Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, this time looking at a Billboard Hot 100 from August 1974. (There were editions of the magazine released on August 17 and August 24 that year; we’re going with the latter edition.) As always, we’ll take a look at the top ten first:

“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates
“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
“I Shot The Sheriff” by Eric Clapton
“Waterloo” by ABBA
“Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford
“I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim
“Keep On Smilin’” by Wet Willie

Okay, that starts badly. “(You’re) Having My Baby” is certainly in my list of the ten worst singles, so close to “Seasons In The Sun” territory that I don’t want to think about it much. And while “The Night Chicago Died” is not nearly as awful, it’s still thought of as cringe-worthy around here.

A little further down, we hit two more that don’t get much of my affection: I always thought “Wildwood Weed” was a bad joke gone very wrong, and while Donnie and Marie handled their cover of “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” all right, it missed the mark by a little when compared with the 1963 version by Dale & Grace. (And, of course, it didn’t come anywhere near the quality of the 1957 R&B original by Don & Dewey.)

That leaves six records from that August 1974 Top Ten that I generally enjoy, and three of those six – the records by Roberta Flack, Andy Kim, and ABBA – are among the 3,900 or so on the iPod and are thus part of my current listening. (The Rufus record may get added the next time I shuffle things around.)

But our business here is lower in that August 1974 Hot 100, as we check in on the No. 45 record from forty-five years ago. And we find “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes, which was on its way up the chart to No. 37.

When last I chanced on the record not quite seven years ago, I wrote:

The Rubettes were a pop rock sextet from London who put nine singles into the U.K. Top 40 between 1974 and 1977. Their “Sugar Baby Love,” a marvelous pop-rock confection that I don’t ever recall hearing (and that I might have thoroughly disdained at the time), went to No. 1 in the U.K.

The record – the Rubettes’ only entry ever in the Hot 100 – has since made its way onto the digital shelves here, where it had stayed unnoticed (except by my imaginary tunehead Pop, who no doubt grieves that his friend Odd and I are slow to comprehend the record’s greatness). Perhaps I should move it into the iPod.

Saturday Single No. 653

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

As this month opened, we did here one of our exercises in Symmetry, matching the number of years in the past with a position on the Billboard Hot 100. In that particular case, we were in the year 1963, and we ended up listening to a dismal Al Martino ditty, “Painted Tainted Rose,” that topped off at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and No. 3 on the magazine’s Middle-Road Singles chart, the chart that these days is called Adult Contemporary.

It was a dissatisfying conclusion, as sometimes happens when blindly heading toward specific positions on specific charts. But as we seek a Saturday Single this morning, I thought we’d head back to the summer of 1963 and take a look at the top ten on the Billboard Middle-Road Singles chart during the second week or August.

That’s the kind of stuff that was playing on the radio stations we listened to on Kilian Boulevard at the time, when I was preparing for fifth grade and reading news stories in the Minneapolis Star that I didn’t entirely understand about places like Mississippi and Vietnam. I imagine I’ll recognize some of that top ten and find a tune suitable for an August morning fifty-six years later. So here we go:

“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“More” by Kai Winding
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Hopeless” by Andy Williams
“Abilene” by George Hamilton IV
“Green, Green” by the New Christy Minstrels
“Detroit City” by Bobby Bare
“Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton
“My Whole World Is Falling Down” by Brenda Lee
“True Love Never Runs Smooth” by Gene Pitney

Well, I’m familiar with seven of those, and I’d say I remember four of them from that long-ago season. The three I’m not familiar with by title are those by Andy Williams, Brenda Lee and Gene Pitney; none of the three show up in the digital stacks. (I thought the Pitney might, as I seem to recall scavenging a Pitney anthology once upon a time.) Even after a trip to YouTube, I recall none of the three.

And then there are the three I know most likely from other times: “Danke Schoen,” “Abilene” and “Detroit City.” I know Newton’s single, and I’ve never liked it (just as I’ve never liked anything I’ve heard from Newton, probably because of his voice). I know the song “Abilene,” most likely from a different version, as I have no memory of Hamilton’s version, which was itself a cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 recording. And I know Bare’s “Detroit City,” but only because I’ve come across it in the many years since. I doubt I knew any of those three back in the summer of 1963.

Then, there are four from that top ten that I generally recall hearing from the radio either at home or at friends’ homes or wherever: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “More,” “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” and “Green, Green.” I recall the Rolf Harris single mostly because I didn’t understand that the word “me” in the title was a possessive; I wondered why the singer wanted to be tied down like a kangaroo.

The other three have been part of my musical environment since that summer, especially the Peter, Paul & Mary and New Christy Minstrels singles. In the case of “More,” I have no doubt recalled the song itself over the years more than the specific single; versions of “More” floated around the easy listening world in amazing numbers. (I once put up a post here that offered the original version of “More” from the film Mondo Cane and eighteen covers of the song.)

Still, when I plunged into music collecting online in early 2000 and came across Winding’s version of the song, I was pretty sure it was the version I recalled hearing when I was a sprout. Call it eighty percent certainty.

As to the other two singles, I’m not sure I need to say anything. I remember hearing them – and liking them – in 1963, and Peter, Paul & Mary have popped up here often enough to make my opinions of them obvious. I also recall assessing “Green, Green” here favorably.

So how to decide between the two records this morning? Well, I’ve featured “Green, Green” here before at least once, and as far as I recall (and I may be wrong), for as many times as I’ve written about the music of Peter, Paul & Mary, their cover of perhaps Bob Dylan’s greatest song has seemingly never been featured here. And it was omnipresent during the summer of 1963. It was No. 1 on the Middle-Road Singles chart for five weeks and went to No. 2 on the Hot 100. And the album from which it was pulled – In The Wind – was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks.

So here’s Peter, Paul & Mary’s version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 652

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Top 40 didn’t always thrill me, as those who’ve been regular readers here know well, so looking at the Billboard Hot 100s from those years doesn’t seem to work when I’m looking around for a topic.

But, I wondered early this morning, what about the Adult Contemporary chart? That’s where KSTP-FM, the station that the Other Half and I listened to most evenings at home, had its niche. And quite often on those long ago evenings, one or the other of us would turn a page in a book or a magazine and say, “Good music tonight.” And the other would murmur an assent.

The station – which called itself KS-95 – used as its tag phrase in the early 1980s something like “The hits of the Sixties, the Seventies and today.” These days that would be a pleasant place to park my radio dial. So lets’ take a look at the AC Top Ten from the first week of August 1979 and see how it would sound today:

“Lead Me On” by Maxine Nightingale
“Morning Dance” by Spyro Gyra
“Mama Can’t Buy You Love” by Elton John
“Shadows In The Moonlight” by Anne Murray
“The Main Event/Fight” by Barbra Streisand
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick
“Different Worlds” by Maureen McGovern
“Heart Of The Night” by Poco
“When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” by Dr. Hook
“Suspicions” by Eddie Rabbit

Well, this might not have been that good an idea. Many of those titles ring faint bells at best, and most of those I recall clearly would not inspire a murmur of “Good music tonight.” Time to head to YouTube.

Having refreshed my memory, those ten records wouldn’t have been as dismal a stretch as I first thought, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as I hoped. I don’t remember fondly the records by Maxine Nightingale, Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick or Dr. Hook, and I’m not that sure about the Eddie Rabbit single. As it happens, the only one of those five that I find among the 78,000 tracks in the main digital archive is “Suspicions,” and its low bit rate tells me that I grabbed it early in my excavations of the ’Net when I was not being at all particular. I’ll have to listen to it again and see what I think.

How about the others? Four of them are okay, but the only record I really like there is “Heart Of The Night,” which turns out to be the only one of that bunch that’s on the digital shelves here. (It’s also the only one of those ten that’s in my current listening on the iPod.)

As it happens, “Heart Of The Night” has been mentioned here only once in these twelve years, and that was in passing. That’s a little surprising. It went to No 20 in the Billboard Hot 100, and forty years ago this week, it was at No. 8 on the AC chart, heading down after peaking at No. 5.

I imagine that those who celebrate Poco for its country rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s find “Heart Of The Night” to be a weak reminder of what the band once was. It’s true that it’s neither very adventurous nor really very country-ish (beyond some twang in the guitars). But it’s a lovely record and its first lines set a tone that – even if I have almost entirely ignored the record in this space – I still find affecting:

In the heart of the night
In the cool Southern rain
There’s a full moon in sight
Shining down on the Pontchartrain

And it’s today’s Saturday Single:

‘Truck Stop’

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

So, still hanging around in July 1969, here’s the top ten albums from the Billboard 200 from fifty years ago this week:

Blood, Sweat & Tears
Hair, original cast recording
Romeo & Juliet soundtrack
This Is Tom Jones
The Age Of Aquarius by the 5th Dimension
A Warm Shade Of Ivory by Henry Mancini
Tommy by the Who
Crosby, Stills & Nash
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan

It’s entirely possible I had a copy of the No. 1 album in the house at the time. I had recently acquired my cassette tape recorder, and soon after I did, my sister came home from her waitressing shift at the mall with a gift for me: a cassette of Blood, Sweat & Tears. It had been on sale somewhere at the mall, and knowing I had no music for my new machine, she stepped up.

It’s an interesting ten, and music from four of them – the BST, the 5th Dimension, the Dylan and the CS&N – still show up on the iPod regularly. Eight of those albums would find their ways into the LP stacks over the years, everything except the Iron Butterfly and Tom Jones albums.

Which did I enjoy the most? Probably either the BST or the CS&N. The least? Most likely Tommy, which I got for my birthday in 1988 and played no more than two or three times until I sold it not quite thirty years later. (In fact, I have only two tracks from the album on the wide-ranging digital shelves, the overture and – for some reason – “Hawker.” I suppose I should get “Pinball Wizard” in there, some day.)

But anyway, let’s drop further down that fifty-year-old chart and take a look at the albums at Nos. 40, 80, 120, 160 and 200.

Parked at No. 40, we find another Tom Jones album, Help Yourself, on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5. It was his first Top Ten album; he’d have three more in the next year or so, but it contained only one hit single, the title track, which had gone to No. 35 in October 1968. Jones’ larger hit during the late summer of ’69 was a re-release of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” which had stalled at No. 49 in 1967 but entered the Hot 100 in this last week of July 1969 and went to No. 6.

We find another album on its way down the chart at No. 80: Cream’s Goodbye, which had peaked at No. 2. The last studio album for the bluesy and improvisational rock trio, Goodbye featured the perennial “I’m So Glad,” a live cover of the Mississippi Sheiks’ 1930 recording “Sitting On Top Of The World,” and “Badge,” a minor hit (No. 60 on the Hot 100) co-written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison (although Wikipedia notes that Harrison credits an inebriated Ringo Starr with the line about the swans living in the park).

Having never done this kind of digging into the Billboard 200 before, I’m not sure how obscure an album one might find at No. 120 or lower. For the moment, we’re not worried, as the No. 120 album fifty years ago this week was Crimson & Clover by Tommy James & The Shondells. Home to the group’s last two hits – “Sweet Cherry Wine” went to No. 7 and the album’s title track was No. 2 for two weeks – the album was heading out of the chart after peaking at No. 8. It was the only Top Ten album in the group’s history.

We chance on a favorite album of mine when we get to No. 160, where we find King Curtis’ Instant Groove. It showed up in my collection in 2008, when I bought the vinyl version online because it included Curtis’ version of “The Weight” and because Duane Allman was among its studio musicians. The LP was in decent shape, but a few years later, I added the CD version of the album to my stacks. Back in 1969, the album would go no higher than No. 160. Only two of the eight King Curtis albums that Joel Whitburn lists in Top Pop Albums did better: 1964’s Soul Serenade went to No. 103, and the 1971 album Live At Fillmore West went to No. 54.

And speaking of No. 200, the bottom record in the chart at the end of July 1969 was Truck Stop by Jerry Smith & His Pianos. The record by the Philadelphia-born pianist and songwriter – Whitburn calls him “a prolific session musician” – stalled at No. 200 for two weeks and then fell out of the chart. Two singles from the album showed up in Top Pop Singles: “Truck Stop” went to No. 71 and “Drivin’ Home” bubbled under at No. 125. Whitburn notes that Smith also recorded as Papa Joe’s Music Box; as Cornbread & Jerry, he wrote and sang on the Dixiebelles’ No. 9 hit in 1963, “(Down At) Papa Joe’s.” He also recorded as The Magic Organ, and Street Fair, his 1972 album under that name, went to No. 135 on the Billboard 200.

I was leaning toward posting “Badge” for our listening this morning, especially since I discovered that I’ve not mentioned the track even once during more than twelve years of blogging. But I’m fascinated by the weirdness of our final entry and by the multiple guises under which Jerry Smith recorded. And how often do I get a chance to post honky-tonk piano, anyway? So here’s “Truck Stop” by Jerry Smith & His Pianos, a No. 71 single from the No. 200 album fifty years ago this week.

‘Up To Abergavenny . . .’

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

We may as well hang around in 1969 for a while, so here’s the top ten from the Billboard Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week:

“Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” by Henry Mancini
“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder
“Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver
“Quentin’s Theme” by the Charles Randolph Grean Sound
“Love Me Tonight” by Tom Jones
“Yesterday When I Was Young” by Roy Clark
“Hurt So Bad” by the Lettermen
“With Pen In Hand” by Vicki Carr
“In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
“The Days Of Sand & Shovels” by Bobby Vinton

Lots of familiar stuff there. In fact, only two of the records listed there are unfamiliar by title: The Tom Jones and the Bobby Vinton. So, off to YouTube. I vaguely recall the Tom Jones record (noting that it sounds like a lot of his other stuff), and hearing the Vinton record, I recall writing about it about a year ago, when I called it “dreadful.” That judgment still holds.

(Seeing the Elvis record in that top ten, I’m reminded of a comment I saw on Facebook this week at a Sixties group I frequent, asserting that Elvis was done by 1965. I replied that the commenter needed to check out Presley’s Memphis recordings from 1969.)

There’s some decent listening in that top ten (with the exception of the Vinton record). Favorites there include the records by Mancini, Oliver, the Lettermen and Presley, and I like the Vicki Carr record, too.

What do we find of interest in the lower portions of the Easy Listening chart from fifty years ago?

At No. 12, we find Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 covering Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.”

At No. 14 sits Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525,” heading to a two-week stay at No. 1 (and a six-week stay at No. 1 on the Hot 100).

At No. 20, Booker T & The MG’s cover Simon & Garfunkel with their version of “Mrs. Robinson.”

And for all of my love of 1960s easy listening, there are more records – a lot of them – that don’t sound at all familiar: “Think Summer” by Ed & Marilyn at No. 25. “Forever” by Mercy at No. 28. “First Hymn From Grand Terrace” by Mark Lindsay at No 30. “The Girl I’ll Never Know” by Frankie Valli at No. 32. “Abergavenny” by Shannon at No. 36.

That last entry caught my eye, and I headed to Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs and found something odd. “Abergavenny” is listed in the title index, but there is no listing for a performer named “Shannon” in the book. I ducked into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles and found a cross-reference from “Shannon” to Marty Wilde, an English singer-songwriter whose birth named was Reginald Smith. He’s listed in Top Adult Songs, too (and both entries note that he’s the father of 1980s singer Kim Wilde).

Abergavenny, it turns out, it a Welsh town six miles from Wales’ border with England. The record is, well, a mixture of pop vocal (with slightly surreal lyrics) about a trip to Abergavenny with some oddly pounding percussion in the background and a brass band instrumental in the middle.

It peaked at No. 22 on the Easy Listening chart and went to No. 47 on the Hot 100.

Back In ’72

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

I shared here the other day a repost from 2007, a piece about my high school friend Becky and how I found a track from her 1972 album, A Special Path, on an anthology titled Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From the Canyon. I admit that I likely never listened more than once to Becky’s album – Christian folk was never my genre – but I made sure that I kept it the other year when I sold about two-thirds of the LPs on my shelf.

And thinking about July 1972 – when Becky delivered her album to my door – I got to wondering what I was listening to at the time. Part of that was easy. I was working half-time as a janitor at St. Cloud State’s Campus Lab School that summer, and a radio tuned to the Twin Cities’ KDWB was never far away (though never turned up very loud).

Neither Oldiesloon nor the Airheads Radio Survey Archive has a KDWB survey from July 1972, but Oldiesloon has the July 7 Star Survey from WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station of the time. The Top Ten at ’DGY was:

“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
“Too Late To Turn Back Now” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Layla” by Derek & The Dominos
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
“Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” by Wayne Newton
“Brandy” by Looking Glass
“Day By Day” by the cast of “Godspell”
“Conquistador” by Procol Harum & The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan

A few of those underline the summer for me. The first, the O’Sullivan single was omnipresent; I recall hearing it at work, in the car, around me as I wandered around with friends, just everywhere. I got tired of it rapidly and dismissed it when it showed up again over the years (until a recent hearing of it on one of our cable channels reminded me how tightly crafted a pop song it is).

The other two that hang in the air of my summer of ’72 memories are “Brandy” and “Layla.” The Looking Glass single was a large part of the soundtrack to the trip that I took with Rick and our pal Gary to Winnipeg in August. No matter what Top 40 station we found on the radio of my 1961 Falcon, “Brandy” was sure to pop up very soon. As to “Layla,” well, I’d heard the first half of the classic track two years earlier when Atco released an edited version that ended before Jim Gordon’s lyrical piano coda. The 1972 single from Polydor included that portion, which I’d never heard before, being clueless about Derek & The Dominos to that point in my life.

(Beyond being a beautiful piece of work, Gordon’s piano part – which, given things I’ve read over the years, should also have been credited to Rita Coolidge [not Bonnie Bramlett, as reader David helpfully pointed out] – was the first piece of pop music that I was able to play on piano simply by listening to it on the radio. My two recently completed quarters of music theory along with lots of piano practice had given me new tools that I was thrilled to use.)

There are a few other records a bit lower on that WDGY survey that immediately say 1972: “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway is one that I singled out a few years ago as the record of the summer, and the Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman,” America’s “I Need You,” and Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” also bring back that time pretty vividly.

Wandering afield from what I was listening to that summer, there are a couple of records listed on the WDGY survey from July 7, 1972, whose titles I do not recognize: “We’re Free” by Beverly Bremers at No. 15 and “We’re On Our Way” by Chris Hodge, at No. 18. So I head to YouTube.

Bremers’ record, a paean to being lovers without being married – a topic at least slightly controversial for a record in 1972– is utterly unfamiliar to me. According to ARSA, it went to No. 2 or No. 3 in a number of markets: in Anchorage, Alaska, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and – surprisingly –in Nashville, Tennessee, and Lynchburg, Virginia. And it went Top Ten in about ten more markets across the country. Overall, though, its performance was just so-so, as the record peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 40.

A quick listen to Hodge’s record – a release on the Beatles’ Apple label – reminds me that I sought it out once and dismissed it. It’s a mid-tempo rocker about UFOs, a woman riding on moonbeams, and bringing the “truth to planet Earth,” all of which, one would think, would have played well in 1972. The surveys gathered at ARSA show the record making the Top Ten in Syracuse, New York, and Saginaw, Michigan. It went to No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Of the two, Bremers’ record is more interesting, and it made the Top 40, if only barely. So here it is:

Saturday Single No. 645

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

It’s time for Games With Numbers!

We’re going to take the numerals from today’s date – 6/15/19 – and add them together to get 40. Then we’re going to look at four Billboard Hot 100s from the mid-point of June and see what we find at No. 40. We’ll use the chart in each year closest to June 15, and along the way, we’ll note the No. 1 and No. 2 records of those weeks. I think we’ll start in 1966 and jump three years at a time, hitting 1969, 1972 and 1975 along the way.

And we start with a country crossover lament: “The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me” by Eddy Arnold. He was, of course, one of the giants of post-World War II country, putting 128 records into the Billboard country chart between 1945 and 1982, with twenty-eight of them reaching No. 1. He had twenty-nine records chart on the Hot 100; his highest ranking record there was 1965’s “Make The World Go Away,” which got to No. 6. As to “The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me,” it would go no higher than the No. 40 spot where we found it on the June 18, 1966, chart. On the country chart, it got to No. 2, and it went to No. 9 on the magazine’s easy listening chart. It’s a pretty record, but it doesn’t scratch any itches for me.

Parked at No. 1 during mid-June 1966 was “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones, while the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” was at No. 2.

Off we go to mid-June in 1969, and we find ourselves a chewy piece of bubblegum: The No. 40 record on June 14, 1969, was “Special Delivery” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The Fruitgum Company wasn’t really a band, of course; it was a revolving group of players brought together by producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz to back lead singer Joey Levine, who also sang lead on records for Ohio Express, Crazy Elephant and Reunion (and maybe more, I suppose). By the time June 1969 rolled around, the Fruitgum Company had put three singles into the Top Ten: “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3, Red Light,” and “Indian Giver.” But the group’s brand of bubblegum had lost it flavor, it seems, as “Special Delivery” would stall at No. 38. The group had only two more singles reach the Hot 100, one reaching No. 57 and the other bubbling under at No. 118. “Special Delivery” is catchy, of course, but nothing much, except I do love the saxophone intros.

The No. 1 record as the middle of June 1969 approached was “Get Back” by the Beatles with Billy Preston; sitting at No. 2 was “Love Theme From ‘Romeo & Juliet’” by Henry Mancini and his orchestra.

Next up is 1972, and the record that sat at No. 40 in the Hot 100 released on June 17 was the mournful plaint (with a few power moments mixed in) of “All The King’s Horses” by Aretha Franklin. There’s no point in digging too deeply into the astounding numbers; it’s enough to say that “All The King’s Horses” was the fifty-fourth single Franklin had put in or near the Hot 100, with another thirty-four to come. The record was on its way to No. 26; it went to No. 7 (along with its B-side, “April Fools”) on the magazine’s R&B chart. I like it, but the shift from plaintive to powerful along the way disorients me; maybe it’s supposed to, but I find it distracting.

Sitting atop the Hot 100 at mid-June 1972 was “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr., and “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers was at No. 2.

And as we reach our final stop of 1975, we find ourselves a sweet ballad, Melissa Manchester’s “Midnight Blue.” It was the first of an eventual eleven Hot 100 hits for Manchester, with two more bubbling under. It was on its way to No. 6, and it spent two weeks at the top of the magazine’s easy listening chart. And it’s a potent earworm: Just reading the title off the chart this morning, I hear in my head, “Whatever it is, it’ll keep ’til the morning . . .” And it brings back in full the summer of ’75, a great season in the middle of one of the most potent years of my life.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 released June 14, 1975, was America’s “Sister Golden Hair.” Parked at No. 2 was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tenille.

So, as we look for a single for this mid-June Saturday, I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the first three candidates we found. I was on the verge of offering up “Special Delivery” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company simply because it was bubblegum, which doesn’t get a lot of play here. But the instant the first words of “Midnight Blue” sailed into my head, I was lost. And a quick check of the archives tells me that I’ve mentioned the record only twice in twelve-and-a-half years (has it truly been that long?) and have never posted it here.

So here, from the summer of 1975, is Melissa Manchester’s “Midnight Blue,” today’s Saturday Single.

No. 46, Forty-Six Years Ago

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Having dabbled in 1973 the other day, looking at how I occupied my daytime during the summer of that year and what I likely heard on Chicago’s WLS during my nighttime ponderings, it seemed like a good idea to play our game of Symmetry with the early summer of 1973 and see what sat at No. 46 in the Billboard Hot 100 during that time forty-six years ago.

Two of the top three records in the Hot 100 that came out during this week in 1973 were also atop the WLS survey we looked at two days ago. At WLS, Paul McCartney’s “My Love” and Sylvia’s “Pillow Talk” were Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. On the Hot 100, they were Nos. 1 and 3, separated by Clint Holmes’ “Playground In My Mind.” As I indicated the other day, “Pillow Talk” really made no impression on me then, and I found the Clint Holmes record insipid from the start, and my distaste for it only increased.

“My Love,” though, I liked and still like. For some reason, it’s one of the two records that puts me in St. Cloud’s East Side Dairy Queen sometime during the summer of 1973, waiting in line with Rick and our pal Gary for some frozen treat. Even having heard the song live during a McCartney concert in 2002, it still pulls me back to soft-serve.

But let’s get to our game. What was it that sat at No. 46 in the Hot 100 forty-six years ago this week? Well, it’s a record that will please one of my long-time readers,assuming this blog is still on that person’s reading list: “Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road.

The record – the band’s only Hot 100 hit – was in its twelfth week on the chart, heading back down after peaking at No. 40. I recall it only vaguely. I can’t find a survey from the Twin Cities’ KDWB for the time, but a WDGY survey from late May of 1973 I found at Oldiesloon shows “Back When My Hair Was Short” sitting at No. 10. So I likely heard the admittedly catchy record back then but paid little attention. My loss, I guess.

Saturday Single No. 640

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

Here are the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 released fifty years ago yesterday, May 10, 1969:

Hair by the original cast
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Galveston by Glenn Campbell
Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan
Donovan’s Greatest Hits
Cloud Nine by the Temptations
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Bayou Country by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Help Yourself by Tom Jones
Led Zeppelin

Four of those ten, the LP database tells me, never showed up in the vinyl stacks: the records by the Temptations, Iron Butterfly, Tom Jones and Led Zeppelin. I had some other Zep and a Temptations anthology, and I once made the misguided decision to buy Iron Butterfly’s live album. (The live version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was even more aimless than was the studio version.) No albums by Tom Jones ever showed up in the vinyl stacks.

A few of those – the BST, the Campbell, the CCR – are great albums. Nashville Skyline is enjoyable, but somehow seems slight; if we’re listening to Dylan from 1970, I prefer New Morning. And the Donovan album is pleasant, but my judgment on his work has been the same since it first came out of the radio speakers in the mid- to late 1960s: It’s for the most part a series of trifles with little substance.

The most interesting of those ten might be Hair. I think the cast album was more a marker of a social moment than a record one listened to (unless one had seen the musical, I suppose), but what I noticed about the music was the number of cover hits it inspired: “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” went to No. 1 for the 5th Dimension, “Hair” went to No. 2 for the Cowsills, “Good Morning Starshine” went to No. 3 for Oliver, and “Easy To Be Hard” went to No. 4 for Three Dog Night. The Happenings tried to get in on the trend, too, but their medley of “Where Do I Go/Be-In/Hare Krishna” stalled at No. 69. And there may be other covers I’m not aware of.

As to current listening, a fair number of tracks from those albums are among the 3,900-plus tracks on the iPod: a couple from Nashville Skyline, a couple from Galveston, and seven each from Blood, Sweat & Tears and Donovan’s Greatest Hits. (Yes, I said Donovan’s works are basically trifles; that doesn’t mean they’re not fun to listen to.)

As it happens, I drove to the train station in Big Lake the other day to head to a Twins game with Rob, and I let the Blood, Sweat & Tears album keep me company. Even with David Clayton-Thomas’ tendency to over-sing, the album is pretty high on my list. (How high? In my top fifty, maybe.) I had kind of forgotten how jazzy things get during the instrumental breaks.

And I was also reminded as I listened that Blood, Sweat & Tears was the first album I got after I got my tape player during the summer of 1969. I’ve long since added it on vinyl and CD, which puts it pretty close to the front of the line in terms of music I’ve listened to the longest.

So here’s “Smiling Phases” from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1969 self-titled album. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

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.