Archive for the ‘1977’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (February 1977)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

As February turned to March in 1977, I found myself back at St. Cloud State after a three-month absence. In the autumn of 1976, I’d abandoned some post-graduate studies to work full time in a music store. A week after that, I’d lost my job.

I scuffled for two months in a poor economy, getting no nibbles on my attempts to find work in television news. One day I met my dad for coffee at the university.

“Whatever you’re doing,” he said, “it’s not working, so I have two suggestions.” He knew I had some extra credits in mass communications beyond what I’d needed for graduation, so he suggested that I talk to the department chair and see if those credits and some course work could be converted into a minor in print journalism. Even with my training in television, he said, the thing I did best that would bring me a job (and, he hoped, a career) was to write.

Otherwise, he said, I should join the Army.

I like his first suggestion immediately. I liked it even more after his second suggestion. So I met with the department chair, and he and I cobbled together a minor using those extra credits and a couple of courses and some summertime workshops.

I registered for spring quarter about three weeks before the quarter actually began, and that made me eligible for student employment, as Dad knew it would. After a quick meeting with Dad’s colleague who supervised student employment in the Learning Resources Center, I was working twenty hours a week for the rest of winter quarter, full time during quarter break and then ten hours a week after that.

The pay was minimal, but I was still living in the decrepit house on the North Side I’ve mentioned many times before, so my rent and other expenses were low. I took out a small student loan and jumped happily back into campus life, taking classes, working as the arts editor of the University Chronicle, and doing whatever projects I was assigned at the Learning Resources Center, where my years of experience allowed my supervisor to plug me pretty much into any project he had that needed doing.

There was plenty of time, as always, to listen to music. At home, I listened to a variety of FM stations, but the car was AM only, and the bulk of the Top 40 remained familiar. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from this week in 1977:

“Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’ (Evergreen)” by Barbra Streisand
“New Kid In Town/Victim Of Love” by the Eagles
“Fly Like An Eagle” by the Steve Miller Band
“I Like Dreaming” by Kenny Nolan
“Blinded By The Light” by the Manfred Mann Earth Band
“Night Moves” by Bob Seger
“Dancing Queen” by Abba
“Year Of The Cat” by Al Stewart
“Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor
“Weekend In New England” by Barry Manilow

First off, I had to remind myself what “Victim Of Love” sounded like, and I had to take a another moment to remember the Manilow record. I recalled that I never liked “Victim of Love” and – sappy and Manilowesque as it is (and those might be the same thing) – I liked “Weekend In New England.”

Of the other nine in that list, there is one that I have always detested and another that I wonder about nowadays. From the first time I heard it, I have had a visceral dislike for the Streisand record, almost on the level of my antipathy for “Seasons In The Sun.” Time has not eased that distaste. Of course, I don’t like a whole lot of anything Streisand has ever recorded; the only work from her on the digital shelves is the album Stoney End and a 1971 cover of Carole King’s “Beautiful” that came my way in one of the mixes put out by the Halfhearted Dude.

The one I wonder about is “Torn Between Two Lovers.” I always thought it inconsequential, the tale of a woman wanting to have it both ways, which kind of summed up what some folks – supposedly lots of folks, according to occasional reports in the news magazines – were doing with relationships in those post-Nixon, pre-AIDS days. Then, after I went online in 2000 and began to frequent music blogs and boards, I learned that “Torn Between Two Lovers” was “Seasons In The Sun” for some folks. I never quite got that level of distaste, but okay. I still kind of like the record, maybe mostly as an artifact of its time.

The rest of those range from just okay to “Hey, let’s play that one five times in a row on the jukebox!” (“Year Of The Cat” and “Night Moves” are in that second category.)

As usual, the best way to see if I really like a record is to see if it’s one of the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod. So what do we find? Seven of those eleven records are there. Missing are the Streisand, the B-side of the Eagles single, the Steve Miller Band and Manilow. And I think that’s the way it’s going to stay.

But what of our other business today? What was sitting at No. 100 as February turned to March in 1977? Well, it’s a record I have never heard until today: “Dance Little Lady Dance” by Danny White, a New Jersey native described by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles as a pop-disco singer.

It’s White’s only entry in the Hot 100, and it spent two weeks at No. 100 and then went away. Probably a deserved fate, if for no other reasons than the screams, which seem most painful from the three-minute mark on. Still, I suppose that somewhere, there’s a middle-aged or older couple remembering Danny White’s single as their song. Good for them.

Saturday Single No. 623

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

We continue our increasingly frequent wandering through the EITW archives in search of posts that might have some interest. Today’s it a meandering look at the song I first heard from the Beatles about a city where you can hang around Twelfth Street and Vine. The piece first ran here in October 2008. I’ve made some minor changes.

For a time around 1969-70, the evening deejay at WJON, the radio station just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house, was a fellow who used the name Ron P. Michaels (his initials were then RPM, you see). And one evening during the summer of 1970, he put on a special show.

From seven o’clock to (I think) midnight one weekday evening, Michaels played nothing but the Beatles. From the hits like “Hey Jude,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to tracks from deep in the group’s catalog, WJON was all-Beatles for one five-hour stretch that summer night.

I was a fledgling Beatles fan, just beginning to learn about the Fab Four’s music. I had – and knew well – the Let It Be and Abbey Road albums. I owned – with my sister – Beatles ’65, one of the albums of bits and pieces that Capitol had created in the early days of the group’s American success. Later that summer, I would buy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Hey Jude, a package of hits and B-sides (also known as The Beatles Again).

There was still plenty I did not know about the Beatles’ music. I was determined to learn, however. So I stationed myself in my bedroom with my Panasonic cassette recorder and carefully stopped and started the tape to edit out commercial breaks. My recording technique was brutal: The radio was on the bed, with the microphone set down nearby, but the sound quality was good enough. I ended up with three-and-a-half hours of music, which was nothing near the group’s entire output on Capitol/Apple (During their active recording years, from Please Please Me through Let It Be, I estimated ten years ago that the Beatles released about eleven hours of music), but it was certainly a place to start learning about the deeper places in the group’s catalog.

I recall that some of the songs I heard for the first time that evening weren’t, to be honest, high points in the Beatles’ career: “Devil In Her Heart,” “Yes It Is,” “Act Naturally” and “Blue Jay Way” come to mind. On the other hand, that was the evening I was introduced to “In My Life,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” the last of which remains one of my favorite recordings by anyone, ever.

Another song that I heard for the first time that evening was titled at the time “Kansas City.” It started, “I’m goin’ to Kansas City, bringing my baby back home.”

Released on Beatles For Sale in 1964, the song was the Beatles’ cover of Little Richard’s version of the tune written in the early 1950s by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Little Richard’s indelible contribution to the song – beyond his lethal performance of “Kansas City” itself – was the “Hey, hey, hey hey” coda, which was his own creation. From what I’ve read, the Beatles were unaware of Little Richard’s addition; they called the song simply “Kansas City” and listed only Leiber and Stoller as the writers. (Eventually, the title of the Beatles’ recording was changed; it’s now called a medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” with Little Richard given a writing credit [as Richard Penniman].)

Looking a little bit deeper, there was no way the Beatles really could have known. After all, when Little Richard’s recording was released as Specialty 664 after it was recorded in 1955, its title was simply “Kansas City,” with only Leiber and Stoller listed as writers. As was the case with the Beatles’ omission, that error has since been corrected. The 1991 CD The Georgia Peach, a Little Richard hits package, lists the song as “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” and lists Penniman as a writer along with the team of Leiber and Stoller.

Anyway, that night was the first time I’d heard “Kansas City” with or without the Penniman addition. I thought it was a pretty good song, but I didn’t bother in those days to dig too deeply into the history of the music I was listening to. I was having a difficult enough time keeping track of current groups and their catalogs. So I didn’t know for years that “Kansas City” – sometimes listed as “K.C. Lovin’” – had been around since before I was born.

As noted above, the song came from the duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, a duo credited with writing hit after hit during the Fifties and early Sixties, including “Hound Dog,” “Young Blood,” “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me” (with Ben E. King), “Ruby Baby” and many more, including the very odd No. 11 hit for Peggy Lee in 1969, “Is That All There Is?”

Originally recorded in 1952 by Little Willie Littlefield, “Kansas City” is without doubt one of the most-covered R&B songs of all time. The listings at Second Hand Songs show more than 160 versions of “Kansas City” and fourteen additional versions of “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey.” The most famous cover of “Kansas City” is most likely Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 version, which was No. 1 for two weeks. (As good as Little Richard’s version on Specialty was, it did not reach the Top 40.)

Other covers of the song that I have in my collection are from Joe Williams, Muddy Waters, Paul McCartney (on his 1988 album Снова в СССР, originally released only in the Soviet Union) and Albert King. It’s not a song in which I’ve invested a lot of time.

I’ve since added more versions by artists including bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards, guitarist Billy Strange, Big Bill Broonzy, and Jan & Dean.

But there is one fascinating version I do have. In 1977, Libby Titus – who I think is generally forgotten today – recorded a version of the song that she titled “Kansas City (K.C. Lovin’)” and released it on her self-titled album. The album is pretty good, but is, I think, of additional interest because Titus was once in a relationship with Levon Helm of The Band (and is the mother of musician Amy Helm, who’s been mentioned here a few times). Helm’s former bandmate Garth Hudson shows up on one track, and Robbie Robertson produced two tracks and plays on one. (Producing the remaining tracks were, in various combinations, the intriguing trio of Paul Simon, Carly Simon and Phil Ramone.)

Among the other highlights of the album – which used to be pricey on both CD and vinyl but has since been re-released on CD and is now available in both formats for reasonable prices – are Titus’ work on the classic song “Love Has No Pride,” which she co-wrote with Eric Kaz, and the slightly odd “The Night You Took Me to Barbados in My Dreams.” But “Kansas City (K.C. Lovin’),” with its own odd moment in the introduction, is likely the best thing on the album and one of the slinkier covers of the song I’ve ever heard.

And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Hit Wonder No. 1

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Having delved into the origins of the cult of Onehit, I thought we’d start looking at so-called One Hit Wonders on an occasional basis. Our basic guide will be a slender volume I picked up in the early 1990s, one titled Billboard Top 1000 Singles.

Compiled by chart maven Joel Whitburn, the book covers the period from January 1955 through February 1993. Obviously, much has happened since then, including – unless I’m mistaken – at least one very large change in how the various Billboard charts are calculated. Thus, I’d guess, a current book of the top 1,000 singles of all time would include many more current records than historic ones. That would no doubt be accurate but would be a hell of a lot less fun than looking into the 1993 book.

And here’s some necessary housekeeping before we dig in: What, exactly, is a One Hit Wonder? My definition: It’s a record by a group or artist who focused on releasing singles that was the only record by that group or artist to reach the Top 40. Similarly, one can call the group or artist a One Hit Wonder as well. (The bit about being focused on singles is the best way to accommodate records like Jimi Hendrix’ cover of “All Along The Watchtower,” which went to No. 20 in 1968. It would be ludicrous to call Hendrix a One Hit Wonder as an artist, as singles were clearly not his focus.)

And before we start, let’s remind ourselves of how the all-time singles chart looked in 1993. Here’s the Top Twenty in that Top 1000 book. All of then went to No. 1 for at least eight weeks.

“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (1992, 14 weeks)
“End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men (1992, 13)
“Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley (1956, 11)
“Singing The Blues” by Guy Mitchell (1956, 10)
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John (1981, 10)
“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone (1977, 10)
“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin (1959, 9)
“All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley (1957, 9)
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (1981, 9)
“Hey Jude” by the Beatles (1968, 9)
“Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie (1981, 9)*
“The Theme From ‘A Summer Place’” by Percy Faith (1960, 9)
“Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets (1955, 8)
“The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant (1956, 8)
“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955, 8)
“Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley (1956, 8)
“Every Breath You Take” by the Police (1983, 8)
“Jump” by Kris Kross (1992, 8)
“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees (1978, 8)
“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart (1976, 8)

That Top Twenty serves as a reminder of the power of Elvis. Sixteen years after his death, he still had three of the top twenty singles of the Top Forty era, all of them nearly forty years old. And it’s actually not a bad bunch of singles, with only three I’d skip: I’m not fond of the Kris Kross record, but that’s a generational and societal thing. Neither am I crazy about the Whitney Houston single at the top of the list; I find it oversung and overbearing. And I’ve always believed the Rod Stewart single to be a blight on the world.

The other seventeen would be – in these precincts, anyway – a decent bunch of listening. Not really my favorites, but some fun listening, even the single One Hit Wonder of the bunch, a record that I admit I first kind of liked, then was tired of, and finally, was greatly annoyed by as it spun out its twenty-one weeks in the Top 40 in 1977 and 1978: Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.”

I was surprised when I began digging this morning to learn that “You Light Up My Life” was a One Hit Wonder. But then, being afflicted with Boone fatigue by late 1977, I paid no attention to Debby Boone’s career, not caring what she’d done either before or after her massive hit. And it seems, digging this morning into Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, there wasn’t much to pay attention to, as least as far as the Hot 100 was concerned.

“You Light Up My Life” was the first charting single for Pat Boone’s daughter. As well as topping the Billboard pop chart for the above mentioned ten weeks, the record was also No. 1 for one week on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and went to No. 4 on the country chart.

After that, Boone had two singles reach the Hot 100, but both fell short of the Top 40: “California” went to No. 50 and the two-sided single “God Knows/Baby, I’m Yours” (the latter being a cover of Barbara Lewis’ 1965 hit) stalled at No. 74, both in 1978. Boone did have a better time of it on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary chart, with five more singles beyond “You Light Up My Life” reaching the Top Forty there into 1981.

“You Light Up My Life” was, of course, the title theme to a 1977 movie, sung for the soundtrack by Kasey Cisyk and lip-synched in the movie by actress Didi Conn. In the movie, it’s a love song, but the very devout Boone, according to Wikipedia, “interpreted it as inspirational and proclaimed that it was instead God who ‘lit up her life’.”

(There was some nasty hoo-ha in 1977 and beyond about songwriter and producer Joe Brooks not paying Cisyk or crediting her for her performance as well as something about Brooks’ recording Boone’s version of the song over the same instrumental tracks used for Cisyk’s version. But then nasty hoo-ha might have been Brooks’ default mode, as he committed suicide in 2011, says Wikipedia, while awaiting trial “on 91 counts of rape, sexual abuse, criminal sexual act, assault, and other charges.”)

Billboard has since released at least two more lists of its top all-time records; in the last of them, in 2013, “You Light Up My Life” was at No. 9. I do not know if any of the eight records ranked above it are One Hit Wonders, and I really don’t care. In the era I care about most, reflected by the 1993 volume, Debby Boone’s hit is the top-ranking One Hit Wonder of all time.

*One might argue that “Endless Love” is a One Hit Wonder as it’s the only time that the duo of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie charted. But that would be silly.

Six at Random

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

My iPod currently holds a total of 3,930 tracks, which – as iTunes helpfully tells me – is enough for ten days of listening. We’ll not run that type of marathon here; instead, we’re going to let iTunes supply us with six random tracks of music this morning, and we’ll see what we know and think about those six tracks.

First up is a lilting clarinet tune by Mr. Acker Bilk that went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1962. “Stranger on the Shore” was originally titled “Jenny” but was renamed for the BBC television show that used it as a theme. I have vague memories of hearing the tune in 1962: I would have been eight, and it’s the type of record that would have found a good home on the Twin Cities’ WCCO as well as on St. Cloud’s local stations. I’ve heard it (and liked it) so many times over the years since that it’s impossible to say if I heard it back then, but I do know that when I started during the late 1980s to dig into the music of the early 1960s, “Stranger on the Shore” was familiar.

Our second stop is a track I first heard across the street at Rick’s house in early 1971. “Two Years On” by the Bee Gees was the title track to the album that was home to their No. 3 hit “Lonely Days.” The album was also the first since Robin Gibb had reunited with his brothers after a spat of two or so years, and we speculated that the title track was a reference to that time. It’s a good track, one that reminds me of the pleasant hours I spent across the street listening to albums, playing pool and pinball, and generally cementing a friendship that remains a vital part of my life after more than sixty years. (I also recall the bemused smile I got from Rick maybe a dozen years ago when he discovered Two Years On among my CDs.)

And we stay in that era, listening to a record that puts me in my own room with the sound of the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” coming from my old RCA radio. It’s probably an evening in early 1970 – the record went to No. 7 that March – and I’m holed up in my room after surviving another day of my junior year of high school. It’s a good record (despite the mournful intro) and not a bad memory, and I know it instantly, as I do most Top 40 hits from that season. But the record wasn’t a big deal to me then and it’s not now. Having come across it this morning, I’m likely going to pull it from iTunes and the iPod and replace it with a record that means something to me.

While restocking the iPod after last autumn’s external drive crash, I tried to include records from a wider time frame than I previously had. Since I’ve tended to slight the 1980s over the years, I consciously dropped more tracks from that decade into the playlist this time around. And this morning we fall on “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, a one-hit wonder* that went to No. 8 in 1982. So I look at the other tracks in the iPod from 1982 and think that including the mechanical-sounding cover of Sharon Jones’ 1964 record was a mistake. And I realize that having to stop and think about the tracks as they come up, rather than just letting them roll by in the background as I cook dinner or do some other task, makes me a great deal more critical. There might have been a time when I liked the Soft Cell track, but that time is past.

And iTunes offers us the sharp and somewhat dissonant intro to “Home At Last” from Steely Dan’s 1977 album, Aja. Last September, noting the death of the Dan’s Walter Becker, I selected “Home At Last” as my salute to his passing: “I know that Steely Dan and a romantic notion seem as odd a pairing as cognac and Cheez Whiz, but it would be nice to think that Becker is – in whatever way he might have wished – home at last.” And my friend jb – who blogs at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and understands more about Steely Dan than I ever will – left a trenchant comment:

“Home at Last” seems like a good choice for him, as it’s not so much about finding an idealized home with Mom and chocolate chip cookies as it is getting past the place with the monsters that want to kill you and into a somewhat safer harbor. And if you’re not as free as you’d like to be (“still I remain tied to the mast”), who is?

And we end with one of the records of my life, one of those whose introductions make me take a sharp, short breath as memories instantly cascade. With some of those – and there may be hundreds in that category of “Records of My Life” – it’s the record alone; there is no tale from my years attached to them. Most, though, have a connection with my times, with my joys or sorrows, my roads and my homes. Jackson Browne’s “Late For The Sky” is one of the latter. The title track of his 1974 album, the song depicts a pairing once filled with hope gone hopelessly awry, a scene sadly familiar to me (as it no doubt has been to most of the folks who’ve listened to that tune and the other sad songs the album offers). Even as I live now in a better and sweeter time, the memories of those other times are potent, and I sometimes need those memories to remind myself how far the grace of my life has brought me.

Saturday Single No. 558

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Single No. 556

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Boy, you go away for a week, and stuff piles up on you, in this case, folks crossing over. Walter Becker of Steely Dan left us on September 3, and country giant Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry both died on September 8. So this is the first moment I’ve had to sit down and really think about any of those deaths, and I’m not sure what to say. I’ll deal with Becker today and probably write about the other two next week, after we’re all unpacked and the laundry from the road is done.

When Steely Dan came along in 1972, I liked what I heard, and I still like it. All of the early albums – from 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill through 1980’s Gaucho – are on the digital shelves, even though I haven’t often written about the work of Becker, his partner Donald Fagen and the rest of the folks who laid down those sounds.

But liking Steely Dan isn’t enough for me to know what to say about its music. Trying to describe it, I once wrote of the Dan’s 1974 hit, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” that it had the visceral feel of that convalescent season, combing relief with “dissonance and odd angles and strange transitions.”

A far better assessment of what Becker meant to Steely Dan and to a fervent listener came the day after Becker crossed over. I frequently lean on the work of my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ when I either don’t know what to say or don’t know enough to write intelligently about something. Today I do so again. Go here and read jb’s reflections.

As for this space, it would too easy to post “Rikki” here this morning. So I’m going to dip into 1977’s Aja and the track whose lyrics tell us:

Well, the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last?
Home at last.

I know that Steely Dan and a romantic notion seem as odd a pairing as cognac and Cheez Whiz, but it would be nice to think that Becker is – in whatever way he might have wished – home at last, so “Home At Last” from Aja is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 542

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Single No. 534

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A Wednesday Car’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

It’s Wednesday, it’s cold outside – 13 degrees, but it feels like zero – and I have to go out a little later today to see the foot doctor and get some groceries for my mom. I think she’d like to go along, but I’m going to discourage that; it’s just too cold out there.

Anyway, I did some digging in the files for something for a cold Wednesday when I can’t seem to get things going, and I came across “A Wednesday Car” from Johnny Cash. It was on his 1977 album The Rambler. It’s good for a chuckle (if not a little bit of thought about the truth of the song).

The assembly line is runnin’ slow on Monday
They’ve been livin’ it up and layin’ up Saturday and Sunday
On Tuesday, they’re about to come around
But they still feel bad and they’re kinda down
And mad ’cause they’ve got four more days before the weekend rolls around
On Wednesday they’re feelin’ fine again
And they’re workin’ like a dog and diggin’ in
Tryin’ to do everything they should, puttin’ them cars together good
And I got me a car that was made on Wednesday, on Wednesday
If you’re gonna buy yourself a new car,
You just better hope you’re lucky enough to get one made on Wednesday

On Thursday, the weekend is in sight
And they’re in a hurry and they don’t do nothing right
Friday is the worst day of the week, that’s the day they make the lemons, dogs, and freaks
If your car was made on Friday, friend, you’ll soon be in the creek
Cause it’s payday and the loafin’ has begun
Lord, them Friday cars, just hope you don’t get one
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday
Are all bad days, and the only try day is Wednesday
And my car was made on Wednesday, on Wednesday
If your car wasn’t made on Wednesday I’d advise you not to even leave home any.

Back To Sipping Wine

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

A couple of interesting comments showed up on older posts here late last month. We’ll look at one today and the other later this week. The first was from Shane Valcich, adding a thought or two to a couple of posts from a little more than a year ago

In those posts – they’re here and here – I looked at a seeming contradiction – or mistake – in the titling and crediting one of my favorite tunes from the 1970s. I first knew the tune as “Sip The Wine,” written by Rick Danko and included on his self-titled 1977 album, and I wrote about how that tune and that album had provided some evening comfort and a sense of home for me as I settled into a couple of new apartments in Columbia, Missouri, in the late summer of 1990:

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

A couple of days later, after the random function on the RealPlayer alerted me, I wrote about the same song being released in 1972 – five years earlier than Danko’s release – by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth under the title “I Want To Lay Down Beside You.” Credited to musician and songwriter Tim Drummond, the track was on the album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth:

Digging into the contradiction, I made the assumption that Drummond was the songwriter and some type of error resulted in its being credited to Danko in 1977. But in the comment Shane left at the second post, he noted that it might have been the other way around. Here’s his comment, edited slightly.

Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on two tracks on Rick’s [1977] album while losing out on the higher paying writing credits for “Sip the Wine” on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for tons of writing and performing.

But inversely, maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy than Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

If Danko has any guidance for Shane from beyond the veil, I hope Shane shares it here.