The last day of June. Half-way through the year.
Fiscal years end today in a lot of places, including the state of Minnesota, where the state Legislature and the governor are still sparring over a budget. If there’s no agreement today, then many state office and services will be shut down tomorrow. I don’t know that the absence of any of those offices and services would affect our lives right away, but that just means we’re fortunate. Others, I know, are less so, and those who rely on state services for health care, for nutrition, for transportation are likely in for some precarious times. (A court ruling reported this morning contains the good news that health care and food stamps, among other services considered essential, will continue to be available. But state services considered nonessential will be discontinued if July 1 dawns without a budget.)
Political paralysis aside, the last day of June is a nice time to ponder the progress of things. We frequently do that at the end of the year when midwinter gloom makes it difficult to see progress or sometimes even much good. It’s a whole lot better, I think, to do that kind of navel-gazing at the midpoint of the year. It’s warm and generally sunny, and one can contemplate the way things are going while seated in a lawn chair next to a leafy oak tree, sipping from a cold mug of beer. Things always seem better with sunshine and beer.
And the mid-point of the year is a good time to dig into a few Billboard charts from over the years, as I am wont to do anyway. This time, we’ll be looking at records that were at No. 30 on June 30 over the years. We’ll start in 1961 and wander this direction.
According to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, the Edsels first released their one Top 40 hit on the Dub label in 1958, when its title was first “Lama Rama Ding Dong” and then the more familiar “Rama Lama Ding Dong.” But it wasn’t until 1961, when the same record was released on the Twin label, that “Rama Lama Ding Dong” became a hit. By the time June 30 rolled around, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked at No. 21. The Edsels, who hailed from Campbell, Ohio, were of course named for the highly touted line of automobiles introduced by Ford in 1957. The vehicle was one of the greatest failures in American automotive history. The musical group, with one great doo-wop hit, did much better.
Listening to the introduction of Johnny Rivers’ “(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water” with the crowd noises in the background, I can only assume that the track was recorded – as were a number of Rivers’ mid-1960s records, including his No. 2 hit “Memphis” – live at Hollywood’s Whisky á Go-Go nightclub. And at the mid-point of June in 1966, “Muddy Water” was at No. 30, heading toward an eventual peak of No. 19. It was the tenth time Rivers had reached the Hot 100, and he’d end up with a total of twenty-nine Hot 100 hits by the time “Curious Mind” went to No. 41 in 1977. But what intrigues me this morning is the title of the tune on the flipside of the record: “Roogalator.” It was during 1966 that Bobby Jameson recorded and released his song “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” and I know that Bobby knew Johnny Rivers. The Rivers B-side is not the same tune; it’s an instrumental jam punctuated by shouts of “Roogalator!” So I wonder if it was a catch-word for folks in that milieu, or was it a shout-out to Bobby Jameson?
Having jumped five years in that first leap, we’ll now move up four years. In the last days of June 1970, the No. 30 song was “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I’ve written before that “Teach Your Children” is the best thing Graham Nash ever wrote in his long career, and I think I’ll stick by that statement. I have also mentioned that the track was one I featured on a long-ago radio show as one of the ten records I’d put on a desert island tape. (This was in 1988, just before CDs became the medium of choice.) And I find it interesting that a bit more than twenty years later, as I assembled my Ultimate Jukebox, “Teach Your Children” – which peaked at No. 16 – was not included. I still like the record, but the evidence shows that it doesn’t rate as highly with me as it once did.
When I glance at the Billboard Hot 100 from June 30, 1973, I find a record that I only vaguely remember. Sitting at No. 30 that week was “Give It To Me” by the J. Geils Band. It was the second Top 100 hit for the band (“Looking For A Love” had gone to No. 39 in early 1972), but it would go no higher than No. 30. The band eventually reached the Top Ten in the early 1980s with the No. 1 hit “Centerfold” and the No. 4 “Freeze-Frame,” neither of which I like as much as I like “Give It To Me” this morning. I find it interesting that the version of “Give It To Me” posted at YouTube is the single; at least one commenter there notes the absence of the harp solo by Magic Dick, which showed up in the version released on the album Bloodshot.
Jumping ahead just two years this time, we land in the middle of the summer of 1975, a season I wrote about not long ago. In that post, as I noted the presence of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” in the Top Ten, I wrote: “I can do without the John Denver tune for the rest of my life.” Well, the ball takes funny bounces, and at No. 30 as June 1975 ended sat “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” sliding down the chart after peaking at No. 1 during the first week of June. But that’s okay. Having John Denver show up as I dig through the charts does two things: It shows that I don’t cherry-pick when I dig, and it gives me a chance to link to a post I recently put up at Echoes In The Wind Archives in which I discussed my thoughts about John Denver in the context of a 1975 visit to a St. Cloud pizza joint gone now for many years.
And we’ll end this journey in 1976 with a record that I tend to forget about, and it’s one I liked a fair amount when it was on the radio. Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy” was sitting at No. 30 as June ended that summer, heading to peaks of No. 17 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Having been cast in Robert Altman’s acclaimed 1975 movie Nashville, Carradine wrote “I’m Easy” for his character to perform in the film. The tune earned him an Academy Award for Best Song. Here’s his performance of the song from Nashville: