Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

Saturday Single No. 720

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

As it often does as I sit here on the seventh day of the week, the tune “Come Saturday Morning” popped into my head today.

Written for the 1969 film The Sterile Cuckoo, the song was first recorded by the film’s star, Liza Minelli, as the title track of an album released in February 1969, according to Second Hand Songs. The film came out in October 1969, and it was the Sandpipers’ cover of the song that was used on the film’s soundtrack and released as a single. The record went to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 8 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Other covers followed, of course, and a few of them have ended up on the digital shelves here, by artists like Joe Reisman & His Orchestra & Chorus, the Fifty Guitars Of Tommy Garrett, the Mystic Moods Orchestra, and Mark Lindsay, one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Other familiar names show up on the list of covers at Second Hand Songs with Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Patti Page, Robert Goulet, Ray Conniff and Scott Walker found among the vocal list, and artists like Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Peter Nero, Roger Williams, and Jackie Gleason listed among the instrumental covers of the song. The most recent of all of those was Walker’s take on the song, which came in 1972, and more followed.

Only five of the thirty-eight versions of the song listed at SHS have been released later than 1974: Vocal versions by Charles Tichenor (1996) and a female vocalist called Rumer (2010), and instrumentals by the Keith McDonald Trio (1986), Jim Hudak (2000), and the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra (also 2000).

So there are lots of versions to sample and choose from. But I’m going to take the easy way out and find Peter Nero’s version of the tune because he’s one of the very few artists I’ve written about who has left a note here. (He responded a few years ago to a post about “The Summer Knows,” the theme from the movie Summer of ’42.) Nero’s version of “Come Saturday Morning” is from his 1970 album I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

As The Year Ends

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

I’m overwhelmed again, as this awful year lurches to its ending. I don’t know how much better 2021 will be, but one has to hope for something at least a little bit better. My level of optimism shifts from one day to the next, and it’s quite low this morning.

As I’ve struggled with stuff this week, I keep reminding myself that the Texas Gal and I are lucky. We’re safe, warm and dry, and we are not dependent on jobs for our income, having both retired. So many have it so much worse than we do that I feel a bit churlish nattering on about my dismay.

So I’ll be back tomorrow and in a better mood, one would hope. Here’s “Things Get Better,” the opening track from Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’ 1970 live album On Tour With Eric Clapton.

Some Bits Left Out

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

We took a couple of hours the other day to catch up on the HBO documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. We enjoyed the music and the memories, learned a bit more about how the Brothers Gibb put together their sound, and – for my part, anyway – felt more than a little bit sad for Barry, the last surviving Gibb brother, as he talked about his memories of fellow Bee Gees Maurice and Robin and their kid brother, Andy.

Over the years, I’ve said something like “There are three parts to the arc of the Bee Gees’ career,” citing the Beatlesque phase of the mid- to late 1960s (covering the period from their first album and hits to 1969’s Odessa), the “pulling-it-back-together” phase from 1970 through 1974, and the disco/megastar phase from 1975 to 1980.

Probably over-simple, and I kind of missed one: The songwriting and production phase, which overlaps the last of my three phases. From 1978 on, the Brothers Gibb wrote and produced hits for so many folks that any hour on the radio was going to bring you two or three records with the Bee Gees’ fingerprints on them, stuff by Samantha Sang, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, and so many more (including brother Andy).

What I thought was just as interesting as the stuff the documentary reminded me about was the stuff that it left out entirely. There was no mention of the 1978 film version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, an utter failure that featured Peter Frampton as well as the Bee Gees. (The best – and kindest – reaction I’ve ever read about the mess came from Beatle George Harrison: “I think it’s damaged their images, their careers, and they didn’t need to do that. It’s just like the Beatles trying to do the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones can do it better.”)

And there was at most a veiled mention of the period in 1969 and 1970 when the group split, with Robin Gibb trying out a solo career. No mention of Robin’s album Robin’s Reign or the album that Barry and Maurice put out at the same time, Cucumber Castle (a title taken from a track on the 1967 album The Bee Gee’s 1st). Neither of the two albums is very good, though I think Robin’s is the lesser of the two. On the other hand, that opinion might stem from the fact that I’d never heard Robin’s Reign until I found it online ca. 2007, while I first heard Cucumber Castle across the street at Rick’s in 1970 (and it made its way onto my shelves in 1989).

Given those caveats, the HBO film was well done and pleasant watching (and listening). I was especially tickled to learn that Barry’s falsetto – the group’s secret weapon during the period when they owned the world – was discovered pretty much by accident while recording “Nights On Broadway” for Main Course (which happens to be my favorite Bee Gees’ album).

Here, from 1970’s Cucumber Castle, is the quirky “My Thing.”

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Friday, December 4th, 2020

We’ve not bounced around in 1972 lately, so it’s likely a good time to see what folks were listening to in early December of that year, at least as reflected in the top section of the Billboard Hot 100. And we’ll play a game of Symmetry, heading down the chart to see what was sitting at No. 48 during that late autumn forty-eight years ago.

It was my second autumn as a student at St. Cloud State (because of a couple of failed courses a year earlier, I wasn’t technically a sophomore), and it was an unmemorable time. The friendships that has sustained me through my first year of college had faded away, and I was pretty much on my own. I hung around with some folks from a speech class that fall quarter, but I never quite fit there, either. And I wasn’t dating anyone, nor were there any candidates in sight.

I was exploring musically, having finished my Beatles collection in August. Some record club purchases brought me albums by the Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones and Mountain, and those sounds filled the basement rec room many evenings as I played a Sports Illustrated tabletop football game by myself.

And I still listened to the radio in my bedroom and in the car, so the records in the Top Ten forty-eight years ago (as reported by Billboard on December 9, 1972) were likely familiar:

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Ventura Highway” by America
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics

That’s pretty heavy on the soul/R&B side of the ledger, with a couple of southern California records (stylistically as well as literally), one piece of fluff (“Clair”) and one record – the Helen Reddy – that’s sui generis. And nine of the ten are as familiar as was the interior of my 1961 Falcon, which I’d inherited that summer from my sister.

The one record not familiar by title is the Al Green, which I recalled after a quick listen; I don’t know that I heard it often, and I certainly haven’t heard it as much over the years as I’ve heard “Call Me (Come Back Home),” “Tired Of Being Alone” and “I’m Still In Love With You.”

So, here’s the question we almost always ask when we look at a Billboard Top Ten: Do those records matter now? And we find the answer to that question by seeing if they’re among the 2,700 or so tracks in my iPod.

And I find four of those ten: The records by Nash, Paul, Hammond and the Stylistics. I might add “Ventura Highway,” but the others that I recall – as I ponder them this morning – carry a sense of sorrow. (Well, not “I Am Woman,” but as I noted above, that’s one of a kind.) I was not happy during the latter months of 1972, and nearly a half-century later, that unhappiness seems to be still attached to some of that era’s music.

But what of our other business here? What do we find when we move further down that Hot 100 to No. 48? Well, we come across a record I knew well at the time, one that I heard from an album that took its place between the Moody Blues, Mountain, the Beatles and the rest as I pondered third down and three in the basement rec room: “Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton.

The track came from Clapton’s first solo album, a self-titled effort released in 1970, and was released as a single in 1972, I think, because of its inclusion that year in the two-LP Polydor release Clapton At His Best (which is where I found it). We’ve caught it here at the peak of its thirteen-week stay on the Hot 100. And whether you count it as forty-eight years or fifty years, the track – co-written by Clapton and Bonnie Bramlett – is still a brilliant piece of work.

 

‘Jerusalem’?

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Here’s what topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the November 28, 1970, edition, fifty years ago this week:

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Elvis Presley
“It’s Impossible” by Perry Como
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by Neil Diamond
“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand
“Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“One Less Bell To Answer” by the 5th Dimension
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor
“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” by Mark Lindsay

I knew seven of these well at the time, and I like six of those seven. (The Presley record never worked for me.) But three records stand out. We’ll start at No. 10, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5.

I don’t recall hearing the record fifty years ago, which makes sense, as it only went to No. 44 on the Hot 100. If I did hear it, it wasn’t often enough for it to sink into my memory, which it likely would have with repeated hearings, as it’s my kind of record. After all, I liked Lindsay’s more popular records of the time, “Arizona” (No. 10 on the Hot 100 and No. 16, Easy Listening) and “Silver Bird” (Nos. 25 and 7, respectively).

Then, there’s Diamond’s cover of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” pulled from his album Tap Root Manuscript. When I first heard it across the street at Rick’s, I wasn’t impressed, probably because I thought it was kind of limp when compared to the Hollies’ version from the previous winter. Did I hear it on the radio? I might have, as it went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart, right where we found it). But compared to “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “I Am . . . I Said,” Diamond’s singles that both went to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart (and to Nos. 1 and 4 on the Hot 100) around the same time, it’s kind of lame.

Finally, until this morning, I’d never heard of “Jerusalem” by Herb Alpert and his gang, much less heard it, as far as I know. All I can say is that it’s pleasant and vaguely familiar. And, I guess, that being the owner of the record company – as Alpert was – allows you to release whatever you want; the record doesn’t sound like single material to me. But it worked, at least on the Easy Listening chart, where we found it at its peak at No. 6. On the Hot 100, “Jerusalem” stalled at No. 74. (By that time, Alpert was having much more success on the Easy Listening chart than on the pop chart. We might take a look at that another time.)

Anyway, here’s “Jerusalem.”

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, November 20th, 2020

We’re playing Symmetry today, checking out the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1970. We’ll look at the top five and then see what was hanging on the hook at No. 50 fifty years ago.

Here’s the top five from the Hot 100 as of November 21, 1970:

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears Of A Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor

I don’t think I was particularly thrilled by that set of five records fifty years ago, as my senior year of high school was sliding by. I noted earlier this week that at the time I thought “I Think I Love You” was a little too poppy but that I admire its craft now.

One of the best things about the records we love is that they connect with us emotionally, tie in somehow to what we’re feeling at the time they come along. Over the fifty years that I’ve been seriously listening to and thinking about music, there are no doubt hundreds of records with which I’ve connected emotionally.

None of these five are among those hundreds of records.

They’re fine records all, but not one of them has ever meant anything to me. (There is that one fleeting memory of hearing the Partridge Family record during a long-ago date, but that’s it.) Even James Taylor’s classic, ushering in (kind of, sort of, maybe) the era of the singer-songwriter (a genre I loved then and still love) has no emotional resonance for me.

I would guess it’s one of the few times that would happen during the years of my so-called sweet spot, running from the late summer of 1969 to the late autumn of 1975. Four of the five – all except “I’ll Be There” – are in the iPod and thus are a part of my day-to-day listening, but the prospect of deleting them would bring no distress (except, and this make sense, a slight bit of regret at losing “I Think I Love You”).

But what do we find when we get to our other business this morning? What was at No. 50 during the third week of November 1970?

We find the record that in a very few weeks would become Neil Young’s first Top 40 hit: “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Pulled from the stellar album After The Gold Rush, the record had been No. 60 a week earlier and would rise to No. 33. It’s a good record. (For what it matters, it’s not in the iPod either, though maybe it should be.)

‘From Nowhere Through A Caravan . . .’

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

I took a glance this morning at what I was likely hearing on the radio fifty years ago, checking out the “6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from November 23, 1970, and found no real surprises.

The No. 1 record was “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family, a record I suspected of having bubblegum tendencies at the time but which I now admire as being a great piece of craft (as well as being the trigger for several memories that have become far less bitter and far more sweet with the passage of half a century.)

Sitting at No. 2 was Brian Hyland’s “Gypsy Woman,” a record I remember well without putting any real heft on it, which means that no young lady danced around a campfire for me during that long ago November (or any other time, to be honest). It was an okay record:

Hyland’s record would go no higher at KDWB. In the Billboard Hot 100, it would get to No. 3. What I didn’t know at the time, of course, was that it was a cover of the Impressions’ 1961 original, a record that went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart. It was, also, a better version of the song:

The website Second Hand Songs lists thirty-four other versions of the song, ranging from a cover by Major Lance in 1964 to a 2017 version by the Isley Brothers and Santana on an album titled Power Of Peace. In between came versions by a lot of folks whose names I recognize as well as by folks unknown to me. I checked out versions by Ry Cooder, Bobby Womack, Santana, Bruce Springsteen and more and was unmoved.

The only cover I heard that I really liked was the version by Santana and the Isleys, an atmospheric take on the song:

One At Random

Thursday, November 5th, 2020

I thought that today, I’d dig into the larger universe of digital files I keep stacked in the RealPlayer and see what mischief we can find in one click. We’ll set the cursor in the middle of the column of 81,141 tracks and go from there, with no filters for weirdness, except that tracks shorter than a minute will be ignored.

And we land on “Don’t Talk Now,” a bluesy, earthy track by a group called Brethren. Discogs tells me that it’s the second track on the group’s first, self-titled release, a 1970 album that was followed by one more release, 1971’s Moment Of Truth. The folks at AllMusic classify the group’s rough-edged sound as “psychedelic/garage” pop rock, and that might be about right. Alternatively, it’s just as easy to say that the group’s members had likely been listening a lot to The Band.

I don’t have the second album in the stacks, and I have no idea where the first one came from, likely from a blog around ten to fifteen years ago.

According to the blog johnkatzatmc5, Brethren was from New York, and its members moved into session work after the group’s two albums came out. The first, self-titled, album, the blog says, is notable for liner notes written by Dr. John, who added some keyboard work as well. The blog notes, “The band was: Tom Cosgrove (guitar, vocals and percussion), Mike Garson (keyboards, composer), Rick Marotta (drums) and Stu Woods (bass, clavinet, vocals). Next to Dr. John, Rusty Young of Poco played steel pedal.”

The group has a home page at YouTube with videos for all the tracks on both albums. Some other stuff shows up there, too, maybe by groups with the same name. Brethren released one single, “Midnight Train” from the first album. It doesn’t seem to have made any dent in the charts (though I could be missing something).

Here’s “Don’t Talk Now.”

Saturday Single No. 708

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

As long as we’ve been messing around in the Billboard charts published this week in 1970, let’s look at the Top Ten in the Easy Listening chart from the edition that came out fifty years ago today:

“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“It’s Only Make Believe” by Glen Campbell
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray
“Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” by the New Seekers
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Candida” by Dawn
“Pieces Of Dreams” by Johnny Mathis
“Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band

Most of those are familiar and were so fifty years ago. I’d forgotten about the Glen Campbell and New Seekers records, and despite a stop at YouTube this morning, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Johnny Mathis single before. It turns out to be the title theme from a movie starring Lauren Hutton that I don’t recall either. I don’t really care for the record, which went no higher on the Easy Listening chart and didn’t come near the Hot 100.

I remember finding Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” on a collection sometime during the late 1980s and remembering how much I’d liked it in 1970. It went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, and I must have heard it on KDWB from the Twin Cities or maybe WJON down the around the corner.

The more interesting of the two records I’d forgotten about – “It’s Only Make Believe” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” – is the latter. It would peak at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart and get to No. 14 on the Hot 100. It was a cover of a tune by folkie Melanie, slightly retitled. (Melanie’s original version was titled “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It was originally on her 1970 album Candles In The Rain and was also released as the B-side to “The Nickel Song” in early 1972.)

Several strands are coming together in a loose pattern here. I was weeding out some unwanted tracks in iTunes the other day and spent some time thinking about the New Seekers’ medley of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me.” (It stayed.) I also spent some time the other evening sorting through videos at YouTube, looking for the long version of Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” and watching several of her performances on long-ago talk shows.

And the other day I got from our local library a CD anthology of Melanie’s hits as I pondered investing my own cash in a copy. She’s long fascinated me: I used to have seven of her LPs on the shelves – only Candles In The Rain survived the Great Sell-Off – and I wrote a lengthy post about her and Candles In The Rain during the first year of this blog’s existence.

So with all that going on, it seems as if the universe gives me no choice. Here’s the British/Australian group the New Seekers with “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” their cover of Melanie’s “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (October 1970)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Despite the concern at plowing fields already set into furrows, we’re going to play a game of Symmetry this morning and check out the record that was at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 during the first portion of October fifty years ago, in 1970.

We’ll start with a look at the top five from the Hot 100 as offered in the magazine’s October 10 edition:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent quarter-hour of listening. There might have been times over the past half-century when I would have looked askance at the Jackson 5 or Dawn singles, finding them a little bit lightweight, but these days, they’re fine. Neither one of them has been plugged into the iPod, where I find my day-to-day listening, but after this morning, they’ll be on the short list, with “Candida” a little closer to the top than “I’ll Be There.”

The Diana Ross and Free singles are in the iPod, but somehow while I was reloading the device after getting a new computer during the summer. I managed to do so without selecting any tracks by Neil Diamond. That oversight will be corrected today, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will be one of the tracks selected.

And what of our main business today? Well, sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago this week was a record that takes me back to late autumn evenings in 1970, when it was just me and my RCA radio killing time in my bedroom. Among the songs I heard that autumn was the only Top 40 hit by the English band named after its vocalist: “Yellow River” by Christie.

The record, says band leader and writer Jeff Christie, was inspired by the thoughts of a soldier going home after the American Civil War. Given the era in which it was released, with the U.S. still entangled in the Vietnam War, many listeners thought the record was about current events. On a page on his website, Christie has collected comments he’s received about the record over the years from Vietnam vets and others who lived through the times.

Fifty years ago this week, “Yellow River” was on its way to a peak of No. 23 in late November. The record also went to No. 22 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. A later single from the group, “San Bernadino,” got to No. 100 in late January 1971. (And yes, the record’s title misspelled the name of the California city.)

Here’s “Yellow River.”