Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

No. 54, Fifty-Four Years Ago

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, today checking out the No. 54 record in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago, during the first days of April 1965.

That chart, actually released on April 3, fifty-four years ago yesterday, had as its top three records “Stop In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits, and “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie & The Dreamers.

Back then, I doubt whether I knew two of the three. I’m sure I knew the Supremes’ record; it was all around. But as the last months of sixth grade were going past, I doubt that I heard either of the other two often enough to recognize them. Later in the year – in September or December – I would get to know the Herman’s Hermits record, as it was the first track on Herman’s Hermits On Tour, which my sister gave me for either Christmas or my birthday that year. (Whichever it was, the other occasion was marked by her giving me Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us, thus providing me my introduction to the musicians of the Wrecking Crew.)

Fifty-four years later, the Supremes’ record still sounds good, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” is pleasant nostalgia, and “I’m Telling You Now” just brings up memories of Freddie Garrity and his mates losing their way (along with any credibility they might have had in the view of a twelve-year-old boy) by doing the Freddie.

So what do we find further down, fourteen places below the Top 40? Well, we find one of the classic middle-of-the-road pop singers of the 1950s and 1960s, Jerry Vale, and his single ‘For Mama.” The Bronx- born Vale first hit the Billboard chart in 1954 with “Two Purple Shadows,” which peaked at No. 20. His take on “You Don’t Know Me” brought him his greatest success on the pop chart when it went to No. 14 in 1956.

And the record that was at No. 54 during the early days of April 1965 was, well, a melodrama in a minor key, kind of a mish-mash that I doubt that I would have liked even in 1965, when traditional pop was my jam. It went no higher in the Hot 100, although it went to No. 13 on the Billboard chart that was then called “Middle-Road Singles.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the tale of Mama’s last request wanders all over the place.

No. 53, Fifty-Three Years Ago

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

With my time self-limited this morning – I have two or three errands that I want to complete before watching the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team take on Louisville in the NCAA tournament – I’m jumping into another game of Symmetry this morning, this time taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-three years ago.

During the third week of March 1966 – as represented by the Hot 100 released on March 19 – the top three records in the Hot 100 were “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler, “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones, and “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra.

I heard all three regularly, somewhere. (Most likely, as I think about it, in Mrs. Villalta’s art classroom, where she allowed us to play the radio at low volume while we drew or inked or clayed.) And I was pretty much okay with all of them, as I am with two of them these days: Both the Stones’ record and “Boots” are among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod.

About Sadler’s record: As awful as the war in Vietnam was, thoughtfulness about it had not yet percolated to the level of seventh grade; that – along with opposition to the war – would take a couple more years, so Sadler’s record, which was No. 1 for five weeks, did not bother me or my peers. We thought the Green Berets were heroes. But when it popped up on one of the Sixties radio channels maybe a month or so ago, I winced.

And now, we’ll drop a few slots past the mid-point of the Hot 100 and check out No. 53 from fifty-three years ago this week. There we find one of Edwin Starr’s first hits: Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.),” which would peak at No. 48 a week later (and would go to No. 9 on the Billboard R&B chart).

The record was on the Ric-Tic label, but in his 1989 book The Heart Of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh notes that Starr’s first hits “may have been released on this minor-league Motor City label, but their every inflection established that Motown was embedded in the grooves of his destiny,” adding that the record was “one of the greatest non-Motown Motown discs ever cut, with the same booting backbeat, the same thunderous baritone sax riffs and a vocal as tough and assured as any of the early Marvin Gaye’s.” (Marsh ranks the single at No. 210.)

No. 47 Forty-Seven Years Ago

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

As I hoped/expected, Sunday’s performance of Don McLean’s “Crossroads” at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship went well. The other two members of our music group in attendance pitched in on vocals (and on bass), and we got through it well enough.

But spending three hours at the fellowship – on top of having run some errands on Saturday – pretty well wiped me out. I spent a good deal of the rest of Sunday doing nothing, and the same was true yesterday.

As well as I may think I am recovering from January’s surgery, I still have a ways to go to get back even everyday strength and stamina. It’s a long road.

Today, we’re going to jump back into the category I have dubbed “symmetry,” a game we first played early in February when we looked at the No. 50 record from fifty years ago that week. We’ve moved forward and back from that particular spot a couple years each way, and this morning, we’re going to look at what was No. 47 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-seven years ago, in the magazine published on March 18, 1972.

In previous iterations of this game, we’ve done a quick check of the top two records; I think we’ll expand that to the top three records from now on, and forty-seven years ago yesterday, they were “A Horse With No Name” by America, “Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)” by Robert John. That last, of course, was a cover of the Tokens’ No. 1 hit from 1961.

And what of our business further down the chart? Well, at No. 47 in the third week of March 1972 was one of my favorites of that long-ago season, a song that I no doubt heard live in mid-May of that year when Elton John played at St. Cloud State: “Tiny Dancer.”

Surprisingly, it would just miss the Top 40, peaking at No. 41.

What’s At No. 100? (March 1975)

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

We’re going to look today at the record that sat at No. 100 in the Billboard Hot 100 as the Ides of March fell in 1975. But first, here’s the magazine’s Top Ten as of March 15, 1975, forty-four years ago tomorrow:

“Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
“My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli
“Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by Lady Marmalade
“Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John
“Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton
“Lady” by Styx
“Lonely People” by America
“Express” by B.T. Express
“I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” by Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta

Well, that’s a jumble. I mentioned my affection the other day for the Frankie Valli record, and the Lady Marmalade record was in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox. I liked “Black Water,” probably giving it a few spins on the juke box at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center. The same is true for the Riperton single.

I found the Newton-John record pleasant and unoffensive, as was “Lonely People.” “I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” was – and remains – an earworm of great magnitude; I don’t dislike it, but once I hear it, I hear it for the next twelve hours or so.

“Don’t Call Us . . .” was a gimmick I did not like, and I have never, ever liked anything by Styx. I just don’t like the sound of the band. Finally, I do not recall “Express” at all, and having listened to it this morning, all I can do is shrug and say, “Yeah, that sounds like a slice of 1975.”

So how many of those are in my current listening (based on the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod)? Five of them: The top three and the entries by America, because of a later association, not my 1975 reaction to the tune, and, surprisingly, ELO. (It’s still an earworm.) I might add “Have You Never Been Mellow” to the mix.

And now, let’s answer the question at the top of the post. Heading to the bottom of the Hot 100, we find a Joe Walsh single that I doubt that I have heard until this morning: “Turn To Stone.” It’s certainly not familiar.

(I have to admit that when I saw the title, I wondered about the ELO record of the same title. Whoever transcribed the many years’ worth of Hot 100s to Notepad made a few errors along the way. But, as many out there knew already, this is an entirely different record.)

And it’s one I wish I’d heard (or heard more frequently than I did) forty-four years ago. It’s got power, it’s serious (as opposed to a lot of Walsh’s winking solo work), and – according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles – it’s got Eagles Don Henley, Glen Frey and Randy Meisner on backing vocals.

I like it a lot, and as it ran this morning, I had a vague thought that might seem weird, but the sound of Walsh’s “Turn To Stone” reminded me a lot of some of the tracks on Wishbone Ash’s 1972 album Argus.

“Turn To Stone” didn’t do so well on the charts. By the time we catch up to it at No. 100, it was in its third week in the Hot 100 and had peaked at No. 93. It was re-released in 1979 and bubbled under the Hot 100 for one week at No. 109.

‘I’ll Try To Carry On . . .’

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

As the Texas Gal and I were waiting for something to start on television the other week, we wandered up and down the music channels our cable provider offers, roaming from current hits to blues classics with a lot of stops in between. During one of our trips through the offerings, we chanced upon the channel devoted to Top 40 from the Sixties, which was playing “Rag Doll” by the 4 Seasons.

“That was one of my favorites when I was a little girl,” she said. “I loved to sing along with it.” The record, the fourth of five eventual No. 1 hits for the group from Jersey, hit the charts in 1964, when the Texas Gal was less than ten years old, but with sisters five and ten years older than she, the music of the early 1960s has always been familiar to her.

As it was to me, four-and-a-half years older and a thousand miles away. I didn’t always pay attention, but – as I’ve noted before – the music that my sister, my peers and their siblings listened to was always around me, even when I was more content listening to Al Hirt and John Barry. So when I gathered in a 4 Seasons collection on vinyl in the early 1990s, the music was familiar from years of radio play.

But I’ve not written much about the group or its music or about the music released by group leader Frankie Valli as a solo artist. The bulk of that music goes into a file of “stuff I heard when I was a kid but I learned about and appreciated later,” like “Rag Doll,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man” and quite a few more. But the stuff from the comeback years in the 1970s – the 4 Seasons’ “Who Loves You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” and Valli’s solo hits “Swearin’ To God” and “My Eyes Adored You” – is all vivid from my Atwood Center hours at St. Cloud State.

One of those later hits, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night),” was one of the two-hundred-some records I selected for my Ultimate Jukebox nine years ago. I wrote at the time:

I was sitting at The Table at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center in early 1976 when the 4 Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” came on the jukebox. My friend Stu shook his head. “Man,” he said, “what a great bass line. One of the best ever.” I took that judgment under advisement, and over the years, I’ve polished it to the point where I credit the 4 Seasons’ hit – it was No. 1 for three weeks – with having the best pop music bass line ever. And it is the bass line that moves the song along as it tells its tale of a one-night stand.

And beyond a brief comment about the Jersey boys’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tambourine Man,” that’s about all I ever said about the group, except to note that in Billboard, the group “had thirty Top 40 hits between 1962 and 1976 (with a dance remix of “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” going to No. 14 in 1994 for a thirty-first hit).”

I’m not going to take off on a major tour of the group’s hit presence here (except to note that along with the Top 40 charting, some of their 1960s work reached the magazine’s R&B Top 40 and some of the 1970s records did well on the Adult Contemporary Top 40).

But Valli and the 4 Seasons have been getting some play here recently. As I did some simple work to get the Texas Gal a copy of “Rag Doll,” I dug more deeply than before into the Valli and 4 Seasons catalogs from both the 1960s and 1970s. The Seventies stuff remains favored because those tunes were part of the soundtrack of my college days. But there’s plenty, of course, to enjoy from the 1960s records. And the one I recall most vividly hearing and generally liking, no doubt at friends’ homes and quite possibly during an eighth grade dance at South Junior High is “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ’Bout Me).”

Did I dance to it back in 1966? Very unlikely, as I was mostly a wallflower in those days. But, as I said, I would have heard it around me as it went to No. 13. And its story of noble acceptance of a lover’s departure is still worth a listen today:

No. 48 Forty-Eight Years Ago

Friday, March 1st, 2019

So today we’ll head back to March of 1971, during the last half of my senior year of high school. I was taking courses in astronomy, mass media, journalism and civics and I was singing in the concert choir and playing my horn in the orchestra.

I was also writing lyrics (most of them poor and/or derivative), reading science fiction and, well, being seventeen. And as March began forty-nine years ago, the No. 1 record on the Billboard Hot 100 was the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple,” a decent enough record.

Our business, though, is further down, as it frequently is. Sitting at No. 48 forty-eight years ago this week was a record that we’ve heard here frequently, having explored its genesis and history at fair length as we went through my Ultimate Jukebox here years ago.

As I wrote back then, Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over The Line” was a happy accident, as some noted in some comments on the duo’s web page:

Michael Brewer: “We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We played there a lot. We were real bored, sitting in the dressing room. We were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it. We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us.”

Tom Shipley: “‘One Toke’ wasn’t meant to make it to record. We were opening for Melanie at Carnegie Hall, and we played two encores. We really didn’t have anything else to sing to them. So we played ‘One Toke,’ and the audience gave us a standing ovation. The record company president was there, and he said ‘Record it!’”

Record it, they did, with Jerry Garcia providing the steel guitar parts, according to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles. As March began in 1971, “One Toke Over The Line” was heading up the chart, having moved from No. 57 a week earlier. It would peak at No. 10, the duo’s only Top 40 hit. (Two others, “Tarkio Road” and “Shake Off The Demon,” would peak at Nos. 55 and 98, respectively.)

No. 51 Fifty-One Years Ago

Friday, February 15th, 2019

It’s time for another dig into the symmetry of years gone and a record’s ranking in the Billboard Hot 100. This time, we’re going to see which record was poised at No. 51 fifty-one years ago this week. If we don’t hit the exact date, we’ll move ahead to the date when the next chart was released. We’ll also note the Nos. 1 and 2 records as we pass by.

And for today’s brief excursion, we’re looking at the chart released on February 17, 1968. The No. 1 record was “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, and right behind it was “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, both of which are favorites here.

Let’s hope we’re as lucky with our target. And we are, as today’s record turns out to be “Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers. It’s a record that’s popped up here once before, eight years ago, and one that I recall fondly from early 1968.

The record, catchy and a little poignant to my fourteen-year-old ears, was one of the last charting records for the Mills Brothers, a black family group from Piqua, Ohio. Between 1931 and 1968, the smooth vocal group placed ninety-three records on the various charts tracked by chart historian Joel Whitburn, eight of them No. 1 hits. “Cab Driver,” which peaked at No. 23, was the last Mills Brothers record to hit the Top 40. Two more settled in the lower portions of the Hot 100 before the end of 1968, closing the Mills Brothers’ career.

As I wrote here a little more than nine years ago, “Cab Driver” also “went to No. 3 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary, and that explains why I know the record as well as I do: I’m absolutely certain I heard it more than once from Dad’s bedside transistor radio – tuned as always to St. Cloud’s middle of the road station, KFAM – as we all prepared to retire.”

Here’s “Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers, the No. 51 record fifty-one years ago today:

What’s At No. 100? (2-13-1965)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from this date in 1965, fifty-four years ago today:

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by the Righteous Brothers
“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis
“My Girl” by the Temptations
“Hold What You’ve Got” by Joe Tex
“All Day And All Of The Night” by the Kinks
“Shake” by Sam Cooke
“The Jolly Green Giant” by the Kingsmen
“I Go To Pieces” by Peter & Gordon

That’s a very mixed bag. First of all, I have to admit that the only way I remember ever hearing Sam Cooke’s “Shake” is because of the absurdism of “Shake it like a bowl of soup.” And until that line came through the speaker today, I didn’t recognize the record. To give another measure of how unfamiliar I have been with “Shake,” it’s not among the 77,000-some tracks on the digital shelves here.

The same holds true for some others in that Top Ten, too. I never liked “The Name Game,” so it’s not here. I’m not sure why “I Fall To Pieces” is absent, as I’ve generally liked the work of Peter & Gordon, and it’s a decent folk-rock single. And I guess I’ve just ignored the silliness of the Kingsmen, even though Minnesota is the home of the Jolly Green Giant. (A fifty-five foot tall statue of the giant stands along U.S. Highway 169 in the city of Blue Earth, Minnesota.)

That’s four records from that Top Ten that are absent from the digital shelves here. That seems like a lot. I’m not going to take the time to find out, but I wonder how many other Top Ten records from the years 1964-1975 are absent from my shelves. I know of one for certain: Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-A-Ling.” But it’s purposely absent – like “The Name Game” – for reasons of taste, not of lack of thought.

So, will I go find the records by Cooke, Peter & Gordon and the Kingsmen? Probably, but they’re not high priority.

What about the other six in that long-ago Top Ten? Well, I like four of them very much. One has a specific memory: “Downtown” takes me across the street to Rick’s house, hanging around on what was likely a Saturday as his older sister and her friends down the hall played the record over and over. And then, the records by the Righteous Brothers, the Temptations and Gary Lewis & The Playboys are just good records.

What about the records by the Kinks and Joe Tex? Those I can take or leave.

That’s pretty well summed up by what’s in the iPod these days. “Downtown,” “This Diamond Ring,” and “My Girl” are among the 3,900 tracks there. I’ll maybe add “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” one of these days.

Having finished with the Top Ten from fifty-four years ago, we can drop to the bottom of the Hot 100 and see what lies there. And we find “Did You Ever,” one of two records by the Hullaballoos to make the Hot 100.

The Hullaballoos, says Wikipedia, “were created in August 1964, but had been working in the UK for over three years under the name of Ricky Knight and The Crusaders.” They were named, according to Wikipedia, for the English city of Hull, not for the American television program. (At least one of the four members of the group was born in Kingston Upon Hull, a port city whose name is generally shortened to Hull.)

Their rechristening as the Hullaballoos was, it seems, a cynical move. Here’s what Richie Unterberger of AllMusic had to say about the group:

[T]he Hullaballoos were arguably the most exploitative act of the first wave of the British Invasion. With their wig-like helmets of bleach-blond hair that vied with the Pretty Things and the Stones in length, they had an immediately striking visual presence. Musically it was another matter, for the Hullaballoos were actually not even stars in their homeland, but packaged for U.S. consumption by Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, notorious vice presidents and A&R directors of Roulette Records. Most of their music was written by hack Brill Building songwriters, who were apparently intent on making the band sound as much like Buddy Holly as possible. Indeed, one of their small U.S. hits was a cover of Holly’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too” (the other, “Did You Ever,” was Holly-esque down to the hiccuping vocal). New York hacks may have devised their Buddy Holly-cum-Merseybeat sound – dominated by driving simple guitar chords and drums – in a superficial manner, but it’s catchy and considerably forceful. The Hullaballoos faded almost immediately after a tiny splash in 1965, but that was probably built into the plan from the beginning.

“I’m Gonna Love You Too” had peaked at No. 56 in early January of 1965, and “Did You Ever” stalled at No. 74 in mid-March. The group had one more single show up in Billboard: “Learning the Game” bubbled under for two weeks in May, peaking at No. 121.

Here’s “Did You Ever,” Hollyesque hiccup and all (including little riffs from what sounds like a recorder or an ocarina):

No. 49 Forty-Nine Years Ago

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Having found another way to dig into old charts the other day, I thought I’d take the same idea and move it forward a year, taking a look at whatever was sitting at No. 49 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-nine years ago today. (And we’ll no doubt keep moving forward a place and a year at a time at least through the early Eighties and perhaps backward through the Sixties into the late Fifties.)

Today we come across one of the heavyweights of my junior year of high school (actually one of the heavyweights of all time), a record that doesn’t need a whole lot said about it: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel.

I will note that this was the record’s first week on the chart, and it took only another three weeks for “Bridge . . .” to get to No. 1, a spot that it occupied for six weeks. Here it is:

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, February 1st, 2019

I’m moving slowly today, just an achy sense of general unwellness. But at least I’m moving.

I thought I’d at least show up here and take a look at whatever was sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty years ago today. And it’s a decent tune, “Things I’d Like To Say” by the New Colony Six.

The record, which would peak at No. 16 in mid-March, was one of two the Chicago band got into the Top 40; the other, “I Will Always Think About You,” had peaked at No. 22 in the spring of 1968.

I don’t remember hearing either of the two records, but then I wasn’t really listening at the time. I do recall a college friend from the Chicago area touting the group during our time in Denmark, something I recalled during the first few years of my online life. I checked the two records out and kind of shrugged. They were okay.

But maybe “Things I’d Like To Say” would be more than just okay if I’d heard it while dealing with an unrequited love . . .

Anyway, here’s “Things I’d Like To Say.”