Saturday Single No. 355

August closes its books today, and that carries some resonance here, a sense of significance that only the ending of two of the other twelve months – October and December – share. I’ve written about all three of those month-endings before, and although I’ll no doubt indulge myself in an autumn-based piece or two sometime in the next two months, we’ll find something else to do today.

So we’ll return to one of the games we often play around here, using today’s date and digging back into some editions of the Billboard Hot 100 released around the end of August. In other words, we’ll see what records sat at No. 31 as August ended in six different years. And from those six records, we’ll find one to listen to on this sunny late summer morning.

We’ll start in 1957 and first jump five years, then four years and so on, ending our journey in 1972. Why 1957? Well, because there was a Hot 100 released on August 31 that year. (As we check the No. 31 records, we’ll also, as we generally do, note the records that were No. 1.) So here we go:

One of the things I enjoy when I look back at the charts of the late 1950s is that so many musical styles pop up, and the Hot 100 fro, August 31, 1957, is no exception. There are records from all over the musical map: “Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds was No. 1, and the Top Ten also included records from Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers, the Coasters, Russ Hamilton and Nat King Cole. Sitting down at No. 31, we find “Around The World” by Mantovani & His Orchestra, an ultra-romantic presentation of the theme to the award-winning 1956 film, Around The World In Eighty Days. The record, one of six that Mantovani would place in or near the Hot 100, would peak at No. 12.

Five years later, the top of the Billboard chart is still a bit of a hodge-podge, with the No. 1 record, Tommy Roe’s “Sheila,” being joined by records from, among others, Little Eva, Ray Charles, Claudine Clark, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vinton and Connie Francis. Perched at No. 31 and heading to No. 29 as August ended was “Come On Little Angel” by the Belmonts, a doo-wop trio from the Bronx. The record was the Belmonts’ second Top 40 hit; “Tell Me Why” had gone to No. 18 in 1962. The group had six other records in or near the Hot 100, but none of the others went higher than No. 53.

We jump four years to the end of August 1966, and we find a Top Ten that’s filled with pop rock and R&B and nothing else: “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan holds the top spot, joined in the Top Ten by, among others, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Happenings, the Supremes, the Beatles, Wilson Pickett, Lee Dorsey and Billy Stewart. The No. 31 record that week forty-seven years ago was the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” an exercise in the seemingly contradictory qualities of both excess and simplicity. The record was tumbling down the chart after two weeks at No. 1. The Troggs would hit the Top Ten not quite two years later when “Love Is All Around” went to No. 7, and they’d have four other records in or near the Hot 100, with the last of them being an odd cover in 1975 of the Beach Boy’s “Good Vibrations” that bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 102.

August 1969 was, as I’ve noted numerous times here, the month when I jumped without reservation into the waters of the Top 40. So the Top Ten as the month ended – and most of the Hot 100 – was part of my everyday life, from the Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Women” at No. 1 through records by, again among others, Johnny Cash, the Youngbloods, the Archies, Jackie DeShannon and Bob Dylan. Checking in at No. 31, we find “Choice Of Colors,” the Impressions’ call to racial harmony, heading back down the chart after peaking at No. 21 (and at No. 1 on the R&B chart). The record was one of an astounding forty-five that the Chicago group – with a changing membership – would put in or near the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1976.

On we go to the end August of 1971, when the No. 1 record was “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” a piece of whimsy from Paul & Linda McCartney that I liked a lot that summer but which I find barely listenable now. Among the artists joining the McCartneys in the Top Ten forty-two years ago this week were the Bee Gees, the Undisputed Truth, Aretha Franklin, Donny Osmond, Bill Withers and the Five Man Electrical Band. Perched at No. 31 was one of my favorites of the time, the Moody Blues’ “The Story In Your Eyes,” which was on its way to No. 23. It was one of twenty-three records the group placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1965 and 1988.

And the end of our journey comes at the end of August 1972, when the No. 1 single (for the fifth of an eventual six weeks) was the inescapable “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan. Joining the Irish singer’s single in the Top Ten were records by the Hollies, Al Green, the Looking Glass, Mac Davis and Jim Croce, among others. And down the chart at No. 31 was a record I featured earlier this month, “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 5 (No. 1 on both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts).

After doing a little digging when “Choice Of Colors” popped up in the 1969 chart this morning, I was startled to realize that I’ve evidently featured the Impressions only three or four times in the six-plus years I’ve been blogging. As it happens, one of those posts did feature “Choice Of Colors” in a Baker’s Dozen, but that was four years ago, which is an eternity in blogtime. And as I listened to that gorgeous single again this morning, I sadly realized that forty-four years after its release, the record is still pertinent to life in the United States. I wish that weren’t so, but it is, so “Choice Of Colors” by the Impressions is today’s Saturday Single.

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