A Bit Of James Last

One of the better uses I’ve found for the files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 is to introduce me to new artists, performers whose work I never had a chance to hear, either because I wasn’t paying attention to pop music at the time or because their work languished in the lower levels of the chart during the years I was paying attention.

And this morning, I’m making a minor acquaintance with one such performer after his name caught my eye in the Hot 100 released on January 29, 1972, forty-three years ago today: James Last.

In that long-ago chart, Last’s “Music From Across The Way” was sitting at No. 85 in its third week on the chart; it would hang around one more week, rising to No. 84, and then drop out of sight. It would get to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart, which tells me I might have heard the record on WCCO, but the odds of that are slender; the kitchen radio was still tuned to ’CCO, but I wasn’t often listening there anymore.

Nor was I likely to have heard the bombastic cover of the tune that Andy Williams took to No. 30 on the Easy Listening chart about the same time. Five years earlier, when trumpet tunes, soundtracks and easy listening made up a lot of my musical menu, either version of the tune might have grabbed my ear and my allegiance, but not in early 1972, when pop and rock ruled my universe.

James Last had a long and incredibly successful career in Europe and Great Britain, as the biographies at All Music and Wikipedia make clear, but he was much less prominent on this side of the Atlantic. A few years after “Music From Across The Way” peaked at No. 84, a seemingly aimless “Love For Sale” disco-danced and bubbled under at No. 106 during the summer of 1975. Last’s most successful U.S. release came in 1980 when he recorded “The Seduction (Love Theme)” from the movie American Gigolo. The record, featuring the saxophone of David Sanborn, went to No. 28 in the Hot 100 and to No. 22 in the Adult Contemporary chart.

Am I going to dig deeper into Last’s work? Despite my love of easy listening music, probably not, with one exception: I saw a listing at YouTube for a 1973 album titled James Last In Russia, a collection of mostly Russian tunes (with the addition of “Midnight In Moscow,” No. 2 for Kenny Ball in 1962, and the ever-present “Lara’s Theme”). Given my love for easy listening music and my long-time fascination with things Russian, I might have to hunt that one down.

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