Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

A Quick Look at No. 100 (July 1970)

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Having been sidetracked by household duties this morning, I was going to let things slide here, but I nevertheless took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of July 1970, fifty years ago.

And, as I do, I took a quick look at No. 100, and I was startled to see “Eve Of Destruction” by the Turtles. Really? In 1970?

I mean, the world wasn’t puppies and roses in 1970 by any measure, but Barry McGuire’s No. 1 hit with the song came in 1965, and five years in pop music and radio terms is an eternity. And things got even more strange when I looked at versions of the song at Second Hand Songs because the Turtles were among the first to record the song in 1965.

The website lists songs by release and lists McGuire’s version as the first released in August 1965. Then comes P.F. Sloan in September, and in October, the Turtles’ version came out on their It Ain’t Me, Babe album (as did a version by a Danish group called Sir Henry & His Butlers).

So the question hangs in the air: Why release an album track from 1965 as a single in 1970, especially of such a topical (and idiosyncratic) song? Whatever the reason was, it didn’t work, as the record spent two weeks at No. 100 and then sank from sight. (It was the Turtles’ last record to hit the Hot 100. In November 1970, “Me About You” bubbled under for three weeks, peaking at No. 105).

Here’s the Turtles’ “Eve Of Destruction.”

And I’m going to offer here the heavily accented cover from 1965 by Sir Henry & His Butlers. I’m especially amused by the enunciation of the letter “v” with a “w” sound (“wiolence” and “woting” instead of “violence” and “voting”). It reminds me of life with my host family in Denmark; during the autumn of 1973, my host mother Oda would see me reading the International Herald-Tribune on Tuesdays and – knowing of my interest in Minnesota’s professional football team – would ask me, “How did the Wikings do this week?”

Four At Random

Friday, May 15th, 2020

We’re wandering through iTunes today, landing on four of the 3,900-some tracks I keep there and on my iPod.

First up is “I Want Candy” by the Strangeloves. The Strangeloves were a goof perpetuated in 1965 by Brill Building writers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gotterher. As Dave Marsh notes in The Heart of Rock ’n’ Soul, they decided in the wake of the British Invasion that “if the public wasn’t interested in domestic acts, they’d reinvent themselves as foreigners.” So they became the Australian brothers Miles, Giles, and Niles Strangelove, claiming to “have taken their rhythmic ideas from aborigines and to have added Masai drums after hearing them while on an African safari. The goof worked, with the Masai drums – actually tympani – helping “I Want Candy” to get to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

We jump ahead to 2019 and “Moonlight Motel,” the most effective track on Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars:

There’s a place on a blank stretch of road where
Nobody travels and nobody goes
And the Deskman says these days ’round here
Two young folks could probably up and disappear into
Rustlin’ sheets, a sleepy corner room
Into the musty smell
Of wilted flowers and
Lazy afternoon hours
At the Moonlight Motel . . .

Last night I dreamed of you, my lover
And the wind blew through the window and blew off the covers
Of my lonely bed,
I woke to something you said
That it’s better to have loved, yeah it’s better to have loved
As I drove, there was a chill in the breeze
And leaves tumbled from the sky and fell
Onto a road so black as I backtracked
To the Moonlight Motel

She was boarded up and gone like an old summer song
Nothing but an empty shell
I pulled in and stopped into my old spot

I pulled a bottle of Jack out of a paper bag
Poured one for me and one for you as well
Then it was one more shot poured out onto the parking lot
To the Moonlight Motel

As regulars here know, I love Springsteen’s work, but I have to admit that most of Western Stars left me unaffected, its subdued mood not really grabbing me. It held together thematically, but most of the tracks were just okay. I did, however, think that “Moonlight Motel” worked, and worked well.

Great Speckled Bird was a Canadian county band put together in 1969 by folk performers Ian and Sylvia Tyson. Named after the 1938 recording by Roy Acuff, the group released a self-titled album in 1970, You Were On My Mind in 1972 (billed as Ian & Sylvia & The Great Speckled Bird), and was credited on Ian Tyson’s 1973 album, Ol’ Eon. Wikipedia notes that the band continued to back the duo until their break-up in 1975. What we get this morning is a track from the 1970 album, “Long Long Time To Get Old.” The song is a series of vignettes, most of which end with the advice, “Remember this, children: If the good lord’s willing, live a long, long time to get old.” I guess it sounded profound in 1970.

Our final stop brings us one of those sappy things that I carry close to me and always will: “Somewhere My Love (Lara’s Theme from ‘Dr. Zhivago’)” by Ray Conniff & The Singers. The 1966 single went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks on top of the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. I heard it, no doubt, on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on KFAM from St. Cloud’s south side, and it became one of my favorite records from the mid-1960s. The song itself is also one of my favorites: there are twenty versions of the tune on the digital shelves by performers like Roger Williams, Ramsey Lewis, Ferrante & Teicher, along with – of course – the Conniff version and several versions by Maurice Jarre, who wrote the soundtrack for the film.

Saturday Single No. 688

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

I woke this morning to the sad news that Little Richard has died. The cause was cancer, said his son, Danny Jones Penniman, in the Rolling Stone report.

That report covers Richard Penniman’s career and influence better than I can, so I’ll leave that alone. I’ll note that in a long ago (and long abandoned) book and website project with a friend, we tabbed Little Richard as one of the five biggest trees from which the rock ’n’ roll forest descended.

(The other four, for what it matters, were Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Fats Domino. I think we likely nailed it, with the possible exception of Bo Diddley, unless one wants to go further back into late 1940s and early 1950s jump blues and R&B.)

Anyway, I’ve never said much about Little Richard here, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written some about his 1970s comeback albums on Reprise and his stuff has popped up occasionally in random draws. But as much as I respect his influence, for some reason, he’s never seemed central to my musical universe.

And the LP and CD shelves over the years have reflected that: A few hits packages and a two-CD re-release of those Reprise albums from the 1970s. That’s a pretty sparse – if stellar – collection of one of the founding fathers of the music I love. All I can say is that when pop-rock music grabbed me in 1969 and I began to explore its different roads, none of those early explorations brought me to Little Richard.

The closest I came was through Delaney & Bonnie and their 1970 album To Bonnie From Delaney, which came to me in late 1972. I recall reading through the notes as the record played and noticing that Little Richard supplied the piano on the second track on the second side, a cover (I now know) of his own 1956 record “Miss Ann.” At that point, being nineteen and still catching up, I knew his name but had heard little, if any, of his work.

So I sat there on our green couch in the rec room and listened as Little Richard proceeded to rip it up. That memory means that “Miss Ann” by Delaney & Bonnie – with Little Richard on piano – is today’s Saturday Single.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago (May 1970)

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’ll head back to the last month of my junior year of high school, a time I recall as being among the best musical seasons of my life. (As to the other aspects of my life, well, I was sixteen and learning.)

Here’s the Top Ten from Billboard for the second week in May 1970:

“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Vehicle” by the Ides Of March
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Love Or Let Me Be Lonely” by the Friends Of Distinction
“Everything Is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by John Ono Lennon
“Turn Back The Hands Of Time” by Tyrone Davis
“Reflections Of My Life” by Marmalade

There’s no way I can critically assess most of those eleven records. They were my afternoon and evening companions during that long-ago spring. Ray Stevens’ record would elicit a groan when it came through the radio speakers, but the others were always welcome.

My rankings at the time would have put the records by the Friends Of Distinction and Tyrone Davis in ninth and tenth place, and they might have deserved better, being fine pieces of pop soul, a genre that wasn’t really in my wheelhouse back then. Even today, the best either one of them could do is sixth place, behind “Let It Be,” “Instant Karma,” “Spirit In The Sky,” “Reflections Of My Life,” and “Vehicle.”

I should note that the version of “Let It Be” I heard on the radio was the version produced by George Martin, and I was startled not long after this Top Ten came out when I bought the Let It Be album and heard the very different version Phil Spector came up with when he produced the album. Fifty years later, I still prefer the single version (though Spector’s version is not nearly as jarring now as it was then).

I think I’ve made reference over the years here to the three-day performing and touring trip by the St. Cloud Tech Concert Choir in the spring of 1970. Somebody brought a radio, and I’m certain we heard all eleven of those records. I specifically recall two of them – “Spirit In The Sky” and “Instant Karma” – competing with the conversation and laughter of about sixty high school seniors and juniors as we headed through the Minnesota night toward the Canadian border and the city of Winnipeg.

So those records are part of my musical DNA, and I’d guess that ten of them are in the iPod and thus are still part of my day-to-day listening. And I’m right. The only record of the eleven in that list at the top of the page that is not in the iPod is the Ray Stevens record. I imagine that somewhere from the years 1969 through 1972, I could find a Top Ten that’s an iPod sweep, but until that shows up, ten out of eleven is pretty damned good.

But what about our other business this morning? What do we find when we drop to No. 50? Well, we find a record that’s not on any of the shelves here: “Chicken Strut” by the Meters. So all we can do is note that the record went no higher, and then listen . . . and cluck.

Fifty Years

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Four dead in Ohio, May 4, 1970:

Allison Krause
Jeffery Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

“Ohio” by the Assembled Multitude

‘I Would Be In Love (Anyway)’

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Here’s what the top ten looked like on the Billboard Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week, the first week of April in 1970, one of my best-remembered years for music:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Easy Come Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman
“Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Temma Harbour” by Mary Hopkin
“I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” by Frank Sinatra
“Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton
“Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks
“All I Have To Do Is Dream” by Bobbie Gentry & Glenn Campbell
“Brighton Hill” by Jackie DeShannon

Well, six of those I know well, and I clearly remember five of them – the top four and the Brook Benton single – coming out of my old RCA radio during spring evenings in my room. The Gentry/Campbell duet is not as memorable, though I know I heard it.

“Temma Harbour” is one I don’t recall from fifty years ago; I don’t believe I heard it until about ten years ago when I was tipped to it in a comment here by reader David Lenander. I have vague memories of the Michael Parks record, but those memories don’t say “1970” in any way, which tells me I rarely heard it then. And the DeShannon record rings no bells at all, even though I can tell from the visual in the YouTube video that for years, the LP from which it came was in the vinyl stacks.

And then there’s the Sinatra record:

If I lived the past over, saw today from yesterday
I would be in love anyway
If I knew that you’d leave me, if I knew you wouldn’t stay
I would be in love anyway

Sometimes I think, think about before
Sometime I think, if I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

Though you’ll never be with me, and there are no words to say
I’ll still be in love anyway

If I knew then what I know now,
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

If I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

The single came from Sinatra’s Watertown album, a work I mentioned thirteen years ago:

Watertown [is] a song cycle that’s one of the more idiosyncratic recordings of Sinatra’s long career. The songs on Watertown came from Bob Gaudio – writer of many of the Four Seasons’ hits – and Jake Holmes, the singer-songwriter/folk-rocker who was also the composer of “Dazed & Confused,” which Led Zeppelin appropriated as its own work. The album is, as All-Music Guide notes, Sinatra’s “most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop.” It’s also a rather depressing piece of work, as the mood throughout is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.

And as I listened to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” this morning, I recognized the tale Sinatra was telling. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I spent some time in that same bleak emotional place. Eventually (and thankfully), I moved on.

I remember frequently seeing the LP in cutout bins in the early 1970s and in the “Sinatra” bins at used record stores in the 1990s. Even though my buying in the 1990s was pretty indiscriminate, for some reason I never brought Watertown home with me. Somewhere along the line, I acquired a digital copy of the album from which I made the above judgment that its mood “is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.” I may take time to again listen closely to the album one of these days, but I’m not sure I need the downer.

As to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway),” it peaked on the Easy Listening chart at No. 4 but got only to No. 88 on the Hot 100. Watertown went to No. 101 on the magazine’s album chart.

Saturday Single No. 682

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

The blank space on the computer screen has been mocking me for about an hour. At least five times, I’ve typed something, looked at it, and then deleted it. For some reason – perhaps because of the madness beyond our walls, perhaps because of a weariness that seems to have found its home in me overnight – I have nothing to say this morning.

Here’s Fotheringay’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Too Much Of Nothing.” It’s from the group’s self-titled 1970 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

How Many Clarences?

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I was checking the date of an entry in Clarence Clemons’ discography this morning, so I entered “Clarence” in the search box of the RealPlayer and clicked. And as the program searched, I wondered exactly how many tracks I have by people named Clarence.

It turns out to be seventy.

Almost half of those tracks – twenty-nine – are from Clemons, including three albums: Rescue with the Red Bank Rockers (1983), Hero (1985), and A Night With Mr. C (1989). One track from Rescue – “Savin’ Up” – is duplicated on the 1997 album One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen, and there are single tracks from the soundtrack to the 1985 movie Porky’s Revenge! (“Peter Gunn Theme”) and from the live album that came out of the 1989 tour of Ringo Starr’s first All-Starr Band (“Quarter To Three”).

But there are other Clarences as well, like R&B singer Clarence Carter. He shows up seventeen times, represented by the 1969 album The Dynamic Clarence Carter and some singles on the Fame and Atlantic labels. Those singles include his two biggest hits, “Slip Away” (1968), which went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and “Patches” (1970), which went to No. 4 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the R&B chart. There’s also a 1969 single, “Snatching It Back,” which peaked at No. 31 on the pop chart and went to No. 4 on the R&B chart, and a duplicate of “Road Of Love” from the Dynamic album because the track also shows up on the first Duane Allman anthology (1972).

Clarence Williams, a jazz pianist, shows up with his Blue Five on four tracks from the 1920s. He and his group backed Sippie Wallace on “Baby, I Can’t Use You No More” (1924), Eve Taylor on “Papa De-Da-Da” (1925), and Ethel Waters on “Get Up Off Your Knees” (1928). And there’s a 1925 recording of Williams and His Blue Five (including Louis Armstrong on cornet) performing “Cake Walking Babies (From Home).”

Fiddler Clarence “Tom” Ashley shows up five times in the late 1920s and early 1930s, performing “Coo Coo Bird,” “Dark Holler Blues,” “House Carpenter,” “My Sweet Farm Girl,” and “Corrina, Corrina.”

There are four tracks from Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, one from 1955 (“Rock My Blues Away”) and three from tribute albums from the late 1990s and early 2000s. On those tracks, the venerable blues and R&B singer takes on Led Zeppelin’s “Rock ’n’ Roll,” the Rolling Stones’ “Ventilator Blues,” and Robert Johnson’s “When You Got A Good Friend.”

I’ve also got a couple of tracks from Clarence “Frogman” Henry: the well-known “Ain’t Got No Home” (1956) and “The Lady With The Hat Box” (1957).

Then there are Clarences I don’t know well who have managed to sneak into the digital stacks: Clarence Garlow, Clarence Reid, Clarence Samuels, Clarence Palmer (with the Jive Bombers), and the duo of Clarence & Calvin.

And somewhere, I ran across the track “Right On” by Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers. It’s from the group’s 1970 album, Doin’ What We Wanna. I found it on the 2006 four-disc set What It Is! Funky Soul & Rare Grooves, and it’s a good workout for a Friday:

‘Sunrise’

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

I’m up early enough this morning to look through the window near my desk and see the sun just beginning to rise above the welter of branches on the eastern end of the block. This calls, of course, for an investigation into how many times the word “sunrise” shows up among the 79,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer.

The answer is forty-four, but as usual, some of the tracks that show up must be winnowed out, like both sides of a 1968 single by the group The Sunrise Highway and four releases on the Sunrise label from 1929 and 1930: “I’m Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes” by the Carter Family, “New Chattanooga Blues” by the Allen Brothers and two by Joe Stone, “It’s Hard Time” and “Back Door Blues.” We also lose a version of “Lonesome Blues” that Bob Dylan recorded on February 1, 2002, in Sunrise, Florida.

But that leaves us with plenty of tracks to mess around with as the sun climbs higher through the branches down the block, and we’ll look at a few of them. There are numerous duplicates to ponder. For example, there are four versions of “Blues Before Sunrise,” one each from Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton and B.B. King. We’ll pass on all of them.

There are also two versions each of the Broadway tune “Sunrise, Sunset” (from Ferrante & Teicher and John Gary) and the big band standard “Sunrise Serenade (a 1939 version by Glenn Miller and a 1944 cover by Frankie Carle, who originally wrote the melody for the song). We’ll come back to one of those later.

We also find nine tracks titled just “Sunrise,” and we’ll highlight just one of them, the one found on the Grateful Dead’s 1977 album Terrapin Station. It’s notable because it was written and sung by Donna Godchaux, wife of Dead pianist Keith Godchaux. The song has been acknowledged, says Wikipedia, “as a tribute to the band’s recently deceased road manager, Rex Jackson.”

John Gary was a 1960s vocalist whose name rings louder in my memory than it does in the singles charts. He has two records listed in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: “Soon I’ll Wed My Love” went to No. 89 in the Hot 100 in 1964 and “Don’t Throw The Roses Away” bubbled under at No. 132 in 1965. They both hit the magazine’s Easy Listening chart as well, reaching Nos. 19 and 21, respectively, and Gary had three other records in that chart during the Sixties: “Don’t Let The Music Play” (No. 24 in 1966), “Everybody Say Peace” (No. 10 in 1967), and “Cold,” which reached the chart in November 1967 and later was No. 1 for two weeks.

But I recall Gary’s name, I think, from the promotional Christmas albums that my dad brought home from the tire stores in many 1960s Decembers. We had none of Gary’s own albums – he had fourteen of them reach the Billboard 200 between 1963 and 1969 – in the house on Kilian Boulevard, so I’m not sure how I would have otherwise known his name back then. Our focus this morning is on his take on “Sunrise, Sunset” from the 1964 musical Fiddler On The Roof. The song was overwhelmingly present in the mid- to late-1960s, and it’s been some time since I’ve actually listened to it. Gary’s version was released as a single on RCA Victor in 1964, and is quite nice.

Gothic Horizon was the British folk duo of Andy Desmond and Richard Garrett from Hertfordshire. Discogs.com calls the group’s output “bright and breezy folk music.” The first of the duo’s two albums – The Jason Lodge Poetry Book – somehow ended on the digital shelves here, no doubt courtesy of a blog offering, and it’s on that 1970 album that we find the delicate-to-the-point-of-being-fey “Wilhelmina Before Sunrise.” I do have a fondness for pale Britfolk of that era, and “Wilhelmina Before Sunrise” falls nicely into that niche.

Survey Digging (February 1970)

Friday, February 21st, 2020

We’re going to knock around in 1970 again this morning, as it’s been about seven weeks since we looked at a KDWB survey from that year, now a half-century in the past. Here’s the top twelve from the station’s “6+30” survey from February 23, 1970:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies
“No Time” by the Guess Who
“Ma Belle Amie” by the Tee Set
“Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)/Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & TheFamily Stone
“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
‘Honey Come Back” by Glen Campbell
“Walk A Mile In My Shoes” by Joe South
“Walkin’ In The Rain” by Jay & The Americans
“Arizona” by Mark Lindsay
“Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You)” by Lulu

There are a few memories there. The Lulu record is, as readers might recall, tied to my romantic ambitions of the time, and the Guess Who record – as I noted here about three weeks ago – is tied to a trip to see a Minnesota North Stars hockey game.

The thing that comes back when I ponder “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is my purchasing in early February the sheet music for the Paul Simon-penned song and working to master Larry Knechtel’s brilliant piano arrangement. (I became fairly proficient at it, a proficiency I am attempting to resurrect fifty years later, so my young vocalist friend from church and I can perform it some Sunday. It goes slowly.)

Then, there was a classmate named Jill, who sat near me in French class. In the fall, she would be heading off to St. Cloud Apollo, the city’s new high school, while I would remain at St. Cloud Tech. That spring, she signed my yearbook by quoting the Tee Set’s record: “Ma belle amie! Apres tous les beaux jours je te dis ‘merci, merci!’” (I next saw her twenty years later when she played the role of waitress Trudy Chelgren on the television series Twin Peaks.)

The other eleven entries from the top of KDWB’s “6+30” for that week are just records I heard on the radio. Some I liked a great deal – the records by the Hollies and by Mark Lindsay fall there – and others were just okay, like the A-side of the Sly & The Family Stone record (I did love the B-side) and the Glen Campbell record.

In other words, that was a good hour’s worth of listening. So I ask, as I tend to do, how many of those seventeen records matter fifty years later?

Well, fourteen of those seventeen records are in the iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening. The absentees? “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” “Honey Come Back,” and “Walkin’ In The Rain.” And I see no need to add them.

So what was at the bottom of that long-ago survey? At No. 36, we find “Take A Look Around” by the group Smith, the follow-up to the hit “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 1 on KDWB in November 1969. “Take A Look Around” didn’t fare as well, peaking at No. 22 on KDWB’s last survey of March 1970.

(Nationally, the pattern followed: “Baby It’s You” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Take A Look Around” got to No. 43.)

Here’s “Take A Look Around.” It’s a decent record.