Archive for the ‘1976’ Category

Saturday Single No. 620

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

We’ve been busy on both of the last two weekends. Two weeks ago, we hosted our first Circle Dinner of the church year for our UU Fellowship. (Because of schedules, it took longer than usual to get organized.) It was a pleasant evening with one other couple and a man whose wife was out of town joining us for King Ranch casserole, cornbread and other victuals.

Then last weekend, we hosted a get-together for our UU musicians, which ended – as one might expect – with homemade music in our music and sewing room downstairs. There were four on guitar with me on keys and two listening and frequently joining in on familiar songs. One of my favorite moments came when I wasn’t playing keys but rather when one of the guitarists, Ted, started in on a familiar riff.

It took a moment to place the riff, but I dug quickly into the pile of music books next to me and pulled out a thick book of songs by Bob Dylan and paged more than halfway into it. One of the other guitarists put down her instrument and stood near my bench as I held the book, and the two of us sang along to Ted’s guitar as he ran through “Buckets Of Rain,” one of my favorite Dylan songs.

So that’s where I’m heading this morning. The original version of the tune – from the 1975 album Blood On The Tracks – is (as expected) not available on YouTube. (Mr. Dylan’s gatekeepers are exceedingly vigilant.) But there are always some covers out there. And on another day, I might dig deeper into the ones I do not know, but it’s Saturday, we’re planning a day of very little, and the aroma of frying bacon is wafting to me from the kitchen.

So here is my favorite cover of “Buckets Of Rain,” a duet between Bette Midler and the Bard of Hibbing himself. I’ve posted it before, but it’s been a long while. The track comes from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (11/13/71)

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I’m in the mood to play a round of What’s At No. 100, so I searched the Billboard Hot 100 files for charts released on November 13 over the years we generally cover here, and I ended up getting my choice of 1961, 1965, 1971, 1976 and 1982.

I know that my pal and blogging brother jb – who spins his tales at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – would jump at the 1976 chart, as that is his year beyond all years. I’m going to pass on it, although I will satisfy some of his itch and tell him that the No. 100 record on this day in 1976 was “Daylight” by Vickie Sue Robinson, which had peaked the week before at No. 63.

But we’re going to head to November 1971, when I was nearing the end of my first quarter at St. Cloud State and struggling with the realities of maybe having a girlfriend (a story – one I do not believe I’ve told entire – for another time). Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen for November 13, 1971:

“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“Have You Seen Her” by the Chi-Lites
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler)” by Marvin Gaye
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts And Children” by the Carpenters
“Baby, I’m-a Want You” by Bread
“Never My Love” by the 5th Dimension
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Desiderata” by Les Crane

I know well all of those except for the 5th Dimension single, which was a live performance. It’s not on the digital shelves here, and a quick check at Oldiesloon tells me that it never made the 6+30 at KDWB in the Twin Cities, which is where I still did most of my Top 40 listening. I still tuned my RCA radio to Chicago’s WLS as I went to sleep, and the 5th Dimension record went to No. 10 there, so I likely heard it, but do not remember it.

And knowing the other fourteen well, hearing them in a cluster like this would be a time trip: Hanging with the guys in Stearns Hall, playing table-top hockey with Rick and Rob, enjoying a surprise evening visit from my maybe girlfriend, listening to the radio in the lounge at Carol Hall with a bunch of guys as we waited to learn our draft lottery numbers, failing basic chemistry and African history because I’d never learned how to study in high school, and a whole lot of other memories.

Do I really like all those records? Most of them. I can do without the Osmonds, and the Michael Jackson record has never meant much to me. Many of the others, as it turns out, are on my iPod: Cher, Isaac Hayes, Bread, Rod Stewart, the Free Movement, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Chi-Lites, Lee Michaels, and the Carpenters’ A-side. So it was a good month for me to listen to the radio.

But what lies below? What do we find when we head down the chart to No. 100? Well, we find a record that’s been featured here a number of times, “Hallelujah” by Sweathog, in its first week in the Hot 100. By the end of the year, the group’s cover of the Clique’s 1969 recording would peak at No. 33. Almost ten years ago, when I included Sweathog’s record in my Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote:

From the clanking introduction with its gospel piano and percussion through the workmanlike vocal and jubilant choruses, Sweathog’s single hit is fun. It doesn’t tap any major memories; it’s more of a dimly recalled artifact that it would have been nice to hear more often long ago.

Here it is:

Chart Digging: Four Julys

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It’s time to dig into some Billboard Hot 100s from a few different Julys. We’re going to play some Games With Numbers and turn today’s date – 7/11/18 – into 36, and check out the No. 36 record on four charts, starting in 1976 and heading back four years at a time.

As we customarily do when we play these games, we’ll check out the No. 1 record for those weeks at the same time.

The second week of July 1976 found the country recovering from its Bicentennial celebration, the climax of what seemed at the time to have been about five years of preparation and marketing. If you didn’t have something Bicentennial themed in your house, you were either unpatriotic or worse, a spoilsport. Anyway, just less than a week after the hoopla reached its climax, the No. 36 record in the Hot 100 was a discofied version of one of the greatest and most familiar pieces of classical music: “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band, which was heading up the charts to No. 1. (It would reach No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart and No. 13 on what was then called the Easy Listening chart.)

It was the only Top 40 hit for Murphy, who had been an arranger for Doc Severinsen and the orchestra for The Tonight Show. (That means there’s only one degree of separation, as folks say, between me and Murphy, as I’ve met Doc Severinsen twice.). Two other releases, “Flight ’76,” based on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” and 1982’s “Themes from E.T. (The Extra-terrestrial),” went to Nos. 44 and 47 respectively. And Murphy’s condensed and discofied take on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 102 in early 1977.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July 1976 was “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band.

Heading back four years from that puts us in the summer of 1972, when I was working half-time as a janitor and planning a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, with my pals Rick and Gary. (The ease with which we crossed from the U.S. into Canada that summer now astounds me. We showed the Canadian officials our driver’s licenses and the hand-written letter my dad had supplied that gave us his permission to take my 1961 Falcon – which Dad technically owned – across the border. Returning to Minnesota a few days later was just as easy. Simpler times.) Anyway, the No. 36 record as our plans for our trip were taking shape was a pairing of song and singer that itself echoed a time a decade earlier that in 1972 seemed much simpler: “Sealed With A Kiss” by Bobby Vinton.

Vinton’s version doesn’t stray far from the feel of Brian Hyland’s 1962 version that went to No. 3, and both are appreciably less mournful – to my ears, anyway – than the non-charting 1960 original by the Four Voices. Vinton’s version was on its way to No. 19 (No. 2, Easy Listening) during the second week of July. It was the thirty-eighth record Vinton had in or near the Hot 100 in a ten year period. He’d add eleven more through 1981 before the hits ran out.

Parked at No. 1 that week in 1972 was Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.”

We’ve dallied a lot in recent months in the memorable year of 1968, but a four-year retreat from 1972 finds us there once again. And – as I’ve noted here many times before – it was likely around this time that I spent four days working at the state trap shoot, getting dirty with tar dust and listening to the radio for eight or so hours each day. Nevertheless, I don’t recall KDWB offering me Wilson Pickett’s “I’m A Midnight Mover” during those four days. It was sitting at No. 36 fifty years ago this week, and if I heard it then, if just didn’t make an impression, which – based on a listening this morning – seems unlikely.

The record peaked at No. 24 on the Hot 100 (and at No. 6 on the R&B chart), one of the forty-three records Pickett placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1973 (with forty of his records reaching the R&B Top 40).

The No. 1 record during that week in July 1968 was “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert.

Whatever I may have been doing during in early July 1964, it hasn’t stuck in my memory. I was ten, with sixth grade at Lincoln Elementary on the horizon, and I was probably just finishing up summer school. That might have been the year my summer classmates and I were featured in the Shopping News for building a fake igloo for our studies on Alaska. In any case, I’m sure I spent a lot of time with Rick, both of us lazing away summer days in a way that I’m certain kids these days are not allowed to do. We didn’t really listen to pop music then, but we no doubt heard it when we were around older kids. Still, I would guess that Terry Stafford’s “I’ll Touch A Star” – the No. 36 record fifty-four years ago this week – was something we missed.

The record was Stafford’s follow-up to his No. 3 hit, “Suspicion,” and like that record, it was a bit of traditional pop in a time when the charts were mixing traditional pop and R&B and English hits and surf sounds and light jazz in such a way that listening to a Top 40 station would have been an adventure. “I’ll Touch A Star” peaked at No. 25 (No. 4 Easy Listening, where, surprisingly, “Suspicion” had failed to chart). Stafford had only one more record tickle the Hot 100: “Follow The Rainbow” bubbled under at No. 101 later that summer in 1964. He went on to place a few records in the bottom half of the country Top 40 in the 1970s.

The No. 1 record during the second week of July in 1964 was “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys.

(It’s interesting to note that – based on a little bit of digging – this post marks the first time that I’ve ever featured the music of Terry Stafford, Bobby Vinton or Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band. I’ve mentioned Vinton frequently and Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band a few times. Until today, I’ve never mentioned Terry Stafford over the course of some 2,100 posts.)

Saturday Single No. 532

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

I’m going to make this quick this morning, as I’m headed out in a few moments to the health station our clinic operates at a nearby supermarket. I’ve decided that the sinus infection that’s been hanging on for a week requires professional intervention.

So I’m going to let the iTunes player here in the EITW studios do the work for me. I’ll let it roll on random for six tracks and then take whatever the seventh track is for our Saturday Single. Here we go for the first six:

“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles (1975)
“Levon” by Elton John (1971)
“Walking On A Wire” by Lowen & Navarro (1990)
“Raining On Sunday” by Keith Urban (2002)
“Working At The Car Wash Blues” by Jim Croce (1973)
“Golden Years” by David Bowie (1976)
“Jessie’s Girl” by the Chipmunks (1982)

And finally, we land on some sweet Boz Scaggs: “We’re All Alone” is the closing track to Silk Degrees, one of my essential albums since not long after it was released in 1976. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Be well, all.

The Starship Sampler, Part 2

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Last week, we took a look at the top singles listed by St. Cloud’s WJON in its Starship Sampler dates February 6, 1976. (The sampler images were, as I noted, a gift from regular reader Yah Shure.) Today, we’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” on the back of the sampler and see what we can glean from that list. (The scan is here).

Here are the top ten albums (with a couple of titles corrected).

Desire by Bob Dylan
Fool For The City by Foghat
Alive by Kiss
History by America
Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates
Captured Angel by Dan Fogelberg
Face The Music by the Electric Light Orchestra
Eric Carmen
Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
Chicago IX, Chicago’s Greatest Hits

That would be a decent seven hours or so of listening, with a few caveats from my side of the speakers. Seven of those records eventually showed up in the vinyl stacks; the ones that did not were the ones by Foghat, Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra. (No Foghat or Kiss ever showed up among the vinyl; three other albums by ELO eventually did, and the Foghat album is present on the digital shelves.)

So, are any of those essential as albums in these precincts? As albums, I see only one: Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a little startling to see a 1973 album on a 1976 survey, given that the entry of the re-release of “She’s Gone” into the Billboard Hot 100 was still five months in the future, but from the sweet “When The Morning Comes” through the funk-to-rock-to-hoedown epic “Everytime I Look At You,” it’s a joy.

Dylan’s Desire comes close, missing the cut because of the eleven-minute tale of gangster Joey Gallo. So does the Paul Simon album, missing the cut for no particular reason.

But perhaps, as we did the other day, it might be instructive to check out the 3,825 tracks in the iPod and see how well these albums are represented. Five tracks show up from the Hall & Oates album: “When The Morning Comes,” “Had I Known You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man),” and, of course, “She’s Gone.”

I find four tracks from Still Crazy After All These Years: The title track, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and two duets, “Gone At Last” with Phoebe Snow and “My Little Town” with Art Garfunkel. The only track present from Dylan’s Desire is “Black Diamond Bay,” though I may find room for “Hurricane.” America’s hits album is represented by “A Horse With No Name” and “Don’t Cross The River,” and I could throw “Sandman” in there.

As to the Electric Light Orchestra album, the iPod holds versions that appear to be single edits of “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” and the Chicago hits album is sort of represented there: I have the single version of “Make Me Smile” in the iPod, but I got it from the CD release of Chicago, the silver album. (The album offered edits of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” but I go with the full-length versions.)

Shut out on the iPod are the albums by Kiss, Foghat, Carmen and Fogelberg.

I’m not at all sure what that proves, but I find it interesting that the Hall & Oates album pleases me these days more than the Dylan, a judgment that I’m not sure I’d have made twenty or thirty years ago.

Here’s “Had I Known You Better Then” from Abandoned Luncheonette.

The Starship Sampler

Friday, February 17th, 2017

In one of those things that occasionally bedevil all of us in this digital world, I found myself for about two weeks unable to access my Yahoo! email account, the one that’s used for this blog and for offers to meet incredibly scrumptious women. When whatever gunked up the Intertubes cleared up – and I imagine it was a combination of digital Yahooligans and my own errors – I found a gift from regular reader and friend Yah Shure:

He sent along scans of the WJON/WJJO Starship Sampler from February 9, 1976, detailing thirty-eight top singles on each of the two St. Cloud stations – WJON was Top 40 (or near enough) and WWJO was (and still is) country – along with a list of 30 featured pop/rock albums on the back cover of the sampler. (Yah Shure had intended me to have the sampler in time to write about it on February 9, but whatever went wrong with my email put a dent in that idea, so we’re a little more than a week late, which seems like no big deal after forty-one years.)

The two stations, of course, were right around the corner and across the railroad tracks from my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard (and they’re still there in a newer building, just down Lincoln Avenue from our current place). For many years, WJON was one of the stations that gave me my evening Top 40 fix. Oddly enough, at the time of this particular sampler, that wasn’t the case: I was living in the Twin Cities, finishing an internship in television sports and getting my Top 40 from KDWB.

Still, it’s fun to know what the folks I left behind me in the Cloud were listening to, even though not much of it is surprising. Here is WJON’s Top Ten from that long-ago week:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

(I’m going to leave the country side of the sampler alone today except to note that “Convoy” was also No. 1 there.)

The only one of the pop Top Ten I did not recall was “Winners & Losers,” and a trip to YouTube did not impress me. The record, which went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, was HJF&R’s follow-up to the group’s No. 1 hit, “Fallin’ In Love,” which I also thought was a little flabby. (I’m not alone there. Yah Shure noted in a later email that both “Fallin’” and “Winners” were releases on the Playboy label, the group’s new home, and he noted that “their Playboy output was like listening to their Dunhill singles, minus any air in the tires.”)

The only surprise that Yah Shure pointed out on the Top 40 side of the sampler was the presence of Michael Murphey’s “Renegade” at No. 34, a decent enough record but one that I don’t recall at all. We both expressed amused bafflement that “The White Knight” by Cledus Maggard & The Citizens Band – a sort of rough-edged “Convoy” wannabee – sat at No. 26 on WJON. And he noted – half kidding, I think – that he was surprised that station owner Andy Hilger hadn’t “put the kibosh” on the station’s airing the Who’s naughty joke, “Squeezebox.”

Beyond that, the sampler was pretty much what you’d expect from early February 1976. There were a good number of records I recall fondly, some I love, some I don’t care about, and some I dislike. Beyond “Renegade,” there was only one I did not recall: David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love,” which sat at No. 19. A trip to YouTube refreshed my memory, and it fell into the “don’t care” category.

The interior pages from the February 9, 1976, Starship Sampler are here.

We’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” from February 9, 1976, early next week. And we’ll close today with a record that sat at No. 31 in the Starship Sampler that long-ago week, one that I like a great deal, and one that’s not been mentioned here since April 2007, Helen Reddy’s “Somewhere In The Night.”

Cold But Cozy

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

As it does nearly every January, the cold has settled in for a bit: Tuesday’s high was 5 degrees above zero (-15 for those keeping score in Celsius), yesterday’s high was zero (-18), and today, we’re supposed to top out at -4 (-20). It would be nice if I could stay in today, but I’ll have to head out at least twice: this morning to the liquor store for a few more boxes to pack LPs and this afternoon to the drug store for some prescriptions for the Texas Gal.

Okay, so it’s cold. That’s winter in Minnesota. (According to a ranking cited yesterday by WCCO in the Twin Cities, Minnesota ranks No. 1 on a Most Miserable Winter list.) And having spent fifty-eight of my previous sixty-three winters here (and two in equally cold North Dakota), I can deal with it: Dress in layers, watch the thermostat settings, make sure there’s plenty of windshield washer fluid – “blue juice” in day-to-day terms – in the car, wear a hat, and turn into the skid when the car starts to slide on the ice.

(After years of driving in potentially slick conditions, and after countless instances of my various cars fishtailing on icy roads, that last winter necessity has become an instinctive reaction. The day after Christmas – which was a day of freezing rain and snow – I was heading down Lincoln Avenue when I hit a very slick patch. The rear end of the car headed right, and I twitched the steering wheel to the right and straightened out so quickly that the little episode was over before I really had time to think about it. I found that a little spooky.)

I’ve seen predictions that this will be a colder than average winter. That’s going to place some stress on the Texas Gal, whose job requires her to be out of the office moving from place to place at least two days a week (and some stress on the utility bill). Beyond my concerns about both of those stressors, though, I’m fine with a cold winter. I survived the winter of 1976-77 in a house on St. Cloud’s North Side that did not have central heat, so assuming the furnace doesn’t give out, I can survive a colder-than-average winter here.

That winter of 1976-77 was a memorable one. I was out of college and out of work, paying something less than $40 a month to share a shabby four-bedroom house with two other guys. As I’ve noted here before, we had a large oil-burning stove in the living room and a smaller one in the kitchen, and that was it for heat. My room was above the living room, and was the warmest one in the house, and there were mornings when the temperature outside was -30 and the inside temperature huddled around 40. (Among my Christmas presents from my folks that winter was a small space heater for my room; the cats and I were grateful.)

I survived, getting through the winter, re-enrolling in school in February to add a minor in print journalism, and in April, moving to the adjacent small town of Sauk Rapids to rent a mobile home from my friend Murl.

Beyond being cold, the house on the North Side was ill-maintained, cramped and not very clean. I would not wish to live in those conditions again. And yet, I have mostly pleasant memories of the place. One of them finds me in my room on a chilly January evening, with the cats dozing on the bed. I’m seated at the table that served as a desk, clicking away at my Olivetti portable typewriter (with its Pica typeface instead of the more common Elite).

I have no idea what I was writing. Maybe an application for a job, perhaps a letter, or I might have been typing up my latest set of lyrics. Whatever it was, I was doing so with the radio on, tuned to WCCO-FM in the Twin Cities. And sometime during that evening, the radio offered me the faux swing/jazz sound of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.

“Whispering/Cherchez la Femme/Se Si Bon” peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of January 1977 and was the only Top 40 hit for the group that eventually evolved into Kid Creole & The Coconuts. (The record went to No. 1 on the magazine’s disco/dance chart, to No. 31 on the R&B chart and to No. 22 on the adult contemporary chart.) And though I don’t hear it often, when I do, it brings back memories of my cozy domesticity circa 1977: me and my cats, a typewriter, a space heater, and a radio.

‘Kill That Roach . . .’

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Can This Road Be Taken . . .’

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Things come together and things fall apart.

I read in the last week or so news accounts from the world of Crosby, Stills & Nash indicating that the journey of the three is over. Evidently David Crosby has said or done something that offended Graham Nash on such a basic level that Nash had said he’ll no longer work with Crosby.

It wasn’t surprising reading. The clashes and estrangements of the three men – Crosby, Nash and Stephen Stills – from one another over the years (and the same with the occasional fourth, Neil Young) are long the stuff of newspaper, tabloid and blogpost headlines. It’s been a dysfunctional family for years, one that occasionally gathered to make music, some of it great. The fact that the dysfunction has finally outweighed the benefits makes me wonder, honestly, how someone’s limits weren’t reached long ago.

The news of Nash’s pronouncement wasn’t something I planned to mention here. But this morning, I asked the RealPlayer to find me tracks recorded in April, wondering if I were lucky enough to find something recorded on some April 1 years ago. And the RealPlayer gave me, among many other tracks, an unreleased version of “Taken At All,” a song written by Crosby and Nash and released in a country-folk version on the duo’s 1976 album Whistling Down The Wire.

The unreleased version showed up on the 1991 box set CSN, credited to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and it was recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami on April 1, 1976, forty years ago today, which makes for a nice accident of timing.

This is me. Can you take another look?
Did I see you looking blindly at your book?
Is it all that you thought, that you thought it took?
Can it be taken, taken at all?

Were you looking for signs along the way?
Can you see by your lonely light of day?
Is this road really the only way?
Can this road be taken, taken at all.

We lost it on the highway
Down the dotted line
You were going your way
I was going mine

We lost it on the highway
Things were out of sight
You were going your way
Trying to make a light (along the way)

Can you see by your lonely light of day?
Is this road really the only way?
Can this road be taken, taken at all?
Can this road be taken, taken at all?

Saturday Single No. 484

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Because we landed on the 1976 hit “Tangerine” by the Salsoul Orchestra yesterday, and because that year came to our full attention only three times during 2015, I thought we’d run a four-tune random 1976 draw this morning as we look for a single for the day.

We start with “You’re The Best Girl In The World” by Johnnie Taylor, a B-side from his album Eargasm. The A-side, “Disco Lady,” was the big single from the album, spending four weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 and six weeks on top of the magazine’s R&B chart. The album went to No. 5 on the Billboard 200. As to the track itself, it’s got chunky guitar, lots of cymbals, sweet strings, a good vocal, a nice saxophone break in the middle, some unexpected chord changes, and a tempo guaranteed to get you and your sweetie out onto the dance floor for a while. That’s a pretty good mix of stuff, and it’s a nice way to begin our search today.

We get a quick organ break followed by a chorus of doleful horns (with a bit of light single-string guitar on top) and then a weary voice:

Workin’ your whole life away
Hopin’ to get ahead some day
Tryin’ to keep what we got
and Lord knows we ain’t got a lot
Still, we’re doin’ alright.

“Doin’ Alright” comes from Tower Of Power’s album Ain’t Nothin’ Stoppin’ Us Now, and the weary vocal from Edward McGee, punctuated with back-up from singers Melba Joyce, Pat Henry and Ivory Stone and laid on the controlled work of the band’s renowned horn section, is honey to my ears this morning. The album had some success, reaching No. 42 on the Billboard 200.

“Sunshine Holiday” is a light, tropical excursion by Carolyn Franklin (sister of Aretha) from her last album, If You Want Me. Flutes, island rhythms on the bass, and light strings (and probably guitar) in almost a pizzicato style all give Franklin a sweet foundation for a frothy lyric that seems to do little more than list the benefits of such a vacation and invite the listener to come along. It’s over in a little more than two minutes, leaving the froth behind. Other tracks on the album were likely more substantial (I don’t know the record well), but from what I see online, the folks at RCA Victor didn’t hear a single, and the album didn’t make the Billboard 200.

The Faragher Brothers were in fact brothers from Redland, California. (Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles lists six brothers, but Wikipedia clarifies that by noting that four brothers began the group and recorded two albums; two other brothers joined in for the last two albums the group recorded.) Our stop this morning, “In Your Time,” is a track from the first of those four albums, the group’s self-titled debut. In one of two times I’ve mentioned the band before this, in 2007, I wrote, “It’s inoffensive pop rock with mellow vocals and a few horn flourishes, kind of a Pablo Cruise meets James Pankow of Chicago.” That still sounds about right, only “In My Time” seems to lack the horn flourishes. The album did not chart, nor did the first single from the album, “It’s All Right.” A second single, “Never Get Your Love Behind Me,” went to No. 46 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

We’ll dispense with the Carolyn Franklin and Faragher Brothers tracks right off the top. Long-time readers might think at this point that I’m going to pull the Tower Of Power track as our feature, and it’s true that I like “Doin’ Alright” a lot. But Tower of Power has been featured here at least fifteen times over these nine years (with the last half of 2009 and January 2010 to still be filed, and thus be easily searched, at the archives site), and Johnnie Taylor has been mentioned only four times and featured only once.

If the record weren’t a good one, I’d go with “Doin’ Alright.” But Taylor’s record has all of the virtues I listed above, and those are more than enough to make Johnnie Taylor’s “You’re The Best Girl In The World” today’s Saturday Single.