The Top Ten at the Twin Cities’ KDWB fifty years ago today was studded with records that were familiar to the kids around me at the time and have since become familiar to anyone who cares at all about mid-century Top 40 (or anyone, for that matter, who listened to the radio during Mrs. Villalta’s art classes at St. Cloud’s South Junior High School):
“(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration” by the Righteous Brothers
“Bang Bang” by Cher
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & The Papas
“Daydream” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones
“Nowhere Man” by the Beatles
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Ssgt. Barry Sadler
“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by B.J. Thomas & The Triumphs
“Time Won’t Let Me” by the Outsiders
“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra
And looking further down the station’s “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, there are only three records that stick out as unfamiliar, two of which were debuting on the survey that week. Sitting at No. 33 in its first week in the survey was a country ditty called “Tippy Toeing” by three siblings from Arkansas who recorded as the Harden Trio. It would peak on KDWB at No. 23 in four weeks; nationally, it went to No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100, their only record to reach the pop chart. (The record went to No. 2 on the country chart, and the trio had two other records hit the country Top 40 in the next year.)
Parked at No. 40, and also in its first appearance on KDWB’s survey that long-ago week, was a drum-heavy cover of Bo Diddley’s “Mona” by a Twin Cities group called T.C. Atlantic. According to Discogs.com, the group put out at least seven singles and a live album from 1965 through about 1969. The record, which I think I would have dug in art class, peaked on KDWB at No. 30 in early May. It never got to the Billboard chart.
The third record unfamiliar to me in that April 16, 1966, survey is the Underbeats’ version of “The Book of Love” that was a little bit doo-wop and a little bit subdued garage rock. It was sitting at No. 12 in its fifth week on the survey, and it would go no higher. Like the T.C. Atlantic single, “Book of Love” would get no national notice.
But the Underbeats, well, they would get their shot at national attention four years later after revamping their style considerably and becoming the band Gypsy. I told the tale long ago, and over the past several weeks, as I’ve ferried the Texas Gal to and from work, among the music coming from the CD player in the car has been most of the early 1970s work from Gypsy, both the group’s self-titled album from 1970 and its 1971 follow-up, In The Garden.
And one of the tracks I’ve enjoyed most could easily have fit into our Long Form series here. I was reminded of it one evening this winter when I was driving home after a meeting at church. “Man,” I thought as I crossed the Mississippi River and headed down Kilian Boulevard, “that sounds like Gypsy.” I memorized a few of the lyrics in case I needed them, and almost as soon as I got into the house, I checked the playlist on WXYG. It was indeed Gypsy.
Tying all those threads together this morning – the Underbeats’ appearance in the KDWB “Fabulous 40 Confidential” from fifty years ago today, the presence of Gypsy in the car CD player in recent weeks, and a long track heard in that same vehicle on a cold evening sometime in the past few months – makes for an untidy piece of work, I suppose.
But I don’t care. The music hits my sweet spot, temporally and emotionally, and that’s why “As Far As You Can See (As Much As You Can Feel),” the longest track from Gypsy’s 1971 album In The Garden, is today’s Saturday Single.