Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (LPs, October 1971)

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Not long ago, we bounced around the charts from the autumn of 1970, a neat and clean fifty years ago. We’re going to move up a year to 1971, when the charts should be nearly as interesting but without that nifty round number.

We’ll start today with the Billboard 200, the album chart, and in coming days, we’ll look at the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening chart from the last week of October of 1971.  Here’s the top ten from the album chart from forty-nine years ago this week:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart (1991)
Imagine by John Lennon (1972)
Shaft by Isaac Hayes (1989)
Santana III
Tapestry by Carole King (1983)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues (1977)
Carpenters (1980)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens (1995)
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
Who’s Next (1988)

As you can see by the years listed in parentheses, nine of those ten albums eventually found places on my shelves, some early, some late. I don’t know why the Santana album never did.

And even though I only owned one of those albums at the time the chart was released – I’d gotten Ram for a high school graduation present in June 1971 – I think I’d heard portions of all of those by the end of the academic year in the spring of 1972. New music was all around me, on my radios, across the street at Rick’s, in the dorms where I hung out with my friends, and at the St. Cloud State radio station.

And at that time, I likely would have rated Ram, the Moody Blues album, and maybe Imagine as the best albums in that chart. Now? I’d likely put Tapestry at the top of the list by a good margin, then Who’s Next and the Rod Stewart album. At the bottom of that very good list would likely be the album by the Carpenters along with Imagine and Ram.

Well, let’s check out the iPod, which as much as anything reflects my current listening. Eight tracks from Tapestry are among the 2,700-some in the iPod, and so are five tracks from Ram, four from the Cat Stevens album, three each from Every Picture . . . and Every Good Boy . . ., two from the Carpenters’ album, and one from Who’s Next. John Lennon, Isaac Hayes and Santana are shut out. (And “Shaft” will be added to the device by the end of the day.)

So are there any lessons or conclusions to be drawn there? Probably not, except to acknowledge that all those college women whose copies of Tapestry I heard as I walked along dormitory hallways during my freshman year at St. Cloud State knew their stuff. (And to note that despite the glory of its title track and the decent quality of one or two other tracks, Imagine wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of folks – including me – wanted it to be.)

Having checked out the iPod, let’s go to the mid-point of the Billboard 200 from forty-nine years ago this week, and see what album sat at No. 100 during the last week of October 1971. And we find a serving of R&B courtesy of the Isley Brothers: Givin’ It Back.

The album leads off with a nine-minute medley of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’ “Machine Gun.” That’s followed by covers of James Taylor (“Fire & Rain”), Bob Dylan (“Lay, Lady, Lay”), War (“Spill The Wine”), Stephen Stills (“Love The One You’re With” and “Nothing To Do But Today”), and Bill Withers (“Cold Bologna”).

Givin’ It Back peaked at No. 71. Here’s “Love The One You’re With.”

‘New Jersey’?

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

Hoping for inspiration, I scanned the entries on KDWB’s 6+30 survey released this week in 1971, seeing lots of familiar stuff: Rod Stewart, the Carpenters, Carole King, Donny Osmond, the Stampeders, Lighthouse . . .

And then, at No. 24: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

My mind shuffled through its internal files, quickly confirming that the first hit for the pop-rock duo came in the summer of 1976, when “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” often came wafting from the ceiling speakers at St. Cloud State’s student union as I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day.

So, No. 24 at KDWB in the autumn of 1971? I must have heard it, right? I dug a little more at Oldiesloon, my source for the KDWB surveys. “New Jersey” had peaked at No. 22 during the week of October 4, 1971.

So – and this is a question that’s not at all rhetorical – how many times in a day would KDWB have played a record that peaked at No. 22? Maybe my listening hours at the time and “New Jersey” never intersected. A trip to YouTube brought me the record, but beyond its introduction’s resemblance to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” there were no memories there.

Looking for more information, I visited the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and learned that KDWB was one of only five stations that listed “New Jersey” in its surveys.

The record was hit-bound at KAFY in Bakersfield, California, during the second week of August; was listed the next week as an “Instant Preview” at KRCB in Council Bluffs, Iowa; went to No. 7 in early September at WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina; and went to No. 12 at KSPD in Boise, Idaho, near the end of September.

And it was on KDWB’s 6+30 for nine weeks, crawling from No. 35 to No. 22 in seven weeks, then sitting at No. 24 for two weeks – where we found it – before falling out of the survey.

Nationally, it did next to nothing, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 103.

Even after a couple of listenings, I don’t remember “New Jersey.” It’s got a harder edge than the stuff that would bring England Dan & John Ford Coley into the Top Ten four times during the period from 1976 to 1978. But it’s an okay record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 706

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

The trees around the condo are doing their autumnal things. From where I write, I can see some lower branches of our flowering crab; about a tenth of its leaves are yellow, and some have fallen, while the remainder are yet green (though not at all a becoming shade of green). Down the alley, the leaves on one of the maples in front of a nearby unit are turning a vivid red.

Also near that unit, another tree – this one closer to us – has only a sparse collection of yellow leaves remaining in its branches. I do not know what type of tree it is, but its part in the autumn symphony, my favorite among nature’s performances, is almost over.

I find, though, that as October approaches, bringing the midpoint of my six favorite weeks of the year, that I am not nearly as pleased this year by nature’s displays as I have been during most of the sixty-plus autumns I can remember. As I’ve noted before, the events of the world have left me unsettled.

We try here to maintain, though. We spent an enjoyable Thursday evening in the parking lot of a local dining and drinking establishment with about a hundred other folks – all groups sensibly distanced and some, at least, masked when appropriate – listening to the country band Mason Dixon Line. Two of the band’s members are acquaintances of ours, and they and their two mates did nice work on a program of covers.

It was a pleasantly cool evening, and I sat with my attention shifting from the band and a few dancers in front of me to the sky, where the moon was in its waxing quarter phase (more commonly called a half-moon) with a planet in attendance to its east. I learned later that it was Jupiter, with Saturn only a little bit farther east.

That was our first evening out since sometime in maybe early February, and given reports of a rapidly rising infection rate in Minnesota in recent weeks, likely the last for some time to come. And as I sat there in my lawn chair alternating my gaze between the stage and the sky, there was a song that kept popping into my mind, even as Mason Dixon Line offered tunes by Alabama and Alan Jackson. “Half moon,” I kept hearing. “Nighttime sky . . .”

That’s why Janis Joplin’s “Half Moon,” from her 1971 album Pearl, is today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 68?

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

I can’t resist today’s date: 8/20/2020. So we’re going to play Games With Numbers and turn those numerals into sixty-eight, and then we’ll check what was at No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 on this date during the seven years that make up my sweet spot, the years 1969 through 1975.

So, during the third week of August 1969, when the No. 1 record was “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones, what was parked at No. 68? Well, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard: “I Do” by the Moments. The R&B trio from Hackensack, New Jersey, was eight months away from breaking through with the sweet “Love On A Two-Way Street,” and “I Do” went only to No. 62 in the Hot 100 (and to No. 10 on the Billboard R&B chart). Listening this morning, it sounds shrill.

A year later, the third week of the eighth month of 1970 found Bread’s “Make It With You” at No. 1. Our target spot down the chart was occupied by a short version of one of my favorite tracks from that summer fifty years ago: A cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” by drummer Buddy Miles & The Freedom Express. The link is to the single version, which I don’t recall hearing; Rick and I heard the album track – a much better piece of work – on WJON during late evenings in his screen porch that season. We’ve caught the record at its peak; it would go no higher than No. 68.

Sitting at No. 1 forty-nine years ago this week was the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” The No. 68 record during that week in 1971 was one of the two hits I recall from my college years to feature a banjo solo: “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, a trio from Calgary, Alberta. (“Dueling Banjos” from the movie Deliverance is the other I recall; there are likely more.) The Stampeders’ record went to No. 8 in the Hot 100 and to No. 5 in the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. And you know, you can do lots worse than love and tenderness and macaroons.

On to 1972, when the No. 1 record as August 20 went past was “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by the Looking Glass (and its mention brings back radio memories as Rick, Gary and I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba). As we drove, we likely also heard the A-side of the single at No. 68 that week: “Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley. (I don’t know that I’d ever heard the B-side until today.) “Burning Love” was Presley’s last big hit in the Hot 100, as it peaked at No. 2. (He would still have Top Ten hits on the Easy Listening and Country charts.) On the Billboard Easy Listening chart, the record – with “It’s A Matter Of Time” listed as the A-side, according to Joel Whitburn’s top adult songs book – went to No. 9.

“Brother Louie” by the Stories sat atop the Hot 100 as the third week of August 1973 ended and the fourth week began. Down at our target slot that week was the title track from Alice Cooper’s current album, “Billion Dollar Babies.” I admit that I’ve listened to very little of Cooper’s work over the years, and in 1973, I was, I guess, pointedly ignoring it as gauche or something. The record had guest vocals from Donovan, but still disappointed, peaking at No. 57, considerably lower than Cooper’s last few singles.

Perched at No. 1 as the third week of August 1974 passed was “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka and Odia Coates. Hoping for better, we drop down to our target at No. 68 and find “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man)” by the Impressions, a record I do not recall and honestly doubt that I’ve ever heard until today. It’s a sweet soul/R&B side, underlaid with the social awareness that ran through much of Curtis Mayfield’s work. The record peaked at No. 17 in the Hot 100 and spent two weeks on top of the Billboard R&B chart.

Forty-five years ago this week, as August 1975 spooled out, the No. 1 record was “Fallin’ In Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. Sixty-seven spots further down the chart, we find, again, the Impressions, this time with “Sooner Or Later,” a tale of romantic consequences told with an irresistible groove. The record went no higher on the Hot 100, but went to No. 3 on the R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 700

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the only logical conclusion that comes when anyone who counts things – in any endeavor – finds the total number of things counted reaching 700.

And it has been a while. It’s taken me thirteen years and six months to reach that Ruthian number one Saturday Single at a time. (Well, there were a few weeks when I had two featured singles; call those doubleheaders.) And in the last year, as that large round number got closer and closer, I began thinking of what kind of post should accompany it.

And after dithering for a while, I decided to repeat the post that accompanied Saturday Single No. 300 in July 2012. It’s still all true, and I recall that one of my readers called it “charming.” On top of that, it’s one of my favorites among the more than 2,600 or so posts I’ve offered since 2007 – not quite 1,600 of them here and about 1,000 of them at this blog’s two previous locations. With a bit of editing, here it is:

The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.

I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.

And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”

That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.

Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.

And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – nearly sixty years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 24,000 to choose from now.

Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.

There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would.

But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.

I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life.

But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures at hand (coffee chief among them early this morning), and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is still sleeping. The cats are scattered and dozing, and my morning newspaper waits for me in the driveway. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this day, once more, the best day of my life.

And music, of course, always makes a good day better. Here’s a tune from Paul Williams that I loved the first time I heard it in 1975, hoping that someday its lyrics would describe my life. It took some time, but thanks to my Texas Gal, that’s been true now for more than twenty years. From Williams’ 1971 album, Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, here’s “I Never Had It So Good,” Saturday Single No. 700.

Dylan All Around Me

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

“I woke up this morning, there were tears on my face,” begins one of Bob Dylan’s more forgotten songs, the 1971 single “George Jackson.”

As I wrote in 2008:

George Jackson . . . was an inmate in a California state prison who became a self-educated leader and political figure during his incarceration. He wound up dead in prison during the summer of 1971 in what some called an assassination, while others seemed to think that his death was simply the unsurprising end of a life of violence and crime. Folk hero or thug? I don’t know, and the page on Jackson at Wikipedia doesn’t really resolve anything. I recall the first time I heard the record: I was sitting . . . somewhere with Rick and a radio one day, and we listened intently, as we did in those days to anything Dylan did. I don’t know if the deejay was asleep at the switch or making a statement, but the radio station didn’t bleep the line, “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” and Rick and I looked at each other, startled. “Bob Dylan lays it on the line,” said Rick, laughing. In any case, the record – which never made it to an LP back then and, as far as I know, has since been included only on three relatively obscure Dylan CD anthologies – is an audio artifact of the tail end of the odd and bitter time we now call the Sixties. I sometimes wonder if Dylan ever regrets recording and releasing the song, but I figure not: I don’t think – at least as far as his music goes – Dylan has much time for regrets.

Anyway, as I woke up this morning, there were no tears on my face, but for some reason the line “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” embedded itself in my brain not long after I wandered down the hall intent on brushing my teeth. I recognized the source of the line immediately, of course, and as I cleaned my teeth and went on into the morning, I wondered how often Dylan pops up, unsought, in my life.

Quite regularly, I would guess. Two examples come to mind from recent weeks. (I could, of course, hold off on this idea for a month and keep track of any other examples that come to mind, making this idea more flesh than bare bones, but hey, I’m not a scientist. And I’m already this far into the post . . .)

Standing in front of my music bookshelf and looking for something to browse through the other day, I grabbed The Band FAQ, a lengthy and somewhat oddly organized volume by Peter Aaron, and although Dylan is not mentioned on every page or even in every section, he of course shows up a fair amount in portions of the book and otherwise flits around the margins, as he does with almost anything written about The Band.

And the other day, Facebook offered up – as one of my memories from years past – my scan of a post card of Rome’s Colosseum. I’d sent the postcard to Rick when I was in the Eternal City long ago, and he’d given it back to me – along with other cards and letters I’d sent to him – when I returned home. So where’s Dylan in that?

Well, I began my message on the back of the postcard: “Oh, the hours that I’ve spent inside the Colosseum, dodging lions and wasting time . . .” Those are, of course, the opening words to Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” My choosing to open my message to Rick with those words wasn’t random, but Facebook offering my scan of the card as an “On this date . . .” certainly felt so.

So do bits of thought about Dylan pop up more frequently than bits of thought about other performers? Does Dylan permeate my life more than, say, Springsteen, the Beatles, The Band or Richie Havens? It’s an odd thing to ponder, but I’d have to say yes. There’s more music by Dylan on the shelves here than there is from any other performer or group. In my early songwriting days, Dylan was the major influence on my lyrics (with Lennon & McCartney being the greatest influence on song construction). And bits and reminders of Dylan likely pop up regularly.

So yeah, whether I always realize it, I’d have to say that Dylan is all around me. And here’s the acoustic version of “George Jackson,” the track that sparked this odd post. Interestingly enough, it’s found – as one can see below – on the 2012 album Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-1974, and it’s the version that went to No. 33 around the time 1971 turned into 1972. (The flip side was the same song with a backing band.)

Saturday Single No. 693

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

In a world that seems off-kilter, I’m a little off-kilter myself, not quite centered.

The whirlwind of events in recent months and weeks is a major part of that, but I’d also have to put the death this week of my Danish host mother in the mix. Add to that the fact that I’ve not been sleeping well for about a month (and when I do sleep, I have vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams).

And then, I have a few physical aches and pains, and it all means that I’m not in great shape. But I’m going to take this weekend to try to refresh myself, try to mend my body and get myself in as good a frame of mind as I can.

Noting that today and tomorrow are a weekend is part of that; numerous times in the past twelve or so weeks, the Texas Gal and I have found it hard to keep track of time. “What day of the week is it?” has been a common question around our home. Today, I know, is Saturday, and one small thing will help it feel like a Saturday: The Belmont Stakes will be run today. Yes, it’s disorienting that this year, the Belmont is the first Triple Crown race to take place, but its running still provides a small bit of normality.

Another bit of normality that’s made me feel better is that my regular barber shop, Barbers On Germain, has opened for appointments. I made my way there yesterday and had Russ take care of the thin thatch on my head and the unruly, almost Karl Marxian foliage on my face. I feel better for it.

So that’s one small bit of better.

And sorting through the digital shelves, I was reminded of a 1971 track that showed up among the extras on the 40th anniversary edition of Derek & The Dominos’ album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs: “Got To Get Better In A Little While.” Here it is, today’s Saturday Single.

‘Midnight’

Friday, June 12th, 2020

As I made my way through two new Long John Baldry CDs in the past few weeks, I noticed a couple of tracks I really liked: “Midnight in New Orleans” on It Still Ain’t Easy and “Midnight in Berlin” on Right To Sing The Blues.

And I got to thinking about the word “midnight” and its presence in song titles. So I asked the RealPlayer to search for the word among its 80,000-plus tracks. It came back with 515 results, some of which find the word included in group names – like Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – and some of which find the word included in album titles – like Midnight Radio by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. After winnowing out those and others like them, we end up with about 200 tracks with “midnight” in their titles.

We’re going to hit four of them randomly today.

Our first stop brings us a familiar tune performed by a familiar name: “In The Midnight Hour” by King Curtis. It’s a track from Plays The Great Memphis Hits, released in 1967. The album went to No. 185 on the Billboard 200, and one track – “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – bubbled under the magazine’s Hot 100 at No. 105. King Curtis has shown up enough times in this space that not a lot need to be said except to adapt the title of a 1992 anthology of Curtis Ousley’s work and say, “Blow, man, blow!”

From the midnight hour, we move to the “Midnight Shift” as described by Buddy Holly. The tune warns the listener what to look for in an unfaithful girl (or perhaps a working girl – it’s not entirely clear):

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

The track, recorded in 1956, showed up as an album track on the 1958 release That’ll Be The Day. It’s one of my favorite Holly tracks, likely because it’s a little cynical, a counterpoint to a lot of his other work.

And from one giant of the early days of rock ’n’ roll, we move to another, falling onto a track by the recently departed Little Richard. His take on “Midnight Special” (written by another musical giant, Lead Belly) was included on King Of Rock & Roll, a 1971 album on the Reprise label. No singles from the album made the charts (a couple from his 1970 release, The Rill Thing, had tickled the middle and lower portions of the Hot 100), but the album went to No. 193 on the Billboard 200. As to the track itself, Little Richard takes his time getting going, but about a minute in, the train takes off.

We close today’s brief expedition with a track from Bobby Womack: “I’m A Midnight Mover” from his 1968 album Fly Me To The Moon. As always when Womack’s work shows up here, I feel as if I don’t know enough about the man’s work to comment much except to say that his stuff grabs hold of me nearly every time it pops up. “I’m A Midnight Mover” was released as a single by Atlantic but did not chart. The album went to No. 174 in Billboard.

George Is Gone

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

During my last year in Minot – the 1988-89 academic year – and for a few years after I’d left North Dakota, my buddy George was a constant in my life.

We’d met at a faculty workshop during the summer of 1989, and in a few weeks, we were having dinner once a week, set on finding ourselves a favorite restaurant in Minot, a task simplified by the limited offerings of the city of about 35,000. Soon enough, we were joined in our quest by Helen, one of George’s colleagues from the College of Education.

We never did find a favorite, but we had some decent meals and some good conversations. The three of us were all cat people – Helen and I of long-standing and George of recent vintage – and we took turns taking care of each other’s cats during absences from Minot during quarter and holiday breaks.

And George and I settled into a routine of having late-evening coffee either at his house or mine, talking about serious life issues or about frivolous nothings as we watched the evening news and then re-runs of Cheers.

During the summer of 1989, he and his brother Ed visited me in Minnesota, and the three of us –joined by my ladyfriend of the time – saw Bob Dylan in concert in downtown St. Paul. Then, after my ladyfriend had headed home, George and Ed and I talked over coffee until early morning in my apartment in the suburban town of Anoka.

I wandered off to Kansas and Missouri and then back to Minnesota, but phone conversations with George were a constant, and by the time I got back to Minnesota in the late summer of 1991, George was there, too, teaching at a private college in St. Paul. We had the occasional dinner but George was more occupied with his teaching and with his new lady, who was still in North Dakota but who was working to get to Minnesota. I understood, I’d been there.

And, as friends sometimes do, we began to drift apart. Some of that was George’s new commitment. He and his lady married and began to raise a late-in-life family, something he thought he’d never have the chance to do. Some of that drift – maybe most – was mine, as I spent the mid-1990s in a devastating depression, barely able to do more than go to work, go to the record store and go home and listen to music.

The last time I saw George was at the Minnesota State Fair sometime around 1995, when we took in a blues festival featuring B.B. King and Etta James. I knew he and his family were headed to California and teaching gigs at Cal-Berkeley, but I wasn’t sure when. And when I came out of my depression around 2001, George and his family were living in Oakland and I wasn’t in their lives.

I got in touch with him, and emails went back and forth for a brief time, but – just like in Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” – whatever we’d had once was gone. My fault? Maybe. George’s fault? Perhaps.

Just the way life sometimes is? Most likely.

I found him on Facebook a couple of years ago and left a message. I got no answer, which is what I expected. And he crossed my mind again this past weekend, so I searched again, and saw a listing for him in a small town in Maine. I searched further and found his obituary. He died about a year ago.

I know. We come into each other’s lives and leave each other’s lives for reasons, those reasons rarely discernible. George had been gone from my life for more than twenty years and I regret that, although I’m not sure I could have done anything to change it. I guess that at times I hoped I could reconnect with him and if things needed repairing, repair them. That chance, if it ever existed, is gone.

But I remember our late-night coffees, our late-night phone calls between Missouri and North Dakota, our bafflement at the odd behaviors of his two cats, Ginseng and Cinnamon, our love of football and good food and music, and all the things that go into a friendship, however brief it turned out to be.

Here’s a tune we tried to play together once. It didn’t work well, as he was using the words to the Byrds’s version, and I was singing the words Bob Dylan recorded with Artie Traum. (Dylan and Traum, we weren’t.) Here’s their 1971 recording of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” released in 1972 on Dylan’s second greatest hits collection.

What’s At No. 100 (May 1971)

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

We’re gonna look around in late May of 1971 today, forty-nine years ago. It was that week or the next – my memory fails me and I don’t want to dig for documentation – when I put on a blue cap and gown and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. (I also wore an orange and black woven cord, signifying that I was graduating with honors, a fact that baffled me and surprised and pleased my parents.)

Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen from May 29, 1971:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“Wants Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet And Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Rainy Days And Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“If” by Bread
“Superstar” by Murray Head & The Trinidad Singers
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Helen Reddy

There’s some good radio in there. Let’s take them five at a time:

Three of the first five are five-star records: “Brown Sugar,” “Joy To The World,” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” And the other two – the Jackson 5 and the Honey Cone singles – are not far behind. But then, this was a time when top 40 radio was my musical focus, and it’s hard to separate the times from the music that was the soundtrack for those times. And my senior year of high school, though it had its challenges, was a pretty good time.

The next five are a little tougher. The Ocean record no longer speaks to me, and I never liked Donny Osmond’s single. Daddy Dewdrop was a hoot, but not one with legs, and the Lobo record, well, I don’t mind hearing it, but it’s not a big deal. The A-side of the Aretha record is a great performance, but I found it later and don’t remember it at all from 1971. (My digging at Oldiesloon seems to say that the record did not get into the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB’s but I’m not sure.)

Finally, the five records at Nos. 11 through 15: I liked all five and still do, though the order in which I’d rank them has changed in nearly fifty years. Back in 1971, I likely put “Love Her Madly” at the top of that small heap; today, I’d put either “If” or “Rainy Days And Mondays” there. And seeing the Helen Reddy record in a springtime chart feels odd. I heard it on the radio, sure, but I heard it a lot more the next autumn coming from many rooms in the two women’s dorms I visited at St. Cloud State, so it feels like a college-time record more than one that comes from my high school days.

Usually, at this point I check the records in the chart against my iPod, but I got a new computer last week and I am still in the process of reloading about 3,900 tracks into iTunes and the iPod from the 80,000-some in my main music files. So we’ll see which ones are among the 2,900 or so in the device right now and I’ll make some notes as to which of the remainder will get there, too.

Right now, of the top five, the Stones, Ringo and Three Dog Night are in the device. Honey Cone and the Jackson 5 will follow.

None of the second five are in the iPod, but Lobo likely will be, once I get to the “L” folder, and the Aretha A-side might, depending on my mood, when I get to “F.” Donny Osmond, Daddy Dewdrop and Ocean? No.

From the final set of five, “If” and “Superstar” have already made the cut. The Carpenters and the Doors likely will follow. I did the second half of the alphabet first this time, so I’ve already passed on the Helen Reddy single, but I may change my mind. I did pull in four of her tracks already (“Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” “Angie Baby,” “Don’t Make Promises,” and “Somewhere In The Night”).

And then, there’s our nominally main business today: Checking out the single at No. 100 in that long-ago chart. And it’s “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds Of Sunshine. We’ve run across it before. Finding it inspired the following (edited a bit):

The Sounds Of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. In the film, after the two lovers have a spat, McGraw’s character tells O’Neal’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. Originated by Erich Segal, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based, the famous line is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

That’s probably much more than you wanted this morning. Here’s the Sounds Of Sunshine single: