Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (February 1971)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Well, the Billboard Top Ten from the last week in February 1971 – fifty years ago – doesn’t hold many surprises:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Knock Three Times” by Dawn
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
“I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmunds
“Sweet Mary” by Wadsworth Mansion
“Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed
“Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Me & Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin

Man, there are a bunch of short titles in there. That list might set a record for the Top Ten with the fewest words in its ten titles: Thirty, making for an average of three words per title.

That, of course, says nothing about the quality of the records, which is pretty good, as I sort it out. (As always, I’m confronted by the quandary: Do I assess these records as I would have when the chart was new, or do I look at them from today’s perch? I end up doing a little bit of both, I imagine.)

What did I like back then? I liked the records by Anderson and Lightfoot. I liked “Sweet Mary,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Bobbie McGee.” And fifty years later, only “Rose Garden” isn’t as good as it used to be.

I liked “I Hear You Knocking,” but I didn’t understand why the vocal sounded as if it were pinched somehow, and I really didn’t get why Edmunds hollered out what seemed like random names during the instrumental. I recognized only one of the names – Chuck Berry – and that one only vaguely. I could have used the record as a road map to learn more about music if I’d only paid attention or had someone to ask, I guess. I like it a lot more today, knowing what Edmunds was up to, than I did then.

“One Bad Apple” and “Amos Moses” didn’t do it for me when I was seventeen. I’ve changed my mind about the Jerry Reed single but not about the Osmonds’. The Dawn record was a hoot in 1971; when it played on the jukebox in St. Cloud Tech High’s multi-purpose room, kids would use their fists on the lunch tables to knock three times themselves. It’s a nice memory today. I don’t recall hearing “Mama’s Pearl” back then at all. And from 2021, it’s just okay.

What, then, do we find when we drop to the bottom of that Hot 100, which came out on February 27, 1971?

We find “Super Highway” by Ballin’ Jack, a record that kind of fits into the “back to the land” ethos that permeated a lot of tunes at the time, or if not “back to the land” at least offered a critique of society’s tendency to trade land for asphalt.

The chorus, specifically, tugs at me:

Super highway tearing through my city
Super highway tearing through my town
Super highway tearing through my country
Super highway, got to tear it down

We seem in the United States these days to at least be starting to reckon with how our culture has treated the cultures of people of color. Whether that turns into a long-term effort is, of course, an open question. But among the topics I’ve seen raised lately in news coverage and in online gathering spots is how the routing of the Interstate Highway system literally tore apart inner-city communities of color.

Here in Minnesota, St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood – the center of Black culture in the city – was shredded when I-94 was routed through the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I think a similar thing happened, though not to the same degree, when the western segment of I-35 was routed through South Minneapolis. And Ballin’ Jack was singing about it – or something very much like it – fifty years ago.

Ballin’ Jack was, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, an interracial jazz-rock group from San Francisco. “Super Highway” was the group’s only single to hit the Hot 100, topping out during a four-week run at No. 93. The single was a very tight edit of a longer track on the group’s first album, a self-titled effort that hit No. 180 on the Billboard 200.

The album track starts with a slow introduction that kills the track before it begins to rock, while the single kicks from the start, sort of like what happened not quite a year earlier with the punchy radio single of Pacific Gas & Electric’s “Are You Ready” and the slowly starting album track.

Here’s the single of “Super Highway,” which would have been a fine piece of horn band rock if the writers had developed the lyric – which is way too repetitive – a lot more.

A Survey From St. Cloud!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I have no idea how many times in the past fourteen years I’ve written about WJON, the AM radio station that brought me a lot of my Top 40 fixes during my teenage years. More than I want to count, I’m sure.

Settled on Lincoln Avenue just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house on Kilian Boulevard, WJON and its disk jockeys eased my way, starting in the summer of 1969, from being a soundtrack and trumpet nerd into knowing a little bit more about the music my peers had been listening to for a long time.

(And that continues today, as I often get a note of enlightenment here from my friend Yah Shure, whose career in radio includes a late 1970s stint at WJON; our paths did not cross, however, as he arrived in St. Cloud about the time I decamped to Monticello, thirty miles away, for a newspapering gig.)

Similarly, I have no idea how many times I’ve stopped by the Airheads Radio Survey Archive for fodder for a post here. But until recently, I’d not found one survey from St. Cloud from the years I lived there and listened to Top 40. There were a few from KFAM, another AM station now called KNSI, from the 1940s and 1950s, and there were some from the early 1980s from KCLD, an FM sister station of KFAM/KNSI.

The other week, though, I found one survey at the site from WJON, a survey issued February 9, 1976, forty-five years ago today. Now, I guess I wasn’t really living in St. Cloud at the time, as I was taking my internship in the Twin Cities, but I was in St. Cloud every other weekend or so, so I would have heard whatever it was WJON was offering at the time. Here’s the top ten:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

That’s a “meh” from here. I liked “Convoy,” but like all novelty records, it’s got a limited shelf life. I liked the Manilow then, but now, not so much. I still like the Simon and the ELO records, and the Carmen is good from time to time.

Lower down, however, there are some records I liked better: “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees at No. 17, “Break Away” by Art Garfunkel at No. 25, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by the 4 Seasons at No. 27, “Somewhere In The Night,” by Helen Reddy at No. 37, and a few more.

But the record at No. 18 in that forty-five-year-old survey popped up on my iPod the other day, and reminded me of something I wrote here about three years ago:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not-so-subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 721

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Earlier this week, we glanced at the top ten singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from January 25, 1975, and were decidedly unimpressed. I thought that today might be a good time to see if the top ten albums from that week made me feel any better. Here they are:

Greatest Hits by Elton John
Fire by the Ohio Players
Miles Of Aisles by Joni Mitchell
Dark Horse by George Harrison
Heart Like A Wheel by Linda Ronstadt
Relayer by Yes
Back Home Again by John Denver
AWB by the Average White Band
War Child by Jethro Tull
Goodnight Vienna by Ringo Starr

I look at that Top Ten, and I feel like I should find it interesting. I don’t. Six of those albums eventually found their ways onto my LP stacks over the years. The best was probably the Elton John album, but after years of listening to the hits and to the albums from which those hits came, I tend to think that a listener is better hearing the hits in their original settings nestled among very good album tracks (some of them better than the singles).

For various reasons, I never thought much of the Mitchell album, and the albums by the Ohio Players and the Average White Band also left me unmoved. Heart Like A Wheel was good, but not as good as other Ronstadt albums, so it stayed pretty much on the stacks, and Goodnight Vienna was mediocre Ringo.

When Dark Horse pops up in these kinds of things, I’m always surprised that I’ve never owned it. I like Harrison’s solo work, maybe more than I liked the solo work of the other Beatles, and there was a fair amount of Harrison’s stuff on the LP stacks before the Great Vinyl Sell-Off the other year. But not Dark Horse. And I’ve never bought the CD or even sought out a digital version of the album.

Which leaves the albums by Yes, Jethro Tull and John Denver, none of which I’ve ever owned. Maybe I’ve missed out on something over the years, but I paid no attention to those albums and little attention to Yes or Tull over the years. And I’ve resolutely ignored almost anything Denver released after 1971.

So, I owned none of those albums when this chart was published in 1975, and none of them has endeared me to itself over the years. (Am I grumpy as I write this on a cold and soon to be snowy Saturday? Perhaps.)

Well, sorting out what’s written here, if we ignore the Elton John hits album, the best thing in that Top Ten is the Ronstadt album. (I said it was good but not as good as other Ronstadts I had.) So, let’s dip into Heart Like A Wheel and pull out my favorite track. That would be Ronstadt’s cover of Lowell George’s “Willin’.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: January 1975

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Here’s the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 from the fourth week of January 1975, released on January 25 that year:

“Please, Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters
“Laughter In The Rain” by Neil Sedaka
“Mandy” by Barry Manilow
“Fire” by the Ohio Players
“Boogie On, Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder
“You’re No Good/I Can’t Help It” by Linda Ronstadt
“One Man Woman/One Woman Man” by Paul Anka w/ Odia Coates
“Morning Side Of The Mountain” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor
“Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band

Oh, my god. No wonder I was depressed that month.

Well, there were other reasons for my deep funk. I was still trying to put my life back together after my Halloween 1974 traffic accident (and I was not doing a very good job of it). But if that’s the music I was hearing as I skipped class and spent my days at The Table sipping bad coffee and pretty much chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, then the tunes were not likely helping my mood.

The best thing there is the Stevie Wonder single. Some folks will find virtues in the Ronstadt A-side that I have never heard. There are times when I enjoy the records from the Ohio Players, Gaynor and the Average White Band, but they’re not real frequent. (Of those three, the Gaynor is the best.)

I have no time at all for the records by the Carpenters, Anka/Coates or the Osmonds, and I can enjoy the Sedaka record on only very rare occasions.

Then there’s “Mandy,” which I swear we’d been hearing in the Atwood Center jukebox since mid-October, at least four weeks before it entered the Hot 100 in November. It got to No. 1 a week before the chart we’re examining today, where we found it at No. 3.

It’s an overly dramatic, trite and bathetic song and a bombastic record. And I loved it. I recall regularly dropping quarters in the snack bar jukebox for four records between the autumn of 1974 and spring 1975. They were “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)” by Reunion, “We” by Shawn Phillips, “I Saw Her Standing There” as performed by John Lennon with Elton John (the flip side of Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom”), and “Mandy.”

I probably dropped more quarters for “Mandy” during that 1974-75 year than for any other record. And the thought of it this morning brings back potent bittersweet memories.

As we usually do, let’s see how many of those eleven records in the top of that chart are among my current day-to-day listening in my iPod.

Well, only one of them is included in the more than 2,800 tracks I carry around the house with me: The Stevie Wonder single.

Now, here is where I usually drop to the bottom of the chart, or somewhere in the middle, to find something more or less at random, something we’ve never (or rarely) heard in the nearly fourteen years this blog’s been throwing things at the wall. But a search of the 2,500-or-so posts in our history this morning told me that we’ve mentioned Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” twice and never posted it.

So here’s “Mandy.” Will I drop it into the iPod? I dunno.

Incorrect title changed after posting.

Chart Digging, December 1969

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Having played around the other day with the albums from this week in 1969, I thought we should look at the Hot 100 for that week as well. Here are the Top 10 records from the third week in December 1969:

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Take A Letter, Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears

Wow. There’s not a one of those I wouldn’t welcome anytime. If forced to trim two records from those twelve, I’d likely take out “Down On The Corner” and “Take A Letter, Maria,” but only because I had to.

Maybe I love those records in large part because they were among the first batches of records I ever heard rise to the top in the Top 40. I started listening sometime in August 1969 and by December, I had gotten used to the cycle: New record shows up and catches my ear, so I wait for the next time I hear it, and it gets the same reaction from lots of other listeners and climbs up the ladder.

I dunno. But it seems that the records from, oh, the first year-plus of Top 40 listening – August 1969 to December 1970 – belong to me more than records from any other time of my life. There would be a few exceptions, sure, for stuff that came along later during the years I call my sweet spot, but after 1970, I’m not sure I could find a Top Ten in which every record was something I liked.

Has that appreciation for those twelve records lasted for fifty-one years? Let’s look at the iPod and see. Well, ten of the twelve are there. Missing are the B.J. Thomas and Blood, Sweat & Tears records. They should have been there.

Let’s take a look now at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100, and see what we find. It’s a record in its first week on the chart that would enter the Top 40 in early February 1970 and eventually peak at No. 7.

And even my mother liked it. Sometime in February or March 1970, she’d hear it coming from my radio as she came upstairs and stop and listen in the doorway for a moment. Then, as she headed to do whatever it was she was doing, she said something like “Why can’t more of your music be like that?”

Here are the Hollies and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Chart Digging, December 1969 (Albums)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

It’s time to dig into an album chart. Here are the top ten albums from this week in 1969, fifty-one years ago:

Abbey Road by the Beatles
Led Zeppelin II
Tom Jones Live In Las Vegas
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones
Puzzle People by the Temptations
Santana
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Easy Rider soundtrack

Well, that’s a hell of a great chart. Seven of those ten albums were once on my LP shelves. Most of those are on the CD shelves, and all seven are here digitally. The exceptions are the Easy Rider soundtrack and the albums by the Temptations and Tom Jones. They never made the LP shelves, and on the digital shelves, I’ve got about half of the tracks from the soundtrack from other sources, but only one track from the other two albums, the Tempts’ “I Can’t Get Next To You.”

But I could put the seven I do have on shuffle and be happy for a long, long time.

It’s time, though, to look for interesting albums further down the chart. Instead of just falling to the bottom of the chart as we often do, we’re going to check some other stuff along the way, fifty slots at a time. And we’ll see what we find to listen to.

Parked at No. 50 we find the soundtrack to the 1969 film Romeo & Juliet by Nino Rota. The album would peak at No. 2 for two weeks, but the only track from it that had any success on the Billboard Hot 100 was a recording of an actual scene from the movie, “Farewell Love Scene,” with the voices of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. That single peaked at No. 86 in the late summer of 1969. (Henry Mancini, of course, had a No. 1 hit with Rota’s “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” – also known as “A Time For Us” – in June 1969.) As you might guess, the soundtrack is atmospheric, laden with strings and a little subdued. It had a spot on my shelves at one time but seems not to have survived the great sell-off about five years ago. I may have to rectify that.

Heading down fifty spots to No. 100, we come to an album by The Mamas & The Papas that my sister used to own (and may still): 16 Of Their Greatest Hits. I recall listening to it in the basement rec room many times before my sister took it with her in 1972. All the familiar records are there, as well as a few that weren’t as prominent. The most interesting of those might be “For The Love Of Ivy,” a 1968 single that peaked at No. 81 and was inspired by a 1968 film starring Sidney Poitier. I don’t recall the single; I got my M&P fix from the 1967 compilation Farewell To The First Golden Era, which gave me all the hits I needed. (I imagine that during my record-digging days,  if I’d seen a copy of the album my sister had, I’d have grabbed it.)

Down at spot No. 150, we find the first of two albums released by the group Fat Mattress, which was founded by Noel Redding, who played bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Both of the group’s albums are on the digital shelves, and I’m not sure why (except that someone offered them to me). Fat Mattress’ rock doesn’t seem to center on a particular style, and what it does offer is pretty derivative. The album was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 134. The second album didn’t make the chart, and neither of them spun off any hit singles (though I doubt that was the aim of Redding and his pals).

Finally, at the bottom of the Billboard 200 from fifty-one years ago this week, we find Your Good Thing by Lou Rawls. The album did one more week at No. 200 and then fell off the chart, but it did spin off two singles: “Your Good Thing (Is About To End),” which went to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and “I Can’t Make It Alone,” which went to Nos. 63 and 33, respectively. From what I can tell, the album is your basic Lou Rawls joint, which is a good thing around here. I doubt if I ever saw the album during my digging days. I had a couple of Rawls’ hits albums on the LP shelves, but they’re gone; I have all the hits and lot of album tracks among the digital files.

Once Lou Rawls showed up, the decision here was easy. Rota’s original version of his gorgeous theme got a few moments’ consideration, but Rawls’ work is so smooth, it over-rides even Rota’s theme. And then, Rawls has show up here at this blog only three times since we got our own spot more than ten years ago. He’s due. Maybe Rota is, too, but anyway, here’s “Your Good Thing (Is About To End).”

‘Jerusalem’?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Here’s what topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the November 28, 1970, edition, fifty years ago this week:

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Elvis Presley
“It’s Impossible” by Perry Como
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by Neil Diamond
“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand
“Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“One Less Bell To Answer” by the 5th Dimension
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor
“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” by Mark Lindsay

I knew seven of these well at the time, and I like six of those seven. (The Presley record never worked for me.) But three records stand out. We’ll start at No. 10, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5.

I don’t recall hearing the record fifty years ago, which makes sense, as it only went to No. 44 on the Hot 100. If I did hear it, it wasn’t often enough for it to sink into my memory, which it likely would have with repeated hearings, as it’s my kind of record. After all, I liked Lindsay’s more popular records of the time, “Arizona” (No. 10 on the Hot 100 and No. 16, Easy Listening) and “Silver Bird” (Nos. 25 and 7, respectively).

Then, there’s Diamond’s cover of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” pulled from his album Tap Root Manuscript. When I first heard it across the street at Rick’s, I wasn’t impressed, probably because I thought it was kind of limp when compared to the Hollies’ version from the previous winter. Did I hear it on the radio? I might have, as it went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart, right where we found it). But compared to “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “I Am . . . I Said,” Diamond’s singles that both went to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart (and to Nos. 1 and 4 on the Hot 100) around the same time, it’s kind of lame.

Finally, until this morning, I’d never heard of “Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert and his gang, much less heard it, as far as I know. All I can say is that it’s pleasant and vaguely familiar. And, I guess, that being the owner of the record company – as Alpert was – allows you to release whatever you want; the record doesn’t sound like single material to me. But it worked, at least on the Easy Listening chart, where we found it at its peak at No. 6. On the Hot 100, “Jerusalem” stalled at No. 74. (By that time, Alpert was having much more success on the Easy Listening chart than on the pop chart. We might take a look at that another time.)

Anyway, here’s “Jerusalem.”

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, November 20th, 2020

We’re playing Symmetry today, checking out the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1970. We’ll look at the top five and then see what was hanging on the hook at No. 50 fifty years ago.

Here’s the top five from the Hot 100 as of November 21, 1970:

“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 & Rain” by James Taylor

I don’t think I was particularly thrilled by that set of five records fifty years ago, as my senior year of high school was sliding by. I noted earlier this week that at the time I thought “I Think I Love You” was a little too poppy but that I admire its craft now.

One of the best things about the records we love is that they connect with us emotionally, tie in somehow to what we’re feeling at the time they come along. Over the fifty years that I’ve been seriously listening to and thinking about music, there are no doubt hundreds of records with which I’ve connected emotionally.

None of these five are among those hundreds of records.

They’re fine records all, but not one of them has ever meant anything to me. (There is that one fleeting memory of hearing the Partridge Family record during a long-ago date, but that’s it.) Even James Taylor’s classic, ushering in (kind of, sort of, maybe) the era of the singer-songwriter (a genre I loved then and still love) has no emotional resonance for me.

I would guess it’s one of the few times that would happen during the years of my so-called sweet spot, running from the late summer of 1969 to the late autumn of 1975. Four of the five – all except “I’ll Be There” – are in the iPod and thus are a part of my day-to-day listening, but the prospect of deleting them would bring no distress (except, and this make sense, a slight bit of regret at losing “I Think I Love You”).

But what do we find when we get to our other business this morning? What was at No. 50 during the third week of November 1970?

We find the record that in a very few weeks would become Neil Young’s first Top 40 hit: “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Pulled from the stellar album After The Gold Rush, the record had been No. 60 a week earlier and would rise to No. 33. It’s a good record. (For what it matters, it’s not in the iPod either, though maybe it should be.)

What’s At No. 100? (LPs, October 1971)

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Not long ago, we bounced around the charts from the autumn of 1970, a neat and clean fifty years ago. We’re going to move up a year to 1971, when the charts should be nearly as interesting but without that nifty round number.

We’ll start today with the Billboard 200, the album chart, and in coming days, we’ll look at the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening chart from the last week of October of 1971.  Here’s the top ten from the album chart from forty-nine years ago this week:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart (1991)
Imagine by John Lennon (1972)
Shaft by Isaac Hayes (1989)
Santana III
Tapestry by Carole King (1983)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues (1977)
Carpenters (1980)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens (1995)
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
Who’s Next (1988)

As you can see by the years listed in parentheses, nine of those ten albums eventually found places on my shelves, some early, some late. I don’t know why the Santana album never did.

And even though I only owned one of those albums at the time the chart was released – I’d gotten Ram for a high school graduation present in June 1971 – I think I’d heard portions of all of those by the end of the academic year in the spring of 1972. New music was all around me, on my radios, across the street at Rick’s, in the dorms where I hung out with my friends, and at the St. Cloud State radio station.

And at that time, I likely would have rated Ram, the Moody Blues album, and maybe Imagine as the best albums in that chart. Now? I’d likely put Tapestry at the top of the list by a good margin, then Who’s Next and the Rod Stewart album. At the bottom of that very good list would likely be the album by the Carpenters along with Imagine and Ram.

Well, let’s check out the iPod, which as much as anything reflects my current listening. Eight tracks from Tapestry are among the 2,700-some in the iPod, and so are five tracks from Ram, four from the Cat Stevens album, three each from Every Picture . . . and Every Good Boy . . ., two from the Carpenters’ album, and one from Who’s Next. John Lennon, Isaac Hayes and Santana are shut out. (And “Shaft” will be added to the device by the end of the day.)

So are there any lessons or conclusions to be drawn there? Probably not, except to acknowledge that all those college women whose copies of Tapestry I heard as I walked along dormitory hallways during my freshman year at St. Cloud State knew their stuff. (And to note that despite the glory of its title track and the decent quality of one or two other tracks, Imagine wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of folks – including me – wanted it to be.)

Having checked out the iPod, let’s go to the mid-point of the Billboard 200 from forty-nine years ago this week, and see what album sat at No. 100 during the last week of October 1971. And we find a serving of R&B courtesy of the Isley Brothers: Givin’ It Back.

The album leads off with a nine-minute medley of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’ “Machine Gun.” That’s followed by covers of James Taylor (“Fire & Rain”), Bob Dylan (“Lay, Lady, Lay”), War (“Spill The Wine”), Stephen Stills (“Love The One You’re With” and “Nothing To Do But Today”), and Bill Withers (“Cold Bologna”).

Givin’ It Back peaked at No. 71. Here’s “Love The One You’re With.”

Still In 1970 (LP Edition)

Friday, October 9th, 2020

Here are the top ten albums listed in the Billboard 200 on October 10, 1970, fifty years ago tomorrow:

Cosmo’s Factory by CCR (December 1998)
Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker (August 1975)
A Question Of Balance by the Moody Blues (February 1989)
Woodstock film soundtrack (August 1988)
Third Album by the Jackson 5
Tommy by the Who (September 1988)
Chicago (May 1970)
Abraxas by Santana (April 1989)
After The Gold Rush by Neil Young (January 1985)
Sweet Baby James by James Taylor (August 1989)

(In his Top 10 Billboard Album Charts (1963-1998), Joel Whitburn lists the Chicago album as Chicago II. The title on the spine of my 1970 LP is simply Chicago, which is how I present it here. The use of Roman numerals by the band began with Chicago III.)

The months in parentheses above tell me when those albums came to my shelves. The only one of those albums that never showed up in my home is the one by the Jackson 5. (It seems as if I write that sentence, or others very similar, frequently, as I never bought an album by the Jackson 5, although I had numerous tracks by the group on various anthologies.)

Anyway, that’s a pleasant ten hours or so of listening. If I were asked to sort out a favorite from among those ten, I’d have a hard time choosing between the albums by Chicago, Joe Cocker and the Moody Blues. I think all of A Question Of Balance (along with the single version of the title track) is in the iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening; all of the first LP of the Chicago album is also there, so call it a tie.

As to Mad Dogs, three tracks show up in the device: “The Letter,” “Cry Me A River,” and “Give Peace A Chance.” I’ve got the album on CD, but it’s one that rarely gets popped into a player, unlike a couple other Joe Cocker efforts. I think that somewhere along the line the pace of the album became overwhelming and not very much fun anymore, kind of like a eighty-minute adrenaline rush that leaves you exhausted instead of fulfilled.

That’s possibly even the case when the single tracks pop up on random, but then, something else comes along, something by Bread or maybe even Steely Dan that isn’t nearly so manic. So, just for fun, I’m going to cue up “Cry Me A River” in iTunes and see what comes next.

And – in a demonstration that my iPod might be the most eclectic listening device in Minnesota, if not the Upper Midwest or even a larger area – we get a track from a 1964 album I wrote about in a post almost ten years ago. When my sister bought the album in the mid-1960s, it was titled Traditional Jewish Memories. When I found it as a CD in 2010, it had been retitled as Hava Nagila & Other Jewish Memories (and now, seemingly, has been retitled again as Traditional Jewish Melodies). Here, performed by the Benedict Silberman Orchestra & Chorus, is “The Welcoming Melody.”