Archive for the ‘Chart Digging’ Category

Chart Digging: September 28, 1968

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Combing through the weekly files of the Billboard Hot 100 during the years that I consider my sweet spot – 1968 through 1975 – I find two charts released on today’s date: September 28. One is from 1968, when I wasn’t really listening to Top 40 but was nevertheless surrounded by it at friends’ homes and at my own home when my sister was listening; the other is from 1974, after my peak Top 40 years had ended but when I was still surrounded by the music at friends’ homes, in the student union at St. Cloud State, and in my car.

I noticed a third Hot 100 from September 28, this one from 1963, and that intrigued me for a moment as I wondered: What did the world sound like in the weeks before history took its left turn? Then I decided that’s a topic better dealt with during a week closer to November 22.

So we’ll look a little bit at either 1968 or 1974 today, and the choice is made easier by this week’s watching of the first few episodes of The Vietnam War, the ten-part documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. I have the series recorded, and I’m watching the episodes in between other shows that the Texas Gal and I watch. And although I haven’t quite gotten there in the film, 1968 feels right today.

Here’s the Top Ten from forty-nine years ago today:

“Hey Jude” by the Beatles
“Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C. Riley
“People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals
“Hush!” by Deep Purple
“Fire” by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
“Fool On The Hill” by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66
“1, 2, 3, Red Light” by the 1910 Fruitgum Co.
“I’ve Got To Get A Message To You” by the Bee Gees
“Girl Watcher” by the O’Kaysions
“Slip Away” by Clarence Carter

That’s a decent half-hour of listening. I’m not a fan of the Arthur Brown record, but the rest of it would sound great coming out of my old RCA radio. A quick glance at the iPod shows finds four of those ten: “Hey Jude,” “The Fool On The Hill,” and “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You,” and “People Got To Be Free.” If I were to add another, it would likely be “Slip Away.”

(I’m pretty sure there are some Top Ten charts from the years 1969-71 that come close to having all ten records tucked into the iPod. But it seems to me that four out of ten from a time before I was listening closely is pretty good.)

So what was I doing when “Hey Jude” was in the first of its eventual nine weeks at No. 1? I was learning the ropes as a sophomore at St. Cloud Technical High School. I’d missed the first week of school for a family trip out east. My sister had spent the last six weeks of the summer on a study program in France. Her return flight came into Philadelphia on Labor Day, and that provided a reason for my folks and me to head east to visit relatives in Pennsylvania and do some touring as we picked up my sister.

That meant I was a little behind in learning the ins and outs of high school. (St. Cloud’s school district still had ninth-graders in junior high school at the time.) I wasn’t yet a sports manager; that would start at the beginning of November, and I’m not certain what I was doing with my space time except for practicing on my cornet.

So let’s move a little further down the Hot 100 from this week forty-nine years ago and see if we find anything that sparks a memory or two. And what I find is not a personal tale; none of the records I see in the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section trigger anything like that. But I find an listing that turns out to be the last entry for a performer whose name summons another era.

Margaret Whiting was one of the top female vocalists in the 1940s. In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn notes that Whiting had thirty-two charted records between 1942 and 1952, including two No. 1s (“A Tree In The Meadow” and “Slipping Around” [with Jimmy Wakely]) and two that peaked at No. 2 (“Far Away Places” and “Now Is The Hour”).

Top Pop Singles starts in 1955, so I’m not sure what Whiting might have done between 1952 and 1955, but she had a couple of records hit in the latter portion of the 1950s, with “The Money Tree” reaching No. 22. Then there’s a gap of a few years until 1966, when “The Wheel Of Hurt” went to No. 26 (and to No. 1 for four weeks on the Easy Listening chart). Top Pop Singles lists six more singles in the next two years; five of the six bubbled under the Hot 100, and the only one that actually reached the chart was a cover of Gene Pitney’s 1962 hit, “Only Love Can Break A Heart” that went to No. 96 (No. 4, Easy Listening).

Her last appearance anywhere near the Hot 100 is what I found today. Forty-nine years ago, Whiting’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind” entered the chart bubbling under at No. 130. It would bubble under for two more weeks, peaking at No. 124 (and at No. 11, Easy Listening). She had a few more hits on the Easy Listening chart in 1969 and 1970, giving her a total of twelve records there. But “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind,” which is a pretty good record, closed her pop chart career.

Being a fan of 1960s easy listening, her work that charted in that world intrigues me, and we may re-visit Margaret Whiting’s career in days to come. But for now, we’ll mark her last appearance on the pop chart. Here’s “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind.”

Saturday Single No. 558

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Looking for inspiration this morning, I took a glance at the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from September 24, 1977, forty years ago this week:

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Star Wars soundtrack
Moody Blue by Elvis Presley
JT by James Taylor
Shaun Cassidy by Shaun Cassidy
Commodores by the Commodores
CSN by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Foreigner by Foreigner
Going For The One by Yes
The Floaters by the Floaters

We were slowly moving into a time when what was popular was no longer what I wanted to hear. Only three of those albums – the Fleetwood Mac, the James Taylor, and the Star Wars soundtrack – ever made it onto the vinyl stacks.

But there were no surprises as I scanned my way down the list this morning, at least until the very end. The Floaters? Who in the hell were the Floaters? As I limped to the shelf where I keep my reference books, I surmised that the Floaters were likely an R&B group, as it wasn’t rare for an R&B act do well nationally but get little exposure or airplay in the St. Cloud of the late 1970s. Or maybe there had been airplay, but I wasn’t paying attention.

And I was right. The Floaters – as maybe most of those who stop by here already know – were an R&B group, hailing from Detroit. The self-titled album that was No. 10 forty years ago was their first; they recorded three more albums in the next four years, according to Discogs, the last with, evidently, a female vocalist named Shu-Ga. Their single history goes back to 1965, when they released a record – “Down By The Seashore” – with Kenny Gamble before he was Kenny Gamble. It didn’t chart, and it wasn’t until 1976 that the Floaters were heard from again, with “I’m So Glad I Took My Time” released as a non-charting single ahead of its being included on The Floaters.

So there’s all of that (and more, if I wanted to go through every single the Floaters released), but our interest is that debut album, the one that peaked at No. 10, because it did sprout one massive single: “Float On.”

The single topped the Billboard R&B chart for six weeks during a seventeen-week run that started during the summer of 1977. Over on the Hot 100, “Float On” peaked with a two-week stay at No. 2, blocked from the top spot by first, Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” and then, the Emotions’ “Best Of My Love.”

The single is not quite my deal; having each member of the group introducing himself to some imaginary lady is, to me, lame. But the chorus hangs with me, and anyway, when I discover a smash hit forty years late, I sort of feel as if I need to acknowledge it. That means that the Floaters’ “Float On” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 554

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

I was short on time this morning, so I’m getting to this a bit late. I ran some errands, and I spent half an hour at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship helping a handful of the fellowship’s children learn Ringo’s “Octopus’ Garden.” They’re going to lead the fellowship in singing the song during the first service of our new year in a few weeks.

Running late, then, I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 for August 19, 1972, a date forty-five years now past (though it seems to me, as it no doubt does to many, as if it were 1972 just yesterday). The No. 1 record was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s omnipresent “Alone Again (Naturally).” And not a lot that followed in the Top 40 was unfamiliar, surprising or forgotten.

Then I got close to the middle of the chart, and what I noticed wasn’t surprising for its place in the chart, but it was surprising for what I learned about it moments later. Procol Harum’s live version of “Conquistador” was sitting at No. 46 on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 16, and I wondered when I’d last featured the track, which is one I liked a fair amount back in 1972.

And the answer? Never. And I’ve mentioned it only a handful of times.

Now, Procol Harum was never a favorite band of mine. I liked “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” when it came out of friends’ radios on its way to No. 5 in 1967. And when “Conquistador” came humming out of speakers during the summer of ’72, Procol Harum was still a mystery, a band that was more album rock than Top 40, and album rock was a territory I was only just beginning to explore.

So even though I liked the track, I didn’t run out and get the single or the album. I had other musical business at hand. That summer of 1972 saw me completing my Beatles collection and adding the double album Eric Clapton At His Best. And as it turned out, I didn’t get any Procol Harum until the 1990s, when I acquired the group’s 1967 self-titled debut, 1969’s A Salty Dog, and finally – in 1998 – the 1972 live album with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. None of those survived the Great Vinyl Selloff last winter, but I have most of it covered digitally and plan to get the rest (as well as more of the group).

Anyway, it was a nice reminder to see “Conquistador” listed in that long-ago chart, and it was – as I said – a surprise to see that I’d never featured it here. That neglect ends today, and Procul Harum’s “Conquistador” – recorded live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – is today’s Saturday Single.

Looking Back Fifty

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Here’s what the Top Ten in the Billboard 200 looked like fifty years ago this week:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Headquarters by the Monkees
Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane
Flowers by the Rolling Stones
The Doors
Sounds Like by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You by Aretha Franklin
Born Free by Andy Williams
Revenge by Bill Cosby
Dr. Zhivago original soundtrack

The only one of those that might have been in our basement rec room when it opened for business a few months later – if I recall things correctly, Dad was still working on the paneling and the suspended ceiling as the summer of 1967 began to tip towards autumn – would have been the Jefferson Airplane record.

I don’t know if my sister already had the record when the stereo was moved to the basement during the 1967-68 school year or if she got the record after our basement rec room was up and hosting. I do know that I listened to the record many times between early 1968 and the summer of 1972, when my sister took her records with her to her new home in the Twin Cities.

I also know that only one other record in that Top Ten list ever made its way into the Kilian Boulevard rec room. That was Sgt. Pepper, which I bought sometime during July 1970. Most of the others came along later; the albums by the Monkees, the Doors, the Stones, Aretha Franklin and Andy Williams eventually found places on my shelves, as did the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack. And based on a cursory look this morning, the only one of them that survived the Great Vinyl Selloff in the past year was the Beatles’ album.

Looking at the digital shelves, I have two tracks from Sounds Like, one track each from Flowers and the Andy Williams album, and nothing from the Cosby album. The other six are here complete.

As to what shows up from those albums on the iPod, which has about 3,800 tracks on it, well, I’ve included “Within You, Without You” and the ending suite from Sgt. Pepper, “The Crystal Ship” from The Doors, “Respect” and “Dr. Feelgood” from the Aretha album, “Comin’ Back To Me,” “Today,” and “How Do You Feel” from the Jefferson Airplane album (along with single versions of “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love”), “Casino Royale” from the Tijuana Brass album, and nothing from the other five albums in that long-ago Top Ten.

I’m not really sure if all that winnowing proves anything except that I like Surrealistic Pillow more than I do Sgt. Pepper (and as I’ve thought about it over the years, there are a fair number of other albums I also like more than I do Sgt. Pepper) and that I tend to land on singles from the other 1967 albums. So we’ll listen to a track from Surrealistic Pillow this morning. Here’s the pretty (and echo-laden) “Today.”

Saturday Single No. 542

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

In between helping the Texas Gal with setting up and planting the garden and helping my sister coordinate financial and medical details for my mom, I’ve not had a lot of time to think this week. Add to that my annual spring sinus infection, and my energy level is low. So we’re going to do a quick and easy post here this morning. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from forty years ago this week, the end of May 1977, when I was midway through my term as arts and entertainment editor at St. Cloud State’s University Chronicle.

“Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
“When I Need You” by Leo Sayer
“I’m Your Boogie Man/Wrap Your Arms Around Me” by KC & The Sunshine Band
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
“Got To Give It Up (Part 1)” by Marvin Gaye
“Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)” by Bill Conti
“Couldn’t Get It Right” by the Climax Blues Band
“Lucille” by Kenny Rogers
“Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold
“Feels Like The First Time” by Foreigner

At the time, I was listening to albums and album rock at home, to Top 40 in the Chronicle newsroom, and to whatever it was that was offered by jukebox in the Atwood Center snack bar. And I knew all of those during the spring of 1977 except maybe “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” and the Marvin Gaye record.

Did I like the ones I knew? Not many. I truly liked the Stevie Wonder and the Fleetwood Mac, and I loved – as readers will know – the Bill Conti (though I heard it far less on the radio than I did Maynard Ferguson’s version of “Gonna Fly Now”). I didn’t care about “Boogie Man,” “Couldn’t Get It Right” or “Lonely Boy,” and I disliked the singles by Rogers and Foreigner.

This morning, “Wrap” was still a stranger, but I know the Gaye record not only from hearing it over the years since but from the hoo-ha about its having been appropriated in 2013 for “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. (I’m still baffled that I don’t remember “Got To Give It Up” from 1977.)

But what else I there in that Hot 100? Let’s do some games with numbers, taking today’s date – 5/27/17 – and checking out Nos. 22, 32 and 44 to find a Saturday Single. Just for fun, we’ll also check out No. 100.

Sitting at No. 22 forty years ago was “Calling Dr. Love” by Kiss, coming down from a peak at No. 16. While I know many loved the painted ones, Kiss has never been on my list. So I’ll refrain from comment except to note that the record was the group’s tenth of an eventual twenty-seven in or near the Hot 100 between 1974 and 1990.

Things sound better at No. 32, at least for fans of quirky one-hit wonders, for sitting in that spot forty years ago this week was “Ariel” by Dean Friedman. The only appearance by the singer from Paramus, New Jersey, in the Hot 100, the record is one I remember fondly from evenings in my tiny mobile home in Sauk Rapids. “Ariel” peaked at No. 22, and I still think its tale reflects accurately at least a portion of the odd carnival that was the mid-1970s. As I wrote nine years ago, “Friedman got the details right about post-hippie, pre-disco America, from the peasant blouse to the Legion Hall.”

Parked at No. 44, we find “Hollywood” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, heading up to No. 32. I know the record now, but I don’t recall hearing it anywhere during those months forty years ago. It showed up for me on the album Ask Rufus during 1997, and was pleasant listening but no more than that.

And finally, we look at the No. 100 record during that week forty years gone: “Freddie” by Charlene. A tribute to the late actor and comedian Freddie Prinze that peaked at No. 96, it’s soggy and pathetic. (Charlene, of course, was the perpetrator in 1982 of the No. 3 hit “I’ve Never Been To Me.”)

Given the options, I have little choice, but that’s okay: Dean Friedman’s “Ariel” is today’s Saturday Single. [This is the album version, not the single version, but so it goes.]

Saturday Single No. 534

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

Forty years ago today, I gathered up all the stuff I’d moved from my folks’ house over to St. Cloud’s North Side and packed it into my blue 1967 Falcon station wagon. I then moved most of that stuff to the little burg of Sauk Rapids and its Blue Skies Mobile Home Park. (Some things, like the dresser and the bed, went back to Mom and Dad’s because the small mobile home I was now renting from my friend Murl had both a built-in bed and dresser.)

The move didn’t take long. Beyond the furniture that went back to Kilian Boulevard – and I’m not entirely certain how my friend Bill and I got it there; I have vague memories of borrowing a friend’s pick-up truck – there were only a few boxes of clothes and books and miscellany and, of course, my two cats. It only took a couple of trips.

And by the end of the day, I was safely ensconced in my new digs, a 35-foot by eight-foot mobile home. Small, yes, but for one person with few possessions, it was fine. (And I had few possessions: I was still a student, in the first of two quarters aimed at adding a print journalism minor to my radio-television news major.) And it was the first place where I’d ever lived by myself, and that pleased me.

As I settled in that evening, there was, I am certain, music. I had an AM radio in the kitchen, tuned to St. Cloud’s WJON, and I had an AM/FM clock/radio on the bedroom dresser. That radio was tuned at first to KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run FM station and then later on – maybe in just a week or two – to WHMH-FM, a Sauk Rapids-based station that offered a format that I remember as half album rock and half hits that weren’t too far to the pop side of the pop/rock divide.

So what might Bill and I have heard on the car radio that day as we drove back and forth from St. Cloud’s North Side to Blue Skies? Here’s the Top Ten in the Billboard Hot 100 that came out the next day:

“Rich Girl” by Darryl Hall & John Oates
“Dancing Queen” by Abba
“Don’t Give Up On Us” by David Soul
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston
“Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’” by Barbra Streisand
“Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell
“The Things We Do For Love” by 10cc
“Hotel California” by the Eagles
“I’ve Got Love On My Mind” by Natalie Cole
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Wings

Well, that’s a mix. I love “Dancing Queen,” and I like “Southern Nights” and “Hotel California” well enough. The David Soul single has an unhappy memory attached to it. The singles by Thelma Houston, 10cc, Natalie Cole and Wings don’t matter to me one way or another. I’m not fond of the Hall & Oates record. And I detest the Streisand single. (It would be during the approaching summer when I took a Streisand-loving young lady to see A Star Is Born on a date that turned into the Night of the Buttered Falcon.)

But as we often do here, we’re going to look deeper into that Hot 100 and play Games With Numbers. We’re going to look at No. 17 for 2017, No. 40 for the number of years it’s been since my move, and No. 77 for 1977.

Sitting at No. 17 forty years ago this week was Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” a single well-regarded enough here that it showed up in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox. It was coming down the chart after peaking at No. 4.

The No. 40 record forty years ago this week was “Angel In Your Arms” by Hot, a classic cheating song by an interracial trio of women from Los Angeles that was on its way up the chart to No. 6. I recall it as an okay record.

And parked at No. 77 was “Cinderella” by Firefall. This was the group’s third foray into the Hot 100. During the summer of 1976, “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’” went to No. 42, and in the autumn, “You Are The Woman” had gone to No. 9. “Cinderella” would peak at No. 34.

Well, the Seger record – as I noted – is one of my all-time favorites, but, as I also noted, it’s been featured here before. “Angel In Your Arms” is just another record. As to “Cinderella,” well, even though I have had very little of Firefall’s work on my physical or digital shelves over the years – three LPs now gone, no CDs and just twelve mp3s – there is something in the sound of the band from Boulder, Colorado, that just feels like 1977.

Add to that the fact that over just more than ten years, I’ve mentioned the group only four times and have never featured its music here, and it’s an easy call this morning to make Firefall’s “Cinderella” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 533

Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Okay, we’re going to play Games With Numbers this morning and convert today’s date – 3/25/17 – into 45, and then we’re going to dig into six Billboard Hot 100s from the end of March during our sweet spot years and see what was at No. 45. Those six records will give us our options for today’s Saturday Single. As we normally do, we’ll check out the No. 1 records along the way.

We’ll start in 1965 and go forward two years at a time. And in late March of 1965, the No. 45 record in the Hot 100 was “Got To Get You Off My Mind” by Solomon Burke. For some reason, I’ve never paid much attention to Burke’s music, and that’s too bad (and not too wise, either), as he casts a fairly large shadow on the soul and R&B of the 1960s. “Got To Get You Off My Mind” is a pretty mellow piece of work, and Burke’s honeyed voice is, of course, well-suited for a short and somewhat upbeat tune marking the loss of a girlfriend. The record peaked at No. 22, the highest Burke would put a record in the Hot 100, but over on the R&B chart, it was No. 1 for three weeks.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 for March 27, 1965, was “Stop! In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes.

Moving ahead two years to 1967, we find Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” perched at No. 45. I don’t know much about Conley except for this one hit record, which makes sense as I look at his entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Of the eight other records Conley got into or close to the Hot 100, only 1968’s “Funky Street” hit the Top 20, going to No. 14. (I’ve heard “Funky Street,” but for some reason it’s not on the digital shelves.) As would be expected, the Atlanta-born singer did better on the R&B chart, where “Sweet Soul Music” was No. 2 for five weeks (and “Funky Street” went to No. 5 a year later). But “Sweet Soul Music” is, of course, more than its chart history, with its roll call of the greats of R&B: “Spotlight on Lou Rawls, y’all . . .”

Sitting at No. 1 exactly fifty years ago today – March 25, 1967 – was the Turtles’ “Happy Together.”

During the last week in March of 1969, the No. 45 record was the Meters’ funky instrumental “Sophisticated Cissy.” It was the first record by the New Orleans group to hit the Hot 100, and it peaked at No. 34, making it the Meters’ second-most successful single, behind “Cissy Strut,” which went to No. 23 just a few months later. The Meters put five more records into the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1977, but none of them went higher than No. 50. Oddly, although I have a couple of albums by the Meters on the digital shelves, I do not have “Sophisticated Cissy.” So there’s a hole I have to fill somehow, with probably a few other Meters gaps. The record went to No. 7 on the R&B chart.

The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1969 was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.

We head into March 1971 and the beginning of the end of my senior year of high school. During the fourth week of March that year, the No. 45 record was “I Am . . . I Said” by Neil Diamond. In the files I have of the weekly Hot 100, the record is listed at No. 45 as a double-sided single, with “Done Too Soon” on the flip. But according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Done Too Soon” peaked at No. 65, while “I Am . . . I Said” went to No. 4 on the pop chart and to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart. That’s too bad, as I like the B side better, although the A side would be okay if Diamond hadn’t done the deal about the chair not hearing. And, of course, the single – double-sided or not – was just one of what seems like a hundred Neil Diamond records to reach the chart. (The total is actually fifty-six.)

Sitting at No. 1 during that last week of March 1971 was “Me and Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin.

Sir Elton John shows up when we jump into March 1973 and take a look at the No. 45 record during the month’s last week. It turns out to be “Crocodile Rock,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 11 on the Easy Listening chart. There’s not a lot more to say about Sir Elton except that the first time I heard “Your Song” – his second Hot 100 record and the first thing I heard from him – I would not have guessed that he’d become the most popular artist of the 1970s and the third most popular of all time (as noted in Top Pop Singles). For those wondering, “Border Song” was his first Hot 100 record, going to No. 92 during the summer of 1970, just a few months before “Your Song” went to No. 8.

The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1973 was “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack.

And we end our Saturday jaunt with a look at the Hot 100 from the fourth week of March in 1975, when the No. 45 record was “Living A Little, Laughing A Little” by the Spinners, a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard until this morning. It fell right into the patch of great records by the group, and my guess is that it never got much play on the jukebox in Atwood Center at St. Cloud State. (My listening elsewhere was more album-oriented.) Maybe the record didn’t get much play on KDWB out of the Twin Cities or St. Cloud’s WJON, both of which got a little (but only a little) attention from me in those days. I don’t know, but listening to the record this morning rang no bells at all. The record went to No. 37 in the Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the R&B chart.

Parked at No. 1 during that fourth week of March 1975 was “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle.

So we’ve got an interesting assortment to choose from today, four bits of R&B and two big hits that lost their freshness long ago. And I think we’ll head back to 1969 and make the Meters’ funky “Sophisticated Cissy” today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: March 22, 1975

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Here’s the Top Ten from the Billboard Hot 100 forty-two years ago today, March 22, 1975:

“My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli
“Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle
“Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton
“Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
“Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John
“Express” by B.T. Express
“You Are So Beautiful/It’s A Sin When You Love Somebody” by Joe Cocker
“Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow
“No No Song/Snookeroo” by Ringo Starr
“Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” by Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta

Almost all of those were coming out of the jukebox in the Atwood Center snack bar at St. Cloud State around that time. I don’t recall ever hearing either of the listed B-sides, nor – having listened to it this morning – do I recall ever hearing “Express.” But the rest of those records were a good portion of the soundtrack of my life as 1975 – one of the best years of my youth – approached its second quarter.

Sometime during the six weeks just past, one of my friends at The Table had given me some hard-to-hear but essential advice. He said I had to quit obsessing about the accident I’d been in at the end of October 1974. He was right, so I quit skipping my classes, I quit skipping my work shifts at the library’s periodicals counter, and I got to work on finishing three courses from fall quarter in which I’d taken incomplete grades.

In other words, I got busy being a student, and it was good for me. And most of the music listed above and plenty more from the rest of the chart came along with me as we headed into spring quarter.

Still, as always, there was music out there that never got to my ears, usually because it stayed for a brief time in the lower level of the Hot 100. Here are four records that caught my eye and my ear this morning:

“You’re A Part Of Me” by Susan Jacks was sitting at No. 90. The single, from the female voice of the Poppy Family (with then-husband Terry Jacks), was okay, based on some listening at YouTube. I never thought her voice was big enough to carry a career, though I likely would not have put it in those terms back when the Poppy Family stuff was coming out of the speakers. “You’re A Part Of Me” was intended for an album titled Dreams, but the folks at Russ & Gary’s “The Best Years of Music” say in a 2013 post that the album “was kept from market by Ray Pettinger, her husband’s former business associate at Goldfish Records.” I’m not sure about that: Discogs lists the LP as having been released in Canada. Either way, the album is available at YouTube, and – based on admittedly brief listening this morning – it sounds like the work of a limited singer trying to figure out which Seventies niche to land in. “You’re A Part Of Me” went no higher than No. 90 during its five weeks in the Hot 100.

Sitting at the very bottom of the Hot 100 forty-two years ago today was “Where Have They Gone” by Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners. Billed simply as simply the Skyliners, the group had offered the classic “Since I Don’t Have You” in 1959. And although the group had released a cluster of records that had gotten some airplay in the early 1960s – the best-performing being 1960’s “Pennies From Heaven,” which went to No. 24 – there’d been nothing in the charts since 1965. Even in the context of the big tent that Top 40 was in 1975, the string-laden “Where Have They Gone” sounds like a record out of its time, which I kind of like. I was intrigued to see that it had been written by Doc Pomus and Ken Hirsh, and it turns out there’s an interesting note at Wikipedia, where Pomus categorizes the songs he wrote in the 1970s – with Hirsh and others – as being for “those people stumbling around in the night out there, uncertain or not always so certain of exactly where they fit in and where they were headed.” Not to be cruel, but I suppose that could fit Beaumont and the Skyliners after ten years with no records in the charts. And “Where Have They Gone” was itself gone after this one week in the Hot 100.

Heading into the Bubbling Under portion of the Billboard chart, I ran across a group name that I found irresistible: Ecstasy, Passion & Pain. Tagged as an R&B/dance group by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, the group had seen three records in or near the Hot 100 since early 1974, with the best-performing of them being “Ask Me,” which went to No. 52 in November 1974. Their next try was “One Beautiful Day,” which was bubbling under at No. 103 in that chart from forty-two years ago today. To my ears, there’s nothing there that maybe twenty other groups weren’t doing more compellingly at the time. “One Beautiful Day” would eventually peak at No. 48 (No. 14 on the Billboard R&B chart) and would be the biggest mark Ecstasy, Passion & Pain ever made on the charts.

Maybe the biggest surprise this morning was finding a record from Steppenwolf parked at No. 110, the very bottom of the Bubbling Under section. For me, John Kay’s group occupies the last few years of the 1960s, the years of “Born To Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” I somehow tend to forget that more than half of Steppenwolf’s charting records came in the 1970s. None of them flew as high as the two singles just mentioned, but the ’Wolf put six records into the middle to lower portions of the Hot 100 in 1970 and 1971. After an absence of three years came “Straight Shootin’ Woman,” which went to No. 29 in 1974, followed in 1975 by “Smokey Factory Blues,” which was sitting at No. 110 forty-two years ago today. It doesn’t really sound like Steppenwolf until about ninety seconds in, but then the chorus takes off, and when one listens to the story Kay and the rest of the band are telling, it’s a fitting coda to the band’s story: “Smokey Factory Blues” is what happens when you quit running and riding and living wild.

Chart Digging: March 15, 1958

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

We don’t spend a lot of time here back in the 1950s. The main reason for that is that I don’t remember much about the decade. I was six and in first grade when the calendar flipped from 1959 to 1960, and I have a few specific memories from that school year – and from kindergarten the year before – but other than those, I have just vague impressions of the last years of that decade.

As for Odd and Pop, I have no idea where they were or what they were up to back then. Probably complicating the life of an aspiring folk musician in a small college town somewhere. I can hear Pop saying, “Enunciate! Quit dropping those g’s!” while Odd tells him, “Bongo drums and some bird calls would work well with that.”

But we are in the 1950s today (although likely without either bongos or bird calls). Why?

Well, I was digging this morning into the Billboard charts from March 15 over the years, planning on playing Games With Numbers with today’s date and checking out the No. 35 record from four or so charts from 1958 to 1980, and then I dug into the Top 100 from March 15, 1958. (It would be called the Hot 100 beginning that August).

And that week, there was no record at No. 35. Instead, three records were tied at No. 33. Close enough, I thought, noting that the three records offer three different levels of success and consequent fame: One megastar, one well-remember performer, and one obscure and perhaps mostly forgotten group.

The first of the three records at No. 33 in that chart from fifty-nine years ago was from Ricky Nelson, whose “Stood Up” had already peaked, spending three weeks at No. 2, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles. It was Nelson’s fourth Top Ten record; sixteen more singles and four EPs would also hit the Top Ten. “Stood Up” also went to No. 4 on the Billboard R& B chart and to No. 5 on the magazine’s country chart. Beyond that, there’s not a lot new to say here because, hey, he was Ricky Nelson, and we pretty much all know the story.

Listed second among the three records tied during that long-ago week was “Betty and Dupree” from Chuck Willis, which was at its peak. The record was a trimmed and decriminalized version of a blues song based on a 1919 robbery of a jewelry store in Atlanta that had been recorded in various versions since at least 1931. Willis, who’s nevertheless credited as the writer on single labels I’ve seen, dropped the robbery, Dupree’s arrest, and his eventual hanging and made the tune a simple, swaying story of love that went to No. 15 on the R&B chart as well as peaking at No. 33 on the pop chart. It’s not the record for which the short-lived Willis is most remembered; that would likely be “C.C. Rider,” which went to No. 12 on the pop chart and to No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1957.

That’s all interesting enough, but – getting away from the original topic here – it turned out that “Betty and Dupree,” was the next-to-last record Willis saw reach the charts. The last was “Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes,” which entered the Top 100 on April 28, 1958, two days before Willis died from a bleeding ulcer. In one of life’s ironies, the B-side, “What Am I Living For,” hit the R&B chart a week later and the Top 100 a week after that, and would out-perform the A-side, peaking at No. 9 on the pop chart and spending a week on top of the R&B chart.

And then we get to the third of the records tied at No. 33 in that Top 100 from March 15, 1958: “7-11” by the Gone All Stars. Whitburn tells us that the tune is a rock version of Perez Prado’s 1950 record, “Mambo No. 5.” As to the Gone All Stars, Whitburn says they were studio musicians led by black sax player Buddy Lucas. (Lucas’ entry at Wikipedia includes a brief and incomplete listing of his work as a leader and sideman from the years 1952 to 1976 and also offers the thought that Lucas was “possibly more famous for his session work on harmonica.”) The record was released on the Gone label – as were at least one other single and an EP by the group – and for me, the fact that the group was seemingly named for the label takes some of the Fifties-era hipness out of the group’s name.

Saturday Single No. 524

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

It’s been a while since we looked at the book that offers the weekly Top Ten album charts from Billboard. So here’s the Top Ten from this week in 1972, forty-five years ago:

American Pie by Don McClean
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Music by Carole King
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
Led Zeppelin IV (untitled)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Wild Life by Wings

During that distant week, three of those albums would have been in the box next to the stereo in our basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard. The Concert for Bangla Desh was there, as I’d gotten it for Christmas just weeks earlier. And my sister had copies of Tapestry and the Cat Stevens album. She did, however, take them with her when she got married, so by August of that year, the only one of those albums in the house was the massive concert document.

Over the years, all but one of the other nine made their ways to my shelves, but it took some time to get started and to finish:

American Pie, February 1989
Madman Across The Water, February 1989
Chicago at Carnegie Hall, February 1989 & June 1990
Led Zeppelin IV, March 1989
There’s A Riot Goin’ On, September 1989
Teaser & The Firecat, November 1995
Music, November 1998
Tapestry, November 1998

(Two notes: I have never owned a copy of Wild Life, and by the time I got around to the four-LP Chicago album, it was being offered as two sets of two LPs each.)

I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from that timeline, but the question that popped into my head as I pulled that listing together was: Are any of those albums essential listening for me in 2017?

Well, making that question hard to answer is the fact that the way we listen to music in 2017 is far different than the way it was back in 1972. We have playlists in our devices, pulling individual tracks from disparate sources. It’s a rare thing, I think, for us to listen to an album – whether current or from our youths – from start to finish. I try to do that in the car at least once a week, popping a CD in and letting it roll from the first track through the last; since it generally takes several trips to get through a CD, it’s not quite the same, but it’s a close approximation, I think.

As it happens, one of the two albums that I heard in the car this week was The Concert for Bangla Desh. It was as enjoyable this week as it was during January of 1972, and I made a mental note to see how much of its music I have among the 3,700 tracks in the iPod. As it turns out, I had pulled only four tracks from that album into the device: Leon Russell’s medley of “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Young Blood,” Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It” and George Harrison’s performances of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Bangla Desh.”

So I guess I could say that those four are the essential tracks from that album, and maybe we should alter our question, asking instead: Which of those albums in that long ago Top Ten have tracks that are, based on the contents of the iPod, still essential to me today?

Well, almost all of them. Tapestry leads the way with six tracks in the iPod, and there are three from Music. The device has four tracks from the Led Zeppelin album, and I’ve pulled two each from the Don McLean, Elton John and Cat Stevens albums. Which leaves unrepresented from that January 1972 Top Ten the albums by Chicago and Sly & The Family Stone, meaning that – approaching our question from the other end – those two albums have for me nothing essential.

None of that accounting is surprising, of course (except maybe that four of the Zep tracks landed in the iPod). But it tells me that there twenty-three tracks that I evidently see as essential from those albums in that January 1972 Top Ten. And here’s the one that back in 1972, I would have deemed least likely to be among my essential listening. It’s “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.