Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (11/30/74)

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Okay, so it’s the last day of November, and our time-waster today is to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this date in 1974, looking at the Top Ten and then taking a chance on whatever might be sitting at No. 100.

Here’s the Top Ten from that chart forty-four years ago today:

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied” by B.T. Express
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“My Melody Of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Freewheelin’” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin
“Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy

Boy, there are some clinkers in there: The records by Carl Douglas, Bobby Vinton and Harry Chapin are pretty much guaranteed to make me wince (and if I’m in the car, punch a button for another station). I’m not all that fond of “I Can Help,” either, having heard it too many times on the Atwood Center jukebox at St. Cloud State forty-four years ago. (Someone who hung out in the snack bar must have really liked the record because it felt back then as if I heard it every day at The Table.) And after forty-four years, I still go back and forth on “Longfellow Serenade.”

Of the others, the records by the Three Degrees and Helen Reddy and the A-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive are on my iPod, and the Carl Carlton record should be (and will be within minutes). I took a few minutes this morning to listen to the B-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive record – Joel Whitburn notes in Top Pop Singles that the track, an instrumental, is dedicated to Duane Allman – and was not impressed.

What about B.T. Express? Well, maybe I should pop it into the iPod; it might be good for a kitchen dance or two.

As usual these days, though, we have business at the lowest end of the chart. We’re going to see what’s at No. 100.

And we find a classic track that I heard almost daily in September and October of 1974 while I sipped coffee at The Table: “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners. By the end of November, the record was in its last of its nineteen weeks in the Hot 100. A little more than a month earlier, it had been at No. 1. It’s a gem polished by a lot of good memories.

One From 1969

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The RealPlayer has been offering tunes from 1969 as I looked at some news online this morning, pondering at the same time what I might write about today. With nothing really shiny coming to mind, I guess I’m going to click through at random and when we land on the tenth click, that’s our tune for the day. Here we go!

And we land on Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” from her second album, Clouds:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells and rapping up like pipes and drums
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll wear it till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
There’s a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candlelight
By jewel-light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won’t you
Wake up, it’s a Chelsea morning

Mitchell was not the first to record the song: According to Wikipedia, the first recording of “Chelsea Morning” was likely “its interpretation by Dave Van Ronk on his 1967 album Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters.” Fairport Convention included the song on the group’s self-titled 1968 debut album, and – again from Wikipedia – Jennifer Warnes recorded it for her 1968 release, I Can See Everything. That version was released as a single, but did not chart.

Clouds was released in May 1969. It went to No. 31 and earned Mitchell a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Reprise released a promo single of Mitchell’s version of “Chelsea Morning” (with “The Fiddle & The Drum” on the B-side), but the record failed to chart. The only charting single of “Chelsea Morning” came from Judy Collins, whose version went to No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1969 (and to No. 25 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart).

One Hit Wonder No. 1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Having delved into the origins of the cult of Onehit, I thought we’d start looking at so-called One Hit Wonders on an occasional basis. Our basic guide will be a slender volume I picked up in the early 1990s, one titled Billboard Top 1000 Singles.

Compiled by chart maven Joel Whitburn, the book covers the period from January 1955 through February 1993. Obviously, much has happened since then, including – unless I’m mistaken – at least one very large change in how the various Billboard charts are calculated. Thus, I’d guess, a current book of the top 1,000 singles of all time would include many more current records than historic ones. That would no doubt be accurate but would be a hell of a lot less fun than looking into the 1993 book.

And here’s some necessary housekeeping before we dig in: What, exactly, is a One Hit Wonder? My definition: It’s a record by a group or artist who focused on releasing singles that was the only record by that group or artist to reach the Top 40. Similarly, one can call the group or artist a One Hit Wonder as well. (The bit about being focused on singles is the best way to accommodate records like Jimi Hendrix’ cover of “All Along The Watchtower,” which went to No. 20 in 1968. It would be ludicrous to call Hendrix a One Hit Wonder as an artist, as singles were clearly not his focus.)

And before we start, let’s remind ourselves of how the all-time singles chart looked in 1993. Here’s the Top Twenty in that Top 1000 book. All of then went to No. 1 for at least eight weeks.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992, 14 weeks)
“End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men (1992, 13)
“Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley (1956, 11)
“Singing The Blues” by Guy Mitchell (1956, 10)
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981, 10)
“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone (1977, 10)
“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin (1959, 9)
“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley (1957, 9)
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (1981, 9)
“Hey Jude” by the Beatles (1968, 9)
“Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981, 9)*
“The Theme From ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith (1960, 9)
“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets (1955, 8)
“The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant (1956, 8)
“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955, 8)
“Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley (1956, 8)
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police (1983, 8)
“Jump” by Kris Kross (1992, 8)
“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees (1978, 8)
“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart (1976, 8)

That Top Twenty serves as a reminder of the power of Elvis. Sixteen years after his death, he still had three of the top twenty singles of the Top Forty era, all of them nearly forty years old. And it’s actually not a bad bunch of singles, with only three I’d skip: I’m not fond of the Kris Kross record, but that’s a generational and societal thing. Neither am I crazy about the Whitney Houston single at the top of the list; I find it oversung and overbearing. And I’ve always believed the Rod Stewart single to be a blight on the world.

The other seventeen would be – in these precincts, anyway – a decent bunch of listening. Not really my favorites, but some fun listening, even the single One Hit Wonder of the bunch, a record that I admit I first kind of liked, then was tired of, and finally, was greatly annoyed by as it spun out its twenty-one weeks in the Top 40 in 1977 and 1978: Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”

I was surprised when I began digging this morning to learn that “You Light Up My Life” was a One Hit Wonder. But then, being afflicted with Boone fatigue by late 1977, I paid no attention to Debby Boone’s career, not caring what she’d done either before or after her massive hit. And it seems, digging this morning into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, there wasn’t much to pay attention to, as least as far as the Hot 100 was concerned.

“You Light Up My Life” was the first charting single for Pat Boone’s daughter. As well as topping the Billboard pop chart for the above mentioned ten weeks, the record was also No. 1 for one week on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and went to No. 4 on the country chart.

After that, Boone had two singles reach the Hot 100, but both fell short of the Top 40: “California” went to No. 50 and the two-sided single “God Knows/Baby, I’m Yours” (the latter being a cover of Barbara Lewis’ 1965 hit) stalled at No. 74, both in 1978. Boone did have a better time of it on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart, with five more singles beyond “You Light Up My Life” reaching the Top Forty there into 1981.

“You Light Up My Life” was, of course, the title theme to a 1977 movie, sung for the soundtrack by Kasey Cisyk and lip-synched in the movie by actress Didi Conn. In the movie, it’s a love song, but the very devout Boone, according to Wikipedia, “interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was instead God who ‘lit up her life’.”

(There was some nasty hoo-ha in 1977 and beyond about songwriter and producer Joe Brooks not paying Cisyk or crediting her for her performance as well as something about Brooks’ recording Boone’s version of the song over the same instrumental tracks used for Cisyk’s version. But then nasty hoo-ha might have been Brooks’ default mode, as he committed suicide in 2011, says Wikipedia, while awaiting trial “on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges.”)

Billboard has since released at least two more lists of its top all-time records; in the last of them, in 2013, “You Light Up My Life” was at No. 9. I do not know if any of the eight records ranked above it are One Hit Wonders, and I really don’t care. In the era I care about most, reflected by the 1993 volume, Debby Boone’s hit is the top-ranking One Hit Wonder of all time.

*One might argue that “Endless Love” is a One Hit Wonder as it’s the only time that the duo of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie charted. But that would be silly.

Saturday Single No. 614

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

It’s cool and gray outside. Nevertheless, our plan is to head out this afternoon for a quick trip to the small town of Pierz, where we will stop at our favorite butcher shop to buy some bacon and other meats.

In the meantime, however, we’re going to play a quick game of “What’s At No. 100,” taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from October 27, 1973. That chart may provide surprises, as it came out during my time in Denmark. We’ll see.

We’ll start, as we always do, with the Top Fifteen:

“Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Angie” by the Rolling Stones
“Half Breed” by Cher
“Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band
“Keep In Truckin’ (Part 1)” by Eddie Kendricks
“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
“Paper Roses” by Marie Osmond
“Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat” by the DeFranco Family
“That Lady (Part 1)” by the Isley Brothers
“Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder
“All I Know” by Art Garfunkel
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
“Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters
“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk

Obviously, I know all of those now, forty-five years later, and most of them well. At the time, I knew “Angie,” having had help from my Danish brother in working out the chords on the piano and also having heard it live at a Rolling Stones concert a little more than three weeks earlier.

Stones Ticket

And it’s a decent Top Fifteen. I can do without the Marie Osmond and DeFranco family singles, but otherwise, it’s fine. Art Garfunkel’s record is a bit light, but it’s lovely.

What lies below, however? Dropping down to No. 100, we find a nifty piece of boogie new to the Hot 100 and on its way to No. 3: “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station.

The band – from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and not from Texas as its name might imply – would never again come close to the Top Ten. The group’s only other Top Forty hit would be “Kings Of The Party,” which went to No. 31 in the autumn of 1974. There were a few other records in the Hot 100 before, after and between the two hits in a time frame that began in late 1972 and ended during the autumn of 1977.

As with most tunes from the 1973-74 academic year, I learned about “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” long after the fact, so there’s no emotional hook here for me. But it’s a fun record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Love, Murder & Regret

Friday, October 26th, 2018

One of my regular stops for tunes new to me or for new perspectives on tunes familiar is the fine blog Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. From imaginatively themed mixes to the multi-part history of country music, I’ve gotten more tunes from the Halfhearted Dude than I can easily digest, all offered with trenchant commentary.

We don’t agree on everything. There are tunes and genres he likes that leave me wanting, and I know there are tunes and genres dear to me that likely draw from the Dude eye-rolls worthy of a teen. As an example, I wasn’t crazy about everything he offered this week in his “Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1,” which was nevertheless a fun mix. And one of the tracks in the mix pulled me back to one of my own explorations here: Olivia Newton-John’s 1971 cover of “Banks Of The Ohio,” a song of love, murder and regret.

I included Newton-John’s live performance of the song five years ago when I looked a little bit at the song’s long history. As I wrote then, it was startling “to see earlier this week in the Billboard Hot 100 from October 30, 1971, that Olivia Newton-John had a hit with a gender-flipped version of ‘Banks Of The Ohio.’ The single went only to No. 94 here in the U.S. (No. 34 on the Adult Contemporary chart), but it was No. 1 for five weeks in Australia.”

Here’s the studio version:

The Halfhearted Dude called the track “the weirdest” of the twenty-four he included in his murder collection. I left a note at his blog suggesting that if he truly wanted weird, he should listen to Glenn Yarbrough’s take on the tune, found on his 1957 album Come Sit By My Side. The video I linked to five years ago was layered with surface noise; in this video, the purposeful and disquieting dissonance conjured up by Yarbrough and his producer, whoever he was, is much more audible, as is Yarbrough’s odd and jarring diction. I called the whole thing “creepy” five years ago, and I have not changed my mind.

And when I shared Yarbrough’s “Banks Of The Ohio” five years ago, frequent visitor, commenter and pal Yah Shure agreed with my assessment: “Creepy is right! Must thoroughly cleanse musical palate now.”

He went on to compare Yarbrough’s take on the old folk song to a record a local band recorded during his youth:

Some fellow students from my high school were in a band called the Poore Boyes, whose “Give” – a 1966 single on the local Summer label – was a reverb-drenched love-’er and stab-’er affair that I’m guessing didn’t generate boatloads of requests at their high school prom gigs, in spite of some airplay on KDWB. It had that minor key/echo/surf Kay Bank Recording Studio sound (think “Liar, Liar” with knives and blood.)

Here’s the Poore Boyes “Give” on the Summer label (along with the B-side “It’s Love”):

There was a second version of “Give” by the Poore Boyes, Yah Shure said:

The group re-cut . . . er, re-recorded “Give” in a much drier version for Capitol’s perennially-hitless Uptown subsidiary, but the lyrics sounded even creepier – more premeditated, even – when uncloaked from the murky, damp darkness of the earlier echo-fest.

Here’s that second version:

I’ll let Yah Shure have the final word on “Give,” from his comments five years ago: “Maybe Olivia should’ve covered it.”

What’s At No. 100? (October 10, 1970)

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Time for another episode of What’s At No. 100? Today’s date – 10/10 – pretty much begged for that, and a quick look at my files of the Billboard Hot 100 showed that during the years we’re pretty much interested in around here, only twice did a Hot 100 get published on October 10.

The first was in 1964, and the second was in 1970. Now, the former of those two years would be a fun year to go digging around in, but the latter, well, anyone who knows me is aware that 1970 is a rich vein of gold in the mine of my memory. But before we go deep into the Hot 100 published forty-eight years ago today – and can it really be that long ago? – let’s look at that week’s Top Ten:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free
“Julie Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“(I Know) I’m Losing You” by Rare Earth

Now there’s a fine forty minutes or so of late-night listening, perhaps after minimal attention to the demands of my senior-year classes or maybe after a football game. There’s nothing there that would make me move the tuner dial or hit the button in the car in search of better sounds. I did like the B-side of the CCR record better than that A-side, which has always seemed just a little bit silly.

And, as often happens, I’m a little startled to see Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” in 1970. The record always sounds to me – nearly a half-century distant from those radio waves – as if it should fall in 1976, where it would be, for some reason, a companion piece to Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning.” (It works the other way, too: When “One Fine Morning” pops up in my listening routine, I always think it belongs in 1970, next to the Sugarloaf single, or the longer album track.)

A thought occurred to me as I write this: As my late-night listening in the autumn of my senior year of high school came from WLS in distant Chicago, what did that station have as its Top Ten as October 10 passed by? The answer comes from Oldiesloon:

“Cracklin’ Rosie”
“All Right Now”
“I’ll Be There”
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Candida”
“Do What You Want To Do” by Five Flights Up
“Out In The Country” by Three Dog Night
“Looking Out My Back Door”
“(I Know) I’m Losing You”
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me”

Not all that different. Two of the three listed in the WLS Top Ten and not in the Billboard Top Ten are familiar. The Three Dog Night single is a favorite, but I can live without R. Dean Taylor’s hit (although I kind of liked it back then). I didn’t recognize by its title the record by Five Flights Up, but as soon as I heard the chorus this morning, it came back to me. I never heard it much – not surprising, as it only got to No. 37 in the Hot 100. And a quick glance at Oldiesloon makes me think that the record never reached the surveys of either of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, KDWB or WDGY.

We’ll end the Chicago digression and get back to our business here, which is heading toward the bottom of that Hot 100 from  October 10, 1970, and seeing what’s at No. 100. And we run into a tuneful, tough and clanking instrumental by Brian Auger & The Trinity: “Listen Here.”

Not long ago, as our pal jb was visiting St. Cloud and we were driving near the St. Cloud State campus, a track by Auger with vocals by Julie Driscoll came on the car radio courtesy of WXGY in nearby Sauk Rapids. It was, I think, “Season Of The Witch.” (It could have been “Road To Cairo” or “This Wheel’s On Fire.”) And jb, who hangs his blogging hat at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, motioned to the speaker and said something like “This stuff is almost forgotten, and I cannot figure out why!”

Nor can I.

“Listen Here” showed up as a nine minute-plus version on Befour, a 1970 album by Auger and his band. I don’t know if the single is an edit, a shortened remix or an entirely different recording, but here it is. It spent two weeks at No. 100, and was the only record Auger ever got into the Hot 100 (although the previously mentioned “This Wheel’s On Fire” – with vocals by Driscoll – Bubbled Under for four weeks and got to No. 106).

What’s At No. 100? (August 1965)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We’re going to play one of our favorite – and relatively new – games here today: What’s At No. 100? My imaginary tuneheads, Odd and Pop, and I have done this four times previously, but we’ve been headlining those excursions as Chart Digging. That was Pop’s idea.

“Well,” he said during the meeting when the new game was approved, “we don’t want to scare off readers who look for the comfortable and expected.”

“Pshhht!” said Odd. “If they want comfortable and unsurprising, let ’em buy a chair! We need to offer readers stuff they rarely hear anywhere else, stuff that expands their horizons, stuff that makes their musical worlds grow!”

“Really?” asked Pop. “Like ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richards?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Odd, shifting uncomfortably in his imaginary chair. “That was unfortunate.” He sighed, then perked up. “But the next time we played the game, we found something by Travis Wammack!”

Pop nodded. “And we’ve heard stuff from the Dells and from Stephen Stills.”

“So you’re both happy as we head into 1965?” I asked.

Pop nodded. Odd chewed his lip. “Well, ‘happy’ is a relative term. Sometimes, I can’t be satisfied.” He paused and then added, “And yes, that’s a Muddy Waters reference.”

With that, we turned to the Billboard Hot 100 from August 21, 1965, and its Top Ten:

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher
“Save Your Heart For Me” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Help!” by the Beatles
“California Girls” by the Beach Boys
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
“It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops
“Don’t Just Stand There” by Patty Duke
“I’m Henry The VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
“Down In The Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal

The three of us looked at that Top Ten with generally differing thoughts, although none of us were impressed by the Patty Duke single as we listened. I thought it sounded like mediocre Lesley Gore. The two of them agreed.

As to the rest of that Top Ten, Pop was pleased with the remaining nine and giggled happily as he thought about the record by Herman’s Hermits. As I expected, Odd dismissed that single as piffle but acknowledged most of the rest as decent listening. He was a little disturbed by the thought of the record from Gary Lewis & The Playboys, but he was pleased with the presence of the Billy Joe Royal record. “I know it was a pretty good hit back in the day,” he said. “And that was way back in the day,” he added, looking at me. “Even you were young then!”

And he and Pop – whippersnappers that they are – giggled as I gave them my best eye-roll.

“But,” Odd went on, “I can get into a No. 9 hit when it seems to be lost, and ‘Down In The Boondocks’ seems to be very much lost these days.”

Then I asked, “And how about the top of the list, Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’?”

“No. 1 for three weeks!” Pop said happily.

“Hal Blaine!” Odd added, just as pleased.

Then we were off for our business at the bottom of the Hot 100.

And we found a master of soul who’s been mentioned only rarely here during these eleven-plus years and who’s been featured only two times: Solomon Burke, whose “Someone Is Watching” was sitting at No. 100 fifty-three years ago this week.

Every time his name pops up in my reading or on the charts I scan, I think to myself that, yes, I need to know more about Solomon Burke, and I definitely need to know his music better. Those are goals that both Odd and Pop agree with, as there’s very little by the man on the physical or digital shelves here. That needs to be remedied.

But for now, here’s “Someone Is Watching,” a nice slice of Atlantic soul. It stalled at No. 89 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 24 on the Billboard R&B chart. Unsurprisingly, it’s nice stuff, with a sax solo that I’d think came from King Curtis.

Chart Digging: Four Julys

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

It seems that there were only four times during the years that interest us here that Billboard published on July 25: 1960, 1964, 1970, and 1981. The gaps between years – one remarkably short and another remarkably long – came for two reasons. First, I think that the magazine shifted its publication date from Monday to Saturday, creating the four-year gap between the first two charts we’ll look at; and then, the insertion of Leap Year Day – February 29 – into 1976 shifted days, so that July 25 moved from a Friday in 1975 to a Sunday in 1976.

All of that leads us to confirm an idea hatched here some years ago that anything that happens because of February 29 does nothing but cause trouble. Anyway, we have four instances of a Billboard Hot 100 to examine this morning, and we’re going to play some Games With Numbers, turning today’s date, 7-25, into No. 32 and see what treasures may lie at that spot in those four charts. We’ll also, as we customarily do, check out the No. 1 record for each of those weeks. So let’s get underway:

During this week in 1960, when a six-year-old whiteray was wandering through the summer before second grade, he and his pals were probably unaware of anything on the Hot 100 except perhaps Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini” because the title was fun to sing and it was a little bit daring. I’m not certain what my pals knew beyond that fifty-eight years ago, but I certainly was unaware that “Pennies From Heaven” by the Skyliners was sitting at No. 32.

In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn describes the group from Pittsburgh as a doo-wop outfit, and that certainly held true for 1959’s “Since I Don’t Have You,” but the group’s cover of “Pennies From Heaven” sounds more like Vegas and the Rat Pack than an East Coast serenade from a brownstone’s step. The record had peaked the week earlier at No. 24 and was on its way down the chart. It was the last of three Top 40 hits for the Skyliners, although they kept trying, releasing singles into the late 1970s.

I wasn’t listening to KDWB at the time, of course, but from what I can see at Oldiesloon, “Pennies From Heaven” never reached the station’s survey.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 fifty-eight years ago today was Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.” (And in my head, I hear Golden Earring.)

We jump ahead four years to the summer of 1964, when sixth grade (and an intense crush on a young lady who lived about ten blocks south on Kilian Boulevard) was approaching but still out of sight. Parked at No. 32 fifty-four years ago today was the classic “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups, heading toward a three-week stay at No. 1. Do I remember it from then or just from repeated hearings over the years since? I have no idea (and that’s true of many records from before, oh, 1967 or so). Over the next year, the Dixie Cups placed five more records in or near the Hot 100, including the classic “Iko Iko,” which went to No. 20 in 1965. (That record, Whitburn notes, was a reworking of “Jock-O-Mo,” written and recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford & His Cane Cutters.)

At KDWB, “Chapel of Love” peaked at No. 3, parking there for three weeks.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 fifty-four summers ago this week was “Rag Doll” by the Four Seasons.

By the summer of 1970, the next time Billboard released a Hot 100 on July 25, I was a dedicated Top 40 listener, so one would expect familiarity at No. 32. And that’s just what we get with “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. The record came from a skiffle band from England, with Ray Dorset on vocals, and it was seemingly everywhere that summer, reaching No. 3 in the Hot 100. (It also went to No. 30 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.) But I’m not altogether sure where I heard it, as the record never made the KDWB 6+30 survey, according to the lists at Oldiesloon. Well, no matter where I heard it, it seemed to be everywhere, and the lines “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal. If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel,” seem now to be awful advice.

As it happens, “In The Summertime” is a perfect one-hit wonder, as the group never had any other records reach the Hot 100 or even bubble under.

(As the note below from faithful reader Yah Shure makes clear, “In The Summertime” did get plenty of air play on KDWB, which is what I recalled. I clearly messed up the search somehow and did not trust my memory and look again. Note added August 7, 2018.)

The No. 1 record in the July 25, 1970, Hot 100 was “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters.

And from 1970, we jump to July 25, 1981, smack in the middle of one of the six summers I spent as a reporter for the Monticello Times. As I’ve noted many times more than once here, I was listening less and less to Top 40 during those days, first because I had less leisure time and also because I liked what I was hearing less and less. Still, I do remember that week’s No. 32 record, “America” by Neil Diamond.

One of three Top Ten hits from Diamond’s movie The Jazz Singer, “America” had peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks on the top of the Adult Contemporary chart. (The other two hits from the movie were “Love On The Rocks,” which went to No. 2, and “Hello Again,” which peaked at No. 6.) Diamond, of course, had a lengthy list of records in the Billboard charts, with the 2009 edition of Top Pop Singles showing fifty-six records in the Hot 100.

There are no 1981 surveys from KDWB at Oldiesloon, nor are there any from WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station.

Sitting at No. 1 thirty-seven years ago today was “The One That You Love” by Air Supply.

One Chart Dig: July 1970

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Here’s what the top of the Billboard Hot 100 looked like in mid-July 1970, as I wandered through the last months before my senior year of high school:

“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“The Love You Save/I Found That Girl” by the Jackson 5
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by the Temptations
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers
“O-o-o Child/Dear Prudence” by the Five Stairsteps
“Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins
“Make It With You” by Bread

I don’t recall ever hearing the B-sides of the Jackson 5 and Five Stairsteps singles. Otherwise, every one of these records echoes in my head today, forty-eight years after their time. Did I like them all? Actually, yes, even the juvenile silliness of “Gimme Dat Ding.”

My pal Mike – whose mother was soon to banish me from their home because of my approval of the Beatles – brought the Pipkins single over one Saturday morning. We headed to the rec room in the basement, and I tried to tape the single, but without suitable equipment, every take was ruined by household noise. Finally, we were seconds away from getting the job done when Rick – coming over from across the street – gave me his regular signal of his arrival by tapping three times on the basement window. In exasperation and amusement, we gave up.

With that, we’re going to leave that Top Ten behind and dive deep, checking out – as we’ve been doing recently – the very bottom of the Hot 100, the record parked this week in 1970 at No. 100. And there we find “Long Lonely Nights” by the Dells.

I expected a sad tune, but the hard hitting “Lonely nights!” intro – which seemed to promise something up-tempo – threw me. And after that bit of oddness, the record settled into a standard Dells joint: Harmonies and sad sounds, swirling strings and punchy horns, a little bit of spoken word melancholy. Then, at the end, we get an unsettling reprise of the up-tempo “Lonely nights!” It’s as if the Dells and producer Bobby Miller weren’t sure what kind of record they wanted to make.

And whether it was the odd mix of up-tempo and slow sounds or something else, the record didn’t do very well. It peaked at No. 74 in the Hot 100 and at No. 27 in the magazine’s R&B chart. Here it is:

Chart Digging: Four Julys

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It’s time to dig into some Billboard Hot 100s from a few different Julys. We’re going to play some Games With Numbers and turn today’s date – 7/11/18 – into 36, and check out the No. 36 record on four charts, starting in 1976 and heading back four years at a time.

As we customarily do when we play these games, we’ll check out the No. 1 record for those weeks at the same time.

The second week of July 1976 found the country recovering from its Bicentennial celebration, the climax of what seemed at the time to have been about five years of preparation and marketing. If you didn’t have something Bicentennial themed in your house, you were either unpatriotic or worse, a spoilsport. Anyway, just less than a week after the hoopla reached its climax, the No. 36 record in the Hot 100 was a discofied version of one of the greatest and most familiar pieces of classical music: “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band, which was heading up the charts to No. 1. (It would reach No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart and No. 13 on what was then called the Easy Listening chart.)

It was the only Top 40 hit for Murphy, who had been an arranger for Doc Severinsen and the orchestra for The Tonight Show. (That means there’s only one degree of separation, as folks say, between me and Murphy, as I’ve met Doc Severinsen twice.). Two other releases, “Flight ’76,” based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and 1982’s “Themes from E.T. (The Extra-terrestrial),” went to Nos. 44 and 47 respectively. And Murphy’s condensed and discofied take on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 102 in early 1977.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July 1976 was “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band.

Heading back four years from that puts us in the summer of 1972, when I was working half-time as a janitor and planning a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my pals Rick and Gary. (The ease with which we crossed from the U.S. into Canada that summer now astounds me. We showed the Canadian officials our driver’s licenses and the hand-written letter my dad had supplied that gave us his permission to take my 1961 Falcon – which Dad technically owned – across the border. Returning to Minnesota a few days later was just as easy. Simpler times.) Anyway, the No. 36 record as our plans for our trip were taking shape was a pairing of song and singer that itself echoed a time a decade earlier that in 1972 seemed much simpler: “Sealed With A Kiss” by Bobby Vinton.

Vinton’s version doesn’t stray far from the feel of Brian Hyland’s 1962 version that went to No. 3, and both are appreciably less mournful – to my ears, anyway – than the non-charting 1960 original by the Four Voices. Vinton’s version was on its way to No. 19 (No. 2, Easy Listening) during the second week of July. It was the thirty-eighth record Vinton had in or near the Hot 100 in a ten year period. He’d add eleven more through 1981 before the hits ran out.

Parked at No. 1 that week in 1972 was Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.”

We’ve dallied a lot in recent months in the memorable year of 1968, but a four-year retreat from 1972 finds us there once again. And – as I’ve noted here many times before – it was likely around this time that I spent four days working at the state trap shoot, getting dirty with tar dust and listening to the radio for eight or so hours each day. Nevertheless, I don’t recall KDWB offering me Wilson Pickett’s “I’m A Midnight Mover” during those four days. It was sitting at No. 36 fifty years ago this week, and if I heard it then, if just didn’t make an impression, which – based on a listening this morning – seems unlikely.

The record peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100 (and at No. 6 on the R&B chart), one of the forty-three records Pickett placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1973 (with forty of his records reaching the R&B Top 40).

The No. 1 record during that week in July 1968 was “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert.

Whatever I may have been doing during in early July 1964, it hasn’t stuck in my memory. I was ten, with sixth grade at Lincoln Elementary on the horizon, and I was probably just finishing up summer school. That might have been the year my summer classmates and I were featured in the Shopping News for building a fake igloo for our studies on Alaska. In any case, I’m sure I spent a lot of time with Rick, both of us lazing away summer days in a way that I’m certain kids these days are not allowed to do. We didn’t really listen to pop music then, but we no doubt heard it when we were around older kids. Still, I would guess that Terry Stafford’s “I’ll Touch A Star” – the No. 36 record fifty-four years ago this week – was something we missed.

The record was Stafford’s follow-up to his No. 3 hit, “Suspicion,” and like that record, it was a bit of traditional pop in a time when the charts were mixing traditional pop and R&B and English hits and surf sounds and light jazz in such a way that listening to a Top 40 station would have been an adventure. “I’ll Touch A Star” peaked at No. 25 (No. 4 Easy Listening, where, surprisingly, “Suspicion” had failed to chart). Stafford had only one more record tickle the Hot 100: “Follow The Rainbow” bubbled under at No. 101 later that summer in 1964. He went on to place a few records in the bottom half of the country Top 40 in the 1970s.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July in 1964 was “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.

(It’s interesting to note that – based on a little bit of digging – this post marks the first time that I’ve ever featured the music of Terry Stafford, Bobby Vinton or Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band. I’ve mentioned Vinton frequently and Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band a few times. Until today, I’ve never mentioned Terry Stafford over the course of some 2,100 posts.)