Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

‘New Jersey . . .’

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

With September here this morning, and considering the prospect of a 45-year high school reunion later this month, I thought about the long-ago month of September of 1971. As the month started, I was ready to go back to school, to get started on my freshman year at St. Cloud State.

But the fall quarter didn’t begin until sometime after September 20, leaving me three more weeks of scrubbing floors on campus during evening shifts with my friend Mike. The quarter’s late start was disconcerting; it felt odd to see the neighborhood kids head off to Lincoln Elementary, South Junior High and Tech High while I spent my daytime doing chores around the house and listening to the radio.

Here’s some of what I was hearing during those odd days, the top ten on the Twin Cities’ KDWB during this week in 1971:

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Wedding Song (There Is Love)” by Paul Stookey
“I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth
“Liar” by Three Dog Night
“Sweet Hitchhiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Beginnings/Colour My World” by Chicago
“Smiling Faces” by the Undisputed Truth
“Stick-Up” by the Honeycone
“Won’t Be Fooled Again” by the Who
“Bangla-Desh” by George Harrison

I liked all of those, some more than others, of course. I knew the Chicago B-side and the McCartneys’ record well by then, as Ram and Chicago were regularly on the turntable in the rec room. And as I looked this morning at the rest of KDWB’s 6+30 from that week, things were pretty familiar, too, until I got to No. 31: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

I knew the artists, of course. Their “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” is one of the records that brings back in an instant the summer of 1976 and my departure from Kilian Boulevard. But “New Jersey”? In 1971? I didn’t remember that from 1971 although something about the record was tickling my memory. So I went digging.

The record got some airplay on KDWB, but not a lot: It was in the 6+30 for about eight weeks and peaked at No. 22. How did it do elsewhere?

Well, the massive collection of Top 40 surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive shows little love for “New Jersey” anywhere except the Twin Cities. The record shows up on four other stations’ lists: It was listed as an “Instant Preview” in mid-August on the Music Guide offered by KRCB in Omaha/Council Bluffs. A week earlier than that, KAFY in Bakersfield, California, tagged the record “hit-bound” in its “Big 55.” In September, the record went to No. 12 on KSPD in Boise, Idaho, and to No. 7 on WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina.

Sadly, ARSA doesn’t have any surveys from stations in New Jersey during September 1971, nor are there any surveys there that came out of Austin, Texas, the duo’s home base, during that month. Maybe the record did better in those places, but I don’t know. In any case, even though ARSA doesn’t have complete archives, it seems to me that being listed on surveys from only five stations is a pretty slender showing.

Finally, we’ll go to the big book: Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where we find that “New Jersey” pretty well flopped: The A&M release bubbled under the Hot 100 for all four weeks of September 1971, never rising higher than No. 103.

For all that, it’s not a bad record, even though a first-time listener might think from the introduction that he’s listening to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends.” And with that in mind, I finally recalled where I’d previously heard “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley. The track was on a collection of the duo’s early work given to me about a year ago by pal Yah Shure. So here it is:

‘Let Me Tell The Story . . .’

Friday, August 19th, 2016

I was pondering this morning the transition during the 1960s of the place of record albums: If you look at the weekly Top Ten in the Billboard 200 from 1963 to, oh, 1969, you’ll see the top-selling albums went from being mostly the province of folk, easy listening and soundtracks to the land of pop, rock, R&B and soul.

That in itself is pretty old news, and I was trying to cobble together something interesting by comparing the top ten album charts from mid-August of 1963, 1966 and 1969. But as I examined the top ten albums from this week in 1963, I got sidetracked.

The top album that week was Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius but as I had expected, most of the albums listed – seven of the ten – were soundtracks, comedy, folk or easy listening. One of the other exceptions was the immortal Live At The Apollo by James Brown.

The third outlier was Shut Down, a collection released by Capitol of tunes mostly about cars and motorcycles by various artists. That album offered two tracks by the Beach Boys, a bunch of tracks by groups with short shelf lives (the best of those might be the “Brontosaurus Stomp” by the Piltdown Men) and one track from actor Robert Mitchum. And it was that last track that grabbed my attention. Here’s “The Ballad of Thunder Road” by Robert Mitchum:

The scenes used in the video are from the 1958 film Thunder Road, which Mitchum co-wrote and produced (and perhaps partly directed, according to Wikipedia). Mitchum also co-wrote – with Don Raye – the song. But Mitchum’s version was not used in the movie. Instead, a folky version of the tune was recorded for the movie by Randy Sparks, who a few years later would be the founder of the New Christy Minstrels. Here’s Sparks’ version of the tune, which was titled “The Whippoorwill.”

As “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” Mitchum’s version of the theme was released as a single in 1958 and went to No. 62 in the Billboard Hot 100. Capitol tried again in early 1962, and the single topped out at No. 65. And then it showed up in 1963 on Shut Down, which was at its peak at No. 7 in that Billboard album chart from this week in 1963. (Mitchum would hit the Hot 100 one more time: “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” went to No. 96 during the summer of 1967.)

As to the 1958 movie, I’ve read in various places that it’s a cult classic, and beyond Mitchum’s single, it does have a place in music history: During a 1978 concert, Bruce Springsteen said that the poster for the film was the source of the title for his song “Thunder Road” although Springsteen evidently never saw the movie.

And all of that is enough for today.

‘Kill That Roach . . .’

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

I’ve dissected at least a couple of times the changes in my life during the summer of 1976 (here and here), a summer that is somehow now forty years in the past. I’ve written about how odd it felt at the start of that July to be living on the North Side of St. Cloud instead of my native East Side and about the questions and concerns that I carried along with my books and clothing as I moved from one side of the Mississippi River to the other.

And I’ve written about the music that brings back memories of that summer, reminders of that move and of my cramped room in my new home.

But one thing I didn’t really think about until very recently was the change in my music listening habits. When I was living at my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard, my music source was – and this is an estimate – half from my LPs in the basement rec room, not very many of them very recent, and half from radios and/or jukeboxes in various other places: my room, friends’ homes, various restaurants and bars and Atwood Center at St. Cloud State.

But when I moved across town, I left my LPs at Kilian Boulevard. Yeah, there was a turntable in the living room in my new place, and the three guys who were living there had some albums on the bricks and boards nearby. But I’d visited the place enough to know that – like many low-rent residences occupied by students in college towns across the country – our place had pretty much an open door policy. Security had never been a major concern.

Now, I don’t know how many LPs had walked out the door of the place on Seventeenth Avenue under the arms of sticky-fingered visitors over the couple of years I’d been visiting off and on. But until I had a better idea of how widely ajar the place’s open door actually was – I didn’t know how diligently the doors were locked or who else out there might have keys – I wasn’t going to bring my albums over and risk having them wander out the door.

(As the guys I knew moved out, the number of albums on the living room shelves diminished, and it wasn’t until quite late in my tenure on Seventeenth Avenue that I brought over from the East Side maybe ten of my favorite LPs, scrawling my name on the top right corner of the front cover of each of them.)

Until then, I listened to the radio, sometimes when hanging out in the living room with the other guys and with whatever company we had, and sometimes when closeted in my room with my two cats (and on frequent occasion, my girlfriend). The radio in the living room was likely tuned to the FM side of a local Top 40 station or maybe to the Twin Cities’ album rocker KQRS. The radio in my room was generally tuned to WCCO’s FM station, which played a quirky mix of music that’s not easy to describe.

(Regular reader Yah Shure explained it this way a few years ago: “WCCO-FM’s hybrid format was an attempt to create a younger, hipper, more music-intensive version of its full-service-giant parent AM, which wasn’t a bad plan for a market that hadn’t yet fully awakened to the existence of the FM band. It was a current-based blend of soft rock, MOR, pop, singer-songwriter . . . even a touch of jazz lite. The non-rock hits were well represented, but FM 103’s overall musical scope was pretty adventurous, with plenty of album cuts and untested singles that fit a particular ‘sound,’ whether they’d charted or not.”)

So all of that was what I heard during those months on the North Side, a mix of mostly current stuff. And of course, a great deal of music I might not have heard then has come to me since, so most of the records listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1976, are familiar. It’s more fun these days, however, to look for the unfamiliar. So, dropping down to the bottom of the chart, the Bubbling Under section, I find at No. 109, the next-to-last spot on the chart, a record that I’m pretty certain I’d never heard until this morning

That’s not unusual; despite my best efforts, there’s a lot of music out there that’s popped into the charts that’s never reached these ears. But a look at Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles told me that there’s something remarkable about “Kill That Roach” by a Miami-based disco band called simply Miami.

What caught my eye about “Kill That Roach” this morning is that the record bubbled under the Hot 100 for thirteen weeks – all of August, September and October 1976 – and never got any higher than No. 103. Maybe I’m utterly sideways here, but I can’t imagine that too many records in the Hot 100 era bubbled under for that many weeks without breaking into the actual Hot 100.

It’s maybe nothing special, a dance record that’s in the same vein as many others of the time, but I wouldn’t have minded hearing it come out of the speaker late some night as my girlfriend and our cats kept me company on the North Side.

Back In ’49

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

When I searched the RealPlayer this morning for tracks recorded on April 13, it tossed back three titles, one of which I know well and two that were recorded on the same day four years and a few months before I was born.

The one I know well is the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” According to notes I found somewhere – possibly even accompanying the Mono Masters set that came with The Beatles in Mono box set – the group began work on “Paperback Writer” at Abbey Road fifty years ago today. As it happens, “Paperback Writer” is one of my favorite Beatles tracks, maybe because of the lyrics but more likely because of the bass line. But there’s little point in featuring a record so well known, so I turned my eyes and ears back to April 13, 1949.

That’s when two very different singles were recorded for Columbia: “Room Full of Roses,” by a country singer named George Morgan and “Elevation” by a jazz group, Elliot Lawrence & His Orchestra. We’ll stay on the country side today.

Morgan was a Tennessee-born and Ohio-raised singer who joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, the year he turned twenty-four. By the time he recorded “Room Full of Roses” sixty-seven years ago today, he’d released two major hits: “Candy Kisses” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Best Seller chart, and “Please Don’t Let Me Love You” went to No. 4 on the magazine’s Best Seller and Juke Box charts.

“Room Full of Roses” was destined to go to No. 4 on the Best Seller chart, but before it reached the chart in August, Morgan had two more records make their marks: “Rainbow In My Heart” went to No. 8 on the Best Seller chart, and “All I Need Is Some More Lovin’” went to No. 11 there as well.

Morgan would go on to have nineteen more records reach the various country charts Billboard offered, with his last hit, “Red Rose From The Blue Side Of Town,” going to No. 21 in 1974. Morgan, who was the father of country single Lorrie Morgan, died in 1975 at the age of fifty-one. Here’s “Room Full of Roses,” recorded sixty-seven years ago today.

One Chart Dig: February 1976

Friday, February 12th, 2016

It’s a little bit disconcerting to realize that it’s almost forty years since I graduated from St. Cloud State. That happened at the end of February 1976, after my one-quarter internship in the sports department of an independent television station based in a Minneapolis suburb.

I know I’ve mentioned the internship frequently over the past nine years, just as I’ve mentioned fairly frequently the stunning redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department and indicated a clear interest in me. There are reasons those things remain large in my rear-view mirror, I think.

First, I was good enough at the internship that after the first couple of months, I was occasionally – five or six times, I would guess – asked to assemble the entire evening sports segment and hand the script to the on-air talent. I was listed those five or six times as a producer in the broadcast’s credits, and that’s pretty heady stuff at the age of 22.

And the redhead? Well, even though I was seeing a young woman in St. Cloud, the other intern’s obvious interest in me was flattering and, frankly, gave me confidence in what we might call today my social game. I didn’t really follow up on her interest beyond a little flirtation, but it boosted my ego a little bit, and at that time, that was a good thing.

Anyway, that’s what comes to mind when I think of that February now forty years gone: Writing a script, choosing visuals for that script and taking a few minutes most days to grab a cup of coffee in the break room with that lovely young lady.

And, of course, music. There was none in the newsroom, of course. There, we had televisions that tracked our own programming and the programming of the three other stations in the market; music would have been a distraction. But I heard tunes driving between the station and my shared apartment in a nearby suburb, and my roommate and I – he was another young St. Cloudian, working his first job out of school – had the radio on a lot during those three months.

So the top ten in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week forty years ago was very familiar:

“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer
“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate
“Theme From S.W.A.T.” by Rhythm Heritage
“Sing A Song” by Earth, Wind & Fire
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players
“Love Machine (Part 1)” by the Miracles
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra

That was pretty much what we heard. At the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, there is a KDWB survey from February 10, 1976, and six of those ten show up in the top ten, with “You Sexy Thing” topping the survey. The Earth, Wind & Fire track and the bottom three from the Billboard Top Ten are gone. (Three of those four show up lower among the twenty-five records on the KDWB survey; the only one missing is the Miracles’ record.)

Taking their place were Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” at No. 3, C.W. McCall’s “Convoy” at No. 4, the Who’s “Squeezebox” at No. 9, and Foghat’s “Slow Ride” at No. 10. The Carmen record is especially evocative of those days; there were at least two weekends when my roommate went back to St. Cloud and I was working, and I think I heard the record on the radio late at night both weekends, and yeah, I was a bit lonely.

But we’re going to find today’s nugget further down in the Hot 100 from forty years ago today, at – appropriately – No. 40. It’s “Tangerine” by the Salsoul Orchestra. (I took a look a few years ago at the song’s history in posts found here, here and here.) The record was the first of a couple of Top 40 hits for the Philadelphia-based orchestra (which included for a while, says Wikipedia, musicians who’d previously been part of Philadelphia International’s MFSB). Eight other records reached the Hot 100 or bubbled under it until the string ran out in 1979.

“Tangerine” peaked at No. 18, and went to No. 11 on the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 36 on the R&B chart. And it no doubt got a lot of folks out of their chairs and out onto the dance floor.

One Chart Dig: January 1971

Friday, January 29th, 2016

There’s a nasty flu/cold bug going around these parts, and at various times over the past few weeks, the Texas Gal and I have felt its effects. This week, it’s my turn, which is why things have been sparse this week (not only in this space but anywhere that I have responsibilities).

But I took a look this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1971, forty-five years ago. As my senior year of high school turned the corner toward graduation (and a summer of lawn-mowing and floor-scrubbing), buried deep in the chart – bubbling under at No. 105 – was a record I would have liked very much if I ever had heard it.

I doubt, though, that I ever heard the Assembled Multitude’s “Medley from ‘Superstar’ (A Rock Opera)” coming out of my radio speakers. I might have already heard Murray Head’s take on “Superstar,” essentially the title track of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. At the end of January 1971, that release was at No. 78 in a slow climb to No. 14 during its second stint in the Hot 100. (It had been released in early 1970 and stalled at No. 74.) Whenever it might have been that I heard Head’s single, I liked it enough to pick up the album during the coming summer.

And though I didn’t really know who the Assembled Multitude was – a group of studio musicians from Philadelphia, as it happened – I’d liked “Overture From Tommy” when it went to No. 16 during the summer of 1970. A second single release from 1970, a cover of “Woodstock,” went to No. 79 but escaped my attention at the time.

So, too, in its brief time in the chart, did the Multitude’s “Medley from ‘Superstar’ (A Rock Opera).” It bubbled under the chart for a few weeks, crawled up to No. 95, and then faded away.

One Chart Dig: January 1966

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Fifty years ago this week, six guys from Allen Park High School in Michigan – Allen Park is a suburb southwest of Detroit – saw their record sitting on the lowest rung of the Billboard Hot 100. “Wait A Minute” by Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons was bubbling under at No. 130 in the chart released on January 29, 1966.

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Still, that was an improvement over the previous week, when the Bubbling Under section of the chart had listed thirty-five records, and “Wait A Minute” entered the chart at No. 131. The record would spend five weeks in the chart, peaking at No. 76. It was the only record the group ever placed in the Billboard charts.

The record was written by Rick (Tim-Tam) Wiesend and Tom DeAngelo, and I assume DeAngelo was a house writer/producer for Detroit-based Palmer records. It’s a not a bad record, kind of a mix of doo-wop and garage rock, and I do like the drum fills.

“Wait A Minute” would have fit right in with the records I vaguely recall from that winter’s seventh grade dance at South Junior High in St. Cloud. I do have some more vivid memories from that dance, and I may share them sometime, but for now, let’s just listen to Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons:

Still In 1972

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

We’ll do one more bit of dabbling in the autumn of 1972; in our last two posts, we’ve looked at my dad’s habit of rousing me from bed at 6:42, which began in the autumn of 1972, and we’ve looked at my listening habits and checked out what was No. 72 in six consecutive weeks’ worth of the Billboard Hot 100 during that season.

So I thought we’d take a look this morning at the very top of the Billboard 200 released this week in 1972 and see what we find. The top ten albums in the chart released October 28, 1972 – forty-three years ago tomorrow – were:

Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
Carney by Leon Russell
Days Of Future Passed by the Moody Blues
Never A Dull Moment by Rod Stewart
Chicago V by Chicago
All Directions by the Temptations
Rock Of Ages by The Band
The London Chuck Berry Sessions
Honky Chateau by Elton John
Ben by Michael Jackson

I had none of those in my cardboard box of LPs at the time; five of them are on my LP shelves now. The first of them – the Moody Blues album – came into my collection just more than five years later, in late 1977, and it was joined during the late 1980s and early 1990s by the albums by Curtis Mayfield, Leon Russell, Elton John and The Band. The CD shelves have copies of Honky Chateau and Rock Of Ages.

The digital shelves have copies of those five albums plus the Rod Stewart, Chicago and Temptations albums; I’m fairly certain I have no need for any versions of the Chuck Berry or Michael Jackson albums.

It should be noted, I guess, that the Moody Blues’ album had originally been released in 1967 and hit the charts in 1972 after a re-release of the single “Nights In White Satin.” On its original release in 1968, the single bubbled under at No. 103; the re-released single peaked at No. 2 in November of 1972.

The odd thing, as I look at that list of ten albums this morning, is that none of them rank very high for me, not even The Band’s Rock Of Ages (which some might find odd, given my regard for the group). One track from these albums – “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” from Honky Chateau – showed up here in the long-ago Ultimate Jukebox project. And some other individual tracks stand out: Leon Russell’s “Tightrope,” the Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon),” the Temptations’ long jam on “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” and a track that probably should have been in that long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead.”

(As I noted about seven years ago, I have to chuckle every time the Texas Gal and I stop at the local co-op. Some of the baked goods available at the co-op, as proclaimed by a sign on the front door, come from an establishment named Freddie’s Bread. Whenever we go in, I can’t help singing under my breath, “Freddie’s Bread . . . that’s what I said.”)

‘Do It’

Friday, September 25th, 2015

I took a look yesterday at the Billboard Hot 100 that was released this week in 1975, and since yesterday’s date – 9/24 – added up to thirty-three, I took a close look at No. 33. It turned out to be “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by the People’s Choice, a Philadelphia-based R&B dance group.

The funky boogie chant went to No. 11, the best performance of the three Hot 100 hits for People’s Choice. (“I Likes To Do It” went to No. 38 in 1971, and “Nursery Rhymes [Part I]” went to No. 93 in 1976.) And I thought I should see how many titles on the digital shelves start with the words “do it.”

There are twenty-four of them. The simple “Do It” shows up three times at the top of the alphabetical list: Once in 1971 from Aphrodite’s Child, the Greek progressive rock band of the late 1960s and early 1970s, once in 1969 from the Doors, and once in 1972 from Jesse Winchester. At the other end of the alphabetical listing we find “Do It, Fluid,” a 1974 offering by the Blackbyrds. None of those four grip me very hard.

Sorting the tracks by year, we follow a path from Richard “Groove” Holmes’ “Do It My Way” from 1962 to Keb Mo’s “Do It Right” from 2014. Both of those are pretty good, but if we have to choose one, we’ll listen to Holmes’ track:

The most frequent title is “Do It Again,” which shows up five times. I have two copies of the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again,” one tagged as a single and the other tagged as coming from the album 20/20. I’m not sure there’s any difference. I also have Steely Dan’s 1972 track “Do It Again,” Richie Havens’ 1976 cover of the Steely Dan tune, and a passable 1996 country tune with that title by singer Lari White.

Beyond those, here’s the “do it” harvest:

“Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express, 1976.
“Do It All Over Again” by J. Vincent Edwards, 1970
“Do It For Mother” by Whistler, 1971
“Do It Good” by Bill Withers, 1971
“Do It In The Name Of Love” by Candi Staton, 1972
“Do It In The Rain” by Buster Benton, 1977
“Do It Just For Me” by Genya Ravan, 1978
“Do It Now” by Bessie Banks, 1963
“Do It Now” by Ingrid Michaelson, 2012
“Do It Right” by Bobby Womack & Peace, 1972
“Do It To ’Em” by the Big Town Boys, 1968
“Do It To Me” by the South Side Movement, 1975

There are some good ones among the twelve tracks in that last list. (There are also some that leave me cold.) Here’s one of the good ones, chosen for no reason other than that I like it: “Do It In The Name Of Love” by Candi Staton from her self-titled 1972 album.

‘September’

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

I’m kinda not here today. So it’s hard to appreciate that we’re three days into my favorite seven weeks of the year: September and the first three weeks of October. But whatever it is that’s got me today will pass.

In the meantime, here’s the official video for Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September,” which hit the charts in late 1978 and went to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart, No. 8 in the Hot 100 and No. 41 on the Adult Contemporary chart early in 1979.