can pop into my ear anytime they want, even the Chicago, despite some of the things I’ve said about the band’s mid-Seventies work. My favorite among those would be “Midnight At The Oasis,” which was the fuse for my fascination with Muldaur’s oeuvre: Between vinyl and CD, I have six of her albums; those albums and more make up the more than 200 tracks from Muldaur on the digital shelves.

The bottom five of the list above is not quite as stellar: I don’t mind the Carpenters’ single, but it’s not something I seek out; and I cannot recall the last time I heard the “Tubular Bells” single. I do recall listening to Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album on occasional Sunday mornings in Missouri as I read newspapers from Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and New York. The album is probably still here – and both sides of the single are likely on the digital shelves – but I don’t really go looking for any of it.

On the other hand, “TSOP,” “Help Me,” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” are welcome here any time at all.

So let’s use our usual measuring stick on those fifteen. How many of them are among the 3,900-some tracks on my iPod and thus are among my day-to-day listening? Well none of the top five are there, and four of the second five are, all except the Stylistics’ single. Two of the bottom five – the Mitchell and Main Ingredient tracks – are there, and “TSOP” should be.

So all in all, that’s not a bad Top Fifteen.

And now to our other business. What was at No. 46 forty-six years ago? Well, these things sometimes happen, as we land on a record that I didn’t like then and I still don’t like: John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” The record was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 1 at the end of March. At least I wasn’t around when the record was in heavy rotation on the radio. Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 686

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Here’s what the top ten “Middle-Road” singles looked like in Billboard on April 24, 1965, fifty-five years ago yesterday:

“The Race Is On” by Jack Jones
“Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by Sounds Orchestral
“King Of The Road” by Roger Miller
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“Baby The Rain Must Fall” by Glenn Yarbrough
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Wayne Newton
“And Roses And Roses” by Andy Williams
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I Can’t Stop Thinking Of You” by Bobby Martin
“Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey

That’s a half-way familiar clutch of records. I recall hearing Nos. 2 through 5 on the radio regularly at home, either on WCCO from Minneapolis or St. Cloud’s own KFAM. And I liked all four of them. I also remember hearing Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” but I never cared much for it (despite my burgeoning James Bond fixation), and later in the year, when I got the soundtrack, I wholly embraced John Barry’s pulsating instrumental version of the tune.

Bassey’s version peaked at No. 2 on the Middle-Road chart (and at No. 8 on the Hot 100), while Barry’s own release of the instrumental got to No. 15 on the MR chart and to No. 72 on the Hot 100.

As to the top record in that mid-Sixties chart, I’ve heard Jack Jones’ “The Race Is On,” but it pales in comparison with George Jones’ 1964 No. 3 country original. Of course, George Jones’ record was never going to get middle of the road airplay, so if someone were going to get non-country chart success with the song, it might as well have been the inoffensive and bland Jack Jones. (Looking at Jack Jones’ listing of twenty-six chart hits in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I can’t recall hearing a single one except for “The Race Is On,” which I’ve listened to a couple of times at YouTube while researching posts here.)

As to Nos. 6 through 9, I’m not familiar with them, which kind of surprises me, given my affection for mid-Sixties middle of the road stuff. Sherman’s record is, of course, a parody of Petula Clark’s massive hit “Downtown,” and Newton’s record is, like Dana’s, a cover of John Laurenz’ 1948 release. (According to Second Hand Songs, Dana and Newton released their versions in January 1965; theirs were evidently the first covers of the song in sixteen years.)

(Also parenthetically, Dana’s version of “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” was one of the records I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley from us back in those years. I have a hunch the record’s still here.)

Martin’s weeper sounds almost like it could have been a country hit (it wasn’t), but perhaps that’s because the title phrase is so similar to the opening of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” as recorded by (among others) Kitty Wells and Don Gibson in 1958 and Ray Charles in 1962.

Then there’s the Andy Williams record, which starts with a nifty bossa nova intro only to collapse into a languid and saccharine ending.

So, I like four of those ten. How many of them are in the iPod, indicating they’re still part of my day-to-day listening? Only two: “King Of The Road” and “Baby The Rain Must Fall.” I’m a little surprised by the absence of “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” given that I’ve got almost thirty tracks by Sounds Orchestral on the digital shelves. And that’s the direction we’re going this morning.

Here’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind” by the English pop orchestra Sounds Orchestral. Sometime after mid-April 1965, the record spent three weeks on top of the Middle-Road chart, and it peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Tops On The Sidewalks

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Beyond the warming weather and the greening of the trees and shrubs, there were four sure signs of spring for students at St. Cloud’s Lincoln Elementary School in the early 1960s:

At the three or four mom-and-pop grocery stores near Lincoln – including the one around the corner and down the block from our place – you could find a rack full of balsa wood glider planes, and very nearby, a cardboard bin full of kite kits. I dabbled with both over the years, the planes more frequently than the kites.

And in stores with larger customer bases – drugstores, larger grocery stores, and places like Woolworth’s and Kresge’s – you could find new displays of Duncan yo-yos and spinning tops. Again, I dabbled with both of those from, oh, 1963 to 1967. I was never very good with a yo-yo, being much more likely to end up with a great tangle of string than I was to make the toy walk the dog or jump the camel or whatever it was a yo-yo did.

But I could wrap cord around a top, unleash it and watch it spin, and I joined my classmates and other friends for top-fests on the sidewalks in front of our house and on the concrete driveways in the neighborhood, and I spent plenty of hours spinning tops on the smoother concrete of our basement floor. (Dad’s work to create the basement rec room was still a few years away.)

And one spring, sometime around 1964, I got a package in the mail. In it, I found what was called a Campbell Kid Play-Kit, which consisted of a yo-yo, a spinning top, and a handball – a small rubber ball connected by a rubber cord to a hand-held disc – all stored in a plastic bag with a drawstring and all emblazoned with the faces of the Campbell Kids, the cartoon characters used at the time to market Campbell’s soups.

campbells-soup-campbell-kids-play-kit_

Its appearance at our place on Kilian Boulevard was, I’m sure, the work of my grandmother or my Aunt Ruth (who still lived on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa, and whom we called Tudy). Every now and then, Grandma or Tudy would see an offer for a toy or game on a cereal box or in an ad in one of their magazines, something they thought that my sister or I might like, and they’d send in the cash and the required number of soup labels or cereal box tops and put either my name or my sister’s name as the recipient. And some weeks later, a surprise gift would make its way to our door.

(And I wonder for the first time if they had similar gifts sent to my cousins in Pennsylvania, four girls by 1964 with two boys yet to come. I imagine they did.)

I never played much with the handball. It was similar to – but harder to control – than the paddleballs one could buy at dime and drug stores, and those had never interested me much. I gave the yo-yo a try or two, but – as noted above – while other kids might master The Creeper or The Elevator, I could only perform The Tangler.

The top, though, got a lot of use for a while. Its bright red appearance got some appreciative glances from the top aficionados in our neighborhood, and it spun nicely on its plastic tip. At least it did until – as with all tops I ever had – continued contact with the harsh concrete of the sidewalk abraded the tip until the top’s spinning was at first wobbly and then comically impaired. (The thought hangs in my mind that replacement tips were available at drug and dime stores – or perhaps the hobby shop downtown – but I never thought to replace the worn-down tips.)

And with that, the top joined the yo-yo and the paddleball in the box of ignored toys, and sometime during the forty years between 1964 and 2004, all three were likely discarded, as sometimes happens to our childhood things. But the memories this morning of tangled yo-yo strings, of the awkward paddle-ball (and of a few elastic-powered bops to my face), and of the red top spinning its way across someone’s driveway, well, those memories brought back a little childhood joy. And along with them came pleasant memories of my grandmother and my aunt, both gone now for decades.

The digital library brings no joy from a search for “spinning top.” (There are, however, thirteen versions of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel.”) So we’re going to dip into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1964 and drop down to No. 25, because at a guess, the gift of the Campbell Kids Play-Kit likely cost my grandmother or aunt no more than twenty-five cents (along with the required soup can labels).

And at No. 25 in the Hot 100 from April 25, 1964, we come across an instrumental I’ve never heard before, “Forever” by Pete Drake & His Talking Steel Guitar. Drake has, of course, popped up as a studio musician on many tracks I’ve heard over the years, but I’ve not encountered much of his solo work. A sweet and romantic track, “Forever” peaked during this week in 1964, going no higher than No. 25. The record also went to No. 5 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

No. 47, Forty-Seven Years Ago

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

We’ve not done anything in 1973 since sometime last year, so I thought we’d fire up the Symmetry machine and jump into the middle of April 1973.

I was finishing my second academic year at St. Cloud State, but I recall at most two of the classes I took. I think I repeated the basic history class I’d failed during my first quarter on campus, replacing African history with a look at Nineteenth Century anarchism in Europe. And with more than a hundred other folks, I was taking an orientation to Denmark (once a week, I think), and as we met, I had no clue that most of the people in that room would become friends with whom I would still gather more than forty years later.

(Of course, at nineteen, I couldn’t conceive of things being forty years later. Hell, I trouble trying to figure out what life was going to be like five months later when most of us in that room headed out to Denmark. And I kind of knew that however I envisioned it, it would be different.)

Otherwise, I was hanging around at The Table in the student union, laughing and sipping coffee with about ten other folks, three of whom remain in my life today. And I assume we heard at least some of mid-April’s Billboard Top Ten as we gathered not far from the jukebox:

“The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence
“Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye)” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn feat. Tony Orlando
“Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)” by the Four Tops
“Sing” by the Carpenters
“The Cisco Kid” by War
“Danny Song” by Anne Murray
“Break Up To Make Up” by the Stylistics
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green

Well, the records by Gladys Knight, the Four Tops, the Stylistics, Roberta Flack and Al Green save that set of ten, although “Neither One Of Us” is one of Knight’s lesser efforts (and the same might be said of the Four Tops’ record).

Lawrence’s attempt at a southern gothic tale of good ole boys, illicit romance, murder and lynching has always fallen flat to me, with too much pop sheen and too lilting a chorus. Slow it down a fair amount, add some swamp, and have Cher include it on her Muscle Shoals album, and I’d probably like it.

I tuned out “Yellow Ribbon” and “The Cisco Kid” whenever I heard them, and even though I liked some of the Carpenters’ stuff, “Sing” was just too saccharine. As to “Danny’s Song,” I much prefer Loggins & Messina’s 1971 version.

So, how many of those ten have stayed with me for nearly fifty years? Among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod, I find only the records by Gladys Knight and the Stylistics. I’m surprised by the absence of the records by Al Green and Roberta Flack; those will be added by the end of the day.

And what of our other business today? When we drop to No. 47 in that long-ago Hot 100, what do we find? Well, we find the only Top 40 hit for an R&B group from Harlem, and it’s a record I remember well, one I liked a lot. And it was in fact one of the first tracks I dug out of the LP stacks to rip to an mp3 when I got my digital turntable: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” by New York City.

Released on the Chelsea label, the record went to No. 17 in the Billboard Hot 100, No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and No. 8 on the Easy Listening chart.

‘I Would Be In Love (Anyway)’

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Here’s what the top ten looked like on the Billboard Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week, the first week of April in 1970, one of my best-remembered years for music:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Easy Come Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman
“Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Temma Harbour” by Mary Hopkin
“I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” by Frank Sinatra
“Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton
“Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks
“All I Have To Do Is Dream” by Bobbie Gentry & Glenn Campbell
“Brighton Hill” by Jackie DeShannon

Well, six of those I know well, and I clearly remember five of them – the top four and the Brook Benton single – coming out of my old RCA radio during spring evenings in my room. The Gentry/Campbell duet is not as memorable, though I know I heard it.

“Temma Harbour” is one I don’t recall from fifty years ago; I don’t believe I heard it until about ten years ago when I was tipped to it in a comment here by reader David Lenander. I have vague memories of the Michael Parks record, but those memories don’t say “1970” in any way, which tells me I rarely heard it then. And the DeShannon record rings no bells at all, even though I can tell from the visual in the YouTube video that for years, the LP from which it came was in the vinyl stacks.

And then there’s the Sinatra record:

If I lived the past over, saw today from yesterday
I would be in love anyway
If I knew that you’d leave me, if I knew you wouldn’t stay
I would be in love anyway

Sometimes I think, think about before
Sometime I think, if I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

Though you’ll never be with me, and there are no words to say
I’ll still be in love anyway

If I knew then what I know now,
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

If I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

The single came from Sinatra’s Watertown album, a work I mentioned thirteen years ago:

Watertown [is] a song cycle that’s one of the more idiosyncratic recordings of Sinatra’s long career. The songs on Watertown came from Bob Gaudio – writer of many of the Four Seasons’ hits – and Jake Holmes, the singer-songwriter/folk-rocker who was also the composer of “Dazed & Confused,” which Led Zeppelin appropriated as its own work. The album is, as All-Music Guide notes, Sinatra’s “most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop.” It’s also a rather depressing piece of work, as the mood throughout is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.

And as I listened to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” this morning, I recognized the tale Sinatra was telling. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I spent some time in that same bleak emotional place. Eventually (and thankfully), I moved on.

I remember frequently seeing the LP in cutout bins in the early 1970s and in the “Sinatra” bins at used record stores in the 1990s. Even though my buying in the 1990s was pretty indiscriminate, for some reason I never brought Watertown home with me. Somewhere along the line, I acquired a digital copy of the album from which I made the above judgment that its mood “is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.” I may take time to again listen closely to the album one of these days, but I’m not sure I need the downer.

As to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway),” it peaked on the Easy Listening chart at No. 4 but got only to No. 88 on the Hot 100. Watertown went to No. 101 on the magazine’s album chart.

Hunkering Down

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Well, we’re pretty much self-isolating, as we should. I was out yesterday for a brief time, picked up two prescriptions at the pharmacy drive-through, then got a pick-up order at the grocery store. The order wasn’t quite right, so I had to go into the store to straighten it out and then go into another store to get the soap powder for the dishwasher that the first store was out of.

Both stores had relatively little traffic, and the shelves were beginning to look bare in some spots: Canned soup, instant potatoes and potato box mixes, cereals, and, of course, paper products. In the store where I did my actual shopping, eggs were plentiful but customers were limited to two dozen. As well as getting the soap powder, I filled some minor gaps in our supplies and headed home.

And today, I’ll head out to the podiatrist for my regular six-week visit, being very careful about surfaces and aware of the people around me. The receptionist said they’ve expanded the seating area of the lobby to provide more distance between people. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but I thought I should go while I can. And then home again for the rest of the day.

There is nothing in the digital stacks with “COVID” in the title, of course. There are, on the other hand, several tracks with “nineteen” in their titles: “The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Day, “John Nineteen Forty-One” (the closing track to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar), “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Nineteen Something” by Mark Willis, and five versions of the blues tune “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” Not much joy there.

So I thought I’d look at the Billboard charts from the years I call my sweet spot, 1969-75, and, playing some Games With Numbers, see what was at No. 19 during the third week of March in those years. With any luck, we’ll find something decent to listen to this morning. Here we go.

1969: “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” by James Brown
1970: “Call Me/Son Of A Preacher Man” by Aretha Franklin
1971: “(Theme From) ‘Love Story’” by Henry Mancini, His Orchestra and Chorus
1972: “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers
1973: “Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler
1974: “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” by Aretha Franklin
1975: “I Am Love (Parts 1 & 2)” by the Jackson 5

Well, that’s an interesting mix. I respect James Brown more than I listen to him, and Aretha’s double-sided single doesn’t grab me this morning. I know we’ve offered the Mancini, Bremers and Midler singles before (maybe some time ago, but still). And I’m going to ignore the Jackson 5 record because a quick search tells me that not only have I never posted “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” I’ve never – in more than thirteen years of blogging – even mentioned the record.

There’s a reason for that neglect. Given that it was on the radio in early 1974, the record falls into the list of those that I did not hear at the time, being in Denmark and beyond the reach of Top 40. I learned about it through my digging into Aretha during the late 1980s and via whatever play it got on oldies stations, and I like it a lot.

In mid-March 1974, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked in the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3 at the end of February. It spent a week at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart and went to No. 33 on the Easy Listening chart.

And finally, it shows up here.

No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Dropping into 1975 for a game of Symmetry this morning, I have absolutely no idea what we’ll find, but I’ll likely know it well. (I think so, at least. It would be fun, though, for our excavation to find something utterly new. I’ll settle, though, for not lame.)

Here were the top ten records in the Billboard Hot 100 during the week that February turned into March in 1975:

“Best Of My Love” by the Eagles
“Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John
“Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
“My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli
“Some Kind Of Wonderful” by Grand Funk
“Lonely People” by America
“Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band
“Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle
“Nightingale” by Carole King
“Lady” by Styx

Eight of those rated on the plus side in 1975; I never cared much for the Grand Funk or Styx singles. In fact, nothing I ever heard from Styx ever clicked with me although I never dug too deeply into the band’s work. Grand Funk? Well, I liked “Closer To Home” and “Bad Time” – the latter of which takes me back viscerally to New Year’s Eve 1974 – and liked “We’re An American Band” when I finally heard it long after its release. But “Some Kind Of Wonderful” left me cold.

As to the other eight in that mix, the best is the LaBelle single; it was the only one of those ten to make it into my long-age Ultimate Jukebox, and, of course, it’s one of the 3,900-some tracks currently in the iPod, which is how I measure current relevance.

Which of the other nine in that aged top ten are still in my current listening? Well, five of them. Missing are the records by Grand Funk, the Average White Band, America, and Styx. (And the absence of “Lonely People” surprises me just a hair, but I don’t think I’ll bother to add it.)

Our other business, of course, lies lower down in that chart, and at No. 45 we find an up-tempo piece of funk that I must have heard before: “Once You Get Started” by Rufus (featuring Chaka Kahn) is actually on the digital shelves here, having arrived as part of the album Rufusized. And the record reminds me of the question once posed here: When was the first usage of the phrase “party hearty”? I dabbled with that question in a post in 2012, but “Once You Get Started” was not one of the records I considered. (I think “Do It, Fluid” by the Blackbyrds was likely recorded earlier than “Once You Get Started,” but I do not know, and I will leave the question for others to research in more depth.”)

Anyway, “Once You Get Started” kicks and might itself be elevated to the iPod. Back in 1975, it went to No. 10 on the Hot 100 and to No. 4 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 676

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

It’s not a nice round number, but we’re going to back fifty-three years today, to February of 1967. I was thirteen, and it was about this time that I had my tonsils out and spent about a week home from school. I remember eating a fair amount of ice cream and sipping a good quantity of broth, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken.

And I recall lugging our brown and gold AM radio from the kitchen up to my room every morning after Dad had headed off to work. I’d park it on my bedside table and read while Minneapolis’ WCCO offered its combination of talk and middle-of-the-road music. When Arthur Godfrey’s show came on at 10 a.m., I’d retune the radio to KDWB, one of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, and listen to records that I didn’t really know or appreciate yet. When I knew Godfrey was done for the day, I’d head back to WCCO where the middle of the road welcomed me again.

I was an easy listening kid.

So what was in the Billboard Easy Listening top ten during the second week of February 1967? Take a look:

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames
“Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation
“Wish Me A Rainbow” by the Gunter Kallmann Chorus
“Lady” by Jack Jones
“All” by James Darren
“Sweet Maria” by the Billy Vaughn Singers
“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers
“I’ll Take Care Of Your Cares” by Frankie Laine
“Sunrise, Sunset” by Roger Williams
“What Makes It Happen” by Tony Bennett

I recall without prompting the records by Ames, the Bob Crewe Generation, the Seekers and Williams. (I’ll note here that seeing the Ames single listed here reminds me of a piece by my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. It remains the best thing I’ve ever read about “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

The others? Well, we’re going to make a visit to YouTube to see if some melodies jog my memory.

I don’t recall and truly do not like “Wish Me A Rainbow,” which came from the film This Property Is Condemned, the title of which is only vaguely familiar to me. Nor does the Jack Jones record click for me (though I like it a little).

The James Darren record, though, sounds familiar, and it’s something that I would have liked as a thirteen-year-old: romantic with a pretty instrumental arrangement and lush voices in the background. (The video I checked out shows the cover of the LP from which “All” came, and I’m amused to see from the cover that Darren also recorded “Georgy Girl,” “Lady,” and “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

I have about sixty tracks by Vaughn on the digital shelves, but “Sweet Maria” is not one of them, but it sounds familiar, so who knows? And I have no memory of the records by Laine or Bennett, although I do like them, along with most of this top ten. Taken together, they sound exactly like what my 1967 sounded like.

But let’s play some Games With Numbers, taking today’s date 2-8-20 and making that into 30, and then look at the No. 30 record on that long-ago Easy Listening chart. And we find “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Jane Morgan, who was an occasional presence on both the Easy Listening chart (from 1965 to 1968) and the Hot 100 (from 1956 to 1967).

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would go no higher on the Easy Listening chart during a nine-week stay, and it was the last record Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100, as it bubbled under at No. 121. It’s an okay record, but it’s not at all familiar and I doubt I’d have liked it in 1967, but that’s the way things go. It’s today’s Saturday Single.